Nicola Millbank On Cookbooks, Comfort Food & Crisps

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From starting a food blog to producing her own cookbook and filming a YouTube series around Europe – we chat to Nicola Milbank, aka Milly Cookbook to find out more about her inspirations, ideas and comfort food cures.

What made you decide to write a cook book, have you always had a love for food?
When I moved away from the English countryside to London and into my own flat as a teenager I very quickly learnt to fend for myself. As a student I could’t afford to eat out every night and it was pointless doing a big food shop just for myself; I had to learn to become savvy with ingredients and make the most out of them.

I starting watching a lot of cooking shows every Saturday morning before I’d go out with friends for the weekend and try a recipe that evening or on Sunday for a group of people – it became something I was really interested in and meeting different people from different cultures really opened my mind into what else was out there beyond pies and stews.

It became a huge passion of mine but the book came a lot later. In an inevitable work drought (part of the territory being an actor) I was bored and needed something to fulfil my time. I created a website called Milly Cookbook, predominantly for friends and family and shared some of my recipes. An executive publisher wrote to me through my website and asked if I’d like to turn it into a book; I was very lucky.

How do you find the time to juggle both your acting and cooking careers? Are they both equal passions of yours?
Absolutely; although acting is always going to be my priority I’ve become so addicted to the food world that I enjoy immersing myself in it. It usually works quite well, if I’m not filming I’m working on my book or shooting collaborations for brands.

I’ve recently come back from filming my Youtube series Milly’s Real Food Roadtrip in a camper van around Europe with my miniature dachshund Darcey; it was so much fun and something I’ll never forget.

What are your career highlights so far?
Shooting my cookbook in Stockholm was pretty amazing. My photographer Susanna Blavarg is such an amazing photographer and person as a whole. I loved Sweden so much that I’m eager to move there one day. My fiancé and I are planning to have our wedding on the Archipelago with a crayfish party instead of a sit-down dinner, live music, Swedish snaps and tonnes of fairy lights – really relaxed and laid back.

Describe your perfect winter dish.
Something warm and comforting like my ox-tail ragu with parmesan mash and gremolata oil from my book. It’s slow cooked for a few hours over two days so the flavours are really rich and warming; it’s a staple in my house.

What’s your favourite midnight snack?
Frazzles. Nothing beats old school crisps.

Describe your cooking style in three words
No-nonsense, eclectic and comforting

 What does comfort food mean to you?
Something that you have no qualms in eating; the ‘no holds barred’ type of food that gives you a hug. I can’t stand all this sugar-free, dairy-free paleo blah blah blah; I’m all for using the proper stuff, real carbs with gluten (I’m pro-gluten) and real dairy.

I recently became an ambassador for an Irish family-run dairy company called Glenilen Farm and they’re fantastic. They champion real, unadulterated dairy produce and come to my saviour every breakfast time; they do some cracking fruit yoghurt pots that are to die for.

Do you have any role models?
Women with balls who create the work they want and stand up for their rights. From Actors like Reece Witherspoon to Meryl Streep who fight for equality and produce award-winning work where women are the front-runners and Women’s Rights Activists like Malala Yousafzai. In my line of work as an actress, it’s becoming quite prevalent that the work we actually want is hard to find.

Submissions with the character description of ‘beautiful’ or ‘enigmatic’ are so repeatedly sent out that I grow tired of what I’m reading. As a result of this I’m currently writing and developing my own TV drama with Richard Jackson, Executive Producer of The Women In Black. It’s my mission to create roles for women they’d actually be proud to portray.

Nicola Millbank is the first ever UK ambassador for Glenilen Farm’s natural farmhouse yoghurts. Available in Sainsburys, Waitrose, Ocado and independent stores. Visit www.glenilenfarm.com for more. 

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