“It’s all very well dreaming about changing your life. But to actually change it you have to act...so I stopped work to write a cookery book,” Chron columnist Vanessa Kimbell said in her online blog.
It was a little over one year ago when the mother-of-three from Pitsford chose to give up her full time work as a management consultant for 12 months in order to live out her ambition of penning her very own cook book.
Every high and low of the experience was captured by Vanessa in her blog at www.prepped.co.uk; something which, she says, has acted as a kind of extension to her diary.
All very Julie and Julia (for those who have seen the famous Meryl Streep film), but instead of spending a year making the recipes of someone else, Vanessa was creating her own.
And the book itself, entitled Prepped! and published by Spring Hill, finally hit the shelves this month, while author Vanessa is busily working on its sequel.
Vanessa, who is a host for Radio Northampton’s Kitchen Garden Show every Sunday morning as well as a recipe writer for the Chron’s food and drink page on Saturdays, said: “When I received the book I knew we were recording for the radio and a few people said to me ‘you will cry.’ I thought ‘I don’t cry, it is not my thing,’ but I did. I was crying while laughing. To see it as a book, this is an idea I’m now holding in my hand. It is also an heirloom too, it has caught those happy times I have had with my family, it is a happy book that represents how life should be.
“It is about how to make the most of those precious times that are so few and far between.”
But entering a cookery book market dominated by the vaguely saucy elegance of Nigella Lawson, the flowery, reflective prose of Nigel Slater and the individual identities of countless celebrity and non celebrity chefs, achieving this dream was a tough challenge.
The key seems to lie in recognising a gap in the market.
Flicking through Vanessa’s bright pink book, filled with exquisitely photographed dishes, it is easy to see what that missing link was. The book is separated up into ingredient categories such as cardamom, tomato and vanilla. Not only does the book give readers multiple recipe ideas for using one type of product, but it also provides linked recipes showing how a sauce or syrup produced for one meal can be used in a different way for something else.
The recipes themselves range from cocktails to canapes, main meals, cakes and Christmas treats.
Vanessa said: “I have always wanted to work with food and I love working with people. I did not especially set out to write a recipe book. It came about because I was chatting with a girlfriend who was constantly amazed at how I tend to all my children but still manage to produce good food consistently. Really I then explained to her the concept of doing two things at once to reduce on washing up.
“That meant you only had to do one lot of cooking and one lot of washing up. She could see how it would work and I thought I would look for a book that would demonstrate to someone how to multitask their cooking.”
When no cookery book could be found which ticked the boxes Vanessa was looking for, the idea came about for her to develop her own.
She said: “I think we all want to live that domestic goddess lifestyle in which we can whip cupcakes out of thin air or throw a major party without breaking into a sweat but the reality is we have children and homework, washing, ironing and football. Time is limited. “There are so many times mums want to turn to convenience food because of this time pressure. But if you can cook two things at the same time you will already be a step ahead in the kitchen and you are making the best use of your time possible.
“There are thousands of recipe books out there with delicious recipes but no one seems to have looked into the actual work surrounding cooking. You not only have to get food on the table, but clear up afterwards.”
Vanessa was born into a ‘foodie’ family, as the daughter of Flora and Bill Hulme, who run Fleur Fields vineyard in Brixworth.
Vanessa went on to train in catering at Northampton College and later took on roles with a number of culinary businesses, including a bakery in France.
Since starting the blog and cookery book project, Vanessa has become a well known figure in the local food scene. Her blog put her in touch with recipe testers who tried out her culinary creations.
She has also been out and about meeting local food producers and chefs, some of whom have been guests on her Sunday morning Radio Northampton show. From June 3, she will also be taking on a regular food slot as part of a Friday evening regional radio programme led by Sue Marchant.
She has also been lined up as one of the forthcoming tutors with the Shires Cookery School, which runs courses from the Red Lion in East Haddon.
Her year has also led her into the path of many celebrated chefs ranging from Rick Stein to Sophie Grigson and Nigel Slater.
Nigel Slater even emailed Vanessa to offer her some words of encouragement.
And with the book now finally on sale, Vanessa hopes that her time conscious cookbook will inspire other domestic gods and goddesses everywhere.
She said: “It used to be that whenever people came over I would end up messing about in the kitchen trying to get things done. But this is precious time and it is short. Really you should be able to sit down and enjoy that time, the time when your children are young, and make the most of it. The food should be easy, simple, but never compromising on taste.”
Vanessa will be in Waitrose, Kingsthorpe to meet readers, sign books and answer culinary queries on June 11 from 10.30am. She will also be making an appearance at Waterstones in Northampton on July 2 between 1pm and 3pm.
Prepped is now available in bookshops, costing £20.