My penultimate blog of the year and another really busy week. I’ve been up to a few things recently that I can’t talk about yet but not long til I can come clean!
Last Monday afternoon, my agent Rosemary Scoular took Sarah and me to lunch at Quo Vadis in Soho. We had some ‘kickshaws‘ there, which are little fried pastry parcels filled with different things every day (as they have a daily changing menu) and I can’t stop thinking about them! I’m going to try and make some myself tomorrow with the leftovers from today’s Sunday roast. Meeting Rosemary has been one of the coolest things to happen to me this year. The idea that I have an agent is still pretty ridiculous to me, but she’s made the whole process post-Bake Off really enjoyable and exciting and thanks to her, I’m really looking forward to 2015.
After lunch, Sarah and I went to a shop opposite called Soho Knives to get my Christmas present. I’m doing so much cooking at the moment so Sarah got me a set of Wüsthof knives (pictured above, which I’m not allowed to use until Christmas). I’ve had some good Japanese knives in the past but I can be a bit heavy handed and have managed to break them. These ones are a bit tougher and great quality. I’m spending Christmas with my German brother-in-law so I reckon he’ll be glad the sturdy, German-made ones were my preferred choice!
On Tuesday, heat magazine‘s Christmas issue went on sale featuring a really fun afternoon I had a few weeks ago with Alison Hammond from Strictly / This Morning, George from Gogglebox / Celeb Big Brother, Chloe-Jasmine from the X Factor and Ferne from TOWIE. We went to a really posh town house in Clapham and the guys all had to bake for me and I judged them, with Alison as the overall winner. It was such a laugh, as you can see from the daft video of it here. I’m up in Essex for Christmas with my in laws so hopefully I’ll get to catch up with George for a pint as he’s nearby. And Alison’s doing the Strictly tour next year so I might pop along when she’s at Wembley in February with a birthday cake for her. I got to pinch the snowman jumper I wore on the shoot too 🙂
On Tuesday afternoon I went to the Great Ormond Street Christmas Party to decorate cakes with some of the kids. It was a brilliant afternoon. There were about 500 kids there who are past and current patients at the hospital. It’s been an absolute privilege to have got to do a few things with Great Ormond Street Hospital this year and we had a really special day. There were so many people there, including Sam Bailey, winner of last year’s X Factor (pictured with me above), who was absolutely lovely. I could have easily spent all day there.
Wednesday was pretty special for me too as I’ve talked before on my blog about being a massive fan of Radio 4. On Wednesday afternoon I featured on the show “You & Yours” talking about how much I love making Christmas dinner, and for our families, all mucking in together to make different bits is part of the fun of it. If my eldest daughter peels the carrots, I don’t give a monkey’s what the food ends up looking like! It’s more important to me that the kids are involved in preparing a family meal from a young age. We’ve always fed the kids what we eat and eaten our meals with them. All we ever really needed to tweak was putting less salt in our food but as a result, they’re both pretty adventurous eaters.
On Thursday I concentrated on getting all my Christmas shopping done, which was pretty organised for me. I’m not big on shopping but St Pancras train station makes things a bit more manageable. It’s pretty much got everything I need for Christmas shopping in one place – a John Lewis, a Fortnum & Mason, a Hamley’s – and it’s only 20 minutes from my front door. It also has one of my favourite things in London: there are a few ‘street pianos‘ there, and every time I go to St Pancras there’s a different passer by playing them (such as in the video above). A really great concept – you can lose yourself for ages standing around and listening.
Friday was our big Bake Off Christmas Party with all the contestants except Iain, who was flying to Belfast on Friday afternoon. Iain was there in spirit though as he’d shared the pictures with us from his recent charity naked shoot for January’s issue of Gay Times (out next week), to raise money for Balls to Cancer! We met up at the London Transport Museum bar for cocktails (gotta love a bright red Routemaster cocktail) in Covent Garden. We then had a fantastic dinner at Boulevard Brasserie in Covent Garden and spent all night drinking, catching up, swapping (mainly baking related) Secret Santa presents and talking about the incredible year we’ve all had. We finished the night with drinks at The Punch & Judy on Covent Garden piazza. They really looked after us in all the venues we went to – I’d highly recommend them. This year I’ve been so lucky to have met my 11 fellow bakers – a bunch of really great people from all over the country who get on so well and are brought together by their shared love of baking. Martha, Jordan, his partner Bonnie, Claire, and her husband Carl all stayed over at ours so it was a pretty late night all in all but totally awesome.
Saturday was a lazy day nursing a bit of hangover. Claire and her husband Carl cooked us a massive fry up (Full Northern Breakfast!) at our house, which was a real treat for me, not having to cook for once! We love having a full house and me and my fellow bakers are already busy planning our next meet up in 2015.
Finally, today was an early start for the family as we took our girls to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. I’ve been meaning to go for years but the girls are old enough to appreciate it now. It was really magical and put us all in the mood for Christmas. I’m glad we got there just after it opened as by the early afternoon it was heaving but the girls were ready to come home by then. If you get a chance to go before it closes on 4 January it’s definitely worth it but I’d recommend getting there for when it opens at 10am.
It’s been an “Isn’t London awesome” kind of a week as I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some of the best bits of the city this week, a bit like running around a giant Monopoly board. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and thanks for reading. See you next week for the last blog post of 2014!