May 29, 2024

The Cabbage Despatch: With Pooch Horsburgh

Pooch is a food producer on TV shows ranging from The Great British Bake Off to River Cottage. She divides her time between working with a smorgasbord of well-known chefs and food brands – both on their television shows and their cookbooks – as a food stylist and as a home economist. She lives in the Cotswolds with her husband Jason and her son, Alfie.


Pooch @poochhorsburgh

What do you love most about your job?

Firstly, that I get to do my hobby as a job. I still pinch myself regularly when I look at the fact I’m somehow being paid to write, talk about, eat and think about food all day long! I feel incredibly lucky to have found a job that I really truly love.
Also, the variety. No day is ever the same. I know I wouldn’t cope at all sitting in an office, staring at the same computer screen in the same building every single day.
Pooch food styling in the Journal Cabbages and Roses


Can you describe a perfect day?

A perfect day work-wise for me would be a cookbook photoshoot at home. It’s a real hive of activity with a lot going and a lot to keep tabs on. But I love it! There will have been quite a lot of stress, sleepless nights and plate-juggling to get to that stage. But when we start shooting the first recipe, everything suddenly seems so worth it. The butterflies in your stomach float away and you settle into it all. When that first shot is done and we’re all huddled round the photographer’s laptop looking at what we’ve achieved, it’s the best feeling.

I love the whole process of working on cookbooks, especially the recipe development and testing. But the photo shoots really make you feel like it’s all coming together. Even if we often have to wait over a year to see the book actually published and hold the finished thing in our hands!
Pooch food styling in the Journal Cabbages and Roses


What are the most cherished items you own and why?

I’ve inherited various bits and pieces of amazing china from relatives and friends of the family. Some in sets, others just odds and ends. All of them get used regularly, both for work and at home. I think leaving them for ‘best’, hidden away in a box in the attic or in a cupboard, is such a shame. So even though the odd one gets chipped or broken, they’re in view, being used constantly. Some have even been stars on TV or in cookbooks and I always love to think how excited that might make their original owners.

Pooch Food Styling for Cabbages and Roses

What’s your favourite failsafe dish?

Roast chicken stuffed with garlic and tarragon butter, French fries and a crisp salad with a Dijon mustard-heavy dressing. Maybe a little sauce made from the chicken resting juices, crème fraiche and tarragon on the side too. It’s the perfect failsafe as far as I’m concerned. So easy to make – the oven does pretty much all the work – and far greater than the sum of its parts.

Pooch food styling in the Journal Cabbages and Roses

Dog walks, country pubs or gallery hopping: how do you spend your Sundays?

Sundays are a relaxed affair in our household. It will involve a big breakfast in our PJs, but quite early in the day because the four-year-old unfortunately doesn’t understand weekend lie-ins yet.

Hopefully a walk of some kind and then some more eating! I’m not a huge fan of roasts in pubs, I just think they’re very rarely as nice as they are at home. I’d much rather go for a massive dim sum feast somewhere. That is my perfect Sunday lunch, although it’s a little tricky to find where we live and involves at least a 45 mins drive, so I don’t get it as often as I’d like. Happily though, we’ve got lots of mates nearby who do darn good roasts. So, if we’re not eating at home, it’ll be a friend’s house with perhaps a pint in the pub en route.
If I get a chance to read the papers, then it’s a really great day. Although I’ll also happily watch Ratatouille for the hundredth time if it means I get some sofa time!
Sunday Spag Bol supper is a feature that we started about six years ago. I make a huge batch every three or four months and then portion it up and freeze. That way we always have supper ready and waiting and no one has to think what it’ll be. I thank myself every single Sunday night for doing it!

Where do you go for inspiration?

Everywhere! Social media, cookbooks, magazines, TV, restaurants, pubs, menus on a wall as I walk down a street, friends… the list goes on.

I’ve got a strange ability to remember dishes (whether ones I’ve read about or ones I’ve eaten or seen) from years and years ago – it would be handy if that great part of my memory also applied to things other than food, but it doesn’t! And they just pop into my head when I’m coming up with ideas for work.
I’m constantly inspired by things, and I will never see a menu and not stop to read it. You never know where inspiration will strike!
Pooch food styling in the Journal Cabbages and Roses


What was the last book you loved and why?

Having been an absolutely voracious reader for the first 25yrs of my life, I just seemed to suddenly stop. I’m trying to get back into reading for leisure and really enjoyed reading Nora Ephron’s Heartburn when I was on holiday last year.

But in reality I’m most often reading cookbooks or food magazines. Which I’m certainly not complaining about, because I love it! I’ve particularly enjoyed reading all the wonderful stories and recipes in the cookbook These Delicious Things @thesedeliciousthings. 
Its a charity cookbook featuring an absolutely incredible roster of chefs and cooks - you would never ever find them all together in one book normally. It's a proper curl up on the sofa and delve into the lives of some of your food heroes type of read. Everyone who worked on it gave their time for free, including all the photographers and food stylists. It really is a great buy.
These Delicious Things

What’s your favourite hotel and why?

I’m sticking close to home with this one. I absolutely love having The Rectory in Crudwell @therectoryhotel nearby. I’ve only stayed there once, but would love to stay again because their beds and the breakfast are the stuff of dreams. We are, however, there quite a lot for cocktails or dinner, or hanging out in their beautiful gardens during the day with a gang of friends. The staff are all so lovely, some have even become good mates.

They also excel at excellent food, which I’ve been very lucky to enjoy quite a few times. They have their own pub just across the road too. What could be more perfect?! I’m really looking forward to making the most of their new summer deal when I’ve got a gap in work. It’s lunch and use of their pool on a Thursday afternoon. Roll on the Escobars, their version of a picante, which I have as a spritz to make it a long drink!
The Rectory Crudwell

Favourite restaurant?

Hmmmmm... very tricky question for me! Close to home I’d pick The Bell at Langford @thebelllangford. Tom and Pete can do no wrong in my eyes (they’ll almost certainly squirm at that comment!). They’re also great fun and really know their stuff and that shows in the brilliant service and the cooking that comes out of their kitchen. I’ve never ever had a sub-par plate of food there in all the many times we’ve eaten with them.

In town, I’ve been absolutely loving Maison Francois @maisonfrancoislondon. And for a special occasion it would be A.Wong @awongsw. Abroad I adore El Camino in Palma @el_camino_palma, Mallorca. So much so that I’ve been know to add an unnecessary lay over onto a flight, just so I can have dinner there! 
The Bell Inn Langford

Your favourite artist, living or dead, and why?

I’m going to choose Inigo Jones – not strictly an ‘artist’ but I think he counts. I love what he did for British architecture and his influence on those who came after him. His buildings transport you straight to the classical beauties of ancient Rome, with an English spin added on. The revolution that he started in design is quite extraordinary.


Name a song that is significant to you and why?

'Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing. It’s a song that was played throughout my childhood. I remember it from as early as when I was three or four, all the way through to a teenager when we used to turn it up loud in my mum’s car and sing at the top of our voices as she drove my friends and I around. I’ve listened to it all my life since and still love it.

We played Dire Straits’ Walk of Life at our wedding but its Money for Nothing that’ll always get me excited when that guitar riff in the intro kicks in. You should see me when a re-mix of it comes on at a festival! 

Who would play you in a film? 

People used to say I looked a bit like Michelle Williams. But I think Kristen Wiig would be pretty funny at it!


Who has had the biggest impact on your career?

There were a couple of key players early on in my career who really made me feel confident that I was doing the right thing – Sarah Durdin-Robertson and through her also Pat Llewellyn who was the queen of food TV.

Then a camera man Richard Hill who will have no idea that he had an impact, but he really did. He made me realise (and also helped me get a job) that I should spread my wings a bit, which was something everyone had been saying, but I was a bit too scared to do.
Probably most profoundly though, is my son Alfie. When he was born it really made me look at my work and all the various parts I did, and concentrate on the ones that made me happiest.
Navy Coat by Cabbages and Roses

Which delights you more: garden pottering or kitchen pottering?

Kitchen pottering for sure, even though some might think it’s a bit of a busman’s holiday for me! I absolutely love tinkering away in the kitchen, especially with fellow food-loving friends and a few beers. I also don’t mind whose kitchen it is. I’ve always seemed to be able to settle right in very quickly to someone else’s kitchen!


If you had to choose, are you happier in city or country – and why?

Definitely the country. I just seem to feel more relaxed and at home. I love visiting cities, but am very glad to call the country home. Once I hit my thirties, I was single and decided to move to a cottage in the countryside, living by myself. Everyone thought I was absolutely mad but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.


Early riser or night owl?

A bit of both. On weekdays I naturally wake very early, which I quite like because it gives me a peaceful hour or two before the rest of the house are up. I am not in any way suggesting that I get up and do a work-out at 5am, although I wish I was that person.

But it’s quite amazing how much life admin you can get done on your phone, lying in bed! At weekends, I will happily (much to my husband’s annoyance) want the party to continue late into the night and am often the last to bed. I can function pretty well on not much sleep, but I definitely catch up during the week with early bedtimes.
Green Jemma Coat Cabbages and Roses

How would you describe your style? 

I’m a real chameleon, as my wardrobe will attest. There’s everything from huge bright pink fluffy jackets, tie-dye catsuits or floor length sequins to men’s corduroy trousers and old workwear jackets.

Day-to-day, I’m somewhere in between. Jeans, Blundstones or trainers, a Cabbages and Roses shirt and then a coat or jacket with a bit of fun somewhere. Mainly, it's great basics with some fun trainers and a jacket added in.

Your favourite item of clothing?

I absolutely love the outfit I wore for our second wedding. We had two weddings, one traditional, small and more family-orientated; the second a great big party with 300 friends where we walked down a makeshift aisle to the Star Wars theme tune and sung a Bob Marley song as our hymn!

It’s a floor length light blue Temperley gown with colourful flowers and insects embroidered all over it. I wore it with a cape made from bright pink and purple feathers and danced the night away. Such great memories.
Dungarees and Shirt from Cabbages and Roses

What job would you do in a parallel life?  

An architectural historian, probably specialising in conservation and restoration. It was actually what I studied at university and something I love, which I may well come back to in later life. Who knows?

 Jemma Wax Green Coat by Cabbages and Roses

What pieces from the Cabbages & Roses SS24 have you got your eye on?

I’m afraid I’m going to have to pick a few! The Frilly Shirt in Cotton Voile or the Maud Blouse in White Seersucker with a Bea Tunic in Navy Organic Cotton over the top if it’s chilly.

Cabbage’s shirts are a big part of my wardrobe and they just seem to work really well with my body shape. You also feel really great in them – they’re so well made and the fabrics are infinitely better than stuff you’d get elsewhere.
The Cabbage Kaftan in Cotton Linen Blue Stripe just looks SO gorgeous, even though I fear I might not be tall enough for it. I’m a huge fan of the Cabbages coats. Every single season I lust after them and the couple I have are used constantly, all year round. I still regret not getting their navy duffle coat a few years ago. Please bring it back!
This season the Gertrude Coat in Navy Cotton and especially the Jemima Coat in Green Wax Cotton have me very excited. I can just imagine stomping through the fields in the Jemima Coat and then laying it out like a picnic blanket for people to sit on whilst we stop for a snack. The Padima Sweater is Raspberry Cashmere is such a lovely shape and colour. I’d size up a bit and wear with jeans and I just know it would become an old friend. 
Photo credits: Andrew Montgomery