Monthly Archives: February 2010

Fresh from the Oven – No Knead Bread

This month’s Fresh From the Oven challenge was hosted by Claire from Things we Make and she chose No Knead Bread. I’ve always been intrigued by this bread, but until now had never given it a go. The baker in me wondered 1) how a recipe like this could work and 2) wondered if it would have a slight sour taste.

Well I have to say this bread it a revelation. It produced a light, chewy loaf similar in texture and taste to ciabatta. It is quite obvious by the photo that we enjoyed it so much so, we had eaten quite a significant part of it before I got a chance to photograph it. This is certainly a loaf I would make again. The only alteration would be to prove in my proving basket to see if I could improve the shape.

No Knead Bread

The Mix

  • 15oz Strong White bread flour – it works best with all white I think
  • ¼ tsp instant easibake yeast (out of a sachet)
  • 1 tsp table salt

Stir together well then add 10.5 fl oz of lukewarm water (a mugful)

Slosh it round into a gooey lump of dough with a fork

Leave in a big bowl and cover with cling film or put the bowl in a bin bag
Leave it in kitchen for 16-18 hours – or more if you forget.

The 16hr Sloosh

Use a dough scraper/cutter or your fingers, to scrape the wet porridgy dough away from the sides, using plenty of flour to stop it sticking, and shuffle it back into a nice round shape. Don’t be tempted to knead it.

Cover with a tea towel and leave for 2 more hours.

The Bake

Preheat oven to 200-220 and put in a lightly oiled Le Creuset or other large cast iron casserole with a lid on until the oven and the pan are super hot.

Again use the scraper and a good sprinkle of flour to detach the dough from the bowl without puncturing it’s airy goodness. Then quick as you can, without losing the heat from the oven and pan, tip the dough onto one hand then flop it into the hot pan the right way up again and put the lid back on and get it back in the oven immediately.

  • Bake for 30 minutes lid-on
  • Then cook for 10-12 minutes more, lid-off until golden brown

If it’s not hollow sounding on the bottom put it back in, without its tin for an extra 5 minutes. Tip out and cool well before trying to slice

Chocolate Welsh Cakes

Giving up biscuits for Lent has meant I’m baking things to replace the banned biscuits, not exactly the healthy intentions I had in mind. Given I’m half Welsh, and proud before you ask, I often celebrate St. David’s day in a foodie vein; surely the best way to celebrate any special day in the calender. Be it Welsh Cheesecakes, Bara Brith , anything with leeks or Welsh Cakes I’ll try to bake at least one around the 1st March. Traditionally Welsh Cakes are made with raisins or sultanas but as I discovered at Fabulous Welshcakes in Cardiff Bay you can put different fillings in welsh cakes. I had a look around the baking cupboard, of which I swear I could open my own baking suppliers with, and found chocolate chips begging to be used.

Technically you could argue that these are not Welsh Cakes as they are baked in the oven and not on a griddle; I wanted to play around with recipes suitable for schools. I suppose they could be described as a richer version of scones, but with a lighter texture. By all means this recipe could be cooked the traditional way on a griddle giving the cakes the distinctive browned flat top and bottom. Both methods of cooking taste more or less the same they just look different. Perfect with a cuppa and in my eyes a perfect substitute for the banished biscuits.

Welsh Cakes
Makes 15

225g self raising flour
110g butter
50g caster sugar
75g chocolate chips
1 egg

1) Rub butter into flour until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs. Stir in sugar and chocolate chips. Break in egg and mix until you have a dough.

2) Roll out onto a floured surface until around 1cm thick and cut into 5cm rounds. Place on a lined baking tray. Bake at 180°c for 10-15 until cakes are golden.

A Michelin Treat – Northcote

Once a year Hubs & I treat ourselves and go away for a foodie short break. Most of our holidays consist of sleeping under canvas, scrambling to the top of  mountains and eating porridge cooked on a Trangia so once in a while we like to indulge in some understated luxury. Previous escapades have included Blue Reef Cottages on the Isle of Harris, Hotel du Vin in York and last year a double trip to River Cottage.

This year it was my turn to decide on the short break adventure and after some internet research I settled on Nigel Haworth’s Northcote near Blackburn. It ticked my wish list: restaurant with rooms, luxury but still affordable and a foodie experience. The fact it has a Michelin Star was an added bonus.

We arrived on a wet, grey Monday afternoon to be greeted by a warming log fire. After checking-in we were shown our room. Given we were staying in the cheapest room in the hotel, you wouldn’t know. I was very impressed. Huge comfortable bed with plush furnishings, decent toiletries and not just complementary tea & coffee, but also a fridge full of bottled water and Belviour drinks. I’m easily impressed!

That evening we made our way downstairs to sample the tasting menu. I didn’t take any photos of the food as I didn’t feel at all comfortable smuggling my not-so-subtle SLR into the dining room that was full of loved-up couples; however I did spot on the next table to ours someone sneakily taking photos on a compact. I did wonder if she was a fellow food blogger. It started with champagne and canapes in the lounge while we decided which menu to go for. The canapes included: Maple Cured Salmon with Cream Cheese & Chives; Onion & Langoustine Bhajis and Parsnip Crisps with an Onion Mousse for dipping. Next, Hubs went for the traditional tasting menu and me, not feeling as brave, went for the vegetarian menu. Hubs also went for the accompanying wine and I matched with a few courses because I’m a lightweight and I wanted to remember the whole meal! Only the first and the last course were the same for both of us, but I did get a taster of quite a few of Hubs’ courses and the Mutton dish was absolutely stunning and perfectly paired with the Gewurztraminer.

Pressed Red Beetroot, Yellow Beets, Smoked Shallots, Goat’s Curd, Treacle Dressing
Sancerra Rose, Pascal Jolivet, Loire, France 2007


Warm Loin of Herdwick Mutton, Jerusalem Artichoke Puree, Honey & Mint Dressing
Gewurztraminer, Les Folastries, Josmeyer, Alsace, France 2007
Butternut squash, Roast Shallots, Fritter


Turbot, Cavier, Butternut Squash
Montagne 1er Cru, Château de la Saule, Burgundy, 2007
Tomato Consommé, Mrs Kirkhams Cheese on Toast


Shellfish Broth, Orkney Scallops, Langoustine
Cheese Omelette Soufflé, Tomato, Shorrocks Bomber Fondue
Sauvignon Blanc, Single Vineyard, Marlborough, 2007


Roe Buck, Potato Wrapped Black Pudding, Pied Bleu Mushrooms, Pickled Damsons
Grenache, Prodical, Clare Valley, Kilikanoon, 2006
Roast Artichoke, Artichoke Puree, Mint & Shallot Dressing


Cockerham Goat 3 Ways, Blood Orange & Juniper Sauce
Pinot Noir, Amayna, San Antonio, Chile, 2007
Barley Risotto, Roast Shallots, Curly Kale, Onion Foam


Dark Valrhona Chocolate Cylinder, Smoked Nuts, Salted Sheep’s Milk Ice Cream
Moscatel, Lopez Hermanos, Malaga

At the end of the meal were then served a selection of petit fours that included mini Eccles cakes, chocolate dipped honey comb and a delicious dark rum truffle. Apart from the amazing mutton dish I sampled from Hubs’ plate my favourite course was the beetroot course at the beginning and the chocolate pudding at the end. The salted ice cream went superbly with the smoky chocolate. Hubs also said how the mutton course was his favourite, not only for the food, but also for the wine. Although I’m not veggie, I often eat veggie when eating out as to be frank I like vegetables. Given there is few vegetables in season during the months of February, Northcote did a sterling job of producing a delicious and different menu for vegetarians. By the end of the epic meal we had been in the dining room for over 5 hours.

The next day, following our foodie-get-away traditions, we had Afternoon Tea. Don’t ask us why, but at least once a year we make sure we have Afternoon Tea somewhere. A quintessentially British pastime. Who could turn down plates of posh finger sandwiches and cakes all washed down with the finest cups of tea. Afternoon Tea at Northcote certainly didn’t disappoint. Well filled sandwiches and perfectly cooked cakes, the scones with home-made jam and a generous portion of clotted cream were particularly good.

We had a great few days away and I would certainly recommend Northcote for a foodie getaway along with their sister pub The Three Fishes for fantastic food. The staff were fantastic. They were knowledgeable & professional without being snooty. It was the little touches that made the difference. The Molton Brown goodies that were left in the room in the evening, staff who became a familiar face and the member of staff who de-iced our car each morning.

Given the weather wasn’t too great we will admit to spending the rest of the time chilling in our lovely room, reading and watching the Winter Olympics. Sometimes I think we all need to switch off from the world and have some luxurious time to ourselves doing what we want to do.

Baked Vegetable Spring Rolls

This time of year is good for food-related festivals but typically this year Shrove Tuesday, Valentines & Chinese New Year all fall in half term. After teaching the kids how to make pancakes last year, this year I decided to teach food from a different celebration and country. We’ve been doing quite a bit about Chinese New Year in work and have been dishing out the Fortune Cookies. I was particuarly pleased with my 2 fortunes:

The next week is full of fun and adventure

You’ll travel far with business and pleasure

Other people’s are far more cryptic.

I had been asked by some people if I could teach them to make Spring Rolls. Traditionally they are fried and there is a fryer in the kitchen I use but 1) we’re walking towards Healthy School status 2) I’m not that brave! I wanted the spring rolls to be easy to make, healthy and didn’t want to have to pre-cook the filling. I don’t claim these to be authentic, but is a great kid friendly recipe. Spring roll wrappers are nigh on impossible to find around here so used filo.

One thing I learnt today that filo pastry doesn’t always come in squares, it just so happens that every pack I have ever bought before today was squares. If your filo pastry comes in a long oblong cut in half to get to sets of squares. If not brushed with egg the rolls can look a tad anaemic. Also don’t use more than 2 sheets of filo per roll or it can end up being filo pastry overload. Also if you use sweet chilli sauce as your sauce filling, but be careful; due to the sugar content it caramalises fast. Just keep an eye on it.

If you’re looking for a delicious chinese takeout-style recipe for Chinese New Year I can highly recommend Tastefully Done’s Sweet & Sour Chicken. We often double the sauce and cook with a handful of sliced red & green pepper. Happy Chinese New Year.

Baked Vegetable Spring Rolls
(makes 6 large spring rolls)

1 pack of filo pastry
½ pack of raw stir fry vegetables
6 tbsp chinese-style sauce (eg Hoi Sin, Sweet Chilli, Soy etc…)
1 egg, beaten
Sesame seeds for decoration (optional)

1) Unwrap the pastry and lay out on the table. If the filo is a long oblong cut in half to make 2 squares. Take two layers of filo, pile on top of each other, then turn so one point is facing you.

2) Place some of the veg and inch or so above the bottom point. Cover with 1 tbsp of sauce. Begin to roll. The next bit is difficult for me to describe so here is the crib sheet I made for my classes – click here

3) Once they have been rolled, place on a tray lined with baking parchment, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 190°c for 5 min, turn over, brush again with egg and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. The rolls are ready when they are golden in colour. Allow to cool slightly before eating as they can been bloomin’ hot inside. Best served with a dipping sauce.

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