Nancy Birtwhistle's Year in Food

The 2014 winner of The Great British Bake Off talks us through her love of the South of France and how her family are at the heart of big foodie occasions.

Nancy Birtwhistle's Year in Food

January has begun and a new year lies ahead – after the decadence of the Christmas period, what do you think makes a good foodie new year’s resolution?

Nancy says: Let’s not throw anything away – try to use all the leftovers you can. In the winter we all need lots of lovely soups and stews and you can use up so much food in those recipes.

Steak and chsipEvery year we see our steak content rocket in popularity around Valentine’s Day – from beef cut to chip style, what would be your ultimate steak dinner?

Nancy says: It’s got to be steak and chips. I love a nice steak, some twice-cooked chips - quite fat ones – and a grilled tomato with mushrooms. Add some herby flavours and that will do me just fine.

Our users go flipping crazy for Pancake Day – what’s your serving style of choice come Shrove Tuesday… and where do you stand on the filling situation? 

Nancy says: I have to say that when it comes to Shrove Tuesday I’m very traditional – just a squirt of lemon juice. The kids love golden syrup but for me it’s just lemon and sugar.

Spring sees us celebrating Mother’s Day. What influence does your family have over your cooking? We’re talking first meals right through to what you like to eat with your family today.

Nancy says: I think a firm family favourite that has lasted through the years is a steak pie. My kids loved that when they were little and they still love it now – whether or not it’s my signature dish I’m not sure, but they’ve always loved it.

Spring is a time to clean our kitchens of clutter – but what piece of kitchen kit would you never part with and what’s your favourite thing to make with it?

Nancy says: A hand whisk. I have quite a few bits of kit, but my favourite and the one I really can’t be without is an electric hand whisk. It’s essential for cakes, meringue, mashed potato – everything.

What’s your idea of the perfect Easter spread? From choice of egg to the finest roast dinner. 

Nancy says: This year, we ate our last turkey, who had been sitting patiently in the freezer since Christmas  we rear our own turkeys each year. I cooked for 17 and made a selection of desserts, We had a strawberry cheesecake, almond and amaretto tart, Simnel cake and coconut and lime pudding. It all went at the end because I begged them to take the leftovers home!

barbecued mackerelAs soon as the sun shines, we dust off our barbies. How do you go about throwing a truly sizzlin’ barbecue spread? 

Nancy says: We’ve just built a new barbecue so I can’t wait to have a go with that – its got a rotisserie so I’m going to experiment with different marinated meats and things like that. One of my favourite things on the barbecue is mackerel – you get a lovely crispy skin and it’s great with just a fresh salad.

Summer time means a nice relaxing holiday for lots of us – what’s your ultimate foodie travel destination, and what do eat when you’re there? 

Nancy says: The South of France. Whatever you want you can get, and you can pay a very reasonable amount for the ‘plat du jour’, which will be something delicious that has been cooking away for 12 hours and is very simple. Or, you can up the game and got to a Michelin-starred restaurant and, again, pay a fairly reasonable amount for a completely delectable meal.

September is back to school season – what do you think we should be teaching the future generation about cooking and eating? 

Nancy says: I’ve done some work with school children recently and I think it’s great that there is an interest in baking among children. I took in three types of flour and we made biscuits with rice flour, gluten-free flour and wheat flour to see how they differed. They were just brilliant these kids!

Jacket potatoesBonfire night is all about bangers, parkin and gathering around a fire with marshmallows – what do you cook when the fireworks are flying? 

Nancy says: I’ve done a few bonfire parties here with the grandkids and it's always very straightforward – jacket potatoes, parkin, toffee apples and that sort of thing – but quite simple finger food because everyone is outside. Oh, and lots of soup.

Talk us through your Christmas Day experience – from breakfast choices right through to the post-lunch snooze on the sofa. 

Nancy says: I love Christmas! I host it every other year – and it’s normally a massive meal for 20 people. When it’s my year I get well ahead. I’ll be doing cakes, bakes and puddings for weeks in advance. There’s always a turkey with all the trimmings and it really is not like any other meal in the year – there’s everything to go for! Hams, pork pies - it’s full on. 

More from Nancy Birtwhistle...

Nancy Birtwhistle interview: My time in the Bake Off tent

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