Actor and Celebrity MasterChef winner John Partridge shares his culinary journey of recovery and grief with Jenny Stallard.

Paying tribute to your mum when you win a cooking competition would lead most people to believe that the mum in question was something of a tour de force in the kitchen.

But for Celebrity MasterChef 2018 winner, actor John Partridge, it's quite the opposite. And it's something that brings a grin to his face as he talks about his new cookbook No Taste Like Home.

"I'm a mummy's boy, I'm proud of it and mum was a huge part of my life. She was a dreadful cook! She hated cooking - it was the one thing she did not enjoy. She was a grade A mum.

"I could come home from school and say, 'I need to be a gladiator tomorrow' - and I'd have the most amazing Emperor's costume made, she could knit me a jumper in a week."

Still, the food he grew up with was a massive influence on his winning MasterChef menu - the book is named after it, in fact - and there's a poignancy to the fact that the win came a year to the day after he lost his mum, Bridie, to Alzheimer's.

"When I think of that food now, marrowfat peas, tinned ham, I just love all of that, and it's become a part of my style of cooking now."

He even had Bridie's wooden spoon with him in the studio. "When I touch the handle of the spoon, because it's been used for so long, it feels like the palm of her hand," he says.

Partridge wears his mum's ring, too, a gold ring inscribed with a B. "The spoon's so soft it doesn't even feel like wood. I feel her holding my hand... it's so silly, but it feels like it, and it's a beautiful thing - so comforting."

Would she be proud of the book? "She'd be embarrassed! She was a very quiet lady, quite shy, very reserved in a way," he recalls. "I miss her terribly."

Cooking hasn't just been a way through grief for Partridge, who first trod the boards in Cats, and became a household name thanks to his role as Christian Clarke in EastEnders. It's helped with addiction recovery - but he wasn't always a keen cook.

After going to the Royal Ballet School at a young age, he ate for fuel. Then, during years of alcohol and drug addiction, food wasn't, well, high on the menu. "I still cooked, but when you're drinking a lot, or doing drugs, food is low down on the list," he says.

"Making yourself something lovely to eat, be it a bowl of soup, beans on toast... it's an act of self-care, and that's something that was really lacking in my life.

"We're all good at caring for other people, but I was low down on the list. Cleaning up has allowed me to look after myself a bit better. Plus, I'm getting on a bit more, I need to look after myself now!"

There's a real Seventies vibe to the book, with recipes such as cheese and onion tart and Black Forest gateau. There are also influences from abroad, 'hangover' food, and a fabulous section called 'For Fancy', inspired by his sister.

"My cooking and food story has allowed me to reconnect with myself. That's why I say in the book that cooking the food from my past has helped me to live in the present. It helped me to go back and remember aspects of my life and myself that I had forgotten.

"Some I chose to forget, some I thought weren't important enough to remember. And I'm so grateful that I've been able to have this opportunity to do that.

"I continue to use food as my wind down, as my comedown - pardon the pun! I use it as a way to be social, in a way to relax, pretty much in the way I used to use drink and drugs. Now I use food in that way.

"I didn't cook fancy dishes on MasterChef. I remember Greg (Wallace, one of the judges) saying, 'You can't cook a hotpot for the final'. He loved it! It may not be what you call fine dining, but it's fine with me. I will be forever grateful to that programme."

There's No Taste Like Home by John Partridge is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £20. Available now

Lancashire hotpot


(Serves 4)

50g unsalted butter, plus a little extra, melted, for brushing the top

450g onions, sliced

250g boneless lamb shoulder, diced

250g lamb neck fillet, diced

Plain flour, for dusting

20g golden caster sugar

5-6 floury potatoes (I use King Edwards) - you will need 850g once peeled

4 best end of neck lamb cutlets

Thyme leaves, for sprinkling

50ml lamb stock

Salt and white pepper

To serve:

Pickled Red Cabbage


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4.

2. Melt 20g of the butter in a large pan, add your onions and sweat them down over a low heat for 15-20 minutes, until a very pale golden colour. Season with salt and a pinch of pepper. Set aside.

3. Next, put all your diced lamb into a large mixing bowl, dust it with flour and season with the sugar and one teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Then get your hands in there and give it a good mix, making sure all the meat is coated with the flour and seasonings. Set aside.

4. Now, peel your potatoes and then slice them quite thin, about 2-3mm thick. I use a mandoline for this, but you can also use a sharp knife. Put the potato slices into a bowl.

5. Melt another 15g of the butter, pour over the potato slices and season with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then once again mix with your hands to make sure all the slices are coated. Be careful not to break them, as you need them intact for layering.

6. Now you are ready to start layering. Use the remaining 15g of butter to grease a high-sided casserole dish and arrange a layer of potato slices over the base and up the sides - you are going to encase your lamb inside a layer of potato. Put your floured and sugar-seasoned meat into the base, add half your onions and mix together well. Then layer the rest of the onions on top.

7. Place the lamb cutlets around the side of your dish, pushing the flesh into the onions, with the bones poking out of the top. Sprinkle some thyme leaves on the onions before arranging the remaining potato slices on top, overlapping them like fish scales.

8. Pour in the stock, then brush the top with a little more melted butter. Add a final crack of pepper and salt, and a sprinkling of thyme. Bake for about two-and-a-half hours. I brush with a little more butter halfway through.