Feedback with Milly Johnson
Feedback with Milly Johnson
One of the Top 10 Female Fiction authors in the UK, Milly has sold millions of copies of her books.
Her 21st book, The Happiest Ever After is published this month, and centre stage is Polly Potter. Desperate to change her life, get away from her cheating partner and ghastly boss, unseen events see her do just that. But will she be happy?
We spoke to Milly about her food likes and dislikes. She loves cooking as a way to unwind, she took part in Come Dine With Me (she won), and although she is a proud Yorkshire lass, she secretly wishes she was Italian!
What food always reminds you of your childhood?
Well, that one is an easy one because of my grandparents. My Nana was a great baker, and she used to make these triangular shaped teacakes. My grandad used to meet my dad in the pub on a Sunday afternoon and my Nana would do all her baking on Sunday morning. She’d give a bag of teacakes to my grandad for my dad and he would bring it home and sometimes they were still warm. My mum would make me a teacake and I always had the same thing, butter, Red Leicester cheese (from Littlewoods) and pickled onions. And that was my Sunday treat. So the smell of fresh bread always reminds me of cosy Sundays - bath night, Sing Something Simple on the radio, it was the whole combination of things.
Do you like cooking, and if so, what do you like to cook?
I love cooking, in fact I was on Come Dine With Me a couple of years ago! I’m not the best cook but I do enjoy it. My friends used to wonder why I would start cooking after working all day. But to me it was a way of unwinding so I do love it. In our house we have all various different diets, my other half is a vegetarian, my son comes in when he wants to, my other son is at university so I don’t really have anyone to cook for. So if there’s anyone who wants a cake making I am thrilled to bake something!
Do you have a current favourite restaurant or type of restaurant?
Italian - every single time. I love the ambience of an Italian restaurant. I like the fact that when it’s run by real Italians it’s lightly haphazard. You might have to ask three times for your garlic bread and things can come at different times, but I don’t mind that. What they put in to the atmosphere of a proper Italian restaurant is the payoff for anything that goes wrong, I just love that. We have a lovely one in Barnsley, and after you’ve finished they shove the bottle of Limoncello on the table and leave it there - which is dangerous - but it’s a beautiful restaurant. I’ve never had a bad meal there and you can just tell the food is not stuck into a microwave and heated up. It’s all made with love. I always wanted to be Italian and for my family to all be gesticulating and arguing around the table, the whole Italian experience! Which is probably why it’s fed into a couple of my books.
What food or ingredient could you not do without?
Garlic, I can’t live without it. I only discovered it when I went to university and then I was putting it in everything! There can never be too much for me. If we go to a Chinese or Indian I have garlic rice or curry with extra garlic in. I think it’s the most fabulous ingredient.
What was the most memorable meal you can remember eating?
You might be surprised at this but it was Italian! My partner and I went to Venice and flew from Manchester airport just after they had installed new security controls. The queue was massive and by the time we finally got through we had no time to get anything to eat, there was nothing on the plane we wanted so we were starving, by the time we got to the hotel. It was very late afternoon, and we asked if they could recommend somewhere to eat. They sent us to a restaurant called Ristorante de Raffaele, It was on the side of the canal, we were hungry and exhausted and just had a tourist lunch of Prosecco, Lasagne and then Tiramisu. It tasted like heaven! It wasn’t just the food. It was the sunshine, the waiters, the canal, the gondolas and Venice. Absolutely exquisite. I can’t wait to go back there and would have exactly the same.
Your new book The Happiest Ever After is based around Teddy’s Italian restaurant and their much loved pizzas. What’s your favourite pizza topping?
I don’t think you can go far wrong with a Margherita BUT, it has to have red onions
You are a very proud Yorkshire lass - how are you at making Yorkshire Pudding?
Fantastic at them. Honestly they’re massive. My mother is a Glaswegian and her father taught her how to make them. Hers used to rise up so much they’d touch the top of the oven they were so big. There’s a certain pride that comes with having big Yorkshires. It’s a disaster zone when you cook them for people and they don’t rise.
Is there something particular you always keep in the fridge?
Now this is going to sound really pretentious… because when I was younger and I would hear people say “Oh we always have a bottle of Champagne in the fridge” and I used to think, one day that will be me. And I do always have a good bottle in it, even though it hardly ever gets drunk. I just always wanted to be that person.
Is there anything you don’t like to eat?
I love fish but I can’t bear to eat octopus, I think they are beautiful little creatures and I don’t want to eat them. I don’t like mackerel or trout either, all those fishes they say you should eat I just can't. I prefer the white, more ‘steaky’ fish like John Dory or halibut, but mackerel - no chance.
What would be your last supper if literally anything was available to you, where would you eat it and who would you be with?
I would have to be with my partner and my sons. If I knew my time was up I’d head back to Venice and go to The Grand Canal Restaurant in a hotel called Ca’Sagredo. The terrace is just on the Grand Canal and you actually have your meal overlooking it. I was there on a press trip a few years ago, and I was with a jolly bunch of people but they were all strangers, and I thought it was the sort of restaurant where I’d like to be in with my partner. I’d have a fillet steak, with a Bearnaise Sauce and very thin truffle and Parmesan fries. Lots of bread, lots of garlic cheese over the bread and then I’d have some Italian ice cream, as many flavours as they could put in one of those tall glasses. I’d drink a very heavy red wine, so heavy it needs cajoling out of the bottle with a spoon. Finally a glass of Grappa. It was such a beautiful meal when I was there, the sunset, the Grand Canal, this fantastic meal, but there was just one ingredient missing - my partner.
The Happiest Ever After by Milly Johnson is published by Simon & Schuster UK on February 15th 2024 and you can win one of five copies in our giveaway.