Kerstin Rodgers: ‘All those no-salt cooks – have you tasted their food? Dreary’
My earliest food memory… Suddenly having this thing about fried eggs when I was about four, and getting my mum to cook me one, which I loved so much. But then after that she made me a couple more fried eggs and I tried them and said, “I don’t like them any more.” I was quite a fussy kid! My mum was a good cook but also quite experimental, and it didn’t always work out – she had a phase of making Japanese soup which tasted like dishwater.
My store-cupboard essentials… Marmite, obviously! I’m a Marmite baby and was brought up on the stuff. Also, good-quality pasta; Normandy sea-salt butter – I love it so much I could eat it on its own; ponzu, which is a kind of soy sauce flavoured with yuzu, which is a Japanese citrus fruit – if you put it on rice, it transforms it; and chestnut purée: if you don’t know what to do for a pudding, mix some with crème fraîche or cream or yoghurt and it’s delicious.
My culinary tip… Remember to salt to taste as you’re cooking. I’m a great believer in salt, and I hate this government anti-salt thing: a decent sea salt contains lots of good minerals such as magnesium and zinc, which women are often lacking in, and if you talk to a doctor who actually knows their stuff, there is no definite relation between high blood pressure and salt. And all those no-salt cooks… have you ever tasted their cooking? It’s dreary.
My favourite food shop… Quite a lot of Polish supermarkets have appeared near my home in Kilburn and they’re great for discovering new foods such as green pickled tomatoes, which sound vile but are delicious. Eastern European food has a bad reputation, probably because of the Soviet years, but thanks to the Polish immigrants who have come over, there are a lot of goodies and gems we’re only just discovering.
My top table… Koya, a brilliant Japanese noodle place in Soho. The other ones I love are Tayyabs [a curry house in east London], which is so cheap but amazing, and Polpetto [in Soho], which is all tapas-style plates. Sometimes with tapas restaurants, you end up paying a fortune and you’re still hungry afterwards, but there they give you really generous portions and they also do really lovely flatbreads.
My dream dining companion… Julian Assange – it would be fascinating to get all the secrets straight from the horse’s mouth. Also, Madonna: I like some of her music, but I’m mainly a fan of her career strategy. She’s an amazing over-achiever, and it would be a bit like meeting the Queen. I’d have them round to my Underground Restaurant, because they’re more likely to be relaxed and open there.
My desert-Island dish… Spaghetti with my own tomato sauce and lots of garlic. It’s my favourite comfort food, because it’s got loads of carbs in it. I hate the anti-carbs movement: in fact, I want to start a restaurant just called Carbs.
My pet hates… Meat-eaters on public transport: people who eat a lot of fried chicken as a diet really sweat and smell, especially when its hot weather and you’re crammed under their armpit. Also, okra – texture is important to me in food, and I don’t like things which are slimy.
My tipple of choice… A margarita. I’ve never had a decent one in this country, but I was recently talking to a mixologist and he was saying the reason was that the limes you get here are not the right ones: they’re not the same as you get in the States. The key is getting the right balance of sour and sweet: the margaritas I make at home might be too sour for most British people, but I like food and drink that makes you wince a bit.
Kerstin Rodgers, aka MsMarmiteLover, is chef-patronne of The Underground Restaurant, based at her house in Kilburn, north London, and one of the country’s most popular food bloggers (marmitelover. blogspot.com). Her first recipe book, ‘Supper Club’ (Collins, £25), is released on Thursday