Q. What started your love of cooking?
One of my earliest memories is sitting in my high chair enjoying a lunch at my grandparent’s house. I have always enjoyed good food, and grew up in a family who loves food, too. I was very lucky as a child, as my mother and grandparents allowed me to cook with them, and so I had the opportunity to get involved in the kitchen young. I think enjoying good food leads to a desire to cook, and it is something I have enjoyed throughout my life, at every stage.
Q. You studied at Ballymaloe, under Darina Allen, Rory O’Connell and Rachel Allen – what are some of your best memories or was it all just hard work!
I had a brilliant time at Ballymaloe. My first three cookbooks were published by Rachel’s Editor, who recommended the course to me. And I’m so glad I went. I found it hard as I was already writing about food when I went, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well, but I really think the experience is what you make of it – you get out what you put in. One of the most special elements of the course at Ballymaloe was living on the organic farm, and cooking with the most delicious, fresh ingredients every day. It really is a unique experience, and a privilege to be taught by the amazing team of teachers at Ballymaloe.
Q. The Hungry Student cook books have been a huge success – what prompted you to write them and any more books coming up soon that you can tell us about?
The Hungry Student Cookbooks have done really well. They were published 7 years after I graduated, and were based on my experiences cooking for myself on just £10 a week in many shared kitchens. It is entirely possible to feed oneself well in these circumstances and I wanted to share ideas which, from the feedback I have received, have been really useful to many people. Half of the battle with cooking is ideas. I receive a great number of letters from readers who love the recipes in the Hungry Student Cookbooks, and it’s interesting that the books have becoming popular by many readers who aren’t students, too, but just want ideas for delicious, easy, inexpensive recipes to make at home every day.
My new book, SMOKED, is out on 4th May. It is a beginners guide to hot and cold smoking and covers a really wide range if fish, meat, dairy and vegetables. So, if you fancy making your own smoked salmon and bacon, give this a go!
Q. You launched the Field & Fork School earlier this year – can you tell us a little more of what you’re trying to do there?
I care passionately about sharing knowledge and skills to get people cooking for themselves at home. I set up the Field & Fork School to offer affordable and accessible cooking classes. We are looking for financial backing to open a permanent centre to run more classes, as we are currently operating on a pop-up basis. More information is on our website www.field-fork.co.uk
Q. You also find time to run an informative and successful blog – do you enjoy that and can you give us a sneak peak of what’s to come on the blog?
Thank you! It’s a great way of sharing great recipes that don’t get published in books, and communicating with my readers. So many recipes on there have become family favourites for readers, who email me to tell me this. I think the most popular recipe is the long-lost date and walnut cake. I also write gourmet food guides to places, sharing my recommendations for where to eat, stay and what to do, which is often in partnership with Mitsubishi, for whom I am a Brand Ambassador.
Q. Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of getting into food writing or writing a book in general?
It’s a tough business, but a great one. I love my job, but it is hard work, and it is a crowded market. I’d suggest starting with a blog to find your voice – a cliché, but so critical – and to find your audience.
Q. What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Dartmouth Food Festival?
Dartmouth Food Festival is such a unique weekend and I absolutely love it. It is such a privilege to have participated in events over the last couple of years. I love that there is a lot of free access, that the food stalls are really excellent quality, and the speaker line up is second to none. It’s also such a friendly festival and just a lovely place to spend the weekend. I would say this as I am half Devonian, but the quality of ingredients and cooking in Devon is just phenomenal and it’s great to experience the best of the best.
Q. Will you be giving any workshops or demonstrations this year? If so, what will you be showing the audience?
I’d love to – this hasn’t been arranged yet though.
Q. Is there anyone / anything you’re really looking forward to seeing or sampling at the Festival this year?
There are so many talented individuals involved in the Dartmouth Festival. It is my dream to meet Joyce Molyneux, an inspiration, and also I love anything Jane Baxter, Mitch Tonks, Susy Atkins and Manna from Devon do.
Q. Lastly – what’s your favourite part of being involved at the Festival?
It is just so much fun to be involved in such an interesting and informative event, and a real privilege to meet such incredible people from near and far. It is uniquely special.