Blue cheese, pear & walnut scrolls

Last week I struggled to get motivated in the kitchen. I looked at cookbooks, I read blogs, I stood on a chair and peered into the recesses of the pantry and still nothing worked. Then, on Friday morning, while I pushed the Small Girl on a swing in the sunshine and made that weird small talk you make with other parents at playgrounds, I had a flash of inspiration. We raced home – as fast as you can race with a three-year-old who has an elastic concept of ‘this is the last swing, ok?’ – and by afternoon tea time these delicious scrolls were cooling on the windowsill.


Blue cheese, pear and walnut scrolls
Don’t be put off by the instructions here – I’ve specified the ‘fold and leave it’ method of kneading but you can do it whatever what you like. I’ve come to think of this way of kneading as the Pilates of breadmaking. Vigorous kneading is a bit like step aerobics – you get all sweaty and red-faced – where upon this method achieves the same, if not better results by using muscles you didn’t know you had. Or something like that. Perhaps it’s too early in the morning to be mixing bread and exercise metaphors.

400g strong white flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
50g butter
150ml milk
300ml hot water

For the filling:
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced
150g firm blue cheese, diced
150g walnuts, broken into quarters

1 egg mixed with 1Tbsp water – for egg wash

Put the flours, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl and stir well. Grate in the butter and rub through with your fingers. Mix the milk and hot water together – it should be tepid – and pour in to the dry ingredients. Mix well to a soft, sticky dough, then cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
Tip the dough onto a lightly oiled worksurface and fold it in on itself, one corner at a time. Cover with the upturned bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Repeat this twice more, then wash and dry the bowl before greasing it with a little oil. Return the dough to it, cover with plastic and let rise for about 80 minutes.
Don’t clean the worksurface, you’ll need it later.
Grease a 30cm round cake tin and heat the oven to 200C.
When the dough has risen, tip it out onto the worksurface and press it out to a rectangle about 1.5cm thick. Scatter over the pear, blue cheese and walnuts, then roll up tightly, as if making a Swiss roll or sushi. Slice into rings about 2.5cm thick – you should get about eight or nine – and place them in the tin, allowing about a finger space between each one. Set aside for 30 minutes to rise, then brush gently with the egg wash. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the scrolls are golden and your house smells wonderful.

This is my entry for November’s #TwelveLoaves project, a baking challenge run by Lora at Cake Duchess. This month is all about baking with apples and pears – and I think apples and another cheese would work equally well in this bread. Apples and feta, maybe? Pear and Parmesan?

Secret cheese and onion bread

Next time I plan to spend the weekend in the garden I’m going to check the weather forecast first. For instead of sitting on the back steps thinking about doing some weeding, I spent both days indoors, worried that either our roof was going to lift off or the windows were going to blow out.
The one good thing about being housebound was that I transformed a few basic ingredients into a magic loaf of bread. Who needs gardening, anyway?


Secret cheese and onion bread
This magic loaf and its secret molten centre is inspired by Lora at CakeDuchess and her TwelveLoaves project with Jamie at Life’s A Feast and Barbara at Creative Culinary.
I’ve also used some of the principles I learned last weekend with Dean in making the dough, which are easy to do but slightly difficult to explain. There’s a very short video that shows how easy it is to knead this way.

500g strong or high-grade flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
320ml warm water
2 onions, finely sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
olive oil for brushing
120g cheese, sliced into pieces about 2cm x 1cm x 0.25cm thick
4 Tbsp good chutney (I use this recipe, or if you are buying it, this one is amazing)
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper

Put the flour and yeast in a large bowl and stir well, then add the salt and stir again. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. Mix well with your hand until a soft, sticky dough forms. Tip this out onto the bench. Pick up one side of the dough, stretch it up, then bring it down again on top of itself. Repeat from the opposite corner.
Do this another three times, then scrape the dough from your hands and walk away. Seriously. Leave the dough to rest for five minutes, then come back and repeat the pick up and stretch process again. Then leave it again for five minutes. Do this process twice more, then scoop the dough into a well-oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for an hour or so, or until doubled.

While the dough is rising, cook the sliced onions in a tablespoon of olive oil over low heat, stirring occasionally. When they are soft, turn the heat up a little and sprinkle over a teaspoon of brown sugar. Let caramelise for another five minutes, then set aside to cool.


When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a lightly floured bench and roll out until it measures about 30cm x 40cm. Cut in half lengthways. Brush one side of each strip with olive oil, then spread the other side with chutney. Layer the cooked onions and cheese on top, then season well with salt and pepper. Fold each strip in half lengthways again to enclose the filling and press down to seal. Pick up the end of the folded strip and concertina it – as if you are folding a piece of ribbon so you end up with a square pile. Repeat with the other strip. Pack both gently into a large, well-greased loaf tin.
Cover the tin loosely with plastic and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200C. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg, then bake for 35 minutes, until well-risen and golden. Carefully tip out of the tin and let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Daily bread 3.0: Light rye poolish

After a very brief flirtation with Mr Vogel in recent weeks I am back in the swing of breadmaking. The thing that got me hooked again was a determination to get this particular loaf right. At first it was too dry, then it was too wet. After much tinkering and many substandard results, this is the perfect one. It’s based on a poolish – like a starter – that you should really leave overnight to ferment. I can tell you, however, that it still works if you only leave it for a couple of hours. Whatever works, right?

Light rye poolish bread
If you’ve got a freestanding mixer then this is about as hands-free as it gets. If you don’t have a freestanding mixer, then this will be a true labour of love as the dough is very wet and sticky. I’m working on one you can make in a no-knead style. Stay tuned.

The poolish:
60g rye flour
40g strong white flour
1/4 tsp dried yeast
250ml warm water

Mix the poolish ingredients together in the bowl of your mixer and cover with plastic. Set aside for at least three hours, preferably overnight or all day.

Then add:

1tsp dried yeast
175ml warm water
500g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

Stir the poolish and other ingredients together, then turn on the mixer at low speed and let it pummel it into a soft, sticky dough (this will take about five minutes). Scrape the dough out of the bowl, then grease the bowl with a little oil. Tip the dough back in and roll it around to coat the top, then cover with plastic and leave in a warm place until risen (about 1 ½ hours).

Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured bench and knock down, then press out gently into a rectangle. Roll up into a loaf shape, then fit inside a large, well-greased loaf tin. Leave to rise for 35 minutes, which should be enough time to preheat the oven to 210C.

When the dough is springy to touch, slash the middle with a sharp knife and put in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom. Tip it out of the tin and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing. This bread stays fresh for several days and freezes well.

Roasted pumpkin, orange and rice

I don’t want to scare you, but I am having a love-in with brown rice at the moment. In the weekend I made an amazing salad with brown rice, red onion, fiery orange pumpkin, virulent green spinach and orange, err, oranges. It was packed with flavour and surprisingly light to eat, plus it made for several excellent work lunches. Soon I will be eschewing fossil fuels and running away to live in a commune. Want to join me?

Roasted pumpkin, orange and brown rice
This looks more complicated than it is. The hardest part is usually breaking open the pumpkin – but I take care of that by going outside, lifting the pumpkin above my head and then smashing it down onto the concrete. It’s surprisingly therapeutic.
The pumpkin roasts in the oven while the rice cooks on the stovetop, then you can potter around and make the dressing at your leisure. Don’t try making this with white rice, it won’t be the same. But you could give it a go with red quinoa or amaranth for extra health bonus points.

300g brown rice, rinsed in running water until it runs clear
450ml cold water
600g peeled and de-seeded pumpkin, chopped into 2cm cubes (about 800g with the skin and seeds still intact)

1 red onion, peeled and diced, put into a bowl and sprinkled with 60ml rice vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
3 handfuls baby spinach or rocket
100g whole almonds, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
2 lovely oranges, peeled, depipped and diced

1 clove garlic, crushed
A good pinch of flaky sea salt
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp peanut oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
juice of one orange
½ tsp honey

Deal to the pumpkin first. Preheat the oven to 200C and grease an oven dish with a tablespoon of olive oil. Tip in the pumpkin and drizzle with another tablespoon of oil. Bake for around 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is cooked and beginning to crisp up. Set aside.
Put the well-washed rice and water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil. Let simmer for 12 minutes, then turn off the heat (DO NOT lift the lid) and let sit for 15 minutes. The rice should be perfectly cooked and all the water absorbed.
Next, make the dressing. Crush the garlic and salt together with the blade of a knife, then scrape into a screw top jar. Add the honey, juice and vinegar and shake well. Add the oil and shake again until well mixed. Taste for balance and adjust accordingly.
When the rice and pumpkin have cooled down a little, tip both into a serving bowl, Pour about half the dressing over the top and toss through gently. Drain the onion, then add to the rice with the oranges and spinach. Pour over the remaining dressing and toss gently. Sprinkle the almonds on top.
Best served at room temperature. This makes an excellent packed lunch or serve it alongside a piece of fish with some greens. Makes enough for four lunches or six to eight side dish servings.

What’s your favourite thing to do with brown rice?

Salmon and apple sliders

Last week I walked past a cafe that had been one of the hottest tickets in town when I was a student.
I remembered how my boyfriend (cringe) and I would go there on a Sunday morning sometimes and eat focaccia with smoked salmon and apple while we read the paper, feeling very sophisticated and urban.

The cafe has long since changed hands and I think I’d cross the road if I saw the (ex)boyfriend coming towards me, but having just re-visited the salmon and apple combo, I can confirm it’s still good.

Hot smoked salmon and apple sliders
Forget the focaccia, darling and chuck out the ciabatta, these days it’s all about sliders. In case the rebranding revolution hasn’t reached you yet, sliders are baby burger buns and they are the bread on everyone’s lips.
Al Brown is responsible for their rise to prominence here and it’s funny watching people who wouldn’t dream of raving about a mini burger going all ga-ga over them.
If you happen across some, or happen to make some, here’s what you can put on them. Or, if you want to party like it’s 1993, this mixture still works well on focaccia. It’s good for brunch, lunch or as a substantial canape.

Bread of your choice
Hot smoked salmon
Apple, thinly sliced
Creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt

Gently warm the bread or buns (wrap in foil and put in a low-ish oven for 10 minutes). Slice the buns in half and butter lightly.
Top with rocket, then wafers of apple, then chunks of salmon. Scatter capers on top, then dollop on a bit of creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt. Grind over lots of salt and pepper and serve immediately.