Former GMTV favourite Penny Smith, talks about leaving breakfast TV behind, gooseberry gin and Yak butter!

Surely your alarm for Market Kitchen doesn’t go off as early as it used to for GMTV?
“No, but it feels like it! I go to bed at 1am now and have got used to nine hours’ sleep like normal people, so the 6.45am alarm to film this hurts.”

After 17 GMTV years, didn’t you fancy a break from work before getting stuck in again?
“I did, but it didn’t happen. I finished GMTV on the Friday and went to bed that night aided by a glass or two of champagne, and then spent Saturday packing to go straight to Monte Carlo for ITV. I haven’t stopped and I’m supposed to have my third novel finished in two days…”

Do you think fans will be surprised to see you fronting a food show?
“Well, food’s always been hugely important to me. It’s about friendships, family and sharing and I’m passionate about British produce. I go to farmers markets, cook with fresh food, and think it’s vital to support independent producers and not supermarkets with plastic covered food. I’ve loved meeting a jam maker and gin maker on the series – gooseberry gin is my new favourite. The smell was like summer in the garden; it took me back to growing up when I used to drink my friend’s father’s elderflower and parsnip wine.”

Are you a good cook?
“Well, I think I’m brilliant. At home I love making soups where I chop the vegetables rough and thick – a bit like me! I’m picking up great tips from Matt and chefs like Tom Kerridge who cooked a piece of fish, skin-side down in a pan for 40 minutes. It melted in the mouth – delicious. So I’m improving. I hope. Can’t be worse than when I tried to cook potato gnocchi when I was 10. It was rock hard and when my brother was later rushed to hospital with emergency appendicitis I cried thinking it was my fault!”

You’re hoping to make the nation more adventurous with food. What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever eaten?
“Something called Tibetan tea, which was rancid Yak butter on top of a beef broth. I had it whilst backpacking in the Himalayas and was left with a horrible film of fatty slime around my mouth.”

Are you missing life on the sofa, Penny?
“I miss being in a news environment and knowing news before everyone else. And reading newspapers; I just heard that one said me and Richard Madeley were going to be on Strictly this year, which is news to me. I’d have liked that. I think Ann Widdecombe’s taken my slot!”

What do you think of the new ITV1 morning show, Daybreak?
“I don’t wake up until 10 o’clock so, I haven’t watched it!”

Are you in contact with any of the old GMTV gang?
“Yes, I spoke to Andrew Castle last week, and John Stapleton – who will be a mate for ever – and Clare Nasir, who’s lost a lot of weight and is now the size of a prawn apparently. I’ve texted Hilary Jones, Richard Arnold – they’re all like my second family and I do miss them.”

What are you enjoying most about your newfound freedom?
“Going to friends for dinner and not having to leave at 10.30 to go to bed. Though most seem annoyed by that and try to shove me out.”

You’re clearing loving life after the sofa…
“I’m having a lovely time and I’ve no regrets, it was the right time to go. It’s like leaving home: it’s sad and you want to cuddle up with all the people you love, but when you come out the other side you see all the brilliant things you can do. I miss the gang, but I’ve met a new set of friends on Market Kitchen and Matt and I do giggle together. Most importantly it gives me a bit of a lie-in!”

*Market Kitchen screens on Good Food weekdays at 7pm

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