Sitting on the kitchen table whilst my mother mixed a cake and being able to lick the bowl afterwards!
First cookery skills?
Making chocolate refrigerator cake or tiffin as we called it and trying to make meringues with a fork – it was very hard! My grandmother did teach me how to make a cheese sauce when I was about nine.
There are so many and it depends on the time of year – tomatoes, peppers, beetroot, olive oil, lemons, garlic, berries and capers. Ask me tomorrow and you might get a different list!
Recipes or improvise?
Both. I teach a lot of baking and patisserie. For this you have to follow the recipes and be careful with measuring but at home I will often just pull out whatever is in the fridge and cupboards and improvise. This is something we teach our students to do as well.
Most underrated dish?
Bakewell tart. There are so many not very nice versions around but a good one with delicious crumbly, buttery home-made pastry, good quality jam and almond frangipane (without almond essence) in my opinion is hard to beat.
Indispensable kitchen gadget or utensil?
A flat fine grater will grate garlic, ginger, citrus zest and parmesan really quickly and a small magic sauce whisk to quickly mix together dressings, get lumps out of sauces, whizz up a hollandaise or mayonnaise and beat up eggs for scrambling.
Tell us a top cookery tip?
Don’t overcrowd the pan when frying meat. It will steam rather than fry. Leave the meat alone when it is first added to the hot pan to allow it to get a good crust before trying to turn it.
Eat at home or eat out?
Both but if I am eating out I want it to be really good. That doesn’t mean it has to be Michelin star standard it could be very simple but it should be very well executed. I would rather cook for everybody than go out for an indifferent meal at a restaurant.
What’s Britain’s best kept food secret?
We have fantastic produce and producers. In Scotland we are lucky to have wonderful seafood, delicious meat and tasty summer berries amongst other things. I also like to promote cold pressed rape seed oil as it is delicious and can be used in place of olive oil in so many ways and works better in some dishes. The one we use is produced 20 miles away!
What are the key ingredients for a successful cookery class?
First of all to make everyone feel comfortable. I find a lot of people arrive for a course feeling nervous and so it is important to have a friendly and welcoming atmosphere which is not in the slightest intimidating. The course must be well planned, the ingredients well sourced and set out and it should be made clear at the start that you welcome questions from the students and that it will be a fun and informative day. At the end of the day we like people to leave with a bag full of delicious food feeling that they have learnt and achieved a lot.
Read about the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School