TV Quickfire: Five minutes with… Mary Berry
Mary Berry's Simple Comforts sees the 85-year-old former Great British Bake Off judge cooking and sampling food in (pre-lockdown) Britain, Ireland and France. We quizzed herd ahead of the new BBC 2 series
THE SHOW SOUNDS VERY AUTUMNAL AND COSY. WHAT IS COMFORT FOOD TO YOU?
It's the sort of food that the family want to come home to. The sort of food you prepare ahead – a lot of dishes in one pot. I encourage people to go with the seasons, but it's quite difficult if you shop in a supermarket, because you don't know the season – you get strawberries all year round. Personally, I go very much with the seasons. Now we've got an abundance of runner beans and we have carrots all through the summer; whatever I'm growing in the garden we use.
DID YOU GARDEN A LOT THROUGH LOCKDOWN?
I can assure you we've been out there. We've got a new garden, and I love it. So, we've been getting it into shape.
DO YOU FIND THE COOKING AS COMFORTING AS THE EATING?
I do, because I cook what the family enjoy – and what doesn't take too long. I don't really want to spend hours in the kitchen. I'm not actually going to stuff a courgette flower – I'll leave that to the restaurants. I don't do things that take ages, I don't do an awful lot of complicated icings on cake. I might very well put some rose petals over a cake that I've finished, I'll crystallise flowers because that's quick – primroses or something like that – but I'm not going to make a lot of sugar flowers, because that's not me.
HOW DID YOU FIND LOCKDOWN?
I found it OK. My cooking's changed considerably because there's only been two of us [Berry has been married to her husband Paul since 1966]. And I know exactly that it's just two of us every week, so I don't need any spare food for people who drop in. I didn't use an awful lot of tinned food – I used my freezer as my store cupboard. I made things like fish cakes – we love fish cakes – and I did batches of minced beef and a fairly basic sauce, so I could take that out of the freezer and turn it into something with pasta, or into cottage and shepherd's pies.
A SHOW ABOUT SIMPLE, ACHIEVABLE COMFORTS SEEMS PARTICULARLY TIMELY…
It's just the right time to have simple comforts, because I think we've all been worried. It couldn't be a better time to have warming comforting foods that all the family would enjoy.
YOU START THE SERIES IN PARIS, WHERE YOU FIRST STUDIED AT THE CORDON BLEU – HOW WAS IT?
I love travelling, it's another way of getting all different recipes. [In] Paris I went round the bakeries [and] tasted amazing, amazing things. I tried to make a crepe, and of course, when somebody's been making pancakes as a job, doing them one after another and queues of people come up to get them, all very delicious [they're amazing at it], when I have a go, I'm not as quick, not as skilled – but they tasted just as good.
OF THE PEOPLE YOU MET DURING FILMING, WHO REALLY INSPIRED YOU?
I met so many people, the ones I particularly remember are the ones who did their jobs with great enthusiasm and devotion [like] Graham, who was training huskies in Scotland – he loved his job. The huskies knew exactly who was boss. And you could just see these dogs, turning their heads and doing exactly what he said, the speed he wanted to go.
:: Mary Berry's Simple Comforts starts Wednesday, September 9 at 8pm on BBC Two, and the accompanying book, Mary Berry Simple Comforts, will be published by BBC Books on September 17.