10 minutes with... Felicity Cloake
by Sarah Alcock
Felicity Cloake writes the, 'How to make the perfect...' column in The Guardian. Her new book, 'The A-Z of Eating', which features in our April issue, is packed with recipes like triple malt chocolate cake and Roquefort cheesecake. Cue drooling. We grabbed 10 minutes with Felicity to ask about her favourite foods, her heroes, and how she got such an enviable job...
How did you get into food journalism?
Sheer greed, if I'm honest; I eat, therefore I cook. I've always loved writing as well – so I still can't quite believe I get paid to do both. I started off in publishing, but after working on a couple of cookbooks, quickly realised I'd much prefer to be on the other side of the creative process. It took a few years, and a fair few jobs to get there, but they were all worth it - working in food is always fun.
How did you approach writing your first book?
With blind panic –I had a couple of months to put it together over Christmas, so I didn't get to drink much sherry that year.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing your new book?
Knowing where to stop – the problem with devoting a whole book to your absolute favourite ingredients is that you tend to get a bit overexcited. I could easily have filled twice as many pages if my editor hadn't put her foot down.
What is your proudest moment so far in your career?
Probably the year I won two Guild of Food Writers Awards, and thus got two big hugs from the master of ceremonies, Mary Berry. I treasure the memory far more than the trophies.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Generous; I'm not very good at delicate food.
Who would be at your ultimate dinner party?
I've spent ages agonising about this, and have come to the very dull conclusion that, to be honest, nothing gives me more pleasure than eating with friends and family – I want to relax and enjoy the food, rather than having to laugh at Oscar Wilde's jokes, or keep up with Elizabeth David's conversation. Though it would be nice if Simon Hopkinson came along to do the cooking.
What inspires your recipes?
I'm a voracious culinary magpie; it can be anything from something I've eaten on holiday to something I see on Mad Men, but I do get infatuated with one particular ingredient or flavour for weeks on end – malt, say, or ricotta cheese. Then it's just a case of thinking what might go with it, and working from there.
Who is your favourite recipe writer?
Diana Henry - I think we must have identical palates. Everything she writes, I want to eat.
Any other foodie heroes?
Nigel Slater is the man who got me into cooking – my parents bought 'Real Food' when I was a teenager, and I fell hard for his wonderful writing and big flavours. He just made cooking seem so much more exciting than my mum's well-worn copy of 'Delia's Complete Cookery Course'. I also love Jane Grigson's work – I think she's hugely underrated.
What is the most fun you've had writing an article?
I think the Bloody Mary taste test, complete with about 28 different vodkas, has to be up there...
Do you read the comments people leave on your column?
I try to – I think of it as a bit of a collaborative process between me and the readers, and they're often a very useful source of expertise. I might never have eaten shakshuka in Tel Aviv, but you can bet someone below the line has, and they'll have a very definite opinion on it too.
Check out Felicity's recipes in the April issue of Sainsbury's magazine.
The A-Z of Eating by Felicity Cloake (Fig Tree, £25), is out now.