The way to my heart is well and truly through my stomach and I don’t think my stomach has ever been as happy as it’s been this week.
Back in the early 1990s a place called Yaohan Plaza opened just down the road from me on the Edgware Road. It had a SegaWorld, a massive Asian food court and a huge Chinese supermarket. For a teenager like me who loved computer games, karate, anime and Asian food, it was pretty much the coolest place in the world to hang out. Over the years it evolved: the SegaWorld closed, it opened under new management as Oriental City but the food court and the supermarket remained. My love for bubble tea, sushi, pho and ramen noodles was still taken care of. Sadly about ten years ago it closed its doors for good – sad times.
This week was a very happy week for the people of North London. Bang Bang Oriental opened on the site of the Yaohan Plaza with 27 different Asian food stalls and a big Chinese restaurant too – happy times! On Monday, to celebrate our daughters’ excellent school reports, we took a family trip there for dinner. It was absolutely jam packed! One thing I’m really pleased about is that my kids are pretty good eaters, especially our eldest daughter. We have a deal whenever we go to the Chinese supermarket Wing Yip that she can have anything she likes as long as she also has something she doesn’t recognise. She took the same approach at Bang Bang Oriental and got stuck into so many different foods, as did her sisters (our youngest pictured below).
I was so excited to be there on Monday that I went back with my Dad (who is also a massive fan) on Wednesday lunchtime. Then, just for good measure, Dad and I took my sister Joanne, her partner Trent and my niece on Friday lunchtime too. I could happily eat there every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner! If you’re passing North London any time soon make sure you drop in. But be warned: it was packed out on a Monday evening and on the weekends people are queuing out the doors!
Having gone from an Asian food extravaganza all week it was all about the best of British at Jimmy’s Farm Beer & Sausage Festival in Suffolk this weekend. It’s our third year back with the team at Jimmy’s and the whole family absolutely love it, as do I. It always marks the start of the summer holidays for us. All the way back home tonight the kids have been listing their favourite things from the weekend: the kids playground, the entertainers (check out The Flying Seagull Project, who do incredible work with children all over the world), the fairground rides, the face painting, the candy floss, helping me with my demo and book signing (above). I’m in such a fortunate position where my baking hobby takes me to such cool events that the whole family can enjoy together. The team at Jimmy’s always look after us so well, especially Jon Gay and of course Jimmy Doherty himself.
I demoed my Swedish Wreath (pictured above) from my 5-star-rated book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, as it always goes down well at a festival – plenty of it to share around at the end. It’s a recipe similar to one I won Star Baker with on the Bake Off. The compère on the food stage was a fantastic chef called Joe Hurd, who I first met at Sabrina Ghayour‘s book launch last year. Joe is one of the most interesting people I’ve met in the food industry. He is so passionate and knowledgeable, and the smells from his food demo had the whole crowd salivating. It’s such a pleasure to work with people like Joe who care so much about food and sharing this with other people. He even took the time to introduce my eldest to using basil as perfume, which she loved. It was also great catching up with my Bake Off mate Martha and her family. Martha’s second recipe book, Crave, is out this week and we’re looking forward to her book launch this week.
I was also lucky enough to meet the actor Kevin Bishop at Jimmy’s Farm today. If you’ve not caught it yet, have a look at the snooker film (trust me!) ‘The Rack Pack’ on BBC iPlayer that he stars in. It was one of the best dramas I saw last year and it’s available to watch here. I’m a big fan of Kevin’s, ever since the hilarious Star Stories from about ten years ago. My wife Sarah and I still quote from the Take That episode all the time and I’m so pleased to see the whole Star Stories box set is available on 4 On Demand. Make time to watch it, especially the Take That episode, available here.
And if my food week hadn’t been awesome enough already, I’ve come back from Jimmy’s with an enormous vegetable box (pictured above), courtesy of Riverford Organic. I can’t wait to start working my way through it. If you’re in the festival mood now, I’ll be at Countryfile Live in a few weeks – there for the whole weekend but demonstrating on the Thursday. Come and say hi if you get the chance. Until next week, Happy Baking!