Blog Archives - Page 2 of 2 - Harts Barn Cookery School

My Top Tips and Recipes for a Stress-Free Christmas

I absolutely LOVE Christmas! For me, nothing beats a celebration where family and friends all gather together. I even love the chaos of it all! Having said that, many people do find the run up a little stressful with thinking of gifts to buy and being overloaded with pressure to produce an all singing and all dancing Christmas Dinner.
Here are a few ideas to help you on your way. It’s a magical time and it can stay that way especially if you start preparations early and I mean…. early.



Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Pie has got to be the quintessential American autumn treat. As I am an American living in England I recreate this classic pie every year to remind me of home. Until they have tried it, most people I have met in the UK are not convinced they will enjoy a piece of pumpkin pie. When asked to describe pumpkin pie I refer to it as a spiced pumpkin flavoured custard tart. This generally warms people to the idea of it and after they have scoffed it, they are completely in love.
Most recipes in found in the states call for tins of pumpkin purée and evaporated milk, two things I would rather not use! This recipe calls for fresh pumpkin and replaces the evaporated milk with double cream. I grow a special type of pumpkin called New England Pie Pumpkin that is perfect for this recipe. This variety is sweeter and less watery than the type for carving. When people ask if I am going to carve my precious beauties, they are often glared at with offensive eyes and are then told the tale of pumpkin pie. When making the pastry, make a double batch, wrap in cling film and place in the freezer, always great to have some spare.


Why not try an alternative Halloween this year?

With Halloween on the horizon I thought I would dedicate this blog to how important our dead are to food – in fact, I would go so far as to say they are almost as important as the living! The ritual connections between food and the dead span centuries and cultures. Recipes and rituals are interwoven, traditions run deep in local cultures and are often misunderstood or misinterpreted in the modern day.

In Ancient Egypt the dead were buried with honey cakes to eat in the afterlife.  The Mexican, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), is a rich and colourful celebration of death and the continuation of life and is synonymous with a sweet bread called Pan De Muerto.


Bones on Bread Anyone?


The bread becomes the centre piece of the altar during the Day of the Dead ‘holiday season.’  Now this bread does vary from region to region but the shapes on top are apparently suggestive of bones and often sprinkled with sugar or sesame seeds. Now wouldn’t that make a really interesting #GBBO showstopper bake or technical challenge?




Beat the fear and forage!

Wild garlic bread making

When someone mentions foraging to me, more often than not, they are referring to going deep in to the woods with a basket looking for the non-poisonous mushrooms and berries! They certainly wouldn’t do it on their own without a trained forager – oh no, there’s far too much danger lurking out there!

There is definitely a fear to forage but there really doesn’t need to be. The definition of foraging is “a wide search over an area to obtain something, especially food provisions.” I’d actually say that you don’t even need to search over a wide area. I just step out in to my garden!
I am currently surrounded by a glut of parsley at the moment – OK, I know it’s planted but it’s taken over my garden and it certainly felt like foraging to collect it! On my dog walk I collected heaps of wild garlic recently and I’ve also noticed that nettles are, well, everywhere! This is all free food and who doesn’t like free food?

Now for the clever bit – what to do in the kitchen with this glut of free food. Here’s a few ideas…

Musings from a Cookery School Principal

cookery school week I often get asked about my job as Principal of the Cookery School so I thought I’d share what  actually goes on here in a “typical” week.

It was always my aim to develop a Cookery School that was accessible to everyone and non elitist so “cooking for all” really seemed to encapsulate my vision from day one.

A colleague of mine, runs a creative business offering art and craft activities, now she calls herself  ‘eclectic’ due to the diversity of art projects she runs – we’ve even collaborated on cook and craft  projects, among others.

Eclectic is a word I have been thinking a lot about recently and I feel it is a good word to  describe life running a cookery school with the vision of offering ‘cooking for all’.

Guest blog: Artisan Bread Baker, Dede Lis on The Story Behind Artisan Bread and Long Fermentation

I often get asked why Artisan Bread or Real Bread is more expensive. To understand why, you need to look at the baking process and that starts with the ingredients. The Real Bread Campaign champions bread made with 4 basic ingredients; flour, water, salt and yeast or a leven. That means no artificial ingredients – but that’s just the beginning of the story.


Welcome to our new website!

Here on the blog I will be sharing what is going on behind the scenes at the Cookery School and believe me, there is a lot! This month has been a particularly special one, as well as launching our brand new website, my named appeared on BBC1!

If you haven’t seen it yet, tune in on Monday nights at 7.30pm for Nigel Slater’s, Eating Together. Last year, I happened to mention to an acquaintance that Nigel Slater was my all-time food hero. Now this person not only knew Nigel, but was due to work with him on his new series and before I knew it I was signing secrecy contracts and part of the Home Economics team working on the show!