Rowley Leigh’s final meal: ‘I never cook just for myself’

12 Sep

ratatouille-chicken-french-meal1I love cooking: it keeps me from doing the washing up. For that reason, I’d cook this meal myself, with my family, and my son-in-law in particular – he’s a very good cook. I love how much pleasure cooking brings people. That’s why I do it. I never cook for myself – I’m not interested. When I’m by myself I just stick to cheese on bread.

We’d be at a farmhouse that we rent quite often in Umbria, and this would be a late summer lunch. We first went to Umbria about 15 years ago, it’s a completely unspoilt, untouristy part of Italy. Unbelievably quiet, green and lush, even in August, with lovely flowers in the meadows. The house suits us, because it’s not overly done up, it has a barn opposite the kitchen across the lawn; which is open on one side, you can seat 16 and there’s a fireplace where I usually cook. There’s also a wood oven.

It’s so different from our life in London, and that’s what we love about going there. No internet, no noise … The first few days, the younger members of the party rebel, but then they open things like books. We don’t take much with us apart from books and a few DVDs. Once I get up to speed, I’m reading a book a day.

My children would be with us, and one or two friends – we usually have friends staying. It’s part of what makes the holidays special.

For starters, we’d have braised octopus with borlotti beans – gently stewed with a little chilli. Then hot roast grouse with bread sauce and not much else: I love game birds and grouse is my favourite. I’d wrap it in lardo and roast it over the spit, with a sprig of rosemary under the thigh.

To drink we’d have a really lovely Brunello di Montalcino – a generous, rich, ripe red, open and fresh.

I love cheese: British, French, Northern Italian … Montgomery’s cheddar, cheshire and particularly brie, which I think is terribly underrated… I might have to smuggle some into Italy. If that didn’t work, we’d just have to nibble on a bit of parmesan.

In August, there are some lovely little plums, although for dessert I’d probably just have a very large cigar.

After the meal I would hide away and have a snooze. One of the nice things about this house is that there are lots of places to hide.

I’m a terrible dancer; nevertheless, there’d be dancing. My wife, Katy, won’t dance with me – but I love it. We quarrel all the time over the music; I’d put on some country or soul, and then the kids would try to get a hold of the player to put on something modern.

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