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

My favourite cabbage recipe

I used to hate cabbage as a child but I love it now and this is one of my favourite ways. From Delia Smith’s Cookery Course Part 1 published 1978 – thank you Delia.

Cabbage with Garlic and Juniper


1 lb cabbage prepared and shredded (use any but I prefer savoy), 1/2 medium onion, 1 clove of garlic (crushed), 6 juniper berries, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt & freshly milled black pepper


In a good solid saucepan or flameproof casserole, gently heat the olive oil and soften the onion in it for 5 minutes. Meanwhile crush the juniper berries (either in a pestle & mortar or or by crushing them with the back of a tablespoon). Then add these to the onions along with the crushed garlic. Fry for about 1 minute longer, then add the shredded cabbage. Stir it around until it is glistening with oil, season with salt and pepper, then put a lid on and let it cook in its own juice for 10 minutes – stirring once or twice so that it cooks evenly.

I also use leeks instead of onions. So quick and easy but delicious. Goes beautifully with the Christmas dinner.


… we all scream for ice cream

The rhubarb is ready on the allotment and the sun is shining. Time for my favourite ice cream in the world, Rhubard Crumble Ice Cream. This comes from Delia Smith’s Summer Collection – 1993 (that’s 20 years ago!).Time to dust of this summertime classic book and remind yourself why Delia is so popular.  I look forward to making this every year.

Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream


Ice Cream: 1lb/450g trimmed rhubarb, 15fl oz/425ml whipping cream, 8oz/225g sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Crumble: 3oz/75g plain flour, 2oz/50g butter, 2oz/50g light brown muscovado sugar (although I use dark brown) 1/2 level teaspoon of ground ginger.


Preheat oven to gas mark 5 / 375F / 190C

Make the crumble by combining all the ingredients and rubbing the butter into the flour until it forms pea size balls of dough. Sprinkle evenly into a baking dish and put to one side. Cut the rhubarb into 1cm lengths and place in a large shallow baking dish with the lemon juice and sugar.

Place the dish on the lower shelf of the oven and the tin with the crumble on the shelf above. The crumble needs to be cooked for 10 minutes but the rhubarb will need a further 15 -20 mins. When it is cooked, allow it to cool a little then pour into a food processor or blender and blend until it is a smooth puree. Put this in the fridge to chill.

Break up the crumble into small pea sized pieces.

Stir the cream into the puree, pour into an ice cream maker and churn until it is the consistency of soft whipped cream. spoon it into a polythene freezer box and stir in the crumble pieces. Put the lid on and freeze for a minimum of 2 hours. for 3-4 hours

If you haven’t got an ice cream maker, freeze the mixture (without the crumble) then whisk and return to the freezer for a futherther 2 hours then whisk again and stir in the crumble before the final freezing.

If frozen solid you will need to put in the main fridge for around 25 mins before serving.

I have noticed the gooseberry and elderflower ice cream recipe on the previous page – fabulous.