‘I courted Samantha with white truffles’: the Moro chefs talk taste
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My personal style signifiers are [Samuel] my flat caps. I’ve been wearing them since my grandfather died in the late ’80s; he left me his whole collection. There’s also a wonderful company I like called Old Town, which makes clothes and accessories in Norfolk from British wool, cotton and linen. [Samantha] Mine are Andrew Logan brooches. He’s a family friend of Samuel’s, and when we were married he gave us two heart brooches. Since then we’ve bought lots of different styles – peas in a pod, one of his lovely “eye” ones. You can have quite minimal clothing on, and then just add one of these. Everyone recognises and remarks on them. Brooches from £80, andrewlogan.com. old-town.co.uk
The last thing we bought and loved was Soil To Table by Henrietta Courtauld and Bridget Elworthy (aka The Land Gardeners). They’ve studied soil regeneration for 20 years, and along with recipes for yummy things they’ve got one for the perfect compost. It’s fascinating. We try to use as much waste from the restaurants on compost as possible, so it’s been very useful.
The place that means a lot to us is the Sierra Nevada mountain range – the highest in Spain. In the early days of Moro, we bought a tiny ruin in the foothills and spent the next 20 years going there whenever we could. We’d hire donkeys and go above the tree line, up to the lakes where it’s beautifully cool, even in the middle of summer.
And the best souvenir we’ve brought home is two dozen Lambert Spéciale de Claire oysters from La Rochelle. We nipped to the market at 7.30am and bought them from a lovely lady called Isabelle. The oysters are truly delicious; the beds are situated in the Marennes-Oléron basin nearby.
Our favourite room in our house is the kitchen, which was designed by Maria Speake from Retrouvius. It’s got flowers, a conservatory, a big island with a copper top, plus tomatoes, herbs and other seedlings. So it’s a kitchen, but food is growing in there.
The thing we couldn’t do without is Mark T Wendell’s Hu-Kwa tea. It’s Lapsang Souchong in style, but instead of China it’s actually from Taiwan. Samuel’s grandfather used to drink it, and we’ve drunk it pretty much every day of our lives, sometimes blended with Darjeeling or Earl Grey. We’re big tea heads. $40 for 1lb, marktwendell.com
The last music we downloaded was by Midori Jaeger, who recently performed at Morito, our restaurant in Hackney. She was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Music, plays the cello and has a beautiful, ethereal voice. Really original songs.
In our fridge you’ll always find chilli sauces for our poor, faded chefs’ palates. Encona is a classic, as is Tabasco, and we love Lao Gan Ma crunchy Chinese chilli oil; they’re famous for a reason. There’s also usually Casa Santoña garum. Garum is a fermented fish sauce first popular with the Romans; useful if you want to make dressing for a Caesar salad – as is Thai fish sauce.
I’ve recently discovered [Samuel] the Sage Tea Maker, which brews your tea for just the right amount of time. You put your water in the night before, add your tea to the basket and choose when you want it the next morning. It also keeps it at the right temperature – green teas are best brewed below boiling point, for example, while Lapsang Souchong needs a bit longer. [samantha] I’m playing the piano again. Our son plays, and we’ve got a lovely c1990 Broadwood mini grand at home. It’s inspired me to pick it up again after a gap of 20 or 30 years. Sage Tea Maker, £209.95, sageappliances.com
The best book we’ve read in the past year is Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake, which is all about fungi and how we’re only just beginning to understand how extraordinary they are. The biggest organism in the word is actually a fungus. And not only do they help give trees and plants water and nutrients, they’re also incredible for storing carbon, so could help us save the planet one day.
An indulgence we would never forgo is trying small-batch mezcal from El Destilado and tequilas from The Sampler on Upper Street. They’re quite an indulgence, and prohibitively expensive, but the flavours are so extraordinary. You don’t need very much – just a little tot. Mezcal, from £45.80, destiladolondon.com. Tequila, from £48, thesampler.co.uk
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was [Samuel] a handmade leather belt from Jasper Highet, a Devon saddle-maker who uses proper brass buckles and traditional oak bark tanning. They also make a great present, because they last you all of your life. [Samantha] Mine was a check linen shirt dress from Toast, a brand I love for their indigo denim trousers. There’s actually a package that I’m waiting to open at home. Jasper Highet leather belt, from £87, handmadeleatherbelts.co.uk. Toast denim trousers, from £125, toa.st
The objects we would never part with are our bikes – [Samantha] my electric VanMoof; and [Samuel] my single-speed, No Logo bike. We have always cycled a lot.
The grooming staple I’m never without is [Samuel] my cut-throat razor, which I’m quite keen on. But don’t use it in a hurry. I also have a wonderful antique sharpener that I bought at a flea market in Spain – it’s a belt, which you hold out and then do your sharpening on the leather. [Samantha] Mine is Aesop deodorant. The amount of times I’ve been asked, “Ooh, what scent are you wearing?” And it works too.
My favourite building is [Samuel] St Bartholomew the Great, which is London’s oldest surviving church – it’s 900 years old next year. [Samantha] Villa La Rotonda, the villa just outside Vicenza designed by Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. I lived in Italy for a couple of years, and loved its architecture and symmetric grandeur, even though it’s quite small as palaces go.
In another life, I would have been [Samuel] an art curator. My father was an artist, so we’ve always had quite a few artist friends; it’s just a nice world to be around. I wasn’t very academic – I never went to university or anything – so that’s what put a stop to it. But some of my proudest moments are all the artists we’ve cooked for over the years, including Francis Bacon, Cornelia Parker and Edmund de Waal. [Samantha] Maybe a doctor, but I was never very good at science, which didn’t really help. There are some parallels to be drawn between the hospital floor and kitchens, service and teamwork. I think I would have coped quite well.
The podcast we’re listening to is Natoora’s Transform the Food System, about how to inspire change with your everyday food choices. They feature lots of other high-minded people – Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Andy Cato. It’s fascinating to just listen and learn from them.
Our favourite website is Headspace, because we’re a bit hippy. We love meditation, and it’s good for the children as well, just to get them thinking. It’s very unpushy; you can do anything from three to 15 minutes, but even the smallest amount of time is very powerful.
The recipe that changed everything was a simple pasta with white truffle, which we discovered while working at The River Café. They’re a very special, ethereal thing, white truffles. [Samuel] When we were first going out, I courted Samantha with white truffles – I brought some home and served them with tagliarini, a little bit of egg yolk, parmesan and black pepper. It’s still quite a romantic thing – “We can have white truffles tonight, darling, and a bottle of barolo!”
When we need to feel inspired, we travel. Just having a change of scenery gives us space to think and inspiration for food. Last time we were in Istanbul we saw young peaches, which are a little bit sour and very sensitive; we pickle them or serve them crushed with fish. Another time we saw a man selling wild rhubarb outside of a kebab shop, the idea being to crunch on it between bites of your kebab. Now we often use raw rhubarb to cut through richer foods.
The best bit of advice we’ve ever received was “Go for what you want and accept what you get”. It’s a bit embarrassing! [Samantha] Samuel heard it on TV when Peter Gabriel was being interviewed.
The best gifts I’ve given recently [Samuel] are the carbon steel knives I find at car-boot sales – the Thursday flea market in Seville, on Calle Feria, is one of the best. They usually cost less than a fiver, but they’re incredibly sharp, and very useful in the kitchen – great for slicing garlic and tomatoes. Some trendy Shoreditch types even shave with them. [Samantha] I like to give packets of Astier de Villatte incense, usually their Delhi scent. The packaging is beautiful – and the smell helps too, of course. We constantly have it burning at home; if there’s ever a bad atmosphere, Sam always goes around lighting it. Astier de Villatte Delhi incense, €50, astierdevillatte.com
The one artist whose work we would collect if we could is Henri Matisse. We’d have the full range… a few cutouts, a few blue nudes and a few flowers. His works are so joyous, and the colour is so intense. They make you happy.
We have a collection of beautiful, sculptural knives from all over the world – wonderful styles from Turkey, Morocco, Africa and Thailand. At one point we arranged them with magnets on a wall-mounted metal sheet; that way you could grab one whenever you needed. We called it the wall of death!
Moro Easy by Sam and Sam Clark is published by Ebury Press on 8 September at £30