Jet setting Great British Bake Off judge, founder of Leith’s School of Food and Wine, ex-Director of Belmond, and author Prue Leith CBE OBE has tasted all corners of the world… Back in Blighty, she recently celebrated her 80th birthday and has collaborated with the government to celebrate VE Day.
Angela Sara West chats exclusively to Prue for MakeBox+Co. about the wellbeing benefits of cooking and crafting during lockdown.
What do you love most about filming Bake Off?
The bakers… They’re so enthusiastic, interesting and nice to each other, and just such good bakers. I also love hanging out with Paul, Sandi and Noel.
How are you taking care of your mental health during lockdown?
If you’re feeling anxious, furious or miserable, make bread. The smell is comforting, it tastes like heaven, and you can work off your frustrations by beating the hell out of the dough… Right now, I’m trying to improve my brioche and sourdough skills, with Paul Hollywood (not in the flesh, sadly) as my guide.
You’ve been instrumental in helping to improve food in hospitals and schools, as well as in the home…
Well, the job’s not done yet, but with the whole nation getting into food and cooking under lockdown, I’m hoping we’ll start to care more about what goes into our mouths…
What do you enjoy cooking with your grandchildren?
Anything! But they like pizza and banana bread best.
You’re a huge fan of homemade, and love making jewellery and quilting…
I’m an enthusiastic, but hardly expert, crafter. I‘ve had phases of stencilling, patchwork, lampshade making and making necklaces.
I love your licensed card range featuring recipes, in collaboration with your good friend David Hawson…
David’s a great painter and his work seems to cry out to be on cards, and he suggested I did recipes for them. Our bestselling ones are for cupcakes and cocktails. What does that tell you?!!
And you collect teacups and junk jewellery…
I do. I love the intricacy, delicacy and colour of old bone china cups and saucers. Too small for tea, I use them, mismatched, for after-dinner coffee. And I can’t resist in-your-face jewellery, whether it’s a modern craft piece made of leather or paper, or an Edwardian green-glass-and-fake-pearl coronet (I wear this one as a necklace.) My ambition’s to have a jewellery line of colourful, exciting necklaces and earrings…
Well, you already have your own eyewear collection…
So many people wanted to know where I got my specs from, I suggested a Prue range to Ronit Furst… and they loved the idea!
When not stuck indoors, your itchy feet usually whisk you overseas…
Travelling serves as a source of inspiration… for fashion, I’m influenced by the colour of faraway places. I tend to use my own experience in my novels… I love the colour and vibrancy of so many countries, like Bhutan (from which I famously tweeted the winner of Bake Off!) and trying the food in off-the-beaten-track places and my favourite piece of art is a tapestry from a Provençal gallery. It cost a fortune but I’ve never regretted it.
As a child, you sailed from your homeland, Cape Town, with Winston Churchill, who disembarked at Madeira, and you’ve voyaged and played deck quoits with Field Marshal Montgomery …
I recently followed in Churchill’s footsteps, visiting Madeira’s Belmond Reid’s Palace. Reid’s holds a food festival, The Art of Flavours, and we just missed it. I’ll be back! I sailed with Lord Montgomery when I was 18.
Other hotels/restaurants worth their salt?
For history, glamour and amazing views, The Cipriani in Venice, The Splendido in Portofino and Copa Cabana in Rio. Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire for its Raymond Blanc food, and the spice market in Istanbul has a couple of great restaurants.
What’s next on Prue’s menu?
Retirement might be nice… but I can’t see that happening!
Prue’s new cookbook The Vegetarian Kitchen (published by Bluebird) is out now
Prue’s Muscovado Flapjacks recipe for VE Day: https://ve-vjday75.gov.uk/get-involved/prue-leiths-muscovado-flapjacks/
© Angela Sara West 2020 www.angelasarawest.com