Cycling to culinary backstreets: the food writer and broadcaster show us how to whip up the perfect digital world.

To many, Felicity Cloake will be best-known for her phenomenally popular ‘How To Make The Perfect…’ series in The Guardian. According to The Daily Mail, she’s ‘Nigella, Jamie and Delia rolled into one’ – a pretty sizeable feat by anyone’s standards. But as well as helpfully researching and then instructing the rest of us in the ways of creating the platonic ideal of each dish she turns her hand to, she’s also an author; a sometime judge on BBC2’s Great British Menu; a prolific journalist; a holder of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust’s ‘Advanced Certificate in Wines & Spirits’ (with a distinction, no less); an Oxford English lit grad; and a cycling enthusiast.

In fact that last is such a passion that her latest book – One More Croissant For The Road, whose paperback edition came out in July – saw her hop on her bike and travel around France, combining her love of travel and cycling with her commitment to finding perfect recipes, in this case of the French persuasion. ‘Whether you are an avid cyclist, a Francophile, a greedy gut, or simply an appreciator of impeccable writing – this book will get you hooked’ eulogised Yotam Ottolenghi, which pretty succinctly sums up Felicity’s many, many talents.


Here she tells us how, through the power of Twitter, she once got the entire staff of Chemistry Today testing the alkalinity of various substances used to make bagels, and why dispatches from the New York Times’ recipe archives kept her going through lockdown.

My favourite website...


At the moment it’s Culinary Backstreets, a company I discovered when I took their kebab tour of Istanbul a few years ago. Their website is a fascinating window into the local food scene in various neighbourhoods of the cities they operate in, from Tokyo to Tblisi: pure escapist pleasure during lockdown when I wasn’t travelling any further than Hampstead Heath with the dog.

My favourite app...


I’m afraid it has to be Instagram. I use it for everything from getting feedback on recipes I’m testing (there’s an expert for every occasion) to inspiration for future features (you can see trends start to develop pretty quickly on there) and even for spying on places I’d like to visit in the future. Looking at wine estates in Tasmania is almost as good as being there right?

My favourite blog...


I’m not a big blog reader but can I recommend a newsletter instead? Jonathan Nunn’s Vittles sprung up during lockdown and tends to cover subjects which would be regarded as too ‘niche’ for big media outlets, like the cultural significance of lunch, Soviet canteens or a love letter to rice cookers. It’s been a real breath of fresh air to my inbox.

My Internet hero...


Anyone who dares to stick their head above the parapet and speak out against injustice where they see it. It’s always easier to stay silent, so I respect them.

My favourite podcast...


Probably the Cycling Podcast, more for all the stuff they do about cycle touring and mad long-distance rides than the racing commentary, which often goes way above my head. The recent episode that featured Emily Chappell discussing how she writes about cycling so beautifully was so good I listened to it twice.

My favourite YouTuber...


Cupcake Jemma. She makes baking look fun as well as easy (and, full disclosure, she’s a good friend – we met through our dogs, but all we talk about is food!)

My most recent buy online...


A 1990s book of South Indian vegetarian cookery. Or possibly a dog seatbelt.

Last book you downloaded or read...


I’m currently reading Dan Richards’ Outpost: A Journey To The Wild Ends Of The Earth and it’s absolutely brilliant – both great travel writing and a thoughtful exploration of our fascination with remote places.

Favourite tweeter...


Very hard; there are so many entertaining and useful accounts on there. I’m quite keen on Letters of Note, whose selections usually prove subtly topical.

Favourite Instagrammer...


Again, I enjoy so many, from cooks to travel writers to dogs, but I do think the Museum of English Rural Life is a rare gem in a world of selfies and sponsored posts. It tends to post wonderful pictures of vintage farm animals from the museum’s archives with… unexpected captions.

Favourite tech gadget...


My phone. I know we’re all supposed to feel guilty about the amount of time we spend on them, and I do make an effort to read books as well as websites, but it really does make life more interesting.

The most useful gadget/item on your desk...


Apart from my laptop, my golden syrup tin stuffed full of 2B pencils. I find it much easier to make notes on paper than on a screen.

Most useful digital resource during lockdown...


I was checking news outlets constantly – both The Guardian and The FT published a lot of really useful free content on the subject which I found was often clearer than official government communications.

Most inspirational digital resource during lockdown...


The New York Times food newsletter was brilliant – a couple of times a week a dispatch from across the pond arrived suggesting recipes from their archives that I might fancy trying, along with a (generally non-food related) reading list of things the editor had found interesting that week and a little glimpse into life in New York. Before this, I rarely read more than the first paragraph. Now I love it.

First thing/app you look at on your mobile when you wake up/in the morning...


The Guardian website, which doesn’t often cheer me up. That or 100 WhatsApp messages that have come in overnight from people up late drinking wine.

Last thing you binge-watched...


Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days on iPlayer. I’m too young to remember its first outing in the late 80s, but I was obsessed by the book when I found it in our local library a few years later and being able to watch it too has been a real joy. Again, more escapism.

Favourite brands have you discovered online...


Again, so many but Natoora, a fruit and veg restaurant supplier which adapted during lockdown to serve the consumer market, continues to be a real pleasure. It has all sorts of unusual produce, an ethical sourcing policy and the greengage I’m currently eating is truly out of this world – so sweet it’s almost like a glass of Sauternes in plum form.

Social media allowed me to meet...


My friend Martha de Lacey — we only actually met in person when she made my dog a special mince pie when I was doing my annual mince pie taste test. That’s when I knew she was a keeper.

The best digital advice I've been given...


Be yourself.

My screensaver is...


Snowy mountains with a single ski track. Where I’d prefer to be most of the time.

My standout online memory...


Probably when I was asking Twitter for help on the alkalinity of various substances used to make bagels — and the editor of Chemistry Today magazine got his entire team on it. No one can tell me social media isn’t useful.

My pet online hate is...


People who complain endlessly about how awful social media is — but never actually leave.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions?


I’ve deleted the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone to try and limit the temptation for mindless scrolling, which is the only thing I’d like to cut down on.

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?


Definitely good! I love the way it brings people together from all over the world.

By Nancy Alsop
September 2020

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