Inside Margot & Fergus Henderson’s Kitchen

6th October 2016

Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Steve Ryan

The owners of Rochelle Canteen and St John pick out a book by Fergus’s favourite cookery writer, some beautiful Japanese napkins and an ingredient to win people over with


Barrosa potato crisps »
The crisps Margot puts out before the meal, which she picked up at nearby Italo deli [see Places], are some of the best we’ve ever tried.

Marmite »
Asked what she would eat for breakfast, Margot says: “I would have marmite toast. I like marmite, I prefer it to Vegemite, sorry New Zealand!”

Cipriani pasta »
Margot: You love that posh pasta.
Fergus: Yes, Cipriani, it’s very good.
Margot: The first dish Fergus ever cooked me, it wasn’t Cipriani, it was just normal spaghetti with cabbage and truffle oil and parmesan. It was pretty good. I just thought, god he’s cool [laughs].

Salt cod »
“The first dish I made for Fergus was salt cod potato bake. You can’t go wrong with salt cod, can you? I think there’s a lot of power in food to make people like you, to make friends. If you’re all sitting around starving and you butter up some bread and serve a bit of salt cod potato bake, everyone’s like, ‘Oh she’s really nice’. Friendship’s got to go further than that, of course, but it’s a good starter.” – Margot

Kombu »
“Look at my new kombu – it’s the poshest kombu. My friend bought it for us in Japan. It makes very good dashi, which I love.” – Margot


Peter’s Yard crispbread »
These crispbread things are amazing, we enthuse. (They’re the best cheese biscuits around, in our humble opinion.) “They’re good,” Margot nods.

Frozen broad beans
“Simon Hopkinson says, always check out the freezer in good local shops, especially Asian shops, there’s all sorts of amazing things in there. We’ve been raiding the freezers at our local Portuguese shops. The Portuguese believe in freezing – they’ve even got frozen canapés. And these broad beans.” – Margot

Belu water »
“Belu is a social enterprise, they really care about what they’re doing. Lots of the profits go into all sorts of water projects. One year they were going to take me to Ethiopia to meet women who were carrying water and two women who had a café, using human shit to fuel the oven. But then two out of my three chefs left so I couldn’t go.” – Margot


En napkins
Margot and Fergus have very beautiful napkins that are much longer than they are wide. Where did they get them? “They are from a Japanese restaurant in New York called En. It’s a very good restaurant. Whenever I’m in New York for work – I go about four times a year – I never make any money because I go out all the time to eat, but it’s great.”

Palissade garden chairs »
“Put the SCP chairs in your list,” says Margot. “We just got them and they’re really nice.”

Long-handled wooden spoons
We admire the wooden spoons in Fergus and Margot’s kitchen. But why the long handles? “More effective for beating people with,” says Margot.

Iitalla cast-iron pot »
“This is a very nice pot. I’ve cooked stews in it, and rice. I like to cook a lot of rice.” – Margot



Japanese knives
“I’m really fond of this knife at the moment, it’s a really nice Japanese knife and it is very sharp, though if a Japanese person saw how I treated it, they’d die. Fergus brought it back from Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. I didn’t realise how fragile the metal was. I’ll have to take it in to get sharpened. But it’s still working like a dream.” – Margot

Labour & Wait vinegar maker
“I really like my vinegar maker. All our red wine leftovers go in there.” – Margot

Deep-fried squirrel deckchair
At the back of the garden is a deckchair bearing Fergus’s recipe for deep-fried squirrel. Not for the faint of heart.



Marcella’s Kitchen, Marcella Hazan »
“Marcella Hazan is Fergus’s favourite [cookery writer] in the world.” – Margot

English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David »
Universally acclaimed book dealing with all aspects of flour-milling, yeast, bread ovens and the different types of bread and flour available. “She told us to put rice in your bread – old rice, you bung it in your bread!” – Margot

The Cooking of South West France, Paula Wolfert »
“Her understanding of pork fat, duck fat, prunes and foie gras is unbelievable.” – Fergus

Edmonds Cookery Book »
“Fergus’s tomato ketchup recipe comes from the Edmonds Cookbook, which is the cookbook that every household in New Zealand owns. You get your ginger crunch, louise cake, meringues, it has a big biscuit section – and ketchup and all those things as well. The savoury recipes are not so good.” – Margot


The Nordic Cookbook, Magnus Nilsson »
“Magnus Nilsson is this genius chef [from Faviken] who has written a book on Nordic food. I baked a rye bread from it that’s meant to be cooked under the ground, but I haven’t got under-the-ground so it took me 12-14 hours to do it. It was really good.” – Margot

Good Home Cooking, Caroline Conran »
Fergus raises a sceptical eyebrow when Margot picks this out, but she insists on including it. “He does like Caroline Conran. Sometimes people get the wrong end of the stick when we recommend things and think it’s going to be amazing, and then they go, ‘What’s this all about?’ It’s just that certain things resonate with certain moments in your life. What have you always done from Caroline Conran?” she asks Fergus. “Oh yes, boiled ham and parsley sauce.”

Japanese Farm Food, Nancy Singleton Hachisu »
“This is normal Japanese family cooking, not fancy Japanese food, written by an American woman. I like it, it’s straightforward.” – Margot




Posted 6th October 2016

In Things


Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Steve Ryan

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