My Life In Food: Prue Leith

'If I could take one thing to a desert island, it would be chilli sauce. Ideally Nando's Piri Piri'

After beginning her career cooking lunches in a cupboard at solicitors McKenna and Partners, Leith opened her own catering business, followed in short order by a restaurant and then her cookery school, Leith's School of Food and Wine.

Having previously written columns for several national newspapers, she is now satisfying her "writing bug" as an author. Prue will be discussing her autobiography at The Bespoke International Taste Extravaganza 2013 at the Cotswold's House Hotel and the Noel Arms in Chipping Campden from 27 January – 3 February. Tickets: or 01386 840330

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

I'm too lazy to knead bread, so my most used thing would be my bread maker. My least used is an ice-cream machine. I make ice cream quite often, but never bother to use it. I do it in the old-fashioned way instead.

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

I'd go to a farmers' market and spend it on veg and a chunk of cheese, then make a homity pie. It's basically a potato and cheese pie, but you can make it with any root vegetable by layering it up with cheese and bacon. Served with a really nice strong salad.

What do you eat for comfort?

Comfort food needs starch or fat, so something like macaroni cheese because it's got everything. I try not to eat it too often, though, because like most of the world I always seem to be half a stone overweight.

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

I'd have bread because there's more variety, unless I lived in Peru. They have about 300 different varieties of potatoes. If I'm stuck with King Edwards though, I'd take bread.

What's your desert island recipe?

A chilli sauce – can I take Nando's Piri Piri? If I've got to make it, I'd do a basic tomato sauce and just add chilli. The nice thing about chilli is that it cheers up even the dullest food.

What's your favourite restaurant?

Bentley's Oyster Bar, Richard Corrigan's place. I like his food because he buys really good ingredients and doesn't overly mess about with it. It's very old fashioned, I've been going there for 40 years, it's a bit like a club. I like to sit up at the bar and order a tray of oysters while they're preparing my meal.

What's your favourite cookbook?

I love Nigel Slater's books, in particular his Real Fast Food, which is great.

Who taught you to cook?

When I was an au pair in Paris, the mistress of the house didn't really teach me, but I watched her and learnt. I went shopping with her on the first morning and when she went into three different bread shops to buy baguettes, croissants and cake, I asked her why. She looked at me as if I was crazy and told me she went to the best shops for each. She obeyed what I consider to be the principles of cooking: buy the best you can afford, buy it fresh and local, mess it about as little as possible, cook it as late as possible so it's fresh and then sit down and talk to people while you eat.

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