Taekwondo world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Bianca Walkden opened a pizzeria in her hometown of Liverpool after her first big win. Here, she shares the essentials for cooking Italian food.
“When I won the Taekwondo Grand Slam two years ago in Wuxi [in China], I put the prize money towards opening a pizzeria in Maghull in Liverpool. My grandad Pasquale, who passed away in 2015, was from Naples and we wanted to keep the Italian side of our family going. It’s called Di Scala Pizzeria. My mum and dad work there, and sometimes when they’re busy I do a sneaky shift as a waitress.
I have had a go on the pizza oven, but that’s my mum’s department, she’s the don of the kitchen. I’m quite lucky because I’m heavyweight so I don’t ever have to diet, but I do make sure I fuel myself properly. If I wasn’t allowed to eat, my family would go crazy. It would be a sin not to eat pizza.”
INVEST IN A DECENT GARLIC PRESS
“Garlic is in nearly every dish I cook so I use a garlic press to speed things up because you have to use it fresh. My garlic press is from Ikea. It’s hard to get the right amount in the pan sometimes but with a garlic press you literally press it and it’s done. It saves so much time. It’s the best thing ever.”
EAT YOUR BREAD WITH SEA SALT
“I am absolutely obsessed with bread. Crispy, brown, white, seeded – you name it. You can’t beat a hot loaf of bread with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt. Everyone forgets the salt, but if you put olive oil on a plate, add a bit of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle some salt on it. Then when you dip your bread in, the salt makes it taste better. Oh, and it has to be sea salt. Don’t use table salt.”
NEVER BE WITHOUT EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
“I love cooking, I cook all the time and I use a lot of olive oil because it helps to add flavour. It’s important to use the best quality oil possible – the purer, the better. Everything I cook has olive oil on it, even if I make sausages I put olive oil on. Plus, it’s good for your skin. It goes really well with garlic and prawns, or linguine with seafood.”
ADD A TEASPOON OF SUGAR TO SAUCES
“Every tomato sauce or soup I make I put in a teaspoon of sugar to add some sweetness to it. One teaspoon will do, it takes away any bitterness and I put it in nearly everything – bolognese sauce, the lot – it adds so much flavour. Just the classic sugar you put in your tea, there’s nothing fancy about it.”
BUY TOMATOES ON THE VINE
“The best thing you can do with tomatoes is leave them on the vine and roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes. I like the yellow ones, too, as they have a bit more sweetness. After roasting them, you can make a soup with chopped tomatoes, peppers and onions then blend it all together and put some ketchup in – that’s an extra tip, that.”
Illustrations: May Van Millingen
Jenny Tregoning is deputy production editor and food editor at Stylist, where she combines her love of grammar with lusting over images of food