Five minutes with Ruby Tandoh

The food writer and former Bake Off finalist has just brought out a new cookbook Cook As You Are. We caught up with Ruby to find out her thoughts on the joy of everyday food, writing a different kind of cookbook – and what it felt like to defy gravity…

Five minutes with Ruby Tandoh

Tell us about your new cookbook, Cook As You Are…

I love traditional cookbooks, but they don’t work for everyone. I’m prone to getting drawn into the beautiful photography and the promise of how well socialised I’d be if I put on the right dinner party. I wanted to create an accessible cookbook of everyday food for normal people, who don’t want to be assaulted with aspiration when they just need to make dinner. Instead, throughout Cook As You Are there are illustrations of kitchens that are tiny or messy, or with kids or house-sharers in them. Some like to read ‘boil for three minutes’ and others rely on their senses, so I used a range of instruction styles. It’s my attempt at broadening things a tiny bit.

What does your ‘cooking as you are’ look like?

For someone who is a cookbook writer, I don’t love to cook elaborate things every day and I think that’s reflected in Cook As You Are. I don’t like to be in the kitchen for hours and hours most of the time – but every now and again I love to immerse myself in a project, like buns or doughnuts. For the most part it’s really low-key.

I don’t go out to eat that much. I’m partial to fast food. I think people expect me to be more discerning or worldly. Taking pleasure in food doesn’t have to be a special occasion thing, expensive or rarefied. I love it when chocolate buttons stick together butt-to-butt, or you crack open a can of Coke. It’s nice to enjoy the things that are around us, rather than pining for a meal at Noma.

Cook As Your Are

What does being a food writer mean to you?

Fresh out of Bake Off, I just wanted to write baking recipes. As time’s gone on, it’s become more complex. I feel most proud of my work when it’s made a difference to someone’s life – not so they can tick off they’ve made a croquembouche but helping them build confidence in the kitchen or come to terms with food.

What do you do in your downtime?

Recently I did a couple of flying trapeze classes. You jump off a platform and swing through the air on a trapeze, then someone catches you, swinging from another trapeze. I’ve always been curious about what it would feel like to be absolutely terrified. It was every bit as scary as I thought it would be and I really enjoyed it.

What do you treat yourself to at the end of a long day?

I love Supermalt, a fizzy malt drink. It’s like the middle of a Malteser but not as sweet, and it’s crisply refreshing. I’m a corner shop magpie and have to try anything I’ve never seen before. And I like cheap crisps – like Monster Munch and Space Raiders – that get stuck in your teeth.

Autumn is here; do you enjoy Halloween?

I always have elaborate plans for Halloween food to make… But it seldom materialises and I end up getting a Screme Egg instead. When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to go trick-or-treating but did it once anyway with my friend. It was only later that I realised we’d gone down a notoriously sketchy road in our town. We didn’t come to any harm, though, and we got some mini Mars bars.

Cook As You Are (Serpent’s Tail £19.99) out now. A 10-recipe easy-read version with step-by-step photos (£12) is available from cookasyouare.bigcartel.com.

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