The Great British Bake Off star tells us what she loves cooking for Easter, her tips for baking and her local loves in Clapham…
Growing up in a food obsessed family on a farm in rural Brittany, Manon Lagrève has always been passionate about cooking but it wasn’t until she moved to London that she started to develop her hobby into something more. She set up a blog, entered The Great British Bake Off in 2018 in which she reached the quarter finals, and is now a recipe developer. She has just created her first book Et Voilà! (OH Editions, out 27 April) to share how we can all whip up a stylish cake or dessert. She lives close to Clapham Common with her husband and two-year old daughter.
Tell us how your background shaped your approach to food… I grew up surrounded by nature. My parents have been selling their own brand of eggs for the last 30 years and the rest of my close family are also either farmers or work in food, so I grew up on the farm and in the kitchen. French food is generally about enhancing the natural flavours of the main ingredients, we were lucky to always have local produce, seafood, fruits and veg from the garden. My mum makes kilos of jams and we do a lot of preserves to keep for the rest of the year. Food is at the core of our lives and always will be!
What inspired you to write your new book? In France, since we almost always have desserts, everyone who is a cook will be able to make one. There is actually not a word for the home baker in French! We let the pâtissier do their job at the boulangerie, and most of the recipes from Et Voilà! are the cakes and desserts that we make at home. This book is for anyone who likes to entertain, for the busy mum that needs to make a cake for the school fair, and for whoever needs a bit of easy inspiration to end a dinner party on a sweet note.
What are your biggest tips for successful baking? 1: Read the recipe from start to end, to give yourself some confidence that you can do it! 2: Weigh and prepare all of your ingredients in little bowls. 3: Trust the process and follow the recipe (Do not wing it!). 4: Make sure you check your bake every so often whilst it is in the oven.
Where are some of your favourite places in south west London? I love Petersham Nurseries, either to have a fine dining experience at the restaurant, enjoy the best carrot cake at the café or stroll around the beautiful shop, it is a little piece of heaven. I love the common, especially as a mum, it is truly the greatest place for a family. We like to have a coffee at Common Café, dine at Sorella or The Pigs Head, or head to Northcote Road and pick up a Merveilleux from Aux Merveilleux de Fred. We also check out the FARA charity book shop for secondhand French books for our daughter Fleur.
What dishes do you think are perfect for Easter entertaining? I love making a special paté en croute, with an egg inside, making it super Eastery. Then my mum and dad have lambs, so we are lucky to be able to enjoy my mum’s slowcooked lamb shoulder at Easter, along with her special gratin dauphinoise and French beans. For pudding, I like to make a dessert table. I fill up some chocolate eggs with my mousse au chocolat, make an upside down rhubarb and white chocolate cake and maybe some chocolate financiers.
What did you most love about doing GBBO? It was such an adventure and I still sometimes can’t believe I did it. It definitely gave me a chance to pursue my passion in baking and cooking, and everything I live now is really a bonus. Going back to the tent and winning the NYE special this year showed me how much I have improved in my skills. It feels like the perfect time to do my first book!
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