Comfort food … Sunshine soup for a rainy day

I don’t know about you but these last couple of days of rain have had me hankering after proper food, thick warming soups, hearty stews with dumplings and of course, cake.  Lots and lots of cake.

My fridge and larder are looking a little Mother Hubbard, but it was raining and I really didn’t want to go out for more supplies.  Sometimes you just want to stay in and hibernate!  So I had a good rummage in the fridge and found a butternut squash (I found 3 actually … no idea why I had 3 in the fridge), some slightly past their best yellow peppers and a bag of onions.  Soup! That was the cry from my hungry tummy, soup with cheese scones!

‘Feed me!’ cried my belly.  ‘Bake!’ said my procrastinating head.  So I did, and rather yummy it was too.

Roast squash, pepper and onion soup

Serves 3-4

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 2cm dice

2 or 3 yellow or red peppers chopped into large chunks

3 small or 1 large onion chopped into quarters

Olive oil

Pinch of salt to taste

1 tsp cumin seed

1 tsp smoked paprika

A 2.5 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated finely

About 1pt water


Put all the veg in a baking tray with the olive oil and spices, roast at gas mark 4/180c until all the veg has softened and is starting to go a bit toasty


When the vegetables are cooked, tip them into a saucepan, add about 1/2 pt of water and whizz up with a stick blender.  I like my pumpkin and squash soups to be velvetty smooth so I whizz until I can whizz no more ;).  Gradually add more water until you get the consistency you like, taste for seasoning and reheat gently.

I served mine with a dollop of creme fraiche and some chopped coriander.soupsquash

Cheese scones (My favourite accompaniment to homemade soup)

250g self rasing flour

75g cold butter (always proper butter, always)

125g mature cheddar cheese

125ml milk

Pinch of salt


Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl.  Cube the butter into 1cm pieces and add to the flour and salt.  Gently rub the butter into the flour with your finger tips and thumb until it looks like sharp sand with a few small pebbles.


Grate most of the cheese into the flour and butter mix, saving some for the top of your scones.  I like to use a dinner knife to stir the cheese into the flour – I find it disperses more evenly that way.

Again using the knife to mix, slowly add the milk – you may not need all of it.  You want a soft, malleable but not gloppy texture to your scone dough.  Once it has all come together, gently shape into a ball with your hands and place on a floured work surface.

Using your hands or a rolling pin, flatten the dough to roughly 2cm in depth.  Any thinner and you’ll end up with cheesy Welshcakes (ooh, now there’s a thought!).  Cut out your scones using a small circular cutter in a sharp downward motion, if you twist the cutter as you use it then the scones can sometimes rise in a rather wonky manner.  Not that I mind anything wonky and rustic looking!

You should get about 6-7 normal scones and 1 funny shaped scone from the trimmings (I always like the funny shaped one, baker’s perks you know).  Place on a lined baking tray, brush with milk and sprinkle over the remainder of the cheese and some smoked paprika if you fancy.


Bake in the centre of the oven at gas mark 4/180c for about 20 minutes until risen and golden.

Serve warm with the soup and lashings of proper butter!


You can’t rush it …

Well, I was all set to show you amazing pictures of a gorgeous seeded loaf today … but as you can see, no pictures.

It was a beautiful dough, I added 2 tablespoons each of raw sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, and 1 tablespoon of raw golden linseed. I kneaded it with the love and attention it deserved, sang along to The Levellers as I pushed and pulled until it was glossy and stretchy. Even disregarded my phone and Facebook for the whole 15 minutes I was manipulating the soft dough into something an artisan baker would be proud of.

I put the dough into an oiled bowl, covered it with clingfilm and left it to prove in the kitchen as usual. Oh, but then … the sun dared show its pretty face and I had a brainwave.  What if I move the dough from the kitchen into my sunny sewing room to speed up the proving? A grand idea you may think … perhaps not.

My beautiful ball of softness had tripled in size, I even gloated to my friend and sent him a photo of the gloriously risen dough. How the smug can fall … I knocked back the dough and shaped it ready to go in the loaf tin, my brain told me that it would be a great idea to leave it in the sunny sewing room again whilst I was on the school run and did a little bit of food shopping.  I came back to a gloppy, sticky mess dribbling over the edges of the loaf tin.  Not to be deterred, I baked it anyway.  It sunk. My heart sunk. My loaf wasn’t happy, he was sad because I’d rushed him into being instead of slowly allowing him to rise at his own pace.

Still tasted good though, a fine crumb texture albeit a little doughy but with a delicious crunchy crust.

I learnt today that you can’t rush things.  They don’t happen when rushed.  Just as you can’t rush a loaf to rise, you can’t rush a person to heal if they’ve been hurt.  Everything has it’s own time, be patient.  Appreciate those smaller things that you often disregard.  Take life at your pace and don’t worry that you are not moving with the crowd.

Tomorrow I will bake again, slowly and with care.


Can I have another one … ?


They taste like heaven!

I couldn’t ask for better endorsement for my new brownie recipe, could I? Brownies are our celebration cake, what the children ask for at birthdays instead of a traditional cake.  Today we were celebrating my 10 year olds success with her school in a recent dance competition 🙂  These are gluten free, sticky, chewy and downright naughty!  You can find my recipe here.


I made a rosemary and olive fougasse and a couple of chocolate orange loaves using the sourdough starter.  We had the fougasse with minestrone soup for tea, it went down a treat.  I can safely say however, that olives are not all of my children’s favourite food!

The fougasse rose beautifully, it was deliciously fluffy and light … nothing like my first ever sourdough loaf which was tough enough to be used as a house brick! The olives add a juicy saltiness that worked well with the soup.  I added 1tsp finely chopped rosemary to the dough mix, next time I’ll add 2 tsp as I wanted a more fragrant loaf.

Food brings people together … ‘the family that eats together, stays together’.


This is the chocolate orange loaf, it’s tasty but the orange flavour isn’t pronounced enough so more tweaking is required.  I’ll post the recipe when I’ve perfected the flavour.  Going to try some different orange extract next time and it’s an excuse to order from one of my favourite places, Lakeland Limited!chocorangeToday I was asked why I bake when I’m so busy raising my four children on my own and running a small business.  It’s not a question that has a simple answer.  Baking gives me time to put those errant thoughts in my head straight. Kneading bread dough for 10-15 minutes gives me the time to reflect, work out what is important, to let go of and accept those things that I can’t change no matter how much I want to change them. Yes, it would be easier to buy bakery foods from the supermarket and I’m not a slave to the sourdough (we still have plastic bread for school lunches) but  I wouldn’t get the satisfaction and the calm within me if I didn’t bake. It’s a sense of achievement.

An experiment

I’ve already got a very active starter bubbling away in my kitchen, made using the flour/water/grapes method and wanted to get another going to show you how it develops.  I noticed that there were instructions for a starter on the back of the flour packet so I thought I’d give that one a go to see how it compares.

starter2My current starter took about 4 days to be ready for baking with, this one suggests up to 7 days.  It’s a simple method … just 70g of flour and 70 ml of water mixed until it looks like beige gloppy stuff.  Each day you add a bit more flour and water until it starts to bubble and smell yeasty.  I’ll keep you updated with my new babies progress!

starterday1Tomorrow I’ll be making a chocolate orange loaf, and I’ll be sure to share the recipe 🙂

From flour and water…

… to the backbone of family feasting.


Sourdough Diaries

Baking is magic.  Real, tangible magic.  Take some simple ingredients, mix them together, add some heat and you have (hopefully – we all have disasters) something that looks great, tastes amazing and satisfies your soul on numerous levels.

I bake when I’m happy, I bake when I’m sad.  Baking and creating is my Prozac! I don’t often eat much of the finished food, it is the process that delights me, although given a plate of warm chocolate brownies I will disappear for a while …

Most recently I’ve discovered sourdough.  From 3 initial ingredients you can end up with a never ending variety of savoury and sweet breads, cakes and pancakes.  I started using Paul Hollywood’s recipes and they have been a brilliant success with my family of 4 hungry children.  Tomorrow I will get a new starter going so you can how it develops and becomes the most magical kitchen ingredient I’ve found.