Really Stinky Cheese
The runnier and smellier the better. I love strong, hard cheeses, like very mature Cheddar, Manchego or Parmesan, but nothing beats a super ripe Stinking Bishop or the wonderful Welsh blue cheese Perl Las.
Proper ones – warm and sun-ripened that have never been in a fridge. A freshly picked heritage tomato with a generous sprinkling of sea salt is about as good as food gets. By contrast, a wooly, overchilled tomato that is hard and tasteless is a travesty.
My friend Graham Waddington of Native Breeds Charcuterie introduced me to this cheap, often overlooked cut of meat. He gave me a confit of pigs cheek, steeped in cider. I honestly could have married him on the spot.
Eggs & Chilli
I love chillies and think the combination of a bit of fire with the gentle luxury of an egg is irresistible. Green chillies in an omelette is about the most perfect breakfast I can think of.
Peas Straight From the Pod
My maternal grandfather was a great gardener and one of my earliest memories is going with him to his vegetable garden and picking peas. We would take a big bowl back to my grandmother and she and I would sit and pod them. I loved – and still do – the feeling of anticipation, of popping the pod to see what it reveals. There is that slight, but unmissable clean green smell as the pod splits, that makes me think of warm spring days, and then the sweet delicious crunch of the fresh peas themselves.
Horrible texture, horrible smell, horrible taste. Just horrible.
For me, the finest food has been messed about with as little as possible. It should all be about ingredients and clever combinations of flavour. Presentation should be simple and inviting – I don’t understand the appeal of foams and endless fiddly bits of garnish, and as for the fashion for ‘smears’ of purée, well it flummoxes me. It just looks like someone hasn’t been able to resist sticking their finger in your food!
I know, everyone thinks I’m really missing out, but I am permanently scarred by being served cubed pickled beetroot with spam and instant mashed potato at school.
If I bothered to check, I’m probably lactose intolerant, but I don’t want to find out because that would mean I couldn’t eat cheese. I stopped being able to eat cereal with milk when I was about six and could not drink a glass of milk if someone paid me. The only milk I have is very occasionally – and sparingly – in tea. Cream is even worse – my idea of hell is a chocolate eclair.
Particularly breakfasts. It is such an unrestful way to start a day, with lots of people milling about, elbowing each other out of the way of the toaster. Buffet food always looks so unappetising, and sort of ‘second-hand’. Fried eggs sitting in a pool of grease, flabby bacon oozing water, tasteless bits of melon, concrete porridge, everything lukewarm and congealed. There is nothing pleasurable about a buffet, none of the simple luxury of quietly enjoying a meal. It is all smash, grab and get out of there as quickly as possible.