Olive, thyme and chilli soda bread

I made this recently to put out before lunch when friends came over and it was gone in minutes.  Served with a garlicky courgette dip it was just the ticket with some pre lunch drinks and kept the children more than happy.  As luck would have it this takes minutes to make and as such is something I regularly turn to.  Although I love making all kinds of bread and make a loaf of white or sourdough weekly, this is a great one to have up your sleeve when the clock is ticking and there is no time for proving and rising.

Whilst I might not have buttermilk in the fridge at all times, I always have yogurt to hand.  This, let down with a bit of milk, works a treat in place of buttermilk and means a loaf of this moreish bread is never more than about half an hour away.   My daughter adores olives and chilli so can polish off half of this loaf without thinking and it takes the sting out of the veggie soup or salad that often accompanies it.

Essentially a riff on my seedy soda bread, April 2013, I add some punchy flavours to this one.  The chilli is up to you but I think it works a treat with the olives and thyme.  There is a thyme plant outside the kitchen that manages to soldier on whatever the weather so along with some store cupboard olives this one is always a contender for lunch or supper.   Or serve as I did at the weekend with a dip, a herby labneh perhaps or hummus and you will have happy faces all round.

Olive, thyme and chilli soda bread

I make this with a mix of wholemeal and regular white flour but you can go with all white if you prefer or if that is what you have.  Buttermilk sometimes comes in 284ml tubs for some reason so just make this up to 300ml with milk.  If you are using yogurt, use 200ml and make it up to 300ml with milk.

150g wholemeal flour, plus a bit extra

150g plain flour

1 teaspoon fine salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons soft brown sugar

300ml tub buttermilk (or yogurt, see introduction)

50g olives, I like a mix of green and black, chopped up a bit

1 teaspoon thyme, leaves only

1/2 teaspoon chilli (omit this if you like)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put the flours, salt, bicarb, sugar, olives, thyme and chilli in a large bowl and mix.  Add the buttermilk and give it a good mix together.  Sprinkle some wholemeal flour on a baking sheet, make the dough into a ball, put on the tin, sprinkle a little more flour over and cut a cross in the top with a sharp knife.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until crusty, golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

 

 

Spicy Seeds

Drinks, cocktails, aperitifs – whatever you want to call them there is something rather civilised about relaxing with a good drink as the sun sets over the yardarm.   Ice clinking against glass heralds the end of the working day and whether you are in some top notch bar or your own kitchen there is nothing wrong with making the most of it.  Along with a delicious drink I like something to nibble at the same time.  Not necessarily as elaborate as canapés (not on a school night, come on) but certainly a little salty treat to savour.  Crisps can get a little greasy and nuts we tend to avoid as my daughter is allergic to them.  These seeds tick every box and prove a winner whenever I whip them up.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned these utterly moreish seeds but I thought they deserved another shout out.  So much better for you than crisps, this spicy snack is made in a matter of minutes and can be as spicy (or not) as you like.  I often put a bowl of these out before lunch or supper and they go in a flash, the tangy heat seems irresistable.

A great addition to a salad or to top off a bowl of hearty soup, these are properly useful to have in a jar in the kitchen.  Fill little cellophane bags with them and give to friends.  With a suitably festive ribbon these make a great Christmas present particularly if you are getting a little hamper together which I sometimes do.

Spicy Seeds

60g sunflower seeds

60g pumpkin seeds

30g pine kernels

1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

Sea salt

Mix everything together and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for 5-6 minutes at 200, leave to cool briefly before adding a tiny sprinkle of salt and digging in.

 

Flapjacks

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I don’t know if you can beat a flapjack.  Not only because it is quick, so easy and made from things you probably have in the cupboard.  No, more in terms of what it delivers.  Sweet, chewy, toffeeish (is that a word?) and supremely satisfying.  A perfect mouthful.

My children have just been for an adventure in the woods, along with two friends, and part of the supplies taken on this expedition were flapjacks.  Just the thing on a chilly and breezy half term Wednesday.  They came back pink cheeked and jolly from their jaunt and all with room for one more piece – in the nick of time I might add as the friends’ Mother and I were slowly working our way through the rest of the tin.

I have always loved Flapjacks and homemade are infinitely better than bought.  You can customise as you please, chewy or crisp (cook a bit longer) – add raisins, seeds, nuts or chocolate chips.  In short, these are the ideal treat to whip up this half term.  Yes there are many more exotic cakes and confections that you can make if you have the time (and energy).  For me though these hit the mark exactly, quick, easy and somehow just right.

Flapjack 2

Flapjacks

I think of flapjacks as old fashioned and nostalgic and for some reason always make them with Imperial measurements.   I find this the easiest way to remember them and I know these amounts make flapjacks just how we like them.  You can use 4oz of sugar if you want them a little gooier but I find 3 is just right.

5oz butter

3oz  demerara (or any brown) sugar

2 tablespoons golden syrup

Pinch of salt

8oz oats

Preheat the oven to 170 and line a tin around 8 x 26cm with baking parchment.   Put the butter, sugar, syrup and salt into a large pan and melt gently.  Add the oats, give it all a good stir and spread in the prepared tin.  Bake for 10-25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes before marking into bars.  Leave for a further 10-15 minutes before trying to separate – any sooner and they might fall apart.