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John Torode: My life in food...


John Torode is best known as the straight-talking TV presenter and judge of BBC’s MasterChef. He originally moved to the UK from his native Australia in the mid-1990s when he worked for the Conran Group. He owns two London restaurants. He is now working with IWSC Winemaker of the Year Neil McGuigan to launch the Neil McGuigan & John Torode Recipe Collection, a personalised food and wine matching service: mcguiganwines.co.uk

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

The most used thing I have is my wok. I prefer it to a pan or pot. It is my wonder. They’re really easy to clean, I am a lazy cook like that, so it appeals. I learnt a lot about Asian cookery when I opened my restaurant Mezzo in 1995, and it’s been my go-to since. Least used? I’d say it is my food processor. They are great in some ways. You can make pasta in them. You can make pastry in them. But I like to feel what I’m making. So I always prefer a pestle and mortar, or just to chop things with a knife.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I think I would go to a butcher and I’d buy some buy some decent, cheap braising meat. Something like some shin. I’d pinch some herbs on the way home, throw them on the meat with some lard or duck fat and braise it long and slow. Add some lentils and you’re laughing.

What do you eat for comfort?

In winter I love a pasty. They have everything you want: they are spicy, have veggies in them and pastry on them. Plus you can eat them with your hands and they taste brilliant with ketchup.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Definitely potatoes. You can mash them, fry them, make pastry from them – you can do everything with them. How could you live without chips? I could do without bread easily. Potatoes are much cleverer.

What’s your desert island recipe?

Take a whole fish and put whatever herbs you can get in it and then wrap it in a banana leaf and cook on a fire. All the things from the gut will flavour your fish.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

I would say The River Café. I have been going for 23 years now. The two ladies who started it, Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray, have been great fans of mine, and I have returned the compliment.

What’s your favourite cookbook?

It has always been the same: Summer Cooking by Elizabeth David. I came across it in a second-hand shop, not long having arrived in London. I cooked for her once at Le Pont de la Tour, which was a great honour. She speaks very evocatively in that book – it doesn’t tell you how to cook things so much, rather it suggests what you should do.

Who taught you to cook?

The inspiration to cook came from my grandmother and my father who were both wonderful home cooks. But I would say I taught myself. You travel, you discover the world, you explore books – it is these things that make a great cook.