BBC Two's blog

Initially known for an international modelling career, Sophie turned her focus to writing and is now a best-selling novelist and columnist who has written widely about her passion for food and cooking.

She now brings her talents to TV.

Food for Sophie is a way of life, she says: “For me, food is more than just fuel; it’s a joy and an adventure.

“Cooking often serves as an emotional barometer, and with this show we will run the gamut – from a solo dinner that suits melancholy to a homecoming feast for 20, it’s cooking with an anecdotal thread, irreverent, unpredictable and not without flaw.

“I am delighted to be working with both Fresh One and the BBC.”

Sophie’s kitchen is her familiar terrain, a place of solace and retreat where she can put on the radio and enjoy the sanctuary of cooking.

Her recipes reflect her unique approach to food and in this new series she will be sharing with viewers her favourite home-made delights.

Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC Two, says: “We are delighted to be bringing Sophie’s culinary talents to the channel.

“Not only are her recipes fantastic, she’s honest, funny and warm.

“And she’ll be in great company alongside our other homecooking heroines, Delia and Nigella.”

The 6 x 30-minute programmes will begin shooting this summer for transmission next year.

Each episode will focus on a different theme for which Sophie will revisit treasured and nostalgic places giving insight into the resonance and meaning behind each recipe. 

Zoe Collins, Head of Fresh One Productions, added: “Sophie really is a terrific cook and with her relaxed and refreshing style is a great new talent in the world of television food programming.

“We are excited to be working with her.”

The series has been commissioned by Jo Ball, BBC Commissioning Editor for Factual Features. Executive Producers for the BBC are Lisa Edwards and Alison Kirkham.

The Hairy Bikers have travelled the globe but, in a new series for BBC Two Daytime, they’re out to prove that, for world-beating food, there’s no place like home.

In The Hairy Bikers’ Food Tour Of Britain, BBC Two in the early Autumn, Si and Dave are back on their bikes, sampling the best of British fare from across the isles.

There are 86 counties in the British Isles and the Bikers have covered 30 of them, from Aberdeenshire to Cornwall, Fermanagh to Norfolk, north to south, west to east.

Covering 15,000 miles in their culinary tour of Britain’s counties, they meet the locals and learn about how the land and the produce has informed the way we eat.

In each episode, the Hairies will taste that county’s signature dish.

They visit local food producers and hunt for their ingredients before cooking the county’s traditional favourite on location in front of an audience of locals.

The crowd are invited to sample the food and pass their verdicts.

The boys are then pushed outside their comfort zone as they face a cook-off against some of each county’s best chefs to create a unique dish using local produce that typifies the county.

Not used to cooking in the kitchens of fine-dining restaurants, the Bikers need all the help they can get to find inspiration and source their ingredients.

Dave says: “We have gone head-to-head in cook-offs with some of the best and most respected chefs in the country, often Michelin-starred. Then we do a blind tasting for local food enthusiasts.

“It’s good fun and challenging – and when the victor is announced there are a few surprises!

“What we’ve found is that food in Britain is going bonkers. People are more concerned now with what they’re eating.

“To research each recipe, we set off and find two or three local food heroes: for example, there is a lady in Herefordshire who comes from generations of producers of berries used for Ribena. Now they are using the blackcurrants to make cassis which rivals the French.

“We also visited England’s leading escargot producer in Herefordshire and the finest Welsh charcuterie in Monmouthshire.

“In East Sussex we visit RidgeView vineyards with a sparkling wine to rival the best champagne in the world.

“We source salt marsh lamb, scallops from Rye, oysters from Colchester, mutton producers from Dumfries and Galloway, oats from a mill in Alford in Aberdeenshire, mussels in Anglesey.

“We see some stunning beef. Everyone loves steak and chips and native British beef is a true treasure we can’t ignore.”

Si laughs: “We have had some real food epiphanies: asparagus in Evesham, picked from the ground at the very start of the season and then cooked on a griddle with salt and pepper. Completely delicious.

“At Ormskirk in Lancashire we dug up new potatoes and cooked them there and then. Amazing.

“At Goosenaugh we saw corn-fed ducks and chickens, supplied to top chefs like the Roux Brothers and Marcus Wareing, all buying from a man in Lancashire.”

He continues: “We’ve spent two-and-a-half years going around the world investigating other people’s cultures.

“We wanted to get back to our roots and celebrate the food culture we have in Britain.

“It’s just as much an exploration of wonderment for us as it is for the viewers to discover all these local foods.

“There are some amazing cultural dishes in the UK that have been cooked for hundreds of years that have nearly been forgotten about. We want to revive those great old recipes.

“Have you heard of Shropshire’s fidget pie, for instance? It’s based around gammon and cooking apples with potatoes, sage and onions. Delicious.

“We’ve discovered lots of great dishes like that.”

David adds: “In Cornwall, we made proper Cornish pasties at the Eden project; we have made Malvern pudding, Cheshire cheese soup in the jaguar house at Chester Zoo; Cullen Skink soup in Moray.

“In Scarborough we made my mum’s Yorkshire pudding with Si’s mam’s gravy; in Wales we made Carmathenshire cockles, laver bread and Welsh salty bacon; in Somerset we cooked Somerset chicken, a traditional dish heavy with apples.

“These are dishes born out of the land and generations of cooks perfecting the recipes.”

Simon hopes the series will give local producers a well-deserved boost and convince shoppers there is good value to be found outside major supermarkets.

He says: “It’s a simple equation. The more we buy from local producers, the more successful they will be.

“We need more market-places – and they can be in supermarkets – where artisan producers can sell.

“That’s how it should be, with your local supermarket selling local farmers’ meat, dairy produce, eggs and bread.

“And if the producer can produce more it will get cheaper.”

David adds: “The British can and do produce some of the best products in the world.

“We hope that the series will be really inspirational for anyone remotely interested in food – let’s get out there and feast!”

Si concludes: “British people really know and care about their food, there is a real pride and many regional treasures to uncover.

“We’ve had great craic, great food, fabulous locations and found great roads for riding motorbikes.

“By the end of the series we will have ridden 15,000 miles on our motorbikes – a proper food tour of Britain.”

The Hairy Bikers’ Food Tour Of Britain has been made by Cactus TV. Amanda Ross is Executive Producer and Dave Mynard is Series Producer. The Executive Producer for the BBC is Carla-Maria Lawson.

Bafta award-winning writer and director Dominic Savage returns to the BBC with Freefall – a powerful drama which explores the human side of the global financial crisis, broadcast on BBC Two and simulcast on BBC HD.

Freefall, on Tuesday 14 July 2009 from 9.00 to 10.30pm, tackles head on the extraordinary times we are living through, focusing on the events that caused so many lives to spiral into financial turmoil giving a unique insight into the meltdown of the past year.

An all-star cast is headed by Aidan Gillen (The Wire, Queer As Folk), Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!, Sense And Sensibility), Joseph Mawle (The Passion, Foyle’s War), Rosamund Pike (Love In A Cold Climate, Pride And Prejudice) and Anna Maxwell Martin (White Girl, Bleak House). Riz Ahmed (Road To Guantanamo, Dead Set), Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding and Alfie Allen (Atonement, Casualty 1907) also star.

Tautly and delicately interwoven, the film follows the lives of three men with everything on the line.

Gus (Aidan Gillen) is the high-flying city executive who packages and sells bundles of mortgages for extortionate profit. Dave (Dominic Cooper) is the mortgage broker who can make anything happen. And when he bumps into hard-working family man Jim (Joseph Mawle), his old school friend, he offers him a way out of the council flat he has been stuck in for years. It’s an offer that is too good to refuse; a way of fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a homeowner.

But when the market collapses, each character is confronted by a shocking, revelatory truth that shines a burning light on the new realities we face.

Written and directed by Dominic Savage (Born Equal, Love + Hate), the producers are David Thompson (Revolutionary Road, Billy Elliot, Notes On A Scandal) and Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo (Poppy Shakespeare, Shoot The Messenger).

Freefall is the first production from Origin Pictures – the new production company of Golden Globe, Emmy and Bafta award-winning producer David Thompson (former head of BBC Films).

In a country ravaged by plague, war and financial meltdown, Dara O’Briain and his four horsemen are preparing to ride to the rescue this summer with the seventh series of smash hit topical panel show Mock The Week.

Returning on Thursday 9 July 2009, the BBC Two comedy maintains the unique mix of quiz, performance and topical discussion that saw the last series regularly pulling in viewing figures of more than three million in its 9.00pm slot as well as becoming a huge hit on the BBC’s YouTube channel and BBC iPlayer.

Fresh from their sell-out nationwide tours, O’Briain and the other popular regulars Frankie Boyle, Russell Howard and Andy Parsons will be joined as ever by Outnumbered star Hugh Dennis and the very best talent from the stand-up circuit to supply must-see satire.

Now a household name, Mock The Week has, over the years, proved an extremely effective career springboard for the likes of Michael McIntyre, David Mitchell, John Oliver, Stewart Francis, Mark Watson, Lucy Porter and Rhod Gilbert as well as a platform for established names such as Ed Byrne, Gina Yashere, Greg Proops and Fred MacAulay to flex their topical muscles.

There may be no Olympics this year but the team will be able to decide on their approach to Barack Obama and the current state of British politics as well as commenting on the usual tabloid scare stories, reality TV controversies and multiple British sporting embarrassments that occupy our summer months.

Mock The Week was created by Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson, the creative force behind the iconic improvisation based show Whose Line Is It Anyway? which ran for ten years on British TV before successfully transferring to the United States.

Suzanne Gilfillan is the Executive Editor for the BBC. It is produced for the BBC by independent production company Angst Productions.

BBC Two Daytime has commissioned Brighter Pictures, an Endemol company, to produce a brand new game show called Pointless in which obscure knowledge is the key to success.

Presented by comedian Alexander Armstrong, Pointless sees five pairs of contestants compete for a cash prize – by winning the fewest points.

Every question on Pointless has been asked to a panel of 100 people before the show to find out the most obvious and the most obscure answers.

The contestants are fighting their natural instincts, aiming to get the fewest points possible by finding the least obvious correct answer for each question.

The holy grail is the pointless answer – an answer that none of the 100 polled thought of. These add money to the prize jackpot and contestants can win the lot in a thrilling end game.

David Flynn, Managing Director of Brighter Pictures, says: “Pointless is brilliantly simple and you can’t resist playing along.

“We’re delighted to have Alexander Armstrong as host, the format has an inherent humour that he’ll be the perfect presenter to bring out.”

Liam Keelan, Controller, BBC Daytime, adds: “Pointless is a wonderfully irreverent addition to our portfolio of daytime quizzes, which I’m sure will keep viewers entertained.”

The Executive Producers for Brighter Pictures are Tom Blakeson and David Flynn, and Series Producer is Michelle Woods.

The series – 30 x 45-minutes launching summer 2009 – was commissioned by Liam Keelan and executive produced for the BBC by Pam Cavannagh.

Commissioned by BBC Daytime’s Commissioning Executive, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Jo Street, and made by STV, Antiques Road Trip is a series which pairs eight of Britain’s best-loved antiques experts and sends them on a road trip across the UK in a selection of beautiful classic cars. They’ll compete with each other to make the most money buying and selling antiques.

Each expert will have a starting budget of £200. From this they will try to continually trade up so that they increase their profits every time they sell at auction.

While searching for antiques to sell, they’ll be painting a picture of Britain as they travel through a changing landscape of stunning countryside, coastal villages, bustling market towns and sprawling cities in their selection of beautiful classic cars. On the way they will meet some of our most colourful and eccentric characters as they drive off the beaten track in search of some antique gems.

Although competing as individuals, they will travel in pairs. Witty banter and a growing competitive relationship will all be part of the proceedings.

Week one of the series will see Anita Manning and David Barby kicking off in Aberdeenshire.

In week two David Harper and James Lewis will begin their leg of the journey in Northern Ireland before travelling to the Lake District.

In week three Philip Serrell and Charles Hanson will start in North Wales and make their way down through the Midlands and the West Country.

In the final week, James Braxton and Mark Stacey will concentrate their efforts in Norfolk and the South East of England.

At the end of every week the expert who has traded up best and made the most money will be the winner. But expertise, reputations and egos are still on the line as the ultimate crown of series winner will be decided at a nail-biting grand finale auction in one of London’s most prestigious auction houses. Presiding over the finale auction and crowning the Antiques Road Trip winner will be antiques legend Tim Wonnacott.

Antiques Road Trip is a series that’s guaranteed to provide fun and drama in equal measure, not to mention a comprehensive cross-country guide to buying and selling antiques for profit.

BBC’s Controller of Daytime, Liam Keelan, says: “Antiques Road Trip is a very feel-good format, with some of our best-known antiques experts pitting their wits against each other from the top to the bottom of Britain.”

Commissioning Executive Jo Street adds: “I’m delighted that STV’s first ever commission for the BBC is a daytime series to be made in Glasgow. The STV team worked hard to find out what works for our viewers and came up with Antiques Road Trip – a great idea packed with high production values which we hope the audience will love.”

Elizabeth Partyka, Deputy Director of Content and Head of Daytime at STV, said: “We are delighted to have won our first ever series commission from the BBC and look forward to working with them on what promises to be a fantastic series. Having the commissioner based next door at Pacific Quay has contributed hugely to this. We have been able to work closely with Jo Street since she arrived and that has made the whole process much more focused and productive. Antiques Road Trip is now in production and we are confident of delivering an entertaining and quality series for BBC Two.”

The BBC Executive Producer for Antiques Road Trip is Jo Street and for STV they are Wendy Rattray and Elizabeth Partyka.

It is a BBC network production from Scotland by BBC Daytime.

Restoration Roadshow is a brand new series commissioned by BBC Controller of Daytime Liam Keelan, made by Transparent Television for BBC Two Daytime, and fronted by antiques expert Eric Knowles.

A squad of antiques restorers visit towns across the country where members of the public are invited to bring along items from damaged heirlooms to attic treasures which they hope can be restored.

Featured items will be appraised and valued before restoration and viewers will discover the back story and history to the item, plus the reason the owner would like them to be restored.

Restoration Roadshow will then follow the restoration process of featured items throughout each episode.

At the end of the journey the owners will have the opportunity to sell their antiques at auction and hopefully make a bigger profit than they would have made from selling the damaged piece.

Liam Keelan says: “Restoration Roadshow should prove very popular with our audience. Long-forgotten antiques are lovingly restored leaving their owners with the dilemma of whether to sell them on or give them pride of place back in their homes.”

Jazz Thwaite, Joint Managing Director of Transparent Television, adds: “We’re delighted to have Liz Mills on board as Creative Director and Exec Producer with us. She brings an impressive track record across all genres and a wealth of experience in daytime with an infectious energy that is boundless.”

Creative Director and Executive Producer for Transparent Television, Liz Mills, says: “I’m so excited to be working with Transparent Television and to have won our first daytime series for the BBC with Restoration Roadshow.

“This is a fresh series tapping into not only restoring anything that can be restored but also, in these times, enabling us to make some money from selling it too!”

The BBC Executive Producer is Tracy Forsyth and for Transparent Television the Executive Producers are Jazz Thwaite, Liz Mills and Richard Hughes. Restoration Roadshow is a Transparent production made for BBC Daytime (20 x 30-minutes).

Up to 35,000 shops could be shut during the course of 2009 reveals research obtained by the BBC’s Money Programme.

According to research firm Experian, shops on the high street could be closing at up to a rate of a hundred every day.

The findings feature in a special programme, Mary Portas: Save Our Shops, BBC Two, Tuesday 23 June at 9.00pm, presented by international retail guru Mary Portas exploring why the nation’s favourite pastime is under threat – and why it matters.

Mary Portas visits some of the UK’s worst hit and most boarded-up high streets to see how bad things can get. She also speaks to leading figures on the high street including Sir Stuart Rose, Executive Chairman of Marks and Spencer and Justin King, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, to get a view of what this recession looks like from the top of the retail ladder.

Retail is vital to the British economy. Not only do we spend 40% of our income on retail, it’s also the biggest employer in Britain accounting for one in nine jobs. When people stop shopping, the real economy suffers.

Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of John Lewis, says: “Retail employs more people than any other private sector business in the UK. So it matters a lot for jobs and it’s not just any jobs because actually retail offers jobs for people who want to be creative, people who want to work in distribution, someone who wants to work part time. You know, retail can offer a huge range of jobs. So it’s actually vital to the economy.”

Since late last year at least 67,000 more shopworkers have found themselves looking for jobs.

According to leading accountants BDO Stoy Hayward the worst is still to come. They predict 4,300 retail businesses – large and small – will go bust in 2009. But next year, they predict more than 7300 retail businesses will collapse, as customers lose their jobs and see pay packets shrink.

Many of the leading high street retailers are conscious about the future. Sir Stuart Rose, Executive Chairman of Marks and Spencer, says: “Since Christmas it hasn’t got any worse and I think in the current environment not having got any worse is probably a win. But it is too early to say green shoots. We are all very conscious as retailers. Let’s see how the rest of the year pans out. I mean we are in for a very interesting time.”

Justin King, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, adds: “I think what we are seeing is getting over the worst of the shock of entering a recession. It is less bad than we feared but I don’t think you can start to say its green shoots just yet. We are certainly not seeing growth returning in total to retail markets.”

When towns lose too many retailers, they can literally lose heart. Their whole purpose as shopping centres vanish, along with their customers.

The research by Experian also found that the country’s three ghostliest ghost towns are Walkden in Greater Manchester, Harwich in Essex and – emptiest of all – Gateshead on Tyneside, with almost 60% of its shops standing vacant.

Mary Portas looks at retail success in central London and visits market town, Tewksbury, where a campaign is on to save the high street from oblivion.

Sir Stuart Rose says: “It’s [shopping] about social interaction, it’s about excitement, it’s about sharing, it’s about newness, it’s about really expressing one’s self. The high street for me is a really important place and I think in Britain we’d be very much poorer off without them.”

Filming has begun on the brand new comedy sitcom, Miranda, due for transmission in Autumn 2009 on BBC Two.

Miranda is based on the semi-autobiographical writing of comedy actress Miranda Hart (Not Going Out, Hyperdrive, Absolutely Fabulous). The show started its life as a TV pilot and then moved onto becoming the critically acclaimed, Sony Award nominated radio series, Miranda Hart’s Joke Shop, on BBC Radio 2.

Patricia Hodge (Maxwell; Betrayal; The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil) returns to our TV screens playing Miranda’s mother and is joined by a stellar cast, including Sarah Hadland (Moving Wallpaper; That Mitchell & Webb Look), Sally Phillips (Bridget Jones’ Diary; Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason; Smack The Pony) and Tom Ellis (Miss Conception; EastEnders) in this farcical, eccentric and affectionate family sitcom.

Miranda is desperate to fit in, but her public school background makes her a bit of a misfit down the pub and she’s never quite fitted in with Sloane Ranger childhood rival Tilly (Sally Phillips) or the rest of ‘the girls’ (not least because she’s a foot taller than them all).

Due to years of agoraphobic tendencies she can’t quite grasp how to behave socially and constantly fails to avoid embarrassing situations, especially around men.

A constant disappointment to her mother Penny (Patricia Hodge), and lacking any real capacity or interest for business, Miranda employs her childhood friend Stevie (Sarah Hadland) to manage her joke shop.

It doesn’t matter what Miranda attempts in life – dating, joining the gym, job interviews or simply dealing with her overbearing mother – she always seems to fall flat, quite literally, and is incapable of leaving a room without knocking something over.

Miranda comments: “Since I can remember I have wanted to be a comedian and so to have my own show on the BBC is a total thrill, albeit slightly unnerving! To have actors like Patricia Hodge and Sally Philips interested in my writing, let alone agreeing to do the job, is a real honour.

“Comedy is such an important part of my life, if I hadn’t had people like French and Saunders, Morecambe and Wise and Joyce Grenfell to watch, my life would have been a much duller place and so to be a part of this wonderful industry is a real blessing – I can’t believe my luck.”

Guest stars include Peter Davison as Miranda’s old French teacher, Adrian Scarborough (Gavin And Stacey), Luke Pasquilino (Skins), Alex Macqueen (The Thick Of It) and Katy Wix (Not Going Out).

The 6 x 30-minutes series was commissioned by Lucy Lumsden, Controller of Comedy Commissioning, and Janice Hadlow, Controller of BBC Two.

The producer is Nerys Evans and the director is Juliet May.

The executive producer is Jo Sargent, Creative Head, BBC Comedy Entertainment, who adds: “We are delighted to be working with Miranda. She is an extraordinary talent – a huge star in the making. Miranda’s skills, both as a performer and a writer, are very impressive – it is rare to find someone so uniquely talented.”

Miranda is a BBC production for BBC Two.

Ross Kemp is today announced as the host of the banquet for this year’s finale of Great British Menu.

The special one-hour documentary, on BBC Two on Tuesday 16 June at 8.00pm, follows the remaining four chefs, after eight weeks of intense national and regional rounds, as they cook and serve their winning dishes to the troops returning from Afghanistan.

Ross says: “I’m honoured to be hosting such a prestigious and rewarding event for the BBC’s Great British Menu. It is fantastic that some of the UK’s top chefs are cooking the best British food for our deserving troops heading home from active service.

“I’ve been to Afghanistan myself and seen the unbelievable work that they do out there – they really are worthy of an amazing meal and to see such a collaboration should make us all very proud to be British.”

Ross’s last appearance on BBC One was in his role as Grant Mitchell in EastEnders in 2005, and he has since appeared in the popular BBC Two comedy series Extras as an actor obsessed with the SAS.

The BAFTA award-winning series Ross Kemp On Gangs has seen the actor and TV presenter travel the globe, and last year Ross took part in a special five-part series where he travelled to Afghanistan and shadowed the Royal Anglian Regiment while they were stationed there.

This special homecoming banquet is for men and women who have been in active service in Afghanistan and will be held at the RAF’s historic Halton House in Buckinghamshire.

The theme of the menu is “A Taste of Home” and the chefs worked tirelessly to create and perfect dishes worthy of a place on the menu.

The winning menu revealed last week is:
Starter – Salad of Aberdeen Angus beef, carrots, horseradish and Shetland Black potatoes (Kenny Atkinson for the North East)
Fish Course – Masala-spiced monkfish with red lentils, pickled carrots and coconut (Glynn Purnell for Central)
Main Course – Lonk Lamb Lancashire hotpot, roast loin, pickled red cabbage, carrots and leeks (Nigel Haworth for the North West)
Dessert – Treacle tart with clotted cream and raspberry ripple ice cream (Shaun Rankin for the South West)

The regional and national heats of Great British Menu have been a highlight of BBC Two Daytime’s schedule over the last eight weeks.

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1