Rachel Allen on old fashioned recipes, family values and the lack of female chefs

"It is really good simple food,,. The kind of food our mums or grandmas were cooking"

Tell us a little bit about your new show… 


My style is quite informal. I hope it’s very accessible – it’s definitely not intimidating. 

Everyday Kitchen is really about the kind of food I grew up with and I cook at home. I’m using up a lot of food – there are no leftovers because it gets turned into another recipe. It is really good simple food but there are lots of every day kitchen tips and old-fashioned kitchen know how. The kind of food our mums or grandmas were cooking. 

That resourceful attitude has been lost a bit, hasn’t it? 

Exactly. And actually you can easily make another couple of meals out of something, whether it’s vegetables going into a soup or chicken going into a pie. 

Jamie Oliver’s recent Channel 4 series Money Saving Meals is along the same theme. With so many celebrity chefs, do you find it hard to stand out from the crowd? 

I was actually quite well into writing my book when I heard that Jamie was doing that same thing. I suppose it is a sign of the times so it’s not really surprising. One thing I don’t do, when I’m deciding on a subject or a theme, is decide on it so that I’ll stand out. You hope that you will a bit. But it’s interesting when, with things how they are, economic downturn, things like that, that themes do happen to come up.

Do you have a favourite recipe from the series? 

One of my favourite brunch recipes is in this series, which is French toast – a great way to use up stale bread – with a cinnamon mascarpone and a little maple syrup. That, I adore. 

How do you go about making a new recipe? Is there a process with each one?

No! I wish I had a formal process. I can come at it from a couple of different angles. Sometimes I will literally think to myself, ‘I need a recipe. What’s in season at the moment? Blackberries. I’ve never used blackberries in… pancakes. Why don’t I try that?’ Or I could come at it from another angle, saying ‘I need a soufflé recipe. What haven’t I used before? Maybe honey and cinnamon. I’ll give that a try.’

I test them for about six to eight weeks. And that’s the best! I love that bit. 

I bet your family love that bit too… 

They are very honest. They will say ‘no, I don’t like this’. They are quite tough critics. 

When it comes to your kitchen, do you like to have control? 

It’s normally my husband and me. Hopefully it’ll be just him today – I’m flying back to Ireland tonight! If it’s the two of us I really like that time. We have a glass of wine, a chat. But normally Scarlett, our four year old, wants to get involved and I do let her. I think it’s great. She can peel carrots or… carrot. 

What never fails to go down well with the family? 

Roast chicken, gravy, roast potatoes. Then something like bread and butter pudding. 

Do you watch many cookery shows on TV? 

If The Great british Bake Off is on I would definitely watch it. I love Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood – they are such lovely people. But quite often I like to switch off with other things. There is an Irish drama on at the moment called Love/Hate. It’s gritty, grimy… brilliant. It’s not exactly relaxing but I love it.

We’ve got Gordon, Jamie, Heston… But there seem to be fewer big profile female chefs around at the moment. Why do you think that is? 

I don’t want to get into trouble for sounding like I’m being actually sexist even, but it’s quite hard to juggle family and life in any way and I do find that it can be a bit of a balancing act. I don’t know though really. There are less female chefs in the world than male chefs… but then with cooks and cookery teachers and cookery writers there are so many amazing female ones.

Where there any who inspired you at the beginning of your career? 

People like Marcella Hazan, Jane Grigson, Madhur Jaffrey. Those pioneering women who were doing it and started doing it fourty years ago. 

Rachel Allen’s Everyday Kitchen starts tonight at 7:00pm on Good Food.