My school report from 1987 stated that the subject of Home Economics was not within my capabilities; my concentration in English made my writing shoddy and I was struggling with languages! Ouch!

If I had believed these words, I would not be about to, a) publish my first cookery book, let alone have the capability of writing it, or, b) speak three foreign languages competently!

When people say to me, ‘I can’t cook’, I laugh and tell them they are just lazy. Anyone can cook, it’s more likely that they don’t want to!

“He doesn’t even know how to boil an egg”, says the wife. Has he ever tried? YouTube is a fantastic cookery teacher.

My own world of cooking is very much focused on potatoes, as the first book I am publishing is based on one written in the 1980s by my Mum, aka, the lady who taught me that every flavour on a plate should be tasted. The Great Potato Cookbook, was reprinted numerous times in various languages and includes recipes from all around the world. My book, Potato, Patata, will include some of the original recipes maybe with a modern twist and new ones to incorporate the more varied produce we now have readily available at our fingertips.

Everyone has an opinion on the good old potato but what really surprises me is that it is often accused of being fattening and it can’t be eaten if on a low carb diet. Well, it’s time to defend this versatile and delicious part of our staple diet:

A 100g potato contains; (% based on recommended daily allowance of 2000 calories) 12% Potassium,17% Carbohydrate, 0% Fat, 0% Cholesterol, 4% Protein and 32% Vitamin C – Yes! You did read that correctly although I wouldn’t advise popping a slice of potato in a gin and tonic!

Also, for any budding space travellers, it may be handy to know that the potato was the first vegetable to be successfully grown in space: sMASHing!

‘What’s the best way to cook roast potatoes?’, is a question I am often asked. In research for my book I scoured cookbooks and the internet for varying methods. There are plenty out there, yet for me, it all boils down to just one winner.

Ingredients
Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and sliced in half or reasonable sized pieces
Rapeseed Oil
Rock Salt

Method
Place the potatoes in a pan of water seasoned with salt and bring to the boil. Keep cooking until they are slightly tender. Heat the oil in an oven tray on gas mark 6/200°C for approximately 10 minutes.

Drain the water from the pan and put a lid on. Shake to bash the potatoes around in the pan. Add them carefully to the hot oil in the oven tray, sprinkle with the salt and cook for about 1 hour or until crispy.

Should you mix them about half way through cooking? I do, but then that’s because I am looking for a bonus crispy bit that may have broken off.  Cook’s perks!

As an ardent watcher of TV cooking shows, I have often been eager to try and replicate what I see the professionals create in the comfort of my own kitchen. To be honest, some things have been edible and others have made their way quickly to the food waste bin. However, it is because of this experimental cooking that I have found my own style and created some decent dishes by default.

I don’t always go for ‘poncy’ ingredients, although I do like to experiment with new ones and can often be found at markets buying fruit and veg that looks strange and sounds even stranger.

Let’s take the often-forgotten aubergine. It’s not something I cook with often but I was prompted to give it a try after seeing a similar idea on social media. At a lunch party for friends one blustery Sunday in February, I decided to give it a go! It didn’t all go to plan. In fact it nearly meant that my guests had a starter of a bowl of peanuts as I was taking so long!

Ingreidents (serves 4 as a starter)
2 medium aubergines
1 packet of Mozzarella
Marinara sauce, (blitz tinned tomatoes, garlic and seasoning together in a blender)
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Roquefort Cheese

Method
Slice the aubergine lengthwise, 5mm apart, from just below the narrow end all the way to the wide end so that it can be fanned out. Slice the Mozzarella and place one slice and one basil leaf between each part. Pour over the marinara sauce and bake in the oven at gas mark 6 or 200°c for 40 minutes or until the aubergine is soft.

The mistake I made was, I cut the aubergine slices too thick and they didn’t cook quickly enough. The mozzarella was starting to stick to the bottom of the dish and some emergency measures were needed. I cheated and put the dish in the microwave for five minutes, added some more of the marinara sauce and topped with some creamy Roquefort cheese. A little sprinkling of pepper and it looked amazing…luckily it tasted that way too!

Hilary Steel