MAGAZINE: Star interview - a very Berry Christmas

There’s been a distinct lack of Mary Berry on our TV screens since this year’s season of The Great British Bake Off ended, but thankfully the expert baker will soon be back with a Christmas special of everyone’s favourite cake-based TV show.

Thursday, 6th November 2014, 4:56 pm
Mary Berry. Photo: Tim James/Mabel Gray.

This winter, she is also entertaining and educating the nation at The BBC Good Food shows; live events where Berry will doing cooking demonstrations and sharing her advice on how to make preparing Christmas dinner a stress-free experience.

“The BBC Good Food shows have something for everybody, they are family days and we get quite a few schools coming down on a weekday. It is lovely to see so many young people enjoying baking and I think maybe the Bake Off has inspired them, I really like that,” says Berry.

“It’s also a great day out and there’s lots to do – and eat! If you want to take a picnic, you can, but generally people want to try the new foods on offer so there are lots of tasty samples and good restaurants! People seem to come to see everything that’s new and to watch the experts cooking, to inspire them to be perhaps a little more adventurous with their own cooking.”

Mary herself will be demonstrating main meals, instead of cakes, for a change, at the next BBC Good Food Show, with her TV co-host Paul Hollywood.

“We’ll be cooking really good family food together and encouraging people to come and enjoy cooking,” she says with a smile.

“Because of these shows, Paul and I are working together all the time now, which is lovely.”

Eschewing glace cherries and icing sugar for a change, Mary and Paul will be teaching people how to prepare some simple, straightforward festive dishes. “I’ve got a lovely dish to serve around Christmas time; it is an all in one dish so you don’t get too much washing up, it’s chicken with spinach and mushrooms with a lovely cheese topping. And then I’ll be doing an instant quick lemon posset in a glass so you can do that the day before and with no gelatine – it’s very easy to do.”

For less experienced chefs, the idea of cooking in front of a live audience would fill most of us with dread, but Mary is the consummate professional, always calm and collected when she has a wooden spoon in her hand.

“Usually there aren’t disasters, because I do obviously a lot of preparation beforehand. We want them to run smoothly, because we do want to encourage people to cook, and if I get to a stage in the recipe where it’s likely to go wrong, I tell the audience! I tell them that if something isn’t done, then to put it back in the oven or to microwave it if it’s got to be heated through – I try to give as many tips as I can.”

Meanwhile, when Berry isn’t in front of a TV camera, she’ll be preparing “classic mince pies and a fairly light Christmas cake” in time for the festive season. It’s always a traditional family Christmas for Berry and her brood, who all live within 40 minutes of each other in Buckinghamshire.

“We’ll either have everybody to us or we’ll be going to one of my children’s houses, but I’ll be helping with the cooking wherever I go,” she says, not willing to give up her place in the kitchen and take it easy, despite her fast approaching 80th birthday next March.

“I’ve got my own favourite Christmas recipes; I make a lovely cranberry sauce where I use raw cranberries and just blitz them with oranges, that is a good one,” says Berry. “Also, in our house, it’s always turkey, I love turkey cooked to perfection and all the trimmings that go with it. It’s a very classic Christmas!”

The BBC Good Food Show Winter takes place at NEC Birmingham 27-30 November 2014