A simple pasta dish can be amazing. Photo: Alice Pasqual

Simple cooking can be best

Do you have a favourite recipe or dish?

I get asked quite a bit what mine is and it is not easily answered. It depends on my mood, occasion and location. There are times I eat a lot of pasta, other times I prefer salads but at the end of the day, I am a creature of habit.

I am one of these weird people who study a menu in a restaurant and then go ahead and order the same dish.

When I visited the Rising Sons in Cornmarket Street after reopening, Judy came to the table, waited for Mr T to say what he wanted and looked at me and walked away, knowing exactly what I would order. That’s the beauty when you have a regular restaurant to go to – people know what you prefer.

But back to home cooking – I have one dish that is delicious, fast to prepare, inexpensive and looks good in a bowl.

Spaghetti alio e olio (apologies to all Italians if I messed up the spelling here!) is a dish I ate many moons ago in a small family-run Italian restaurant in Berlin. My brother and I went to this restaurant since we were teenagers and saw the changeover from father to son.

Rocco (the son) was a character – chain-smoking (yes that was a thing back then) and drinking gallons of espresso. But bang, the food was delicious. As I always loved pizza, I never ordered anything else from the menu but one day, Rocco came out and put a bowl of pasta in front of me – without asking my order.

Now, I was a shy kid (I know some people who have met me might not believe that), so I started to roll up the pasta onto my fork and started eating. Wowser, what a revelation – fresh garlic just slightly fried, tiny flakes of fresh red chilli and parsley, all tossed together with spaghetti and sprinkled with parmesan (not the dried ready-grated old-sock smelly stuff from the supermarket but freshly grated). I loved it.

So, there it is – my favourite dish. I can eat this dish anytime, anywhere and will never get tired of it. When I cook it at home, I also add roasted pinenuts and when my wonderful hairdresser Sinead (in Cloghroe) asked for an easy recipe, she was converted as well and got a bit adventurous by adding chicken.

When I tell people what my favourite dish is, I can see surprise and disbelief. Most people think I only eat high-end food and would go to fine dining restaurants all the time (when open).

But the truth is I love simple dishes well done, neighbourhood restaurants and enjoying food with friends and people I love.

Saying all that, I do enjoy fine cuisine and always try to learn something new about food but the old staples are what makes me smile. These are dishes we call comfort food.

When I prepare the pasta, I think of Rocco and how he hated German food and would travel with pasta in his suitcase and I think of a small restaurant in Malta on top of a hill where the chef reminded me so much of Rocco (larger than life personality) and where I ate the best manti (a form of ravioli).

And this is what food is for me – memories new and old. So, what is your favourite dish?