Yesterday I was tweeted by a Lucy who owns a farm opening up as a B& B soon. She had taken the time to read my blog and you can't imagine my surprise as tweeted me to say she'd added my book to her Amazon wish list! Surly she'd got it wrong.. I'm still developing the final recipes this week! I searched on Amazon to discover to my simultaneous delight and fright that yes my book Prepped! is indeed there to pre order! I called Alastair from upstairs who was putting the children to bed. All three children and Al came and stared at the screen. There is is. It took a good few minutes to explain to my 8 year old that she couldn't buy it right now and she really did have to go back to bed! I spoke to my publisher today who said that my BLAD is ready and they have announced the book to the trade. Blimey - I'd better finish it !!
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Sunday, 28 November 2010
I’m not a girl who is easily impressed. I’ve eaten some seriously good food, especially in the Dordogne. I have spent years eating in some of the top French restaurants. So when my friend Gill told me about the Menu Decouvert at Le Manoir it sounded to me a little like how I imagine heaven will be like - 9 courses ! I called four weeks in advance in August to book in good time for or 10 year wedding anniversary and to look for inspiration for flavours in Prepped. Where else to find inspiration than at the table of a master? I was gently told by the receptionist that the soonest I could reserve a table for was November. As it was we went to Le brassiere Blanc instead where we were lucky enough to meet Raymond Blanc… but that is another story! I booked for November 27th – My birthday weekend as it happened.
Finally the big day arrived.
We arrived at 12.30pm. It was freezing cold. My first view of Le Manoir immediately made me want to go inside, whether we had a reservation or not! The honey colored stone and the path draw you in to an atmosphere that felt like coming home. Huge Log fires crackled in the grates and easy relaxed staff had us sipping champagne in warm comfortable surroundings within minutes. The canapés were just the start of what was to follow. Each created as a morsel of perfection. I’m not going to break down the meal mouthful by mouthful. Not because it doesn’t deserve it … but because it is enough for me to say that I have never eaten a meal like it. Every crumb was perfection. Each mouthful was a delight and I have never been so captivated by balance in texture and flavour before. The whole meal was extraordinary. I could not find a single fault. Trust me I was looking! Not a smudge on a glass, not a grain of seasoning out, nothing, and I mean nothing whatsoever, was not prefect.
At the end of the meal I was lucky enough to be invited to take a tour of the kitchens where Gary Jones, the executive head chef introduced me to his team of chefs and talked both my husband and I through the most fabulously organised and well deigned kitchen I have ever seen. There was order. The calm professional operation of the front of house extended all the way to the engine. The kitchen purred like a well-tuned engine. It was the end of service and the staff were getting ready for the evening shift, but you could see that when the pressure mounted the kitchen would simple change gear but it would remain smooth. This is a chef lead restaurant. There was order calmness and perfection throughout.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
As we brace ourselves for the cold snap I have spent the day developing mince pies, eccles cakes and brandy butter. Any idea's of calorie restriction today have gone straight out of the window. The house smells of christmas and my youngest daughter has been my kitchen assistant for the day. I have just 19 more recipes to develop and my publisher will be coming on the 13th of December to pick the photo's and take the final book back to Oxford with them. - they have given me January to keep testing whilst the book is being edited.. so that is a relief - in the mean time I must write up the eccles cakes recipe before the school run!
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Here's a recipe from the book . I thought I'd share it with Christmas is coming up time is getting shorter and shorter. For a time short foodie like me I absolutely want to make my own. But seeing as Christmas week I seem to rush about like my hair os on fire I often realise too late that I haven't made mince meat. This recipe is so quick and simple to make - it's happiness a pot as fa as I am concerned. Packed full of orange, spices and fruit - it tastes fantastic and what's more a jar in the fridge makes a super emergency gift - and you know you need that peace of mind of having one stashed - just in case!
Makes 2 x 440ml Jars
170 ml Brandy
200g soft brown sugar
170g dried cherries/ blueberries or mixture
300g Fresh Cranberries
200g of currents and raisins
30g peeled very finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp mixed spice
juice and zest of 2 medium oranges
1 Vanilla pod cut into 4 pieces
1 Add the sugar and brandy into a large pan and warm gently. Add the fresh cranberries and cook gently for about 3 minutes. Stir well.
2 Tip the Dried fruit, ginger, mixed spice, orange juice and zest and vanilla and stir well. Cover and simmer very gently for about 15 minutes, stirring and checking occasionally.
3 Spoon into clean jars and store in the fridge. This keeps happily for up to 2 weeks.
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Yesterday’s photo shoot was not in my kitchen. Aside from a houseful of children and the usual chaos of a family on a Saturday I wanted a photo of me taking cookies out of the oven. Well my oven is a low oven and despite taking several photo’s of me bending over to take cookies out of the oven I just seemed to be twice a big bent over and not at all lovely. Luckily my friend Emma does have an oven set into right height as well as a beautiful cavernous kitchen set in a fabulous Gothic Victoria house. It’s a stunner of a kitchen, she when she offered to lend me her kitchen I jumped at the chance!
It’s hard being photographed, but my photographer Tony does such a great job, and typically like most photographers he is happiest when behind the camera .. so I was lucky to get a couple of snaps of him to share!
As I finished the photo shoot I headed home and then out again to eat with friends. Tara is a raven hair gorgeous Irish girl, who, like me she has three children. She and her fabulous husband David decided to cook Alastair and I a meal by testing two of my recipes. It was such a treat, and despite being nervous about how the food was going to turn out I had looked forward to the meal all day. - and I needn’t have been nervous, because the meal was absolutely delicious, although it was rather surreal eating food that tasted exactly like mine .. but cooked by someone else.
I am so lucky to have such lovely friends.
Saturday, 20 November 2010
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Once a month a restaurant pop’s up in the village of Pitsford. We turn the village hall into a restaurant and It’s all put together by the ladies of Pitsford village as a social gathering for the over 75’s. Anyone with out transport we taxi - pick them up and take home. We all share the cooking taking it in turns to cook either the main course or the pudding. For the past 3 years my friend and neighbor Lee has organized it and it is the highlight of many of our local residents social calendar. I’ve been involved and I have to admit I love cooking for it.
Today I wasn’t Happy with the Crème Brule it didn’t set as it should have done. But I was rushing to get it there on time. Really I should have made it yesterday but things are a little crazy at the moment with just over 3 weeks to get the manuscript in to the publishers.
So as I apologized to one of the ladies dining about the consistency she smiled and said
You know what my love. You do need to make this again to get it right. It’s all about practice. So we’ll see you here the same time next week and we’ll tell you if you’ve improved any. .. well I have a month until the next one.. so we shall see!
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
As I write my own book I can’t help noticing the other books on the market. What is increasing obvious is that to stand out, a book has to have something extra. It is not enough just to be delicious these days. The recipe book consumer wants more. James Winter and James Bulmer have written Yes Chef. It is about 20 great British Chefs and has 100 recipes from them. It is fair to consider some of these top chefs as artists and whist this wonderful book certainly does give you a full display of food art, it was the superb introductions to each chef that caught my eye. This is certainly different enough to make me to want to introduce you to it.
Yes Chef gives a selection of recipes. Yes - they are all delicious. But what makes it work is a sense of personality behind each chef. The introductions give a sense of history, personality and influence in a way that makes you not only want to try the recipes .. but also reading about them made me want to head straight to the phone to book a table in the chef’s restaurant.
For instance Chef Matt Tebbutt learnt to Fly with the Air Squadron at Oxford Brooks University. The idea of a chef that can fly strangely made me want to try out his spiced poached pear with Gorgonzola honey so much more. Or Jason Atherton, who left home with out telling his mum what he was up to, as he headed to London to end up as one of tour leading chefs. Now doesn’t that bit of stubborn determined personality doesn’t make you want to try his Roast Rack of Lamb with Shepherds pie?
In this way the book is unique. There are plenty of delicious recipe books on the market but this book. Yes Chef, has a far tastier extra. This book has captured the flavor of the chef as a person, which makes it for me, a must read.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Monday, 15 November 2010
The past week has been dotted with conversations, How is the book going and how many do you think you will sell?
The truth is the book will finish in much the same way as I do the school run. I will arrive just before the bell goes tyres not quite screeching .. but all the same I will feel relived to have got there in the nick of time.
How many will the book sell?
Well that is down to a few factors and one of which is dependent on getting on television. it would seem from talking to various people in the know as it were - that if I do get on TV with the book and the concept that will make it. Big. I'd be happy with medium just to ensure the book would be a seller … and if I don't it's possible the book royalties alone will not be enough to pay the bills. That really terrifies me. The idea of this amazing concept going unnoticed.
How exactly do you get on TV ?
Aside from being on the local Northamptonshire TV for an instant - I have to get noticed .. but where to start ? - Well I signed up for www.findaTVexpert.com - I will let you know if I get any results from this paid for service. It certainly promises to get the attention of producers with a unique concept. I also discovered that there are two main talent agents for cookery writers, so I've called both and sent in details about the book and myself, and now I shall have to do what I do worst.. sit and wait .. well actually sit and write up more recipes whilst waiting!
So I’ve put all my eggs in one basket. This is the risk .. and I am back to the photo that got me started. I have just one year to write not just a cookery book.. but not just write a book .. I must write a successful cookery book.
Tick tock the 10th of May looms .. !
Thursday, 11 November 2010
My eyes are being opened to the reality of how a book gets from inside your head to on the shelf, and more importantly onto your bookshelf. There is no big advertising drive, to prime time TV, full display, or indeed any above the line advertising. (above the line is paid for space. ) This is entirely below the line.
As far as I can work out a good book sells - a bad book doesn’t - and it’s all down to one person to make the dots connect - your PR manager – they are the ones who get your book talked about by the people that matter. (No pressure Katie !)
Big publishers have Press teams. They are people dedicated to getting your book talked about in newspapers, on websites, on the radio and on TV. Of course it helps if you are as a writer happy to push your idea and you are happy to be interviewed, photographed and heavens above even criticised. It’s putting yourself out here. It’s nerve wracking I can tell you .. but the thought that no one will be interested creeps into my brain on the very odd occasion and fills me with dread, so I am more than happy to chat to anyone who is remotely interested.
So today I spent with Katie Read from Orange Square. She's amazing. You can hear all about how it works in the Audioboo below.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Through out writing this book they have gone above and beyond to get me the most beautiful fruits and vegetables to use and so today I took a few snap shots and thought I'd share my thoughts.
Whatever you are cooking you can't beat having a local green grocer. Along with the local butcher they are a foodies very best friend.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Now heres a dilema for you. Well me actually. Which recipe? Vanilla and Peanut Blondies or vanilla and pecan Blondies ? They are both equally delicious but in different ways.The pecan is more sophisticated and goes well with coffee, where as the peanut one goes fabulously with a steaming hot cup of tea.I've been debating this all morning, and I suppose this is the exact same dilemma when I go shopping and fall in love with a pair of shoes. I've decided to use the same reasoning with this recipe, and have both.. which goes a long way to explaining why I have a large collection of shoes and an ever expanding waist line.. I just can't chose !
Monday, 8 November 2010
You can't ignore Nigella especially if you are like me often compared to her! I get rather mad when the papers announce the New Nigella has been found. Why try and replace the old one? She's amazing. Well I am wondering this time if perhaps the journalists and the writers feel she's somewhat become a product herself now. But If there is one food writer that delights me always - it's Nigella. But even I a complete die hard Nigella fan have to admit these days things seem to have changed. Where as once I watched Nigella as the driving force of herself. I now feel there is a team that team drive her for themselves. I miss the original. Although I'm glad she recently admitted to having team cupcake (because let me tell you producing a recipe book is really hard work) and to produce the kind of book Kitchen that Nigella’s team puts out is seriously allot of work. Indeed, the work that has gone into producing Kitchen is tremendous. With almost 500 pages the recipes are very Nigellsish.. but the truth is I don’t feel her. I don’t feel her truly. It’s hard to explain.. but it’s as though there is a Nigella clone who is almost her. For years now she has been my turn to. If I want to make anything I literally headed straight to my bookshelf and would turn to her books; I’m not sure I will turn to this one it feels somehow weirdly void of her original soul captured in her other books.
Perhaps I am being overly sensitive? Am I searching for the initial impact she once had on me?
I still hold her up as the domestic goddess and I can’t just abandon my heroine. So I pushed myself to have a go.. to see if I find the real Nigella in her book I decided to make her sweet and salty crunch nut bars. So today with the rainy blustery winter weather I wanted maximum comfort. Something gluttonous. Utterly food sluttery. Something I couldn't resist that are a synch to make. These bars looked like they fitted the bill. They taste like a cross between a mars and a marathon and the only real change I made was that I used whole nut chocolate.. I ran out of ordinary and I cut the bars into small bite size pieces, was Nigella really in this recipe ? Yes I found more of her in this particular recipe .. but the truth is despite being a superb book I’ve had to accept that the Nigella I once fell in love with has been commercialized, and it feels to me like she is going through the motions, I wonder if that will happen to me one day. I really hope not. Passion is the secret ingredient in the Kitchen.. and this is no exception.. . and I can't find the real honest gutsy passion in the book, no matter how hard I want to find it.
Thursday, 4 November 2010
It's been a great day and I've learnt so much in Waterstones in Milton Keynes. I was warmly greeted by with Lisa the manager and Annette the floor manager, who came over to the till saying she’d spotted me the cake lady on the CCTV and came straight downstairs to see me. I loved meeting them both. What Annette doesn’t know about recipe books isn’t worth knowing - after 8 years she knows a thing or two, and she was kind enough to chat to me on the Audioboo.Coming from a Marketing background is a real plus in life. The thing about writing any book is that you have to know who is going to buy it. Target market sweetie. The biggest disasters I’ve made in life are when I’ve rushed into things without checking the market, and doing proper research. Writing a book is no different. As we (the publishers and the book designer and my PR manager) are refining the book cover and the blurb and the final exacting detail that will attract the readers it is essential to get it right. Putting together a public relations campaign to get people interested in the book means everything has to be right. The colour, the tone, the words, the photos and the message has to be sending the same message. What is the message? well for me it has to say .. pick me up! As an unknown Author this book is going to be sitting on the shelves next to the big boys ( and girls ) of the cookery world. The hairy bikers, the Jamie oliver offering, the Delia's latest and of course being a K in the alphabet I may well get to snuggle up to an L on the shelf ... Nigella's an L .. I can think of worse people to be cosy with!
So I had to check the detail. The choice of colour (It’s eye catching!) and the words on the bi line. So I spent today speaking to anyone and everyone that stepped foot in the recipe section.
The results .. well I had a few surprises .. and some seriously super findings. I have to collate the information and I’m doing a few more questionnaires to round up the numbers.. but can I tell you now .. we are definitely on the right track.
As soon as the results are collated I’ll be back to the blog to share all !