Pumpkin Soup

After gouging out the seeds and making snacks of them the other day, I really had to get a move on with  the rest of the pumpkin and thought pumpkin soup would be the answer. Besides I wanted to make a Jack O’Lantern with it, ready for Halloween.

(When I was young, in the far North of England, we never saw a pumpkin and instead carved lanterns from turnips!)

Still, civilisation has advanced since then and even in the Grim North, pumpkins are freely available now. I started by scooping out the flesh

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There was a fair amount of flesh in there

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I thought that the best way of dealing with it was to roast it first to deepen the flavour. I sprinkled it with chilli oil, salt and paprika ….

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That went into an oven at 175 degrees and while that was roasting I started on the soup base. Onions, of course, a clove of garlic, a little bit of chopped dried chilli

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After the onion had softened in some oil and some stock, the pumpkin was browning nicely

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The dark bits were caramellised and sweet, the rest of it was soft and golden… perfect. That could now go into the pan with the softened onions

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Stir it round and watch it all sink into a lovely, soft mess of pumpkin and onion. Now you can add some more stock to thin it down… maybe some milk or, remember I told you about adding dried milk? That doesn’t add extra fluid but does add extra taste.

Then stick in your hand blender (surely one of the greatest inventions ever? This is my Dualit which I would hate to be without and that we got as a wedding present. Thanks B&T!)

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See how the colour changes? Lightens as it becomes smooth and silky?

And that’s it.

Serve it in a bowl, with a swirl of chilli oil to spike it up a bit and a lovely fresh baked roll to go with it….

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And at the end of it… I still had the pumpkin and a sharp knife. Happy Halloween!

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Lesley… in her own words….

So where to start……….I have a love hate relationship with food and the biggest hate of all is cooking it! I also hate vegetables except onions,tomatoes and raw peppers and like my food extremely spicy. I can’t eat on a morning, get the munchies after alcohol late at night and if I decide I like something I will eat it for every meal for weeks on end………..disturbed?………..just slightly!
I’ve been following Wendy’s blog since the beginning and have always resisted her coaxing to have a go pre-blog, but the no knead bread sounded lovely and worth a try. I do eat bread (which is a bonus) it could be made in one bowl (which was always a stipulation I’d given Wendy in the past) and it required so little effort that even I couldn’t complain! My biggest problem was that I had no ingredients and no bowl but a trip to the supermarket fixed that one and I had no excuses left. Wendy, bless her, gave me phone numbers to contact her on for hand holding and encouragement but I was brave and ventured into the kitchen alone! I made the mixture and was grateful that I’d followed other people’s experiences and knew that when Wendy said it was wet, she meant very wet! I think I’d have panicked at that stage otherwise and binned the lot! I did it just before I went to bed so left it in the kitchen until I got home from work the following day. In the morning I sneaked a look and I could see it had expanded so something was obviously working!
When I got home I cranked up the laptop and checked the next stage taking particular note of the pictures and getting quite excited when mine looked exactly the same! I dragged the mixture out rolled it in flour left a bit longer and then dusted it and wrapped it in the t-towel. The next couple of hours waiting weren’t wasted……I used them to locate the cooker and work out how to switch it on (well I did say I hate cooking!)
The final stage and I have to admit to a bit of a panic when some of it stuck to the t-towel ……but I persevered and it actually wasn’t too bad and did come away eventually. Then…..off it went into the pre-heated oven and I waited…………with a glass of tinto to keep me company and calm my nerves! I was amazed when it actually looked as it should do when I took it out of the oven and even more amazed this morning when I tasted it and it was edible…….and not just edible it was really really tasty! 🙂
It’s definitely something I’ll make again so I’ll forgive Wendy for bullying – sorry that should say encouraging – me and I may even try something else in the future! 🙂 Oh and here’s a picture just to prove I did it! Lesley x
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10 November… Lesley made Bear Bars

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And she liked them! 

 “Yes that was really easy and I had to have a taste even tho they are going to be my breakfasts for the next 3 weeks – it was yummy! I did change a few things – used raisins, sultanas, cherries, mixed nuts, cashews, walnuts, des coconut, sunflower seeds and about a tablespoon of molasses sugar with the oats, flour, apple sauce and eggs :-)…”

and she was so impressed she told her friend

“They’re called Bear Bars Margie after Wendy’s hubby! Lovely tasty bars of fruit and nuts and seeds – very healthy and tons better than the shop bought ones and they’re really filling! Get Nat to make you a batch – here’s the link:…”
And then she saw the Chicken Jalfrezi……
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Lesley ” has been cooking again! I made up for the weather outside by making this from Wendy’s Jalfrezi recipe and very nice it is too! :-)) Notice I don’t take much convincing when it comes to curry! lol”
Good work, Lesley!
And then she proved she had been paying attention… and produced Bone Idle Bread!Lesley Bread

17 January 2010

Lesley has been cooking again… and this time, having a real cooking session. Shepherd’s Pie in the morning,

followed by Keema

So much for never cooking eh? And she lets slip that she regularly bakes Bear Bars….

I think the avowed non-cook is resuming her kitchen duties! Way to go Lesley!

15 April 2010

Lesley cooked again… this time the Pastryless Pie

Lesley says:

Well I’ve made this tonight and once again I’m impressed – and not just with myself for doing it! I did tinker a bit with the recipe and ended up using stilton, smoked cheddar, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes and red onion. Had the potato base and ham edging but used fromage frais instead of double cream. It tastes fabulous and I even managed the broccoli which is a bit of a miracle really because I have an affinity with The Bear when it comes to that! So thanks Wendy for another recipe added to my repertoire! x

Look at that delicious edging!

A perfect example of using a base recipe and changing it to suit your ingredients or preferences!


This section is for Laura and this is what she says about her cooking journey..

“right,  my blog thing.

where to start???? aged 19 I flew the coop and moved in with my husband to be (he was a wanker). Anyway, I had to cook, and loved feeding him. I learned largely from my grandmother and always had something up my sleeve.

And then I woke up and got rid of him (yay).

I don’t really remember what I used to cook for Jonathan because in the end it all became about Isobel. When she started solids I would cook all sorts for her. She had to take her own lunch to nursery and I was always making freezable home cooked meals for her, Annabel Karmel I love you!!!!!

As time wore on I worked more and more, and Jonathan worked more than that and we were all of a sudden having Chinese or frozen stuff. Then Wendy put a picture on Facebook of bread she’d made!! Well I had to have a go, or two…………

and the rest is history!”

Laura was  the first T.O.B Cook. She made bread……the No Knead Bread

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And it turned out brilliantly

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She has encouraged the others to try it… so well done Laura!

Then she made the butter to go with it..

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And followed that with chillies… those delicious bacon wrapped, cream cheese stuffed chillies…

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Brilliant, Laura…

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Slow roast pork and orange glazed carrots with roast potatoes! Mmmmmmm……

January 2010

I made Jansson’s Temptation and Laura wanted to do it too… the problem was she lived too far from Ikea to get the sprats, anchovy style. Which are an absolute essential…

I couldn’t let that hold her back so I posted her a tin ( the lady in the Post Office did look at me oddly when I said I was posting a friend some sprats…. Swedish sprats, anchovy style… 🙂  )

See how technical we are? She prepares food, takes a picture with her BlackBerry and sends it to mine….

We discuss how it is going and she sends a picture of the finished dish!

(She liked it… as did her in-laws!)

Cauliflower – puree perfection

Actually, I have a bit of a problem with cauliflower. There’s always the potential, I think, when it is served in whole boiled pieces, that you could bite into it and get a mouthful of hot water….. Even making cauliflower cheese doesn’t really help. The cheese is OK, but underneath? Cauliflower.

Then one day I read about cauliflower puree. Smooth, tasty and delicious, apparently. Being curious about anything food related, I was willing to give it a try. I love to be proved wrong about food I say I hate and guess what? I was wrong about cauliflower! Creamed Spinach, cauliflower puree 010

You need (obviously enough) a cauliflower, some cream, butter, salt and pepper.

Break, or cut the cauli into florets, making sure they are of an even size so that it cooks evenly

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Put into a large pan of well salted water and bring to the boil. Putting half a lemon into the pan helps keep it white and just sharpens the flavour a little.

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It won’t take long to cook at all, maybe 5 to 10 minutes. Check with a sharp knife to see that it is tender.

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Drain it in the sink and let it dry slightly… all that steam escaping is water you don’t necessarily want in your puree.

Put the cauliflower florets in a bowl and with a hand stick blender, whizz it to a smooth puree – adding in a good knob of butter and some cream to enrich it and some salt and pepper to season it.  Taste it.. it has a rich and earthy depth to it…..

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Doesn’t that look just lovely? That turned me from a cauliflower loather to a cauliflower lover!

(One of my favourite ways to serve it is with black beluga or puy  lentils and some roast lamb….

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Just boil some lentils with some stock for extra flavour…. the drain…. and serve with the puree

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A nice bit of roast lamb on the top and you have the perfect flavour and texture combination)

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So there you have it.. take something you don’t like and make it into something you do like. 

(I blame school dinners, I really do! )


This page is for Debs… I will add her pictures as she cooks and she can add her comments. Of course the ideal situation would be for her to be able to do it all by herself but as this is done by me and I haven’t the faintest idea how to change things (at the moment, anyway) this is how it will be done.

Long live amateurism!

Debbie’s first attempt was cooking the No Knead Bread

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See that style? Netbook on the counter… glass of wine at hand (condensation beading on the glass…. she’s chilled that properly)  and bread started. Full marks, that woman!

Next she did the slow roasted spiced lamb…. despite not liking couscous


Followed by the chillies…

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Debs freely admitted she didn’t care for chillies but, you’ll notice, there isn’t a picture of the cooked chillies. That is because as soon as they were cooked they ate them. She has now made them several times and admits to thinking about them, longingly, mid afternoon and having to wait until the evening to make them.

Debs is now a chilli addict.

Her latest cooking escapade was porridge.

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I’ll leave her to comment on how everything was received but in recognition of her excellent efforts to try things out… and because I know she doesn’t have one, The Omnivorous Bear is proud to award Debs with her very own spurtle. The first prize ever awarded by the site….An authentic Scottish porridge stirring stick!

Every home should have one.

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The spurtle is now in the post to her but as we currently have a postal workers strike there’s no guarantee it will get there before next week.

Keep on cooking, Debs!

Debs then made the ginger ham… DEbs ham

this is what she said

“I know this is a rubbish photo but this is the end result. After removing the rind, I scored the remaining layer of fat and spread a thin layer of mustard, grated fresh ginger and sugar… it went into the oven for about 15 mins and that was that.

The gingerness went to well with the ham, it was absolutely fabulous and even the 6 yr olds loved it and that’s saying something!!” … and the photo was a bit indistinct.

1Nov – Debs made the pumpkin soup

Debs pumpkin soup

Tomorrow she will do the pumpkin seeds.


One thing you should know about me is that I (obviously) come from a great family and there’s none more brilliant and inventive than my little brother. OK, so he’s not so little anymore and has family of his own now but I still think of him as my little brother.

He came up with this recipe and it has rocketed straight into the family collection of favourites. It is, in essence, loosely based on Nigella’s Ham in Coca Cola, from her book, “Nigella Bites”. In it Nigella cooks the ham in Coke then glazes it with black treacle and cloves. Problem is. we don’t really like Coke, cloves or treacle.

We do, however, absolutely adore ginger beer. So….. first get some gammon

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I always rinse the gammon because you never know how much salt has been added, and, quite frankly, if I just wanted to just taste a salted ham, well, I wouldn’t go to all this bother, would I?

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You’ll see a salty, fatty sort of scum on the water and then you’ll be glad you did it. Anyway, you want it to taste of ginger beer….lovely Old Jamaica Ginger Beer           

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You need to make sure there’s no plastic round the rolled joint – cut it off before you put the ham in the pan

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Then.. into the pan with it, and pour that lovely ginger beer over it. I slice the skin off some ginger root and add that as well to give it an extra gingery boost. I’ll be using the peeled ginger later in the glaze.

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 Lid on, heat up and bring it to a boil.   Then, let it simmer gently for an hour and a half or so, gently bubbling away with the ginger beer infusing the gammon.   Prod it with a sharp knife to see if it has some give to it. The actual simmering time depends on the size of the gammon so just check it now and then till you know it is done.

Get it out and put it on the board. Don’t throw the ginger beer out, you’ll need some of it later. Put the oven on now to get hot –  200 degrees  or thereabouts.

You can see that it is beautifully cooked and that all it needs now is a lovely glaze

Roasted pumpkin seeds 021 Carefully remove the rind, making sure you leave some of the fat on

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Remember you peeled the ginger? Grate that and smear that over the mustardy coating

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Then coat the whole lot with  sugar 

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Put it in a baking tin that you have lined either with tinfoil or a silicon sheet (this saves you hours of scrubbing afterwards) and add some of the ginger beer simmering liquid. Not much, maybe just enough to keep the base of the ham wet. This keeps the ham moist as you roast it on a relatively high heat to glaze it beautifully.    

After about ten minutes the sugar has melted and bubbled and gone beautifully brown and you have….

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Deeeeeeeelicious! Thanks Lil’ Brother!

Try it. It’s good, honest.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

As it is getting towards Halloween you see pumpkins everywhere, in every farm shop and greengrocer.

I thought that I would make pumpkin soup this week and then the Bear had the brilliant idea of also making our own roasted pumpkin seeds to have as a snack. They are full of fibre, high in protein and anti oxidants so they are, actually, a health food… despite tasting absolutely delicious.

First of all, get your pumpkin!                               Beans and belly pork 036

Cut it open ……

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 and start scooping out those seeds! They are your bonus – you’re making soup with the flesh and what you would have discarded you are now going to make into tasty little bites. Put the oven on to preheat at about 150 degrees

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 You need to scrape the fibres off

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And then give them a good rinse under the tap because they are very slippery and the gloopy bits rinse away easily enough

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Put them on a clean tea towel and rub them dry… well, you won’t be able to do that but you can get a lot of moisture off them

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You need to think about how you want to flavour the seeds – I fancied spicy ones and looked to see what was in the cupboards that I could use. I regularly make chilli oil by popping chillies into a bottle and topping it up with grapeseed or sunflower oil. It’s not particularly hot but it just adds a hint of heat. Worcestershire sauce would be nice too and I also found some Jerk Seasoning which I thought would just fit the bill as a flavouring dust to help crisp things up

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The oven should now be hot, so get a baking tray and put one of those silicon sheets on…. or cover it with tin foil, sprinkle that with the oil, pour on the pumpkin seeds, add a teaspoon or so of Worcestshire Sauce,  salt and then shake that Jerk Seasoning over the whole lot.

Roasted pumpkin seeds 020 Into the oven with it and that’s where it will stay for the next 15 – 30 minutes.

You need to keep checking though and stirring them round because they can burn easily but you’ll see them turn a lovely toasty colour. Put them onto some kitchen towel to absorb any extra oil

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Let them cool  and then serve those crunchy morsels up. If you served them with a glass of wine, I reckon you’d be hitting every health button there was!

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There you have it – tasty snacks from the stuff you would otherwise throw away. I think we deserve medals for being so creative and cost concious. Cheers!

Butter bean mash

Sometimes I just get fed up with the ordinary things I make to go with a meal. Sometimes I just don’t have time to make the ordinary things… mashed potaoes? All that peeling, boiling, draining and mashing? What if you are late in from work and need something quickly? Or, quite frankly, if you are fed up to the back teeth of mash?

At times like this I make butter bean mash. I always have tins of beans of various sorts in the larder because they are a brilliant standby and you don’t always have the time to soak the beans overnight.

First of all, get a couple of tins of butter beans, open them and rinse the beans till all the gloopy stuff goes

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Then, while they are draining, get some herbs if you have them

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I found some thyme, chives and oregano in the herb boxes on the balcony and, after stripping the leaves from the stems, chopped them roughly

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Then, as I heated some butter in a pan, I squeezed in some lemon juice to sharpen things up a bit

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And if you look closely you will even see a drop of lemon juice perfectly captured as it falls into the pan.

I’d like to say that shot was planned that way, but really it was just sheer luck.

By now the beans were well drained so they were added to the buttery lemon mix and stirred round, with the chopped herbs thrown in to soften in the heat. Once they were good and hot, I gave them a bit of a bashing with a potato masher

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Not too much though because you don’t want a smooth puree, you need something of the butter bean left

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And there you have it… a good, roughly smashed dish of butter beans

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Just right to serve up with whatever you fancied.

On this particular night, what I fancied was some delicious stewed beef and mushroom that I had made a few weeks ago and frozen ready for a night like this….. and served it in a good old Yorkshire Pudding

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It was gorgeous. The butter beans made a lovely change from ordinary mashed potato and were quick and easy. The buttery, lemony, herby tang livened them up brilliantly… and for a side dish that took less than 10 minutes? Perfect.

Well, what else could you ask for on a cold and dark night?

Eggs for breakfast?

When it comes to weekend breakfasts, there’s something very nice about having eggs of one sort or another. I was a bit bored with scrambled eggs and boiled eggs didn’t quite seem to hit the spot and what about fried eggs? Well, you needed bacon to go with fried eggs. What if you didn’t have bacon? What could you do then?

I liked the idea of baked or coddled eggs, where eggs are cooked in a little pot, usually in a bain marie in the oven. Thing about that was, first of all, I didn’t possess an egg coddler and secondly, even if I did, I didn’t want to be standing around in the kitchen waiting for the water to gently simmer round my little pots. I like breakfasts to be good and tasty I know… but I don’t want to spend hours trying to do it.

Normally I use the microwave only rarely – to reheat vegetables say or defrost something  – but I wanted to work something out. Eggs and microwaves can be tricky with the yolk going rubbery and the white staying runny. Not an appetising start to anyone’s day.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I tried this. You wouldn’t believe the variable results I have had from this… but now I can finally share with you one of our favourite Sunday breakfasts. A breakfast that can be made in just about ten minutes and then taken back to bed to eat while you read the papers and enjoy the fact that it is Sunday.

And what do you need?

220See that bread? That’s No Knead Bread, that is. Brilliant for using with Eggies because the bread has a great strong texture that holds the eggs well. And that butter? Well, I made that too!

In my many experiments I realised that while eggs can go in the microwave, they need some kind of insulation in the pot to stop the dreaded rock hard yolk scenario which clashes so badly with the gloopily wet white.

So, first of all, slice some bread


Then scrape some butter over the slices… this sort of waterproofs the bread


(The butter was straight from the fridge so it was hard, but really these are thin scrapes of butter)

Then, using a small pot with a lid, roughly line the inside with the bread


The aim is to get a layer of bread round the outside of the pot so the eggs can drop into the middle. If you have any cream, just put a spoonful in the bottom with a pinch of salt


Then, crack in a couple of lovely eggs….


See how the eggs are kept in the middle of the pot? Protected by the bread?

You can put another teaspoon of cream on the top and then… well then you scrape the tiniest anount of butter over the rest of the slices of bread, sprinkle with salt  and lightly put the bits of bread on top – no pressing down! You are making a little lid for your bread liner



Then, lid on and then put one at a time in the microwave.

First of all – ONE minute on medium and then 30- 40 seconds on high. Take out the pot and do the other one…..

They will still cook a little bit in the residual heat.  Lift the little bread lid and look…


You can see the white is cooked… but what about the yolk?

Well, The Bear, being devoted to tomato sauce insists on his egg being squirted with it and then he shoves his spoon in….


PERFECT!  Breakfast in less than ten minutes… 

Benefits? You have sort of baked/coddled Eggies; with no messy frying, or boiling, or poaching;  using the timer so you can lean against the bench while your cup of tea brews…. and the Eggies are cooked in the pot you eat them from, saving you washing up later!

It’s not the most elegant of breakfasts but it is fast and tasty and oh so comforting. The kind of breakfast a person might need if they had had a lively night and needed something restorative…….. some of you may know the feeling……

No Knead Bread update

Today is a Saturday and that means I have, within easy reach, dear sweet neighbours who come to help when I ask them nicely. Last night D & L and I spent a great evening sitting around eating and drinking until the early hours (which may explain my headache today) and while we were talking and laughing they said they would try the No Knead Bread.

Now, as some of you ( ahem, C ) have commented, the No Knead dough, at the point of tipping out of the bowl, is incredibly wet and sticky… I did say that but I couldn’t take a picture as I was doing it because there are only so many hands a person has…. and I am slightly reduced in that department anyway at the moment.

And so… a plan was born. We would make bread and, with the help of my dear friends, take the missing pictures for the blog and also show them first hand how easy it was to make!

There we were, measuring out, in a slightly unsteady way, the flour, yeast, salt and water. We mixed it together and reckoned that it would be ready for “doing stuff to” later that afternoon… yes, it was after midnight, but hey, it was the weekend and we were having a good time.

That meant that D or L would be around to watch and help at the tricky moment, because try as I might, I hadn’t been able to describe well enough what this wet and sticky dough looked like… and also be there to help me take a photograph.

So… I have inserted these pictures into the original No Knead bread post so that you can follow it from start to finish, but for those of you who faltered at this point, THIS is what I mean by wet and sticky..

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Yes, that is what anyone would call wet and sticky…

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Look at the way it pulls. See the bubbles, stretching and expanding? That is going to make your bread beautifully chewy and tasty.

This dough doesn’t roll out of the bowl, you have to scrape it out

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And that’s it.  A big, sticky lump  that is going to be rolled around, with your hands on that floured board where it magically becomes a normal looking piece of dough.

Does that make you feel better, C?  Will you try again? Have D & L’s efforts and help with photography inspired you?