Q&A Sybil Kapoor

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Sybil Kapoor, author, food writer and broadcaster

The cookbook that has most influenced your cooking

There are quite a few, including The Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook by Alice Waters and Chinese Gastronomy by Hsiung Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin.  However, if I can only choose one, it would have to be The Robert Carrier Cookery Course (1974).  My mother gave me the five volume paperback edition when I left home. Every page is packed with useful information ranging from classifications of meat cuts with roasting times to the theory and proportions of soufflés. I still use it and still love Robert Carrier’s recipes, especially his spaghetti alla Bolognese and crêpes Suzette

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

Given that the potential date would be my husband, we’ve been together for 40 years, I’d cook two of his favourite dishes – pizza and ice cream.  I’d make a thin crusty pizzetti with red onion, Serrano ham and blue cheese (in my new book), followed by home-made pear and calvados ice cream

Your top five dinner guests, dead or alive

The artist and theorist Paul Klee

The English novelist and magistrate Henry Fielding

The playwright Ben Jonson

The actress Dame Edith Evans

My husband

Fast food –  your top snack tip

Toast with either marmite or toasted cheese with mustard.  If I’m craving sweetness I’ll spread the buttered toast with honey or my own marmalade

Most memorable meal in film/literature/painting

Film: Tampopo, the 1985 Japanese ‘ramen western’ film (directed by Juzo Itami).  The entire film revolves around food and the search to make the perfect bowl of noodles and create the perfect ramen cafe. It’s a feel-good comedy that captures the Japanese attitude towards cooking

Literature: One of my all-time favourites is the wedding feast that Flora Poste organizes for Elfine in Cold Comfort Farm (1932) by Stella Gibbons.  The ‘Starkadders and such of the local thorny peasantry as would attend’ were offered the likes of syllabubs, ice pudding, caviar sandwiches, crab patties, trifle and champagne, while the landed gentry were given cider, cold home-cured ham, home-made bread, and salads made from local fruit

Painting: I love The Snack Bar (1930) by Edward Burra, which is in Tate Britain.  It’s a small oil painting and conveys the slightly louche feeling of eating ham sandwiches and drinking cups of coffee under the glare of electric light in a Soho café

Your worst kitchen disaster

My parents had insisted that I became a secretary, which I hated, so I tried earning my living as an untrained temporary Director’s Dining Room Cook. One of my first jobs required me to make braised beef with stout and onions.  The regular cook had ordered in slices of brisket.  It needed long slow cooking, but I didn’t know how to make it; I simmered the beef at too high a temperature. The meat was as tough as old boots and the stew thin and horribly bitter. I was fired, but worse still mortified

The best thing to do with a green tomato?

My green tomato would be a sweet sour green camone tomato. They’re delicious sliced and lightly seasoned with a peppery extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Eat with crusty fresh bread to soak up their juice

What would you like your final meal to be?

Chilled leek and lemon grass soup

Dover Sole with Beurre Noisette and crisp thinly cut chips

Bitter chicory leaves and green beans tossed in shallot vinaigrette

Raspberry and strawberry fool with orange flower water

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

A sense of humour, although I’m not sure that’s a talent

What did you eat for breakfast today?

Golspie Mill coarse ground organic porridge oats cooked in soft mineral water before being seasoned with sea salt.  I always eat it with organic double cream and a sprinkling of light brown muscavodo sugar

What’s in your fridge?

What’s not in my fridge? Aside from lots of different cheeses, pickles, mustards, tahini and home-made ketchup, there is always good butter, wonderful organic eggs, lemons, chilli, garlic, ginger and as many vegetables and salad ingredients as I can cram in

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

There are several, but I think it has to be my Scottish mother’s recipe for tablet.  It’s made with milk rather than condensed milk and dissolves in the mouth as you bite into it.

My husband’s recipe for chilli omelette – he adds a little Parmesan cheese before the eggs set which makes it taste particularly good.  It’s the sort of recipe that keeps the wolf from the door

Sybil Kapoor was voted Food Writer of the Year at the Fortnum & Mason Food & Drink Awards in 2015. Her most recent book is Sight Smell Touch Taste Sound: A New Way to Cook, published by  Pavilion Books, £24. sybilkapoor.com