Q&A with Lucy Cufflin

Eve O'Sullivan
08 April, 2015

We ask our authors ten questions about their life long love of food. This week, we speak to Lucy Cufflin about onions, creating menus, and her New York chocolate cheesecake.

Lucy Cufflin bakes

What is your first memory of eating?

Strawberries from an enormous bowl. We holidayed with another family in Wales every summer when we were small and I remember the grown ups sitting round hulling the strawberries and piling them into a huge bowl. We all sat round a large table and I remember the strawberries being ladled out and we could have as many as we wanted.


What was the first dish you ever cooked by yourself?

Broken biscuit cake (chocolate tiffin) - we learned to cook at a very young age and so were always encouraged to make something we liked. I distinctly remember asking to make this and my mother producing the ingredients from a cupboard and leaving me to it. She was never worried about mess, thought that we would only burn or cut ourselves once. I am sure she was not far away but I remember making it all by myself.


What dish do you associate most with your childhood?

Fresh salmon, homemade mayonnaise, peas, new potatoes as we always had this at big family gathering at my grannie's house and the sideboard would be laden and at least three fish warm and whole and steaming hot. I have a large family with 26 first cousins so the gatherings were big


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

Onions I think, understanding what a difference slowly softening them before adding liquid to the dish. This is what I believe changes good food into great food. 


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

My mother. When my friends growing up were eating fish fingers in the 70s we were trying a new recipe from her Cordon Bleu cookery pamphlets that arrived every month. There seemed to always be pictures of tall puddings on the front. I remember eating lasagne made with not only beef but minced veal and chicken livers and eating continental sausages stuffed into mushrooms!


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

Giving younger members of our team time and space to learn. If you are catering for a big function time is always short and most of the time it is quicker and easier to do things yourself but that is no good in the long run but when the pressure is on it is a hard thing to do.


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

Creating the menus for the Skiworld ski chalets I have been lucky enough to be hands on in training 1000s of young chalet hosts each year. I meet them now  or get the odd email years after their ski seasons and some have told me how they were inspired by the menus, recipes and training and changed course from their chosen career to follow a career in food. To make a difference and to pass on a passion for food means more than anything

What recipe are you most proud of?

I think my New York chocolate cheesecake, big chocolate hit, soft smooth texture as it is made with Mascarpone - foolproof and perfect with a cup of coffee or dressed up for dessert. The mix makes a sensational hot chocolate soufflé baked in individual dishes with no crumb base and an excellent warm chocolate tart filling, so without doubt probably my most universal recipe ever.

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

If you are having friends for dinner and you want to enjoy the party never cook something you gave never made before. A good time is about more than just the food and it is no fun for a guests if the host is fretting - cook something you know and love and enjoy the party!


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

Furniture design I think. I went to art college and made the wrong choice for a degree course. I left with the intention to go back but to do furniture design but had a year out, fell in love with food and the rest is history. I still love cleverly designed furniture.


Is there a specific meal you regret cooking? If so, why?

Offering boned stuffed poussin to a function of 250. After boning  the first 50 poussin I deeply regretted agreeing to the requested menu.


What is your comfort food dish, and why?

Home made minestrone soup with a added chilli. This is simply a cure all, from hang overs to the flu it has everything you need from starchy pasta, fresh veg and lots of cheese on top to cure you from the inside out.


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