Bread alone

I have been rereading Maria Floris’s marvellous book Cooking for Love . I must say I love this book. I just had to share this paragraph from the bread section with you – ‘ I choose my bread according to the time of day, my appetite and my mood. If my appetite and mood are good I like a light white roll or white bread for breakfast, and of course hot white toast. I nearly always love a slice of hard rye bread with butter for my eleven o’clock coffee . With lunch I like a crisp Kaiser roll, and with after noon tea I like a croissant or brioche. On the dinner table I may have white bread, rolls, French bread, wholemeal bread or the famous and very popular granary bread.

How big is her bread bin?

While I don’t have a different bread for each time of the day I do like to vary the type of bread and my favourites change from time to time. One of my standards is a nice seedy loaf, and for a long time my favourite was Honey Nut Loaf from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister, although all the recipes from that book work and I cook from it regularly. Of course freshly made foccacia with olives or rosemary and sea salt are my picnic favourites and soupy days cheese and onion baps.

My latest favourite is Rye and Spelt Loaf, a Paul Holliwood recipe from his book Bread. Made with a mix of white, rye and spelt flours it has a lovely nutty taste and goes with everything. Toasted with honey it is to die for.

Cheesy Baps

Whether you want something to dip into a nice hot bowl of soup, or something to fill for lunch these rolls are delicious. I love them with cheese and apple filling or tomato and basil or mozarella and salad. Best made with mature cheddar for flavour, I have also used red onion instead of spring onion. They freeze well, I keep some individually wrapped in the freezer. This recipe is from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister

Cheese Baps with Cheddar and Onion

650g unbleached white bread flour

2 teaspoons of seasalt

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

150g grated cheddar

40g spring onion finely chopped

15g fresh yeast ( or 1 sachet of dried yeast)

200ml skimmed milk (at room temperature)

200ml water (at room temperature)

50 Mature cheddar for sprinkling

Extra flour for dusting, a little oil to grease the bowl and a little milk for glazing


Mix the flour, salt, mustard, cheese and onions in a large bowl. Make well in the centre.

In a small bowl, cream the yeast to a smooth liquid with the milk, then stir in the water. Pour into the well in the in the flour. If you are using dried yeast add this to the flour mix and proceed with the recipe. Gradually work the flour into the liquid to make a soft but not sticky dough.

turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 mintues until it feels smooth and elastic. It can also be kneaded for 5 mins at slow speed in a mixer with a dough hook.

Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl, turning it so that the entire surface is covered in oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise until doubled in size – about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Knock back the dough and knead for a few seconds. Divide into 12 and pat into ovals. Arrange well apart on a floured baking sheet, brush with milk then sprinkle with cheese. Let rise until doubled in size – about 30 minutes.

Press your thumb into the middle of each bap, then bake in a preheated oven at 220C/425F/Gas 7 for 15 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack, if you can wait that long!

Fancy the book? click here

Gingerbread gets the Oakmeeds thumbs up


I was very excited to get a phone call from my sister-in-law about the gingerbread that she had made from my book. (I know I ought to get out more!).

Rosanne works at Cafe Oakmeeds at Oakmeeds Community College in Burgess Hill. Cafe Oakmeeds is the in-house catering service which provides home made nutritious food by a team of 8 people headed by Sue Everest.

The lovely staff there can bring in their own ideas for baking, especially cakes or biscuits that have a lower sugar content and Rosanne chose the Gingerbread recipe from my book Recipes From An Unknown Kitchen.

The Gingerbread went down a storm apparently and whizzed of the shelf. This is also a bit personal as this was the school I attended from 1960 -1969.


As this recipe was from the German recipe notebook, the home of gingerbread.  I just had to include it. It is a light cake made with golden syrup rather than treacle.

250g plain flour

250g golden syrup

60g butter

15g caster sugar

½ teaspoon ground ginger (if you like things a bit spicier make this 1 teaspoon)

½ teaspoon ground mixed spice

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

150ml milk


Preheat the oven to 175C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a square tin 25cm / 9”. The mix needs to go straight in the oven after mixing so everything needs to be ready.

Warm the milk and golden syrup in a small pan, gently this does just needs to be warm to the touch not hot, just enough to melt the syrup in the milk. Rub the fat into the flour then add the spices and sugar. Add the mix and syrup mix. Add the soda and mix as quickly as possible. Transfer to the tin and put in the oven at once. Bake for around 40 minutes. Remove from the tin and cool on a rack.


Baking 101 for the hairdresser

While I was having my hair cut yesterday, and yes it looks absolutely gorgeous, my lovely hairdresser Trish said ‘ Rita you’ll know about this, what is a good baking book? I want to start having friends round for tea and cake in 2014 so I need to learn how to make cakes’ I rattled off the names of a few good baking books, but here’s the thing, when I got home I started going through the baking books I have in stock to find the one that would be the best for a new baker.

Once I started I was completely wrapped up, going from book to book, comparing recipes. From Mrs Beeton’s Book of Cakes to the Popina Book of Baking from The Complete Book of Baking to Easy Peasy Baking. Oh and not forgetting Saint Delia’s Book of Cakes.

And do you know what I found? Not only hundreds of great cake recipes but a real desire to bake a cake. I realised that I don’t read the books in stock enough – they are really inspiring. I get so involved with the buying and selling I sometimes forget to stop and read them. Thanks Trish, what a great morning I have had pouring over these books.

So what is the best book for new cake makers? The Easy Peasy Baking Book is written in an easy style, The Complete Book of Baking is HUGE but has some good introduction and basic recipes, the Popina Book of Baking has some mouthwatering recipes, The Regulation Cookery Book has the best scone recipes … in other words grab any book and start baking.

I’m going for Gussy Cake, from the Art of Pastry Making. I’ve no idea what it is but it sounds good

Then I’m onto the rack of books on cooking with wine.

My favourite nearly Christmas Cake

Every year I look forward to clementines – the smell is pure Christmas and I eat them like sweets. It must be a mental reminder of the orange at the bottom of the Christmas stocking calling to my inner child or something – anyway carrying on………………….

This recipe was a real find - Clementine Cake from How To Eat by Nigella Lawson. Easy to make, gluten free and absolutely delicious. I look forward to making this before Christmas.


4 – 5 clementines (around 375g total), 6 eggs, 225g castor sugar, 250g ground almonds, 1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder. (If you really want it gluten free use gluten free baking powder or make your own)


Put the clementines in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and take out the pips. Then pulp the whole fruit skin and all, in a food processer.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/ 190 degrees C and butter and line a 21cm springform cake tin.

Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds and baking powder. Mix well adding the pulped clementines.  Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for an hour, when a skewer comes out clean. You may have to cover with foil after about 40mins to prevent the top burning, as you can see from the photo I forgot to do this. Put on a rack to cool then remove from the tin. I agree with Nigella this is better the day after but it doesn’t always last that long.

Bumper apple harvest cake

Thanks to my friend Norma’s very prolific Bramley apple tree I have been playing with apple recipes, including this lovely recipe for Spiced Apple and Cider Cake from Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes 1977.


150g margerine or butter, 150g castor sugar, 2 standard eggs (beaten), 225g plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 150ml dry cider, 3 smallish cooking apples.

for the topping

25g butter, 25g plain flour, 50 dark, soft sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 25 g chopped blanched almonds.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/gas mark4

Brush a deep 8 inch loose based cake tin with melted butter. Line the base with greaseproof paper and brush the paper with the melted butter.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light, pale and fluffy before adding the aggs a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Sieve the flour, baking powder and nutmeg. Fold half of this into the creamed mix using a large metal spoon, followed by half the cider. Then fold in the rest of the flour and finally the last of the cider.

Peel core and chop one of the apples and fold carefully into the cake mix then level with the back of a spoon.

To prepare the topping, measure the butter, flour, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl. rub the mixture until you have a fairly course, crumbly mixture then add the chopped almonds. Quickly quarter, core and peel the remaining apples. slice them thinly and arrange them slightly overlapping in three circles on top of the cake.

Then sprinkle the topping over the apples and bake the cake on the centre shelf for 1 1/2 to1 3/4 hours or until the cake shows signs of shrinking away from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins before removing carefully and transferring to a wire rack.

Unfortunately it was all eaten before I could take a photo. I’ll have to make another one.

Melting Moments

Melting moments

For the days when you need a little something sweet and you’ve run out of biscuits, these take 10 minutes to prepare.  This recipe is from Perfect Cooking, published by the Parkinson Stove Company in 1950, one of many books produced to promote cookers. These books were a staple source of recipes for the housewives of the 40s and 50s. These were the biscuits I was brought up on … aahh sweet memories. My mother used to make these with half lard, half butter (I suppose we were lucky it wasn’t dripping).

Melt 8oz butter in a saucepan, allow to cool, then add the following ingredients sifted together: 6oz plain flour, 2oz cornflour, 2oz icing sugar. When mixed place a spoonful at a time on a baking sheet and cook for 15 – 20 minutes on reg 4 , 350 F or 180 C

I usually add a few drops of vanilla essence. You can also roll them in oats like those in the photograph or add cocoa powder, or dried ginger or anything you want really.

Love old books? Visit Ninevah House and see a selection of my old gardening and cookery books. Don’t see what you want? Ask me and I’ll try to find it.