March 2014

March 2014

Monday, July 29, 2013

Malt loaf

A traditional Kent oast house designed for drying hops
It is said that the world’s most popular drink, after water and tea, is beer. Whether or not this is entirely accurate is beyond my research but beer is certainly brewed the whole world over and the basic ingredients are always the same – water, a starch (usually barley), brewer’s yeast and a flavouring, such as hops.

Shepherd Neame bar
On a recent visit to Faversham, Kent, we toured the Shepherd Name brewery – Britain’s oldest – and were given an excellent insight into this independent family company. We went behind the scenes at the busy working brewery and discovered how history and heritage are combined with modern technology to produce their award-winning range of ales and lagers. It was truly fascinating – despite being, or so I thought, a non-beer drinker – to be introduced to the production process together with all the sights and smells. And, of course, they didn’t let us leave without us sampling three distinctly different types of brew.

To my amazement, I actually enjoyed the lager - named Whitstable Bay - and, much to my husband’s amusement, I asked for a pint of it!  However, I hadn’t realised that it was quite strong at 4.5 per cent and my walk back to the hotel is a bit of a blur! 

Well, that was last week and I haven’t touched a drop since! However, I have developed a longing for the taste of malted barley and so I used some Wessex Mill flour to bake a malt loaf. It wasn’t a particularly pretty result but it did produce a dark, chewy bread which, when buttered, was satisfyingly sweet and undeniably malty.

I think I had better stick to eating bread rather than drinking beer in future!  

Malt loaf

Saturday, July 13, 2013


The summer fruit grown in our garden has been particularly good this year.  We have harvested blackcurrants and strawberries and the Tayberry - a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry - is currently producing abundant juicy berries. They are gorgeous, picked when they are fully ripe and still warm from the heat of the sun, served with cream, ice cream, or a low-fat alternative.

However, as they ripen in batches, we often have just a few at their best and so, this weekend, I decided to bake some light and delicious shell-shaped French madeleines flavoured with lemon and whole Tayberries. (There was actually enough mixture to also make a few containing tiny fudge pieces, as well as a final tray flavoured with orange chocolate).

Madeleines will keep for a day or so in an airtight tin but, as they have a somewhat ‘dry’ texture, they are best eaten fresh-from-the-oven and are perfect, dusted with icing sugar, and accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee. Bon appetit!

The basic recipe is as follows: 150g butter, 3 eggs, 150g caster sugar, 150g self-raising flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, grated rind of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 220C/200C fan, Gas 7. Grease a madeleine tray, dust with flour and shake off any excess or use, as I did, baking release aerosol spray.

Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly. Place eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until pale and thick (I used mixer). Sift in half the flour with the baking powder and fold in gently with the lemon rind. Pour in half of the melted butter around the edge of the bowl and fold in. Repeat using the remaining flour and butter. Spoon the mixture into the prepare moulds - do not overfill - and add flavourings into the centre if desired. 

Bake in oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. Ease out of the tin and cool on a wire rack. Regrease the tin and repeat until all the mixture has been used up.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Old fashioned bread pudding

Having been somewhat exuberant lately with my sourdough bread making, I had rather a lot left over this week. Numerous odd bread ends also languished in the freezer and so I decided in a flash of inspiration to make my mother’s favourite recipe for bread pudding.

It’s been ages since I made this and it’s good sometimes to revisit old ‘classics’.  The recipe, or indeed the look, may not readily appeal to today’s sophisticated palates but this was a staple of British home cooking in years past – leftovers then were always reinvented and used another day.  And now, when I remember to make it, it is still eagerly consumed by my family either warm with custard or I think, better still, sliced when completely cold and consumed with a large cup of tea or coffee.
Cooled and sliced

My lighter version recipe – I don’t know where it originated – uses butter instead of lard together with mostly store-cupboard ingredients. 

225g bread – it doesn’t matter whether this is brown or white but cut off the crusts
275ml milk
50g butter (melted)
75g soft brown sugar – if you don’t have any brown, you can use white caster sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 egg, beaten
175g mixed dried fruit
Grated rind of an orange
Freshly grated nutmeg
A small quantity of granulated sugar for sprinkling over when out of the oven

Preheat oven to 180c – gas mark 4

Butter a 2pt baking dish

Cube the bread and place into a bowl. Pour over the milk, then give the mixture a thorough stir and leave for about 30 minutes so that the bread becomes well soaked.

Now add the melted butter, the sugar, mixed spice and beaten egg. Beat the mixture until it is virtually lump free, then stir in the mixed fruit and orange rind.

Next spread the mixture into the prepared dish and sprinkle over the nutmeg.

Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 1 ¼ hours.

Once out of the oven, sprinkle over some granulated sugar. Enjoy!