The inspiration behind ‘Prime Time’ (part 2) by Jane Wenham-Jones (& recipe!)
My new novel Prime Time was inspired by some of the bizarre things I’ve got up to, in the name of publicity for my various books. This has included appearing on a variety of TV programmes which has sometimes been huge fun and sometimes led to me watching the re-run through my fingers…
Here’s something I’ve learned along the way…
Don’t buy the wrong potatoes
Presenter Ross Kelly should not have been surprised when I was a walking disaster on The Heaven and Earth Show because he’d worked with me before.
Then I was cooking (a loose term as the running gag in this house is that I don’t know where the kitchen is) for a programme called Just for Starters on UKTV Food.
Remember what Andrea Zemmel said about buying ’em a drink and hoping? Well I didn’t have to do that for Trevor McCallum, director of Red Door TV, who made this series for the Good Food Channel (then UKTV Food) – he bought one for me. Trevor was a regular in the wine bar I co-owned for a couple of years and soon picked up on my media tart tendencies – perhaps it was the way I kept serving up my publicity shots along with his wine and shouting “Make Me A Star!”
Trevor suggested that I, along with my friend and co-owner of the bar, Jacqui and one of our staff, Will, might like to take part in one of the programmes. We had to prepare a course each and then come together at the end as it to have a dinner party.
I chose to do the main course.
This was mainly so I could demonstrate one of the few things I know I can do well, which is to make perfect mashed potato (the secret of which, since you ask, is to use hot milk. Cold milk does something funny to the starch in potatoes. Hot milk makes them all smooth and creamy. Try it – you’ll be amazed).
I usually do my supermarket shopping in Waitrose (product placement, Mr John Lewis?) but on this particular occasion, for reasons I now forget, I was forced into a rival supermarket to get my ingredients.
This one did not have the helpful little signs I was used to: suitable for mashing etc so I bought “general purpose” spuds, which, despite being endlessly boiled, remained like bullets and responded to my enthusiastic wielding of the masher by shooting from the saucepan and hitting the cameraman.
We had to stop filming while everyone became hysterical and then pulverise the things with a hand-held blender. The resultant mass was like over-thick wallpaper paste. Later we had to eat it.
It tasted fine. The potato was the topping to my own recipe, a Mediterranean twist to a British classic – Spicy Turkish Goatherd’s Pie. I have just done a Google search and found that amusingly, the recipe is still up on the internet – now more boringly named Turkish Shepherd’s Pie and not attributed to me. (Although I suppose the latter is fair enough since all I did was look up how Delia made the standard version and then add half my spice cupboard.) Two web-surfers / viewers of the Good Food Channel have even tried it.
“very very yummy!!!!!!!” says StellaN65738 while ‘Pammi Wammi’ thought it so delicious she made double and froze it for her husband who “adores” it.
I am popping it in here in case you’re short of an idea for dinner yourself.
NB in case you are wondering what the hell all this has to do with promoting oneself as a writer, I popped a postcard featuring the cover of one of my novels up on the dresser in my kitchen before beginning my culinary performance and the cameraman obligingly panned in on it.
I was working on the basis that viewers might think: She can’t cook – let’s see if she can write instead….
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the lamb and fry, stirring now and then, until the mince has cooked and browned. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Mix together the cumin, paprika, curry powder, cinnamon and turmeric with the chopped coriander, yoghurt and tomato puree.
- Add the spice paste to the browned mince, mixing well. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the red wine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the basil and chopped tomatoes, mixing well. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water until tender; drain and return to the pan. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6.
- Heat the milk in a small pan and add to the drained potatoes. Add the butter and mash until smooth. Mix in the spring onions and 55g of grated Cheddar. Season with freshly ground pepper.
- Transfer the spiced lamb to an ovenproof dish. Top with the mashed potato, spreading it evenly. Run a fork across the surface of the mashed potato to add texture. Sprinkle over the remaining Cheddar.
- Bake the shepherd’s pie for 45 minutes until golden-brown. Serve with a green or Greek salad as a side-dish.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 450g minced lamb
- black pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 4 tbsp chopped coriander
- 3 tbsp natural yogurt
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 50ml red wine
- a small bunch of basil, torn
- 450g canned chopped tomatoes
- 1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 150ml milk
- 25g butter
- 4 spring onions, finely chopped
- 115g cheddar cheese, grated
- Greek salad or green salad, to serve
Thank you, Jane, I feel hungry now! 🙂 I’m the same about my kitchen and a friend bought me (as a birthday present a couple of years ago) a sign saying ‘I only have a kitchen because it came with the house’… so true. 🙂
A little more about ‘Prime Time’…
Laura Meredith never imagined herself appearing on TV, she’s too old, too flabby, too downright hormonal, and much too busy holding things together for her son, Stanley, after her husband left her for a younger, thinner replacement. But best friend Charlotte is a determined woman and when Laura is persuaded on to a daytime show to talk about her PMT, everything changes. Suddenly there’s a camera crew tracking her every move and Laura finds herself an unlikely star. But as things hot up between her and gorgeous TV director, Cal, they’re going downhill elsewhere. While Laura’s caught up in a heady whirlwind of beauty treatments, makeovers and glamorous film locations, Charlotte’s husband, Roger, is concealing a guilty secret, Stanley’s got problems at school, work’s piling up, and when Laura turns detective to protect Charlotte’s marriage, things go horribly wrong. The champagne’s flowing as Laura’s prime time TV debut looks set to be a hit. But in every month, there’s a “Day Ten” …
And now about Jane…
Jane is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books – Wannabe a Writer? – a humorous look at becoming a scribe – and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? a guide to the art of book and self promotion. As a freelance journalist she has appeared in a wide range of women’s magazines and national newspapers and writes regular columns for Woman’s Weekly and Writing Magazine, where she is the agony aunt. Jane is an experienced tutor who is regularly booked by writing conferences and literary festivals to run workshops and give talks on all aspects of the writing process. She is also a member of Equity, has presented for the BBC on both TV and radio and has done her fair share of daytime TV, particularly when promoting her controversial second novel Perfect Alibis (subtitled How to have an affair and get away with it…) It was those – sometimes hair-raising – TV experiences that inspired Prime Time, her new novel. For more information see http://www.janewenham-jones.com and http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com. Prime Time is available as a paperback and eBook.
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