The sun has been shining here in West Wales and it has certainly lifted my mood and spirit. There is nothing like a bit of warm weather to make you feel sunnier on the inside. With the garden freshly mowed and the last of the bluebells merrily dancing I have been tempted to lounge in the garden all day, but with a wedding looming and two little ones running around this were only ever going to be a pipe dream.


My big relief this week was to find that despite being four months pregnant my wedding dress still fits without it being a squash and a squeeze. Fingers crossed that this is still the case in three weeks time. I’ve now got to turn my attention to making my bridal bouquet, a craft project that I am looking forward to, but like all of these things I need to make time for. I have opted to shun tradition and not have a bouquet of flowers and instead opt for a bouquet made from vintage brooches. I have scoured car-boot sales, markets and charity shops in search of brooches of different shapes, sizes and colours and I must say that it has been quite a task to gather the forty brooches needed. So with my floristry wires at the ready work on the bouquet will start this evening. Then there is the worry of icing the wedding cake. I must confess that at this particular moment in time, there suddenly seems a lot to do despite months of planning, but I’m loving every moment.


With plenty of things to be getting on with on the domestic front, wedding list and indeed work wise I have resorted to an old cooking method to lighten the strain of getting a healthy meal ready each evening; that of hay-box cookery. Hay-Box cookery was particularly popular during WWII as it is a way of reducing fuel usage during cooking and also a great way of saving time in the kitchen.

It’s a simple method and all you need is a box and some hay. The idea is to take a box with a tightly fitting lid and fill it with insulating material like hay, although you can use straw, shredded paper or wood shavings. A casserole dish with a lid is the rested on some of the insulation material and more is packed around it, to create a nest effect. This casserole dish is filled with soup or casserole mix that has been heated on the stove for 10 minutes (so it’s hot but not cooked). Once it is hot and put into the hay box you need to leave it alone for 3-4 hours until it is cooked. Once the pot is nestled into its insulation nest you need to pack hay over the top of it and the lid of the box will need securing tightly.

Like with a standard slow cooker, it is possible to start the cooking process for a meal a few hours before it is needed and get on with other things while it is cooking which is useful at anytime of year and especially when you’ve a million things to do. I’ve been using it for soups and things like Boston Bean Bake and the results have been fantastic.


Well with my hay-box packed with tonight’s dinner; I shall turn my attention to a few writing deadlines before baking the top tier of my wedding cake and getting on with my brooch bouquet; so until next time I bid you a fond farewell from West Wales.





About Seren Charrington-Hollins

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