If someone told me when I started off cooking that at this stage of my life I would be about to release my 11th cookbook I would have told them they were mad. Out in September, ‘The Nation’s Favourite Food Fast’, is, I hope going to be as popular as my previous books.
I always find it an absolute privilege that people want to buy my cookbooks and it is something I never ever take for granted. It is why I put so much time into making each book as perfect as it can be, because people are buying it and trusting in you.
I can still remember back to my first book, ‘Neven Cooks’. It took me two years to get right and I suppose it was like my first baby! I’m about to have my 11th now! Book, not baby! I remember the excitement I had back then and how important it was to me and how proud I was when I saw it on the shelves. Then of course I was amazed when so many people bought it.
I still get all those feelings now. Pride, excitement and humbled that people still trust me enough to buy my books. Because that is what it is all about, trust. If people buy a cookbook and try a few recipes and they do not work for them then they are not going to buy any more of your books and you can’t really blame them. So you have to get everything right when putting together a cookbook.
The whole process now takes a minimum of six months but probably closer to a year when everything is taken into account. The first stage is what is called a synopsis. At this point you look at what you have done before and make sure that the recipes are fresh and new and also that you are on trend and giving people what they want and need in a cookbook.
For this latest cook book we are looking at dishes that can be prepared in about 45 mins. So it is all about quick seasonal food and about food that people can prepare with confidence. More and more people are cooking at home and that is great to see. And it is fantastic to be able to offer support and advice and maybe a small bit of inspiration too.
And judging from our twitter and Facebook pages there are plenty of people out there trying my recipes. I love seeing pictures of their successes with my recipes and it is great to know that people are sharing wonderful food with family and friends.
After we decide the exact direction a book is going to take we move on to the testing phase. This is so important. As I said before you have to be so sure a recipe is right before it goes into a book so we absolutely insist on every recipe being tested. There would be a team of four or five chefs in the cookery school or in my studio who would be helping me test these recipes. It is always a great time to call around as there is always so much food going around. We make sure we don’t waste any though. I am not one for wasting good food so friends and family eat well during the testing period of a new cook book!
I work with a wonderful lady called Orla Broderick who helps me compile and edit my recipes. She is just fantastic and a real inspiration. As I have said about many aspects of the cookery business it is all about having a strong team and Orla is part of about a team of 10 or 12 who make the whole thing possible.
I have worked with lots of photographers over the course of the 11 books and at the minute I am working with a lady called Joanne Murphy and she is just fantastic. She uses a lot of a natural light and it looks so light and fresh – she lets the food be the star.
The food photography can take up to two weeks to complete with eight to ten dishes being photographed each day from different angles. I work with a lady called Sharon Hearne-Smith who is a fantastic food stylist and between the two of us we get the props right and style the food so it looks at its best.
The final stage is of course when we start to pull together the book and edit it all together.
I work with Gill and MacMillan who are just brilliant publishers. This will be my fourth book with them and they really understand my core values which is important because that is what I want to get across in each book I produce.
So, it is a really exciting time and I am so looking forward to September and book number 11. I Hope you are too.