This week on The Wind Down we chat to British Baker and recipe-writer Martha Collison, who started her career on the fifth series of The Great British Bake Off in 2014. At just 17 years old, Martha was the youngest ever contestant to take part in the competition.
Martha Collison at her home in Hove
Home has never been more important, and whilst we can't visit in person, we'd love you to describe what we'd be seeing if we were visiting.
I live with my lovely husband, Michael, a stone’s throw from the beach in Hove.
Our one-bedroom flat might be small but makes up for it in character. It’s on the first floor of a beautiful regency terrace dating back to 1864, and it has incredible 11-foot ceilings which give the illusion of space and makes the flat feel light and airy.
The beautiful ceilings in Martha's characterful apartment
We spend most of our time in the main living space, which is an open-plan lounge/kitchen/diner with huge sash windows that stretch floor to ceiling and look over the identical street opposite.
We rent, so not everything is exactly what we would have chosen, but we lucked out on finding a flat with an open-plan kitchen, a black granite island and sleek white cupboards.
The dining table, (my favourite thing in our home), is second-hand. It has a worn pine top with pastel green painted legs and behind it sits a huge shelving unit packed with labelled glass bottles and jars full of baking ingredients. The kitchen isn’t big enough to hold them all!
Martha's homely dining table and shelves of ingredients
Our bedroom is small and cosy; mainly because we decided to squeeze in a king-sized bed (currently adorned with super soft Relaxed in Rose Bedfolk bedding) for ultimate comfort.
The front of the flat where our main living space is, gets most of the light, so we have made the bedroom snug with mahogany furniture, houseplants, a gallery wall with mirrors and artwork and lots of fairy lights to make it sparkle.
Martha and Michael's cosy bedroom (with Relaxed in Rose bedding)
Have you found any small joys or silver linings in staying at home?
I usually work from home, so the difference is slightly less for me than for some people. I’m used to travelling a fair bit but I’m obviously not doing that at the moment.
I’m loving the bright sunny days and seeing the light stream into the kitchen. We get direct sun from around 2pm so my favourite part of each day, when it has been warm enough, is a cup of tea (or gin and tonic!) on our little balcony to wind down in the evening.
Michael is working from home too, so I’ve really enjoyed being able to put more time into our meals, learning to cook new things, and taking time to eat together each day.
We’re the type of people who are always rushing from one place to the next and we’re often late, so slowing down and getting to focus on one place has made for a much more, stress-free lifestyle.
Martha in her open-plan kitchen at home in Hove
How are you finding winding down in the same place that you've spent your day?
Some days are easier than others. If it’s been a long day filming or testing recipes in the kitchen, I’m always grateful that our sofa faces away from it so I don’t have to stare at the clean-up operation.
We try to work at the table and then move to the sofa to relax. We’ve found activities to do that help us switch off, such as an evening walk or movie night with homemade pizza.
Martha's impressive cookbook collection
Are there any products you've found have helped during this period?
- Tony’s Chocolonely for a little taste of sweetness - the sea salt and pretzel variety are my favourite.
- Fresh flowers. We’re really lucky to have a little flower stand nearby who deliver fresh blooms. They bring a real smile to my face each morning.
- Not a product, but I’ve tried to use some of this time learning new skills – one of which has been knitting. Button and Blue have an online knitting school where I’m learning to make tassel bunting for our bedroom.
- To help change the vibe of our room, I’ve been lighting wax melts. I received a burner for Christmas and love the scents from Bee Natural Wax Melts.
- Wasgij puzzles. I never thought I’d recommend a puzzle but we’re really enjoying the slow-burning nature of the challenge. Wasgij are my favourite because you have to work out the image on the finished puzzle.
Martha Collison at home in Hove
Your favourite words of wisdom for this enforced downtime…
I loved what the Queen said in her speech last week, about better days returning and the fact that this is a global crisis that unites us all.
‘We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.’
We loved watching your Store Cupboard Baking video. How have you found baking at home when ingredients have been difficult to come by?
It’s definitely been a challenge! I feel quite lucky that as a recipe writer, I always have a well-stocked pantry and an excess of flour and eggs - ingredients that seemed to have disappeared.
The bigger challenge is that people who don’t bake for a living, (the people following my recipes), have a much more limited selection of ingredients - which is why I created a few easy store cupboard bakes.
Can’t beat a bit of old-school Taylor Swift in this house!
Anything with rhubarb.
Spaghetti alla puttanesca – I love the fresh, bold flavours and the fact that it can be flung together in minutes.
Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
Noughts + Crosses on BBC iPlayer
Stay home, stay safe, stay comfortable. Love team Bedfolk x