What’s your favourite Enid Blyton story?
As a youngster I remember being obsessed by the Secret Seven and Naughtiest Girl in the School , but when I revisited them researching for this book, both my daughter & I were utterly enthralled by The Faraway Tree series - I loved Enid’s blank canvas of a literal world of opportunity that might exist at the top of those branches…not to mention the characters that inhabited them!
What inspired you to write the cookbook?
I’ve always been a Blyton-lover, and so when I heard there was a book in the offing I was first in line at the casting. The life and adventures Enid paints are so much fun, so relatable and so wholesome, and food is a common theme throughout that. From Snacks in the Secret Seven’s shed to Picnics in the great English countryside to Midnight Feasts, clandestinely scoffed at boarding schools, food forms an important backbone to the books, as indeed it should to all children’s lives.
What other books were firm favourites when you were growing up?
Like most kids I particulalry liked books about animals (like Mrs Frisby & the Rats of Nimh), kids (Harriet the Spy was top of my list for a long time) or both, like Danny Champion of the World
Did your children help you with recipe testing for the book?
Well my 7 year old, Delilah was very helpful and engaged with the book, critiquing, enthusiastically tasting and helping with the baking particularly.
My younger daughter, Marnie, now 7 weeks was in utero at the time and to be honest I’m not sure how much help that was through long days of recipe testing!
What are your children’s favourite books?
We’re enjoying the wonderful world of Rabbit & Bear at the moment…particularly the one about Rabbit’s bad Habits (well, anything to do with poo goes down well with kids). Also Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls ….how I wish this book had been around in the 70s!
I’m also really looking forward to revisting some of the ones Delilah & I loved when she was little with Marnie - Goodnight Moon is about to come back into my life - hooray!
Favourite restaurant to take the kids to?
Hmmmm - don’t judge me but I’d have to say The River Cafe: I worked there 20 years ago so it always feels a bit like coming home. They have that fantastic attitude to children that you rarely find outside Italy... there’s that perfect outdoor grassy bit for the kids to play on whilst the grown-ups enjoy a long, chilled out lunch…oh and the food’s pretty good too! Mindblowingly expensive, it’s worth every penny for a once a summer treat.
What age do you recommend introducing children to cooking?
As early as possible - truly! Delilah spent her toddlership sitting on the kitchen table, playing with flour and sticking her fingers in bowls as I tested recipes for whatever my latest project was. I don’t know if that had a direct effect on that at-one-ness with kitchen creativity but she loves cooking now…and is a darn good eater to boot! One of the first food choices she ate on her own was a rabbit leg, grabbed from the side table when I was shooting a book - no-one noticed until it had nearly all disappeared inside her. That day I was a slightly shocked but blushingly proud Chef Mama.
What’s your favourite recipe from the book?
Hmmmm - can I have two? Either Google Buns or Silky’s Pop Cakes.
How do you juggle your time?
Frantically, and with the help of friends and family!
Favourite way to spend a weekend in London with the kids?
Slow start Saturday with a big brekkie, then out and about, pottering, riding bikes/wheelies…etc.
Sunday lunch at home with friends followed by a walk in the park or down by the river taking in a pint on the way home. Perfection!
Plans for 2018?
I recently bought Albertine, a winebar in Shepherd’s bush that my mum set up in the late 70s. I have very happy memories of going there as a child about the same age as Delilah is now after school and hanging out with my mum in the kitchen and ‘helping’ her prepare food for the next day. She ran it with her cousin for a few years then sold it to a chap called Giles who ran it for 35 years, during which time my mum died, when I was 17. I used to go in there as it reminded me of her and always said to Giles that when he was ready to retire could he give me the opportunity to buy it before putting it on the market, which he did. I raised all the money through family and friends, and we reopend earlier this year with the winebar much as it was in my mum’s day, and a new cosy restaurant on the first floor.
Apart from having my girls, buying Albertine back feels like the rightest thing I’ve ever done, so I plan to spend most of 2018 looking after what is now the family business!
Are you watching The Bake Off - if so who do you think is going to win?
Sadly no time with a newborn in the house! I dont think I’ve had the telly on for months (except for my daughter watching Teen Titians Go!)
JOLLY GOOD FOOD (Hodder Children's Books, HB £14.99) publishes on 5th October 2017.