29 Feb 2008


We all agreed this loaf was a winner and earned its place on the cheeseboard. Savoury bread with gruyere cheese, herbs and sultanas is a very tasty flavour combination.
Knowing that you can't go to the supermarket and buy a loaf that resembles your own, makes breadmaking worthwhile. If you take the easy route and use a breadmaker to prepare the dough then the whole process doesn't take very long.
The recipes in this book are for making bread by hand, but if you have had a bread machine for a while you soon get used to making small adjustments to the list of ingredients.

As you can see, I chose to bake the bread on a non-stick sheet which was then placed onto a heavy baking tray. Sometimes the thoughts of bread sticking to the tray and not budging is nothing short of frustrating. As a rule I don't have any problems but somehow when I looked at the dough it said 'trouble'!
Step-by-Step Baking was printed in 1999 and when you flip through the pages it really is a book that seems to be almost timeless. The contents include everything from pies and savoury flans, sweet yeast breads to small cakes and pastries.
An example of some of the recipes are Lemon and Lime Pavlova Pie, Italian Easter Tart, Baked Cheesecake with Exotic Fruits or how about Pistachio Angel Cake?
Leek and Mascarpone Tart, Baked Garlic and Goats Cheese Parcels, Spiced Fig and Ricotta Bread or Taleggio Pizzette with Pancetta and Red Onion - have I tempted you yet?


ISBN 0091865794 - Page 123

MAKES: 2 loaves (will freeze - simply refresh in the oven or microwave)

You will need:

450g strong plain white flour, 1 tsp salt, ½ x 7g sachet fast-action yeast, 1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence, 2 tsp sugar, 25g finely grated gruyere cheese, 250ml warm water, 30ml olive oil, 50g sultanas, 2 fresh rosemary sprigs (to decorate).

1. Place all of the ingredients except the sultanas and the 2 fresh rosemary sprigs in the bread machine, on the raisin dough setting, in the order as specified in your instruction book.
2. When your machine bleeps add the sultanas.
3. Remove the dough from the machine.
4. Knock back the dough and divide into two. Shape each piece into a baton. Place on a large baking sheet and sprinkle with flour. Slash along the length of each baton and top with the rosemary sprigs. Cover loosely and leave to rise for 30 minutes (or until double in size).
5. Bake at 220°C/210°C Fan/Gas Mark 7 for about 25 minutes until risen and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

13 Feb 2008


Traditionally, Cottage Pie is made with minced beef, and Shepherd's Pie with minced lamb. The meat and vegetables are then topped with mashed potatoes.

I like to make Cottage Pie with lean minced steak or lean minced beef, chopped celery, carrots and onion. I'm not a fan of Shepherd's Pie. The minced lamb, even after removing all of the fat, still tastes too fatty for me.

This recipe evolved from a Cottage Pie base in the freezer. I simply cooked some new potatoes, crushed them, popped them on top of the defrosted pie base, drizzled some olive oil over the potatoes and cooked the Cottage Pie in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Some grated cheddar cheese was sprinkled over the potatoes and a few cherry tomatoes tumbled on the top. Freshly ground black pepper was then sprinkled over. Return to the oven until the base is bubbling and the cherry tomatoes start to burst their skins.

I haven't given a recipe for the Cottage Pie base as most of us have our own personal favourite. The recipe I use is one from a Mary Berry book that I have used for years!

4 Feb 2008

Breakfast at the Wolseley

Yes - that was me! Did you see me in there a couple of Saturday's ago?
I chose the one decent Saturday in January when the sun shone all day, to take a trip to London from the West Midlands.
Every year in late January I go to London for the day and have a mother and son day.
Our birthdays are just four days apart, in what must be one of the most miserable months of the year.
This year our plan was foodie experiences.
We started the day at The Wolseley for breakfast . Neither of us are fans of 'The English Breakfast' and so we opted for Smoked Salmon, Scrambled Eggs and Toasted Brioche. This was beautifully presented, although as you can imagine it was quite rich. Fruit juice and then one of the Wolseley's fabulous coffees. We decided at this point that neither of us were feeling full but as the breakfast had been quite rich, that it would be sensible not to order any more food, but to stop off a little later for further sustenance!
A few years ago, I went with my daughter and her new baby for Afternoon Tea at the Wolseley and I can highly recommend that too.
As we were in Piccadilly, we then walked along to see the revamped Fortnum & Mason.
I have been to this store a few times and have always felt in awe of this beautiful department store. We both felt sad at how clinical it felt. My son commented that there wasn't any love in the store. For me, it had lost its soul. Perhaps you would like to read this article by Guardian Unlimited on the Fortnum and Mason revamp.
The revamped sweeping staircases are breathtakingly beautiful as is the decor. I would love to revisit Fortnum & Mason again, now that I have overcome my shock at the revamp. After having had time to reflect, maybe the time had come for them to move on. Change is never easy and it just takes a little getting used to.
A sustenance break and then onto Divertimenti on the Brompton Road. We were both a little disappointed with the shop, I guess that's where sometimes you expect too much after looking at the online store. That said, where I live all of the kitchen equipment shops have disappeared and it was, therefore, a real treat looking at all the kitchen goodies.
Along the road we stopped at Patisserie Valerie to see all of the wonderful cakes that were on display in the window. Incidentally, there is also a shop more or less next to the Wolseley at Piccadilly.
We then came to Harrods (I've been a few times before). It was ridiculously busy and so we decided to move on!
Next stop was WholeFoods Market. By now we were very very weary and thought we would be able to get a decent meal here. Unfortunately, that wasn't our experience.
It was so busy, we found it difficult to get around the store to have a look at the food on the shelves. I guess next time, we would need to go first thing in the morning.
After all this, I said a fond farewell to my son and headed home, happy but worn out!
Now what shall we do for our Mum and Son day next year? Any suggestions anyone?