FOOD MILE­STONES Ac­tress Jenny Agut­ter on her favourite food and drink

She spent a lot of her child­hood eat­ing ex­otic food abroad but, nowa­days, the Call the Mid­wife star much prefers roast beef at home in Corn­wall

BBC Good Food - - Inside Goodfood - in­ter­view ROSANNA GREENSTREET

Call Mid­wife the star Jenny Agut­ter, 65, was born in Som­er­set and rose to fame when she was 14, play­ing Roberta in the TV adap­ta­tion of The Rail­way Chil­dren and, when she was 17, star­ring in the 1970 film. Her other movies in­clude Walk­a­bout, Lo­gan’s Run, The Ea­gle Has Landed, An Amer­i­can Were­wolf in Lon­don and Equus, for which she won a BAFTA. Since 2012, the mum-of-one has starred as Sis­ter Juli­enne in the BBC’S Call the Mid­wife, now in its eighth se­ries.

I lived in Sin­ga­pore from the age of three to six. My fa­ther was sta­tioned in the army there and my mother, older brother and I went out by boat to join him. The food sticks in my mind be­cause it was of­ten rice wrapped in lo­tus leaves. It was fra­grant, dif­fer­ent and lovely.

At board­ing school the food was re­ally bad. I was at Elmhurst Bal­let School in Sur­rey from the age of eight to 16 and they gave us steamed fish with crisps on top, which was a lovely idea but the crisps were al­ways soggy. We also had pork belly which was chewy and still had hairs on it and grey minced beef. We were dancers so we were hun­gry and ate what­ever we had, quickly. My favourite meal there was ham­burg­ers which we had at sum­mer week­ends. It wasn’t so much that they were great, but more that we were al­lowed to eat out­side, sit­ting on rugs, which made it more of an oc­ca­sion. When my fa­ther was sta­tioned in Cyprus, my mother al­ways used mar­kets rather than the army stores.

She made a won­der­ful dish with a large sea bass or bream. She would cook it with herbs, olive oil and lemon and it was ab­so­lutely de­li­cious. But my favourite meal was ‘chicken in a bas­ket’ which my fa­ther used to make – chicken and chips in a bas­ket lined with pa­per.

In Cyprus we used to go up into the moun­tains and have meze. I was never keen on the okra, which al­ways seemed slimy, but I loved the aubergine and tomato and the goat skew­ers. I’ve done lots of trav­el­ling and for me, a dif­fer­ent cul­ture is all about the food.

Af­ter I made the film of The Rail­way

Chil­dren, I spent four years do­ing the­atre and tele­vi­sion. I wanted to do more film but, at that time, the film busi­ness was dead in Eng­land, so I went to LA and stayed for 17 years. One of my favourite things was break­fast in a diner where the cook would yell, ‘Here’s your eggs, sunny side up!’

I met my hus­band John (Tham) in 1989 when I opened an arts fes­ti­val in Bath where I was mak­ing a film called King of the Wind. I was still liv­ing in LA but we kept in touch and wrote let­ters and, when I came back to Eng­land to visit, we went on old-fash­ioned dates. I would be stay­ing in ho­tels so in the early days I didn’t cook, I just made reser­va­tions! The first time I cooked for him was when he vis­ited LA and I threw a din­ner party so he could meet my friends. I did a whole baked salmon: I wanted to play it safe – I once had a din­ner party and the oven switched it­self off in the mid­dle of my slow-cooked lamb and it was dis­gust­ing. John couldn’t bear LA so I came back to Eng­land in 1990, we got mar­ried the same year and, on Christ­mas Day, our son Jonathan was born.

Jonathan has never been a fussy eater, he would try any­thing which was fan­tas­tic be­cause, when he was five, I took him to Ja­pan where I was play­ing the Princess of France in Tokyo.

He used to love the lit­tle Ja­panese wraps I’d buy in the cor­ner store – tuna or cooked meat wrapped in sea­weed. He would eat ev­ery­thing I ate, in­clud­ing noo­dles. But he had a bit of a sur­prise when I bought what I thought were doughnuts for break­fast. They had curry in the mid­dle of them.

The most re­volt­ing dish I ever ate was a casse­role in a pub which came with part of the con­tainer it had been mi­crowaved in.

I put my fork into the dish and came up with plas­tic! Three years ago, my hus­band and I went to a posh restaurant in Paris which had three Miche­lin stars. We felt rather

pleased be­cause they had squeezed us in but it was at the end of the day. In France, staff like to leave on time so our meal came fast and then, at the end af­ter a huge wait, we even­tu­ally got dessert. It was a mousse/cake type of thing and it had Smar­ties on it. It looked a mess and tasted hor­ri­ble. The chef had gone home and some­one had rushed out and bought some­thing. John and I just looked at each other – it was a Fawlty Tow­ers mo­ment!

In Novem­ber 2016, John and I spent a month trav­el­ling in New Zealand and ate some great food. Just out­side Queen­stown on the South Is­land we went to Am­is­field vine­yard, which friends had rec­om­mended and we had an amaz­ing lunch. We drank pinot noir and ate a shell­fish starter which had flow­ers around it and gold flakes on top, fol­lowed by tiny lamb cut­lets. It was five cour­ses and ev­ery­thing was truly de­li­cious and beau­ti­fully pre­sented: they even cre­ated the New Zealand fern in­signia from a veg­etable.

The last dish I cooked was a slightly lazy thing. We were in Corn­wall where we have a cot­tage on The Lizard penin­sula. They have great beef in Corn­wall so I bought a small fil­let, sealed it on a very high heat and then stuck it in the oven for very lit­tle time. I tend to stick any­thing I am roast­ing – be it meat or chicken – on a mat of car­rots, leeks and onions which I have cooked slightly be­fore in the oven so they have started to get a flavour. Then I make a good jus by adding wine to the lovely juices in the pan.

Break­fast in LA was great fun when the cook would yell, ‘here’s your eggs, sunny side up’

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