Drawling American TV presenter Loyd Grossman seems to have mystical abilities. Since moving from Boston in the US to London in 1975, he has presented two of Britain’s most enduring television formats — reality food programme Masterchef and celebrity spy show Through The Keyhole.
Both still on air, the shows have clocked up 36 broadcast years between them, and Loyd is still confident he knows what people want in the future.
"I do think I have a good sense of where things are going in terms of people’s tastes," he says, adding with a laugh, "but I’m keeping quiet about what I think the next trends will be."
Now, in Loyd’s new show Step Up To The Plate, amateur and professional chefs such as Aldo Zilli go head to head.
He has always had an attachment to Italian cuisine and since moving to Europe has spent many happy holidays touring the country.
With the help of his Italian development chef Anthony Warner, he’s enjoyed making his own-brand Italian sauces. But once again, Loyd was way ahead of his time.
"When we started developing my range of food I didn’t know anything about the food business," he says with a laugh. "I thought I would make something at home and then we would figure out how to make it on a large scale.
"But apparently that’s not how it’s done. I soon discovered that a lot of sauces are made with water and modified starches. I wanted to
use ingredients you’d find in your cupboard, and not have people reading the side of the jars saying, ‘What’s this?’. These days my way of thinking is normal, but 13 years ago things were very different."
Here, Loyd shares hints on cooking and one of his favourite recipes:
LOYD’S TIPS FOR ITALIAN COOKING
Keep it simple
"Italian restaurants that try and be like grand French restaurants go wrong," Loyd says. "It’s all about letting the ingredients speak for themselves and using assertive flavours. Most pasta sauces do not have more than six or seven ingredients. It’s rustic, home cooking not haute cuisine."
"It’s all about organisation," Loyd explains. "Because the timing flows from that. You can’t just throw everything together. You’ve got to be able to think a certain way."
"Because you can’t disguise anything, the better the ingredients the better result you’re going to have," says Loyd. "The hardest thing for people is getting good quality olive oil. Unfortunately it’s a case of you get what you pay for. There’s no question that spending another 30 pence on pasta will also make a world of difference."
TOMATO AND BASIL SAUCE WITH MOZZARELLA AND AUBERGINE
1 small jar of Loyd Grossman Tomato and Basil Sauce
1 whole mozzarella cheese (1 tub)
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
200 grams penne pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
Cook the pasta until it’s al dente (cooked without being soggy).
Slice off the outside skin of the aubergine all the way around, cutting down from top to bottom on all four sides about a quarter of an inch deep, then slice the skins into thin batons widthways. Cover the bottom of a non-stick pan with olive oil and when hot, shallow fry the aubergine batons until the pulp is soft and the skin begins to
crisp. Stir in a jar of Loyd Grossman Tomato and Basil Sauce and heat until piping hot.
Dice the mozzarella, and wash and halve the cherry tomatoes. Add both to your serving bowl with some torn fresh basil leaves, dress the mixture with extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.
When your pasta is cooked to taste, drain and toss into the pan with the sauce. When pasta is fully coated add to the serving bowl and mix. Decorate with freshly torn basil leaves.
This pasta is served somewhere between tepid and piping hot — a typical summer dish.
Substituting a nice chilli oil for the olive oil when dressing the mozzarella and tomatoes would give a nice kick to the dish. For an even more heat you could replace the tomato and basil sauce with a Loyd Grossman Tomato and Chilli Sauce.
Some people may not be keen on aubergines, so chargrilled peppers would make a delicious alternative.
It would be perfect served with some chargrilled chicken strips, or even a piece of grilled tuna steak to make a more substantial summer meal.
For something a bit more adventurous, you could try mixing some chopped rocket leaves in with the tomato and mozzarella.
Step Up To The Plate begins on Monday, July 21, on BBC2. Loyd Grossman’s products are available from supermarkets nationwide.
For more info, visit: www.loydgrossmansauces.co.uk