‘A little bit of what you fancy does you good’ — Milly on moderation

Nicola Millbank, better known by the name of her blog Milly Cookbook, is a double threat. Not only is this dachshund mother a talented actress by day, but she’s a down-right fantastic cook by night. She’s also releasing a cookbook too: Milly’s Real Food. But, unlike a large portion of food bloggers, Milly’s not focused on trending super-foods, elimination diets or any temporary fads. Instead, she’s all about devouring a little bit of what you fancy here and there; in other words: enjoying everything in moderation. We asked Milly about her food-loving life, and here’s what she told us:

Which came first, your love of acting or your love of cooking? (And, could you pick a favourite?)

I love them both in equal measure; it would be impossible to choose just one! My love for cooking has always been there but I didn’t take it seriously until I moved to London in my own apartment at 18 and had to fend for myself. So the acting wins on this occasion. It’s something I always knew I wanted to do and I was very sure about that; cooking has slowly grown into a passion of mine.

When you’re filming, do you take your own food on set?

Occasionally, but it’s difficult as I tend to film away from home a lot and stay in hotels. More often than not I’ll take my own snacks, like sticky fruit and nut bars or homemade cherry bakewell energy bites; they stop me tucking into the biscuits and sandwiches on an hourly basis!

What’s your outlook on cooking? Do you live by a particular food philosophy?

I absolutely believe in the motto, ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’. I have never been and never will be someone who eliminates food groups from their diet to be “healthy”. Unless I had a food intolerance, I don’t see the health benefits of becoming a gluten-free paleo vegan. Plus, I’d be utterly miserable. My Grandfather is nearly 101 years old and if I told him to cut out cake, bread, meat and dairy from his diet he’d call me a lunatic. I eat everything in moderation and I’m a strong believer of using accessible ingredients, embracing home cooking and having fun with food again. There’s no need to spend your monthly salary in organic shops to make one of my recipes, that’s for sure.

Milly Cookbook

What are your go-to recipes for a busy day?

Every Sunday I get ahead and make a large pot of ragu or bolognese and pop it in the freezer. It means on a super busy day, when I simply don’t have the time or inclination to cook, I have an easy supper ready to throw into the oven. I always have pearl barley in my cupboard, which makes for a fuss-free and easy ‘walk away from it’ risotto, and lots of fresh salad, vegetables and fish or prawns for quick and easy light lunches.

What’s your favourite comfort food?

Pasta. There is nothing better than a slow-cooked sausage ragu with pappardelle and lashings of Parmesan. I don’t tend to reach for sweet things when I’m in need of comfort food, I veer towards hearty slow-cooked stews and ragu, risottos and pies. Proper warming British grub and authentic Italian recipes.

What film projects are you working on right now?

I have just finished filming series six of Mount Pleasant in Manchester, which airs in September. A wonderful job that I will keep going back to for as long as they will have me. We’re a family.

Your book is set for release in 2017! Congratulations. What can we expect to see on the pages of your first cookbook?

Thank you! It’s all new territory to me but I’m absolutely chuffed to be working on my debut book! ‘Milly’s Real Food’ will feature just that, good and honest, fad-free home cooking. Non-elimination, cooking from scratch and eating everything in moderation. No #CleanEating or raw avocado brownies. I cook and eat real food.

Where do you call home and where are your favourite places to eat, drink and play there?

I live in Wandsworth with my boyfriend and miniature dachshund Darcey. We have a fab old-school pub on our road that we go to sometimes to zone out. My partner and I both live and run a business together, so it’s important we take ourselves away from ‘the office’ and have a natter over a drink. On a typical Saturday we’ll take the dog to Wandsworth Common and grab a coffee from our favourite dog-friendly brunch spot Flotsam and Jetsam, wander down to Northcote Road, pick up some fresh bread from the bakery, and grab a glass of wine and some lunch from Vagabond. Fantastic food and self-service wine: my idea of heaven.

What’s your best advice for the novice cook?

Don’t be afraid to try something new. You’ll make mistakes and not everything will work; but sometimes it does and you’ll learn something different. Many of my dishes in the book have come out of mistakes, or trial and error. Take something you like and play around with it. I have a lot of fusion dishes that work really well and came about from experimenting; so get creative!

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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Try this charred chicken, quinoa and black bean burritos recipe from Milly.

Check out Milly’s blog, find her on Instagram and follow her on Twitter too.