Back from an incredible weekend at Jamie Oliver & Alex James’s Big Feastival – WOW! Flaked on the sofa now with a Chinese take away, enjoying the luxury of dry feet and an inside loo.
I’ve had a cracking Bank Holiday Weekend to top off a very exciting week. I’ve had the week off work doing some promotional activity around my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, which was officially released on Thursday this week. I also took the opportunity on Tuesday to take my elder daughter to London Zoo to Meet the Meerkats. I will find any excuse for a visit to the Zoo – it’s my favourite place in London and they always make me really welcome. Publication day itself was great – back to BBC Broadcasting House for a few radio interviews followed by a celebration lunch at Copita with my agent, Rosemary Scoular. My publishers, Quadrille, also released this great little promo about my book, which my kids have been enjoying – especially the bit at the end!
It was Dessert Week on the Great British Bake Off this week and the standard is getting more impressive every week. As I said in my Radio Times review this week, I was disappointed to see the ban on blow torches for their crème brûlées – where’s the fun in that?! My own go-to crème brûlée recipe is for the orange blossom ones from my book, pictured above. A few years ago before we had the kids, my wife, some friends and I ran the Paris marathon together, having made a drunken bet that we couldn’t go back on. The day after completing the marathon, we treated ourselves to a slap-up lunch, which couldn’t have been more cliché-French if it tried: onion soup to start, then beef bourguignon and finally, perfect orange blossom crème brûlées, which inspired the ones in B.I.Y. For this week’s showstoppers, I think Mat’s were my favourite flavours but even with my sweet tooth I think I’d have struggled to taste 27 different cheesecakes – well done Paul and Mary! I really enjoy making puddings so I shared some of my top tips for perfect puds with my ‘Dessert SOS’ on BBC Good Food here.
As for this weekend, I’m still buzzing! On Friday morning we packed the car up and drove to the Cotswolds for The Big Feastival. We’d never been before but I think it’ll be an annual event for our family as everyone loved it and the kids are already asking whether we can live in our tent there forever! I did a food demo on the AEG Big Kitchen stage on Friday afternoon to a packed house, followed by a book signing in the Waterstone’s tent and a Q&A table session. I popped back to the Waterstone’s tent a few times over the weekend and all the copies of my book sold out. The staff there told me that my book had been the second best selling book of the weekend! That was the best news I could have heard and I’m really proud. I hope they end up well-thumbed and covered in flour!
The Big Feastival is perfect for families – I was blown away by how kid-friendly it was for our daughters (aged 6 and 3) and for my wife, who is nearly six months pregnant with our third child. During the days, there were loads of food exhibitors and demonstrations to visit. My elder daughter made sour dough bread with the Fabulous Baker Brothers and dumplings with the Dumpling Sisters. I caught up with loads of great chefs, including the legendary Raymond Blanc and Gennaro Contaldo, and the food on offer in the stalls was better quality than anything I’d ever had at a festival before. But in addition to all the great food, the music was incredible too. I had a few drinks with Damon Gough again (aka Badly Drawn Boy), met Sophie Ellis Bextor and family on the Big Wheel and got to go stage-side with my elder daughter for Paloma Faith‘s set, which closed the festival. I’m a bit rubbish at celebrity spotting so my mate had to point out the likes of Kate Moss and Professor Green to me as I didn’t notice them myself! For me, I was most star struck about meeting the actor David Bradley, who plays Mr Filch in Harry Potter and Walder Frey in Game of Thrones. He’s nothing like the baddies he portrays – he was a proper nice bloke! It was a real privilege to be there and I had a blast. I didn’t even mind having to put a tent down in heavy rain this morning for the second time in a few weeks (after Jimmy’s Farm in July!)
Anyway, I have a fun, sociable week ahead as it’s book launches for two of my Bake Off buddies – Frances Quinn (for Quinntessential Baking) and Luis Troyano (for Bake It Great). My book launch is the week after so there’s a lot to look forward to then as well. I’m hoping to catch up with some of this year’s Bake Off bakers at my book launch too. But for now I’ve got a special chow mein and a pile of prawn crackers to get back to so I’ll sign off and see you next week!