Q&A Rachel Roddy

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Rachel Roddy, award-winning food writer based in Rome

The cookbook that has most influenced your cooking

Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book. My mother cooked from it a lot and I remember the painting on the cover of a woman with a chair and a cabbage. English food has taken on a new significance since I’ve been living in Italy, but it’s Jane Grigson’s writing that I most admire – full of practicality and wit. She makes me laugh

The food of love… What would you cook to impress a potential date

I’d probably roast a chicken and have it with something nice, like boiled potatoes

Your top five dinner guests, dead or alive

I’d have Vincenzo, my partner and my brother Ben. I’d love to have Jane Grigson and Simon Hopkinson, and Stephen Fry who’s a good friend of Simon’s

Fast food –  your top snack tip

Fried or boiled egg with anchovies on toast, or just toast, butter and anchovies. Or Weetabix

Most memorable meal in  film/literature/painting

Probably Babette’s Feast, although I do remember in the Cherry Orchard that they eat bread and jam. Before I became a cookery writer, I was an actor and I saw a production of the Cherry Orchard in which they ate real toast and butter and were thoroughly enjoying it. In the first thing I did as an actress, De Filippo’s Saturday Sunday Monday, I had to make a Neapolitan ragout on stage each night

Your worst kitchen disaster

There are quite a few. I made a polenta cake which was an absolute disaster – it was so wet and there was so much of it. It was enormous. I did a cooking lesson once at The Guardian when everything went wrong. People had come to watch me cook and I felt completely incapable and wanted to cry.

What do you eat  when you get home from the pub [or similar]

The first thing I see, or maybe just bread, butter and salt or a cold Sicilian sausage on bread

What would you like your final meal to be?

Something cooked by my mother. Roast chicken maybe with salad just picked from the garden. If I were in Italy, bread, olive oil and tomatoes

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

I have a few party tricks. I can get a cork out of a bottle with just a napkin

What did you eat for breakfast today?

I had two breakfasts; raspberries and muesli with my little boy, very early, and later, boiled eggs on toast with butter and marmite made by my father

Most over-rated/ under-rated food/seasoning/gadget

Over-rated: sous-vide

Under-rated: food mill

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

A cheese and onion pie made by my grandmother, and my mother’s recipes for marmalade and Christmas cake. I’ve learnt to make my partner’s grandmother’s Caponata which I hope my son will make

Two Kitchens by Rachel Roddy is published by Headline Home, £25