So the big day has arrived and our little inquisitive Alys turns 1! I can’t quite believe how quickly that year has flown by and through all the busy filming schedules, cooking, teaching and writing, Alys has been right there next to me.
I also can’t quite believe that I’m a mother to two (completely gorgeous!) little girls, I often feel like I’m not grown-up or mature enough to have children, but it’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever done with my life. I’m never sure if what I’m doing as a mother is correct, but if I’m half the mother that my Mam is, then I know I’m doing ok.
I feel very lucky to have such fantastic parents, they’re always there for me and my little family, happy to help, super supportive and this is exactly what I try and do with my girls. I have some very fond memories from birthday parties as a little girl. Mam would always prepare a feast for us to have with a few friends, and taking centre stage on the table was of course the birthday cake, which I always wanted to help decorate – and is exactly what Mari wants to do with me!
Obviously, to me the birthday cake is one of the most important things at a birthday party – regardless of your age! I remember telling Mam exactly which cake I’d want, just like Mari does with me now too – I have a feeling she may well be a mini-me! Anything pink is the trend with Mari at the moment and I’m sure that she would have preferred me to have made Alys a pink cake, but for her first birthday cake I decided to take inspiration from her favourite ‘teddy’, a white and pink bunny. And if you were to ask Mari what type of cake a bunny would like, “well a carrot cake of course mami”, which makes complete sense really!
I love creating and decorating cakes, from novelty children’s cakes to big fancy pants wedding cakes. Mam will always say that she doesn’t know where I got the skills from to make cakes – but what she doesn’t realise is that my skills came from her! Mam would create these cakes without the step-by-step guide in a cake decorating book or google images or pinterest, the internet didn’t even exist in the 80s! Those cakes were all created through her imagining how the cake would look and just make it! Now that is skill.
Mari’s birthday isn’t until February, she has Christmas to enjoy first but she’s already requested another pink cake! I am hoping for one more year of Alys not demanding a certain cake, but with Mari as my glamorous assistant and the fact that shes’s a caring big sister, I have a feeling that it will also be a pink cake!
Anyway – Happy Birthday Alys! You are one cheeky monkey, but I love you very much! xxx
Friday, November 20th at 8.25 on S4C
I am a child of the eighties, so not the best decade for clothes or food really! I wore towelling shorts with matching sweatbands for sports day, had a perm and bought penny sweets on my way home from school that actually cost a penny!
When it came to food, we ate all the classics from watercress soup with melba toast, sherry trifle, vol au vents and profiteroles. I would watch Delia Smith, Lloyd Grossman on Masterchef and Keith Floyd work their culinary magic on TV, and would try to recreate their dishes in my little plastic kitchen.
It was during the eighties that I learnt a lot of basic cooking and baking skills from my parents and grandmothers. Weekends meant Dad was home from work and we would make waffles on Saturday morning and then a roast on Sunday. During the week my grandmothers would take it in turns to look after Gareth and me, which meant we would be baking together.
I remember learning how to make sherbert and thinking how easy it was…but nothing was better than going to the tuck shop at school or going to the corner shop on your way home from school. I remember buying that lollipop you could dip into sherbert and flumps of course (marshmallows)….all of them pure sugar!
I was also partial to a fondant fancy, or the pink cakes as my daughter calls them! They’re basically just a square of sponge with buttercream and dunked in icing, but that’s probably why I like them because they’re simple.
You can’t get more retro than a vol au vent, especially one that is filled with prawn cocktail! We still eat vol au vents now, especially at Christmas, they are the perfect canapé but also make a great dessert…what’s not to like!! You can buy pastry to cut the shapes out or even buy frozen vol au vent cases so all you have to do is bake them and fill them.
But to me, there are two desserts that stick in my memory from the eighties and they would always be available on the dessert menu if you were to go to any pub or restaurant in West Wales. The classic sherry trifle and of course the black forest gateau. Both containing a gallon of whipped cream, sponge and fruit. I don’t know what it is about these desserts, but I just love them…and still do. What’s not to like really? So that got me thinking about combining them both and making a black forest trifle…and the end product is lush.
Friday, November 13th at 8.25 on S4C
Pies are definitely one of my favourite food groups. I love the variety that you get, not only in the fillings of sweet or savoury, but also the pastry or case can be made from a number of different recipes. This amounts to a huge number of pies that can be made and of course eaten.
It was difficult choosing the recipes for this episode of Becws, as I have so many favourites – but I think I’ve chosen a good selection of pies to please all tastes and styles. I think that they also represent different parts of my baking personality – through the power of pies!
To start we have the classic British pork pie, representing my traditional baking influences from my family. Next, onto the Mississippi Mud Pie that represents my American family and also my no-fuss baking style. The Empanadas represents how my baking has been influenced by travel and other cultures and to finish, well it’s the inner French Patisserie Chef inside, wanting to show off a little and create something high-end to display my skills through my Apricot and Whiskey Frangipane Tart.
I know that pies aren’t the healthiest thing to eat, but they’re there to enjoy once in a while as a treat. And that’s why I use ingredients like lard and belly pork in my pork pies and chocolate in abundance in my Mississippi mud pie!
When it comes to savoury pies, pork pies are a firm family favourite, they’re always lurking in my parents’ fridge when I go and visit, and Dad can eat several in one sitting (if Mam lets him!). As a child I’d sneak into the kitchen to eat a pork pie, but would only eat the pastry and leave the meat! The cat would get the meat filling as a treat…not sure if my mother knows this fact, but she does now!!
And what about sweet pies? Well, I’m a sucker for anything with almonds in, so frangipane will always tempt me if it’s on the menu. It goes with pretty much any fruit too – but a favourite of mine is apricot as I just think that they make a great team. I dreamt up this recipe for a frangipane and apricot tart with whiskey, and when I tested it out at home on the family they loved it. Once I was happy with the flavour my aim then was to make it look as ‘posh’ as possible, like the type of tart you’d find in the window of a patisserie shop.
A plethora of pies I’m sure you’ll agree, and all of them simple to make but using great flavours and of course good pastry. I always say that if you’re making pastry for a recipe, double up the quantities and freeze a batch – just make sure you label it with sweet shortcrust or plain! I find it’s handy to have a batch of pasty in the freezer to make leftover pie or a tart for Sunday lunch, plus you can make some simple canapes too. Now then, which pie shall I have for lunch?
Friday, November 6th at 8.25 on S4C
I love Italian food. I often get asked if I'm Italian, and as soon as I open my mouth they know I'm not! Although I have no family connection in Italy, I do have a very good Italian friend that I met at University, Simona. We met during my first year as Simona was in the same house as me. She was studying law and had decided to take a year of study in Cardiff to help improve her English.
I remember those first few weeks very well, Simona and I gesturing and trying to help each other out so that we could understand each other, and I think it's during that period that we bonded. She's also a party animal and we had several awesome nights out in Cardiff along with our other flat mates during our first year.
When it came to Simona leaving at the end of the year, it was one of the hardest goodbyes I've ever had to do, and thinking about it now it's making me emotional. Simona was catching an early flight, so we were all up early (and probably a little hungover) to wave her goodbye. I helped drag her massive suitcase, and I'm not joking - her suitcase was HUGE - across Talybont south to get her taxi and we vowed to stay in touch and visit soon.
That was 14 years ago, and we are very much still in touch! Over the years we have visited each other, with me with the other girls going over to Italy and also sometimes me on my own to visit and party Italian style! We've been to each others weddings, watched rugby together during the 6 Nations and RWCs and what's lovely is that we have daughters that are the same age.
I consider Simona one of my best friends and definitely one in a million. She's also a big foodie. Her father has connections in the food industry around their home town in Parma, Italy which means the obvious Parmigiano Reggiano and of course Parma Ham.
Whenever I went over to see her, Angelo her father would send me home with a suitcase full of food...and I would never complain of course!
What I loved the most about going to visit Simona is obviously eating fantastic food in lots of different restaurants, but nothing's better than being with Simona's Mum in her kitchen, and watching her prepare all the classics. From pasta to pizza (as well as a number of other savoury dishes) to desserts. What can I say? I have a habit of finding myself in people's kitchens and asking lots of questions about what they're cooking, can I help and can I have the recipe?
This Italian episode of Becws will hopefully inspire you to cook some traditional Italian dishes for your family, just like I've had the pleasure of enjoying as a surrogate Italian sister to Simona in Italy!
Friday, October 23rd at 8.25 on S4C
As I’m sure you’re all aware, I’m a very proud Welsh girl, with Mam’s family from the ‘Wild West’ of Wales, and Dad’s family originally from Ireland but then settled in Cardiff. I’m also proud of the fact that I have family connections in America, and I always look forward to visiting them and discovering new foods…. And I almost always come back with lots of new recipes!
Ever since I was a little girl when we first visited the family, I could always be found in the kitchen stood next to Aunty Irene, watching every move she made as she prepared food for the masses. No doubt, I asked several questions as to why and what she was making, which Aunty Irene would always answer sweetly. The only recipe that I have written down is Aunty Irene’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, everything else is in my head and I remember everything as if it was yesterday and I was that young girl stood next to Aunty Irene in the kitchen.
Sadly, Aunty Irene died several years ago, but we as a family over here in the UK and in Missouri and Illinois are as close as ever and always plan to see each other every year if possible – either here or across the pond.
This year, the legend that is my Nan celebrated her 21st birthday (actually it was her 90th, but don’t tell her I told you that!), so the Americans came over here so they could celebrate properly with Nan. The family are all foodies too, so it was a perfect excuse to dine like Kings and Queens whilst they were over!
The meal that I always look forward to eating whilst I’m over in the States is breakfast…and I usually eat too much and it keeps me full until supper! The breakfast dishes that we grew up eating are a little different, but are classically mid-western in their style. From egg casserole to country gravy and biscuits – I usually get some odd looks when I talk fondly about these childhood memories, but once tasted, everyone understands why I rave so much – pure comfort food at its best AND for breakfast!
Burgers and doughnuts have been ‘trendy’ for years, with more and more independent burger places opening up, finding a good burger isn’t too difficult these days. However, when it comes to making them at home, I feel that people tend to over complicate things by adding breadcrumbs and an egg and number of sauces from the cupboards. In my opinion, all you need is good quality meat and some salt and pepper. Simple.
Another classic American dish is the humble Pumpkin Pie, and it will always remind me of my family who live in Illinois, in the town where they process pumpkins for canning and shipping across the world. The pie recipe I have is from my dear cousin Bonnie, who like me loves to bake. The pie has a plain crust, but the filling is not too sweet and has the right amount of spice. Best served with whipped cream and a black coffee.
What I like the most about all the recipes that I collect from my family in the States is that they’re not fancy – just simple and honest. Proper comfort food from the mid-west that will always conjure up fond memories, usually involving food and will never fail to bring a smile to my face.
Friday, October 16th at 8.25 on S4C
I am not one for cooking too many low-fat recipes, in my opinion cakes and biscuits are a treat and should be eaten and thoroughly enjoyed once in a while. Eating a balanced diet is something that should be done every day and should just be considered normal. I also know how difficult it is to stick to eating healthily, especially as a cook – I’m often tasting things and eating lots, so I try and counterbalance all this food with exercise.
Since I was young I’ve always been active and done lots of sports. I still really enjoy running and have trained hard for several marathons and other races. It’s important to me that my girls see me doing exercise and eating a balanced diet and that they also know that things like cakes, chocolates, biscuits are a treat – even though they see me baking all the time, we don’t tend to have cakes and other treats in the house…because willpower can often get the better of us and we would be the size of a row of houses!
Eating healthily doesn’t have to be complicated and it should definitely be tasty! From homemade granola or breakfast muffins, to roasted red pepper soup and cornbread, these recipes will keep you full for a long time and give you energy if you’re sporty. My no bake energy bars are great to have in your bag as a snack on the go and are perfect before or after the gym. And as a treat, why not try my chocolate and ginger torte. It’s very rich, but so good and will hit the spot if you wanted the fix of something sweet and chocolatey.
These days, we’re constantly bombarded by different diets, fitness crazes, health warnings, superfoods, etc. However, we all know that to stay fit and healthy you need to eat a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates, protein, dairy and fats and of course do some form of exercise. I’ve never been one for diets as I just don’t want to stick to them and want to enjoy what I eat. Food is definitely more than fuel to me, it’s a way of life and so if I make something healthy to eat, I always make sure it’s tasty.
If I were to give one bit of advice on how to eat healthily, it would be to not eat processed food. This way you control the seasoning but also you won’t use any kind of additives in your cooking, meaning you know exactly what’s in your food. Use fresh and seasonal ingredients – meaning they’re plentiful and also reasonable. Making your own bread and granola means you can start your day well, eating good homemade food and hopefully continue to make good food choices throughout your day.
Of course – I do love a treat every so often, but that’s the key – making sure that your treats are every so often and not every day.
Friday, October 9th at 8.25 on S4C
Night in with the girls.
One of my favourite hobbies, apart from cooking is socialising with my best friends, especially if food is involved! As we now all have young families; the big boozy nights out have been put to one side for a short break, whilst we enjoy catching-up at each other’s houses over some yummy food (or a take away) and maybe the odd glass (bottle) of wine.
We usually all pitch in when it comes to cooking, with one person bringing a different course or side dish each. The girls are all very good cooks, and so we also like to take it in turns to cook for each other. I find that the best types of food to serve are things that people can just help themselves to whatever they fancy. Nothing fancy and nothing too healthy, but just yummy food that doesn’t take long to prepare or cook, meaning I can spend as much time as possible with my girls.
The recipes I cook on tonight’s programme are all things that I love to eat, but I also know that the girls will enjoy too. From my Garlic and Herb Monkey Bread, aka a tear-and-share garlic bread, to some spicy yet delicious buffalo chicken thighs with cooling blue cheese dips, served with sweet potato skins and a crunchy ‘slaw, and to finish – a crowd pleasing marriage made in heaven of double chocolate brownie cups, filled with ice cream, chocolate ganache and toffee popcorn.
As we’re all fully aware, the Rugby World Cup is in full swing and I’m sure people across the country are congregating as each other’s houses to watch the matches. Why not impress your crowd with all or some of these recipes. The dishes are perfect to share and enjoy whilst watching any sport, especially whilst watching the Welsh Rugby boys in action.
The buffalo skewers would work brilliant on a BBQ, and if you’re a vegetarian, why not coat some cauliflower florets in the buffalo sauce and bake, or even a meaty fish like a monkfish. The Monkey bread can be enjoyed at any meal and is a great activity to do with children, as they will enjoy getting messy with the oil, dough and herbs.
I would recommend serving the food with some cold beers, a good helping of humorous friends and a dollop of something good to watch on the box.
Friday, October 2nd at 8.25 on S4C
Becws is back for a 2nd series and this time there’s 8 recipe-packed programmes to inspire you or to simply enjoy.
We kick off the series with a whistle stop-tour of Asia to taste some of my favourite foods to eat and to cook. My love affair with all things spicy started when I went travelling as a student to Thailand and Malaysia. From trekking in Chiang Mai and eating yellow potato curry in the middle of the jungle, to relaxing on the beaches in Malaysia and devouring freshly caught fish with a spicy curry sauce – the foods I ate whilst travelling have definitely stayed with me and continue to inspire me.
Choosing recipes to cook in the show was difficult as I had too many favourites! But, I believe I have chosen recipes that are achievable and are also a mix of traditional and new – hopefully you will feel inspired to cook some of the recipes by the end of the show!
To help me make sure that I create recipes as authentic as possible, I popped in to see a couple of friends – you may remember Larkin Cen from MasterChef a couple of years ago? Larkin reached the final of the show and went on to open a new style of Asian take-away Hokkei with his fellow finalist and Cardiffian Dale Williams. Larkin showed me how to make Char Siu, which is Chinese BBQ Pork – it was of course absolutely delicious, but also it was great chatting to him about all things food and to get some tips for my Cheats Char Siu Bao – a steamed bun filled with my version of char siu.
I also popped in to see Tamsin Ramasut who’s family own the fantastic Thai House in Cardiff. Tamsin and her siblings went to school with me and so it was a great opportunity to catch-up but also to ask lots of questions about her Welsh/Thai upbringing. One dish I always ordered as a little snack with a beer whilst in Thailand was Thai fish cakes, and in the programme I show you how to make these traditional and tasty treats.
Also on the menu are Vietnamese Fresh Rolls, these were introduced to me by my American cousin’s wife Yuri who is originally from Korea. She is a master of Korean BBQ, but also can turn her hands to making sushi and fresh rolls. I just remember thinking how fresh and delicious these rolls were – but also how much fun they were to make and also very healthy!
To finish, I thought I’d better make something a little sweet! My Mango, Lime & Pistachio Coconut Macaroons aren’t Asian, they are of course a British teatime classic, but the addition of the fresh mango, lime, pistachio and a little chilli works well and creates a delicious fusion recipe.
Friday, September 25th at 8.25 on S4C
Beca hosts a festive family feast
Beca Lyne-Pirkis and her family are massive fans of Christmas. Everyone loves a party and the food is sure to be delicious! In the special festive episode of her S4C cooking show Becws Dolig on Thursday, 18 December, she will share some of her favourite treats with S4C viewers.
2014 was a busy year for Beca. As well as filming her first series of Becws for S4C, she gave birth to her second daughter Alys and her husband Matt spent three months working in Canada with the Army. To celebrate having everyone back safe for Christmas, Beca is throwing a party.
"I always look forward to Christmas because it's such a lovely time of year, and it's even more exciting now I have two daughters to share in the festivities," says Beca about the excitement of Christmas for her daughter Mari, who is almost three, and six months old Alys.
"We always have a weekend of family celebrations, even if we can't be together on the day itself, which can be hard with Matt's job in the Army and my brother Gareth is a fireman. I also meet up with school friends a couple of times each holiday for drinks, some food and a lot of singing!"
During the series, Becws, on S4C earlier this year, Beca shared some family recipes with her own stamp on them too. There's more in store in this programme – with bells on.
"There will be a few family recipes in the Christmas edition of Becws, including my grandmother's flatbreads and my version of our American side of the family's Cinnamon Bun recipe," says Beca. And the preparations start early for Beca and the crew.
"We always plan at least a month ahead what we'll be eating on Christmas Day and who is in charge of doing what! This year the family is coming over to our house on Christmas Eve for a big American style brunch and it's my brother's turn to host the Christmas Dinner… and I can't wait!"
Now that Beca is a mother to two daughters, it's a chance to start new traditions.
"I always make a traditional Christmas fruit cake and decorate it differently each year. It's something that I would do with my mother when I was younger. But now Mari is starting to understand more about Christmas it's a chance for us to start our own traditions together, and with Alys too of course!" says Beca.
Well – we’ve reached the last episode in the current series of Becws…
…and we’re going to finish with a bang! Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate!! I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, but I do enjoy baking with it and know that many people love it, so I’m going to share a few simple yet scrummy recipes with you.
There’s only one family recipe in tonight’s episode, but it’s a firm favourite in our family. It’s my great Aunt Irene’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, so it’s a proper American Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe!! I even order my chips from the States, but you don’t have to do that – I’m just being loyal to Aunt Irene’s recipe.
This recipe makes a lot of cookies, but they won’t last long! I sometimes freeze half the batch of dough to use at another time and they taste divine warm from the oven with a glass of cold milk.
I also show you how to make a cheeky little pudding from France, a Cherry and Chocolate Clafoutis. This is very simple and a perfect dessert to have with friends at a dinner party. If you don’t like cherries, then use some orange zest and segments along with a slug of Cointreau instead.
I take you over to spend an evening at my Chapel in Cardiff. This is where I was baptised, I went to Sunday school, youth club, many Christmas parties and trips everywhere, and this is also where I got married. There’s always a warm welcome at the Chapel – there are many of my old teachers there as well as friends’ parents and I always feel at home there.
The reason for the visit is because I’m helping to raise money for their Haiti appeal and so I had organised to do a cookery demonstration as well as judge their ‘Bake Off’ and I’ve baked a special cake to be auctioned and won by someone.
It was a fantastic evening. There are so many characters there and we didn’t stop laughing all night!
And that’s it – the end of the first series. But I will be back with a Christmas special ahead of the big day as well as a second series in the new year. So, keep your eyes peeled for more information very soon. Until then, Happy Baking!
Whilst filming this series of Becws, you may have noticed that I was baking my own personal bun in my oven!
Alys is now 3 ½ months old, how time flies when you’re baking! It was a great excuse to throw a little baby shower party with my best friends and create some tasty treats for them to enjoy. My best friend Beth can’t eat gluten and so I decided to make my world famous macarons as well as some corn tortillas, using a special flour from south America called Masa Harina, which doesn’t have gluten in it. I created some really simple yet stylish canapés using filo pastry, and to finish us all off – I put a twist on the classic Millionaire’s Shortbread by making a jaffa jelly as a filling rather than caramel.
These girls are brilliant – I really couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends. Liv, Sioned and I have known each other since we were 4 and are all still really close. My Mam and Emily’s Mam knew each other when they were pregnant, and so we’ve known each other since we were born! And Beth has always been by my side since we met properly at school in year 9. We have been through a lot together, from making me laugh whilst I had my tattoo, to buying me a goldfish to try and help me get over my phobia of fish. This girl is a legend.
We try and meet up as often as we can, so for me it’s whenever I’m back I’m back in Cardiff. What’s also great is the fact that our husbands all get on too, which makes things much easier when we all want to go out for a meal. Our children are also the same age, and so we’re all hoping that they will also be big friends as they grow up together too.
The baby shower was lots of fun – Beth and Emily had organised everything so well, from how Beth’s house was decorated to the games that we played. I think everyone enjoyed the food too….there was nothing left at the end for the film crew to enjoy anyhow!!
As I couldn’t drink due to the fact that I was pregnant, I decided to make one of the macaron flavours to taste like one of my favourite cocktails – Pina Colada and I also made a white chocolate, raspberry and cardamom macaron – another favourite of mine! Basically it was an excuse to bake some of my favourite foods to enjoy with my best friends! I know that making macarons can be a bit of a ffaff, but hopefully the way I make them isn’t too complicated and encourages more people to give them a go.
This week we’re going to the Wil West… Carmarthenshire!
So far on Becws, we’ve visited with my family in Cardiff, my brother’s house just outside of London and seen the delights of Aldershot. This week we’re going to the Wil West… Carmarthenshire.
Mam is originally from Carmarthenshire and the majority of the family still live there. Mam didn’t fancy a life as a farmer’s wife, and so she decided to travel to the bright lights of Cardiff when she was 17 to work. We would often go back West to visit with the family, especially to see Mamgu and to run around with our cousins on the various farms getting into trouble no doubt!
Mamgu sadly died when I was 16, but she taught me so much whilst she was alive and apparently we’re rather similar!! Her name was Mari, which is what I’ve called my oldest daughter and I know that she would be very proud of what I’ve achieved over the past year.
Mamgu taught me how to make bread and she use to make the most delicious Cawl ever. She also use to make cherry-apple tart – rhubarb in plain English. She renamed it as Gareth and I decided that we no longe liked rhubarb when we were young, so she would like to us and say it wasn’t a rhubarb tart, but cherry-apple!! Gareth and I of course believed her and lapped up every last bite of the tart!!
Mamgu was an excellent cook, and many of the family have gone on to work in the food industry. You meet my Aunty Heulwen Mam’s sister in this week’s episode. She use to run a very popular café in Swansea and she now makes some of Mamgu’s old recipes. A big family favourite is the apple dumplings…these are immense and really easy to make, we usually eat them hot from the oven with fresh milk…delicious.
My cousin Doreen teaches cookery at a secondary school near Llandeilo, and she has Mamgu’s recipes for her Cawl and Bara Brith. Doreen is also a dab-hand at making choux pasry and makes delicious Eclairs.
We also visit with another one of my cousins, Terri. He’s a farmer and has a huge shed filled with hens that lay eggs, very handy when I need an abundance of eggs! Terri likes simple food that’s full of energy as he works long hours on the farm, so I go and visit him and make a cheeky little lunch time dish for him to try using some of his eggs. Baked eggs with tomatos and mushrooms – tasty and quick. Whilst we were filming this in Terri’s house, my uncle Cledwyn (Terri’s Dad) was sat quietly behind the camera taking it all on and patiently waiting until he could try the dish. I think that Cledwyn ate the most that day, which is a good sign as his wife, Anti Meri is also an excellent cook!!
The programme is jam-packed with family recipes as well as some more current dishes – I hope you’ll enjoy them all! Here’s a sneek peak to keep you going…
Next week, my best friends organise a baby shower tea party for me and I show you how to make Macarons!
We’re almost half way through this series already!
time flies when you’re having fun! In this 3rd programme, I visit some of my old favourite haunts in London, you’ll get to see me eat a lot of yummy food and you come to choir practice!
After graduating with a post-grad from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, I went to London to live and work. I use to work in Sponsorship and Corporate Fundraising at the Royal Horticultural Society and British Museum – just slightly different to what I’m now doing! Whilst living in London, me and my friends would often go to Borough Market on a Saturday morning to help ease the hangover from a cracking night out the night before in Clapham. Nothing sorts you out better than a strong coffee from an independent coffee company and a bacon bap, then wandering through the market people watching and sampling foods. I now write the occasional blog for the market as well as demo in their demo kitchen – never thought I would ever do that when I was walking around there hung over 5 years ago!
You get to meet my husband’s sister Bella – both of us were heavily pregnant when we were filming and there’s nothing a pregnant woman enjoys more than sitting down and stuffing her face with a legendary afternoon tea from Sketch. That place is bonkers and the food is to die for and always bang on trend if not ahead of the pack. I used to pop in every so often for a cup of tea and a piece of cake in their parlour; their cocktails are also very good – but not whilst you’re pregnant!!
I also pop into Balthazar’s Boulangerie in Covent Garden, which is a tiny shop attached to its Brasserie, opposite the Royal Opera House. The original Balthazar is in New York, I’ve had many a yummy brunch there and I’ve been waiting for the London branch to open for 2 years. I can only describe the food here as classic – Eggs Benedict, sourdough bread and mouth-wateringly good patisseries in every shape, taste and size. Filming these 2 days in London was sheer hell… I truly struggled to eat at every place – lucky I was pregnant and so had a good excuse to eat!
Back in the kitchen, I create a rather colourful and tasty Éclair made with rose water Chantilly, raspberries and pistachios. I also make a classic French fresh fruit tart with crème patisserie – something I could eat by the bucket load!!
And now onto choir practice – not that I try to be a stereotypical military wife or anything, but I do sing with the Aldershot Military Wives Choir! My degree is in music and so I really enjoy going to choir and being part of something so fantastic that’s there as a support network for us wives. I also help out with the music side of things and occasionally lead the choir in rehearsals and performances. However – I don’t bake for them, which is really nice to be honest! I just go along to sing and catch-up with the ladies, but every so often when I create a new recipe I take some along to get the girls honest opinions – and there’s no one more honest than a military wife, let alone 30 of them!! A few of them are coeliac and can’t eat dairy so I’ve created some yummy flapjacks for those ladies to enjoy as well as some cheese and olive straws for those who can eat gluten and dairy!
This programme most definitely gives you a taste of what influences and inspires me to create new recipes; either through tasting foods from different places or by having a strict brief to follow.
I hope you enjoyed the first episode of Becws?
You must have otherwise you wouldn’t be back reading this blog! After last week’s show, all I wanted to eat was a BBQ!!
In this week’s episode, you get to meet the legend that is my Nan as well as my parents; 3 people who taught me a lot about cooking. The “Rents” are cooking a special Sunday roast as it’s Nan’s 89th birthday. Roast beef with all the trimmings, including Dad’s amazing Yorkshire Puddings. I’ll also be making a birthday cake for Nan, and Nan and I will be making drop scones as a little treat.
My parents used to work quite a lot when I was little, but that never stopped them from teaching us how to cook. I remember the weekends the best; I would always wake up early to watch cartoons and Dad would get up the same time to make Mam a cup of tea (Mam can’t function without 2 cups of tea!). On Saturday mornings, Dad would often make waffles for breakfast – he still makes them now for us and they are still lush. On Sunday mornings, Dad and I would be awake early again and Dad would be either making stuffing to go with roast chicken or the batter for the Yorkshire puddings to go with roast beef. These recipes fall into the category of recipes that I just ‘know’ and never need to weigh, as this is the way that Nan taught Dad.
This style of cooking helps you to be an experimental cook, giving you confidence to try out new recipes and ideas. It also teaches you not to rely on a recipe to make something nice. This is also how Nan and I make the drop scones, we just know how much of each ingredient you need and how it should look….which isn’t helpful when someone asks for the recipe!!
There is one recipe in this week’s episode which will make the traditionalists rather unhappy….I make a savoury Welsh Cake!! Believe me, it works and they’re rather moreish!
Finally, the birthday cake. I love the sour taste of lemon in savoury and sweet cooking, and Nan used to make me a lemon cake weekly when I was at University. It’s my turn now to make one for Nan’s birthday, so it’s going to have 3 layers and a rather rich filling to boot!
Simple recipe with the odd twist, but that is my style of cooking.
Wow! I have my own TV series… how did that happen?!
The last year has been one heck of a busy one since leaving the Bake Off tent, from having a second daughter to writing, doing several food demonstrations and filming Becws.
In the first programme of the series, we’re over at my brother Gareth’s house. He’s a fireman in London, but we live near each other, so we can meet up quite regularly which is great for the kids and the adults of course! It also makes things a lot easier when my parents want to visit their grandchildren as they can see both sets in one weekend!
My family are very important to me and I’m very lucky to be a part of such a large and diverse family, from the farming stock in West Wales to the Midwest members in America. My cooking has been influenced by both sides of the family and in the first programme you will have a small insight into how our family does a BBQ. You won’t find any cremated sausages or under cooked burgers here, but smoked Beer Butt Chicken, Brats cooked in beer, a mountain of American sides and some tasty baps to accompany the whole lot!
We’ve been going out to visit our American family every other year since I was 8. We’ve crossed the pond many times to celebrate some amazing weddings and they’ve also made the effort to come over to ours. Every time I go over I always come back with new recipes or flavour combinations to try out in my kitchen. But the family favourites are the ones that my great Aunty Irene taught me when I was young and include the sides that you see on the first programme, Pork & Beans and Green Bean casserole; two immensely easy yet very tasty recipes.
To go with these sides, Gareth is smoking Beer Butt Chicken and BBQing Brats cooked in beer, which is a white sausage from Germany that is very popular with many Americans and a couple from Wales! Gareth is a legend on the BBQ, he’s also been influenced by our American family when it comes to cooking on and off the BBQ.
Our awesome cousin Jack was the original legend of the BBQ and would sit outside drinking several Bud Lights whilst tending to a BBQ and smoker for 12 hours. Now his son Jason has taken on the BBQ baton and often emails recipes over to Gareth to try out over here. His Pulled Pork and Beef Brisket is ‘melt in the mouth’ but can take anywhere between 12-18 hours as you use the ‘low and slow’ cooking method. But the Brats and Chicken are firm favourites and only take 4 hours to cook rather than 12! To go with the meat and sides, I’m baking some cracking baps, a rich brioche spiced with chilli and fennel and caramelised onion hot dog rolls for the Brats.
There’s nothing better than a family BBQ, whatever the weather! I have been out wrapped up on Christmas Eve before cooking steaks… another American tradition, but this time it’s served with a pint of Guinness or a whiskey and a fat cigar to keep me company!
I also show you how to make a simple white loaf and some very tasty tiffin. Some simple recipes that really hit the spot.
I really hope you enjoy the first programme and the whole series and that you’ll be tempted to try out some of these recipes on your family!