I recently attended an evening where Christine talked about her favourite subject, pepper the spice. Mark Banham (of Morrish and Banham Wine Merchants) matched wine with each variety of pepper – it was wine tasting with a warming difference!! It was a pleasure to listen to Christine who is so knowledgeable and passionate about the spice. I decided there and then to arrange a meeting with Christine to interview her about her life in the food world and to hear more about her cookery school.
How did your cooking career start?
I had been working as a graphic designer for many years, but was becoming more and more interested in food – in all its aspects, and especially nutrition. So much so that I went away to University and gained a first class BSCHons Degree in Food Studies.
While I was a student I enjoyed a brief spell at Good Housekeeping magazine working on their food pages. After that I worked on food part-works and became a senior food editor. Gradually, very gradually, I started writing cookbooks. I found my graphic design background (I used to design instruction manuals for the Stock Exchange when it was first digitized) was invaluable when writing my recipes. The skills are easily transferable!
Which was your first book?
My first was for Sainsbury’s in 1992: Combined Recipes for Vegetarians and Meat-Eaters. It was a challenging concept and had to be written very clearly without any sign of the author’s voice – unlike today’s cookbooks.
I went on to write a series for Little, Brown: Healthy Main Meal Soups, Healthy Main Meal Salads and Healthy Fruit Desserts – all based on healthy food and nutrition. I’ve written 16 cookbooks in all, and hope to do more.
A recent favorite is Baking with Vegetables; it was great fun to do and has become very popular.
Christine’s Books: www.amazon.co.uk/Christine McFadden
How long did Pepper take to complete?
It took me a year to come up with a synopsis and carry out research in India, then another year to create the recipes and write the rest of the book. It is beautifully designed by Matt Inwood, the art director at Absolute Press at that time. The book is currently enjoying a renaissance, with plenty of national publicity.
Why did you move to Littlebredy here in Dorset?
While working with co-author Michel Michaud writing Cool Green Leaves and Red Hot Peppers, I fell in love with the food scene here and we (husband Ed) decided to move down to Dorset. That was nearly 11 years ago.
My first book after moving to Dorset was The Farm Shop Cook Book, which is an A to Z of all the foods you can buy in farm shops, with recipes for them. It was also a great way to get to know the farmers and food producers across the county.
Favourite ingredients/style of cooking?
Definitely vegetables, grains, herbs and spices – Middle Eastern cuisine is my firm favourite. I also love Yotam Ottolenghi’s style of cooking and recipes. My favourite dish would be a grilled lamb chop with lots of vegetable salads, and grains.
Food suppliers for your cookery school?
All meats and vegetables, are locally grown and sourced where possible. I get a lot from the Bride Valley Farm Shop, Abbotsbury, suppliers of superior meat from pure-bred Longhorns. For vegetables I go to the Washingpool Farm Shop, Bridget’s Market or grow them myself.
I also have a great list of on-line suppliers for more specialist ingredients. www.thedorsetfoodie.co.uk/links-we-like-suppliers.html
Funniest thing during a lesson?
There is a great guy from London who is a regular and during one lesson he led the whole class into a discussion about the TV series Breaking Bad and cooking up drugs!
Fail safe recipe/family favourite?
Has to be roast chicken stuffed with lemon & rosemary – simple but delicious.
Holidays, always food related?
Most of my knowledge of world cuisine has been gathered while travelling, especially in Morocco and Italy, where I was actively involved in the Slow Food Movement for many years. My husband is American, so there have been several trips to California, Colorado and New Mexico. I try and go to cooking schools when I’m traveling.
Where-ever we go I love to explore food markets, but having said that, with the current availability of ingredients from all over the world, it’s not so easy to find anything new.
Fine dining or casual?
Casual, I can’t abide thick carpets and dressing up!!
Music to cook with?
Silence please! If I am developing recipes or writing I can’t have anything else in my head, so music is a distraction. My husband does like to listen to music and it is fine while I prepare supper.
Tea or coffee?
I have one coffee a day and then it is herbal teas. I have five different types of mint growing in the garden, which I love making tea with.
Christine McFadden Cookery School