Category Archives: Food

Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Bread

This bread was very popular when I served it at a cheese and wine party last month – I had to promise that we would make it at the next Bread Club meeting!

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 10g fast acting yeast
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 300ml tepid water
  • 100g sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • supermarket pack fresh basil

Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl and mix.  Add the oil and water and knead for 5 minutes or so until you have a smooth dough.  Return to the bowl and leave to prove for an hour. Line a baking tray with non stick baking paper.

Roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes.  Remove the leaves from the basil and chop.  When the dough has proved, lay it out on a smooth surface and incorporate the tomatoes and basil leaves as best you can.  It will probably be quite oily and messy! Squash the dough into a long sausage and then tie it into a knot.  Place on the prepared tray and leave to prove for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 230C/Gas 8.  Bake the loaf for 30 minutes (don’t worry if there are some burned bits of tomato on the outside, they will taste really good) and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Naan Bread

This recipe for naan bread is so easy to do that my nine year old daughter made the last batch we had in our house!  I’ve topped it with chilli and coriander here but you could easily leave out the chilli for more sensitive palates, or experiment with your own toppings…

  • 450g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 250ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • oil (for brushing the grill pan, any kind will do)
  • 2 fresh red chillies, chopped
  • 1 packet fresh coriander, chopped
  • melted butter

Put the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Whisk the egg and milk together and stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for approx 4 minutes until smooth.

Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest for 1 hour, then divide into 8 pieces.  Roll the pieces into balls, place on a tray and flatten slightly, then cover with cling film and leave for another 15 minutes.

Preheat the grill as high as it will go.  Line the grill pan with foil and brush it with oil.

Roll out your dough balls into the shape you want.  The traditional shape is a teardrop but anything you like is fine.  Sprinkle one side with the chillies and coriander and press in lightly with your hand or rolling pin.

I grill these in batches of two at a time.  Place the naan, herbed side up, on the foiled grill pan and put them under the hot grill until brown spots start to form.  Turn them over and grill for another minute (a minute maximum should be all you need here), then whip them out and brush the herbed side with melted butter.  Wrap the finished naan in clean tea towel to keep them warm while you prepare the rest.

Serve warm.  Yum!

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The Best Tzatziki

Here’s my Tzatziki recipe.  Whenever I make this there are lots of happy faces in my house!  It’s great for dipping veggies or breads, slathering into wraps, topping potatoes of any kind and anything else you can think of really…

  • half a cucumber
  • 2 tsp sea salt flakes (or 1 tsp fine sea salt – use half a tsp instead of a whole one where directed below)
  • 500g tub greek style yoghurt
  • large garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • handful fresh dill (or mint if you prefer), finely chopped

Peel the cucumber and run a teaspoon down the middle of it to remove the seeds.  Finely chop the light green flesh and place it in a small sieve over a bowl, mixed with 1 tsp of the salt, and leave for an hour.  You should see some liquid in the bowl by the time it’s finished.

Decant the yoghurt into a serving bowl.  Peel the garlic and place it in a pestle and mortar along with the other teaspoon of salt, then crush to a paste.  Add the oil, vinegar and black pepper to the garlic paste and whisk it together to emulsify.  Now add this dressing mixture to the yoghurt and stir until thoroughly combined.

Tip the cucumber out onto some good quality kitchen paper and blot it dry, then carefully remove it from the paper and add it to the yoghurt along with the chopped dill.  Stir to combine.

If you can, leave this in the fridge, covered with clingfilm, for a couple of hours before serving to let the flavours come together…it’s worth it!

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Carrot Soup with Honey

This is the recipe for the soup we served at the last Sutton Soup event.  It is a wonderfully simple soup, made all the better if you use good quality ingredients.  Please do try to use organic carrots and an interesting honey here – you will be rewarded!

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1.5 litres veg stock (I like Kallo)
  • 1.2kg carrots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp honey

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion and garlic in it for five minutes.  Add the stock and carrots and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, until the carrots are really tender.

Turn off the heat and let the soup sit with the lid on for five minutes or so, then add the honey and stir in to dissolve.  Season with salt and pepper and then blend till smooth with a hand blender.  Serve with a hearty bread like the focaccia pictured here, or wedges of cheese on toast. Delicious!

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Walnut Bread

Here is the recipe for Walnut Bread that we are going to use at our Bread Club meeting tomorrow.  I’ve made this a few times and I have to say I love this bread!  The addition of walnut oil and butter makes it so soft and lovely.  Based on a Paul Hollywood recipe.

  • 350g wholemeal bread flour
  • 150g strong white flour
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 7g fast acting yeast
  • 40g softened butter
  • 60ml walnut oil
  • 300ml tepid water
  • 150g walnut pieces

Put all the ingredients except the walnut pieces into a large bowl and stir to combine.  Tip it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and leave prove for an hour.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.  Turn your dough out and incorporate the walnut pieces into it by lightly kneading till they are well distributed.  Now shape the dough into a ball and place on the baking tray.  Use a sharp knife to cut a cross in the top and then dust with flour.  Leave to prove for another hour.

Preheat oven to 220C/Gas 7.   Bake the bread for 30-40 minutes until golden and the bottom makes a hollow sound when tapped.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Panzanella Salad

Here’s the recipe for panzanella that I use the most. It’s adapted from Nigella’s ‘Kitchen’, a great cookbook. These quantities make a massive bowl but as it keeps well and we’re a family of five that works for me – halve the quantities if you like.

500g stale rustic style bread, cut into little cubes
2 small red onions, cut into thin half moons
100ml red wine vinegar
1kg good ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
4 teaspoons sea salt flakes (halve the quantity if using pouring salt)
1/4 tsp caster sugar
250ml extra virgin olive oil
2 supermarket bunches basil, leaves removed and chopped
Put the onion into a large bowl, pour the vinegar over and leave for at least 10 mins.

Meanwhile, cut crosses in the bottom of the tomatoes, put them into another bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Leave for 5 mins.

Crush the garlic over the onion.

Drain the tomatoes, peel them and remove the seeds. You will get messy doing this! Then chop the flesh and put in in with the onion.

Add the salt and sugar, then the bread cubes. Pour the oil over the bread, top with the chopped basil leaves, then use your hands to gently combine all the ingredients.

Ideally you should leave this for a few hours, even overnight, for the flavour to improve. Cover it with clingfilm and put it in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before eating (though it’s still yummy cold – I can’t resist!)

Enjoy xx

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Slow Cooked Vegan Chilli

This recipe is adapted from a recipe by Bill Sewell, a vegetarian chef who has long been one of my food idols.  It’s got quite unusual ingredients for a chilli but they come together beautifully and I think it’s really delicious.

I have tweaked it a bit and came up with the idea of slow cooking it when we bought our lovely range cooker that has a ‘slow oven’ in it.  You might be able to replicate this in a normal oven set very low or of course use a stand alone slow cooker – I’ve never used one of those though so I will leave the judging of the timings etc up to you!

  • 500g pack dried kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 3 onions, chopped small
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped small
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 350g carrots, chopped small
  • 1 heaped tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 250ml strong black coffee
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 pack fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper

You need to start by cooking the beans so this will mean soaking them overnight or for at least 8 hours.  You then put them in a large sturdy pan with plenty of water (do not add salt), bring to the boil and boil very fast for 10 minutes.  Now turn the heat down and simmer for about 1.5 hours.  You need to test the beans before you drain them – test a few, I’ve had times where I’ve tested one lovely soft bean but the rest of them were still pretty hard!  If they’re not done, keep cooking them.  If the water dries out, add some more.  Put your cooked beans to one side.  You can cook them in advance and leave them in a tupperware in the fridge for a couple of days if that works for you.

Now in a large heavy based pan with a lid that will go in your slow oven, heat the sunflower oil and then add the onions, garlic, chillies, celery, peppers and carrots.  Stir to coat in the oil and then sweat the veg for 15 minutes.  Add the cumin and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Once your cumin has sizzled away for a bit add all the rest of the ingredients, including the beans, to the pan and stir well to combine.  Bring to the boil, boil for a few minutes, stir again and then put the lid on the pan and put it in the slow oven for at least 10 hours.  You can check on it from time to time and give it a stir – it’s quite fun to watch how it’s changed each time you check it.  The vegetables will release their juices and you will have lots of sauce by the time it’s done.

I like to serve this with brown rice – the flavours go together perfectly.  And it’s also very good with some grated cheddar on top, which isn’t vegan I know but what the hell!  Enjoy.

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Carrot Soup with Dill

This soup is perfect for the warmer months – the lovely light flavour of dill and the sweetness of carrots give it a definite flavour lift.  It’s yummy!

  • 50g butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped
  • 6 carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock (I like Kallo)
  • 1 supermarket pack dill, large stalks removed, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large soup pan and sweat the onion, garlic and celery for 5 minutes.  Then add the carrots and potatoes and sweat for a further 5 minutes.

Pour in the stock and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the chopped dill and some salt and pepper and then blend the soup with a hand blender.  That’s it!  Simple and very, very good.

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Potato Gratin with Tomatoes

This dish really is very simple to do, feeds the masses and goes with everything.  What’s not to like??  Desiree or red potatoes are good here, if you go for a very floury potato they will disintegrate more – though that’s not the end of the world.  There’s nothing worse than an undercooked potato!

  • 2kg potatoes, peeled
  • 2 red onions, peeled and cut into thin wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 6 tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • Salt and pepper

Get your largest oven dish and cut a piece of non stick baking parchment to fit the top of the dish.  Preheat the oven to 170C/Fan 150C/Gas 3.

Slice the potatoes with a mandolin or a similar contraption (I have something called a JML Super Slicer) and place in a large bowl.  Throw in the onions and garlic, then add the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper and mix well to combine.  You can use your hands, it’s easier!

Put the potato mixture into your big dish and move everything around till it’s evenly distributed and the potatoes are flattish.  Then take your tomato quarters and poke them into the top layers of potato at regular intervals so they are just peeking out.  Press it all down with your hands.

Now cover the top of the dish with the piece of parchment you cut earlier.  Don’t be tempted to use foil here as it may react with the tomatoes and turn the whole dish black!

Put the dish into the preheated oven and cook for 2 hours, taking the parchment off for the last 15 minutes so the potatoes can crisp up a bit.  Enjoy!

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Fragrant Seeded Rolls

I’ve developed this recipe over the last few years.  I like these rolls with soup, my kids like them with cheddar cheese in them  (though that’s not to everyone’s taste – it brings to mind the cumin studded cheese you get in Amsterdam) and they are also very, very good filled with goat’s cheese and mango chutney.  Or just have them plain, they’re still great!

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 15g salt
  • 25g fresh yeast or 10g dried fast acting yeast
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 15g honey
  • 50g soft butter
  • 300ml tepid water

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, seeds and butter in a large bowl.  Weigh the honey out into a jug or bowl and then add the tepid water and dissolve the honey.  Now add this mixture to your other ingredients and bring together into a dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead till smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes.  This dough is a bit sticky to start with because of the butter but keep going it will come together, you can add a little bit more flour if you like.  Having a dough scraper (I use the spatula from my Magimix) to hand is a good idea here!

Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and leave to double in size, about 1.5 hours.  When ready lightly grease a large baking tray.  This quantity makes 12 rolls, I like to weigh the dough and measure them exactly but it’s not essential by any means.  Divide your dough into 12 and shape each piece into ball, then lightly coat with flour and place on the baking tray.  The dough is quite sticky so you should do this with a small pile of flour nearby that you can coat your hands in between each roll.  Leave the rolls to prove again, this time for 1 hour.

While the rolls are proving heat the oven to 200C/Fan 180/Gas 6.  Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes till golden brown, remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

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