It’s a whole year since I published the Cooking With Columbo cookbook, I can hardly believe it.  Ages ago I wrote a blog post all about the exciting day I had when the book came out, but I haven’t published it until now.  I think this will be a fun read for anyone who is thinking about self-publishing and anyone who came with me on that journey.  Get yourself a cup of coffee, it’s a long post!

To celebrate a whole year of Columbo fun, on Sunday I made a Johnny Cash Chili (head to the bottom of this post for the recipe) and me and my beau watched a Columbo episode together.  It was my favourite of all 69 episodes, Any Old Port In a Storm and I think we should make this an annual tradition.

I’d hereby like to raise a glass of Carsini fine wine to everyone who helped me with the Columbo cookbook…

including all those who tested a recipe.  There’s a chance to get involved with my next big project, a Murder, She Wrote related cookbook over here – just follow that link, choose a recipe and get amongst it!

Here’s my little review of the fun I had on the Cooking With Columbo launch day, and a little bit about what has happened with the book since.

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Now the dust has settled a bit and I’m getting my life back, I wanted to reflect a bit on the excitement of book launch day.  If you are thinking of self-publishing a book, I would recommend it heartily.  I had a ball.  The best day of all, of course, was launch day.

I took the day off work and spent most of it in bed tweeting (or twonking as Mr. Rathbone calls it) and Facebooking and doing all those kinds of social media things you are supposed to do when you have a new book out.  It was all great fun. I am not a bread-head, but it was fun seeing my total of books sold climb throughout the day and I did a little dance when I saw this…  NUMBER TWO IN THE AMAZON BEST SELLERS…

it was fleeting my friends, but I was there to capture it with a screengrab when it did!

I think the fact that I’m in a small category helped with this (Television Series Guides and Reviews).  It tickled me of course that Patrick McGoohan, the person who is #1 in my “most wanted favourite recipe list” kept me from the top spot.

The book about Patrick McGoohan was a Kindle book so if I feel like showing off I can always say that I had the top-selling PAPERBACK on Amazon in that category.  Once.  For five minutes.

I wonder if Alex Cox the author of that #1 book knows what Patrick McGoohan liked to eat?

I had champagne on ice (well, in the fridge) all day and cooked (what else?) a Johnny Cash Chili.  A LOT has been written on this blog about Johnny’s Chili – not least, this huge post on the Columbo Bowl Johnny Cash Chili Cook-along.

For the book launch day, I made it with venison, which Johnny recommended and it was DELUXE!  Soooo rich and delicious.  Johnny’s recipe is at the bottom of this post and my chum Helen’s veggie version here.  Both are ace.

The last time I made Johnny’s chili, I didn’t blog Mr. R’s verdict but ages afterwards I found a little bit of paper with a comment scribbled on it, Mr. R. said that he especially liked the “little steak-bombs in there.”  For me, this is what makes Johnny’s recipe special, the mixture of minced meat and little chunks.  But the spicing is really good too.

I found it hard to believe I’d got everything in place in time to publish the book when I did, but I have two people to thank for that.  Sarah Akrobettoe is my cheerleader.  When I told her I was thinking of starting to promote the book (without it actually being finished) around Columbo’s 50th Anniversary she basically said, “Get on with it!  Get it PUBLISHED by the anniversary.” She encouraged me to really focus on getting it done in time for the 20th Feb 2018, and I did it.  Thanks, Sarah, you are a wonderfully creative and encouraging pal and I am lucky to have you a few desks away.

The other person I want to thank is someone I have never met.  Catherine Ryan Howard.  One day, many moons ago, I was hanging around the writing section in the Waterstones on Charing Cross Road (what a dream shop).  I spotted her book “Self-Printed” and I was on it like a bonnet.

I followed her no-nonsense step-by-step advice for my Cooking Joan Crawford book which I published through Blurb in 2014

When it came to Cooking With Columbo things were somewhat more complicated as I wanted to make the book more widely available.  That, of course, in this day and age means Amazon.  

Catherine’s book kept me sane through the many steps involved and you know what?  It was really easy.  The writing was the hard part!

Big thanks also due to Greg Swenson of Recipes for Rebels who designed the book cover and made me lots of wonderful graphics that I could use all around the book launch, including the one above.

My lovely friend photographer and food writer Joan Ransley took the cover photograph of Peter Falk’s Pumpkin Lasagne.

Ace Columbo expert Columbophile kindly fact-checked the book for me and wrote a blinding foreword.

I got some really great reviews for the book and I absolutely love the fact that my book is in kitchens all over the world.  I think my penpal in the USA Annette was probably the first person to buy the book on Amazon

My friend Greg sent me a picture of the book when it arrived at his place in Greece

and I love this pic of Heather’s friend Joan who I’ve never met doing a little Columbo dance in her kitchen.

Plus folks I don’t know posted fabulous things on Twitter and Instagram about my book.  Including this pic of someone who I don’t know in Italy that popped up in my feed on Christmas Day!

But the best thing of all for me is that my parents are now watching Columbo.  They couldn’t remember watching a whole episode before they got a copy of my book and now they love it and are working their way through the whole lot!  Brilliant.

All of this to say that I’m very pleased that people are enjoying the book and I’m so happy I took the plunge and self-published.  If you are even toying with the idea of self-publishing, I say DO IT!

My personal goal was to sell 100 copies of the book in my lifetime.  I’ve just done a count up and to date, in one year I have sold 777 paperback copies and 124 e-books via Amazon and probably about another 50 paperbacks to family and friends.

I just cannot believe it!

Writing and publishing Cooking With Columbo has brought me so much fun, it’s been brilliant. Thanks to EVERYONE who has bought a copy and to all of you who helped to make it happen.

Now here at last is the chili recipe!

Johnny Cash’s Chili

1 lb / 450g ground/minced venison (if available) or ground/minced beef (chuck or sirloin)

1/2 lb / 225g venison steaks (if available) or beef steaks, such as sirloin, or a rump roast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 and 1/2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon canola/rapeseed oil

24 oz / 680g canned tomatoes

1 large green bell pepper

1/2 large red bell pepper

2.5 jalapeño peppers (optional)

1/2 habanero pepper (optional)

1 packet McCormick’s Mild Chili Seasoning Mix (or your favorite brand)

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup / 32g chili powder (New Mexico chili powder if available)

1/6 cup / 21g cumin

1/2 tablespoon sage

3/4 teaspoon oregano

1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper

15 oz / 400g can black beans, drained

15 oz / 400g can pinto beans, drained

15 oz / 400g can chili beans/kidney beans in chili sauce

12 oz / 340g can kidney beans, drained*

6 oz / 170ml beer

1/8 cup / 25g sugar

A handful of self-rising cornmeal*

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the steak in the oil in batches, draining off some of the fat if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a separate frying pan, brown the ground meat over medium-high heat. Drain off the fat and set meat aside.

With the oil remaining in the pot, brown half the onions and garlic over medium heat until they are caramelized. Now add the well-drained ground beef and steak. Stir and heat it all up. Add the cans of tomatoes, the bell peppers, hot peppers (if using), and the remainder of the onions and garlic. Heat to a brisk simmer, stirring often.

John Carter Cash says that his dad would normally add the spices in the following order, first the chili packet, followed by some salt and black pepper, chili powder, cumin, sage, oregano, and cayenne pepper. John advises tasting the chili and once the spicing it is to your liking, drain the cans of beans and add to the mixture. Now taste again, as the beans mellow the flavor of the chili. Once the chili is to your taste, pour in the bottle of beer. Stir well. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sugar to your taste. Simmer, covered, for at least another 30 minutes, making sure to stir so the chili does not burn. Now add the cornmeal and stir in.

* If self-rising cornmeal is unavailable, you can make it yourself. Just combine 1 cup / 120g of cornmeal, 1/3 cup / 40g all-purpose/plain flour, 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Put the leftover mix in a sealed container and save for your next batch of Johnny Cash chili.

Serves 6

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