Rose Prince, food writer and journalist
The cookbook that has most influenced your cooking
So hard to answer but I would say that it is English Food, by Jane Grigson. Very accurate recipes that have strong visual instruction. When (the best) cookbooks have no photographs, you rely on the writer telling you what something should look like as you cook, what the finished dish will bring. A strong second is Anna Del Conte’s Secrets of an Italian kitchen (1992), full of antique recipes that felt immediately modern – she (and no one else) brought lemon risotto and sweet cakes made with olive oil to British cooks
The food of love… What would you cook to impress a potential date?
Test them with my own favourites, or we will be doomed never to get on: Roast bone marrows on toast, crab linguine and definitely something with garlic like aioli, with baked cod
Your top five dinner guests, dead or alive
My children – Jack (22) and Lara (19) because we see so much less of them these days…
My grandmother Mary Kapnist, who knew about epic lunch
John Fortune (d.) – satirist and delightful person all round
Fay Maschler – when she came to us she helped me to a better way to cook grouse (searing inside, before roasting, with sizzling oil to prevent bitterness.) And of course her husband, Reg Gadney
Fast food – your top snack tip
A good kebab from Fatoush in Edgeware Road is as fast as it gets
Most memorable meal in film/literature/painting
Most of all the oozing multi-ingredient macaroni ‘bomba’ in Lampedusa’s the Leopard, a metaphor for the colliding people, politics and all we find mouthwatering about Sicily
I am deeply hooked on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series, especially loving the episodes about Faviken in North Sweden and Arpege in Paris. They are so beautiful and informative – a great departure from mainstream TV cookery
Nancy Mitford is great on elegant between-the-wars dishes, slotted among the scenes in her novels – interesting for someone so thin
Other novelists who really understand food are Ernest Hemingway, Len Deighton and Lawrence Durrell. I am not a Dickens reader proper, but excerpts featuring meals have made me hungry
Your worst kitchen disaster
Overcooking good and expensive beef – it has happened more than once but only since experimenting with a meat thermometer. Most are inaccurate unless you spend £300. I am back to testing with a skewer, and ignoring the claims of molecular chefs
What do you eat when you get home from the pub [or similar]
Spaghetti, chilli, garlic and olive oil. I can make this, however drunk
What would you like your final meal to be?
Ice cold white Tariquet from Gascony, condensation on the outside of the glass, with a very nicely made prawn cocktail
What is your secret talent [in or out of the kitchen?]
My husband says I do not have one but I like to think I can dance rudimentary steps of Flamenco. I can also sew, thanks to boarding school
What did you eat for breakfast today?
Nothing. Most weekdays I eat a large supper then fast until a snack in the afternoon. I find this gives me plenty of energy and, at the end of the day, the big plateful I love. I tend to put on weight and the 16 hour fast works for me. I do like a cooked breakfast once a week.
Most over-rated/ under-rated food/seasoning/gadget
Overrated: Electric steamer, garlic press, mezza-luna, sumac, Himalayan salt, fillet of beef.
Underrated: Mouli-legumes (food mill,) Lakeland clingfilm dispenser (removes untold hours of stress in a lifetime;) duck legs and fresh, ground white pepper
Your inheritance recipes – the one you inherited [and from whom] and the one you’d like to pass on to your children
Inherited: warm simmered ox tongue with green sauce and watercress dumplings (mother,) oeuf en gelee (grandmother,) Maryland chicken (fried chicken, corn fritters, fried bananas – my mother again;) Puff pastry apple tart (my late sister, Laura)
To pass on: potted crab, sourdough breads of all types, the aubergine dish – ‘mother’s aubergines’ – that we discovered on holiday in Crete and I gave up a morning’s sunbathing to learn how to make with a taverna chef. The recipe, ‘scuse the plug, is in my book Kitchenella – but it is a winner
Rose Prince’s Dinner & Party, Gatherings – Suppers – Feasts is published by Seven Dials (Hardback: £25, eBook: £12.99)