No bread is an island

...entire of itself. (With apologies to John Donne!)
I live and breathe breadmaking. I’m an evangelist who would like everyone to make his or her own bread. I want to demystify breadmaking and show it as the easy everyday craft that it is. To this end I endeavour to make my recipes as simple and as foolproof as I possibly can.

I call my blog 'No bread is an island' because every bread is connected to another bread. So a spicy fruit bun with a cross on top is a hot cross bun. This fruit dough will also make a fruit loaf - or Chelsea buns or a Swedish tea ring...
I'm also a vegan, so I have lots of vegan recipes on here - and I'm adding more all the time.

Sunday, 9 September 2018


The story behind this challenge:
I turned 80 last September, and, to provide some motivation to keep pushing myself, I decided it would be a bit of a  challenge to see if I could complete 1 million push ups between my 80th and 90th birthday.
I worked out that if I did 2000 a week, 700 every other day (2000 x 50 x 10 years), I would reach my goal. 

However, after I'd begun, I thought I needed to get some 'in the bank' as it were, just in case I had an accident or something, and couldn't do the push ups for a while. So I upped my total to 1000 every other day. I've now been going just over 6 months - when my total was around 70,000. So my target is so far well within reach. At my present rate of progress, barring accidents, it's possible I could achieve 1 million p/ups in about 6 years - I did 14000 in March, for instance.

Oh, and I'd also like to be able to do 100 perfect press ups in 1 minute. I can do 100 in 60 seconds, ATM, but I couldn't swear they were perfect press ups - so that's my next goal.

As an aside, another reason I'm doing this is to show that vegans can be strong and fit into old age - should I ever get there! ;)

Breaking news! On Saturday 8th September, I finally managed 1000 'proper' press ups - I think. At any rate, with every press up I made sure my forehead touched a rolled up towel on the mat. Tired towards the end, so I took bigger gaps between sets. Took me an hour and a quarter.

Monday, 30 July 2018


I'm planning to run a 5 or 6 week course somewhere in Taunton, starting in September. Here's where I shall post all my planning, as details become finalised.

I mean, I don't have a venue, yet, so... 😀

It'll be primarily about bread - but the content would be determined by the students. I'll plan the first session, but after that, it'll be down to the students to choose what we make next. If the decision is, let's make a lentil and potato stew, we can do that - and then make bread pasties and stuffed parathas with the leftovers. 😉

To give you an idea about some of the breads we can make, here's a link to a previous course I ran at The Planet. I'd do it there again, but Wendy is getting so busy, I'm reluctant to add to her workload.

Who is this course for?
Anyone who wishes to improve their cooking skills. I'd really like a mix of vegans and non-vegans. As to how many I could fit on the course, well that would depend on the venue - as would whether children can come or not.  The optimum number for me is 8.

Purpose and cost:
Primarily, I'm doing this to raise money for a TV for the Taunton branch of Anonymous for the Voiceless. We've raised £150, so far, towards a target of £400. As for how much to charge, I'm still thinking about this - obviously, I have to break even, but beyond that, any money raised would go to AV.
At the same time, I don't want anyone not to be able access this course because of cost. 
So I'm thinking of just asking for donations, ATM. 


Monday, 9 July 2018

VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE - How easy is this?

[12th November 2012. There's a doubled-up recipe + pics at the foot of this post.]

The recipe:

Vegan chocolate cake

175g sugar
25g cocoa powder
175g self raising flour
75g vegetable oil - or unsweetened apple puree
250g water

Measure the sugar and the cocoa powder, and mix them together. The sharp edges of the granulated sugar breaks up the clumps of cocoa powder, so sieving is not necessary. Add the flour and mix, then add the oil and water. Stir, initially with a dessertspoon, and then with a whisk, and pour into a prepared 20cm (8") cake tin.

Bake at 175C for 30-35 minutes.

Or: Use a silicon cake form and place in the microwave (800w) for 6 minutes. In my experience, not only do you get a quicker cake, but the cake rises about 25% higher in the microwave.

(It's also possible to make an excellent gluten-free version of this cake.)

The story:

Anybody who's taken a look at some of the bread conversations I've had on here will know I'm not a cake maker - bread's my thing.

Whenever anyone asks me if I make cakes I always tell them there isn't time - there's always another bread I haven't made yet!

However, it was the birthday of both my daughter and my son-in-law this week, and there are bound to be plenty of cakes when we meet up tomorrow. And none of them will be vegan.

Apart, that is, from the one I've just made!

I followed this recipe here:

And tweaked it slightly.

It was a bit of a faff, since each step is on a separate page - unless you sign up, which I didn't want to do. And it's in cups, which I've weighed off into gms for the next time I make it - which I will.

166g s/raising flour
30g cocoa powder
198g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
80g sunolive oil
250g water
2 tsps vanilla extract

Stir the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients, mix together and pour into 2 18cm (7") lined cake tins. (I placed 354g of batter in each tin.)

Bake at 175C for 20 minutes.

Here's the cakes as they came out of the oven:

I shall sandwich the cake with the vegan chocolate spread I made yesterday:

And probably spread a bit on top - just to finish it off!

Update, Sunday 31st July:

As I said I would, I 'iced' the cake with a little chocolate spread.

And it went down very well, I must say - much better than I thought it would. My mother-in-law said loudly, "But it's actually very nice!". Everyone at the party who had a taste thought it was lovely and moist - and I had to answer several queries as to the recipe and how it was made.

This was undoubtedly a success - and it's now firmly in my repertoire. This from a guy who'd only ever made one cake in the last 20 years prior to this!  

I'm beginning to wonder if we've been conned all these years into thinking that cakes naturally have to contain eggs and butter (or marge)? Clearly, they don't!

I have asked all my friends on Wildfood for  their opinion. There's a variety of opinions on there with some agreeing with me.

I decided to forgo the salt and the vanilla:  I never use salt in my sweet bread recipes, and I see no place for it here; I couldn't detect any vanilla flavour, but others may.

3 days later. I ate the last remnants of the cake - and it was as moist and lush as when it had just been made. I did think of seeing if it would keep into a 4th day - but who keeps chocolate cake for four days?

(Well, my mother might - she used to extol the virtues of her madeira cake - "It'll keep for a fortnight!" she used to announce to all and sundry. And every time we went home and we were served cake, she felt she had to make good her claim. The damn cake was always well over a week old! In every other respect she was a decent cook. Well, I suppose we all have a chink in our armour!)

3rd November.
After telling my colleagues at my Thursday care home about my cake-making, I was prevailed upon to make one for the residents.

Since we needed a large cake, I doubled up the recipe:
330g s/raising flour
60g cocoa powder
400g sugar
160g sunflower oil
500g water

I left out the salt - decided it wasn't necessary - and the vanilla extract  - didn't have any, and didn't miss either of them! The cake, took about 35 minutes to cook.

I have to admit I was pretty bowled over by the size and appearance of the cake when it came out of the oven:

If you're going to make a cake - may as well make a big one!

That's Melissa's hand applying the chocolate icing
10th November.
The cake tin for last week's cake was borrowed from the care home next door - but this time it was decided we should make fairy cakes:

The doubled up recipe actually made 2 dozen of these. Thought at first we hadn't put enough batter in each one 

But when they came out of their cases and were iced - the size was just right! OK, the icing's not very neat - but that didn't affect the taste one iota!
Friday 16th December.
I've been making this cake weekly since I first made it - and today I made a chocolate log with it:

The cake was too thick so I knew it would split. But using the hints I picked up from Eric Lanlard last weekend (cut off the first 2 cm from the edge you're starting to roll from and place it on the edge if the cake and roll up around it) and those I received from Jemma the chef at Longrun (trim the side of the cake - this is where it gets crisp and prevents even rolling), we managed it.

Next time I'll divide the batter between two Swiss roll tins - and then it won't split! To keep it vegan it was spread with jam. I need a vegan filling for next time.

Monday 26th December.
Wanted to make a couple of Yule logs for the family - but I'm far away from my scales, so I did these with the original cup measurements in the link above.

I used a coffee mug to measure with and made enough to fill two Swiss roll tins and make three large cup cakes.

One was filled with sweet chestnut puree (the puree was mixed with some sugar and soya cream) and the other was consumed as it was - everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

I'm planning to cover the cake with melted chocolate. I'll post a pic when I do.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018


(Well, it started out as a weekly menu, but I've since added to it, and I shall add more, I'm sure!)

Cereal with a plant based milk - or fruit juice makes a nice change

Porridge – made with water - is a good standby.  I like mine with blackstrap molasses – although I no longer draw faces and yachts on the porridge as I did when I was younger! (Still do with the grandchildren on occasion! :-) )

My wife has hers with sultanas (soaked overnight) and banana. (Ugh!)

I only have porridge about once a week - my usual breakfast is spicy fruit naan, covered with mashed banana:

However, I often skip breakfast these days.


Here are some of the 5:2 vegan dishes on my blog:

(My experiences with Intermittent Fasting over almost 2 years)

Ratatouille pie made with a bread dough and a rich ragu sauce

Simple chocolate cake costing around 70p

Chocolate 'Cake in a mug' - adapted to fit a cereal bowl (it's easier to get to!)

Trifle - yes, 5:2 calorie counted trifle. It's just gorgeous

Here's a week's vegan menu - not calorie-counted

GARLIC BATONS - in the oven and frying pan (Vegan)

Saturday 1st July 2017
Since I began teaching at Taunton Association of the Homeless, a couple of years ago, I've made quite a bit of bread in a frying pan, along with the students. When they find accommodation, they may not always have an oven, but they may well have a hob and a frying pan. 

Last week the students on my current Burnham breadmaking opted to make garlic batons, as below, in the oven. So I wanted to see how these would fare, making them in a frying pan.

I used self raising flour, as I often do, these days:
Put the frying pan on a medium heat
100g s/raising flour
Pinch of salt
65ml water

Mixed into a dough and kneaded for a minute or two
Roll out into a rectangle a bit shorter than the frying pan

Garlic spread:
3 cloves garlic, smashed 
Heaped dessertspoon vegan spread -mixed together

Spread the garlic, et, over the dough and roll it up tightly.

Using a little flour and a rolling pin, flatten the dough and place it in the frying pan with a lid of some sort. Bake for 4 minutes each side - the colour should finish up a golden brown. 

Not like this one...

I baked it too long on both sides.

Still tasted gorgeous, though!

I made one for my neighbour - his verdict was, "Stunning!"

Sometime back in 2011.
Whenever I'm offered garlic bread at a gathering it's almost inevitably a supermarket baguette, cut into chunks, slathered with butter and garlic and baked for a while. It's OK, but it doesn't have the depth of flavour of these batons, where the bread and the filling are cooked together. Vary the filling as you will, with herbs, pesto, etc. As a vegan, I use olive oil instead of butter.
Garlic batons. Dough rolled out flat, covered with mashed garlic and olive oil, then rolled up like a Swiss roll

This method infuses the whole loaf with garlic

400g strong white flour of your choice
1/2 teaspoon salt
250ml lukewarm water
1 rounded dessertspoon fresh yeast
Good splash of olive oil

Garlic spread made with around a dozen or so cloves of garlic, peeled and squashed, and olive oil to taste. Mix in any herbs or spices you fancy. Spread with pesto to give it a bit more oomph.

1. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary, remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife, cutting through the dough. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – or until you get fed up! Either leave it, covered, for an hour or so, or go to step 4.

4. Divide the dough in two and form each piece into a round bap shape. Roll each piece out into a large rectangle – about 20cm by 30cm on a floured worktop. Spread the filling all over the dough and roll each piece up like a Swiss roll, with the seam side underneath. Gently tuck the ends underneath to stop any leakage. (You’ll still get a bit.) Place them on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

5. Leave to prove until they have risen appreciably.

6. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for between 15-20 minutes. Look for colour underneath.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Spicy Fruit Soda Bread - De Luxe

100g wholemeal flour + 1 tsp baking powder
100g s/raising flour, white
(Or you could just use all white flour - I’m just trying to be a bit healthier - you could use all wholemeal should you wish, but it'll be a bit dense.)
100g chopped dates
100g raisins
1 dsp sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
(Or whatever sweet spices you like)
125ml water
1 dsp olive oil* (optional)

50g (approx) golden marzipan*
8-12 or so glace cherries, halved

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the water and oil (if using). Using a flat bladed implement (either a stiff palette knife, or a table knife), mix into a workable dough, adding a little water or flour as appropriate. You’re looking for a soft dough that you can handle without it sticking.
Knead (flatten and fold) just until the dough is smooth, with no pockets of flour. you’re just trying to distribute the ingredients evenly.
Flour the dough on top and underneath, then roll out into an oval about 25-30cms across. Place your chosen filling across the oval, placing the halves of cherries on either side of the filling. Save 3 halves for the top of the loaf.
Bring the far side of the dough over the filling then fold over once more, leaving the seam underneath. Tidy the ends by tucking them under.
Cut three slits in the top of the loaf and half bury a halved cherry in each one, with the top of the cherry uppermost. (If you don’t secure the cherries in the dough, they’ll likely fall off as the bread rises in the oven.)
Bake at 180C for around 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it, and if the loaf begins to brown to early, place some baking parchment over the top. (I’ve been known to put the loaf into an empty flour bag to protect it for burning - works well.)
For a shiny finish to the loaf, glaze it with a melted teaspoon of marmalade or similar.

I made this initially as a Christmas (or Celebration) loaf, using strong flour and yeast, but this is just a quicker alternative.
I try and use as little oil as possible - I’m going to try adding ground walnuts next time, to see what effect that has.
Instead of marzipan you could use yellow dried apricots, pineapple or slices of mango.
When it’s sliced, the yellow of the marzipan and the red of the cherries gives a festive appearance.

Monday, 30 April 2018


20 minutes, and this is what you get - light and fluffy dumplings
There I was, this afternoon, watching Somerset vs Yorkshire - and, gripping as the cricket was, there was no denying that we were cold! 

I had on 6 layers, plus a scarf, hat and gloves - and I was still freezing. I found my mind wandering towards dinner: my wife had made me a veg stew, and I thought, what I really need when I get home, would be some dumplings to go with it. Perfect for this weather.

The stew was full of flavour - half a dozen local, in-season veg + a tin of chopped tomatoes gives a wonderful result. All it needed were some dried herbs and some garlic powder. However, I'd purchased a packet of Morrison's vegan sausage and quite fancied a couple of these cut into chunks in the stew. I also added a handful each of green lentils and butter beans from the freezer. The sausages are quite soft, so I dry-fried the chunks to harden them up. (Better to chop them when they're still partly frozen.)

Dumplings: Here's the proper recipe, with all the measurements, but today I simply put 3 heaped dessertspoons of self raising flour in a bowl, along with 1/2 teaspoon of bouillon powder, some garlic powder, a shake of mixed herbs and a teaspoon of nooch. I added a little cold water and a dsp of olive oil and mixed into a soft dough. I divided this into 4, and shaped them into bun shapes, which I then lowered into the stew.

After about only 10 minutes, the pot is steaming - and they've doubled in size. 
I gave the dumplings about 20 minutes, took one out and very carefully - because they're very delicate at this stage - sliced it in half to see what it looked like:

And here they are, light and fluffy.
I had the stew and a couple of dumplings with some new potatoes and spinach (I've just read somewhere that spinach releases more nutrients when it's cooked then when eaten raw), and it was just what the doctor ordered! Absolutely full of flavour, and it reminded me that I should  have dumplings more often.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018


Tuesday 10th April 2018
More varieties of bread using virtually the same ingredients:

The pie is a bilberry pie (with pastry nibbles) and the fruit loaf has sultanas, dates, cranberries, cherries and chocolate. It was for a coffee morning today - the bilberries are from Lidl (frozen).

Saturday 7th April 2018
Here's another bread using the ingredients for the pop-up pie below. Made them for dinner along with some homemade baked beans (using red kidney beans) and broccoli.

Divid the dough into golf ball sized balls and roll into circles about 10cm across. Place a dessertspoonful - or thereabouts - of lentil and potato curry in the middle and draw up the sides, pinching them together over the top of the filling. Turn over and gently roll out flat. Place in a dry frying pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes each side.

Here are some other suggestions - pasties, etc - with pics.

Thursday, 5th April 2018
Did a quick breadmaking demo for the potluck - showing just how versatile s/raising flour is.

Simple soda bread

1 mug (200g) s/raising flour
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1/3rd mug water

Before you start, put your oven on at 220C and prepare a baking tray - either oil your tray or line it with baking paper (which can be used over and over).

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, stir with a table knife until the mix comes together, then, using one hand, gather it all together into a dough. Tip the bowl up to let gravity do some of the work and wipe the dough around, picking up any stray bits. Add more water or flour as necessary to achieve a smooth, workable dough.

Knead (flatten and fold) the dough a few times to get all the lumps out, then form into a flat disc about 2cm thick. Cut a cross into the loaf, cutting almost all the way through. Place straight into the oven for 15 or so minutes, checking after about 10 - you may need to swap shelves or turn it round 180 degrees to ensure an even bake.

A soda bread is ready when: there is colour across the bottom; a skewer comes out clean; and it breaks apart cleanly. If there are strings of dough stretching between the two halves, it needs a further few minutes in the oven.

Pop up pie:
Make another dough, using the same ingredients (you may need to adjust the quantities to the size of your pie dish). I often use bouillon powder instead of salt, and add paprika, or curry powder in with the dry ingredients.

Cut off one third - for the lid - and, using flour quite liberally, roll the  larger piece out big enough to fill your pie dish. When you get close to the right size, put the dough on some baking paper and place it over the pie dish. If it's still a little small, roll it out a bit more, on the paper, until you're happy. Lower the crust into the pie dish, pressing into the edges, then add the filling. I used one of my favourites, a simple lentil and potato curry. (Make a fruit pie using a sweet dough, exactly the same way.)

Roll out the lid to the right size, then place it on top of the filling. I generally trim the pastry around the pie*, but last night, I simply folded the excess over the top crust. Place straight into the oven at 220C for 20 minutes, turning it round after 10.

*Use the trimmings, as they are, for breadstick-type nibbles.

I also made pain au chocolat, substituting a dessertspoon of sugar for the salt in the recipe above. The method is described in the link, with pics and a recipe for a yeast-risen dough - which does make for a better product in this case, IMO.

The chocolate I used was the 39p bar from Lidl - dairy free (of course) and Fair Trade.

If you have children around, that chocolate will last about 5 minutes - if you get them to help you make the chocolate rolls, it will occupy a morning, and you'll still have half a bar of chocolate left! :)

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Cheese, potato and broccoli (or onion) pasties

(Makes 8 pasties)

400g (or 2 mugs) strong white flour
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast
250ml (or 2/3rds mug) lukewarm water
Splash of olive oil (optional)

Several large potatoes, cubed and boiled
1 clump of cooked broccoli (or chopped onions)
150g your favourite vegan cheese, grated

Mix these together with whatever herbs, black pepper, etc, you wish

1. Place flour and salt into a mixing bowl, measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast, then add to the flour, followed by the olive oil if using.

2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary. Remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Holding the bowl with one hand begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with your fingers. Check how the dough feels as you mix – it should stay soft and squidgy – and add more flour or water as needed. When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.

3. Knead by stretching the dough out, folding it over, stretching it out and so on and so forth. Do this until it is smooth – or until you get fed up!

4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and form each one into a bun shape. Using plenty of flour on your worktop, roll each one out into a circle a little bigger than a tea plate. Place a couple of spoonfuls of filling on one side of the circle, lift the other side over to cover it and press the two sides together. (Don’t wet the edges first – that’s a pastry technique.) Form a crimp by pushing your fingertips together – one on top of the edge of the dough and the other at the side of the dough.

5. Place each one onto a baking sheet – either oiled or lined with baking paper – and leave to prove until the dough has become puffy.

6. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for between 12-15 minutes. Look for some shade of brown underneath.

Lentil and potato pasties. Cook 100g of red lentils in enough water – takes about 10-12 minutes once the water has boiled. Separately, boil some cubed potatoes along with a chopped onion and flavourings such as herbs, stock powder and perhaps some curry paste. Once everything is cooked, add the potatoes, etc, to the lentils and simmer until it thickens. Use as in step 4 above.

Update, 15/2/18:
Since working with Taunton Association for the Homeless, I've made these with just s/raising flour - they go straight in the oven once shaped, and are quick and easy to make. No faffing about with the yeast, etc.