Congratulations to divasparkle, whose Extraordinary Marinated and Roasted Chicken, Potatoes, and Chickpeas won the contest for Your Best One-Pot Meal!
Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
Not so much a food experience as knowledge -- a book that totally changed the way I shopped was Frances Bissell's The Real Meat Cookbook. In the early nineties, the ins and outs of intensive battery farming were not that well known and this tome really opened my eyes. Hormone injections for rapid growth, water to bulk out, feed full of antibiotics, shocking breeding conditions in tiny barns…I had no idea. Farming standards in the UK have improved immeasurably since then, but I try to buy free-range and organic meat as much as possible.
What's your least favorite kitchen task?
I really, really, really loathe washing up -- I am so thankful that we now have a dishwasher (it is not a standard kitchen appliance over here yet) and I can hang up my Marigolds (washing-up gloves)!
Your favorite kitchen tool?
My favorite kitchen tool is my handmade utility knife from the Japanese Knife Company. I bought it from a very knowledgeable old man at a food show, who really impressed me with his calm and serene manner. Twelve years later, I attended a knife skills course and was delighted to find that he was teaching it. We had been asked to bring our knives in and when I handed him mine, he recognized it immediately and even knew who had made it -- how amazing is that?!
What is your idea of comfort food?
Always savory and usually involving potatoes -- something rib-sticking and hearty like creamy mashed potatoes and lamb shanks which have been braised in the oven for 4 or 5 hours. Or a chicken noodle soup which has been made from the carcass and leftovers from the Sunday roast.
What is your greatest kitchen disaster?
Many years ago we had a garden which was full of all sorts of fruit trees -- one year we harvested more plums than we could eat so I decided to make a chutney. I took out my large, old faithful Le Creuset dutch oven and proceeded with the recipe. I left it burbling gently on the hob, wandered into the garden and got chatting to our neighbor who convivially produced a glass or two of wine. By the time I got back into the kitchen, all the sugar in the plums and the chutney had carbonized and welded itself to the bottom of the pot, totally destroying my beloved Le Creuset. No amount of scrubbing, soaking, or scraping over the next few weeks could lift off that burnt-on mess. I shedded tears throwing out Old Faithful. I was overjoyed to receive a new one as a gift the following Christmas, and have since acquired a smaller oval one -- but I have never made a chutney again!