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Lorraine Pascale serves up model cookery class

Lorraine Pascale is testing her culinary skills
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Lorraine Pascale knows a fair few things about criticism. The model-turned-TV chef was once, of all things, accused of breaking a customer's pearly whites with a vanilla cupcake sold in her shop, The Cupcake Bakehouse, in central London.

But the 41-year-old wasn't about to give up because of one disgruntled punter.

“I thought, ‘You need to get your teeth sorted if they break after eating frosting on a cupcake',” she says, smiling.

“People have said things about my food and my books but it's all about not believing the good and not believing the bad and staying in the middle,” adds Pascale, who has a teenage daughter, Ella, and dipped her toe in hypnotherapy and car mechanics before eventually pursuing a food career.

These words may prove some comfort to the contestants in Pascale's new Sky Living cooking competition, My Kitchen Rules.

The 10-part series will see Pascale and Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton judge dishes made by six pairs of amateur cooks in their own homes, with the winning couple scooping a £25,000 prize.

Pascale, known for her BBC Two cookery shows like Baking Made Easy and Home Cooking Made Easy, is adamant that she and Atherton should remain objective and not allow emotions to get the better of them.

“It's about being constructive,” says the famous foodie about judging the six pairs of contestants, who'll be representing different UK regions.

“As a viewer, you'll see if something doesn't look good, so if we're saying, ‘Oh, that looks nice', you'd be at home saying, ‘Well, it doesn't from where I'm sitting!'

“It's just about being honest, not being unnecessarily harsh and giving the contestants feedback that they can hopefully take away and use.”

To impress Pascale, she likes her grub to have a “lot of texture, taste and a sense of theatre when it's presented”.

And there's one meal she especially loves to eat when she’s with family and friends: “I do like a medium-cooked steak with bearnaise sauce and chunky chips.”

While it remains to be seen if any of the contestants manage the Holy Grail of impressing both Atherton and Pascale, the former model was chuffed to learn some unexpected advice from one of the budding foodie pairs.

“There was a couple from Liverpool who were young, talented and funny,” she recalls happily. “They showed me how to make your hair really big, which they achieve by putting their heads down and using lots of hairspray.”

Despite not throwing too many “lavish dinner parties” herself, Pascale has a grounded approach to dining success, and it doesn't just lie in the perfect ‘mane'.

“If someone's cooking for me, I just eat it,” she says. “I don't criticise or judge. It's not all about the food. It's about connecting and talking to people.”

If you fancy a shot at cooking victory, here are three recipes, taken from Pascale's latest book, A Lighter Way To Bake.

* My Kitchen Rules starts on Sky Living HD next Thursday, January 23, at 9pm. More of her recipes can be found in |A Lighter Way To Bake by Lorraine Pascale, HarperCollins, £20

Wild mushroom tart with sherry and onions

(Serves 8 as starter or 4 as a main)

4 sheets of frozen filo pastry, defrosted

Spray oil (vegetable or sunflower spray's fine)

2 onions, finely sliced

200g chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered

100g oyster mushrooms, sliced

100g mixed exotic or wild mushrooms, sliced, halved or quartered, depending on their size and shape

25g unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

100ml sherry

50g pine nuts, toasted

50g wild rocket

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C (Fan 160C/gas mark 4). Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment and set aside.

Lay the four sheets of filo out on top of each other and cut the stack in half down the length, then divide it into quarters across the width. This will give you eight stacks of about 12cm squares.

Fold an edge of about 1cm wide inwards all the way around each of the stacks to create a small border. Arrange each one on the baking sheet as you go, and then spritz with a little oil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until crisp and golden brown.

Meanwhile, spritz a little spray oil into a large frying pan set over a medium heat and gently fry the onions for about six minutes, or until they're just going soft and a little golden brown.

Then, add the mushrooms and cook for a further minute, before adding the butter, garlic, rosemary and seasoning, stirring around to coat the mushrooms.

Continue to cook this for eight to 10 minutes until everything is really soft. Then turn the heat up to high, pour in the sherry and allow to bubble down for two to three minutes. Be careful, as the sherry may flame up a bit, in which case the flames will go as soon as the alcohol burns off. Taste the mushroom mixture, season if you feel it needs more and remove from the heat.

Remove the pastry squares from the oven once they're cool enough to handle and arrange on serving plates. Divide the mushroom mixture between each square, scatter the pine nuts and rocket over, and serve.

Baked store cupboard chicken with lime, honey & soy

(Serves 4)

8 chicken pieces, skin removed (drumsticks, thighs or a mixture of the two)

8 garlic cloves, peeled and gently crushed

1 tsp chilli powder

Leaves from 3-4 sprigs of thyme

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A few mint leaves

For the glaze:

3tbsp honey

1tsp English mustard powder

1/2 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Zest of 1 lime

For the sauce:

300ml chicken stock

2 tsp cornflour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C (Fan 200C/gas mark 7).

Toss the chicken pieces on a large roasting tray with the garlic, chilli powder, thyme, lime juice and salt and pepper. Lay them out in a single layer and pop them into the oven to bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the honey, mustard powder, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and lime zest in a small bowl to give a sticky glaze.

Once the chicken has been cooking for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and brush over half of the glaze. Then brush over the remaining glaze after another 10 minutes of cooking. Pop it back into the oven for the remaining five minutes, or until the chicken is piping hot in the centre and cooked through.

Remove from the oven, transfer the pieces to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Put the roasting tray on a high heat on the hob. Pour in all but about three tablespoons of the chicken stock, stirring all the time and scraping up any yumminess from the bottom of the tray. Blend the cornflour with the remaining stock to give a smooth liquid and pour this into the tray, stirring constantly.

Let this bubble away for two to three minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened. The sauce may have a few lumps, which you can just sieve out before serving. Season to taste and remove from the heat.

Serve two pieces of chicken per person with a little sauce poured over and a scattering of mint leaves on top. This is delicious served with some brown rice and vegetables.

Blueberrry & limoncello drizzle cake

(Serves 12)

For the sponge:

Spray oil (vegetable or sunflower spray's fine)

125g caster sugar

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g full-fat Greek yogurt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

250g self-raising flour

4 egg whites

2tsps baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons (if waxed, wash them in hot, soapy water and dry them to get rid of the wax before using)

200g blueberries

For the topping:

50g icing sugar, sifted

2tbsps limoncello (or lemon juice for an alcohol-free version)

Preheat the oven to 170C (Fan 150C/gas mark 3) and set the shelf in the middle. Spray a 20cm round, loose-bottomed, deep cake tin with oil, line the bottom with baking parchment and then set aside on a baking sheet.

Put the sugar, butter and yogurt into a food mixer or large bowl and beat like mad with a whisk until well combined. Now, this mix is not going to go all light, fluffy and pretty like its full-fat cousin, but you're just looking for some semblance of uniformity (it will have quite a few little lumps in, but that's okay).

Next, add the two whole eggs and half of the flour and beat for a good few minutes, until the mixture is well blended and starts to look a little smoother.

Whisk the four egg whites until light and frothy then fold them into the mixture with the rest of the flour, the baking powder, vanilla extract and lemon zest and beat until you have a smooth batter. Finally, stir half of the blueberries through.

Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth it down evenly with the back of a spoon. Arrange the remaining blueberries, flat side down, on the top in a few lines across the centre. Pop into the oven for about 25-30 minutes until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. The top should be quite a light golden brown and the sponge will feel firm to the touch.

Meanwhile, to make the topping, put the icing sugar into a small bowl. Stir in the limoncello (or lemon juice) to give a smooth, runny mixture and set aside until ready to use.

Once the cake's cool, place it on a serving platter or cake stand. Slowly spoon the topping all over the sponge and allow it to pour over the edges beautifully. Cut into 12 wedges and serve. If making in advance, keep it in the fridge.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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Lorraine Pascale is testing her culinary skills