By Rachael Davis, PA Entertainment Features Writer
For some of us, cooking can be a real chore. You might feel like you’ll never understand how to put together a nutritious, delicious dinner for your family, or you might think you simply don’t have time to get into the kitchen after a long day at work while juggling after school clubs, homework, and all the rest.
In her new programme for BBC Two, Mary Makes It Easy, former Bake Off judge Mary Berry gets together with celebrities with various levels of cooking experience to teach them exciting dishes that don’t take a lot of time, effort or skill.
She joins her famous friends Mel Giedroyc, Jordan North, Anton Du Beke, Lorraine Kelly, AJ Odudu, and Michael Ball to guide them, and us at home, through some scrumptious recipes that even those who’ve never made toast without burning it will be able to whip up in a flash.
Let’s hear more from Berry, 88, about what she gets up to in the kitchen.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO SHOW PEOPLE HOW EASY COOKING CAN BE IN THIS SERIES?
I’d listened to what people say, and they want easy recipes, things that don’t take too long, too many ingredients, and perhaps, from ingredients that they (have) got in their cupboard. So Makes It Easy was good for me to do, because I knew everybody would love it. Nice shortcuts as well.
WHAT DO YOU THINK PEOPLE FIND HARD ABOUT COOKING?
I think they find it difficult because time is short, and they’re cramming so much into their lives… It’s the decision making.
I say: don’t make it complicated, make it on the simple side and follow the recipe. First of all, follow it exactly as it is written, read it through two, three times, and then place yourself thinking how it’s going to work… Choose a recipe that your family are bound to enjoy, and that’s achievable in the time that you’ve got.
I love a one pot dish. I’ve got a recipe that has a couple of chickens that have been spatchcocked – that means the backbone’s taken out. You can buy them already prepared, if you like, and put everything in one dish, all the roasted vegetables around it. Absolutely delicious.
HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH THE CELEBRITIES IN THIS SERIES?
Well, all the people that I had wanted to learn to extend their repertoire, or to do something a little bit different.
Lorraine (Kelly) is not an experienced cook, at all. And she likes healthy food. I did a vegetarian mixed bean and red pepper chilli and thought it was lovely, and her daughter enjoyed it too.
Mel (Giedroyc), she’s already a good cook and just wanted a few more to add to her repertoire. She did a veggie ragu, which was all sorts of different vegetables, but all sorts of things that you’ve got to hand – who hasn’t got a bottle of red wine? And we’ve always got things like tomato, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste, and mushrooms. You know, not too unusual vegetables.
And some like cakes. Now, Jordan (North), not a very good cook, but was dying to make a cake.
His idea of a spread was something he called “picky tea”, and he just emptied all different bowls on the table and put the cubes of cheese in, peanuts, crisps – so this was stretching him!
I made, with him, a red velvet sandwich cake… It had a delicious texture which was given by buttermilk – that was a new thing for him, and a buttercream icing. And on the top, just bought truffles, the sort that I like, the white chocolate ones – that was delicious. He seemed to enjoy it.
I had Anton Du Beke, also. When I spoke to him, I said: “Well, what do you already cook?”.
He said: “I do eggs. I do boiled eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelette”.
“Can you do anything else?”
So it was perfect to show him how to do a chicken escalope with tzatziki. We always buy chicken breasts, don’t we? And to make them cook quickly, you just can beat them out, which is very, very simple.
You just put the chicken breast on a board and put some baking paper on top, and then bang it with a wooden rolling pin. And it will be double the size – well, not quite double, but a nice escalope.
We fry it with mustard, and parsley on top and chopped dill, and that goes into the pan with it. And it is delicious.
YOU MENTIONED MEL THERE. OF COURSE, PEOPLE LOVE SEEING THE TWO OF YOU TOGETHER, BUT THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE COOKED TOGETHER, AND YOU GO CAMPING! HOW WAS THAT?
It was just as much fun as playing cards with her, we used to do that…
We think alike. We have great fun. And of course, she is very bright and took to camping. I mean, she does camp with her family in the Lake District, and so she was certainly guiding me with putting up tents and things, and I would tell her all about cooking.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR PEOPLE STRUGGLING WITH COMPLICATED MEALS, OR WITH TIME TO COOK?
Well, don’t choose complicated recipes! Choose simple recipes. And it’s very important that you take on board the sort of food that your family enjoys.
Check that you’ve got all the ingredients together, and perhaps choose something that you could cook double the amount of and put some in the freezer for next week. It’s nice to look in your diary and say: “I’ve made a note that I’ve already cooked that, and it’s beautifully cooked, in the freezer – all I’ve got to do is reheat it!”
Mary Makes It Easy starts on BBC Two at 7.30pm on Thursday, November 2.