Favourite things: The Great Sheffield Bake Off

Great British Bake Off's Howard on his Favourite Things
Great British Bake Off's Howard on his Favourite Things

Howard Middleton is a development manager at Sheffield City Council. A keen amateur baker, he was one of the contestants on the most recent series of BBC TV’s Great British Bake Off, championing the unusual and alternative, on a programme that drew huge ratings. Howard will be demonstrating gluten-free baking in marquee on The Moor on Bank Holiday Monday at 1pm as part of the Sheffield Food Festival. The festival aims to celebrate South Yorkshire as a vibrant culinary destination, offering activities such as community cooking projects, demonstrations by Michelin-starred chefs and a beer festival. It starts tomorrow (Friday).

Sheffield in my shorts

Fans of the Bake Off may never forget the sight of me jogging on the Ponderosa. The love child of Charles Hawtrey and Penelope Pitstop, I try to spare a repeat sighting by running as early as possible in the morning.

Even though I was born and bred in the city, I’m constantly surprised by new discoveries· a previously unseen architectural detail here, a street name I’ve never heard of.

The familiar and the new randomly exercise my senses such as the challenge of the steps at Edward Street, a lovely piece of Saul Bass style cutlery-themed wall art hiding on Orange Street, the pungent waterside scent of wild garlic in Endcliffe Park. I have a highly questionable sense of direction and I’m rather grateful for that!

Hui Wei

For Chinese food, this place in Glossop Road is literally our second home. Sarah and her team have kept us very well fed for many years. Special occasions, dinner for two or even a takeaway (most recently when I was up to my neck in a wedding cake commission and the kitchen looked like a bomb site), it’s consistently good food and fantastic service.

My partner, Peter, is a creature of habit so the staff are word perfect with his order, “Red peppers, not green peppers, very little or no salt.” I prefer to mix it up but I do have my favourites - the simple asparagus salad, chilli spiked crispy soft shell crab and a tender aromatic beef brisket and turnip casserole, which is like nothing I’d ever had in a Chinese restaurant before.

And they even have a gluten-free menu too!

Local foodie

Sheffield is well known for its great food producers, but I do like some of the newer kids on the block. I first discovered Yee Kwan ice cream at Hui Wei. Not having a very sweet tooth, and loving anything a bit different, I’m particularly fond of their black sesame flavour. Apparently eating black sesame seeds keeps the grey hairs at bay too. If only I’d discovered this sooner

Another favourite is local preserve maker, Catherine’s Choice. I hobbled away from last year’s Food Festival with a bulk buy of their delicious sun-dried tomato ketchup (with no added salt, it gets Peter’s approval too).

In the fridge, the dribbling dregs of the last upturned bottle cry out for a restock this weekend.

Devonshire Green

Is it municipal treason to say that I’ve never been a great fan of the restyled Peace Gardens? In a test of architectural athleticism, for me its raided balustrades would get beaten any day by the natural grace of Devonshire Green. Sensitive planting and Gaudiesque mosaic make this an equally accommodating home for quiet reflection and vibrant activity.

Unsurprisingly, I also love its quirky shops. Within Reason is always worth popping into for unusual stuff and Filibuster and Booth provided me with the purchase of 2013 - a huge Dutch lustreware penguin to add to my collection of 1950s ceramics.

Just across the road, Gemma and Emma at Wigs and Warpaint keep my quill under control.

Brook hill roundabout

The sight that says I’m nearly home. It may have University of Sheffield carved in its heart but, apart from a single road sign, does anyone really call this University Square?

That aside, there’s no getting away from the university’s impact here. Thankfully it’s responsible for some amazingly bold and beautiful buildings and a wonderfully diverse and cosmopolitan vibe to the area.

We recently took a short walk up to Firth Hall for a concert performance of the forgotten Broadway musical, ‘Subways are for Sleeping’. It was an absolutely brilliant evening, and how many people can say that they had a UK premiere on their doorstep?