Wednesday, 26 August 2009


They say bread is the staff of it must be important right? Well, it's important to me. Bread seems to have become my new obsession. I'm fascinated by it, every last detail - from the combining of ingredients, to the magic that happens when the dough is fermenting, to the unrivalled joy and satisfaction when you watch it rise even further in the oven and become a loaf that is a result of your own it well crafted or not!! Perfection in baking bread is not necessarily what I aim for. Obviously the end result is far more satisfying if the soft inside is light and tasty, and your bread has risen and baked properly (without the dreaded flying crust, or a dense heavy bread), but I think bread tastes better if it looks a little...rustic, shall we say? There's so much more enjoyment in eating home made bread than mass-produced rubbish, and I quite like it when I can tell that it is the product of hands rather than machines. Those imperfections make it all the better for me!

I was given the River Cottage Handbook for Bread a few days ago, and between that and The Wolseley book (Yes!! I now own a real live copy of Mr. Gill's beautiful book!) I've pretty much disappeared into a black hole of food writing over the last week or so. It's fascinating to learn why ingredients do what they do when you mix them together, rather than blindly following a recipe and hoping for the best! The River Cottage Handbook in particular is a really detailed account, it goes into the minutiae of breadmaking, which inevitably leads to the reader's bread being all the better for it!
I have to admit, that although I have baked bread before, plenty of times, I've never known why each step in the process is important. I've never known what makes one loaf wildly different from another, or in fact, one loaf much better than another - so thank you Daniel Stevens for writing such a brilliant and informative book!! The book also has far more steps for making bread than your run-of-the-mill bread recipes from chefs who don't specialise in breadmaking, which make a world of difference, and I thoroughly recommend taking the time to incorporate them when you make bread (which I really really really hope you do, when you taste it you'll wonder why you never made home-made bread earlier, I promise!!).

I decided to start simple, a wholemeal dough enough for two loaves - one plain, and the other coated in oats. And my oh my, putting the extra effort in and taking those extra steps really did make this bread stand apart from loaves I've baked before. Daniel Stevens differentiates between fermenting, rising, and proving, which I had never come across before (most recipes just say 'prove') and recommends letting the dough rise for a further two or three times after the first fermentation, so that your dough becomes more pillowy with a satin-like feel to it, and this really did make for a much lighter and softer bread.
So here is the recipe and method, bear with me, it's rather long, but trust me, it's worth it!!

For two large loaves:
1kg flour
600-650ml tepid water
20g salt
10g yeast
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp runny honey
Mix the flour, water, salt, yeast and honey to a loose dough, then add the oil and squidge together. This will be quite sticky, but don't worry, it will become less so with kneading.
Knead for about 15 minutes until you can stretch it as thin as a pair of tights.
Oil a bowl and the top of the dough and leave to ferment in the bowl wrapped in a bin bag until it has doubled in size.
Take out the dough and press the air out gently with your fingers. You can leave to rise again another 2 or 3 times to make the dough softer and pillowy.
Press with your fingers again to push the air out.
Shape the loaves.
Coat in anything you fancy!!
Preheat your oven to maximum temperature and place your baking tray and a tray that will hold some water at the bottom of the oven.
Leave to prove until almost doubled in size and when you give the loaves a gentle squeeze they bounce back.
Slash the tops and spray with water.
Place on the baking tray and pour some some water from the kettle into the tray at the bottom of the oven then place the loaves in the oven on the top temperature for 10 minutes.
If the loaves have browned quickly, turn the oven down to 170 degrees and bake for a further 40 minutes. If they are a pale brown, turn the oven to 190 degrees and bake for 40 minutes.
Tap the bottom of the loaves with your knuckles, if they sound hollow, they're done. For a harder crust, you can leave them in the oven a little longer.

After all that time and effort, I wanted a quick and easy dessert...which just so happened to involve more bread...I'm a woman obsessed!! Summer pudding is such an easy pudding, and really, it's not summer until you've made one! I hate to waste food, so this is a great pudding as it prefers slightly stale bread, and you can chuck in any summer fruits you happen to have.

Summer Pudding

600g mixed berries
100g caster sugar
100ml water
8-10 slices white bread

Line a bowl (this recipe makes enough for about an 800ml bowl) with cling film - have two sheets crossing each other so you have the cling film in a sort of X shape.
Put the berries, sugar and water in a pan, and cook for a few minutes until the fruit is tender.
Remove the fruit, and reserve all the juice.
Cut your bread into rectangles, and dip into the juice before lining the bowl with them.
Put the berries into the lined bowl and then fold over the bread to create a lid, or if your bread isn't long enough, just place more soaked slices on top.
Fold over the cling film sheets fairly tightly so that the pudding firms up in a good shape in the fridge.
Ideally leave it in the fridge overnight...but we're too impatient so a few hours in the fridge will do!!

Enjoy your summer in a bowl!!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A Pork Epiphany

I'm feeling very peaceful and relaxed now after a week of frantic organisation, diligent preparation and thorough enjoyment at the end of it all! So I've finally found time to sit down and write a post to update you on all the delicious food we've been indulging in! Unfortunately, due to being a bit of a whirling dirvish while cooking the pork, I completely forgot to take any photos, and was too interested in eating it when it was ready. So you'll have to trust me when I say how fabulous it was, and try it for yourselves! I did however remember to take some pictures of the cake, so enjoy!

It's been a flurry of birthday celebrations in the Colehill Kitchen this past week, and a birthday is not a good birthday without good food! I'm a firm believer in enjoying food as part of a celebration. I don't feel like it's been a real occasion unless the kitchen is brimming with ingredients and a medley of delicious smells has been emanating from it all day. This time there were aromas of chocolate (of course!!) and baking, as well as roasting pork, garlic and onions, balsamic vinegar and herbs galore!! It was quite a feast and began the week in true decadence!

Thanks to these birthday celebrations, I've had an epiphany about pork. I never thought I liked pork really. I always found it a little dull compared to other meats, and quite often dry and chewy, as well as finding crackling a complete and utter anti-climax.

How wrong I was.

We had the MOST beautiful pork loin from our local butcher (The Parson's Nose on Fulham Road if you're interested, which you really should be if you live nearby, their meat is phenomenal!). I asked for it boned and rolled, which the butcher did right there in front of me in a matter of minutes, quite an impressive sight, let me tell you! I hurried on home to cook it, and stuffed it with a rustic herby stuffing from Jamie Oliver's website ( which I tweaked a little. I don't often use his recipes, but this one was a real winner, beautiful tasting stuffing that complimented the pork perfectly. Obviously we had to have roast potatoes with it, and then some steamed brocolli for a bit of goodness!! And to finish, a chocolate mud cake with mascarpone cream. I know, restrained wasn't I?

I had a complete meltdown with the mudcake. I had arrived home from work after a nightmare-ish journey, and a frantic dash to the shop to get the ingredients, and was baking up a storm in a frazzled state, just finishing adding the chocolate mix to the rest of the mix, about ready to put it into the tins, when I happened to look around and see an unopened bag of caster sugar sitting next to me. Bugger. In my manic state, I had completely forgotten to add the sugar to the flour mix. What to do? Well, I decided to just add it to the melted chocolate and continue pouring this into the rest. The recipe said to put the sugar in with the dry ingredients, but the cake turned out so well, I'm sticking to my accidental method now!!

We've been indulging in delicious delights for quite a few days now - it's probably time to reign it in a bit... but before I do, let me share with you these recipes that I've been using during the celebrations!

Roast pork with herb stuffing

Pork loin, off the bone
500g rustic bread
small handful picked Rosemary
2 red onions, finely sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
3 heaped tblsp fennel seeds
sea salt and black pepper
handful pinenuts
4 tblsp balsamic vinegar
generous drizzle of olive oil

Throw it all in a mixing bowl and toss so that the oil and vinegar cover everything, then stuff into the pork. This makes quite a lot of stuffing, but try and get as much under the pork as possible, trust me, you'll thank me when it's cooked!! Then score the skin thickly and rub with sea salt to make extra crispy crackling!

I had a 3.4 lb piece of pork, the general rule is 20 minutes per pound plus 20-30 minutes, but I cooked mine for about an hour and a quarter at 180 degrees and it was perfect. Then let it rest for 20 minutes so that it's really juicy and tender when you eat it.

Roast potatoes

Maris piper potatoes
Vegeatable/sunflower oil

Boil the potatoes until the outsides are soft, drain and put back in the pan.
Hold a lid over the top and shake the pan to bash up the outsides of the potatoes.
Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, heat some oil (about 1/2 inch deep) in a baking tray in the oven.
After it's been heating for about 5-10 minutes, carefully place the potatoes in the oil, and put back in the oven at 180-200 degrees for about 20 minutes, basting now and then, until nice and golden and crispy. If they aren't crisping up then turn the oven to full heat for the last five minutes and they will be lovely and crunchy when you take them out.

Chocolate mud cake

125g dark chocolate
125g milk chocolate
250g butter (if unsalted, add 1/2 tsp salt)
188ml water
500g caster sugar
160g plain flour
165g self-raising flour
30g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 large eggs
40ml oil
125ml buttermilk (I couldn't find buttermilk but a substitute is to add 1 tblsp of lemon juice to 240ml whole milk, then use 125ml of this)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the chocolate, butter, sugar and water in a pan and warm gently until the chocolate and butter have melted. Stir occasionally to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and bicarbonate of sodatogether.
Place eggs, oil, buttermilk and extract in a bowl and mix.
Add egg mix to flour mix, then add chocolate mix in 3 stages.

Split into two springorm tins and bake for 45-50 minutes at 170 degress, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Mascarpone Cream

250g mascarpone
130 ml double cream
90g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the mascarpone, vanilla extract and sifted icing suagr together.
Whip the cream to a soft peak, and fold this into the mascarpone.
Slather onto the bottom sponge, place the other cake on top, then top with more mascarpone cream and dust with a little extra cocoa powder.

A healthy nutritious dessert!! ;-)

Monday, 10 August 2009

Pitta nachos and cupcakes

As I was in the baking mood over the weekend, I decided to try my hand at making pitta bread for some 'healthy (ish) nachos'. I can't tell you how exciting it is to see your pittas puff in the oven in matter of minutes!! I've never made pitta bread before and I found the recipe on and it came out beautifully!!

Pitta Bread
260g white bread flour
130g wholewheat bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp honey
1 packet dried yeast
300-350ml tepid water
2 tblsp olive oil

Very similar to my previous post on white bread, the method goes like this:
Combine yeast, flour, salt, honey.
Make a well and stir in water and oil slowly, mixing with a fork until you are able to get your hands stuck in and then knead for 10-15 minutes.
Leave to prove in a floured bowl and covered with a warm damp cloth for 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Beat back, and divide into 8 balls, then prove for a further 20-30 minutes.

Roll out into 1/2 cm thickness and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees on a hot baking tray.

The first couple I tried didn't puff up as impressively as I was hoping for, until I realised I wasn't rolling them thin enough. This seems to be the trick to puffing pitta bread!! The other important factor is that the baking tray you put them on be very hot too, I put mine in while the oven was preheating and then left it for another 5 or 10 minutes to really heat up.

When they had cooled a little I cut them into sixths, and then opened each trangle up and cut it in two, so each pitta produced 12 nachos. Then I put them on a baking tray, drizzled some olive oil on them and a couple of pinches of salt sprinkled over, then back in a hot oven for 3-5 minutes to crisp up a bit more.

I made them with some minced beef, yoghurt dressing and fresh vegetable salad for a mountain of yummy goodness!!

500g beef mince, fried with:
1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp hot chilli powder

For the dressing: yoghurt, feta, lemon juice, fresh mint and seasoning (all to taste).
And a salad of chopped cucumber, tomatoes and sugarsnap peas.

I could have eaten and eaten and eaten!! The freshness of the dressing complimented the fried beef well, with the sharpness of the lemon juice cutting through the fat from the meat.

I did eventually did stop eating though, because I had made some pretty exciting cupcakes for dessert. This is a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, and these cupcakes, as the author says, really do pack a punch. They are a dark, dense chocolate sponge with cheesecake baked into them and cream cheese frosting on top. Indulgent you say?...maybe a little!!

The sponge is egg and butter-less, and uses cocoa powder rather than chocolate, so quite good for those who are non-dairy, however, the cheesecake obviously involves dairy (the clue is in the title I guess!) as does the frosting (which although extravagant, I think the cupcakes need, as the sponge is really not that sweet...and you know, who doesn't like a little extra frosting on their cupcake?!?!). I would say that the cheesecake mix is a little thin in this recipe, as it sort of baked around the cupcake rather than into it, and I suspect that if the mix was heavier and less liquid, it would fall into the cupcake rather than let the rising sponge push it up. Nevertheless, they were a delightful treat, a dense moist sponge with the creaminess of the cheesecake and frosting setting it off.

Blackbottom Cupcakes
Chocolate Sponge Base
190g plain flour
120g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
40ml sunflower oil
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar (I only had white wine vinegar but it seemed to do the trick!)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
125ml water (I needed a little extra splash)

Cheesecake filling
140g cream cheese
60g caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
100g milk chocolate chips

Cream cheese frosting
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter
125g cream cheese

For the sponge, put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
Put the oil, vinegar, vanilla extract and water in a jug and whisk to combine. Add gradually to the flour mix, whisking as you pour. I needed a splash more water to create a smooth mix.
Spoon into paper cases until two-thirds full.

For the cheesecake filling, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla extract and salt until smooth and fluffy.
Fold in the chocolate chips. Don't overmix or the cream cheese may start to split.
Scoop about 1 tblsp of the mix on top of the sponge mix, and bake in a preheated oven at 170 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back and the cheesecake has a golden colour.

Don't overcook or the cheesecake will become crumbly.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter together until well combined.
Then add the cream cheese and beat till smooth and fluffy.

When the cupcakes have cooled, spread a generous dollop of frosting on top and enjoy!!!

Heavenly Benediction

Oh my.

People, I have experienced the holy grail of breakfast. I'm not joking.

I had a birthday treat last weekend, and quite a treat it was. We went to the Wolseley for breakfast on Saturday morning and basked in the glory of it while we drank copious amounts of tea (honestly, the best tea I've ever tasted, hands down), and had a selection of mini pastries to share followed by Eggs Benedict.

Whoever Benedict is, I want to thank him.

I've never experienced a breakfast quite like it. Now, I've had eggs benedict before, but nothing compares to the tower of deliciousness that sat before me on Saturday morning. The doughy muffin lightly toasted topped with a generously sized and beautifully salty slice of ham which married so well with the creaminess of the hollandaise sauce, and the most perfect poached egg I've ever seen. Good thing we'd had the pastries really, otherwise when my tower arrived I probably would have scoffed it down in an instant. As it was, my appetite had been curbed slightly by the support act, and I took my time over the headliner.

AA Gill has written a book on The Wolseley which I am in the process of tracking down now that I have experienced the place. Before we went there were copies of it everywhere, now that I want to find the thing and buy it so that I can pour over it and dream of more perfect breakfasts, it's nowhere to be found!! It's a beautiful book that is filled with the history of the restaurant as well as recipes, and as soon as I happen across it, I'm grabbing it and running to the till!!

I left wanting to recreate the magic, but decided that it would take many many many attempts before I even came close to producing something as exceptional as what we'd eaten there, so I restrained, and decided to bake bread instead, an eternally rewarding and satisfying experience.

I love to bake bread, I love the long process which requires patience from the baker, which makes the ultimate loaf so much more rewarding - you've been waiting for hours from when you started baking to when you can break into the hard crust and reveal the soft interior, then spread on some butter which melts on the fresh, warm dough. It's the ultimate in comfort food for me. Fresh bread with butter and jam and a cup of tea, it doesn't get much better than that.

Here's the simple white bread recipe I use:

500g bread flour
300-350ml tepid water
1 packet yeast (dried)
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tblsp olive oil
flour for dusting

Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl.
Make a well in the flour mix and add the water and oil gradually.
Stir with a fork until it comes together enough to be able to knead.
Knead for 10-15 minutes.
Leave to rest in a floured bowl with a warm damp cloth over the top for 90 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
Beat back (give it a good couple of punches to knock the air out) then knead into a ball and leave to rest for a further 30 minutes.
Shape into a loaf tin, or if you don't have one, into a ball on a baking tray, and spray with a little water (this helps give the bread a crispier crust).
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

To check if it's done, tap the bottom with your knuckles, if it sounds hollow, it's done.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Temporary Insanity

Boredom is a dangerous thing. When boredom strikes me, inevitably hunger strikes too, and this, my friends, is a dangerous situation to be in. If I were at home, and I found myself in the grip of immense boredom (knowing that hunger was not too far away), I could easily pop out for a walk, call a friend, have a long bubble bath, paint my nails…the list is endless. If, however, as I currently find myself, I am bored in an office, with only a computer to entertain me, the risks of online purchasing and browsing endless food websites are upon me. Amazon is the Devil in disguise.

I am working through the summer in various temp jobs, about 99% of which are reception work. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to have work, and, quite frankly, so is my bank balance, but these environments are hazardous to my purse and to my stomach. I’m keeping Mr. Amazon’s kids in school with the amount of money I spend on there. I’m obsessed with the River Cottage Handbooks at the moment, they are SO day I'll have the whole set...
As well as this, I spend all day browsing through food websites, food blogs, online recipes…I’ve even begun to search random ingredients on the BBC site to see what lovely recipes come up. All this browsing through recipes and mouth watering pictures means that I am RAVENOUS by the time I get home, armed with dozens of recipes I want to try!

Sooo, which one to make??? I decided to make chicken kievs from Something for the Weekend, with roasted broccoli and sweet potato on Friday (something indulgent to celebrate the end of the week, it has to be done!).
They were a real success. The filling was full of flavour and the coating made a really crispy crunch when you cut into it. The recipe suggested tarragon but I used parsley which worked beautifully, it gave it a little more freshness against all the butter and the roasted vegetables. I didn't have any breadcrumbs to hand so cut some baguette into cubes (about a centimetre square) and I dried them out in a cool oven (about 100-120 degrees) to make them really really crispy, and then ground them up. I think this added to the crunchiness of the coating and would thoroughly recommend it if you find youself without any breadcrumbs in the freezer (it also means you don't have to plan ahead and buy bread to go stale a couple of days before!!). We had them with broccoli roasted with coriander, cumin and chilli (you must must must try this, I'm sure it will convert those who aren't brocolli fans!!), and roasted sweet potatoes. Yum.

Chicken Kievs
2 Chicken breasts
120g butter
2-3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tblsp fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 egg
2 tblsp flour
2-3 handfuls breadcrumbs
Oil for frying

Mix the butter, garlic, lemon juice, parley and salt and pepper in a bowl.
Cut a pocket in each chicken breast and stuff with th 2-3 spoonfuls of the filling.
Dip each breast in the flour, pat off, then in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. (The recipe suggested patting off any excess breadcrumbs but I packed as many as I could on for an extra crispy texture!)
Fry in oil on each side until golden, then transfer to a baking tray and bake for 15-18mins and 180 degrees.

For the broccoli i threw the florets in a bowl with:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 tsp chilli powder

Salt and pepper

and roast at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes

And the sweet potato I cut into wedges and tossed in some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted them for about half an hour.

Into the Great Wide Open

Since I began thinking about starting this blog, I’ve had Tom Petty’s ‘Into the Great Wide Open’ stuck in my head. Pretty apt I think you’ll agree. ‘Out in the great wide open, A rebel without a clue’. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a rebel, (I’m fairly mainstream to be honest, I’m pretty much a Jack Wills and Gap type of girl) but I am now in the great wide open, totally and utterly without a clue.

Here is where it all begins, my notes and scribbles, thoughts and ponderings, trials and tribulations from the kitchen written down for anybody to see. They are no longer kept locked up tight in my own little world, where thoughts of dainty cupcakes, creamy frosting, soothing apple pie (or any pie for that matter), comforting freshly baked bread, sticky jams and all manner of other delightful treats swirl around in my mind and keep me day-dreaming all day.
But first, before I dive head first into caking, baking and generally making a mess of my kitchen and telling you about the results, let me explain a little how I got to this point, and why I have decided to (hopefully) entertain and interest you with lots of yummy recipes. I’ve always loved cooking and eating (who doesn’t enjoy eating?!?!) mostly thanks to my Dad, who taught me a LOT of what I’ve learnt over the last few years, and so after I finished my A-levels, I hopped on a plane and landed in the Swiss Alps, all set to whip up a bevy of delights for guests who were staying in my chalet. I spent four months cooking breakfasts, afternoon tea and three-course meals for the guests, as well as a spot of skiing in between! This, dear readers, is where I think my obsession with food and cooking began (cooking for others especially, I love providing delicious meals for people – food always makes people happy doesn’t it?!). My Dad and I spent the month before I left trying out the recipes, seeing what worked and what needed tweaking, and let me tell you, it was one of the most enjoyable months of my life.

After my adventure in the mountains, I came back and started a degree.

It did not go to plan.

I still had that hankering to work with food which would just not go away, and so after a year, I decided to leave my course and start working full time in a restaurant. The obsession develops. I learnt an invaluable amount working in the pastry section there, and had an amazing experience working in a professional kitchen. However, I decided after a year that working in the kitchen of a restaurant was not for me. I left and began an English Literature degree, and that brings us up to date!

So, with a passion for food (and talking about food), while studying English, what’s a girl to do? Start a blog of course!

And so this is the beginning. I plan on cooking as much as I possibly can and telling you all about it, let’s get started!!