Spain: Spanish bread – Pan de horno

PaellaI was making paella this week, and while I considered writing about how I made that, my challenge for this year was to cook new recipes rather than repeat those I’ve made before. So to go with the meal I made these little Spanish bread rolls, not that you really need bread, but it was there just in case people were extra hungry.


The recipe is adapted from the Hairy Bikers recipe (omitting the olives), although if you search for pan de horno online you can find lots of others.


  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 250ml warm water
  • 1 x 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  1. Spain Pan de hornoA bowl add the warm water, yeast and sugar and leave for 10 minutes until it has a layer of foam on top.
  2. In a separate bowl add the flour and salt and mix together.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the flour and then add the liquid mixture. Begin to mix together and when it starts to form a dough add the olive oil slowly to incorporate.
  4. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, and then put in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film for around an hour.
  5. Prepare a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  6. Take the dough, knock it back then divide it into eight pieces.
  7. Shape each piece in to an oval shape by pulling the dough from the sides into the middle. Place them on the baking sheet with the smooth side up. Use scissors to snip the tops a couple of times. Cover with a tea towel for around 1 hour. In the mean time pre-heat the oven to 200oc.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a light brown colour. Then place them on a wire rack to cool.

Spain Pan de horno

Turkey: Imam Bayildi

Imam BayildiI hadn’t intended on cooking anything else new this week for my 2016 challenge but after looking in the fridge at the vegetable that needed using I was reminded of a Turkish dish I had recently seen a recipe for. This dish can be made as a main course, or as a side dish. The recipe shown here is enough to serve it as a side dish for two people. It is an adaptation of a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi written in the Guardian which suggests it should be served at room temperature – but I served it hot because it’s January and I didn’t want cold food.

Imam Bayildi translates as ‘the imam fainted’ supposedly making reference to an imam who depending on which story you believe either fainted with pleasure after eating the dish, or fainted after learning the amount of olive oil used to make it (according to what I have read here, and other places). Having looked at a few different recipes there are many which use a lot more olive oil, but I have kept it to a minimum in this one. I did however have too much tomato and so in the end more filling than was necessary for one aubergine. This amount could have easily filled two.


  • 1 aubergines
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3 tomatoes (or a small tin)
  • pinch of caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano


  1. Use a vegetable peeler to peel strips off the aubergine, lengthways, so it ends up with stripes all the way round.
  2. Make an short incision into the aubergine and cut along the centre to around 3cm from the top and bottom (this is the opening that will be used to fill the aubergine later).
  3. In a bowl cover the aubergine in cold water, add the lemon juice and a 1 tsp of salt. To make sure the aubergine remains in the water use a plate or similar to weigh it down. Leave this to soak for around 1 hour and the pat dry before the next stage.
  4. In a frying or satuee pan heat the oil and fry the aubergine for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan.
  5. In the same pan fry the onions and peppers for 10 minutes. Meanwhile pour boiling water over the tomatoes (if using fresh ones) and leave for 1 minute and then peel the skins, and chop the remaining tomato flesh.
  6. Add garlic and spices and cook for around a minute, making sure the spices don’t burn. Then add the tomato, and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Add a tablespoon of water, pinch of sugar and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Put the aubergine on top of the mixture. Cover the pan and turn the heat down to simmer for around 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180oC.
  8. Remove aubergine from the pan and place into a small oven proof dish. Find the incision you made at the beginning and stuff the aubergine with the tomato/pepper mixture. Sprinkle with some salt and then cover with foil. Bake for 35 minutes.
  9. When serving sprinke with more oregano.

Turkey flag

Sweden: Snittsidan Bullar

Baked goods with Swedish influences this week, snittsidan bullar translates (according to google translate) as sectional side buns, referring to the way the dough is cut. A simple recipe, as long as you have a few hours to spare for the dough to rise.


  • 250g strong white flour/ strong wholemeal flour or a mixture
  • 50g rye flour
  • 1 tsp fast action yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (220ml)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • Seeds of your choice (pumpkin, sunflower and sesame are all good)

Snittsidan Bullar Bread


  1. Add the yeast to the water and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes.
  2. In another bowl add the flours, and salt together and make a well in the middle.
  3. Add the water mixture to the flour mixture, mix well and knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Leave to rise for 1-2 hours, until doubled in size.
  5. After this, roll the dough into a log shape around 30cm long.
  6. Cut slices off the dough shape dipping each into some seeds to cover at least one side.
  7. Make 8 slices from the dough, placing each on a pre-prepared baking sheet.
  8. Cover with a tea towel for around 45 minutes, and when appropriate pre-heat the oven to 220oc.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes and leave to cool on a wire rack.

I may have over done it on the seeds, but even so – eight tasty rolls!

Snittsidan Bullar Bread


Italy: Sicilian Bread Scroll

Sicilian Bread ScrollOver the last year or so I have more less stopped buying shop bought bread and made my own. I now have a few different standard bread recipes I use (the fig and walnut one here appears out of the kitchen quite often) but when I have the time I like to try something different.

The recipe included here is an adaptation of a Sicilian Bread scroll from a ‘Making Bread at Home‘ book my mum had bought for me some time ago. It’s an adaptation because I ran out of fine semolina and so ended up improvising with the ingredients and amount. I had actually intended to follow the recipe. Anyway because I made a few changes the ingredients list ended up as follows:


  • Sicilian Bread Scroll300g fine semolina
  • 130g fine polenta
  • 150g strong white bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 7g sachet of yeast
  • 360ml of lukewarm water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • sesame seeds


  1. Mix semolina, polenta, flour, and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
  2. In a separate bowl mix the yeast with the water and leave aside for a couple of minutes.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture into the centre of the flour mixture with the olive oil and mix to form a firm dough.
    knead for 8-10 minutes, and then place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for 1-1&1/2 hours (until the dough has doubled in size).
  4. Tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knock back, knead gently, and then shape it into a roll about 50cm long. Form the dough into an S-shape and transfer to a prepared baking sheet.
  5. Cover with a tea towel or cloth and leave it to rise for 30-45
    minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.
  6. Once the dough has risen again, brush the top of the scroll with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 200°C
    for a further 25-30 minutes, until golden.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.Sicilian Bread Scroll

Despite the improvisation it turned out fine, probably a bit dry compared to what the original recipe would have intended, and the polenta will have affected the taste, but it’s nice – a bit different, and made the kitchen smell great. So not an authentic Sicilian recipe but worth remembering if you semolina (or polenta) that need using up.

Sicilian Bread Scroll

New year, new adventures

Recipe organiserI started this blog some time ago with the idea that it would become a repository for many of my recipes in an effort to get them to be a bit more organised rather than a notebook filled with ripped out pages from magazines, print outs and newspaper clippings. I never really got started with the blog as I intended, but this year I’ve decided I’m going to use it a bit more, but in a slightly different way than what I had originally thought.

I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions as such, but I do like to think about things I would like to achieve over the following year. The last couple of years I have stuck with the aim of trying to learn to cook at least one new recipe every couple of weeks. In reality there were some times that I did more than this, and some times less – overall I wanted to try and expand my culinary repertoire by about 25-30 dishes in the year. I’m pretty sure I’ve done this although I haven’t documented it.

sicilian bread

Sicilian bread recipe I tried in 2015.

Cooking for me has become an activity to escape from work. I find it very difficult to switch off from work and disengage with what I have been working on in the day. Cooking forces a bit of a break because it makes me focus on something different. During my PhD studies baking became my escape activity, and I often joked that the more elaborate the baking was, the more stressed I was. One time I made a pirate ship cake – needless to say this was not a happy week in the office. But anyway, I realised that time in the kitchen was ‘down time’, and the bonus also being that we had nice things to eat.

FullSizeRender (2)

It’s been in the last few years though that I’ve realised cooking more generally helps me relax, whether it’s baking bread, making ratatouille or attempting to make my own pasta. It’s also become something my husband (also an academic) enjoys too, it take us both away from the computers as we can plan things we’d like to cook, head into the city to get ingredients (we are lucky in Coventry to have such a great market) and then spend the time together to make whatever dish we’d selected. Over the years I’ve ended up with quite a large collection of cookery books, not to mention piles of recipes from magazines and the internet. I want to make more of an effort to use them, even more than I have been doing. At the same time I’ve become a lot more adventurous with food, and want to find out more about different food cultures, cuisines and ways of cooking.

So for 2016 I am going to set a goal to cook a new dish from a different country every week. This was also in part inspired by a podcast I heard last week about Ann Morgan who set out to read a book from every country in the world in order to expand her literary horizons beyond the familiar western world. You can listen to a TED talk about her literary adventures here. While I am not going to try and cook something from every country around the world in a year I am going to try and make sure I vary the countries I explore the food cultures of. If I can cook something from at least 52 countries over the year I will be happy. I have ordered myself a world map pin board and will keep this in the kitchen as reminder of the countries I have ‘tasted’.

Now I realise that one dish cannot represent a whole food culture. But this is not an attempt to know everything about every food culture, but instead an attempt to expand my horizons a little, provide encouragement to try new ingredients and recipes. The dishes I cook will take inspiration from different countries over the year – I say ‘take inspiration’ rather than ‘provide authentic tastes’ because it might not always be possible to make dishes as authentic as you would find in the countries themselves.

Each week, there will be a blog post to explore what I have cooked, and a little of what I have learnt in the process about cooking, ingredients and food cultures. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be able to look at a map with lots of pins and I will have a much greater appreciation of what the world has to offer.

Maple and Walnut Scones

Maple and walnut scones


  • 640g (22oz) plain flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 85g (3oz) light brown sugar
  • 345g (12oz) cold butter, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 180ml buttermilk (plus extra to brush the tops)
  • 2-3 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 115g (4oz) walnuts, only very coarsely chopped
  • Optional: 115g (4oz) dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1-2 tsp demerera sugar to sprinkle on top of the scones
  • For the icing: around 2 tbsp maple syrup and 50g icing sugar


1) Preheat the oven to 180oC.

2) In large bowl add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar and mix briefly.

3) Rub the butter in with your fingers until it resembles a crumb-like mixture, but don’t worry if there are still some large lumps of butter at this stage.

4) Whisk together buttermilk, egg, maple syrup and vanilla extract and then add the mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients.

5) Add walnuts (and if using them the cherries too) and mix with your hands until you have a dough that hold itself together.

6) Take half of the dought and roll into a circule around 2-3cm thick and then divide into six wedges (or you can use a round cutter if you prefer the traditional round scone). Place the scones on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

7) Brush each of the scones with buttermilk and sprinkle with demerera sugar.

8) Bake for around 25 minutes until the top of the scones appears golden brown. In order to ensure an even bake consider turning the baking trays around about half way through the time.

9) Place scones on a wire rack to cool.

10) For the icing mix the icing sugar and maple syrup – add a little water if the icing is too stiff to drizzle. Drizzle icing over scones.

This recipe has been adapted from this recipe recently viewed on the Guardian.

Cranberry Bliss Blondies

USA flagWith the festive season approaching I decided to try out something new this year, a take on a blondie often found in a high street coffee chain in the US. I’ve changed things a little so this is slightly thicker and with a more indulgent topping that you find in the original.


Blondie base:

    • 170g  salted butter
    • 300g light brown sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 300g  plain flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 100g dried cranberries (these can be whole or chopped)
    • 170g white chocolate chopped into chunks (or of white chocolate chips)
  • 230g cream cheese
  • 130g icing sugar
  • 170g white chocolate (melted)
  • 100g dried cranberries (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Cranberry Bliss BlondiesMethod:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180oC and line a 9×9 inch baking tray (if you want them a bit thinner then 9×13 inch is better)
  2. Melt the butter slowly over a low heat, once it’s melted take off the heat and stir in the sugar. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool.
  3. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl add the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and mix together.
  5. Then add about half of the butter mixture to the flour mixture and combine, and add the remaining half once combined.
  6. Stir in the cranberries and white chocolate. Unlike some blondies this is quick a dense mixture (you can always add a drop or two of milk if it is a bit too stiff to combine the cranberries and chocolate).
  7. Add the blondie mixture to the lined cake tin and bake for between 18-21 minutes and cool on a wire rack.
  8. After the blondies base has cooled completely make the frosting. Beat the cream cheese and icing sugar until well combined (about a minute). Add half the melted white chocolate and continue to mix. Cover the blondie base in the frosting. Sprinkle with the chopped cranberries and then drizzle over the last portion of melted chocolate. The frosting will take a while to set – you can put it in the fridge although this tends to lead to a more chewy blondie).

Cranberry Bliss Blondies

Spelt loaf with chorizo and ham

Spanish flagThis is a loaf inspired by the Hairy Bikers Big Book of Baking. I would highly recommend this book for a range of different bread recipes from around the world. This was simple to make and extremely satisfying – essentially a ready-made sandwich. While this is a Spanish inspired recipe (Pan de espelta con chorizo y jamón), I’m informed by a reliable source that in Portugal there is a similar type of bread which often also has cheese in it too so if you want to be a little more indulgent you could add a little cheese to the ham and chorizo.

Spelt bread with chorizoIngredients

450g wholegrain spelt flour plus extra for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
7g  fast-action yeast (one sachet if you use these)
1 tsp salt
300 ml water
oil for greasing
75g s chorizo or salami (this could be sliced or chopped) torn into pieces –
100g sliced ham

1) In a large bowl add the spelt flour, baking powder, yeast and salt into a large bowl and mix well.
2) Make a well in the centre and slowly add the water and mix together until the flour has been incorporated.
3) Spread a little flour onto the work surface and then knead the dough on this surface for around a minute or two. It’s important not to knead spelt flour for too long.
4) Put the dough in a bowl, and cover with cling film or a tea towel for around an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
5) Pre-heat the over to 180oC/Fan 160oC.
6) When the dough has doubled in size, spread a little flour onto the work surface and roll out the dough to a rectangle shape that is about 20x30cm.
7) Sprinkle the chopped chorizo and ham evenly over the dough surface.
8) Roll up the dough gently, like a swiss roll and place the roll on a floured baking sheet (or on a tray lined with baking paper).
9) Bake for around 40-45 minutes until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath.
10) Leave to cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before you start to slice it.

Spelt bread with chorizo and ham