Author Archive

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook Recipe: Turkey Sloppy Joes

The sloppy Joe is so much more than a sandwich or a burger, and giving it the Christmas treatment means we’re taking that bun filled with delicious pulled meat and exciting crunchy veg. served with gravy for dunking, to the next level.

Jamie Oliver Turkey Sloppy Joe Recipe

Serves 4, 20 minutes

200g leftover cooked turkey meat

200ml leftover turkey gravy

1 carrot

1 apple

1/2 red onion

2 sprigs of fresh mint

2 gherkins

1 fresh red chilli

4 seeded wholemeal buns


BBQ Sauce

2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

1 tablespoon HP sauce

1 teaspoon English mustard

1/2 teaspoon chipotle Tabasco sauce

1 splash Worcestershire sauce


Shred and pull apart your leftover turkey meat and place in a small pan with a splash of water and 3 tablespoons of gravy. Pop a lid on and place on the lowest heat for 190 minutes to warm it through. Warm the rest of the gravy in a separate pan on a low heat, ready to use it for dunking later.

Meanwhile, peel and finely shred the carrot, matchstick the apple, peel and finely slice the red onion, and pick and slice the mint leaves. Place is all in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of pickling liquor from your gherkin jar. Finely slice the gherkins, using a crinkle-cut knife if you’ve got one, and the chilli, add to the bowl, mix well, lightly season and put aside. Mix all the BBQ sauce ingredients together.

Split and toast your buns, then spread the BBQ sauce inside them, top and bottom. Pile your pulled turkey on the bun bases, drizzle with a little gravy and top with some of that tasty slaw. Pop the bun lids on, and you’re away./ Serve the rest of the gravy on the side for a naughty dunk, along with any leftover slaw.


Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Random House ⓒ Jamie Oliver Enterprises Limited (2016 Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook) Photographer: David Loftus

Educational children’s gifts: Parents and experts give their opinions

With Christmas on the horizon, parents across the UK will be heading to the high street to make their kids’ Christmas lists come true. But with all sorts of flashy and entertaining gifts available, are those with a more educational edge a better choice? And do parents see merit in these developmentally focused presents?

Educational children's gifts: Parents and experts give their opinions

How do educational gifts benefit kids?

To find out whether items that are expressly made and marketed as educational are better for children, we asked Dr Amanda Gummer – founder and managing director of Fundamentally Children, an organisation that helps children develop through play – what she thought of educational gifts.

According to Dr Gummer, educational gifts and books were important, but parents needed to be aware of the way the industry marketed the products: “Many items have a developmental benefit but a lot depends on how they are marketed.

“We need to be careful how we define ‘educational’ when it comes to children’s gifts, as there are a lot of skills that children need to learn.

“We should not undervalue those that promote other key aspects of child development, such as communication, empathy or confidence.”

Do parents factor in education when buying gifts?

To find out whether parents saw merit in gifts marketed as traditionally ‘educational’, we surveyed 1,100 parents of children aged 12 or under.

40% of parents said that they prioritised buying gifts that were entertaining, not educational, and 23% noted that the developmental value of a gift didn’t factor into the choices they made. 12% of parents believed their children deserved a break from school, buying more entertaining gifts as a result.

That said, a number of parents surveyed saw the developmental value in gifts that aren’t traditionally labelled as ‘educational’. 51% believed that fictional books aided development of communication and language skills, while 31% said outdoor toys and games and 23% colouring books help personal, social and emotional growth.

Disney films were also seen as being beneficial, with 35.3% seeing them as a positive influence on the development of communication and language skills. As well as this, 37.5% of parents believe that the Christmas mainstay of board games and puzzles help children develop these areas.

So which educational gifts are best?

According to Dr Gummer, different types of gifts are better suited towards different age groups. For newborns and toddlers, products that promote attachment, physical development and early reading were seen as being best, while for young children, it was important to choose toys that bolstered social skills, problem solving, phonics and reading abilities.

For kids between 10 and twelve, toys and books that promote self-expression and knowledge (non-fiction texts) were best, and for 13-16 year-olds, Dr Gummer thought it important that teens were given communication-based games and literature to help them make sense of the world around them.

Overall, the study shows that many children’s gifts which aren’t explicitly marketed as ‘educational’ can have developmental value. Buying the right presents for children can be stressful, with many parents struggling to find a balance between items that are both entertaining and also aid learning. However, parents shouldn’t worry as every child learns differently and educational value can be found in the strangest of places, even in a fictional book.

Halloween heebie-jeebies! Fear in children’s literature benefits early development

With Halloween just around the corner, research shows a third of parents (33%) would avoid reading a book to their children if it included a scary character, despite expert evidence suggesting fear is healthy for youngsters.

Book People | Reading scary books

Book People surveyed 1,003 UK parents about their attitudes towards scary children’s book characters and whether they believe that villains of the page have valuable lessons to teach their own kids.

When asked about the characters they found the most scary when they were a child, a fifth (20%) of mums and dads said that The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz gave them the shivers, closely followed by the infamous Child Catcher from Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang (17%).

Although a third of parents try to avoid exposing their own children to scary characters during story time, an overwhelming 84% agreed that ‘bad’ characters are an important part of children’s books.

More specifically, over three-quarters (78%) of parents said they felt that the baddies in fiction help children differentiate between good and evil, while around half (53%) felt that they help kids learn to cope with difficult situations and conquer fears (48%).

Their views are backed by leading psychologist Emma Kenny, who said: “There are lots of positives that can be drawn from the role of fear in children’s literature, including engaging a moral conscience, so learning to take sides with the forces of good, for example.

“Fear is something that we encounter in lots of situations, so understanding what it is and enabling a child to have a fear ‘compass’ is an equipping experience for a child.”

Commenting on the research, Claudia Mody, children’s buying director at Book People, said: “With the season of fear well upon us, it’s the time of year when we’re most likely to recall those characters that scared us as children, and perhaps still scare us as adults!

“Whether it’s the Child Catcher or Lord Voldemort, for younger readers these characters are incredibly important in developing understanding of right and wrong. Although we’re reluctant to admit it, our favourite books just wouldn’t be the same without these sinister protagonists!”

To find out more about Book People’s study and to read psychologist Emma Kenny’s full interview visit:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Atomik Research. Total sample size was 1,003 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th-20th June 2016. The survey was carried out online.

Competition – Great Literary Bake Off

The 5 stages of your child starting school


This time last year I was in a very similar situation to thousands of unhappy parents all around the country – I had to watch in horror as my sweet little girl left for her very first day of school. It was a difficult experience, one that give me a horrendous sense of foreboding when I think I have to live through this traumatic experience twice again in the next couple of years.

To help some other parents through what I would describe as ‘the poopiest day ever’, I’ve broken down the five stages of your child starting school…



My baby can’t be starting school. They are too little. They were only born, like, a year ago. How will they cope? How will I cope?

Nope. Not happening.



What if they hate it? What if they hate their teacher? What if their teacher hates them? What if they don’t make friends, don’t get invited to parties, don’t eat their lunch, etc, etc.

(BTW – they will eat their lunch, including all the things they refuse to eat at home).



“Let me brush your hair before we leave the house and we’ll go to the park on the way home.”

“Do your homework before dinner and you can have pudding.”

“Walk a little bit faster and we won’t have to sign the late book… AGAIN!”



Sharing the excitement of your child learning to read words for the very first time, listening to them happily chatting about their day at school. Maybe this isn’t so bad…



My child is learning, growing and happy. This school thing is okay.

There is also the acceptance that you will receive 30 emails a week about various school events, most of which require some kind of participation that you will never quite be prepared for. World Book Day costume anyone? Victorian Day? Bake sale? Arrrrrgggghhhh. Maybe I’m still working on the acceptance!

Books to help you through this difficult year

To help you through their first year (that first horrible, HORRIBLE year when your little person isn’t at home making a mess any more – I miss the mess!!!), I’ve picked out my top 5 books to survive your child’s first year at school.

Learn to Write Wipe-Clean Collection – 10 Books

We had a set of these for a year or so before my daughter started school. They were great to give her a head start on pen control and writing letters and numbers.



Biff, Chip and Kipper Levels 1-3 – 33 Books

Once my daughter started to enjoy reading, she was desperate to read more than just the 3 books a week from school. This collection has been perfect for keeping her supplied with appropriate, phonics based reading.



Dolly Dressing collection – 10 Books

These are so handy to have. As they are only £1 per book, they are perfect for using as a reward. In Sophie’s school, each week one child from each class gets put into the ‘Gold book’ for good work or behaviour, so if Sophie was chosen I could reward her with a sticker book.


A Year of Rainbow Magic Boxed Collection – 52 Books

The first year at school can be quite challenging for children, so having a good bedtime routine with time to wind down and talk about their day is really important. I take 5 mins to let my daughter chat about her day and then I will read a few chapters of a Rainbow Magic Fairies book to help her switch off and settle for the night.


Book People Collections and Gift Range

Your child will likely be invited to 20 + parties in their first year of school. As everyone settles into friendship groups, ‘whole class’ parties are typical, which is lovely but can be expensive. I have found the collections of books (such as the Mega Character Colouring Collection) make perfect party bag gifts or pass the parcel prizes if you are hosting a whole class of children, while the Book People’s gift range offers really affordable presents for other children’s parties. I bought several of the lovely make your own ranges – Princess and Pirate Peg Dolls, Paint Your Own Mugs/Gnomes, Jigsaws and Games and have kept them in a box ready for the next party invite! See the full gift range here.


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