A week in my kitchen (including River cottage bread baking)

I can’t believe it’s a week since my last post. It’s not through lack of cooking/baking though so this post is a bit of a catch up with my River cottage bread baking experience and a few other things I have cooked and want to bookmark (plus share with you) for future cooking over the last 8 days.


I’ve been baking my own pizza’s from scratch for some time now to the point where I know longer look at a recipe to make the dough or remember where the recipe came from. But in the spirit of baking my way through the River Cottage bread handbook I followed the recipe in the book last week. I’m so glad I did! The River Cottage recipe uses half plain flour and half bread flour making the resulting dough much softer than I am used to and the end result was a perfectly thin pizza base. I also used a recipe in the book for garlic infused olive oil to make a garlic pizza bread as well. The topping in the photo above was spinach, feta and prosciutto. This pizza dough recipe was previously published in the guardian here.


I baked my first full sourdough bread last monday following the recipe in River Cottage Bread. It started with making the sponge the night before and then the following day I followed the recipe to make the dough and let it rise as directed. You can find a sourdough recipe here on Belleau Kitchen. The bread turned out well, I’m just not sure we enjoyed the sourness enough to be worth the time it takes to make sourdough. I’m still keeping my started alive as I think I will use it to try some recipes from Dan Lepards the handmade loaf but I’m not sure if I’ll make another sourdough (even though there are several different sourdough recipe I haven’t baked in RC).

Simple pasta sauce

I shared my secret to delicious, simple pasta sauces here.

Malted and seeded loaf

I’ve updated my post on the malted grain loaf to include details of a very similar bread.


I baked a big batch of pikelets from the River cottage book. I love crumpets but don’t have any of the rings needed to cook them in. Pikelets are really simple to make and they taste delicious toasted spread with butter (the recipe made a lot so I froze most of them and I am happy to report they toast well straight from frozen). I can see these being baked a lot in my kitchen.

Smoked mackerel and pea risotto

In an effort to eat more sustainable fish, I cooked a smoked mackerel risotto. I just cooked a basic, plain risotto and added frozen peas and flaked up smoked mackerel with the last ladle of stock and finished it off with a squeeze of lemon juice. If your looking for more of a recipe to follow you can find one here.


Last days of summer….

Last Saturday, on a gloriously sunny day, myself, my boyfriend, his sister and her boyfriend spent a day on a canal boat. We couldn’t have asked for a better day, the weather really made it. We had great fun learning to drive the canal boat and enjoying the weather as we slowly cruised through the Cheshire countryside.

The day before I prepared a range of goodies to enjoy throughout the day. I made a bottle of lemonade, baked a Bakewell tart, some mini pizza wheels and prepared a couscous salad. There was also a banana bread loaf and half a dozen or so blueberry muffins in the freezer so they were packed too.

The pesto couscous salad is something I came up with last summer and has been a regular summer lunch since then. Its really simple to prepare but very tasty to eat. Perfect for picnics, lunch boxes for work or just to enjoy as a quick weekend lunch. The quantities are quiet vague as it depends which flavours you prefer and can be adjusted accordingly. Sometimes I add a handful of pine nuts &/or some fresh basil leaves at the end. The recipe is at the end.

I also decided to try out an idea I remember seeing a magazine sometime back. The basic idea was to make a pizza, roll it up and then cut into slices and bake in the oven. The result is perfect picnic finger food. Delicious hot or cold.

Pesto couscous salad
serves 2

100g couscous
Chicken or vegetable stock, hot
1-2tsp pesto
handful of feta cheese, cubed
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
handful of olives, halved

  • Pour the hot stock over the couscous until the couscous is just covered, cover the bowl and leave for 5 minutes or until the couscous has soaked up all the moisture. Fluff up the couscous with a folk.
  • Add the pesto and stir through well.
  • Add the other ingredients and mix well.
  • Serve while still warm or once cooled.

Mini pizza wheels
Makes approximately 20

For the dough
500g strong white bread flour
5g fast action yeast
10g salt
300ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
For the topping
4 tbsp passata or pizza sauce
1 ball of mozzarella
Topping of your choice
1 tsp dried oregano

  • Mix together all the ingredients for the dough. Knead either by hand or with a mixer for 10 min until smooth and silky. Shape into a round and leave to rise in a covered bowl for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
  • Knock the dough back. Knead again very briefly. Divide the dough in two. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece out on a lightly floured work surface into a rectangle which is about 1cm thick.
  • Spoon on 2tbsp pizza sauce onto each rectangle. Add the toppings of your choice (I did one with a couple of slices of torn up parma ham and one with olives and sun dried tomatoes), grate or tear the mozzarella over the two pizzas and finally sprinkle over the dried oregano.
  • Have the pizza so the longest edge is in front of you and then carefully roll it up like a Swiss roll.
  • Cut the roll into 2 cm thick slices and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Leave a good few cm around each one as the dough will rise slightly.
  • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200C.

Chicken and pesto pizza

I’ve been meaning to make a roast chicken (leftovers from Sunday lunch) and pesto pizza for some time and tonight I finally got round to it. It was definitely worth the wait! Sorry about the poor picture of one lonely slice but in our eagerness to try it I forgot to take any pictures until it was nearly too late! Pesto makes a delicious pizza sauce and a nice change from the classic tomato sauce.

Chicken and pesto pizza

For the dough
makes 3 pizza’s or 1 pizza and a focaccia to go with it

325ml warm water
5g dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil (I usually use extra virgin for breads/pizzas)
500g strong white bread flour
1-2 tsp salt

For the topping
shredded leftover roast chicken
ball of mozzarella cheese

  • Place all the dry ingredients in a food mixer (if using) and fit the dough hook to the mixer head.
  • Put the mixer on low speed (2 for KitchenAids – consult the manual for other mixers) and slowly add the liquid ingredients to the bowl.
  • Once all the ingredients are combined leave to knead for 3-5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and springs back when prodded.
  • If you don’t have a mixer place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the liquid to the well and use a wood spoon to mix until it is too difficult and then use your hands. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and springy.
  • Leave to rise until doubled in size (around 1 to 1.5hrs).
  • Preheat the oven to 250C or as hot as the oven gets.
  • Gently knock the air out of the dough.
  • Remove a third of the dough and on a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into the desired shape size.
  • Spread a layer of pesto over the dough, leaving a 2cm boarder around the edge.
  • Scatter over the shredded chicken pieces.
  • Top with mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake in a hot oven for around 1o minutes or until the crust is golden.

Asparagus and parma ham pizza

After much deliberation, I am now the proud owner of a shiny, red kitchenaid mixer! I’ve been an admirer for some time but never dreamed I would ever own one. I love the way they look (especially the red one) and also how much they simplify baking. Mine will mostly be used for bread making (my cheap bread maker which has been used as mainly as a mixer will be having a new home with my parents) but I’m sure now I have a KA I will be looking for any excuse to bake sweet treats (I’m thinking cakes, pavlovas and other desserts).

I got the machine home this afternoon and within 30 minutes it was working its magic on pizza dough. We also bought our first asparagus of the season today so I thought I would combine the two and make a asparagus and parma ham pizza. To go with it I made a rosemary and new potato focaccia. I was really impressed with the KA, it made light work of the kneading, created less mess and the end result was the best texture of bread that has ever been created in my kitchen! The asparagus and parma ham were tasty too.

Asparagus and parma ham pizza

See here for the recipe I use for pizza dough. When I can get hold of it I replace 100g of flour with polenta to get a thinner crispier base. The only downside is the focaccia/garlic bread I make with half the dough is better without the polenta.

The sauce I use varies depending on what I have to hand. Usually it is a small amount of a simple tomato pasta sauce that I have frozen. Pesto also works well.

For the topping I layered mozzarella, parma ham and asaragus spears (pre-roasted for 5-10 minutes as these were a bit thicker than some spears.

Bake for 10-15 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 230C.

Rosemary and new potato focaccia

  • Roll out the dough left over from making your pizza.
  • Make dimples in the dough all over with your fingers.
  • Brush olive oil over the surface.
  • Lay thinly sliced new potatoes over the dough.
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and dried rosemary (I think this would be even better with fresh rosemary but I don’t have any yet).
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven (230C) for 20-30 or until golden and the potato is cooked.