The Friday Five – Great cookbooks for summer eating


So, we’re past the summer solstice, so it’s officially summer. No one has told the weather round here that yet though. But on the off chance that there is great weather ahead, then these books are all relatively new and suggest great summer cooking and eating to me.

Grill Smoke BBQ


Grill Smoke BBQ - great cookbook gift for a BBQ loving food lover


Well, if it’s summer, then it must be time to break out the BBQ.  This book is by Ben Tish of Ember Yard, who definitely knows a thing or two about BBQ, and I’m not just talking about a few burned burgers. I mean, when were you last served chargrilled duck breast with peas, broad beans and hot mint sauce at a BBQ? I’ve nothing against a good burger, but it would be lovely to do something different. Love that it covers desserts too, something often missing from BBQ books.


Leon Happy Salads


Leon Happy Salads - great cookbook gift for a salad loving food lover


When it warms up, then great salads are definitely a good thing to get on the menu. And we’re not just talking about a few limp lettuce leaves and a slice of tomato, but the sort of robust, flavoursome salads that Leon are renowned for. This covers the salads and the dressings (always need a good dressing) with things like chicken and rice noodle salad for the leaf rejectors, and the classic Leon superfood salad. Perfect little book for big flavours.


Byron the Cookbook


Byron the Cookbook - great cookbook gift for a BBQ loving food lover


Like I’ve already said, I’ve got nothing against a good burger, and Byron certainly know how to do a good burger. And this book shares some of their secrets for great burgers, but also for other great comfort food like meatloaf and onion rings. This book, like the first one, also does desserts, so things like cherry pie and and the Oreo and brownie sundae. It’s more in the vein of traditional BBQ fare than the first one, but definitely still a cut above the average.


Vegetable Perfection by Mat Follas


Vegetable Perfection - great cookbook gift for a veggie loving food lover


I find it easier to think about vegetables in the summer months, with things like asparagus, fresh peas and broad beans being top of my list. I could probably just eat dishes of those with some burrata and some hollandaise. Well, Mat Follas has some better ideas than that in this book. So the peas turn up in a pea panna cotta and a warm salad of samphire, chilli and shallots is also perfectly seasonal for right now. Though I love the sound of smoked parsnips with pear and blue cheese, which will make the colder days of winter feel better.


Mary Berry One Step Ahead


Mary Berry One Step Ahead - great cookbook gift for an organised food lover


Summer always gets so busy with lots of different events going on, kids heading off in different directions during the holidays, even more general busyness than usual so it makes sense to try and have some meals sorted out in advance. There’s nothing better than knowing there’s a great homecooked meal in the freezer ready to just be finished off. I don’t know what Burlington beef is, but I’d be intrigued to give it a go, and a double fish pie would definitely be one being tried in this house. I love Mary Berry and I’d feel confident in any recipe in this book. No shortcutting testing for Mary and her team!


So, a good variety of cooking from these books to encompass all kinds of summer cooking and eating. I hope we get some sunny days, to linger outside with something delicious on the BBQ, a great salad, something cold to drink and hopefully a good dessert too. What would be on your menu?


The Friday Five – all about cake


Ok, I know this week’s Bake Off was about biscuits, but I’ve got cakes on my mind as it’s my turn to take cakes in for the team. If I had time then I’d be baking, but sadly it’s only going to be thinking about baking this week. These books would be fabulous inspiration if there was time:


Naked Cakes - great gift of a cookbook for a food lover who likes to keep ahead of trends


Naked Cakes – how beautiful does this cover look? And I love this as a reaction to things like over-decorated cupcakes. This one is very much about the flavours, with things like Coconut Angel Cake with Raspberries or Chocolate Fig Cake. I think this one is going on my Christmas list.


Jamie's Food Tube: The Cake Book - great cookbook gift for a food lover who likes it big


Jamie’s Food Tube: The Cake Book – as you’d expect from Jamie, these are modern twists, and plenty of flavours involved. I like that these are seasonal recipes, so something to go at any time of the year.


Cakes in a Mug - great cookbook gift for a food lover who wants it fast


Cakes in a Mug – ok, there have been a few nights that cakes in a mug have featured here when there’s been no other sweet stuff to hand. This sounds like it might be a dangerous book to have on hand!


Surprise Cakes - great cookbook gift to surprise a food lover with


Surprise Cakes – sounds like the best kind of cake to me! I’ve never really tried anything like this except an ombré cake so wouldn’t mind giving a go.


Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book - great cookbook gift for food lovers who like to learn from the best


Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book – well, can’t really beat going a bit old school with the queen of the bakes, now can you? Funnily enough I don’t own any of Mary’s books, so maybe this is a good one to start with.

Whatever time you get to bake, hope you enjoy it and the results!


The Friday Five – planning it and making the most of it


We’ve been having ongoing conversations around meal planning, in order to a) buy some time back each night and b) make the most of the food there is. If you’ve read this blog for long, you’ll know that food waste drives me absolutely nuts, so this is definitely one thing I’m really passionate about finding tools to improve on. Here’s a few:


The family meal planner


The Family Meal Planner – this is perfect, in that recipes are thrifty rather than spendthrift, and includes seven day meal planners. Also covers another of my favourites, batch cooking which is definitely a godsend after work in a week!


Three Months of Meals


Three Months of Meals: Where to Begin – I love the subtitle of this “for the overwhelmed beginner planner”. I’d give this a go on that basis alone. It’s a Kindle book, so low investment, but possibly worth a look. Though if I discover it’s three months worth of shepherd’s pie then I may rethink that!


7 Day Menu Planner for dummies


7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies – I guess this one does what it says on the tin! I’ve not read a Dummies book in years but always remember that they’re good at doing what they set out to do. There’s a whole year’s worth of plans, so by the time you’ve worked through those, you could start at the beginning again as no one will remember!


Weeknight dinners


Weeknight Dinners – this one made me smile with its themes: meatless Monday, Tex Mex Tuesday and more, so planning will be quite straightforward. Not to mention tasty, I reckon there’s loads in here that loads of kids will love.


Cook Now Eat Later


Cook Now, Eat Later – I love Mary Berry, and love her for this book, or any book with the secondary title “recipes that make your life easier”. Heaven knows we all need that, and surely Mary Berry is well placed to help us with that.

So, here’s to being well organised and getting some time back for other things.


Celebs popping up all over the shop at Lakeland


I had a brief run into Lakeland whilst I was away, and came away with a gravy separator and the new catalogue. And looking through, it’s like Hello magazine in there.


Cake lifter

It’s no surprise with their baking credentials that Lakeland have linked up with Mary Berry. Now, these things all say they are new products, and they are certainly useful products but I am not sure if they count as new merely by the rebranding. That said, things like the pushpans are useful, as is a cake lifter.


Jam Label Kit


Kirstie Allsop is busy in the jam department, making them look prettier or more presentable, either for the village show or for gifting. As we are coming into marmalade making season (or my preference would be Seville orange curd) then these may make perfect sense right now.


Chocolate Maker's Funnel


Paul A. Young turns up too, though again it’s unclear whether he has just been involved with the book, or with all the new chocolate making kit as well. They certainly look more professional, so if you know someone who has a keen interest in this area then could be some good choices for them.




And whilst not strictly speaking celebrities, then there is a whole range of Star Wars bakeware and goodies on offer. I am not sure if some of these are the same as my Williams-Sonoma ones, but after the success of our Christmas Dalek Christmas cake in 2013, then I’m thinking maybe 2014 may be the year of the R2D2 one.

There’s obviously some interesting changes gone on at Lakeland in terms of buying strategy but if these are the sort of things we’re going to see then it may well prove to be a good change. Worth keeping an eye on them.


The Friday Five – Getting ready for Bake Off 2013


I don’t care, I’m just very happy that we are a few days away from this year’s Great British Bake Off. Yes, even with the cliché of Paul Hollywood’s offscreen behaviour, I can’t wait for this to start again. So, to celebrate all things bake off, here’s 5 to celebrate the judges, favourite cakes and favourite contestants from what we’ve seen before:


GBBO Everyday

Great British Bake Off Everyday – probably would like this, but do read the small print, this is only a forward from Paul and Mary. That said it does cover their signature bakes, technical challenges and showstoppers, so you could create your own episode in your own kitchen!


How to Bake

How to Bake – I own this one already and have baked from it a few times. It’s not very delicate baking but so far everything I’ve baked has been gutsy and tasty. I’ve particularly liked the seeded breadsticks, they went down very well at a lunch recently.


Mary Berry's Baking Bible

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible – I’m definitely thinking I should have this one. Classic, old school, but surely delicious. I mean, who doesn’t want to eat that sponge on the front cover?


Say It With Cake


Say It With Cake – I have Edd’s book from when he first won the first series, and it is well thumbed, and with marks on many pages. The double chocolate sour cherry cookies turn up in my oven on a regular basis. So I’ve no doubt that this book would get just as much use with just as delicious results.


The Pink Whisk

Cake Making – I really liked Ruth, really down to earth but great looking baking. I’ve really liked Ruth’s writing style as well, so might well give one of her books a go.

It’s funny that it’s characters of the first series that still stay with me. Well, those and James and his tank tops from last year. Still think he was robbed at the last minute. Can’t wait to see what this year has in store. And just for my team, no, I’m still not entering! Though I still have some practicing to do in order to defend my culinary cup triumph of last year!


Reflections on Harvest at Jimmy’s



It takes a lot for me to even consider camping. The promise of a huge variety of great food, not to mention demonstrations by some of the greats of the food world was pretty much what it was going to take. Which is how I found myself lugging a tent across a ploughed field in Suffolk on Friday afternoon, ready for Harvest at Jimmy’s.

Now that I’ve had a night back in my own bed, and lots of running hot water to hand, then I’m probably in the right place to think about the many highlights of the weekend. No particular order, but these were what made the privations of camping worthwhile!

* Best demo – for me, this is really hard to pick, so I’m going with two. Paul A. Young was fantastic on the main kitchen stage, really engaging, and two fantastic recipes. His brownie with caramelised apple and Wensleydale sounded incredible, inventive, and delicious, but sadly I didn’t move quickly enough to get a taste. Will be trying to recreate, and to see if his secret ingredient in brownies really does work. Then there was Edd Kimber’s demo in the Chefs Unplugged tent, which was about as different in terms of atmosphere, as would guess there were less than 30 of us (including Paul A. Young and Tom Kerridge) and we got in there to taste the sour cherry and chocolate cookies. Recipe for which you can find in his book, just out last week.


* Best breakfast – a choice to be made here, given that we had breakfast in the restaurant at the farm shop, which meant access to proper loos and running hot water. But I’d have to go with breakfast from Climpson & Sons. Firstly, their bacon was properly cooked and crispy, whereas in the restaurant it looked like it had been done in a steam oven. Bit poor really, when you consider one lot was cooking outside. Their scrambled eggs were perfect, no microwave involved there, and the halloumi and mushroom veggie version was delicious. Bircher muesli was incredibly tasty, and filling, all topped off by a perfect flat white. Worth every penny.



* Best for kids, food orientated – whilst MGG enjoyed making quesadillas at the Kitchen Academy (although came back indignant at their use of Tesco tortilla wraps, as any foodie kid might), what she loved most was Stefan Gates’ demo on the main stage. How can you compete with bum sandwiches, freezing cheese and exploding custard powder?

* Most unusual brownieCafe Môr’s beach brownie with laver bread, which they recommended to Paul A. Young after the conversation about salt bringing out the taste of the chocolate. Thankfully, it did, as opposed to just bringing out the taste of seaweed. Congrats to the team there as well for winning the British Street Food Award.

* Best ice cream, ever – definitely goes to Ginger’s Comfort Emporium. I thought Wheelbirks was good, but this was even better, even creamier. This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven is not only a great name but a great blend of roasted banana, salted caramel and peanuts. Dark and Stormy had a great lime zest kick to it (not to mention the rum) and Marmalade and Toast ice cream is the new way to eat those items.


* Best for foragers – definitely the foraging walks with the team from Food Safari. Although MGG only came back full of how to make a pea shooter from elder branches. Still, useful life skill!

* Most welcome carbs – goes to Chicken Teriyaki noodles from Notso Sushi, great post tent erecting recovery food!

* Biggest sound letdown of the weekend – whoever miked up Yotam Ottolenghi needed to come stand out front. Incredibly hard to hear him, and would think from the welcome from the crowd this was someone that everyone was really looking forward to seeing. We’d have just liked to have been able to hear him properly as well. That, and taste the food!


* Biggest tip for future Great British Bake Off contestants – Mary Berry is a sucker for white chocolate, as is her husband. She hides it in a tin marked dog food at home. Now he knows.


Bakery royalty, and the one she called mean

So, lots of great stuff went on, and apparently there was some music too. I don’t think anyone was impressed at all with the camping, the lack of water pipes, not to mention the water running out in the showers. Perhaps that’s normal for festivals, I wouldn’t know, but those with a lot more experiences than me seemed to think not. Which is not great given this is not the first year it has run. But now I’m home, I can forget those things.

My biggest thanks of the weekend though goes to the kindness of strangers, particularly to Eamonn who came to my rescue when it was just MGG and I to put up the tent. Without him, it would have taken a whole lot longer, and for that help I am forever grateful.

Going next year? Possibly, but only if I don’t have to camp!