In this month’s addition of ‘Getting together with…’ we’re catching up with Dan Beasley-Harling – master baker, devoted father-of-two, and incredibly memorable participant of last year’s Great British Bake Off series.
Known for his cheeky humour and baking brilliance, Dan is a family-man who shares our #GetTogether ethos – believing more families should spend time together building memories around the dinner table.
Hi Dan, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am probably best known for appearing on The Great British Bake Off last year, as well as being a part-time recipe developer and food blogger. However, I still consider my main job to be a full-time parent to my two children, Constance and Barnaby. In fact, it was taking on this role that lead to my renewed interest in cooking and baking. Many of my happiest childhood memories revolve around food and the kitchen, so I knew that as a parent I wanted to create similar joyful experiences of sharing food together with my children. Since the moment we were expecting our first child, it’s fair to say that I have devoted myself to being the best homemaker I can be.
What meal do you associate with your childhood?
My mother’s food was perhaps a little simple by today’s standards but made with love. She put nutrition first, and always made sure we ate lots of fresh vegetables and avoided processed foods. Her potato-topped fish pies were a firm family favourite, as well as a creamy mustard-infused chicken dish she used to make – I should probably get that recipe off her! Most of all, I love sweet food, and her simple jam tarts are probably the thing I remember the most; shallow pastry tarts with an eruption of sticky jam dripping over every edge – just heavenly with a nice big cup of tea!
It’s so lovely to see how family-orientated you are. How often would you say you dine together as a family?
We are very fortunate that my husband’s work schedule makes it possible for us to all eat together as a family every day. I think it’s incredibly important for the closeness of families to set aside time to be with each other, and the dining table is the perfect place to do this.
Whether it’s a pot of tea and some biscuits, or a full Sunday roast, sharing food is a wonderful way to bring people together.
What’s your favourite thing to bake for your loved ones?
My absolute favourite thing to bake is birthday cakes. I think it’s lovely to make personal gifts, and always like to take the time and energy to do something special on a loved one’s birthday. Perhaps what I bake the most though, is bread. I love to make enriched white breads, as well as sourdoughs. Bread makes an excellent everyday gift when you visit someone in their home.
We know that you’re incredibly sociable. What would you say is your idea of a perfect get together with friends and family?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I love to get my family and friends together and ply them with delicious food and drink. In the summer that means BBQs and picnics in the park, and when the nights draw in, we like to invite people over for roast dinners and comforting warm desserts. I will use any excuse for a get together. My children are American, so we’ve started celebrating Thanksgiving in our house. I like to think of it as a sort of ‘proto Christmas’, and another reason to invite people over.
If you could invite any celebrity over for dinner, who would you choose?
Nigella Lawson, without any shadow of a doubt – she’s a real food hero of mine, especially as a homemaker. Nigella was the first person to teach me that making food can be easy, fun, and fabulous. I want to be her when I grow up. I would also like to have Henry Cavill over, for no particular reason…
What is your go-to recipe when hosting a get together?
There’s nothing quite like a crispy-skinned roast chicken, with potatoes roasted in goose fat. Whip up your favourite veggies and a gravy from the remnants in the roasting pan, and you have something truly timeless. Not only is it absolutely delicious, it has the theatrical aspect of bringing out the bird, and the warm and comforting memories that everyone associates with those cosy family meals. I think there’s something really primal about cooking a whole bird and sharing it together; it’s such a satisfying and unifying experience.
That sounds incredible! What would you say is your top-tip for hosting a successful get together?
I think the best advice for anyone hosting a dinner party, is to remember that you want your guests to enjoy themselves. Try not to look at the event as an opportunity to prove how good a cook you are, or what lovely things you can afford to buy and display. Your aim should be to make your guests feel relaxed and happy. I always choose to make food that I can prepare in advance as much as possible. That usually means making a dessert the previous day and having done any peeling and chopping well in advance. In the winter, a nice stew or casserole that requires being left in the oven for several hours is a fantastic choice; the last thing your guests want is to see you anxiously flapping around the kitchen for an hour!
Thank you for reading our latest ‘Getting together with…’ instalment with Dan Beasley-Harling. Be sure to tune in next month as we host a new guest and enjoy more stories of tabletop dining. Share your #GetTogether moments with us on social media, PortmeirionUK on Facebook, @byportmeirion on Twitter, and @ukportmeirion on Instagram.