Sonali Shah

Sonali Shah, host of BBC's Escape to the Country, on raising a veggie family and why one day she'd like to be Oprah.

Sonali Shah

Photography by Bill Wataers

Where do you call home?

Northwest London is home and I love how you can find the best of every cuisine (especially for a vegetarian) at every budget really easily in and around the capital. I'm a foodie who cooks a lot and eats out a lot, so it would take something special to make me move away from London.

Have you always been vegetarian?

Yes, I was raised a vegetarian so I've never tried fish or meat – 37 years and counting! My husband has always been veggie too so it was inevitable that our children Ariana and Rafi would be vegetarian and weaned on curry, dhal and rice! We've never had any non-vegetarian food enter any of the homes we've lived in. Ariana is four and now asks a lot of questions and always insists on looking at the fish counter at the supermarket. I love that she is curious about where food comes from.

You originally aspired to a medical career. Any regrets about working in the media instead?

I've loved my career so far but I do sometimes wonder what it would've been like to read another subject at university first before entering broadcasting – I've always had a huge thirst for knowledge. But I've loved being able to travel the world with my work. Filming with children in Afghanistan is an experience I'll never forget.

What would be your dream job?

I used to joke that I wanted to be Oprah. I love just sitting on a sofa with a cup of tea chatting to people, so hosting a chat show or magazine show one day would be a dream come true. I've filmed all over the world but not in East Africa, where my parents were born, so that's on my list too.

Do you find it easy to eat healthily while working?

I find it incredibly hard as the vegetarian food on offer tends to be quite stodgy and carb-heavy because people seem to have an obsession with replacing meat with sweet potato and butternut squash instead of protein. I always carry snacks like nuts and protein bars to keep me going.

Which five ingredients do you always have in your fridge?

Homemade natural yogurt, Cheddar or feta cheese, hummus, eggs and limes – basically everything I need to dress a salad or make a quick snack for the kids. I always have a fridge full of fruit and veg, a pantry full of nuts, seeds, crackers, beans and lentils, and a freezer full of home-cooked Indian food so no one has an excuse to be hungry!

Is there a kitchen gadget you couldn't live without?

My garlic crusher – I use garlic in almost everything. People always laugh at me when I'm ordering pizza or pasta in a restaurant as I never fail to ask for extra garlic.

How do you start your day?

I used to be a big breakfast person. I'd never leave home without having porridge and fruit, but I've recently been reading into the science behind intermittent fasting so now I start my day with hot water and a green tea or black coffee. I sometimes have porridge for lunch as I miss it!

What's your favourite foodie treat?

Cheese, red wine and dark chocolate. I don't think I'd be able to become vegan because cheese is my Achilles heel.

What's your next project?

Professionally, I've spent the summer filming new episodes of Escape to the Country – I can never get enough of property hunting around Britain. And personally, I'm finalising plans for my new house. We built our family home when I was a teenager and it's always been an ambition to one day design and build my own property. The whole house has been designed around my dream kitchen – I have my priorities right!

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