Sunday, 21 August 2016

Simple spelt bread

This is one of my all time favourite home made bread recipes. It is simple and quick to make in a few hours with minimal input from the cook. The loaf can be made and proved quickly in the evening and left in the fridge overnight to rise ready to be baked first thing in the morning.

Spelt bread dough comes together quickly and becomes pliable with the minimal kneading method described below. The end result has a nutty flavour and springy open texture.

I usually double the quantity and make two loaves so one can be stored in the freezer as a stand by.

Spelt is an ancient grain, has a nutty flavour and produces excellent bread. Records show it was cultivated in the Middle East 12 000 years ago but by Roman times spelt flour had become popular throughout Europe.

Makes 1 small loaf

15 minutes hands on time


  • 300 g/11 oz wholegrain/white spelt flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp active dried yeast
  • 200 g/7 fl oz warm water
  • You will need a 450 g/1 lb (15cm/6 in by 10cm/4 in) loaf tin greased with vegetable oil.


Place the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl and mix together. Gradually stir the water into the flour with a wooden spoon and then use your hands to bring the mixture together to form a ball of dough.

Cover the bowl with Clingfilm (or use an elasticated shower cap or a clean used plastic supermarket bag) and leave for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes the dough is ready to knead. Spelt flour is one of the easiest flours to knead as it develops its elasticity quickly.

Kneading the dough

Keep the dough in the bowl and pull a portion of the dough up from the side towards you and then press it back it to the middle of the dough. Spelt dough is quite stretchy so this should be easy for you to do. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat this process with another portion of dough. Repeat these movements about 8 times or until you have worked around all the dough. This should take about 10 seconds.

Cover the bowl again and let it rest for 10 minutes. Repeat this kneading and resting process twice.

Give the dough a final knead (you have kneaded it 4 times in all), cover and then leave to rise for one hour in a warm place or if you want to eat the bread the next morning leave the dough overnight in a cool (15° - 18°C /59°F - 64°F) place so that it doesn’t over prove. The dough should have doubled its volume by the morning.

When the dough has risen to twice its original volume - uncover the dough and while it is still in the bowl punch it with your fist to deflate the dough ball.

Lightly dust a work surface with spelt flour. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the floured work surface. Gently pull into an oval shape and fold both ends over into the middle. You will now have a rectangular shape. Pull and fold the top of the rectangle one third of the way towards the middle, move round 180° and keep folding until you have a shape the side of your loaf tin.

Place the dough inside the prepared loaf tin, cover with Clingfilm, or a plastic bag, and leave the dough in a warm place to rise to almost twice its original size (about 45 minutes).

About 15 minutes before the bread has finished rising, preheat the oven to 240°C (475°F), gas 9. Place a roasting tin at the bottom of the oven filled with a cup full of water. Then when the oven is up to temperature, remove the cover and place the loaf in the preheated oven and immediately lower the temperature to 220°C (425°F), Gas 7. Bake the loaf for about 35 minutes or until the surface is nicely browned. Turn the loaf out of the tin, tap on the base to check it sounds hollow and is cooked and place on a wire rack to cool.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Penne with aubergine, tomatoes and crispy prosciutto

This recipe has come about because Doves Farm kindly sent me a 'goodie' bag for appearing in their guest kitchen at the Allergy and Free From Show at Olympia in July. It contained a 500 g packet of Buckwheat penne and so I made a simple aubergine and tomato sauce to go with it and made it taste great by adding lots of lovely additions like crispy prosciutto, toasted pine nuts and some gorgeously sweet heritage cherry tomatoes. 

So what did I make of the buckwheat penne? Read on and find out. 

I have long been a fan of buckwheat ever since I tasted French crepes which are made from its flour. Buckwheat flour has a clean, nutty flavour and it makes great pancakes. It can also be used in cakes - usually mixed with other flours. The only thing is, it does not contain gluten - which is good if you have coeliac disease but not so good if you are a baker. Gluten gives structure to baked goods and pasta which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted Doves Farm gluten free, organic buckwheat penne. It has a great chewy texture, is tasty and really great to eat with a good flavoursome sauce. It also cooks faster than regular pasta - mine took just 7 minutes.

The nutritional composition of buckwheat flour is impressive. It has a higher protein and fibre content than dried white pasta made from durum wheat. It costs £2.99 for a 500g pack. I did notice the penne expanded quite a lot on cooking so you might need to serve 60g rather than the more usual 75g serving. So my advice would be to try it if you don't get on with other pasta. It is a really great alternative.

Serves 4


1 large aubergine, cut into 1 cm cubes, sprinkled with salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 gloves garlic, sliced
4 anchovies, cut up roughly
4 ripe tomatoes, cores removed and roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp capers
1 tablespoon black olives, stoned removed and roughly chopped
1 tbsp pinenuts
8-10 sweet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
80 g Parma ham (Prosciuttio)
4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
a few basil leaves
Salt and pepper
250g buckwheat penne


Preheat the oven to 200C. Leave the aubergine with the salt for about 15minutes or until you see droplets of moisture appearing on the flesh. Rinse and allow the water to drain away.

Heat the oil on a large saucepan and gently fry the onion and garlic until just beginning to brown. Remove the garlic from the pan and discard (this is the part of the garlic that is high in FODMAPs). Add the chopped anchovies to the oil and allow them to melt with the heat. They give great flavour to Italian tomato based sauces. Add the chopped aubergine to the pan, toss in the garlic flavoured oil, cover the pan with a lid and cook gently for 10 minutes until the aubergine is very soft. This is important - aubergines must be cooked until soft otherwise they taste awful!

Add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, capers and olives and continue to cook the sauce returning the lid of the pan to keep the moisture in. Season well and allow to cook. Add a little water if the sauce becomes too dry. Stir the cherry tomato halves through the aubergine sauce just before serving.

Lay the Parma ham and pine nuts on separate baking trays and place the baking tray in the oven for a few (try 5) minutes. Remove the Parma ham and pine nuts from the oven when golden brown and crispy and set on one side.

Put the buckwheat penne on to boil for 5 - 7 minutes in plenty of lightly salted water. Drain the penne and divide into four bowls.

Top with the aubergine sauce and scatter with toasted pine nuts, Parma ham, grated Parmesan cheese and torn basil leaves. This is a lovely summery supper. We loved it and hope you do to0.

Any left over can be eaten for lunch the following day.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Riciarelli with apricots

Riciarelli with apricots

These Tuscan almond biscuits have been adapted from Baking by Antonio Carluccio - I halved the quantities. The recipe is also influenced by Honey & Co, London where they serve a riciarelli type biscuit studded with juicy pieces of apricot. So I add plumped up dried apricots to this recipe when I have them. I also add tiny chunks of very dark chocolate when I feel like a bite of chocolate. Maya Gold by Green & Black is good. 

Friends and family love these ricarelli! They just taste so good and once you have the hang of making them a batch can be made quickly.

Just some notes on making this recipe - if you have not got an orange to make the zest - use a lemon. The apricots can be omitted or substituted with another dried fruit - cranberries at Christmas perhaps? The riciarelli dough can be flavoured with almond or vanilla, or orange essence as an alternative to fresh orange or lemon zest. If you have not got enough ground almonds adjust the proportions of the other ingredients accordingly to make the dough the right consistency. It should be stiff and pliable to roll into a log shape. This is quite a ‘forgiving’ recipe.


  • 150 g ground almonds
  • 170 g caster sugar
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 3 tsp honey
  • zest from one orange
  • 80 g dried apricots, soaked in boiling water until plump - about 15 minutes. (If the apricots are quite moist and plump already don’t bother with soaking them.)
  • 1 egg white beaten until stiff
  • Icing sugar to roll the biscuits
  • Rice paper (edible wafer paper) to place the riciarelli on to bake


Before you begin - preheat the oven to 190 C. Line a baking sheet with rice paper.

Mix the ground almonds, caster sugar, honey and orange zest together. Drain the apricots and cut into small pieces (0.5 cm across) and mix with the almonds and caster sugar. Stir in enough egg white to form a stiff paste.

Divide the dough into two and roll each piece on a surface dusted with icing sugar until it is 2 cm thick. Cut the mixture into lozenge shapes and place on the rice paper. Dust icing sugar over the riciarelli biscuits and place in the oven. 

Cook for 15 minutes until just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. 

Tear/cut the paper between the riciarelli to serve. 

The riciarelli can be stored in a jar or airtight container for a few days - if they last that long.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Lavender shortbread with baked plums

Late July is the must beautiful time of the year. This morning we went running on the Yorkshire moors where the heather is in bud. In a few days time its distinctive scent will waft through the air as the twiggy shrub comes into full bloom. 

At home in the garden lavender is flowering. Its scented flowers can be scattered over everything from roast pork to shortbread. This morning I put these photos on Instagram and one of my lovely followers the calligrapher @Quillandco asked if I would post the recipe - so here it is. Thanks to brilliant home economist Gill Marczak for making these..

Lavender shortbread


  • 175 g plain flour
  • 175 g butter (very cold and just out of the fridge)
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • 75 g fine semolina
  • a little extra caster sugar
  • a small bunch of freshly cut lavender flowers


You will need a lightly buttered, round loose bottomed cake tin measuring 20cm across. 

Before you begin - check the lavender stems for insects before stripping the flowers from the stems. 

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and rub together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add a tablespoon of individual lavender flowers to the dough. Gradually bring the mixture together as a dough using your hands to shape the dough into a ball.

Transfer the dough to the prepared tin and press it into the tin, smoothing the surface with the back of a spoon or a knife. out evenly, smoothing it out with the back of a tablespoon. Then prick it all over with a fork and, using the prongs of the fork, press quite firmly round the edges to make a patterned border.

Bake the shortbread near the centre of the oven for 1 hours until it is pale gold. Then allow the shortbread to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before cutting it into 12 wedges.

Remove them to a wire rack to get completely cold. 
Scatters with extra lavender flowers and caster sugar before serving.  
The shortbread can be stored in an airtight tin for a few days. 

It is delicious served with baked plums drizzled with honey and scattered with nuts.


Thursday, 14 July 2016

Three grain summer salad

Three grain summer salad

Take a handful of pearl barley rinsed in cold water and pop it in a pot with more water so it is well covered. Place a lid on the pot to shorten the time it takes the water to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and wait for 20 minutes until the beads of barley are soft but still chewy to bite.

Take a handful of black rice and do as above. Black rice should be cooked in a separate pan as it colours the cooking water a deep muddy red, brown. This contaminates the colour of everything it comes in contact with.

Finally, to complete the triad of grains, place four tablespoons of quinoa in a pan of water, as above, but limit the cooking time to 12 minutes once the water has come to the boil. Little white tails emerge from the seed coat as quinoa seeds cook and indicate when the quinoa is cooked are ready to eat. It should taste a little bit crunchy when cooked.

To finish your salad mix in a selection of roasted vegetables. I have used slow roasted tomatoes which I put in the oven at 150 C for an hour while I went out running. I sprinkled them with sea salt and a branch of oregano I picked from my unruly herb patch. At this time of the year all the woody stemmed herbs go wild - 'bad herb day' I think as I walk past them. 

A chopped yellow courgette was put in the oven to roast slowly at the same time as the tomatoes. Once back from my run I flame roasted peppers and steamed purple mange tout because they are ready in the garden. Their purple pods dangle like odd socks on a washing line.

Finally I made a batch of fresh pesto - and because I did not have enough basil I supplemented it with the curly leaves of parsley.

To assemble the salad - mix the grains together with a tiny drizzle of oil, lemon juice and salt. This keeps the grains lubricated and adds a little flavour. The cooked and cooled vegetables were mixed in and the whole salad dotted with bright green, delicious, fresh tasting pesto.

This salad and the photographs below were prepared as part of a skill share workshop with Carolyn Mendelsohn a very talented portrait photographer based in Saltaire, Yorkshire. We began with photographing still life food and then moved on to preparing, photographing and eating the mixed grain salad. If you would like me to run a bespoke workshop for you please get in touch I will feed you well!