Renowned cook Jane Lovett has just published her second hugely successful book ‘The Get Ahead Cook’. Here she talks to us about food, life and how to make a dinner party truly zing.
Did you enjoy writing your new book? How long have you been working on it?
Yes, very much, although deadlines are rather stressful. I worked directly on it for around a year but as I’m writing recipes all the time for articles and the demonstrations I give around the country, I wasn’t starting from scratch.
What is your signature dish?
Don’t think I have one really, but as crab is one of my most favourite things to eat it crops up a lot when I’m cooking. Some might say it’s slow-roast belly of pork with raspberry vinegar and acres of very thin crispy crackling!
What was your first cooking job?
My very first job was two weeks cooking in a sporting lodge in Scotland straight after leaving Le Cordon Bleu. There were two of us and we spend a LOT of time plucking the grouse and gutting the fish that our employers had bagged and wanted to eat. They insisted we ate with them and on our last night they ‘planted’ a caterpillar in the lettuce on my plate to see my reaction. Needless to say, I was mortified and madly tried to hide it! My first proper job was at Leith’s Good Food- a catering company in the City of London. Hard work, but I learned a lot and it was fun too.
Did you always love to cook?
Yes always, from a young age. I love food and cooking-possibly because being naturally greedy it’s a means to an end! As soon as one meal’s over, I’m thinking about what to cook for the next…
Who has inspired you?
I admire Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, Nigel Slater and Diana Henry who are cooks rather than chefs. I’d also say I’m inspired by ingredients, styles of cooking and different cuisines more than anything.
Meat or fish?
Sweet or savoury
Who do you try your recipes out on?
My long suffering husband John and our children when they’re at home and occasionally friends-but I don’t let on to friends!
What are the absolute essentials in your kitchen cabinet?
Tomato knife, silicone paper, my Magimix, a giant spatula/tart lifter, good heavy saucepans…I could go on…
What makes a dinner party really zing?
A relaxed host is key as this sets the tone and relaxes everyone else…and advanced preparation is vital to being a relaxed host. My new book The Get Ahead Cook is all about lightening the load and stress levels with advanced preparation. All the recipes have prepare-ahead elements to them-whether they be 10 minutes here or there or a whole recipe completed days in advance.
What country do you most look forward to visiting for the food?
Tricky! as I enjoy cuisines from all over the world. My current favourites are Sri Lanka, Morocco and Turkey. I’m looking forward to a foodie trip to Stockholm this year too.
What’s been your all-time culinary disaster?
There have been many, but the most recent was when I dredged a pudding generously with what I thought was caster sugar at the end of a demonstration, before cutting it up for the attendees to eat. As they soon found out…it was in fact salt!
What would you say to all those who profess they cannot cook?
Have a go- it’s much easier than you think and you might even enjoy it! Keep things simple and choose recipes that are within your capabilities. Don’t strive for perfection. It’s not Masterchef, it’s just food. However it turns out, it’s your unique creation. Be proud of it!
Jane’s new book is available to buy now.
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