Fay Ripley: ‘Food is the way to a person’s heart’

Actress-turned-celeb-chef Fay Ripley gives TV Times magazine her must-dos for a happy and healthy life as she prepares to appear on Lorraine (ITV, Monday-Friday)…

You’ve been interviewed many times by Daybreak’s Lorraine Kelly, yet you’ve never cooked on the ITV1 breakfast show until this week…
“I was told to do something simple – this is live TV after all, where things can go wrong. But everything I cook is simple – for when you’re under pressure, so I think my food will suit Lorraine just fine!”

Your debut cookbook, Fay’s Family Food, won Mumsnet Cookbook of the Year and outsold Delia Smith. Meanwhile your second, What’s For Dinner?, was even more successful. How does it feel?
“I’ve just started writing my third. As long as people want to eat my food and read what I write I’m happy.”

What do you think is one of the best things about your food?
“My food’s about taking the stress out of cooking and, given Lorraine’s a little under-confident in the kitchen, I’ll be keeping things simple in the hope she’ll be encouraged to give it a go!”

How do you come up with your advice?
“It’s based on being a multi-tasking mum who has a desire to put fantastic food on the table, but hasn’t time to go up the Himalayas for ingredients or massage meat for six hours.”

In that case, what can we expect to see you cook?
“I’m doing Spanish Baked Beans, which I’m addicted to; an Easy Bakewell Cake, which I came up with because I didn’t want the faff of making pastry or that almond-y layer, and Green Macaroni, which is brilliant for when you have a full house and need to put a big dish on the table.”

For you, what are the most important things when it comes to creating a dish?
“It has to be tasty, not take long and be easy to prepare, and all the ingredients must be available in the supermarket – no seaweed wrap or random herbs required. My recipes evolve from food my mum cooked or maybe something I’ve seen on MasterChef that takes six hours.”

Where do you get your ideas from?
“I’ll think how I can put similar flavour combinations in a dish that takes 20 minutes and then test it out on my taster team – family and friends. My kids, Parker, who’s 10, and Sonny, six, are my chief tasters, but it’s backfired as they’ve become flipping experts. Sonny now tells me the ‘jus needs more piquant’. I’m like, ‘Leave me alone! You’re six!’”

When did you really get into your cooking?
“I discovered the power of food and effect it can have on your body a few years ago when I was exhausted all the time. Turns out I had a wheat intolerance and by substituting wheat with spelt flour I became less bloated and tired. As a rule, stick with your grandmother’s logic – a little of what you fancy is fine, just don’t have the wine or cake to excess. Well, maybe the cake.”

Have you got one overriding rule to cooking a successful romantic meal?
“My rule is to choose something easy to cook with no stress. There’s nothing romantic about not having washed your hair because you’ve been sweating in the kitchen. You don’t want to dribble, so I’d say soup’s off the menu. Recreate something that’s important to them: if they love Italy, cook pasta. If you met in Bognor, make fish and chips – attach a memory to it. Is food the way to a person’s heart? My husband [actor Dan Lapaine] has been very well fed and appears to be happy in his marriage, so I’d say so!”


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