The right ingredients for charity success

It's a tough and ever more competitive world for charity fundraisers, so one of Yorkshire's best- connected women has opened her address book to help raise money for her favourite cause. Sheena Hastings reports.

STEAK with garlic butter somehow seems a characteristic choice for a footballer turned movie hard man like Vinnie Jones, and Tuna All' Mediterraneo, with its sauce of cherry tomatoes, capers, olives and basil, is an unsurprising selection from a weight-watching man like top jockey Frankie Dettori.

A recipe for red wine granita, delivered uncompromisingly in French, is the contribution of Baron Eric de Rothschild, and from the Prince of Wales – or rather, from his chef – there is a fruit tea cake made from dried fruits soaked in exotic tea. That sounds about right, too, although there is no suggestion that HRH himself presides over the dousing of apricots with Lapsang Souchong.

Add contributions from, among others, more Ladies, Duchesses and Baronesses than you can shake a stick at, and you have a book of 112 recipes that provides something for almost every occasion and is not overly fancy or extravagant in its offerings.

Chilli Cottage Pie is a homely dish given a modern twist by food writer Tom Parker Bowles, and if you've a taste for game, then four pheasant concoctions come from various corners of the country, including the Duchess of Beaufort's Pheasant Porjaski, a theatrical treatment of burgers. While the book is mercifully short on authorial waffle, curiosity is pricked about who or what Porjaski was.

The Food Glorious Food Cook Book is the brainchild of Camilla, Countess of Halifax, more usually known as Lady Halifax. As national president of Macmillan Cancer Relief, she's always on the look-out for new ways of fundraising, and at 5 the book seemed an ideal inexpensive Christmas gift.

Having managed to raise sponsorship to cover every penny of production costs for an initial print run of 15,000, the entire cover price will go to the charity, which raises just under 100m a year to fund the training of specialist palliative care nurses for those living with cancer, and also pays for the posts of other health care professionals to work in this field.

"No-one needed persuading to provide recipes," she says. "My friend here in Yorkshire, Carole Armstrong, asked friends locally to contribute, and they include Macmillan nurses. I thought that, to make sure it sold well beyond Yorkshire, we needed to add names from around the country.

"So I got in touch with a lot of people my husband and I know."

The Countess is serving tea and homemade ginger biscuits (from the book) in a small snug room at Garrowby Hall, North Yorkshire. Four dogs lie at our feet, one investigating the inside of my handbag. The view is of the rolling green parkland of the 13,000-acre Halifax Estate.

Lady Halifax – who was born Camilla Younger (of the Scottish brewing family) and grew up in a Borders farmhouse – says she's an adventurous, instinctive cook, who likes to experiment.

But baking is not her thing. The biscuits prove otherwise, but she insists her cakes are always a disaster, and her first go at the ginger biscuits went astray when she used lard instead of margarine.

One of the few seriously wicked items in Food Glorious Food is Mars Fridge Cake, contributed by the Duchess of Cornwall, with its high-cal mixture of butter, sugar, cocoa, diced chocolate bars, biscuits and egg.

This appears to fit in with a certain image of the former Camilla Parker Bowles as a busy Cotswold countrywoman, riding horses, organising social events, and in between, throwing together a little naughty something for when the children brought their pals home from school.

"She insisted that this was going to be her contribution," says Lady Halifax, whose name before marrying the then Lord Irwin was, coincidentally, also Camilla Parker Bowles. She was married for a few years to, and had a daughter by, Richard Parker Bowles, brother of Andrew, the former husband of the Duchess of Cornwall.

"Long ago she taught me that the best way of cooking a roast chicken was to cut off the Pope's nose (the fatty part at the rear end of the bird, also known as the parson's nose) and put it on top, so that it provides all the fat for cooking."

Are Charles and Camilla regular visitors to Garrowby? "Not frequently, but they certainly come."

Having looked around Prince Charles's organic farm at Highgrove many years ago, Lady Halifax, who is a keen gardener, thought about growing organic at home.

"But it takes time to become organic, and you have to grow funny things like red clover first, to cleanse the soil… much as I love the idea, I haven't got around to it yet." Most of the Garrowby acreage is farmed by tenants.

With her three children now grown-up and living in London, and her husband busy with the estate, his directorship at Christie's the auctioneers, or as chairman of the magistrates' bench in Bridlington, Lady Halifax's many activities include both volunteer work and official duties for Macmillan, as well as horse-riding and hands-on involvement with the estate's 100-acre stud farm.

The stud bred and owned the 1978 Derby winner Shirley Heights, but fortunes have not been so great recently.

"We haven't been quite so lucky in recent times, but there's always next year," says Lady Halifax, who enjoys hunting.

"I've always hunted, and still go out. It's not the same as before (the Government's ban on hunting with dogs) of course.

"We are hunting within the law, following trails, but you can't guarantee that a fox isn't going to appear somewhere and that the dogs will not go after it.

"Hunting is not a toffs' sport, it's a country person's pursuit, with everyone interested and involved, including many people who follow the hunt on foot for a good day out.

"The fox is no better off now, and seeing a fox in a snare is not a pretty sight."

Lady Halifax's involvement with Macmillan began early on in her 29-year marriage, when one of the members of the estate staff was dying from cancer and the only Macmillan Nurse in the area was on holiday, then ill herself.

"We decided to raise money for another nurse for the area, and that led on to fundraising for a Macmillan day centre at the Alfred Bean Hospital in Driffield, where patients meet and the nurse can see quite a few all in one place on a Wednesday if needed. I work there in the morning, and it's a wonderful place.

"Treatments for cancer are so much better these days that, although one in three of us will get the disease, we won't necessarily die of it and people are living with their illness for much longer.

"We're talking about a huge number of people, and it means that the work of the charity changes, in that it's also about explaining treatments, helping people to access them, supporting carers as well as patients, and getting Macmillan nurses to give basic palliative care training to practice nurses "

To buy a copy of the book, send a cheque for 5 plus 1.50 p&p made payable to Macmillan Cancer Relief Fundraising Office, to Macmillan Cancer Relief, Garrowby, York, East Yorkshire. YO41 1QD or call 01759 368619.

Camilla's cake

Mars Fridge Cake

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall

4oz (100g) butter

2oz (50g) caster sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa

1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten

2 Mars bars (or any other favourite chocolate bar), diced

8oz (200g) digestive biscuits, crushed

2oz (50g) glace cherries (optional)

2oz (50g) pecans (optional)


Melt the butter with the sugar, vanilla and cocoa. Remove from heat and stir in the egg, then place back over gentle heat and stir continuously to thicken. Remove from heat and mix in the biscuits, cherries, nuts and lastly the Mars bar pieces. Press into a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cover and chill. When firm cut into fingers, which can be topped with melted chocolate for an even more indulgent treat!