I live in Surrey, UK, with my wonderful partner, my adorably mischievous cat and my love of musical theatre. And don’t get me started on my Golden Girls box sets….or my collection of theatre posters (the West End and Broadway are my second and third homes respectively!).
I love all forms of cooking (and certainly eating!), but baking is my great love food-wise: for me, it is the epitome of comfort and is by far the best way to lose oneself in a very happy world.
I am self-taught, having taken much inspiration from my mum and my gran when I was a young boy.
I love recreating great bakes I have enjoyed elsewhere, and the challenge of trying to perfect these, and then put my stamp on them, has been a great way to learn along the way – especially when there are new techniques to be learned.
I particularly enjoy any opportunity to bake for others, whether to test out a new bake on friends and colleagues, or baking for a charity event. And I always love eating what others have baked: there is always such pleasure tucking into anything that someone else has made.
I am a Mathematics teacher in my professional life, having taught for almost 30 years. I also teach a little Home Economics at school: a recent and exciting development.
Teaching is always both exciting and rewarding for me. And I need no excuse to bring in cake and other baked treats! As a teacher, I still love to learn: whether it is elements of baking, general food cookery or non-food skill; in fact I can often be found browing through books or looking online for techniques that are new to me just so I can have a go at them.
I hold occasional baking sessions with my students, as well as with adults: something I love doing, especially when others then want to have a go for themselves.
My world of baking
I will bake anything, taking inspiration from ideas that are many decades old or from current trends. But even though I like to add my own stamp on bakes, I often like nothing better than to spend time baking through classics with no embellishments whatsoever!
Pastries and breads are, for me, the most addictive areas of baking: I love how just a few humble ingredients can be turned into something quite majestic. I particularly adore small-scale bakes: miniature breads packed with flavour and canapés excite me, and I could happily feast on these for ages!
Afternoon Tea is one of my favourite things to eat, mainly because of my love of small-scale nibbles! I love to prepare it; it is always a great opportunity for me to indulge in my creative side. It is possibly a retirement move, but I would love to run an Afternoon Tea shop, serving a mixture of both sweet and savoury treats, but I am very keen on running baking sessions for children: a kind of holiday baking school!
Like most people I have several ambitions…..or are they dreams? In no particular order they include:
- To have one of my recipes made and available for sale commerically: I already have a few recipes in mind!
- To publish a baking-related book: on the back of having had several of my recipes published in magazines, I have several book ideas, and would love the opportunity publish a baking book. And I am up for the challenge of making it happen
- To do more baking demonstrations: I know it is the teacher in me, but I love demonstrating baking techniques to a willing audience and discussing bakes with others – crikey, I can talk baking all day long with barely a moment’s breath!
Recreating bakes & and putting my twist on bakes
Whenever I eat something new that I have enjoyed I cannot wait to get into the kitchen to try to create it: this is a challenge I am always up for, and I love the process of working at recreating the bake until I am happy enough to eat it. I am an unashamed tweaker of recipes: I am rarely satistified with a recipe, whether it is one of my own or somebody else’s, until it has got to the “I’ve got to have another portion” stage!
My version of the classic Pissaladière, in which I use a freshly made croissant dough as the base, remains true in heart to the original French classic and has become a very firm favourite in our house; my kedgeree-inspired tarts are perfect as a tasty light bite and are an affectionate homage to that great dish, although I have recently adapted this as a spiced smoked cod and fennel version:
In particular I cannot stop myself from playing around with different flavours for breads: I often bake my Gorgonzola & pear bread, whether in sourdough form (as I initially devised for this bread) or using commercial yeast.
Baking with the seasons
We are fortunate to have an allotment which is ideal for making use of fresh produce throughout the year. Baking with seasonal produce is an important part of my approach in baking and I particularly love the challenge of finding new bakes with the produce, always trying to avoid the “not another courgette tart”-type feeling!
Reading for pleasure!
I’m an unapologetic collector of any books relating to baking and general cooking: this has become something of an addiction, whether collecting contemporary books or books from many decades ago, and I love curling up on the sofa or in bed reading them.
I do try to make it a point of cooking from the books, rather than just reading and drooling (although reading and drooling can work!). Particular writers whose works I come back to time and time again include Michel Roux (both Snr and Jnr!), Julia Child, Elizabeth David, Simon Hopkinson, Nigel Slater, Ina Garten, Donna Hay and Raymond Blanc. I love watching cookery programmes: there is something addictive about watching someone cook. And as a teacher it is always a thrill to get taught.