By Ella Walker
Mary Berry has worked in the food industry for more than five decades and is always keen to keep learning.
The 86-year-old’s new TV series and accompanying cookbook, Love To Cook, sees her get to grips with preserved lemons and white miso, and she’s intent on bringing home cooks along with her. “I enjoy so much the teaching side,” says the Bath-born food writer and presenter, adding that, “Every recipe is achievable. It’s not too many ingredients, and they’re the sort of recipes that your family will go through.”
Trained at Le Cordon Bleu and with aeons of experience to back her up, when you speak to her, Berry can’t help but share tips and tricks for making the most of your food – whether you buy it or grow it yourself.
Here’s a handful of her best hacks…
Sow potatoes in big buckets
In the new series, Berry meets a celebrated allotmenter, Terry, who taught her a few things about growing potatoes. “He grew potatoes, as I do, in big plastic bins,” she explains. “I said, ‘I’m waiting for the flowers on my potatoes’. He said, ‘You don’t want to do that, you want to put your hand down the side and see whether there’s any’. So he put his hand down the side of his potatoes, no flowers on them, and up came little tiny potatoes and it was beautiful.”
Multiply your supermarket basil
Berry gets through a lot of basil in her kitchen – and she doesn’t keep it in the fridge, because it likes to be warm. “If you don’t want to sow seeds, you can buy a pot in your supermarket and then nip out the tops, divide them up and spread them out in the garden,” she recommends. “They’ll grow well, or spread them out on the windowsill, so you’ve got more plants.”
Make fresh herbs last longer
Berry grows her own tarragon, sage, basil and rosemary, and is adept at keeping them fresh. “I put my herbs in a jug or a jam jar and slip a poly bag over the top and keep them in the fridge,” she explains. “They’ll keep very well. Parsley, whether you grow flat-leaf or ordinary parsley, it doesn’t matter, they’re a very similar flavour – they will keep well if you’ve put the stalks in water.”
The secret to sparkling roasting tins
Washing up as she goes is classic Mary Berry, but if you’ve got a pan that really won’t shine, she has a back-up plan. “If you’ve got a really burnt dish that you’ve been roasting in, put a dishwasher tablet in it and pour boiling water on it and leave it overnight. You’ll be amazed how easily it comes off.”
Why cauliflower is the best bargain
Love To Cook goes big on vegetables, and Berry is a particular fan of cauliflower: “A cauliflower to me is such a good buy. You can roast it, cut thick slices from it, you can fry it, and any of the bits that fall off round the outside, you can stir-fry.”
On getting the right level of heat
Everyone knows what spice level suits them. “My young [family] like chillies so that they jump when they eat them,” says Berry. “In the recipes, I always suggest a small amount. And if you want to add more, do. And spices – I love spices, I love curries. But I think you have to temper them to your family.”
Sticky Soy and Ginger Pork Fillet
1 large pork fillet (600g)
4 spring onions, finely shredded into long, thin strips
1 red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
2tbsp chopped coriander
For the marinade:
4cm fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4tbsp soy sauce
2tbsp sweet chilli sauce
To make the marinade, measure all the ingredients into a dish and mix well.
Trim any sinew from the fillet and discard. Sit the fillet in the marinade, season with salt and black pepper and turn to coat until all the fillet is covered. Leave to marinate for a few hours in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 220C and line a small roasting tin with non-stick baking paper.
Remove the fillet from the marinade (reserving the marinade to use later) and sit it in the roasting tin. Roast in the oven for 25–30 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
Remove the fillet from the roasting tin and set aside on a board to rest. Cover with foil and leave for five minutes before carving.
Place the reserved marinade in a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Carve the pork into slices and arrange on a platter. Pour the hot marinade over the top and scatter with the spring onions, red chilli and coriander. Serve with rice or noodles.
Lemon and Lime Meringue Tranche Pie
For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
150g plain flour
90g butter, cubed
2tbsp icing sugar
For the filling:
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lime
50g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
For the meringue topping:
3 egg whites
175g caster sugar
To make the pastry, measure the flour, butter and sugar into a food processor. Whiz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and whiz again until the dough comes together to form a ball. Turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and roll thinly. Carefully line a 12 × 36 × 2.5cm rectangular loose-bottomed fluted or tranche tin and press the pastry into the sides. Prick the base with a fork and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200C and place a baking tray in the oven to get very hot.
Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper, add baking beans, place on the hot baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and bake for another five minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and lightly golden. Leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C.
To make the filling, measure the cornflour and 200ml water into a pan and whisk to combine. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and lime and place over a medium heat. Continue to whisk until the mixture has boiled and thickened. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and egg yolks and whisk again. Pour into the pastry case and place in the fridge to chill.
Meanwhile, make the meringue topping. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk using an electric whisk, until stiff. Add the sugar a little at a time, whisking on full speed, until you have a shiny, glossy meringue. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a plain one and a half centimetre nozzle and pipe even blobs over the surface of the chilled custard in a neat pattern. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use two dessertspoons.
Bake in the oven for 35–40 minutes, until pale golden on top and firm to touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve warm with pouring cream.
Love To Cook by Mary Berry is available now