Sourdough

This isn’t the first time I have extolled the virtues of sourdough bread. I find great satisfaction in cultivating my own supply of fresh, wild yeast, extracted from thin air! It’s a rewarding process; after feeding the sourdough every day for a week or more, the resulting product is a tangy, mature starter that will lend your bread a superior flavour and texture. The bonus is that if you use a mature sourdough starter to make your bread, you don’t have to knead it quite as much as regular bread to get a great texture because a complex gluten structure is already in place.

There is one caveat to using sourdough; the leavening power of the wild yeast is not as strong as that of pure fresh or dried yeast that you buy from the shop. Because of this, I find that my pure sourdough bread is somewhat denser than my regular loaves. There’s a trade-off though; to use dried/fresh yeast instead of sourdough will give you a lighter loaf, but it also means that you won’t have the depth of flavour and texture of a sourdough loaf. After some amount of experimentation, I eventually decided to go for a hybrid loaf. This recipe uses a generous amount of sourdough starter, and supplements it with a little dried yeast to give it a lighter texture. The result is a beautifully crunchy loaf with an aerated, bubbly texture.

When I make this at home, I mix the dough 1 day in advance, and prove it slowly in the fridge. This is just more convenient for me when I’m at work all day. I can come home the following evening, microwave the dough briefly to bring it up to temperature, and bake it immediately. It’s a great time saver.

You’ll need a wide baking sheet or stone, and a baker’s linen or kitchen cloth to prove the bread in.


  • 450g strong white flour
  • 350g sourdough
  • 190g water, tepid
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 3 tbsp fine quality rapeseed oil
  • 13g salt
  1. Pour the sourdough starter into a large bowl. Add the flour, salt and yeast on top, and mix briefly without disturbing the sourdough underneath.

  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and add the water and rapeseed oil. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, mix everything together thoroughly until you have a wet, sticky dough. Continue to mix for about 5 minutes. The dough should have become slightly elastic. Cover lightly with a cloth or cling film, and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and pat into an approximate rectangular shape. Take the two right hand corners, stretch them outwards, then fold back in to opposite corners. Repeat this with the left side, then turn the dough over, pat into a rectangle again and repeat once more. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

  4. In the morning, repeat the folding and stretching process from Step 3, then cover and place back in the fridge for about 8 hours.

  5. Turn the oven to 220C and put in your baking tray to get it nice and hot. Dust your baker’s linen or a thick kitchen cloth with flour, and place on a large chopping board or tray. Take the dough from the fridge and microwave at full power for 20 seconds. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface, place back in the bowl the other way up and give it another 20 seconds. The dough will now be warmed through, and rising nicely. There should be some visible air pockets forming.

  6. Turn onto a floured surface and pat into a wide baguette shape about 30cm x 15cm. Cut it in half lengthways to create two thinner baguettes, and place each on the floured cloth, creating a fold in the centre to separate them, and something to weigh the edges down to stop the dough from spreading out. Boil a mugful of water in the kettle.

  7. Once the oven is up to temperature, place each of the baguettes onto the tray. You’ll find this easier if you can find a thin “transfer” spatula or paddle. A piece of thick cardboard would suffice. Using a sharp knife, score the baguettes across at an angle several times, then dust with a little flour. Place in the oven, then throw the mug of boiling water into the bottom and immediately close the door. Bake for 25 minutes, then turn around and give another 5 minutes. The loaves should be hollow when tapped underneath.

This isn’t the first time I have extolled the virtues of sourdough bread. I find great satisfaction in cu...

Chicken Vindaloo

Of all the curries in the world, the Vindaloo is probably the most misunderstood. It’s notorious for being extremely hot and spicy, yet a genuine vindaloo is nothing near as spicy as its reputation would suggest, as I discovered when I visited Goa; the former Portuguese colony in India that is the Vindaloo’s home. I sampled several local versions of the famous curry there, and expecting my head to be blown off with heat and spice, I was actually pleasantly surprised; these Vindaloos were only moderately spicy, but strong with garlic and also had a distinctive vinegary tang.

Vinegar is the key ingredient in a Vindaloo, and it’s possibly the cause of the Vindaloo’s fearsome reputation. Accidentally adding too much vinegar, and a little too much cayenne pepper, and you’ll have a concoction so eye-wateringly powerful that it’s probably not very enjoyable to eat.

Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe for Vindaloo calls for duck, which is a break from tradition; the classic was typically made with pork. I have opted for chicken, and the result is excellent. This is adapted from Madhur’s recipe, although the underlying technique is hers. Afterall, she is the master of Indian cooking. Personally, I like to enjoy this with nothing more than some plain white basmati rice, although some sautéed green vegetable such as kale or chard, will go alongside nicely.


  • 4 chicken thighs, bones and skins removed
  • 3 tbsps of high quality rapeseed oil
  • 90ml white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp brown mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp whole fenugreek seeds
  • 15 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced along the grain
  • 2 tbsps fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 10 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 medium tomatoes, coarsely grated
  • 1 handful of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Put a large, heavy based pan on a medium-high heat and add the rapeseed oil. Wait for the oil to heat up. Season the chicken thighs generously all over with salt, then fry in the pan, on both sides, until golden. Remove, and set aside.

  2. While the chicken is browning, measure out the turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne pepper and garam masala and set aside in a bowl.

  3. Ideally, your pan will be big enough to cook the rest of the curry in it; if not, transfer all the fat from the pan into a larger one. Set the pan over a medium-high heat and add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the onions and curry leaves. Stir and fry until the onions turn a light golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic, and stir until fully mixed. Now add the spice mixture and tomatoes. Turn the heat down and continue to cook for around 5 minutes.

  4. Cut the browned chicken pieces into approx. 2cm chunks, and add to the pan along with the salt, sugar, and 270ml water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes.

  5. Taste the curry and add more salt if necessary. Finally, add the baby spinach and stir until gently wilted. Serve with white rice.

Parsley and Almond Pesto

This is pesto with a difference. Classic pesto, made with basil and pine kernels, is a distinctly summer affair, when basil is abundant and your pesto could be happily paired with some ripe vine tomatoes fresh from your garden.

Unlike basil, parsley is a fairly resilient herb, and in the UK you could probably grow it outside for the best part of the year, and will easily survive autumn and winter in a greenhouse. So this is a winter pesto, an alternative to the classic. It’s a refreshing break from tradition, and pretty delicious too! Due to parsley’s more vibrant green colour, this pesto is eye-catchingly bright. There are no tomatoes in season at the moment, but it will go nicely with a green salad instead.

You will need a large pestle and mortar, or an electric blender.


  • 50g flat leaf parsley, or curly parsley
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 25g parmesan, finely grated
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon flaked almonds, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 200g dried pasta
  1. Pick the parsley leaves from the stalks and finely chop. Add to the pestle and mortar (or blender), along with the parmesan and a pinch of sea salt.

  2. Add about two thirds of the olive oil to the mix, and bash with the pestle until a rough paste is achieved.

  3. At this point, boil a pan of water and season it generously with salt, then cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

  4. Meanwhile, finely grate the garlic clove, and add to the pesto along with the almonds. Continue to grind for about 1 minute, to crush the almonds a little more. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil. Taste, and season with more salt if necessary. Add a generous pinch of cracked black pepper.

  5. When the pasta is done, drain it and reserve some of the cooking liquid. Mix the pesto through the pasta, adding a few spoonfuls of the water to loosen it. Serve and eat immediately, with a little extra grated parmesan on top.

Recent Recipes

Crispy Fried Egg and Black Beans

I’ve become quite fond of black beans. I’ve starting substituting them for kidney beans in chilli con carne, fajitas and other Mexican favourites. Also, one of my favourite Madhur Jaffrey recipes is a South African red kidney bean curry; it’s a simple but amazingly delicious recipe that impresses me every time I make it. I tried making it with black beans instead of kidney beans and it was even better! I’m not sure exactly what it is about these beans that makes me like them so much. I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that my all-time favourite meal from my local Chinese restaurant is beef and black bean sauce. It’s an umami-rich delight. For this dish, I think they ferment the beans which makes them extra flavorsome. Fermented or not, I believe black beans actually have a deeper, more savory flavour than most other beans.

This recipe is a really simple, easy dish that’s perfect as a weekend breakfast or brunch. Nothing more than onion, garlic and some cumin accompany the stewed beans; and to top the egg I have scattered over some rustic chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime. I like to fry the egg until it’s golden and crispy around the edges.

It’s a fairly quick recipe; only about 50 minutes of cooking time, however, remember to soak your beans overnight first!


  • 100g dried black beans
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced or chopped
  • 1 small handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • ½ a lime, juice of
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of good quality rapeseed oil
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  1. Put the beans in a bowl and cover generously with cold water. Leave for 6 hours, or overnight.

  2. Place a pan over a medium heat and heat up 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil. Wait for the oil to get hot, then add the sliced onion and garlic. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook gently for 5 minutes until soft.

  3. Drain the beans in a sieve. Turn the heat to high and add the cumin. Stir and fry for 30 seconds. Add the beans along with 450ml water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 40 minutes, until the beans are tender and the water is almost all absorbed. Add more water if necessary.

  4. In a frying pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over a medium-high heat. Crack your eggs in and cook until the white is just cooked in the middle, but crispy around the edges.

  5. Before serving, check the beans for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil and stir vigorously to thicken the liquid. It should be quite thick.

  6. Serve the eggs on top of the beans, and scatter the coriander over. Finally, finish with a squeeze of lime juice.

Bacon and Comte Bread

I got hooked on making my own bread after visiting my aunt who makes award winning sourdough loaves. She donated me a small sample of her starter dough, which I brought home and cultured until it had grown to a decent enough size for me to begin making my own crunchy, tangy loaves. Although this is not a sourdough recipe, I feel obliged to mention my aunt as it was the impressive texture and flavour of her sourdough bread that convinced me to start making my own every day.

All the best bread begins with a starter. This is either a sourdough starter (levain), or a poolish, which is a 50-50 mixture of flour and water with a small amount of yeast that’s left for about 1 day to ferment before adding more flour, yeast and water to create the actual dough. Using a starter will create a superior texture and give the bread more depth of flavour. A mature sourdough starter will give you more flavour and texture, but fact that the poolish only requires 1 day of planning (compared to 1 week or more with the sourdough) makes it an attractive option.

The basis of this recipe is similar to that found in Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. I have simplified the method to make it a little less labour intensive. It’s a compromise; the outcome of Keller’s recipe is slightly superior, although not by much! This recipe is quicker and easier, and pretty-much-as-good as Keller’s. It’s still quite a bit of effort for a loaf of bread, but trust me, it’s worth it. I have added bacon and comté cheese, along with some rich tasting rapeseed oil; this is a luxurious treat.

The vital crunchy crust is achieved firstly by having a really hot oven before you put the bread in; secondly by scoring the bread, either down the center, across in stripes or a random pattern, with a sharp knife just before putting in the oven; and lastly by throwing a mugful of water into the bottom of the oven just before you close the door.

For the final shaping and proving of the bread, you’ll need a baker’s linen cloth, or you can simply use a heavy-ish tea-towel instead. Also, a wide, flat baking sheet or stone is needed.


  • 415g warm water
  • 725g strong white flour
  • 2 ⅛ tsp dried yeast
  • 13g salt
  • 3 tbsp high quality rapeseed oil
  • 120g comté
  • 6 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon
  1. Make the poolish; mix 125g of flour, 125g of water and ⅛ tsp yeast in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover lightly with cling film and leave for 24 hours. When it’s ready, it’s surface will be completely covered in tiny bubbles.

  2. Mix the rest of the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl then make a well in the center. Add the water, rapeseed oil and starter and thoroughly mix to form a wet, sticky dough.

  3. Turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a flat rectangle. Stretch out the right-hand two corners as far as they will go and fold back into the center. Repeat with the opposite two corners, then turn over the dough, pat into a rectangle again and repeat. Repeat this whole procedure 3 times, then place back in the bowl, cover and leave for 1 hour.

  4. Stretch and fold the dough again. Cover and leave for another 1 hour.

  5. Fry the bacon over a medium heat until cooked, and only lightly coloured. Leave to cool, then cut into approx 3mm squares. Cut the comté into 3mm cubes.

  6. Divide the dough into 2 balls and split the bacon and comté into 2 equal portions. Knead the bacon and comté into the dough ensuring that it’s evenly distributed. Cover and leave for 20 minutes. Roll each into a baguette shape about 10 inches in length and 2.5 inches in diameter. Flour your cloth and place the loaves in, creating some folds to allow baguettes to keep their shape. Weigh the edges of the cloth down and cover with cling film. Leave for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

  7. Meanwhile heat oven to 210C and get your baking tray nice and hot. Transfer the baguettes one at a time to the hot tray, score with a sharp knife and place in oven. Throw a mugful of boiling water in the bottom to generate the steam required to get your crunchy crust. Bake for 25-30 mins until golden brown, and feel lighter than they look when you pick them up. Cool on a wire rack.

Peanut Caramel Cheesecake

This is another one for all the peanut butter lovers out there, and in fact I’d be willing to bet that even peanut butter haters will enjoy this dessert! There’s something about the flavour and texture of peanut butter that makes it quite uncompromising; for some, the richness is too much on its own, and is only palatable when paired with something sweet. In the contest to be the most loved peanut butter dish, the old-school favourite peanut butter and jam is arguably winning. I would, however, argue that this cheesecake beats it hands-down.

Broadly speaking, there are two classes of cheesecake: baked, and unbaked. This one falls into the latter (slightly quicker and easier) option. The general technique for the filling is very simple; make a thick puree (peanut caramel in this case, although strawberry, raspberry or chocolate also work well), and mix in cream cheese. Now simply soft-peak-whip some cream and gently fold in.

This cheesecake is mousse-like in texture and rich in taste. The biscuit base provides a nice contrast to the creamy-cheesy peanut mix that sits atop. Traditionally, Digestive biscuits have been used for a cheesecake base, but why use Digestives when you could use Hobnobs instead? After all, they taste better and it’s what Delia would do.

In addition to the ingredients below, you will also need a cake ring 22cm in diameter and 5cm deep, and some greaseproof paper.


  • 270g condensed milk
  • 145g smooth peanut butter
  • 125g golden syrup
  • 180g unsalted butter
  • 175g Hobnob biscuits
  • 50g flaked almonds, finely chopped
  • 250g whipping cream
  • 250g cream cheese
  1. To make the peanut caramel; place the condensed milk, peanut butter, golden syrup and 110g of butter in a pan over a medium heat and stir until melted. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, until almost bubbling and the caramel has thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

  2. Grease the inside of the cake ring lightly with vegetable oil or butter and line with a strip of greaseproof paper.

  3. Crush the Hobnob biscuits to a breadcrumb-like consistency, and place in a bowl along with the chopped almonds. Melt the 70g of butter, and mix thoroughly with the biscuit mix. Empty the biscuit mix into the cake ring and press into an even layer, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to set.

  4. Once the peanut caramel has cooled to room temperature, transfer it into a mixing bowl. Use a plastic spatula to ensure you don’t waste any of it! Now add the cream cheese and mix until thoroughly incorporated. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form when you lift up the whisk. Fold the cream gently into the peanut and cheese mixture in 3 stages, ensuring that each stage is completely mixed before adding the next.

  5. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the cake ring, filling right to the edges, and place in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours.

Cod With Cockles a la Creme

In my mind, the main reason cockles are so great is not because of the excellent flavour of the actual cockle meat itself (which is excellent), but the strong flavoured liquid that results from cooking them. Just like it’s more glamorous relative the mussel, the cockle contains an abundance of naturally salty juices which are released into your saucepan when cooked. Enhanced with a little white wine, shallots and some aromatics like thyme or bay, the result is fantastically flavoursome, and served with some chips to dunk in the sauce, is a fine meal in itself.

Cockles are also a lovey accompaniment to fish. For this meal, I’ve reduced the liquor from the cockles by half, then added an equal quantity of double cream before reducing further to a fairly light but richly flavoured sauce. I’ve finished it with a nice chiffonade of parsley. The rest of the meal is pretty straight forward; crisp pan-fried cod fillets, and some crushed potatoes with spinach. Wonderful.


  • 250g fillet of cod, scaled and pin-boned
  • 500g fresh cockles
  • 50g baby shallots (about 2) finely chopped
  • 80g spinach, washed
  • 200g new potatoes
  • 125ml (1 glassful) dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • vegetable oil, for cooking
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bunch of parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 100g double cream
  • 10g butter
  • 1 wedge of lemon
  1. Cut the cod fillet into equal sized portions. Remove any bones, and carefully dry the skin with some kitchen paper. Leave it on a board skin side up, allowing it to dry out further. Thoroughly rinse the cockles in cold water.

  2. Place the new potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to the boil over a high heat. Turn down to a barely trembling simmer and cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until tender. You can check this easily by inserting a small knife into a potato; it should pass through with barely any resistance.

  3. Meanwhile, to cook the cockles, place a medium sized pan over a medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Allow the oil to get hot, then add the shallots, thyme, bay, a pinch of salt and a generous pinch of cracked black pepper. Turn the heat to low and sweat the shallots slowly, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until soft and sweet. Now turn the heat to high. Drain the water off the cockles, then add to the pan. Stir once, then add the white wine. Cover with either a lid or some kitchen foil, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the cockles have all opened up. Strain the cockles through a fine sieve over a bowl, reserving the liquid. When the cockles have cooled, remove the cockle meat from the shells, and place in a bowl along with 10 shells, and most of the diced shallots. Discard the remainder of the shells.

  4. To make the sauce, transfer the cockle liquid to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil until it’s reduced by about half. Now add the cream, and continue to reduce until you have a nice sauce consistency. When ready, cover the pan tightly with cling film to avoid getting a skin, and set aside.

  5. When the potatoes are done, drain and chop into chunks or crush with the pack of a spoon. Take another pan and place over a medium heat. Add a little vegetable oil and sauté the spinach, along with a small pinch of salt, until wilted. Drain of any excess liquid, mix through the potatoes and set aside.

  6. To cook the cod, take a large heavy based frying pan and get it smoking hot over a high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and wait 10 seconds for it to get hot. Season the cod fillets all over with salt, and place in the pan, skin side down. Press the fillets gently for about 10 seconds to make the skin is lying flat. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook for around 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. When the fillets are about two-thirds cooked, add the butter and allow it to foam, then squeeze in the lemon juice. Baste the fillets for about 1 minute until almost cooked, then flip them over, being careful not to break the skin. By this time the butter should have turned a nutty brown colour. Turn the heat off and leave in the pan for 30 seconds.

  7. While the cod is cooking, get the other components of the dish nice and hot. Add the parsley and cockles (including shells) to the sauce. Put a pile of spinach and potatoes in the center of each plate, and 5 shells around. Pour the sauce and cockles over, and place the cod in the center.