Silent Witness actress Emilia Fox lacked confidence in the kitchen. So we brought her to the new GHI Cookery School for a Christmas cookery lesson! Here’s what happened…
British Actress and Silent Witness star Emilia Fox has confessed to lacking confidence in the kitchen. So much so, she hardly cooks anything at all! So where better to boost her skills than the new Good Housekeeping Cookery School?
One of the first to experience all the shiny mod-cons in the cookery school kitchen, Emilia joined us to learn how to make Pimms Salmon Gravadlax ahead of Christmas (expect a full feature on this in our February issue!).
How did Emilia find it? Well, she left telling us, ‘I definitely feel inspired to go home and experiment a bit more now!’
But don’t just take our word for it, see how it went in our preview video below…
I’ve added a video clip of Emilia presenting an award at the British Comedy Awards 2014:
Thanks Kathryn Morris UK for the heads-up!
EDIT: Many thanks to Catherine for emailing me, you can read the full article (including the recipes!) below now!
And here’s another photo:
TheTimes.co.uk has posted a new interview with Emilia
Is there any more daunting culinary challenge than Christmas dinner? Not in my wildest dreams have I ever imagined myself saying: “Hey, it’s Christmas at mine this year!” Instead, I’ve always left it to my mother, who is happy to get up at 4am to sort out the turkey and the stuffing.
The truth is I get incredibly intimidated in the kitchen. I think it’s because mum (the actress Joanna David) is such a brilliant cook. Dad (the actor Edward Fox) knows how to cook only three things, all breakfast-related — a fry-up, porridge and scrambled eggs — so it’s clear that mum had ownership over the kitchen. As well as being quite territorial, she was so busy that it must have been much easier not to have me bashing about in the kitchen. Then, after I left home, I always seemed to have friends who were great cooks, so I would offer to do the washing-up instead.
Now I really regret not having learnt to cook when I was younger. It’s one of those life skills that are fairly fundamental to being independent and give personal satisfaction in achieving, like knowing a second language or being able to play a musical instrument. You learn it and then you have it for ever, and you can take it to whatever degree you want and wherever in the world you want. I feel that having travelled so much for work I should have picked up really fine culinary skills and be cooking Italian, French, African or Russian cuisine. Instead, my hard-earned repertoire doesn’t go beyond pretty basic traditional English food — things like shepherd’s pie or fish pie, followed by apple crumble and custard. And I learnt to cook those only after my daughter Rose, who is four, was born. She made me want to be more domestic, because life in general became much more home-centric and I wanted to feed her well.
My theory is that children eat better when they’re included in the cooking process and are more enthusiastic about food. Cooking well is all about confidence and feeling able to experiment. When we go to Pizza Express Rose is always hanging off the counter asking to make her own pizza, an attitude that has always eluded me.
When she was a baby I had cooking lessons at home for about a year . I wrote everything down, but inexcusably I rarely use the recipes, although my knife skills did improve considerably. Subsequently, I started up the Scrambled Egg Club with my friend Sara. Every weekend we’d invite friends and my parents over and we would have to cook a dish that was out of our comfort zone — for me that was the whole world of gastronomy. (I did have some success with sea bass and a fruit-layered elderflower jelly that took nearly a whole night to make because you had to freeze every layer.) My father was the judge: if he thought a particular dish was a failure he would decree that we had to have scrambled eggs instead. (Actually I don’t think we ever did have to resort to the scrambleds.)
So it isn’t that I am unable to cook, it’s just that I find it daunting. I worry about whether I have the right kitchen equipment and all the ingredients.
My job is another factor. When I’m working I’ll often leave the house at 5.30am and find breakfast waiting for me courtesy of the caterers on set. Same for lunch. By the time I get home, often late, I can’t be bothered to cook, so I just graze on crackers and hummus, which does seem a bit ridiculous at my age. I seem to have so little free time that cooking gets put on to the back burner when it should be right at the front. I’m always making excuses for myself, even though when I do nerve myself to cook at home, I absolutely love it.
I don’t aspire to being a domestic goddess — a mere kitchen-confident mortal would do me fine. I want to be able to cook for Rose and her friends and be able to invite people over to supper and cook while chatting and not even think about it. Even now I’ll still only invite the most forgiving of my friends to sample my shepherd’s pie.
This is how I found myself signing up for the “continental Christmas cookery day” at the Good Housekeeping Institute. I felt that if anybody was going to be able to teach me the basics it would happen here, because the recipes are supposed to be completely foolproof. Their motto is “Tried, Tested, Trusted” after all. First up — make your own Pimm’s Salmon Gravlax. How to do that? It was in fact delightfully simple and took no time at all, just a case of getting sugar, salt, pepper, dill, orange and lemon zest, mixingthem with some Pimm’s and rubbing the mixture into the salmon, which takes five minutes. You then put the salmon in the fridge for three days, covered in clingfilm and weighed down with a few tins of canned food, remove excess liquid regularly and slice it up before guests arrive. It’s the sort of brilliantly simple recipe that makes people think you know what you’re doing. I have never attempted to assist with Christmas dinner before, but maybe with this recipe it might be the year that I offer to make the starter. Me turning up in Dorset bearing a side of home-gravlax will cause about as much astonishment as Father Christmas inviting himself to lunch.
Port and fig duck breasts were surprisingly easy too . I found the hardest bit was scoring the fat without cutting into the meat beneath. Then you simply fry the breasts on a low heat until the fat turns golden and shrinks. The clever thing about this recipe is that you can do this bit the day before, which eases the pressure of getting timings accurate. After that, the duck just needs a quick blast in the oven, while you boil up a little port, some stock and a squeeze of orange juice. Slice a couple of figs in half, sizzle them in the pan and then arrange everything beautifully on the plate. Presentation, I have learnt, is as important as the cooking itself. It makes sense — no one wants to eat food that looks inedible. The result was an impressively festive-looking main course that also seemed to be fairly healthy and it didn’t cause me to boil over in panic.
With the help of the very reassuring chef Shenley Moore I then tackled a vanilla and almond yule log. Once I got over my terror of the GHI’s alarmingly professional-looking KitchenAid mixer I realised I might even make this at home too. I really enjoy a ritual of baking with Rose on Saturday mornings and she would love to help make this. The great thing about a yule log is that the sponge barely has to rise, so you don’t feel anxious about it sagging in the middle. Admittedly, rolling up the cream-covered sponge is a little nerve-racking, but I reassured myself that it wouldn’t matter if there were cracks in the crust: that would just make the log look more authentic.
I was so encouraged by the experience that I have signed up for another class to learn how to make my own edible Christmas presents, things like chutneys, truffles and cheesy biscuits. Hopefully a Christmas treat for all.
It is doubtful that Fox’s Fantastic Food will ever materialise as a bestselling recipe book, but I’m much encouraged and feel more confident about the prospect of coping with Christmas cooking one day, thanks to the skills and patience of those in the kitchen at the now personally tried, tested and trusted Good Housekeeping Institute.
Emilia Fox signed up to the cooking class at the new Good Housekeeping Institute in London, which is now open to the public. www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/cookery-school.
What every beginner cook needs
Good chopping board
Chef/cook’s knife approx 18cm blade
Medium knife approx 11cm blade
Small knife approx 6cm blade
Flexi rubber spatular
Set mixing bowls (stainless steel are good)
Set saucepans (small, medium, large)
What Emilia learnt to cook
Salmon gravlax with Pimm’s
750g whole, skin-on fresh salmon fillet
125g caster sugar
125g coarse rock salt
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
15g finely chopped fresh dill
Large handful finely chopped fresh mint
Finely grated zest of an orange and a lemon
50ml Pimm’s No 1
1. Lay the salmon fillet (small bones removed) in a large glass serving dish, skin-side down. In a bowl mix the caster sugar, rock salt, black pepper, dill, mint, orange and lemon zest, and Pimm’s No 1.
2. Pat the mixture over the fish. Cover with baking parchment. Wrap dish in clingfilm, then top with a roasting tin or plate that fits inside the dish. Arrange some heavy items on top: about four tins of tomatoes are ideal.
3. Chill for three days; a briny liquid will run out.
4. To serve, lift fish out and wipe off the salt mixture (don’t worry if some bits stay stuck). Lay skin-side down on a board. Use a sharp, long knife to cut thin slices across the grain of the salmon.
5. Gin, brandy or whisky are all great alternatives to Pimm’s.
Duck breast with port and figs
4 x 200g duck breasts
1 tsp rapeseed oil
300ml hot chicken stock
Zest of 1 orange, plus 1-2 tbsp orange juice
9 fresh figs, halved
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Using a small, sharp knife, diagonally score the fat of each duck breast, making sure you don’t cut into the meat. Trim away any sinew and excess fat.
2. Put the duck, skin side down, with the oil into a large frying pan set over the lowest heat to let the fat run out. This will take 15-20 min and can be done up to 24 hours in advance (pour the fat into a bowl and use to cook the roast potatoes later). When the skin has turned golden and most of the fat has drained out, put the duck breasts on a rack set in a roasting tin, skin-side up.
3. Cook the duck in the oven for 15 min for pink and 20 min for well done. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest while you make the sauce.
4. Put the port, hot stock and orange zest into the frying pan and bubble rapidly until syrupy and reduced by two thirds. Stir in orange juice to taste along with any of the juices from the resting duck. Season to taste and keep warm.
5. Meanwhile, heat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat and griddle the figs cut-side down for 3 min until softened. Slice the duck breasts diagonally and arrange on warmed plates with the figs. Drizzle over the sauce.
6. To cook ahead: store the duck in the fridge at the end of step 2 covered in clingfilm for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before completing the recipe.
Snowy Yule log
A little butter to grease
75g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsptable salt
4 medium eggs
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
75g ground almonds
284ml carton double cream
2 tbsp golden icing sugar, sifted, plus extra to dust
50g flaked almonds, toasted
Optional: 50g of chocolate to decorate
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line a 33cm x 23cm Swiss roll tin with greaseproof paper. Sift together the flour and baking powder with ¼ tsp salt.
2. Use an electric hand whisk to beat the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla essence in a bowl for 5-10 min until pale and fluffy. The mixture’s ready if it leaves a ribbon-like trail when you lift the beaters.
3. Using a large metal spoon, carefully fold in the ground almonds and the flour mixture, taking care not to beat too much of the air out of the mixture.
4. Pour into the prepared tin and spread the mixture in a thin layer right to the edges. Bake for 12-15 min until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the tin and the cake springs back when you press it gently with a finger. Leave to cool.
5. Lightly whip the cream and the icing sugar in a bowl until the mixture forms soft peaks. Cut out a rectangle of greaseproof paper larger than the cake and dust heavily with icing sugar. Flip cake on to the paper. Remove the tin and carefully peel away the attached greaseproof paper.
6. Spread the cream over the cake and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. With the help of the paper, roll up the cake lengthways. Don’t worry if cracks appear — they’ll add to the log effect.
7. Carefully transfer to a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar and serve in thick slices.
8. Decorate the yule log: melt 50g dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Fill a disposable piping bag with the melted dark chocolate and cut off the tip. Write Noel on a piece of greaseproof, then chill to set. Carefully peel away the greaseproof paper from the word Noel and lay on top of the log.
The Scandi Christmas smorgasbord
200g cooked beetroot, diced
3 sprigs dill, chopped
1½ tsp wholegrain mustard
100g pickled onions, drained
100g cornichons, drained
150g cooked crayfish tails or cooked prawns
125g smoked, peppered mackerel fillets, skinned and flaked
4 tbsp sour cream
200g sliced gravlax
12 crispbreads or crackers
1. In a serving bowl, mix the beetroot with the dill and mustard.
2. Put the pickled onions and cornichons into a separate, small serving bowl.
3. Put the crayfish or prawns and mackerel flakes into a medium serving bowl and the sour cream into a small serving bowl.
4. Lay the slices of gravlax on a board.
5. Let everyone help themselves from the smorgasbord at the table, spreading crispbreads with sour cream and topping with the fish and vegetables.
Did you spend much time with dead bodies as research for Silent Witness?
I’ve been to two autopsies. One before I started and he was an older man, and so in a funny way it was much more natural. Then, later, I saw an autopsy on a man who was in his twenties and that didn’t seem natural at all. He was in the prime of his life – it’s very thought-provoking.
Are you squeamish?
I’m really squeamish. If you were to cut yourself now I’d be hopeless. But weirdly the autopsies are so riveting – that detective process to find the cause of death – that it stops you thinking about that.
Do you use dummies on set?
On set, you’re usually working with a live actor who is pretending to be dead. Everyone’s very sensitive around them because you’re pulling up their eyelashes or looking up their noses.
Do the live actors ever – excuse the pun – corpse?
More often they sleep. The slabs have hot water bottles on them and because they’re lying down with a pillow under their head, you’ll often hear them snore!
You come from a famous acting family. Do you all try to out-act each other at gatherings?
No, we don’t do charades…
Ah, that was my second question!
In a funny way, when I was growing up, I was so unaware of what my family did. It was just a job.
But I read that your parents had Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston round when you were a kid…
No, that was misreported. The people we had round at my mum and dad’s house were Lindsay Anderson and Fred Zinnemann: amazing directors. I think they wanted more famous names and the only thing I could remember from my childhood was being at my uncle’s Christmas party and Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston being there. I didn’t know who they were at all, but they were a very glamorous couple coming in wearing their sunglasses at night.
So were there other famous people around during your youth?
Not really. I didn’t really know about fame and I’m quite glad I didn’t. My childhood was totally about family and friends.
Do you think that posh actors get it in the neck unfairly?
I’m confused by the idea of posh. Perhaps you could explain it to me?
I think it’s about the way you’re educated, the upbringing you have…
Is it the way you sound?
That plays a part in it.
Well if you think about my mum and dad, they learnt a particular way of speaking through drama school. At that point everyone wanted RP, so then the children of the people who were taught at drama school started to speak with RP. My mum’s from up North and my great-great grandfather was a Yorkshireman. If my family are described as posh, it’s nothing to do with silver spoons or anything like that.
And your daughter Rose – is she showing actorly tendencies?
Rose is a born entertainer, like my brother. He came out all-singing, all-dancing and I was completely the opposite: the shyest girl in the world. Rose may follow another profession but I think my job as a mother is to give her every form of opportunity and let her choose.
Born into a renowned acting family – including her father Edward Fox and her uncle James Fox – Emilia Fox, aged 40, is best known for her role as Dr Nikki Alexander in BBC drama ‘Silent Witness’. She was educated at Bryanston School and St Catherine’s College, Oxford. Fox is signed up to the cooking class at the new stand-alone Good Housekeeping Institute in London, now open to the public; goodhousekeeping.co.uk/cookeryschool
With series 18 only a couple of weeks away the promotion has started already. I absolutely love the new artwork for it.
It looks like we’re heading towards a great new series?! Enjoy the HQ promo photos I’ve added:
Television Series > Silent Witness (2004-2015) > Series 18 > Promotional Photos
Editor’s Note: Silent Witness returns to BBC One for its 18th series at 9pm on Tuesday 6th January. We took the opportunity to catch up with writer Ed Whitmore to ask about his journey to writing Crime Drama, which has also included Waking the Dead, Identity, Dalziel and Pascoe and CSI.
Silent Witness – Series 18
Silent Witness is one of the BBC’s most successful and enduring drama strands – what challenges does this present to the writer? How do you keep it fresh?
I think the two hour running time of Silent Witness – longer than many feature films – is both a challenge and an inspiration. A challenge because you must find a story that naturally has a large forensics and pathology component and an inspiration because you can tell big, dramatically weighty stories in very different worlds from week to week. There’s really nowhere you can’t go.
Silent Witness – Jack Hodgson (David Caves) and Nikki Alexander (Emila Fox)
Great news! It is confirmed that Silent Witness returns with its 18th series on 6th January 2015. Who’s excited!?
Series 18 Introduction from writer Ed Whitmore
Nineteen years after its innovative, trail-blazing debut, pathology and forensics drama Silent Witness returns for five thrilling two-part stories.
The new series boasts a vivid diversity of episodes which are nevertheless united in holding up a microscope to contemporary London.
Collectively these stories shine a light on the city’s dizzying extremities – the rich and the poor, the powerful and the disenfranchised, the Golden Mile and the crumbling sink estates, the jaded workers mired in underfunded bureaucracies and the disillusioned young falling through the cracks.
In Sniper’s Nest, London is under siege from a gunman who picks off its citizens at random, cutting them down in the midst of their complicated and very different lives.
Falling Angels tells the darkly moving story of two people on the fringes – a homeless man and a hotel receptionist – who are drawn together after they witness a man being hit by a tube train.
In Protection, a young girl vanishes without trace, much to the anguish of her overworked social worker who had tried and failed to have her taken into care.
By contrast, Squaring the Circle pitches us into classic thriller territory as the team investigate a bloody shootout at a City hotel that leaves the nanny of a Russian oligarch dead.
In One of our Own, the murder of a rising police star triggers an intense and harrowing journey into police loyalty and familial betrayal while the team face down a brutal gang of drug traffickers.
Thanks to our redoubtable leads Emilia Fox, David Caves, Richard Lintern and Liz Carr, the team have now meshed into a compelling, dynamic, but all-too-human unit. Together these very different characters pool their formidable resources in pursuit of truth and justice…even if they don’t always agree on what those terms constitute.
Executive Producer Phillippa Giles and Producer Sharon Bloom have been fearless and far-minded in nurturing stories that propel our heroes into new and perilous worlds. In turn, those worlds have been indelibly brought to life by the terrific work of our actors and the cinematic ambition of the direction, cinematography and production design.
Silent Witness endures because it possesses a uniquely powerful and fecund story engine – namely that people die in endlessly different ways for endlessly different reasons. Provided there are legitimate pathology and forensics components, there is no story the show can’t tell, no thematic frontier that can’t be explored, no emotional or scientific terrain that can’t be mined. The secret of its longevity is its freedom – its room to roam.
Emilia attended the British Comedy Awards this week and thanks to a good friend’s help we’ve got 10 HQ photos from this event uploaded in our photo gallery. I love her skirt. She looks gorgeous!
Appearances > 2014 > 16th Dec | British Comedy Awards