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Food
What I learned from MasterChef
Bury St Edmunds-based Hannah Gregory talks about her recent experience on the popular TV food show and living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
How did you first get into cooking and food? Was it watching your parents cook? I have always been obsessed with food. I used to have a book called ‘The Children’s Cook Book’ (it’s still on
my shelf for sentimental reasons but my cooking has advanced a bit). I devoured it as a child - working my way through the recipes. I cooked three course meals for birthdays rather than buy gifts. I love making people happy with good food.
When you are not in the kitchen I think you are a creative producer for music festivals. Before we get back to talking about food can you tell us what your job entails?
I pinch myself every time I get on site because I still can’t believe my day job revolves around my favourite
things in the world - music and festivals. My favourite part of the job is the creative side, turning a field into a magical place of escapism. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and I now design the look and feel of big festivals in the UK and abroad, bringing visions to life.
With that job - and your clear love of cooking - you are always battling with ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. How debilitating is it? What do you do to fight it and lead as normal life as you can?
My ME/CFS journey has been a long one. I got diagnosed 10 years ago, was signed off work for two years and told it was unlikely I would work full time again. It has taken time but I have
now created a life where I control the
illness and not the other way round.
I try and fill my life with as much
  Store Cupboard Supper Roast herby white fish with crispy lentils & pancetta ((Serves 2)
If you’re anything like me there is a packet of lentils sitting in the back of your cupboard from when you had that fleeting idea of becoming super healthy. You then attempted to cook them once, realised they taste like mud and put them firmly to the back of the cupboard. But I swear this will convert everyone into lentil lovers.
What you need
2 x fillets (approx 150g each) white fish (fresh or frozen and defrosted. I used cod but you could use haddock, pollock or any other meaty white fish - and hold on to your hats, if you can’t find fish, this recipe works perfectly with chicken)
1 x lemon
Large sprig of rosemary
Black pepper
200g green or Puy lentils
100g lardons
1 stick of celery
1 carrot
1 shallot
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf (dried is fine)
50g butter
500ml chicken stock
8 rashers of pancetta or streaky bacon
How you do it.
n Preheat oven to 180
n Rinse your lentils thoroughly.
n Peel your carrot and shallot.
n Finely dice your carrot, shallot and celery as small as possible. The idea is to get them as close to the size of your lentils as possible to make for a pleasing mouth experience - this is an actual term, I haven’t just made it up.
n Melt your butter in a frying pan (ideally ovenproof but if you don’t have one, no drama, you just need to transfer your goods to an ovenproof dish post frying). Throw in your tiny diced vegetables, thyme and bay and sweat (the veg, not you). You need to get these softened and smelling glorious but no colour on them. n Stir in your lentils, then pour in your chicken stock and bring to the boil. Make a cartouche out of grease- proof paper (this is a circle of paper that sits on top of the lentils to prevent evaporation - top tip, scrunch the greaseproof into a ball first and it will become super malleable and a lot easier to fit the pan snugly) and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
n After the time is up pop your lentils in the oven for 30 minutes. Keep checking and stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. You want them to have a crunch and texture to them so keep tasting and trying as you go here.
n Fish time - chop your rosemary super fine - the aim
of the game
here is to make
almost a rosemary crumb to coat
your fish with.
Once you have your fine herbs, transfer to a plate along with the zest of a lemon and a really good grinding of black pepper. Place your fish on the layer of dust, turn over and repeat on the other side so your fillets are completely coated in the crumb.
n On a board lay out your rashers of pancetta - you need to overlap each piece so you have a complete sheet ready to wrap your fish. Place the fish on to the pancetta and carefully wrap your fillets up so they are all tidy and beautifully packaged.
n Heat a frying pan with a splash of oil and sit the fish parcel (ugly side down) for a couple of minutes. Then transfer to the oven for 10 minutes.
n Next - fry your lardons until golden brown. Get your lentils out of the oven and transfer into the lardon pan, stir well - you want to get everything coated in the glorious lardon fat that will have rendered out during cooking.
n Spoon the lentils onto a plate and sit the fish on top.
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