Five Minutes With… Prue Leith
Bake Off presenter, cooking legend and novelist Prue Leith chats to us about her favourite reads, her love of writing, and where she likes to dine out in Surrey…
What is the inspiration behind the trilogy of books featuring the Angelotti family?
Well, my main interests are cooking and writing novels and I wanted to write a novel with the huge changes in food and farming, eating out and home cooking in the years since the war. My eighty years of life exactly cover the period covered by the novels, with the background to the first being wartime rationing and old fashioned farming methods. The second books see modern farming and the explosion of “foreign” food, especially Italian, in the sixties. Also, a lot of the second book is autobiographical with the heroine learning to cook in France and finding herself the only woman in a man’s world in the burgeoning restaurant scene in Seventies London. The final book, The Lost Son takes us into modern food, Michelin star restaurants, cafes and brasseries. All three books are love stories, covering three generations of the same family.
How do you translate your love of food into fictional writing?
All my novels and this is the eighth, seem to end up with a lot of food in them. They all have cooks and chefs, restaurateurs or wine buffs in them. I suppose it is a world I know and so, being lazy, I need to do less research. I love writing and I love food so it sort of figures that I should like writing about food. I’ve just published a new cookbook too, called Prue, and will publish another next year.
“I love writing and I love food so it sort of figures that I should like writing about food”
The cookbooks you swear by?
They change with the fashions but my go-to stalwart is The Constance Spry Cookbook, which inspired my best selling Leith’s Cookery Bible which I wrote with Caroline Waldegrave who was then Principal of Leiths School of Food and Wine. I like Paul Hollywood for baking because his recipes always work, and I Iike Yotam Ottolenghi and Nigel Slater for inspiration.
The Warden by Anthony Trollope, a Victorian tale of snobbery, church politics, and love. My favourite modern love story is Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.
Favourite Surrey restaurant?
The Anchor in Ripley – the best gastropub in Surrey. Interesting menu of delicious local food. Try the soup and bar snacks if short of time and want food that’s worth the calories.
Why is it important we celebrate reading with local community events like Spring Readers’ Day and the Guildford Book Festival?
Book sales, even real books as well as kindles, are rising, and I think that is to do with community activities like festivals, local literary festivals, children’s book events, independent bookshops with coffee bars – all ways for people to socialise and talk books with other people.
The Lost Son by Prue Leith is published by Quercus in Hardback on 11 April. This is the third and final book in her Angelotti Chronicles fiction series. Prue Leith will be taking part in Guildford Book Festival’s Spring Readers’ Day on 13 April. For further information and to book tickets: www.guildfordbookestival.co.uk