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Cookalicious Musings 1 February 2009

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, shopping notes.
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Was musing on excessive food packaging recently, see my other blog. It also reminded me of this comment from Tracy’s latest newsletter (Fitness with Tracy Griffen – February 2009) on the proliferation of pre-chopped vegetables and salads:

A chopping board and a knife is all you need to make carrot sticks, chopped oranges.

Yes! So get out your chopping boards people!

People can only continue to sell this stuff as long as we continue to buy it…

So the question is, are people prepared to change their habits? Can we be persuaded to use these simple skills again?

I hope so!

This year I also hope I can help some friends start their own veggie patch. I want to find out more about growing my own so that I’m prepared for when I get a garden one day! What I hope they get out of it is:

  • cost-effective, really tasty and fresh food
  • some good times outside with family and friends maybe?!
  • a sense of achievement :)
  • less trips to the supermarket
  • and a lot less packaging and waste
  • plus more material for the compost bin, yeah!

But as a gardening novice myself, we’ll have to see!

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Fairtrade Fortnight 2008 25 February 2008

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes.
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Go on! Try something fairtrade this fortnight…or any fortnight!

This is my review of fairtrade goodies. The list is evolving as I try and test fairtrade stuff available from local shops in my area.

1. Fairtrade Vanilla Ice Cream

Cream o Galloway – this one is locally produced using fairtrade sugar and vanilla, also uses organic egg yolks, so no concerns about the quality of life of those laying hens. I loved it, and can’t wait to try the chocolate flavour…

I’ve also tried Ben&Jerrys – this one also uses fairtrade sugar and vanilla, they also use free range eggs in their products which is reassuring. Again, a good quality ice-cream and a little easier to find in the shops from this popular brand name.

2. A bit early for Easter…but… Fairtrade Mini Eggs

Dubble Speckled Eggs – finally an ethical mini egg. The good news is that it tastes great, and with fairtrade vanilla, sugar and chocolate it is good too! I’ve seen them in the One World Shop, also in Oxfam shops around the country.

The fairtrade chocolate from Dubble and Divine tastes excellent, so make sure you go fairtrade for all your Easter eggs. There are also other varieties and brands to consider. See the fairtrade website for more details about fairtrade chocolate

3. Fairtrade Cola

Yes, there is an alternative to Pepsi and Coca Cola…and it is Ubuntu cola (not to be mistaken for the Linux distribution of the same name!*).

You can buy it in the One World Shop up here in Edinburgh, it is a very tasty cola made with fairtrade sugar (they state they are also going to try to source fairtrade caffeine from the fairtrade coffee industry which is interesting too). Check out the Ubuntu-Trading Website for more info and stockists in your area.

4. Fairtrade Vanilla

I’ve tried a couple of brands of fairtrade vanilla pods (Barts Spices and Ndali) and have recently tried the Ndali Vanilla Extract. This has been quite useful in brownie making – and is a lot less hassle than the pods. The extract is very different to the synthetic vanilla flavours I remember from years ago, and definitely worth a try if your a fan of vanilla.

5. Fairtrade Coffee – the old favourite

It has been a long time that Fairtrade coffee has been in the shops and in our coffee houses. Make sure you get a fairtrade cup – ask next time you order a coffee and make sure your cupboard at home/work is also stocked up with fairtrade:

Cafe-direct now does a massive range of coffee and more products besides.

Scotmid (or the Co-op) also has a full range of coffee and chocolate, also much much more, check out their website for more details.

Espresso Ground Coffee…

We’ve always found it hard to get good espresso coffee to make at home, but can recommend Clipper Espresso (with the picture of the Three Graces on the front). Great for use in your stove-top coffee pot.

6. Fairtrade Cooked & Canned Beans!

No, I’m not talking about baked beans! (but I can recommend Scotmid Organic Baked Beans, although presently they are not fairtrade).

These are Aduki Beans – a small, red bean – nutty and delicious. Particularly good as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes like cottage pie etc.

I’ve just made a vegetable and bean chilli con carne with Suma Organic, Fairtrade Aduki Beans, Black Eye & Kidney beans too, with lots of veg. The tinned beans are pre-cooked so they are very quick and easy to use. They don’t require lots of soaking/blanching etc. Best of all, they are now fairly traded.

Look out for them in your local shops. I’ll post my veggie chilli recipe soon…

7. Fairtrade Bananas – Let them loose!

I would love to eat more fairtrade bananas, but I have a problem buying the plastic packs of 7 or so bananas ubiquitously available in the supermarkets today. I don’t want 7 bananas, sometimes I just want one for lunch or as a healthy afternoon snack. Well, during fairtrade fortnight, I went in search of the humble loose fairtrade banana, with very little luck I’m afraid. I asked at several local shops who had the fairtrade poster up, but their bananas were not fairtrade! But I did find small packets of bananas in my local Scotmid – I got a pack of three for 54p – good value, but why the plastic packaging I wonder?

Quite unexpectedly I finally found the illusive loose fairtrade banana in my local Margiotta (a local chain of shops in Edinburgh) in Marchmont. The price was higher than Scotmid, but I was able to buy two individual (not plastic wrapped) fairtrade (with the mark on a sticker) bananas for 55p. Come on shops – lets see more of this please!

8. Other Fairtrade Fruits

Fairtrade oranges and citrus fruits have been in my local Scotmid, and some other supermarkets for a while now, but this fortnight I’ve been looking for more options. I’ve tried fairtrade grapes from Marks & Spencers this week, they were very nice, and good value due to being half-price (I expect that was just for fairtrade fortnight though!).

Other good ones to look out for are pineapple, mango and avocado – available from a lot of supermarkets, and some local organic stores.

8. Fairtrade Sugar

Nowadays you can buy a lot of different sugars, granulated, white, soft brown etc. Sadly I’ve not yet found any icing sugar for my brownie mix, so I’ll keep looking. Make sure your sugar bowl is full of fairtrade!

9. Fairtrade Cotton Anyone?

OK so it’s not food, but check out the increasing availability of fairtrade cotton for your clothes. I love People Tree and the One World Shop…but there is a lot more to choose from nowadays.

 

There is a lot more information on Fairtrade including product listings and brands. Check out the Fairtrade Website for more details.

 

 

 

 

*if you are actually interested in Ubuntu Linux (an open-source, free operating system), the website is: http://www.ubuntu.com/

Cookalicious is BACK! 13 July 2007

Posted by cath in Cooking Links, general info.
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I’ve been taking a wee break from cooking and creating recipes as I’ve had another big project on the go…my PhD thesis! But today I am back at cookalicious and I have some great new recipes to share with you all.

Whilst I’ve been mainly living on my store of homemade frozen (ready) meals and a few quick pasta sauces (and roast tomato sauces), WordPress has been tracking which of the cookalicious recipes you have been checking out.

I am happy to announce that chocolate crispy cakes are still the top recipe on the site. It seems pretty clear that you will be wanting my definitive brownie recipe – but I have to admit, I am still in the lab (kitchen) working on that one – but I hope to perfect it soon…watch this space! Update – the brownie recipe triumphantly arrives! Update 2009 – those crispy cake fans may want to check out the newest easy cake recipe: any-flavour fairy cakes.

Other popular recipes are my Thai food Green Curry, Laab, Chicken in the oven and Sweet and Sour, so I’ll be continuing to provide my favourite Thai dishes for you to try at home.

Another popular post is bread – and I’ll try and revisit that topic with more tips and alternate recipes.

Finally, I’ve had some interest in my gravy recipe, and I am keen to add a lot of Sunday roast recipes. For this I’ll be offering my tips for buying and roasting meat. But I’ll mainly be giving you some great and easy recipes for making your own condiments such as mint sauce, apple sauce and bread sauce for roast lamb, pork and chicken. Last but not least, a Yorkshire pudding recipe to go with roast beef.

Fish has so far made little impact in the cookalicious recipe collection, but for the last two months I’ve been eating a lot of it, and cooking it too. I know that some people find it a little scary to buy and cook, so I’ll be adding a lot of information, pictures, easy methods for cooking fish and ideas on what to buy. So look out for those and have a go at cooking up some fish – healthy, quick and generally easy, its cookalicious :)

Great to be back, now I’m off to write those recipes…

Basic Recipes > Gravy 10 December 2006

Posted by cath in comfort food, general info, Recipes, specials.
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 Onion Gravy

Onion Gravy

Home made gravy is the best. Much trial and error has gone into my gravy creations over the years, but even my least successful gravy beats those Bisto granules hands down. There are several things to consider when thinking of making your own gravy…

Gravy for a Roast

If you’re making a roast, then making some gravy is quite easy and is definitely worth a try, it’s a good place to start building up your gravy-making skills:

  • A swift de-glaze of the roasting dish (with half a glass of wine, port, a dash of brandy, stock or water)
  • Add a little flour (1-2 tsp) if the juices left in the dish are very fatty (and it will give a thicker gravy)
  • Then add the meat juices from the rested joint and heat well, stirring or whisking to combine
  • Add some fresh or dried herbs such as thyme or rosemary
  • Add more water and continue to boil together rapidly until the consistency is as desired (preferably use water reserved from cooking the vegetables as this will have more flavour)
  • Taste and season with pepper, adding sweetness with a pinch of sugar if necessary.

Your gravy will probably be thinner than the instant stuff, but as long as you keep tasting it and have a good flavour, don’t worry about the thickness too much.
Keep practicing – you’ll soon become the gravy expert.

Advanced Gravy

But what if you want some gravy for sausage and mash, or haggis, neeps and tatties – you have no roasting tray and no meat juices…the answer is that you have to start with a base (i.e. onions), and some freezer store items come in very handy.

Here’s how you do it:

You will need…

  • 1 sliced onion (white or red)
  • A dash of white or red wine, or port, or brandy (or water)
  • 1 ice-cube home made beef stock (all my making stock tips are from Rose Prince and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – so check out their books) dissolved in a few tablespoons water (or a splash of concentrated store-bought stock, more if it’s diluted)
  • 1 teaspoon roast tomato puree (I have 1 tsp portions of homemade tomato puree frozen in ice cube trays for this, you could use shop-bought rather than homemade)
  • Vegetable (cooking) water – if you’re boiling potatoes, reserve some of the starchy water – this is perfect for gravy, but any other vegetable cooking water will also work
  • Pepper, dried herb (thyme or rosemary is best – you can use fresh if you have some)

Method:

  1. Fry the onion on a low-medium heat in a small frying pan with very little oil (1 tablespoon is plenty for a big onion) until soft and browned (at least 10-15 minutes to make sure it is well cooked).
  2. A few minutes before you need the gravy, turn the heat up in the pan and add the alcohol (or water) to de-glaze the pan, and reduce to a thick glaze.
  3. Add the stock and a bit of water and again reduce well on a high heat.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree and allow to bubble.
  5. Sprinkle in some freshly ground pepper and 1 tsp dried herbs.
  6. De-glaze any other frying pans with a splash of water and add this to the gravy (e.g. if you’ve been cooking sausages in a dry frying pan, it’s a good idea to get the caramelised juices from this pan into the gravy).
  7. Taste the gravy. Don’t be tempted to add salt! But test it for flavour and consistency.  As the gravy reduces on the heat, you may need to add more water – use the potato (or vegetable) cooking liquor at this stage if you can – add a few splashes at a time, checking the consistency until it is runny but not watery.
  8. Adding sugar, balsamic vinegar, pepper, more herbs, lemon juice or a very tiny splash of soy sauce can help with flavour if needed – but the more caramelised juices you can add, the less likely this will be necessary.
  9. Pour the finished onion gravy into a jug and serve.

Sausage, mash, veg and onion gravy

Pure winter comfort food:

Sausage, mash, cabbage, carrots and onion gravy!

Other options:

Have you tried cooking sausages in the oven? You can sometimes buy huge Cumberland sausage rings which work best cooked in the oven – and better on a trivet of unpeeled, halved onions. You can also try this with normal sausages – the larger the better.

Adding onions and their skins to the roasting pan gives you another flavour for enriching the gravy and enhancing the colour. Once everything is cooked, remove the sausage and onions from the roasting pan, de-glaze (as above) and then squish and work in some of the roasted onion as you make up the gravy. Roasted garlic similarly imparts a great flavour into gravy.

For roasting joints of meat, onions, garlic and carrot make a good trivet and a fantastic tasting gravy.

How to make up recipes…or…Which recipe books inspire me… 23 August 2006

Posted by cath in books, general info, Recipes.
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The recipes featured on cookalicious are often adaptations and meals that have been inspired by food I’ve eaten in restaurants and on holidays, but sometimes I get my inspiration from my many recipe books, here are some of my favourites…but note that I often use them for ideas and can’t really follow instructions and certainly don’t stick to the proposed accompaniments very often – this is partially because my Mum always insisted on having at least three or four veggies with every meal and I have grown very fond of this style of cooking, but also because I like good sized portions and many of my friends would go home hungry if I stuck to some of the recipes in the books. Nevertheless, they are valuable idea-generators and guidance for experimentation.

So here are my most valued cookbooks:

Rick Stein Seafood – great option for those unsure of cooking with fish, loads of information, illustrations, pictures and detailed techniques for preparing and cooking fish, lots of ideas that I’ve expanded on in my fish cooking.

Larousse – excellent reference book with lots of recipes which you can easily adapt to your style of cooking – not much explanation, but great for those who want to know it all and cook it their own way.

Meat by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – full of great information and some lovely recipes – lots of illustrations.

Rose Prince: the New English Kitchen – which despite the name is still pretty interesting to read in Scotland! In this book, the recipes are based around really good principles: making the most of really good quality food and caring about how it gets to our table. Food for thought as well as for eating! Lacks pictures though…

Another indispensable text is Leith’s Cookery Bible (Leith and Waldegrave) but again is lacking illustrations of the finished dishes.

So I will strive harder to illustrate cookalicious recipes, and also to get the printable recipe cards online…

New Thai Shop in Bruntsfield 20 August 2006

Posted by cath in Cooking Links, general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes, Thai food.
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I spotted another shop offering fresh Thai produce, this time in Bruntsfield Place (near the fantastic Coco of Bruntsfield chocolate shop…but that’s another story…!)
Orient Thai Market (162-164 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh) has a small selection of fresh imported Thai goods (and can do special orders on request) and a wide range of canned and dried goods. There is a small Japanese section which could also be of interest.

It looks like another good place to go and pick up some fresh Thai basil leaves, galangal (ginza) and chillies. One more thing they have on offer is a recipe card and help finding the appropriate ingredients in store, and a Thai Tourism publication which has lots of information about Thai cuisine, ingredients and some recipes.

This means it’s time for me to get typing and give you all some new thai dishes to try too….

Following recipes and other controversial topics! 5 July 2006

Posted by cath in general info, help, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes, thai curry, Thai food, thai salad, thai soups, variations.
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One thing you all should know about cooking is that it’s all about personal taste. As the cook, you get to decide what ingredients to use and what your meal should taste like. For me, recipes are just guides, offering ideas and techniques, which are then adapted to what I have, what I like, who is coming round for the meal etc.

Variety is important. Everyone can have their own special way of making things, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you’re new to cooking, you may find it hard to deviate from recipes, so here are some tips on what to think about when reading a recipe.

There has been some controversy about my Laab recipe so lets start with some thoughts about Thai salads and other Thai food…

A recent post included another recipe for Laab. The two recipes are very similar – a couple of different ingredients, including sugar in the alternate recipe, and slightly different cooking techniques.

Cooking can be a controversial topic, and you’ll find many different ingredient lists and techniques for basically the same dish – Thai food is no different. Depending what ingredients you can find, you may have to adapt and look for substitutions. Also consider where you are, what your personal tastes are, and what about your guests? My Thai cookery teacher always asked what a dish needed when we tasted it…his response was always “more chilli!” so my recipes are pretty spicy reflecting this. Having tried both spicy and less spicy (when entertaining guests) I think it’s always worth adding a little more chilli than you think, the heat really works with Thai food.

Here are some other things to think about:

I don’t like adding extra sugar when it’s not required, so I would generally only add sugar to sweet and sour and possibly shop-bought panang paste. Its all about personal taste, but here in the UK we rarely need extra salt or sugar – this is not a tropical climate! So think about who’s going to be eating your meal, and where, before chucking in any sugar…

When you’re learning to cook it’s good if you taste your food before and after adding extra ingredients. Thai food has four main layers of flavour: salt, sugar, sour and spicy. If you taste before adding fish sauce or lime juice to a dish you can see what a difference these ingredients make. In my laab recipe, mint provides sweetness, with fish sauce, chillies and lime providing their usual salt, spice and sourness. If you like extra sour, add more lime juice at the end, as discussed elsewhere, cooking lime juice reduces it’s sourness. Taste and adjust until it’s what you like, or what you think your guests will enjoy.

Kaffir lime leaves are a common enough ingredient in salad, but I am not a big fan – I prefer fresh herbs such as mint and coriander as they are more widely available locally (in the UK). Lime leaves keep well in the freezer and are a good ingredient to have on hand frozen to add to soups and curries for an extra lemony flavour. But frozen leaves don’t work quite so well chopped up in salads. If you want to try lime leaves in salads look out for fresh lime leaves and use them promptly.

Now for the most controversial topic – do we marinate the meat (albeit for just a few minutes) before cooking, or after! My recipe recommends adding flavour including lime juice to the mince before cooking, then cooking it all up. This is the recipe I was taught, but more interestingly, it is a technique I watched many times on stalls and in restaurants. Some Thai (and other regional) dishes are actually not cooked: prawns and other meats are sometimes ‘cooked’ by just marinating in lime juice – the acid in the juice ‘cooks’ the meat or fish so it’s technically no longer raw. In the case of Laab, this was always the first step, you will see the meat take on a less raw appearance as its sits in the lime juice while you prepare the rest of the dish. Cooking in this case just heats up the salad, properly cooking it where appropriate, Thai meat salads are usually served warm. Adding the hot meat to the herbs in the serving dish really brings out their aroma. Remember if you cook the meat for long, the lime juice sourness will dissipate so add some more at the end.

So: cook, taste, add the next flavour, taste again…this is the best way to learn and adapt to your palette and to understand the effect of making substitutions.

Herbs: The Windowsill Garden 8 June 2006

Posted by cath in general info, herbs, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes.
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I love cooking with herbs, fresh, fragrant, delicious. I used to be forever going to the grocers and other shops hunting for bunches of fresh mint, basil, oregano, bay leaves, chives, in fact most herbs…

Herbs

My Windowsill Herb Garden

Bay tree

The Kitchen Bay Tree

 

…Not any longer! Now I grow my own herbs on the windowsill. Well, to be more accurate it is a table by the window and I still don't have corriander or oregano, but it has revolutionised cooking and taking care of, snipping and using the homegrown herbs is a great feeling.

Now I was suspicious at first, after all, growing herbs indoors seemed a bit lame…but I live in a sunny flat and I've always wanted to give it a go. I've gradually built up the collection but now have several basil plants, some mint and chives grown from splitting and repotting "growing herbs" from the Coop, and some plants from Dobbies (Garden Centre): a largish pot of garden mint, a small black peppermint plant, thyme, lemon thyme, marjoram, rosemary and parsley. In the kitchen I've also got my Bay tree and some chives.

All the herbs are a couple of months old now, and they are all doing very well. For the small expense at the garden centre, I've got more herbs than I need and they are growing strongly. Even my attempts to repot individual basil and mint plants from the shops has been a massive success. We've had plenty of basil for tomato sauces, cheese sandwiches and other pasta and vegetable dishes…we've also been drinking up plenty of fresh mint tea in the evenings and have made mint sauce and Laab (thai salad) with the growing mint too. In fact, the more I use the herbs, the more they grow…it's been a real time and money saver all in all, and a very tasty one too!

Where to grow them 

I grow most of the herbs in a sunny (south facing) window of a small room – door closed most of the time, it's my personal greenhouse. The room is not draughty at all and gets quite hot in the summer sun.

The bay tree is happy in the kitchen, again by the window, although this is a North North West (ish!) facing window , it does get some evening sunshine, but only a touch – and it's loving it there where there is plenty of light. It has been growing like mad.

Growing Herbs anyone? 

If you tend to buy pots of growing herbs, I would recommend getting them out of those poky wee pots and splitting up the best seedlings into larger pots of compost, 3 or 4 basil plants to a pot, more for mint or chives. I usually stick all the weedier seedlings back in the original pot and use them first, giving the better plants a chance to develop. When you're cropping the plants, remove a whole stem, say above the first two leaves…the plant literally grows two stems where you cut one off, so you should have loads of herbs within weeks. Basil and mint have worked particularly well as I use them most often. Of course you have to feed the plants once in a while, I've been recomended Tomorite and will be watering them with a weak solution once a week.

Get growing your own herbs too! 

Even if you don't have green-fingers, this is definately something to try. Start off with some growing basil or nip down to the garden centre and try it yourself. Highly recommended by the cookalicious tasters!

Printing Problems 27 May 2006

Posted by cath in general info, help, printing, Recipes.
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WordPress and Firefox do not seem to like each other enough to print these recipes. Thanks to a few requests I am going to start doing something about that.

Starting with Chocolate Crispy Cakes (not very healthy but very, very good!). More will follow.

See the Printable versions of cookalicious recipes here.

All about making Bread 12 May 2006

Posted by cath in bread, freeze-friendly, general info, help, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients.
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InformationWith easy to use, dried yeast sachets, everyone can make great bread at home. The only other things you’ll need are: a quality stoneground strong bread flour (White, Wholewheat, Granary or a mixture), salt, sugar, butter or oil and water. You can add seeds, nuts, curry pastes, dried fruits, herbs, anything you like really to the basic dough.

Loaf of Bread

Homemade, Stoneground White Bread with Pumpkin and Sesame Seeds

At the moment I’m using a very good bread machine (Panasonic, Sd-253) – although, you may be surprised that I don’t cook my bread in the machine. I use the dough only programs. Bread looks much better and gets a lovely crispy crust if you bake it in a bread tin the oven – no matter how you make the dough.

Making Bread Dough…
If you want to make your own bread dough, there are several options:

  1. You can knead it by hand – this is actually not hard to do as you have to be rough with bread so as long as you give it a good 15 minutes of stretching, folding, turning, thumping, squishing, rolling and whatever else you like, it should be fairly happy.
  2. You can use a dough tool or hook in a food processor – simply add the dough mix, along with water at room-temperature (this is crucial) to the processor and letting it knead the bread for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Use a bread machine – in this case you are best to follow the instructions in the guide book. Some machines offer a dough-only option, so you can set them up to make the dough for you whilst you’re at work. The machines include resting periods, kneading and the dough can be left in the machine to rise slowly after the program has finished.

Of course, in the bread machine, you can just let the bread bake as well. However, adding the extra prooving and maturing time, and turning the bread out to bake in the oven produces a far superior result.

The longer prooving time gives a better texture and you may be surprised at the weight and substantial feel of the resulting loaf.

Tip # 1: Let dough rise slowly, you can proove bread dough at room temperature, or even in the fridge overnight.

Preparing for baking…
Once you’re satisfied with the prooving, it’s time to knock the dough back – this just means to pummel and throw it about a little to remove all the air bubbles, then kneading again a little. It only takes about 5 minutes and if using a machine to make the dough, that’s all the hard work there is!

You then simply shape the bread into a fat sausage, put it in the bread tin and dust with seeds (optional) and a bit of flour.

Leave the bread to rise and fit into the tin – usually you want it to double in size. The rate at which this happens depends on the temperature, but leaving it for a few hours at room temperature in the kitchen is usually sufficient.

Pre-heat the oven to a very hot temperature, 210 deg C on my extra hot fan oven seems to do the trick (up to 230 deg C in an electric oven). Place the bread in the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes.

It should be brown, cripy, and fall out of the tin when ready. To check it’s cooked through, tap the base – it should sound hollow. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Tip # 2: Put a tray of water in the base of the oven to improve the loaf crust during baking.

A timetable for making bread…
Option 1: Start making this bread in the morning, place ingredients in the bread machine, start and leave to make Dough but not bake the bread. Get on with the day’s activities. In the afternoon/evening turn out the risen dough onto a floured (use strong bread flour) worktop. Knock the dough back, shape and place in a lightly oiled bread tin. Leave, uncovered on the worktop (away from draughts) for about 1-2 hours. Pre-heat the oven, bake for roughly 30 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack overnight. Perfect for eating in the morning.

Option 2: Start making this bread in the afternoon/evening, place ingredients in the bread machine, start and leave to make Dough but not bake the bread. In a few hours, the dough will be ready. Turn out into a large bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight. Remove the risen dough first thing in the morning and allow to warm up a little. Turn out onto a floured (use strong bread flour) worktop. Knock the dough back, shape and place in a lightly oiled bread tin. Leave, uncovered on the worktop (away from draughts) for about 1-2 hours. Pre-heat the oven, bake for roughly 30 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting. The bread should be ready to eat by lunchtime.

Other options: The bread can be left to rise for longer in the fridge – for example overnight and the next day. Make sure you use a large bowl to allow the bread plenty of room to expand.

Storing Bread…

Homemade bread does not keep fresh for long periods like store-bought sliced loaves. Wholemeal breads tend to go stale quicker than white breads as well. Best to store them in a bread bin. I also use a cotton bread bag to store bread inside the bin. The crust will soften after storage, which is why leaving it out overnight to cool keeps the crust crisp. Once cut into, bread will quickly stale.

Freezing bread is a good option. Freezing a whole loaf is a good idea if you eat a lot of bread. Freezing slices is better if you only need the odd bit. The slices defrost quickly or can even be toasted straight from the freezer.

Another option is to refresh your bread from the tin. Wrap in foil and place in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes to recrisp the crust and improve the texture of bread that has softened and begun to stale. Of course, slightly stale bread toasts well. Also use up stale bread by processing to crumbs and storing in the freezer – can be used in many recipes.

Recommended Flours

Wholemeal Flourspacer.gifGranary Flour

Tip # 3: Look out for stoneground bread flours from local mills, the flour is much more nutritious and produces high quality, nutty flavoured bread.

How much bread to make?

One 400g (weight of flour in dough) loaf makes a medium loaf easily makes 4, two-slice sandwiches, and several slices of toast or some breadcrumbs.

I usually make 1 loaf on Monday for lunchtime sandwiches Tuesday/Wednesday and possibly Thursday. Then to for a change, I’ll buy a loaf from the market on a Saturday morning (usually Sourdough as that’s a challenge I have still to face in breadmaking!)

You can make larger loaves, just the same method – maybe adding a little extra cooking time for a very large loaf.

Alternatively, make a large batch of dough and use it to make 1 loaf and a number of small rolls (shape, allow to proove again and bake for around 10 minutes in the oven). The extra dough for the rolls can also be kept in the freezer until required before prooving and baking. Similarly, made dough for loaves can be frozen until required.

Tip # 4: Cold and frozen dough will take much longer to proove. It needs to warm up to room temperature first before it really starts to increase in size. This just means a longer wait, which is why you may prefer to bake and then freeze any extra bread for use another day. If you are using frozen dough, take it out of the freezer in plenty of time – defrosting it and bringing it up to room temperature may take up to 24hrs.

Warning: Once you’ve started making bread, nothing you can buy in the supermarkets will ever be good enough again! However, you can get good quality baked bread from small bakeries, farmers markets and health food shops as well, so you don’t have to bake all the time!