About Us

I was born in Buckinghamshire, England, to a happy, sensible family of people who enjoyed making things. Until I married, five of us lived in the house my Granddad built for himself and my Grandmother, the same house my Dad and his brothers grew up in and my grandparents died in. It’s in a snaking country lane surrounded by fields, with an outlook over the Chiltern Hills, on the outskirts of a small market town my Dad’s family have lived in continually since 1462.

During my childhood everybody knew each other, and nearly everybody grew their own fruit and vegetables and freely shared their skills and resources with neighbours whenever a need arose. Seasons came and went while we walked or rode bikes up and down the lanes, collecting wild food, accepting berries picked by neighbours in the early morning and returning by teatime with tall raspberry cream sponges to say thanks.

Both my grandmothers were excellent cooks and, post-war, worked for other people as cooks for a time. Our men were practical, thrifty, outdoorsy types who designed things, built things, fixed things, made things last. Mum did a good job at keeping us clothed and domesticated. Growing food and eating food – lovely food – was no big deal. It’s just what we did, day to day. I learned early on to bake cakes, shell beans, differentiate birdsong, gather wild mushrooms, climb trees, ride horses and mend my own bike (and everyone else’s I went out with).

When I left school I wanted to cook and write about food so I did a City and Guilds catering and restaurant management course and found my way up to London and into the mad heat of a Soho kitchen, working hours I’d previously only slept through. Later I returned to my own neck of the woods and worked at Cliveden, a Michelin starred country hotel. In my ‘spare’ time I wrote as much about food as I could, eventually being taken on by Time Out as a restaurant critic. I freelanced for them for 14 years, reviewing the best restaurants in London and the Home Counties. I also wrote for national magazines and newspapers and edited cookery books at cookery school Le Cordon Bleu, something I continue to do for various publishers.

My heart is in the simple country life though, and that’s where Bomboloni comes in. Bomboloni are delicious yeast doughnuts, originally from Tuscany where they are served fresh and warm, dusted in sugar but minus any filling. If a degree of indulgence is called for fruit sauce or melted chocolate (or both) can be served alongside for dipping the doughnuts in. I learned to make them at Giancarlo Caldesi’s lovely restaurant in Bray, Caldesi in Campagna, where I helped out for a while when their own pastry chef was indisposed.

Eating bomboloni is an undemanding yet deeply pleasurable pastime, the sort of happy food experience I relish and nobody can have too much of. It seemed a suitable metaphor for a website.

Bomboloni.co.uk is not commercially biased in any way, nor is it about promoting myself (or anyone else, really). It’s just about sharing good food, wine, pictures, people and places. End of.

Helen Barnard