The broadcaster and writer on why she quit drinking wine, and the reason she suffered through a dish of 'river fish' in Malaysia
What was your favourite childhood meal?
My mum will kill me for saying this, as she can cook far more impressive dishes, but she used to make a tuna and spinach pasta dish that I and my sister, Anna, would will with all our might to be on the table as we walked home from school. It was creamy, garlicky and just the most comforting plate of food. I've never been able to recreate it. I also have lovely memories of my Spanish granny making paella in a dish the size of the table, although you ran the risk of finding pretty much anything in it.
What is the meal you will always remember?
The Fat Duck [in Berkshire, in England] was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and we were given a tour of Heston's kitchen to boot. At the other end of the spectrum, my pal Alice and I spent a year living in Malaysia, and the local night market sold pork dumplings with a little plastic bag of garlic dipping sauce which melted in your mouth. I've never tasted any as good since.
What was your defining food experience?
There isn't one in particular, but mastering a few basic dishes and realising the joy of cooking for other people is a lovely milestone - for those who reach it.
What is the first dish you ever cooked?
God, I can't remember! My mum taught me a few basics, so it was probably a lasagne. When I went travelling for a couple of years, our staples were baked potatoes with simple toppings, bolognese sauce used myriad ways - which surely should be considered an essential life skill now - and stir-fries. Classic pre-25-year-old fodder, generally speaking!
What is your comfort food?
Bread. I could never give it up.
What is your hangover cure?
Buttered toast, Keogh's salted crisps and Super Noodles - not all on the same plate.
What do you drink?
I quit drinking wine altogether a couple of years ago, which broke my heart a little, but it just doesn't like me. I still have my beloved vodka and Diet Coke though, and I'd never turn down a glass of Champagne.
What is the most appetising smell in the world?
Walking into my mum's kitchen - every time!
You can go anywhere and have anything to eat with any one person. Where, what and who?
I'm hoping to take my son Tom on a world trip in a few years, when he's old enough to remember it! So I have this idyllic notion of us sitting somewhere exotic and eating something delicious in a street market in a far-flung place. If it all falls through, it'll be a picnic on Dollymount Strand.
What's your sweet treat?
Dylan McGrath has a croissant-based bread-and-butter pudding at Fade Street Social that would give you indecent thoughts it's so good.
Worst meal ever?
While living in Malaysia, we were invited to a friend's family home for dinner. They served something they called 'river fish'. Every mouthful was full of tiny, sharp bones and it was a horrible experience, but being Irish abroad, we didn't want to offend and just got through it.
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