Five minutes with Kirstie Allsopp
It’s an unwritten rule: no one ever leaves Kirstie Allsopp’s home hungry. The TV presenter makes a mean sausage sandwich, loves to cook in her pyjamas and detests rudeness at the table.
What sort of cook are you?
Cooking during the week when there’s lots going on isn’t therapeutic. I’m a happy Saturday or Sunday morning cook, often in my pyjamas. I’m also a good leftovers cook – I find some eggs and a bit of dry ham in the fridge and rustle something up. When I say rustle, it’s not grand; I’m not a rustler like Jamie Oliver!
Are you a laid-back hostess?
My approach is: when you offer someone tea you also ask if they’d prefer coffee or water. So when I serve crumble, I offer cream, ice cream, custard, clotted cream, just fruit or just crumble. With the children I’m more: “That’s it, eat it or die.” For breakfast in the week, they eat what they’re given; at weekends it’s more flexible – but they have to have an egg. We have chickens, so it’s a rule.
What’s the biggest compliment for you as a cook?
I have two stepsons, Orion and Hal, who are fussy eaters. My eldest son, Bay, eats anything apart from hot cheese and fruit, and my littlest, Oscar, is wheat and dairy-free – so if I make a meal where everyone is happy, I’m thrilled to bits!
Do you have any bad cooking or eating habits?
Yes, I pick, pick, pick. Especially the children’s food, usually as I’m saying to them: “Don’t eat with your fingers!”
Are you a bit of a food critic?
No, and I can’t stand people being rude in restaurants or about other people’s cooking – it turns the food to sawdust in your mouth. It’s miserable – don’t do it!
Would Phil Spencer be at your fantasy dinner party?
Yes, because I’d love to invite the Queen and I know he’d like to meet her, too. My partner Ben. Prince Philip. Meryl Streep – she’d know how to behave. If the Queen’s there you have to have people who are good in company; you couldn’t have Russell Crowe or Russell Brand… in fact, no Russells at all. And Phil fancies Melanie Sykes, so to keep him happy…
What would you serve?
Everybody likes 1970s food. It reminds them of their first taste of sophistication. I’d do prawn cocktail and salmon mousse – old-fashioned food, which the Queen would like. Also maybe coronation chicken, although she’s possibly had enough of that…
Who taught you all you know about cooking?
Although I learned a lot of things from my mum, it was never, “Let’s spend the afternoon cooking together.” But she taught me how to cook vegetables and mashed potato perfectly. We’re all devoted mash fans. We use a French mouli thing – a lump in our mash is tantamount to… well, something very bad.
What else did your mother teach you?
That no one ever comes into your house without being offered a cup of tea. For me that extends to a sandwich, often a sausage one.
What do you cook for Christmas Day?
We usually go to my mum’s, and my brother and sister fight over who does the roast potatoes. I don’t get involved. But for the turkey I do think there’s something to be said for putting water in the bottom of the roasting tin. I also roast it upside-down to start with, then turn it over later.
What’s your favourite Christmas grub?
Little sausages wrapped in bacon – it’s the only time of year when people do them. Sometimes when we’re in Devon we rent a boat with a mackerel line and get fish for tea. In fact I think my partner would prefer fish to turkey at Christmas.
Kirstie’s Homemade Home is out now, published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20. See the new series of Kirstie’s Homemade Home, Thursday nights on Channel 4.