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What’s your favourite ingredient?

Shallots in a sweet red wine vinegar pickle. There is no dish that cannot be improved with a little hit of pink zing.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

Cheese on toast made properly under the grill with well-buttered, cheap, white bread, loads of smoked cheddar and slathered in ketchup, alongside a mug of strong tea. I'm not proud of it.

Tell us about your first food memory?

The jar on granny's sideboard. It was filled with Wine Gums, Liquorice Allsorts or Cadbury's Roses. It was a free-for-all and the grandchildren all made a beeline for it whenever we visited.

What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?

There are so many places I love, and they change based on what I fancy eating. Right now, I'm loving Jamie Scott's The Newport. I go there a lot and I’m never, ever disappointed. The tasting menus are always so well thought out and use local ingredients and suppliers, which I love. My favourite part of the meal is always the snacks, they are amazing.

When I'm home in Inverness, I head straight for Hou Hou Mei, a Chinese fusion restaurant that has just opened. Their sui mai and wor tip dumplings are fabulous and it's a fun, busy place that's great for hanging out with friends and having a few drinks.

What would be your last supper?

My mum's Scotch broth with extra marrowfat peas and granny's gingerbread with lashings of butter.

Starter or pudding?

Starter. All day long. I don't have a particularly sweet tooth and starters are always the course where I struggle to choose just one. I recently created a range of dishes for Benromach Distillery and the Arbroath Smokie croquette with gherkin ketchup went down well.

Do you have any food hates?

This is controversial. I said it during a recent chef demo event and lost the room momentarily. I don't like stovies. Warm corned beef just does not do it for me. There are way more exciting things that can be done with leftovers.

What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?

For starters, fresh West Coast langoustines; simply grilled with loads of wild garlic butter. For the main, I’d choose a loin of Scottish lamb, dauphinoise potatoes and spinach with lemon and garlic. I'd finish with cheeses from Connage and Strathearn, crisp Granny Smiths, nuts and a local honey.

For guests, I'd invite Nigel Slater whose writing on food I really admire, Grace Dent because I think she'd be an absolute riot and would have loads of great stories to tell about restaurants and chefs, and Edith Piaf. I always insist on playing French bistro jazz during dinner parties and it drives my husband mad. I'd hope that having Edith there knocking out the odd number would turn him around.

What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?

Scotland. We have the best of everything here and some pretty special folk doing amazing things with it. There are so many restaurants, ingredients and products to explore. I am continually excited and inspired by our food culture.

Rankin has created recipes in collaboration with Benromach, see

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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