Food to share

Food to share

Food to share

Chef, social media star and self-proclaimed ‘potato queen’ Poppy O’Toole’s videos have had more than 100 million views on TikTok. On the launch of her first cookbook, she tells us about her love of food and how it brings people together

‘I was always in the kitchen when I was little, trying to make people eat my cooking, whether they wanted to or not! I love how food brings people together and can completely change your day.

 ‘The kitchen was also the place to spend time with my nan. She was a brilliant cook, and put so much love into her food, it encouraged me to cook, too. One of the first meals I remember cooking was a mini roast dinner, with poussins (tiny chickens) and mini veg like Chantenay carrots.  

‘I’ve always been a massive fan of a spud, but it was only when I posted my first potato video on TikTok that I realised how much everyone else likes them, too. I only joined TikTok in March last year. I’d been a chef for a decade, but was made redundant, so I started doing more on social media. After I saw how popular that first potato video was, I did a little series, which doubled my followers to 200k. Then, overnight, after I did a compilation, it went up to a million. It was crazy, and it’s certainly cemented my passion for potatoes!

‘I think the reason my TikTok has gone so well is that people know it’s authentic. I’m just myself. Also, I have a cooking background so they know the tips and recipes are the real deal. I really enjoy teaching people about cooking and seeing them get more confident. It’s a two-way conversation on social media, so you get lots of feedback. 

‘When I was a chef I worked 70 to 80 hours a week, so I was never at home and didn’t have time to cook for friends. It’s lovely now to be able to share food with them. I’ll be doing plenty of cooking over Christmas, probably back home in Birmingham with my mum, stepdad and little brother and sister. They’re still young enough to get excited about the magic of it all. We get new pyjamas on Christmas Eve and I still insist on getting a stocking! 

’If you’re cooking Christmas dinner, I’d always say do the prep in advance. Peeled and chopped veg will keep in the fridge — just put the potatoes in water. You should have all the sides ready to just cook or warm on the day. Then it’s a matter of getting the turkey in the oven and planning the timings.

’If you’re having people round for a visit, I recommend a spread of nibbles that everyone can help themselves to. I love smoked salmon at Christmas time, and I’ll eat cheese and crackers every day in December, so a cheeseboard is a must! My other favourite thing to do is an American-style buffet, with chicken wings, potato skins, ribs, mozzarella sticks… there’s something for everybody. And shop-bought nibbles are perfect to help keep things easy!‘ @poppycooks

Perfect custard (V) (GF)

’I’m going out on a limb here, but… there’s nothing that can beat homemade custard. Forget the powder — fresh, homemade custard is rich, delicious and, well, homely. It’s everything you want to pour all over your dessert. And I mean all over. None of this ”there’s not enough” situation. Make it fresh, and make lots of it!’

Serves 6 • Ready in 30 mins  

  • 300ml Co-op double cream
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Co-op British free range egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp Fairtrade caster sugar
  1. Pour the double cream into a small saucepan and add the vanilla. Slowly bring it up to a simmer over a medium heat — just so that bubbles are forming around the edges of the cream. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar, until the colour has turned pale.
  3. Little by little, pour about half the cream from the pan into the sweetened yolks, stirring the whole time. This will gently bring the yolks up to temperature, so that they don’t scramble when they‘re mixed into the rest of the hot cream. 
  4. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream and return to a medium-low heat, stirring continuously for 7-10 mins, until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. To check the eggs are cooked, dip in a spoon ­— when the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, run your finger across it. If you get a clean line with no dribbling, the eggs are done.
  5. Strain the thickened custard through a sieve into a jug or container. If you’re keeping it for later, cover the surface with cling film (make sure it’s actually touching the surface), which will stop a skin forming on top.

Butterscotch apple crumble (V)

’Apple crumble is a staple of British desserts. It’s good just as it comes, but I think I’ve unlocked the next level, with the addition of butterscotch, which cuts through the tartness of the apple. Get me a spoon!’

Serves 6 • Ready in 1 hour 15 mins


  • 150g Co-op plain white flour
  • 90g Co-op Fairtrade dark brown soft sugar
  • 100g Co-op unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes


  • 50g Co-op unsalted butter
  • 150g Co-op Fairtrade dark brown soft sugar
  • 100ml Co-op double cream
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • Perfect custard, to serve (see recipe above)
  1. First, make the topping. Mix the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter a few cubes at a time, rubbing it in with your fingers until it looks like chunky breadcrumbs (some lumps are good for extra crunch once it’s cooked). Set aside.
  2. Next, make the filling. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the sugar and cook for 3-5 mins, stirring occasionally, so it doesn’t burn. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a jug and stir in the vanilla.
  3. Reduce the heat to low. Carefully pour the vanilla cream into the pan, whisking as you go. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5.
  4. Add the apple slices to the pan and gently stir them in, so they’re completely coated in the butterscotch. Transfer the mixture to a medium oven dish.
  5. Scatter the crumble evenly over the top, then bake for 30-40 mins, or until the crumble is golden and the filling is bubbling.
  6. While the crumble is in the oven, make the custard, following the recipe on page 71. If you’ve already made the custard, gently warm it in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring continuously, for about 5 mins.
  7. Serve the crumble in bowls, with the custard to pour over.


Find another of Poppy‘s fantastic recipes at — search ‘banana and custard French toast’.

Poppy Cooks: The Food You Need by Poppy O‘Toole is published by Bloomsbury