FROM tackling fussy-eaters to mastering simple Sunday roasts, Kirstie Allsopp's got it all covered in her first cookbook.

TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp is best known as one half of the Location, Location, Location double act.

But now her debut cookbook, Kirstie's Real Kitchen, has just hit the shelves and she's on a new mission, to inspire people who think they can't cook to give it a try.

"It's a book for people who are not that confident about themselves as a cook. There is a big 'can-do' part of my life, which I've only recently realised," she says. "The fun bit is doing things in a certain way that people then say, 'You know, I didn't think I could do this, and now I can'. And then you think, actually, this is really a job worth doing."

Kirstie once knew very little about cooking herself

To write the book, Kirstie, 46, mined her experiences of learning to cook, from her days as a single 20-something, to becoming a mum and step-mum to four boys. Recipes are split into categories like Big Dishes, Children & Fussy Eaters and, of course, Christmas.

"Cooking didn't play a huge part in my childhood," she admits. "My mum was fascinated by people who were interested in food. She used to say, 'Oh my God! So and so sits in bed and reads recipe books!' She was just amazed anyone would do that.

"I bought my first flat when I was 21 [in the early-Nineties] and mortgage rates were 14%. Now there is a much bigger eating-out culture among young people, but it really didn't exist back then. If you wanted to see your friends, you had to cook, and that is what I did. But it was a really steep learning curve... Old friends of mine will tell you there was a whole year of chicken tikka, because I'd learn to do one thing."

Sometimes her partner doesn't like her food!

She says she's not "a risk-taker in the kitchen", although she does experiment on her property developer partner Ben Andersen more now than she used to.

"If it's disgusting, he'll say something really sweet like, 'Not sure how successful that is!'"

Her happiest times in the kitchen now are Sunday mornings, when she's making the roast and catching up on The Archers.

"What I really like doing is cooking something for lunch on Sunday, plus something I can freeze for the following weekend or for the week, plus something that uses leftovers. I like that kind of multitasking cooking. If I'm going to make pesto, then I'm going to make enough for three or four [meals] - it's more economic and less wasteful."

She's also a big advocate of healthy eating but says she hasn't focused on that in the book because, "if you're trying to get people to start cooking, you can't lecture them on diet at the same time.

"The absolute key is to encourage people to cook more," states Kirstie. "Once you start cooking more, you realise what goes into food and you start being more careful about what you eat. I think it is very hard to have a healthy diet if you don't cook."

Here are a couple of recipes from her book to try at home.



(Serves 4-6)

1 x 1.8kg shoulder of lamb, on the bone, or 1 x 2kg leg of lamb

2tbsp vegetable oil

1 x 7.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated

4 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or grated

2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped

4tbsp soy sauce

1tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2tbsp clear honey or maple syrup

1 large onion, peeled and halved

1 lemon, halved

3 star anise (optional)

500ml light chicken or vegetable stock (a stock cube is fine)


1. If using a slow-cooker, make sure your joint of lamb will fit in it. If using a conventional oven, preheat it to 170°C/Fan 150°C/Gas 3.

2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the lamb on all sides. Place in the slow-cooker or a roasting pan. (If using an Aga, brown the lamb in the roasting oven for about 20 minutes, then do the rest in the simmering oven.)

3. Mix the ginger, garlic, chillies, soy sauce, Worcester sauce and honey in a bowl. Smear all over the lamb. Tuck the onion halves, lemon halves and star anise (if using) around the joint, then pour the stock around it - you don't want to disturb that sticky topping.

4. Set the slow-cooker to low, put the lid on and leave the lamb to cook for around six to seven hours. In the Aga, or a conventional oven preheated as above, it will take about two-and-a-half to three hours (the longer the better, to be honest). Keep an eye on it throughout the cooking time, and add a little more water or stock if it looks too dry. You want to have a liquid sauce at the end. Test by using a fork to pull a little bit of meat from the joint. If it comes away very easily, it's done. If not, continue to cook in the oven until it does. When ready, the meat will be very tender, actually falling off the bone, so be careful when moving it from pot to plate.

5. We serve these tender strands of meat with their juices, some quick stir-fried greens and rice or noodles.



(Serves 4)

25g bulgur wheat

50ml boiling water

300g ripe tomatoes

2 large bunches of flat-leaf parsley

Small bunch of mint

6 spring onions

3tbsp lemon juice

4tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1tsp mixed ground spices

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

At least 8 small Romaine or Little Gem lettuce leaves

4 ready-made flatbreads


1. Put the bulgur wheat in a small bowl and add the boiling water. Stir, then set aside for 20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. Drain in a sieve to be sure.

2. Meanwhile, use a sharp knife to remove the stalk and hard core from the tomatoes. (You can also skin the tomatoes and remove the seeds if you like, but I don't usually bother.) Quarter what's left, then cut into dice and put into a large serving bowl.

3. Pick the parsley and mint leaves, discarding the stalks or saving them for a stock. Chop the leaves finely, and do the same to the spring onions. Add them all to the tomatoes and mix well. When the bulgur wheat has absorbed all the water, use a fork to fluff it up and separate the grains. Add it to the tomatoes.

4. Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil into the tomato mixture and season to taste with salt, pepper and your chosen spices. Mix well.

5. To serve, arrange the lettuce and flatbreads on four serving plates. Offer the tabbouleh in its bowl and ask people to help themselves, scooping tabbouleh into the leaves.



(Serves 6)

700g Cox's apples, cored and cut into wedges

300g blackberries

Juice of 1 orange

1tsp ground mixed spice

3tbsp light soft brown sugar

For the topping:

175g plain flour

100g butter, chopped

50g light soft brown sugar, plus an extra tablespoon for sprinkling

50g regular rolled oats


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6.

2. Put the apples into a bowl with the blackberries, orange juice, mixed spice and two tablespoons of the sugar. Mix well, then spoon into a shallow ovenproof dish.

3. To make the topping, put the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar and oats, then spoon the mixture over the fruit in a thin layer. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon sugar over the crumble.

4. Bake for 40 minutes, until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit underneath it has softened. Serve with custard.

n Kirstie's Real Kitchen by Kirstie Allsopp, photography by Rita Platts, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £25. Available now.