Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
Hi Sharon, I love writing and reading, and I have wanted to be a novelist for years. It took me several years to get published, and I had to persevere through lots of submission rejections on the way. I finally got my break with Harper Collins in 2015 with my debut novel, The Torn Up Marriage. I’m a normal (my friends might argue with that!) mum with two grown-up children, a dog who I love to walk, and I’m lucky to live in Northumberland, a beautiful part of the world; its stunning countryside, golden sandy beaches, historic castles, and wild moorland inspire my writing.
If you had to do an elevator pitch for The Cosy Teashop in the Castle, what would it be?
Star-baker Ellie risks it all for her dream of running her own teashop. With a slice of castle life and a cast of show-stopping characters including the truly scrumptious castle manager, Joe, this is a fabulous, heart-warming read – simply irresistible.
Was the teashop in Claverham Castle inspired by a real teashop?
Yes, my friend ran the tea rooms at Chillingham Castle for many years. It’s near to my home in Northumberland. It’s a beautiful, old stone castle set in the most gorgeous countryside, and is such an amazing, quirky, historic place. I even worked “undercover” as a waitress for a day when I was writing the book, so I really knew what it would be like.
I could imagine a Teashop Dream coming true there, and a beautiful love story too.
Ellie's love of baking was influenced by her Nanna, did you have a similar role model?
There is often someone special in your life who influences you. For Ellie, it was her Nanna, who had sadly died. I lived a long way away from my two Nan’s when I was growing up in Cornwall (they lived in London), so I think the grandmother character in my book was aspirational. My Little Nan was a really good baker though – I remember her lemon meringue pie being delicious.
Describe Ellie in three words.
Friendly, warm, brave.
What can we expect from you next?
I have just finished writing The Cosy Christmas Teashop – a poignant, funny and festive sequel to The Cosy Teashop in the Castle. Expect to see more of Ellie and Joe’s romance and the ups and downs of castle life, as well as some fun and fabulous wedding scenes, with tinsel, baubles, mince pies, and mulled wine a plenty. Not long to wait, as it’s going to be published in October 2016!
Describe your cooking style, follow recipes religiously or wing it and see how it turns out?
I mostly follow recipes, but I do like to add my own twists now and again. I enjoy spicy food, so I often add some extra chilli.
If you were going to apply to be a contestant on a cooking show, would it be Masterchef or Great British Bake Off?
Masterchef – though I love writing about baking (and eating the results), I am a much better savoury cook than sweet and my cooking has been inspired by my travels around the world. My baking tends to be rather unique with cakes that rise like volcano peaks!
You're planning a dinner party, which 5 people (dead or alive) would you invite?
Hmm, interesting. I’d like to invite Tom Kerridge (hopefully he wouldn’t mind cooking too!) he seems down to earth and good fun, Nelson Mandela – so I could ask what was apartheid really like and how did he keep so strong all that time in prison to come out and realise his dream, my mother-in-law Tessa – such a lovely lady, who was very sociable and who died far too young, Emily Bronte to find out what was it really like to be writing in the Victorian era in such a rural place, and my close friend Louise, we both love our food, and it’s always lovely to have a catch up with old friends, as we live some way away.
It's your last day on earth, what 3 course meal would you choose?
I love all sorts of food, so for me it’s the food and the place you eat it in, that makes it even more special. A scallop thermidor starter from my favourite restaurant, The Mizen in Bamburgh, Northumberland, then you could zip me across to Mexico for some tacos filled with king prawns and pineapple overlooking a white sandy beach and sea view, then back to Claverham Castle for a slice of Nanna’s Choffee cake served with our lovely, local Doddington’s ice cream in The Cosy Teashop.
|Nanna's Choffee cake|
Thai green chicken and king prawn curry. (Recipe below).
Finally a few quickfire questions to finish off:
Gordon Ramsay or Marco Pierre White? Gordon Ramsay
Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry? Mary Berry
Sweet or Savoury? Savoury
Steak or Lobster? Lobster (Thermidor)
Profiteroles or Crumble? Crumble – look in the back of my next book The Cosy Christmas Teashop for a gorgeous Rhubarb and Ginger crumble recipe.
Smoothie or Prosecco? Prosecco
Caroline’s Thai Green Chicken and Prawn Curry
1 x 400ml can of coconut milk
1 heaped tablespoon thai green curry paste
2 dried kaffir lime leaves
500g pack of skinless, boneless chicken thighs
250g king or tiger prawns (raw preferably, or cooked). Can be frozen, but defrost before use.
1 tsp Thai fish sauce
1 fresh green chili, chopped finely (remember to wash your hands afterwards!)
About ten fresh basil leaves – optional
These ingredients sound quite exotic but can be found in most larger supermarkets. It makes a lovely supper, that feels rather special.
Heat a cup of the coconut milk from the top of the can (med/high), stirring all the time until it comes to the boil. Add the thai green paste and cook for about 5 mins, this will smell lovely and fragrant. Add the chicken thighs and brown all over, reduce heat to medium and add the rest of the coconut milk, the kaffir lime leaves torn into 2 or 3 pieces, and the fish sauce. Allow to simmer for about 25 mins.
Then add the prawns and cook until pink if raw, or for about 3 or 4 mins to heat through, no more, if using cooked. Stir through the chopped green chili and about 6 torn basil leaves if using. Serve with boiled thai jasmine rice, and a basil leaf on top. Enjoy!
Chestnuts roasting, mince pies by the dozen, the delicious waft of mulled wine drifting through the castle… Ellie realized her baking dream when she became the proud owner of the cosy little teashop in the crumbling but charming Claverham Castle, and she’s determined to instil a bit of Christmas magic!
The pressure’s on to keep up Lord Henry’s exacting standards. Can Ellie turn the old Turkeys into Showstoppers for Christmas? And will there be magic under the mistletoe with her hunky Castle beau, Joe?