The RNLI and me: Jane Devonshire

The MasterChef winner on childhood summers in Dorset, writing a cookbook, and being known as Winklewoman

Jane Devonshire, winner of MasterChef 2016

Photo: Jane Devonshire

Q&A with Jane Devonshire

What was it like being on MasterChef?

It was surreal – that’s the only way I can explain it. You know when you’re doing something and you can’t quite believe that it’s you? But I loved it. There were stresses and ups and downs, but I think that the people who do well on the show love what they’re doing. And I had a ball, I really did.

What made you enter? That’s quite a brave decision.

The children! We love to watch MasterChef as a family. For years, the kids said to me: ‘You need to do this,’ but I always thought I wasn’t good enough. Then one day, I came home and they had the form up on screen. I thought my application would just disappear into the great ether but then I got the phone call and it snowballed from there.

What was your favourite thing you cooked on the show?

That’s a tricky one, but perhaps the lobster and popcorn dish I did – it was something a bit different. Or the final menu, which included a fish starter of winkles, served with pan-fried cockles and mussels. This was based on food I loved as a child – we always had cockles and mussels for Sunday tea. After the show, people called me Winklewoman, which is quite funny!

You kindly donated a cheesy fish pie recipe for RNLI Fish Supper last year – had you been involved with our charity before?

No, I grew up in London – although I know now that this is home to your busiest station! My family have always supported the RNLI though – what you do is amazing.

If you were cooking dinner for a lifeboat station, what dish would you make?

Maybe my fish pie – hearty and wholesome! I think they’d like big plates of food in the middle of the table to help themselves to.

We’ve seen you tweeting about Saving Lives at Sea. What do you think of the series?

I love it. My whole family is addicted to it! It really shows the bravery of the volunteers who go out and save lives, and it shows their human side too. I’m in awe of the sea. Whenever I go on holiday, I have to be near it. But I’m also very wary of it, even though I’m a strong swimmer.

What’s your secret to cooking fish?

Don’t think of it as difficult. Fish is my quick and easy meal. Keep it simple and let the flavours show through. A beautiful piece of pan-fried fish with butter and lemon – it’s just heaven!

You’ve recently released a cookbook of gluten-free recipes. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

After I won MasterChef, I began writing a cookbook – and it became apparent that the way I cook at home is gluten-free. My youngest son was diagnosed with coeliac disease when he was 2 years old. My book shows that it doesn’t have to be difficult – it’s just ordinary food.

Do you have a favourite recipe from it?

The recipe that everybody absolutely loves is the peanut butter chocolate cheesecake – they go potty for it! And it’s also the one with the least cooking involved.

About Jane Devonshire

Jane Devonshire is best known for winning MasterChef in 2016. She recently published her first cookbook, Hassle Free, Gluten Free, in association with Coeliac UK.

Feeling inspired to hit the kitchen? Consider inviting your friends and family over and hosting a fundraising RNLI Fish Supper this month.