Monday, 2 March 2015

Author Interview at Not Compulsory (Matthew Pegg)


Author, Matthew Pegg
In my mind, Matthew Pegg represents many things; he is a community champion and a valuable arts and creative business contact. Matthew and the not-for-profit organisation which he heads (Leicestershire based Mantle Arts), has brought about many prime opportunities for people of all ages to access community arts programmes and events in Leicestershire, including Performing Arts, Arts and Crafts sessions and Creative Writing workshops.
For me personally, Matthew has been a mentor, a referee, and, albeit on brief occasions, a casual employer.  It is Matthew I have to thank for being the first person to take a chance with me by granting me a place on the Activate Programme (designed to help artists to work in schools). From then on I was able to harness my wild whims, focus better on what I could do well, and, despite possessing not much more than O-Level Cookery qualification, Matthew dealt me a first, great confidence boost into an industry in which I was destined to fit best.

And, today, I am thrilled to announce that the Author, Matthew Pegg has recently been published.
What is it? You ask.
Is it his first time? I hear you say.

Well, recently, Matthew and I partnered in a little Question and Answer Session which throws light on these questions, and others, which I share with you below: 



QUESTION: You are one of sixteen contributing authors to have their scary tales feature in the dark horror from Grey Matter Press called ‘Death’s Realm’. I know you’ve written plays - Is this your first notable book publishing success?

MATTHEW PEGG: I’ve had six or seven short stories accepted by various publishers and this is the third of those to be published so far. I’m really happy to have contributed something to the collection.

QUESTION: Did you respond to the publisher’s request and write to fit the theme, or did you have the story ready and formally submitted it in the usual way. Which way round was it?


MATTHEW PEGG: I had written it already and it seemed to fit the theme of the anthology so I submitted it.  But I wouldn’t say it was finished when I did so. I wasn’t 100% happy with it. After they accepted it we went through a quite rigorous editing process. They picked up all the things that they thought needed more work and we discussed them. I think I did three or four more drafts until we were all happy with it. Most of their suggestions were on the nose and made it a much better piece. One or two things I argued with them about and that made me justify why certain things needed to be the way they were. If I couldn’t justify it, it was probably superfluous.  It was a good process and made the story much better.
I have written pieces to fit the theme of a collection. I recently had a story ‘Joe and the Dead’ accepted for Dreamscape Press’s ‘Zombie’s in Japan’ anthology and I wrote that especially to submit, because weirdly enough I didn’t have a story involving Japanese zombies sitting on my shelf at the time.

QUESTION: Without giving too much away and being a spoiler, can you reveal a little bit about your storyline?

MATTHEW PEGG:March Hays’ is about Sam, an injured soldier who is sent to March Hays, a manor house which is being used as a hospital for wounded troops during WW2. Lily, one of the nurses, is the daughter of the house whom he met when he was a boy. Strange things start to happen and he wonders whether his injuries are affecting his mind or whether something even more peculiar is happening.  It’s partly a romance: what if the girl you played with as a child is your soul mate? What do you do when she’s unattainable? And it’s a war story. And there’s something unspeakable in the east wing. And there’s a garden party. And gruesome mutilation. And a horse-ride in the snow. And alcohol abuse by a minor…

QUESTION: Can you remember what is it was that first stirred up your imagination for the main plot and sequence idea of this story?


MATTHEW PEGG: It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where story ideas come from because once you start writing all sorts of ideas accrue from all sorts of places.
I saw a play recently about the early pioneers of plastic surgery, during WW1, which involved a group of soldiers recuperating and that was one influence.
The house is based on Staunton Harold Hall in Leicestershire which has the little chapel and the stable yard and the exterior physical layout of March Hays. But Sam’s experience of being at the house is down to Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton. My mother was a guide there when I was young so we went there a lot and I had access to the bits of the house that visitors didn’t get to see. But I couldn’t imagine actually living somewhere like that and having servants and so on. Sam’s experience of March Hays is similar: he doesn’t really belong, he’s just ended up there. He’s got feelings for Lily but she’s from a different world.  He observes what’s going on from the outside. He’s closer to being a servant than he is to being Lily’s social equal. But that rigid social structure and that way of life changed radically in the 20th century and the story starts during WW2 for that reason: it’s when the world that centred around the English county house was changing.
A certain section of the story was originally inspired by Daisy Ashford, who wrote ‘The Young Visiters’ when she was nine. It’s very funny if you’ve never read it. I wondered what an inappropriately violent horror story written by a Victorian nine year old would be like, so I wrote one. It found its way into ‘March Hays’ as a story within the story, but its heavily reworked so it doesn’t really feel as if it was written by a little girl any more.

QUESTION: I tend to cover things like knitting, cooking tips and schooling at Not Compulsory. Ha! - So Horror is new to the blog! Is it your intention to stick to this writing genre or do have you other fiction/non-fiction writing plans? Will you write more plays?

MATTHEW PEGG: A lot of my fiction has some element of the supernatural in it. I gravitate towards that so I’m sure it will carry on being there in some shape or form.  ‘Weird’ is a probably a better term than ‘horror’ for what interests me. I’m not really interested in horrifying people. We’ve got the news for that. Creating a subtle, creeping sense of unease, that strikes me as interesting.
As for what else I might write, I’ve got ideas for all sorts of things: radio drama, novels, comics and plays. I hope to be able to vary what I do as much as possible, if only to keep myself interested.

QUESTION: As you probably know, I’m a theatre critic and regularly review stage shows across the Midlands, so I’d really like to know about the plays you’ve written to date and who has performed them, and where?

MATTHEW PEGG: The last play I wrote was done by York Theatre Royal as half of a studio double bill. It’s called ‘Escaping Alice’ and it’s about the breakdown of a relationship and how chaining your loved one to the bed is probably not a good idea and at best will only delay their inevitable departure!
Before that I’ve done all sorts of things. I’ve written quite a lot for children and young people, both as an audience and as performers. I did a main stage adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin at the Belgrade in Coventry. It was directed by Miltos Yerolemou who is an actor as well as a director and recently turned up in Game of Thrones.
I adapted ‘Twelfth Night’ as a one man show for Cornelius and Jones Theatre Company. And I’ve done quite a lot of plays for young people to perform. The most successful of those is ‘Ant Farm’. It’s about Jo whose father remarries. She moves schools and her new house is too small to have large pets so she buys an ant farm. The play tells two parallel stories: Jo getting used to her new school and family and coping with bullies, and the story of the ants which is a big sweeping David Lean style epic tale that takes place in the ant farm and under the floorboards in Jo’s bedroom. Jo wants to be the same as everyone else and not stand out and Kris the ant wishes he was different from all the other ants and he ends up leading a revolution. It was commissioned for the Leicester Haymarket Youth Theatre and it’s been done by a couple of other youth theatre groups as well.
I’ve also written a play which was performed during a medieval banquet and a community play staged in a stately home in Northamptonshire.

QUESTION: I can remember the Activate sessions in Leicester venues and you tapping away on the keyboard of your laptop fervently writing with all the distraction of a full meeting going on around you. Do you not feel the need for peace and solitude when you write?

MATTHEW PEGG: I don’t actually remember doing that! I wonder what I was writing? Generally yes I do. I tend to get up early in the morning and write for an hour or so before anyone else is up. I sometimes play music but it’s usually something without words just to fill in the background. It’s not necessarily about quiet, it’s about not having interruptions. You can lose a train of thought really easily if someone talks to you at the wrong moment.

QUESTION: I was once 40,000 words into a children’s novel, but I was so self critical and felt the need to constantly rewrite large sections that I abandoned it in the end. Have you been left with many unfinished projects or do you tend to see them through to the end?


MATTHEW PEGG: I think the problem there is allowing your editing brain to interfere with your writing brain. If you give in to the temptation to go back and revise a paragraph as soon as you’ve written it then you’re allowing the critical, assessing, editing job to take over from the creating and storytelling job and they use different bits of your brain. So I try to just write and I don’t go back and edit until I’ve got something substantial down on paper, a whole short story or a chapter or a complete section. I don’t even correct my misspellings at that stage I just try to get it all out. Once you’ve got something written then you’ve got some raw material to shape and that’s when the editing comes in. Then even if it’s rubbish you’ve got something to work with and change and rewrite.
 I was told during my MA that working first thing in the morning was good for some people and it works for me. I turn the computer on and just start. At that point when you’re still half asleep your critical brain isn’t in gear and that lets your creative brain work. Some people even keep a notebook by the bed and just start writing in that as soon as they surface. I also find that sometimes my subconscious has worked out a problem or created the next bit of a story while I was asleep. So it’s nice to have found a job for it to do rather than just sitting at the back of my mind and fretting!
As to whether I finish everything, of course not, because some ideas that start out looking good just don’t lead anywhere. Sometimes you start writing a piece and it just grinds to a halt. I don’t really worry about that, it’s just part of the process. At the very least it’s practice and that’s always useful. (How do you get to Carnegie Hall?) And then some of those discarded bits might come back to life later, when maybe I’m a better writer and I have the skill to develop them. Or sometimes they chime with another fragment you’ve created and together they work and come to life. So I don’t throw anything away.
I think the secret is to write regularly. Make it a habit to do something every day, even if you don’t have a great idea. Then the bits that don’t work are just natural wastage but you still find enough good ideas to keep you going. I’m terrible at doing that at the moment but it’s what I’m trying to do.



QUESTION: I understand the arts organisation Mantle Arts, of which you have been Director for many years, has has had some funding issues. Does this mean you will spend more of your time writing? 

MATTHEW PEGG: Our bid to the Arts Council to renew our National Portfolio core funding was unsuccessful. It was nothing to do with the quality of our work but there just wasn’t enough money to go round, which is terribly frustrating and stressful. But we have just heard that we’ve got two years of Grants for the Arts funding for a programme called Word Factory, which will be based around creative writing and literature. It will include some publishing of local writers and a children’s writing conference. So that is exciting. I will be delivering that part time and that will give me some time to write. But I think I’d starve to death if I tried to earn my living just through writing. Even relatively successful and well known novelists often have a day job. And I’m not sure I’d want to do it all the time anyway. I think I need other things to keep life varied. Otherwise where do you find the things to write about? You’d end up like those rock bands which release albums about how hard it is being in a rock band!

QUESTION: How about your spare time? Do you have any or is it more of the same?

MATTHEW PEGG: I think everyone needs downtime. I read constantly. I sometimes take myself off on courses or go to festivals like Edinburgh or Brighton. And I cook quite a lot. We’ve got an enormous number of cats because we foster for the RSPCA. So a lot of my time is spent cat herding! It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it!

**(ENDS)**


Matthew's website is here




The ‘Death’s Realm’ anthology 

Grey Matter Press

 ISBN 978-1940658339 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Book Review - Mollie Makes PATCHWORK & QUILTING

Mollie Makes: Patchwork & Quilting: Fun Projects for You to Make, Plus Tips, Hints and Techniques

RRP £16.99

Published by Pavillion Books October 2014

Content
159 Pages
15 exclusive patchwork and quilting projects under the heading PROJECTS
Hints and tips on different methods of cutting and piecing under the heading TECHNIQUES
TEMPLATES (to be enlarged by 200%)
INDEX

Introduction
Mollie Makes Editor Lara Wilson remembers her auntie’s craft room and nods her appreciation of the ‘time-honoured craft’ of patchwork.

Range of information
if you are familiar with other Mollie Makes titles you will know how the format of the books goes. The number of pages devoted to each project ranges from three to eight pages (including photographic images), depending on the detail and illustrating attached to each one. Each project opens with a feature style introduction which encourages the maker not to hold back and to give the project a go. Materials, Size, Featured Techniques, and Before you Begin are the sub-headings which are repeated with each project. From Page 84 onward...so about halfway through, the projects have finished and the rest of the book is a technique guide, with six pages of templates and an Index
at the end. 9/10

Quality of information
I have not undertaken any of the project as yet, so cannot verify any kind of firsthand experience of doing them but it looks like the information contained supports the project’s main objectives and goals. I wonder, especially if you are a sewing novice, if you may be required to be referencing information on different pages by flicking backwards and forwards between the two sections. However, there isn't reams and reams of text to lose your way with
8/10


Layout
a book with a hardback cover measuring 22.5 cm square, the print job is strong enough.  At least one full paged image is included for each project. Full colour photography throughout and the images are good quality
 9/10


Conclusion
I have previously reviewed all bar one of the Mollie Makes titles and published on my reviews site here. Patchwork & Quilting is one of the better presented craft books from the Mollie Makes range, certainly on a par with Crochet and Christmas. Projects are inspiring and there are more items in this book that you may find useful and which you would be more inclined to keep or to pass on. Projects include a couple of bed quilts, a picnic blanket, cushions, different types of bags, a wall hanging, and an apron. Projects by regular Mollie Makes contributors.

Monday, 9 February 2015

What Claire Baked: Cookies and Cream Scottish Tablet

What Claire Baked: Cookies and Cream Scottish Tablet: Readers, I had something of a kitchen disaster come miracle the other night.  A last minute decision to make fudge, with a lack of ingredie...

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Stage Review - The History Boys

Photography by Matt Martin 

The argument here does not require decoding to understand both sides of it: on one hand the always perceptive, Alan Bennett presents the stuffy, conventionality of the school approach in regard to transferring knowledge from teacher to pupil and he offsets this against the characterization of Hector (Richard Hope). Hector is a teacher who is more nurturing and who is more abstract in his approach to teaching.

Which is the better way for these boys? Which approach will be deemed to be the most successful/beneficial for these individuals in the long run? I’m not sure if the play argues either side effectively and I make my intentions known straightaway, that it is the script alone that I am putting under scrutiny in this review. I believe it was the script itself that was detrimental to my overall enjoyment of this play. Perhaps it was simply a case of my expectations being too high.

The script is not meant to present realism, and so with this new found (after the event) knowledge; I am decidedly more forgiving. Nevertheless, this is a case of proverbial speaking on the subject of education and on life’s reflection. The script is wordy and the cast members really get a grip on reams and reams of dialogue, but this word overload made my eye lids feel mighty heavy at times. The swearing helped to lift them however, also The 80’s sound bites being a welcome injection, as was the piano playing accompanying Steven Roberts (marking his stage debut with History Boys) when doing his ‘turns’ in the role of student, Posner.

The message is designed to be radical, thought provoking and humorous; not unlike teacher Hector’s lead in his unplanned lessons actually! Yet the audience were strangely subdued last night. Admittedly, there are some great lines, as you would expect, and laughter ripples did occur, but there are elements that are meant to be mind expanding and inspirational; yet came across as Bennett attempting to exercise a kind of prowess over us all through his own creativity.

This is a play that was voted the Nation’s favourite in a recent poll undertaken by the English Touring Theatre, and there is an element of stereotypical characterization that remains relevant and so I see why the theme is popular. Yet snobbery surrounding university placement and performance is rifer than it was in Bennett’s university days and extends beyond applying for an Oxbridge place. Also, to portray a teacher, who chooses to take an alternative approach to his work, as eccentric, is somewhat predictable and other outcomes are pretty predictable - so there is very little overall that surprises you.

I have to mention too the heightened awareness of safeguarding issues around children in recent years, especially those true life cases where abuse has happened within institutions committed from people in a position of trust, and this being featured in this play is more of a comedy squelcher than a comedy injector; so this thread of the storyline is simply not funny. Headmaster (Christopher Ettridge) will quite rightfully have Hector’s cards marked over this indiscretion, unfortunately this makes Hector’s ultimate sentimental ‘send off’ seem out of place at the play’s end. We lack endearment for Hector and for everyone else come to that. It is quite unusual to not have at least one character that you are routeing for or who has won your affection.


I have expressed strong personal opinion here and I would suggest keeping a sharp eye on published reviews to see how other critics view it.

I attended press night at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on Tuesday 04 February. This review also appears at Remotegoat 

The cast of The History Boys
Photography by Matt Martin

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Ravensburger Puzzle Club: PUZZLE MAKER INTERVIEWS: GEOFF TRISTRAM

Ravensburger Puzzle Club: PUZZLE MAKER INTERVIEWS: GEOFF TRISTRAM: I’m thrilled to have Geoff Tristram on Jigsaw Junkie today! Geoff is an artist and cartoonist who does a few of my favorite puzzle series...

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Author Interview at Not Compulsory (Jon Mayhew)




Today (15 January 2015) sees the publication of the rip-roaring teenage read entitled The Curse of the Ice Serpent by author, Jon Mayhew. Published by Bloomsbury.

author photograph- Jon Mayhew
Bloomsbury





I recently engaged in a Question & Answer session with Jon Mayhew for publication here at Not Compulsory. You can read the interview below (to the right is Jon pictured in a staged photograph setting).

QUESTION: I realise there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to writing fiction, but do you feel you are entering your own adventure when you write, or, as a teacher, are you quite structured in your approach?


JON MAYHEW: I’m pretty structured in that I do plan out each chapter and like to know where the story is heading and how it will end. However, once I’m into an action scene or a crucial part of the story, I do get lost in it and the story can change. I just adjust my plan!


QUESTION: I recognise that the quality of my own writing dips when I work in the twilight hours; it’s a common question between writers but I would really be interested to know if you have a particular time in the day that you are more creative and have more ideas?


JON MAYHEW: Not really. I tend to write during the day, not in the evenings. Sometimes when I’m in full flow, I write on. I try to leave my writing on a cliffhanger or appealing scene so I come back to it excited and raring to go!


QUESTION: I think I might know the answer to this question, but can you tell me which aspect of the writing, the publishing world and the public facing work do you most enjoy?


JON MAYHEW: Alan Bennett divides ‘Writing’ from ‘Being a Writer.’ The first bit is getting the actual words on the page, on your own, then the editing etc. The second bit is meeting the readers. I love getting the words down and telling the story for the first time. I do like meeting readers and talking to school groups too. If I lived inside my head day-in, day-out, I’d be impossible to live with!


QUESTION: Now I am going to reverse my last question/ and ask you what it is that you find to be the most daunting?


JON MAYHEW: Probably the redrafting once the first draft is down. When you first tell your story, it seems like the best thing ever. Then you notice the flaws and imperfections and you know you’re going to have to rewrite it. Groan!


QUESTION: As a child you enjoyed comic book drawing and sketching. Do you illustrate your work at all? Have you any desire to produce a graphic novel?


JON MAYHEW: My drawing ability is very limited and there are people out there who are so much more talented and skilled. I wish I could draw, maybe I would. I’d love to write a graphic novel of Monster Odyssey, though, I think it would suit that medium very well.


QUESTION: Dakkar is the main character of all three of your Monster Odyssey books. What was it about the Jules Verne’s character, Captain Nemo that was the trigger for you to include him, in his youth, in the form of Dakkar?


JON MAYHEW:
The trigger was a flaw I noticed in Verne’s explanation of why Nemo built the Nautilus. He says that Nemo lost his wife and child in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and this drove him to hate mankind, build a submarine and live under the sea for the rest of his life. I wondered where he got the knowhow to build a submarine, and I also thought that a deep-seated mistrust of mankind would already have to be in place for him to turn his back on mankind. He is a hot-head, surely he would have sought revenge. So I assumed other things had happened to him when he was younger. Verne tells us only that between the ages of 10 and 30, Dakkar went to Europe for an education. Lots of scope there for the story to unfold.


QUESTION: MONSTER ODYSSEY are categorised as fantasy adventure stories, they include fearsome monsters and a young man on a mission and are set in the 19th century. In your view, who is the main reader audience for these books?


JON MAYHEW: Probably me when I was a teenager. I deliberately included Georgia Fulton as his companion because I didn’t want the books to be classified as ‘for boys.’ I know for a fact that Dakkar has quite a loyal female following too!


QUESTION: The intriguing interest for readers of your latest novel ‘The Curse of the Ice Serpent’ is the inclusion of the bizarre combination of a ship that can fly, namely Nautilus. Did you always have intention to bring it to life in your master plan for the series?


JON MAYHEW: Yes, Verne wrote a lot about amazing journeys, whether that was to the centre of the Earth, or flying around the world, to the poles or even to the moon. Hopefully, I reflect that a little in the books.


QUESTION: I must congratulate you on your title three title choices of the Monster Odyssey books ‘The Eye of Neptune’ ‘The Wrath of the Lizard Lord’ and, of course, ‘The Curse of the Ice Serpent’, they have the feel of the Victorian Melodrama about them. I’m sure these books will not stop at a trilogy, are you able to release any news and future intentions in relation to these reads?


JON MAYHEW: The fourth book is with my lovely editor as we speak and sees the culmination of this particular story arc. Deserts, scorpions and other creepy-crawlies is all I’ll say!


QUESTION: You’ve done a number of school and library talks in recent years. What is the most memorable question you’ve been asked?


JON MAYHEW: I’m always available for school and library visits! One boy, once asked me if I’d ever had a fight! He looked a bit taken aback when I said, ‘yes, but it ended badly.’ I think sometimes students imagine authors come from rarefied backgrounds and didn’t go through the rough and tumble of normal school life.


(**ENDS**)

Many thanks, Jon - good luck with it all and best wishes!

from
Debra


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COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED
My business (TSS) is currently hosting a competition. The prize consists of 1 x copy of The Curse of the Ice Serpent by Jon Mayhew, plus another Bloomsbury title (also released today) called Apolcalypse Bow Wow (a graphic novel for children from 9 years +) by author James Proimos III. It is easy to enter - Details here 


You can purchase either of these new titles in Paperback below, and in ebook form at Amazon






Wednesday, 14 January 2015

RECIPE IDEAS FROM MARRIAGE'S FLOUR MILLERS

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First up is a tried and tested  cake recipe from Marriage's (flour millers). It is a classic, carrot cake that has a moist, rich texture, but is not too sweet. the creamy topping and filling are flavoured with orange

Spicy Carrot Cake from Marriage's ( The Master Millers)

SPICY CARROT CAKE


WHAT YOU WILL NEED to make a large cake – 12 slices


225g Marriage’s Finest Self Raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
225g soft light brown muscovado sugar
Grated zest of an unwaxed orange
100g walnut pieces
3 large eggs, beaten to mix
150ml sunflower oil
250g grated carrots (about 3 medium size)

FILLING & TOPPING

200g cream cheese (full fat)
50g unsalted butter, softened
150g icing sugar, sifted
Grated zest of ½ an unwaxed orange (plus extra to decorate - optional)
2 teaspoons orange juice
2 x 20.5cm/8 inch sandwich tins, greased and base-lined



PREPARATION METHOD



Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and all the spices into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the orange zest and nuts then add the beaten eggs, sunflower oil, sugar and the grated carrots and mix until thoroughly combined.
Divide the mixture between the two prepared tins and spread evenly.
Bake in the heated oven for about 25 minutes or until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Turn out the cakes onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

TO MAKE THE FILLING & TOPPING

Beat together all the ingredients until very smooth and creamy. (In warm weather you may need to chill the icing until firm enough to spread.)
Spread almost half of the mixture onto one of the cakes. Top with the second cake and spread the remaining mixture over the top.
The cake can be decorated with extra orange zest or left plain.
Store in an airtight container in a cool spot and eat within four.
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Marriage's view of the craft is:

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so here is another tried and tested recipe you might like to try if you are feeling adventurous, this time it is a flavoured bread, which also appears on the Marriage's website. It is a plaited loaf, packed with apricots and hazelnuts. Serve it buttered, or try eating it with cheese

Honeyed Wholemeal Loaf (with Hazelnuts and Apricot) from Marriage's

HONEYED WHOLEMEAL, HAZELNUT & APRICOT LOAF

WHAT YOU WILL NEED to make one large loaf


500g Marriage’s Strong Stoneground Wholemeal Flour
15g fresh yeast or 1 x 7g sachet easyblend dried yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
100g ready to eat dried apricots, chopped
70g hazelnuts, toasted and halved
350ml milk, lukewarm
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg, beaten for egg wash

PREPARATION METHOD

Mix the flour with the dried yeast (if using), salt, apricots and hazelnuts in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre. If using fresh yeast crumble it into the milk, and stir until smooth. Pour the milk and honey into the well in the flour, then gradually work the flour into the milk to make a soft but not sticky dough. If the dough is dry and difficult to work add a little extra milk. If the dough feels sticky and won’t hold its shape, work in a little more flour.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead thoroughly for 10 minutes until it feels very elastic (the dough can also be mixed and kneaded in a large food mixer – using the dough hook, and low speed, knead for five minutes only).

Return the dough to the bowl, cover tightly or slip the bowl into a large plastic bag. Leave in a warm spot until doubled
in size – this will take about an hour.

Punch down the dough to deflate then divide into three equal portions. Roll each portion into a sausage shape about 40cm long. Plait the three strands together, tuck the ends under neatly then transfer the plait to a lightly greased baking tray. Slip the tray into a large plastic bag and leave to rise until almost doubled in size for 40 to 60 minutes – do not let the loaf get too big as it will lose definition. Meanwhile heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Before putting the loaf in the oven, lightly egg wash. Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes, until a good golden brown, and loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack. Store in a cool bread bin. Best eaten within four days or toasted.
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the specialized bread flour below, and other ranges of Marriage's products are available to buy at Amazon