Adopt an olive tree for Christmas and a recipe for garlic and sage focaccia

If you’re having trouble finding the perfect Christmas present for the foodie in your life, then look no further. With Pomora, you can adopt an olive tree in Italy (either Sicily or Campania) on their behalf, and every quarter they’ll receive three cans of delicious olive oil direct from their grower.

What’s more, readers of Bangers & Mash can receive a brilliant 25% off the first quarter of an adoption. Continue reading “Adopt an olive tree for Christmas and a recipe for garlic and sage focaccia”

Homemade soda bread and butter inspired by a trip to River Cottage

homemade soda bread and butter

River Cottage. What a wonderful place. I could make myself at home there quite happily. I’d wash the dishes and clean the loos in return for bed and board and perhaps the odd cookery lesson. Although I’m not sure my family would be too happy about me deserting them. Unless there was room for them too of course. And the two cats. Yes, dream on Vanesther…

River Cottage Collage

I was recently the guest of River Cottage, along with a host (a herd, a pride, a smorgasbord… collective noun anyone?) of other food bloggers for a very special day of cooking, feasting, photography and foodie conversation. For once I wasn’t the only one rearranging the table and photographing my meal before the first bite. Continue reading “Homemade soda bread and butter inspired by a trip to River Cottage”

Wild garlic pesto tear & share bread

Wild Garlic Bread CollageThe lanes near our house have been heavy with the heady scent of wild garlic flowers in the last few days, the warmth of the late spring sunshine increasing their intensity. We’re nearing the end of the wild garlic season, so I’ll be picking one last harvest to make up a big batch of wild garlic pesto. It freezes beautifully and will provide us with a taste of English spring for many months to come.

The pesto is delicious simply stirred through a bowlful of pasta or spread on toasted bread to create bruschetta. It’s also wonderful in this easy tear-and-share bread, a perfect accompaniment to cold meats and cheeses as part of a buffet lunch or a springtime picnic.

wild garlic pesto bread

Wild garlic pesto tear & share bread

Makes 8 bread rolls

400g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
250ml water
1 tbsp olive oil
half a jar of wild garlic pesto – see my recipe here

Put the flour, salt and dried yeast into a large mixing bowl and combine.

Make a well in the middle and pour in the water and oil. Gradually work the flour into the liquid to form a soft dough. If it’s too dry, add a drop more water. If it’s too sticky, add some more flour.

Flour the work surface before tipping the dough onto it. Knead the dough for five to ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover loosely with cling film and put in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Grease and flour a 20cm round cake tin.

Uncover the risen dough and punch it back down. Flour the surface again and divide the dough into eight equal portions.

Roll each portion of dough into a rough rectangle, approximately 20cm by 10cm. Spread each rectangle generously with wild garlic pesto and roll up carefully into a tidy spiral. Stand each spiral into the prepared cake tin, spacing them out to allow them room to spread.

Cover loosely with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave to rise again for another 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 or use the middle of the top oven of an Aga.

When the bread has risen again, place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Place the tin on a wire rack and leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning out. Lovely eaten while still warm, drizzled with a little olive oil.


As this bread makes use of a sensational spring ingredient, I’m entering it into this month’s Four Season’s Food challenge hosted by Eat Your Veg and Delicieux where the theme is Celebrating Spring.


And as it’s a very seasonal recipe, I’m also entering it into Simple and in Season hosted by Ren Behan.

cooking with herbs

Finally as it features wild herbs, I’m sharing it with Karen at Lavender & Lovage in this month’s Cooking with Herbs challenge.

Caraway and linseed bread

caraway and linseed bread

While I adore caraway in slow-cooked meaty dishes (such as my braised pig cheeks in red wine or my family favourite Bolognese), when I think of caraway I do tend to think of bread. As I said before, one of my earliest memories of caraway is smelling it in a little Jewish bakery in Stamford Hill in North London as a child.

But until this week, I’ve never actually baked my own bread with caraway. To be honest, we’re quite boring with our bread, most of which is made in the breadmaker, carefully timed so that we have a freshly baked loaf awaiting us in the morning. That’s probably the only thing I have in common with David Cameron. Thank goodness.

I am married to a man who loves his gadgets and so it is no surprise we own a breadmaker. It is also no surprise, therefore,that  it is my husband who makes most of our bread in said breadmaker. But on those occasions when I decide I want to make bread, I usually do it the old fashioned way, by hand, in an oven. If I didn’t work almost full-time, I’d probably bake more bread this way. But I do, so I don’t.

My husband prefers his loaves fluffy and white. I like mine brown, seedy and substantial. The children eat whatever’s going, thankfully.

I guess I really should have tried a rye bread for my first experimentation with caraway in breadmaking. But that might have been a step too far for my other half. I’ll work up to that. For my first caraway bread, I decided on a simple wholemeal loaf with a spattering of caraway and linseed. I’m not completely sure why I ended up with this particular combination, but it’s probably got something to do with picking up a big bag of linseed in Holland and Barrett when I actually went in to purchase something entirely different, and needed to use it up somehow. Apparently it is one of the most potent sources of omega 3 fatty acids found in nature and offers a whole host of health benefits besides. I just thought they tasted rather nice.

So here’s my caraway and linseed bread recipe. It’s less of a sandwich or toast bread and more of a satisfying bread and cheese and soup bread, if you know what I mean. But I did find myself creeping into the kitchen late at night and tucking into a slice or two, with nothing more than a generous spread of salted butter. And the scent of caraway transported me right back to that Stamford Hill bakery and heading back home with Dad to finish my Puffin Post competition entries…

caraway and linseed bread

Caraway and linseed bread

250g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
250g wholemeal bread flour
7g fast action dried yeast
10g salt
50ml sunflower oil
300ml water
20g caraway seeds
50g linseed

Put the flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl and mix together. Pour in the sunflower oil and water and combine with your hands to form a dough. If it’s too dry, add a drop more water. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.

Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough for around 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover loosely with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Uncover the risen dough and punch it back down. Flour the surface again and knead the dough for a couple of minutes. Gradually knead in the caraway and linseed until evenly dispersed through the dough.

Shape the dough into a round and place on a well-floured baking tray. Cover the dough again with cling film or a tea towel and leave again until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7.

Bake the bread for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190°C/gas mark 5 and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

When I do it in the Aga, I bake the bread near the top of the top oven for 10 minutes and then move to the bottom of the oven for the remainder of the time.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

spice trail badge square

This caraway and linseed bread is another of my entries for this month’s Spice Trail challenge.

Baking bread with the kids


Why is it that as soon as the school holidays start, the rain comes? Hopefully today’s downpour was just a temporary blimp but it’s always good to have some rainy day activities up your sleeve, just in case.

My children always love a bit of baking. I usually love it too, although I do have to be in just the right mood to cope with the mess that generally ensues. We try not to stick to ‘kiddy’ things like fairy cakes and smiley faced pizzas and I find bread making is a perfect activity for children. There’s the magic in waiting for the dough to rise and the fun of fashioning the bread rolls into just about any shape imaginable from plaits and hearts to hedgehogs, butterflies and caterpillars.

Bread Collage

This is what we ended up doing when my friend Sarah came over for the day with her children Jack and Molly. Not only is it such good fun to make, you then get to tuck into the wonderfully warm bread for your tea, spread thickly with lots of butter and jam. Children always really enjoy eating food they have made themselves, don’t they?

Bread Collage2

Easy bread rolls

Makes enough to feed four hungry children

400g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
7g sachet fast action dried yeast
250ml luke warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
Seeds, nuts and dried fruit for decoration
Oil for greasing

Put the flour, salt and dried yeast in a mixing bowl and combine well.

Make a well in the mixture and pour in the water and olive oil. Gradually work the flour into the oil and water to make a soft dough. If the mixture is dry, add a little more water. If it is sticky, add a little more flour.

Sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface. Knead the dough for five to ten minutes by stretching it away from you and then pulling it back into a ball. Keep going until the dough feels elastic and smooth.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with cling film or a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for around an hour until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Punch the dough to release the air and divide the dough between your children, and let the creativity begin. My daughter Jessie likes to make little hedgehogs using scissors to clip the spikes and pistachio nuts for eyes. Mia has a thing for caterpillars, placing lots of little balls of dough in a line. It helps to brush the bread with a little oil to keep seeds and nuts in place. Put their creations on a baking tray greased with a little oil.

Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size, until they are golden brown. Allow to cool a little on a wire rack before devouring with butter and jam. Delicious!



What do you like to bake with your children?


Cheat’s ciabatta pizza

Now that I’m working full-time again, the only chance I really have to play around in the kitchen is at the weekends. But then if I spend too much time in the kitchen, I feel bad that I’m not spending enough time with the kids. So wherever possible I try to involve Jessie and Mia in the cooking too.

On Saturday, after spending the afternoon in Bath shopping for new clothes (my girls are growing so blinking fast at the moment!), we rustled up some quick ciabatta bread pizzas for an easy tea. And the girls enjoyed deciding on their own toppings.


I’m not really sure whether to call these posh open grilled sandwiches or ciabatta pizzas – I guess they’re somewhere in between. And they don’t really warrant a recipe. I simply spread some passata on sliced ciabatta (you may prefer French bread or even a slice of cottage loaf) before the girls got going with their own special creations. Up for grabs was whatever we found in the fridge; leftover tinned sweetcorn, ham and salami, some chopped wild garlic leaves we’d picked from the hedgerows, black olives, capers and of course lots of mozzarella cheese.

Mia likes to play safe when it comes to food and kept her pizza topping simple. She isn’t a big fan of strong flavours like olive and capers. Despite that, she did go crazy with the wild garlic, and ate it all quite happily.

ciabatta pizza

Jessie, on the other hand, has always been much more adventurous with food, and went for everything on offer. If there had been raw chillies, she’d probably have thrown some of those on there too.

ciabatta pizza

Cheat’s ciabatta pizza

Serves 4 (2 adults, 2 children with leftovers perfect eaten cold for breakfast!)

4 small part-baked ciabatta, sliced widthways
350g passata or crushed tinned tomatoes
3 x 125g mozzarella cheese

And any toppings you fancy – we went for…

cooked ham, roughly chopped
salami, roughly chopped
tinned sweetcorn
pitted black olives
wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped (or any other fresh or dried herb)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Smother the ciabatta with passata and decorate with your chosen toppings. Tear the mozzarella and place on top.

Place your ciabatta pizzas on a lightly greased baking tray and pop in the oven (or alternatively under a medium grill) for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bread is lightly toasted and the cheese has melted. Easy as.

ciabatta pizza

As our ciabatta pizzas feature ham, salami, sweetcorn and tomatoes, I’m entering them into this month’s Recipes for Life, a challenge hosted by me and run in conjunction with SWALLOW, an amazing charity supporting adults with learning disabilities. Each month we set three ingredients and challenge bloggers to use these to come up with tasty, healthy and easy to cook dishes that can be made by SWALLOW members in their cookery class and at home. And this month’s three ingredients just happen to be pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes…

recipes for life

If you like this, you might also like to try…

The full English pizza
The full English pizza
Slow roasted tomato and oregano pizza
Slow roasted tomato and oregano pizza
Spaghetti with wild garlic pesto
Spaghetti with wild garlic pesto
Wild garlic risotto
Wild garlic risotto

Basil and garlic focaccia


Whenever I bake bread I always find myself marvelling at just how easy it is to make something that tastes and looks so good for such remarkably little effort.

While it might take a little time and is therefore not the kind of foodstuff I fancy making after a long day at work, baking bread is definitely my idea of a perfect weekend activity. And home-baked bread makes for a perfect weekend lunch, served still slightly warm from the oven with a spread of tasty cheeses, cold meats, olives and salad.

Baking often makes me a little nervous as the end result is usually meant to look neat and tidy. But thankfully bread is different and focaccia in particular should look a little rustic and rough around the edges. Which is obviously another reason why this is my kind of bread.

You can top your focaccia with whatever you fancy really – a light scattering of your favourite herbs, cheese, olives, or maybe someone caramelised onions and sun-dried tomatoes. But here I use my all-time favourite: basil and garlic.

Basil and garlic focaccia

500g strong white bread flour
15g salt
15g sugar
10.5g dried yeast (one and a half 7g sachets)
300ml lukewarm water
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Large bunch of basil, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
Half a lemon
Salt and pepper

Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and mix together. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water. Gradually work the dry ingredients into the liquid to form a soft dough. If it’s still a little dry, add a drop more water; if it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.

Flour the work surface and tip out the dough onto it. Knead the dough for five to ten minutes until it is elastic and smooth. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm, draught-free place for around an hour, until it has doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and give it a punch to knock the air out of it. Knead for another minute or so.

Split the dough into half. Roll each half into a rough circular shape about half an inch thick. Place the dough on a baking tray dusted with semolina.

In a small bowl, mix together the chopped basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Smear generously over the top of each piece of dough. Then push your fingers deep into the surface of the dough to make those little holes you always see on focaccia, allowing the flavours to get down deep inside the bread. Leave in a warm spot for another 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

When the dough has risen again to just over an inch thick, bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until the top is a beautiful golden colour. Drizzle the bread with a little more olive oil and sprinkle sea salt over the top. Leave to cool slightly but try to eat while still warm if you can.

As my focaccia features lots of lovely fragrant basil, I’m linking up with September’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage. I’m looking forward to working my way through the delicious looking recipes that have been submitted so far, including Recipe Junkie’s rosemary focaccia!