Barbara Ross has worked for Marks & Spencer for five years, and was responsible for the Taste Italian range. She is now developing a range of in-store deli counters
What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?
I'm a total Italiophile, so my Imperia pasta machine is pretty much always in use. I bought it back from the Veneto, which is a bit of a pasta centre, a few years ago. When I was developing M&S's Italian range I got really into making pasta and am now a dab hand at knocking up butternut squash and amaretti ravioli. My coffee grinder, on the other hand, I hardly ever use. I bought it when I was looking after coffee and tea for M&S. It was a case of falling for the idea of grinding my own coffee in the morning. Didn't quite work out, though.
If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
On the basis of the meal I had last Friday, I would go straight down to the Brixton Village arcade. It's the indoor part of the market and is jammed with restaurants selling great food at reasonable prices. I'd go to Honest Burgers and get a juicy beef burger and some of their triple-cooked chips with rosemary salt, which, by my reckoning, would cost £9. The other pound I'd spend on one of their small glasses of prosecco.
What do you eat for comfort?
At the moment my days are spent tasting savoury food, so when I get home after a long day the first thing I crave is something sweet and sugary. So I have a pot in my kitchen full of homemade granola. I fill a bowl with it and cover with yogurt and amaretti biscuits. It's sugary heaven.
If you could eat only bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
I'd go for bread. I love making it, especially sourdough. I have my own "starter" in my fridge at home, which you use as a base for making all sourdough bread. It's wonderfully versatile stuff. And who can resist a slice of bread and a hunk of cheese?
What's your desert island recipe?
My amaretti biscuit recipe. It's incredibly simple. You whisk four egg whites into mounds, and then stir in 340g of caster sugar, the same amount of ground almonds and a few drops of almond extract. You then form the mix into biscuit shapes and cook for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees.
What's your favourite restaurant?
That's difficult one, as in my job you constantly need a sense of restless dissatisfaction, as this is what leads you to find new and better products. So you don't tend to go to one place too often. But I am fond of the River Café and Assaggi – both serve fantastic Italian food.
What's your favourite cookbook?
I love The Art of Simple Food by Alice Walters. Her message is so clear-sighted: to use the best ingredients to get the best results. Nigel Slater is another favourite. His books are so well written and you find yourself absorbing knowledge about seasonality and the like without even noticing.
Who taught you your trade?
I learnt the most from someone I never met: Jane Grigson. She inspired me completely. From the age of about seven I always knew I wanted to work in food, and her books were a guide for me.