Published: 05/05/2005, Volume II5, No. 5954 Page 30

Cooking a fancy meal is often the last thing on your mind if You have just worked a 12-hour shift, but Alex Webb, an elderly care doctor at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, finds it strangely relaxing.

'I've had a passion for cooking since my late teens when I first started cooking for myself, ' says Alex 'Over the years I've acquired around 70 cookbooks.

'Not everyone can find the energy to cook after a long day at work but I would much rather spend an extra hour making a fresh and tasty dish than sticking an unhealthy ready meal in the microwave. It only takes 10 minutes to knock up a great pasta dish with fresh tomatoes and herbs from my herb garden, so why shouldn't I make the effort?

'My girlfriend and I have travelled all over the world to try different cuisines - We have been to Fiji, Bali, Kuala Lumpur and New Orleans, but New York really stood out as the best place to eat. SoHo has such a fantastic range of Italianinspired dishes, each with a hint of Asian flavour.

'I am also a huge fan of River Cottage chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I even went to find him at Bridport Farmers' Market, where he buys most of his food, but I haven't managed to meet him yet.

'I often try to recreate special meals at home and love having friends over for dinner. My girlfriend and I have recently bought a house and we are planning a housewarming party for around 60 guests, and I am doing all the cooking. It is going to take a whole week of preparation and, to make matters worse, our new cooker has just broken down.

'I may have to commit the ultimate sin and buy in some pre-packaged supermarket party food, but I am hoping that it will be fixed in time so I can get back in the kitchen.'