Celebrity chef Dame Prue Leith tells us all about her favourite leftovers, her top freezer foods and handy hints for desert island eating.
Dame Prue Leith started her catering company Leith's Good Food in the 1960s and soon after opened her Michelin-starred restaurant. In the 1970s she started Leith's School of Food and Wine and has since opened several training restaurants and a catering college in South Africa. Previously a cookery columnist for national newspapers, Prue has written 12 cookery books, three novels and has been a television presenter. Prue also chairs several charity organisations including the School Food Trust working to improve school meals in England.
What’s your favourite leftover meal?
I like to just open the fridge and see what’s there. It gives me huge satisfaction to “make something out of nothing” but the temptation to resist is putting everything you want to get rid of into a stir fry.
What’s your signature dish?
I guess its what I call Muscovado Heaven and Nigella Lawson calls Barbados dream. Basically it s a 50% mix of plain yogurt and cream with a layer of dark Muscovado sugar on too which, if left for half an hour, liquefies to a rich syrup.
What’s the best food tip your mum or grandmother gave you?
None, they were both rotten cooks.
If you were stuck on a desert island and could take one meal with you, what would you choose?
Slow cooked Cassoulet which would stay hot in a pot buried in the sand for hours, would be comforting at night, and which could contain whatever I could hunt in the way of wild beasties.
What’s the most unusual food item that you freeze to use later?
Grapefruit sorbet is pretty good. Bernard Mathew once sent me a ton of turkey necks in the hope I would make something wonderful with them that he could then manufacture. I failed, but turkey neck is pretty tasty! Not as good as ostrich though!
If there’s one type of food that you always end up chucking out – what is it and why?
I never chuck anything out. I am far too mean. But if pushed I would say ice-cream – home made ice cream is only really good for a few days after you make it.
What’s your strangest food combination – and will anyone else eat it?
When I was at boarding school we had midnight feasts of sardines and sweetened condensed milk. But today the weirdest combination I like is probably fresh watermelon, wrapped in Pancetta and grilled. And no, I’m on my own in this: Matthew Fort, for example, thinks it’s disgusting.
The average household with kids wastes up to £60 a month on food thrown out. If you were given the money back, how would you spend it?
On teaching the kids to cook so they would eat good food and not waste it.
What’s the one recipe you have passed onto your kids - and why?
Really good roast chicken because everyone loves it, it is easy to achieve and somehow it symbolises happy families.
What kind of food did your kids leave on their plates the most?
Beetroot from the garden because I loved it and would serve it as soup, veg, risotto, soufflé, anything...
How did you encourage your kids to eat everything you served them?
I never needed to encourage my daughter, she’d try anything and my son realised when he was about 18 that it would be less embarrassing if he got to like veg, so he tried, and guess what, he did. Most foods are an acquired taste -- you just need to keep trying them and you will get to like them.
“I like to just open the fridge and see what’s there. It gives me huge satisfaction to ‘make something out of nothing’.” Dame Prue Leith