It’s been a hectic few weeks, with a house move taking central stage in the events of my life, closely followed by some fascinating work. I am really enjoying being closer to the sea and it makes my commuting life just that little bit easier. I must confess that I am not unpacked yet as my work schedule has been hectic and so I am still living in amongst boxes.
I have just arrived back from Blackpool where I demonstrated some traditional Lancashire dishes at Blackpool Winter Gardens at the Festive Flower and Food Show. There was a lovely atmosphere at the show and our team of chefs including Mike Keen, Sean Wilson (aka Martin Platt from Coronation Street) and Mike Harrison all had wonderful audiences. The weekend flew by and as I cooked my last butter pie of the festival I reflected on what a warm welcome I had received.
Prior to the Blackpool Festive Flower and Food Festival I had been chatting to a few radio stations about everything from the history of smoked foods through to what it was like to create Downton Abbey style banquets in an Edwardian kitchen without the luxury of our modern labour saving devices.
In no time at all I was out of the radio booth and into the kitchen as I recreated a full Edwardian festive feast that included everything from jellied mussels, coffee blancmanges, cherry puddings and roasted hogs heads and braised ox hearts. I concluded that the full feast could be cooked in just twelve hours when I was using my stand mixer, fridge, freezer, fan-assisted oven, food processor, dishwasher, electric whisk and ice cream maker; but it took a staggering 45 hours to create the same feast using no labour saving devices. Yes, 45 hours seems a long time, but try making ice-cream without the aid of a modern freezer!
Now I am working on the history of baking and a very interesting BBC project which I will tell you more about later in the year. Work has been hectic, but I have squeezed in some magical moments with my girls including meeting Santa and looking around Blackpool.
Well work calls, so until next week I bid you a fond farewell from a wet and windy corner of West Wales.
Food has always been of great importance to Seren and despite her being renowned for her historical recipe recreations, her culinary skills were not honed, in the kitchens of top restaurants, but in the home kitchen from the age of being able to hold a wooden spoon.
When Seren was born her mother was taken ill and so she spent her early years being cared for by her grandmother, Minnie. This was to prove instrumental in the development of Seren’s love of cooking, for her grandmother was an accomplished cook, who’s kitchen was always awash with terrine’s, home-made pastry and traditional puddings. Minnie’s love of good food and her zest for life meant Seren’s childhood was filled with days of hedgerow picking, baking, traditional preserving and cooking recipes from the depths of a family copy of, Mrs. Beeton. She learned from an early age how to make Victorian puddings alongside elaborate noble pies and perhaps this explains her love of pastry making and the reason she won an accolade from The Great British Pie Awards this year.
Today Seren has great skill in bringing historical food to life and making it accessible and understandable to the modern cook and diner. Her enthusiasm and love of historical food and British cooking is evident in her presentations and she loves to revive forgotten recipes. She recently took part in ITV1’s Country House Sunday and has given live cookery demonstrations across the country at food festivals, historical houses and castles.
Trained as a herbalist and nutritionist, she has a deep understanding of improving health through food. Her interest in historic remedies and herbal folklore eventually extended to researching British food history, and reignited her early passion for cooking. Fifteen years on and Seren has amassed extensive knowledge and is now renowned for her historical food recreations and interpretations.
Seren’s interest in food history does not just extend to old recipes and cooking techniques, but to ingredients and manufacturers. From the age of fourteen Seren has collected food and drink packaging from early Victorian to the 1960’s. Her collection is now extensive and provides a wonderful snapshot in time that accompanies her vast knowledge of the development of British food and drink companies throughout history. She also has a huge collection of antique kitchenalia and moulds which she uses to replicate historical recipes and portray past eras.
Her training in herbalism and nutrition has not been wasted for despite her merits as a food historian and period cook she also delights in creating British Classic dishes for those with food allergies and intolerances (such as gluten and dairy intolerant). Her botanical knowledge has made her a keen wild food educator and forager that lends unusual as well as historical twists to all her cooking. There are also many points at which food and medicine intertwine throughout history and Seren is able to portray these developments and has also undertaken a lot of research into the British spice trade.
To Seren historical food is not a job, but a way of life.
Visit Seren's blog: Serenity Kitchen