Tag Archives: Bread

Recipe: Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Being in lockdown isn’t easy. Some days I find myself going a little stir crazy, some days I’m listless in bed, other days I’m bursting with energy. I’m trying, where I can to just go with my mood rather than force myself to do things. Over the weekend the sun shone a little and I managed to leave the house and take the dog for a short walk on the field by my house. Along one shady side of the field is a path which in the spring in fringed with wild garlic. I can never resist pulling a few leaves and taking them home to make wild garlic scones or something equally lovely with them. Whilst it was quiet, I grabbed a handful of wild garlic, then headed home to bake some wild garlic and Parmesan focaccia, because everyone else is baking bread during lockdown, so why shouldn’t I?

Recipe: Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Focaccia is a pretty simple bread to make, it just takes quite a lot of time. From picking my wild garlic, to pulling my bread out of the oven took the best part of five hours, but it was five hours very well spent. Before I began I checked in with my lovely Italian friend, Sherwin. He is a keen baker and gave me some top tips for tip top focaccia. His advice was as follows…

Focaccia is a high hydration dough so it is sticky and wet. Use oil instead of flour when hand kneading the dough on a work surface and preferably a slow first rise of 12 hours in the fridge, but an hour at room temperature will do. Use well oiled hands  when transferring and shaping the dough into a baking tray making sure not to knock out too much of the air. You can put rosemary, olives, cherry tomatoes, courgette or cheese. Enjoy!

I followed his excellent advice. I chose to prove my dough for an hour in the warmth of my bedroom and then topped it with wild garlic and Parmesan. The result was like the best garlic bread you’ve ever had.

Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Ingredients
500g strong white bread flour
1 and a half teaspoons of salt
2 sachets dried easy blend yeast
Olive oil, lots
400ml cold water
More olive oil for drizzling
20g wild garlic leaves, washed and finely chopped
30g finely grated Parmesan
A sprinkle of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Recipe: Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Method
Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and the water into a large bowl. Gently mix together with your hand to form a dough, then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes.

Next you need to stretch and knead the dough by hand in the bowl for about five minutes.

Tip the dough onto a very well oiled work surface and then knead some more for about five more minutes. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size, this takes about an hour. I put mine on my bed as my bedroom is the warmest room in the house, but whatever works for you.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and flatten the dough onto the tray, push the dough into the corners, cover with a large plastic bag or cling film, making sure it does not touch the top of the dough, then leave to prove for one hour.

Preheat your oven to 220C or Gas mark 7.

Using the tips of your fingers, dimple the focaccia all over, so it is covered in little dents. Sprinkle over the wild garlic and Parmesan, adding a generous twist of freshly ground black pepper and some sea salt. Drizzle over some more olive oil and then put in your pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.

Once it’s baked and out of the oven; drizzle with a little more olive oil and it’s ready to eat, hot or cold.

It is the most delicious bread I’ve made and if you can get your hands on some wild garlic, it’s well worth making yourself.

Recipe: Wild Garlic and Parmesan Focaccia

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

When school finished on Friday, my son was sent home with a pack of work to keep him busy while the schools are closed. The pack was full of maths and English worksheets, instructions for projects and lots of serious academic stuff. He’s in Year 4 and the emphasis right now is getting them up to speed for a big times tables test. In amongst the serious stuff was a copy of the curriculum for the rest of the year, tucked away in a dark corner were the words “bread making” so I’ve decided to break up the hardcore academic stuff with a series of bread making sessions, starting with these herby flatbreads.

I think that learning to bake bread is a pretty essential life skill. Where I live I’ve been struggling to find bread in the shops, so we’ve been mostly going without. I reckon being able to knock up some simple bread at home will tide us over. Bread making isn’t just about feeding ourselves, you can learn other lessons too, like maths (measuring out) and science (how yeast makes bread rise, etc).

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

Lunchtime was nearly upon us, so bellies rumbling we put together these really simple herby flatbreads. You can make them without the dried herbs if you prefer, but they were so much nicer with them. We ate them with hummus and carrot sticks, but they’d be brilliant with a curry or stew. They’re more snappable than bendy, almost like an Armenian lavash bread than a tortilla. Delicious.

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

Quick Herby Flatbreads

Ingredients
200g plain flour
¼ teaspoon of salt
100ml warm water
2 tablespoons of oil, I used vegetable, but olive or sunflower would work too, plus extra for cooking
1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
Ground pepper

Method
Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and trickle in the warm water, mixing as you go. We used a metal knife to mix with, but if you don’t mind getting messy, you can use your (very clean) hands.

Once the flour, salt and water are all mixed together, add the oil, the dried herbs and some black pepper and knead the dough with your hands. If the dough is too sticky, add a some more flour, if it is too dry add a drop more water.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough for five minutes. Try stretching the doings and folding it back on itself, my son loved punching the dough. You knead the dough to develop the gluten in it, this is what makes the bread springy and nice to eat.

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

Divide the dough into six balls, and on a clean, floured surface roll out each ball of dough using a rolling pin. Try and roll them into circles, but don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. They need to be as thin as you can make them; that way they will cook all the way through and be crispy and delicious.

Heat a frying pan, if you have a pastry brush, brush some oil over the pan; if not, dribble a tiny bit of oil in the pan and swirl it around. Once your pan has heated up a little, put your first herby flatbread in the pan. Cook each flatbread for about two minutes on each side, flip it over with a spatula. Ben said it looked like a bit like a pancake.

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

Once each side was cooked, we gobbled them up with some hummus. Ben said they tasted like the kind of bread we had with curry. If you wanted, you could try making your own butter to go with your herby flatbreads, it’s easy and lots of fun too!

These quick herby flatbreads are really easy to make with children. They’re quick, tasty and are a good introduction to bread making. We have plans for soda bread, focaccia, a crusty loaf and maybe some brioche. He will be a bread making genius by the time he goes back to school!

Cooking with Kids: Quick Herby Flatbreads

A Picnic in Delamere with Roberts Bakery

Ever since spring turned into what passes for summer round here, the small boy has been putting in constant requests to go for a “nicnic”. To those unversed in small boy speak, he wants to go on a picnic. Well if it makes him happy, and if it allows us to eat nice things in the sunshine (?), then who are we to refuse?

We were therefore really excited when Roberts Bakery invited us to a nicnic/picnic in Delamere Forest. There’d be storytelling and fun for the kids, whilst the mums were put to work making some fun, healthy sandwiches.

Roberts Bakery have been baking beautiful loaves and treats since 1887 in Northwich, Cheshire. I’ve long enjoyed their bread, but putting taste aside, I love that they’re relatively local, and I’m all about local products from local businesses.

This month they’ve been busy launching “50 Days of Summer” which is a family guide for the holidays, packed with ideas and inspiration to keep the little ones entertained over the long, long summer holidays. A brilliant idea, and one I’ll be delving into regularly for small boy entertainment.

We arrived by train at Delamere and had a little explore before we tracked down the Roberts Bakery team. Wellies on (for this is England) the small boy had a good run around with some of his new friends, then toddled off to be entertained by Storyteller Ian Douglas.

We then set to work making some healthy sandwiches for us all to enjoy. Roberts Bakery have recently launched a 50% white 50% wholemeal bread which as well as being a lovely loaf, contains protein, complex carbohydrates, calcium, iron and B vitamins, as well as thiamin, niacin and riboflavin, as well as being a major source of fibre.

We made lots of different kinds of sandwich, but the big hit with the small boy was the SLT – sausage, lettuce and tomato. I’ll share the recipe below, but it’s a low fat, healthy sandwich, easy to make and great for those who enjoy a really filling, hearty butty.

The SLT

Ingredients:
4 Roberts 50% white 50% wholemeal rolls
8 low fat sausages (we used Quorn sausages, because I’m veggie)
3 tbsp fat-free Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise
4 tomatoes, sliced
2 little gem lettuces
Freshly ground black pepper

Method:
Grill the sausages and leave to cool, then slice them lengthways. Combine the fat-free Greek yoghurt and mayonnaise, grind in some black pepper. Split the rolls and spread with the yoghurty mayonnaise. Lay your sausages on the bread roll (I found three halves per sandwich was sufficient). Top with your tomato slices and then your little gem lettuce leaves, then pop the top of the bread roll on and enjoy.

Roberts Bakery

I really enjoyed the lightness of the yoghurt and mayonnaise mixture and I think you could easily use rocket instead of little gem, though I enjoyed the textural crunch of the lettuce.

We ate the fruits of our labour, whilst Ian the storyteller regaled us with the tale of the giant Finn McCool. It was a really lovely day, a nicnic we will both remember very fondly.

The Roberts Bakery 50 Days of Summer download pack is available from 20th June and daily ideas will be shared on their Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the holidays. Fingers crossed the sun shines!

Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Roberts Bakery, we have not been financially compensated for enjoying our nicnic.

Knock-Out Gnocchi

photo (5)I’m at times a lazy cook but I draw the line at stabbing at the plastic film of a ready meal. After a busy day, my boys just want a decent meal in their belly and I want to cook it quick so I can open the wine.

So tonight I cooked a very adaptable, use what’s hanging around in the fridge, gnocchi dish. I urge you to try it as it’s simple, satisfying and delicious but don’t feel tied to the ingredients, mix it up and feel free to stick whatever you fancy in.

My Knock-Out Gnocchi…

Slice a large onion, red or white your choice and gently sizzle in a drizzle of olive oil. Chop a large red pepper, add to the onions and gently fry until they’re both soft but not coloured. Crush a clove of garlic and add to the pan with some salt and pepper. Throw in a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and some fresh thyme. I added some dried oregano too (because I love it, but add whatever herbs you want, dried or fresh, whatever you like). Cook with the lid on until the tomatoes have relaxed then remove from the pan and set aside.

Fling a very generous glug of olive oil into the pan, get the oil hot and throw in a bag of fresh gnocchi (if you’re using the off the shelf stuff rather than from the fridge section, then I’d give that a quick boil in some water). The aim is to get the gnocchi to develop a bit of a roast potato style crust so keep the pan hot, hot, hot and stir often. Season with salt and pepper and be patient, it will take a little while (but not forever I promise, remember I’m lazy and greedy).

Once your gnocchi has developed a sexy crust, tip your onion and pepper mix back into the pan and mix together. Add about half a jar of pesto and stir. Warm everything through for a minute and plate up. Serve with crusty bread and some salad. A large glass of red wouldn’t go amiss either.

This time I cooked it we had some leftover peas in the fridge, so they went in and we had some rocket growing it’s socks off in the garden, so some of that was stirred through until wilted with a few leftover leaves popped on top for garnish. Don’t be afraid to freestyle with this recipe. It’s very forgiving but the crusty gnocchi are a must!

Clean plates all round and compliments to the chef. Aces.