Photo by Tara Stevens
Sophie Ruggles—the Australian author of a cookbook for ‘the kitchen phobic’ titled Suddenly Cooking—is a woman on a mission.
In many ways, she reminds me of a much slenderer, prettier, female equivalent of Jamie Oliver and when we meet for lunch at her restaurant of choice, Can Ramonet in Barceloneta, she’s buzzing with excitement for the new books she has in mind. Ten of them in total, though she’s not decided which will come first yet. “A light bulb goes on,” she tells me, “and then I’m off.”
What’s the story behind Suddenly Cooking?
I believe that if you go through life only mildly satisfied with what you are eating, you’re only living half a life. So it’s become my mission to help the average Joe become more capable in the kitchen. When my partner’s mother died, her husband was adrift. He had no idea how to cook, but he didn’t know how to shop either. I taught him the basics: how to set up his kitchen, the difference between basmati and risotto rice, how to put together simple but varied meals, and that was really my inspiration. It snowballed from there as various newly-divorced friends and other lost souls contacted me for help. As cooks and foodies, we assume a lot of knowledge like what blanching is or what paprika looks like or even how to chop an onion, but a lot of people don’t know this stuff. I wrote it because I truly believe it is needed.
Why did you choose Can Ramonet for lunch today?
I try not to intellectualise food too much. For me it’s all about pleasure and any restaurant that has been around since 1763 must be doing something right. They have supremely fresh fish and seafood (all of it lined up on banks of ice when you enter), a gorgeous terrace and they never rush you. Sobremesa is my favourite part of the meal and they understand that here. Most of all I love their pescado a la sal. It’s not something I ever do at home so I save it for special outings.
Any other top tips for eating in Barcelona?
I find the menú del día difficult. It can be sublime or very average so the trick is finding the middle ground. A favourite is Golliard (Progrés 6, Gràcia, 93 207 3175, menú €11.50). They serve Catalan classics with a modern spin and cook extremely well. You can’t book, so get there around 2.30pm after the first round of diners so you can relax.
Maquinista 17, Barceloneta. Tel. 93 319 3064, www.elnouramonet.com. Open daily, noon to midnight. Closed January 17th to February 3rd, and December 24th and 25th for holidays. Around €60 per head for three courses including wine.
Suddenly Cooking (Casera Publications) costs £32 and is available from amazon.co.uk. Check www.suddenlycooking.com for additional tips, recipes and Sophie’s blog.