Char-grilled pears with gebrannte Mandeln cream

This is a very Christmassy pudding that I came up with for our Boxing Day dinner. It’s combining the fruit and cream components of a classic British pudding with the traditional flavour of a German Christmas market – Gebrannte Mandeln (candied almonds). Best of both worlds, even if I say so myself.

  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • About 50ml water
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • A good handful of almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 ripe but firm pears
  • 125g mascarpone
  • A bit of milk

Start by making the candied almonds. Heat the butter, sugar and a bit of water in a small frying pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep on heating and stirring until the water is mostly evaporated and the sugar starts to visibly get browner. Stir in the almonds and the cinnamon. Take off the heat after about a minute, and keep stirring until the sugar starts to harden. You want it to be in rather small pieces rather than large lumps of caramel. Once they’re set, they become nigh impossible to break. Set aside.

Next cut the pears into slices about 5mm thick, and cut out the seed area and the flower. Get a griddle to smoking hot, lightly oil it and sear the pear slices on both sides (possibly in batches). Set aside to cool.

To serve, stir the mascarpone with a bit of milk so it becomes softer. Then stir in half of the candied almonds. Spread the pear slices on 4 plates, put a good dollop of the mascarpone mix in the middle of each and sprinkle over the rest of the almonds.

Open source bread (reprise): Rosemary Loaf

This is a bread we used to make a lot in the olden days in a standard bread maker when we had a huge rosemary bush in the garden of our rented flat. Now that the new rosemary has taken hold, I have adapted the recipe to make a loaf in a tin.

The dough works very similar to a simple white loaf, but has some extra olive oil and milk – and of course rosemary.

500g strong white bread flour

250g water

70g milk

10g fresh yeast

20g olive oil

10g salt

15g finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Mix the ingredients and work into an elastic dough (takes about 20 minutes). Form into a tight ball on a lightly floured worktop, and rest for one hour in a covered bowl. Form into a ball again, then shape into an oblong that fits in your greased bread tin (I use olive oil for this bread).

Cover and let prove for another hour in a warm place. Preheat oven to 250°C, just quickly, then slide in the tin. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce temperature to 220°C and bake for another 25 minutes. Take the bread out of the tin and let cool on a wire rack.

Tastes great with cheese or with soup, or also surprisingly nice with honey.

More open source bread

Over half term, we visited family in southern Germany, and as it was close, we took the girls to a ski resort in Austria to learn a bit of skiing. One day on the way to our accommodation, we stopped at the MPreis supermarket in Haldensee, Austria, and at the bakery there I bought a loaf of bread – a seeded wholemeal sourdough loaf baked in a square tin as is very typical for German or Austrian bread. This turned out to be so nice that my daughters declared this to be their favourite bread, even winning against the previous favourite, my own Armadillo Bread. Of course, I couldn’t give in that easily to a super market bakery in rural Austria, so I tried to come up with my own version of a similar bread


So, here we go with the recipe – whether I succeeded in capturing the top spot will be decided today after school…

400g rye sourdough starter
150g wholemeal rye flour
150g shredded rye kernels
500g strong wholemeal bread flour
100g sunflower seeds
20g salt
565g water
Some wholemeal bread flour for dusting

Loads of sunflower and pumpkin seeds for coating

Add the sourdough starter, the flours and the rye kernels to a bowl, add the water and start mixing. This dough is initially very wet and sticky, so might be worthwhile working in a bowl. After a while, add the salt and the sunflower seeds, and keep working the dough. Once it’s been worked to be a proper dough, roll into a ball on a work surface dusted with wholemeal flour, put in the bowl and rest fot 1h covered with a cloth.

After 1h, put back on the dusted work surface again and work into a ball again. The rye kernels will have started to soften and make the dough less wet and sticky by now. Rest for another hour.

After that, work into a ball again, then split into two even parts (about 900g-920g each). Form into short and fat logs. Roll these in a mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds to cover thickly all around (the amount of seeds sticking to the bread is amazing, you probably need several hundred grams of seeds). Place in two rectangular bread tins that  have been slightly greased.

Then the bread needs to prove for about 12-14h in a cool, draught free place (I use the under-stair storage). Then bake in an oven preheated to 250ºC for 5 minutes, before reducing the temperature to 220ºC and baking for another 35 minutes. The seeds on the top should be clearly browned, but not burned.

Then remove from the oven and tip out of the tins onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool completly before eating, even if the smell is very tempting.

Quick African vegetable curry

This is a tasty dinner for a school night, using African peanut curry sauce from Bim’s Kitchen as a base, cutting down cooking time by an hour or so. It still takes a little bit of time, but not much effort. Serves two very hungry people or 3-4 at a stretch.


Half an onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 fresh green chili, chopped (optional, for chili addicts like me)
4 carrots, peeled and chopped in 1cm dice
2 courgettes, chopped into pieces
3 large mushrooms, chopped into pieces
1 glass of African Peanut Curry Sauce
4 eggs

Heat a bit of oil in a large pan, add the onions, garlic and chili and fry for a minute or so, without browning them. Add the chopped vegetables, and sauté for 10 minutes on a high heat, covered while stirring regularly. Add a pinch of salt at this stage. Add the curry sauce and a bit of water, cover again and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Crack open the eggs and gently slide then into the sauce. Cover and poach in the curry for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper, serve with rice.
Actually, any West African side dish like fufu, TZ or banku would go nicely with it, but if you go through the effort of making those, you might as well cook groundnut soup from scratch…

Open source bread 4: Off-white sourdough loaf

This is another recipe based on my all-rye sourdough starter, a rather recent addition to my repertoire of breads. I have to admit I have been reading the chapter of pure sourdough breads in Richard Bertinet‘s Crust and was a bit scared of trying it myself, but at some point last year I took the plunge and gave his recipe a go. The first try only looked a bit like a car crash, and after a while of experimenting and adapting the recipe to my starter and way of working, those sourdough loaves started to turn out quite nicely (and they are really tasty and keep for a few days in the bread bin).

I called it an off-white sourdough as while it’s main ingredient is white bread flour, the rye starter gives it a beige-brown colour and a  very distinctive taste that is clearly not white bread.


400g starter
850g strong white bread flour
580g water
20g salt

Mix everything but the salt and work it for about 20 minutes, adding the
salt after about 10 minutes.
Form into a ball on a flour-dusted surface, put in a bowl, cover with a
towel and leave to rest for 1h
Then put it back onto the flour-dusted surface, fold it to a ball again,
back to the bowl and rest for another hour.
Then back on the flour dusted surface, form into a ball, cut in half (I
use scales to get them equal), form into two balls, and put in flour
dusted proving baskets (or two bowls lined with floured tea towels),
seam side down, cover with a towel. Leave in a cool place to rest for
Preheat the oven to 250C. Carefully put the loaves from the baskets onto
a baking tray, ideally covered in a silicone sheet or baking paper (seam
side down) – they are quite soft and fragile at this stage, don’t
manhandle them or the finished bread will look like it had a car accident.
Cut criss-cross over the top with a sharp blade.
Mist the oven, bake for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to 220C, and
bake for another 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool completly on a wire rack.

This bread keeps a few days and freezes well. Perfect lightly toasted
with a poached egg.

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Open Source Bread 3: Armadillo Bread

It’s been a while since I posted here, but I’ve been talking about bread recipes recently, so I thought I could continue this series…
This one is the staple I have been baking every other week for the last few years, and it’s the main bread that we tend to eat all the time. It is a true hybrid, 60% wheat and 40% rye, a lot of wholemeal and a bit of white flour, half yeast and half sourdough.


Ingredients for 2 loaves:
400g Rye sourdough starter
200g Wholemeal rye flour
400g Wholemeal strong wheat flour
200g Strong white bread flour
10g Fresh yeast
20g Salt
475g Water
150-250g Mixed seeds (any of sunflower, pumpkin, linseed etc. I change the mix every time)

Mix all the ingredients except the seeds in a bowl, and then work to a smooth dough. Towards the end, work in the seeds. Form a tight ball on a floured work surface, put back in the bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rest foot about 8h (I usually do that overnight). Then work into a ball again, split in half and work every half into a ball again and leave to prove in a proving basket for 1.5h. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 250°C.

After proving, carefully transfer the loaves from the baskets onto a baking tray, and slice them across about every inch. This will allow them to expand to a more oblong shape and will give them the stripy pattern that gave them their name. Quickly mist the oven, then put in the loaves on the bottom shelf. Bake for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to 220°C and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Open Source Bread 2: Muesli Bread

The way I usually make bread is that I make a bunch of loaves every other week and freeze them so we always have nearly fresh bread – a loaf that has been frozen freshly after cooling down and then is thawed in the microwave is definitely nicer than a days old loaf, and much more achievable than baking every day.
I’ll start with a fairly new creation I have come up with when I had a lot of sourdough starter to go through, but our freezer had died so I had no way of keeping a large amount of bread.

So I made a very dark and heavy, pure sourdough bread. It is based on my rye only sourdough starter, and made with wholemeal rye and wheat flour, sunflower seeds, linseed and mixed rolled grains – I use Holland and Barretts’ muesli base, hence the name of the bread.
After a couple of iterations, I came up with the following recipe that yields a moist and rich bread with a noticeable but mild acidity – perfect if you love German or Eastern European wholemeal breads, but aren’t a fan of the really sour tasting varieties.

400g rye sourdough starter
100g wholemeal rye flour
200g strong wholemeal wheat flour
100g mixed rolled grains
100g sunflower seeds
50g linseed
10g salt
255g water
Work all the ingredients to a smooth dough, preferably in a bowl as the dough is a bit on the wet and sticky side. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for 6-8h – I do this overnight.
Work again quickly, shape into a longish loaf, roll in rolled grains and put it in a greased baking tin (I use a fairly big, long one). Cover with a cloth and leave to prove for 1.5h. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C. After proving, mist the oven with some water and bake the bread in the tin for 35 minutes, reducing the heat to 220°C after 5 minutes.

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Root veg spaghetti with tahin

Serves 4

For the vegetables:
2 parsnips
5 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1/8 of a celeriac
1/4 suede
1 leek
All diced to about 1 cm

4 cloves of garlic
1 small red chilli, de-seeded
Finely chopped

Pinch of ground cumin

400g spaghetti

To finish:
A large handful of each dill, parsley, fresh coriander and basil, roughly chopped
3 tbsp tahin
1/2 preserved lemon, flesh discarded and peel finely chopped

Add a good glug of olive oil, the vegetables, garlic, chilli and cumin to a deep frying pan and put on a medium heat. Fry for about 5 min, then salt lightly and cover. Keep cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti al dente. If the vegetables threaten to run dry, add some water from the pasta.

You can wash and chop the herbs while the pasta is cooking.
Put the tahin in a small bowl, and add some pasta water spoon by spoon, stirring all the time until it has the consistency of a runny batter.

When the pasta is done, drain it adding a good bit of the water to the veg – you want to see a bit of liquid, but the vegetables should not be floating. Mix the pasta, the tahin, the herbs and the lemon carefully into the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper to taste – you might not need any salt as the pasta water should be quite salty. Rest covered for a couple of minutes for the tastes to blend, then serve hot.