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'The food was fantastic' - Prue Leith on going to watch Norwich City play with Delia Smith

PUBLISHED: 08:26 12 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:26 12 April 2019

Prue Leith will be at Blickliing Hall on April 25   Picture: Alison Lawrence

Prue Leith will be at Blickliing Hall on April 25 Picture: Alison Lawrence

Alison Lawrence

Bake Off’s Prue Leith on going to the football with Delia, Norwich match-day pies, and writing her eighth novel

Bake Off queen Prue Leith is a closet Canaries fan – and loves Norwich’s match-day pies too.

She will be back in Norfolk on April 25, but to talk about books rather than baking.

“I once came to see Delia and we went to a football match. I can remember how exciting it was. And the food was fantastic. We had pies and they were wonderful. It’s still the only football match I have ever been to,” said Prue. “I am a great fan of Delia. I absolutely adore her. The only thing that irritates me about her is whenever I visit my brother he has a Delia Smith book open on the table. I love her books, they are excellent, but he never uses one of my books!”

Prue will be talking about her books at a special evening in Blickling – but again, not her cook books, but her latest novel. Because 79-year-old Prue is an accomplished novelist in addition to being a television presenter, cook, businesswoman, and cookery writer. She has also run a Michelin-starred restaurant, a cookery school and a catering company, been on the boards of natinal shop, building society and hotel chains, and founded educational and health charities. As chairwoman of the Royal Society of Arts she also spearheaded the campaign to fill the empty fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

So how does she find the time to write?

“I have to write. It’s a kind of disease!” said Prue. “I could fill my life up with all sorts of things. Bake Off only takes two days a week, and that’s at the weekend and it doesn’t happen all year. Because I’m interested in business I have a few business interests but I don’t have a business to run any more.”

Prue was first published as a student in her 20s. “When I went to Paris I started writing long letters to my mother. She was an actress and knew all the journalists and she got me a job on the Johannesburg Tatler,” she said. The column ran for two years but more than 50 years later Prue still blogs regularly.

For the past five years she has been writing a trilogy following a family of Anglo-Italian restaurateurs across three generations. The final book, The Lost Son, was published this month. Poverty stricken parents Laura and Giovanni gave up their first baby for adoption. Now their café has grown into a restaurant empire, but Laura is still haunted by her missing first child. The book opens as the son, an adult now, and devastated by the death of his best friend, tracks down his birth family.

Prue is herself the mother of an adopted daughter. She and her first husband, who died in 2002, had two children including an adopted daughter. Prue remarried three years ago and has told the full, fascinating story of her life in a memoir, Relish, which even includes an accidental attendance at an orgy.

More recently Prue became a judge on The Great British Menu, before replacing Mary Berry on The Great British Bake Off.

And, across all of that show-stopping career, with honours including an OBE and CBE, and, in her 70s, a starring role at the heart of one of the best-loved shows on television, what is Prue proudest of?

“I think I’m most proud of the fourth plinth project because it’s nothing to do with food or business,” she said. “I’m very interested in art, and I think the nice thing about that is that the public love it and if it continues it will became a much better legacy than the restaurants, because they come and go.”

A little nudge from her publishers and she adds: “Oh and the trilogy of course! The thing I’m proudest of about that is that trilogies are amazingly difficult to write. With three generations of a family, there’s a huge number of characters.” Sometimes the words whisked on to the page. “You are thinking and typing so fast and your thoughts are almost running faster than your fingers,” said Prue. “It doesn’t mean what you have written is great of course! I really enjoy editing too, I enjoy improving things.”

Her novels have won glowing reviews and she would love them to appear on the small-screen too. “I would definitely love to have my trilogy turned into a television drama,” said Prue. “But I appreciate the amount of time it takes to have a tv adaptation and I’m 79 now. It’s a dream.”

She is also looking forward to coming to Blickling. “I love the National Trust. I’m a faithful member and have been for 40 years,” she said. She will be conversation with Henry Layte of Norwich’s, The Book Hive, in the beautiful Long Gallery, which houses Blickling’s historic library. And she knows her audience will want to know about Bake Off, as well as the ingredients of her latest book. “You can’t make people only ask about the novel. I won’t mind!” she said.

She revealed she had given her fellow judges and presenters copies of her books - and she definitely won’t mind if Bake Off contestants try to curry favour this summer by dipping into The Lost Son while waiting for a cake to cook or icing to set. “It would give me a lot of pleasure. I would probably let them win!” she laughed.

Prue Leith will be in at Blickling Hall, near Aylsham, on Tuesday April 25.

The evening is part of a series of events celebrating the stately home’s nationally important collection of books. Tickets from The Book Hive and thebookhive.co.uk are £10, including refreshments and redeemable against the price of books purchased.

The Lost Son by Prue Leith is published in hardback by Quercus for £20.

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