Food: Plates worth the Whaite from a TV show winner

John Whaite
John Whaite

John Whaite felt restless about his latest cookery book.

John Whaite felt restless about his latest cookery book.

Since winning the third series of The Great British Bake Off, the 27-year-old has published two books - Perfect Plates being his third - regularly whizzed up meals for Lorraine Kelly on her ITV morning show and founded a cookery school.

But his recent cook book, his most “personal” yet, was also the hardest.

“I lost sleep over the book, all the panic over how people would receive it,” says the Lancashire-born cook.

“The first two books, I was in my very early 20s. I was this grateful guy, who had just won a TV show. I didn’t have a clue what was going on, what the industry was about,” says the law graduate who was in his final year at Manchester University when he appeared on the BBC baking competition.

“I am much more anxious about this book - and it feels like my first true book, because I’ve had such an input.

“It’s much more a reflection of me. When you put the effort into it, you really do worry and think, ‘If people don’t like this, then what’s going to happen?’”

Worry though he might, Whaite’s diary is full. Cookery classes, including pasta making and an afternoon tea - “We devour all these cakes and sandwiches with Prosecco... so that’s a popular one!” - in the listed barn on his parent’s Lancashire farm he grew up in, are “almost completely sold out”, meaning he’s up and down the country whizzing up meals on ITV’s Lorraine between courses.

Not that he minds.

“Lorraine was my saving grace... I didn’t know where I was going to go in the industry [after Bake Off],” he says of the Scottish host.

“Lorraine’s not fussy, she doesn’t have any dietary requirements and she’s a girl who loves her food, so she’s a dream to cook for, she’ll eat it all,” he says with a laugh.

And he’s proud too of Perfect Plates, in which he uses just five ingredients - exempting oil, butter, salt and pepper as ‘free passes’ - and teamed up with boyfriend Paul, who designed it.

“It’s the first food book that he’s ever done, so it probably made it far more difficult [for him] because he had me stood over his shoulder every night saying, ‘I don’t want that there’,” he says with a chuckle.

“He really has helped develop my own style, because I’m not very artistic, so it meant it was much more personal to us and I think that comes across.

“I think people appreciate it not just being a highly-designed book. It’s more pared-back as well and the ingredients are what stand out. I’m really proud of that.”

Feeling inspired? Here’s a recipe from Perfect Plates...

Apple Custard Tarts

(Makes 12)

80g icing sugar, plus extra to dust

320g ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry

250g Bramley apple sauce (any shop-bought one will do, unless you fancy making your own!)

5 large egg yolks

80ml single cream

Oil, for greasing

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7 and grease a deep 12-hole muffin tray well.

Dust the worktop rather liberally with icing sugar, then unroll the pastry onto it and sprinkle it with icing sugar. Roll the pastry back up tightly - you might need to wet the top edge with just a little water so it sticks and stays rolled. Slice into 12 even discs - I cut it in half, then cut each half in half, then cut those quarters into three chunky discs.

Stand a disc of pastry up on one of its flat cut sides, then squash it down with the heel of your hand. With a rolling pin, roll it out into a disc big enough to tuck messily into the muffin tray. Press it into the tin, lining the muffin hole, and then repeat with the remaining portions of pastry until each hole of the tray is lined. If you’re working in a hot kitchen, it might be a good idea to keep the chunks of pastry in the fridge, then once all cavities in the tray are lined, pop them, tray and all, into the fridge for 10 minutes or so.

Divide the apple sauce between the pastry cases. To make the custard filling, simply whisk together the icing sugar and egg yolks until the sugar dissolves, then whisk in the cream until combined. Pour the custard into the pastry cases - I always find it easier to put the custard into a jug first then gently pour it over the apple sauce. Leave a millimetre or two of pastry clear at the top, as the custard will rise quite dramatically.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. The custard will darken on top and sprout up over the pastry - and please don’t worry if these look cracked, it’s all part of their charm. Remove the tarts immediately from the tin and set on a wire rack to cool. Finish with an extra dusting of icing sugar.

l Perfect Plates In 5 Ingredients by John Whaite is published by Kyle Books, priced £18.99.