With a career spanning over 60 years and a library of cookbooks to her name, Mary Berry is a national treasure. From her first job for the electricity board showing customers how to use their electric ovens, she has carved out a hugely successful career, appearing on a variety of prime time TV shows including The Great British Bake Off. We caught up with Mary to find out the secret to her success…
Contracting polio at the age 13 made you change the way you approached life. Tell us more. Not really, I just had to get on with it. I missed daily sports as a child but continued riding and show jumping so it wasn’t all bad. My left side is weak but nothing that holds me back too much!
What has been the key to the success and longevity of your career? Enjoying what I do, that is the main thing for me, it is not work, it all is a sheer pleasure and so varied. Obviously very hard work at times but because I love it I carry on. I am so lucky to be with people I love to work with too and they inspire me.
How have things changed for female chefs during that time? Female chefs are definitely on a par with male chefs now and quite right too. By the way I am a cook not a chef!
What has inspired/prompted the UK’s renewed love of baking? For me having written Baking Bible and Fast Cakes I feel my love of baking was always there – now TV programmes have encouraged the love of baking it’s a wonderful thing – sharing something that is such a treat is a joy.
You’ve published over 75 cookbooks. How difficult is it to keep the content of each book fresh and new? Not too hard, there are always new ingredients available to us, new ideas and because we all travel more and see and taste different ingredients – this keeps us inspired.
What has been your proudest moment? Receiving my CBE in 2012 and being awarded with National Television Award for Best TV Judge in 2017.
What do you enjoy most about appearing at live cooking shows, such as the BBC Good Food Show? Oh I love meeting people and hearing their stories and when on stage seeing the audience full of smiles. It’s a wonderful feeling.
What advice can you offer to aspiring pastry chefs? Follow a good recipe, weigh carefully and practice, practice, practice.
And now for three questions that we ask all of our Leading Lights…
What are your three kitchen secrets? 1. Plan your day in the kitchen. 2. Weigh carefully for baking. 3. Cook the food you love to eat.
What is your favourite ingredient and why? Eggs as they are so versatile.
Please could you share your favourite recipe, along with your reasons for choosing it? White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, it’s not complicated to make and everyone who eats it gives a large smile and asks for another slice!
Mary’s White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake
For the topping:
200g white chocolate
250g full-fat mascarpone cheese
300ml pouring double cream
1tsp vanilla extract
500g fresh raspberries
1tbsp icing sugar
For the base:
150g digestive biscuits
60g butter, plus extra for greasing
1tbsp Demerara sugar
1. Butter the base of a 20cm round spring-form tin with deep sides and line with a disc of baking paper.
2. To make the base, measure the biscuits into a resealable freezer bag and use a rolling pin to crush into fine crumbs.
3. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat until just melted. Add the crushed biscuits and sugar and stir until combined. Spoon into the base of the tin and press with the back of the spoon until level. Chill in the fridge while you make the topping.
4. Break the chocolate into a bowl and sit it on top of a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted then leave to cool down for 5-10 minutes until cool but still liquid.
5. Meanwhile tip the mascarpone into a bowl, and mix with a spatula to loosen so it is soft.
6. To make a coulis for the top of the cheesecake, place half the raspberries into a small blender. Add the icing sugar and whizz until runny, then pour through a sieve to remove the seeds.
7. Pour the melted chocolate into the bowl with the mascarpone mixture and stir it to combine, taking care not to over-mix.
8. Spoon half the white chocolate mixture on to the biscuit base in the tin. Use the handle of a teaspoon to make a few holes in the white chocolate mixture, pushing right down to the top of the biscuit base.
9. Pour or pipe enough of the coulis into the holes to fill them, setting aside the remaining coulis for decorating the top of the cheesecake. Spoon the remaining white chocolate mixture on top and smooth and level the top. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for a minimum of six hours or ideally overnight.
10. To serve, arrange the rest of the raspberries on top of the cheesecake and drizzle over the remaining coulis.
Mary Berry will be appearing at the BBC Good Food Show at Birmingham NEC on December 2. For more details visit www.bbcgoodfoodshow.com/birmingham-winter.
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