Lisa Faulkner: 'I use Marmite in everything from stews to bolognese sauce'

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My earliest food memory... My mum's amazing banana ice-cream. I do a version of it and I don't know why, but I can never get it to taste as good – it's missing her magic touch.

My store-cupboard essentials... Apart from pasta, tomato purée, garlic and spices, I always have ingredients for baking, as well as [batches of] home-made stock in the freezer. Marmite is also a fantastic little secret ingredient I use in everything from stews to bolognese sauce, because it gives dishes that little extra depth of flavour.

My favourite cookbook... Probably Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries. I love the fact it has a story and that it focuses on everyday, simple suppers rather than posh, fiddly things: my favourite recipe is probably his slow-roasted lamb with chickpea mash. After Celebrity Masterchef [last year, when Faulkner won the competition], I discovered [the co-presenter] John Torode's Beef and John Torode's Chicken, which are fantastic. And I love anything by Delia: she has helped me out a lot over the years.

The kitchen gadgets I can't live without... My KitchenAid [mixer]. There are lots of gadgets which you get bored of very quickly, but that one's worth its weight in gold because it makes baking so much easier. Also my Magimix, which I've had for years and use constantly, from making salsa verde and chicken-liver pâté to chopping nuts and making breadcrumbs.

My culinary tip... Apple is a great addition to burgers or meatballs – it helps bind them together and adds a sweetness to the mince which kids really like. And, more generally, people don't necessarily know what a dish is meant to look like, so don't stress out if things go wrong: as long as it tastes good, that's the most important thing.

My top table... The Sun at Northaw [near Potters Bar in Hertfordshire]. It's a cosy, old-fashioned pub where you can really chill out and the chef there, Olly Smith, is incredible: my favourite dish is the lobster, which he serves with chips cooked in lard. Another favourite is [the Italian restaurant] Polpo in Soho: it's got a really buzzy atmosphere and it does the best arancini [risotto balls] that I've ever tasted.

My dream dining companion... If Boy George wasn't a vegetarian, it would be him, but as he is, it would have to be Nigel Slater. The dream would be to go on a picnic where he has made all the food.

My guilty pleasures... Soft, stinky, beautiful, runny cheese. At the moment I'm particularly obsessed with Baer's Camembert, served with truffle butter: I could eat it all day long. Also, you can't beat a fish-finger sandwich with white bread followed by a Creme Egg and a cup of tea.

The strangest thing I've eaten... Sea urchin, which I had when I was in Japan. I wasn't a fan. I can't really describe the taste, but it was a bit like disinfectant mixed with salt. Generally, I don't mind trying things, though I'd draw the line at squirrel, even though it's appearing on menus nowadays. They're too much like rats for my liking.

My pet hates... Cinnamon. Strangely, I don't mind it in savoury things, but I'd never use it in baking or put it in apple crumbles or any other puddings.

My tipple of choice... Red wine. I love a Californian Pinot Noir or a good Rioja. I've just come back from France, where I went to this beautiful vineyard, Beaurenard in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was my 39th birthday, so the owner opened a bottle of 1972 Châteauneuf. It was delicious, but the bottle looked so old, it was scary to think I was the same age! 1

Lisa Faulkner is an actress who has teamed up with Florida grapefruit on its 'Break-Slow' campaign, encouraging Brits to take some quality time over breakfast. For more details, visit