Category Archives: Other people's recipes

Quick(ish) No-Knead Bread

This is my current favourite loaf, bar none. It’s easy to make – though the ‘quick’ part of the title definitely needs to be taken in context – but the end result is bread that’s full of flavour and texture and, most importantly, those air-pockets that fill up so delightfully with butter, jam, soup, or whatever else you put the slice on or in. It’s also so appealing to look at, beautifully rustic and craggy. And the smell! Well, that’s a given.


The recipe comes from the New York Times, and shortens the usual no-knead time from 12 hours to just 4. I’ve even cut the initial rising time back to three hours, on a warm day, and it’s still come out really well. Did I mention I love this recipe?

I have begun to diverge from the recipe a little over time, even though you’d think there wasn’t much room to stray from the simple path it lays out. I keep the ingredients as directed, and while I sometimes monkey with the initial rise time, I generally leave it for four hours – it takes so little time to mix those ingredients together that you can get it started quickly, then go about the next four hours of your day without giving it another thought.

Tip One: Be absolutely positive to mix the dry ingredients well before adding the water. Otherwise your yeast will clump together and you’ll have a devil of a time trying to mix it through the flour.

The dough will be shaggy, as the recipe states. For me, that means it looks like this:


It’s not a ball of dough, there are no smooth surfaces to be seen. It’s kind of lumpen and unlovely, if we’re honest. That doesn’t matter. Wrap it up tight, keep it cosy, and let the yeast do its work. It’s pretty much lumpen and unlovely all the way, until you take it out the oven at the end and marvel over its beauty. Kind of an ugly duckling situation…er… if that story ended with roast swan for dinner…

Tip two: That was a joke. Do not eat swans. 

After it rises, it will be a little more swampy than before, and when you tip it out onto your well-oiled worktop, you’ll see tons of bubbles, like so:


This is good news. Try not to bash all the air out of the dough, since you’ve made the yeast work double time to create it in the first place. The dough now gets folded over a couple of times, to give it height. I usually go for a four-way fold – imagining the dough as a square, I lift and fold a section from the top and bottom, then from the left and right. I end up with a kind of swag-bag shape. The dough is sticky and joins up easily, to itself and also to your hands.


Tip Three: Coat your hands in oil or water to stop the dough from clinging to them. Make sure your surfaces are well oiled, too. 

The bread relaxes for another half hour after you’ve folded it. It is a soft dough, and it won’t hold its shape over this time. You can stick an inverted bowl over the top – making sure to oil any of the bowl that will come into contact with the dough – to prevent it from spreading too much.

Put the oven on to heat in this half hour – it’s going up to 230C, so it needs some time to get there. Also put the baking dish or tin you’ll be using in there, so it’s piping hot before you put the dough in. This is an area where I differ from the recipe – I use a cake tin to bake the bread, instead of a proper dish with a lid. I leave it uncovered, and bake it for less time. It’s not the recommended method, but it works for me.

The moment when you move the risen dough into the baking tin is the worst part of the whole operation. It’s so soft and delicate that you feel sure you’re going to ruin it – or that you’ll never be able to get it off the counter and into the tin. Have courage – you can do it.



I sprinkle the surface with a little flour, which helps to stop more sticking and lets me shape the dough just a little, enough to make sure it’s the same size as the awaiting tin. I gently pat and turn it with my hands – the turning makes sure that it’s free of the counter. If it sticks, I get in there with a dough scraper and loosen it off. It’s only a matter of time before the moisture in the dough either soaks into the flour on the surface, or re-attaches to the counter, so you do have to move fast. Scoop it up and drop it into the tin, and give the tin a shoogle to even it out in there.

Tip Four: That baking tin is HOT so be careful. Drop the dough from a little way above the tin, so you don’t hit it with the back of your hands and end up with matching burn marks. People will not be sympathetic about those. They may even snigger.

I bake, uncovered as it is, for half an hour. With my oven, this is when the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when I tap on the base.

Tap tap tap...

Tap tap tap…


Put the loaf on a rack as soon as you can, to let any extra moisture out, and let it cool a little before slicing into it. It will be difficult to resist. Be strong.


And there it is. It’s not my recipe, but it’s one I think a lot of people need to know about. Or no-knead to know about. Ahahaha…

Postscript: I just ate the slice of bread in that picture up there, and it was just so good. The bread is moist and chewy (the way I like it), and has a hint of sourdough flavour from the longer rise. Just a hint. A splash of sourdough starter might be the next way I change the recipe. I don’t know, though. It’s pretty darn perfect. 

Frankenstein’s Pizza


This is one of those times when I took three recipes and crammed them into one. Sometimes that’s the best way to go about things – though it does depend on the recipes. If I’d tried combining a chocolate trifle with a pizza base, for example, that might not have gone so well.


To start with, the base I made (or didn’t really make, as it turns out) was from BBC Good Food. I screwed it up by trying to half the recipe, then forgetting half way through the ingredients (of which there were a grand total of four) so putting in twice as much oil and water as I needed. Lesson: if you’re going to half a recipe, do the sums and write out your new ingredient amounts. I threw in as many handfuls of flour as it took to get the dough looking more like dough than soup, and proceeded from there.


So, if I wanted to replicate this exact pizza base, I’d have a bit of trouble. I won’t be going to that trouble – the base was fine, and the crusts were like massive, chewy breadsticks (which went extremely well with some cucumber and yogurt dip I happened to have in the fridge), but there are plenty of recipes out there that will do the trick for pizza in a pinch. For pizza that’s planned well in advance, there’s Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough, which is the finest pizza base I’ve ever made, by a country mile. Its only drawback is that you do need to start about 18 hours before you want to eat the pizza. Or make a few bases and have some ready in the freezer at all times. Something for me to think about, in future.


Anyway, once I’d bungled my way through the base – which I let rise for a while, even though the recipe said I didn’t have to – I piled on a made-from-memory pesto. I used a mix of walnuts and pecans in place of pine nuts (guess who forgot to buy any nuts and had to use what was in the cupboard?), one clove of garlic (because I usually make it toooo strong), and two bunches of basil. I have some left, which is good news for dinner later in the week. Amounts? Nope. I just used enough of everything. Sometimes you don’t need a recipe. Sometimes you don’t write things down for your blog…


On top of the pesto went diced mozzarella, and all the mushrooms. More than you would imagine would fit on to one pizza. When I first moved out of my parents’ house, my flatmate was a pretty fussy eater. One thing we did agree on, though, was mushroom pizza. We used ask for triple mushroom on our Domino’s orders. No meat, no other veg – cheese, tomato and triple mushrooms. They always obliged, but when you phoned to order one (because in those days you would phone to order food) there were mixed reactions, from people who were sure they must have misheard me to people who thought it outright hilarious. But, you know, if you just ask for mushroom you don’t get enough. These are the facts.


Now, are you ready for a pizza-related surprise? Here it is:


Whaaaaat? Salad pizza? That’s right, my friends. Now, I’m not a salad fan, as a rule. The charm of it evades me. Not enough carbs, I think. Best possible solution to a lack of carbs: put the salad on a pizza base. This is far from being an original idea – it was a recent recipe on Leite’s Culinaria, which I absolutely loved. It calls for a plain, white pizza – just mozzarella and garlic – topped with lightly-dressed salad leaves. I amped up the pizza underneath, and added a few shavings of pecorino to the salad for good measure. The leaves are a mix of rocket, spinach and watercress, and they’re sparingly dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. It works. It seems strange, but it works.


And thus ends the tale of Frankenstein’s pizza, made up of so many different recipes and ideas that it becomes impossible to name without just reeling off every ingredient. Triple Mushroom Pesto Salad Pizza with Accidental Breadstick Crust is a name with character, yes, but also a name designed to send people off in search of a blogger who seems to have a clue what she’s doing when it comes to naming recipes.


Fooled you.


Salmon and Noodles with Sweet Chili and Coriander Butter

Now, doesn’t that sound like a cheffy kind of dinner?


That’s because the recipe was created by Jean Paul Giraud, the chef at the Millennium Hotel Glasgow. The Millennium and Copthorne Hotels group asked some bloggers to try and recreate the dish at home, and kindly sent us bags of quality ingredients to make it so.

Note: in case that wasn’t explicit enough, Millenium and Copthorne sent me all the ingredients to make this blog post possible, through the ever-capable middle men at the Joe Blogs Blogger Network. All opnions and thoughts are, as ever, my own .

I was expecting a box or a bag of ingredients, so I arranged to have them delivered to me at work. Imagine my surprise, and the bafflement of the people behind reception, when a Sainsbury’s delivery man showed up with four bags of shopping, including a whole bottle of wine. No, go ahead and imagine it. I hustled (and rustled) back to my desk slightly red-faced after collecting that lot. They really pushed the boat out, sending me top quality ingredients, and plenty of them. For example, the recipe calls for an ounce of ginger – I now have enough ginger in my kitchen to start up a ginger ale production line.

You can find the recipe on the Millennium Hotels website. I will say that it’s not the best-written recipe, especially if you’re not an experienced cook. You may have questions like how much coriander should I use? What length of time constitutes a decent ‘sweating’ for the ginger? Why is there a lemon in the ingredients and not in the instructions? What am I supposed to do with this lemon?!

The answers to those are: a big handful, a few minutes and I don’t know, my friend. But you know what they say. When life gives you lemons…

Life actually gave me a bag of lemons on this occasion, none of which ended up in the dinner. That’s certainly enough for lemonade.




Other than these grey areas, the recipe went really well, and I felt proper fancy serving this up. One thing to note: the recipe calls for sakura cress, which I would have substituted with mustard cress. In among my unexpectedly large amount of shopping was a bag of watercress, which actually tasted great with the salmon and ginger and looked pretty, to boot. I sprinkled it over the top before serving. Watercress doesn’t need much by way of cooking before it wilts away into nothingness. I also added a few garnishing leaves of coriander. That’s just how I roll.



The gist of the recipe is this: you fry some salmon fillets, then remove to the oven to finish cooking, or just to keep warm if your fillets are thin. Then you cook up a good dose of ginger, spring onion and red pepper in the same pan (I used a wok instead of a saute pan – it gave me more space to work), and toss in a little butter and some noodles. These, too, are removed and set aside to keep warm while you reduce white wine, sweet chili sauce, coriander into a fragrant sauce, then add in some butter to emulsify.

This is why restaurant food tastes so good – butter in everything.



The end result was a really great dinner. You could try serving some garlicky pak choi as a side dish, and next time I’d definitely put in extra spring onion. The recipe called for just one – I used two, so they wouldn’t be lonely, but they got a little lost among the crowd of noodles and peppers. The sauce was a revelation – I’d never had thought to combine sweet chili sauce and wine, but it really works. The butter thickens it up, and adds a touch of richness, but still lets the flavours that are already there shine through.


I encourage you to give the recipe a try – if you do, you can tweet your results with the #TOTTChef hashtag.

Thanks to Millennium and Copthorne, and to the Joe Bloggs Network, for hooking me up!

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