Can you bake?
Yes, I can.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Well, my weakness is definitely presentation. I belong to the rustic school of cookery. I don’t really normally even decorate cakes, unless lobbing some double cream on the top counts as decoration. It’s all about the taste. I’m not a presentation type cook. My husband said if I ever opened a restaurant, it would be called ‘Slop It Out’.
So, your strengths are in the taste?
Yeah, I’m all about taste. I’m really fond of eating, so I cook to eat.
Do you have a signature dish?
I cook a lot of things, and I usually change things every time I cook it. So, I like to develop recipes and develop ideas and take them further each time. I don’t eat many sweet things. My kid is 27 and has left home, so I’m not making cakes the whole time, like I used to. I rarely make a cake, but when I do, I usually make a ginger cake or a banana chocolate loaf cake, or layers of sponge and raspberries and cream, that sort of thing.
Have you ever had any culinary disasters?
Oh, quite often, because I experiment a lot. I can’t actually think of one, but some things turn out better than others.
What’s the worst thing you could be asked to make in the competition?
A lemon meringue pie. I have never successfully made meringue. God knows why not; I don’t seem to be able to do it. I’m not that great at lemon curd. But my pastry’s good. I’d have a great pastry base; I’m not scared about that. But I’m scared of meringues and lemon curd, and I’m scared of ground almonds as well. I can’t do anything with them. So, don’t ask me to frangipane, or make a Bakewell tart.
Have you done anything in the way of practise or preparation for the competition?
Well, it’s a big, big secret, but I cancelled my entire week before I was here and spent the whole time on my signature bake and on my showstopper. But that is a secret, okay? The official line is: “Oh no, no, no, I’m just winging it, you know? I don’t care about winning, it’s for charity, it’s about taking part.” Bollocks! In it to win it, for sure.
Did Grayson help out with suggestions?
No! With encouragement. He’s very encouraging. I just got a text from him, just now, and he says, “Are you having fun?” I think that is the main purpose of the whole exercise, really.
Although, as you’ve just revealed, you’re all about the victory.
I’m all about the victory, but that’s how I have fun!
Why is Stand Up to Cancer important to you?
Well, my mate’s got cancer, she’s just had a third of her lung removed. When someone close to you is very, very ill suddenly, it brings it home to you. There’s nothing much I can do, but at least I can give a weekend to making cakes. If that helps, then I’ll do it.
As a psychotherapist, do you see baking as a good mindful practice?
[Laughs] No! It’s about cake, isn’t it? No, not really. You can do anything mindfully. It’s very difficult to be mindful about baking cakes when someone’s got a camera up your face.
Why do you think so many people took to baking during lockdown?
That’s a very good question. I don’t think they had anything else to do. I suppose they wanted to make something different, and make something a treat, and learn a new skill and get good at something. It’s good to try and get better at things. What annoyed me about that was, I make my own bread. I’ve always made my own bread, I make different sorts of bread, I can make enriched dough, I can make croissants, I can make any sort of loaf you like. Bread is my thing. And then, suddenly, there was no flour. And I thought “Hang on! Do you mind? I bake all the time. Will you amateurs get out of the way?” that’s how I felt. But that just shows how obnoxious I can be.
You filmed Grayson’s Art Club during lockdown. That seemed to really help people. Does that mean a lot to you?
Yeah, it did. I do think expanding your comfort zone, whether it’s baking or making art, is really good for a person. The more we do something we couldn’t do before, whatever it is, car mechanics, tightrope walking, whatever it is, it somehow expands your whole comfort zone. So, if you get more confident in one area, it gives you more confidence in all areas. So, I was glad to be part of art club, because I think it really helped with that. It encouraged people to have a go. We were saying that it was about the process. It’s not about creating a Da Vinci or anything. The people who get the most out of art are those that make it. And we try to get that across.