Friday, 30 November 2012

Join in the Virtual Version of #letsmakechristmas

Home made chocolate cookies make a superb christmas treat with a pinch of cinnamon added. 

I had an idea.  I have just a few minutes to get it up on here, so I’ll be brief because I’m heading out of the door to the lets Make Christmas gift swap at the Rococo Chocolate factory .. but you know what always happens before an event ..  cancellations.  Life is never straight forward, and I’ve had so many emails this morning from people who wanted to take part,  and just can’t so I thought we could do a virtual Lets Make Christmas that everyone can take part in. 

I suppose I organise this because I think how ironic that Christmas has become so commercial. It’s odd how much pressure we all put ourselves under to tell someone we think that they are special by buying unwanted, needless and Christmas gifts for the sake of it and more often than not spending money we can’t really afford in the first place!

So I say not this year. Lets make it something really special and Lets Make Christmas instead.  here are some idea's from the 2011 Lets Make Christmas event. 

Bloggers are naturally creative people who more often than not do things their way, so if you have a Christmas gift idea you’d love to share please join and I’ll do round up in 2 weeks .. or so.. so please email your entries in to me and pop the 2012 badge up on your site, and the top three favourite entires made of Chocolate will win a prize from Rococo Chocolates. 

Must dash or I will miss my train!

The Rules
You must share your recipe and blog about your gift using the Let's make Christmas Logo in the blog post. 
You may enter up to 3 recipes
Prizes will be sent directly to the winners.  If you win you will need to your your address  to
All decisions by the judge are final  and there are no cash or product alternatives. 
All gifts must be hand made, and credit the recipe to the author if appropriate and ask permission to recreate a recipe if it by another author. 
Please tweet back to the round up so everyone can share their recipes. 

Added on 1st December the video I took .....

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

My last week week of being a thirty something.

The candied fruit is from Bakery Bits and smells divine. 

I was making panttone last week and thinking back to my major decisions in life as I was kneading the dough. I think the smell of the candied fruit must have set off my memories and I was eighteen again. 

Everyone wants me to go to university but I have other plans.  I want to be a chef.  My Italian mother was a chef at Keele University and I love food. I've been cooking since I can remember and spending almost every morning of my holidays helping out in a bakery in the South of France. I know with every bone in my body I want to work with food.  I train as a chef then work as a chef.  I spend a year in France working in another bakery.

When I return home I am eating toast smothered in butter and my mothers home made marmalade reading the paper and drinking coffee.  I am twenty and I spot in the paper a degree in Psychology of Human Communication and Marketing. I am a chef and we are all experts in psychology so I phone up and before I know it I have signed up on the course.  My mother is delighted.  You’ll never finish it she says.. hoping to needle my determination.

I chef to keep the pennies rolling in during my course. When I finish my degree I want to do something with it.  I go into a recruitment agency to get a job.  They have no jobs available to suit me but hire me as a recruitment consultant mainly, I think, because the manager fancies me.   I’m a natural.  I am 24 and after a year in recruitment I decide to start my own agency.  I chef for another year in the evenings to pay the bills. 

As I wait for the bread to rise I chat.  I loved cooking professionally but as the business took off I stop. I am 27. My recruitment agency is rocking. I have 56 people working for me.  I get married and sell it to a large recruitment group. I plan to leave but stay with them until I am half way through my pregnancy of my 2nd child.  I am the sales and marketing director and the group has 700 staff.  In my free time I am fanatical about photography and food.  I cook almost every day and photograph at weekends. I have my third baby and open a lavender nursery, writing for various magazines on he subject.  I grow over 90 varieties on my parents farm and sell lavender bread and cakes, bit not for long.  I have a serious allergic reaction.  My body has had quite enough lavender for one lifetime.

I start working as a consultant delivering online operational systems.  It pays really well until I wake up one morning and know that I must go back to my real love.  Food.

The panettone is ready for the oven. I pop it in and sit back as the kitchen fills with the smell of sweet italian bread and think back to the past three years.  The time has gone so quickly.

It is May 6th 2010 and my husband isn’t surprised when I hand in my notice and tell him that I am going to write a recipe book. I start a blog about writing my book in the hope of getting published.  A year later Prepped is published.  I have a BBC radio show and a column in my regional paper. I love this food life. I love developing recipes and sharing tips and techniques on the radio on the blog and in the paper. I teach cookery to the children at school, but it is impractical with no kitchen as such. It’s good for the soul to teach. 

My bread is warm from the oven.  It's irresistible and spread with cold unsalted butter with a pot of tea I  eat slices unreservidly and consider where I am now. 

It's irresistible and spread with cold unsalted butter with a pot of tea I  eat slices unreservedly.

July 2011 we moved into a beautiful Victorian house in the village where I was bought up.  It’s in a state to say the least, but here I can at least make my dreams come true.

So now I am in my last week of being in my thirties. I have three gorgeous children and a husband who is amazing and I am looking back on the past twenty years asking myself what I want to do for the next twenty years? 

I can't say yet ..  but watch this space. 

I have plans.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Let's make Christmas 2012 Gift Swap

When I first started out to become a food writer there were some people who went out of their way to help.  Chantal was one of those people who helped make my recipe book Prepped happen, so I'm really excited about this years Let's Make Christmas event because Chantal's own book is out and she has arranged for each of us to have one of her beautiful books. 

So .. there is no guessing what the theme is.  I really think it should be called Let's Make Chocolate!

Yesterday Heather McGregor was chatting on BBC radio Four Women's Hour on the subject of the UK's most influential women and I was finalising this invitation.  I was only half listening until Heather mentioned Chantal as one of the women she felt has who has helped shape the way we live today. 

I know I talk on the radio  .. but occasionally I talk at the radio and I was so thrilled to hear Chantal mentioned .. Yes yes... I said to my Roberts Radio and I have been thinking about it since last night. 

Chantal's influence has really been amazing.  She's dynamic and the way in which she has influenced the ethical trade in chocolate as the founder and creative director of Rococo Chocolates  has changed the chocolate scene immeasurably, helping make London one of the worlds most vibrant chocolate destinations in the world.  She has pioneered The Real Chocolate Movement which has had a huge impact on the politics of chocolate, the way society views it and has been instrumental in changing chocolate culture as well as helping the Grenadian economy get back on it's feet after hurricane Emily.  

Chantal brings such passion, joy and creativity to her chocolate so I am absolutely delighted that she 
has also offered to host this years Food Bloggers Let's Make Christmas in the Rococo factory.... which means an exclusive peek right behind the scenes right into the nerve centre of where the winner of The Academy of Chocolate "Chocolatier of the Year" in both  2011, 2012 develop their couture collection. 

Friday 30th November 

2:30 - 5.30pm 
2:30 arrival Hot Chocolate
3pm Rococo Chocolatier, Barry, will be demonstrating how to get a really velvety ganache and his tips on successful tempering. 
4pm Chance to chat with Chantal who will be signing a copy of her beautiful Rococo Mastering the Art of Chocolate personally for you
5:00 Winners of best in section announced. 
5:30 Gift Swap

Gift Categories are: 
Best Chocolate recipe (own or favourite recipe)  
Best recipe from Rococo Book Mastering the Art of Chocolate
If you’d like to participate .. 

1) Use the Let’s make Christmas logo in your blog post and link back to this page.

2) Please make a comment in the box below to tell me that you are taking part. 

3) Tweet this page with the #LetsMakeChristmas

4) Remember to email me your blog post to

This years Judges are: 
Food writer and author of The Contented Cook  Xanthe Clay from the Telegraph
Lucas HollwegWinner of Guild of Food Writers Cookery Journalist of the Year Award 2012 from the Sunday Times & designer and food writer Sophie Conran.  

There will be a first prize and runner up for both categories.
Please include the recipe & your contact details with your gifts

It's a wonderful way to get together, with many old friends and new faces too. Numbers are strictly limited so please email me as soon as you are able for an invitation. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Tickled Pink - listed in the Woman and Home Best Food Blogs

It's really taken me by surprise just how much this has pleased me! 
I'm not one for going in for prizes.  In fact I hate voting competitions with a passion as people round up all their friends and beg for a vote.  In fact I recently removed my blog from a well known directory that listed Goddess On a Budget as the number 3 food blog for almost a year because it brought all the wrong attention from commercial giver awayers of freebies, however this evening I received a tweet to congratulate me on being listed in the Woman and Home Best Food Blogs.

I sat at my computer and got really emotional about it.  You see to me this is a real compliment. It was totally unexpected and to describe my blog as an exquisite food and lifestyle blog bursting with recipes and championing affordable, sustainable produce just made me well up with tears. Proud tears.  So here I am sitting at almost 1 am, and I can't wake up my husband, or phone any of my other friends who are also listed ..  so I am blogging  .. about it  .. or rather bragging about it instead.

Huge congratulations to everyone who made it on to the list.  It's such hard work to write and keep up a blog, often with very little recognition.  A special congratulations to my friends listed below.  Very proud of you all


Ruth at The Pink Whisk
Dom at Belleau Kitchen 
Karen at Lavender and Loveage
Helen writes  Fuss Free Flavours 
Vivian at Vivian Lloyd
Linda at Filled with Love Cupcakes
Patrick at Bakery Bits
Sarah at Maison Cup Cakes
Andrea at Made with Pink
Julie at Angelina Cupcake 
Kavey at Kavey Eats
Jules at The Butcher the Baker
Fiona Author of London Unattached.
Katie at Turquoise Lemons
Pascale at Extra Relish 
Claire writes The things we Make 
Kate blogs What Kate Baked 
Heidi Roberts and Heidi Roberts Kitchen Talk
Ren at Fabulicious Food 

Friday, 2 November 2012

New Bread and Jam making courses in Northampton

Today I put this advert into my local village magazine.  The last course I did was fully booked and went really well.  I'll do another how run a pop up bakery as part of the Sourdough in a Day on 11th December, as part of learning to cook in Northampton.