Rachel Allen: TV chef, author, journalist, cookery teacher and creator of simple and delicious recipes you'll go back to again and again.
With highly appealing section titles like: "Store Cupboard; Fast & Fabulous; Five Ingredients or Less; No Cook; and One Pot", Rachel's latest book, Easy Meals had me at hello.
If like me you regularly find yourself spending an absolute fortune at the supermarket only to arrive home to discover you've actually got nothing with which to make a proper meal, Easy Meals might make you think again.
We caught up with Rachel to talk death row meals, Marmite and takeaway treats:
Congratulations on the new book, Easy Meals. You describe the recipes as "unapologetically simple and straightforward" – can you tell us a little more about them?
Yes, they are. All of the recipes are fuss-free in a one way or another. Be they very quick one pot (great for the washer-upper in the family) or using ingredients tucked away in your store cupboard. But none of them compromise on goodness and flavour.
You're a TV chef, author, journalist and cookery teacher – if you had to choose only one of these jobs, which would it be and why?
Cookery teacher, as this is the core of everything else I do, whether it's creating a recipe, presenting a cookery programme or writing about the merits of root vegetables!
What was the first dish you learnt to make at cookery school?
Chicken stock, the base of all of my favourite soups.
Did your attitude to food change at all when you became a mum?
Only in that I no longer had all day to cook for a dinner party.
You're having a quiet night in – just you and the remote control – ideally, what are you eating?
I think the ultimate comfort food has to be buttery mashed potato washed down with some lovely red wine.
Friends are coming round for dinner – what's your signature three course menu?
Oh, let's see...it depends on the season. If it's summer, then I'd make a pea and mint soup, or chilled gazpacho, then for the main course we would have seafood such as crab and lobster with new potatoes and homemade mayonnaise, followed by strawberry and almond tart.
But if it's winter I'd make roast beef and serve béarnaise sauce, kale, crunchy roast potatoes and then serve chocolate mousse with shortbread biscuits.
What's the best meal you've ever eaten and where did you eat it?
I think one of the best meals I've ever eaten was at Ballymaloe House (my husband's family's country house) after a year of being away travelling and eating on a shoestring. I devoured hot, buttered lobster.
Are there any foods you won't eat?
Apologies to all of the Marmite lovers out there but yes, it's Marmite or anything containing it.
What would be your death row meal?
My mum's roast chicken, crunch roast or butter mashed potatoes and carrots with mint.
What's your favourite takeaway treat?
Duck pancakes from our local Chinese.
If you could only ever eat one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Please let it be something chocolatey...
The following recipe is taken from Easy Meals by Rachel Allen, out now published by Collins, priced £25 (Hardback).
Once washed and cleaned, mussels are one of the easiest foods to serve; they are ready in only a few minutes.
Preparation Time 10 minutes
Cooking Time 5-10 minutes
1.5kg (3lb 5oz) mussels
110g (4oz) chorizo
2 tbsp olive oil
120ml (4 ½ fl oz) dry sherry or white wine
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4 lemon wedges, to serve
Rinse the mussels in cold running water a couple of times to wash away any sand or grit. Give them a scrub to dislodge any barnacles or weed, then remove the 'beard' with a tug or a sharp knife. Discard any that are open and won't close when tapped against a surface.
Cut the chorizo into 3mm ( 1/8 in) slices. Pour the oil into a large saucepan on a medium heat and, when warm, add the chorizo. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side or until the amber oils are released from the chorizo.
Add the sherry, then the mussels, cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until all the mussels have opened. (Discard any that remain closed after cooking – don't eat these.)
Stir in the parsley, then tip into wide, warmed bowls and serve with lemon wedges and toasted crusty white bread.