1. We assume you’re head chef at home at Christmas?
I always roast the turkey and make the gravy. My husband Paul and I might host the children and grandchildren here in Henley, Oxfordshire, or we might go to them. If it’s the latter, I roast the turkey in the morning, cooking it to perfection two to three hours ahead. Then I wrap it in foil and swaddle it all in clean towels or a coat and pop it in the boot before we set off. It works a treat.
2. How did you celebrate Christmas over lockdown?
Annabel, our daughter, delivered lunch to the back door for Paul and me. We were totally happy. We had each other, we were safe and we counted our blessings.
3. It can’t always be that calm. Any festive dramas?
Once, when the family were coming round, I roasted a turkey crown and laid it out with all the trimmings. The bell went and, as soon as I turned my back to open the front door, Wellington, our black Retriever, jumped up and pulled the turkey from the plate to the floor. After a dramatic shout from me, I quietly scooped it up, trimmed the edges, covered them with parsley and popped it all back on the table. Who would know? As you can tell, we love our dogs.
4. What’s your earliest Christmas memory?
I would have been at home in Bath with my parents and brothers. Mum always invited one extra – someone who would have been on their own. Latterly, it was the matron at the Royal United Hospitals Bath. She would come after her morning shift. Mum started Friends of the RUH, a charity providing extra for the patients, and it’s still going strong today. I was very proud to go back a few years ago and open the coffee shop at the hospital.
5. How much did you help your mum cook as a child?
Not at all, sadly. It was wartime, so my mother was making rations go round. It was common to have sugar in your tea back then and she explained that if we gave up the sugar, there might be the occasional cake or pudding – so we did.
6. What’s your secret to keeping composed in front of the stove?
I love a to-do list and always have one on the go. The greatest joy is ticking things off when they’ve been achieved.
7. Ever get fed up with cooking?
Cooking of all kinds still gives me enormous pleasure, whether I’m rustling something up at short notice from the fridge or experimenting with ingredients such as miso or samphire. I never find it a chore because I avoid doing it every day. I often make double and freeze the rest. There’s no shame in reheating.
8. When you’re not in the kitchen, where might we find you?
In the garden! I can’t wait for the new catalogues to come out – I read them from cover to cover for bulbs and plants. I’m an extravagant gardener. We’ve been growing beetroot, ‘Sungold’ tomatoes, mini cucumbers, carrots, ‘Gariguette’ strawberries, celeriac and runner beans, and have masses of herbs in pots by the back door.
I eat less meat now out of respect for the environment, but I love vegetables – spiced cauliflower steaks are one of my favourites. In my new book Love to Cook, I’ve included a lot of grains and salads, which have become an essential part of our diet. Having said that, kale is still at the bottom of my list.
9. Any mischievous dogs to keep an eye on this year?
We have two working cocker spaniels, Darcey and her son Freddie, who are very well behaved. I give them a plate of vegetables every night when we have our supper – a bit of celery and some broccoli stalks with gravy, if we have some. I think it does them good.
10. What does the future hold for Mary Berry?
Next year will be exciting. It’s the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and I hope to be involved along the way. What an amazing example she is to all of us. I am 10 years behind the Queen and there is so much I want to do…
This feature is from Country Living magazine – SUBSCRIBE HERE
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