Q&A Vicky Bennison

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Vicky Bennison, writer and founder of the Pasta Grannies Project

The cookbook that has most influenced your cooking

Deborah Madison’s The Greens Cookbook. I’m not vegetarian but this book and her restaurant moved vegetarian cooking on from being only about lentil crumbles. I still use several recipes from it

The food of love: what would you cook to impress a potential date? And what piece of music would accompany it?

My husband likes everything I cook! I first cooked him roast beef when we were 16 years old, which was a disaster – though I am not sure he noticed because my Grandpa had produced a rather good bottle of claret. These days I think my mushroom risotto is his favourite. And the music? Probably Match of the Day theme tune as he’s keen on sports

The perfect dinner party: which five people (dead or alive, real or fictional) would you invite to dinner and what would you cook for them?

David Attenborough, Lesley Blanch (explorer, writer, a woman who was star of her own life and funny with it), my Dad (who died 10 years ago), Lady Hale so she can share her brooch stories, Barack Obama. Patrick Leigh Fermor – another charming explorer. Oh that’s six…

I’d cook pici all’aglione, because it’s easy and the conversation would be more important.

Fast food –  your top snack tip

Poached egg on toast. An egg stops one from feeling hungry for hours

Most memorable meal in  film/literature/painting

The soup fixing scene in Ratatouille because it captures the joy of cooking with your instincts and palate

Your worst kitchen disaster

I dropped a pastry encased pasta dish called a timballo on the floor as I was taking it from the oven, with eight people waiting for lunch

The best thing to do with six British tomatoes?

Cut them in half, sprinkle a bit of salt and sugar, extra virgin olive oil, bake. Mash on bruschetta or stir through a farro salad

What would you like your final meal to be?

I probably wouldn’t have much of an appetite; maybe a glass Castello di Gussago La Santissima Franciacorta sparkling wine might soothe my passing!

What is your secret talent [in or out of the kitchen]?

I can recognise most pop tunes from the 70s and 80s within the first three notes/chords. Something to do with listening to Radio Caroline under the bedcovers at boarding school where radios were banned.

What did you eat for breakfast?

So far, some hazelnuts and a cup of tea because I’m on my own and cannot be bothered. When Billy my husband is around, we’ll have homemade bircher museli and plain (live) yoghurt

What’s in your fridge?

Several different cheeses, some tahini, eggs, last night’s supper of baked eggplant with tomatoes, onion and mozzarella

Your inheritance recipes – the one you inherited [and from whom] and the one you’d like to pass on to your children

My mother’s multi layered hazelnut meringue with apricot cream recipe. I don’t really do puddings, but this is an exception


Pasta Grannies: The Secrets of Italy’s Best Home Cooks by Vicky Bennison is published by Hardie Grant (£20), www.pastagrannies.com

Photography by Emma Lee. For recipes from Pasta Grannies visit breadandoysters.com/recipes-from-the-pasta-grannies/