Strawberry Shortcake

Brighton Bakes

Jessica Haggerty has been an author for a year. Brighton Bakes is her first book.

Tell us about your book

Brighton Bakes is a visually distinctive, unusual book of recipes that uses lots of vintage props and styling. It's part cookbook, part quirky travelogue of Brighton. 

The photos were shot by the Deputy Art Editor of Good Food magazine, Stuart Ovenden, and I'm so proud they're in my book – they are more like paintings, not similar to any other cookbook I've seen.

We raided charity shops and flea markets to create the look.

The food reflects this ethos too – I love using forgotten ingredients, and updating old recipes in a contemporary way. 

Of course you don't have to live in Brighton to enjoy the book – it's more of a style and individuality that the book embodies and reflects.

Blood Orange Cake

Why did you decide to write about this subject

The book combines my two great loves – baking and Brighton (hence the title!). 

I love the idea of juxtaposing history and a fresh modern attitude, and I try to do this with my food, and I also think the town does this incredibly well. 

Over the years, with my catering and personal cheffing, I've been concocting my own versions of recipes and creating a distinctive style to my cooking, which really took shape when I moved back to Brighton.  The city has such visual flair, and there's a huge amount of creative energy here, which I used as my inspiration.

What do you love to cook?

I like to use a tsp of the unexpected in my baking – violet petal infused scones for instance. Always backed up by history though – I've done lots of research into the history of British baking, and so many of my recipes are resurrecting the wisdom of our mothers and grandmothers. 

I have a real passion for baking with fresh flowers - lemon and geranium muffins are one of my favourites, with a home-made lemon curd centre (the recipe is in the book!). There are over 100 different kinds of scented geranium, and although not all of them are edible, the ones that are provide so many different flavours for baking.  There are lots of different ways of using them too:  you can make a geranium sugar to impart flavour, infuse the milk with leaves, or even chop finely and add to your batter.  Geraniums used to be a popular ingredient in baking, and I think it's important to keep this link with the past alive through recipes.

Pecan Toast

Finish this sentence…I wish I’d written…?

I think it would have to be Johnson's dictionary.  Samuel Johnson was the first person to write a dictionary way back in 1755, to collect and group our vocabulary, and really shape the English language.  He was incredibly influential.  Either that or Le Guide Culinaire by Escoffier:  the vintage French cookery bible, which as far as I know has never been out of print, and every cook worth their salt has a copy in their kitchen.

Strawberry Tart

You have the opportunity to meet any author, past or present, who would it be?

I think it would have to be F Scott Fitzgerald.  I'd like to know more about him personally, as it's always said he had a decadent, unhappy lifestyle. 

His books are all impossibly glamorous, and the Jazz Age is so perfectly evoked in his sparse, elegant writing.  I even had a 1930s louche glamour themed wedding in his honour!


What do you love most about writing?

I've always loved words.  I used to work for a dictionary publisher, and language has always fascinated me – the way it's constantly evolving and certain words are becoming obsolete an archaic. I'd like to make it my mission to bring a lot of these vintage words back!

Brighton Bakes available to buy from Amazon (28th March 2013)


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