ROSEMARY AND CRANBERRY SODA BREAD

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • · 450g (1lb) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • · 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • · 1 tsp salt
  • · 100g (4oz) dried cranberries
  • · 4 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped and finely chopped
  • · 350ml (12fl oz) buttermilk, plus a little extra if necessary
  • · butter, to serve

Method:

· Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/gas mark 7).

· Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl.

· Stir the cranberries and rosemary through and make a well in the centre.

· Add the buttermilk and, using a large spoon, mix gently and quickly until you have achieved nice soft dough.

· Add a little bit more buttermilk if necessary, until the dough binds together without being sloppy.

· Knead the dough very lightly on a lightly floured surface

· Shape into a round that is roughly 15cm (6in) in size.

· Place on a non-stick baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cut a deep cross in the top.

· Bake at 220° C (425°F/gas mark 7 for 15 minutes

· Reduce the temperature to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6) and bake for another 20–25 minutes, until the loaf is evenly golden and crusty.

· To check that the bread is properly cooked, tap the base – it should sound hollow. If it doesn't, return it to the oven for another 5 minutes.

· Transfer the cooked soda bread to a wire rack and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. This bread is best eaten while it’s still warm.

Neven’s Tip: This bread is best made fresh, but it can be made in advance and frozen.


Smoked Bacon and Tomato Pizza Bread

This Italian flat bread is really easy to make and will taste so much better than any of the shop-bought focaccia-style breads which can be hard to find and are normally very expensive. You can vary the toppings but be careful to go light on them, so as not to load down the tasty base. For a slightly different result, after punching down the risen dough you can knead in two teaspoons of chopped fresh rosemary or thyme, or even a handful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes or black olives. After the second rising push deep dimples all over the risen dough with your fingers and scatter over a little more herbs, coarse sea salt and add a good drizzle of olive oil. Bake the focaccia as described below.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 12oz / 350g strong plain bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons fast action dried yeast (7g sachet)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 4fl oz / 120ml tepid milk
  • 1/4 pint / 150ml tepid water

For the Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 14fl oz / 400ml passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons torn fresh basil

For the Topping

  • 8 smoked streaky bacon rashers
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
  • 2oz / 50g Cheddar, finely grated
  • 4 tablespoons homemade basil pesto (see tip) or shop-bought
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Sieve the flour into a large bowl with one teaspoon of salt and stir in the dried yeast. Make a well in the centre and pour the oil, tepid milk and water in and mix to a smooth dough.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead to 5-10 minutes, pushing and stretching the dough until smooth and elastic. Alternatively use a food mixer with the dough hook attached and set on a low speed - it saves quite a bit of elbow grease.

Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place for 1 hour until the dough has almost doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and cook the fresh tomatoes and garlic for 4-5 minutes, until softened and pulpy, stirring occasionally. Add the passata, tomato puree and basil and simmer for about 45 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Season to taste and leave to cool.

Knock the risen dough back punching it lightly to knock out large air bubbles and knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough to fit a 15in x 11in / 37.5cm x 27.5cm baking tray (Swiss roll tin). Transfer the dough into the tray with a rolling pin and gently press in the edges to fit up the sides. Spread the tomato sauce over the dough, leaving a 1/2in / 1cm border around the edge. Sprinkle the onion on top and then scatter over the Cheddar. Cover with a tea towel and set aside for another 30 minutes to rise a little.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Bake the pizza bread for 15-20 minutes until bubbling and cooked through.

Preheat the grill to medium. Arrange the bacon rashers on a grill rack and grill for a few minutes each side until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and then chop into pieces.

To Serve Loosen the pizza bread from the baking tray and slide out on to a chopping board. Sprinkle over the chopped bacon and drizzle the pesto on top, then cut into slices. Pile into a bread basket and place on the table to allow people to help themselves.

Tip To make your own basil pesto, place two good handfuls of basil leaves in a food processor or liquidiser with two peeled garlic cloves, a couple of tablespoons of toasted pine nuts and pour in enough olive oil through the feeder tube to make a smooth puree – 6fl oz should be about right. Season to taste. Store in a screw-topped jar in the fridge for up to one week

Pesto

  • 2 bunches basil
  • 3oz grated Parmesan
  • 2oz Pine kernels
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 0.5 pint olive oil
  • Seasoning

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend to the desired consistency