From hangover food to avocado toast alternatives, we asked Antoni from ‘Queer Eye’ to tackle your food-based dilemmas
The girl I’m seeing is coming over for dinner for the first time and I really want to impress her. What should I cook?
‘I’m going to make the assumption that you’re not going to shag on the first date, so you can have something that’s really comforting. I would make fresh orecchiette – it’s tiny, ear-shaped pasta so you cut it with moulds – it doesn’t involve as much of the arduous putting it through the machine over and over again. I know how the Brits love their peas so I’d throw some of those in there with a bit of crumbly Italian sausage, mascarpone and lemon zest. It’s hearty and decadent, it’s not food that will make you want to make love after. You want a nice carb coma, it’s about being cosy and getting to know the person.’
My hangovers are the worst. What’s your go to hangover food to ease the pain?
‘Okay, this is weird but my sister and I used to drink together a lot and we used to take a whole packet of crackers and top them with smoked oysters from a can with thinly cut lime and good salt. It’s important to have a lot of salt when you’re hungover. Oysters are probably a weird thing to have on a hangover... but it’s about feeding your body with something that feels really good.’
I’m bored of eating avocado toast. What should I order at brunch instead?
‘I love ricotta and sardines. I’m bringing up canned fish again... but canned sardines are really nice with shaved celery on top for a nice little crunch factor. But if you want something more normal and accessible, poached eggs aren’t something I’ve mastered – they always look weird – but they’re always done so perfectly in restaurants. I would just suggest ordering something you don’t make at home, like a really nice poached egg with a hollandaise.’
I don’t want to spend loads of money on booze when I go out. What’s an easy cocktail to make for pre-drinks?
‘Vodka is a good one because it’s relatively cheap and you can dress it up in any way. In Canada with have a thing called a Bloody Caesar – it’s like a bloody Mary but made with clamato, which is tomato juice with a bit of clam juice in it so it has more of a weird funk. I also love a gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber. My favourite hangover thing back in the day was a shot of Jameson followed by a gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber, you know, just so you have some sort of food element…’
I can’t cook, I even burn toast. What’s the most basic dish I can master?
‘Carbonara! Use dried pasta – it’s a lot harder to screw up than fresh. Boil your water, salty as hell – it’s gotta taste like the ocean. Then in a bowl, crack some eggs – you can put more yolks than whites in if you’re like me and don’t care about cholesterol like you should. Mix the eggs and put a bunch of grated parmesan in there. A minute or two before the pasta is done, throw it in a pan that’s on medium-low heat and mix in the eggs. Oh my gosh! I forgot the bacon. Make sure it’s a really crispy nugget. If you bite into a carbonara and it has that chewy, grisly fat… it’s one of the worst things – I mean, there are worse things in the world but it’s definitely up there. Then add an offensive amount of pepper on top.’
The sun’s out and I want to have a barbecue, but all I have is one of those disposable grills. What should I cook?
‘It’s tricky to carry raw meat around, so it’s not an opportunity to mess with raw chicken, steak or fish, which smells lovely when it reached room temp… This is my Polish roots coming out but use kielbasa, which is a cured, pre-cooked meat. Score it lengthwise and then when you grill it, it gets really nice and crispy. Make it special by adding toppings – sauerkraut, onion, coleslaw. It’s a simple crowd pleaser.’
I’ve got an expensive Pret habit. What are some easy lunch ideas?
‘Oh, I love Pret... Meal prepping at start of the week is really important. Buy a rotisserie chicken, cook up a grain. I went through a quinoa phase but it stays between your teeth and I have gaps between every tooth so it’s a pain in the ass. I like farro, an Italian grain that has a really nice nutty-ness to it. Cook it with a bay leaf, apple cider vinegar and salt. I just mix it with chicken and vegetables. I’m not a picky eater, but I’m very judgemental. If I eat something and it’s not salty enough it’s kind of like a ruined meal because it’s not delicious. When you make your own food you can control what you put in.’