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My First Home: James Strawbridge

JAMES STRAWBRIDGE is a chef, author and sustainable living expert who lives in Cornwall and runs his own food business, the Posh Pasty Company. The 35-year-old is development chef at Cornish Sea Salt and appeared in hit BBC2 shows It’s Not Easy Being Green and Paradise Or Bust.

You look like you spend a lot of time out in the open. Was outdoor space essential when buying your first home?

Outdoor space was near the top of my list when buying my first home. I love gardening and growing fruit and vegetables, so we wanted a decent-sized plot with a south-facing garden and room for a few chickens. I also have a large collection of BBQ smokers, grills and outdoor cooking stoves, so I needed some room for my toys.

What did you buy?

For my first home, my wife Holly and I bought an end-of-terrace cottage in Fowey, with a small front and rear garden that overlooks farmland. We bought it about eight years ago and still live there now. It’s a modest home and certainly a busy space with our three young children.

Was buying easy or a bit of a nightmare?

For us, the buying process was pretty straightforward. Holly sold her flat without any hitches and we were moving straight into the new property. There weren’t any major delays or a complex chain.

What is it like?

It has an old-fashioned oil Ray Burner that took some getting used to and there was a footpath at the end of the garden. We decided to enclose the plot with a large fence for privacy and greater security. Other than those things, we were lucky that it is a fairly standard four-bedroom property that was built well back in the 1950s.

Did you do it up yourself or enlist some friends?

We have done some DIY ourselves and bribed friends to help out. Luckily, there hasn’t been any major structural work and it all tended to be cosmetic or building sheds and workshops in the garden. This has helped as sadly I’ve inherited my dad’s DIY skills!

Give us your top tips for recruiting friends for manual labour?

I tend to be good at recruiting helpers in exchange for pasties and a few pints of cider at weekends — it’s an honest trade and certainly helps after a long day working to get a hot pasty. I find the best tip is always to provide a good quality coffee as soon as they arrive, too.

What changes did you make to your home to make sure it was green?

I’ve always been very into sustainable living and we’ve tried to keep our property low-impact by switching to a green electricity tariff, installing water-saving devices, putting up thick curtains and insulating the roof. I want to look at microgeneration [Solar PV and Solar Thermal] on the roof when we can afford it, but we also place a lot of emphasis on teaching our children how to garden and grow our own food at home.

What advice do you have for making a first home as green as possible?

Start simple and reduce your environmental footprint by insulating the roof, blocking draughts, and ensuring all your bulbs are LED or low-energy rather than halogen. Capture your rainwater from the roof in a simple water butt, make sure you’ve got dual-flush cisterns in the loo, wear a jumper in winter rather than blasting the house with extra heat and finally grow your own fruit and vegetables in the garden, on windowsills or the balcony.

What was the best lesson you learned from buying?

It provides a real sense of security that you can’t get from renting. Despite the fees and hassle of dealing with mortgage brokers, it’s definitely worth it in the long run.

Do you cook a lot at home?

I cook a huge amount at home and have actually just written a new book called Smoked Food, which was released last month. I love preparing food from scratch and slow-cooking. We cook together as a family and recently I’ve found meal planning for the week ahead can save a decent amount of money and remove that panic when you’re suddenly deciding what food to cook on a Monday night.

James’s new book Smoked Food: A Manual For Home Smoking is out now, priced £18.74, from haynes.com