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Food therapy: Ping Coombes

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Ever wondered what your fave foodie has lurking in the back of their fridge or what they scoff when nobody’s looking? Bath-based MasterChef winner, Ping Coombes, reveals her deepest self through tales of comfort food, Ferrero Rocher frenzies and the time she ate deep-fried squirrel

Ping Coombes

What does home taste like?

My mum is a fantastic cook and I was lucky enough to be brought up on an amazing array of homemade meals. She always told me that when you cook, you pour your heart and soul into your cooking. I could taste her love and comfort in her food.

Which foods take you back to childhood?

Hakka noodles, but I call it Asian spaghetti bolognese. My mum used to make it for me for breakfast and I’d slurp it on my way to school. I always had to get my hakka fix; I was once caught by the headteacher skipping assembly to scoff noodles.

I still make it to this day and it’s one of the most popular recipes from my book, Malaysia. It’s basically minced pork cooked with oyster and fish sauce, finished with lots of coriander and served with bouncy garlicky noodles.

What was the last thing you ate?

Beef ragu with courgetti, loads of parmesan and a dash of chipotle tabasco. My husband Andrew and I are trying to cut carbs but it’s not really working. Ragu is my non-Malaysian comfort food and my kids absolutely love it too. I’m always switching up my recipe, adding things such as chorizo, chicken livers or pork mince.

What would you never eat again?

When I was around 20, my friend took me to a place close to my hometown called Lawan Kuda which specialises in wild meats: I tried squirrel. Imagine a battered deep-fried squirrel – it was bony, sour and not good at all.

What’s your bad day comfort food fix?

A large G&T followed by a big plate of fried rice. I cook fried rice all the time and, once you’ve nailed the basics, it’s really easy. The best stuff is always made with overnight rice, which has been cooked and kept in the fridge to make sure it’s bone dry. My favourite combination is my mum’s recipe which includes chicken, ginger, sesame and eggs.

What would we find in your fridge?

There’s always shrimp paste, Chinese sausage, kaya (Malaysian coconut curd) and a good stock of charcuterie.

Self control or self indulgence?

Self indulgence any day. I don’t have any self control. My mum always told my brother and me that what you put into your body makes you, and to always eat the best we can afford. I spend way too much on food and can never turn down an invitation to lunch – you only live once.

What do you eat when nobody’s looking?

Ferrero Rocher. I can’t eat just one; my minimum is three.

Which restaurant makes you happy?

I love the food at Menu Gordon Jones in Bath. I remember a lot of the dishes I’ve eaten there in the past, which is telling. His chocolate and honey tart was hands down the best chocolate tart I’ve ever eaten – he overheard me raving about it and sent another over to the table.

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