Lorraine Pascale: My Life in Food

From Kentucky Fried Chicken binges in her modelling days to the Thai curry that blew her head off, the TV chef shares her favourite culinary memories

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Lorraine Pascale: My Life in Food
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Lorraine Pascale
Garlic

GROWING UP

My adoptive parents separated when I was young and I was brought up by my mum in Oxfordshire. She worked nights and didn’t have much time to cook, so she’d leave meals in the fridge for me and my brother. It was a life of fish fingers, French bread pizza, samosas and corned beef hash - all with chips.

Then there was my packed lunch for school. It consisted of a sandwich (usually egg mayonnaise) made with brown bread – I didn’t like white – and a packet of crisps and a KitKat or Penguin. Birthday parties meant chocolate fridge cake: mashed-up digestive biscuits mixed with melted chocolate; then into the fridge to set.

I’d get so excited when Mum cooked because she’d do something amazing like tandoori chicken, which was pretty adventurous for the late 70s and early 80s. But I was pretty independent, cooking for myself from an early age, and when I discovered garlic I was keen to experiment with it. I’d spread Flora onto bread and chop garlic into cubes – loads of garlic – and scatter it on top of the bread. And that went under the grill. It became my daily ritual after school – sitting in front of the telly eating dripping, garlic-laden toast.

Clams and Mussels

COOKING WITH DAD

Dad was my inspiration when it came to food. I’d see him at weekends and on school holidays. He’s a language teacher, a great gourmand and an amazing cook. Dad’s wife was Italian, so they’d produce amazing meals – huge roasts, salads and wonderful pasta dishes. That's where I fell in love with food.  

One day, when I was about eight, he cooked a pasta dish with huge amounts of chilli and paprika, so spicy that it burnt my mouth. I asked him what it was, and he said, “It’s pasta with an angry sauce.” I absolutely loved it.

In the summer holidays he’d take us camping in Normandy and Brittany, where we made daily trips to the Monoprix for baguettes, peppercorn paté and ham, lots of salad and divine cheese and tomatoes. We’d find a beautiful spot for a blissful picnic. I still love picnics – so easy, so simple.

One night in France Dad took us to a restaurant where I ordered a seafood platter. It arrived at the table and I looked at it and didn’t know what was going on – mountains of clams and mussels. A man came over and showed me how to eat the French way; using a mussel shell to remove the other mussels from their shells.

Kentucky fried chicken

THE MODEL DIET

Models ate when I was modelling. It was a time when they were traditionally a size eight or ten, which is slightly more do-able than the required size six or four today.

I lived in a flat with other models and most of the time we ate healthily, of course. But now and again we fancied a binge, and that’s when we’d hit Kentucky Fried Chicken for a great big bucket of chicken pieces to take home and stuff ourselves with.

 Times have changed. I don’t eat much junk food now. Mind you, crisps? Yes. And, as a chef, I love to cook with Valrhona chocolate, but if you were to offer me a bar of Dairy Milk as a snack I wouldn’t refuse.

Flora

HOW I PUT ON OVER FOUR STONE

When I was pregnant with Ella I had cravings that made me balloon. You see, Flora came back into my life. I was hooked on baby new potatoes soaked in the stuff and I put on four and a half stone. My doctor was baffled. He said, “Why have you put on so much weight? What are you eating?” I said, “Potatoes”. And he scratched his head and said, “With what?” I was reluctant to admit, “Probably about half a ton of Flora”.

Ella is now 15 and, like her mum, she loves food and big flavours. We’re talking risotto, Thai chicken curry, sweet and sour pork. Sometimes on her way home from school, she’ll phone and ask me to cook such and such from my books. She loves carbonara, though I shouldn’t really call it carbonara because I don’t use eggs. It’s a sauce with crispy pancetta and cheese and truffle oil, and lots and lots of cream.

Red Thai Beef Curry

A CURRY BLEW MY HEAD OFF

Travelling has been a constant source of inspiration to me. I remember my first visit to Barcelona when I was 28. I was taken to a bustling little tapas bar, where I discovered the joy of small portions with big flavours: dishes like patatas bravas; prawns in oil and a plate of chorizo; heaps of garlic and paprika. It’s just so me.

Then, when Ella was about nine I took her on a six-week holiday to Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. I booked cookery classes in hotels and home-stays where families taught us how to cook their food, and we‘d sit and eat with them.

One night we had red beef Thai curry and the cook said we probably wouldn’t want it spicy because we were European, but I insisted, “No, we like spicy”. It blew my head off. I’ve put a much calmer version in my new book.

street food

STREET FOOD v HAUTE CUISINE

Eating out frequently is a pleasure and I go to Michelin-starred restaurants two or three times a month. It was back in 1999 that I first went to Le Gavroche, where I was just blown away by the service and beautifully presented food. It’s still my favourite restaurant in London.

My mood dictates what I eat. Sometimes I want to be at home and order in sushi; sometimes I want to dress up and go out for an occasion. On Saturdays I like to wander along the South Bank, enjoying the street food. But I run three times a week and do circuit training twice a week, and I don’t like to eat after exercise.

Plus, I’ve always got nuts and an apple on me, and I don’t drink much. A glass of rosé is lovely and I like a Mojito, but if I have more than two drinks I fall asleep. I’m a lightweight.


Lorraine's Fast Fresh and Easy Food is on tonight at 8:30pm on BBC2

Lorraine Pascale

Lorraine Pascale's Fast, Fresh and Easy Food is available for £17 (usually £20) including p&p. Call 01326 569444 (national rate), quoting RT, or visit www.rtoffer.sparkledirect.com

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