Friday, 29 July 2011

Thank you

These are the people who are adding the extra flavour my recipe book Prepped, I will be ever appreciative, and it is thanks to you I am able to do this. As each chapter was developed  and each recipe is written, tested, styled and photographed it  was involving than I could ever have imagined. From friends lending me crockery to babysitting my children to buying me emergency ingredients on the way to me. . This page is dedicated to thank the people who are helping to make Prepped happen, ...and it is no particular order.

Jason Atherton - I can't thank you enough.  Your praise and words for Prepped are just fantastic. Your encouraging words and wise comments about writing a recipe book really helped me. Thank you.

Nigel Slater your kind words and encouragement since I started this book have meant such allot to me.  When perhaps other people might have ignored a new writer on their first book you have taken time to give me support, even when you were up to your neck in Toast!  When I have wondered if I might complete my journey I have re read your communications and got back on with it.  Thank you! x

Dan Lepard for giving me his advice and help and generously supporting the next Prepped with one of his recipes.. thank you.  Dan  - I appreciate your words and encouragement very much and it is an honor to have the use of one of your recipes - I shall make delicious links to it!

Chantal Coady, who is as lovely as her chocolate. Thank you for the advice and the chocolate you have sent. The very best chocolate in the world can be found in your store, and that the chocolate school is the most fun a girl can have in London.. well perhaps during daylight hours that is . .. Fabulous Chocolates. The chocolate chapter is divine thanks to your help!

Henrietta Flynn from Cooking Gorgeous for sending me one of her fabulous Aprons - made in ENGLAND  ... so wonderful I never want to take it off .. well okay  perhaps at bedtime!

Sara Browne. . you are a super star!  You bring smiles and help where ever you are, it's no wonder everyone is always so pleased to see you... you're lovely.   Thank you for taking the photo of Sophie Grigson, Ben and Myself... it really is a great shot. xxx

Robyn Brook. Thank you for being such a kind and supportive friend to me this summer and for testing my recipes, giving me good honest feedback, and trying out new recipes out at your dinner party, what a brave lady you are!

Gill Parton. It was your compliment that started the thought process resulting in this book idea being conceived!  I really do have you to thank for this book! For letting me use your aga and garden for the photos, for being a such a dear and good friend and ...for being an inspiration -  thank you.  xxx

Melissia Lewis & Isabella thank you for allowing me to use your kitchen. The pictures look fab. Isabella, you were a star and perhaps you will become a famous model one day.. you were a brilliant helper.. Thank you!

Mick and Anne Andreaoli. Thankyou for being so brilliant as we took photos of me shopping at your fruit stall. There is no better fresh Fruit and Vegetable Stall on Northampton Market.

Arianna Artusi at De Gouray for the loan of the most divine wallpaper.

Kate Strutt and Cabbages and Roses for the loan of their superb fabric. Thank you the photos look amazing.

I contacted Lulu as I have been using her vanilla pods for a long time. Lulu Sturdy Thank you for sending me the Vanilla. Arriving straight from Uganda, it is beyond all vanilla I have ever had. The intense flavour and aroma of your vanilla is the sweetest of all dark things. Lulu is the Managing Director of Ndali Ltd (UK) and Ndali Estate Ltd (Uganda) you can visit her website at Her story is remarkable and I highly recommend her vanilla.

Cathinka. Thankyou for having the children at short notice, and at long notice too. Thank you for your friendship, and for being so kind as I cancelled our holiday for this book. You are the best friend a person could wish for.

Margate Lever. For your testing. Thank you. For your loan of your crockery. Thank you. For the use of your lovely house to take photos in. Thank you, and for your babysitting. You are just wonderful.

Fleur. My sister. You have been instrumental in the concept of this book. Sitting planning the recipes with me until you were drunk with tiredness or was it cocktails ... ? thank you. I love you.

Kellie. My sister in Law. Who looked after my children when I went to meet How To Books, and who, having never made jam before tested my jam instructions.

Lucy Lewis. For testing my jam instructions. Thank you, and for allowing me to use your house for a phoot shoot. You are kind. x

To JP at Carnival Taylor. For ordering in wall paper samples to use in the photo shoots. Thankyou. It is a wonder I didn't redecorate my entire house in your fabulous shop.

Emma Hodgson- for your kindness. For the last minute loan of cutlery and crockery. .. Thank you.  You lovely lady!

Syrus at the Natural Flooring Company for the loan of slate tiles to photograph the pasties on. Thank you.

Bunny. Brian Dunstone. For the hours and hours you have spent on the photographs. For your time teaching me how to photograph. You are a genius, as well as the best father in law a girl could have. Thank you.  ( Oh that will get me into trouble with my other father in law!)

Tony Hardacre. For the faith in me to take those pictures before the book deal. Thank you for being such a star.

Anna Brosnan.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to write for the Chronicle and Echo.. It gave me the confidence to believe I could be published.  Thank you to you and your team. Ruth, Kellie, Louise,

Louise Smith.  What wonderfull wedding photos you did for my sisters wedding photos Thank you for letting me sneak in a Lavender Cocktail shot!

Joy DanielsNorthamptonshire Calligrapher. Thank you.  As I realised my hand writing is just no good for the photographs your beautiful hand writing came to  the rescue.  When I have the chance to I should love to do one of your classes.  Your work is art.  Thank you again for your kindness.  The labels look stunning.

Mum.  What would I do without you ? The love and support you give me is infinite. There is not enough room to list all you do for me.  It is an awful lot.

If for any reason I have left you off this page, please please don’t keep quiet. Late into the night writing means I forget things that happen sometimes..and I would be devastated if I had omitted a thank you.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Making muffins as the packers pack the kitchen !

It's utter chaos and okay this is a seriously mad moment to write a blog post & yet it may well be the last post for a while !   I have packers all about and everyone is flagging.  The cat is shut in and yodeling in frustration - I kid you not !

Two of the chaps were going to nip to the shop to get a bite to eat  .. but the nearest shop is miles away.. so between all the boxes and literally as my kitchen was being packed I’ve thrown these muffins together.

With a steaming hot cup of tea for everyone .. they are a hit!


Makes 8 muffins
Preparation 10 minutes
Baking 15 – 20  minutes
Freeze  yes 

280g wholemeal flour
80g Vanilla caster sugar
½ teaspoon of mixed spice
1tbsp baking powder
1 small cup of raisins
1 large Egg
4 tbs rapeseed oil
25g milk

Grease a muffin tray
Preheat your oven to 375/190/ Gas X
In a large bowl mix together the flour, , baking powder, salt and spices and  raisins
In a large jug whisk together the eggs, oil, and milk until blended.
Make a well in the centre of the Dry mix and our in the liquid. Stir well for about a minute.. no more ..even if the batter is still al little lumpy.
Fill the muffin cups almost full and bake until they are golden and springy to the touch.
Allow the muffins to cool for bout 5 minutes the pan and then transfer them to a wire wrack.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Mackerel and Dill Pate and Pasta

Living almost thirteen miles from my nearest fishmongers whenever I want fresh fish I am faced with the choice of supermarket fish or a 25 mile round trip.  I'm really fussy about fish.  In fact I am so fussy that at least 50% of the time I wander up to a fish counter I walk off with nothing.

However I recently discovered my idea solution.  Fish for thought delivers, and the fish was frankly the freshest fish I've seen anywhere and it’s locally and sustainably sourced.  It was as though the fish had come straight off a boat and dropped at my doorstep. I can't recommend this company highly enough.
 (Shhhh ...  I happen to know that they supply some of the absolute A list top chef's kitchen's with their fish too) 

So with these fabulous fresh mackerel fillets I made one of my all time favorite recipes: you get two results for one effort – the perfect thing for me as I move house as I haven't the time to faff about and want to eat well all the same! What I love about this is that this combination gets you the extra dish for free.  Normally it’s the kind of recipe you need after a busy day at work and you have guests coming for supper the following evening.  But I’m using the pate as tonight super with a large salad and a fresh sourdough bread so I’ve very little washing up to do - being shattered it also stops me from dialing for a take out!

The elderflower syrup sweetens the fish, the lemon adds a sour note and the salt picks out the flavour of the mackerel – and all enveloped in a creamy base, with the dill adding a light, fragrant, herbal lift. The pasta is  really quick to get on the table as a main dish, ( we ate ours last night)  and for absolutely no extra effort you can transfer some of the pasta sauce mix across and – hey presto: the mackerel pâté is literally ready to chill. The pâté makes a superb starter for a supper party of for canapés.


The recipes makes
• Pasta for 4 & pâté for 4
• Or mackerel pasta for 8
• Or mackerel pâté for 8
Preparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes for the pasta

600g cooked mackerel fillets (If baking your own, 600g whole fish yields approximately 300g mackerel, once bones and skin are discarded)
6 tbsp elderflower syrup
Juice of 2 lemons
300g soft full-fat cheese
2 good pinches of sea salt
Fresh ground white pepper to taste
A handful finely chopped dill, plus extra for sprinkling
To make the pasta
500g pasta
Olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan, to serve


1 Place the mackerel fillets into a bowl and break them up with a fork. Regardless of whether you’ve bought the fillets prepacked or baked them yourself, do check through them to ensure there are no stray bones.
2 Add the Elderflower syrup, lemon juice and soft cheese and mix well. Add the salt, pepper,  and dill and give it a final good stir.
3 To serve both pasta and pâté for 4, remove half the mixture – about 350g – and put it into a large cling-film-layered dish and put it in the fridge to set.
The rest will make a good-sized portion to serve 4 people pasta
(If you want all of this recipe to be the pâté, turn it out into 4 cling-film-lined ramekins Leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours to set before serving. )
4 Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
5 Once the pasta is drained, add a tablespoon of olive oil and stir. Add the mackerel and stir well. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan and extra dill sprinkled over it.

Elderflower Syrup
Tips & Uses

•The pâté makes a superb sandwich filler, with a handful of watercress and a squeeze of lemon in a crusty roll, you can have a delicious and easy packed lunch.
You can use Smoked Mackerel for a variation
•Substitute trout or salmon for mackerel – or for an emergency fast supper, use a tin of well-drained tuna with an extra squeeze of lemon.


Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Popped out for August for a new challenge

For those of you who follow my blog I may not have Internet access for the next 3 weeks. I am moving house in two days time.  there is little time to type or to cook, bake or even eat. So I shall leave you all with a few before and after shots of the house I am leaving. I have had two of my children here and written Prepped at this kitchen table.  
I can tell you that the new one needs a similar amount of work doing to it. *Gulp*
But is just beautiful and I shall stay in my new house for the next 40 - 50 years. It was built in about 1870 and we call it our forever house. 
I'll be back to blogging as soon as I have internet connection again.

Here is the house we bought in 2003

This is the house I am moving out of. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Which lavender can I use to cook with ?

 HidcoteMunstead and Rosea which flower late May, June and July

When I put together the flavours for Prepped I know that there would be one in particular that would attract the most attention - Lavender.  I used to write about cooking with lavender for several small magazines and looking at these photo's on this page from five years ago I recollect a famous TV chef literally lifting every recipe in an article I wrote without even changing the slightest detail cooking the all on his show.

I had about 50 phone calls from outraged viewers who knew me. There was nothing I could do (.. but  I remember..  and he'd better watch out .. because when I meet him I am going to give him what for!*)

Throughout the Middle Ages lavender Angustifolia was dried and used in religious communities as medicine. The first ever mention on lavender was by musician and herbalist Abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098 - 1179) where she mentions it as having  "strong odour and many virtues of the plant. "

There are also references to culinary lavender in some arablic articles at the same time, however in Hildegard's writings she refers to lavender flower wine which was considered to be a liver remedy.

Throughout history lavender has been used in culinary terms but also as a medicine. With a constant connection with royal gardens it was de riguer from the 1400's until 1600s were it was used in much the same way as we use rosemary.. to make jellies and eat with meat.  lavender is also a great insecticide and I often pop some in the dog basket to ward off any extra guests.

There are however so many different varieties of lavender that choosing the right one to use in you making or cooking is rather difficult.  Pick the right one and you have a delicious light minty sweet perfumed one.

 Choose the wrong one and its camphorous and revolting. Well I've had so many people contact me in the past 24 hours after putting up my lavender sugar recipe wanting to know which is the right variety that I have spent a happy morning looking into my photography archives and found some photo's that might make it clearer which varieties to use and which NOT to.. so here is your guide to which lavender to use and what to look for

To make a really good lavender sugar you should use Angustifolia.  There are many you can use but the most common you can find are Hidcote, Munstead and Rosea which flower late May, June and July You can see all three of these in my daughter's handful above.  The Rosea is pink , the Munstead lillic and at the back is the dark blue Hidcote.

As you can see here some of the buds are closed and tight. The best flavoured is made from these close buds as This keeps the essential oils in and that gives you a good flavour.

The best time of day to pick is as the oil is at it's most concentrated.  Between midday and 2pm is ideal. 
The right lavender to cook with Angustifolia 

It's best to avoid lavender intermedia completely. These are mostly the larger bushes you see and flower later in the season.. July and August, September but they do make super lavender bags!

There is considerable size difference between the two. Intermedia is much much larger than Angustifolia  ( good to cook with)  

You can see that the stems are much shorter than the intermedia above
The shape of intermedia flowers below is much longer and tends to be fatter at the bottom with a peak at the top - avoid these in cooking
Although beautiful French Lavender or lavender Stoechas below is not great in cooking. It has two flowering a year in mid spring and again in early autumn.  You can use the petals to cook with but it doesn't have a great taste and does not store so my advice it to avoid it!

There is also a really pretty lavender called Canariensis - a species widespread in the canary islands it is no good to cook with I am afraid - Pity really as it's very pretty !

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Lavender Sugar

Lavender Sugar

One of my favourite chapters in Prepped is Lavender. perhaps because I owned a small specialist lavender nursery when I was on maternity leave with my first two children. I grew over 100 varieties and there are still swathes of lavender planted up the drive way on the way up to the farm at my parents house. It's alive and buzzing with bees making honey as a type this. It was romantic despite not being most practical business.  It was totally quiet for 9 months of the year and then went crazy demanding every waking moment of my time for 3 months. I sold it about 4 years ago, but I'm still smitten. Elegant full heads of Blue, Mauve, indigo and yes even pink, lavender is perhaps one of the most sophisticated and delectable tastes you can use in cooking, and yet we underuse this fragrant herb.   Lavender itself has Chameleon type properties.  It is a relative of both mint and rosemary and has the ability to meld the right tones into the accompanying food. Look at the shape of a sprig of rosemary and you will see the similarity in the structure of the leaves.

If lavender was a person then it would be someone who always manages to say the right thing at the right moment. It uses exactly the right tone to suit the dish it is in. the good thing about my recipes in Prepped is that I've worked for so long with this herb that I've worked out the right balance.  Too much dominates and too little is not noticeable. It's worth buying a recipe book with perfectly balanced recipes because it is a peculiar herb to get spot on.  I know  .. it took me  long time to get he balance just right, but one of the easiest ways of doing this in sweet dishes id by using lavender sugar.. The recipe is below.

The varieties grown commercially for perfume have very different properties from the Cottage Garden Angustifolia used for cooking, and would be utterly revolting in food.  Although what is interesting to note, all the same, is that as a product it is used to add middle and top notes to a scent. This is exactly how I would describe is use in cooking. Lavender  overlays a sweet fruity floral mintyness to food in the same way vanilla adds sweetness with out the sugar.   It’s really very hard to describe - but trust me. Try it.

What is unusual about cooking with lavender is that is works two ways - with both sweet and savoury, transforming the everyday into something remarkable simply by turning up in the dish. Strawberries and cream become strawberries sprinkled with lavender Sugar. Crème caramel becomes lavender laced crème caramel, and bread is divine with lavender. (But there is trick to getting it right  but I am afraid that snippet of information is on Prepped) .. and lavender is fashionable to cook with again. If you don’t remember it being in fashion that is because it was the height of sophistication was actually in Elizabethan times when it was said that queen Elizabeth the 1st  refused to sit at a table of food without a pot of lavender conserve to accompany her meal. Cooking with lavender fell out of fashion as the puritans banned anything considered frivolous. I think there are far more interesting things to ban these days, so I think lavender is here to stay.

There are lots of ways in which you can cook with lavender.  There is dried lavender, fresh lavender, lavender oil and lavender essence.  I cannot stress enough to use the right kind of lavender.  There are literally hundreds of varieties, and I have a book with over 1000 varieties, Before you panic and wonder which one to use, the best is the bog standard cottage garden species of lavender that gives the sweet vanilla tones and is perfect for culinary use.  Hidcote, Munstead, Rosea any Angustifolia will be fine.  There are other species and yes you can use them, but be warned that they may be very strong and have a camphorous odour. It's best to avoid these.

The simplest way to impart the flavour, which requires some patience, is to infuse it.  Lavender infused sugar, milk or cream give imparts a mellow even flavour though out, and can temper the strength overtaking a dish.  If you use essence or oil the strength can overpower.  Alternately use fresh lavender, which is lighter and more floral that dried.  That’s not to say that you can’t use dried lavender.  Use half what you use for fresh, as it is more concentrated, and use the freshest dried you can.  Do check it is not musty before you use it.

When gathering lavender, the best flavour comes from picking unopened buds. There will still be some around right up until the end of July.  Once opened the flowers lose the essential oils that impart the flavour. Pick it on a dry sunny afternoon and dry your lavender upside down, well spaced to allow air around the flowers, in a well aired dark environment.  2 – 3 days is enough to dry lavender picked in this way, and by drying them in the dark you will preserve the intensity of the colour.  Store it in an airtight container, out of sunlight.  Don;t be tempted to use last years .. you should make a fresh batch each year; if you don’t have lavender in the garden there are many pick our own farms or you could be cheeky and ask a friendly neighbour.

It is always worth checking food allergies with guests before you serve them any food and Lavender is no exception.  To be fair it is rare to have a reaction, but its still worth asking.

Lavender Sugar
I kg caster sugar
8 heaped tbs of dried culinary lavender
 1 In a 1.5-liter air tight jar combine the lavender and sugar.  There should be space left ant the top to allow the jar, when shaken to disperse the lavender evenly.  Over the next 2 weeks give the jar a shake a few times.  Ideally you can leave the sugar for 6 weeks for maximum strength, but I after 2 weeks there was usually enough flavor to cook with.  You can top this up twice and then start a fresh one.
If you are drying lavender from the garden please make sure the lavender is 100% dry before using.

Linked recipe
I can highly recommend making Lavender scones  - they are divine


Friday, 15 July 2011

Project egg chuck cake


Project egg chuck cake is a personal project for my children and for our life style as we move into a house soon with a garden big enough to keep chickens.  I want to see these eggs become chickens that lay for me and then I can bake cakes with the eggs they lay. I can't express how much this means to me.. our house has been on and off the market for over 3 years and finally we are to move house  - so the principle of this has come to represent everything our new lifestyle is about, I have a kitchen garden and room for a studio to do my photography in! 

We move 2 weeks today.  Of course rather then packing I am blogging  but as you can see I really did have to celebrate this!

I try as much as I can to use free range eggs.  I collect then from several places, and I know you can buy them but I want to have a selection on blue, brown and white eggs and I want my own chucks now!  Chickens at point of lay are about £15 each, whereas an egg cost me about 20p so my friend Cathinka has an incubator and we popped my cooking eggs in to it just 26 days ago and hey presto  .. 12 of the 20 hatched!  Aren't they gorgeous !!?

I can't wait to bake my first cake with my own eggs!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Win Tickets to Dan Lepard's and Arthur Potts Dawson' s demo's

I am delighted to be able to offer 3 pairs of Tickets for demo's worth £25 per pair of tickets for this Saturday 16th July at the Oundle food festival to win.
There are:
2 tickets for Dan Lepards's Bread Demonstration
2 tickets for Dan Lepard's Cake making Demonstration
2 tickets for Arthur Potts Dawson's cook creatively for less">How to win tickets to the Oundle food festival (mp3)
Dan Lepard
Award winning baker and Guardian food writer Dan Lepard in the queen Hall on West Street His first session is at 10am on breadmaking, followed by an afternoon of cake baking and icing.
Morning: 10am-12 noon, 2 hours
From first loaf to sourdough: a breadmaking primer
When you first start to bake bread it’s inevitable that you’ll be thinking about sourdough as soon as the first loaf is cooling. So in this two hour workshop Dan will get you started on your first loaf and your first sourdough in tandem: show you how they relate to one another and how the recipes are interchangeable with just a few tweaks. You’ll look at different flours, show how easily both breads can be mixed and baked for the best crust and flavour, and produce everything from delicate dinner rolls to large wheels of bread for a feast.
Afternoon: 2pm-4pm, 2 hours
Cakewalk: easy steps to birthday cakes and cupcakes

Now that men are getting into home baking, it’s no longer only Mum’s job to be the one keeping the cake tin filled at home, but the simplest cake making and decorating can be daunting for anyone. So think of this as your cake making two-step: quick ways to get light and richly flavoured cakes at home, and then how to decorate those cakes simply, yet ‘wow’ everyone. Planning helps, so Dan will take you through getting organised before you start and what to watch for to ensure your cakes are the best they can be. Dan will explain how to make and use different types of icing and buttercream, and the best way to get a simple professional look at home.
Listen to Dan chatting with me here">Dan Lepard (mp3)
2-4pm Cook Creatively for Less
Arthur Potts Dawson
Arthur Potts Dawson - Star of Channel 4’s The People’s Supermarket
A 2 hour demonstration on how to cook creatively!
Arthur is a talented chef, restauranteur, cookery writer and social entrepreneur. His newest business venture, The People’s Supermarket, opened in June 2010. Jamie Oliver recently described Arthur as “the original green chef”.
He will showing you how to make the best use of fresh ingredients, whether it’s the food left behind in the fridge, or the knobbly vegetables no-one wants to buy, or the produce being sold off cheaply at the end of the Farmers Market, or even the glut of produce from your garden. Expect a lively Q&A session at the end when you’ll be able to ask what you should do with all the things you don’t want to throw away!
Arthur trained with the Roux brothers and has gone on to work alongside industry ‘greats’ including Rose Gray & Ruth Rodgers at The River Cafe, Rowley Leigh at Kensington Place, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall and Pierre Khoffman. He relaunched Cecconi’s restaurant and worked as executive head chef for Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant.
Arthur created two restaurants described as ‘sustainably aware urban restaurants’, Acorn House and Water House. Arthur’s latest restaurant project is an organic ‘pop-up’, Mrs Painsley’s Lashings,profits go to organic education in London schools.
He is a member of the English Slow Food Association, and a lifelong supporter of organic products and local suppliers.
Bookings for the Demonstrations are now open
These can be made through the Oundle Box Office, either online ; by phone 01832 274734; or in person - 4 New Street, Oundle PE8 4ED
The normal ticket price is:-
Tickets Breadmaking 10-12 am £12.50,
Cake baking and decorating 2-4pm Ticket price £12.5
OR enter my competition to win tickets.

How to enter and the rules
This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 with a UK mainland address. The winner will be chosen using an online randomiser and announced on this page on Thurday 15th - I will also email them!. You need to leave your e-mail address in order to comment, I am the only person that can see it. However Please do not include it in the actual comment as well.
I am running this competition on behalf of the Oundle Food festival who will be responsible for making the tickets available at the door to be picked up by the winner. Their decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
There is one main way to enter and several ways to get bonus entries. You must leave a separate comment for each bonus entry otherwise they will not be counted.
Closing date:
10pm Thursday 14th July 2011
For a chance to win please comment and tell me which demo you would like to go to and who you would take with you.
For a second chance to win please tweet this post using the button below and comment with your twitter ID telling me you have done so.
For a third chance to win please follow me @VanessaKimbell on Twitter and comment to tell me you have done so.
For a fourth chance to win please like my facbook page and comment below to tell me you have done so.

Emergency Soda Bread Post

There is nothing worse than when you run out of home made Bread.  I was just discussing this on Twitter with @VirtuousBread @windmillbakes.  Prepped has load of emergency recipes so I have this one up my sleeve.
Caraway Soda Bread. This bread is one of the fastest baking tricks on the planet. I challenge anyone to take more than five minutes flat to get it into the oven. Make no mistake: the speed of making it doesn’t mean you’re compromising on taste. On the contrary, the pace of its creation should be counterbalanced by the speed to eat it – which is best soon after baking.
Every now and then I like to grab a fast breakfast with friends straight from the school run. For me, it’s perfect timing to throw it in the oven just before I leave the house. Twenty-five minutes later I’m back. The kitchen is filled with the smell of fresh baking and the air with aromatic caraway. As you slice the crunchy crust you will notice that the warm dough is dense.  It has a solid satisfying eat to it. Still warm, dripping with butter and smothered in plum jam, it is best served with a good, strong cup of hot tea – and a smidgen of gossip.

Makes 1 good-size loaf
Prep time 4 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes
Suitable for freezing? Yes, as soon as it is cool from the oven

500g of plain flour
11/2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1tbsp caraway seeds
450ml buttermilk

1 Preheat the oven to190˚C/gas mark 5 a good 10 minutes before you start making the bread.
2 Sift all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl
3 Add the buttermilk. Mix well but don’t overmix. It will go claggy and heavy if handled too much.
4 Turn the bread out into a lightly oiled bread tin.
5 Bake in the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes. Check to see whether the loaf is baked by slipping a knife into the centre. If it comes out clean, then it is done; if not, then return it to the oven for another 5 minutes and check again. When the loaf is baked all the way though it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
6 Serve warm from the oven.
• Soak a tablespoon of dried lavender in warm buttermilk for 15 minutes and add to the dough with 3 tbsp of extra sugar for a sweetened lavender bread.
• Add the zest of 2 lemons and 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds for a lemon and poppy seed loaf.
• Make a savoury tea loaf by adding 100g of raisins.
• Double the recipe to freeze a batch

Since I have posted this a lovely lady Hannah has made a dairy free version on her fabulous Blog

>Serve Plum Jam:
> Double the recipe and make Scones:

Monday, 11 July 2011

A better Loaf


If ever there was a reason to follow a good baker a better loaf of bread has to be it. Last week’s recipe was Dan Lepard’s a simple white loaf. It follows a method that requires a sponge to be made first to make this delicious milk loaf. I asked Dan what the reason for going to the trouble of pre mixing the sponge and he told me that the bread lasts longer and needs no additives, whilst having a far better crumb and superior taste. Well you can’t argue with that,! This weekend as had the opportunity to bake I thought I’d make a direct comparison and check out the extent to which this method works.

I took the same measurements, made one loaf Dan’s way and one loaf on the normal way I make bread. The photo’s say it all. The first photo is Dan’s. It was almost half again in size, the texture was far more rustic and it was markedly fresher and soft the next day... and the second loaf is mine - it was no where near as fresh, and as you see from the photo’s it was smaller and flatter.

Needless to say I shan’t be doing things my way again when you can get this kind of result for allot less kneading!

Dan has a book The Handmade Loaf that I use most weeks which I'd highly recommend getting if you are after a super baking book.

I'll also be going to see Dan demonstrating Bread and Cake making this weekend (16th July ) at the Oundle food festival.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Tell me your dream ....

I followed my dream and here I am ... I'm now officially a food writer and being commissioned to write articles. I have a BBC radio show and a newspaper column, and have also been asked to put my business brains into gear and bring a fabulous new product to market later in the year as a food consultant.. .so things are coming together!
So life is different all right.. I'm doing the thing that I love, about to renovate a fabulous house and living my dream. However for those of you who have followed my journey it's not been without it's moments, and it's been hard work I can tell you but there is a dash of luck involved and support from my family.

Thing thing that I noticed as I've being busy pursuing my dreams is that almost everyone I have spoken to also has a dream .. some so practical and possible that I want to shake the person and say just do it.. it's such a terrific idea!
Other idea's are just that - dreams .. fabulous moments of head in the clouds fantasy .. but still they are a dream and we must all have one .. for life is should always have possibilities however large or small.

So my interactive linked blog post is this. Tell me your dream in a blog post.. are you already following your dream ? It doesn't have to be a food related thing .. any dream would be fabulous .. Write it down however small or huge and link to this page ( tweet me or email me a link with a a picture if possible ) and I'll add each post here below as they comes in until the end of July. I'll pick my favourite three blog posts and cook you all a dreamy lunch at the end of September in Northampton.. or I can send you some fabulous Rococo chocolates instead if you live too far away.

Happy blogging.


HERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE"S DREAMS  - tread carefully they have been lain at your feet.

The delightful Dom of Belleau kitchen has written this fabulous post about following his dream .. with a seriously yummy tart to go with it. !

I love love Lucy's blog  .. her dreams are here, and her post is written straight from her heart.

Here Is my dream.  I am on my way again.

The lovely Julia has posted her dreams here

Rachel has started a blogs as part of following her dreams. this post made me smile all the way through.. it's warm and humorous.

I am totally blown away by this lady Rebecca Subbiah's post as she videoed her reply  from Chow and Chatter