Getting to know James Morton

Everyone remembers James Morton from 2012's Great British Bake Off. The tank top and glasses, the witty repartee and, above all, the baking talent that got him all the way to the final. Now the author of Brilliant Bread, James' mission is to get everyone baking their own bread at home. We wanted a chance to get to know the dashing Mr Morton a little better, so here are his foodie essentials...

What was the first cookery book you ever bought?

When I was about 10 years old I wanted Gary Rhodes’ At the Table and saved up my pocket money for it. There was some problem with the order, but on finding out the book was for a wee me, whoever was involved sent an entire collection of signed books to make up for it.

Who first taught you to cook and enjoy food?

My gran was the one who taught me how to bake, from the age of about 4 probably. Maybe 3 at a push, but I don’t really remember! I’ve always enjoyed food. The best thing about Christmas was always the dinner.

Do you come from a long line of great cooks or are you the first passionate foodie in your family?

Being involved in food seems to have skipped a generation. My gran was hugely good at baking, but neither mum nor dad ever did. Now, both myself and my sister are really into it. My gran is my food hero. She inspired me to bake in the very first instance, and I’m very glad she would snap at me for overworking the pastry dough or pushing down on Scotch pancakes with the spatula.

Which dish says 'home' more than any other to you?

I’d like to say bread, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say apple pie. Yes, a bit Americanised now, but a top crust, stewed-Bramley masterpiece is hard to beat.

Have you discovered any exciting new restaurants this year?

Aye, there’s a lovely new Vietnamese street food place in Glasgow called the Hanoi Bike Shop that’s very reasonably priced and very (extremely) tasty. Shit wine though, so I’ve got to go for Cail Bruich, also in Glasgow. Has two AA rosettes, deserves more. Chips unbelievable.

How do you make a perfect poached egg?

I’m a fan of popping your egg (shell and all) in your simmering water for 10 seconds before you start, meaning it keeps its shape much better. No vinegar or swirls or any of that silliness – then just remove the pan from the heat, crack your egg in and cook until done.

How do you like your steak?

Rare. Very rare. I’d like to say it depends on the cut, but I’d much rather have a chewy rare steak with flavour than a tender medium steak without.

Is there anything that you just can’t cook, no matter how many times you try?

Strangely, I’m not so good at cookies. Maybe its my perfectionism but they’re always either too splayed or not enough for my liking. I’ve even made them a bit scone-like before.

Is there anything you really dislike eating?

I like to think not, but when I was in Ghana a few years ago, I had giant African snails and they were just awful. They tasted like soil. They were served with fufu – mashed up raw plantain and kasava. Also bad. Other than those, raw celery isn’t my favourite, but filled with peanut butter it is wondrous.

What is your ideal destination for a foodie holiday?

San Francisco. Epic bread and epic coffee. How could you get better than that?

Who would be your dream dinner party guest and what would you cook for him/her?

Hemingway, obviously. I’d bake bread and roast roadkill!

Brilliant Bread by James Morton is out now in hardback.

James Morton

James Morton was runner-up on Great British Bake Off 2012. He learnt to bake with his granny, growing up in the Shetland Isles.

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