I use a swiss roll at the bottom of my trifle, cut into slices. Or you can buy sponge fingers that I used to love eating as they were as a child, known as Lady Fingers or champagne biscuits. Or use amoretti biscuits if you prefer. Go with what you can get. But I like a raspberry swiss roll at the bottom of mine.

Then, a sprinkling of booze. I use sherry because I’ve always got it in for my mother, who on days she’s not having a drink, will just have a sherry!! What she means is she’s not having wine! In her mind, sherry is in a different category!

. .

Next fruit. It could be tinned, but I use frozen bags of summer berries.

Then the debate, to jelly or not to jelly. Entirely up to you. You could warm some jam and pour it over the berries, but if you like jelly, embrace it and go for it. Make up the jelly, pour it over the sponge and fruit and let it set.

Then it’s time for the custard. If you’re making it, I’m going with a BBC Good Food recipe here, put 200ml of cream and 700 ml of whole milk into a pan and heat it to just below boiling point. Then, in a separate bowl, whisk four egg yolks, three tablespoons of cornflour, 100 grams of caster sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then gradually pour the cream and milk mixture into the bowl, whisking. Wipe out the saucepan, pour the mixture back into it and gently heat until it thickens.

Or, buy a tin, a carton or one of the posh tubs from the fresh counter in the supermarket and pour that over the set fruit and jelly. And yes, the chef is allowed to lick out the cold custard from the pan or carton!

When everything is cool, whisk up double cream and create little snowy peaks from it on the top.

Then decorate, hundreds and thousands, silver stars, chocolate buttons. Trifle is one of things you can do with what you want! Do what takes your fancy.

Make a chocolate one with Irish liquer, or swap sherry for cassis, or make a peach one with tinned peaches and that bottle of peach liqueur your aunt gave you for last Christmas and you have no idea what to do with!

Most of all, make it fun! And always leave a drop of cold custard in the bottom of the pot for the chef. It’s her Christmas treat!

Inspired by Keeping a Christmas Promise, this traditional Icelandic stew is heart-warming and comforting, made with the most simple but flavourful ingredients – this is my perfect meal for a cold winter’s day. I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients

  • 1kg lamb, either shoulder or neck works best
  • 4 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 4 parsnips, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium swede, chopped
  • 5 waxy potatoes, chopped. King Edwards would work well
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method

  1. Place meat in a large soup pot and cover with water.
  2. Slowly bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low.
  3. Simmer the meat for about an hour, until it’s very tender and falling off the bone. During the cooking process, skim away any surface scum.
  4. Add the chopped vegetables and simmer until they’re tender, about 30 more minutes.
  5. Serve Kjötsúpa hot with crusty bread lathered in butter. It might not be geyser bread, but it will be delicious!

To celebrate the publication of Keeping a Christmas Promise, we’re offering one lucky reader the chance to win a £200 Christmas food shop at Sainsbury’s so you can stock up on all the essentials (and add a few extra treats) this year!

For your chance to win £200 of Sainsbury’s vouchers, simply complete the form below before the closing date of 23.59pm on 1st December 2022.

One winner will be chosen at random and T&Cs apply.

Good luck!

To celebrate the publication of Keeping a Christmas Promise, one reader will win £200 of Tesco vouchers to spend on Christmas dinner essentials (and extra treats) this year!

For your chance to win, complete the form below before the closing date of 23.59pm on 1st December 2022.

One winner will be chosen at random and T&Cs apply. Good luck!

Hello all,

This is a really hard letter to write, telling you all the news, when there is so much sadness and suffering going on in Ukraine. I have been thinking of the people there. The families just like ours having their lives and homes ripped apart and has made me more grateful than ever for the ones I have around me and the table we have to gather around.

I hope every day that a resolution is found soon.

I have been thinking about the families, displaced and how food and recipes will play a big part in them holding on to their heritage, identity, their memories and their roots and family members they’re separated from.  We all turn to food from our childhood when we’re looking for comfort. Yesterday, I had a tin of tomato soup… I was right back there, on the sofa of the house I grew up in, with sliced white bread and butter to dip into it, dunked and ending up all around my cheeks.

I have been binge watching Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy. I love it! In his first episode he met two women, one who was Italian and been living on a dreadful estate, full of crime and drugs. Another who was part of a romany gypsy community who had settled nearby. The women came together with a desire to make things better, by cooking for their communities. As the project grew, creating dishes from their past, so did the community begin to flourish and prosper. Now they have a restaurant on the site and people travel for miles to eat there. They can fund nursery places for children on the site, while parents work in the restaurant and the community is going from strength to strength. It feels like from the ashes of disaster, as in the words of the song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, have grown the roses of success.

And I hope too, as the displaced Ukrainian people, who have had to flee their homes and have to adjust to a new norm, they find strength and belonging and hope in the recipes they put on the tables for the ones they love, wherever they may be for now.

In the meantime, hug the ones you love, remember the ones that aren’t with you, who made us who we are. Find time to escape into the pages of a book! I know I am. I’m reading Katie Fforde’s A Wedding in Provence and it is just a joyous trip to France, a safe and happy place that I need right now.

Last week I had the joy of hosting the Romantic Novelists Association Awards at a lovely lavish event in London. Here I am with my co-host Larry Lamb from ‘Gavin and Stacey’!

I realised it had been over two years since I’d been to a lively, noisy, excited do like that. The evening was a real celebration of books, escapism and hopeful endings! Just what we all need when life around us is anything but. It was a joy to remember and celebrate the books we love to write, for the readers who love to read them.

Stay safe all.

With Love, as always

Jo x

Eliza has a full house! When her three children grew up and moved out, she downsized to a smaller property… but now they’re all back. Every room in the house is taken and Eliza finds herself sharing her bed with her eldest daughter and her daughter’s pug. Combined with the online course she’s trying to finish, plus her job to fit in, there just isn’t the peace and quiet that Eliza needs.

So when an ad pops up on her laptop saying ‘house-sitters wanted’, Eliza can’t resist the chance to escape. She ends up moving to a rural finca in southern Spain, looking after the owner’s Iberico pigs, learning about secret gastronomic societies… and finding a new zest for life and love along the way.

PRE-ORDER RETREAT TO THE SPANISH SUN TODAY!

To celebrate the publication of Chasing the Italian Dream (and the return of balmy summer nights), we are offering one lucky reader the chance to win a portable pizza oven from Ooni Fyra.

 

Ooni Fyra pizza ovens are wood-fired, easy to set up, and light enough to carry from your back garden to your picnic table. Perfect for relaxed evenings sharing stories, food and drink with your loved ones!

For your chance to win, complete the form below before midnight on 15 July 2021.

Terms & Conditions and Penguin Privacy Policy apply. Good luck!

Happy New Year!

I’m so pleased to be able to start 2021 by sharing the cover for my new book, out this summer in ebook and paperback.

Chasing the Italian Dream is about just that, and even if we have to stick to armchair travel right now that isn’t going to stop me from bringing a bit of dolce vita into your lives.

Read on to find out more about the book.

Ciao!

Jo xxx

Lucia has worked hard as a lawyer in Wales, aiming for a big promotion she hopes will shortly come her way. Finally taking a well-earned break at her grandparents’ house in southern Italy, the sunshine, lemon trees and her nonna’s mouth-watering cooking make her instantly feel at home.

But she’s shocked to learn that her grandfather is retiring from the beloved family pizzeria and will need to sell. Lucia can’t bear the thought of the place changing hands – especially when she discovers her not-quite-ex-husband Giacomo wants to take it over!

Then bad news from home forces Lucia to re-evaluate what she wants from life. Is this her chance to carry on the family tradition and finally follow her dreams?

PRE-ORDER THE BOOK ON AMAZON TODAY

**This competition has now ended. Thanks to all who entered and keep checking back for more competitions in the future!**

 

To celebrate the publication of Finding Love at the Christmas Market we are offering one lucky reader the chance to win the ULTIMATE German Gingerbread chest.

Win a German Gingerbread Chest with Finding Love at the Christmas Market

Cosy up with your copy of Finding Love at the Christmas Market, a steaming mug of Glühwein and a plate of lebkuchen hearts, cinnamon stars and butter biscuits. What could be more Christmassy and transporting?

Finding Love at the Christmas Market

For your chance to win simply complete the entry form below before midnight on 7 December 2020.

Terms & Conditions and Penguin Privacy Policy apply. Good luck!

Win a Christmas Market Gingerbread Chest

Well, it seems autumn is rolling in! It’s time to pull out the chunky sweaters, slip on the slipper socks and curl up with good book! And I am so excited that Finding Love in the Christmas Market is out now in ebook!

 

I can’t wait for you all to meet Connie, Pearl and the gang on this very special trip to the German Christmas markets. It is so sad that we won’t be visiting them in person this year, but hopefully, you’ll grab a glass of Gluhwein and enjoy the trip to The Old Town market where there’s a huge Christmas tree, light falling snow, fairy lights, the smell of sizzling sausages and cinnamon the air. And if you’re not on an e-reader, the paperback is out on 29th October, so not long to wait!

Finding Love at the Christmas Market

I loved the research for this book! I went on a Titan river cruise with friends and fellow authors Katie Fforde and Bernadine Kennedy. We travelled down the Rhine visiting different markets, tasting locally made food, smoked sausages, sugary sweet treats and of course gingerbread. We ate bratwurst sausages and tried currywurst! We drank warm spiced apple juice and Gluhwein from bars in wooden chalets, around open log fires. Families and friends all take the time to meet up in the markets and spend time with each other there. The feeling of community fills the air.

The other research I was lucky enough to do was to spend the day at Cardiff college with the baking and patisserie students, making a gingerbread village. I loved it! Each building was different and beautifully decorated and also tasted delicious!  The kitchen was warm, smelt amazing, the camaraderie amazing and with Christmas music playing in the background it felt like a great big hug!!

It has been lovely to see reviewers and bloggers and those reading early copies of Finding Love at the Christmas Market feeling just like I did when I visited that kitchen with the baking students, warm and hugged.