Candice Brown on her new book, Happy Cooking

Virgin Radio

2 Jul 2021, 10:33

The winner of 2016’s Great British Bake Off joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about her new book, and about the positive impact that cooking can have on mental health. 

Candice’s book, Happy Cooking: Easy Uplifting Meals and Comforting Treats, is out now. She told Chris, “I love food, I love everything about it, and I cook all the time. I’m definitely not a finesse chef, but I love big flavours and whacking it all in and hoping for the best. That’s kind of the food that I do, but also, quick and easy stuff.”

Talking about some of the recipes in the book, Candice explained that cooking shouldn’t be stressful. She said, “It shouldn’t be that you have to order Himalayan salt direct from the Himalayas, or wait three weeks for an ingredient, or have to go to several different shops to get those. If you haven’t got something, just whack something else in. Do you know what, if it doesn’t work, either don’t tell anyone or, if it looks rubbish, just eat it with your eyes closed!”

In Happy Cooking, Candice openly talks about her mental health issues, and she explained to Chris how her mental health informed the making of the book. “I’ve struggled with mental health, depression, PTSD, phobia, and then last year I got diagnosed with ADHD, which is a lot to do with the organisation, everything like that. So the book was kind of founded around that and those different things, and one of the things was, food one day, and then just just not having time or wanting to bother then next day, so actually making two-for-one. So, having roast lamb on a Sunday, or whenever you want to have a roast, and then making a stew or a casserole with the leftovers.”

She continued, “For me, I have the most horrendous dark days, I still do. But actually food can bring me back, whether it’s the process, whether it’s doing something with my hands, whether it’s something that’s come out well, and I go, ‘Actually, no, I’m alright at this.’

“It is the process. Whether it’s the eating of it, whether it’s planning ahead, whether it’s making someone else happy, food has always been about that for me, and I think last year showed that more. People were gravitating towards the kitchen, and using food as therapy, as I’ve always done.”

Candice went on to talk about the importance of the book’s Nostalgia section. “This was a very different cookbook,” she explained. “Because this was about the mind as much as the food, and one of the things for me is that food should invoke memories and it should invoke nostalgia. 

“It’s things that maybe I had as a child in school dinners, or something Nan used to make. Nan has always been a big part of my cooking and baking. So, yeah, just those things that I had, or missed from school, or that Nan used to make. Or things from where I grew up and went to school that I don’t even really like, that my friends love, like the Chocolate Toothpaste. I don’t get it at all, but I know that my friends absolutely love it!”

During their discussion about nostalgia, Candice told Chris about her Grandfather, who had Alzeimers. She said, “Food was such a big part of almost bringing him back to us, and back to me, because of something he would taste or smell, and we’d get Grandad back, just for that little bit.” 

Candice will be at this year’s Carfest North and South - doing demos on the Kitchen stage and being interviewed on the Starfest stage. She also cooked at Chris’ Dine and Disco event last weekend (Saturday 26th June), which saw Elton John play an intimate charity gig in the grounds of the Chewton Glen Hotel to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. On making the canapes for the event, she told Chris, “I spent the two days in the kitchen with the chefs, and I loved it. All day Friday and all day Saturday. Literally, I think the event was starting and I ran across I was like, ‘I’ve still got my chef Crocs on!’

“I literally legged it upstairs, put on the sequins - obviously, Elton John - and some sparkly cowboy boots, ran back down and I was there!”

It’s fair to say that, like everyone lucky enough to be there, Candice had a good time. “We went through all the wines! All the colours of the wines! Being in the kitchen and at Dine and Disco I actually didn’t eat very much, which is always a bad thing. I woke up at about eight the next morning and I thought, ‘Oh no.’ But I drank a pint of water, a bottle of orange juice, a couple more hours’ sleep, went for a swim… absolutely fine!”

Happy Cooking: Easy Uplifting Meals and Comforting Treats is out now.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.