Author: zoeshelton

Fish with coconut (Sri Lankan style?)

SriLankanFishCoconutCurry

I haven’t posted for a while as I’ve not been very adventurous in the kitchen recently.

We’ve been enjoying our small herb garden, which has just come into its own after all the cold weather, and our simple meals are far too basic to talk about – pasta (with herbs), rice (with herbs), eggs (with herbs)…you get the idea. We also have allotment grown purple sprouting broccoli coming out of our ears which I like best stir-fried quickly just by itself.

This is all good (and quite healthy) but I decided earlier in the week to spice things up a bit and make a special trip to the fishmongers so that I could make this dish which seemed suitably fresh and summery.  Its unusual, dry texture takes a bit of getting used to but the combination of heat from the spices and sweetness from the coconut, enlivened at the end by lime and coriander, is very moreish (as my father would say).

The original recipe came from my ‘Essential Asian’ Cookbook. I have been unable to find any similar recipes anywhere. Perhaps this is because it’s not authentically Sri Lankan (I am always suspicious about books that claim to encapsulate the food of an entire continent) or maybe it’s just not well known enough to have made it to the top of a google search. I would be interested to hear from any Sri Lankans regarding this matter.

Anyway, if you like fish, coconut, fresh flavours, and you don’t require a sauce I would encourage you to give this a try.

Sri Lankan fish with coconut

Serves 2-4

  • 50g of desiccated coconut
  • 50g of flaked coconut (although I’ve used all desiccated when I didn’t have this and that worked just fine)
  • 500g of firm white fish (cod is what I generally use)
  • ½ a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice, plus extra for serving (to taste)
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 1-2 dried chillies (depending on how hot you like it)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil (I use groundnut)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 medium onions, very finely sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander (to garnish)

Preheat the oven to 150oC.

Spread the desiccated and flaked coconut on an oven tray and toast for 10 minutes until dark and golden, shaking the tray occasionally to mix.

Place the fish, pepper, turmeric and lime juice in a frying pan, half cover with water and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes with a lid on until the fish flakes when pulled gently with a fork. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of your fish fillets. Remove the fish from the pan and leave to cool a little before flaking into pieces.

I don’t like to waste the fish cooking liquor and therefore use it to cook the rice that goes with this dish, topping up with water to make the full amount of liquid required (see rice recipe here).

Dry roast the star anise, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds and chilli in a frying pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Then grind to a fine powder in a food processor (easy) or pestle and mortar (hard but satisfying). This spice powder smells amazing.

Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok and add the garlic, onion and spice powder. Then stir fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes until the onion is soft and fragrant.

Add the flaked fish and toasted coconut to the pan and toss with the onion until heated through.

Season with salt and lime juice to taste and garnish with chopped coriander. This is not a dish that needs to be served piping hot, I actually prefer it warm or at room temperature.

Serve over rice, with a cucumber and tomato salad (or some similar sort of fresh salad). It’s even nice with just salad or wrapped up in a flat bread. I also like to have a dollop of yoghurt on the side.

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No knead bread

no knead bread X

Why does modern life seem to involve so much unnecessary labour? Is it because we have a deep need as humans to feel useful? Work = purpose, whereas idling = useless.

But as life is so busy these days surely we should take the easy option when we can – especially when it produces the same or similar results.

I have long been a fan of the no iron clothes washing method, whereby I take garments out of the dryer before they’re completely dry and hang them on coat hangers for the wrinkles to fall out with no effort.

And in recent years we’ve been trying the no dig gardening method at the allotment and so far it has produced equivalent and in some cases better results for much less work.

Than last week I was listening to Nathan Myhrvold, author of ‘Modernist Bread’, on Radio 4’s Food Programme and he said that you really don’t need to knead bread to produce a good loaf.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear this (that’s how sad I am). I just had to put it to the test.

So I made Ben’s standard loaf but just skipped the kneading part. And what do you know, it worked just fine. The finished loaf looked a little bit rougher but the texture and flavour were excellent and possibly even better than usual.

Now this method does mean that you need to leave the dough to rise for a lot longer (8-10 hours) but this fits in more conveniently with a standard working day. Bung all the ingredients together quickly in the morning (without kneading) and the dough will be ready for its second proving (and baking) once you return from work.

PS. I can vouch that it works on pizza dough too (basic recipe here) just skip the kneading part and leave to prove for 8-10 hours.

PPS. Of course the really easy option would be to buy a factory made loaf from the supermarket or a pricey, artisan one from your local deli, but nothing beats homemade, especially when the effort to reward ratio is so high.

Ben’s bread (the no knead version)

Makes one large loaf

  • 900g of strong bread flour (mainly white with 200-300g of spelt or wholemeal if you like)
  • 12g of salt
  • 6g of easy bake yeast
  • 550ml of water
  • (Optional) A small handful of seeds of your choice e.g. sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, poppy

Add all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Bring together with your hands until well mixed together (use a wooden spoon if you prefer).

Leave in the bowl covered with cling film to rise. How long this takes will depend on the temperature in your house but it is likely to need at least 8 hours if it’s just sat on your work surface, although longer is fine and may well be necessary if it’s a cold day.

Once it has at least doubled in size, briefly knock back the dough with your hands and tip the mix into a greased bread tin (ours is 28.5cm long, 13.5cm wide and 7cm deep).

Leave to rise in the tin for about another hour. It is difficult to be precise here but the dough needs to reach just above the top of the tin.

Preheat the oven to 220oC or 230oC if, like me, you like a really golden crust and put a tin of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create some steam (this also helps with the crust formation).

Bake for 18 minutes at 220oC/230oC.

Then remove from the tin and bake for 17 minutes at 180oC.

Leave to cool before slicing.

Berlin style beef balls

Beefballs

A couple of weekends ago I went on a city break to Berlin with a female friend and without my husband or children. I have not been away by myself for years and it was a real treat. We spent most of the time eating, drinking and wandering aimlessly around the city.

We ate at the trendy, vegetarian, Michelin starred Cookies Cream, had a leisurely, retro brunch in the leafy Prenzlauerberg District and drank mind-blowingly strong coffee at uber-cool The Barn. However it was the Berlin beef balls, bought from a small stall in Markthalle Neun, in the Kreuzberg District that was my fondest food memory.

Once home, I decided to copy the idea – helped by the promo card which kindly indicated the ingredients in each type of ball. I just needed a little help from google translate.

Image result for Berlin beef balls

They were fun (albeit time consuming) to make. Once cooked they all looked pretty much the same on the outside so we played an exciting game of meatball roulette at dinner which my son absolutely loved. His favourite were the ‘Bangkok’ but I suspect that’s because he enjoyed saying the ‘kok‘ part exaggeratedly in an attempt to be rude (he is 8 and that is the level of his humour).

In the market hall they were rather more orderly, putting four balls of each kind on a skewer and serving with thin slices of dense brown bread and lashings of butter.

Beef balls (four ways)

Makes 40 small beef balls (10 of each flavour).

Take 1kg of good quality beef mince and divide into four portions of 250g each.

Add the ingredients to each portion according to the lists below.

Mix all the ingredients together well with your hands and roll into 10 small meatballs. I find that dampening  your hands first with a little water helps to stop the mixture sticking to them.

Heat a tiny amount of oil in a frying pan and cook the meatballs over a medium heat until they are a dark brown colour. Take your time here to make sure that they are browned well all over. The process will take around 10-15 minutes.

You will need two frying pans for this amount, or you can keep one batch warm in a low oven while you cook the rest.

The Berlin

  • ½ a small onion finely chopped or grated
  • A heaped teaspoon of mustard (probably should be German but I used English)
  • A tablespoon of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • A good pinch of salt and pepper

The Bologna

  • 1 heaped teaspoon of tomato puree
  • A handful of chopped fresh basil (do not use dried, leave out if this is all you have)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary, chopped (or use dried if you like)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano, chopped (or use dried if you like)
  • ¼ of a teaspoon of fresh or dried thyme
  • 1 small clove of garlic, chopped
  • A good pinch of salt and pepper

The Bangalore

  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon of paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Cloves (I used four whole ones and ground them in a pestle and mortar), or use around 1/8 teaspoon of already ground
  • A good pinch of salt

The Bangkok

  • 1 stalk of fresh lemongrass (to prepare, chop off the root and the green top, bash with a rolling pin to release the oils and then finely chop – you should end up with a heaped teaspoon of chopped lemon grass)
  • A handful of fresh coriander (stalks and leaves) finely chopped
  • 10g (a thumb sized piece) of fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
  • ½ a chili (red or green), finely chopped
  • A good pinch of salt
Beefballscookedx

Beef Ball Roulette

Berlin beef balls Zoe

The joy of a lunchtime beer and no responsibilities!

 

 

 

Simple bread rolls (cobs)

bread rolls

I love bread almost as much as pasta but recently I’ve been eating less because I would rather eat no bread than bad bread.  For me the only place for a Chorleywood white sliced is in a fish finger sandwich or a chip butty when all culinary snobbery is abandoned in any case.

But life is busy and there is not always the time to make bread from scratch. Admittedly I often resort to a bag of cobs from Bird’s when the children need a packed lunch.

When I do have the time I like to make these simple bread rolls. They are easy to make but they do take time to knead, rise and bake so you need to be in the house for a day to oversee the process. It’s a nice thing to do with the children at the weekend when it’s freezing cold and rainy.

The original recipe came from the Hairy Bikers via the BBC website. By coincidence, I was in the middle of writing this post when it featured on the BBC online front page under the title ‘12 easy recipes for baking better bread‘. I can vouch for the recipe being pretty foolproof (I’ve been using it for years) although careful comparison (which I’m sure you’re all far too busy to be bothered with) will reveal some alterations by me.

Basic bread rolls (or cobs if you’re from Nottingham)

Makes 8 rolls

  • 500g of strong white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of dried yeast (I use Allinson’s Easy Bake Yeast – in a green tin)
  • 30g butter, softened
  • 75ml milk
  • 225ml warm water
  • Semolina, for dusting

Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl.

Then add the butter and rub this into the flour with your fingers until it is completely mixed in (there should be no large lumps of butter left).

Now add the yeast and salt and mix lightly with your hands.

Mix the milk with the warm water and add this to the bowl.

Mix everything together with your hands until it comes together into a rough dough.

Tip the dough onto a clean work surface and knead for at least 10 minutes until elastic and smooth. Although it’s tempting, don’t cheat with this bit or you will have very dense rolls.

Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film. Set aside for 1 ½ -3 hours until the dough has doubled in size. It is hard to give an exact time here because it will depend on the temperature of your room and other inexplicable factors like the age of your yeast and brand of your flour.

When the dough has risen, return it to a floured work surface and knock it back by kneading it on the work surface for around 30 seconds.

Separate the mixture into eight parts and roll each into a ball. Flatten each slightly with your hand and transfer the rolls to a baking tray dusted with semolina. Cover the tray with a tea towel and set aside for another hour, or until the rolls have doubled in size again.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230 degrees C.

When the rolls have expanded, dust them with flour or semolina and transfer them to the oven. I like to slash the tops once with a sharp knife.

Bake for 15 – 20 mins, or until golden-brown and cooked through. A hollow tap on the bottom of a roll is a sign that they are done.

Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes. These rolls are best served warm but not hot.

bbcbread

Espresso mushroom pasta

expressomushroompasta

Not a great photo I’m afraid but I was far too hungry to faff around with the lighting and make it look better.

I would rather do a few more press ups and walk a bit more than give up carbs – I love them and they make me happy.

Pasta has always been my go-to for a quick, mid-week meal when life is busy but it can get a bit boring.

To spice things up a bit here is an interesting idea which mixes mushrooms and coffee for a very unique and earthy pasta sauce. I stole the concept from Rachel De Thample’s book ‘FIVE’. You don’t necessary need to be a coffee fan to appreciate this dish but you do need to like mushrooms.

Espresso mushroom pasta

Serves 2 greedy adults or 3-4 with a regular appetite

  • 200ml of freshly brewed strong black coffee
  • 15g of dried mushrooms
  • 250g of chestnut mushrooms
  • A good splash of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 300g of pasta of your choosing (this is the dried weight)
  • A heaped tablespoon of mascarpone, cream cheese or thick cream
  • A handful of walnuts, toasted quickly in a hot dry frying pan and roughly chopped
  • A handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Brew the coffee and add the dried mushrooms to the hot coffee. Leave to soak for at least 30 mins (or longer).

Put a large pan of water on the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions or to your liking. Reserve a cup full of the cooking water for later.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and saute the mushrooms and garlic for a few minutes until they start to colour and wilt.

Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the coffee and chop finely. Then add both the dried mushrooms and the coffee to the frying pan.

Let the chestnut mushrooms absorb the coffee and cook away until there is barely any liquid left in the pan. Mix in the mascarpone, cream cheese or cream and stir to combine. Let it bubble away until you have a sauce the thickness of single cream (you can always add a bit of the reserved pasta water if it gets too thick).

Drain the pasta and tip into the mushrooms. Stir to coat and season well with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately garnished with toasted walnuts and fresh chopped parsley.

 

Milk sorbet

milk sorbet 2

I don’t eat out a lot but last year I was lucky enough to try milk sorbet TWICE at two different restaurants.

The first was at ‘The Peacock‘ in Rowsley where it was the perfect companion to a dense chocolate tart. The second was at the wonderful ‘John’s House‘ in Mount Sorrel where it came on top of a hot rice pudding – an odd sounding pairing but an absolute delight.

After these two memorable food experiences I decided to try and make it myself. This recipe from Donna Hay was the first that came up on a google search and I haven’t bothered to try any others because it is perfect.

We are divided in our family as to whether milk sorbet is preferable to a good old-fashioned vanilla ice cream but I’m totally convinced that it is better in some circumstances, such as with very rich deserts where it offers a lighter and more refreshing note of contrast. It is great just on its own though (I seem to say that a  lot on this blog).

You will need an ice-cream maker for this recipe. As I’ve said before, I have a Magimix Le Glacier ice cream maker – the cheaper sort where you have to freeze the bowl overnight before using. This remains one of my best used kitchen appliances*.

*PS. I have not been paid by Magimix to say this.

Donna Hay’s Milk Sorbet

  • 1 cup/220g of caster sugar
  • 1 cup/250ml of water
  • 3 cups/650ml of full fat milk (I used Tesco Finest Channel Island milk)
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat and stir until dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Set aside and allow to cool completely.

Once cool add the milk and lemon juice.

Churn in an ice-cream maker until firm (about 20 minutes) and freeze until required.

You will need to leave the sorbet at room temperature for around 30 minutes before serving.

Tea bread

Tea bread

Yes, it’s yet another cake…or is it a bread?

This recipe was kindly forwarded to me by one of my followers last year. I was thrilled that someone had engaged so directly with my site and me. I have baked this tea bread several times now and have tinkered with the amount of sugar in the recipe but it remains largely the same.

It’s a nice old-fashioned tasting cake/bread which makes a perfect elevenses or mid-afternoon treat with a nice cup of tea. There is hardly any fat in the recipe itself but feel free to slather slices of it with butter to make up for this fact. It is lovely by itself too though.

The cake is ridiculously easy to make and keeps very well – it actually seems to get better with age.

I like the idea of experimenting with the flavours of the tea the currants are soaked in – Earl Grey seems an obvious candidate (I think Mary Berry has a recipe that does this), but Green Tea or Theresa May’s favourite Lapsang Souchong could also be interesting.

Tea bread

  • 1 cup/140g of currants (not sultanas)
  • 1 ½ cups/330 ml of strong hot tea
  • 2 cups/260g of self-raising flour
  • ½ a cup/110g of demerara sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice

Start by soaking the currants overnight in the tea.

The next day, when you are ready to bake, heat your oven to 160oC.

Line and grease a medium-sized loaf tin (mine is 11cm wide, 22cm long and 6cm high).

In a large bowl measure out the flour, sugar, egg and mixed spice. Then tip in the currants along with their tea marinade. By now they will be all puffed up and tea flavoured.

Stir well with a wooden spoon then tip the batter into the prepared tin.

Bake for around an hour (or until a skewer comes out clean when poked through the middle).

Cool in the tin and store in an air tight container until you are ready to eat.

Two chocolate cakes

malted chocolate cake

I’ve spent most of January feeling ghastly and ill and it seems that everyone around me has been sick too, struck down by flu, hacking coughs, head colds etc. etc.

But it’s February now and I’m feeling much better. I even managed two glasses of white wine last night – having not touched a drop since the New Year (enforced, I might add, through illness not a dry January resolution).

To celebrate this more positive mood I’d like to offer you two more chocolate cake recipes to add to your collection.

The first – a Malty Chocolate Loaf – is elegant and velvety with a subtle hint of malt. It’s from my trusty Peyton and Byrne ‘British Baking’ cookbook. I don’t look forward to my trips to St Pancras Station as much now that they have closed their bakery there. Why did it go, it was such a joy?

The second is a hot, Magic Chocolate Pudding which creates its own sauce in the baking process. It’s a bit clumsy but comforting and delicious all the same – very school dinnerish. It’s my own concoction (with the aid of a little research on google).

Malty chocolate loaf

  • 125g of softened butter
  • 70g of light brown sugar
  • 110g of dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 140g of self raising flour
  • 1 tablespoon of Horlicks (or equivalent)
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 110ml of milk (should be whole but semi skimmed seems to work just fine)
  • 50g of dark chocolate
  • 65g of milk chocolate chopped into small pieces

Preheat your oven to 170oC.

Butter and line a small loaf tin (mine is 11cm wide, 22cm long and 6cm high) with baking parchment.

Take a large bowl and tip in the butter, sugars, flour, Horlicks, egg and vanilla extract. With an electric hand whisk (or food processor) beat until light and fluffy.

Melt the dark chocolate in a microwave (on half power in short bursts) or in a heat proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add this to the mix.

Add the milk and beat to combine.

Finally, stir in the milk chocolate pieces.

Tip the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the tin. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Quick magic chocolate pudding

If you need a quick pudding then this is very easy to whip up with bog standard store cupboard baking ingredients and it doesn’t need any accompaniments (although a dollop of ice cream would not be out of place). Perfect for a Sunday night in front of the TV. This recipe serves four very generously.

Sponge

  • 110g of self-raising flour
  • 110g of caster sugar
  • 110g of margarine (I use Stork)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 60g of light brown sugar
  • 200ml of boiling water

Preheat your oven to 180oC.

Take a small baking or glass loaf dish (as pictured below) and butter well.

Measure out all the ingredients for the sponge in a large mixing bowl and mix quickly with an electric mixer until just incorporated, try not to over mix.

Tip the cake batter into the loaf tin.

Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce until the sugar and cocoa have dissolved and pour over the cake mix. This looks a bit wrong but don’t worry it will all turn out alright once it’s baked.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until just set and eat with greed and relish.

Ginger cake

ginger cake

Happy New Year!

Why does saying this seem so inappropriate in damp and dismal January?

If you’re struggling with the January blues (I am a little bit) then you might like to treat yourself by baking (and eating) this warming ginger cake.

The original recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries (the first one). It is a comforting, old fashioned ginger cake (tasting rather like the shop bought McVities Jamaica Ginger Cake, only better) and is very easy to make. To prove this point my daughter made the one pictured all by herself. She will not however be photographed for this blog anymore – she is nine and well aware of her rights.

The ginger flavour is quite subtle so if you want more punch then I suggest doubling the quantities of powdered and stem ginger. It is a very sturdy cake that keeps well for a week or so wrapped in foil. It actually tastes best after maturing for three or four days. Cut off a square and zap for 20 seconds in the microwave. It’s lovely by itself but even better served with ice cream, clotted cream or custard.

Ginger cake

Serves 9-12

  • 250g of self raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 200g of golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of syrup form the stem ginger jar
  • 125g of butter
  • 55g (about 3 lumps) of stem ginger in syrup, diced finely (or leave larger if you like a good hit of ginger)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of sultanas
  • 125g of dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 240ml of milk (semi-skimmed works fine)

Set your oven to 180oC (fan).

Take a 20 x 20 cm tin and line with baking parchment. I like to take the baking parchment all the way up the sides of the tin with extra to fold over the cake when storing. When I doubled the ingredients once for a large party I used a 22 x 33 cm tin.

Sift the flour with the powdered ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

Put the golden syrup, ginger syrup and butter in a saucepan over a low heat until melted.

Then add the diced stem ginger, sultanas and sugar. Turn up the heat and let the mixture bubble gently for a minute, stirring often so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.

In another bowl add the eggs and milk and whisk with a fork.

Pour the syrup and butter mixture into the flour and stir with a metal spoon, then add the milk and eggs and mix until everything is well incorporated.

Tip the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes (45-50 if you’ve double the quantity).

Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then wrap it up in the baking parchment and store in an air tight container. Leave to mature for a couple of days if you can.

Cypriot Village Bread

Cypriot bread

It’s embarrassing to admit but there’s going to be a gap in my life now that Bake-Off is all over. The children and I have loved the show so much this year (watching it curled up on the sofa in our dressing gowns).

We’ve not been bothered by the swap to Channel 4. I like Sandy and Pru and the children think Noel is hilarious. Even the adverts give us a welcome break for trips to the toilet and to make hot drinks.

With the Bake-Off theme in mind, I wanted to share with you this recipe for Cypriot Village Bread based on the recipe in Paul Hollywood’s ‘100 Great Breads‘. Now I’ve tried a few of these breads and they’re not all great (the croissant recipe is dreadfully disappointing and bears little resemblance to his croissant recipes elsewhere).

This one however has become a bit of a family favourite when we want a smorgasbord style dinner where a nice loaf of bread is the star of the show. It seems to go well with cold meats, dips, soup and cheeses alike.

The seed combination on top is amazingly delicious. You will probably find that you have some seeds left over after soaking and covering the dough (even though the recipe here uses half the amount that Paul suggests). Don’t throw any leftovers away but dry the seeds out again in a hot oven and sprinkle them over salads or noodle dishes.

Cypriot Village Bread

Makes one loaf which will feed a family of four as the main part of a dinner.

  • Pinch of mastika (ground first with a pestle and mortar)
  • Pinch of mechlebe (ground first with a pestle and mortar)

I have never heard of or seen these spice for sale. Paul recommends using ground fennel seeds instead which is what I do.

  • 500g of strong white bread flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 20g of yeast (I am going to experiment with reducing this quantity, I usually use instant action yeast and I think this is the quantity for fresh yeast)
  • 50ml of olive oil
  • 300ml of water
  • 50g of sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of black cumin seeds (or use regular cumin seeds)
  • 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds

Put the flour, salt, yeast and olive oil and water in a large bowl and mix together. Add the mastika and mechlebe, or fennel, then knead for 5 minutes.

Leave to prove for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size (the time here will depend on your room temperature). I find it needs at least 2 hours.

Tip the sesame, cumin and caraway seeds into a cup and pour over a little warm water. This will puff up the sesame seeds help them to release their juice.

Line a baking tray. Tip out the risen dough and shape it into a ball.

Spread the seeds thinly onto a flat plate and roll the top of the ball of dough in it until well covered with seeds.

Place the dough on the lined baking tray and leave it to rise again for a further hour. I cover it with a large upturned bowl, my husband prefers to place a tea towel lightly over the top.

Preheat your oven to 220oC.

Using a very sharp knife, make a cut all the way around the middle of the ball and two large cuts across the top.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. I like to remove it from the tray after 20 minutes (and place is directly on the wire rack in the over) to make sure that the bottom is crisp.

Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting (if you can wait that long).