Back home in the Big Smoke after a relaxing half term away. Last night’s events in London have been so upsetting, not just for Londoners but for our friends around the globe. This is the best city in the world. We’ve faced threats of terrorism my whole life, but life must go on and it’s important to appreciate every moment.
My cake-making routine is pretty straightforward: I get the kids off to bed, put Netflix on my laptop and sit up at my kitchen counter until the early hours getting creative. It also helps me to switch off from too much social media and 24 hour news. Last night I plugged myself in to some cartoons and made the pirate cake above for our friends’ son’s party today. I didn’t find out about what happened in London last night until I woke up this morning. We live a good 13 miles away from London Bridge, in the suburbs, so were well away from the situation but it’s a part of London where my wife Sarah works and spends a lot of time. Like the attack on Westminster Bridge in March, these are areas so familiar to us and targeting people going about their daily lives is so upsetting. When I grew up, we had IRA terrorism to deal with in London. Then as now, life has to go on. We can’t and won’t live in fear and London and Manchester are both showing their resolve. It makes me very proud.
I really enjoyed making last night’s pirate cake, though to be honest I like making anything pirate-themed so I was pleased little Freddie requested it. When I was on the Great British Bake Off I won my first Star Baker for my pirate-themed biscuits (above). It must be the fisherman in me but I love being on the water and that’s still possible as a Londoner. As a kid, we used to go on ‘Weekend on Water’ with the Scouts in East London to learn to canoe, row and sail on the Thames. Sarah used to go on this with the Girl Guides too, and went on it with my younger sisters two years running – many years before she and I met. Pretending to be a pirate with your mates as a kid is so much fun and we’re lucky to have had the opportunity. I hope our kids get the chance to do this too.
If you’ve got a little pirate in your life and something like the two-tiered cake above is a bit too ambitious to try, the pirate cake above is in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, with a very straightforward tutorial on how to make it. I modelled it on my eldest daughter at her request and one of my favourite things about my book is that the kids feature throughout it and so many of the bakes are our family recipes. If you want even more ideas, I also made a Treasure Chest cake for CBeebies with a tutorial available here.
We spent half term living the pirate life and staying on a narrow boat on the Trent & Mersey Canal between Derby and Stoke. It’s our friends’ boat that we went on last year too and I couldn’t recommend a narrow boat holiday more highly – the kids loved it so much. If you’ve got a toddler though, I’d suggest getting one of these Little Life backpacks – it was a must-have on the canals this week. But if your toddler’s anything like ours, she wouldn’t wear a sunhat at all so we’ll need to invest in the sun shade before our summer holiday in Venice (more canals and boats – hooray!) There are so many companies who do narrow boat hire, but if you’re after a recommendation, one of the good ones we saw while out this week was Anglo Welsh Holidays. We also got a visit from Andrew Smyth from last year’s Bake Off while we were away (see the picture at the top of the post) and it was great to catch up with him again. A few more pics of the fun we had on our break are below.
There’s really nothing better than family time and making memories for the kids. Not a day goes past when I take for granted how lucky I am, and listening to the One Love Manchester concert while I write tonight’s blog really brings that home. If you feel like you want to do something positive, you can donate to victims of terrorism in the UK via the Red Cross link here.
There was no blog from me last week as before we boarded our vessel we visited Malton, Yorkshire’s Food Capital, for me to demo at their annual Food Festival. I was so impressed by Malton and can’t wait to go back to explore it even further. Tom Naylor Leyland, who runs the event, took us on a tour of the whole town, introducing us to all the incredible local producers they’ve attracted there, from ice cream makers to micro-breweries, gin distilleries, chocolatiers and local butchers. They also have a wonderful cookery school (pictured above) that’s given me loads of inspiration for redesigning my kitchen at home later this year. Malton is a fantastic model for how to transform and regenerate a town into becoming an impressive food destination. If you’re into your food, stick it at the top of your list for a weekend away. You could stay in the beautiful Talbot Hotel or the 17th century Old Lodge Malton, where we stayed.
I’ve explored more of the UK in the three years since being on the Bake Off than I did for the 38 years before that and every visit is a treat for me with so much to find out about our interesting little country. I love getting away from it all in the countryside but London will always be my home. Try to spend this week appreciating the small things because without getting too schmaltzy, as the saying goes, you’ll look back and realise the small things are actually the big things. Have a good week and Happy Baking.