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Summer flavours before they fly away

August 29, 2014

I have a confession to make. I’ve known about the Pizza express summer menu all summer and have been too forgetful / lazy to mention it to you. A 25% off voucher dropped into my inbox this morning and reminded me that there won’t be long left to catch it. People more organised than me are already looking ahead to their Christmas menu (eg. Heidi )

So, very quickly, here’s some of the things I tried yonks ago…

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One item not pictured (I was too busy discussing its merits with those around me) is the Leggera Summer Salad which has Chicken, goat’s cheese, strawberries, mint and blueberries on seasonal mixed leaves with our light house dressing and fresh basil. You wouldn’t think blueberries, strawberries and mint would work in a savoury salad, but it really does. That said, the gents from a running magazine who were also there to sample the menu were much more interested in the pizza!

I have to say that the highlight of my evening was the lovely guys behind the pizza counter who showed me how to throw pizza dough to stretch it. I had a whale of a time and even got the confidence to go home and make my own - as you saw here. I’m not sure the restaurant manager at your local Pizza express would take kindly to you asking for a demo at peak dining time, but maybe if you wait until closing?

So, since apparently we’re getting a last bash at summer this coming week, lets hold onto those summer flavours a little longer!


Thanks to FabPR for inviting me to sample the summer menu. As usual I wasn’t required to write a review or be nice (good thin, since I’m so late to the party on this one!) I genuinely enjoyed all the food and almost always chose the Leggera menu so this just my normal P.E experience!

Sunday roast

August 24, 2014

Welsh style … The boars head nr pontyclun.


Stuffed Armenian Lavash

August 24, 2014

I’ve told you about my favourite lady of Armenian heritage before when making the Armenian Orange Cake. She is the most excellent host and can whip up a feast for the masses with no prior warning. She’s also just moved house, so BK-S this is a happy housewarming post for you. May you and your Mr have many happy years there.

I’d originally agreed with Rangemaster that my monthly blog would be a pitta bread but I thought about the amount of times I’ve made pitta bread since the first time … I’ve never made it again. Why? It’s nicer home made, that’s for sure, but it’s so cheap and so readily available that it’s just too easy to buy it instead. So, I needed something that could be filled with whatever is in the fridge and was easy to make fresh on the griddle.

So I turned to aforementioned BK-S to find out what the Armenian version of flat bread was. It’s called lavash (or lavosh) and is usually cooked in a tandoor oven where it is stuck to the side and falls off when it’s cooked.  I’m not sure how authentic my version is – it’s a combination of a variety of recipes I researched, but it’s easy, tasty, and versatile, and you can’t buy it in our local supermarket! I’ve discovered that there are two types of this bread – the thinner one (like this) and a thicker doughier one. If there’s any Georgian / Armenian / Perisian chefs out there who want to show me how it’s done properly, I’d be forever grateful. In the meantime, I shall definitely be making my rough-approximations again.

flat bread recipe

wrap and roll


I filled ours with minced beef, goats cheese, umami-salt roasted runner beans, mushrooms and salad. If you don’t want to roll them they can be treated like quesadillas with one covered in a filling and another pressed down on top.

You could also finely chop some cucumber, mix with yoghurt and dip the lavash in it.

Baking on the griddle

Stuffed Armenian Lavash


100g strong white flour
50g wholemeal plain flour
1 sachet of fast action dried yeast (7g)
Pinch of salt
1 tsp caster sugar
180g luke warm water
1 tbsp olive oil (I used rosemary infused)
Filling of your choice.

Head over to my blog at Rangemaster for the details of how to make it and in particular, how an upturned wok has an intriguing use in the recipe.

Wok and roll

I’m linking this up with other bread based goodness at Yeast Spotting and Bake Your Own Bread

GBBO 5 Technical Bake #3: Paul Hollywood’s Ciabatta

August 22, 2014

I’m officially going to change this series of posts to be called The Great British Fake Bake Of (#GBFBO). It’s my mission to make each technical bake but do it using any cheat, shortcut or slightly slapdash method available. Basically, it’s GBBO for people short of time (because they’ve been watching GBBO instead of using the hour to bake).

Paul Hollywood GBBO ciabatta

Fake Ciabatta

So, this week’s bake was Ciabatta. No shortcuts to be had there, surely? No, true but I didn’t have enough strong flour and I wasn’t about to trek to the shops so I made the rest up with gluten free bread flour and added some xanthan gum. The resulting bread tasted great but was obviously not the holey, loose textured typical ciabatta.

Mr B gets all the props for making this one. I put the dough together on night and left it to rise in the fridge. He shaped and baked the next day. I came home to the smell of fresh bread. Nice.

Here’s the recipe as it should be with notations of my changes next to it, though why you’d want to repeat a gluten-light as opposed to gluten-free bread I’m not sure.

Mr B’s Baking Handiwork

Paul Hollywood’s Ciabatta
lifted straight from here 

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting [I used 300g strong white & 200g gluten free bread flour]
10g salt
10g instant yeast [I used one 7g packet of fast action instant]
40ml olive oil [I used basil infused olive oil]
400 ml tepid water
Fine semolina for dusting (optional) [I used extra flour]

1.Lightly oil a 2-3 litre square plastic container. (It’s important to use a square tub as it helps shape the dough).

2. Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Add the olive oil and three-quarters of the water and begin mixing on a slow speed. As the dough starts to come together, slowly add the remaining water. Then mix for a further 5-8 minutes on a medium speed until the dough is smooth and stretchy.

3. Tip the dough into the prepared tub, cover with a tea towel and leave until at least doubled, even trebled in size – 1-2 hours or longer. [I put it in the fridge overnight to prove]

4. Heat your oven to 220°C and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment or silicone paper.

5. Dust your work surface heavily with flour – add some semolina too, if you have some. Carefully tip out the dough (it will be very wet) onto the work surface, trying to retain a rough square shape. Rather than knocking it back, handle it gently so you can keep as much air in the dough as possible. Coat the top of the dough with more flour and/or semolina. Cut the dough in half lengthways and divide each half lengthways into 2 strips. You should now have 4 pieces of dough. Stretch each piece of dough lengthways a little and place on prepared baking trays.

6. Leave the ciabatta dough to rest for a further 10 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.

This is being entered into  My GBBO Bakealong and the Great Bloggers Bake Off



Bacon and Cherry Cornbread Muffins (and Competition)

August 20, 2014

These muffins are inspired by three things:

1. The idea of the all-american, deep south breakfast with cornbread, maple syrup and bacon. I’ve never been to the deep south but I have witnessed people having icecream for breakfast in new York state.

2. Nigella’s cherry-coke baked ham recipe that rears its sugary head every Christmas.

3. All the sweet bacon products doing the round at the moment like bacon jam, bacon brittle, bacon fudge etc.

glace cherry cornbread brunch

Muffin beats these warm out of the oven

Cornbread is a revelation. It’s so easy to make and tastes so good. It can be a willing recipient for cheese, chillies and all manner of other options. Plain it goes with chili con carne really well, or a spicy stew. These beauties though, with their pig and fruit combo make for an amazing brunch product.

Also, the French Glacé Cherry cheerleaders have given me a branded timer, kitchen scale, apron and samples of French Glacé Cherries to give away. I’ll tell you how at the end.

brunch cornbread bacon muffin

Hot Buttered Bliss

Bacon and Cherry Cornbread Muffins

Note: most large supermarkets now have world food sections. I would suggest getting your cornmeal from the Caribbean bit there rather than buying polenta. It’s much cheaper.

Makes 6 + 1 for testing

105g fine cornmeal (polenta)
50g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
small pinch bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil
175g natural yoghurt (I used 0% but low fat or full is fine)
50ml milk (I used skimmed but again, any is fine)
1 egg

50g natural French glacé cherries, chopped into at least quarters
7 whole glace cherries for decorating
8 rashers of smokey streaked bacon

Preheat oven to 230c

Grease your muffin tin. Take a rasher of bacon and wrap it around the edge of each muffin hole to create a “case” with no bottom.

Put the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and sugar in a bowl.
In a jug mix the yoghurt and milk, then add the egg, oil and cherries and beat gently to combine.
Add the liquid to the dry mix and stir well until thoroughly mixed.
Pour or spoon the mixture into each muffin hole. It won’t rise quite as much as cake, but it will still grow.

Take the final bacon rasher and divide along the length to create strips (using the grain of the meat). Cut thumb length pieces and wrap one around each cherry. Place them on top of the muffins.

Bake for 15mins.

I took the photos at this point. The bacon was cooked BUT a bit soft for my preference.  I reheated some the next day out of the muffin tin and the bacon crisped up nicely around the edges, so I suggest the following:

Wait for the muffins to cool a little, place a baking tray over the top and flip them onto it so that they are bottom up. Pop them back into the oven for 10mins at 180c.

Serve either on their own with strong coffee, or buttered, or we had them with poached eggs.

To win the Glacé Cherry branded items do one or both of the following:

1. Tweet “I want to win some french glace cherries so I can make these cornbread muffins from @gillbla #glacecherrycomp”

2. Leave a comment below telling me what your favourite cherry based memory is, be it cherry coloured or cherry flavoured. 


I was sent the cherries and given the prize by Sopexa so that I could play around and come up with a new and tasty dish. They are championing French Glace Cherries. If you would like to see another idea, head over to The More Than Occasional Baker to see her cherry and coconut bundt cake.

The prize is only available to UK entrants. Your name will be given to spoexa who will be responsible for sending the prize. Entries close at midnight on 31st August. Please makes sure you fill out your details when commenting so that I can contact you. If I am unable to contact you within 48hrs I will try the next person. I will use a random number generator to choose the winner. 

GBBO 5 Technical Bake #2: Mary Berry’s Florentines

August 16, 2014

This week the Great British Bake Off technical challenge from Mary Berry was Florentines. In the special land that is my brain their name is always sung to the tune of Clementine by Mark Owen. Not because I’m a fan, it’s just stuck in my head that way.

I have only ever really experienced florentines in the form of Thomas J. Fudge ones (which are good). If the contestants has been paying attention to these when doing their shopping, they would have known that there should be wiggles in the chocolate on the back. As usual with my baking I’ve taken shortcuts in order to create  my Great British Fake-off. This time it was using a fruit, nut and seed mix from Waitrose rather than measuring out all the fruit and nut separately and also melting the chocolate in the microwave.

Mary Berry Bake Off Florentine


This was attempt number 2, hence the slightly sparse fruit & nut content. Batch one spread LOADS, but were actually rescued by some careful trimming and rewarming to be rather good. I decided to wait until the next day to do the chocolate and thought they needed a bit longer in the oven as they were still slightly chewy. So I popped them in….and forgot them until the stench of burning sugar filled the house. This, dear reader is why this blog is a learning journal rather than an example of excellence. I mess up so you can feel better about yourselves. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

Mary Berry Great British Bake off Fudges Florentines

Ring of Florentines

Mary Berry’s Florentines

50g butter
50g demerara sugar
50g golden syrup
50g plain flour

If you’re using my shortcut:
125g of mixed fruit nut and seed mix from waitrose, roughly chopped (the seeds make it a finer mix naturally)

If you’re following Mary:
25g dried cranberries or glacé cherries, finely chopped
50g candied peel, finely chopped
25g almonds, finely chopped
25g walnut pieces, finely chopped
200g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Line three baking trays with baking parchment or silicon sheets.
Measure the butter, sugar and syrup into a small pan and heat gently until the butter is melted.
Remove from the heat and add the flour, nuts, fruit etc. to the pan.
Stir well to mix.
Make 18 florentines by spooning six teaspoonfuls of the mixture on to each of the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of room for them to spread during cooking.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden-brown.
Leave the florentines to cool before lifting onto a cooling rack using a palette knife (if the florentines have been baked on greased baking trays, then allow them to harden for a few moments only before lifting onto cooling racks to cool completely). If the florentines become too hard to remove, then pop them back into the oven for a few minutes to allow them to soften.

Either carefully melt chocolate in the microwave OR if you’re doing things properly….
Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, without letting the bowl touch the water. Temper the chocolate by breaking half of the chocolate into the bowl.
Stir until the chocolate reaches a melting temperature of 53C/127F.
Meanwhile, finely chop or grate the remaining chocolate.
Carefully remove the bowl from the pan, add the rest of the chocolate and stir gently until the chocolate has cooled to 26C/79F.
Spread a little melted chocolate over the flat base of each florentine and leave to cool slightly before marking a zigzag in the chocolate with a fork. Leave to set, chocolate side up on a cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container.

This is being entered into  My GBBO Bakealong and the Great Bloggers Bake Off



Even distribution

Chocolate Muesli Cookies

August 13, 2014

Whilst the GBBO gang may be making fancy pants biscuits, I am taking you down a more practical path this evening. All in one, easy chocolate muesli cookies.

I made these for a bring and share lunch at Euston Church. I had a load of muesli to use but I didn’t want to make flapjack or brownies as there’s always loads of them at a sharing lunch. They do go down well though, so I was looking for something in between the too but that didn’t involved faffing around with creaming butter and sugar. I found this Easy Oat biscuit recipe on Nigella’s website and since Mr B probably wouldn’t go for a muesli cookie, I added cocoa to act as a chocolate-smuggle.

chocolate muesli cookies

Leaning tower of pleasing

Easy Chocolate Muesli Cookies

300g muesli (not the milk powde eg. Alpen kind though – you might need to adjust if you go down that route)
300g self raising flour
300g butter
300g caster sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp cocoa
4 tbsp milk
50g ish of rye flour

Makes: 12 cookies and 1 large tray bake.

Put the flour, muesli, sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Mix.
Melt the butter and golden syrup either in a saucepan over a low heat or by zapping in the microwave for 30s at a time.
Pour the melted butter and syrup into the dry mix and stir through a bit, then add the milk and stir until completely combined.
Finally, add rye flour a bit at a time until the dough is dry enough to make a golf ball out of it. It will still be really sticky but you’ll be able to handle it without it running through your hands.
I’m sorry this is very inexact but I wasn’t realistically expecting my very inexact “throw it in” adaptation of the recipe to work so I wasn’t taking notes.
Put golf ball sized blobs onto a well greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 mins then take out and leave to cool.
For the tray bake it’ll need about 50mins and then leave it in the oven as it cools.

The resulting cookies / bake will be really soft so you could bake them for longer if you want a more robust bake.

Bake at 180c for 30mins

Remove and leave to cool before moving


easy quick cookie

Yes it’s muesli, but it’s CHOCOLATE


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