Over eight decades, Mary Berry has seen food fads come and go. And the latest one – kale – she deals with in typ­i­cally firm fash­ion writes Kate Whit­ing

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FOOD AND DRINK -

NO, I don’t like it and I see it ev­ery­where. I grew a new kale, which was rather big and a dark colour, and it looked so pretty in the gar­den. Then I started to cook it and it was so strong and bit­ter. I know it’s good for us, but I’d pre­fer to grow land cress, or some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent.”

But Mary Berry – who grew up with ra­tioning, turned 80 in March and has writ­ten more than 70 cook­ery books since the late Six­ties – is softer on other ‘new’ in­gre­di­ents, in­clud­ing the basil she grows in the gar­den of her beau­ti­ful Buck­ing­hamshire home.

“When I trained and when I was a house­wife, I au­to­mat­i­cally used dried herbs. You couldn’t get fresh ones in a su­per­mar­ket, you could grow them but peo­ple didn’t know quite how to do it.

“Basil was some­thing you only got in France, and now we sow basil in the gar­den in May and we’ve got it in the gar­den from late June on­wards. We make our own pesto. Things have cer­tainly changed, and this is the joy of new in­gre­di­ents. I can re­mem­ber when but­ter­nut squash was new, and we all thought, ‘But­ter­nut squash?!’ But we love it now.

“We also grow fen­nel,” adds Berry, who makes a fen­nel slaw in her latest book, Ab­so­lute Favourites, which ac­com­pa­nies her new BBC Two show.

“My hus­band says, ‘What are you putting fen­nel in? We didn’t have it [as chil­dren], my mother didn’t do it!’ I say, ‘Hard luck, you’re go­ing to have it!’

“I re­ally en­joy fen­nel, I’ve worked out how to cook it. Peo­ple say it tastes of aniseed, but it doesn’t; if you cook it, it’s just the most beau­ti­ful veg­etable. If you finely slice it and mar­i­nate it as the base of the salad, it gives the most beau­ti­ful flavour, you’ve just got to con­vert peo­ple to it.

“But I’m never go­ing to con­vert them to kale, be­cause I think it will come and go, per­son­ally. There are cer­tain things I will not do, be­cause I don’t like it my­self.”

She’s cer­tainly not a fan of deep fat

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