Sophie Dahl: 'I've made a rock-like cake or two in the past, but not any more'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

My earliest food memory... Going to lunch at my paternal grandparents' house in Sussex. We'd drive down from London, and the journey there used to feel interminable. I remember the relief of getting out of the car and opening the front door and the smell of Sunday lunch wafting out.

My store-cupboard essentials... Eggs, because if all else fails, you can make a frittata. Also, vanilla pods are useful little fellows: I put them in cream if I'm serving it with pudding, and use them to make custard, and the other day I put one in a chicken stew. And I've been making lavender shortbread recently, so my kitchen now has a place for dried lavender, like an old granny's.

My favourite cookbook... A Year at Ballymaloe by Darina Allen. It's a master cookbook, and so straightforward and practical: there's no fussing. A formative cookbook for me was Nigella Lawson's How to Eat. Its warm, conversational tone is wonderful. When I began cooking a lot, in my early twenties, I'd never read anything like it and I think I cooked everything in it, from cover to cover.

The kitchen gadget I can't live without... Probably my blender. I'm the queen of blending, particularly at the moment, because of all the baby purées I'm making [Dahl had her first baby, Lyra, in March]. I also love my KitchenAid mixer: I've made a rock-like cake or two in the past, but not any more.

My culinary tip... Have a sense of humour about cooking, be fearless and don't listen to other people. I remember being home alone when I was about 13 and making a soufflé from a recipe in one of my mother's old cookbooks. I approached it in a very unafraid way, and produced a rather beautiful one. Then the grown-ups came home and made such a fuss about it and how hard it was to make them, and whenever I tried to make them after that, they would always fall flat. My cooking is incredibly haphazard, but I've never pretended it was anything else. That's the joy of the process: discovering when something really works and when it really doesn't.

My favourite food shop... In London, it's [the cheese shop] La Fromagerie – it's a deeply shallow thing, but it's so beautiful, like walking into a painting. And in New York, Murray's cheese shop in the West Village. I used to live round the corner from it, and it's got epic cheeses, yet they're very good-humoured there: it's very accessible and it doesn't feel like you can't touch things.

My tipple of choice... If it's with dinner, a good white burgundy, and if it's a cocktail, a mojito. The most amazing one I ever had was at Ernest Hemingway's favourite bar in Havana.

My top table... Larsen's Fish Market in Menemsha in Martha's Vineyard [Massachusetts], where my granny lived until she died last year. There aren't any tables: you just get a steamed lobster or crab or mussels, some melted butter and a little tub of coleslaw and eat it on the pier with your legs swinging off the end of the dock.

My guilty pleasure... Aeroplane food. I dig it in a comforting, cotton-woolly sort of way. I really like flying, so getting that little tray is part of the ritual. And a thick, malty American-diner milkshake: my favourite flavour is chocolate and peanut butter.

My pet hates... I love anchovies in sauces, but on their own, they're repellent: their lurid pink bodies spook me out. Also I really loathe it when people over-boil hard-boiled eggs so they get a horrible green outer layer; it reminds me of school Scotch eggs. And I'm not mad about foams: I don't really understand them. I'm not a foam type and I don't think foam types would approve of me.

Sophie Dahl is a food writer. Her new book, 'From Season to Season: A Year in Recipes', is published by HarperCollins, priced £20