Archives for posts with tag: bread

There was an open invitation to lunch at my flat last Sunday. The invite was worded something along these lines: “Harriet will cook. There will be food, the oven will be turned on, and Holy Crap, she will even make a trip to the market AND supermarket.” The occasion was so momentous it required me to refer to myself in the third person. I couldn’t quite believe I would enter my kitchen to do anything more than pour a bowl of cereal.

But it happened! I went to the market for fresh produce – even in the rain – enjoying the green of the spring vegetables. The people looked a little damp and and the market was quieter than usual but the vegetables looked fresh and bright. There is not a lot in the way of new season fruit at the moment – a few punnets of pale strawberries, early stone fruit yet to become juicy and fragrant and the last of the winter’s apples, their skins a little waxy from storage, but the vegetables are at their prime. Crisp asparagus spears, beautiful lettuce heads like open flowers, baby new potatoes, freshly dug, with their clear skins shining beneath the dark earth.

I wanted a simple Sunday lunch, one with easy ingredients, but one that still required actual cooking and preparation of food. I wanted to cook, to slowly put things together, to enjoy being in the kitchen. I planned my menu – a snacking sort of affair – with every recipe from Skye Gyngell’s book How I cook. This beautiful book is the latest addition to my cookbook shelf, a birthday gift from Ollie and Jason, so it is quite appropriate that Ollie was there to sample the first recipes.

Menu du jour:

Strawberries and grapes in a lemon ginger syrup
Pulled bread
Oeufs en cocotte
Lemon and poppy seed cake

I made the lemon and poppy seed cake first. Normally I avoid bagels and cakes and sandwiches with poppy seeds, preferring the stronger flavour of sea salt or herbs for savoury foods, and afraid of spending all day smiling with black dots between my teeth. But with poppy seeds on hand, I took a leap of faith, trusting Skye Gyngell’s recipe.

But a lemon cake should only be a lemon cake, I feel. The soft sweet-sharp of lemons is enough for me. It needs no crunch, or contrast in texture, no adjustment in any sense. The only crunch I like is the smallest shatter beneath teeth of a lemon juice and sugar crust.

I stand by my aversion to poppy seeds but if you enjoy this marriage then Skye’s recipe is light and moist, ideal for breakfast or afternoon tea. The cake is iced in How I Cook, but to pour a lemon sugar syrup over a cake fresh from the oven is the loveliest way to dress a cake.

Diced strawberries and halved red grapes in a ginger citrus juice were my own addition to the menu – a reminder to myself that fruit need not boring, or simply eat-in-hand. I sometimes forget that fruit, like many things, with the simplest of tinkering can be made better, can be made to sing.

The pulled bread is a recipe I am most pleased to have in my repertoire now, and to share here. Like this beer bread it comes together in a matter of minutes and is the ideal base for all sorts of extras – sweet and savoury. Cinnamon sugar woven throughout, or berry jam – sticky and concentrated in flavour – are ideas I’d like to try. Sun-dried tomatoes or black olives – strong and salty – would give this quick bread a little extra zing. Without these additions the bread is perfectly good; dense and with a good crust, it’s a mop-up-sauce, dip-in-soup, soldiers-in-eggs sort of bread.

Which brings us to our next course: oeufs en cocotte. I had been vaguely aware of this dish for a while, either known to me as oeufs en cocotte or baked eggs, I’m not too sure, but it wasn’t until I watched Rachel Khoo make oeufs en cocotte in tea cups did they jump from the periphery to the fore-front of my thoughts. Khoo used creme fraiche in her oeufs en cocotte, Gyngell, double cream. Possibly I went out on a whim, but yoghurt, strangely, was the link between each course of my Sunday lunch. I chose to use a generous dollop of thick Greek yoghurt in each teacup, atop buttered spinach, a few torn basil leaves and strips of prosciutto de parma (from Big Bad Wolf!).

The yoghurt cooked up beautifully, warm and salty and a bit like cottage cheese. Oeufs en cocotte is one of those dishes where the ingredients are so simple and so good in their natural state that it seems unlikely for anything overly wonderful to happen after 10 minutes in the oven, but that is probably why magic does indeed happen here.

Skye Gyngell’s Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

The recipe calls for a 20x11cm loaf tin – I need a bigger loaf tin so made my cake in a 20cm diameter cake tin. Apart from the lemon sugar syrup I poured over the hot cake, and the choice of tin, this recipe is unchanged from the original. Perhaps half milk, half yoghurt would be a good idea next time, and lemon juice added to the batter.

115 grams unsalted butter
175 grams caster sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
35 grams poppy seeds
275 grams plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
230ml whole milk
4 large egg whites


juice of 2 lemons
2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line a 20cm cake or loaf tin with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and smooth. Add lemon zest, vanilla and poppy seeds, then sift flour and baking powder together over the mixture. Stir a couple of times, then pour in the milk and briefly stir again.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until soft peaks form. Fold a third into the batter using a metal spoon, then slowly fold in the rest of the egg whites.

Spoon the mixture into prepared tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. While the cake is baking mix the syrup ingredients together until most of the sugar has dissolved. Once the cake is removed from the oven pour over the syrup while cake is still in tin. Leave to soak in for several minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Cake best served warm.

Skye Gyngell’s Pulled Bread

This recipe was barely adapted from the original, save for an egg yolk wash and an extra scattering of rock salt on top before baking.

450 grams plain white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
375ml milk

1 egg yolk plus a dash of water (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 220°C. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk. Using one hand scoop the flour and milk around the bowl until a dough forms – the dough should be soft but not wet or sticky.

Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and knead lightly for a couple of seconds. Shape the dough into a long sausage, bend in the middle and loosely weave together. Make the egg wash by combining the yolk with a small amount of water.

Place dough on a baking sheet and brush egg wash over the dough. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes before reducing temperature to 200°C, then bake for a further 15 minutes. The bread should be golden on the outside and when given a tap with your knuckles should sound hollow.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool, but serve slightly warm with salted butter.

Skye Gyngell’s Oeufs en cocotte

Instead of a tablespoon of double cream in each ramekin, I used a tablespoon of thick Greek yoghurt placed on top of the spinach and beneath the egg. I also reduced by half the amount of parma ham, so 4 slices instead of 8, due to the size of my ramekins/tea cups.

200 grams spinach
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
knob of butter
a few torn basil leaves
4 slices of prosciutto de parma, or similar
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons thick Greek yoghurt
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
50 grams Parmesan cheese, grated

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Thoroughly wash the spinach leaves and drain well. Place a large dry pan over a low heat and add the spinach. Cook briefly until the spinach has just wilted. Set aside until the spinach is cold enough to handle, then using kitchen towels squeeze all excess moisture from the spinach.

Place the blanched spinach in a frying pan with the knob of butter and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among the four ramekins then add the basil leaves. Place a dollop of yoghurt in each ramekin or teacup. Arrange parma ham on top of yoghurt, then a small grating of nutmeg. Crack an egg into each ramekin, and finish with a small amount of grated Parmesan cheese.

Place the ramekins in a roasting dish and pour hot water to come two-thirds up the sides of the dishes. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the egg whites have set and the yolks are to your liking.

Lift the ramekins out of the bain marie and dry off. Serve on a plate with bread cut for dipping into yolks.

Serves 4.


Meet Charlie, the latest addition to our flat. With him he has brought bread recipes, plans for ice cream making and biscuit baking. This is a good place to live. Here, he kneads hazelnut and walnut bread. I’ve written about fruit bread here before. I could write about fruit bread several times over; there are many moments and words for fruit bread. But now I turn to nut bread: savoury dough wrapped around hazelnuts and walnuts. We do not want fine sprinkles of nuts here, the sort you would top icecream with, but whole nuts barely cracked under the blade of a knife or the heel of a hand so their sweet oil perfumes the bread.

Charlie and I first made this bread several months ago, well before he parked his motorbike out front and claimed the downstairs room. We thought we both have a similar approach to cooking (a sort of wing it and hope approach): we should cook together.Work schedules forced our cooking date to late afternoon. Soup, we decided, and bread, were appropriate at this hour; light and warming for an early supper. We roasted mushrooms and pumpkin, the dark wrinkly undersides of the mushrooms becoming more rich and velvet like in the oven. Charlie made a broth of stock, herbs from our garden, carrot, red onion and a half head of garlic. It was all very pleasant – a slowly simmering broth on the stove, vegetables roasting, the pumpkin almost caramelising, while Charlie and I drank coffee and talked cocktails. (Charlie is a bartender by night, at this fine establishment. He is a good person to know.)The soup was everything good soups should be, but it is the bread I wanted to share. Charlie began making the bread earlier in the day, transporting the rising loaf in a big courier bag. It’s a nut bread he said, hazelnuts and walnuts. It’s also, he confessed, an Australian Masterchef recipe. We don’t discriminate when it comes to good bread, though. He became animated as he spoke, more than he usually is. In the oven, under the baking bread, he told me, is an oven tray with a few ice cubes, and as the ice melts it creates steam so the bread gets a good crust. It should be kick-ass good is what I believe he said next.

As it turned out, this bread needed a bit more tweaking. But there were good things going on here: it’s sweet and salty and when the nuts are still warm from the oven they are silky and smooth. The wholemeal flour is nubbly and more satisfying than regular white, something to sink your teeth in to.

The bread is perfect for soup as the nuts add a richness that negates the need for butter. Though, as a lover of butter, I slathered some on for good measure. This bread is versatile and easy enough for butter and jam, perhaps toasted and dunked in coffee. It could hold more oil and be rubbed in dukkah. It would make a fine sandwich, pehaps with hot mustards and smoky cured meats.Last week we made this bread again, determined to get it right this time. We did. It rose perfectly in the way that yeasted dough does – with a slight spring beneath your teeth and the tiniest of air pockets, but there remains a density. (Maybe Charlie would like to explore sourdough starters…?) The nuts spread throughout and when sliced, slivers of walnuts and cross-cuts of round hazelnuts form strata in the bread. And the crust really was kick-ass good.

Hazelnut and Walnut Bread

Adapted from here. One hour before baking pre-heat oven to 220°C.

200 grams wholemeal flour
200 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons dried active yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
335ml lukewarm water
75 grams hazelnuts, lightly crushed
75 grams walnuts, lightly crushed

Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Fill a small bowl with 100ml of the lukewarm water and stir in the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes or until frothy. Make a well in the centre of the flours then add the yeast mixture and the remaining lukewarm water. Mix well with your hands until a dough forms. Add more water, a teaspoon at a time, if mixture is too dry or more flour if too wet. Clean the bowl with the dough then turn dough onto a floured surface.

Knead dough for 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and the ‘skin’ begins to tear. Push dough into a large rectangle and sprinkle with the nuts. Roll together and knead a few more times until the nuts are spread throughout the dough.

Place dough back in the bowl and leave, covered, in a warm place for 1 hour. Every 20 minutes knock back the dough by rolling it away from you with 5 to 6 strokes. After an hour knead the dough again for a few minutes and shape into a loaf. Place loaf on a greased and lined baking tray. Cover the baking tray and leave in warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours until doubled in bulk. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C at this stage.

Once doubled in bulk make 3 slashes in the top of the loaf with a sharp or serrated knife and place in the oven. Throw a half dozen ice cubes in an oven tray and quickly place underneath the bread or at the bottom of the oven. Immediately turn oven down to 200°C and bake for 25 minutes. Set oven door ajar with a wooden spoon and bake for another 5 minutes to dry the bread out.

Fruit bread holds a certain healing power in my mind. It must be heavily spiced and laden with fruit. These sorts of breads, whether buns or loaves, speak of comfort and cups of tea, a sunday afternoon wrapped in a blanket watching movies. A few weeks ago I received two text messages in less than a hour from friends telling me how their days had been improved, or could be improved, with fruit toast. Not even chocolate has the same capacity to bring such homely comfort.

It may seem I have missed my opportunity for spiced fruit bread immediately after Easter when I am sure many of us have eaten our fill of hot cross buns. Though, in saying that, I could live on spiced fruit bread. Every Easter I gorge myself on hot cross buns. I can’t get enough. Cut in half and toasted, slathered with butter and jam. Or heated in the microwave with thin slices of butter already inside the bun so the slightly salted butter melts within the bread. I like the hot cross buns that are so loaded with fruit and candied peel they appear almost undercooked and soggy.

Hot cross buns come and go so quickly, like other autumnal delights – feijoas, quince, radish. When Easter is over I wonder why hot cross buns aren’t available year round, knowing full well that hot cross buns hold such magic only because of their brief appearance. But dried fruit embedded in heavily spiced bread can be eaten any time of year. Think of this raisin bread as a hair of the dog type treatment to get us over Easter, and if you are this way inclined, this bread may keep you going until next year’s buns roll around.

Lois Daish’s raisin bread is from her beautiful book A Good Year. This is a book I have written about before; a book that appears rather plain until you start flicking through and realise you could quite easily make every recipe. It is a book I turn to often, sometimes just to read, because not only are the recipes wonderful, so are the words which describe them.

Daish makes this raisin bread in April which is rather fitting, not only for its Easter connotations but we are also just beginning to get cold here. The leaves are starting to change and the wind has a bite to it. The next time it rains the gutters will flood, the water bursting its dried-leaf banks. It is a nice time of year to make bread.

There is something quite special about making bread, coaxing the dough along, keeping it safe and warm, only then to knead and pummel it, lovingly so, but pummel it nonetheless. Bread making is a soothing process and the home-maker in me revels in it.

There is also something in the taste of home made bread, something quite different to store-bought or bakery bread. The yeast taste is a bit like the malty, hoppy after taste of home brewed ginger beer. The yeast has some weight to it, it seems to anchor all the other flavours of the bread, sort of rounding them out. I imagine yeast to be like the little baker within the bread, kneading and pushing all the actors together, the flour, spices, currants and sultanas, rallying the troups so to speak. I guess that’s the role of yeast in any baking but the flavour of the home baked variety is lovely.

I took two thick slices to eat on my way to work the other day. They barely fit in the toaster but crisped up wonderfully. It was the perfrect start to my day. I thought about texting my friends about my bread, but it was not yet 7am. Even in the name of fruit bread, that might have been too much.

Thank you dear Georgie for the lovely photographs.

Lois Daish’s Raisin Bread
Adapted from A Good Year

The original recipe made two loaves so I halved the quantities but added more spices and more dried fruit. Next time I will add even more, perhaps some candied peel too. Daish made her bread in an electric mixer, using dough hooks and beaters but I do love hand kneading.

2 tablespoons Surebake yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup milk
85 grams butter, cut into thin slices
1 egg
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
425 grams high grade white flour
1 to 1.5 cups raisins, currants or sultanas (or a mixture of these)

To Glaze:
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl and set aside for about 10 minutes. Put the milk in a pot and heat unitl lukewarm. Pour the milk into a large bowl, add the chopped butter. When the butter has almost melted add the egg, sugar, salt, spices and yeast mixture. Whisk to combine. Add about half of the flour and continue to whisk until a smooth batter forms. Add the remaining flour and the dried fruit, mix until just combined then turn onto a lightly floured bench. Knead until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp towel and place somewhere warm to rise for 3 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured bench and lightly knead. Form dough into an oblong shape and place in a large buttered loaf tin. Cover the loaf tin with the damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. While the dough rises preheat the oven to 220°C. Put the risen loaf in the oven. After 15 minutes, lower the heat to 190°C and bake for a further 25 minutes or until the loaf is deeply browned. (I covered my loaf in tin foil for the last 5 minutes.)

While the bread is baking make the glaze by heating the milk then stir through the sugar until dissolved. Remove the bread from the oven, tip onto a cooling rack and brush on the glaze.

Eat fresh or toasted. This loaf freezes well and can be toasted straight from the freezer.

Saturday night, before a friend’s birthday, our friend Megan came over for a quick supper. The pressure was on for this birthday to look our very best. I cannot offer a particularly lush wardrobe to my friends, but I can feed them. Saturday night I wanted something warming, homely (and with stomach lining qualities…)

I was given a few bottles of beer which I thought would make for better cooking projects than for drinking. I made a beef, tomato and beer casserole in the crockpot which simmered away all afternoon. I used another bottle of beer to make beer bread to eat with the stew.

The recipe comes from Jo Seagar’s book You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble, darling. It is a wonderful quick bread with a lovely soft mealy flavour. The yeast in the beer acts as a rising agent, eliminating the kneading and time spent waiting for the dough to rise. The mixture can be in the pan, in the oven in less than 10 minutes. You could probably wipe the bench in this time too.

The bread can be made with a variety of flours, or jazzed up slightly with a stuffing: fill the tin half with the dough then add a layer of onion jam, or spinach, or pitted olives, or roasted capsicums then top with the remaining mixture.

On Sunday evening, after a long day working at Toast Martinborough, I made a toasted sandwich with sliced beer bread, some leftover beef from the casserole which I shredded with a fork and grated cheese. Perfect end to a busy weekend.

Beer Bread

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 can/bottle of beer, made up to 500ml with water
1 handful grated cheese

Heat oven to 200°C. Quickly mix all ingredients together until just combined. Sprinkle extra grated cheese on top and paprika. Or sea salt, or rosemary, or sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Place in a greased 10x20cm loaf tin for 1 hour. (If you use a 8x15cm tin bake for 35-40 minutes.

When I lived in France I didn’t really live the culinary dream many expected. I didn’t dine on foie gras or steak frites or cassoulet each day, drink a bottle of Bordeaux or Burgundy each night, and buy new cheeses and interesting cuts of meat from the market each week. I did most of my own cooking and would sometimes spend 3 days living on porridge, or bread and butter, or pumpkin soup for lunch and dinner.  I rarely ate meat, mostly tofu, in fact I practically became a vegetarian.

But there were wonderful meals during trips away to my friend’s auberge, or the confit du canard we treated ourselves to during a cold December weekend in Paris. There was Christmas in Wales with the most enormous turkey and a celebratory New Year’s dinner in Barcelona with Rioja and tomato bread and octopus. There were thick winter stews and a citrus, slightly tangy, cheese-cake strudel dessert at a tavern in Innsbruck, Austria.

Then, towards the end of my travels around France I spent nearly a month living and working with two different French couples in the south-west region of France. For the first two weeks I lived on the outskirts of a small town south of Bordeaux called Pissos with Marie Hélène and Christoph. They live on pancake flat land surrounded by pine forest stretching to the horizons. They have a small river near their property where they catch trout, and make beignets from the blossom of elderflower trees hanging over the river banks. They have chickens and pigeons which cluck and coo all day, fly at the windows and have even been known to come inside the house.

The kitchen is the centre of their home. It is an eclectic kitchen with benches of different surfaces and different heights, apothecary style jars sitting on shelves holding home-made herbal teas and their “pantry” is spread throughout the house in a beautiful collection of old chests and cupboards and sideboards. But the most impressive part of the kitchen, indeed the whole house, is the 180 year old  fireplace. It is framed by a stone wall and has a white piece of lace fabric hanging around the top edges. It has a grill nestled in the bottom and a bar above the flames for hanging pots.

I ate very well during my two weeks with Marie Hélène and Christoph; Marie is an amazing cook. I was helping Marie in her organic vegetable garden so everyday we had a an apéro hour of fresh radishes, or peas still in their pods, or baby carrots. We came home from the garden around 1 o’clock for lunch which was nearly always accompanied by a bottle of wine and fresh bread. One day lunch was a whole roast chicken (complete with innards and gizzards….) with home-made fries, another day it was fish baked in the outdoor fire, or roast pork and crispy sauteed new potatoes, or chunky andouillette sausages. Every meal was followed by coffee and, maybe yoghurt. The yoghurt was made in Germany and sold by Marie’s friend at the market; it was the smoothest, creamiest, most flavoursome yoghurt I think I have ever tasted.

Every meal was memorable but one which I can most easily recreate here in my humble kitchen is the lentil salad. One day Marie Hélène rose early to cook a large pot of lentils. Before lunch she mixed through whatever she had on hand and fresh produce from her garden: tomatoes, feta, onions, chopped radish, garlic, fresh herbs and pieces of beautiful, sweet and slightly smoky cured Spanish style ham. We ate it outdoors in the sun at a table with a blue floral pattern cloth.

My lentil salad had a spring twist with asparagus and zucchini sauteed with lemon zest and juice and a pinch of chilli flakes. I used canned lentils and tossed through capers, diced tomato, cubes of Parmesan, though feta would have been nicer, small strips of bacon and slightly caramelised red onion. Shake a dressing together with olive oil, lemon juice, a crushed garlic clove, a teaspoon of mustard, salt and pepper. Then let the flavours mellow and soften together for a while.

My lentil salad was more a topping to go with a leafy green salad but if I added one or two more cans of lentils this could have been a meal on its own. A torn piece of baguette or ciabatta drizzled in olive oil and lightly toasted would have been perfect with it. In the winter add cooked lentils to a warm roast vegetable salad with some spicy chorizo sausage; wonderful for eating seasonally.

Summer is taking its own sweet time reaching us here in Wellington. I may not be able to recreate spring time in France sitting at an outdoor table surrounded by pine trees, blue skies and plentiful wine, but I do plan to coax summer forward with strawberries and Pimm’s and good, good salad.