Monday, 28 February 2011

Utterly utterly frustrating

Does anyone else have days like this. Utterly utterly frustrating?

I'm making a bread and butter pudding. Tearing up chunks of stale bread with my bare hands - more for something to do rather than the pudding itself. The poor bread has done nothing to deserve this treatment.. it is getting rather the brunt of my ill humour. Here’s the picture:

My publishers are tweaking the final design of Prepped. I am not allowed to see it until they are happy with it. My publisher explained that – to coin a phase .. too many cooks spoil the broth. I have some idea of how it looks as I’ve seen the Rhubarb and Elderflower chapter, but all my work is in their hands - until then I have to wait. - Something I am not very good at!

In the mean time I have a PR lady called Katie. Now there is no big advertising budget for Prepped. The big publishers have big departments and large budgets. There is a good promotional budget and there is plenty being spent on other things. Being with a smaller publisher can have great advantages, they are more intimate and far nicer to deal with .. so the PR is just so important. It's word of mouth that get is the book in front of people and PR is the best way to get people talking. When dealing with large National magazines they have lead times so as you buy your Christmas food magazine from the shelf, they are polishing the final edits of the Easter copy. We are waiting to find out which magazines might run a feature and it's just so hard to wait. For most of my life as far as I have been concerned patience is a form of quite despair that is trussed up and offered up as a virtue. Give me results any day. Sod patience. Patience is for wusses.

So I am taking this frustration out on a loaf of bread. It will be more like bread and batter pudding by the time I've finished it. Good job I’ve got a patient PR manager... and don’t anyone else say to be patient .. or will be uncharacteristically rude.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Simple Blue Cheese & Broccoli Quiche

Blue Cheese and Stilton Quiche
Whist I was on the look out for a local cheese a couple of weeks ago I spotted this fabulous English Blue Cheese in St Giles Cheese Shop. It turned out to be from Stichelton Dairy in Nottinghamshire. I then read the following week that Northampton University is researching into the interaction of the micro flora that makes the blue veins. You can read more about this here and I shall be talking about this on Sunday morning on the Kitchen Garden Show.
I also discovered that there are over 700 British cheeses and 70 Blue cheeses in the UK from Nigel White from the British Cheese Board.
Of course any Blue cheese will work well with this recipe, but Stilton would be a perfect cheese to get the same results. It’s rich strong flavour and salty sweet texture is perfect served alongside a cold beer, or a crisp white wine. with most of my recipes this quiche is so quick and easy to make. It’s the sort of thing I make for lunch especially as you can be prepped with it beforehand. If you have the case ready with the broccoli and cheese in the fridge just pour the eggs and milk over the top in pop in the oven it comes out a treat – and you get to look like a culinary Queen ( .. or King !)

Both recipes Serve 8
Prep time 20minutes
Cooking time Quiche 1 hour
Suitable for freezing -yes
375g pack of ready roll short crust pastry
170g tender stem Broccoli
4 eggs, beaten
400ml of semi-skimmed milk
175g of blue cheese cut in to 1 inch pieces
1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
2 Roll out the pastry and line a 27cm quiche dish. Blind bake the pasty for 15 minutes using baking parchment and Baking beans to weigh the paper down. Once baked remove the paper and cut the Broccoli to fit and arrange as you find attractive. Scatter over the Blue cheese
3 In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together and pour into the dish. Bake for an hour until it has risen and golden. Leave to cool for about 15 minute before serving.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Stichelton Cheese

Using a particular cheese in a recipe can make such a difference to the overall outcome of the dish. Ask any chef and they will tell you that great food starts with great ingredients. This week I am working on a Blue Cheese Broccoli Quiche and hot salad combination, so recently I have been on the look out for a local Blue Cheese. I came across Stichelton cheese at St Giles Cheese in Northampton. It's mature, mellow, sweet and strong with a creamy texture and a melt in the mouth richness to it. It’s the brainchild of Joe Schneider and Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy who have joined forces to make a classic blue cheese from unpasteurised milk at a new dairy built on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire. Initially I thought it was Stilton, but discovered that it is made with unpasteurised milk and is not allowed to be called Stilton. I then read that Northampton university was looking into what bacteria yeast and moulds as secondary flora affected and interacted to affect the flavour of the cheese and how it did so. So I contacted Stichelton and Joe Schneider to find out more.
Joe kindly offered to showed me around the Dairy but with the children on half term I didn’t think it would be possible. But it was really no bother Joe said - bring them along! Luckily Joe has two children and had the gear to accommodate mine. Joe was just brilliant showing us the dairy and explaining the process in detail to my children’s delight!
After we left the dairy the children wated to meet the cows, so Joe took us to the cows and introduced us to Mick the fabulous farmer…
Joe send us home with a lovely piece of Stichelton to make my quiche with, but as I got home In the mean time I was wondering why in every other way this Cheese qualified to be called Stilton and my curiosity grew as to why. Joe had only made an obscure reference so I was determined to find out more …
I found out easily that both White Stilton and Blue Stilton are protected by their own Certification Trade Mark and EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and specify only pasteurized milk can be used. And yet originally Stilton would have been made using unpasteurized milk. Pasteurization being discovered in 1864, and the information from the Stilton site confirmed this. “There is no doubt that a cream cheese was being made and sold in and around the village of Stilton possibly in the late 17th Century and certainly in the early 18th Century and was known as Stilton Cheese. The cheese generally seems to have been matured for a period of time before being sold. Indeed a recipe for Stilton cheese was published in a newsletter by Richard Bradley in 1723.” So I had to find out why only pasteurised milk be used?
I discovered the answer by talking to Nigel White who is on the board of the Stilton Cheese makers association, (SCMA.)
Nigel kindly took the time to explain that pasteurised milk has a reduced risk of contamination. Nigel recounted that the rule was introduced following a recall of a small batch of Stilton in the 1990’s. An over reaction from consumers and supermarkets resulted in a sudden and absolute drop in sales as the public indiscriminately shunned all Stilton in a knee jerk reaction. Of course the industry took a huge knock and subsequently recovered, but there are very few producers and a decision was taken to reduce the risks as much as possible.
So there you have it – I think that Stichelton ironically is more Stilton than Stilton being made in the way that it would have been made originally .. and yet to ensure that a repeat of the 1990’s incident doesn’t happen it cannot be called so, and yet I understand why it has to be so now!
I had the impression that Nigel seemed genuinely sorry that this was the case. They were full of praise and admiration for Joe and the Dairy and on an individual basis I think they would have loved to have included Stichelton as a Stilton, but a decision has been taken by the SCMA that not every cheese maker will have the same scrupulously clean surgical like cleanliness of Stichelton Dairy, and if they let one in then it opens up more to follow therefore opening up to the possible risks again.
For all the research I ended up doing to understand why this cheese I want to use in Prepped II is not a Stilton.. I determined in the end, that there might be plenty of Stilton’s to choose from but for those of us in the know, and for devout cheese connoisseurs - there is only one Stichelton!

Available by Mail order from Neals Yard Cheese & in Northampton at St Giles Cheese.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Major events ...

I was listening to Radio 4 a few weeks ago and Tim Hayward for the Guardian was talking recipe books. I was shushing the children when what he was saying dawned on me. The top recipe books last year were the TV chefs. Jamie Oliver had sold over a million, Nigella Lawson, if memory serves me was about 400,000 and just under that were the revoltingly named motorcyclists. The thing that made me sit up and made me go cold was the next bit of information. The Drop off. By that I mean the other recipe books sliding down the scale were so significantly lower in numbers that the 100th best selling recipe book in the UK sold just 9,000 copies.

Now if you had said that Prepped were to make it into the top 100 best selling recipe books of 2011 in May last year I’d have been ecstatic. I’d probably have kissed you there and then, but the truth is that is I were to be the 100th best selling Author of 2011 I will have to go back to my day job. I simply can’t afford to work for the revenue that would bring in. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m being paid a fair % by my publishers. My point is that I am sitting here whittling. The if’s, the buts, the maybes and the what if’s again. It’s like a little circle of thoughts that go around in my head again and again. The loop goes like this.

It will be successful. You have an original idea. Your idea is great. Will other people think that? Yes lots of people have said so. That doesn’t mean they’ll buy the book. It’s very competitive out there. You’re a 1st time author. You’re not on TV. You’re not skinny. Neither is Nigella. Don’t worry. It will be successful .. and so back to the beginning.

However, three things have happened in the past couple of days to allay some of my fears. Firstly a lady called Sue Baker in a Trade magazine called The Book Seller singled out Prepped and said that if there were one book in the reviews she could keep it would be Prepped. She also said lots of other great things including “it’s fresh, bursting with flavours and new idea’s . A book that should prove a long lasting favourite.” Now to be fair I wasn’t really aware of the importance of her words. But as Nicky my publisher read them she was just so overjoyed I thought there were tears a the other end of the phone. She explained that this is the magazine all the small to medium size independent book stores chose what to buy from, and this lady Sue Baker is someone who really really knows her stuff. High praise indeed for a first time author. I am delighted!

The second bit of news is that Waterstones have placed a really significant order. I can't tell how big .. but big enough to have me cheering in public again! (I was walking along the high street as I was told !)

Thirdly Kitchenaid have lent me a machine to do the last of the photo’s. This sounds a little bizarre to be happy about , but they are so careful where there product is seen.

So I shall go to bed now. .. and try to stop worrying.

Good Night.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Bread and Breakfast with Dan Lepard and Jo Pratt

I still can't quite believe I am on the radio every Sunday. So today’s BBC radio show I nick named Bread and Breakfast. I shall be talking to Jo Pratt the Food Editor for GLAMOUR Magazine. We prerecorded the interview earlier in the week and talked about children and the fact that parents are facing such a battle to get children to eat healthily in the morning. Reasearch shows that a third of them are going to school on an empty stomach as their parents simply dont have time to argue!

The research carried out by a leading bread manufacturer showed that a quarter of families row nearly every day about eating well, with children resorting to crafty tricks to avoid food that is good for them. I can certainly agree it’s hard - even my three try to avoid their crusts and hide their greens under their forks Jo is just lovely - with 2 young children of her own and having just written several recipe books she’s got some great tips and has worked with the likes of Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Gary Rhodes in the past and Jo and her recipes have appeared on a number of TV programmes such as Daily Cooks Challenge and Saturday Kitchen, and I think we both agreed it takes very little effort to to make a slice of toast in the morning.

Taking about bread with Jo lead me on to looking into making bread so I’ve invited Wendy in to talk about the Artisan bread making course about to start in the new Shires Cookery School in East Haddon. She's kindly offered a day's bread making course in June to a Prepped reader who can correctly tell me on the comments below what bread they will learn to make on the course and why they would be the best person to send on this day. The winner will be picked at random on the 25th of February (please be sure your details mean you can be contacted by your login)

In the mean time I was slightly star stuck as I got to interview one of my food heroes Baker and food writer Dan Lepard. To me Dan is one of the most fabulous food writers on the UK scene. He has a weekly column in the Guardian and is one of the most delightful people I have spoken to about baking I can ever remember.

I used one of Dan’s recipes from his book The Handmade Loaf to make my bread pudding with. It’s a super book and whilst I know that Dan is writing another fabulous book at the moment I really love this one!

Star Anise and Orange Bread Pudding

I don’t suppose we often think of bread pudding as a glamorous dish, but this is a seriously gorgeous pudding that as you can see from the photo, is met with delight in our house! This particular dish I was inspired to make from my father in law, Brain Dunstone of Boughton.. The star anise gave a delightful twist and the bitter orange marmalade tempered the sweetness, whilst the eggs and cream form a custard. It serves generously 10 – 12, but we eat it over 2 -3 days and I sent part of this one back with my photographer Nicky Callis - it was the least I could do to say thank her for these lovely photos!

Serves 10 – 12

Prep time 20 minutes

Cooking time 1 hour 20

Freezes No

Size of dish 9cm deep, 32cm long and 27cm wide

775g of white tin loaf

275g Rasins

140g caster sugar

Zest of 1 orange

1.5l of whole milk

600ml single cream

8 medium eggs

7 star anise

3 or 4 tbs of orange marmalade

1 Preheat the oven to 180 (between gas mark 4 and 5.) Slice the bread into 1.5 cm slices.

2 Arrange the slices in a large deep dish, scattering the raisins and sugar evenly between each layer. You will get about 3 layers or so depending on the thickness of your slices. Keep 3 or 4 spoons of sugar in reserve to use later on. Bear in mind you need to leave a little room at the top, as the pudding will rise as it cooks.

3 Evenly distribute the orange zest over the top of the pudding.

4 Pour the milk, cream and eggs in a jug and whisk to evenly distribute the egg.

5 Pour gently over the bread and using the tips of your fingers gently press into the bread to ensure the liquid is distributed throughout.

6 Sprinkled the remaining sugar and add the star anise over the top and pop into the oven. After an hour and 20 minutes check that the pudding is risen and golden. If it is not golden cook for a further 10 minutes and check again.

7 Remove for the oven and glaze by gently spooning over 3 – 4 tablespoons of marmalade whilst the pudding is still hot.

8 Remove the star anise. Serve either hot of cold with custard or cream

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Last minute photographs

As usual I am writing my blog post on the hoof. It’s suppertime and the pasta is on the boil so I’ve got about 12 minutes to type this up!

It’s half term and whilst Prepped the final edit has gone from my editor to the Book designer. From here on in it’s mostly out of my hands. It’s hard to let go! In the mean time I have the chance to retake some of the photo’s, so despite it being half term and having my three children demanding I referee their squabbles every 10 minutes I’ve been back in the kitchen and baking now very familiar recipes again!

In the mean time I am planning for the radio show in Sunday, and my regional recipe Colum in the local paper. I love that they tie together. I spoke to Jo Pratt about food and the shocking state of children’s breakfasts, and about a new bread that has been brought out on the market to encourage children to eat healthily with out realizing it!

I was also excited to find out that there is a new cookery school in Northamptonshire opening up in East Haddon with Adam Grey behind it. I read there will be bread making courses amongst others and Wendy will be telling me more about this on air. The Recipe of the week will be a bread pudding, so I think I can say that show this week can be called Bread and Breakfast !

Now with out saying too much .. I have one of the very top bakers in the UK to interview on Thursday. I can’t say who yet as I am always afraid that I’ll jinx my interview.. so you’ll have to wait to find out who it is .. but he’s a food hero, famous for his sourdough, and an author, and a journalist and an altogether superb ambassador for eating great baked foods – my 12 minutes are up … watch this space !

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Ketchup with that chip on your Shoulder ?

When I set out to write a recipe book I had no idea where this adventure would take me. Yesterday it took me to the Conway Hall in London to the Mixed Grill as I’d signed up to the Fire and Knives magazine earlier this year. A gathering of the leading foodies. lectures, rants, performances, talks, presentations and discussion with guest such as the legendry Mathew Fort, the daring Stephen Gates and with lunch provided by Kirstin Rodgers ( thank you Catharine & Lynn!) AKA @msmarmitelover. It was the brainchild of Tim Hayward who writes for the Guardian, and there were just lots of the people I’ve been interacting with on Twitter that were going.

Now I’m never one to be 100% confident when walking into a gathering where I don’t know anyone, so’ I’d contacted a few Twitters to see if they were attending. I asked a very well known foodie if they were going and they said they would never attend the event as it would be fantastically morose and suggested that it was very cliquey. Well… If was nervous before then this really made me feel like a child on the first day at school!

I arrived slightly awkward and a feeling little desperate for someone to be friendly. Fortunately I was greeted with a big smile and a friendly hello from James Ramsden, then I met Sue aka @londonfoodfinds who I’ve tweeted with often and luckily I spotted Catherine Phipps from the Guardian’s word of mouth, All of a sudden these keyboard screen interactions became people. Real people, smiling, interesting, fun, foodie, laughing friendly people. I had a marvelous conversation about a new chocolate on the Market with Sudi Pigot who sent me home with an Original Beans bar of chocolate to eat on the long journey home. (Incidentally I didn’t manage to eat it so I’m going to give it away here later in the week.)

I needn’t have worried as day was really brilliant. The mood was upbeat. There was champagne, but it was served as an Ether cocktail, There was nothing ghastly about anyone. No one could accuse it of being morose and as for there being a socialist dictator there - I have to admit there were one of two bearded men I spotted (I rather like beads!) however, socialist, liberal, right wing, conservative, centre right, far left - foodies united .. as always food brings people together. Laugher, sharing of knowledge and eating Kirsten’s delicious lunch along with such great speakers made this a superb day. A wonderful gathering of the most fascinating foodies I’ve ever seen and I’d like to say what a great thing to do - Tim .. YOU ROCK thank you for organizing it!

So to the person that sent me the mother of all twitter put downs - I say you have a case of sour grapes - I think you missed out on a great day and would you like some artisan ketchup with you organic chip?

Friday, 11 February 2011

Interview with The Head Chef of Gu Fred Ponnavoy

Can you believe it .. I have a job that pays me to eat chocolate and drink Champagne ! With a Valentines day on Monday the show focuses on the food of love! I interviewed the delicious Fred Ponnavoy who you can see in the video below. He's the head chef Gü Chocolate Puds and then spoke to Steve from my local deli on St Giles Street about his sublime hand made Belgium chocolates. Then hotfooted back to Fleurfields Vineyard to talk to my Dad about Northamptonshire’s finest award winning pink champagne!

In the meantime I've been making fresh truffles from Prepped for this weeks's Chronicle and Echo Recipes and we'll be eating those on Sunday morning along with some very special coffee from Blenders!

It’s a tough job .. but somebody’s got to do it !

What really amazed me were some facts from a survey carried out by Gü

· Over half of women are expecting to be disappointed by the meal their boyfriend or husband cooks this Valentine’s Day

· A third of men who’ve attempted to cook something romantic in the past admit it’s gone wrong!

· 15% of 18-24 year old men say they’ve persuaded their loved one that a pre-packaged meal is their own handy work!!!

Psychologists believe when a chap cooks for a woman, he’s turning the tables on what is normally expected in our society – it says he cares enough about his partner to put in the effort, imagination, time and thought into something she would enjoy eating. In effect cooking is the ultimate nurturing act . Sharing food is the earliest social example of men and women interacting with each other in a non-sexual, but intimate way and so I talked to Fred about what men should make for the love of their life.

You can listen in an BBC Radio Norhtampton at 10am on Sunday 104.2fm however … Gü have arranged as a result of what they say “could be potential mayhem across the country as men show their romantic side,” a hotline

It’ll be manned by Gü Head Chef Fred Ponnavoy, who’ll be putting his decades ofexperience in a kitchen to good use with cooking advice – so if you are in a fix then you can call him and speak to him yourself!

For the hotline, simply call 0800 0113 217 or e-mail between 9am-6pm on Monday February 14th

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Plum Cobbler and Scones double cook

This recipe is a double cook. There are quite a few of them in Prepped.
What I can hear you asking is a double cook? Well it's making two things at the same time that are different, but require virtually the same ingredients and the same process. It has some serious advantages. One lot of shopping. One lot of cooking, one lot of clearing up, and two dishes. It's time saving, efficient and as a busy working mother it's the only way I can get everything done. It saves such allot of clearing up to cook this way !

So with a pudding required for this evening and an invitation for the children to tea at a friends I combined making Plum Cobbler with some fabulous golden plums topped with vanilla scones. I doubled the scone mixture and made a batch of scones that got smothered in butter and cherry jam, and gobbled up in a jiffy by 7 hungry children. - Of course my girlfriend thinks I am a genius ( she's right of course! ) and my husband and our supper guests are about to enjoy the slightly tart plums with a warm scone topping, with vanilla and custard. Must dash they will be here any moment!


Time Short Foodies

The recipes are done and I’ve sat down to write the introduction to Prepped.  It’s hard.  It’s not that I haven’t got heaps to say about it, but I tend to skip introductions in recipe books and go straight to the recipes.  Do you read the introductions and the how to use this book bit?

Prepped is for time short foodies. When I did the research and the interviews in Waterstones recipe book section with recipe book buyers I discovered that 73% of people consider they are time short. 72 % of the recipe book buyers thought of themselves as  foodies. ( this result was from 100 recipe book buyers)  Now as I sit down to write I realise  that  I’m  usually too busy to read an intro!   I can’t help wondering – will anyone actually read this bit?  Or like me will they go straight to flicking through the book and stop dead at a photograph of something delicious that I decide there and then I absolutely have to make! Let's hope those photos are good!!

The trick I believe to getting to even to the point of a person in a book shop to look through a recipe book is making the book cover look so lovely that you have to pick it up and peek inside, so the cover has been designed with that wonderful wallop of pink and apple green to look fabulous!

But then there is the second point that I was told about to have a successful recipe book at which most books are bought by recommendation.  Which means you need to get your book talked about.  They only way to get your book talked about is to introduce it to people who are the sort of person to use the recipes in the first instance.

So here I am writing the introduction thinking about introducing Prepped to the sort of remarkable person who is a time short foodie who people sit up and take notice of what they say. Someone who juggles it all, children, work, family, home, friends and a social life -  so I shall spend the next few days seeing if they will have enough time to take a closer look at Prepped and if they might be willing to say something to recommend it.

I do hope so! *deep breath*

It’s nerve wracking !

Fingers crossed. 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Cooking supper from Genevieve Taylor's STEW!

I can breath again after competing the marathon to edit and test Prepped! So for the first time in a long time I had time to cook something by someone else. Now I’ve heard good things about Genevieve Taylor, and her book STEW! so I decided to put her book to the test and make something from it! I hadn't planned on blogging about my supper .. but it was so delicious, so I thought write it up and share it with you .. .

The book has 100 recipes that are straight forward to follow and have a wide range of interesting textures and flavours. I plumped for the Cardamom and Black Pepper Chicken - all flavours I love!

It was simple, fragrant and aromatic as the recipe promised. Could it be improved? Well for me I only had pink peppercorns in the house, which I thought looked prettier, and I added a squeeze of lemon juice as I served it – but that is just my palette liking a zing!

It was just what it had promised. Delicious, spicy and simple! You can read more about Genevieve on her website here .. and I look forward to trying out more.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Lamb Shanks

This morning was the first ever Kitchen Garden Programme. I won't say I wasn't nervous, because I was, but between Nigel Slaters reassuring words, my husbands encouragement, my programme editors calm advice and Kevin Saddington's easy approach it was good. Really good. My friend Tara and the girls ( Ruth, Claire, Ali & Daisy ) did such a fabulous job of testing out the caraway and parmesan muffins and when I got home Al put his arms around me and told me he was sooo proud. it was the best feeling ever.

It's hard to believe that I am handing over the final edit tomorrow. Certainly I had no idea it was going to be such allot of work. Really .. every teeny tiny little detail had to be right and even now, with just this evening left to change anything I am cooking a Bolognese to check that the quantities are exact.

In the mean time this is the 1st version of the Lamb Shanks Recipe. I have plans to replace the red current jelly with a cherry one.. but I shall have to wait a while before the cherries come out before I can start on that .. so this is the base recipe if you like... it's a classic, and the only thing I'd ask you to bear in mind if you make it is to try to get local lamb. I appreciate it's not always possible, but it's worth buying local and supporting our farmers if we get the opportunity.

Lamb Shanks

2 tbs rape seed oil

6 trimmed lamb shanks

3 carrots peeled and sliced lengthways

2 leeks, washed and sliced lengthways

1 onion chopped

2 cloves of Garlic peeled and sliced

2 stems of Rosemary

3 bay leaves

750ml of red wine

2 – 3 heaped tbs of Redcurrant Jelly OR use Linked recipe > Plum Jam

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.

2. In a large casserole heat the oil and over a moderate to high heat and brown the lamb shanks all over, until evenly colored. This gets the flavor in.

3. Add the carrot, onion, garlic and herbs.

4 Pour over enough wine to cover the meat of the shanks - about a whole bottle

5 Place the casserole with a lid on into the oven and cook until the meat is tender. (about 3 – 3 1/2 hours) Slightly uncover the pot for the last hour as the liquid will start to reduce.

6 After about 3 hours remove the casserole from the oven. Set the Shanks to one one side and Remove the vegetables from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon or strain the liquid through a sieve. Pop the Shanks back into the oven on a baking tray for 20 minutes to roast and in the mean time make the gravy by heating up the cooking liquid until boiling, then boil until the volume has reduced by half. Stir in the redcurrant jelly until melted.

7 Serve the lamb shanks and reserved vegetables with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and the gravy.

British through and through !

Consider this my principles page. . and I will make no apology. We should support our own, buy local, and look after each other. So I am delighted to be able to say that Prepped is to be printed in the UK

I'd like to thank my Publishers for keeping it British!



Wednesday, 2 February 2011

BBC Radio show & Encouragement from Nigel Slater

It's official. I can share the news!

From Sunday 6th February ( Thanks for correction Lucy !) 10am I shall be heading up the 2nd half of the Kitchen Garden Show on BBC Radio Northampton!

I am so excited and I could waffle on for some time about all the plans, but I am not going to. I'm totally up to my eyeballs in the last 3 days of editing Prepped and to be honest I haven't got time to be bragging about how fabulous it is going to be! .. Well okay .. perhaps a little bit of bragging then .....

As a regular guest on the John Griff Show I was utterly delighted to be asked to join the team by Mark Whall, my Programme Editor. He's been fantastically supportive giving me the opportunity to make the program around my food life and writing commitments. There is so much to learn, and I know it's not strictly writing a recipe book, and I certainly didn't set out on this adventure to be on the radio - but the opportunity is here and oh boy it's such an opportunity!

I want so much to do a good job .. and I am thrilled to bits. I'd like to be interesting and professional and showcase the best food and people around. Food is such a wonderful subject, bringing the opportunity to discover so much about the people. I feel very privileged. .. and yet I feel nervous. I told Nigel Slater, who has been such an encouragement for Prepped, and these are the kind words he wrote.

There is something gentle about radio, very different to television, and I think you will enjoy it. You might expect the first time to be a bit traumatic, but once your microphone is switched on you may suddenly find you become strangely calm and actually rather enjoy it. People are listening to you because they want to, and will be on your side. Just think of them as friends. I bet you come out of there having had a good time. Trust me.

Very much looking forward to your book. There are so many fresh voices around at the moment - Stevie Parle, James Ramsden, Alice Hart etc – and there is a wonderful energy right now. Your book couldn’t come at a better time."

Am I still nervous? Well yes. But I am I excited. Really excited!

I hope you will listen in!">Listen!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Guest Post by My Sister Fleur

As Vanessa’s sister I have a unique insight into her, and this past month she’s has worked unbelievable hours. I’m not sure anyone else would manage on her lack of sleep except perhaps Margaret Thatcher!  The testing and editing process has been a tremendous undertaking in the time scale.  She and her testing team are almost done, so to help out I offered to help by writing a blog post for her.

When Vanessa told me that she was thinking of writing a cookery book I couldn’t think of anyone better for the job.  Her kitchen is a just a treasure trove of interesting finds and at any time  - you should see her cupboards stashed with goodies!  - If you pop round you will always find some luscious dish that will invariably spoil your dinner (and you know a taste can never just be a taste…)

From as early as I can remember our family life has been centered around food; the huge veg patch in my parent’s garden, delicious Sunday roast dinners, fabulous homemade cakes, full English breakfasts with chutney and homemade bread, 5 course meals in the south of France every holiday, and mum’s amazing Italian cooking! I used to take great pride in being renown at school for having a such an amazing mum who was legendry for her cakes… well … she was a top chef at Keele University before she had us!

 So mum has passed her Italian culinary genius, her passion and perhaps a little of her temper amongst other thing, on to Vanessa, Justin (our brother) and myself. Meal times are always interesting with three strong opinions about how the food could be improved (as if needed it!)

Mum’s influence has manifested itself in different ways; My brother with his dab hand at roast dinners and seriously crunchy pickled onions, me, well, my husband can testify, that I can whip up a good meal from nothing & as the founder of a chutney company that was supplying the major supermarkets I love developing new texture and flavors.…. and Vanessa – pretty much fantastic at anything edible! Vanessa, like mum can watch a cookery program/ read a recipe/ see something in a shop window and then go and recreate something three times better at home.

Watching her create the recipe book has been as much an education for us!  It has been entertaining, at times frustrating and the blog has provided the opportunity for everyone else to peer inside this project too. What wonderful reading!   I helped her to thrash out ideas in the early stages and now it’s almost he end. It’s the hard (and I guess boring) bit that is the editing/ re-testing / re-writing and tidying up of the recipes that she’s doing now. The fact that Vanessa is now about to cross the finish line with a hardback, full colour and frankly gorgeous book is a testament to her tenacity and determination and bloody hard work. I am, and I’m sure I can speak for my family, immensely proud of my big sister. And this is only just the beginning ........