As I have mentioned before I am atrocious at baking bread. All but this sourdough recipe elude me…I have no idea why. It didn’t take too much practice to crack cakes (as I was generally a terrible baker until I got to like 22…), but bread is still tricky for me.

A sourdough loaf is very different from what mostly passes as bread these days. In fact, it is the antithesis of the industrial factory loaf – that soft, structureless, flavour-lite bread that is produced in such huge quantities and lasts for like two weeks even after you’ve opened it… Sourdough, by contrast, is bread with immense character, with presence – bread with a point. Freshly baked and smeared with cold, creamy butter, it’s exceptional. Torn up, dabbed in good olive oil, and sprinkled with a few flakes of rock salt, it’s a delight. It also has longevity without all those nasty preservative chemicals. After a few days you’ll find it makes the best toast ever, it’s brilliant for bruschetta and, as it gracefully comes to the end of its life, it produces the very finest breadcrumbs and croutons. And that’s why I think you might want to have a go at making it yourself too.

Sourdough topped with griddled chicken, sun dried tomatoes and rocket, dressed with olive oil

Sourdough topped with griddled chicken, sun dried tomatoes and rocket, dressed with olive oil

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Sticky Ginger Loaf Cake

When I was at school I claimed to be allergic to gingerbread men…Just gingerbread men, not gluten or ginger or eggs or dairy but the baked good itself. Daft.

Later in life, I attempted to make gingerbread men for a fundraiser for children’s charities in Mongolia. I got relegated to dipping the truffles in chocolate after so many failed attempts I was threatening our budget. I forgot the sugar, I forgot the men (as in I left them on the front line and they all died in the fiery furnace that was ‘Nam, I mean, the oven…dun dun duuuhhhh!!), I added too much baking soda and they turned into gingerbread ‘Michelin’ men. I failed.

So when the OH suggested I make him some gingerbread I was a little nervous. Thank goodness, he actually meant a ginger loaf, like the McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake or the old fashioned English sticky ginger loaf. Phew!! Cake I can do. I will not get dumped for spending our whole week’s food budget on failed men…

Not a gingerbread man...

Not a gingerbread man…

I loaf making loaves…sorry. Here is a recent experiment that turned out to be an awesome loaf, and I regularly make banana bread as it is delicious, and wholesome, for breakfast (elevenses, afternoon tea, supper, midnight snacks…). This one would even make a good Christmas gift in a hamper as the longer you leave it the stickier it gets and it’ll last for ages if its sealed in a tin after opening. That or you could fill the house with the smell of spicey ginger goodness before everyone turns up on Christmas Eve for sherry and mince-pies, it would make a rather nice addition to the mince-pies I think.

Sticky Ginger Loaf Cake

225 g self raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 4 tsp ground ginger, 55g butter, 55g soft brown sugar, 115 ml black treacle, 115 ml golden syrup, 2 eggs beaten and mixed with milk to make 1/2 pint, pinch salt
Sticky, gooey sweetness

Sticky, gooey sweetness

Preheat oven to 180 C and grease then line a 2lb loaf tin. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a smaller bowl, over a saucepan of boiling water, melt the butter with the sugar, treacle and golden syrup. Fold the melted mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring well to combine and then fold in the egg and milk mix. Pour into the tin and bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when poked in the middle. Eat warm with spread with butter or drowned in custard.

Spanish Style Bean and Chorizo Stew

I am trying so hard to get into the swing of Autumn. It is my absolute favourite season and my enjoyment of it is being scuppered by the 25 C heat we are still experiencing most days here in the South of France. I want crisp, cold mornings and wild, rainy nights where the wind is howling through the trees. But we don’t always get everything we want so instead I will settle for this. It was a little bit of what I wanted, and although its warming stewy goodness is not necessarily needed here, I thought it might be needed elsewhere and so share it I will.

This evening I cooked a Spanish style stew for dinner…as I haven’t been to the shops today and yet I somehow have enough of the ingredients to make this deliciously simple supper. I am currently slightly obsessive about smoked paprika; I am in love…and this dish is made into pure heaven by the smokey, sweet flavour of the paprika in a good chorizo sausage.

Bean and Chorizo Stew

How cool are these beans!!

How many cows would these fetch I wonder?

How many cows would these fetch I wonder?

White beans, chorizo, onion, garlic, red pepper, tin tomatoes, large glass of red wine (and one for the chef…), seasoning, smoked paprika.

Fry the chorizo until the lovely picante oil is starting to leak out. Add the chopped onion, garlic and red pepper, cooking until they are soft. Stir in the wine, allowing it to simmer for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes and some seasoning. Cook for about twenty minutes, or until the sauce is nice and thick. Add the beans, cooking for another twenty minutes so they are cooked through, soft but with a little bite still. Serve with thick crusty bread, maybe a little rice and a large glass of oomphy, Spanish red wine.

Luxury French Toast

The TV series Scrubs changed my life. It taught me about ‘Brinner’. Breakfast for dinner. Revolutionary.

My favourite brinner recipe is a very special eggy bread; a classic from the days of my Nanny J babysitting with a sweet and simple twist.

Peachy ;-)

Peachy 😉

Luxury French Toast

Two slices of french bread (cut diagonally for maximum soft surface area), two eggs, vanilla sugar (pop some vanilla pods that have had the seeds used into a jar of caster sugar to infuse), cinnamon, peaches, butter.

Beat the eggs with a tsp of sugar and a small amount of ground cinnamon on a plate with a lip to keep the egg in. Soak the french bread in the egg. Melt the butter in a frying pan, allowing it to foam and turn a nutty brown. Place slices of peach into the butter and sprinkle with more vanilla sugar so that they caramelise. Put the eggy bread into the pan as well, add a little more sugar and fry until golden brown on the outside. Serve the slices of peach on top of the eggy bread with a drizzle of cream and honey. It is supremely decadent to have this for breakfast, let alone dinner, so push the boat out and maybe even have a bit of ice-cream on the side – Brinning…Breakfast, Dinner, Pudding. Why not?

Sourdough September

I am a terrible bread baker. There I’ve said it. I apologise to anyone that has had to eat it in the past. I am however going to continue inflicting it on you until I eventually get it right. My new endeavour is sourdough and I accidentally managed to coincide starting my starter with Sourdough September, championed on Twitter by @realbread.

So, meet Fred. Named by @grabyourspoon. He is currently just a few days old, in four or five days time I will be able to start using him for making bread. Fred Bread, hehe.

Not quite a dog...

Not quite a dog…