Q&A with Kerstin Rodgers AKA MsMarmiteLover

By
Eve O'Sullivan
Added
08 July, 2015

We ask our authors ten questions about their life-long love of food. This week, Kerstin Rodgers talks roast potatoes, Italian style, making Marmite from scratch, and why good sea salt is one of her favourite ingredients.

Kerstin Rodgers

What is your first memory of eating? 

A fried egg when I was three years old. I loved it so much that I asked my mum to make me another one.’Are you sure?’ she asked. ‘Yes I’m sure, I’m hungry and I want it again’ I said. So my mum cooked another specially for me. Halfway through the second one, I decided I no longer liked fried egg, I didn’t like the runny white bits. I was a very difficult child when it came to food. I still don’t like fried egg. 

 

What was the first dish you ever cooked by yourself? 

Spaghetti bolognese. My English mother was taught it by my Italian great grandmother so she knew how to do it well. It was my favourite dish so it was the first thing I wanted to learn how to make. Nowadays of course I don’t make it with meat. 

 

What dish do you associate most with your childhood? 

Roast potatoes done Italian style with the plum tomatoes squeezed between your fingers, olive oil and thin hoops of onion. We’d fight to get the crunchy and burnt bits stuck to the pan. We also, as a family, ate a good deal of toast. 

 

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

I don’t think there is a single ingredient because I’m an ingredients freak, I’m on a constant search for new inspiring ingredients (check out souschef.co.uk who are fantastic for ingredients) which is one of the reasons that I travel. That said, my favourites are lemon, garlic, good sea salt, bay leaves, and chipotle en adobo (smoked jalapeños in tomato sauce). 

 

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

I’ve always been obsessed with food even when it wasn’t fashionable. I don’t think it’s just greed because I’m also quite fussy. I can’t be bothered to eat things that don’t taste good. My parents always spent money on food and travel, they were the kind of progressive parents that took their kids with them everywhere: if they went to a posh restaurant, we came along. My mother was quite adventurous with cooking, trying Japanese dishes or making her own yoghurt and my dad would cook Italian dishes like ‘moulignan’ slices of aubergine fried in a light batter or attempt to cook an entire octopus!

 

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

The long hours, the pressure when people are paying for your food…but really that the best food is freshly cooked, which is sometimes difficult when you are making it for large numbers of people but this is what I try to do, even though it’s quite stressful. A tip: if your feet are sore, you are probably dehydrated, so make sure you drink enough water when you are cooking.

 

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

Bringing up my daughter on my own for the last 20 years without any help or input, financial or otherwise, from her father. It wasn’t my choice to be a single mother but I’ve done it independently. Men are for Christmas, a child is for life.
 

What recipe are you most proud of? 

I’m pretty proud of making my own Marmite from scratch. It took ten days. It still needs work though. I love getting to the bottom of how something is made, the research, the trials.

 

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

Make sure you taste as you go along and use good sea salt. Salt sufficiently in the cooking.

 

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

I came to work in food late in life, I started out as a photographer, working for the NME, photographing rock bands. I’ve also worked as an online astrologer, as a declutterer, as a priest marrying people at Glastonbury, as a French teacher and English teacher. I’m also very interested in politics, social justice and travel. But I’d probably make films. 


 

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