Posts Tagged: baking

Aug 10

Daily bread


My mother swears by a commitment to bread – a daily ritual, practice and hard work are the things that lead to a perfect loaf. Me, I’m all about shortcuts when it comes to baking bread. And it appears I’m not alone – Dan Lepard, baker extraordinaire, shared his fantastic recipe with me recently for a simple white loaf via one of the wonders of our modern age, Twitter – although it must be said he didn’t do it in less than 140 characters!

His bread method (which works for a variety of flours) is straightforward, easy and, the best bit, hardly requires any work. If you haven’t turned your hand to baking before, I’d urge you to head out, grab some good quality bread flour and get baking – I’ve been making a loaf every day and scoffing it toasted with loads of butter and homemade mixed berry jam.

Click here for the recipe for Dan Lepard’s simple white loaf

May 10

Cheesed off with cheesecake


Are there any foods that no matter how hard you try you can’t seem to master? The elusive dish, seemingly simple for others, that proves impossible to get right?

I don’t mean the likes of the roast potato or Yorkshire pudding – we all know that every time we cook them they strangely seem to end up different.
For me, this troublesome dish is the cheesecake. I’ve tried different recipes, different cooking times, different ingredients and somehow just keep managing to get something wrong.

Rather embarrassingly, last time I made one, everything went to plan and then as I popped it into the fridge I knocked a plastic tub straight into the top of it, creating a rather unattractive trough across its smooth, ivory surface.

Still – at least it tasted delicious – flecked with vanilla seeds and studded with purple popping blueberries – so all was not lost.

Click here for the recipe for a delicious Dulche de Leche cheesecake from Argentinian experts, Gaucho

Mar 10

A traditional Easter – Simnel cake


I’m a big fan of the new simple style of cooking that seems to have been adopted across the board – long gone are the sauces with twenty ingredients that take days to make, the mousses set in aspic and the flamboyantly decorated dishes I see in old family photos.

Somehow everything has become less complex; what we cook has become more about the quality and heritage of what we source and the way we marry flavours in a more down to earth, robust style. There are classic combinations that have been in use in the kitchen for decades, even hundreds of years, but it is the paring back of these things that is shaping what we serve at the dinner table more than ever.

The traditional roast leg of lamb we might have had a few years back has now become a slow-braised shoulder; we still, however, serve it with its bedfellows of either a home made mint sauce, Shrewsbury, or redcurrant jelly. I might now though, as with last year, add a spoonful of so to the gravy for a hint of sweetness.

Some things can’t be messed with though. You can’t better a roast potato, one of the finest culinary inventions in my book. Another great tradition that must not be forgotten is Simnel cake, the moreish, dark fruit cake enriched with marzipan. This recipe comes from one of my favourite London gastropubs, The Coach and Horses in Farringdon.

Click here to read the recipe for The Coach and Horses Easter Simnel cake

Apr 09

The recipe collector – anchovy and mozzarella bread


I’m a recipe hoarder. I collect books, magazines, cuttings, hand-written notes. I’ve got photographs of all the pages from one of grandmother’s cookbooks and a box of neatly-typed cards from another. I have photocopied pages by the hundreds, stashed away for use on a rainy day. They are a constant source of inspiration, from lost classics to modern treats – and an insight into the evolution of the British diet.

The most recent addition to my ever-expanding collection is this fantastic, mouth-watering recipe from my girlfriend’s father, Tony. It’s a perfect addition to a barbecued lunch – and a great one for converting the non-anchovy lovers amongst you. The salty, savoury edge provides a perfect balance to the creamy milkiness of the chewy, golden mozzarella.

Tony’s anchovy and mozzarella bread

Ingredients (serves 6)

.    1 baguette
.    2 balls of mozzarella
.    1 tin anchovies plus oil
.    30g butter
.    olive oil


Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.  Cut the baguette top down two thirds of the way through about eight to ten times. Cut the cheese into quarter inch thick slices and slip into the holes in the bread. Drizzle over some olive oil and place on a baking sheet in the oven till golden brown, about ten to fifteen minutes.

Whilst the bread is cooking, warm a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the butter to the pan and tip in the anchovies and their oil. The trick here is to let the anchovies essentially dissolve to form an unctuous sauce. Cook slowly until they break down, pushing them around with the back of a wooden spoon then set aside.

When the bread is ready, take it out of the oven, pour over the anchovy sauce and serve.

Mar 09

Getting seduced by an early taste of sunshine food


What on earth is going on outside at the moment? One day it’s lunch in the garden, the next it’s stew by the fire!


Although I’m sure the weather’s set to change again, I’ve started to get in the mood for summer, picking up fresh, light stuff to brighten the kitchen, like shiny red peppers and purple aubergines. And I’m already putting together cold platters of salty cheese, Spanish ham and griddled vegetables dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


This is simple, pleasure food you can throw together quickly and savour slowly on a balmy summer’s evening – those rare ones we seem to get. But then I guess that’s all part of being British – the picnic eaten under a tree in the rain, barbecues cooked beneath an umbrella.


When it’s good, though, it’s great. Those evenings when the sun takes forever to disappear over the horizon and the smell of charcoal drifts on the still-warm air as the muted sounds of the neighbours enjoying their own al fresco experience float over the fence.


Such great times… So sod the cold, cook some summer food right now, even if you have to eat it indoors!


Artichoke, fontina and parma ham turn-over

Ingredients (Serves 4)


  • 100g fontina or other melting cheese like taleggio
  • 5 or 6 slices of Parma ham
  • a tin of artichokes hearts or a packet of griddled ones
  • 1 packet ready rolled puff pastry
  • a few thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, beaten


Pre-heat oven to 225°C. Lay pastry out on an oiled baking sheet. Drain artichokes and slice into quarters. Drape Parma ham over half the pastry, leaving a border of about a centimetre.


Scatter over artichokes and then slice cheese and spread it out over the top.


Scatter over thyme leaves, season with pepper only and then fold pastry over to form a parcel. It will probably be a bit lopsided. Brush the whole thing with beaten egg and bake in the oven for ten minutes or so until golden.


A green salad dressed with a punchy vinaigrette would make a great addition.

Mar 09

Time for tea


st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }


Some days the urge to bake is overwhelming. A few spare hours while pottering round the house doing the usual bits of cleaning, sorting and washing can always be made more enjoyable with a quick stop to bake a cake. The smell that wafts through the house is so heavenly and so warming. And it gets even better when the cake comes out of the oven and you cut a great big warm wedge.  

Madeleines are a dainty alternative and the most light, exquisite cakes imaginable. They are also incredibly beautiful to look at. And this recipe is perfumed, light and super easy. They cook in a little over five minutes, too, which makes them perfect for unannounced guests or an impromptu dinner party.


To make these extra special serve with a scattering of dried rose petals and icing sugar, or some Greek yoghurt on the side.


Pistachio and cardamom madeleines


Madeleine tins are available at all good cook shops. If you don’t have one you can always use a mini-muffin tin.


Ingredients (makes 12)


1 large egg

40g caster sugar

30g ground pistachios

1 lemon

1 cardamom pod

20g icing sugar

50g plain flour

75g butter

A little extra butter for greasing




Mix egg and caster sugar until pale and light. Sieve in plain flour and add ground pistachios and icing sugar and fold together. Add zest and juice of half the lemon.


Remove black seeds from cardamom pod and grind seeds to a powder and add to the mixture.


Butter madeleine tin and place roughly a tablespoon into each hole. Pop tray in the fridge to let butter firm up a bit. Don’t smooth them out – they will do this on their own in the oven.


Pre-heat oven to 200 C. Cook madeleines for five to ten minutes, depending on oven. They are done when risen and cracked slightly in the middle while golden brown at the edges.


Remove from oven and leave for a few minutes before placing on a rack to cool.



Featuring WPMU Bloglist Widget by YD WordPress Developer