Politicians and their plates: Deidre Brock's family vegetable pasta
Describe your favourite plate of food.
I’m an Aussie so absolutely anything from a barbie! An indoor favourite from my youth, though, was my mother’s braised steak pie – the steak from a tin (with onions and gravy; lip-smacking) and the pastry from a packet (hope I’m not giving too much away, Mum) – it was absolutely delicious. I just can’t find that particular tinned beef here and nothing else does it quite the same, so I’m offering this roasted vegetable & garlic pasta dish as a very tasty substitute.
Why is it so special?
My sister, Erica, introduced us to this on one of her visits from Down Under and it’s been a firm favourite with the Scottish side of the family ever since. She’s not eaten meat since she was 20. She attended the viewing of an animal rights film at uni and came out a committed vegetarian. I admire the principled stand she took on it and kept to. I also like that she doesn’t get offended that the rest of us have carried on eating meat, so this recipe is a wee homage to my wee sister, too.
Who have you shared this plate of food with and what was the occasion?
Whenever Erica comes to visit, we have this at least once. She lived in Edinburgh for years and tries to get back as often as she can to see us and other friends. It’s been a tradition to have a glass of sparkly to welcome her back when she gets off the plane, whatever the hour, so it might be accompanied by a glass or two of prosecco. I serve it up to friends as well, it’s always a special occasion when I can find the time to sit down with friends and family and enjoy a meal instead of having to dash off to something else or coming in too late to eat properly so it’s good to have an old favourite to turn to.
More generally, what’s your most memorable meal and why?
Christmas meals in the Brock household over the years were all memorable. We don’t do the traditional big roasts and steamed puddings of Christmas meals over here – it’s way too hot for that in Perth – so we’ll have cold turkey and ham, salads, and then maybe an ice-cream pudding to follow. We did NOT ever throw another prawn on the barbie, that abomination was an advertising campaign to encourage tourism (I’ve no idea why it riles me so much but my daughters like to wind me up with it, too) but we do often start the meal with a special treat of some prawns bought from the fish markets. We’ll cook them up and then sit around and shell them, shove them out with a dish of vinegar and some black pepper and let everyone help themselves.
And now for something you might think is typically Australian – the Christmas morning lager race. Every year, my dad and my uncles would race to have the earliest glass of cold lager and I remember my dad making a triumphant phone call to his brother at 6am one year: “Martin? Yeah, just downed a glass!” Don’t ask me how it started, I have no idea and think it’s probably best left as a mystery…
Have you ever had any culinary disasters?
One that still makes me cringe was a dinner I cooked in Sydney for a big gathering of friends, including quite a big-name Aussie TV star. I’d just been given a Kitchen Whiz thingy for my birthday and decided in a moment of madness, for the first time ever, to not hand knead the pastry for the big fruit tart. Guests politely hid the broken fillings and teeth they suffered from my cement crust. I’m not the only one in the family, though, Erica has burnt boiled eggs!
What would be your last meal of choice?
My mum’s beef stroganoff. I suppose everyone thinks that their mum is the best cook ever but that’s only because they haven’t tasted Ma Brock’s beef stroganoff. It’d be salted with her tears and recriminations, of course, like all good mothers.
What’s your comfort food?
Er… chocolate. Lots of chocolate. All kinds of chocolate. Far too much chocolate. Did I mention chocolate?
Is there any plate of food that you would never eat?
One thing I will never knowingly eat again is brawn. My first proper boyfriend’s mother served it when I first ate with the family – pig’s head, boiled and turned into a jellied terrine. I remember it still with shudders of horror – the relationship, unsurprisingly, didn’t survive the experience. I’ve since found out that brawn is quite popular in parts of Edinburgh. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot but me and brawn – let’s just say we’re not going to be on speaking terms any time soon.
What is your favourite thing on the Westminster Parliament menu?
There’s one thing that everyone is a fan of down in Westminster – jerk chicken. It is so popular and so much raved about that the cooks kindly produced their recipe to hand out. That’s when I realised the absolutely heavenly, ridiculously delicious sauce is just about entirely cream. It’s now relegated to a very occasional treat for me and I’m usually now grabbing a sandwich and keeping moving. I still give in sometimes, though.