My life in food: Charlotte Ritchie on her love of baked potatoes and Vietnamese food

The English actress talks about her mum’s roast chicken, dining in San Sebastián and the struggles of trying to be vegetarian.

By Farida Zeynalova
Published 24 Nov 2021, 15:00 GMT
Charlotte stars in Repeat, a British sci-fi drama now available on digital platforms in the UK.

Charlotte stars in Repeat, a British sci-fi drama now available on digital platforms in the UK.

Photograph by Grant Archer

I feel like I have a very weird relationship with food. I’m constantly trying to be vegetarian, which narrows down a lot of stuff I like to eat. And I think I have an allergy to gluten — it’s so boring! I’m also a lazy cook, and I feel like I’m missing out because there’s so much I either can’t eat or choose not to eat. There are a lot of good vegetarian dishes out there, but unfortunately a lot of my favourite dishes are meat-based.

My go-to cuisine is Vietnamese. It caters to a lot of my dietary needs as well as there are a lot of great vegetarian and gluten-free options. When I was eating meat, I had a pho in Vietnam. I think it was a beef broth and, honestly, it was one of the best things I’ve ever had. My go-to dish would probably be [something like] a Vietnamese chicken broth noodle soup, but I’m starting to feel bad about the ol’ animals and the ol’ planet, so it’s less of an option these days. In London, I often go to Tre Viet; Salvation in Noodles is also a great place.

My mum’s roast chicken would be my last meal [despite trying to go vegetarian]. It’s so good! She does this French roast chicken in a casserole dish with chopped vegetables underneath, which makes it moist — I know everybody hates that word. Just a simple roast: that’s the dish that takes me straight back home. My mum now caters to a few vegetarians in the family, so, if I can, I’ll have a nice nut roast. My last pudding would be chocolate fondant or a sticky toffee pudding and ice cream with vanilla bits. Ideally both.

I find watching people eat on TV a bit grotesque. I can’t explain why. [Eating] is meant to be sustenance and great and kind of communal, so there’s something about the glamourising of a tiny flake of something and then it being judged by experts who haven’t cooked it. Don’t get me wrong, I respect amazing chefs and I love those shows, but it’s just the eating bit I find too weird.

Parsley is hell. I can’t stand it. I get angry if it’s in a dish. I have that thing where it tastes like soap. It crops up in the weirdest places, and it doesn’t need to be there.

Baked potato is my most sacred food. During lockdown, my housemates and I mastered a classic baked potato — we cut it around the equator and cooked it for three hours at 150C. That’s become a ceremonial thing for us. On it we have butter, then marmite, then cheddar cheese, then baked beans, then more cheddar cheese and then pepper. And on the side, there’s mayonnaise and mustard. The other thing we learned to make is an Ottolenghi pasta dish. You basically cook a kilogram of tomatoes with some ancho chilli, garlic and loads of basil at the end — it’s so easy and so nice.

I enjoy the food of southern India. That area would be really great [to visit]. I’d like to try the thalis and dosas there — it all sounds delicious.

In San Sebastián, I had something called smoking salmon. I thought they’d got it wrong; I thought it was smoked and the translation hadn’t worked. But it was this pot filled with literal smoke: smoking salmon. That was great.

I eat out quite a lot — the busier I am, the less I cook. If I’ve been filming, it’s a lot to cook a whole meal. If I’ve designated a night in, I’ll do it, but it’s very rare. I eat a massive breakfast — that’s my thing. I eat a huge fry-up and that fuels me for the rest of the day.

Charlotte stars in Repeat, a British sci-fi drama now available on digital platforms in the UK.

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