Chilli rarebit

Chilli_rarebiteI was feeling hungry, so stale bread, left-over soured cream and a glut of chillies (due to the sunny weather), resulted in this snack recipe. Chilli rarebit is usually made with chilli jam or chutney, but raw chillies seem perfectly OK. Enough for 2 people:

  • 4 small red chillies (deseeded and finely chopped)
  • 100g mature cheddar (finely grated)
  • 2 tbsp soured cream
  • 6 small (or 4 large) slices of wholemeal bread (toasted)
  • Black pepper

Mash the chilli, cheese and cream together with a fork. Spread the mixture evenly over the slices of toast.

Grill until the cheese starts to brown. Dust with black pepper and serve.


Bread making as therapy


Kneading image from: Joe Pastry

I always thought that kneading bread made me feel good. Now there’s a report to back me up.

Rising Up is a report from The Real Bread Campaign (part of  the Sustain charity) on the therapeutic and social benefits that bread making offers to people living with mental health issues, or otherwise facing a tougher time than most.

In “a new survey of people living with mental health issues, or facing one of a range of other challenges, 88% …. said bread making gives them a sense of achievement, 87% said baking makes them feel happier, and 73% said it helped them feel calmer or more relaxed”.

This has also been covered in the press, but the message (about bread) seems to have been lost amidst cupcake imagery (eg the Independent).

Anyway – one thing I would like to emphasise is that this therapy doesn’t involve using a ‘breadmaker’!

Tesco says almost 30,000 tonnes of food ‘wasted’


Images from: Joonggul Ro’s PG02

This BBC article is based on food waste figures published by Tesco for the first six months of this year.

The figures include food wasted before it arrives at Tesco, and food bought by its customers which is never consumed. Tesco estimates that “families are wasting an estimated £700 a year and we want to help them keep that money in their pockets, rather than throwing it in the bin”.

£700 represents about 50% of the average annual dual-fuel bill (gas and electricity) of £1,315 per household, so wasting less food could help a lot.

Tesco claims that 1 in 10 bananas purchased is thrown away, and also high in the customer wastage stakes is packaged salad (most likely because the bags are too big) and bread.

There are many ways to use up (or to avoid creating these left-overs in the first place):

  • overripe bananas can be made into muffins (or banana bread) and can be frozen so you don’t need to eat them all at once; also, if you have a robust liquidiser or food processor you can create some fruity ‘ice cream’ by combining ripe bananas, frozen fruit (use it straight from the freezer) and yogurt;
  • left-over bread ccould be made into croutons, breadcrumbs (dried in the oven, bread pudding or bread and butter pudding;
  • maybe bagged salad should be avoided – you can always shred a white cabbage (a section of white cabbage will last a long time in the fridge) and grate root vegetables. If you do want some green leaves then Lidl does small bags of (unwashed) wild rocket (I think it was 79p last week).

Of course, another way to reduce customer wastage is to stop doing multi-buy deals on perishable food (at Tesco these deals on large bags of salad have ceased) and to reduce the size of perishable food displays which Tesco is also doing.

I can’t help thinking there’s a conflict of interest here. If lowering customer food wastage leads to customers spending less at Tesco, and Tesco sales fall, this won’t be good (for Tesco).

Bread pudding


I’d rather over done it buying bread, and there was no room left in the freezer, so I thought that I’d make a bread pudding.

Makes 12 ‘modest’ pieces:

  • 250g stale bread
  • 250g mixed dried fruit
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 nutmeg grated
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • 70g brown sugar (sifted)
  • 50g melted butter

Cut the bread into small cubes (some recipes suggest that you remove the crusts – I didn’t bother) and put into a large bowl. Add the fruit and spices (and ensure the ingredients are well mixed). Pour in the milk. Then scrunch the mixture with your fingers, ensuring that the bread is broken up and fruit evenly distributed. Stir in the egg and sugar (again stirring to ensure even distribution). Leave to soak for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 170C/Gas Mark 3. Line the bottom of a cake tin with silicon paper (I used a tin about 20cm x 10cm, but I think it would have been better to have a deeper mixture in a smaller tin). Stir the melted butter into the mixture and transfer to the cake tin, smoothing the top. Bake for about 1.5 hours until firm and golden brown (cover with foil if browns too much).

When cooked, turn out onto a wire rack (removing the paper). Cut into squares.

I think this is equally good, cold just like a cake; or hot with custard.

Mega-bakers fear problems with more salt reductions


The tasty looking loaf (right) is from: The Little Loaf

The UK’s mega-backers who produce all that tasteless spongy bread using the Chorleywood Method think that government imposed further salt cuts will pose problems for their manufacturing process.

Maybe it will, you need salt for added flavour (especially) if you are using cheap ingredients, and it seems that salt also serves to strengthen gluten (British wheat has less gluten than wheat produced in North America). However salt also decreases the fermentation activity of yeast, so less of it might make their bread-making even faster!

I have made very tasty bread containing nothing other than wholemeal/white flour (50/50), water, yeast, sugar and a bit of oil to ‘paint’ on the top of the loaf  to improve the crust. It tastes even better if you knead in a few seeds (sunflower, pumpkin and linseed), before leaving it to prove prior baking.

Homemade bread is much tastier a more satisfying that much of the bread you can buy in the shops. I’m not including ‘artisan bread’ in this ‘bad bread’ category, but then artisan bread if often quite expensive. You get what you pay for, but if you put in the same amount of effort yourself you can have inexpensive, tasty, satisfying bread.

In my opinion you don’t need a breadmaking machine. Yes, making decent bread is a long process, but it actually ties up very little of your time. You just need to be available to do the kneading and baking and the timing can be flexible depending on the ambient temperature during the proving process and the quantity of yeast used. There’s also very little more therapeutic than kneading dough!

I’ll be dealing with the bread-making process in a later post. Meanwhile here’s my daughter’s efforts with sourdough.