Sophie and Iain are originally from London and Edinburgh, respectively, but they have lived in Portland for the past few years. The couple has spent time in Rajastan and other parts of Southern India, and they love the fiery flavors of regional Indian food. Their spice drawer certainly attests to this culinary love affair! Join me for a tour of their elegant, open kitchen and an interview with this charming culinary couple.
Sophie and Iain are busy working parents. They are recently married, and with two 6-month-old twins, they were so excited to buy a home already fully renovated and ready to go. This kitchen has amazing storage for all their Heath ceramics and Le Creuset cookware, but it also stands up to toddler twins making art, eating and playing within the space. Every surface is elegant and easy to clean, too — a winning combo!
9 Questions for Sophie and Iain (and Their Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Iain: Having technology in the kitchen has massively changed the way I cook. Having an iPad and access to millions of searchable cookbooks has changed everything for me. You can either start searching with the ingredients in the fridge or the inkling of an idea for a recipe. And within a couple of searches you've have found an interesting way to hack a meal together. Two sites I return to often: 101 Cookbooks and Manjula's Kitchen.
Sophie: A lot of what I like to cook has been inspired by our travels (pre-kids!). We did a cookery course in Rajasthan and that made a real difference to our understanding of techniques that are at the heart of many of the dishes we make. Also, living in the Pacific Northwest, we have amazing local produce. Visit a farmers' market and it's hard not to feel inspired by the incredible variety of fresh fruit and vegetables here.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
Sophie: Our spice drawer. It took a while to track down some of the more obscure spices here, but I love that we now have the right ingredients to make authentic Indian food. And alongside that, our granite pestle and mortar, which we got as a wedding gift.
Iain: Being as Sophie's already mentioned the 'Devil's Dung' I'm going to pick the blackboard. For us it's a useful place to scrawl reminders, but it's also fun for the girls to draw on which can keep them from under your feet for a few seconds. The only challenge has been teaching them that not all dark walls are for drawing on.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Iain: I think it would have to be Sophie's 'green spaghetti' for the twins. Less about the actual meal itself but more about the mess that two 2-year-olds can make whirling pea-green pasta around their heads.
Sophie: I would rather forget the 'green spaghetti' incident! For me, as a British couple, new to the States, our attempt at a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner the first year we were here will always stick in my mind. It was a real team effort with each of us tackling different dishes.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen?
Iain: This might sound really ungrateful and obnoxious but if you're used to working in a small kitchen having space is a strange kind of challenge. You end up spreading out to fill the space you have available. Which means you can get flabby rather than inventive.
Sophie: The style of the kitchen doesn't tolerate mess very well. I feel like I'm always cleaning countertops. And two year old twins throwing their food on the floor can certainly be a challenge, but I guess they are here to stay!
5. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
Iain: The Vitamix. It can literally blend anything and everything. Chucking a few handfuls of frozen fruit in there makes an amazing ice-cream-like-substance with none of the guilt of ice-cream.
Sophie: Our Heath Ceramic dinnerware was a big investment. But it's so beautifully made and such a classic design that it should hopefully last us for years.
6. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
Iain: Unfortunately we're moving to NYC so we're about to say goodbye to this wonderful kitchen and all of its troublesome space (see earlier answer).
Sophie: If we were staying, I would have loved a bigger dining table with benches. I love the idea of having lots of friends crammed in together eating brunch. We have a big table in the dining room but there's a special vibe you only get from eating in the kitchen.
7. How would you describe your cooking style?
Iain: Everyday ethnic vegetarian. We're not super-fancy cooks, although we give it a go sometimes. And we definitely borrow inspiration from lots of different regions — when you're cooking without meat finding interesting combinations of herbs and spices really helps to keep food interesting and varied.
Sophie: 'Head Chef at the Toddler Cafe'. I spend a lot of time trying to think up new ways to get the girls to eat well. They are the most challenging audience I've ever cooked for.
8. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
Iain: My mum was a wholefood cookery teacher in the 80s and from her I learned how to be a fairly instinctive cook, not to worry too much about weights and measures, and that a handful of this would work if you don't have any of that. As much as that's helped with everyday cooking it makes me a terrible baker.
Sophie: It's not very exciting but I remember watching a cooking show where the judge talked about the importance of clearing up as you go along. It doesn't come naturally to me but it does make a real difference if I try, particularly if I'm making a complicated dish.
9. What are you cooking this week?
Sophie: I picked up some local asparagus yesterday so I think I might make a risotto. And my friend has just had a baby, so I'm going to throw together a veggie chili and some soup for her and her husband.
Iain: I'm continually trying to improve on a vegetarian miso ramen recipe. Most weeks I make some kind of attempt.
• Visit Iain's blog: Crack Unit
• Stove and Oven: Bosch/Thermador
• Cabinets and Countertops: custom solid wood cabinets, quartz countertops
• Paint colors: white, chalkboard paint
• Furniture: IKEA, Stokke for the kids, West Elm table
• Pots and pans: All-Clad and Le Creuset
• Dishes: Heath Ceramics
• Tiles: Ann Sacks
Thank you so much for letting us peek into your kitchen, Sophie and Iain!
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(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)