Botanical cocktails + book writing
So these days don’t come along too often, days when you get everyone you love and those you look up to and respect in the same place. Last week at the party to launch my book I managed it and I couldn’t wipe the gleaming ear to ear grin off my face all night. The reason it was so brilliant is that is was the final moment for my book, the moment it finally left my grip (which has been vice like at times, I assure you) and made its way into the world, and that didn’t come that easily.
Writing my book has been the joy of my life so far, it’s a dream come true, but as it turns out it’s not as easy as I’d thought. My optimistic character had visions of me as a modern Juila child, dancing around the kitchen as I took a perfectly domed cake out of the oven and called John in for a cup and tea and a pat on the back. But like most things in life it wasn’t how I’d dreamed it to be.
I love food, I love to cook and I love to write but the real truth is I found it all quite exposing. For so long I have been the back up, the right hand girl, the chick who ran set on with a microplane in a time of need. The one in the prep kitchen making 20 lemon drizzle cakes to get 5 perfect ones. And don’t get me wrong I bloody loved every second.
But I found myself in a situation where I had to work out what I wanted to say, there was no one to hide behind, it all felt quite exposing. You might think, oh its just a pile of recipes, and yes essentially that’s what a recipe book is, but when you spend your life cooking, those recipes kind of become a part of who you are.
Writing a book often gets compared to having a baby, can’t say that I can see that, I think having a baby is a much bigger deal (I’d be in trouble with a bunch of my girlfriends too if I said otherwise!), you can’t deposit a baby the bookshop/library after you’ve brought it onto the world.
There is something deeply exposing about writing down what you think. Its a bit like the time I was standing on a street corner waiting for my sister in a pretty well proportioned summer dress, just above the knee, I’d got dressed up nicely as we were going out for dinner.
A gust of wind came whistling round the corner and blew my dress pretty much clean over my head. Nice. There was a moment of complete panic in which I asked myself these questions in very quick succession What pants have I got on? Did the builders across the road see my bum? Did any of my colleagues in the office I am standing outside see my bum? How can I get my dress down and look cool?
You may wonder how on earth this is like writing book but in that moment I had to accept that some people may have seen my bum, some may have thought, ‘oh dear that girls got her bum out how unsavory’, some might have thought ‘well that’s quite a nice bum really’ and some won’t have even noticed. And writing this book for me was about accepting, that you can’t please everyone, that all you can do is put out there what you believe in and what you know and the rest is beyond your control completely.
So it was completely incredible at the launch party to be surrounded by friends family and cooks colleagues. It was a moment when you realise that whatever happens someone has got your back, its ok to be you, to be brave and to say what is important to you, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
So cheers to all those people who have my back, to the endless and brilliant Jones family. To Santos and Jimmy from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen who came and feed us all, to the lovely people from Jamie Oliver’s wood ovens who lent us a van with a wood burning stove in to cook in. To Innocent, Bottle Green and Qucmber and Tanqueray for some amazing drinks. Cheers this one is for you.
Botanical Elderflower and Cucumber Gin and Tonics
The glasses we raised were these Gin and Tonics. It’s my perfect Gin and Tonic, I don’t drink a lot of alcohol so when I do drink I want it each drink to be my ultimate version. I love really botanical gins, the deep but clean herby flavour of the botanical herbs mixed with the freshness of cucumber and he lemony zing of elderflowers is killer. I add a few coriander seeds here to pump up the botanical flavour even more. I use an elderflower tonic water here but if you can’t get it add a little drizzle of elderflower cordial too.
Photograph: Sam Stowell
Makes one good Gin and Tonic
4 slices of cucumber
1⁄2 a teaspoon of coriander seeds
lots of ice
50ml of good botanical Gin (I like Tanqueray)
150ml of elderflower tonic water
optional: 25ml of elderflower cordial
optional: a few elderflower blooms, washed
Bash the cucumber slices with the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar to release the flavour a little. Fill your glasses with ice and the bashed cucumber and coriander seeds, and pour over the gin, top with tonic and mix well top with elderflower blooms. Sip.