Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Crash


It’s been a hard week. A double whammy really. I’ve been really poorly. A virus I am told, and the doctor has told me I must rest and I have been in bed for most of the week so far. My lovely day out in Bath last week seems like such a long time ago.

Now that Prepped is done. I suppose it was inevitable that after working hard for so long I would crash. I remember telling Giles my publisher, that it’s been a pattern for much of my life, after my A levels I had a virus, after my degree was finished and a week after I sold my business I went down with a bug that had me bedridden for a fortnight.

Still my illness has certainly been put into perspective because this same week has seen a close family member go from a visit to the doctors they were sent straight to a consultants and then in days flat to hospital with such speed and urgency. I’ve not seen the NHS move at speed before. Ever. So now we are awaiting test results. I’m in bits at this possibility that it is serious. I can hardly breath.

So here I am sitting worrying to death about letting people down and the threat of cancer in the background menacing. I have a wrenched throbbing headache and a mouth full of ulcers which makes it so much worse. So it is with great reluctance that I have held my hands up and admitted that it is highly unlikely that I will be attending to help with the auction for the charity Kaiwecare supper in London. It’s not that I don’t want to go. My goodness it will be the food event of the year, but I am so poorly, and it hurts to speak, swallow or just sit. I now have family commitments that are over and above all other things so last week I had to admit that it was just too much work for me to do and just this morning I’ve turned the final arrangements back over to the amazing Kaiwecare team.

Even so, I feel so guilty. I know that's not rational because I really am in no fit state to help anyone - but I feel the guilt all the same.

Heading up the evening event is the exceptionally talented Mat Follas previous winner of Masterchef and owner of the Wild garlic. He is just amazing. Chef hero Dave Ahern and his sidekick @CityJohn and of course the ever calm and professional Grant Hawthorne who is the head chef. They are also joined by the passionate Persian food blogger Sabrina Ghayour, Anny Murphy and Angharad Davies and a troop of Burlesque dancers. They are a tremendous team who have worked tirelessly to pull off this amazing even and so I offer my sincere apologies to you all and wish you all every success on Monday.It will be a fabulous evening and I know that all the generous people I have roped in to contribute will be looked after by the team above.

Have a wonderful evening and raise plenty of money.


Monday, 28 March 2011

Romantic mystery tour


Since May last year I have worked non-stop to write Prepped. When I say non-stop I actually mean non-stop. Days, evenings, mornings, weekends, through the night and without sounding like I am complaining, it’s been hard work. Whist still doing the usual work for the our family computer business!

For anybody thinking of writing a cookery book I advise not to underestimate the amount of work it involves! In those moments when I haven’t been working the time has been consumed entirety by the needs of others. ( 3 children !)

It's been fun, and hugely rewarding for creating something but trust me when I say it's not been easy. Now Prepped is in its final stages of proof reading by Lea Harris, Alethea Hill, Fleur my sister and Cathinka one of my closest friends - as well as my editor Jamie Ambrose and publisher Nikki Read and I’ve seen the layout - it looks beautiful, and practical and I’m finally going to get some sleep!

The clocks went forward ( thank you Mozarts girl!) at the weekend and the sun came out. I feel that life is getting back to pre writing Prepped - back to being normal. The spring is here and there is the promises of picnics, parties, barbeques and time spent with friends and family – it's time to start living the reality of being Prepped again. I am so excited at what holds in the next few months.. has it been worth it ? I think so .. but we shall see what people make to Prepped soon enough !

Well, my husband has had the best and the worst of me writing recipes book for the past year and supported me throughout. He’s tasted all recipes, often twice over, and put up with late nights early mornings and me working every spare minute. With the demands of three children, keeping a house, meeting the deadlines for writing a recipe book, having a Radio show and a weekly newspaper column have been high. But I did I hit all my deadlines and I am out the other side.

So this weekend saw the beginning of British Summertime and I glimpsed the summer to come. My heart skitters along with the lambs thinking of what is to come, and it was time to spend alone time with my husband. - It's shocking to think that I haven’t been away for 9 years alone with my husband … yes, we’ve had family holidays and family weddings, but not actually been alone. So when a friend offered to have the children for a night we just jumped at the chance. Well jumped is a little slow… we pounced actually!

I was told to pack my things and get ready to have a foodie gourmet mystery tour. To have shoes packed for outside for the daytime and a dress to be in a posh restaurant in the evening. He would give me no further information. As we set off and I was practically coming out in a rash at not knowing where we were going.

It’s easier to share the day in photo’s so rather than write reams but it was perhaps the most romantic day I have had in 10 years. I felt young and free and in love. It’s amazing what 24 hours of alone time with your partner can do for your relationship.

I hgave another more in depth blog post to write about Bibury Trout Farm and Deddington Farmers market.. but here is a taste of my mystery foodie tour!

First stop Trout Fishing at Bibury.

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Second Stop TheAbbey at Malmesbury


Third Stop a picnic at the Royal Crescent in Bath


Fourth Stop Hotel The Bath Spa where we played about in the Thermal spa and and pool before having our evening meal



Home stopping at Deddington Market to buy the trout & Cheese, bread, cakes on the way home.

We’re not gong to wait another 9 years!



Tuesday, 22 March 2011

What an adventure ...


To be honest I had no idea where this adventure would land me when I decided to write a recipe book. Yesterday I found myself in the Institute of Chartered Accountants in One Moorgate Place London helping to organise a charity event to help the New Zealand Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. How did I end up there? Well I responded to a request for help from tweet.. not just any twitterer but @Corkgourmetguy ( we'd been tweeting for months about his adventures of changing career and becoming a chef.)

I joined a team of incredible people who are pulling off this amazing foodie dream meal - a supper club cooked by a team of the UK's best chefs - the likes of which you will never forget. Working with the master weaver Matt Follas, brilliantly organised Anny Murphy, lovely Amanda Follas, Sexy Chef Grant Hawthorne, the fabulous Angharad Davies gorgeous Sabrina Ghaayour and of course the debonair @CityJohn and hilariously witty talented original ideas man Dave Ahern.


Truthfully the speed at which this fund-raising event came together has been incredible. It's fly by the seat of your pants stuff. It's fast, fun and furious, but the event itself will be supremely good. Foodies from all directions have stepped forward to offer their food, time, PR, cheffing skills and more. Auction prizes have come flooding in and I offered to run this part of the evening. So my time today to write a blog post is seriously limited, with 50 prizes to write up about and the children to pick up from school shorty I thought I'd give you a quick peek into yesterday and an interview with the Materchef Winner Matt Follas">Listen!
To find out more about this amazing meal click on the Kaiwecare Website. Tickets are £150 - which for a meal cooked by a team made up of 4 0r 5 master chef winners /5 or so AA rosette holding chefs and 6 or 7 Michelin star chef is just incredible.


I will leave you with an interview with Matt Follas, the winner of Masterchef two years ago, and key organiser of this event.

If you fancy coming I promise it will be a meal you will never forget and in aid of a very worthy cause.






Friday, 18 March 2011

Rocky Road Pops


These pops are the new cupcakes. They are just beautiful to look at and almost too pretty to eat! These Rocky road pops require no cooking - just assembly and these are destined for the school cake sale for red nose day. I’ve

suggested that you make 25 here, and use a biscuit base, however pre decoration they freeze beautifully and if you keep a few back in the freezer they make super quick gifts in an emergency. The biscuits I used this week are Gingernuts, but any

dry biscuits should be fine and I used Waitrose Essential Cooks Marshmallows.

Serves 25

Prep time 1 hour

Cooking time 0 minutes

Suitable for freezing Pre decorating Yes

125g Unsalted butter

100g icing sugar

380g biscuits ( Ginger snaps or Digestive )

300g milk chocolate

50g tiny marshmallows

25 lollypop sticks


1 In a food mixer beat the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy.

2 Place the biscuits into a food processor and turn into fine crumbs. A strong plastic bag and a rolling pin will do the same job if you seal well and bash the bag gently.

3 Add the biscuits to the butter icing and mix well for a further 2 minutes until they are evenly


4 Using your hands scoop a ping pong ball size amount out and in the palm of your hand squeeze the mixture together. It will together but it takes a moment for the mix to cake together in your hand.

5 Once a cake ball has formed gently insert the lollypop stick and place on a tray. When all 25 have been made place them into the freezer. (These can remain frozen for up to 3 months until you are ready to decorate them) However after 15 minutes they are cold enough to decorate.

6 In the mean time, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water making sure that the water does not touch the base of the bowl.

7 Once the chocolate is melted remove the pops from the freezer and dip in the melted chocolate. Decorate with marshmallows

8 I used an orange cut in half to keep mine upright, but don’t leave them there too long as the paper sticks go soggy. (Oasis is better)

Pops will keep for up to 2 weeks in a cool environment.


Monday, 14 March 2011

How books get into book shops

I asked Giles my publisher about how books get into books shops after Lunch on Friday afternoon .. here is what he had to say following the fabulous review it got in the Bookseller. Listen to our chat here ...">Listen!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Blackcurrent and Vanilla Jam

For my recipe this week I have turned to tart dark blackcurrants. They make the most fabulous intense jam and the vanilla pod add top notes without making it too sweet, with a wonderful knobbly texture this is a delight to smother over hot buttered toast. Right now I feel the urge to make jam and headed to Mrs Smith Farm shop near Boughton to recover some of the farms previous summers fruit stash. Making jam making itself is simple an requires minimal effort for maximum results, but I do I have one piece of advice when making blackcurrant jam and that is to ensure that your fruit is cooked well before adding the sugar. If you add the sugar too early on it makes the blackcurrants hard. I prefer dollop of Blackcurrant jam to raspberry in my rice pudding. It makes a wonderful topping for cheesecake, is sublime stirred into porridge with a whisper of cream, and goes a treat with fresh baked scones.

Makes 5 x 450g jars

Prep time 35 minutes

Cooking time 18 - 20 minutes

1.5kg Blackcurrants,

1 vanilla pod

100ml water

1 kg jam sugar or 1kg of vanilla sugar and pectin ( No need for the vanilla pod)

Juice of 1 fresh lemon

1 Preheat the oven to 160˚C/gas mark 3 and pop the jars (but not the lids) into the oven.

2 Put a small saucer in the fridge to chill.

3 Place the blackcurrants, vanilla pod and water in a large saucepan pan, cover and heat gently for about 10 - 12 minutes. Stir occasionally and gently stir and keep the pan covered.

4 Once the blackcurrants are cooked and the consistency is half juice and half currents, add the sugar and the lemon juice. Stir well. When the sugar is dissolved, bring the jam to the boil for about 4 - 5 minutes on a good bubble. Take the jam jars out of the oven.

5 While the jam boils, use a metal spoon to skim off any froth appearing on the top. Take care not to remove too much jam, though.

6 Once the jam reaches setting point it should be viscous enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. To test for setting point, remove the pot from the heat and drop a teaspoon of jam onto the cold saucer from the fridge. Leave it for about a minute; if it is ready, then the jam will wrinkle as you run a spoon through the centre. If it doesn’t wrinkle, return the pan to the boil and repeat this process about 2 minutes later. Do take care not to over-boil your jam. This setting point should really take no longer than 10 minutes at most to achieve.

7 Ladle the jam into the jars using a jam funnel. After a minute, screw the lids on. The heat from the jam will ensure the lids are sterilised. Don’t worry if the jar lid isn’t done up tightly; you can tighten them later once the jars have cooled.

To listen to more idea’s on how to use Blackcurrant Jam tune in to BBC Radio Northampton 10am on Sunday Morning 104.2FM

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Prepped Gets A Fabulous Trade Review



Writing a recipe book is one thing. Getting it published is another. Getting it into the public eye is something I had never considered when I set out to write Prepped. Of course I am still learning about how books get published.

For example it had never occurred to me that in order for the public to be able to go and buy a book in a book shop if first has to get into the book shop. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was a process in itself and not a fait accompli in being published. I suppose I just expected that books magic their way onto the shelves! Of course now I know that is not so, and behind every book is a team of sales people and PR to ensure that the book makes it’s way into the stores. Hugely important to this are the trade magazines and I was told that these are a where people look to decide what to stock. The way the trade responds to your book is seen as a good indicator of how the book is expected to do. After all these people see every book that hits the market. They know what is, and isn’t going to sell.

I can’t emphasize the credibility a trade magazines review can give to your book . These reviews are seriously important. I can tell you that Nikki, my publisher was reaching for tissues with as a tear or two was shed whilst she read me this review from the Bookseller. She was utterly delighted as Prepped singled out as Sue Baker’s chief delight. (I have to admit I am tickled pink too, but Nicky and Giles, my publishers did have to explain the importance of these reviews as I had no real idea of their significance – if course I do know now, which is why I am sharing the insider knowledge with you!)

In many ways small publishers have huge advantages. They are personnel, and flexible with the ability to negotiate a British Print deal for Prepped, which is largely down to their fantastic working relationships within the industry. On the other hand launching a recipe book next to the giants of publishing is hard. They have the resources of large publishers and their books are you only have to look at the chart below to see that only 2 of the 20 top selling books last year were not on TV.

I read in Philip Stone’s article in the Bookseller that aside from Yottam Ottolengi with Plenty with a 2010 revenue of £1.8 M (and bloody good on him he’s a top chap) and Tarek Maluf with the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook with a 2010 revenue of £1.3M, that all the top 20 recipe books last year were by TV chefs. Philip Stones’ article went on to rank the recipe books from the Nielsen book Scan TCM in order as follows:

Jamie’s 30 minute meals by Jamie Oliver

Kitchen by Nigella Lawson

James does by Jamie Oliver

Mum’s Know Best by the Hairy Bikers

River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnly- whittingstall

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Maluf

The Great British Book of Baking the BBC2 The Great British Bake-off official book

200 Slow cooker recipes by Hamlyn

Plenty by Yottam Ottolengi

Home cooking by Rachel Allen

Good Food 101 one pot dishes from the BBC

The I diet by Gino D’acampo

New complete Baby and Toddler by Annabel Karmel

Jamie’s Ministry of food By Jamie Oliver

The flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit

The MasterChef cookbook That goes with the Masterchef TV series

Tender Vol II by Nigel Slater

Good Food 101 meals for 2 by the BBC

Complete cookery course by Delia Smith

He went on to say that for every £1 spent on food and drink cookery books last year 22p went to Jamie Oliver. Nigel Slater’s Tender II sold 44,408 copies and it is clear to see that the TV chefs dominate. But I love that Yottam Ottolenghi and Tarek Maluf are up there with the big boys based on pure fabulousness. It might be unrealistic to have fantasies that Prepped might make it to the level of these books. But I can see that it is not totally impossible. I hope to see Prepped ranked somewhere. ..and yes for any cynics that might be reading this I am aware that I am imagining the almost impossible but we all need a dream. I just happen to be following mine!


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Hot Chef & Hot Chocolate with Lotte Duncan

Literally as I am witting I am making Blackcurrent Jam and there is a batch of scones I the oven. The sun is shining hazy winter like rays and I can hear my son and his friend George shouting instructions to three bemused girls in the garden about the tag rugby rules. I don’t have long to write.

This week has been like a freight train as I have been charmed by a tall dark Irish chef into running the raffle and organizing the Auction for @kaiwecare. (at least I imagine him to be tall dark and handsome.. he certainly sounds as though he is .. I have yet to meet him .. but we’ll have to wait until Tuesday to find out more! ) The pace at which this charity event to raise money for the New Zealand earthquake effort is unbelievable. In less that a week the finest chefs in the country have gathered together to cook a 7 course Gourmet meal on 4th April. As I said I don’t have long to write this .. so click here to read more.. but any offers for auctionable gifts are very, very gratefully received and I shall blog more about this later in the week.



Today’s radio show was fun. Lotte Duncan who is the Author of Lotte’s country Kitchen came in. Click here to listen to the show. We decide to go for a cup of hot chocolate and a slice of her fabulous banana Loaf from the book, and we got side tracked shopping on the way! Lotte is such a lovely lady. Like her book she’s full of honest full on flavor and humor and I can’t wait to meet her again. The book has got some superb recipes in it.. so I shall leave you with some photo’s and two recordings. The first is Polly, a friend who kindly gave me a fabulous review of Lotte’s Book. The second recording is a really useful chat about how a blog can lead to a book deal.

I’m off to pot up this jam, and take the scones out of the oven.



Thursday, 3 March 2011

Meeting up for Lunch with Helen from Fussfreeflavours


With almost everything done for Prepped I have to now start showing he concept more clearly on this Blog. I haven't show it as clearly as I should as I was perhaps afraid the concept would be used by someone else. But we are close to publication now... so I feel much more free to show it off!.

In the coming few weeks I shall be posting linked and double cook recipes for people to try. I will also be putting together my thank you list for a page in the book. It’s long. Really long and there have been so many people who have been generous and kind along the way. It is my project for next week, that, and adding about 20 more people to the Testers who Blog page.

One of those kindest of those who have been so generous has been Helen from Fussfreeflavour, who tested some of my recipes. So today we met for the first time. I was delighted to meet her and suggested we have lunch at Le Brassiere Blanc in Milton Keynes. (I love this high street chain and bumped into Raymond Blanc last time reviewed the Oxford one here) From the moment we met we chatted neither of us pausing for breath! helen in just lovely. She's warm and fun, open and sharing, full of idea's and inspiration and someone who I'd love to see lots more of. I’m sure that we covered every aspect of the food world we live and breath, whilst tucking in to a super lunch. Inevitably afterwards we had to go shopping and Helens remarkable frankness saved me from purchasing a jacket that literally doubled the size of my ass! I can’t wait to meet up again.. and she may have be my personal shopping buddy forever more!

In the mean time I shall have to catch up by reading her superb Blog. .. and I shall leave you with some shots of our lunch! .. very reasonably priced and beautifully cooked.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

My Supper Tonight

I'm still waiting for the final copy. In the mean time I'm finished and perfecting the photography. Certainly I am less crotchety than yesterday and thought i'd take just a moment to share some of these shots from today this is from the Orange and Clove Chapter so you can see whats for my supper tonight! Slow Roast Belly of Pork with Orange & Cloves and for my husbands packed lunch tomorrow it's a Lemon Chicken Rice Salad.