Gizzi Erskine: food writer, chef, television presenter and author of Gizzi's Kitchen Magic, she is perhaps best known for fronting Channel 4's Cook Yourself Thin - and for being by far and away the most stylish and relatable chef on tv. Her new show, Cookery School - a daily cookery competition in which Gizzi and co-host, Michelin-starred Richard Corrigan aim to turn ordinary cooks into great chefs, starts tomorrow on Channel 4.
She's on a mission to get young people into food and to dispel the myth that cookery is difficult and time consuming. I'm on a mission to find out all about her favourite food...
Gizzi, you're having a quiet night in – just you and the remote control – ideally, what are you eating?
At the moment I have an obsession with macaroni cheese – proper macaroni cheese, really gratinated on the top, delicious, with a great salad and a glass of red wine. And my boyfriend doesn't eat cheese, so if it's just me on my own, then yes - it would definitely be that.
Friends are coming round for supper – what's your favourite dinner to cook?
For me it's all about sharing – not necessarily tapas as such, but I love to bring something to the table that everyone can just dig into. At the moment, I do a shoulder of lamb, slow-roasted with onions, garlic, white wine, loads of oregano and I add some orzo [rice-shaped pasta] – finish it with some parsley and serve it with a bitter leaf salad – it's really good.
Can you tell us your top three favourite restaurants and why you love them?
The first would be Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill – it's just very classic. My boyfriend and I went there for an anniversary meal and I just love the honesty – you can go in and just order some oysters and a beer or you can go full on with a starter and main. I love the Irish feel about the place – it's run by Richard Corrigan – it's just bloody good honest food.
Second would be St John Bread and Wine – it's very much my ethos – good British food, served honestly and simply. It's kind of like British tapas, with lots of different courses you can try – just great food.
My third choice would be Brawn on Columbia Road in East London – great French food, with lots of charcuterie – again, just good honest food and a really nice, relaxing place to spend time.
What's the best meal you've ever eaten and where did you eat it?
It was at La Petite Maison – it was another anniversary meal with my boyfriend – it's Niçoise food so a bit lighter than some French places. We shared a whole roast chicken with foie gras, dauphinoise potatoes, green beans, lots of great wine – just lovely. It was grazing food, which I love.
Where are your favourite places to shop for food?
I live in Hackney, East London and I love The Ginger Pig in Hackney village for meat. I love Selfridges too, because the food hall has pretty much everything that I would pick, all under one roof. I love the fish counter there – and it's great that you can get micro herbs, loads of different varieties of tomatoes and everything that's seasonal. I also miss proper street markets, so I like to go to Chapel Market near Angel, Islington – and because I love cooking Asian food I'm always going to the Asian supermarkets in Chinatown.
Are there any foods you won't eat?
I really don't see the point of mangetout. I hate the texture – and the taste - they don't even taste like a vegetable.
What foods did you love as a child?
Shepherd's pie, spaghetti bolognese, crumbles, roast dinner – all the classics. I still love them all to this day.
What would be your death-row meal?
I'd start with a seafood platter – crab, langoustine, the lot – with some lovely homemade mayonnaise and treacle soda bread with loads of unsalted butter. Then for mains I'd have roast beef with the works, homemade gravy and homemade horseradish. Then rhubarb crumble for pudding.
Do you have a favourite type of cuisine?
I love Asian food – I spent some time in Thailand and love Thai food, but I also love Vietnamese and Cambodian food, so South East Asian really. I love the fact that you can cook fantastic amazingly tasty food so fast.
If you could only ever eat one dessert for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Tricky one – crumble is my favourite pudding, but I do love chocolate, so if you gave me a chocolate fondant I'd be pretty happy. But then there's cheesecake...can I have a platter with one of each?!
Could you give us one fail-safe recipe for a quick to prepare mid-week supper?
Yes - a delicious salmon and soba noodle salad.
This is an interpretation of one of my best friend Abbey's dishes, and I love it! It holds fond memories of me, Abbey and Julie munching away at it over a glass of wine while having a good old girly catch-up. It is a really tasty dish that you can throw together very quickly: the heady wasabi and creamy mayonnaise make a terrific dressing for the aromatic and bitey soba noodles and the crunchy veggies add texture. Abbey and I had a catering company for a few years and we used to serve this dish on Chinese soup spoons as canapés.
Crispy-skin salmon with wasabi soba noodles
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes
250g soba noodles (if you can find black ones, they'll look beautiful)
6 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
a 3cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon sugar
4 salmon steaks, skin on
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon wasabi
50g sugar-snap peas, sliced on the diagonal
½ red pepper, seeded and cut into matchsticks
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 spring onion, cut into matchsticks
3 tablespoons groundnut oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions.
Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, mirin, grated ginger and sugar in a bowl. Soak the salmon steaks in this marinade for 5 minutes, or longer if you want, although it's not really necessary here.
To make the noodle sauce, mix the mayo and wasabi together in a mixing bowl. Add the cooked warm noodles, along with all the veggies, and mix thoroughly. Divide between 4 plates.
Take the salmon out of the marinade and wipe off any excess. Reserve the rest of the marinade.
Pan-fry the salmon, skin side down, in the oil for 6 minutes or until the skin has turned really golden and crisp, being careful not to cook it too quickly - otherwise the sugar in the marinade will burn. Turn the salmon over and finish cooking it on the other side for a couple of minutes or until golden.
Remove the salmon from the pan with a fish slice and drain on kitchen paper. Pour away the oil, then add the reserved marinade to the pan and leave it to bubble away until slightly syrupy.
Lay a piece of salmon on each plate, drizzle with a little of the marinade and sprinkle over some sesame seeds.