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Icon of home cooking in conversation
Baking Queen and National Treasure Mary Berry recently launched her latest TV series, Mary Berry Everyday, on BBC 2 and on March 16, 2017, fans will have the chance to hear her talk about it, and the accompanying book, at Birmingham Town Hall.
There will also be the chance to question Mary at the end of the event – and all ticketholders will receive a copy of the Mary Berry Everyday book.
So what would you ask the Great British Bake Off star? Here are some questions fired at Mary by Weekend Notes – and the answers she gave.
What was the thought process that went into the writing of Mary Berry Everyday?
I was thinking about, as the title suggests, 'Everyday'. Everyday can be just with the family, it can mean having friends around, it can be a special occasion. This book is giving the recipes I have done for a long time a bit of a twist. There aren't too many ingredients in the recipes either, which was also important. But you must also remember ingredients do change. For instance, Butternut Squash and Quinoa are used a lot more now. People see Quinoa on the supermarket shelf and they know they have had it in a restaurant but they don't know what to do with it. And so I have added a few more ingredients to the Quinoa in order to make it tastier. I want to inspire people to cook and I do think a book is a nice thing to have. I am very lucky that people do trust me and that they do have a go.
What are some of your favourite recipes in the book?
I like the ones I can make ahead because we are all busy and I like to do something that is suitable for the weather – things that are in season, things that aren't too complicated. I've included some summery recipes in this book, plus casseroles with dumplings. Usually with dumplings, it's a blob! What I have done is taken a suet crust and flattened it out and then made it into a Swiss roll, putting horseradish in the swirl. It's delicious.
Did you try the recipes all out on your family first?
All the recipes are tried out at home. My family tell me what they think. And yes of course I do take constructive criticism! The children might say 'oh yuck' or someone may say 'that takes too long to do' and those don't go in the book. But I make sure there aren't too many of those! It's important not to have too many ingredients or pieces of equipment. There are lots of amazing tips and techniques included in the book.
If you had to pick out a few vital tips, what would they be?
It's a good idea to have a set of digital scales. Not so much for savoury dishes, but definitely for baking because if you do go heavy on an ingredient, it can alter the whole texture. If people want the same result as I have been showing them on television, a set of measuring spoons is ideal, too, especially if they want the same flavour – and particularly so with spices.
Does your husband, Paul, ever try to butt in and help you with the cooking? What's his speciality?
Paul is wonderful. He is always there for me. Take today. I have a big day today and he was so brilliant, cleaning and tidying everything up after breakfast. But him do the cooking? You must be joking! I do the cooking at home and on the rare occasion I am not well, he will always make an omelette. And after two or three omelettes, I am normally better!
What savoury dish is your stand out speciality when you are cooking for friends and family?
It depends on what sort of occasion it is. If it's a cold winter's day, I might do beef stew with horseradish dumplings. Or I might do a fillet of beef en croute. It really depends what it is for. As a rule, however, my first course would very likely be on a little plate for everybody with maybe a salad or a terrine. It would be ready to serve. And then the main dish, I prepare ahead and so then I simply need to reheat it or add something like cream or fried mushrooms. For the pudding, I do two – one luxurious and, also, some fresh fruit prepared without any sugar in a bowl. You offer it to them but they never want it and we have it for breakfast the next day!
Are you keen to involve your family in your work life more nowadays?
My daughter Annabel and I have cooked together since she was young and we had a Salad Dressings and Sauces business together which we sold a few years ago but still have approval on the new products. The grandchildren are in the new series of Everyday, which is accompanying the publication of my book. In one episode, I make Goat's Cheese and Atalanta helps me milk the goats. As we were walking up, I said to her, 'have you ever milked goats before?' Quick as a flash, she replied, 'no granny, I have never milked nothing'! But she was so successful at milking the goat and I was no good at all! It's good to involve children in helping to cook and choosing a recipe they can do well. If you have their friends around to play, you can make pizzas and let them choose the toppings or you can make cakes. They need someone there to help weigh things out but it is a lot of fun.
You are everybody's favourite cook. You have become part of British culture. Do you get embarrassed or are you flattered?
People are so nice and I am very, very lucky. People touch me on the arm in a supermarket and gently lean over and say things like, 'that Lemon Drizzle cake, we love it'. Most say, 'thanks to you, my children have got into baking'. It's so lovely of them to say that.
Do you ever get emotional about how well you have done and what have you achieved?
No, no! I am very lucky to have had the opportunity!