Sunday in the Park with Tom: perfect way to spend a Sunday


Proper lush day out at Pub in the Park


Love it when stuff works out brilliantly, and I just want to say bloody well done to Tom Kerridge and the team for Pub in the Park, which was in Marlow over the weekend.

Now, we got lucky by being there Sunday afternoon, as the weather was incredible. And the stories we’d had of horrendous queueing times never came off. Instead we just enjoyed an afternoon of great food from incredible restaurants, some decent gin cocktails, and some great shopping.


The Salt Beef Croquette from the Hardwick


I am not sure I can pick a stand out dish, but it was all a stand out idea: £5 a plate from some this country’s most amazing restaurants and chefs. I think I’d probably have to go with the salt beef croquette from The Hardwick.


Korean chicken just about in shot, but our best picnic lunch this year

But then the sweet & spicy Korean fried chicken from The Hop was great too.


Rotisserie grilled pineapple (with a side of steak sandwich)


And dessert awards would go to The Crown for the rotisserie grilled pineapple and salted caramel popcorn ice cream sundae. I think supermarkets ought to ditch some of the rotisserie chickens and do more pineapple.

Now, I know by late afternoon when we fancied a bit more to eat then many places were sold out. Sorry to the Pony & Trap, but chilled lovage soup was never going to quite tick the boxes.

But that was ok, we were probably just being greedy.

What wasn’t okay I’m sure was that I heard from people who went to the evening session that restaurants were still sold out for that session. But, what can you say? We went into it with a bit of a mindset that it was the first time they’d all done this, that not everything would go right.

And I bet that doesn’t happen next year.

We had lots of fun browsing the shopping village. I didn’t expect to like Rubis, which is a chocolate and red wine blend, but it was rather lovely. There was quite a lot of pork scratchings going on, but we were more taken with the savoury biscuits from Just Biscuits.

And I was rather taken with a Gin Garden cocktail made with Conker Gin. Perfect for just sitting in the sun, watching the world go by.

We were also very taken with the tasting and cooking demo on the Big Green Egg. We are really quite tempted by one of these, and looks like we were in good company.


Angela Hartnett at the Big Green Egg

Angela Hartnett seemed to have quite a lot of questions, and wouldn’t be the first chef to add a Big Green Egg to their kitchen equipment.

Always nice to run into people you know too. And stocking up on Gower Cottage Brownies is always a good thing.

Catching up with my favourite brownie bakers

Talking to people on the trade side, then this seems to have been a successful and busy show. I think lots of us are hoping there will be another one next year, and for years to come. Of course there are some things they’ll be working on to improve, but I’d definitely go again.

Next year I might even get to some of the chefs demos!

As Tom, and the sign, say, it was proper lush! Bring on the next Pub in the Park!


The Friday Five – Healthy eating, no fads allowed


Healthy eating, no fads allowed


I don’t have a great record on healthy eating books, or certainly those of a certain mindset around “healthy” eating. Deliciously Ella lasted about 2 days in my house, and a book with a recipe for unicorn fuel is my worst cookbook of the year.

But, it’s January, and many of us are thinking about how we could eat a bit more healthily, whether for health or vanity. These ones are ones that tick the boxes in that they do have proper recipes in (although one may have avocado on toast as a recipe, close call) and are quite clearly geared up to people who like to eat and like to cook.

Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics


Jamie Oliver Super Food Family Classics


I’m not the biggest Jamie Oliver fan, I’ve had a number of his books over the years but none have stayed in the house too long. I was given this one though, and MGG and I have cooked from it a lot. It’s an interesting read, as well as good recipes, and is definitely geared to busy family life. We loved the pesto and curry paste recipes, these are all in the freezer. The only nay from us was the Butternut Squash Mac’n’Cheese. In MGG’s view, some things are not meant to be healthy.


Fitness Food/Fitness Gourmet


Fitness Food


Took me a few moments to work out this is exactly the same book, just in hardback and paperback. I liked this when I reviewed the original version, other than the incident with the coconut pancakes. Still avoid that one, the recipe looks to be exactly the same between the editions. It’s easy to follow, you can work out how to dial up dishes if it’s just you on reduced calories and you’ve got growing teens to cater for too.


Cook Nourish Glow


Cook Nourish Glow


Amelia Freer’s second book, and I thought that with my history I was straying into dangerous territory here. But I managed to get all the way through without one FFS, so pretty good going. There is quite a bit of raw kale, which is a no go with us, but there are plenty of tasty things like chicken breast with ginger and apricot stuffing, or halibut ceviche. I like her writing style, she talks as a fellow adult, and there are plenty of well known people who will testify to the success of her approach.


Ready Steady Glow


Ready Steady Glow


I’m going to get these two confused. Both second books, this one by Madeleine Shaw is about wheat and sugar free, and well written. Although I can live without a yoga routine in my cookbooks if I’m honest, but it’s right at the back so you can skip it. Apricots and chicken feature again, but also something different like slow roast beef cheeks with celeriac mash. Sounds like perfect winter cooking to me, just with healthy overtones.


Tom Kerridge’s Dopamine Diet


Tom Kerridge's Dopamine Diet


Okay, this one isn’t out for a few more days, and I haven’t seen anything of it other than what is on Amazon. Well, that and the change in Tom’s appearance. Let’s face it, he’s about a third of the man he was, but you can’t imagine he’s been living on rice cakes and almond butter. I’m know he’s been putting in the hours at the gym as well (I have a great story about him and a friend of mine in the sauna at the gym…nothing remotely mucky, all about getting a table at the Hand & Flowers), but I reckon if this worked for Tom then it must be good, and very tasty. I mean, you won’t think you’re on a diet if you’re eating braised beef with horseradish or Chinese pork hot pot. I may well have to order this one and give it a go.


Whilst I’m definitely gearing up to eat more healthily this year, I’m also not going to eat joyless food. Finding healthy food with taste is the goal, along with an awful lot more movement. Don’t wish to be a bore but loving my FitBit, really is making me think about how long I’m sat still for. Talking of which, time to move!



More than just Robin Hood at Nottingham Castle




If you’re around Nottingham today or tomorrow, and wondering what to do, then I can highly recommend the Great Food & Drink Festival at Nottingham Castle. MGG and I had a great time there today, ate some good food, drink some good gin (that was me) and watched some great demos.


Chef Tom Kerridge ready, audience ready


In fact I think we went straight to a demo, but when it’s chef Tom Kerridge then why wouldn’t you? I think Tom is brilliant, love the way he cooks, and he’s brilliant at demos, and made us laugh lots. Although left me craving a côte de boeuf with triple cooked chips.

And looking for a cream charger to make his strawberry fool with.


Granny Marys Potted Meats


I’m looking forward to a lunch here today of some great bread we picked up from The French Corner along with some pates from Granny Marys. These are what I would call potted meats, and they contain no liver or other offal, which does make pate offputting to some. We’ve got duck and orange, and the smoked turkey, and there had definitely been a run on the pulled pork. Sadly, their website is blocked with technical issues but you can find them on Facebook.




We had a great Thai lunch from Thaikhun, brilliant sweetcorn cakes and a beef massaman curry. Although I was seriously tempted by the menu of fish and chips. Then there was mac and cheese, or nachos, or great pancakes from Annie’s Burger Shack.


Probably my new favourite gin: where Yorkshire tea meets Yorkshire gin


And I discovered the perfect combination of two of my most favourite thing: where Yorkshire tea meets Yorkshire gin. Hats off to Masons, I loved this.

Definitely worth a few hours, particularly if the weather holds up. Tickets are £8 in advance, £10 on the door, which is cash only. Come on organisers, it’s the 21st century. Contactless not made it that far yet. If you’re there today you’ve got demos from Nadiya from Bake Off to look forward to. Almost worth going back for.


The Friday Five – Suppers for the change of season


I think it continues to feel like autumn is well and truly here, even with forecasts of a possible Indian summer this weekend. Which does mean that cooking styles will probably change ready for the cooler days ahead. These five are cookbooks that I think would inspire dishes for the new season:


Proper pub food by Tom Kerridge - great cookbook gift for those who like big flavours


Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food – I can’t wait for this series to start, and am sure this book might find its way here. Tom always comes across so well, very genuine. A member of my team had nothing but praise for him after the time he spent with them showing them round the kitchen on a recent visit to the Hand & Flower. Proper, heart-warming dishes are bound to abound, can’t wait.


Do Ahead Dinners


Do-ahead dinners: how to feed friends and family without the frenzy – there’s a title that many of us can relate to! But when it’s cold and miserable outside, there’s nothing to beat coming home to a warm meal, or something that will be one really quickly. Boston baked beans anyone? Let’s face it, any way to get ahead is a good thing!


A salad for all seasons by Harry Eastwood


A Salad for All Seasons –  maybe you’re thinking the salad days are over? This book might convince you otherwise. I love Harry’s writing and recipes, Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache is still one of my favourite baking books. There are some great choices in here, like roasted root veg with crispy garlic pitta. Sounds delicious, and somewhat healthy without being cold or dull.


The jewelled kitchen


The Jewelled Kitchen – oh, these recipes will be like bringing the sunshine into the kitchen, with Lebanese, Moroccan and Persian dishes to work through. I love the food of these three cultures, and this book would be a perfect complement to something like Arabesque or Jerusalem. Cook from these and you’ll be in no danger of getting SAD this winter!


Big table busy kitchen


Big Table, Busy Kitchen – this title sums up how I love my kitchen to be, and Allegra’s recipes have a very generous spirit to them, like the best kitchens should. There aren’t many details on this one yet as it’s not out until November but I shall definitely be looking out for this one.

So, Autumn doesn’t need to be all about casseroles, so maybe decide to mix it up this season and keep trying to hang onto some of the sunshine in the kitchen.