Something For The Weekend

May 17th 2009

Donna Air appeared on Something For The Weekend on May 17th 2009 to talk about her organic cookbook, published by the Soil Association.

Donna Air – organic food ambassador

Donna’s work with the Soil Association reaches back as far as her appearance as ‘the face’ of Organic Fortnight in 2006. Following the birth of her daughter Freya, Donna began to become involved even more closely with healthy and ethical foods, while in interviews she spoke of how the demands of being a working mother affected the meal decisions she made for herself and her daughter – particularly after her separation from Freya’s father, Damian Aspinall.

In 2009, this focus on food and history of working with the Soil Association led to Donna being selected to provide the foreword to a new collection of organic recipes published by the organisation. Grown in Britain comprises 200 recipes over 352 pages, giving an insight into some of the meals eaten by celebrity foodies the UK over.

The Something For The Weekend team

Something For The Weekend is presented by Tim Lovejoy, Amanda Hamilton and Simon Rimmer.

Tim Lovejoy was known prior to Something For The Weekend as co-host, along with Helen Chamberlain, of Sky Sports’ Soccer AM. Now he is a stalwart of the weekend screen on Something For The Weekend, a magazine-format show which combines cookery and cocktails with celebrity guests and gadgets.

Amanda Hamilton is a Scottish presenter and nutritionist – and was eight months pregnant when Donna appeared on Something For The Weekend. Amanda was expecting her second child with recently married husband Crawfurd Hill. Away from the screen, Amanda heads up a business providing fertility, weight loss and detox retreats.

Simon Rimmer is a Manchester-based celebrity chef whose restaurant Greens gets my seal of approval (it’s about three minutes from my house and the veggie black pudding is excellent). He transfers his chef skills to the screen in Something For The Weekend’s cookery segments – including working with Donna on her recipe for the show, Baked Penne with Ricotta and Sausage.

The Interview with Donna

Donna began by speaking of her accent – and why it doesn’t match a classic clip of Byker Grove. But she did point out that she’s lived in London for 15 years – half of her life – so she’s got as much reason to sound like a Londoner as she does to sound like a Geordie. She did admit, though, that when she’s surprised or angry the old Geordie twang comes to the fore.

From there it was on to the cookbook and Donna’s views on food. She spoke passionately about the amount of food wasted by the UK each year and the importance of seasonal produce – pointing out that, in an economic downturn, making the most of fresh ingredients, rather than bought products, could be more important than ever. Her top tip was chickpeas, as Donna admitted that chickpeas and a blender are a more affordable long-term option than shop-bought hummus.

After speaking about the book, the interview moved on to acting and whether Donna would be doing anything in the future. She pointed out the pressures of being a mum – but also said that, now Freya has started school, she has more time to return to our screens. Donna said she’d love to do some more acting soon and that it remains one of her great loves. She suggested that a grittier role would be ideal – so we can look out for more work from Donna in the style of Supply and Demand or Bad Day.

Donna’s recipe for Baked Penne with Ricotta and Sausage

For four people

Prepare in less than 30 minutes
Cook in 10-30 minutes


2 tsp vegetable oil
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
1 finely chopped red chilli
2 sliced garlic cloves
200g/7oz sausages – “cheap is best” according to Simon Rimmer, due to the higher fat content
– grill these until cooked, allow to cool and slice thickly
350g/12oz penne
– cook and drain
200g/7oz ricotta
2 finely chopped tomatoes
100g/3.5oz parmesan shavings

To serve
More parmesan
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 sliced garlic baguette


– Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 – that’s a temperature of 180C or 350F

– Over a medium flame, heat the vegetable oil. To this, add chilli, onions and garlic. Fry these for 3-4 minutes or until soft.

– Add the sausages, pasta, tomatoes and ricotta. Stir well.

– Place the mixture into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle parmesan shavings over the top. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or remove when the cheese is golden-brown.

– Divide on to four plates and garnish by sprinkling parsley and parmesan on top. Serve with garlic bread – a shop-bought baguette is fine.

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