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.

Potato recipes from the war years

Potatoes, we love them, they are a basic of our western diet. That most favourite of our carbohydrates eaten as lovely buttery new potatoes, mash, chips, baked potatoes they underpin our diet almost every day.

We always grow a few potatoes on the allotment and this year we have a bumper crop of both early and first early potatoes. So I am taking the opportunity to practice some old recipes, one from the First World War and one from World War Two. 

During both wars, those at home were encouraged to grow more vegetables, people were encouraged to eat alternatives to wheat flour and potatoes were popular as they were a good source of carbohydrates and easy to grow.  Potatoes were used to bulk out so many recipes – from bread through to pastry, and they even found their way into puddings and cakes. 

From the First world War comes a recipe for potato pastry from The Daily Mail Cookery Book by Mrs C. S. Peel (1918)


225g cold mashed potatoes

110g plain flour (you could use wholemeal flour to be truly authentic)

45g dripping or margarine (if using the former make sure it is at room temperature)

1 tsp baking powder


Following Mrs Peel’s method to make the pastry, mix the flour, salt and baking powder; rub in the dripping. Add the potatoes and mix well and lightly. Make a stiff paste with cold water.

Flour a board and roll out to ¼ inch thick. She doesn’t instruct the cook to leave the pastry to rest but you could make it in advance and leave it in the fridge until it is required.

It has a different consistency to regular short crust and has a naturally sweet flavour to it. It is also more fragile than ordinary pastry but can be patched much more easily.



This a actually a really good pastry and today I used it to make a vegetable pie and the scraps to make some cheesy sticks. Try it I think you will be surprised.







During the Second world War bringing women into the workplace meant they had less time to cook and less choice of ingredients and rationing during the Second World War meant that cooks had to become more canny and inventive with what they had. Fuel was also rationed

The second recipe is from this time. As potatoes weren’t on ration until later in the war they were used to eke out other recipes in this case bread. This particular recipe was a hand written recipe found in a lovely notebook which, although not dated, luckily had a few newspaper cuttings (strangely nearly all for marrow and ginger jam), which on the reverse have articles which date from 1942 – 1948







Potato Bread


500g strong bread flour

250g potatoes 1 x sachet dried yeast 100ml water (you may need more, up to

150ml, depending on the type of potato used)

1 ½ teaspoons salt 


The potatoes should be boiled and then passed through a sieve or mashed very well. While still hot, the potatoes should be mixed with the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and bring together into a dough.

Kneed the dough, for around 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Put in a bowl, cover and allow to rise for around an hour or until doubled in size.

Knock out the air, cut in half and kneed each for a few more minutes and form into two loaves. Put on a floured baking sheet and leave to rise for another hour or until again doubled in size.

Score the top with a sharp knife and the loaves are ready for the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes at 220oc/425of/gas7.

The bread is ready when browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. This produces a delicious, light crispy loaf that is worth making anyway. Crispy and tasty.


The bread recipe can be found in Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen

Post Halloween Pumpkin Feasts

However you spent halloween, at a fancy dress party, shepherding little ghosts and ghouls round on the trick or treat circuit or staying up to scare yourself to death on fright films, now that it is over let’s get down to the serious stuff – cooking with pumpkins.

I did a quick run through the books on my shelves and pumpkin recipes on line and came to the conclusion that there is no excuse for not using the flesh from the pumpkins used to decorate the porch for the ghostly evening. I try not to get on my high horse in these blogs but the waste of food in the form of pumpkins really upsets me.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1.91 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. in 2014 were only used for lanterns before being trashed and in the UK we are no better. The UK buys over one million pumpkins during October – around 90% of annual pumpkin sales. Once carved, the majority are thrown away with around 18,000 tonnes ending up in landfill according to the North London Waste Authority (NLWA).

Don’t give me the stories about nobody in the house liking pumpkin – would they be able to identify it in a lovely vegetable stew? or not knowing what to do? – I found 20 pages of recipes from all over the world in my Ecosia search. Let’s aim to reduce the figure of pumpkin waste by next halloween.

So how about it?  Send me your favourite pumpkin recipes. The three best will win a copy of Recipes from an Unknown Kitchen and I’ll publish them in future blogs.

For more information on what you can do with scooped out pumpkins this Halloween, a selection of handy recipes can be found on the Love Food Hate Waste website 

One of my favourites is Pumpkin Bread from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister


700g pumpkin or winter squash, 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (don’t be tempted to reduce this), 2 teaspoons of golden caster sugar, 15g fresh yeast*, 350g strong white bread flour, extra flour for dusting, 1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze.

* or use 7g sachet of dried yeast, mix with the flour before adding the pumpkin puree.


Peel, remove seeds and dice the pumpkin into 1cm cubes, you need 400g. Cook this without water, either roast or steam. Put in a processor with the oil and puree until smooth. Then allow to cool until just luke warm add the salt and sugar.

If you are using freash yeast mix in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of warm water. Mix the paste into the puree.

Measure the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Spoon in the puree then mix in the flour to make a soft dough. Turn our onto a floured work surface and knead thoroughly for 5 – 10 mins (or 5mins in a mixer on a dough hook.

Shape into a round loaf and put on a baking sheet covered to rise until doubled – about 1 1/2 hours.

Press your thumb into the middle to make small hollow and brush with the egg glaze. Score into segments with a sharp knife then bake in a preheated oven at 200c, 400F or gas 6 for 30 mins, until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack if you can without eating it before it cools (very difficult). It makes a lovely bright orange loaf that looks and taste great.

The Staff of Life at Christmas

While we are planning our Christmas food the basics sometimes get forgotten. Don’t get me wrong I am planning my midwinter feast now, but while I was making the bread yesterday I realised that I hadn’t put bread on the Christmas food list.

Somewhere between Delia’s Mulled Wine Sorbet and Nigella’s Clementine cake I hadn’t given a thought to what I was going to make in the way of loaves and rolls.

This was mainly prompted by a review of a great video of Andrew Whitley’s DO Lecture on Bread – Why Bread needs Time. It was this lecture that started me down the bread-making road and I am so grateful, I love making bread and eating your own home made bread beats shop bought by a mile, unless you are lucky enough to have a good local real bakery.

I don’t want to sound holier than thou, I am definitely not a domestic goddess. Making my own bread doesn’t make me a better person but it does make me happy when I eat it. I like to make it by hand, the kneeding time with a bit of music in the background gives me time to think and gaze vacantly out of the window. My brother in-law on the other hand has  been converted to make his own bread by a bread machine, he made a lovely nutty, seedy loaf last time we stayed, great stuff. 

Bread really is the staff of life and by making it yourself you know what the ingredients are and where they come from, you can give the bread time to rise, you can be sure it has taste (something sadly missing from supermarket bread) and you can be sure that it will be digestable. Take back this staple and make it yours! Let’s be  nation of home bread makers rather than soft pappy bread eaters.

So back to Christmas, this year why not give someone (or yourself) a bread making book, or a bread machine or a course on bread making? You’ll reap the rewards next year.



and don’t forget to watch the video 

Oh and we will be having cinnamon rolls for breakfast and sourdough spelt loaf for sandwiches on Christmas day.

want some good baking books? click here

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

What to do with pumpkins now that halloween has gone

I love pumpkins but they can be so big it is sometimes hard to know how to use them all. One of my favourites is pumpkin bread. This recipe is from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister and it is both easy and tasty.

Pumpkin Bread


700g pumpkin – peel and chop this into 1cm cubes so that you end up with 400g of flesh, 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, 2 teaspoons golden castor sugar, 15g of fresh yeast (or 1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast), 350g of strong white bread flour, extra flour for dusting, 1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt for glazing.


Without adding water cook the pumpkin by steaming or microwave until it is soft. Put it in a processor with the olive oil and puree until smooth, then cool until just warm and mix in the salt and sugar. Cream the fresh yeast into a smooth paste and add to the puree, if you are using dried yeast add that to the flour. Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle.  Spoon the puree into the the well then mix to make a soft but not sticky dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and kneed thoroughly for about 5 minutes (or 3 minutes at a slow speed in a mixer with a dough hook). Shape the dough into a round loaf about 18cm across and put on a floured baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Press your thumb in the middle of the risen loaf, then carefully brush with the egg glaze. Score the loaf into segments with a sharp knife and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees C/400 degrees F/Gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.

This is such a great bread to have with soup, with cheese toasted, or just with butter.

Hey – I made some bread man

Yes I know – very sixties and not particularly cool, but making bread is cool, I love it. Today I made Focaccia bread for the first time using a recipe from Flavoured Breads by Linda Collister, a great book. The pumpkin bread is the best recipe I have found and the olive oil bread is now a staple in my house.


Focaccia with Rosemary and Sea Salt


15g of fresh or a 7g sachet of dry yeast*, 280ml water, 6 – 7 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons sea salt, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus some extra sprigs, approx 500g white bread flour, 2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt, extra flour for dusting, extra oil for greasing the bowl.

To use the dry yeast, add the sachet with the chopped rosemary. Put all the liquid ingredients into the bowl at once and proceed with the recipe.

You will need a roasting or baking tin around 25×35 cm greased.


In a bowl cream the yeast to a smooth liquid with half the water. Add 3 teaspoons of oil and the remaining water. Add the salt, chopped rosemary and half the flour. Beat into the liquid with your hand. When combined, work in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft but not sticky dough.

On a lightly floured surface, knead for 10 minutes until very smooth and silky (or up to 5 minutes at low speed in a mixer fitted with a dough hook). Put in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, turning it over so that it is covered with oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise at a cool to normal room temperature until it doubles in size (around 2 hours).

Knock back the dough, turn out, then shape into a rectangle. Press into the base of the tin, pushing into the corners, patting it out to make an even layer.  Cover and let rise as before until almost doubled in height, around 45 minutes to an hour.

Flour your fingertips and press into the risen dough to make dimples 1 cm deep. Cover and let rise again until doubled in height about 1 hour.  Press small springs of rosemary into the dimples and fill with olive oil. Sprinkle with course sea salt. Bake in a preheated oven at 220C (425F) or Gas 7 for about 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Try to stop yourself eating the whole loaf at once.


A New Year in the Garden

Well as I write this both the garden and the allotment are covered in snow, but I’ve just had the roast pumpkin and sweet potato soup with toasted pumpkin bread for lunch – delicious. As you can guess, the pumpkins and squashes did well last year and are still storing well and the freezer still has loads of beans and fruit with the staples of potatoes and onions seeing us through. I do keep having to check them regularly though as the shed is damp rather than cold this year. I thought I had mice in the shed, Daisy the cat keeps looking very interestedly (is that a real word?) under the shelves, but I haven’t lost any food yet.

Preparing for the spring is going slowly as the ground is so wet but we have done the annual planning of what we will grow this year and agreed our crop rotation! New to be tried this year – Pink Dragon radishes (Terry loves radishes and we try something new every year) and Honeydew sweet corn. Tried and tested from last year, the baby beet Action and climbing pea Ne Plus Ultra. The pea is a variety I found at the seed swap and is the best I’ve ever grown. Now I’m looking forward to the spring – see you there.