Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Quick Walnut & Pecan Bread

Despite having made bread many times (favourites being pizza dough, Fat Mum Slim's brioche, and Annabel Langbein's Busy People's Bread), I always feel a bit intimidated by the thought of it.  I'm not sure why though.  If you choose a straight forward recipe, it's actually incredibly simple. And VERY satisfying to eat your own bread!!!  I highly recommend trying Annabel's bread that I've linked above as a super simple but really yummy bread. I make it very often.  One day I invited myself over to my friend Claire's house with both of my kids in tow at and was supposed to stop for bread on the way.  It was literally easier for me to make this bread than to stop at the bakery with my two kids!!!! My 3 year old does most of the making of that bread, just a wooden spoon and bowl recipe.

A couple of weeks ago, the bread queen Phillippa led a bread making masterclass on Masterchef.  She made a walnut bread that looked incredible.  Recipe is here.  The same week was Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  Ruth had written a post about it (here) and had also posted a series of photos on Instagram of one of her gorgeous boys baking the walnut bread.  It only took the very first Instgram pic to motivate me to make walnut bread that Saturday morning too!  We had a couple of handful of fresh walnuts that were sitting around waiting to be shelled so it was a perfect craving.

However, I didn't have all of the ingredients (or the patience) for proper bread.  It was already 10:30 and I knew the boys would be starving by 11:30.  I googled a few recipes on my phone and found a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (from the British show River Cottage).  I still didn't have all of the ingredients for this recipe either, but chose to adapt it and stay in my pjs rather than go to the shops!

There is no yeast in the bread, so no proving or resting or rising time. It's a sweet bread so I think you could lessen the honey/golden syrup significantly if you wanted to, but the sweetness is lovely.  It's more of a stand alone bread rather than for sandwiches.  Perfect with some special cheese or simply good quality butter.

Here is the version I made with Mr 3.

Quick Walnut & Pecan Bread, based on a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.


  • 200 grams of 00 flour
  • 300 grams of wholemeal plain flour
  • 100 grams of walnuts
  • 100 grams of pecans (or any combination of walnuts & pecans or just one of them, whatever you have or whatever you like!)
  • 150 grams of honey or golden syrup (again, you could also do a combination which is what I did.)
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 10 grams of salt


  • Preheat oven to 190-200 degrees Celsius
  • Put flours & baking powder in a large bowl

  • Heat the honey/golden syrup in a small saucepan with 300ml of water until dissolved (but not hot.)

  • Divide the nuts in to two halves - one half, keep the nuts in chunky pieces

  • For the other half, crush them up in to a rough chunky powder

  • Add both piles of the nuts to the flours & stir well

  •  Add the honey/golden syrup water to the flours and mix gently until combined (but don't over mix)

  • Turn on to a lined baking tray and shape in to a circle or oval

  • Cut two slits quite deeply in to the bread and put in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the bread is brown and well risen. That's it!

  • Serve warm with butter or really lovely cheese. My favourite is marinated feta - YUM!!!  Although my sous chef likes his with jam. :-)

Happy Baking!

Love Amy xoxoxo

Monday, 7 May 2012

Roast Pumpkin & Pine Nut Lasagna

This is one of my favourite recipes.  I often vary it greatly and have outlined some options below the recipe.  Adding other veggies or changing the "white sauce" are all good variations.  You can definitely make it lower in fat with some of the variations too - eg using low fat ricotta and less mozzarella and Parmesan, roasting the veggies in just a tiny bit of oil spray instead of liberal amounts of olive oil.  I usually do make it lower in fat when I make it for a regular family dinner, but this version is the tastiest and most rich and pumpkiny in my opinion.

- Lasagna sheets - I either use the dried instant ones or make my own fresh - I don't think the "fresh" from the supermarket are as good for this recipe (although I've used them several times). I like the thickness of the dried, instant ones and the al dente texture which you can't really achieve with fresh pasta.
- 2 very large pieces of pumpkin - I usually use 2 different varieties - this time I used Kent and Grey.
- 3 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 12 fresh sage leaves, washed and dried
- good quality olive oil
- a few good handfuls of freshly grated, good quality Parmesan cheese
- 300 grams of grated mozzarella
- 180 - 250g mascarpone - (I had a 250g tub which I'd already used some of for another recipe. If you're only using the mascarpone for this recipe, then you use the entire tub so as not to waste it.)
- raw pine nuts

- preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius
- peel and cut the pumpkin in to large chunks and scatter on two oven trays lined with baking paper
- add the garlic cloves (unpeeled), drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper & roast for 20 minutes

- Turn the pumpkin around, add the sage leaves and drizzle with more olive oil if needed
- When the pumpkin is well roasted and the sage is crispy, remove from the oven and turn it down to 180 degrees Celsius

- set aside the crispy sage leaves

- squeeze the garlic out of the skins and discard the skins
- roughly mash the pumpkin and garlic together with a fork

- finely crumble the sage leaves and mix through the pumpkin

- *important* Add some water to your mashed pumpkin so it's runny. You need the extra moisture so the lasagna sheets have enough liquid to cook them through and so the final dish isn't too dry. I used probably about 180mls this time as I used dried instant lasagna sheets.  If you're using homemade fresh lasagna sheets then you'd only need to add a little bit of water to loosen the mixture.  You can see the difference in texture in the above photo and the one below.
- divide the pumpkin in to 3 decent sized portions and 1 smaller, half sized portion
- spread a layer of the pumpkin mixture on the bottom of your dish and top with one layer of lasagna sheets

- add another layer of pumpkin mixture, this time add a large handful of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese before you add another layer of lasagna sheets

- another layer of pumpkin and lasagna sheets
- spread the final, smaller amount of pumpkin mixture over the top lasagna sheets, add the mascarpone cheese and spread evenly (the mixture will become a pumpkin and mascarpone combination rather than two separate layers)

- top with lots of mozzarella and Parmesan, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, cover with baking paper and foil and bake in 180 degree oven for 45 minutes

- remove the baking paper and foil and bake until starting to lightly brown (approximately another 10 minutes)
- scatter the pine nuts on top and bake until browned

- serve hot on it's own or with a rocket salad.  It's even better the following day and it freezes very well.

- add a layer of thinly sliced half moons of roasted zucchini
- add a layer of balsamic roasted cherry tomato halves
- add a layer of wilted spinach
- make a traditional white sauce with flour, butter, milk & cheese
- use a combination of ricotta and feta for the "white sauce" layer
- use creme fraiche or sour cream for the "white sauce" layer
- use low fat ricotta and some milk stirred together for a lower fat version

I hope you try this and love it as much as I do!

Love Amy xoxo