Book Friday: Happy Cooking by Candice Brown (Easy uplifting meals and comforting treats)

2016 and the height of Great British Bake Off. My daughter’s favourite contestant was Candice Brown, a young, smiling Siren of a baker who always had immaculate lipstick on. Candice Brown made the headlines for winning that year and then, like many a famous woman in the public eye, faced headlines about every part of her life. Privacy? No way. Her engagement, marriage and subsequent split were all public property, with every move and kiss scrutinised.

She runs a pub with her brother, Ben, and the last year hasn’t been kind to anyone involved in the hospitality industry so there’s no doubt that her mental health must have taken a beating. There is always so much more to a public personality than the thin slither we see on screen.

Undaunted, though, Candice has been honest enough to talk about her mental issues. Depression, PTSD, ADHD and phobias are a crazy cocktail that sometimes make Candice feel like staying in bed. The kitchen, she writes, “has always been my happy place. … The kitchen is the place I always gravitate to, whether it’s at a family gathering, friend’s houses, parties or visiting restaurants — I’ll always ask for a little look. It’s the only place I feel completely ar ease.”

And Lockdown must only add to that burden. I know the last two years have been hard for many of us (myself included) and it seems sensible to have an escape that is as grounding, as involving as baking or cooking. My escape mostly is crochet or reading, and a few minutes doing either sets me up for the day. But I also find a great comfort in taking to the kitchen, especially if it’s cleaned and cleared for action, and making food for my family.

Candice’s new book, Happy Cooking, is full of the recipes she uses to balance her brain on busy days and occupy her thoughts in the empty hours. Recipes, she says, presented with “no guilty food chats, no rules and no judgement. Just good, simple nourishment from proper food made with love and care.”

The book is divided into six sections: Quick Pick-me-ups; Simple Comforts; Keep-Your-Hands-Busy cooking; Food that Takes Care of Itself (and you); Nostalgia Food; and Say it With Cake. The headings are self-explanatory.

Each chapter has a sub-contents page along with an introduction explaining what Candice means by the name of the chapter. They cover the times when you need something so simple you could make it blindfold to the days when a long, complicated recipe may be just the distraction you need from life.

The recipes are clear and structured well, with ingredients list, a short introductory paragraph about the recipe and what it means to Candice or just extra info on the food itself. The book might have been written to highlight the role of food in Candice’s mental health, but she doesn’t go on about it. You won’t get tons of advice on meditation or supplements but you will get a picture of Candice’s family, her past and the food she loves to cook.

There’s a good blend of sweet and savoury, which is just as well, because I have a savoury tooth while my daughter has a sweet one! I’m hankering to make the spicy chicken and cashew traybake, the sweet potato and ham hock hash and a slow-cooked beef brisket in ale. The daughter is after making the cinnamon pastry twists, the cornflake rocky road and Tottenham Cake, but with blue icing not pink (no, I don’t know how, either).

Candice loves the words comfort and cosy, as you can tell from the short video of her in her home above. The book is comfort and cosy in recipe form. It makes sense, after all food and drink is a large part of hygge and hygge, for me, has been essential to keeping my mental health on an even keel. The lessons I have learned from watching, soaking up and absorbing as many hygge things as possible is that there is a lot to be said for a slower paced life, with time to stop and just be in a safe, comfy, cosy place. As Candice says in the introduction paragraph to Swedish Cinnamon Buns “”let’s talk more face-to-face, ask how someone is and take the time to breathe and enjoy the cinnamon bun.”

I’ve already started a list of the recipes to try, and next week and the week after I’ll use them in my menu planning. Of course, on Sunday it will have to be Roast Beef to support the boys in the Euro 2020 Final! Come on, England!!!

I’ll leave you, as always, with the flipthrough of the book. Candice can be found online at Instagram (complete with the cutest dogs) or The Green Man Instagram or website. I like reading pub or restaurant menus, they give me such good ideas sometimes, like a sauce or side that I hadn’t thought of combining.

And today’s header is the book, complete with my daily planner ( a stone Filofax Malden, bought second hand) and my favourite concentration aid: a portable mini diffuser with lavender and mint oils. It sits on my desk and helps me think straight, or calms me down, or makes me feel cosy according to which oils I use.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.

How to Hygge Your Summer: Hygge isn’t just about candles, throws and fireside cuppas (if indeed it is ever actually about them) and this book gives you ideas for creating hygge ready spaces and paces of life throughout the summer.

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading and thinking about hygge as well.

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