This Morning TV presenter Ruth Langsford is judging the More Than Four section of the Tesco Real Food Competition. I caught up with her to find out more about her love of food, what it’s like cooking for her husband Eamon Holmes and more about her life behind the scenes with her son Jack who’s 9.
Baking cakes with my mum – my mum and grandma were good at cooking. I remember always being around the kitchen waiting to lick the spoon. I associate my childhood with nice meals like Grandma’s chops, chips and peas, baked apples and mum’s shepherd’s pie. It’s still my favourite thing and it’d be my last meal.
Grandma made beautiful pastry – apple pies. I can’t bake or make cakes – mine all come out like biscuits, it’s really disappointing.
What kind of cook would you describe yourself as?
I’m quite a peasanty cook, not a gourmet cook at all. Eamon’s always saying I should go on celeb masterchef, but I can’t do gourmet food. I love making things like one pot dishes, big roast dinners, and lasagne. I’m not a posh dinner party type of girl, if I have friends for dinner it’s casual.
Do you have much time for cooking?
Cooking to me is a great relaxation. Eamon will say, don’t you bother cooking but for me it’s really no bother. I love a day when I have no work to do, I can be in my kitchen and make stuff for my freezer. I love peeling and chopping vegetables – in fact I take great delight in it – very therapeutic.
What’s your favourite dish to cook for Eamon?
I enjoy cooking for him because he’s so appreciative. He loves my jambalaya. He likes traditional food, like casseroles and Irish stew. He isn’t a cook and thinks i’m a genius – first time I made him an omelette he thought I was Delia Smith. He makes me think that i’m a better cook than I actually am.
I was a contestant on Marco Pierre White’s Kitchen Burnout which was really hard. The pressure and stress made me realise maybe i’m not the great cook that I think I am.
Does Eamon cook for you?
No he doesn’t really. He tries to barbeque but it always ends up burnt. So now I bung all the meat in the oven first then he finishes it off on the barbeque. He makes such a mess in the kitchen – after he’s made a sandwich the kitchen looks like it’s been burgled. I find myself saying “I’ll clear this up then shall I?” I’m so territorial in the kitchen.
What advice would you give when trying to cook for children?
When I was starting to feed Jack on solids I got some great advice from the founder of the Organix range. They said if you wean children on good wholesome veg and fruit it sets their blueprint for life. Sometimes they go off track at school but they’ll come back.
Jack has always eaten his fruit and vegetables and I think it’s because I gave him loads of variety. It’s nice for kids to try things. I never made a great fuss if he wouldn’t eat a certain type of food – but there was nothing else until the next meal. I was very strict about it. I followed the Gina Ford style of parenting which worked really well for me. I’m a fun but strict mum.
Does your son like cooking?
When he was very young he loved it – he’s got a bit bored of it now though. I’m hoping when he’s older he’ll get back into it again. By the time he’s ready to leave home I’m determined that he’ll be able to cook shepherd’s pie, lasagne and a roast dinner. He’ll be able to iron a shirt too.
Where do you look to for kitchen inspiration?
I love all the supermarket recipe cards. I also have a huge passion for cookery books – I’ve got far too many! I dip into them if I’ve got friends coming over for dinner and need something new. Cookery books are always on my christmas list – the glossier the better. I love watching cookery programmes but it’s all about having time to watch them.
Which ingredient couldn’t you live without?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I also use basil a lot from my windowsill pot.
Which chef would you choose to cook you a meal and why?
Phil Vickery – he’s a lovely guy and a fabulous cook. I work with lots of chefs but he’s always consistent. I’d love to cook with him because he understands the science of food. I’ve never asked him a question he can’t answer. Whether it’s fancy or simple his food is always delicious.
Any hilarious cookery moments on This Morning – it always looks like such a riot!
Eamon and I have a bit of a reputation for bickering with each other, and this was very apparent on one particular cookery slot on This Morning.
There was a plate of uncooked freshwater prawns, so they were grey in colour. I was explaining that the prawns were going to be added later when Eamon butted in:
“They’re not prawns”
“Yes they are!”
“No they’re not. Prawns are pink!”
“Yes when they’re cooked Eamon”
I don’t know why he thought it was a good idea to argue with me when I’m the one who knows more about food!
You’re judging the Tesco Real Food competition more than four category – do you have to cater for crowds?
I like getting people together – with Eamon’s other three children and our friends I’m often cooking for 10-12 people, but that’s about my limit. As i’ve got older i’ve got more confident about serving up simple food rather than fancy stuff – friends want to see you and not some stress head!!
Once I’d spent ages making champagne sorbet and frosted the glasses, even frosted the grapes to hang over the sides. Everyone was talking around the table and totally ignored the dessert as I put it in front of them. Everyone just carried on talking. It was a real lightbulb moment – why bother slaving in the kitchen. All people need is nice wine, good conversation and simple food.
Marco Pierre White once said to me it’s fresh ingredients, cooked simply and presented beautifully and I think that’s the best advice.
I like interesting food, it doesn’t have to swanky dinner party stuff. Tasty dishes, simple food that has a story with it. I love the idea of people passing recipes on because i’ve always done that with my family. Whenever I get together with my mum and sister we are always sharing recipes, cutting them out of magazines, writing them down. I’ve got my grandma’s old recipe books full of scraps of paper.
There’s still time to enter your recipes for the Tesco Real Food Challenge – just click on the plate to find out more.