Put MasterChef to the back of your mind when you’re cooking up family feasts, says judge John Torode, who gives Keeley Bolger a homely cookery masterclass
“I’m OK,” I grunt, a mental carousel of burnt biscuits, teeth-extracting pork joints and soggy bottoms whirling to mind.
“Did anyone tell you that you had to be brilliant at cooking?” despairs the 50-year-old, with a world-weary sigh.
“People forget that their friends love them. They come around to your house for dinner not because they want you to show off to them. They come round your house for dinner because they love you.”
My nearest and dearest might be more inclined to come round for dinner if there was less chance of the usual tortured pasta dishes I foist upon them. And evidently, I’m not the only one to feel coy about my cooking skills (or lack of) because Torode’s new cookery tome My Kind Of Food explores just that.
A deeply ‘personal’ collection of recipes (complete with pictures and cards made by his four children proudly placed alongside the acknowledgements), the emphasis is on getting us back in the kitchen and having some fun there. And if that means using shop-bought condiments, so be it.
So after starting off with banana bread (“Everybody in Australia has banana bread”), we move swiftly on to Pesto and Tomato Tarts and Pesto and Pods, made with peas.
While the tarts are in the oven, the surfaces are wiped down (the Aussie chef is very much a mucker-inner) and the dad-style puns flow, Torode receives an unexpected delivery of flowers to celebrate the launch of his book.
“I know who those are from... my lovely girl,” he smiles. A check of the card and a quick phone call confirms they are indeed from Torode’s “lovely” girlfriend Lisa Faulkner.
Recently, Torode had to come to terms with his oldest son, a third-year ecology student, flying the nest to Sydney where he is doing a placement.
“He loves it, absolutely loves it... but I now know how my father felt 25 years ago,” he says.
“But the good thing is, he’s been packed off with his Le Creuset pot my father bought him, which he uses to cook for himself, and a foldaway knife which he knows how to keep sharp... and he’s done.”
That all his brood leave home knowing how to “iron a shirt, buy a bus ticket and cook a couple of bits of food” is something Torode holds dear.
“Good food should be accessible to everybody and that’s what I’ve done with the book,” he says.
*John Torode will be demonstrating his cooking skills at St George’s Market, Belfast, tomorrow, 11.30am-2.15pm. Wine expert Ciaran Meyler will be on hand for the perfect wine pairing.
Additionally John will be doing a book signing at Eason’s on Sunday, October 4 at 3pm.