Posted 16th Dec 2013
LandLove's Harriet Beckwith caught up with one of the most successful female chefs in Britain today, the lovely Sophie Wright, to talk Freedom Food, her new judging role and the best way to achieve a stress-free Christmas dinner
We'd love to find out a bit more about you Sophie. How did you first become interested in cooking?
I have been around food all my life. My nan and mum were both amazing cooks and had a real traditional style. As we were on a bit of a budget, it was always cheaper to bake a cake at home than have a day out, so I ended up doing a lot of cooking with them both right from when I was little.
You're one of the chefs involved with the RSPCA's Freedom Food campaign. What made you want to get involved with Freedom Food?
Freedom Food actually approached me a few years ago and asked me to donate a recipe to them. I'm not the first to say to everyone should go and buy all organic, as I realise this is not achievable for everyone, but I've always been keen on buying food sensibly, and I think it's important you know about the food you buy when you're selecting your shopping. Freedom Food is excellent as it makes the decision for you - you see the label and automatically know that it has been raised to a certain standard. As the RSPCA is such a well known and respected charity, that helps give the buyer confidence as well.
Is provenance important to you?
It is important to me yes, but not necessarily the most important thing. I think what's paramount is not the origin of the food, but the journey and life that animal has had. I think it's different for me working as a chef, as I have a certain responsibility and will always try source the best produce. But, for the general public I think it's important to know about the life that their food has had.
How can our readers support Freedom Food, is it to buy the products or are there other ways?
Buying the food and being aware of where it comes from is a great way to show your support. As I said earlier, I think educating yourself and others all helps too. For example, we all know that intensive and battery farming is bad, but it's taking it that step further and really taking time to consider our food when we buy. That's not to say you have to buy the most expensive in the shop, and it doesn't mean buying the cheapest either. It just means being aware of your food - what you're buying and how this is helping animal welfare.
You're one of the judges for the Freedom Food Compassionate Cook Competition. What will you be looking for in the winner?
Passion and enthusiasm are the main things I'll be looking out for. It doesn't have to be fine dining, just good food done well in a nice homely way. Tasty traditional cooking!
Do you think being aware of where all our ingredients come from makes a difference to a meal?
100%. For me personally, I am so much more thankful to be eating and enjoying a meal when I am aware of what it is and where it has come from. People need to realise that food isn't just something in a plastic container in a supermarket. It was once a living animal, and I think taking this into account makes us a lot more grateful.
We love the turkey recipe you have used in the Freedom Food Celebrity Recipe Collection. Is it important to get a lot of preparation done the night before the Christmas feast?
Yes, definitely. Usually I'm cooking for 300 in a restaurant on Christmas Day, but last year I cooked for my family at home. I think Christmas should be a relaxing time, opening presents, having a nice glass of bucks fizz and chilling out. The last thing you want to do is to be rushing around in the kitchen. So it's so good to do as much as you can beforehand.
With that in mind, any tips for a stress-free Christmas dinner?
It's all about preparation. Obviously you can't cook your turkey the night before, but the gravy and any sauces can be made up. Peel and prep all of your veg, and you can make your red cabbage up to a week before. These all feel like little tasks, but they do take time on the day, and it can really make a difference having it all prepared on Christmas Eve.
What's your favourite dish to cook at Christmas?
This is going to sound clichéd but I love the leftovers. Roast potatoes dipped in mayonnaise, and you can't beat a good turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce! It's lovely raiding the fridge and rustling up something tasty with what's left.
Do you have any ideas for a twist on the traditional Christmas dinner or perhaps a vegetarian alternative?
I would say a tart, but vegetarians always seem to get fobbed off with tarts don't they? I think something like stuffed aubergine would be nice - with a spicy Christmas twist. Cinnamon and nutmeg would be good, and of course it would come with all the usual tasty trimmings too.
Visit www.freedomfood.co.uk to find out more about their work