The Weekend Cookbook author Catherine Hill on her passion for food

PUBLISHED: 23:11 18 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:22 20 February 2013

The Weekend Cookbook author Catherine Hill  on her passion for food

The Weekend Cookbook author Catherine Hill on her passion for food

A food stylist from Middlesbrough is hoping her first cookery book will open the door to fame, as Barbara Waite reports

They say the way to a mans heart is through his stomach, but it was the other way round for cookery writer Catherine Hill she gave her heart to the first man to make her a meal.

Now the red-haired food editor who has the jokey nickname Gingella is hoping to emulate the Domestic Goddess herself by having her own TV series based on her first cookbook.

From an early age she picked up cooking tips from her mum at the family home in Middlesbrough and despite failing her home economics exam, she still dreamed of a career in food. She took a job in a local vegetarian caf, studied for her cordon vert diploma and moved to London at the age of 21 to work in the Jazz Caf in Camden.

After the Jazz Caf she had a break from cooking. I was working in a library and saw a reference to a food stylist. I knew immediately it was the job for me. I took a degree in consumer science, did a work placement with a food magazine, and worked for years for glossy magazines.

Now a freelance, her job involves writing, editing food and drink sections, triple-checking recipes, and styling food for photo shoots. It was through this that she met Tim Winter who took all the illustrations for The Weekend Cookbook.

She was vegetarian herself for a while and such is the pull of her delicious food that Tim a long-term vegetarian turned carnivore. He just couldnt resist the crackling on a belly pork dish she had made during one of the shoots!

Now married to Harvey with two children, Hamilton, five, and Beatrice, three, she had the idea for the book eight years ago. We would always have people coming over, and I thought we all need stress-free ideas to make the most of our free time.

It took a brave move to get it off the ground. Tim and I had no publishing deal but we decided to take a chance. So we went ahead and when it was two thirds complete we tried to sell the idea. Eventually we found a literary agent and the publisher followed.

That gave me the confidence to try other things. I would never have believed I could have a regular slot on the radio, but I have, she said.

Catherine is referring to her own weekly radio slot on BBC Tees on Saturday mornings on the Phil and Amy show, where they affectionately call her Gingella. Im nothing like Nigella, Im a redhead and Northern, she added.

The pull of the North is still strong, as she and her family make regular trips back to the Boro where her parents still live her sister is just along the coast at Saltburn. She would like to move back but for the moment her work is in the south.

And work means being Food Editor on a subscription magazine and bringing her food flair to bear on top-drawer clients including two major supermarkets, two national newspaper weekend sections and glossy food magazines.

She may have a busy life, but relaxed, easy-going food is what The Weekend Cookbook delivers. The sub-title Breakfast, lunch and dinner at home or away says it all. Forward planning and keeping things simple are the key and Catherine isnt too precious about cooking, so she happily includes ready-made sauces and shop-bought pastry. All the recipes come with tips and advice plus some ingenious ideas developed when she and Harvey took a six-month cycling tour of New Zealand.

Catherine is already planning the next book based on her easy-going philosophy. To paraphrase her: Cookings a great way to win the hearts of family and friends. Shes making new friends all the time.

Christmas tips

For a stress-free festive period, follow Catherines tips

Prepare: Get everything you can ready ahead of time. Make the gravy so it is ready to reheat and have the stuffing stored in the fridge. Prepare the vegetables and put in plastic bags in the fridge so they are ready to pop into hot water.

If you have a large gathering, share the tasks. Get a visitor to make the cake, organise the youngsters to help with the veg, nominate someone as wine waiter to take charge of drinks.

Buy the best, it makes a huge difference. It will taste fantastic and cook quicker because the flesh is more mature. Always cook it upside down on its breast so the white meat is basted in the juices. Buy some strong rubber gloves to use when turning it over. Remember. Try not to panic its only like cooking a large chicken.

Catherine Hill cookbook reader offer

The Weekend Cookbook by Catherine Hill (Michael Joseph, 18.99). North East Life readers can order the book at the special price of 14.99 which includes free p&p. To order call the Penguin Bookshop on 0843 060 0021 quoting reference North East Life Weekend Cookbook Reader Offer and ISBN 9780718159092.The offer is subject to availability and open to UK residents only. Allow up to 14 days for delivery.

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