baking powder

Lockdown lunch – easy flatbreads with mushroom and lentil soup

mushroom soup flatbreads

Lockdown continues with no end in sight in terms of the children going back to school. I’ve grown quite used to having them around but I feel as though I am morphing into a 1950s housewife. All meals are served on the dot at set times and my brain is clogged up with thinking about where the next one will come from and how I can mix up the random ingredients in the cupboard to form some sort of presentable family meal. Putting all my feminist principles to one side, it’s a part that I’m rather enjoying playing. PS. I do not look like a 1950s housewife. No pretty tea dresses here but rather tracksuit bottoms, no makeup and grey roots scrapped back into a rough ponytail.

We’ve now completely run out of bread and plain flour and our supply of out-of-date yeast (begged and borrowed from friends and family) is dwindling away dangerously. Luckily, we have still been able to buy self-raising flour locally so I searched the internet for a bread recipe that would make use of this. I was really delighted with the results of this flatbread recipe – loosely based on one from Jamie Oliver’s website. The dough was very forgiving and soft and it could be shaped easily without the aid of a rolling pin. It’s definitely one that you could get the kids to help with (dress it up as a home economics lesson!). My husband Ben said that they tasted a bit like crumpets which can never be a bad thing in my opinion.

The mushroom and lentil soup comes from the no-nonsense ‘New Complete Vegetarian’ by Rose Eliiot. It is rather reminiscent of healthy vegetarian cafes circa 1990, but with a few embellishments it made a perfectly respectable weekday lunch. It tasted earthy and wholesome and handily made use of store cupboard ingredients and some on-the-turn mushrooms. Weirdly my son ate it happily – despite claiming to hate both mushrooms and lentils (I didn’t tell him what was in it until the end).

The flatbreads were the star of the show though and I really recommend trying them.

Quick flatbreads (with self-raising flour)

Makes 8

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 350g plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A slug of rapeseed or olive oil
  • Optional flavourings – I added a little fenugreek and some black mustard seeds

In a large bowl mix together all of the above ingredients with your hands and mix until it all comes together into a smooth dough (use a little more flour if it’s too sticky, I needed a couple of extra sprinkles). Cover the bowl with cling film or a tea towel and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to cook, divide the dough into 8. Roll each portion into a ball and flatten out until it is about 20 cm in diameter. Use a rolling pin if you need to.

Heat a frying pan until very hot – do not add any oil. Cook each flatbread for a 1-2 minutes on either side. They’ll bubble up a bit and go nice a brown in places. You may need to reduce the heat a little if the pan gets too hot – I like it though if they catch a little in places.

Keep warm in a very low oven (around 100oC) on a plate covered with a damp tea towel while you cook the rest (the tea towel will prevent them from drying out).

Mushrooms and lentil soup

Serves 4

  • 200g pack of mushrooms (I used chestnut), chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter (approximately 15g)
  • 125g green (or Puy) lentils
  • 850ml water
  • A stock cube (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • To serve, dill or parsley, cream or grated Parmesan

Take a large frying pan and cook the onions, garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil and butter until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the lentils and the water and simmer with a lid on for 45 minutes until soft. Do not add any salt or salted stock cube until the lentils are soft as the salt prevents them from cooking.

If you are using a stock cube add this in once the lentils are soft and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Blend the soup until smooth. This will make a very thick soup. I thinned mine down with a bit more water, or you can use milk if you wish. Check the seasoning and add pepper and a little more salt if necessary.

Serve topped with dill, parsley, a drizzle of cream or olive oil, or perhaps some grated cheese.


Easy-peasy bake sale cup cakes

cup cakes
It’s the Easter cake sale at my daughter’s school this week and I haven’t got a great deal of time to devote to baking so I’m making these really quick and inexpensive cupcakes. Don’t worry, they do also taste lovely (in a simple kind of way) and look tempting (i.e. they involve chocolate).

Some of you may remember that I wrote a while ago about school cake sales and how I’d had my fingers burnt by baking cakes with expensive ingredients which were then sold for virtually nothing. These little lovelies follow all the rules I set down in that blog post.

Here’s the recipe which is so easy it’s burnt into my memory. In true Jack Monroe style the cost of the ingredients are in brackets.

PS. You won’t hear from me again for a while as I’m off to Japan. Expect healthy recipes on my return as I expect to put on at least half a stone while I’m there (Mos Burger, Mister Donut, Beard Pappa, gyozas, udon, sushi, tonkatsu – I’m dreaming of you!!!).

Simple cupcakes

Makes 16

Cost to make = £1.41. They will sell for 30p each so that’s £4.80 to the school.

For the cakes

  • 16 cup cake cases (16p)
  • 110g self-raising flour (3p)
  • 110g caster sugar (16p)
  • 110g stork margarine (22p)
  • 2 free range eggs (40p)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (3p)
  • 1 teaspoon warm water
  • A couple of drops of vanilla extract (20p)

For the icing

  • 75g icing sugar (15p)
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder (6p)
  • A little water

Heat the oven to 160 degrees (fan).

Take a large mixing bowl and measure out the flour, margarine, sugar and baking powder. Crack in the eggs and then, with an electric hand mixer, mix until just incorporated (about 20 seconds – don’t over mix). Add the vanilla extract and warm water and mix briefly again.

Put 16 small baking cases into jam tart or muffin tins and spoon 1 ½ heaped teaspoons of cake mix into each one.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then leave to cool on a wire rack.

When completely cool mix up the icing. Put the icing sugar into a small bowl and add the cold water a couple of drops at a time, gradually stirring and adding more water until you have a thick paste. It needs to be thin enough to spread but not so runny that it falls down the sides of your cakes.
Set aside a quarter of the icing in another bowl and add the cocoa powder to the remainder. Stir until the icing has turned a nice chocolaty brown colour.

Ice the cupcakes with the chocolate icing then put a small dollop of white icing in the middle. With a skewer make swirls from the centre of the cake outwards to make a flower/sun pattern. If this is too much like hard work then you can always just drizzle the white icing over the top of each one.

Pop in the fridge for 10 minutes for the icing to set.

Put in an old container that you don’t mind loosing and take to school.

Try not to obsess over whose cupcakes are selling the best and buy your own back if they sell slowly because at least you know they will taste nice.