Archive for the ‘Robin Ellis’ Category

Friday–a long day in court!

I parked my behind on the “bench” at 8.30am and we wrapped at 5pm.
It was the full Montyred robe and full judicial wig–recognisable by nose alone!
I wore my ministers’ costume beneath–all black–which kept me warm when all about were freezing.(Poor Meredith caught a chill and is in bed with a heavy cold!)

Reverend Halse relaxes on the ice after a heavy day’s sentencing…

We were filming at Horton Court, outside Bristol, in an ancient hall dating back to Norman times–made up to look like a courtroom.
Beautiful, but dank and chilly even in mid-May.
Horton Court

Actor prepares in the comfort of the Green Room! That small heater couldn’t quite cope with the arctic chill.

These days the shooting process is different.
Forty years ago we rehearsed for six days–then spent two days in the studio preparing to record it  at the end of the second day.
It was like a play–you had to know it all by heart!
Curtain up” at 7.30pm and “down” at 10pm. Best not to be in the last scene, which was always a race against the clock.
Now you film a certain number of pages each day (in our case on Friday about four or five).
There is no rehearsal.
Learn the lines and find out how best to play them on the job.
A little scary! For a while, I was thinking, “I’d rather be back in my kitchen….”
Then I started to get the hang of it.
When we wrapped at 5pm, the director, Ed Balzelgette, made a sweet remark to the assembly (many extras on hand) about the unusual circumstance of having two “Ross Poldarks” in the same room!
Everyone clapped–which was touching!
Aidan Turner (aka Ross Poldark) and I–all smiles–relieved we’d done it and happy we were smiling about it, shook hands warmly and vigorously.
 I look forward to our next encounter in Episode 6.

Relieved actor ready to derobe.

Now for the cooking workshop!

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First day’s filming today, on the NEW POLDARK.

The twittersphere is alive with anticipation as the cast and crew embark on the journey.

I’m looking forward to joining the caravan in May.

Jacqueline, make-up supremo, emailed this morning with ideas and images (facial hair!) and I’m already experiencing moments of anxiety about my first day.

First days are fraught.

My first day at my pre-prep school, aged 4, I left the school mid-morning and walked home– a mile at least.

A couple of days later, I’d fallen in love with beautiful Miss Rosemary and nothing could keep me away–much to my mother’s relief.


From my memoir, Making Poldark, the first day’s filming in 1975 –a typical spring day in Cornwall:

It was bitterly cold and dank.


Another bitterly cold and dank day!

We were in Towednack churchyard near St. Ives. I remember it well.

Contrary to rumour, I was born without a scar–so on went the first scar of many, made unromantically of glue; on went the make-up and the back-piece of hair.

My hair had been dyed darker with copper tints for the part.

I put on my black mourning coat–the scene was Uncle Charles’ funeral–and my specially-made boots and there I was: Captain Ross Poldark.

But as the day wore on and they still didn’t get to my bit, I began to wonder. I saw the director looking worried and thought at first it must be the weather.

Then I thought maybe it’s my hair, then my scar, then my FACE.

Then I thought: my God, it’s ME!

They don’t want ME!

They think they’ve made a mistake. They’re re-casting–the lines are hot to London and actors are streaming into the producer’s office with the sun in their eyes–it was fine in London–and they’re all Olympic equestrians.

Robin, will you come to the graveside please?’

Of course, I’ve got it–I mean–of course I will.’

I’d started at last.


Good luck to Aidan and Eleanor and everyone–(me included)!


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That was then!

The BBC have just announced the news–Mammoth Screen have offered me a cameo in their new production of Poldark.

Poldark has brought much joy to my life–I’ve often called them Poldark Perks–which doesn’t do them justice.

It continues to deliver.

I am delighted to be invited to play a role in the new venture which has got off to a flying start with superb scripts from Debbie Horsfield (I have just finished reading them) and a tremendous first tranche of principal casting.

I am cast as Dr. Halse–the clergyman with whom Ross shares the coach on his journey home to Nampara from Truro in the opening scene of the first series. Back then, a benign figure–in the new series he comes over as rather less so!

I fear I’ll be exchanging the marvelous leather coat and boots for drab, black church cloth and a sneer.

Joining the Cornish establishment that Ross so despises (though he was born into it) will be a challenge!

Joining the new Poldark will be exciting–but also poignant for me, bringing back many wonderful memories of 40 years ago.

Not least in my mind will be fellow members of the original cast–especially those no longer with us: the beloved Angharad Rees, Ralph Bates, Richard Morant, Frank Middlemas, Paul Curran and Mary Wimbush.

I’ll be there for their memory–and for the late Winston Graham–as well as for the intriguing prospect of acting with the new cast to help bring this wonderful saga to a new audience.











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and Ross Poldark remounts…

Today the BBC announced the name of the actor who is to play the lead in the re-working of the series  first screened in 1975.

Irish actor Aidan Turner has bagged it.


Just needs to add the scar and he’s away!

Congratulations to him–I hope he has as much fun as we did filming this wild and wonderful saga written in 12 books over a sixty year period by Winston Graham.

Forty years ago this November I went for the first of three auditions for the part, knowing little about Winston Graham and less of the books.

A brief glance at the first book of the saga, Ross Poldark, was enough–I seriously wanted him to be me or vice versa.

I had to go through two more nail-biting sessions in front of producer and directors before finding myself in the position Aidan is in today….

…Cast to play Ross Poldark.


Now–two generations on–this great piece of storytelling will be enjoyed again by millions on TV and in book form.

The time is right. The wheel of fashion turns and Poldark, an unashamedly romantic tale, can be told again with a straight face.

The new series has the advantage of being adapted from original books written by an exceptionally gifted storyteller–Winston Graham.

The characters develop at their own pace and seem responsible for their own destiny.

No visible puppeteer, no obvious manipulation–just the telling of stories through the characters involved.

Aidan and I share a common debt to Winston, for giving us the chance to play a difficult, contrary, complex man often out of his time.

It’s a roller coaster of a ride!


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Back in the days before enlightenment–BE or rather BMbefore Meredithdespairing black moods regularly followed perceived failure, chez-moi.

“Buck up”–my mother used to say—”failure is character building”!

“Don’t make it worse, Ma!”

The first night of the RSC’s  production of King Lear in the 1976 Stratford season was one such occasion.

Donald Sinden (Lear) and Judi Dench (Regan) among the cast.

I was playing Edmund, the bastard son of Gloucester.

The famous speech/soliliquy which ends–”Now God–stand up for bastards!” had gone over well during the three weeks (too long) of previews, with some morale-boosting laughs.

Come press night, the first 7 or 8 rows of critics sit stony-faced–they’d seen King Lear countless times.

Not a squeak, not a giggle and no visible smiles–just an aggressive (as I heard it) silence.

I am unnerved and later fluff a line.

The result is–Black Dog!

Poor proud parents have to endure a post-play drink with an inconsolable zombie son.

They do get to meet Judi Dench–ebullient as ever; though I was never sure she enjoyed playing Regan!

Scroll down the years to last night.

I tried out a new dish involving butternut squash and green split peas.


The peas wouldn’t soften and the squash was tough.

The spicy sauce wasn’t bad, but the time it had all taken to cook was demoralizing.

Was I downhearted? Of course not! It’s PM now, I’m forty years older–that would be silly!

I awoke this morning, though, in need for something completely different: lamb chops? Sausages?

I drove to Lautrec’s Friday market.

Sausages–fait mason [made by the butcher]–won the day and here is the result:


A one pot dish inspired by a recipe in the second Riverford Farm cookbook.

Celery and fennel make for good companions with the modest amount of sausage.


Kale or Swiss chard can substitute for the spinach–or you can just  omit the greens.

for 3/4

1 tbsp olive oil

450gm/1 lb good quality pork sausages

50 gm/2oz bacon–diced

2 medium onions–sliced

2 garlic cloves–pulped in a little salt

8oz celery–cut into inch-size chunks

1 large fennel bulb–outer leaves removed, halved vertically and then each half carefully divided into eight pieces. (This helps them become tender quicker!)

2 bay leaves 

a good sprig of fresh thyme

1 tbs tomato concentrate

100ml red wine–a small wine glass

600ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

4 tsp dijon mustard

8oz spinach–washed and thick stems removed

400gms cooked white beans from a tin [can] or jar

salt and pepper

  • Sauté the sausages and bacon in the olive oil for 10 minutes in a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients.
  • Remove the sausages to a plate.
  • Sauté the onions and garlic gently in the pan until the onions soften and turn opaque; take care not to let them burn on the bottom of the pan.


  • Add the fennel, the celery, tomato concentrate and herbs


  • Turn everything over thoroughly.


  • Add the red wine and mix again, scraping up the good bits as you go!
  • Add the stock, the saved sausages and stir in the mustard.
  • Bring the pan to a simmer and leave it to bubble gently for about 20 minutes.


  • Check the seasoning. I found it didn’t require added salt–the bacon and stock cube were sufficiently salty–but added some freshly-milled black pepper.
  • Spread the greens over the top of the dish and leave them for ten minutes to start dissolving into it. (Cover the pan if you feel the need).IMG_1218
  • Gently stir in the greens and add the beans.
  • Cook for a further few minutes to heat through.


We had the dish for lunch served over half a baked sweet potato each.


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As part of the publicity for my new cook book, Healthy Eating for Life, I was interviewed  a couple of weeks back for the The Daily Express’ popular Saturday morning feature:

Whatever Happened to ???! 

Which puts me in mind of theFive lives of an actor”:

Runs like this:

Who is Robin Ellis?

What about Robin Ellis?

We must have Robin Ellis!

We need someone like Robin Ellis….

Whatever Happened to Robin Ellis…??

The good thing is that this sequence can recycle more than once!

(Click on the article to get a bigger, readable version.)
ExpressArticleJan'12(Apologies to those who have already been subjected to this on Facebook.)

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We are back in France after a week in London to launch my new book Healthy Eating for Life.


Friends from N-S-E & W–some we hadn’t seen for years–came to Blenheim Crescent in Notting Hill on a rainy night last Thursday and were bemused and happy to meet others they themselves hadn’t seen for ages.

The publishing team from Constable and Robinson were out in force; marshaled by my editor Judith Mitchell they sailed round with plates of nibbles–cooked by resident cook Clara Grace Paul from recipes in my book.

It became more than just a launch party–it was a reunion.

In fact it was a blast!

Even the bookshop seriously underestimating the number of books they’d need in place–(they sold out just over half way through)–didn’t dampen the spirits!

Magician Meredith, the mistress of ceremonies, had surpassed herself–the book was on its way!

Next day I decided to give us/me a treat.

I bought Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s newish cookbook.


These two cooks, born on opposite sides in the divided city (one Israeli, the other Palestinian), met in London and have created a revolution in dining and eating.

Their food manages to be sumptuous and simple at the same time–and eminently cookable at home.

On Saturday the treat was extended to lunch at their small restaurant in Islington.


They don’t take bookings so you wait in line;


Forty minutes in our case–but we didn’t mind.

We passed the time staring at the heaving counter of prepared salads, trying to make up our minds what to eat–a mouth watering, morale-boosting exercise!


“Please come forward–we can seat you now”


We’d made our choices–here are mine–and settled down to enjoy our treats.


top left to right: char-grilled broccoli with chili, butter bean hummus with caramalised red onions, green beans and mangetout with red salad leaves, grilled aubergine rounds topped with tahini!


one happy punter sits opposite another!

…and did we!

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Book-signing in London


Thursday, JANUARY 16th




Notting Hill

I’ll be at this lovely, friendly bookshop that has more cookbooks in it than one could eat hot dinners in a lifetime,

signing my newly published cookbook



They have a nice café at the back of the shop for tea and delicious cake too!

If you can’t be there but would like a signed copy, pre-order with the shop.

They will post it to you (plus p&p).

Books for Cooks

4 Blenheim Crescent
London W11 1NN
T 020 7221 1992
F 020 7221 1517

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My parents were good at Christmas–they did my brothers and me proud.

December was a very exciting time.

It was the fifties–the second half of the 20th century.

Molly and Tony had grown up–spent their childhood–in the brutal first half .

They’d survived the war and were in their prime, building a family, relatively young parents for Peter and me though Ma was 40 when brother Jack was born.


They were of a mind to enjoy it all–I guess and did their best to make it magical for us.

Ma always started early–making the cake and the pudding back in September–dripping a little brandy onto them each month.

A young woman au pair from Scandanavia introduced the advent calendar to the household–so the countdown started on the first of the month.


It was sweet agony as we opened a box each day and the time ticked slowly by.

Late-ish on Christmas Eve, Santa sent a sign that he was overhead–a flame in the open fire turning greeny blue.

This was our cue.

Convinced–we eagerly scuttled off to bed. (Only later in life did we discover the trick of a teaspoon of salt cast on the flames by a scientifically savvy Dad!)

I never managed to wake up later than six on Christmas morningalways feeling the gorgeous weight of the stocking at the end of the bed–never doubting that Santa had come up trumps–apart from the perennial orange.

We weren’t allowed into the front room before eleven o’clock and the gap between a bacon and eggs breakfast (still indulged in chez nous) and eleven was difficult. The stocking presents were, of course, welcome and even interesting–up to a point; but eleven o’clock was the magic hour. That’s when we would move into the ‘family presents zone’.

Over the years, train sets, bicycles, puzzles, board games, footballs, cricket bats and cricket balls–how did my parents afford it on Dad’s modest British Rail salary?

(Years later, not long after they had both died, I was sorting through their DESK and found hundreds of unopened Lloyds Bank envelopes containing his bank statements. Dad’s answer to financial worries was clearly to operate in the land of the blissfully ignorant.)

Image 83

insouciant Dad?

The door to the “front room” was unlocked as the grandfather clock in the hall was chiming eleven and in we trooped  to the sound of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (no TV  ’til the sixties) on Dad’s treasured gramophone system–it was like entering wonderland.

The tree covered in lights and baubles, a coal fire in the grate (it was the time of London pea-soupers), a pile of presents for each person.

The pretty order of things was soon laid to waste in a sea of torn wrapping paper.


And the reassuring smell of the roasting turkey wafting from the kitchen confirmed there was more to come….

BONNES FETES as they say here to everyone, with

Many THANKS! Grazie! Merci! Gracias! 


for your seasonal “Good Wishes” and continuing interest, over the past year–much appreciated.

…and to all a good night…!

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As a follow up to publishing the launch date of my second cookbook,

Healthy Eating for Life

here’s the first recipe in that book–a warming dish for winter:

Chickpea and Pasta Soup

Worth considering for Christmas Eve or Boxing day evening [the 26th for American friends] !


It has been eaten in Italy since Roman times.

The poet, Horace, wrote about heading for home and a bowl of leeks, pasta and chickpeas.

There are many variations on the theme of chickpeas and pasta.

A constant flavour is rosemary.

Serves 4

450g cooked chickpeas–tinned or bottled

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

carrot–chopped fine

stick of celery–chopped fine

small onion– chopped fine

garlic cloves–pulped with a teaspoon of salt

1 tbsp tomato concentrate

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

a sprig of rosemary 

a sprig of sage

750ml vegetable stock (I use organic vegetable stock cubes)

Parmesan rind (optional–this is just the leftover rind when you’ve grated all the useable cheese off. Save them for this soup!)

salt and black pepper

180gms small pasta (tubular is what I use, but any small pasta will do)

olive oil to swirl in each bowl

  • Purée two-thirds of the cooked chickpeas in a food mixer or blender (you can use a bit of the liquid from the tin, can or jar to loosen the mixture, if you wish)
  • In a large pan gently sauté the carrot, celery and onion until they soften–about 10 minutes.


  • Add the garlic, the cayenne (if using) and the sprigs of herb, mixing them in for a couple of minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato concentrate and cook a further couple of minutes.
  • Stir in the chickpeas and the purée.
  • Add the stock and the parmesan rind (if using) and bring the soup gently up to the boil.
  • Add the raw pasta and stir well ensuring the purée doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Season and simmer until the pasta is done–adding more liquid if it gets too thick.


  • Serve hot–with the addition of some steamed broccoli, si vous voulez!

chickpea soup with broccoliIMG_3823

Along with its cousin, pasta e fagioli, these are my two favorite soups of the moment!

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