Claire McCarthy, co-owner and cook at the Rattle Gill cafe, Ambleside

Essential ingredients = I’ve got loads! Fresh produce is a number one then a spice cupboard to beat all spice cupboards and an open mind to new ideas.

First kitchen worked in = My own cafe! Alec, my husband, and I bought the Rattle Gill two years ago after always dreaming of running a cafe. We realised this shared dream while on a big bush work in the Australian Blue Mountains. So really the first official kitchen I worked in is my own here. I have always had a love of cooking, baking and feeding people.

First dish I prepared = I have cooked from a young age and honestly don’t remember the first dish. It was probably scrambled eggs on toast. I grew up in a house where everything was cooked from scratch - no microwave meals that's for sure.

Signature dish =I enjoy making lots of different food and seeing our customers enjoying it all. We offer a vast selection of cakes from the classic Victoria sponge to a peanut butter cake, to a date and apple oaty slice. People love the fact that when they can’t decide which cake to have they can enjoy a tasting plate of cake that has five smaller portions on. It is very satisfying to create something new that people come back and ask for.

Food philosophy = Wholesome, healthy, home-cooked goodness. We use a lot of whole foods here at the cafe and it's the same at home.

Biggest kitchen disaster = Baking a loaf of bread for Alec and forgetting about it for nearly five hours later while it was slowly becoming what we later called axe bread because we had to cut into it with an axe!

My favourite chef = I'm a big fan of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Yotam Ottolenghi. I love Hugh for his back to basics cooking and love of wild foods while Ottolenghi is different to anyone else around.

My biggest influence = Travels abroad. The various places I have been and the amazing local foods I’ve eaten have really influenced what I cook. When I was working out in Nepal I would have a dish called Dal Bhat. It is a selection of dal, rice, bread, pickles, and veggie curry that is different in each tea house you visit.

My favourite meal = I love a good salad selection that might include some leafy greens, a refreshing tomato salsa, curried cous cous with seeds and dried fruit and pasta pesto salad and a hunk of bread with butter or hummus plus a pile of olives! It totally ticks off that five a day target.