Friday, 11 March 2011

Interview with first-time cookbook author Genevieve Taylor

After years of working behind the scenes on other writers' cookbooks, Bristol mum Genevieve Taylor has finally penned her own.
This week sees the release of Stew!, a collection of 100 simple stews, braises and curries from around the world.
It is the first time Genevieve has seen her name on the front cover of a book despite working as a food stylist and photographer on a number of successful cookbooks.
For Genevieve, who lives in St Annes with her husband and two young children, it is a dream come true and, she says, the result of sheer persistence on her part.
“I had worked on half a dozen books as a food stylist and every time I did one I would joke with the publishers and ask to them when they were going to let me write one of my own. I think I ground them down in the end.”
For the past few years, Genevieve has split her time between looking after her children, running her Zest catering business in Bristol and working freelance for Bath-based publishers Absolute Press.
Out of the blue at the end of last year, Absolute Press art director Matt Inwood told Genevieve that they were looking for an author for a new book about stews and suggested she wrote a proposal for it.
Genevieve says: “I jumped at the chance, but then Matt told me I had to write it in eight weeks.
“It was a mad deadline but I dropped everything took myself off to the Brecon Beacons for a couple of long three-day breaks with my dog, laptop and various pots and pans.
“I rented a cottage up a mountain in the middle of nowhere with no television, no kids, no mobile phone, and just cooked and wrote. It was the only way I could get some head space.
“I had some of the recipes already but the book is also a combination of dishes I cook for my family, mixed with recipes from around the world.”
The book is a veritable encyclopaedia of stews and slow-cooked dishes, from simple Lancashire hotpot and coq au vin to pork braised with ginger, garlic and sweet soy and Sri Lankan salmon curry with coconut sambal.
As well as rich and comforting winter warmers, there are fresh and vibrant recipes for spring and summer, such as lamb, petit pois and little gem lettuce with mint.
As Genevieve explains, they are all dishes that involve the age-old method of cooking meat and vegetables gently in some sort of liquid. This is certainly not fast food.
“Stewing is essentially about cooking something solid such as meat, fish or vegetables in a liquid. You can take it as far and wide as you like.
“Most people just think of hearty winter dishes when they think of stews but there are many lighter stews for the spring and summer so I have included a whole chapter on those.”
Genevieve is a self-taught cook and came into the food world after a career as a freelance television producer working on wildlife documentaries for the BBC and Bristol-based Endemol.
“When I had my two children, I knew television producer wouldn’t be a viable career again so I set up my own catering business and took it from there with the food styling and now the writing.”
Now that Genevieve’s first book has been published, she is already planning more and is clearly proud to have made the leap from food stylist to author.
“I was absolutely thrilled to see the book when it came back from the printers as it was the first time my name has been on the front as the author.
“I had been wanting to write a book for ages and never thought it would actually happen. I have been jotting down recipes and ideas in notebooks for years just in case.
“I’m coming up with new ideas all the time and one of my roles as a food stylist has been to create recipes for certain ingredients, such as asparagus, so that has helped.
“I really hope this is the first of many books. I’ve always enjoyed writing and I really enjoyed the process of doing the book.”
Although she has yet to decide what the next book might be, it may well be based around her new blog, An Egg a Day, which she describes as ‘the culinary diary of a novice hen-keeper’.
Last November, Genevieve started to keep four hens in the back garden of her St Annes home and decided it would make for an interesting blog, creating recipes from the eggs her hens lay every day.
Recent recipes have included a ‘sublime’ onion tart, sticky beetroot and ginger muffins and coffee custard and bananas.
Although the initial outlay for the chicken coupe came to around £300 and the chicks cost £15 each, Genevieve says it was money well spent and the chickens have become a part of family life in the Taylor household.
“I have four chickens – Sam, Doris, Ellie and Mabel – who lay between three and four eggs a day so the whole idea was a diary of what I’m doing with these eggs, with anecdotes about what it’s like keeping chickens in an urban garden.
“The chickens are very easy to look after and the eggs are absolutely delicious. Getting the first egg was amazing – I was so thrilled by it.”
It looks like Genevieve has already found the subject for her second cookbook.

Stew! By Genevieve Taylor is published by Absolute Press, £12.99. To follow Genevieve’s blog, go to

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