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(EN) #ThatTranslatorCanCook: Isabel Stainsby

Dernière mise à jour : 9 avr. 2020

In March, it's quite hard to rest: spring is arriving, daylight saving time is up and… I celebrate my birthday! For this occasion, I couldn't hope for a better gift than welcoming Isabel Stainsby, translator from Czech, Slovak and German to English, on this blog. Specialised in marketing, tourism and healthcare, she explained today her relationship to cooking.


Isabel Stainsby, CS/SK/DE > EN translator

This cake looks delicious! Perfect fit for my birthday party!

Who are you?

My name is Isabel and I live in Glasgow, Scotland. I’ve always loved languages as well as cooking and baking, so it’s no surprise that I ended up as a translator, though I did try several other careers first.

I grew up in England but, after 14 years in Scotland, consider myself a naturalised Scot (I have learned a little Gaelic!)

I particularly specialise in medical, marketing and tourism texts, but I have also translated two novels and am about to start the third (as of January 2020).

  • What is your relationship with cooking?

My mum started to teach me to cook when I was about 6 and I’ve never looked back (that was the idea; she was planning her own retirement as she started to teach my dad to cook at the same time!). My early efforts were of course very basic – melting chocolate and stirring in cornflakes etc – but I quickly progressed to actual baking and making the occasional, simple main meal.

By the time I was 14 I was proficient in the kitchen and when I left home to go to university, my brother and sister used to look forward to me coming home in the holidays because I made proper puddings!

The kitchen is where I get creative; if I’m in a low mood, baking often cheers me up and when I still worked in an office, I found bringing in home-made cakes or biscuits was a route to instant popularity. I love cooking – which is good because my husband doesn’t. Fortunately he is very good at washing up!

  • What dish do you like to cook the most?

Good question. Do I really have to choose just one?

For savoury dishes, it would probably have to be a vegetarian chilli. I use the recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, but I’ve made it so often that I no longer need to refer to the book, plus I’ve added my own tweaks over the years. Adding 50 grams of fine dark chocolate gives it a real boost.

Sweet – too many to choose from. Probably something with chocolate in it!

  • And the least?

Interesting question. Probably something complicated and fiddly that takes a lot of time to prepare. There are a couple of chestnut recipes that I only make about once a year for that reason, but I love chestnuts so it is always worth it. But I’m lucky – I practically never have to make anything I don’t want to.

  • What have you always wanted to know how to do in cooking (e.g. a technique or a dish)?

I’m very much a home cook and wouldn’t want to go on one of those TV shows where they do fancy things with sugar, or temper chocolate, or pipe icing. But I’d love to be more confident with that sort of thing.

  • What do you eat and/or drink while translating?

Drink: usually just water, sometimes fruit tea, occasionally hot chocolate (well, actually, hot chocolate more often than I should!)

Eat: fruit, nuts, chocolate, biscuits or cake if I have them in. I have a sweet tooth – can you tell?

  • Bonus: Could you share a quick, easy, delicious recipe?

Has to be this one. I don’t remember who gave it to me originally but it’s the one I get asked for most often!

Chocolate cake

50g dark chocolate, melted

225g sugar

100g butter, softened

150g self-raising flour (or plain flour, plus 2 teaspoons baking powder)

2 eggs

150ml milk

pinch salt

splash of vanilla extract

Oven 180ºC

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy; add eggs, vanilla and salt and mix well. Sift in flour and fold in with a metal spoon. Add the milk and mix well, then add the melted chocolate. Pour the mixture into a greased, lined tin and bake for about an hour. The cake may need to be turned round after half an hour – this is fine, it won’t sink! Cool for a few minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack.


50g dark chocolate, melted

125g icing sugar

75g butter

Splash of vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and sugar, add the vanilla, then the chocolate. Spread over the cooled cake.

  • A cooking anecdote?

I once had to send my sister to the local shop for ingredients three times while baking. She had left the kitchen door open and the dog got in and ate the meringue that my mum had prepared for the guests coming for lunch that day. So I had to make something else, quickly!

You put fresh fruit and cream on meringue, and on cheesecake, so I made a cheesecake. But we had no digestive biscuits, were almost out of cottage cheese, and I forget what the third ingredient was. Normally she wouldn’t have done this for me (we didn’t get on well as teenagers, though we do now) but on this occasion she knew it was her skin I was saving! Fortunately, the cheesecake was a triumph.

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