Nigel Slater changed my life. Or rather, his recipe for chicken wings with lemon and cracked black pepper did. I was once a shamefully unashamed fussy eater, who barely cooked or thought with any imagination about food, and I rarely even glanced at Slater’s cookery column in the Observer Magazine. But something about those glossy, sticky wings caught my eye – and my appetite – back in 2003. I followed the recipe myself and miraculously pulled out an identikit glossy sticky feast from the oven, the warmth and aroma showing me that extra magic that no Sunday supplement ever could. And I was converted: to cooking, to eating, and notably to Nigel. I followed his column avidly. I bought Real Fast Food and started to build a repertoire: penne with walnuts and gorgonzola, chicken breast with pesto and mozzarella, scallops with lime and coriander. Every recipe delivered what it promised and what I craved. It was easy; it was fun; it was delicious. And Nigel’s words guided me generously throughout. Despite my complete lack of expertise, he never talked down to me. He taught me to notice the changing sights and smells in my pan, and helped me to understand the consequences of however I was choosing to slice and chop ingredients. He coaxed me into making my own choices with his subtle suggestions: substitute the walnuts with pine nuts; try rosemary instead of thyme; if you’re daring, melt the cheese in the pan rather than under the grill. Never any pressure, just encouragement to follow my own senses.