Kitchen Spy: Heston Blumenthal

The sensory engine room that is Heston Blumenthal's brain drives every element of his cooking. Not for him platitudes of seasonality and "letting ingredients speak for themselves", alluring though the notion of chatty comestibles may be to the Lewis Carroll fan. He taught himself to cook from books and still needs to know the science behind every culinary technique. Kitchen wizardry matters to him, but not more than the nostalgia and emotions food evokes. Good Food met him in temporary Sydney digs where he was promoting appliances.

The staples

My pantry: The most important thing is plain salt but at the moment I also have vanilla salt, smoked salt, Japanese salt, Himalayan salt, black salt. I have a lot of pastas but the standard would be a non-egg based tagliatelle. Good brands are La Pasta di Aldo and De Cecco​. There's Acquerello​ aged rice for risotto as well as soy sauces – white, light and dark. 

My fridge: Vinegars are really important – white wine, tarragon, red wine vinegars and a maybe a couple of balsamics. That bit of acidity in seasoning makes your mouth water. Maille dijon and grain mustard are important. I always keep my butter in the freezer; it freezes brilliantly and I know I'll never run out.

I'm cooking

Last dinner at home 

I cooked a burger on the barbecue. There was a bit of salad in the bun with some French's yellow mustard and dill pickles. I know in Australia you all love beetroot but for me the pickle is essential.

Secret vice

I like a classic, down-and-dirty ready-made supermarket prawn cocktail with ketchup in the Marie Rose sauce. And I love a good pork pie. The meat has to be emulsified and the pastry has to be really high in fat and crispy.

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I'm drinking

I hardly drink coffee but I love tea. There's always Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Assam, about five kinds of loose leaf all up. My favourite is a vintage pu-erh – it tastes like forests, all damp and leathery. In black teas I just have a drop of skim milk to fix the tannins; the smell of the fat in full-cream milk is too strong with delicate teas. My go-to wine would be a chardonnay with a bit of structure to it, not overly oaked. I love my reds but after reds it's the end of the day, they can be so heavy, so I generally stick to whites. 

Saturday night tipple 

It could be a Hendricks gin and tonic with cucumber or a bloody mary before a Sunday lunch. But probably the favourite would be a negroni.

My toolkit

My team and I have developed a precision piece of digital equipment for Salter. The thermometer has a heat-resistant cable and probe and works out exactly how long a chicken, for example, needs to cook at whatever temperature you have the oven. The Breville Tea Maker is great because it lowers the leaves when the water has reached the right temperature, lifts them out when they've brewed and keeps the tea warm. It's programmable for different types of tea (Breville sponsors Heston). Tojiro Senkou​ knives are beautifully made, well balanced and so sharp (Tojiro sponsors Heston).

Favourite

An 1865 first edition of Alice in Wonderland. It's full of fantastic ideas.

Inspiration 

Mindfulness is the most important part of finding inspiration. Being aware of smells, light and memories.

Food discovery

I use sushinoko which is a powder made to season sushi rice but it's great to season all kinds of things – it's salt, sweet, bitter and umami.

Most memorable meal

I was 16 and my parents took me to a restaurant in Provence. I remember it was summer and the sound of the crickets, the sound of the waiters' feet crunching across the gravel and the smell of the lavender. It was my Alice in Wonderland falling-down-the-rabbit-hole moment. I didn't realise it at the time but it was that meal that headed me down the road to cooking.