Ruby Tandoh on freestyle baking, being gobby and having a go at Twitter trolls

'I don't regret having a go at people who were really nasty to me on Twitter'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

I was a very greedy child

My earliest memories of food are of leafing through a recipe book, wanting to eat all the cakes: snowman-shaped meringues, a huge chocolate gateau, and a cake that had green buttercream all over it: I memorised them all.

I love reading descriptions of food

As a kid when I'd read about food in fiction, I'd pause and re-read it again and again: my favourite is the festive feast scene in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which has really stayed with me. Now I love reading Nigel Slater and Claudia Roden; they're wordsmiths as well as cooks.

Many baking books have pretty pictures but no substance

Without naming names, some of them also lapse into a lifestyle approach. With my book, Crumb, I wanted to move away from that towards the sort of book I wish I'd had when I was learning to bake. I want my baking to be less over-the-top, ornamental billowing clouds of meringue; all that overly ornate sugarcraft is just awful.

If you freestyle in baking, it will come crumbling down around you

That's one of the first things I learnt: not having the right ingredients in your cupboard and just swapping in substitutes doesn't work. With bread, in particular, yeast is really sensitive so if you play around and try to be clever it doesn't work. Most recipes are to do with the ratios of the ingredients: if you keep the ratio right, you'll probably be OK.

Some cakes remind me of break-ups

Plenty of things happen in life while you're eating, and sometimes I'll be eating, say, an Eccles cake and I'll think, god, why do I feel so bloody miserable? I'll look back and realise what that food reminds me of.

I dislike the term 'dinner party'

It seems so stuffy for something that's just eating with friends. It also makes me think too much of Come Dine With Me. Those dinners are all about ceremony and ostentatious food presentation. It's car-crash TV; contestants big a dish up, then it comes out so badly. If they made the food with more humility, you might actually be sad for them when they failed.

I don't regret having a go at people who were really nasty to me on Twitter

[Last year, the Great British Bake Off finalist was accused by trolls of flirting with judge Paul Hollywood and crying to gain sympathy with both judges.] The publicity people said over and over, "Don't get involved in it," but if I hadn't been a bit gobby, and hadn't stood up for myself against those misogynists, a lot of what I'm doing now [as a columnist and food writer] would not have happened.

There is a type of cupcake that infuriates me

Places that make small, bland cakes loaded with two inches of icing make no sense: they taste so saccharine, they make me feel ill. Old-fashioned fairy cakes with just a smattering of icing on the top are perfect.

Being anxious is my worst habit

I can be at a party for just five minutes, start feeling nervous and have to go home. I'm anxious about anything there is to be anxious about, given the chance, and it's exhausting. The only way around it is to keep so busy that the stress just bubbles away under the surface and never has a chance to be acknowledged and blossom.

Mashed potato would be my desert-island dish

It's plain enough that you can keep coming back to it, but potentially rich enough to feel like you're having something good. I love adding a lot of olive oil instead of butter, as it makes it creamier.

Ruby Tandoh, 22, is a food columnist and cookery-book writer. Her first book on baking, 'Crumb', is out now (£20, Chatto & Windus)