Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Roddy, Steady, Cook. Food Writer Rachel Roddy Talks to ELLA WALKER about the Inspiration Behind Her New Cookbook and Why Sharing Meals and Recipes Is So Personal

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Roddy, Steady, Cook. Food Writer Rachel Roddy Talks to ELLA WALKER about the Inspiration Behind Her New Cookbook and Why Sharing Meals and Recipes Is So Personal

Article excerpt


RACHEL RODDY has recently been showered in trophies, winning two at the 2017 Guild of Food Writers Awards. But flicking through the 44-year-old food blogger and columnist's new cookbook, Two Kitchens, she already seems to have attained a kind of foodie nirvana.

A follow on from her 2015 cookbook Five Quarters, its title refers to Rachel's tiny kitchen in her flat in Rome, as well as the big, basic cooking space at her partner Vincento's family home in the industrial Gela, Sicily, where they spend their summers, and it features the "really simple food" that has come from both.

"My kitchen is the kitchen of Rome and England; my Northern grandma, every cookbook I've ever read, every TV programme I've ever watched; every bit of advice I've ever been given - and also, these are recipes that you're going to make your own. It is 'Two Kitchens' but it could be called 'Many Kitchens'," explains Rachel, who was born and raised just outside London.

She has lived in Rome for the past 12 years - arriving one day with just a rucksack and deciding to stay - but England still spools into her Italian life, and her Italian kitchens.

"I'm very aware of cooking with my mum and my grandmas when I'm here. I miss them a lot, so they're really in the kitchen with me when I cook," says Rachel, noting that having her son "brought that into sharper perspective".

Two Kitchens is split into 24 sections, each devoted to a specific ingredient (aubergines, ricotta, peas, oranges, etc), typical to her two Italian spheres.

The most iconic Sicilian recipe is caponata, a sweet and sour aubergine stew that "everyone makes - it's absolutely delicious", but in true Italian style, there can be spats over how it ought to be prepared.

"Italians still think English people can't cook!" says Rachel with a laugh. "They have really strongly held opinions about how you do things and no compromise from that at all."

"I tend to listen - there's a lot of discussions about how things should be done. I sometimes get involved, but I always regret it afterwards."

That doesn't mean she isn't fascinated with the way other people think about and cook food, though.

"It's always a lovely thing to ask someone to show you how to make something, because it's quite an intimate act, and you often get the most wonderful information from people when they teach you," she explains. "I'm not so interested in the recipe, but people's tips and secrets." Rachel writes about food by weaving stories into recipes, and vice-versa.

"We all eat all the time, whether it's good, bad or indifferent food - it's very tied up with love and place and need, so when you write about food, you write about life," says Rachel. "It's another way of sharing: The way you share a meal, you share memories."

| Here are three recipes from Two Kitchens to try at home.

Pasta master AUBERGINE PASTA (SERVES 4) THIS is an Italian favourite that makes perfect use of seasonal summer vegetables.

INGREDIENTS 2 large aubergines Olive or groundnut oil, for frying 1kg fresh tomatoes or 500g passata 2 garlic cloves A small handful of basil 1tsp sugar (if you need it) 500g pasta, such as spaghetti, rigatoni, casarecce, mezze maniche or penne 200g salted ricotta, grated Salt METHOD 1. Peel strips from the aubergine so that they are striped, then cut them into 5mm slices. If you're going to salt them, do it now; otherwise just dry them with a clean tea towel. Heat about 5cm oil in a frying pan and fry the slices, turning them halfway, until they are golden brown on both sides, then drain very well on kitchen paper. Set the slices aside, ideally near the stove so they keep warm-ish.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil. If using fresh tomatoes, peel them by plunging into boiling water for one minute, then lift out with a slotted spoon and cool under cold water, at which point the skins should slip away. …

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