Now I may well have talked about this a fair amount. If you’re bored beyond belief of hearing about my NEW BOOK then look away now. If you do want to hear about it, read on.
It’s out tomorrow! So shall I tell you about how it came about?
Back in January I got a call from my agent. He wanted me to sit down, he said I’d be VERY excited. So I did. (Because I always do what Graeme says, he’s very wise after all). And well, he said Iceland wanted to meet me. To discuss all manner of things including writing a book for them.
Once I’d slowly worked out he wasn’t talking about the Iceland Tourist Board, (which had flummoxed me, why on earth did they want me to write a book about them? I haven’t even been there, though I’ve heard it’s very nice) I got very excited. I am kind of freezer obsessed. Always have been. I used to accompany my mother on epic trips to Bejam back in the 80’s, so you could say it started young.
So I met them and they were just lovely. We talked about frozen food, making the most of your freezer, my obsession with making frozen yoghurt and homemade frozen ready meals of pizza, lasagne and the like. They were as interested and obsessed with all things frozen as I was. It was the best blind date I’ve ever had. (And I’ve had a lot, you’re looking at a Guardian Soulmates old hand here).
Anyway, we talked about a book they were planning on producing; 45 recipes to celebrate 45 years of Iceland. I was listening, but already scribbling furiously in my notebook. I had ideas! Loads of them!
They explained that whilst the book would be called ‘The Power of Frozen’ not all the recipes had to use everything from frozen. In fact, some of the recipes could have absolutely nothing frozen in them. The book was first and foremost a celebration. The emphasis should be on the book being a good, useful book full of great recipes. It wasn’t a money maker for them (all profits go to the Children’s Food Trust), nor was its purpose to push sales of frozen fish or berries or even gelato. No. This book was a book for everyone to be proud of and one that customers would use time and time again.
Well, this is kind of the perfect brief for a recipe writer; enough detail so that you don’t go completely off on a tangent and start developing 100 ways with sweet potato, but without any real constraints. To say I was excited was an understatement. I hot footed it to Iceland and the recipe development began.
And after sending through 70 or so recipe ideas, Iceland chose 45 and I set to work developing them, testing them, testing them again and then asking some friends to test recipes. The recipes HAD to work perfectly. Now this may sound obvious. Certainly before I got into this recipe writing game I was more than a little green about recipe books. You see, I assumed a few things. Firstly that the person who has their name on the spine wrote the book. Secondly that they might have also tested the recipes. Thirdly that even if they hadn’t written the recipes, perhaps the person who did might have made them – picked up a spoon and some scales and MADE the recipe.
Well, let me tell you. None of these things are always true. I know! Shocking isn’t it? Anyway, back to the book.
It has five main chapters as well as a whole section on Freezer Husbandry (sorry, but I just LOVE these two words together, love it so much it tickles me) and one on Pantry Essentials, because, a well stocked pantry, as we all know, is next to Godliness.
The chapters are user-friendly, they’re not split into moods, days of the week or even star signs. They’re split into occasion, as in, there’s a chapter of starters and light bites that includes baked (not fried – who wants to heat vats of oil? not me) Scotch eggs, honey and mustard sausages, a winter veg soup, garlic mushrooms, Asian chicken lollipops and garlic butter tiger prawns. Then there’s a chapter of easy mid-week suppers. The kind of food that takes little hands on time and goes down well with everyone. In this chapter there are gems like my parmesan crusted chicken, pesto and lemon salmon, prawn and pea curry, cowboy’s sausage casserole and even a Quorn cottage pie.
There’s a chapter of comfort classics that includes a recipe for pretty much every comfort food you might ever fancy. There’s steak and stout pie, macaroni cheese, sweet and sour pork, fish and chip pie, chicken, cider and bacon one pot and a slow cooked unctuous beef ragu to name just a few.
There’s a chapter of recipes to impress, the kind of dishes you might serve up to curry favour with husbands/wives/neighbours/in-laws/people you owe a favour – like Moroccan lamb with paprika dumplings, Cajun pulled pork with a spicy slaw, scallop, salmon and dill pie, paella and a warming beef goulash.
Lastly there’s a whole chapter of sweet treats including a speedy chocolate berry steamed pudding that’s on the table in 15 minutes using a microwave to fasten the cooking time. There’s also a classic lemon tart, a very decadent caramel popcorn cheesecake, apple pancakes and of course, a perfectly squidgy brownie recipe.
Where it’s relevant there are suggestions for how to save a bit of time, where you might save some pennies and also, how you can ring the changes. It’s a very useful recipe book. Now, before I say the next thing, can you just take a moment to remember I still pinch myself on a daily basis that I get to do something I love for a living. Remember I am always the girl thinking it could all end tomorrow. I even keep my old CV up to date. Here goes.
I am SO PROUD of this book. So, so, so proud. It makes my heart sing. There are no filler recipes. There’s nothing in it I don’t love. Even the apple pancakes, and I don’t even like pancakes that much. It’s a book for foodies without being full of silly ingredients no one can find. It’s a book for every night of the week, without compromising on flavour. I am so ridiculously excited about this book, I can’t wait for you to see it. It even tells you how long the prep and cooking time are for each recipe so you don’t get half way through and see the marinade needs 4 days to really flavour the meat. (Ugh, who has time for this?)
So, if you have a spare £5.99 and like the idea of supporting the Children’s Food Trust then buy a copy, hell buy two, buy three even! Give one as a gift to someone who loves to cook. Give one to someone about to set off on a new journey in their life, perhaps they’re off to uni and need a good recipe book to see them through. Maybe they’re a new mum who needs some easy and delicious recipes that don’t cost the earth or take all night to cook. Just buy it! It’s all in a good cause.
Rather excitingly I have a giveaway for all you lovely lot. Here’s the deal. Iceland have £50 worth of vouchers to giveaway as well as 5 x £20 vouchers for runners up. All you have to do is buy the book, make something from it and upload a picture of the dish with the book in the background to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and tag me and Iceland on it. (Our social media names are in the back of the book – on the same page as the ‘bit about me’). So you could win £50 worth of food just for taking a picture of your dinner! And you can enter as many times as you like, as long as it’s a different recipe each time. You have one month to get cooking, baking and snapping then I’ll announce the winners. They’ll be chosen at random, so please don’t worry about your food styling skills.
Thanks for listening. Now onto the recipe – one from my new book!
This no–bake cheesecake takes the humble cinema snack to a whole new level with the power of homemade caramel.
Popcorn Caramel Cheesecake
To prepare 45 minutes | To chill 4 hours | Serves 12
For the base:
- 120g digestive biscuits (about 8), crushed
- 75g butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
For the cheesecake:
- 180g cream cheese, softened
- 50g icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 184ml double cream, whipped to stiff peaks
For the topping
- 100g salted butter
- 120g dark brown sugar
- 100ml double cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 60g sweet popcorn
Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin with cling film – this is important as it makes the cake much easier to remove later. Mix the biscuits, melted butter and sugar together then press this into the tin using the back of a metal spoon. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
To make the cheesecake layer, beat the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract with an electric mixer or a wooden spoon until combined. Gently fold through the whipped double cream using a large metal spoon and spoon the filling on to the chilled biscuit base. Smooth until flat, leaving a slight ridge around the edge (this helps the caramel sauce to stay on top of the cheesecake) and chill for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the caramel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk well. Once the sugar has dissolved slightly and looks less grainy, add the cream, stir and turn up the heat. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and cook at a low simmer for 5 minutes, stirring all the time (it’s best to time this stage as you need to be precise). The mixture will bubble and spit a little as it’s simmering, so be careful not to stand too close and make sure children aren’t near the hob. After 5 minutes, remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract – beware, the mixture will bubble up again. Then stir and leave the caramel to thicken and cool.
When the caramel is thick, at room temperature, but still pourable, reserve 3 tablespoons, then spoon the rest over the top of the chilled cheesecake. Add the popcorn and drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons of caramel on top. Chill for another 2 hours.
NOTE You can make this cheesecake the night before you need it, but make the caramel and popcorn topping on the day.
Save time . . . use a ready–made toffee or caramel sauce rather than making your own. It won’t be as thick, so drizzle it over the cheesecake portions after slicing.
Try . . . toasting some pecans or hazelnuts to finely chop and add to the biscuit base. Or add ½ teaspoon of salt to the caramel and use salted popcorn rather than sweet for a salted caramel version.
Photo credit: Mike Cooper