Tag Archives: bread

Soup. Simple.

Lentil soup

We’re all still reeling from one of the strangest days in politics seen for some time. Possibly the most unpopular man in recent history has just taken power and we’re quietly scratching our heads and wondering what the next four years will hold for us all. And if the first White House press conference held by his press secretary is anything to go by, we’re heading into strange days. It’s now fairly clear that propaganda and misinformation will form the backbone of this next administration – I wonder how long before he attempts to bring in measures to gag the media? I wonder what it would take for him to be able to do it? I wonder if he has the means to exploit global events that will undoubtably unfold over the coming years in order to slowly put enough fear into the the minds of his people that they will voluntarily lay down and allow him to slowly, piece by piece take away their basic rights and their freedom of speech? He clearly doesn’t have the brains to do it, but I suspect the people he surrounds himself will. It’s scary.

Meanwhile, in Gentlemans Row, we’re making soup for lunch – and it’s a good one – all doable with a few basic ingredients that you have to hand.

Mixed lentil soup

Roughly chop an onion, a couple of carrots and a few celery sticks and fry them gently in a large saucepan with lots of butter and a little olive oil. When they have softened, add a handful of spices (I went for cumin, black pepper, dried chilli and salt), boiling water, a few sprigs of thyme, some fresh coriander stalks and some chicken stock. Then add a load of lentils – I used a mix of split red lentils and puy lentils. Let it all simmer away for about 20 mins and once it’s ready, blend it until rich and smooth. When serving, add a large dollup of yoghurt and a handful of finely chopped coriander.

It’s best eaten with a loaf of freshly baked bread. This Parmesan, chilli and olive bread worked pretty well…

Parmesan chilli and olive bread


Wheaty me

Fruit bread

It’s snowing.

It’s bloody March 23rd and it’s snowing.

I have a 270km bike race in four weeks and I’ve been on Old Red twice since Jan. And it’s snowing.

I know it’s an idiotic exercise to use this as evidence to attack the general understanding that the planet is warming up, but I’ve had enough – I’m going to write a puerile letter to the Daily Mail and have a rant. Along with the other idiots.

Anyway, while I enjoyed being wheat-free-me for a month, I found myself this morning with time on my hands (given the lack of other options, due the fact that it’s snowing) along with a jar full of dried fruit and a mind to experiment, so it was time to throw off the anti-gluten shackles.

Fruit loaf

I don’t really know if this is a real recipe, but it really worked for me, so I’d recommend it. Here’s how it goes:

Mix about 300g of good quality organic wholemeal flour with yeast, a few tablespoons of caster suger, milk and yoghurt, in quantities that will give a dough of good kneading consistency. then add a few handfuls of dried fruit and almonds – I used sultanas, rasins and dates. Once you have kneaded for ten minutes, put the dough back into the mixing bowl covered with cling-film and leave to prove in a warm place for at least three hours. Once proved, set the oven to maximum heat, reform the dough into your preferred loaf shape and place it on your baking sheet. Score the top, dust it with flour and cover it again with the cling-film. Once the oven has heated up, the bread will have completed its second prove. Chuck it in the oven along with a glass of boiling water (just throw the water into the bottom of the oven) and close the door quickly. After about 10 minutes, throw it another glass of boiling water, and after thirty five minutes, the bread should be perfect…

Best served toasted with lots of butter – it’s a bit like a cross between bread and pannetone. Bene.

Bread. Perfected.

Jalapeno and olive bread

Ok – ignore any previous posts about how to make bread. I really do think I have it now. And if I’m honest, some of the advice I gave in the past is dubious, and should now be superseded by this latest and not to be beaten advice…

Olive and Jalapeno bread

So here’s how to make the perfect loaf: Start with about 500g of a really good flour – I use a mix of stoneground strong malted blend flour and standard organic wholemeal flour. Add a few table spoons of dried yeast, and a equal amount of good sea salt, then a few decent glugs of good olive or rapeseed oil and a couple of glasses of cold water. Mix it together adding water or flour as required to end up with a dough that is slightly sticky to the touch, but can still be kneaded for at least 10 minutes (I use use a mixer with a bread hook, but I expect it’s even better done by hand)

Now leave the bread in a large bowl covered in cling film (I realise now that you don’t need damp teatowels) in the oven at less than 50c for as long as you can bear – at least an hour and a half but two hours would be even better. This is your first proving – it should at least double in size.

Now roughly chop green olives and jalapenos and mix them well into the bread. Don’t worry that you’re knocking all the air out of the bread – it will come back. You can also add a good couple of handfuls of grated gruyere at this point if you like (in fact, do – it really works well – especially if you’re going to toast the bread).

Now set the oven to its hottest and form the bread into a loaf – I like a round boule, but really you can do whatever you like – just make sure that you put a few scores in the top, sprinkle over some flour, place it on top of the warming oven and cover again in cling film.

When the oven has reached its hottest temperature (usually after about 30 mins) your bread will have completed its second proving and will be ready to bake. Place it in the oven along with a glass full of boiling water, thrown into the oven shutting the door immediately (try to hold on to the glass).

After about 10 minutes, chuck in another glass of boiling water, and another after 20 mins. If you made a single large loaf, it will be ready after 35 mins. If you made smaller loaves then they will be ready faster.

That’s it. The best yet.
And no blabbing on about other things. A simple post about food. Who would have thought?


Beating the baguette and the summer of 2012

I know I’m not the only one to consider this the best summer yet – perfect in so many ways: Team Sky brought home the Tour de France yellow jersey, the Sky Velo contras smashed the Alps and the Pyrenees, London showed the world what a fantastic place it can be, the shorts grew ever more fun, interesting and inspiring and Puggers kept us all busy winning awards. I think it’s fair to say that the summer of 2012 is going to be, as my hard-fi friends would say, hard to beat.

And to top it all, after months of half-arsed attempts, I finally managed to beat the baguette (and not in a rude way). It’s not completely the right recipe, because I don’t do the whole overnight starter thing, but I think it’s pretty good and well worth a try:

As usual, I’m not great on quantities, but I’m not sure it’s hugely important as long as you get the right consistency. Take about 400g of organic plain flour, add a couple of good teaspoons of salt and a little more dry ready-to-use yeast. Then add enough cold water (yes cold – the whole warm water thing is fallacy) and few good glugs of olive oil to make a fairly wet dough – firm enough to be able to work and knead it, but wet enough that it’s still sticky (this is the thing I always got wrong – I always made the dough too dry).

Knead the dough for 10 minutes and then stick it in a bowl covered in cling film and put it somewhere warm for an hour (I don’t have an airing cupboard so I stick it in the oven at the lowest possible temperature). Take it out and then divide into four and roll out onto floured baking trays. Cover them again in cling-film and put then on the top of the oven. Turn on the oven and start getting it up to about 250c – the warmth of the oven as it heats will help them rise again. After about 15 minutes, they should have already risen a little. Knock them back, and roll them out again (They should be about 2-3cm in diameter, no more) and re-flour the baking trays before laying them out, scoring them diagonally across the loaf with a bread knife and covering with cling-film again. Now put a baking tray half full of boiling water into the oven to get a good head of steam going. After 30 mins, put the bread in the oven and just before you close the door, chuck in half a glass of boiling water – preferably not on top of the bread. After about10 minutes, chuck another glass of boiling water into the bottom of the oven – all that steam is what will make the bread beautifully crusty.

After 20 minutes, remove the tray of water and let the bread cook for a final 5 minutes (although best give it a quick check in case it’s already done). Tale it out once it’s ready and let it cool for about 20 minutes on a wire rack.

Eat them, all of them.
Yes, all four loaves (we did)

I think I’ve cracked it…

The shorts are back in London and we’re stuck at home through a mixture of extreme cold and complete laziness. Netflix is being hit hard (still 15 days left on the free trial) and we’re slowly cycling through the first 5 seasons of The Office USA. It’s pretty much the only thing we’ve found on there that isn’t already available in the HMV remainders bin. Incidentally, if you have a spare minute or two and you really have nothing else to do, check out their “New Releases” – I think it’s fair to say that if their interpretation of the phrase were any looser, it would be turning tricks for five quid a pop down a Norwich back street.

So it’s back to bread making and we pretty much have it down now. Rather than churning through the whole process (already covered last week), I thought it would be a good idea to pick out a few things that might mean the difference between mediocre and really great bread.

The basic recipe for the bread this time was a basic bread dough, green and red olives, jalapenos and finely grated gruyere and parmesan – the jalapenos really worked well.

dad at the weekend’s top bread-making tips:

  1. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes – don’t be lazy…
  2. Get the salt quantity right – too little and it has no taste, too much and it will affect the rising process
  3. Add a little honey to your warm water to help the yeast and give the bread depth
  4. Allow the bread to rise twice – once for at least an 90 minutes, in a very low oven (less than 40 c) and with a damp tea towel covering the bowl. The second time again for at least half an hour. Don’t cut corners here…
  5. Sprinkle a little flour over the bread before you put it in the oven
  6. Make sure the oven is at least 220c and put a tray of water in there to create a good steamy atmosphere


And another loaf we made today with strong white flour and poppy seeds…