Food & Drink: Secrets of Mary's success

AFTER we reported the results last week of the Lurpak/Independent/Four Seasons cookery competition, the requests flowed in: more about Mary, please, writes Emily Green.

Mary MacRae is the 52-year-old sixth-form teacher who was our winner. Many of the contestants were veterans of famous competitions, including Masterchef, but she had never dreamt of entering one.

'It was really an impulse,' she says. 'I started to think about a menu one weekend, and had to write it down quickly because it's a busy time of the school year - which accounts for the scrawly state of my entry.' She has taught all her working life, for the past 10 years at James Allen's Girls' School in Dulwich, south-east London. And her maturity told in her cooking.

The secret of her success was timeless simplicity: her menu consisted of courgette souffles; a whole baked seabass with lemon and garlic; home-made rolls; rocket salad; roast potatoes; and moulded cream with summer berries.

Her emphasis was on the basic goodness of her raw ingredients. None was more impressive than the fish, which she ordered from a fishmonger named Geoff Griggs (Fisherman's Landing Beach, Range Road, Hythe, Kent, 0303 266410).

'He was so helpful,' she says. 'He said he would make sure the bass I cooked would be one caught by a line and not a net, so it wouldn't be damaged.' It was a spectacular fish, against which flabby, farmed specimens look particularly lacklustre.

Does she require state-of-the-art tools? 'No, I'm more of a garlic press and back-of-the-knife sort of person,' she confessed. And what was her seminal cookbook? 'As for anyone of my generation, it must be the books of Elizabeth David.' Was she nervous? 'I was a bit at first, seeing everyone looking very glamorous and young. Once I got going, though, I didn't have time to worry.'

How did she think she had done? 'I can honestly say it never once crossed my mind I would win. It seemed to me what I did was very ordinary.' The judges' response: if only such good food was ordinary.

The reader recipe column returns next week.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral