My countryside: Paul Hollywood
Wonderful childhood memories of the Cheshire coast have instilled a love of the sea in the baker and presenter
'Sundays were always spent outdoors with my family when I was growing up. We lived in a town called Wallasey in the Wirral and would often go for walks in the country parks, along the clifftops that overlook some beautiful sandy beaches and the Irish Sea. I can remember huddling into my jacket and feeling pretty cold on blustery winter days but also picnicking in the summer – Mum would make sandwiches and we’d have jam tarts from Dad’s bakery.
'I have two younger brothers – Jason and Lee – and we used to visit the islands of Hilbre, Middle Eye and Little Eye at West Kirby, where we’d watch the seals basking. You had to be careful, though, because if the tide came in, you could be cut off from the mainland and have to wait for it to go back out again before you could get across. We also explored our surrounding countryside, cycling to Chester, and on into North Wales, which was just 40 minutes from our door.
'My parents had a caravan near Conwy in North Wales, where we’d go on holidays. It was on a campsite right at the foot of a mountain. Each morning, Dad would give my brothers and me some chocolate and a tangerine, and tell us to be back by dinner. We would climb to the top of the mountain and sit watching Dad down below relaxing in his deckchair. Then we’d scree-run all the way down – basically jumping out a couple of feet and flying, bang, bang, bang, until we reached the bottom. I guess it was kind of dangerous because we could have really hurt ourselves, but we always wore ankle supports and didn’t break anything.
'I’ve always lived close enough to the sea that I could smell it. That’s very important to me. Now that I live in Kent, where my wife Alexandra is from, there is a beach within just three miles. It was a shock to me how flat the county is in comparison with the Wirral – the exception being, of course, the White Cliffs of Dover. They never fail to take my breath away. I love how Britain ends so abruptly, seemingly falling away into the sea.
'I can’t stand cities – I prefer village life. I try to be as involved with my local community as I can – just because the fame card lands in your lap, it shouldn’t mean you become a recluse. We live in Aylesham near Canterbury. My wife gets involved with the church and fair, and every year I dress up as Father Christmas for the children in our village.
'Kent has some amazing produce – my bakery is not far from where I live and, as we’re surrounded by farm shops, I try to use as many local ingredients as possible. One of my friends is a strawberry farmer and his fruit tastes fantastic in my Danish pastries. At home, I enjoy Kentish ales and, because of the county’s orchards, the cider and apple juice is great, too. Chapel Down Vineyard makes an award-winning sparkling wine, which has been voted better than champagne in a blind tasting by French sommeliers – quite something.
'Now I have my own family, weekends are still about being outdoors. Alexandra and I will go for walks with our 11-year-old son Josh and our chocolate Labrador Rufus. I particularly like it when it’s cold and crisp, with a winter sun. On Sundays, we might be joined by family friends, then stop for a pub lunch or head back home for a roast.
'This Easter, I’ll order a shoulder of Romney Marsh lamb from the local butcher because it has the most incredible flavour, but it’ll be my wife who prepares the meal – she’s the cook, I’m the baker. I’ll be the one making the hot-cross buns. Most people use dried fruit in their recipe but adding fresh ingredients will give it an edge. Use dried fruit and nuts, such as cranberries, sultanas, pecans and almonds, as a base, then add apples and pears, mandarins or tangerines. Make sure everything is chopped very small and serve the resulting buns toasted, with plenty of butter.'
Paul Hollywood’s new series on how to make bread is being shown on BBC Two. A tie-in book 'Paul Hollywood’s Bread' (Bloomsbury, £20) is out now. To order a copy for just £15.99 with free p&p, call 0871 803 6764 or visit allaboutyoubookshop.co.uk. For stockists of Paul Hollywood Artisan Bread Co’s products, go to paulhollywood.com.