Category Archives: Bread

Veg box delivery services

I was reading recently that sales of Organic food and beverages in Europe and the US are on an upward trend going into 2016. This is great news.

As some of you may know Scotland has some of the best produce in the world – particularly, in my view, when it comes to the organic root vegetables – largely due to the quality of the soils.

With that in mind I’ve been thinking recently about East Coast Organics – the fresh veg box delivery service and farm from Pencaitland in East Lothian, Scotland. They provide us with a fortnightly delivery of the freshest and most delicious vegetables – nothing like the bland, treated stuff you’d buy in supermarkets.

In choosing a well-run service I was inspired by their business model, sourcing and commitment to ethics and sustainability.

Organic vegetable box

Their produce is grown in 10,000 square feet of polytunnels giving the company a wide potential for growing organic vegetables; such as carrots, beetroot, kale, mushrooms, spinach, leeks, garlic, onions and peppers – to name a few.

We always receive always a nice heap of wrinkly biomass with all sorts of earthly surprises – such as the occasional snail nestled in a head of broccoli – or salad leaves which are often “on-the-turn” before we’ve even opened the bag e.g. the lettuce can sometimes be quite mushy – but who cares: it’s only a lettuce!

The carrots and beets are often caked in soil – having been freshly pulled out of Mother earth. Supermarkets in the UK are restricted from selling “wonky carrots” to the consumer due to some harsh EU regulations on vegetables – with the vegetable box this rule simply does not apply. Also, I personally feel much healthier; there’s a certain vitality that comes with knowing that your vegetables haven’t been heavily treated with insecticides.

We do, however, reach a slight saturation point with the amount of potatoes in the veg box each week. I like a variety of carbs during the week and so, although I love roast tatties, it’s not going to fly night after night.

Overall, the service saves time on the ‘big food shop’ for the convenience of home delivery. It also helps to circumnavigate supermarket supply chains which often involve enormous air miles and spoilage.

On that note I’d like to invite you to sign up for a service with East Coast and check it out for yourself.

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Summer canapes

A few months ago I published a blog on “entertaining a crowd” which focused on a variety of dips for canapes / appetisers. I’ve decided to revisit this subject – this time focusing on something a bit different.

What comes to mind when you think of “Canape” ?

For me, it brings to mind large prissy platters at fancy parties that quite simply overdo things – like thinly sliced carpaccio of beef with quail’s eggs or weird shot glasses filled with foam – who has the time for that?

Well, I like to keep things simple.

The Recipes

These recipes are great for appetisers, breakfast, brunch, lunch or just as a snack or appetizer. All you need is any type of crisp bread, flat bread (e.g. pitta), oatcake, sliced baguette, crackers or you could use a pizza base, sliced into bite-sized portions, toasted, fried or grilled until crispy and topped with the ingredients.

Once assembled all that’s required is a quick drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Flaked salmon crisp breads

I’ve used Peter’s Yard rye flour crisp breads for this recipe. Utterly delicious.

Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 200g hot smoked salmon, flaked
  • 4 – 6 Peter’s Yard crisp breads
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Arrange the crisp breads into “half moon” shapes and top with the salmon.
  • Drizzle over the lemon juice/zest, olive oil.
  • Serve on a plate in the sunshine!

“Tricolour crisp breads” of tomato, basil and mozzarella

You can grill these crisp breads for a couple of minutes to warm and soften tomatoes and mozzarella.

Tri colour crisp breads

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g mozzarella cheese, sliced into small chunks
  • a handful of fresh basil, torn
  • 4 – 6 crisp breads
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Brush the tops of each crisp bread with olive oil.
  • In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes, olive oil and mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper together until combined.
  • Drizzle each crisp bread with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Serve.

(For grilling)

  • Heat the grill to a medium-high heat and grill the crisp breads, on a heat-proof tray, for 2-3 minutes . Serve.

Crackers and Camembert

An old classic. Slightly less colourful than the previous recipes but just as appealing.

Crackers and Camembert

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 round of Camembert (you can also use Brie), sliced into chunks
  • 6-8 crackers
  • Butter, for spreading

Directions

  • Spread each cracker with butter and top with cheese.

Smashing Pumpkins: 3 ways with pumpkin seeds

When I have an inevitable energy slump in the afternoon, usually around 3 o’clock, I always need to go foraging for food. For instance a slice of hot toast smothered with crunchy peanut butter with a few berries or a mashed banana on top. Oatcakes with roasted nuts are another option, or perhaps a chunky granola bar, encased in sugar syrup and smothered with seeds. Pumpkin seeds

I think you can see where I’m going with this… Pumpkin seeds also fall into this category.

As far as all-round health benefits are concerned they’re pretty hard to beat. Their nutrition is, shall we say, “brain boosting” – with zinc, magnesium and Omega-3 in abundance, all of which are beneficial when it comes to improving memory and critical thinking skills.

This is definitely a good choice for the afternoon cognitive deficit.

As well as for snacking pumpkin seeds are great for general cooking purposes; such as garnishing sweet and savoury bakes; blitzing into a pesto sauce for pasta or pureeing into a smooth and creamy seed butter or for toast.

For the recipes below I’ve opted for a selection of 3 of the best (and indeed simple) uses for pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin seed breadPumpkin seed bread

Seeded bread recipes often call for different seed varieties like linseed, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin. This loaf uses only the latter of the four – which I find the most flavoursome.

Ingredients

  • 20g fresh / 14g instant yeast
  • 500g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 5g salt
  • 10g unrefined sugar i.e. brown cane sugar or demerara
  • 50ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 275ml/9fl oz warm water
  • 150g pumpkin seeds

Directions

  • Heat a small pan to a medium-high heat and spread the pumpkin seeds out evenly. Toast for around 7-10 minutes, shaking the pan so they do not catch or burn. Remove from the heat and leave to cool
  • In a bowl mix together the yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oil until well combined. Add the warm water and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together as a soft dough.
  • Add the pumpkin seeds and knead gently for 5-8 minutes, or until the seeds are combined and the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place the dough into a large bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
  • Set aside in a warm place to prove for 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C
  • When the dough has proved, transfer to the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread has risen and is golden-brown.

Porridge with pumpkin seeds and maple syrup blackberries

There are countless recipe variations around for porridge – what can you expect for something that’s Porridge with pumpkin seeds and blackberriesbeen around since 1000 BC..

This is my take on it.

Ingredients

  • 50-75g steel cut oats
  • 250ml water or milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • a generous drizzle of maple syrup

Directions

  • Put the oats in a saucepan with the water (or milk) and salt.
  • Slowly bring to the boil over a low-medium heat and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time and watching carefully that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Before serving, pour some boiling water into your serving bowl, leave for 10 seconds, then pour out. This warms the bowl in preparation for the porridge.
  • To serve: Pour into the warmed bowl, spoon the pumpkin seeds on top and drizzle with honey.

Spice-roasted pumpkin seeds with cumin, coriander and cardamom

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Ingredients

  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp each ground cumin, coriander, cardamom and salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add seeds, lower heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Drain well then transfer to a paper towel-lined tray and pat dry.
  • Meanwhile, mix the oil together in a bowl with the ground spices.
  • Transfer the seeds to a medium bowl, toss with the flavoured oil and spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the seeds, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until just crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour total. (They will become crispier as they cool.)
  • Set aside to let cool completely then shell or eat whole.

Related:

Peanut Butter and date flapjacks recipe

Homemade cashew, cocoa and date ‘Nakd’ bars

Nuts about Almonds!

That’s a wrap!

Recently there have been a spate of recipes in foodie magazines encourageing us to ‘put this together at work’, by taking lunch ingredients with us to the office; thus perpetuating the myth that “nobody has any time” anymore to prepare lunch at home.

Chicken, chilli and hummus wrap with tomato and watercress (wrapped)

Chicken, chilli and humous wrap with tomato and watercress

This, of course, turns out to be bogus. We do have time, we do have the choice of preparing our own lunches well in advance – many of us just choose not to. How about the evening before? Surely we can pull ourselves away from the latest TV drama to russell up a healthy wrap, sandwich or salad for the next day.

For me, ‘wraps’ provide a useful modern convenience food which can be put together in little time at all. They are great vessels for stuffing with hot food, cold meats, fish, salads and a variety of vegetables.

There is also a great market in the UK for healthy ‘fast food’ options and companies selling wraps seem to be filling this with aplomb.

Not only can you be creative with the fillings but dressings and sauces are useful too; lashings of extra-virgin olive oil, mayo, mustard, tahini or a simple squeeze of half a lemon should moisten the wrap on the inside. For extra crunch, just add some chopped red and yellow peppers, sliced cabbage, carrot, onion or baby gem lettuce.

Here are some great recipe ideas –

Falafel pitta wrap with red onion, red cabbage, yoghurt, herbs and tomatoes

Middle Eastern inspired recipe with plenty of flavour and textures running through it.

Falaffel wrap at Borough Market

Sweet potato wrap with goats cheese, pumpkin seeds and parsley

This is one of my own creations. It’s quite starchy but the taste really hits the mark.

Sweet potato quesadilla with goats cheese (1)

Chicken, chilli and humous wrap with tomato and watercress

Another eclectic home-made creation which packs a decent amount of flavour.

Chicken, chilli and hummus wrap with tomato and watercress (3)  Chicken, chilli and hummus wrap with tomato and watercress (2)

Breakfast

For me, breakfast is an adventure whatever time zone you happen to be in. It is a ritual, a grand ceremony, a meal unlike any other, providing both sustenance and a fortifying effect to prepare for the day ahead.

Marmite spread

Marmite – divided opinion

I love how eclectic tastes become when we look across the continent. In Europe, there is a large divide: the Italians and French prefer dainty bites and espressos in the morning to the full blown works (in France, the main meal of the day is usually a long lunch); the Germans and Dutch wake up to flaky pastries, soft pancakes and dark seeded bread rolls.

Here in the UK it’s usually a mix of cooked breakfasts, perhaps on a lazy Sunday morning, tempered with cereals and toast, of which there are many topings; butter, jam, peanut butter, marmalade, honey. Sometimes all at once. Somerset Maugham once said that to eat well in England, “you should have breakfast three times a day”. Then there’s Marmite (“you either love it or you hate it”). Banned in Denmark (Danish law restricts products with fortified vitamin content) this dark, sticky yeast extract is half national obsession, half national nightmare. It’s a debate that is sure to rage on.

Scottish breakfasts are like the full English but with an extra helping of haggis and ‘tattie scones’ (flat potato portions cut into quadrants). Scottish food, in general, has historically received bad press. In the television show The Simpsons, Groundskeeper Willie said,“Get yer haggis right here! Chopped heart and lungs boiled in a wee sheep’s stomach! Tastes as good as it sounds”. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, but it really is.

Across the pond, the United States have some of the most calorific options; with a predilection for waffles, bacon, eggs, maple syrup and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I hesitate to mention other sugar laden options like the eponymous Pop Tart or “Lucky Charms” breakfast cereal. For me, anything that makes the milk change colour like that simply can’t be good for your cholesterol levels, as many of the US demographic has illustrated.  That being said, I also cannot fail to mention Tropicana, from Florida, the best orange juice on the planet by a country mile.

peanutbutterhomemade_thumb.jpg

Homemade peanut butter on toast

Adding a futher international twist to our exploration, I’ve been fortunate enough to sample some wonderful breakfast dishes from all over the world; from hummus, pitta and olives in Israel to banana bread, mee goreng (fried noodles) and sticky rice in Kuala Lumpur.

So with all of this variety, what would I choose as my breakfast of kings? Well, some of you may be shocked and appalled, but for me, there’s only one breakfast dish that has stood the test of time: it’s Porridge. A steaming bowl of milky, thick-cut rolled oats, lightly salted and scattered with crushed nuts (or seeds) and some chopped dates. My vote has been firmly cast.

The recipes below (there are a few!) are some great examples you can try that are both healthy and quick to prepare.

Huevos Rancheros

Travelling in Spain, we often tried chocolate con churros, sugary deep-fried doughnuts with chocolate sauce. This recipe is also enjoyed in certain parts of Spain, but is chiefly a Mexican inspired dish, usually eaten in mid-morning. Huevos rancheros, or “ranchers eggs” consists of eggs and usually contains a tomato based sauce with refried beans, chilli, a fried egg and a flour tortilla. Avocado or guacamole is an optional addition.

This is my version.

Spanish breakfast

Serves 1 – 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 spring onion, sliced
  • 1 green chilli
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100g black beans or kidney beans
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tortillla
  • fresh coriander, finely chopped

Directions 

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan and add the onion, chilli, garlic and oregano.
  • Fry for about 5 minutes or until everything is soft. Add the tomatoes and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a separate pan and fry the egg until cooked but the yolk still runny.
  • To serve, place the egg in the centre of the tortilla and spoon around the tomato and bean sauce.
  • Garnish with coriander and chilli

Porridge

I’ve offered up two recipes here representing a sweet and a savoury option.

…with blueberries (sweet)

Porridge with blueberries

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 150g rolled oats
  • 500ml milk or water
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey or golden syrup
  • A handful of blueberries or blackberries

Directions

  • Place the oats and the milk or water in a pan and put it on a medium heat.
  • Bring to a steady simmer for 5 minutes, stirring as often.
  • Once the milk has been absorbed and the oats are a thick and creamy consistency, serve into a bowl, adding the topping of berries with the honey/syrup.

…with spinach (savoury)

Porridge with spinach

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 150g rolled oats
  • 500ml milk or water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 200g washed spinach leaves

Directions

  • Place the oats and the milk or water in a pan with the salt and put it on a medium heat.
  • Repeat the cooking process as above but add the spinach half way through.

Eggs Benedict

The best hangover cure around. A soft poached egg on a toasted English muffin with bacon (or spinach if you’ve vegetarian) and buttery hollandaise sauce.

Origin: The dish  is said to derive its name from either Lemuel benedict, a wall street broker, or Pope Benedict XIII.

Eggs benedict closeup

The trick with the hollandaise in this recipe is not to let it curdle by heating it too severely but also to keep it warm at the same time.

Serves 1 – 2

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 English muffins, sliced in half
  • 2 bacon rashers

For the hollandaise sauce

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions

  • For the hollandaise sauce, place the egg yolks into a bowl then tip them into a food processor.
  • Blend the yolks together for about 1 minute and then season with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, heat the lemon juice and white wine vinegar together in a pan and, when hot and bubbling, combine with the yolks in the food processor in a slow steady stream. Continue to blend for a few seconds.
  • In the same pan, melt the butter gently. Once it starts to bubble and foam pour it quickly into a pouring jug. Turn the food processor on again and then slowly add the hot butter in a steady stream.
  • Pulse for a few seconds more and then set aside, ensuring the food processor lid is on to keep the mixture warm.
  • For the next stage, Pre-heat the grill on a high heat and place the bacon rashers underneath on a baking tray.
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and gently crack the eggs in. Poach for about 2 minutes or until cooked.
  • Place the muffin halves under the grill with the bacon for 1 minute to toast them. Remove from under the grill and place one muffin half onto a plate with the bacon on top.
  • Put a poached egg on top of the bacon and spoon over the hollandaise, covering the egg.
  • Flash the dish under the grill for just 20 seconds. Then serve.

Brie, tomato and onion omelette

Omelettes often intimidate people who have never lifted a whisk or a spatula in their lives, but they are very straightforward. If you can make scrambled eggs you can make an omelette.

Omelette with brie and tomato

Serves 1 – 2

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 – 3 slices of brie, 5cm lengthways
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • Pre-heat the grill to 150C.
  • Crack the eggs into a glass mixing bowl with the milk and beat them until they turn a pale yellow colour.
  • Heat a non-stick medium pan over a medium heat and add the butter and oil. Once the liquid starts to sizzle, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Whisk the egg mixture (put some elbow grease into it – you want to try and get as much air into the eggs as you can). Add the egg mixture to the onions and swirl to coat the entire base of the pan.
  • Turn the heat down slightly and cook gently for about 8 minutes. Then layer the tomato slices  on top of the omelette and add the brie.
  • Place the pan under the grill for 5 minutes to finish the cooking process.
  • Garnish with finely chopped parsley or coriander, gently ‘fold’ one half of the omelette over the over then serve.

Marmite on toast

This spread made from yeast extract comes with the marketing slogan: “Love it or hate it”, primarily because of its punchy, salty taste.

It was originally intended as a vegetarian alternative to beef extract as a spread on toast or in a hot drink but has found many other culinary uses over the years.

Marmite on homemade bread

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • Marmite
  • 1 – 2 slices of thick white or brown bread
  • Butter (optional)

Directions

  • Toast the slices of bread in a toaster
  • Spread on the butter (optional) followed by the Marmite, to taste

French toast with cottage cheese and honey

‘Eggy bread’, or french toast as it is more commonly known, has been around for centuries.

It’s a very practical way of using old stale bread and can be utilised as a savoury or sweet option.

French toast with cottage cheese and honey

Serves 1 – 2

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 x 2cm-thick slices of stale, good-quality white bread
  • 25g butter
  • 60g cottage cheese
  • a drizzle of honey

Directions

  • Beat the eggs in a wide, shallow bowl, and then whisk in the salt and the milk.  Stir a little of this into the flour to make a paste, then beat back into the egg mixture until smooth.
  • Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium-high heat.
  • Soak the bread in the egg mixture for a few seconds until well coated.
  • Place each bread slice in the hot pan and allow to cook undisturbed for about two minutes until golden and crisp. Repeat with the opposite side of each slice.
  • Serve alongside the cottage cheese and drizzle over the honey.

Homemade granola

This muesli-like breakfast option is one of Georgie’s absolute favourites. Granola usually contains plenty of nuts, oats, seeds and fruit and will often set you back around £5 for a decent shop-bought box these days. However, this is a useful homemade alternative.

I’ve used two types of nuts, with raisins, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds and oats, with just enough golden syrup to bind it together.

The granola can be stored in an airtight contained for up to a month.

Granola homemade

Ingredients

  • 215ml golden syrup
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 50g pumpkin seeds
  • 100g dried apricots
  • 100g raisins or sultanas
  • 150g nuts (whole almonds and pistachios)

Granola ingredients (3)

To serve:

  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 200ml cold milk
  • 3-4 tbsp Coconut Greek yoghurt (optional)

 

Directions

  • Heat oven to 150C.
  • Mix the golden syrup with all the remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Tip the granola onto two baking sheets and spread evenly. Bake for 15 – 20 mins.
  • Remove and scrape onto a flat tray to cool. Serve with cold milk or yogurt.

Bread

 

 

They say the best way to sell a house is to have freshly made bread baking in the oven when your prospective buyers come to visit. Well, with today’s obsession for home baking there should be no excuses getting your property off the market.

I began baking at home about a year ago now. I became fascinated with the entire process; the measuring of the flour, the kneading, proving and shaping it all into all sorts of shapes and sizes. The amount of labour involved was completely secondary.

For me, part of the appeal of home made bread over fast-tracked commercial bread varieties is the lack additives and “processing aids”, not to mention the fact that they taste vastly superior. This has become part of a growing “Real Bread” movement to get people more involved in home-based baking initiatives. I think we’re approaching a golden age of bread making in the UK – and I’m not just talking about the number of baking shows on the BBC (which are fantastic, incidentally); not only are we seeing weekend farmers markets spring up in almost every crevice of every town throughout the country, but we’re also seeing a large number of overseas bakeries. Scandinavian, German, Danish, Polish, for instance, selling loaves to the public in artisan bakeries in most major cities. This is great news for bread lovers because of the variety and flavours; German rye brots, Italian herb and olive oil-infused varieties, soda-breads, Jewish flatbread, salted pretzels, egg and butter rich loafs. We’re being overrun with the holy trinity of flour, yeast and water.

Borough market artisan breads

The gastronomic bazaar that is Borough Market, London SE1

Enough talk for now, though. Let’s get down to business.

I’ve listed a couple of handy recipes below that you could easily knock up at home, including a short list of breads from around the world.

The Recipes

Homemade Italian ciabatta with rosemary and rock salt

Homemade ciabatta loaf with rock salt, rosemary and olive oil

Ingredients

  • 400g strong ‘00’ type flour, plus extra for flouring
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 250 ml water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling
  • 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp rock salt
  • 2 – 3 tsps dried rosemary needles, plus extra for sprinkling

Directions

  • Combine the flour, yeast and the rosemary with the water in a bowl. Beat it together into a thick batter. Oil a clean work surface and knead the dough with the palm of your hands for five minutes.
  • Place the dough into a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to rise for three hours in room temperature.
  • Remove from the bowl, knead again for a few minutes. Dissolve the salt in the oil and add this to the mixture then knead for 6-10 minutes,
  • Homemade ciabatta loaf with rosemary, rock salt and olive oil front viewTip the dough into a well-oiled litre square plastic container and leave to rise.
  • Flour a clean work surface. Tip the dough out onto the surface.
  • Split the dough into two and stretch the two pieces into oblong shapes.
  • For the extra rosemary, in a bowl combine 1 tsp olive oil with 1 tsp rosemary and mix. Then rub this mixture over the top of both bread loafs followed by a sprinkling of rock salt.
  • Preheat the oven to 220C. Place the dough on a baking tray (floured) and allow to prove again for another 30 minutes.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, slice and serve with dipping bowls of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (optional).

Basic soda bread recipe

A quick and easy loaf without yeast. Leavened with bi-carbonate of soda.

soda bread basic loaf sliced aerial view

Ingredients

  • 170g self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 170g plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300ml buttermilk

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6.
  • Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.
  • Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)
  • Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly
  • Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.
  • Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Other common bread varieties from around the world:

Naan

This is an Indian flatbread. Yeasted, soft, chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside, and an ever present in my shopping basket when I was at university. Naan is simple to make at home, doesn’t require any proving period and is fantastic as an impromptu pizza base. It’s traditionally made with ghee, or clarified butter, and natural yoghurt to give it extra ‘body’.

Finally, for all you Londoners out there, a bit of local insight: Bakhtiar’s naan on Blackstock Road, North London, specialises ONLY in naan bread. The name gives it away. This is a place you must try, if only for the novelty value.

Panini

Theses Italian, oval shaped ‘little breads’ have taken on something of a novelty value here in recent years. Every high street sandwich shop or casual dining scene seem to make use of them. In Italy they are served simply with a slice of cheese or ham on the side.

Pitta

An unleavened flatbread made with yoghurt, enjoyed across the Middle Eastern and North African regions. The satisfaction of biting into a warm, crispy, pitta bread ‘pocket’ is second to none. Wholemeal are usually best.

Sourdough

Traditional, wholesome and not cheap. Typically you’d pay around £3 for a small loaf from a farmers’ market or deli, owing mostly to the time and skill involved, but its well worth that little extra for the sheer depth of flavour.

Injeera

A traditional fermented bread from Ethiopia made with teff. Injeera is usually used as a ‘plate’, much like you would see in, say, a South Indian Thali dish, from which you can eat other ingredients like curried lentils, rice or beans. Stretchy, chewy and super absorbent, but lacking in any sort of flavour, hence why it should be eaten with other constituents of a main meal.

French baguette

A basic lean dough shaped into a long ‘baton’ shape and measuring anything from 30cm to a yard in length.

It has recently come to light that the French are no longer fond of this long held food item of gallic culinary heritage. Au secors!

Scandinavian rye

A rich, dense loaf usually made with a mixture of rye flour, strong white flour, full-fat milk, brown sugar and carraway seeds. Rye flour contains a high gluten content, so much so that yeast is often omitted from the recipe altogether.

The best cheese recipes… Welsh Rarebit

Don’t let the name confuse you. We’re all familiar with the various parings of cheese and bread: cheese on toast, Croque Monsieur or the American grilled cheese sandwich – now meet their Welsh cousin: the Rarebit.

Welsh rarebit on ciabatta closeup

Welsh rarebit on ciabatta

This inspired and luxurious dish goes down a treat as a lovely supper, featuring an unctuous bechamel cheese sauce spread over thickly sliced crusty bread, with a keen dash of Worcester sauce.

So what are the components of the ideal Welsh Rarebit?

For cooking, the best method would be blasting it under a hot grill for an oozing, golden finish.

The ingredients are an all-important aspect, so don’t skimp on cheaply bought own brand cheese or simple sliced white bread.

The ideal bread would be a simple slice of wholemeal or a crusty ciabatta, its up to you, but I would say the ciabatta wins out on this occasion; the soft, porous structure absorbs the rich and gooey mixture quite magnificently. Alternatively I would go for a wholegrain/multi-seed loaf (malted) for more savoury depth.

The white sauce:

For the perfect bechamel, first melting the butter in a pan, letting it sizzle and brown slighty, then adding equal parts flour to make the ‘roux’ or paste. Important to note: before adding the milk make sure you ‘cook out’ the flour for a couple of minutes, stirring the roux gently, until the butter/flour combination resembles a sort of ‘golden honeycomb’ look. This is vital, as you don’t want the eventual bechamel to taste of uncooked flour.

Adding the milk slowly and incorporating it into the paste is fairly straightforward. Just don’t be tempted to add the milk all at once, otherwise you will have a clumpy sauce!

If you follow the steps below it should bind together really well.

After bringing it to a simmer with the milk, the mixture will gradually thicken before adding the cheese. A good quality Cheddar, Lancashire or Wensleydale will do. Generally, the higher the fat content, the better it will grill.

Finishing touches require a dollop of mustard; it really has to be Dijon in my view!

Any left over bechamel can also be used for lasagne, macaroni or casseroles. I hope you enjoy the recipe and remember that

Serves 1 – 2

Ingredients

  • 175g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 50ml full-fat milk
  • 25g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • A dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne or chilli powder
  • 2 slices thick crusty ciabatta

Directions

Preheat the grill to high and grill the bread for 2 minutes. Remove from under the grill and keep warm.

The first step is to make a cheese sauce (bechamel):

Heat the butter in a saucepan, stirring regularly, until melted and bubbling.

Melting butter

Add the flour and and cook for a further 2-3 minutes stirring continuously.

Welsh rarebit Making the roux (3)

The ‘honeycomb’ look

Once the roux mixture has come together add about 1/3 of the milk and stir.

Welsh rarebit white sauce (2)

Add the remaining milk, stir for a few minutes until it starts to blip, but do not boil.

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Whisk in the egg yolk, mustard and grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the cheese sauce mixture onto the bread and grill for 2 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden-brown.

Welsh rarebit under the grill

Serve with a few drops of Worcester Sauce and sprinkle on the cayenne/chilli powder.

Welsh rarebit on two slices of crusty ciabatta