My Life in Food: Mary Berry


Berry, a judge on The Great British Bake Off, has written 70 books, which have sold some 6 million copies worldwide. Her latest, which she will be signing in London's Selfridges today, is Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook.

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

The thing I use more than anything else is a knife; a jolly sharp Victorinox. I'm often to be found sharpening them myself with my Chantry sharpener, which does a very good job. The thing I use least? An ice-cream machine. I've had several of them over the years, but with my latest recipe you make a meringue mix and add things straight to that, rather than remixing it in a machine. So I've made my own piece of kit redundant.

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

I'd go where I usually take my grandchildren: Pizza Express. They do very good food for comparatively little money. Their pizzas are really quite good and it's all very efficient and comfortable.

What do you eat for comfort?

I really like boiled eggs or toast and marmalade. I've made loads of marmalade this year, so I'd have that. I save all my clementine and satsuma peelings and put them in the freezer and use them to bulk out my preserve – it gives it its own identity. If I have a choice of bread to have it on I always like Paul Hollywood's seeded variety.

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

I think I'd choose bread. There are just so many varieties: I love seeded, sourdough, and olive bread is very nice, too. It's such a skilled activity, baking bread – I deliberately don't tutor it on The Great British Bake Off as I'm not sure I'm quite up to standard. It would be a shame to live without potatoes, though; I do love them baked.

What's your desert island recipe?

It would be a simple pasta recipe. First boil some pasta in salted water. Then cook some broccoli or, if in season, asparagus. Now take dry cured ham, snip it into chunks and fry in a pan. Add some cream (it has to be proper dairy) and mix it all together. Drain your pasta, then add the sauce. I could live off that for quite a while.

What's your favourite restaurant?

We don't get up to town that much, so I'm no connoisseur of posh London food. But near us in Penn, High Wycombe, there's a lovely pub that does lots of traditional food like hot pot and slow-roasted pork; I enjoy that sort of relaxed pub eating, so I'd say that's my favourite.

What's your favourite cookbook?

At the moment I like Lucy Young's Secrets from a Country Kitchen. Lucy works with me, but she never tests out her recipes in my kitchen, so it was lovely getting the book and having a look at all her creations. It's a book packed with young, fun ideas and I like it very much.

Who taught you to cook?

Well, the first person was Ms Date at school. Then came Mrs Viley at college, who taught me lots of the basics. But I've learnt from lots of chefs and cooks I've worked with. Michelle Roux Jr and Raymond Blanc, in particular, have both been influential in passing me new ideas. You never stop learning, really.