How do I make…sourdough?

Ah, sourdough…the bread du jour! Crusty god of every artisan bakery…where do I start?

Well, with a starter. That’s the bummer, really. You need a starter to get started and that takes time…

To create a starter:

250g bread flour
250 ml tepid water
7 seedless grapes (many people use other things — google!)

To make:

Slice grapes and mix with the flour and the water.

Put in an airtight tub or jar for 3 days (room temp) and then get rid of half the mixture. ‘Feed’ the remainder with 100g bread flour and 100ml water. Mix well.

Leave for another 24hrs, and it should be bubbling and ready to use. If it’s not bubbling, give it another ‘feed’ and leave it for a couple of days.

If you plan to make bread every week, you will need  to discard half and feed every couple of days, keeping it at room temperature.

If you plan to make bread once a month, you can keep it in the fridge, but let it come to room temperature before you use it.

I confess — I had as much success with my first starter as I did with my gluten-free rolls (which featured in the first ever Bake Off Extra Slice series as an utter failure!). However, the second attempt was a corker!




To make sourdough bread

You will need:

750g bread flour
500g sourdough starter
15g salt
350-450ml tepid water

Now, I’m a lazy so-and-so and use a kitchenaid for kneading. Feel free to go acoustic!

Put the flour, starter and salt into the bowl, fix on your dough hook and set on no.1 (lowest) setting. Slowly add as much water as you need for it to form a soft dough and so have picked up all the flour. Leave ‘kneading’ for about 4/5 minutes until dough forms a smooth skin. (You may need to place the timings by ear a little…).

Pop the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise for about 5 hours. I should have said that at the start. When I first made sourdough I started about 7pm and then realised it was going to be a loooong night.

Hopefully, your dough will have doubled in size. Put the dough on a floured surface and fold inwards to knock out the air — be gentle with it though! Divide into two, and shape each piece in to a smooth ball. Now, I invested in some banetton baskets, because I wanted it to look all posh and swirly, but you can just put them on a floured board. If you do have baskets, be sure to heavily flour them (again — my first attempt led to the dough stuck fast to the basket. Erk.) If no baskets, do dust your balls with flour. Snigger.

Cover with a plastic bag (a bin bag works well) and leave somewhere nice and warm for 10-13 hours. Yep, 10-13 hours — not a typo! It should look doubled up and not wrinkly. Wrinkly is not good.

Finally, heat your oven to 200C, line two baking trays with parchment and turn upside down on to trays. Bake for 30-40 mins until the loaf is brown and sounds hollow when you tap the base. Cool on a wire rack.

How do I make Bread Rolls?

Despite carbs being my nemesis, I am a bread lover through and through. I recall as child wanting my ‘last meal’ to be bread and water. I know. These days it would be bread and wine. How very Eucharistic of me.

Anyway, I was making some homemade beefburgers the other day and thought why not go whole hog and make the buns as well? Now, I like a crusty roll rather than what is termed a ‘bap’ (I still snigger, can’t help myself). So I turned to the bread guru Sir Paul of Hollywood and made some of his rolls. I altered the salt content slightly (don’t tell him!) but they were really good. With burgers, with soup or just on their own slathered with butter and marmite.

Bread rolls Paul Hollywood

You will need:

500g bread flour
8g salt
10g fast action yeast
20g unsalted butter
320ml tepid water

Put the flour, salt and yeast in a mixer bowl (take care to separate yeast and salt). Add the butter and 240ml of the water and mix slowly using the dough hook. Trickle in the remaining water and continue mixing for 5 minutes.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 2 hours.

Turn out the dough on to a floured surface and knead lightly until all the air is knocked out.

Divide the dough into about 12 lumps and shape each piece into a ball. I do this by sort of turning the dough inside out and shaping my hand around the outside. This probably makes no sense, but as long as it is a smooth ball you’ll be ok.

Pop the rolls onto a lined baking tray and cover with a large plastic bag for about an hour until they have proved again.

Heat the oven to 220C (200 fan) and pop a roasting tray in the bottom.

When proved, fill the roasting tray with hot water and pop the rolls in the oven. The steam from the tray gives them a nice crust.

Bake for about 15 mins until they are golden on top. Tap the bottoms and if they sound hollow, they’re done.

Leave to cool and enjoy. I can never manage this and have one hot with butter melting all over it…

How do I make…..Cheese Sauce?

I used to have a fear of cheese sauce. Not in a running out of the room at the sight if it or even an allergy way, but because I had always thought it meant creating a roux. I hate to think how many times I have ruined a roux, or roux-ined one in fact! (boom boom)

Then Delia came to my rescue and gave me a ‘bung it all in’ sauce which works brilliantly. I think you’ll find ‘bung it all in’ is a culinary term accepted worldwide…

And it doesn’t really matter what cheese you use…it can be fridge leftovers or ‘specially bought. For ease, I am using fridge staples, Cheddar and Parmesan.

This recipe makes about a pint but you can easily freeze what you don’t use. I use it for fish pie, cauliflower cheese, pasta….you name it.

You will need:

1 pint (570ml)milk
40g plain flour
40g butter
1/2 tsp mustard powder (optional)
50g grated Cheddar
25g grated Parmesan

Place all the ingredients except the cheeses into a medium-sized saucepan and place over a gentle heat. Stir continuously with a balloon whisk until the sauce becomes thick and glossy(altogether this takes about 10 mins). Add the cheeses and whisk some more, adding a good grind of salt and pepper to taste.

Et,voila! Easy, huh? Come on, if I can do it…

My cheese sauce, dribbled over cauliflower, topped with a little more grated cheese and ready for the oven
My cheese sauce, dribbled over cauliflower, topped with a little more grated cheese and ready for the oven

How do I make….Meringue?

meringueAh, yes. The fluffy pillows of billowing meringue….crunchy on the outside, chewy within. Add a splurge of cream and some tart berries and just dissolve into a taste and texture sensation that is hard to resist.

So, why did it take me years to actually feel brave enough to make it? Perhaps because whenever I have suggested making it I envisage the pursed lips of my grandmother, shaking her head, ‘FAR too difficult, dear. Stick to rock cakes.’

My son LOVES meringue (just as is) and it was only after we stood wide-eyed in the foyer of Carluccio’s, dribbling over their enormous meringues, that I decided, ‘What the hell. I am going to have a go myself.’ (I feel I must clarify we were not literally dribbling over the meringues. Then we would have had to buy them all. And eat them. Dammit, why didn’t we actually dribble on them….)

Anyway, here is my tried and tested recipe for lovely meringues. I just make them in haphazard dollops which suits my aesthetics but feel free to pipe and swirl to your heart’s content. Or spread into a circle to make a pavlova base (which if you drop, like I did, turns into a cracking Eton Mess!). Just watch the baking time…my dollops take about 1¼ hours in my temperamental fan oven but I guess the thinner the meringue, the shorter amount of time it takes. You could always try one to see….


4 large egg whites

115g caster sugar

115g icing sugar

kitchenaid meringuePreheat your oven to 110ºC (100ºC fan) and lay out two baking trays with baking parchment on (I find parchment is the only thing that doesn’t stick).

I use a Kitchenaid to make my meringue and unless you have arms of Thor, you will need some sort of electric whisk.  I also use a metal bowl which is super clean – any grease on the whisk or bowl will cause trouble.

Whisk the four eggs whites on a medium speed until they resemble billowy cumulus clouds and stand in stiff peaks when the whisk is removed (this takes me around 5 mins with the Kitchenaid on no. 6).  Then, upping the speed, add the caster sugar a dessertspoonful at a time, waiting about 3 secs in between each spoonful.

When all the sugar is whisked in sift in one third of the icing sugar and carefully fold into the meringue using a metal spoon. Repeat with the next third, then the last. Be very careful doing this because you don;t want to lose the air in your meringue.

Using a couple of tablespoons scoop out dollops of the mixture and place on the baking parchment.  My dollops are about the size of a lemon. More than a mouthful…just.

Bake for about 1¼-1½ hours.

Sometimes I sift about 2 tbsps of cocoa powder into the finished mixture before baking and fold it through gently, giving a slight choclatey swirl. But they are delicious with or without

chocolate meringues

How do I make…..Pesto?

DSCF5242I know, I hear your cries. Pesto Schmesto.  I make that all the time.

Well, I don’t.  I tried it once before, forgot to secure the lid on the liquidiser and had bloody pesto EVERYWHERE. Over the ceiling, the worktops, the carpet (yes, IN the kitchen – it was my first flat) and pesto all over me.

It’s a bugger to clean up and very easy to buy in a jar, so since then I have never tried.  Until now.

I bought a tub from M&S and thought…hang on a minute, surely I could give it a go….again.

So, I researched recipes and OMG are there lots! Salt, no salt. Garlic, no garlic. Parmesan, Pecorino. Extra virgin olive oil, or normal?

So I went with a basic recipe from Felicity Loake and adapted it to what I had. As such, I do NOT attribute this to her, or anyone.  But, this is how it went:



2 tbsps pine nuts

Pinch (or 3) of salt

125g basil leaves

30g Parmesan

125ml Extra virgin olive oil

First of all you need to lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry pan and leave them to cool.  Now, I was supposed to crush everything up in a mortar and pestle, but I gave up within 2 minutes and switched to the food processor. Sorry.

So, add the pine nuts, basil and cheese to the food processor and whizz up (I pulsed).  Through the funnel thing, dribble in the olive oil until you have….well, pesto!  Hey Pesto!  (Sorry. Again)

Pop it into a jar and drizzle a little oil over the top to seal.  It should keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.



Well, mine tasted like it needed more salt.  Perhaps because half the cheese was meant to be pecorino and I didn’t have any.  Well, my Tesco local didn’t sell any.  So, I added a couple of pinches more and it was better. BUT still not as good as the pot I bought from M&S.  Also, next time I would use regular olive oil rather than extra vrigin as the taste was strong.

So, when I have harvested a bucket load more basil I will try a variation.  However, it is perfectly nice and will be scoffed on some beautiful, home-made pasta BUT it could be better.  But, hey. If this blog was all about how marvellous I am at cooking…well, it would be a big fat lie.  I am ‘adequate’ at cooking, but trying to get better.  That’s what this blog’s about.  Share and share alike.

On that note, if anyone has any pearls of wisdom or better recipes, PLEASE post in the comments or email me.  I would be very grateful for any tips and happy to credit you, of course!

How do I make Refrigerator Cake?

refridgerator cakeRefrigerator cake is a sneaky cake if ever there was one.  Everybody’s recipe is different and changing a single ingredient can send people spiralling off into tirades, completely incensed that you might suggest an alternative! Some call it refrigerator cake, some call it tiffin, some call it rocky road.  They are all made on the same premise and I cannot work out the difference between them.  Whatever you call it, it’s very popular and decadently delicious.  Kate and Wills had it for a wedding cake – who needs a higher accolade?

The recipe I am sharing with you includes one of my favourite flavours, ginger.  Mixed with the honeycomb of the Crunchie bars and the gooey marshmallows, this is my absolutely favourite version of this very moorish cake.  I’ll be interested to hear what yours are.

crunchie barsIngredients
  • 450g milk chocolate
  • 150g ginger biscuits, broken up haphazardly
  • 100g small marshmallows
  • 2 x 40g Crunchie bars, cut into 1cm chunks

How to make it

Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

Place the milk chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Once the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and allow the chocolate to cool to just above room temperature, otherwise it will melt the marshmallows.

Stir in the other ingredients and press into the prepared tin. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours or until set, then cut into squares and serve!

 ginger refridgerator cake


How do I make…..Eggs Benedict?

This is a classic recipe and perfect for brunch.  If you are vegetarian, there is Eggs Florentine which is just as delicious.

The two scary parts are poaching the eggs and making the hollandaise sauce.  But fear not, I am now a dab hand at this and can help you out!

Eggs Benedict is basically a toasted muffin with bacon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.  Now, there are many variables out there, but I am going to give you my basic recipe and leave it to you to spruce up as you see fit.

Eggs BenedictHow to do it

1. Toast your muffin and leave in toaster to reheat at the last moment.

2. Fry 3 strips of streaky bacon however you like it (I always err on the crispy side myself).  Then wrap them in foil and pop in a very low oven to keep warm.

3. Bring a small frying pan of water to the boil and add a tablespoon of vinegar.  Reduce to a healthy simmer.  Then, break an egg into a small glass or cup and gently ease into the simmering water but do so at the edge of the pan and with a wooden spoon to catch it.  What you are trying to do is form a pocket with the pan and spoon for the egg to slip into.  Keep the spoon there for about 5s then gently take it away.  This should stop the egg from spreading everywhere and give you a nice blobby egg.  Doesn’t always work and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, but with practice this works 9 times out of 10 for me.  Simmer for exactly 2 minutes then carefully lift the egg with a slotted spoon and drain away the water.

4. I use the whisk on my kitchenaid to make the hollandaise, but if you don’t have one you can use any other whisky thing to do it.  Separate 2 large eggs and season the yolks with salt and pepper.  Discard the whites. Whisk the yolks for about 1 minute.  Heat 1 dsp lemon juice and 1 dsp vinegar (pref white wine vinegar) in a small pan and when starting to bubble (happens quickly, so keep an eye on it) add to the eggs yolks whilst whisking, then switch off.

Use the same pan to melt 110g butter over a very gentle heat.  When foaming, remove from heat, turn on the whisk again and gently pour the butter into the egg mixture.  The slower you add it the better.  Hey presto!  Hollandaise sauce!  (This makes enough for four people)

5. Now, the timing to get all this ready at the same time is tricky and little bit stressful!  I put the poached eggs water on to boil then start the hollandaise.  Then, before I add the butter to the sauce, I put the eggs into poach.  This allows the sauce and eggs to finish at roughly the same time so you can pop the muffins down to reheat, get the prepared bacon from the oven then construct your Eggs Benedict – muffin, bacon, egg, sauce and a grind of pepper on the top.  Absolutely delicious and don’t bother thinking about the calorific value, it’s just too depressing.  Eat and enjoy!


To make Eggs Florentine you replace the bacon with wilted spinach.  Equally scrumptious.

This does take a little practice with timings etc, and the hollandaise is not done in the conventional way BUT it works and really is quite simple to do.  Just prepare first – get everything ready and do the toasting/frying ahead of time as you will be rushing around like the proverbial blue-a**ed fly at the end.  But those you feed will love you forever.