Eliza Dolbey. Photo Matthew Donaldson
Eliza Dolbey has been a chef at The River Cafe for six years.
“Cooking means everything to me. I cannot imagine doing any other job.” In our latest edition of Chef’s Choices, Eliza talks about the soup that inspired her to become a chef, and shares her favourite springtime dishes on the Shop The River Cafe menu.
“During my university holidays, I earned money waitressing at supper clubs all over London. I would help prepare the food and noted down recipes as I worked. Then, for my 21st birthday, I came to The River Cafe and tasted the Roman zucchini soup with zucchini flowers. It was nothing like the basic puréed soups I was used to eating. It had vibrancy and texture and the perfect balance of sweetness from the vegetables and saltiness from the Parmigiano Reggiano folded through. I promised myself I would come back one day and learn how to make the soup. And now, here I am.
I love cooking this time of year—fresh peas, asparagus and, in particular, broad beans. Before I worked at The River Café, I didn’t realise you could eat them raw. One of my favourite recipes is bruschetta with smashed raw broad beans, Pecorino Sardo and fresh mint. They are delicious also simply boiled and dressed in our River Cafe olive oil. For a main course, I always love a classic, grilled Bistecca Fiorentina. When you’re grilling the best quality beef, like we get here at the restaurant, it’s the perfect complement to all the spring vegetables.”
Another thing I love about Italian food is that it champions the recipes of Grandmothers in every region. Chefs are evangelical about the recipes that have been handed down to them. I'm fully aware that innovation is necessary, but for me, the memories evoked when cooking a dish handed down to you by a loved one are beyond compare.
Roman Zucchini Soup
Broad Beans Sott'Olio
Asparagus with Anchovy Butter
Pecorino Sardo Canestrato
Chocolate Hazelnut Espresso Cake