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.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE - How easy (and cheap!) is this?

[Posted originally in August 2011] There's a doubled-up recipe, plus cupcakes and Swiss roll - pics at the foot of this post. This is my up to date recipe - adapted from the original.

 Vegan Chocolate Cake (20cm or 8")

200g sugar
30g cocoa powder
200g self raising flour
300g water
25g vegetable oil - or unsweetened apple puree

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 should not be necessary. Add the flour and mix, then add the water and oil. Stir, initially with a dessertspoon, and then with a whisk, and pour into a prepared 20cm (8") silicon cake former.

Place in the microwave (800w) for 7 minutes. In my experience, not only do you get a quicker cake, but the cake rises about 25% higher in the microwave.

No microwave?
Bake in the oven at 175C for 30-35 minutes.

No oven?
Then pour a little of the batter into an oiled frying pan, on a medium to hot heat, as if you were making pancakes. For a bit of fun, baking with your youngster, cut out circles of the (pan)cake, and sandwich them with - I don't know: jam, homemade fruit puree, homemade chocolate spread (recipe below). Or, why not invent your own fillings?

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

I'm amazed at how little this cake costs (these prices are from Lidl products):
Sugar 10p
S/raising flour 8p
Cocoa powder 10p
Veg oil 5p
Total 33p

Who says that it's expensive to be a vegan? :)

The story:
Anybody who's taken a look at some of the bread conversations I've had on this blog 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.

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.

Thursday, 28 November 2019


[This is just a draft, ATM. Needs more work, but I want to get it out there.]

Dear fellow activists, if you’re feeling down, ATM, things are getting on top of you, feelings of anxiety are coming to the fore, etc, here’s something that may help. 
It’s so easy to put too much pressure on ourselves - we want to do more for the animals, but if we burn out in the process that doesn’t help them. It’s difficult, but we have to try and take a more detached view of things. What helps me to do this is a book I think very highly of, “The How of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky. I recommend you get hold of a copy as soon as you can.

It’s an explanation/description of scientific, peer-reviewed methods which are proven to increase one's happiness. Sonja was a student of Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology. He took the view that psychiatrists had only ever used psychology to treat ill patients - but what if we didn’t wait for people to become sick, but used psychology to create optimistic people who were resilient? 

Sonja’s book explains that we all have a basic level of happiness that we’re born with: that’s 50%, which we can’t do anything to change; then, there’s a 10% component, which relates to our circumstances - it’s not easy to change that 10%. But that leaves 40% we can change, and she details 12 happiness increasing activities that have been proven to work. 

My favourite method is ‘Savouring the moment’. So, I’m in the Cube, it’s already cold and there's a lazy wind blowing (one that goes straight through you instead of around you), my hands are freezing, and I need to blow my nose. But: I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with some wonderful people - I can see one of our group talking to someone, perhaps getting out a card - whatever. And I savour that moment, because I’m part of something so important, so worthwhile, that I wouldn’t want to swap places with anyone. And I feel sorry for those members who didn’t, or couldn’t, for whatever reason, make it to the Cube. 

And I use it when things aren't going my way - I’m in a traffic jam, say, and I really don’t want to be late - but, I’m comfortable, I’ve got some decent music on - and I’ll get there, in the fullness of time. So, once again, I can savour that moment - and in this case, it prevents me from feelings of annoyance, etc, and I can physically feel happier. In situations like that, I often force myself to smile, even though I don’t feel like it - and that always improves things.

Savouring is just one technique: There are 11 more happiness increasing exercises in Sonja’s book; she recommends you choose the 3 or 4 that most appeal to you, and practice those. 

I’ve been described, by Alan Hutchison, Senior Lecturer in Happiness at Winchester University (yes, there is such a subject) as the happiest bloke he knows. I think there are several reasons for this: First and foremost, as an animal rights activist (ARA), I feel I'm doing something positive, in that I'm helping to increase the amount of wellbeing in the world. I've also become good friends with a huge number of ARAs - whom I call my 2nd family. To make such wonderful friends - from all over England - at my time of life, is just a complete joy. Another factor is that I actively work at increasing my happiness and well-being. I also have several forms of exercise I employ on a regular basis. I'm in good health, and, all in all, I have a lot to be grateful for.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019


Tuesday 22nd October 2019
Deciding to go (almost) all out on the health front, I thought I'd make these with wholemeal flour (Doves organic - very tasty).  What stops me making these more often is just pure laziness - after dinner I generally can't be bothered, but there really is nothing to it. And if I have everything prepped beforehand, I've no excuse.
So this morning, I mixed 4 heaped dsps of w/m flour + 1 dsp sugar (optional, hence the 'almost' above), with enough water to make a thickish batter and a handful of sultanas. I added half a teaspoon of fresh yeast - but half a tsp of baking powder would serve just as well, stirred it and left it for this evening.

Saturday 28th January 2017
Been making ginger pikelets, recently. Instead of sultanas, I've used chrystallised ginger, chopped into small pieces - and I've added a teaspoon of ground ginger to the batter. Simply wonderful!

Monday 23rd January 2012
Following a discussion on the BBC Food board last night, I made a batch of these, some of which I had last night, and another batch of which I've just eaten for breakfast. 

(When starting a sourdough culture, you're asked to discard part of it regularly during the early stages. However, this discard makes excellent pikelets.)

In the light of this I've updated the recipe (see below) - and I took several more pics:

The first two were cooked on top and the rest are just drying from the sides 
The third one turned over and the others continuing to dry from the edges 
All done - just need something on top...

...and covered with marmalade. Breakfast is ready!
Have to admit I found it hard to resist eating these just as soon as they come out of the frying pan. Had some for my pudding tonight, made some for my wife and made enough for tomorrow's breakfast.

June 2010.

Placed in the frying pan, a dessertspoon at a time
Oops, seems to be one missing!
There are few things easier than making pikelets (free-form crumpets).  It’s a good way into breadmaking for a beginner.

300ml lukewarm water
1 teaspoon yeast – any kind
Enough strong (breadmaking) flour - around 200g - to make a thickish paste

(Check here for a gluten-free version.)

Stir the water/yeast/flour mixture, adding more flour if it’s a bit thin – or more water if it’s a bit thick, and leave until you're ready to cook them.

When you're ready to go, lightly oil a frying pan and place over a medium heat.

When the pan is warm enough, place a spoonful of batter in the frying pan to see if the batter is the right consistency. If they spread across your frying pan the batter is too thin and you’ll need to add some more flour to thicken it. Cook them until the top has turned pale and is set in a mass of tiny holes.

As soon as the top is dry – and not before – turn them over to cook on the other side. They should be nicely brown on both sides.

Keep them warm in a folded cloth until they are all done.

For fruit pikelets, as in the pic, add a handful of sultanas after you’ve mixed the batter.

I made these last night and had half the batter left over for this morning’s breakfast. The fruit plumps up lovely.

These can also be made with self raising flour - in which case, simply mix the batter and go straight ahead.

Thursday, 20 June 2019


I was highly honoured to be asked to speak at the Bristol March for the Animals 2019 - even more so when I found out I was to be the last speaker. Not only that, I was on the same 'platform as Juliet Gellatley, founder of Viva.

Have to say I was very flattered when Juliet asked if she could have her picture taken with me. It was a wonderful day - and this was the highlight!

Here's my speech in full;

"My name’s Paul; I’m 81; I’ve been vegan for 15 years - and I’m on a mission!

A mission to prove that, on a vegan diet, you can be fit, healthy and strong, well into old age - should I ever get there!

More about that in a moment - a little about me, and how I became vegan. I gave up meat in the early 2000’s, because I wanted to avoid Mad Cow Disease - and it took me 2 years before I realised the truth behind the dairy and egg industries, and all the blinkers came off, and I went vegan - or should I say plant-based, for it was another 14 years before I became fully vegan. 

Fast forward to April last year. On the 28th of that month I attended my first Cube of Truth, organised by my good friend, Steve Clout - and on that day, my life changed forever! I’ve been a regular attender at Cubes all over the SW ever since - and I became an AV organiser a couple of months ago.

Now, I want to make up for lost time and do as much as I can. Not only that, I feel tremendously guilty about the animals that suffered on my behalf in the years before I gave up animal products. We here are all aware of the absolute torture and suffering that farmed - and other animals - go through, but of course not everybody does. So it’s incumbent on us, not just to go vegan, but to become a vegan activist. As Einstein said, “Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” It’s often said that being vegan is the least anyone can do - I would argue that being a vegan activist is the least anyone can do.

In my opinion, standing behind a mask in a Cube of Truth is one of the easiest way into activism. Whilst standing there you will hear the conversations going on around you, and you’ll begin to think to yourself - “I could have said that,” and it’s not long before you’re engaging with the public yourself. People will tell you that there are two parts to a Cube - there’s standing in the Cube - very important, this is what makes people curious and brings them in - and there’s the outreach, where other activists will generally educate people on the ways of veganism. But there’s a third, I think vital, component which comes after the Cube is finished - that’s the social bit, where you wind down, swap stories with like-minded folk, and generally get to know each other better. - and make lifelong friends. I would urge anyone to join us in a Cube of Truth - you’ll find us on Facebook. If you’re nervous about joining the Cube - and everyone is nervous to begin with - why not just come along to the after-Cube get-together? You’ll be welcomed with open arms by people you will grow to love and respect - I can guarantee it. I happen to be the oldest AV organiser in the world and my friend Mira Lubin, who is 14, is the youngest. It doesn’t matter what age you are - I’m living proof of this. It’s never too late to become a vegan activist! So you need to ask yourself, “What’s stopping YOU from becoming active?

My good friend, Alan Hutchison, Senior Lecturer in Happiness at Winchester University - yes, there is such a subject - maintains that I am the happiest bloke he knows. And I ask myself - just why is it that I feel so happy almost all of the time? Well I think it’s down to two reasons: Firstly, it’s the complete fulfilment I get from being an Animal Rights Activist, and the difference I feel I’m making ; Secondly,  I get to hang out with the most amazing group of people, whom I call my 2nd family. I now have friends all over the South West, from Plymouth and Barnstable to Cheltenham and Swindon - committed, caring, dedicated friends, and I consider myself so fortunate to have met them. I reckon I’ve had more hugs in the last 14 months than I had in the 80 years before that. So my message again, is: It’s not just, “It’s never too late to go vegan” - it’s never too late to become a vegan activist. 

Back to my mission - which is to prove that, as a vegan, you can be fit, healthy and strong, well into old age: A  couple of years ago, I raised some money for a couple  of local charities in Taunton by doing 1000 press ups in an hour. (It’s a lot easier than swimming the channel, or riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats!) Wanting to maintain the level of fitness I’d reached, I set myself the challenge of doing 1 million press ups between the ages of 80 and 90. I figured 100,000 a year, or roughly 8000 every month would do it. But, wanting to get ahead of the game, in case of ill-health, or holidays, I started doing sets of 1000, 2 or 3 times a week. It takes me roughly 40 minutes to do each set - 25 press ups every minute, and so far I’ve done over 200,000, 21 months into my challenge. At this rate, I’ll finish the 1 million 2 or 3 years early - then I’ll have to look around for another challenge. Maybe I’ll take up marathon running or something.

My name’s Paul; I’m 81; I’ve been vegan for 15 years - and I’m on a mission!"

I decided to leave this out of my speech:

[A word about my encounter with arthritis: Before I gave up meat, dairy and eggs, I suffered from osteoarthritis, which went into remission when I went plant-based. However, after several years, when my mantra then was ‘I don’t want another animal to die so that I can live’, I ate a couple of chicken breasts which were about to be thrown away. Immediately, my arthritis flared up again, and it took a couple of months for it to die back down again.]

More on my story here in Vegetarian for Life.

Here's an interview I did .with Michael Green, after the March

Thursday, 18 April 2019


These are some of the cakes and breads I've taken on my CubeofTruth adventures.
In this post:
Chocolate cake 
Summer fruit sponge cake (haven't shared this yet, but I intend to - it's just gorgeous)
Spicy fruit soda bread
2 'instant' sweets for afters (well, ready to eat in just a few minutes):
    Chocolate or ginger cake
    Banana fritters (with savoury variations)

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.

Note: I now make all my cakes in the microwave - only 6 minutes as against 45 or so minutes of oven time.

Here's the whole story, with links to the original recipe, a gluten-free alternative, vegan chocolate spread, and more.

Monday 15th April 2019
Breaking news: This is so good, nearly half the cake has gone already - and it's still warm!

Summer Fruit Sponge variation

160g self raising flour
140g sugar
25g olive oil
250g fruit puree*

Method as above - 6 minutes in the microwave.

*Fruit puree consisted of 100g dates, soaked overnight; 100g frozen blueberries; 100g frozen summer fruits; 1 banana; 5 stewed prunes and water. All blitzed in my NutriShot blender.

Next time, I think I'll add a separate amount of soaked/stewed dates instead of some of the sugar.

Spicy fruit bread

I'll post the recipe in here when I get time, but here's a link to an online soda bread recipe.

For a spicy fruit bread, instead of adding salt, add 1-2 tsps of whatever sweet spice you've got - mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. I always add 1/2 tsp of ground cloves, as well; 1 dessertspoon sugar, 100g sultanas or raisins, and 100g chopped dates. 

[More to come]

200g (1 mug) strong white flour 
teaspoon bouillon powder
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 large sun-dried tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
125ml (1/3rd mug) lukewarm water
1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast or level teaspoon of dried yeast

Rich tomato sauce
Nutritional yeast (nooch)
Sliced tomato
Several sliced mushrooms

1. Place the dried ingredients and the s-d-tomatoes into a mixing bowl. Stir the yeast into the sauce until it’s dissolved (dried yeast takes a little longer to dissolve than fresh) and add it to the flour. 

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, starting with the yeast, 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 – and stop before you get fed up!

4. Prepare your baking sheets, take the dough out of the mixing bowl and place it on your worktop. Divide the dough into 1 or 2 equal pieces and form each piece gently into a cob shape. Have plenty of flour to hand and liberally scatter flour over the dough and worktop. With a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough to the size of your baking sheets. 

5. Spread the pizza base(s) with the tomato sauce and sprinkle with nooch. If the nooch gets soaked up a bit and the sauce shows through, add a bit more nooch. Place slices of tomato and mushroom on top and sprinkle with herbs and black pepper.

6. Leave them to prove until the dough has become puffy at the edges.

7. Place in a hot oven, 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for 15-20 minutes, turning round halfway through if necessary. When they're done the pizzas will lift up all along one side when you check underneath, using a palette knife. The bottom should be browning from the edges.

2 quick puddings:
Chocolate or ginger cake

1. You want cake? You can be eating some in around 6 minutes of thinking of it:

In a cereal bowl place 4 dsps each of sugar and self raising flour - to this add a teaspoon of either cocoa powder or powdered ginger and stir. (You can always this adjust amount the next time you make it.) Then add around 6 dsps of water and one of oil (I use olive oil, 'cos that's all I have, but rapeseed or other oils will be fine.)
Now stir the mix thoroughly and microwave for 2 minutes. Now you have cake.

Banana fritters

Put a frying pan, with a little oil on to a medium heat. 
In a jug, place 1/2 cup of self raising flour and a dsp of sugar. Add enough water to make a paste - stir this to remove all the lumps. Then add a little more water to make a thick batter.
Slice a banana lengthways, then cut each slice into 2 or 3 pieces. Put the banana pieces into the batter and turn them over to coat both sides. Using a fork, lower each piece of battered banana into the frying pan and adjust the heat - you need it to be medium to high. Turn the banana over after a couple of minutes and fry the other side. You're looking for a golden brown on each side.

Variation: Exactly the same method can be used to make battered mushrooms. Except you would use salt (or half a vegetable Oxo cube) instead of sugar. And battered sausages.

Notes. Both these can be made with gluten free self raising flour.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

TOWARDS A VEGAN WORLD - Information as I come across it

As you can imagine, I get an enormous amount of info about the multifarious benefits of a vegan, or plant-based, diet. As I come across it, I shall post it on here:

"Meat is ridiculously inefficient' says British philosopher, Ray Monks. Not only meat - dairy, eggs and fish are also wasteful. Just to take one example: 

"A person who doesn't eat meat or dairy indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet (National Geographic, 2015). Per day!"

Gary Francione, Honorary Professor (Philosophy) at the  University of East Anglia, asks why the Green Party and Extinction Rebellion are ignoring the vegan solution.