Kirsty Wark: 'Simon Hopkinson is great, especially the way he demystifies meat'


My earliest food memory...Being given Nutella on brown bread as a treat. But the dish that most reminds me of childhood is Queen of Puddings with fresh, home-made raspberry jam: it was a lovely thing my mum used to make.

My store-cupboard essentials... Chopped tomatoes, kidney beans, baked beans, carnaroli rice and pasta flour. I regularly make my own pasta – it's so easy and the recipe I use is fail-safe. And to put on the pasta, artichoke hearts in oil and some type of dried mushrooms, such as porcini or shiitake. I also always have some home-made stock in the freezer.

My favourite cookbook... A great all-encompassing book is Katie Stewart's The Times Cookery Book. It was published in the early 1980s, and it was a formative cookbook for me. It's not a personality thing; she just does great, fundamental recipes. I also love Nigel Slater and I think Simon Hopkinson is great, especially the way he talks about and demystifies meat.

The kitchen gadget I can't live without... My really good friend in the kitchen is my navy blue KitchenAid mixer. It's 15 years old; I quite fancy getting one in one of the lovely colours they come in these days – pistachio or burnt orange – but I can't justify it on the basis that my one's still working so well.

My culinary tip... When making mashed potato, always use warm milk. It stops the starch coming through, so you get a lovely creamy mash. It's something I learnt during my time on Celebrity Masterchef, and it was a revelation.

My top table... Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery in Glasgow: it does incredible fish – sole, bream, turbot, halibut, prawns, scallops – and some great saucing. Also, the Salt Yard [tapas bar] in London: I like that it doesn't have a huge menu – I distrust restaurants with long menus – and they do some fabulous sherries. The waiting staff are also incredibly good – it's the friendliest restaurant I know. And I adore The Kitchin in Edinburgh, because Tom [Kitchin] has a Michelin star yet maintains a relaxed atmosphere.

My dream dining companion... I'd like to dine with Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I together because they never met in real life. They were both incredibly intelligent, well-educated and if Elizabeth had met Mary, I don't know if she could have executed her. It would be rather a tense meal, but I like that.

My favourite food shop... Waitrose is pretty damned good and I also really like Clarke's in Kensington: Sally Clarke has some wonderful relishes and salts and so forth. The other place I'd include is the Santa Catalina market in Palma, Majorca, where I live some of the time. A friend introduced me to it, and it has the most wonderful fish and meat stalls.

My pet hates... Tripe: I tried it once, and I don't know how anybody can bear to eat it. It's that slithery texture – the same texture as tapioca, in fact, which is another thing I loathe. In restaurants, I also really dislike music, table policies that mean you have to be finished by a certain time, and waiters taking plates away before everyone in the group has finished, which seems to be happening more and more, for some reason.

The strangest thing I've eaten... Big-bottomed ants. The Colombian ambassador brought them into Newsnight because we were doing a piece on sustainable eating and how we were all going to be eating a lot more grubs. They were crunchy and tasted of nothing, which was maybe the best way!

My tipple of choice... A really pale, icy, fabulous Côtes de Provence, or Bruichladdich malt whisky, from Islay, which is a regular nightcap of mine. I'll always have one when I get on the sleeper back to Glasgow after Newsnight.

Kirsty Wark is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. She presents new cookery quiz 'A Question of Taste', starting tomorrow at 7.30pm on BBC2

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