Things

Inside Rachel Roddy’s Kitchen

1st February 2018

Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Sophie Davidson

The Rome-based food writer picks out a reliable pasta brand, the kitchen tool she couldn’t live without and her six favourite food books

INGREDIENTS

Garofalo pasta »
What’s your favourite pasta brand? we ask. “I really like Garofalo,” says Rachel. “It’s pressed through bronze, which sounds fancy but it’s really quite ordinary. Grano duro – hard wheat. I don’t buy really expensive pasta but I don’t buy really cheap either. I’m not a big fan of De Cecco or Barilla, I just don’t think they cook very well, they get mushy.”

Alfredo Cetrone olive oil »
From Volpetti [see Address Book], Rachel spots this new olive oil on sale and brings a bottle home – later she buys two more as presents for us. It’s a really really delicious oil, track some down if you can.

 

Pepperoncini »
“These are something to take back with you,” says Rachel of the dried chilli peppers commonly used in southern Italian (particularly Calabrian) cuisine. How are they different from red chillies we’d get in the UK? “They’re just dried. The flavour is intensified. Pepperoncini come in various degrees of heat. I like things to be warm, I don’t like crazy heat.”

San Marzano tinned tomatoes »
“The best tomatoes in tins are San Marzano,” says Rachel referring to the celebrated variety of plum tomato. “It’s worth getting good quality ones, because cheap tomatoes are just… cheap.”

Parmesan »
Rachel buys some “really old, really well-aged” parmesan from Volpetti – and she encourages us to take some back to London with us. (We do, and we’re glad of it.) “When I first moved here,” she says, “I’d bring my mum pieces parmesan and pecorino, a lovely wild boar sausage, and guanciale, she’d be so thrilled, it’s always such a treat. Then she started taking it completely for granted. Now I get lists.” But the most popular thing for her to bring back to England is parmesan. “I once brought my brother a great big piece, a kilo of parmesan, and he cried.”

OBJECTS

Mouli food mill »
“This is my favourite tool in the world – I wish I could give a free one away to everyone. I use it for tomatoes. I get a 500g tin of good plum tomatoes in a nice thick juice. Put them in a pot and bring them to the boil, then mouli them. It does a job that nothing else can: it purees them, extracting all the goodness from the tomato.
Another favourite sauce: you peel fresh tomatoes, chop them in half, soften them in the pan. Put them in the mouli, letting the water drain away. Then you press all the goodness from the skin, the seeds, the pith. You could try doing the same thing with a sieve but you wouldn’t have enough force. A blender doesn’t separate. So a mouli is indispensable for a kitchen. I don’t think I’ve been in an Italian kitchen that doesn’t have one – or four.” – Rachel

Bread scraper »
“This is another absolutely favourite tool. My friend Dan, a baker, showed me to use it like an extra hand.” We use it after getting the dough together for our fresh pasta. “This is why the scraper is so good,” says Rachel as we remove the stubborn bits of dried dough. “Get all that off, give us a clean working space… If you make bread seriously, your scraper will be your favourite and most important thing in the kitchen.”

Stick blender »
Rachel singles this out as one of her most useful kitchen tools.

Mauviel copper pan »
“Behind you, rather in need of a clean, is my 40th birthday present from my brother and sister: a copper pan. Which cooks everything beautifully. It’s worth more than everything else in the kitchen, twice. Let’s do the chicken in that.” – Rachel

Imperia pasta machine »
Rachel takes this down from a high shelf and sets it up on the counter so we can roll out our fresh pasta dough. Imperia is the best brand, she says. The handle falls off quite a lot but the machine rolls the pasta very nicely – and has attachments that cut the pasta sheets into strips (linguine-thin or tagliatelle-thin).

Kitchen tongs »
“Wooden – or metal. I feel like they’re extensions of my hands, I do everything with them. Often I take the pasta from the cooking water with the tongs and put it straight into the sauce.”

BOOKS

Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, Jane Grigson »
“This is my favourite book. I remember reading Jane Grigson for the first time and thinking, this is my ideal book, it’s beautifully written, it’s all the things I wish I’d done. I’m very inspired by the format, those lovely essays around food which might start with a whimsical story or a fact – they cover history, geography, poetry, classics… I’ve got an original edition of the Vegetable Book. It’s the book I grew up with and the book I refer to all the time, when I write and when I cook.” – Rachel

Roast Chicken and Other Stories, Simon Hopkinson with Lindsey Bareham »
“This was voted the most useful cookbook of all time. Aside from the fact that I absolutely love Simon, I’ve cooked lots and lots of these recipes and I read it all the time – it’s pretty much always on my desk. I read it first in the morning to set the bar high for myself.”

An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, Elizabeth David »
“I’m choosing this out of all Elizabeth David’s books because they’re such lovely essays, these were the ones for the Spectator and Vogue. The essay about summer holidays is something I read again and again. Italian Food is the one I refer to the most, being here, but An Omelette and a Glass of Wine is my favourite collection.”

Le Ricette Regionali Italiane, Anna Gosetti Della Salda »
“It’s so massive and encyclopaedic – a lot of people compiled this book. It’s basically all the regional variations of Italian recipes. If I look up pizza dolce, or sweet pizza, it’s got four recipes. All from Lazio actually. If I look up pasta e ceci or pasta e fagioli I will get 19 different variations and I really like that. It’s very useful. And the recipes really work. Unlike some other books, this was apparently very carefully tested.”

A Well-Seasoned Appetite, Molly O’Neill »
“Molly O’Neill was a New York Times food writer for a long time, in the 90s, and still does a bit of food writing now. This is a brilliant book, she’s a beautiful writer, I’ve read the whole thing cover to cover – twice. It’s seasonal cooking, so there’s “Nearly Summer”, and “Summer”, and “Summer to Autumn”, and “The Cusp”… Five or six essays in each chapter about seasonal ingredients. I’ve never actually cooked a recipe from it but it’s inspired me to make other things. That’s often the way, isn’t it?”

Anna Del Conte on Pasta, Anna Del Conte »
“I was quite late coming to her but I think her books are really nice. The pasta book has just been reprinted, it’s gorgeous.”

Posted 1st February 2018

In Things

 

Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Sophie Davidson

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