Ireland’s answer to Nigella Lawson was in town recently to promote her new book and show of the same name, Rachel Allen: Home Cooking. We get her talking local food, cooking tips and baby food
First published on 3 Sep 2010. Updated on 3 Sep 2010.
Welcome back to Singapore.
Thank you, I’m loving it. It’s a fantastic city – it’s really alive, and also happens to be really clean. It’s exciting. I’ve been eating, shopping – just brilliant.
Any thoughts on Singapore cuisine?
Last night we had a local Chinese meal, which had a spinach dish with three types of eggs. I like the century eggs, and I’m going to learn to cook rendang.
Sounds like your schedule’s packed! You’re really here this time to promote your book and show?
Yes! Rachel Allen: Home Cooking on StarHub Channel 432.
Let’s talk about the book first: how is this book different from your previous five?
It encompasses all the food we really eat. It’s for having people over at home, or for the family. It even has a chapter on baby food, because I had a baby – so that’s for anyone who is in the same situation.
[Well], while I was writing the book I was jotting down everything. And then I found myself writing things for what I was doing for my baby daughter Scarlett. So I asked Jenny – my publisher – if I could put a baby chapter into it. That took kind of a balls!
But it worked out. What are the baby food recipes like?
I’ve categorised them into ages – 6 to 9, 9 to 12, 12 to 15 months – that’s probably the most predictable time of their growing-up years. [There are] vegetable and fish purées – [I’ve left] out members of the jelly life tree for after the age of one, but I’ve included seeds, lentils and particular fruit. It’s really just everything – simple, really fast, thrown-together food.
Sounds like a fun, easy chapter – what’s the rest of the book like?
The rest has recipes for all sorts of occasions, but none very formal - it could be for a great big Sunday lunch or breakfast or brunch, weekday movie nights or friends over for supper.
Are they all Irish recipes?
No, you see Ireland doesn’t have a huge food culture – we don’t have many traditional recipes. It’s always been very influenced by Mediterranean, North European and Scandinavian cuisine. In the last few years [we’ve had] some influences from Asia.
How many recipes are there?
I was aiming for 120, but I think there are nearly 200 recipes.
Wow. How many times did you test your recipes?
My husband and I have basically cooked the book two or three times.
What’s your favourite recipe?
One is the roast chicken – it has really good stuffing recipes in there. It’s homely, it’s comforting – nearly everyone loves roast chicken. If I have any leftover chicken, I’ll have the spiced chicken salad with tzatziki – a mixture of Indian and Greek influence there. And also the chocolate fudge pudding.
Which do you think will resonate most with your Singaporean readers?
There are quite a few Asian-inspired recipes – like laksa, which I love – but maybe Singaporean readers might want to see something completely different. [I think] they might enjoy the dark and white chocolate fudge pudding.
Are the recipes seasonal?
Yes, because we have very definite seasons in Ireland. Do you think seasonal produce would pose a problem for local home cooks? I don’t think so. It’s mostly available in the supermarkets, and there are lots of tips to help home cooks in the book.
Cooking tips? Can you elaborate?
[For example] if you’re making your own chicken stock, it’s a good idea to boil it down without the lid for a bit longer, so you’ll have a strong chicken stock and you can freeze it in ice cube trays. And you’ll have your own home-made chicken stock cubes.
Will the show be like the book?
What I’ve done with the show is that it’s been quite like a cookery lesson. I’ve filmed some of it at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, where I first learned to cook and where I now teach as well. I filmed with family who were having problems or stuck in a rut cooking. I hope it’ll give inspiration to people in similar situations.
Rachel Allen: Home Cooking airs every Friday at 8pm on StarHub Cable Channel 432 (BBC Lifestyle). The book, with the same title, can be found at all major bookstores.