Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Shopping in the Food Hall in Selfridges

Wordless Wednesday  - and to be fair I have no time to types .. Editing editing editing!

However in the past 48 Hours I have been in 2 of the worlds top food Hallsand felt I had to share a few images, after popping in the the book department I headed straight the food hall.  My credit card is still smoking !

I know .. no words .. but just wanted to say how lovely to see Dan Lepard's book on the counter!

Final Editing and Testing

I'm on the last stretch. It's like it is always blackest before dawn. I keep coming across silly mistakes and minor details that will make the difference between this being average book and it being a seriously fabulous bible.

To be fair two of my recipe testers have brought at least 2 serious details to my attention. Firstly Audrey Dean as she tested the Plum and cardamon Victoria sandwich cake. What could go wrong with that I thought! Well 2 lots of 250g of butter .. I just hadn't spotted it!

Then there was the typo spotted in the Caraway and Parmesan Muffins by Caroline von Schmalensee of Edinburgh foodie - not 25ml of milk - but 250ml ! rather a difference!

The Pancake mix could have ended up as a total disaster as I mixed the two cup measurements up and Renaka Behan spotted the mistake and gave me some great tips.

I had NO idea when I started writing a recipe book the extraordinary detail involved. Detail has NEVER been my strong point so I am reliant upon my testers to spot things that quite honestlyI just don't see. I'm so close the the recipes that I am almost blind to some of the faults. Thank goodness for the testing team!

I should add at this point that almost every single tester has had superb suggestions to instructions and tips and techniques that have been added to the recipes. It does really feel like a team effort!
I'd also like to mention whilst on the subject that i have several testers who have really gone above and beyond - Jayne of Jaynerly Alethea Julia and Helen a special thanks!

I am so looking forward to the June launch and meeting the team - I think it what is keeping me going!

In the mean time if anyone fancies testing these then please get in touch !

Friday, 21 January 2011

Over Ambitious Chocolate

As the recipes have come back to be edited one set turned out to be just too much. It was the Chocolate truffles which turn into the chocolate Gelato and the left overs I added orange zest to and poured into little chocolate pots. 

A triple cook linked recipe was just too complicated.

So the recipes have been re assigned. 

The first to will be Chocolate truffles. 
I leave ½ the mixture in the bowl and go on to make the ice-cream.  Two dishes for one.  No extra washing up and just throw in egg yolks and cream.  Simple!  

The second double cook will be orange and chocolate pots and the second part to the recipes will be the ganache for the chili chocolate cake / more truffles/ the inside of the Chili chocolate cake or all used for the inside of the raspberry chocolate cake. 

Oh there’s going to be some serious chocolate testing going on next week, between finishing the testing and the editing.  Well there has to be some comfort !

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Testers Required

I'm on the last run as it were. The book has been edited by my fantastic editor Jamie Ambrose and now I have to finish correcting and editing myself! It's a really hard job. My recipes have come back to me with the equivalent of RED biro across each one. Some more some less .. with comments. Oven temperature ? Explain more! Describe this. and so on. I won't bore you with any more details .. suffice to say it's tedious. Very tedious.

Now I've complained enough. The process is so necessary and even the simplest recipe needs a run through. Can you imagine if a recipe has an ingredient forgotten, or a poor instruction. It doesn't bear thinking about. There are a few more recipes that need testing and the deadline is looming, so I am asking you for help. If you have a FOOD BLOG and are willing to test and blog about one of the recipes below please email me.

You will get to join the testing team. I can link back to your Blog and I will thank you personally at the book launch on 2nd June, and give you a book as a thank you .. PLUS you will meet all the other Bloggers and Tweeters ..and thejournalists it will be fun!


PS recipes will be allocated on a first come first serve.. so don't hang about send you email to

· Blondies taken By Rebecca From I wanna be a domestic Goddess

· Rice Pudding taken By Jen From

Eccles Cakes taken by Jo Dyson of joskitchen

· Lemon Pork Risotto - Taken ! by Julia at awannabefoodie

· Lemon, Anchovy and Parmesan Quiche taken by Chiara Pannozzo of Erucola

· Chicken Rice Salad & lemon Salad Dressing - Taken by Alethea @ Mom on a wire

· Lavender Shortbread taken by Christine Chan of the bountiful plate

· Savoury Chocolate Biscuit (to go with cheese ) taken By Monika

· Chocolate trufffles & Chocolate Ice-cream taken By Helen

· Plum Crumble & Granola Lorne Gray From Graze and Guzzle

· Chocolate Meringue Sandwich Cake Taken by @bakersbunny

· Lemon and polents savory Muffin taken by FLEUR my sister !

· Chocolate and Orange Pot taken by Jeanne Horak from

· Vanilla, Mango and Chili Pork Taken By Ross Boyce from Itinerant Appetite

· Duck and Plum Noodles and Chinese Canapes Taken by Katie from Feeding Boys

· Lemon and Asparagus Couscous Salad Jayne from Jaynerly

Vanilla, Cardamon & Chocolate Biscotti taken by Lyn at Bakelady

Cardamon and Basil Ice-cream taken by Danielle edinburgh foody.

Caraway Crackers Taken By Audrey Deane.

Cardamom & Chocolate Truffles Taken by Jamie SCHLER DAGNEAUX from Lifesafeast

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Review Of Jamie's Restaurant in Oxford

I visited a book store in Oxford today .. mainly to introduce myself and to drop a BLAD in. It's pretty local to me bordering on Northamptonshire. I took advantage of being there and my friend and I lunched at Jamie's in Oxford. ( It's a chain owned by Jamie Oliver ) . Before going to the original first ever Jamie's, I googled it. . I felt rather humble in my intentions to write a review of this restaurant following the likes of Giles Coren from The Times and Tracey Macleod from The Independent and Jasper Gerard from the Telegraph. The restaurant reviews described Jamies as a great mid market dining option, another pointed out the great value pasta options for students, whilst another suggested that the raw brick walls made her feel too old to be eating there! (How peculiar)

As the first of many Jamies this one could be described as the prototype. Prima. Before I go into a restaurant I like to look in through the window. I could see a girl making fresh pasta by hand. Whole Daniele hams hang from hooks in the window and solid wooden tables with comfortable red chairs seating a good wide variety of customers, all chattering and smiling as waiters and waitresses weaved through the tables. I am enticed. The smell is unmistakable - Italy. It feels comfortable, and I am happy to be walking in. Tuesday lunch and there is a buzz and a slap of Jamie in the feel.

The menu is clearly written. Dishes are well described and it is easy to navigate. The sound is a perfect level. Not too loud - the sort of level that keeps the atmosphere at a level making for good conversation. We choose. Starters from the specials board- Spaghetti Con Granceola, fresh spaghetti with Devonshire crab, garlic, chili, capers , parsley, cherry tomatoes and lemon juice. Surprisingly the first taste is sweet with the capers leading the way, followed by garlic, then chili and to finish the crab. It’s a good combination with each flavour having it’s moment of attention. The pasta is cooked to perfection and topped with a generous tablespoon of freshly grated parmesan. (£6.50)

For the main course - Burger Italiano. Ah the simple burger. It’s a wondrous thing if it’s right, but I have rarely found a great burger outside of my kitchen. I ordered medium rare. It was perhaps the best burger I have eaten, I kid you not. British beef, with crispy salami, onions, pickled chilies. ( £11.25) I couldn’t resist the funky chips with garlic and parsley. (£3.25) Heaven. Utterly scrumptious.

Finally to the desserts. Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice-cream with butterscotch sauce and honeycomb topping. (£4.50) This was the only slight let down. Not through lack of taste. No - the chocolate was deep and wholly hit the mark, whilst the strawberry fragrant on not too sweet, but neither really blew me away – not like gelato in Italy. I thought afterwards that perhaps because, in comparison to the presentation of the previous courses, this was less generous. It lacked the finish I expected.

As we paid I had the chance to speak to the (Italian) manager Francesco. He explained that Jamie Oliver's friend and mentor Gennaro Contaldo had been heavily involved in restaurants concept. He smiled and said he would like me. Chattering away he recounted one night when two ladies sitting together complained that the pasta he’d cooked was too hard. (Yes .. I was somewhat wide eyed .. the hand made pasta has a delectable softness to it!) So Gennaro slightly over did the next one. The two ladies sent this one back too complaining that this time to was too soft! (Now being a half Italian chef myself I appreciate the temper brewing.) Gennaro, he went onto say, took a large plate of uncooked pasta and delivered it to the table himself. Presenting to the two grumbling ladies with a flourish, he said there was no charge whatsoever, however, seeing as he was unable to please them in anyway, perhaps they would like to take the uncooked pasta home with them and cook it to their liking themselves, before returning to the kitchen. Fantastic ! I’m not sure he would like me - but I can say right now - that I would certainly like him !

In essence Jamie's is a translation of Italy on the main beaten track in Oxford. It works. It’s got passion and atmosphere. The restaurant was spotless, the food was beautifully cooked, fresh and generous; we left, as my friend pointed out, not feeling soporific, as is often the case following a leisurely three-course lunch - but up beat. This is Jamie's. It's great and I will be going there to eat again. With the launch of Prepped I shall have the perfect excuse to pop back .. soon.

NB This article was later published by Jamie Oliver's team on his website !

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Spon give away

Writing and styling a recipe book brings you into contact with amazing people and products … and no I haven’t made a spelling mistake. I came across this through a blog post on English mum’s blog as Catherine Phipps from the Guardian WOM predicts that everyone will be replacing their wooden spoons with these - Indeed this is genius. Set to revolutionize our most use kitchen implement - it’s made from beech wood and it is a wooden spoon with two backs. The mixture doesn’t get caught in the curve and the robust practical nature of this means you can really beat the mix with confidence. It’s been invented by the world porridge making champion Neal Robertson and I can tell you that he knows a thing or two about stirring!

I spoke to Neal earlier in the week about me using a spon in one of the photo’s for Prepped and he’s kindly sent me a set to give away .. so .. if you’d like to enter simply tell me in the comments box below what you’d make using this spon and I’ll pick a winner on Friday 14th and send it straight over to you!



Thursday, 6 January 2011

Pho ga recipe - Vietnamese Chicken Noodles

At the start of the year it is true to say that we all like to move to healthier food. I'm not developing recipes over the next month .. just testing, editing and recooking some for the photography and in conjunction with my 2011 New Years Resolutions I have vowed to loose weight. Personally I loath the idea of dieting especially in January, when I just want cheering up! Even thinking that I am to be denied food makes me eat twice what I should anyway1 So I turn to Pho Ga - a Vietnamese Chicken noodle recipe. It’s gently spiced, warm, comforting, hugely aromatic, wonderfully filling and yet still manages to be fantastically healthy. In Vietnam last year I went to a cookery school near Hoi An where I was taught how to make this. Now I know preparing the stock perhaps feels like a bind, and yes you can buy ready made fresh stock, but it is so simple – just throw the ingredients into a pan with water and simmer - well worth the effort I promise and far less expensive than buying it!

NB - I had an email from a vietnamese lady who was somewhat concerned that my soup was made using left over roast chicken. The stock is not completely clear when made from roast chicken, however I think it is much more flavoursome. If the color of the stock offends you then simply use a whole fresh chicken and use your leftovers for sandwiches !
Serves 4 - 6
Freezes Yes – the stock freezes
Preparation 10 minutes
Cooking time 5 minutes


For the stockLinked recipe > Roast Chicken
The bones and some left over meat from two roast chickens,
1lb/450g chicken bones
 & 1 small chicken

30g of fresh ginger
2 cardamom pods
2 star anise.

For the Soup
Allow 60g flat rice noodles, cooked and refreshed in cold water, per serving
8 spring onions cut into rings.
I pack of fresh bean spouts
A good handful of leaves mint/ coriander and basil
Juice of two limes
3tbs of fish sauce
1 chili sliced into rings

1 Slice the ginger and onions into two and char them on either a griddle or over a gas flame. If you have the chance to roast the onions then do the Vietnamese use slightly burnt onions - it improves the flavor no end. If not, then using a small amount of oil fry the onion and ginger really well before transferring to a large pan adding all the other stock ingredients and cover with water. I use my slow cooker .. but a large pan on the hob will do just as well. Skim off any froth and discard.
2 Simmer for about 3/4 of an hour.
3 Strain the broth, measure it and make up to 2l with water if necessary. (You can freeze at this point) Keep the chicken to one side. Return to the pan and bring back to simmering point. Season with salt and fish sauce. Pop the noodles in a sieve or a steamer basket and lower them into the broth to reheat.
4 Share out the noodles between large, deep bowls and top with some chicken meat, the spring onions, bean sprouts, chilies and limejuice. Ladle over the stock. Add the coriander and mint and basil leaves and serve with extra fish sauce, chilies and lime quarters.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

My 2011 to Do list

I must warn you .. I am ambitious and an eternal optimist, so I write this list with absolutely every intention of achieving everything on it.  However I am not without my reason -   as I write I have two voices.  The go getter voice saying go on you can do it and the fearful voice saying for Gods sake don’t write it down woman ! What are you saying?!!

I will enjoy 2011.. and it will be my aim to live life to the full, to love laugh and capture all the joy to be had from my beautiful children and wonderful husband.  Picnics, midnight feasts, long lazy Sunday lunches.  Hot chocolate, snow fights, eating cake in trees.  Feeding left overs to chickens, bouncing on trampolines and sharing ice-cream with cousins.  Top of the list for 2011 is to have fun.  To laugh. 

I shall make more cakes but still make the children eat their greens!

Prepped.  It’s being edited and I have plenty more to do to finalise the details.

I will exercise three times a week.  Not just a little .. proper need a shower afterwards kind of exercise. 

This is the last 8 months of my youngest being at home.  I feel a rush of emotion, an intense sense of pending loss as I sense time slipping away under my nose.  I will spend more time with her doing things.

I shall spend extra time teaching my oldest daughter to cook.  She’s a natural.

I'll judge less and listen more. 

Move house.  To move into a house that has a garden large enough to have chickens. 

Local produce will feature more in my everyday cooking and I shall make extra efforts to keep seasonal  - I know I already do this .. but I am certain I can improve!

This next year I intend to learn learn learn everything I can about producing a radio show with my local BBC station as I have been asked to present a local Cookery / food show from Northamptonshire on Sunday mornings. 

I’d like to learn to decorate cakes using sugarcraft and for it not to look like my 3 year old did it.. . decorating is not my strongest point!

Without TV recipe writers generally don’t get much of an income. I’ve worked out that on average for a typical publishing deal you get about £1 per book.  It’s really not much when you think that the 100th best selling cookery book of 2010 sold  just 9000 copies.  So.. on my to do list is  to get on to the TV.  Not exactly what I would choose to do .. it has never been my ambition to be on TV.. but it would seem like the only way to draw enough attention to Prepped to make a living. So TV it is then. 

Now that I shall be on the Telly in 2011 my next to do will see my second book written as Prepped will be in the top 50 best selling cookery books of 2011.  (you see  I told you I am ambitious!)

There is no doubt I need to loose some weight.  Hard to do when you cook like me I can tell you!  If I am to be on TV and it adds 10lbs to you then I hope people have widescreen!  Seriously I didn’t get to be a food writer without loving my food .. and my waist line needs to come in.. so to doing things in 2011  -  loose a couple of stone.  There.. .I’ve said it. 

I must make it to France this year.  I cancelled 6 weeks in The Dordogne to write Prepped.. my family are still somewhat resentful about it.  So I will make it to France this year.  I promise.

2011 I must be more organised.  Not waste time. To be tidier and to make the time to see my friends and family I have so neglected in 2010 and lastly I must remember to make the extra effort for the love of my life.. my husband.  I will go out with him at least twice a month on our Thursday evening date no matter how tired I am and how much my bed beckons !

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The Perfect Roast Chicken

The perfect roast chicken requires a tiny amount of effort. Everyone knows that it is not difficult or time consuming or even an extraordinary culinary feat, and in the days following Christmas I crave plain simple, wholesome food. However what you can do is you can raise your game with a few additions and create an extra moist, tender flavoursome comforting dish. Perfect roast chicken guarantee’s the opportunity for your own bisto family meal moment .. nothing but the sound of clattering knives and forks and the conversation stops.. just for that delicious moment as everyone dives in. Savour that moment.

Personally I love freerange and if possible organic. I like to think that the bird I am eating had a joyous pre roast time - pecking, running foraging and enjoying some of life’s basics. However, I do understand that in the real world not everyone can afford to shell out the extra money for an extra happy conscious flavour to their chicken. There are other options such as Freedom food and the RSPCA’s higher welfare standards. Just do the best you can.

It’s the additional flavours that really give my chicken the edge. For me it has to be lemon, garlic and bay leaf, and a good glug of white wine at the end of cooking. I always stuff the garlic and bay leaves under the skin of the breast and smother the skin in olive oil and rather allot of sea salt. I sometimes sprinkle a teaspoon of Coleman’s mustard powder over the skin too.

The absolute best tip I can give is to peel the lemon ( or sometimes an orange.) Pop the peel inside the bird and keep the juice back to the end to add to the gravy For a pretty effect you can slice lemons and scatter over the chicken before you serve - but by just using the lemon zest you avoid the slight bitter taste from the pith when you roast the lemons whole. It really does make for a far nicer tasting gravy.

For me it’s just obligatory to serve roast chicken with large dollops of creamy mashed potato, petit pois and butter glazed carrots but however you enjoy your roast chicken if you can roast two and the same time the left over one gets you prepped for several other meals to come getting me a step further ahead for the next meal The best linked recipe for the leftovers is Pho Ga .. delicious and easy to make.

The Prefect Roast Chicken Recipe

Preparation 10 minutes

Cooking 1hour 30 minutes

Freezes - yes

A Large Chicken about 1.6kg

3 tablespoons of olive oil or rapeseed oil

2 teaspoons of good quality sea salt

5- 6 cloves of Garlic

Zest of two lemons peeled & juice

1 tsp Colemans Mustard

Glass of wine ( 140 ml)

½ teaspoon of sugar

30 ml of single cream

2 Bay leaves

2 / 3 tablespoons of corn starch

Fresh basil & slices of lemon to garnish


1 Pre heat the oven to 240°C/475°F/gas 9

2 Place the bay leaves and garlic and lemon zest inside the cavity and some under the chicken breast skin. Drizzle over and rub in the oil and sprinkle salt and mustard powder over the top of the chicken.

3 Drop the temperature to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and cook the chicken for 1 hour.

4 Baste the chicken with the juices. Add a glass of wine. After 20 more minutes in the oven you can check that is cooked by inserting a skewer in the thigh and making sure that the juices are clear. If they are still pink return to the oven for ten more minutes and repeat the test.

5 Remove the chicken from the baking pan and set to one side to rest. A few minutes rest are important in order to allow the meat to relax, it will be much tenderer as a result. In the mean time set to on making the gravy. Strain the liquid into a gravy separator returning the juice back to the original baking pan. Over a medium heat add the last of the lemon juice, and stir in the sugar. I do always taste here, and can add more or less sugar, salt or water depending on my tastes.

6 Use the corn flour and make it into a watery paste. Add it in whilst stirring to thicken the sauce. It is best cook this through for a minute or so. For a more voluptuous sauce, just before serving stir in two or three tablespoons of cream to and stir. Slice the meat and cover in this lemon infused gravy and as you serve scatter chopped basil.

Linked Recipes

Pho Ga