Q&A with Lucy Malouf

Eve O'Sullivan
22 April, 2015

We ask our authors ten questions about their life long love of food. This week, we speak to Lucy Malouf about coconut ice, brain fritters and the importance of communication in the kitchen.

Lucy Malouf New Feast

What is your first memory of eating?

I think my earliest food memories relate to things I didn't like, but there weren't many of them! Bizarrely, when I was very small I really hated mashed bananas – I think it was the texture – even though my mother used to serve them with granulated sugar and a drizzle of cream. Luckily I grew out of that fad pretty quickly and learnt to love them in all sorts of ways.


What was the first dish you ever cooked by yourself?

We're talking a long time ago, but I imagine the very first fumblings in the kitchen involved sweet treats. Things like coconut ice and chocolate hedgehog (so no cooking), graduating to fudge (with mum) and chocolate crackles and then biscuits and cakes. I do remember being incredibly proud of butterfly cupcakes (with their little wing tops) and Viennese shortbreads, that I had to pipe, which were then half dipped in chocolate.


What dish do you associate most with your childhood?

Hmmm...brain fritters for breakfast (yes, really!); fried cheese sandwiches for Sunday supper; lemon delicious pudding... Actually I reckon it's probably got to be passionfruit pavlova which my mum used to make for Sunday lunch most weekends. It was a key dish for us as a family, because it was a nod to my parents' Australian heritage. 


What single ingredient can you attribute to a turning point in the way you cook?

Gaaawwdd. I don't know! Perhaps garlic! I grew up in the 1960s and generally English palates weren't that adventurous. Because we travelled a lot as a family, we were exposed to French and Italian food before it because popular in England. When I graduated to cooking savoury dishes I used to throw it into everything. Mainly, I'm sure, because I thought it made me sophisticated! 


To whom do you owe your love of food, and why?

My parents, who loved travelling and exploring different food cultures. They were both very adventurous eaters and loved eating out and trying new restaurants - both in England and abroad. They embraced other cuisines, long before they really appeared in the UK. My father was particularly fond of Asian food, so we would travel a good half an hour to the 'best' Chinese restaurant a few towns away. My mother was a very keen cook and loved reading and experimenting with food. She bought all the food magazine series (Cordon Bleu; Fanny and Johnny Craddock; Observer Cookery School) and had a folder jammed full of newspaper clippings of articles and recipes.


As a cook, what has been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn in the kitchen?

I think the hardest lesson I've had to learn is to be meticulous about documenting ingredients and method when cooking – especially if testing recipes for publication. It's quite a challenge as I'm normally someone who cooks by throwing things together and it's irritating not to have documented something if it turns out to be especially delicious.


Aside from well-known accolades, what do you regard as your biggest achievement?

Hmmm. I think probably being able to maintain a great working relationship with Greg after divorcing. People are always commenting that it's amazing we can still work together so productively and I know it's the exception, not the rule. But we've learnt over the post-marriage years how to nurture the professional relationship AND the friendship, I think that is something to be proud of.

What recipe are you most proud of?

It's really Greg who's the master chef, and I just chip in ideas and suggestions every now and then. But every now and then I come up with a blinder. I'm rather proud of the banana ice cream with bay-infused caramel from New Feast, which was indeed a recipe that I developed. The ice cream is delicious, but it's the sauce that really makes the dish. Bay leaves are my current favourite herb, and I'm just in love with that savoury depth they add to a salted caramel sauce.


If you could give one piece of advice to a keen home cook, what would it be?

Don't worry too much about stuff. It's only dinner and it's not the end of the world if things don't work out, or aren't perfect. It really is by making mistakes that you learn to understand the chemistry of cooking.

If you didn’t work in food, what would you do, and why?

Well I'd still be a writer! I'd just expand my universe into different areas: more travel or maybe even fiction.

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