Liliana Battle - easy home cooking Italian style

Ex-Masterchef contestant, Liliana Battle grew up in an Italian family surrounded by passionate cooks. So it's no surprise this love of food was instilled in her from a young age.

These days she runs a catering company and has her own range of spices. But what she enjoys most is home-style Italian food. Just the way her family makes it.

And as the mum of two young boys, she also knows what it takes to get fresh meals on the table fast, how to make the most of stocking your fridge and freezer, and how to use up leftovers.

Liliana took time out from her busy life to chat with FOOD TO LOVE.

What’s your favourite dish to cook at home?
Either roasted chicken pieces with onions, lemon and oregano or a slow cooked lamb ragu to serve with pasta. Both dishes my Mum made for me growing up, and are now my family's favourites. I love the way they fill my kitchen with the smells of my childhood.

Which single ingredient could you not live without?
Garlic, it has no substitute!

The most memorable meal of your life…
Eating a simple pizza topped with Ligurian pesto on a park bench while looking at the ocean in Vernazza, Cinque Terre with my husband. It was simple, cheap, but beautiful. The best food memories come with an experience.

How did appearing on Masterchef change your life?
Masterchef undoubtedly gives you a foot in the door and a passion to succeed. It prompted me to go out and chase my dreams. Since then I've started a catering business, I 've run cooking classes, write for newspapers and online publications, I have a food range that will be launched soon and I've published a cookbook (which was always a dream for me). Excitedly, I've started my second book which will be released next year. I can honestly say that being a part of Masterchef gave me the sense of belief I could do these things and opened doors to enable me to give them a go.

If you could invite anyone to dinner, dead or alive, who would it be?
My late father, I didn't get to cook for him enough.

Favourite cuisine to eat (aside from Italian)?
I am a big meat eater, and love meat cooked well. Argentinian food is amazing, and I respect the love and passion put into slow cooked American style barbecued meat.

Favourite cuisine to cook (aside from Italian)?
Middle Eastern - a lot of the flavours overlap. I love the spices and the interesting ways of cooking vegetables.

Favourite person to cook for?
My family, of course (although the kids are still fussy!) We always eat at the table. It's where we connect at the end of the day.

The best advice you’ve been given is…
There are no bad decisions in life. Every decision was the right one at the time.

Favourite pizza topping?
Artichoke and prosciutto or pork and fennel sausage with capsicum.

Favourite gelato flavour?
Almond and fig.

Biggest kitchen disaster (everyone has one!)?
Using salt instead of sugar (and not realising it until we decided to eat the cake). It was a long time ago and it has taught me to label all my containers!

What ingredients should every home have in the cupboard/refrigerator?
Salt, garlic, chilli, olive oil, fresh herbs - that way you will always have flavour in whatever you're cooking.

What is your favourite newly discovered ingredient?
I love black garlic - it makes an awesome pasta dish and is incredible spread on crusty bread.

What is the wildest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Frog's legs - although they tasted just like chicken!

Favourite guilty food pleasure?
Cheese, wine and crusty bread.

Where did your passion for food stem from?
My family - generations of amazing cooks - especially my Nonna and my Mum.

Tell us something surprising about you.
I competed in the World Ballroom Dancing Championships when I was 15 and I won a State Bodybuilding Championship Title when I was in my 20s. That seems like a million years ago!!

Liliana shares some of her delicious recipes from her new book with FOOD TO LOVE below.

Easy Home Cooking (RRP $40.00) is available at all good bookstores or online.

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