The Crazy Kitchen: July 2013

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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Soft Pretzels

There are a few smells that remind me of our time living in America - Cinnamon Buns, Yankee Candles and Soft Pretzels. I've cracked making my own cinnamon buns, Yankee Candles are readily available and now I've made soft pretzels for the first time so I feel that my life is complete.

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After seeing a recipe for German Pretzels on Carolin's blog last week I couldn't stop thinking about them so, with a helping hand from Jack, set about making some and couldn't believe how easy they were. You can find Carolin's recipe here and below is the recipe I used, making a few changes (I misread the type of flour and my forgot to get my butter out of the fridge!). The pretzels worked out great though and are ideal for making with kids as they can make pretzel sticks whilst you're busy twisting your classic pretzel shapes.

Soft Pretzels

2 tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp sugar
125ml warm water
125ml milk
500g plain flour
50ml vegetable oil
150g bicarbonate of soda
1 litre of water
course sea salt

  • Mix the yeast, sugar, water, milk & 100g of flour together in a bowl with a whisk
  • Cover and leave for around 2 hours
  • Mix in the remaining flour and oil
  • Bring it together with your hands and knead for around 5 minutes (adding a little more liquid or flour if necessary)
  • Divide dough into pieces and roll into long sausages and twist to form a pretzel shape (or roll into sausage shapes is making pretzel sticks)
  • Bring the bicarbonate of soda and water to the boil in a saucepan
  • Add the pretzels into the solution, 1 or 2 at a time and leave for around 30 seconds
  • Place onto a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt
  • Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for approx 15-20 minutes until golden brown
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Serve warm or cold - delicious with a Nutella dip made by mixing a little boiling water into Nutella

Please also check out Jayne's lovely Bavarian Pretzels here
and again Carolin's are here

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Chewy Honey & Oatmeal Cookies with Summer Berry Jam

I very nearly didn't manage a recipe this month for the Swallow Charity Recipes for Life Challenge but by the skin of my teeth I've managed to squeeze one in. I had hoped to rustle up something savoury but time ran away with me so it had to be cookies.

This month is the penultimate month for the challenge and you can read more about it on Bangers & Mash here. The 3 ingredients for this month are berries, oats and honey and I came up with some Honey & Oatmeal cookies accompanied by some Summer Berry Jam. The cookies & jam were great, I just need to practice my blackboard writing skills - I would never make a good teacher, although it's all laptops & white boards these days so I could still stand a chance...

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Chewy Honey & Oatmeal Cookies
- makes approx 24

115g Flora Buttery
230g Caster Sugar
Vanilla pod
35g Honey
1 Egg
115g Wholegrain oats
125g Self Raising Flour

Summer Berry Jam

200g Frozen Summer Fruits
100g Caster Sugar
  • Beat the Flora, sugar & seeds from the vanilla pod together (keep the vanilla pod for later)
  • Beat in the honey & egg
  • Stir in the oats and flour until well combined
  • Spoon a heaped teaspoonful onto a greased baking tray, repeat with the rest of the dough (spaced well apart)
  • Bake in a 170 C oven for approx 10-12 minutes until golden brown
  • Leave to cool for 10 minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
  • Add the summer fruit, sugar & vanilla pod to a saucepan
  • Bring slowly to the boil, stirring regularly
  • Simmer for approx 5-8 minutes stirring regularly, until the jam coats the back of a spoon
  • Pour into a sterilised jar and allow to cool
Serve the cookies spread with a generous amount of jam

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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Barbecue Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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The weather recently has been absolutely amazing. I think we've eaten outdoors more in the past few weeks than we did in the whole of the last 2 years. Barbecue's are a great way to cook, leaving no nasty cooking smells in the house or extra pans to wash. As we have a gas barbecue I also use it in the colder months and have been known to cook sausages and bacon for New Years Day breakfast on it, although we don't always do the eating outdoors.

Whilst we were away on holiday this last week we used the barbecue almost every day as it was far too hot to cook indoors, and we enjoyed some delicious family meals.

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I read a blog post during the week for a brilliant idea of cooking pizzas and cookies on the barbecue and thought I had to give the cookies a go. I was challenged to do some child friendly baking with Flora and thought it would be the perfect opportunity. You can see the photos of my shopping trip to the nearest Tesco store here.

Myself and Hanna set about making the cookies using a slightly adapted recipe that is currently my favourite cookie recipe. Hanna was kitted out in her apron & hair net from a chocolate workshop she went on a couple of days previously so really looked the part! The Flora Buttery is perfect to use in this hot weather as butter is either too hard straight from the fridge or too runny if left out, whereas the Flora is easy to beat straight from the fridge.

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We then placed the cookie dough in the fridge whilst we cooked our chops and then rolled it into balls and placed on some parchment lined foil for placing on the bbq once the meat was cooked.

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For baking the cookies I covered a pizza stone and baking sheet in foil and then placed the cookies on the parchment on top, closed the lid and left for 8-10 minutes until the cookies had spread out and caramelised. I removed the sheet and placed on a wire rack to cool completely before removing. They did spread out quite a lot but separated easily once cooled down.

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Absolutely lovely served with some local ice cream

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Chocolate Chunk Cookies

115g Flora Buttery
230g Caster sugar
45g Golden syrup
1 Egg
250g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
100g Milk chocolate, cut into small pieces

  • Beat the Flora & sugar together
  • Beat in the golden syrup and egg
  • Stir in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and chocolate
  • Place the dough in the fridge for minimum of 30 minutes
  • Roll dough into balls and place on foil lined baking sheet
  • Bake on a lidded bbq or in a preheated 170 degree oven for around 8-10 minutes  
  • Leave to cool 

Monday, 22 July 2013

How to Make Pancakes Schwartz Style

We love a good pancake in The Crazy Kitchen, thick ones or thin ones, the children aren't bothered which, as long as they are drowning in golden or maple syrup. When I was asked to cook up some pancakes using one of the Schwartz pancake recipes there was no need to think twice about it.

On their website there are tips on how to make pancakes and lots of delicious pancake recipes, including both sweet and savoury, crispy fried pancakes and some with sauces.

Whilst in town with Jack, having a 'last day of being just the two of us' treat, we picked up a couple of punnets of raspberries for just £1 and decided to make the American Raspberry Pancakes, which have a lovely infusion of vanilla from the Schwartz vanilla pod.

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The recipe was a nice easy one to follow that didn't need any specialist equipment or ingredients.

They turned out lovely and thick but light and fluffy inside. Just pile them high on a plate and drizzle with syrup and a few raspberries....perfect for breakfast or dessert. Even better with the addition of some ice cream to cool you down on a hot day.

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I don't think I did too badly with these..

Recipe commissioned by Schwartz

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Easy as Cherry Pie

Anyone who knows me knows that I do love a cooking challenge but when I was challenged by Cool Cookery to create a recipe with just ingredients that you would find in the frozen food aisles (plus the odd condiment) I must admit that I did have to think twice about it.

I decided to give it a go & browsed the online freezer shelves for inspiration. I was thinking fruit pie initially but decided to make it less run of the mill and make it into a type of Mille Feuille, although I do believe a classic version has 3 layers of puff pastry and mine only have 2, so instead it's a tart/pie/sandwich kind of creation, with ice cream in.

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Cherry Ice Cream Puff Sandwich
- serves 5

320g Frozen ready rolled Puff Pastry sheet, defrosted
300g Frozen Morello cherries
400g Vanilla Ice Cream
Icing sugar for dusting

  • Lay the pastry sheet flat & cut in half lengthways & then cut each piece into 5 equal strips
  • Lay the pastry pieces onto a greased baking sheet & dust with icing sugar
  • Place in the fridge for 10 minutes
  • In the meantime beat together the ice cream & cherries (easiest in a food mixer)
  • Line a rectangular baking tin or tray (similar in size to the sheet of pastry) with greaseproof paper
  • Spoon the ice cream into the lined tin and smooth out
  • Place in the freezer for 1 hour to firm up
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge & dust with more icing sugar
  • Bake in a preheated 200C oven for approx 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed up
  • Dust with more icing sugar & allow to cool
  • Cut the ice cream into pieces similar in size to the puff pastry rectangles
  • Serve with the ice cream sandwiched between 2 pieces of pastry

If you are a blogger and would like to enter this challenge just link to within your post and tweet @cool_cookery with your entry.

I was provided with payment to cover the cost of ingredients used in the recipe

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Toffee Popcorn Ice Cream

Ice cream is a perfect way to cool down during this heatwave that the UK is currently experiencing. If the freezer shelves in the supermarket are looking a little sparse due to high demand then home-made is definitely the best option. Here I again use the very simple condensed milk method which needs no ice cream machine, and just like my salted caramel ice cream I used the Carnation Caramel to add that yummy caramel flavour.

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Some of the popcorn pieces go a little softer in the ice cream but the toffee coating on them helps them to stay reasonably crisp, although the longer you leave it the softer they go - it's so good it won't stick around for long though!

Toffee Popcorn Ice Cream

600ml Double Cream
397g Carnation Caramel
100g Butterkist Toffee Popcorn
  • Whisk together the cream and 300g of the caramel until it forms peaks
  • Pour the mixture into a freezable container
  • Reserve a small handful of popcorn and stir the rest through the ice cream mixture, along with the remaining caramel, leaving swirls
  • Add the remaining popcorn to the top of the ice cream mixture
  • Freeze for around 4 hours
  • remove from the freezer approx 10 minutes before serving (or less if it's a really warm day)
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I was sent an OXO Good Grips Beak Ice cream scoop which, due to the pointed tip and non stick coating glides through the firmest of ice cream and delivers large rounded scoops with the aid of the release button.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Gifts for Teachers - Tin Can Flowerpots

It might be cutting it a bit fine to make gifts for the teachers but there could still be time to make these cut little pots. I got the inspiration a few months back from the lovely Annie, and made a few for our seedlings. Unfortunately I'm not too green fingered & they died a miserable death. I've decided to try again but this time we will be giving the young plants away in the hope of a better life elsewhere.

We did have a bit better luck with the flower seeds that we planted a few weeks ago and they're thriving so I thought it would be a nice idea to give some to the Preschool staff along with a copy of Red Ted Art (a book full of crafts for kids) that I was lucky enough to get signed by Maggy herself at BritMums Live.

First of all I cut strips of paper to cover the cans with - a sheet of A4 cut lengthways was just the right width. 

The husband drilled a few holes in the base of each can and 3 spaced around the sides near the top edge for the twine.

We stamped the paper with the names of each member of staff and whilst I cooked dinner Jack decorated them with stickers. I was very impressed with the stickering, he made them look amazing.

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The labels were taped in place on the cans.

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We then carefully filled the cans halfway up and potted our small plants into the cans and topped them up with compost.

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3 equal lengths of twine were cut for each can and threaded through the holes around the edge of the can with a knot tied at each end and tied together at the top.

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A very cheap, and cute,  gift for teachers.

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If you're looking for alternative ideas take a look at some of those below, as well as this list of 25 handmade gifts for grown ups, written by Lucy, who is currently living the good life in New Zealand where she regularly writes about attachment parenting, baby wearing and extended breastfeeding.

Simple Baking activity with Preschoolers

Jack has just one week left at Preschool before the summer holiday and starting school in September. He only goes for 3 days in the week which means I have just 1 day left with him to myself, just 1 day left of it being just the two of us, a team, partners in crime. He is a joy to be with, so funny and so happy all of the time, from the moment he wakes up until the moment his head hits the pillow and he falls asleep. On Friday he fell asleep in the car and when we got to the bank I needed to wake him, he opened his eyes, said 'ooh my flip flop has fallen off' and then laughed hysterically.

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I'm going to miss him, but I won't miss how exhausted he makes me after a day of constant question asking, chatter and singing. If I ever get the urge to spend a few hours with toddlers and preschoolers though I know that I can go into his Preschool and offer my services, which is what I did last week. I was asked to cover for a staff member and so I offered to do some simple baking - although there was no actual baking involved in this activity but the little ones absolutely loved it.

I had six children at a time to do the activity and to start gave each a tray with a bowl, a coffee stirrer, a small spoon and 3 marshmallows on.

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Step 1 - thread the marshmallows onto the wooden stick.

All of the children managed to do this, although some of the 2 year olds need a little help as their little hot hands managed to make the marshmallows rather sticky.

I then gave them some melted chocolate (melted in the microwave and allowed to cool slightly) in their bowls.

Step 2 - spoon the chocolate over the marshmallows.

Some of the children drizzled slowly and carefully whereas others spooned it on as quickly as possible, eager to get onto the next step.

Step 3 - Sprinkles!

This was the really fun part. I took in some 100's and 1000's in a shaker and each child took turns in shaking the sprinkles onto the melted chocolate - they all started off gently with a slow sprinkle which quickly turned into an avalanche!

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The marshmallow kebabs were then placed in the fridge to set and then wrapped in a cellophane bag to take home later.

The little ones absolutely loved doing this and I really enjoyed doing it with them, and all the parents were extremely pleased when their children came out of preschool on a boiling hot day asking to eat their rapidly melting chocolate marshmallows!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Three Course Summer Family Meal for under £10

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® #CBias #SocialFabric.

It was due to be a scorcher of a weekend so when I was asked to shop in Asda to create a family meal for under £10 I knew it had to be something that we would be eating outside, and with as little preparation and cooking as possible - who wants to spend all day in the kitchen when the weather is good.

We were having friends over on Saturday so I decided that we would have the family meal on Sunday afternoon. Most of the weekend was spent in the garden, playing and splashing around in the swimming pool.

I was up early as usual on Saturday morning to take Hanna to swim training and then onto Asda for some shopping. I'd decided on a 3 course family meal and checked the prices of ingredients needed online on the Asda website the previous evening. You can read more about my Asda shop and see photos here.

The menu was as follows :

Starter :
Melon boats

Main :
Beef Koftas
Lemon, parsley & mint Cous Cous
Yoghurt dip
Lime wedges

Dessert :
Lemonade lollies

I prepared the lollies and koftas in advance and kept the lollies in the freezer and koftas in the fridge until we needed them.

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I listed down the ingredients I needed and they came in at a total of £9.78

Melon £1
Lean Beef Mince £3.33 (part of a 3 for £10 deal)
Self Raising flour 40p
Smart Price natural yoghurt 45p
Fresh Mint 78p
Fresh Coriander 78p
Cucumber 50p
Lettuce 50p
Spring Onions 50p
Lime 27p
Lemon 27p
Ainsley Harriot Cous Cous 50p
Cloudy lemonade 50p (part of a 4 for £2 deal)

Unfortunately there was no fresh mint or coriander on the shelf but luckily I had some growing in the garden and used that.

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If you fancy giving the menu a try here's how I made everything:

Beef Koftas

675g Lean Beef mince
handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Spices from storecupboard (optional but not essential) : 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp paprika

  • Mix the ingredients together with your hands
  • Form into sausage shapes and squeeze around a wooden skewer if you have them (I used wooden coffee stirrers)
  • Cook on the bbq or griddle until cooked right through (which will depend on how hot your bbq is)


350g Self Raising flour
350g Natural yoghurt
pinch of sea salt

  • Mix all the ingredients together, starting with a fork and then using your hands
  • Turn out onto a well floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces
  • Roll each piece flat with the palm of your hands, using extra flour if the dough is sticky
  • Cook on a bbq or griddle for a couple of minutes each side until puffed up
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Yoghurt Dip

Mix the remaining yoghurt with a small handful of chopped fresh coriander and mint

Cous Cous

Follow the directions on the back of the pack (adding boiling water)


Slice the cucumber and spring onions lengthways and shred the lettuce, top with fresh coriander and lime wedges

Lemonade Lollies

Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a jug of cloudy lemonade and pour into ice lolly moulds
Freeze for at least 4 hours

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The meal went down very well, although Jack was only interested in eating the melon, bread and lolly as I think the heat had got to him.

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Friday, 5 July 2013

Pear Crumble Cake

I decided on Monday morning that this was going to be a week of no baking, because if the cake isn't there it can't be eaten, and if the cake isn't eaten the hips don't get larger. This abstinence lasted right up until about 8.50am on the way back from the school run when we popped into the shop to get some milk. To get to the milk it's necessary to walk past the reduced shelf and my eyes were drawn to some 'past their best but not a complete write off' pears for just 25p for a pack of 4. My first thought was, ooh they would be perfect in a cake....oops!

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Pear Crumble Cake (or as a 4yr old likes to call it 'Gruffalo Crumble Cake')

175g Stork for baking
55g Light soft brown sugar
120g Caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g Self raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
3 very ripe pears, cored & chopped

crumble topping
25g butter, softened
25g demerara sugar
50g flour (plain or self raising)
1 tsp cinnamon

  • Beat the Stork & sugars together until smooth & creamy
  • Beat the eggs in slowly
  • Mix the flour and mixed spice together and toss the pear in
  • Stir the flour & pear into the mixture & mix well
  • Pour into a greased & lined loose bottom cake tin - I used an 8" tin, if you use a wider one you will need to reduce the cooking time
  • For the crumble mix all of the ingredients together until it resembles breadcrumbs
  • Scatter the crumble over the cake batter
  • Bake in a preheated 170 C oven for 45-50 minutes until firm in the centre
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack

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Perfect with an afternoon cuppa - or not if you're trying to avoid cake!

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I'm linking this up to The Good Life Mum's Bake it Monday linky

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Gifts for Teachers - Chocolate Truffles

This is another very simple idea that can be made with children as a gift for their teachers. They can be packaged in a pretty little box with tissue paper or placed in a cellophane bag or even a mug, and then wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon.

You can also add various flavours by adding a drop of essence such as rum or orange, and then roll them in different coatings - cocoa powder, chopped nuts, coconut or even brightly coloured sprinkles. I added a few chilli flakes to these truffles and rolled them in cocoa powder, nuts and grated white chocolate. Some are for the pre-school staff and some are for after dinner at the weekend when friends come around.

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I followed a simple recipe on the Jamie Oliver website, which you can find here. The site is packed full of great recipes which can be searched by section. The section for chocolate recipes is one where I found myself browsing for a very long time, drooling over the chocolate creations and admiring the beautiful photos. I particularly like the sound of the Epic Hot Chocolate and know my kids will love me just that little bit more if I make a batch of that up.

Chilli Chocolate Truffles - makes around 20

250g good quality dark chocolate
125ml double cream
25g butter
pinch of sea salt
good pinch of chilli flakes
cocoa powder, chopped nuts, coconut, sprinkles or grated white chocolate for coating.
  • Break the chocolate up into small pieces and place in a bowl
  • Bring the cream to the boil, add the butter and remove from the heat
  • Pour the cream over the chocolate and leave for a couple of minutes to allow the chocolate to melt
  • Add the salt & chilli flakes and stir until smooth
  • Refrigerate for around 2 hours until set
  • Scoop out small amounts of the mixture (I used a melon baller for this) and roll in your hands to form a ball
  • Roll in the coatings to cover completely
  • Place in the fridge to firm up

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Sun Dried Tomato & Three Cheese Tart

This is one of those recipes that every time I make I wonder why I don't make it more often. Everyone loves it, it's simple to make and takes under half an hour. I always use ready rolled puff pastry, life is too short to be faffing with a block of puff pastry trying to roll it into a rectangle. Using a ready rolled sheet means that it's just the right thickness, is just the right size to fit my baking sheet and is just enough to feed all of us. Of course, because there is no waste also means that there is a downside of having no scraps leftover that can be baked and dipped in chocolate sauce.

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Sun Dried Tomato & Three Cheese Tart - serves 4/5

320g Ready rolled Puff Pastry sheet
250g Ricotta
50g Sun dried tomato pesto
100g Cheddar cheese, grated
50g Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
25g Sun dried tomatoes
6 Cherry tomatoes
Fresh Oregano
  • Lay the pastry onto a greased / lined baking sheet
  • Mix the ricotta with the pesto & spread over the pastry, leaving a 2cm gap around the edge
  • Sprinkle over the grated cheeses, tomatoes and Oregano
  • Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for approximately 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the cheese is bubbling
  • Serve hot or cold

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Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Lorraine Pascale's Damper Bread

You have to love the smell of home baked bread filling the kitchen. Morning, noon and night I will never tire of the smell, it's so comforting, along with that first crusty slice , still warm from the oven, spread with butter.

Unfortunately time doesn't always allow me to make a proper loaf, a good bloomer can take up to 5 hours with all that kneading (by the Kitchen Aid), proving and baking. At the weekend I caught some of Lorraine Pascale's Fast, Fresh & Easy on TV where she made Australian Damper bread. Luckily I Sky+ the show as a couple of days later I needed a quick bread recipe to accompany some soup and I'd not allowed enough time to make 'proper' bread.

The original recipe has olives and rosemary in the middle but I chose to add cheese and onion - no weights or measurements, just a few slices piled into the centre of the bread.

Damper Bread

450g SR Flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil
225ml warm water

Optional Additions
  • Mix all of the bread ingredients together, squashing it into a ball with your hands (I added some dried Rosemary & a clove of crushed garlic at this stage)
  • Flatten out & add your fillings on the top
  • Fold the edges of the dough over to encase the fillings & squeeze together into a ball
  • Turn over & press a wooden spoon across it four times (see below)
  • Place in a preheated 200 C oven for 30 minutes
  • Use for dipping into Olive oil & Balsamic...or mopping up soups and stews

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