Q&A Cerys Matthews

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Cerys Matthews MBE, musician, cookbook author, radio presenter

The cookbook that has most influenced your cooking

Wild Food by Roger Phillips for showing me the edible plants, berries, mushrooms and flowers that grow all around us. I always thought it would be handy if armageddon happened, or if I ran away, I’d know how to cook in the wild, how to survive. I always think of cooking as an empowering tool… help against food waste and money waste,  reduce your chemical intake, and help you reduce your carbon footprint

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

I’d cook fast things so that I could spend longer on the sofa together.  I love recipe ideas that are simple but whose ingredients add up to more than the sum of its parts. There are lots of them in the book.  For starters I’d do some tequila prawns, as you set light to the tequila or mescal and it’s fun and a bit spectacular.

For mains: some Mexican black beans with home made  cheese (queso fresco)  and tortillas  (I’d have prepped the tortillas and cooked the beans the night before) just serve with wedges of lime and we could make the queso fresco and  and press and cook  the tortillas together in the kitchen. If vegan, I’d make some home made chilli sauce and great guacamole.. serve room temperature pineapple sprinkled with cayenne.

On the decks is easy: my Mexican playlist (available on Spotify to co-incide with my cook book coming out , as playlists run right through the 15 chapters) with tons of great Mariachi and Banda with the driving brass bass lines..and great singalong Spanish hits

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?

Ibn Battuta, possibly the greatest explorer who ever lived, Anthony Bourdain, Memphis Minnie, Mary Magdalen and Mohammed’s first wife Khadija,

Louis Armstrong, a few medieval witches, Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot. Is that too many? Oh, Dylan Thomas too, and Caitlin.

Fast food –  your top snack tip

Toast, ripe tomatoes cut across equator, squeeze over the toast, leaving juice and bits of tomato pulp. Drizzle with olive oil then season with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt flakes. Its the best fast (and Vegan) snack. Another similar one is in my Middle East chapter: fresh flat bread, heated, fill with slices of warm ripe tomatoes and sweet white onions, sprinkle with za’atar… olive oil, and your choice of any fresh herbs  you have handy:  coriander/mint/parsley

Most memorable meal in  film/literature/painting

Ulysses is full of offal, raw meats and devilled kidneys, and the new Philip Pullman book Secret Commonwealth has a very interesting take on how to cook eels. I’m not going to give any more away – it’s not out yet

Your worst kitchen disaster

I suppose one was when I was on Saturday kitchen and tried out a new method I’d read about of cracking eggs on a flat surface . I tried it live on air, smashed it on the work surface and it just exploded everywhere. The host was like – what the hell?

The best thing to do with an egg?

Smash it as above. Actually I love making fried red tomatoes. You dip them in flour them ground corn then beaten eggs then fry them –  nice a crispy when you bite the outside then all sweet and sour and juicy inside. I also make a mean egg curry. Such a great go to meal when you haven’t been shopping for a while

What would you like your final meal to be?

It has to involve dahl. Its my comfort food, and it its my last meal I’d need some of that. I don’t want to die yet

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

I love rock climbing

What did you eat for breakfast?

I had some babaganoush as my family were over from Wales yesterday for a wedding so we ate Turkish charcoal food from a great local. I live in Ladbroke Grove and we are absolutely spoilt with a richness of the world’s cultures in terms of shops and restaurants: Turkish, Spanish, Chinese, Ethiopian, Moroccan, Portuguese, English etc

What’s in your fridge?

Too much babaganoush, rhubarb from my neighbour’s allotment, tons of chilies (never enough), additive-free miso paste for instant Japanese hotpots, yuzu juice for making fast ponzu salad dressing, Vietnamese paste for dipping, almond and coconut milk for my vegan children, and tons of garlic and ginger for me

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

I was handed a recipe from John, a great friend whose grandad, Papa Cunningham was a miner and a baker in Scotland over 100 years ago. The recipe handed to me by John is for Cumnock Loaf*- if you’re looking for the fastest most delicious teacake in the world, you don’t need to look any further than this. As for handing down recipes to my children – actually my children are already handing up recipes to me: here’s a two hander:

I showed my daughter how to make Welsh cakes, she then showed me how to make a binder using ground chia seeds  and water instead of eggs, so we now make vegan Welsh Cakes

Where the Wild Cooks Go: Recipes, Music, Poems and Cocktails by Cerys Matthews is published by Particular Books, £20

Cerys’s book tour includes Liverpool, Cardiff, Salford, Dublin, Hove and London and The Good Life Experience, Flintshire. For details  https://www.penguin.co.uk/events/2019/cerys-matthews-where-the-wild-cooks-go-tour/

* Cumnock Loaf: Like a battered tea bread, originating from New Cumnock, Ayrshire, p137 in Where the Wild Cooks Go