The life of Bryan, a true celtic pioneer

Cheers hearts, skål, hwyl
Bryan Bale "went forward" by some heavenly coincidence on St Davids Day,(Dydd Gŵyl Dewi ) 1st March 2020. Most of the world was in lockdown and therefore we had to come to terms with our loss without any significant send off. One year exactly to the day  still in lockdown "Have it Gala, Hearts!! A St David's Day Memorial for Bryan Bale" will be an online ceremony to bring all his friends together in a celebration of remembrance. The evening will be MCd by celebrant and old friend of Bryan´s Michael Hannah. As part of the evening dear friends, I have suggested that we share a virtual buffet the selection of which I have drawn from some of Bryan´s favourite dishes, and at the same time including some traditional St Davids Day favourites. There will be a point when there will be not a few dry eyes in the house and it will be time to share a "bevvie or two, dear hearts" The recipes I have selected are simple and many involve mere assembly and no cooking. Others can be made in advance or even the day before so that we can all share the same buffet virtually in our different locations.

I first met Bryan in 1978. I was 26 and in the scheme of things and as fate would have it, our paths were destined to cross. Being introduced to Bryan was the major cross road in my life. I was working in the art department of British Vogue and he was responsible for making the window displays  of Jermyn Street "up to colour and up to range".
It was in the early stages of his long career in retail that Bryan first felt he could be open about his sexuality. Before he left Cardiff for London he encountered a lot of other people in the retail industry in Wales that were gay, but it was all under the carpet. London changed all that for Bryan.
“One wasn’t afraid to go to the bars and the clubs because your aunty Alice is not going to pass by when you’re coming out.”

I was struggling, coming to terms with who I was and in serious need of mentoring, Bryan´s skills as an experienced mentor were soon to be proven unparalleled, to a "a little tuppence" like myself, being unleashed onto a whole new gay world. I remember vividly that Sunday afternoon being taken by my friend Johnnie Moyle to Crawford Street, Marylebone to be introduced to Bryan at his home and meet his new beau the late Mark Willson-White. Without the prerequisite of a biblical father to turn to for appropriate advice this was the foundation of my "logical" family of which Bryan would be the honorary patriarch. At a time like that in your development it seemed that it was his duty to bestow providence.

This is how I will always remember him

He provided me with a timely preparation for future eventualities. We were "family" and families belong together. Bryan like myself had a modern outlook but held on to old-fashioned values. Before the word radio was adopted he still listened to the "wireless"
for instance. We formed a "lovely" father and son bond.
 Every Friday he would  meet me after work and as I had a "motor" I would drive him to Safeways to do his weekly shop. I would take him and the shopping home to the flat he and Mark shared above a furniture shop in the Kingsland Road, Dalston. While he unpacked the shopping, of which he always kept the receipts to tally his accounts, I would pop out to Faulkners and get us all fish and chips.

These three "friends of Dorothy"  would then sit round the table and put the gay week to rights, and inevitably another reputation would be gone." There´s lovely" he would say before nodding off on his Tuborg. The evening would often have been accompanied by some old favourites on the "gramophone." It is these small but very significant moments from all our memories, some of the simplest things in life that we must not forget in this humdrum world, particularly these tough times we are going through right now. I am sure Bryan would share this sentiment. Brian was a professional and when it came to work he had a very puritan ethic. He was the master of "Ditsing" and "scrinkling", a word applied to tickling Dagmar the Airedale´s tummy. One wondered where his choice of vocabulary came from. At times it would seem he was speaking in his own version of polari.If you look up some of the words he used in the urban dictionary there is a lot of dubious double entendre going on. Long before the concept of ‘hygge’, Denmark’s biggest export since Lego, was adopted as a word into the English dictionary, he was using different variants. Everything was always "hyggelyt".(pronounced “hue-guh-lit" ). In the world of Bryan you put candles on the table, in the windowsill, and a couple elsewhere in your room. Buy  snacks, wine or beer, invite some friends, and voila, you had hygge. Hygge is equal to a safe haven. Other cultures also have words to characterise a certain atmosphere; in English the words used would be cosy or convivial. However,  translating hygge into homeyness would be more correct as the home in the Scandinavian sense is the place where you can be yourself and shut out the big, dark, and dangerous world outside. Bryan was, and I mean this in the best possible taste, a naughty hobbit. He always had a wicked and mischievous glint in his eye. There was no "mutton dressed as lamb" or "Fur coat and no knickers" with Bryan you got openness and honesty.

“I was always in employment where it was slightly creative or artistic, so you were accepted a little more, perhaps for being a little bit unusual".

He had his own unique style.In later years I had chances to work for Bryan in a catering capacity. He became creative director of Siegel and Stockman London and was responsible for their rebranding. Whether the event was the promotion of a mannequin range, an anniversary party, a breakfast launch for a supplier or a simple afternoon soirée ChezBale en De beauvoir, Bryan´s attention to detail was a force to be reckoned with.Lets "Zhoossh it up a bit heart" he would say. Everything had to be "tidy by there." He was fastidious and right down to the choices of menu items or what the staff were to wear, one did not get in the way of Bryan´s decision making. Everything would then be Faaab-lus. I remember well Bryan inviting me to escort him to the private view of The Cecil Beaton Exhibition at the Barbican in 1986.It was Bryan who decided what I was to wear. He dressed me in black tie and stiff collar, dress trousers topped with a leather bikers jacket with silver studs that weighed more than was comfortable for a body to carry. I have to say it was one of the most glamorous and and controversial looks I have ever sported, and I so enjoyed the attention."Posh as all get out"It was "gala hearts." Finally Bryan will be remembered for his much loved shows and the character for Mark in Gaynor Tension ( I believe Patty O´Dors was waiting in the wings to be brought out next )These remarkable cabarets shows he put on at fringe venues.He much loved Irving Berlin......

He loved a piano, He loved a piano
He loved to hear somebody play
Upon a piano, a grand piano
It simply carried him away
He knew a fine way to treat a Steinway
He loved to run his fingers o'er the keys, the ivories
And with the pedal he´d love to meddle.........

Bryan was a quite remarkable individual and to get the chance to meet someone so extraordinary, quite unusual and totally illuminating was a real privilege. Bryan was generous,entertaining and his voice will go on....not a week goes by when I dont have fond memories of this "dear heart". "Tusind Tak" my friend.

If you have not seen this short film already it was The Iris Prize festival nominee for best British short Nominee 2018, please click on the link.


Leek and potato shots
Welsh rarebit scones
Herring Smørrebrød (Danish Sandwich)
Salmon egg tarts
(recipes and picture below)

Leek and potato shots

2 medium or 1 large leek,trimmed of outer layers and damaged part of the green
25g  butter
3 medium potatoes,bakers or reds,peeled and coarsely diced
Generous salt and pepper

1 litre vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1 cup whipping cream 

/3 cup chives, cut into inch-long pieces
45ml vodka

Slice the leeks finely,put in a large bowl of warm water,and swirl them about to rinse off any dirt.Warm water is pretty vital here as leeks often secrete sand and mud,neither of which is ready soluble in cold water.Using your hands or aspider lift the leeks out of their bath and into a colander.Rinse the bowl out thoroughly and repeat the process.If you simply pour the leeksfrom the bol into the colander,all the caarefully washed out dirt will get back on them.(The Roux brothers insist that washing the leeks in warm water improves the flavour) Having made this soup for 25 years I would agree.

Melt the butter in a large solid-based saucepan and add the drained leeks.Sweat these over a medium flame for 5 minutes or so; the leeks should partially collapse and glisten from their coating of butter, but should not take on any significant amount of colour.Add the diced potatoes and sweat for a further 5 minutes,they will start to stick after this time,a sure sign that their sweating period is over.Season judiciously with salt and pepper and add enough stock to cover the vegetables.Stir to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pan,turn the heat up high and boil until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Turn off the stove, remove the lid and let the soup cool for 15 minutes. Then, little by little, transfer the soup to a blender and process at high speed until it's completely creamy. Be very careful when you do this because the liquid will be very hot.
Pour the soup back into the pot and add the ground nutmeg and whipped cream; stir until completely dissolved.
Place the pot in a container filled with ice and water (Bain Marie) and stir until it reaches room temperature. Move to a glass container and cover with plastic wrap.
Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
Serve in shot glasses and decorate with chives
 Herring Smørrebrød (Danish Sandwich) makes 4 sandwiches
  • 4 slices Pumpernickel or other rye bread, ( I made my own )
  • 1 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 1 small beetroot, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 125g cooked new potatoes
  • 25ml mayonnaise
  • 25ml greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • dash of lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • salt and pepper 
  • Tbsp dill
  • 1 375g jar marinated or pickled Herring fillets
  • ½ medium shallot, thinly sliced, divided
  • 2 spring onions, divided
  • 2 sprigs dill, divided
  • 4 teaspoons capers, rinsed, divided
  • 8 slices fresh cucumber, divided
  1. In a bowl of food processor combine beet, mustard, sour cream and olive oil. Process until creamy and smooth.
  2. Make the potato salad.Cut the potatoes into small chunks and place in a mixing bowl. Combine the mayo,yoghurt,dill mustard,lemon juice and curry powder,salt and pepper. Add to the potatoes mix and stir to combine
  3. Spread butter on bread.
  4. Spread the beetroot mousse into small mounds on the bread.
  5. Place 2-3 1-inch slices of herring on each bread
  6. Top each bread with slices of ¼ shallot, 1 sprig of halved scallion, 1 spring onion green shredded, 1 sprig of dill and 4 slices of cucumber.
  7. Finish off by topping each bread with 2 teaspoons of capers.

Welsh rarebit scones makes about 16

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 50g butter
  • 150g strong cheddar, grated
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 110ml (approx) dark ale
  • 50ml milk

Pre-heat your oven to 220°c and pop a baking tray in there to heat up (using a hot tray is my scone making top tip).
Sift together the flour and baking powder and then rub in the butter. Mix through 3/4 of the cheese. Add the milk and use a butter knife to stir it all together. Stir the mustard and mustard powder into about half of the ale and then mix this into the dough. Add just enough of the remaining ale to bring everything together to form a nice soft, but not sticky dough.

Turn this out onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it out until it is 2-3 cm thick. Use whatever size cutter you like and stamp out scones ( I used a 4cm cutter). Be careful not to twist the cutter or the scones won’t rise properly (another scone making top tip for you). Gently re-roll as necessary to use all of the dough. Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk and then sprinkle on the last of the cheese.

Carefully transfer the scones to the hot tray, spacing them apart a little and bake them for around 15 minutes, until they are well risen, golden and generally pretty irresistible!

Salmon egg tarts makes 12
  • 1 tsp olive oil or butter
  • 400g smoked salmon chopped
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp Flor de sal
  • Floe de sal / freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped chives and or dill or snipped chives, plus extra for garnish
  • 12 free-range eggs

Pre-heat your oven to 160°c /gas 3.Lightly oil or butter a 12 hole muffin tray. Finely chop the smoked salmon and place in a bowl. Add the cream,curry powder,Flor de sal,pepper and dill or chives,and mix lightly with a fork.Divide the salmon mixture between the moulds,then crack an egg into each mould. Jiggle the egg white so that it mixes with some of the salmon,leaving the yolk whole.bake for 20 to 25 minutes until set.Leave to cool for 5 minutes,then run aknife round each mould to loosen.Remove the eggs to a wire rack.scatter with dill and /or chives and eat warm or at room temperature.

Frikadeller (Danish Pork Meatballs)
Makes 24 small or 18 medium sized
My favourite way to eat frikadeller is to make them the day before and eat them cold the following day when the flavour has intensified
  • 500g pork mince
  • generous Flor de sal
  • 1 Large onion grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 2tbsp breadcrumbs 
  • 1tbsp oats
  • 1tbsp  flour
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup warm milk with beef stock cube dissolved in it
  • Black pepper
  • 75g of butter and a good glug of olive oil for frying

Put the ground meat and salt in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon,Squeeze the excess juice from the grated onion(it does not need to be dry but get rid of most of the liquid).Add the onion to the meat and mix again,add the egg, breadcrumbs, oats, flour, nutmeg,milk with dissolved stock cube and a good grinding of pepper. Mix until incorporated.Pop the meatball mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight to rest.Preheat the oven to150c gas 1/2.using a tablespoon, scoop out a quantity of meat mixture the size of a large egg.Use the flat of your hand to help shape the meatballs.Danish meatballs are not round,but slightly oval,sized like an egg. In a frying pan, heat up some butter and leave it to brown and bubble,then add a glug of oil.The quantity of butter is essential  for these meatballs,or they don´t get the right crust and flavour.Test one meatball first to check the seasoning.Fry the meatballs over a medium/high heat, in batches which allow plenty of room for turning,for 2-3 minutes each side.Transfer to a warm oven dish to finish and repeat until you have used up all the meat.

If you would like further information about customized catering for "virtual" events please contact


  1. Rupert, What a lovely, and beautifully written tribute to a truly dear friend. We are all so lucky to have had him in our lives.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts