Her easy recipes are the reason Mumsnet don’t go to Iceland, apparently
For members of Mumsnet there are no grey areas. Life is divided into two distinct groups - things they love and things they abhor. In the first set are Bugaboos, cafes which allow breastfeeding breeders to wop their waps out, and haranguing women who go back to work after giving birth. Things they hate include, according to recent posts, spreadable butter that “just isn’t fricking spreadable”, low rise jeans and the presenter on a CBeebies show called Iconicles.
Firmly in the “Love” camp is Fay Ripley, former star of Cold Feet, now advertising stooge for the National Lottery and reinvented saviour of all those busy mothers who feel strongly (as they do about everything) that they shouldn’t just buy ready meals from M&S but that, after a busy day bitching about the au pair over an organic extra-caff latte in Kensal Green, they just don’t have the energy for anything much more advanced. Fay’s last book was awarded Mumsnet’s coveted Best Cookery Book 2011, and What’s For Dinner, out March 1st, looks set to win the same. It is aimed at that mythical moron who reads Grazia and actually says “OMG” out loud whilst reading about Jen’s romantic failiures, and then rushes out to buy every It shoe in the “Look! 20 New Must-Have Heels! Scream!” feature trailed on the magazine’s cover.
“It has to be said that a new handbag can lift my spirits for a week or so” warbles Fay in the intro, posing with glossy hair and what looks like a stale herby rock cake.”Obviously my children bring the usual surges of love that, in between nit combing and turning nagging into an Olympic sport, provide me with that warm glow of wellbeing.” See! She’s just like us! Only with more expensive highlights! “However, the glue that sticks it all together, that turns a moment spent smiling into a memory for life is….food.”
Oh no you dittn’t!
Anyway, her recipes are all well easy – the sort of thing anyone can follow, even those whose brain has been addled by spending entire afternoons alternating between reading the Gruffalo to their child and poring over the Daily Mail Online. And it pains me to say that they’re all actually crammed with good ideas.
Fay’s Comforting Rice and Garden Veg Soup
The aptly named Comforting Rice and Garden Veg Soup was like a risotto, only slightly more soupy. She sticks the rind of the parmesan into the soup during cooking, fishing it out at the end like an errant toy dropped by a naughty child, which gave it a wonderfully cheesy piquancy. No seasoning was needed at all – these are family friendly recipes after all – and it was ready in minutes.
My version. Also pictured, my bread maker which hasn’t been used since I went off carbs two months ago
The most tiresome part of the Crusty Pistachio and Cranberry Salmon was shelling the pistachios. Literally, all you had to do was blend them with some cranberries, rosemary and garlic, slather them on the fish fillets with honey and bake them for 20 minutes.
Fay’s Pistachio and Cranberry Salmon
The taste? Well, the honey was a bit too sweet and the sprig of rosemary per person a bit overpowering, but the idea itself was pretty nifty, and so easy that for the first time ever I managed not to have a cooking-induced meltdown at my boyfriend, innocently watching the rugby in the living room, as I brought the meal together.
My version. Ok, so I’ve not given up ALL carbs.
In fact, the Easy Lemon and Raspberry Tart was so, well, easy that I even had time to think about my relationship. We’ve been dating for a little while, the subject of living together has come up but I’ve been putting it off. We live less than ten minutes walk from each other, see each other all the time, but twice a week it’s nice to be able to lie diagonally across my own bed. “Don’t throw away the chance to move your relationship forward for two nights lying diagonally across your own bed,” my friend Ella counselled. “There’s so much more to life than that.” True, she has a point, but then she’s not over six foot, and going out with someone whose shoulders are broader than that crappy fake Manc accent Fay Ripley used in Cold Feet.
Fay’s Easy Lemon and Raspberry Tart
But over the dessert – whose pastry was a bit soggy and whose filling could have done with being slightly less tarmac-like in consistency – I began to think Fay was right. Food does bring us all together! It does turn a moment spent smiling into a memory for life! Imagine if I got to eat dinner with Will every night of the week, and smiled and made life memories every single day?
My version. I’m sure that in her pic her food stylist didn’t use the lemon rind, which made it look all messy. What a fake!
“I’d like to move in,” I said, as he was bashing his way through the lemon filling. He smiled (creating his own life memory, I’m sure) and said he’d love it if I did. We looked at each other shyly. We looked away. “We’re going to be a family,” I just about resisted from saying, as we beamed big lemony across the table.
So thanks for bringing us together Fay. Your recipes may need some minor tweaks here and there, but you have helped create one of my most happy life memories to date.
Cost of ingredients: £20.38 (not including items already in store cupboard)
Starter: * * * *
Main * * *
Dessert * *
Overall: 6/10. So easy to use, so quick to make, but so unrefined. Take it as inspiration for fast recipes and fiddle with the flavours.
What’s For Dinner by Fay Ripley, (Collins, £20) Out March 1st. Original photography by David Munns