Cook and baker extraordinaire Lucy Young has worked with Mary Berry for 23 years and the talented pair have just launched new book called At Home (BBC Books). ACHICA Living catches up with Lucy to discover her top baking tips and to borrow one of her favourite recipes. Read the interview and follow the recipe here...
How did you get into cooking and baking?
At 18 I went to Le Corden Bleu college to train as I enjoyed cooking at home. Two years later I was lucky enough to get my job with Mary Berry as her assistant.
Who inspires you most in the cooking arena?
Anyone who thinks of the person they are writing for. It is so important when writing a book to reach everyone, not be too specialised. James Martin and Nigel Slater are wonderful.
How did you come to work with Mary Berry?
I live fairly locally to Mary and my mother heard through a friend of a friend that Mary was looking for an assistant. I had completed my training and gained relevant experience for a few years and so I jumped at the chance when I heard. I went for an interview at Mary's home. That was 23 years ago and I am still working with her.
Other than cooking, what do you do for fun?
At home I love gardening. My husband and I have a little Victorian house and the garden needs a lot of work so that’s the way I relax at the moment. Or if we get the chance we go to Devon for the weekend - as soon as I see the sea I relax.
Where’s your favorite place to go out to eat?
We have some great local pubs around us, which I prefer to go to than restaurants, which try too hard. For tea, Fortnum & Mason is divine. It makes me all nostalgic and romantic!
What kitchen gadget could you not live without?
A good set of scales. It’s so important, especially when baking, that the measurements are accurate. Baking is a science so if the quantities are not accurate the cake will fail.
What is the last item you bought for your home?
A wood burning stove for our kitchen. It’s next to our little sofa, which make the room very cosy. I love buying things for our home, we have renovated our house over the past year and I love the combination of old and new. I have an 18th- century French mirror next to a modern, chrome station clock.
What’s your favourite meal?
Fresh in season asparagus or Beef Wellington, followed by Lemon Meringue Pie.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
A fresh homemade burger and chips. Because I don’t cook this type of food, it is a guilty treat when I go to the pub.
Which do you prefer – an Aga or electric oven?
An Aga. I have a duck egg blue Aga 3 oven TC, which I adore.
How do you test the recipes for a new book?
For a new book we start from scratch. So we think ‘what can be done with a chicken breast or new cake recipe?’ for example. We get inspiration from eating out, our friends and new ingredients and it’s fun to try new ideas.
Were there any mishaps when working on the book?
We did have fun creating the chocolate cake recipe! Different techniques mean the ingredients react differently. At stage three we were a little worried it wasn't going to be exactly how we wanted, and it took about 5 attempts to get it just so, but Mary never gives up and will get up at dawn to get a recipe perfect!
What is your favourite recipe in your new book At Home?
Red Pepper and Fennel Pissaladiere and Mini Banoffi Pies
What is your best baking tip?
Keep it simple, especially if slightly nervous about cooking and do not over- challenge yourself. It’s only food and should be fun and enjoyable. And, of course, follow a good recipe.
What’s next on the Lucy Young to do list?
I work with Mary Berry pretty much full time organising her working life. She is filming the new series of the Great British Bake Off at the moment, so that is keeping us both busy. We are also doing another Mary Berry book to go with a new TV series, which we will film this summer, at her home. I hope to do another book too but maybe next year - this year is a bit full already ! I just love my job and am very lucky to share it with lovely people.
Mini Banoffee Pies recipe by Lucy Young
These individual pies are Lucy’s recipe and are divine. Tins of ready-made caramel can be bought in any supermarket (and save having to boil a can of condensed milk like we used to) to give it a caramel flavour.
For the base 40g (11⁄2oz) butter, melted
75g (3oz) digestive biscuits, crushed
For the topping
50g (2oz) butter
50g (2oz) light muscovado sugar
1 × 397g tin caramel
4 small bananas
200ml (7fl oz) double cream, lightly whipped
25g (1oz) square of dark chocolate
You will need eight 7cm (21⁄2-in) cooking rings, arranged on a baking sheet.
To make the bases, mix the melted butter with the crushed biscuits and stir until combined. Spoon evenly between the rings and press down with the back of a spoon. Chill while you make the topping.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the caramel and stir until combined. Simmer for 1 minute then set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Pour the sauce into the rings on top of the biscuit base and chill for about one hour or until the toffee has just set. Slice the banana and arrange on top, then spoon or pipe over the cream. Slide a fish slice under each ring and move to serving plates. Remove the rings and finely grate chocolate on top of each pie to garnish.
Tip for forward planning: The toffee can be put into the rings up to a day ahead. Top with banana and cream up to 6 hours ahead (leave the rings on as the banana will discolour if exposed to the air). Not suitable for freezing.
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Emma Morton Turner, Guest Editor
View all posts by Emma Morton Turner, Guest Editor