A series of recipes for this lockdown would not be complete without including sourdough. It seems like the entire country is making bread at the moment, but it’s not due to lack of it on the supermarket shelves, I think it is due to boredom more than anything else. We are spending more time confined indoors than ever before, and baking is an excellent way to occupy one’s self. It’s pretty satisfying, too, to be able to create something as beautiful and delicious as a loaf of sourdough bread.


My sourdough journey started after a visit to my aunt, who makes award-winning bread. Using a sample of her starter as a basis, after a few attempts I achieved reasonable successes. The bread was not quite like the glorious loaves you can buy in artisan bakeries, but it was OK. After three years of making mediocre bread, through numerous experiments and variations on the original recipe, I had a bastardised version of my aunt’s recipe that I was becoming more and more dissatisfied with. I was determined to improve the quality of my loaf, so I decided to broaden my horizons and do some research. I bought the book Super Sourdough, by James Morton; a former Great British Bake Off winner. It was highly acclaimed.

This book has literally revolutionised my breadmaking. I began again from scratch, starting with throwing my existing sourdough starter in the bin (one of the points James makes in the book is that he doesn’t understand the strange obsession people have with their sourdough starters, being proud to have used the same one for years on end. There is no reason for this, they are very easy to create from scratch, and he has had dozens of them, experimenting with different flours and different fruit juices). That was 6 months ago, and now my bread is almost indistinguishable from the professional artisan variety that you can buy in your local neighbourhood bakery. I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve deliberately omitted any recipe from this blog post. I could, arguably, put James Morton’s recipe here, with the minor modifications I’ve made for it (I make the dough a bit wetter, and add linseed), but it wouldn’t be feasible for me to write down instructions for creating this bread in the format of a blog post. I would need to copy out most of the book (the recipe I’ve been using, for the standard rye-wheat sourdough loaf, is 33 pages long). Even with a 33-page immensely detailed recipe, it took me 6 months to get even close to a point of mastery. The reality is, there are so many contributing factors to sourdough bread that it’s almost impossible to prescribe a method that is guaranteed to work every time. The book teaches you the fundamental principles and then guides you through the processes of autolysing, folding-and-stretching, proving, pre-shaping, shaping, scoring and, finally baking in a hot oven. It will likely take many attempts before you reach anywhere near perfection; in fact you will probably never get there, but I guarantee it’ll be a thoroughly enjoyable journey! I’m not being paid by James Morton for this blog post, but genuinely, if you want to make good quality sourdough bread at home, buy the book.

A series of recipes for this lockdown would not be complete without including sourdough. It seems like the ...
Recent Recipes

Spaghetti Carbonara

This recipe has been through a number of alterations since I started making carbonara many years ago. This is the most recent update, and I think, is as pretty close to perfection as a plate of pasta could be. Spaghetti carbonara is still my favourite meal of all time – I don’t think I will ever grow tired of it. My more recent changes include a reduction in the amount of egg; I now include one whole egg per person which, when combined with the starchy pasta water and a knob of butter, makes for a beautiful silky sauce.

This dish is Italian cooking at it’s best; simple, quick and with an emphasis on quality ingredients. It can be deceptively tricky to perfect however; too much heat when adding the eggs can result in scrambling them instead of gently cooking them to get the desired silky smooth sauce. If you can, get a hold of some good quality spaghetti that’s been made with a bronze die, as it’ll hold the sauce much better.

  • 75g pancetta, diced into lardons
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 180g spaghetti
  • 2 generous pinches of cracked black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 30g parmesan, finely grated
  • sea salt
  • olive oil
  1. Get a large pan of water boiling to cook the pasta in. Add a couple of generous pinches of salt.

  2. In a frying pan or sauté pan, heat a glug of olive oil and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the diced pancetta and fry until lightly caramelised. Turn the heat to low and add the chopped garlic, along with a pinch of cracked black pepper. Cook gently for 2 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic, then remove from the heat and set aside.

  3. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes less than it says on the packet’s instructions. This is because after draining the pasta we’re going to heat it again as we make the sauce, so it’ll continue to cook.

  4. While the pasta is cooking, start to prepare for the sauce; place the eggs and egg yolks into a jug or bowl and add most of the finely grated parmesan (leaving some for garnish at the end), along with a small pinch of sea salt.

  5. When the pasta is about 2 minutes away, drain it over another jug or bowl, making sure you reserve about 200ml of water. Whisk the eggs and cream together to make a thick paste, then pour about 4-5 tablespoons of the pasta water in, while still whisking. Now add the pancetta and garlic, pasta and egg mixture back into the pasta pan and place over a medium-low heat. Add about 100ml more of the pasta water and, using a plastic spatula, stir continuously, scraping the bottom of the pan until it’s the texture of custard. Be very careful not to overheat it as the eggs will scramble. If it gets too thick, add a little more water - you should have a nice sauce consistency that just clings to the pasta.

  6. Divide into pasta bowls, garnish with the remaining parmesan and eat immediately.

Lamb Chops with Spinach and Croutons

Lamb chops are great, but admittedly they’re not my favourite cut of lamb. Each lamb chop consists of a cutlet from the loin attached to its corresponding rib bone, usually with a gorgeous thick slab of back fat along the bone. It’s bovine equivalent is the celebrated and iconic beef rib roast. The loin, regardless of which animal it’s from, is one of the tenderest and most prized cuts of meat around and I think it’s a bit of a shame to prepare a loin of lamb as chops because they’re hard to cook; you have to roast them with enough ferocity to get the fat nice and crisp without overcooking the meat. Because there’s usually a large amount of fat this is virtually impossible. In my opinion, you’d be better to ask your butcher for a full rack of chops (cutlets) to roast whole or even take the loin completely off the bone before roasting like a steak. Both of these methods allow you to keep the meat nice and pink, which is how it is supposed to be.

To avoid this difficult situation I deboned the chops and left the meat as medallion-sized chunks. The fat, which is full of flavour and a key part of this dish, I diced into 1cm chunks. I seasoned everything with crunchy sea salt and a little sprinkling of white pepper before searing in a very hot pan. The rest of the dish comprised some chunky croutons, made from my numerous leftover sourdough loaves, sauteed spinach and some anchovy fillets. Seasoned generously with cracked black pepper, sea salt and a splash of tarragon vinegar, it was very, very good.

  • 2 large lamb chops
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • a handful of chunky croutons (preferably homemade)
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • a small amount of ground white pepper
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • vegetable oil, for cooking
  1. Finely chop the parsley and garlic separately and then mix together to make some persillade. Set aside for later.

  2. Prepare the lamb chops: separate the large chunk of fat from along the bone and cut it into approximately 1cm chunks. Leave the medallions of meat (from the eye of the chop) whole. Get a large, heavy-based pan and place over a high heat. When the pan is searing hot, season just the fat with sea salt and a little ground white pepper. Pour about 1 tablespoon of oil into the pan, wait abuot 10 seconds for the oil to heat up and add the lamb fat. Turn the heat to medium and continue to cook until it is brown and crisp.

  3. Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon of oil to a separate pan and place over a medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions along with a pinch of salt and fry until golden and caramelised. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Set aside.

  4. When the fat is nice and crisp, remove it from the pan and place in a bowl along with the spinach and caramelised onion. Discard most of the residual fat from the pan, then place back over the heat. Season the medallions of lamb cutlet with sea salt and a little white pepper, and sear in the pan. Cook briefly to keep the meat nice and pink (probably about 3 minutes), then add the persillade and toss everything for about 20 seconds. Remove from the pan and allow to rest for a few minutes.

  5. To finish the dish, add the anchovy fillets and croutons to the bowl with the other ingredients, add about 1 teaspoon of vinegar and a generous pinch of cracked black pepper. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Cut the medallions into 2cm chunks and mix in. Divide into plates and eat immediately.

Super Spicy Kimchi

Kimchi is a Korean cuisine classic and, along with its German cousin saukraut, is one of the world’s most well-known fermented foods. It’s no coincidence that they’re both made from cabbage; there’s something about this humble vegetable that makes it particularly delicious when lacto-fermented - it’s really, really savory.

Kimchi comprises a number of things that I have a great fondness for: garlic, ginger, chillies and salt. The combination of these powerful ingredients, along with the fermentation process, results in a very potent flavour. Obviously I wanted to try making my own kimchi and put my own slant on this classic, and after doing some research I ended up constructing a hybrid of a few different recipes. My variation was to add a bit more garlic and ginger and a lot more chillies. Most recipes for classic kimchi call for gochugaru chilli flakes, which are a vibrant red colour. I opted for ancho, which are a dark, almost black colour and more sweet than spicy, and arbol, which are a brighter red colour and are fairly spicy. The result was a darker, earthier colour which I think is much nicer and more appetising than the classic bright red version. My version is also considerably spicier than your average shop-bought kimchi, which is what makes it better in my opinion. But I’m a chilli addict, so maybe I’m biased.

For this recipe you’ll need 3-4 large jam jars or Kilner jars. You should get a lovely earthy color if you use the same chilli flakes (although the colour will fade a bit compared to the photo, as it was taken at the start of the fermentation process), but if you can’t source the ancho and arbol chilli flakes, just use whatever you can find.

  • 1 napa cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons good quality sea salt
  • 1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated root ginger
  • 1 teaspoon golden caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1.5 tablespoons arbol chilli flakes
  • 1.5 tablespoons ancho chilli flakes
  • 1\2 bunch spring onions
  • 6 green finger chillies
  1. Firsty, salt the cabbage: remove the bottom 1cm of the cabbage and discard, then chop the rest into approx. 1 inch pieces. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle the salt over. Spend 5 minutes massaging the salt into the cabbage using your fingertips, then add enough cold water to just cover. Put a plate or a heavy weight on top to ensure the cabbage is completely submerged then leave at room temperature for 1.5 hours.

  2. Rinse and drain the cabbage in a colander, reserving around 5 or 6 tablespoons of the salty water for later. Gently squeeze the cabbage with your hands to remove the excess water, then leave to drain.

  3. Make the spice paste: Finely grate the garlic and place in a bowl along with the ginger, sugar, fish sauce and chilli flakes. Mix until you have a smooth paste. Mix the cabbage with the spice paste and massage with your fingertips again (use gloves if you’re bothered about your hands getting stained and smelly!).

  4. Sterilise the jars: you can do this by washing them in hot soapy water, then rinse, and, without drying, put straight into an oven at 180C for 20 minutes. Alternatively, just put them through the dishwasher.

  5. Pack the kimchi into jars and press down until some liquid rises to the top to cover the kimchi, and leave 2cm of space at the top of the jar. If it’s too dry, transfer the kimchi back to the bowl, mix in some of the salty water and put back into the jar.

  6. Leave at room temperature for 2 - 5 days, depending on how much fermentation you want. The warmer it is, the faster the fermentation will be. I’d advise 5 days for a really strong savoury flavour. You should place the jars on a tray as some liquid will likely seep out. Open up the jars every 24 hours to allow the gases to escape. Once you have achieved your desired level of fermentation, put the jars into the fridge. The kimchi will continue to mature and will be best after a week or two but you can eat it immediately if you’re too impatient!

Wood Blewits, Purple Potatoes and Steamed Hake

As a lifelong lover of mushrooms, I was disappointed with myself that I only recently became acquainted with wood blewits. They have a distinctive purple hue to them that is quite eye-catching and if you didn’t know they were edible you’d probably leave them well alone for fear of being poisoned! They’re not poisonous though of course, they’re definitely edible and have a distinctive, unique flavour that’s hard to describe. I think they have a slightly floral character a little bit like lavender; my dad describes the flavour as ‘purple’. That sounds nonsensical but, honestly I have to agree with him, ‘purple’ is probably the best way to describe this flavour and I don’t think you have to be a synesthesiac to appreciate that!

Deciding what best to pair the wood blewits with was not particularly straightforward. Unlike most of the other more well known varieties of mushrooms, the blewits lack that typical earthiness that makes a mushroom go so well with strong savoury or meaty flavours. The floral notes made me think fish might be a good pairing instead of meat. If the fish was gently steamed and then finished with a drizzle of fine quality olive oil then I reckoned that would be a perfect compliment to the delicacy of the mushroom’s flavour. I then capitalised on the purpleness by adding purple potatoes to make a strikingly attractive ragout. It turned out to be excellent and I will most definitely be making this next year when the blewits come into season again.

You will need a steamer for this recipe. You can probably get a nice quality bamboo one from your local Chinese supermarket, or order one online. Make sure you get one that’s big enough to fit all of your portions of fish in a single layer, with enough space for some gaps between them.

  • 2 fillets of hake (about 150g each), skin removed
  • 200g wood blewit mushrooms
  • 200g small purple potatoes, peeled
  • 2 medium leaves of cavolo nero (or 2 handfuls of spinach), torn into large pieces
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • fine quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 30g of unsalted butter
  1. Firstly, set up the steamer: bring a large pot of water to boil, place the steamer on top and cover with the lid. Place the purple potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water.. Season with a generous pinch of salt and place over a medium-high heat. Bring to boil then turn down the heat and simmer gently for around 20 minutes or until they’re tender. Remove from the heat and leave to cool in the water.

  2. Before you begin cooking the mushrooms, wait for the potatoes to finish cooking because you’re going to need the purple starchy water for the ragout. Cut the mushrooms into halves or quarters so you have pieces approximately the same size. Leave the smallest ones whole. Heat a saute pan over a medium heat and add about a teaspoon of the butter. Heat until the butter is foaming then add the mushrooms along with a pinch of salt. Toss or stir-and-fry over the heat for about a minute then add a couple of ladlefuls of the potato water, until the mushrooms are half-submerged. Partially cover with either a lid or a piece of foil, and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked; probably around 4-5 minutes. Drain in a colander when they’re done, being sure to reserve the liquid.

  3. Place the cavolo nero into the same saute pan with a glug of extra virgin olive oil and place over a medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and saute gently for 30 seconds. Add about 200ml of water and bring to the boil. Partially cover with a lid or a piece of foil and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander.

  4. Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters to make bite-sized pieces. To finish, add the mushrooms, cavolo nero and potatoes to the same saute pan and add a ladleful of the potato cooking water. Bring to the boil then add the butter, a little at a time, until the sauce starts to thicken and becomes glossy. If it’s too thick then add a little more of the starchy cooking water. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

  5. Take two pieces of baking parchment that are approximately the same size as the fillets of hake. Season the fillets of hake on both sides with sea salt and drizzle with a little olive oil. Place on the parchment, skin-side (the smoother side which had the skin on it before it was removed) up. Place in the steamer and cook for 3-4 minutes, depending on size, until just cooked through. The easiest way to check if the fish is cooked is to insert a small skewer or needle into the flesh: it’s cooked if it passes through with virtually no resistance. Serve the mushroom ragout in bowls and place the steamed fish on top, finishing with a glug of extra virgin olive oil.