Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Meeting Rick Stein


The thing with being a fan of someone or like me having a food hero is that you have expectations and your own relationship with them before you meet them in the flesh. Are they the person you see on TV? Will you still love them after you’ve me them or will meeting them change your feelings?
Earlier this month I went to Cornwall on holiday. I remember clearly one fabulous meal we had in Padstow before I was married. My romantic husband took me to one of Rick Steins restaurants, Rick was on TV doing a series and I have been a fan of his ever since. I love his way with people and food and I wanted to ask him about how he felt after writing his first cookery book and what I should expect.

I have to admit that I really wanted Rick to like me. It’s a funny thing to feel and as waited to catch a moment I caught Rick at the end of his book signing. I was in awe, but I needn’t have worried - he was an utter delight.

I like like him even more now I've met him. Rick really is exactly as he is on TV, professional, warm friendly and engaging. He was such a gentleman - with a seriously packed schedule and just his coffee break spare, he kindly shared the few minutes of free time that he had with me. He got on so well with my son, asking him questions and chatting with such genuine interest that he is now a dedicated Rick Stein fan too – I think that the pictures say it all !

Rick's new book Rick Stein's Spain is coming out on the 9th June. - mine is on pre - order.">Listen!




Friday, 20 May 2011

I've got it !!


I knew it was coming, but like giving birth it's still a surprise when it happens ... almost unexpected, despite weeks of anticipation.  There it was, wrapped in a white envelope, just casually left on the doorstep by my postman.  This creation. This book filled with all my hopes and dreams.  As it happened I was multitasking with an interview from a journalist Ruth Supple from our local Northamptonshire magazine and a photo shoot of picking elderflowers for the recipe in my column for The Chronicle & Echo.  ( The photos above are with kind permission from the Chronicle & Echo )

I held off opening it whilst I cooked lunch, and then sat at the table to open this creation. I was nervous.  My hands shook a little as I opened the envelope.  There were tears.  You can hear it as it happened below.  

This it the end of this journey and the start of a whole new adventure for I am now an actual author. not a soon to be one,  but a a real one.">Listen!


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Elderflower & Rose Syrup


I have to admit I was the first to welcome the unseasonably warm weather that we’ve had. April was simply glorious. What didn’t occur to me was that one of the ingredients would be coming into flower somewhat earlier then I expected when we set the publication date. Last year it was June when the elderflowers were out and I had a nightmare with my photography as they finished in July!

The key recipe in the elderflower chapter is the Elderflower and Rose Syrup. I always associate this with the first delicious moments of getting the contract to be published! Having talked to Helen from Fuss Free Flavours in London it seems the flowers in the south are beginning to open and certainly in my area the elderflower is coming out about three weeks early this year. Yesterday I picked a few with the lovely Ren from Fabulicious Food, and about 1/3 of the flowers are out.

I decided to find out if other areas are having the same early flowers. I asked BakersBunny and it seems in Edinburgh they are not out yet. However in Brentford (TW8) according to Louise of using mainly spoons they are flowering and in bloom in Norfolk as Annie mentioned in a tweet to me earlier today. Stewart Ovenden also has a super recipe on his site and tells me that they have been out for two weeks now in Hampshire. Whilst I am not panicking about this early season making the first chapter difficult to follow.. ( obviously you can buy cordial) I thought that rather than sit on the recipe and shrug my shoulders in and it’s all beyond my control way, I’d release the Elderflower and Rose Syrup recipe now on the Blog. This way if you have bought Prepped or you are about to buy Prepped then you can gather your elderflowers in and set to on the first recipe.

The elderflower syrup links to all the recipe in the chapter.

So I am off out on my bike to gather in the flowers today and I hope that if you have bought Prepped or you are going to them you will find this recipe gets you Prepped! for the first chapter!

Let me know how you get on !



Elderflower & Rose Syrup

This pink, floral, slightly tart yet sweet liquid makes a superb gift. Yes, you can buy it, and if you’re reading this in the other ten months of the year when it’s out of season, by all means do. But promise yourself you’ll make the effort to create your own. A pretty bottle brought to a dinner party makes a gift that will be remembered. It also has the advantage of introducing an easy talking point – which is sometimes very useful indeed. This is a versatile little number that will take you places.

Makes 1.5 litres

Prep time 25 minutes

Cooking time 20–30 minutes

Suitable for freezing? Yes, but steep the flowers in hot water for 24 hours and freeze, then defrost and add the other ingredients.

30 pure-white elderflower heads

8 heads red/pink scented roses

2kg caster sugar

1 litre water

Juice and rind of 2 lemons

75g citric acid

1 Give the flowers a good shake to ensure there are no remaining insects hiding among the petals. Trim any stems and leaves. Remove the petals from the roses and discard the stems.

2 In a large pan, heat the sugar and water, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Allow this to cool, and when the water is ‘hand hot’, add the flowers and rose petals, lemon rind and juice and citric acid. Stir well, cover and leave for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.

3 Strain the syrup either through muslin or an old clean cotton tea towel placed in a colander,

ensuring none of the bits get through. Decant into sterilised bottles and seal.

4 Keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.


• Use only pure-white elderflowers. Brown ones will taint the flavour.

• Citric acid should be available from a local chemist or from brewing and winemaking

shops or online. In this recipe it does two things. Firstly, it acts as a natural preservative, and secondly its sourness counteracts sweetness, which in turn allows the elderflower – not the sugar – to be the first thing you taste.

• This syrup makes a perfect topping for vanilla ice cream, and I love to drizzle mine into plain buttered couscous. I also use this to drizzle it over lemon cake – delicious!

Linked Recipe

Broad Bean Salad with Elderflower and Ginger Salad Dressing

Monday, 16 May 2011

Win an invitation to the launch party and a signed copy of Prepped


It's that time! The launch party invitations have landed on my doorstep. They are glossy and gorgeous and I am rustling together a list of the loveliest people to invite. Every 5 minutes, or so it seems I gasp and have to dash to my note pad to jot down another name I have remembered ... so as not to forget to invite so and so !
I have this recurring awful thought that hit me. Bosh. I've forgotten to invite someone I care about. Instead of saying .. ehherm Vanessa .. has my invitation has got lost in the post ? .. they just wait patiently thinking it will come, and then I inadvertently hurt their feelings. so if i have for any reason not sent you an invitation by the 26th MAY .. get in touch as I am bound to forget to invite someone I adore.
Of course all the Preparati ( testers) will be getting an invitation from me next week, and in the mean time I'd love to offer TWO places at either launch party with a signed book from me - if you can tell me in a comments box below which one you'd love to come to and why you'd like to be Prepped. (Please don't forget to email me a contact detail of you are anonymous !!)

There are two launches - 1st is in Northampton 2- 5pm on the 9th June
The 2nd is London Knightsbridge 10 - 6pm on Friday 10th June

We're so nearly there and I am getting excited now !



Wednesday, 11 May 2011

One of those real moments !


It's not just about writing a recipe book. I suppose in the beginning I thought that once it was written then that would be it; but what I know is that PR plays a significant role in promoting a book - so we have been doing some photo's for a PR piece on what it means to be Prepped! this morning. In essence it's about having delicious food ready to get out there and enjoy having fun! I'm all for leaving the kitchen behind and going on a picnic! ( but not getting back to a huge pile of washing up !)

I'm not one to mock things up - for me it has to be real or it just feels fake, so if you see shots of my cycling and shopping and cooking then in almost every instance I really am doing that.

The picnics in the photo's are real. We eat the food, and it's not pretend. It's not staged. The shots in Prepped are really how things happen, and so today I thought I'd share with you one of those real moments that Nikky Callis caught on camera. My face says it all as Poppy leaped out of the basket ... probably after a rabbit!

It is fabulous!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Not so Naughty Wicked Brownies.

These delicious brownies are dark, moist, deeply chocolaty and also happen to be gluten and dairy free and yet they also sneak in some healthy beetroot into your diet. Beetroots are a good source of antioxidants and full of nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium as well as vitamin C. They give a deep rich color to the brownies and keep them really moist. The antioxidants can also protect your body from aging (and apparently wrinkles too) caused by free radicals and dark chocolate also contains a large number of antioxidants - apparently nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries!
You’d never know indulging in these glorious fudgy treats that they could be just so healthy - but with no added butter they are also low in saturated fat as well .. hence their name - not so naughty wicked brownies!

400g peeled grated & drained cooked beetroot
3 medium eggs
230g golden caster sugar
50g rice flour
2 tsp baking powder
75g cocoa powder
100g ground almonds
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) melted
½ tsp sea salt
1 tbs sunflower oil to grease tin
icing sugar to dust

1 Preheat the oven to 175 Gas 4.
2 Grease a tin 24 cm X 30cm
3 Place the beetroot and eggs into a food processor and whisk for about 3 minutes.
4 Add the sugar and continue to beat for another minute
5 Sift in the rice flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and continue to whisk.
6 Add the ground almonds and continue to whisk gently whilst pouring in the melted chocolate and add the sea salt.
7 Transfer the mixture in the greased tin and pop straight into the preheated oven for 30 - 35 minutes. Check early - you don’t want to over do them! The mixture will not set as hard as a sponge cake. You want it to be slightly undercooked to get that fudgy brownie texture. It will set further as it cools.
8 Once it is set slice into square and dust with icing sugar.


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Bitter taste

I appreciate that you can’t just give your products away. With my family vineyard you can imagine that we are inundated with requests for wine. All sorts of wonderful requests almost daily come in for samples and donations. We often can’t help or truthfully we’d be out of business, but we say no nicely. We wish them luck and hope they do well.
I decided that along my adventure that I would promote people I admire Other authors, artisan bakers, fairtrade vanilla, organic chocolate from sustainable sources and local British food. I am a firm believer that you go through life just once and along your way you can share and encourage others.
Good people, kind people, hard working talented generous and passionate people - my journey is shared. I delight in lovely products and people.
So full of enthusiasm and courage of my conviction I selected a few people to ask to sponsor some key ingredients. This was it. I was going to speak to a chap was being promoted as a seriously ethical fabulous British bloke. I held my breath and dialled the number. The phone rang. This in itself was an adventure,he’d been on TV and was rather famous!
It was him .. how amazing ! I explained that I was full of admiration, That I used his products already and I'd just handed in my notice to follow my dream to write a recipe book and would he consider sending me some samples that I could use to develop some of the recipes. .... There was a stony science.
“… so what you are telling me is that you are actually an unemployed housewife writing a few recipes and you want me to send you some free stuff?”
I am nervous now. Gosh this wasn’t going very well at all. “ Well .. actually I am writing a recipe book and I was hoping you might consider sponsoring this ingredient. I’d only need a few samples and an acknowledged support and I think it might be great PR for you.” I am stuttering a little, but I brave it. My skin in prickling and I want him to say something to undo this uneasy feeling.
I go on.
“I could promote you on twitter and my blog and by using your product people will see your product though me using them in my recipes.”
Now he is practically shouting. His response punctuated with F’s
I don’t need to give you or anyone my product. Not to you or all the other 100’s people who are after free stuff. I mean who are you exactly? Let me tell you. You are no one. You are not even published. I have my own recipe books.. so why would I want you to use my products exactly ? If you want my products they go the supermarket and buy them. I’ve got more important things to do that talk to people after free stuff like you. Click.
Slap. It felt like a slap, hard right across my face. I am red. Heat in my face. It is worse as it was so unexpected this verbal slap from a scornful angry aggressive man. My eyes welled up. I am looking the phone as though it would change what I heard. I will not cry. I will not cry I will not. My tears ignored me and rolled down my cheeks anyway.
So this is how people would now to see me? An unemployed housewife writing a few recipes wanting free stuff? I feel humiliated.
I saw this person yesterday and waited until there was no one about so I could speak to him. I told him quietly and calmly that his response to me a year ago was not only unkind, but that it is completely unnecessary to be so rude to people. I am this person who phoned you. It is me who you were rude to and reduced to tears. Perhaps, I thought, it would dawn on him this voice at then end of the phone that he belittled was a person. A real person, me, with feelings. Perhaps he will say it was all a bad day and he didn't mean those harsh words.
Oh he said .. so you’ve come to gloat then was his response. He is not quite as aggressive in real life as he was on the phone, but there are people around to temper him.
No no no. This was simply not what I meant at all. I just meant that there are nicer ways to say we don’t do samples or sponsorship right now. I meant for him to see. I am not anonymous or indeed a desperate nobody after a freebie. I am simply not the type of person who feels the need to rub in a person’s bad decisions. He can't see me because he is an angry man. My kindness is invisible because nobody has been kind to him. It then dawned on me. He is unloved. Poor man. Poor sad man. No wonder he is angry and hurtful. I suddenly felt sorry for him. What a terrible thing. His life is not really delicious at all. Where is his joy? Where is his love? Where is the laughter, kindness and delight in his life? Poor chap.
What a bitter way to see the world.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Roast pork belly with Lemon and Thyme


Prepped has been printed.  This,  I am told is the calm before the storm.  The summer is filling up with cookery demonstrations, book signings and all sorts of other very exciting things.  In the mean time I am taking the opportunity to kick back and enjoy a month of playing with the children, visiting friends,  tidying up the house, and updating the blog.  So I thought i'd share one of my favourite things to eat - Roast belly of pork.  It has a crisp crunchy cracking with succulent melt in the mouth meat, alongside the aromatic, lemon, thyme and garlic .. and what’s more it takes minutes to have in the oven so you can relax and enjoy.

Serves 6

Prep 10 minutes

Cooking time 4 - 5 hours

6 cloves garlic

Peel and juice from 1 lemon

Handful of thyme

1.5 kg pork belly

2 tbs sea salt

Juice of 2 lemons

1tsp sugar

2 tbs single cream

1 Preheat your oven to full whack, it should be at least 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7

2 On a roasting tin place the unpeeled garlic cloves, the lemon peel, the thyme and unpeeled garlic under where the pork will sit in the tin.

3 Make sure the pork skin is scored. (It’s much easier to ask the butcher to do this)  Pour over the juice of the first lemon and scatted the salt over.  Rub into the skin and place into the roasting tin on top of the garlic, thyme and lemon peel.

4 Pop into the oven and drop the heat to 300/150/ Gas mark 2

5 Cook for about 4 hours on this low heat until the skin is golden and crisp and the meat is tender.

6 Remove from the heat and take the meat out of the pan, and set to one side to rest.  Strain the juice into a pan and add the lemon juice and sugar.  Boil this for 2 or 3 minutes effectually reducing the liquid and concentrating the taste of the sauce. Add the cream, stir.

Slice the pork, drizzle with the sauce and serve with pan-fried potatoes with rosemary or thyme.  

I did it !!

Can you believe it tomorrow will be exactly one year since I decided to write Prepped? I gave up my job, and set to .. and it's printing in the UK as I type this on the press ... right now !

I am tingles.

I am goosebumps.

I am tears. ... I did it !