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June 11, 2013 / mintcustard

Just like buses, you wait for ages and two come along at once!

Hot off the press.

Hot off the press.

I’m sorry I’ve neglected Mintcustard recently. As some of you may already know I spend my days at the chalk face. Actually these days it is an interactive interface, but lets not split hairs. I’m a teacher. However, I moonlight as a writer. As you might surmise from the content of my blog, these books are all about food. I write because I have to, I am compelled to, I need to. The fact I found someone to publish me still astonishes me daily. If you feel you have a book in you, get writing. Don’t keep waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes you have to stomp down that tunnel with a bit of attitude and turn the thing on for yourself.

In the last few months as well as working with Year 6 to get the best possible SATs results they can. I have also been putting the final touches to my most recent book The No waste Meal Planner,and have been helping in the re-editing of my first book, School Dinners. I have written three books so far. The first began life like this.

Having whiled away many an hour reading and re-reading the many cook books on my shelves there comes a time (usually after several glasses of wine) when this frustrated writer thinks to herself, I could do that. I could write a cook book. More often than not the feeling would pass and sanity prevail but the final time the muse struck, it hit hard enough to knock me senseless and by the time I’d come round I was up to my ears in it!

The discovery of a favourite but forgotten recipe was the catalyst for my creativity. Butterscotch Tarts rule! A summer holiday of cooking and writing followed. Indigestion and typists finger in equal measure. Recipes written it’s time to start the hard work.

Now to get published. Without much real hope I began. Inevitably for a newbie at this game there were rejections from literary agents. They kept telling me that as I wasn’t Nigella or Delia (tell me something I don’t already know!) and had no TV tie in my book was unlikely to sell. One rejection came from a small publisher on the grounds that they were all vegetarians and would find publicising a book with meat recipes in hard but they wished me well with the project!!! I decided to get serious. I bought a copy of Writers and Artists year book and worked out a system. Being a teacher the system I used was …….. wait for it ….. the alphabet. Begin at A and work your way through to Z. If you get to Z and still no one loves you then it’s time to stop I reasoned. I also thought that I’d start by just sending to publishing houses who accepted emailed submissions. My guilt over an increasing carbon footprint, trees being felled, and the time spent in queues at the post office if you can find one that is.

My first submission of this new system bore fruit. Anova, or more specifically Portico, an Anova imprint were interested in my idea and the fact that I wasn’t a TV chef didn’t matter a jot. I was elated, over the moon, gob smacked call it what you will when that first email pinged into my inbox. Later reality struck when I worked out just how many words I had to write and the fact that they expected me to be witty too. Worrying, especially when, according to my daughter, I don’t do “funny”.

So what is this book School Dinners all about then? 

Did you lust after a Chopper or crack your knuckles on clackers? Did you cut the roof of your mouth on spangles or fancy the Milky Bar Kid? You did! Me too, excellent; we lived through the heyday of school dinners. Time was when all schools had a cook, each cook had her ice cream scoop and she wasn’t afraid to use it.

In my book School Dinners I hope you will find tastes that awaken memories of your days at school. Food is a fantastic way to time travel. Transport yourself back to a time when tank tops were cool and lapels were so wide they could catch on doorframes. Take a few friends with you whilst you are about it. All you really need is a tray of mashed potato and an ice cream scoop and off you go.

As children we had a favourite school dinner and also had some we liked less, but usually with enough custard or gravy most flavours could be masked. I have attempted to revive the flavour of the school canteen during the sixties and seventies. Some recipes I have collected over the years from friendly school cooks. Others I have recreated using my own memories of meals eaten. First courses at school were hearty and filling but it was school puddings that really made us finish our cabbage and sit up straight. Some were real traditional favourites whilst others were only found in school canteens. All these recipes are, I hope, as you remember them from school but in many cases I have also added a version that allows for the maturing of our palates and the changing ingredients available to us today. Added to the recipes are short recollections of life as a scabby knee’d, parka wearing, Bay City roller fan whose main aim in life was to be first in the queue for puddings!

After that along came Movie dinners. 

Ever felt you wanted to eat the food on the screen during a movie?

The prospect of dinner and a movie is always an enticing one. Whether it is a date early on in a relationship with all the apprehension and barely contained frisson that that entails or an opportunity for a child free evening and the chance to watch a full length film of your choice without having to keep your finger on the remote to pause for toilet breaks, the combination of food and cinema is a winning one.

Food is inextricably linked to all aspects of our lives, food for feasts, food to comfort, food to harm and always food to raise the sexual tension.

Cinematographers know this too. So often there are dishes in a movie that deserve a mention in the credits so pivotal are they to the storyline. You only have to mention “Silence of the Lambs” for fava beans and chianti spring into the conversation and apple pie is often off or suddenly back on the menu for anyone who has recently watched American Pie for the first time.

Let us get one thing straight here the dishes celebrated in Movie Dinners are not physically available at the pictures. Food served in containers too large to be used as airline carryon baggage is not what this book is about. The recipes here are for those movie moments that made you step away from the popcorn bucket.

Who doesn’t want to slice garlic with a razor blade to create the garlicky spaghetti sauce so lovingly made in Goodfellas or jump through the screen to nibble absolutely everything in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory (including Johnny Depp although that may be just my own fantasy) and every woman on this planet wants “what she’s having” in “When Harry met Sally”!

So this is your chance, if it was eaten on screen then the recipe for it may well be in this book. Unless of course you fancy making the chilled monkey brains from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in which case I suggest you still buy Movie Dinners but change your dessert plans. What about a nice Apple Strudel from the Sound of Music instead? Movie Dinners has also been translated into Portuguese, as I am apparently, quite big in Brazil. Who’d have guessed that!

no waste

The third and most recent book is quite different in style. Out on the 10th May 2013 The No Waste Meal Planner is published  Spring Hill, a new publisher for me. With food prices rising faster than the national debt we need to get every scrap of value from the goods we buy. Good menu planning is a sure way of saving money, and this book takes menu planning to another level. It shows how, by linking your meals from one day to another, you can cook – and shop – economically but deliciously; and use up any leftover ingredients that might otherwise be scraped into the bin or left to gather mould in the fridge.

An  example of a meal chain in the book: THE ROAST CHICKEN TO PIZZA MARGARITA CHAIN Roast chicken > use the carcass to make stock and the leftover chicken meat to make Chicken risotto > use leftover risotto plus salami, mozzarella and passata to make Arancini with tomato sauce >use the leftover salami, mozzarella and passatta to make Pizza Margarita. Four meals – all linked, and no wasted ingredients.

Other chains include: Roast Lamb to a Dirty Martini through six links.Poached Salmon to Chocolate Cake through five links. Chicken tikka to hummus in four links. Beef brisket to egg fried rice in four links. Breaking the chain Links in the chain can be frozen, ready and waiting for the chain to be started up at a later date. The aim? To reduce waste with no compromise on taste.

Finally, as if that wasn’t enough, School Dinners has been re-edited and is back out again on 1st August 2013.

That is all I can say really about me and my books.

If you’d like to buy one, all the usual places have copies. Here are some links if you would like them.



Leave a Comment
  1. Franglais Kitchen (@Franglaiscook) / Jun 11 2013 8:24 pm

    What a great success you have had Becky, and inspirational.. Good luck withthenew book. Clever idea!

  2. mintcustard / Jun 11 2013 8:30 pm

    Thank you so much. It is just lovely to know people read what I write!

  3. rachelradiostar / Jun 17 2013 7:18 pm

    Congratulations lovely xxx


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