Food guru Michelle Evans - Fecci was a contestant on Great British Bake off back in 2019 and we have been following her journey ever since ! From great gardening tips to beautiful bakes, we were thrilled to spend some time with Michelle and find out more...
How did you begin your career in food?
My earliest memory of baking is being stood on a stool with my Mum in an apron that drowned me, taking everything in with fascination, excitedly waiting to see the end result!
Growing up on a farm, I learnt the basics of cooking and baking traditional hearty bakes with my Mum and growing veggies with my Dad.
It was my love and passion for baking that made me apply for The Great British Bake Off, a show that I'd watched for years in awe of so many talented bakers. To be chosen to bake in the big white tent was nerve-wracking to say the least, but it was an amazing experience I'll never forget and gave me memories that I will always treasure including being Star Baker of cake week. The endless baking and intense recipe development made me the baker I am today, as it gave me the confidence to try new flavour combinations and become more adventurous in the kitchen!
I now absolutely love writing recipes for brand partnerships and sharing recipes on instagram for people to bake along to at home!
What are your go-to family recipes?
I have many! I like to make the things we enjoy to eat as a family often. That can be anything from roasted vegetable tarts, pasta with pesto, soups, soda bread, ratatouille, curry, meringue or comforting fruity crumbles!
What are the benefits of using in-season produce?
Using produce that is in season are always more flavoursome, sweeter, fresher and better for you. They have travelled less and won’t have added preservatives to make them last longer, as the time from garden to table is very short and produce is at its best.
In our garden, I've always found growing from seed such a magical and rewarding process. It's relaxing, very easy, cheap and it's fun planning what to plant, watching seedlings grow, harvesting and adding them in everyday cooking and baking. It’s also a great way to get children involved and allowing them to see how their food is grown. Being sustainable and as self-sufficient as possible is something we love as a family.
Where do you get the inspiration for your recipes?
I take inspiration from all the delicious produce in season and what grows around me. We grow a lot in our garden so what I make often depends on what we have that’s ready to harvest. We also like to successional sow so we have a regular supply of things we like to eat most often.
I get my inspiration from my surroundings, nature is so inspirational, as well as seeing the different colours each seasons. I find it makes me value my surroundings so much more. From the pastel colours of the houses in my hometown Tenby and the vibrant blues from the coastal sea to the Autumn colours from the trees in our garden, there’s inspiration everywhere I look!
Tell us more about your book!
Since buying my first cookbook with my pocket money from the touring bus library that came to my school as a child, it has been a lifelong dream of mine to write my own. I still have that book; it's covered in splatters and held together with tape!
My book, The Seasonal Baker, is out May 2022. I used my time in lockdown to bake and write delicious easy to follow recipes, which my husband lovingly photographed. It feels very special having done both the writing, baking and photography ourselves, it was a lot of work but worth it! The book is filled with colourful, flavoursome bakes from my kitchen to yours, to enjoy and become family favourites in your home as they have in mine. The inspiring creations in the book will keep you baking through the year with the best produce each season has to offer with little hints and tips on what to grow and when to harvest.
What key ingredients should every home try to have in their kitchen?
I always suggest buying the best quality ingredients you can afford to buy. I always have a lot of flour, sugar, eggs and cream in my kitchen, as you can whip anything up if you have those! From cakes, to pastries, desserts and biscuits. I always have a lot of veggies in the fridge that can be prepped or frozen if needed, but they’re the perfect base to most dishes including soups, salads and more!
What are your top tips for growing your own, (especially those with no outside space)?
Whether you have a small plant pot, window box, balcony, raised bed or garden veg patch, we can all grow our own! We have a selection of herbs and mushrooms growing on our kitchen window sill which is so handy to cut a few and add straight to your dishes. You can also grow micro greens/herbs in the same way! Micro greens are just smaller versions of fully grown vegetables harvested very young, a few weeks after germination. Perfect to add flavour to your dishes and super easy to grow.
If you’re limited on space, it’s easy enough to grow tomatoes and strawberries in hanging baskets outdoors or in a balcony box, and fruiting bushes such as blueberries and raspberries in pots and potatoes and carrots in bags or tubs. If you want to add some colour to your garden or pots, summer baking or dishes, why not try edible flowers. They’re not only pretty bursting with vibrant colour, they are also really easy to grow and will bring pollinators into your garden. Try some Violas that look beautiful on cakes or nasturtium leaves and flowers to add a peppery kick in your salads. Homegrown goodies are full of flavour!
Who would you most like to cook for?
I would absolutely love to cook or bake for Nigella or Jamie Oliver. I love watching their shows on TV especially their Christmas specials. I love Nigella's indulgent cooking and Jamie’s home style full on flavour approach! They’re both so amazing! I would love to hear what they thought of my bakes.
Pre-order Michelle's 'The Seasonal Baker: Baking All Year Round' book
Follow Michelle and her baking journey on Instagram (@bakesbymichelle).