The Great British Fuck Off: Sleaford Mods On Baking

When once he would cane it like there was no tomorrow, Jason Williamson now prefers to bake banana bread in the kitchen and lift weights in his garden. Here, the Sleaford Mods man runs JR Moores through the kind of baking advice you don't get from Mary Berry

"The thing is with The Great British Bake-Off, it’s fucking Michelin standard isn’t it? Everyone’s coming in going, ‘Oh yeah, I’m doing this.’ Fuck off! ‘Oh yeah, I just bake in my own spare time.’ Really? It looks like you’re building the Sistine Chapel! You don’t want that with a cake. I just like a basic cake. It’s okay to watch, I guess."

These are not the words of Nigella Lawson, with whom tQ has yet to bag that long-sought interview feature. No, these are the words of Jason Williamson who you may have seen us interrogate before. As one half of Sleaford Mods, Williamson has gained a reputation as the unofficial poet laureate of austerity Albion. Each new album of theirs is greeted as a state-of-the-nation address to a nation in a state of terminal undress. The one who does all the singing and ranting while the other bloke (Andrew Fearn) handles the beats and things, Williamson has long proved himself as the Lord Byron of the Byron Burger era. The John Milton of own-brand biltong, if you will. The Geoffrey Chaucer of rusty Vauxhall Corsas. The Alfred Tennyson of lend us a tenner, son. I could go on. Let’s get to the point.

These days Jason Williamson is also a keen amateur baker.

In other words, this feature could have dwelled on Williamson’s opinion that the nation’s weekly socially pressured activity of clapping for the NHS is a thoroughly empty gesture akin to throwing some coppers in the collection basket at the end of a sermon to ease one’s guilty conscience. Alternatively, we could have focused on the enduring nemesis that is the Conservative Party and its onion faced puppetmaster, Dominic Cummings, whose writings Williamson has been studying of late in order to get a better handle on what exactly is going on. ("I’ve forgotten what it’s called," he says. "Thoughts On Political Processes or whatever. It’s just going through physics, biology, DNA, constructs of DNA… I mean, it sounds like something you’d find in a Nazi lab!")

But knowing about Williamson’s enthusiasm for baking and how, accompanied by his love of weightlifting, this has helped him remain on the noble path of sobriety, we thought we’d ask him about that instead. With lockdown likely to last longer than it takes Boris Johnson to remember how many piggy-eyed children he’s fathered and spirits in need of raising like a Sussex housewife’s sourdough, there has never been a better time to brush up on your culinary repertoire. So let us present to you a baker’s dozen of top tips for buzzing baking, courtesy of the great man himself.

Lay off the lager and hit the larder

"I got into baking when I first met my wife [Claire] who suggested that, rather than just getting drunk all the time, why didn’t I try baking? And, well, I found it really therapeutic. I remember doing a Victoria sponge and my sister came up to see me and she was in shock that I had actually created something. [At this point in the interview, Claire can be heard in the background shouting, ‘It was magnificent!’] It was magnificent, yeah. I don’t think I’ve done a better Victoria sponge, to be honest, since that first one. After that, I just started doing it and I found I was quite good at it. I don’t know what it is. With some people, they’ve got the ingredients like anybody else but for some reason it comes out the oven looking like a boot or an old shoe or something. I’ve always been all right with it, so that’s how it started."

Stick to the classics and be wary of cakes

"From that first Victoria sponge, I did lemon tart. I did carrot cake. I did shortbread. What else did I do? Banana bread. Scones. All the greats. The traditionals. Then, occasionally, I pull one out the bag. On birthdays I always do them for the kids, for my wife and for myself. Once a month, I’ll do a banana bread for everyone. I love cake anyway. Or I did. I don’t do it as much now. I don’t touch it because I’m down the gym, aren’t I? There’s no fucking point in going to the gym if you’re eating cake. It fucking piles it on you. One slice of cake, you can feel the bastard. So I tend not to eat as much as I did. I used to love cake. Properly love it."

Tidy kitchen equals tidy mind

"You’ve got to have a clean kitchen. You’ve got to get all your stuff out first, obviously. There’s no point in just getting the flour out and weighing it. Get ALL your stuff out. Get your area prepped. Preferably, get your margarine or butter at room temperature. The key to successful baking, for me, is to clean up as you go along. Once you’re finished with everything, you clean it. You get rid of it. You minimise your workspace and use only things you need in comparison to where you are on the recipe’s timeline. To be honest, if you’re bitting and bobbing with the cleaning whilst you are cooking, it takes about ten minutes to clear up. You’ve got a few pots to wash. It’s no trouble at all. By the time you’ve done that, the cake’s ready to pull out the oven."

Let the mixture know who’s in charge

"You’ve got to mix things really well. You’ve got to put some elbow grease into it. Or use a whisk. I prefer to put some elbow grease into it. But you’ve really got to mix it in well. You can’t be twatting about with these things. My ex-brother-in-law once asked me, ‘How do you do it?’ and I said, ‘The key is to not kiss the cunt.’ Don’t kiss it. Don’t show it any affection. Show it no mercy. Mix it. Get those ingredients in. Bang! Bang! Treat them with confidence. If you’re having to mix pastry with your hands, let that pastry know that your hands know what they are doing. Let that pastry become yours. Do you know what I mean? Don’t kiss the cunt."

There is room for manoeuvre…

"I tend to improvise sometimes because you start to get an idea of what things need. If you want to reduce an ingredient in something then obviously you just reduce it. You don’t worry about it. You make sure that everything else around it is going to support that. It just takes a bit of common sense, really, as you go along. Generally I’ll bring up any old recipe on the internet and I just copy that. My wife’s got coeliac disease so we are gluten-free in the house. It’s just a case of adding gluten-free flour which is slightly more expensive. Some people say that it doesn’t give off as good an effect when you use gluten-free flour but that’s an absolute load of bollocks. If anyone turns round to you and says, ‘Yeah but it’s not going to be the same’, they’re not fucking cooking properly. Like I say, don’t kiss the cunt. Get right in with it. Show that recipe that you’re using gluten-free flour and the end result is going to be fucking fine."

…but don’t stray too far off the beaten track 

"Just remember, don’t fuck about with it. Be firm with it. All the ingredients. If you’ve got to mix stuff, look at the instructions. Make sure you’re doing it properly. Do not veer away from the instructions. My wife veers away from the instructions and it fucking causes disasters. ‘Oh, I thought I’d just sort of make this bit up.’ You don’t make it up! It’s like DNA. You don’t just take a little bit out because that fucks everything up. Stay with the instructions and be firm with the materials. Let the materials know that your hands are the boss."

Don’t let things get too sexy (like Jason’s dangerously erotic Instagram alter-ego, Baking Daddy)

"We’ve had a lot of people unfollow us since that came up, which is fair enough, but I can’t see anything offensive about it. Claire got hold of the phone and said, ‘I’m going to film you baking.’ I went, ‘all right’ and then automatically went into Baking Daddy. That was the birth of Baking Daddy. Last week I think I needed to pull it back a bit. It was a bit too Pat Butcher. This week I’m making it more like me, sort of. I think it got a little bit carried away with itself last week and, erm, we lost a few followers. Quite a lot, actually, on Instagram. It’s not the best idea, if you want to build your followers up, to get some kind of pervert baker on the go."

Cover everything with icing

"If I’m going to decorate a cake, it will be either with icing sugar just sieved over the top or butter cream. If it’s a kid’s birthday, I’ll add loads of sprinkles on there. I’ve discovered icing sugar so now I put that on top of every cake I bake which makes it even better. It’s a complete sugar-fest. I do a really dirty banana bread. It’s almost like pure sugar. Then with the icing sugar on top, it’s really dirty. It’s triple-X. It’s X-rated banana bread."

If at first you don’t succeed, bake, bake and bake again

"I did a shortbread the other week that was not good. The trick with shortbread is you’ve got to roll it out to a centimetre in thickness and I didn’t really take any notice of that and just chucked it in at roughly under a centimetre. It came out looking terrible. It didn’t taste too bad but it was burnt, basically, so I was pissed off about that. But I chucked a few more in. It took me ten minutes to get the mixture up and running again. Bang, in the oven. These traditional recipes, they take a good 25 minutes. Bang. You’re done. In an hour, you’ve got a fucking cake. It’s like… well… it saves money, doesn’t it?"

Baking is absolutely not a fun activity for all the family

"It can be really stressful if you’re doing it with the kids. My wife calls it ‘Baking With Hitler’. I start getting really, really irate because they’re going, ‘Let me roll it.’ I’m like, no. Fuck off. Get out. ‘Let me do that!’ No. Get away from it. You’re just going to mess it up. ‘Let me stir this.’ No, you can’t. It’s a bit of a fascist situation when the kids get involved. I just lose it."

Cookie Monster was mistaken. Avoid cookies like the plague. 

"They’re shit, cookies are. The mixture is literally just sugar. There’s no flour in with it, so all you’ve got is sugar and butter and eggs. [Claire can be heard in the background again, apparently contesting this detail.] There’s no flour in them! There’s fucking not! Delia Smith’s cookies or something. I cooked them and it was fucking horrible. It was like eating wafers. It was as if somebody had pasted sugar onto a bit of paper, put it in the oven, and then peeled the sugar off before you ate it. It was like eating stale candy floss. It was rank. Never again. Really crap. I think a few people agreed with me that cookies aren’t the best. I’ve never been a massive fan of them, to be honest. I didn’t mind the white chocolate chip cookies that you used to get in Greggs and other places as well. But, generally speaking, no. They are not good."

Put down the apron and pump that iron

"[The weightlifting] coincided with having a massive gaping hole where drugs, alcohol and nicotine used to be. I needed to fill that in order to be able to carry on. Weightlifting helps, not only the weightlifting itself but the setting goals for yourself. I want to look like Brad Pitt by the time I’m 52. [laughs] I don’t see any reason why that can’t be achievable. It’s so much more positive than coming down off cocaine, obviously. There’s no horror. There’s no regrets. There’s no paranoia. It feels like you’re living life. I go to the gym and talk to someone who I might think is a bit boring… but so what? There’s something nice about being boring and being in control, which I didn’t have for a long, long time."

The Great British Bake-Mods: An Extra Slice

"No, I’ve never baked anything for Andrew. Andrew’s really fussy. He’s vegan as well so he likes what he likes. I could probably do him a vegan cake. He might like that. That’s a good idea, actually. When this all ends, when it does end, I might invite him over for a couple of days. I might cook him a vegan cake. How about that?"

Sleaford Mods’ latest compilation album, All That Glue, is released on 15 May via Rough Trade

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