Bread sauce

Bread sauce is probably one of my favourite things, the combination of bread sauce and good sage and onion stuffing is very hard to beat.  It always reminds me of Boxing Day when we go for a walk in the morning and then return to cold turkey and stuffing and reheated bread sauce – my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  I was inspired to make some after reading a Rachel Eats post on Sunday lunch where she had cooked some to go with her slow roast pork.  So I made some to take to my mum’s for sunday lunch this week to go with the duck that she was roasting. I will be following a tradition and making it for Christmas Day, and making sure there is plenty so that I can enjoy some on Boxing Day. This recipe is adapted from the classic by Delia Smith.

1 onion, peeled and chopped in half
12 cloves
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
425ml (15 fl oz) whole milk
25g (1 oz) butter
4 tbsp double cream
75g (3 oz) breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste


Stick the cloves into the cut onion and place in a pan with the bay leaf  and the peppercorns.  Pour the milk over.  Bring the milk to boiling point and then take off the heat and cover and leave to infuse for at least two hours.

Strain the milk into a jug and then pour back into the pan. Add the butter and the breadcrumbs and place onto a gentle heat and stir occasionally until the breadcrumbs have swollen and thickened the sauce.  This will take about 15 minutes.  You can now leave it to stand until you are ready to serve.

Just before serving add the cream and reheat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a warmed bowl.

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English muffins

muffin and jam

I decided to do a special breakfast yesterday, well it’s half term and we were all off yesterday and having a day together.  So I got these started early (about 7ish) and we were enjoying them by 9 am.  Hot off the griddle and spread with butter and jam they were really tasty.  The recipe makes 12 muffins so we had plenty left over so I made Eggs Benedict for last night’s tea.  The muffins will keep though for a few days in an airtight tin, and can be split and toasted.

You can of course buy these muffins, but it really is worth the effort to make your own and it really isn’t that much effort.  I use my trusty tortilla pan to cook them but any heavy based pan or a griddle will do the job.

450g (1 lb) strong bread flour
225 ml (8 fl oz) milk
55 ml (2 fl oz) water
7g sachet of easy blend yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt


Measure the flour, salt and sugar into a large bowl and mix well.  Place in a low oven (100°c) for 10 mins to warm through.  Measure the milk and water into a small pan and heat over a gentle heat until hand hot.  Take the flour out of the oven and add the yeast and gradually pour in the milk and water .  Mix with your hands until the dough comes easily into a ball away from the sides of the bowl.  The mixture may need a little less or a little more liquid so add the last bit with care.

Take the dough out of the bowl and knead on a worktop surface for about ten minutes or as long as your arms will bear. It should be springy and elastic. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with clingfilm rubbed with a spot of oil (the oil on the inside). Leave to prove until it has doubled in size, this will take about 45 minutes in a warm kitchen or longer if left in a cool spot. I have never tried this but if you leave the dough in the fridge overnight it will be risen ready for the morning, so this may be a good plan if you don’t feel like waiting for a couple of hours for your breakfast.

When the dough has doubled in size take it out of the bowl and put it onto a lightly floured worktop and roll the dough out to about 1 cm thickness.  Using a scone cutter cut out 12 muffins.  You will need to re-roll the leftover bits of dough.  Place these onto a floured baking sheet, re-cover with the oiled clingfilm and leave for about 25 mins until  risen.

Heat the pan over a medium heat until hot and then place the muffins on the pan.  Turn the heat to low.  Cook for 7 minutes on the one side until nicely browned and turn and cook for another seven minutes until cooked through.  You will have to do this in batches.  Those you don’t want to eat immediately can be cooled and kept in an airtight tin.

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cooking muffins
Cooking the muffins
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Bread pudding

bread pudding

We often have leftover bread especially if I have been near a bakers for two consecutive days.  We never waste it though, it either gets fed to the chickens or I whizz it into breadcrumbs and put them in a food bag in the freezer. If I have a bit of time then leftover bread gets made into this or the bread and butter pudding I have posted before.  The girls both love bread pudding and so do I.  It can be eaten warm with cold cream as a pudding or eaten cold the next day with a cup of tea.

This recipe is based on Delia Smith’s recipe in her Complete Cookery Course. I like to add a mixture of glacé cherries, sour cherries and sultanas and some candied peel if I have it in the cupboard. You can use any mixture of dried fruits as long as they weigh a combined 175g (60z). You could use dried prunes or apricots.

225g (80z) white or brown bread with the crusts removed
275 ml (½ pint) milk
75g (3 oz) dark soft brown sugar
50g (2oz) melted butter
2 tsp mixed spice
1 egg, beaten
175g (60z) dried fruits
grated rind of ½ orange


You will need a baking dish with a 2½ pint (1½ litre) capacity, well buttered.

Break the bread into small pieces and place in a bowl.  Pour the milk over the bread and leave to soak for 30 minutes.  Add the beaten egg, melted butter, mixed spice and sugar and stir well to thoroughly combine. It is best if you use a fork for this stirring to get rid of any big lumps of bread. Stir in the dried fruit and orange rind.  Spread the mixture into the buttered dish and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) for about 1 hour.  It may need slightly longer.  It’s ready when it is a lovely golden colour.

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Queen of puddings

queen of puddings

The Queen of Puddings is one of my favourite puddings, it’s a last meal choice I think. It’s the ultimate in comfort cooking and a good one for when the nights are drawing in and the weather is getting chilly.  I made the one in the picture today for after our sunday lunch and it didn’t last long.  It’s an easy pudding to do for sunday lunch because you can cook it in advance to the stage before you put the meringue on top and that last stage takes less than five minutes to prepare, with 10- 15  minutes cooking, so if you do it just before you are ready to serve the sunday lunch, pudding will still be warm when you are ready to eat it .  I made this one with damson jam because that is what I am enjoying at the moment, but you can use any jam you like.  Strawberry jam is a very good choice indeed!

Serves 6
100g (4 oz) white breadcrumbs
1 pint (570ml) whole milk
10 g (½ oz) butter
grated rind of 1 lemon
4 eggs
40g (1½ oz) caster sugar
4 tbsps of the jam of your choice
Separate 3 of the eggs, putting the whites to one side to make the meringue later and add the yolks  to the remaining whole egg, beating them lightly together.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan to boiling point, remove from the heat, stir in the butter, lemon rind and breadcrumbs.  Leave for 20 minutes for the breadcrumbs to swell.

Put the jam in the bottom of a deep baking dish (one that has a three pint capacity). Add the yolks to the breadcrumb mixture,combining well, and pour this mixture over the jam. Put into the centre of a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) and bake for 20-25 mins until set. Leave to cool.

Beat the egg whites until stiff then add the sugar a teaspoonful at a time whilst still whisking.  Spread this meringue mixture over the top of the pudding. Bake in the oven at 180°c for 10-15 mins until the meringue is golden brown.  Serve whilst warm, but should you have any left, which is doubtful, then it is also lovely cold the next day.

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A lovely loaf of white bread – at last

cooked loaf

I have been making bread for years but it is only recently that the finished bread has been enjoyable.  Most of my bread making has resulted in a lumpen dough that my husband has very kindly eaten. I think bread making takes practice.  I have, I think, improved because my kneading technique has improved with practice and I now know that you shouldn’t let the salt and the yeast come into contact with one another before you start to mix the dough. Apparently the salt begins to de-activate the yeast. Also I now add more water than I used to, a sticky dough works better than a slightly too dry dough. I made a loaf of bread yesterday to go with the ham and pea soup I made and it worked out quite well. I am very proud of that achievement after years of lumpen dough.

The recipe I use comes from my well used copy of The River Cottage Family Cookbook (2005, Hodder & Stoughton).  I can’t recommend this book enough, everything works and is really well explained.  It is aimed at younger members of the family but it is a book I turn to again and again. I am a fan of most things coming out of River Cottage.
The picture above shows a loaf that I made out of half this quantity of dough, as I split it and made two loaves.

500g strong white flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp or a 7g sachet of fast-action bred yeast
2 tsps sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
300 ml warm water
Measure the flour and place in a large bowl.  I like to warm this in a low oven (100°c, or lowest setting) for a few minutes whilst I get the rest of the ingredients ready.  I have a granite worktop which cools everything down too much otherwise.  Keep the salt and yeast away from one another until you are ready to mix.  When everything is prepared add the yeast, sugar and salt to the flour and mix to combine.  Add the olive oil and the water and work with your hands to a soft and, importantly, slightly sticky dough.  Take this out of the bowl and knead well for as long as you can bear, at least seven minutes if possible, it’s better if it’s ten minutes.  Do it until you feel your arms want to drop off.  To knead you hold the dough with one hand and then stretch some of the dough away from you with the heel of the other hand and then bring it back into a ball and repeat. It needs to be smooth and when you poke your index finger in and take it out the dough should bounce back.  Place it back into the bowl and cover with a clean damp tea towel or oiled cling film and place in a warm part of the kitchen for 1- 1½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.  Grease a loaf tin or a baking tray with a little olive oil.Give the dough a punch to knock the air out and knead for 30 seconds and shape into a ball if you are making a loaf on a baking tray or roll into a sausage shape and fold in half and place into the loaf tin.  Leave to prove for another 30 minutes, covered with a cloth or the oiled cling film, but don’t let it double in size again as it needs to continue to grow when it’s in the oven.  Bake in a preheated oven at 220° c (425°f, gas mark 7) for about 25-30 mins.  To check it’s cooked turn it out of its tin and give it a knock. If it sounds hollow it’s cooked.  If I cook it in a loaf tin, I like to put it back in the oven out of its tin for a further five minutes for the crust to get crisp. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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Eggy Bread (French Toast)

Eggy bread is loved by my girls, probably something to do with the sugar or maple syrup drizzled all over it.  It is a great thing to cook quickly when the girls are hungry and need feeding before the hunger induced grumpiness turns into full scale warfare.

2 eggs
2-3 slices of good bread (can be stale)
½ tsp cinnamon
sugar or maple syrup
small amount of butter

Break the eggs into a shallow dish that is big enough to take a slice of the bread.  Beat the eggs gently and sprinkle with cinnamon. Dip each slice of bread into the eggy mixture so that both sides are well covered with egg.

Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat (add a tiny drop of oil to prevent the butter from burning). Place the bread slices into the pan and cook on each side for 2-3 mins until golden.  Turn onto a plate and drizzle liberally with maple syrup or sugar.  Eat warm.

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Bread and Butter Pudding

This is a family favourite and a good way of using up a stale loaf.  It’s at is best when served warm with cold cream after a sunday lunch, but also lovely to eat cold the next day.

6-8 slices of good bread (stale is fine)
20g  butter
50g sultanas or mixed dried fruit
50g demerara sugar
2 eggs
¾ pint (400 ml) whole milk

Grease a baking dish with butter, I use a rectangular one that measures 30cm x 20cm.

Butter one side of each slice of bread generously.  Lay the bread in the baking dish (butter side up) and sprinkle with the sultanas/ mixed fruit and the sugar between layers.

In a measuring jug, beat the eggs lightly and add the milk to make up to the 1 pint (570 ml) mark.  Whisk the milk and eggs together until combined. Pour this mixture over the bread.  Leave to soak for 30 mins – 1 hour until the bread has soaked up the milk and eggs.  Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f) for 30 mins until golden brown on top .

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I add cumin seed to the chapati which gives a lovely hint of spice to these delicious flatbreads.
Chapati (makes 6)
125g wholemeal flour
80 ml water
1 tsp cumin seed

Melted butter or ghee for brushing the chapati when cooked
Heat a pan over a medium heat and add the cumin seed dry-frying until it begins to release its smell. Lightly grind the seed with the back of a spoon.
Put flour and cumin seeds in a large bowl and slowly add water combining the mixture with your hands until a soft dough is formed.
Knead the dough for 5-7 mins until smooth.  Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave for 30 mins. 
Heat a griddle or heavy pan until its very hot ( I use a tortilla pan which is perfect for the job).
Separate the dough into six balls and roll out each ball on a lightly floured surface into a thin round. Cook each chapati for 1 minute on the first side, turn and cook for 30 secs on the other side.  If the pan is hot enough they should puff up.
Brush each chapati with melted butter as soon as it is cooked and keep warm until you are ready to serve.

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