Sowing the Seeds

nigella bookWatching the ghastly events at Isleworth Court this week, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion I’d be Team Nigella since it would take a lot for me to back a man who throttled his wife. But it was also because Nigella has probably been the biggest influence on my cooking career of anyone.

It was her columns in Vogue in the very late 90s that turned me from being able to make food to being able to cook and understanding the power of writing and talking about food. Prior to that, most of my food influence had been from family or watching people like Keith Floyd on TV, but Nigella introduced me to food writing. Her columns seemed incredibly grown up and very cosmopolitan. I felt so very adult cooking things she wrote about while friends made baked potatoes and Old El Paso kits when we went round for dinner before a big night out.

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Christmas Charity Challenge for £3

Surprisingly, I’m not yet thinking of what to have for Christmas dinner. Instead my mind is occupied by what I can create for this fantastic challenge by BuyAGift.co.uk in aid of the Trussell Trust who run many of the foodbanks in the UK. Setting aside my annoyance that foodbanks need exist in this day and age, this is a great idea.

The challenge is to  see if you can cook a festive meal for two people for just £3 in total. You can then enter your dish(es) into the competition and help win £600 for your local Trussell Trust food bank and a little something for you as well. Rules and full details can be found here. The competition runs until December 15th and is a great way to challenge yourself to try something different on a budget.

I’ll be very impressed if you can buy the entire dish for £3, but you can use portioning to keep within the budget. So if your bag of sugar costs £1 and you use a quarter, then it’s 25p of your whole budget. This challenge is likely to test my maths skills to the maximum as I go!

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YBF 2012 Award

A Young British Foodie…

YBF 2012 Award

I’m not sure which I’m more excited about: still being able to say I’m young (just shy of my 35th birthday) or being able to announce that I won the Young British Foodies Foodwriting Award 2013!

A joint winner along with Helen of Food Stories, it was a real honour to be nominated alongside her and Sam Muston of The Independent and all these fabulous people; plus I never say no to canapés and a few free drinks!

Meeting Yotam Ottolenghi was a highlight too, so I think this is a great time to announce that I’ll be joining him and other authors such as Mary Berry at Ebury Publishing. I haven’t crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s on the project yet, but I think you’re going to love it…

Before then however, I’m delighted to say I’m writing and editing the forthcoming Recipes from Brixton Village cookbook through KitchenPress. Publishing in Spring 2014, it will be featuring recipes from all your favourite restaurants and traders in Brixton Village. We’ve got exclusives from Fish Wings and Tings‘ codfish fritters, Kaosarn‘s green curry and Lab G‘s salted caramel ice cream amongst others. (I sense Jay Rayner will be after a copy the minute it’s hot off the press.)

Kitchen Press logo

I’m getting used to calling myself a writer these days since I’m signed with an agent and everything. The fantastic Caroline Hardman at Hardman and Swainson is representing me and handling my wide-eyed wonder at all this beautifully!*

I’ll be continuing to blog here and at the Brixton Blog and at risk of sounding a bit like I’m at the Oscars, I’d just like to thank everyone who has been reading at both sites. I love sharing my cooking and writing with you all. Your feedback and comments are fantastic and a real pleasure to read.

Mister North and I will definitely be keeping up our working relationship, and I’m hoping we might even have time to see each other at some point too! He’s also got all kinds of exciting design and photography projects going on around food, which hopefully you’ll get a chance to see at some point soon.

I don’t know about him, but I’m slightly overwhelmed by how far the blog has come in just under 4 years that I think I need a cuppa and a biscuit followed by a lie down so we can keep going!

*Caroline can be contacted at Hardman Swainson.

One Mangetout at a Time

25 mussels

I think we all know how I felt about Jamie’s comments about poor people in Britain, but just before I fell asleep, I panicked and jolted awake in horror. What if he was right and me writing off Sicilian peasant cuisine in south west London was short sighted? After all, my mantra about food poverty is that there is no one size fits all answer to such a complex problem and there was me, who does have a market just up the road ignoring the advice.

Luckily it was Wednesday ,when any batch cooking from the weekend tends to have run out, since I have a rule to only eat 2 portions of anything and freeze the rest so I don’t put myself off my staples and keep food enjoyable. I was also feeling well enough to get out of the house before half day closing in Brixton market to buy mussels, cherry tomatoes, pasta and those mangetout that attracted so much attention.

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Dear Jamie Oliver…

(Update: After writing this piece, Miss South shopped for, and made Jamie Oliver’s much-debated meal with mussels. tomatoes, pasta and of course, mange tout. Was it possible to buy the individual ingredients, and did it cost just 60p? Find out here.)

So tell me why I should listen to you on ‘Money Saving Meals’ when it’s clear that you don’t really understand poverty in the UK? Do you have any special knowledge that the 9 million households who will migrate onto Universal Credit don’t have about the day in day out grind of making ends meet? And why do we have to put up with being derided and criticised yet again? We’ve got the Department of Work and Pensions and the coalition government for that usually…

In this piece, you skirt very close to blaming poor people for just not trying hard enough. Now, I think I’ve covered this before here and I have no great urge to rehash the points (although I’m poor and I do know that a hash makes an inexpensive meal at least), but I’m staggered by your lack of responsibility here Jamie.

One of the biggest reasons we can’t all live the life of a Sicilian peasant with our handful of mussels and darling little pasta dishes is that our shopping options have been decimated by the supermarkets which now account for about 90% of food shopping in the UK. This would include the supermarket chain that you advertised for 10 years. And the other five or six that stock your ready made pasta sauces and branded foods.

This is a situation where supermarkets have filled the breach where people no longer got taught Home Economics or cookery at school by telling them cooking was really really hard and that life would be more simple if they just bought this pre prepared item. They branded and bagged everything we ate and turned it to profit over anything more profound. And you encouraged it by slapping your face and your name on everything from grow bags to magazines because it made you money.

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