Friday, 1 July 2011

THE FISH FINGER FILES

I've borrowed the title of this post from the back page of the Waitrose food magazine, where each month a celebrity reveals something about him- or herself through a series of food-related questions.

Who taught you to cook? I am largely self-taught, and have always enjoyed experimenting and tinkering with food. I learnt the tricks of pastry-making from my mother ("keep it cold"). I hated domestic science lessons at school because everything had to be so tidy, but I still use the basic roux sauce recipe that I learnt in school.

Is there a dish you've never really mastered? Less "mastered" and more "attempted". I haven't tried Baked Alaska yet, nor Beef Wellington, though neither is particularly daunting for me. Watching 'Masterchef: the Professionals' last winter taught me a lot: food that appears complicated is not always what it seems. Often, it is in the construction and presentation of a dish, rather than the actual ingredients or cooking process.

Do you eat breakfast? Yes, I do, but I'm not very good in the mornings and tend only to have a bowl of yoghurt and a cup of tea (Redbush or Lapsang Souchong). At the weekend, I do like breakfast in bed, preferably lightly scrambled eggs with fried mushrooms. A proper "full English" is mandatory when camping.

What's your biggest food vice? Chocolate and cheese. I love a good, runny Camembert or piquant Gorgonzola spread on some chewy sourdough bread. I don't buy cheese that often because I will just graze off it if it's in the fridge. Ditto chocolate!

Favourite TV supper? Chakchouka (see previous post). Quick, tasty and fairly easy to manage off the knees!

Any food you really can't stand? I can't see the point of oysters, and I detest celery. Oh, and all dried fruits, particularly raisins, currants, sultanas. Can't stand Christmas food either.

Favourite kitchen gadgets? My trusty Kitchenaid mixer and my Ikea garlic press.


Whose food writing do you admire? I've always liked Nigella Lawson's writing on food, long before she became famous, when she was food writer for Vogue. Also, Nigel Slater, who, like Nigella, shows a healthy disregard for fussy food fads. Sometimes you just gotta use double cream and butter!

Favourite cookbooks? How to Eat (Nigella Lawson), The Ottolenghi Cookbook (Yotam Ottolenghi), Moro (Sam and Sam Clark).


Favourite restaurant? My own kitchen! I rarely eat out, but some memorable meals have been at Petersham Nursery (Skye Gyngell) and a couple of gastropubs I've discovered in the wilds of Dorset. The 12-course tasting menu at Ca'n Mea in Liguria last September was amazing, not least for the sheer volume of food: I'm going back there this autumn for another round.


Signature dish? 'Fran Bread' - my focaccia is hard to beat and very popular with supper guests!


What will you be cooking tonight? As I'm on my own tonight, I'll probably make spaghetti Carbonara, or maybe cook myself a nice piece of steak....

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