Monday, 17 August 2015

My Debut Cookbook, plus a Behind-the-scenes Sneak Peek



Gosh it's been ages. The past months have flown by, a mix of ups and downs and twists and turns that I'm not going to go into. There is one particular thing though, that I have been waiting for the longest time to share and now I'm finally allowed to let this giant balloon of excitement pop.

I've been working on my debut cookbook..! Watch out for Chicken and Rice, published by Fig Tree (Penguin Books), next spring. It will be a collection of Southeast Asian recipes, with a focus on using what's British and seasonal to create authentic home-style/ hawker dishes*. I'll definitely be banging drums and shooting party horns closer to its release but I thought I'll give you all a heads up and a tiny behind-the-scenes sneak peek.

It's been pretty crazy. Weekdays were a crazy juggle of work and late night recipe-writing. Saturday mornings often involved cycling across London picking up ingredients from the markets/ butchers/ fishmongers. Saturday afternoons were spent cooking or heading back out with a grumpy sigh to get whatever ingredient it is I had forgotten again. Sundays were the best. I would gather my friends round and cook up a feast. They were happy recipe testers, guinea pigs and dishwashers, and I'm at my happiest feeding people.



The final Sunday feast took place at my wonderful agent Emily's place. Her partner Pete's a chef and she herself is one hell of a baker. What that bit meant: A massive kitchen (probably the biggest room in her house) decked with every pot and pan and tool you could need, stacks of cookbooks, and rows of Japanese handcrafted knives hanging neatly on the wall. We also had a great outdoor wood fired oven and little charcoal barbecue in the garden to work with, i.e. my dream come true.

I roped in Sean, my partner-in-crime when it comes to cooking, gardening, foraging or just eating really, and we lugged our mortar and pestles to Emily's early in the morning. I'd left all the barbecue recipes to the end so that we could have a giant smoky feast in summer. The menu was an ambitious one: minced pork stuffed squid with dill nam pla prik, Nyonya grilled quails, sticky soy sauce wings, corn on the cob with Thai basil butter, Malay chopped herb rice, kohlrabi som tum, and coconut sticky rice for dessert. I was a little bit stressed to say the least; the worst part being that I had to look my best with smoke billowing in my face. Susan the photographer was a genius though, and she managed to snap photos of me before I could freeze up awkwardly.



My friends arrived soon after in a merry noisy hungry gaggle, beer bottles in hand. I did finally relax, especially once the food was out and the rain (yes, damn it England) cleared up. It was just like any other Sunday after all– good food, good friends and lots of messy finger licking. And book or not, this was always what cooking was about to me.

Anyway yes that's the good news. The final manuscript's off to the editors, there's much more to go of course, but I'll be watching from the sidelines. I have my weeknights and weekends back so hopefully I can start dusting the cobwebs off this space– the lil' ol' blog that started it all. Who would have thought? :)



A big thank you to Emily (and Pete) for lending us your home and for pulling me into this madness in the first place. To Anna and Juliet my patient food-obsessed editors, and to Alison the designer and the rest of the design team (please make my book beautiful). To Susan and co. for driving from Brighton on a Sunday with gigantic cameras. To Sean the man. To my favourite people for volunteering their stomachs.

Credits: 
All the beautiful photos i.e. first group photo, photo of me dishing up som tum, and my hand reaching for more chicken wings are by Susan Bell. The other hasty iPhone shots from me/ friends.

Related reads:
*A rant on authenticity, and recipe for Kohlrabi Som Tum

Will be keeping the mailing list updated, sign up here if you like!



33 comments:

  1. Looking forward to this. I am hoping there'll be a Kindle version?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wooo thank you! No news of a Kindle version yet, fingers crossed!

      Delete
  2. Well, well, Shu Han! Congratulations! I bet it's gonna be a beautiful book with awesome recipes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It will be awesome :p Haha thanks so much Phong Hong!

      Delete
  3. Woohoo, congratulations! What amazing news. All the hard work will pay off and I bet it will be a very beautiful book. Can't wait to see it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Caz! I can't wait too :D :D :D

      Delete
  4. Congratulations, Shu Han!!!!!! I am so HAPPY for you!

    ReplyDelete
  5. shu, how incredibly exciting! big big congratulations. i cannot wait to see it in print. all my love, xx

    ReplyDelete
  6. Congrats! I can't wait to get it

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, so exciting! I review for Penguin so hopefully they will send some copies to South Africa :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooooh amazing! I'm keeping my fingers crossed you get some copies!

      Delete
  8. Congratulations! Looking forward to getting a copy at release! :D If it's anything like the Plusixfive cookbook it's gonna be awesome haha love that book

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hurrah! And so happy to hear that about the Plusixfive book. It's gonna have a quite different voice from Goz, but same kind of focus on honest good food that doesn't take itself too seriously ;)

      Delete
  9. Huzzah! Is it possible to feel pleased and proud for an Internet friend that I have never met officially, but have come to know a bit and cheer on via 'back and forth' communication now and then ? YES!
    Wonderful news, Shu Han! You go!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment makes me so happy Susan! I recently met a blogger I've come to known through chatting online through each other blogs for years, and that feeling was just so surreal and amazing! Thanks so much, will keep you all posted when it's finally ready :)

      Delete
  10. AH MA GERD WELL DONE! That's so exciting. Huge congratulations. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YEAHHHH! Thanks Lizzie, still a long way to go though, but yes super excited too. xxx

      Delete
  11. Hi Shu Han, wow... congratulation to you. Feel so happy for you. Keep up the good job.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures.

    Have a great weekend, regards.
    Amelia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Amelia :) Hope you had a great weekend too!

      Delete
  12. This is so exciting Shu Han though I'm not surprised at all! You0re so talented and hard working!
    I can't wait to buy the book :-) I'm sure Pablo will cook from it some day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Helene! I'll definitely give you a heads up when it's ready yay, it will absolutely make my day to have Pablo eating one of the recipes from the book :)

      Delete
  13. Congratulations! That's such exciting news. I'll definitely look out for the book when it's released.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Corina :) Will definitely keep you updated!

      Delete
  14. Somehow I've missed this exciting post... Congratulations!!! I'm so happy for you, dear Shu! I am looking forward to reading this book and most of all cooking from it. I'm sure it'll become a bestseller. (By the way, you look really beautiful at the photographs above! It must be all the delicious food you cook ;-) ).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Sissi! It will be incredible having you cook from it. Quite surreal in fact given you are one of the oldest blog friends I made through this lil old blog! I'll definitely keep you posted on the book when it's out!

      Delete
  15. This is amazing news, so pleased for you! Can't wait to see the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Caroline! I can't wait too :)

      Delete
  16. Exciting! Congrats on the upcoming book :)

    ReplyDelete