New Zealand mother and son cooking duo Simon and Dame Alison Holst are looking towards Christmas already. Together they have produced a great little book of recipes you can rely on, are easy to prepare and great tasting. Colleen Thorpe asks Simon about his life and cooking passion.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST MEMORY OF FOOD?
We spent some time in the US when I was young (aged 2 to 4). At some stage in San Francisco we must have lived near a Pizzeria. I don't know if we ever ate there, but I do remember being fascinated watching them tossing the bases ...
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO BE A COOK LIKE MUM?
No, I went to university thinking I wanted to be an engineer or architect, then I discovered the life sciences and finished up with an MSc in botany - my first job after that was as a food scientist, which was a good stepping stone to food writing.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST DISH YOU COOKED, AND AT WHAT AGE?
Scrambled eggs and omelettes, probably when I was 7 or 8.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISH?
I have a "thing" for pasta
WHAT INGREDIENT COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT?
Onions ... , or garlic ... or cheese ... or (I could go on all day!)
WHAT DID YOU HAVE ON YOUR SANDWICHES WHEN YOU WENT TO SCHOOL?
As a kid you often don't want to stand out. We probably asked for (and got) "normal" lunches, albeit with a bit more variety than some.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE/MOST HATED FOOD?
Cheese is amazing - essentially so simple, yet such an art (and science). I struggle with offal ... kidneys, liver and tripe - no thanks!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS DINNER?
Christmas is more about the company (family) than the food. I do like the classics (ham, turkey and the trimmings), but it seems like people often endure a lot of stress for one day. Barbecued lamb and/or salmon at the beach. If only we could rely on the weather that would be just about perfect!
WHAT IS YOUR SECRET INGREDIENT?
No secret ingredient - it seems like a common mantra at present, but "taste and season", "taste and season" ...
WHAT IS THE BEST/WORST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I still love food and cooking. Sometimes a salary seems like a nice idea.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COOKBOOK?
The Joy of Cooking is pretty amazing, a great resource.
IF YOU'RE NOT COOKING WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO?
Love a day at the beach, or just pottering around the house.
WHAT THREE NEW ZEALAND FOODS ARE TOP OF YOUR LIST?
Lamb, seafood, produce, such an amazing (and continually changing) selection.
WHAT IS IN YOUR FRIDGE?
Little bits of lots of things.
HAVE YOU A GUILTY PLEASURE?
I could eat a lot of cheese ...
TELL US THREE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF PEOPLE MAY BE SURPRISED TO LEARN
I'm often told I'm taller than people think. I like to get to karate twice a week. I'd like to learn to surf.
Cooking for Christmas
by Simon and Alison Holst, Hyndman Publishing, $12.99