Bread 2: Things that are like bread but easier

If you’d like to dip a toe into breadmaking (THIS IS METAPHORICAL DON’T REALLY DIP YOUR TOE IN), the simplest place to start is with some kind of flatbreads. Humans have been making this kind of thing for as long as we’ve had agriculture, and most countries have their own version, all of which are variations on the very simple theme of mixing flour and water, and cooking it on a flat surface.

The very easiest bread-like thing I know how to make is a kind of tortilla or wrap. It uses ordinary flour (not bread flour) mixed with water, no yeast, and needs only a tiny bit of mixing and rolling. The short version: mix 3 parts bread to 1 part water, wait a bit, roll them out then dry fry them.

Detailed instructions for wraps and a bit of chat here.

Pitta breads are a step closer to making proper loaves of bread: they involve bread flour and yeast, and are a bit more fiddly, though still not difficult. It’s almost impossible to get them wrong – they can be a funny shape, or not rise much, or stick to the work surface when you roll them out, and still you’ll have perfectly edible bread.

A note on ingredients: “strong flour” and “bread flour” are interchangeable terms for flour made from wheat with a high gluten content, which creates a better structure for yeast-risen bread; it can be white or wholemeal, and you can get “granary” versions with all kinds of bits and pieces added to them. You can use any of these flours, though white with no added bits is easiest to work with if you’re a beginner. For pitta bread I like the taste of wholemeal bread flour.

I buy dried instant yeast, so that’s what I mean in all the recipes here; if you are using fresh yeast you’ll have to adapt the process and quantities. In a later post I’ll talk about using a sourdough yeast.

Pitta recipe

  • In a mixing bowl, combine 8oz/200g/1.5 cups of strong flour with a quarter of a teaspoon each of yeast and salt, and a quarter of a pint/100ml/half a cup of water.
  • Mix them together well – add a little bit more water if your mixture isn’t coming together – and knead for a few minutes until the dough is smooth. You don’t need any very special technique to knead: just keep knocking, punching or pushing the dough around in the mixing bowl or on your work surface. Don’t be gentle with it, you can’t overdo it.
  • Leave it in the bowl, with a cloth over the top if you like, for about an hour. The dough should rise and get bigger.
  • Knead it again: you’re just aiming to knock the air out of it and to work the mixture a bit to develop the strands of gluten that will give the bread its structure. Divide it into 6 equal-sized balls and roll them out on a floured work surface. Rolling over each ball in one direction will make it into the distinctive elongated oval shape of pitta pockets. Leave them again for an hour or so.
  • When you’re ready to cook them, lightly grease a heavy, flat, frying pan. Heat the pan until it’s very hot, keep it on a moderate heat, and put as many pittas in the pan as you can comfortably fit in there.
  • After about a minute in the pan, each pitta will start to puff up or will have small bubbles in it. Turn it over and cook for about the same time on the other side, then remove from the pan; repeat until they’re all done.
  • You can eat them as they are, but I prefer to put them in the toaster: they will usually puff up and create a space inside that will act as a pocket. You can toast them very briefly so they stay soft, or leave them in for longer to make them crispy.

I did have a lovely photo of rolled-out pittas to include here, but my children borrowed my tablet to make stop-motion animations and the picture has gone missing – I’ll have to make pittas again so I can take another photo.

While we’re on the subject of quick bread, when I was growing up, if we ran out of bread my mum would sometimes make soda bread, which is very quick and also tasty. I’ve never made it myself so don’t have a recipe to pass on; maybe I’ll experiment with it some time and report back.

Next time: the easiest way to make a loaf of bread.

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Bread 1: Why would anyone make bread?

You do not have to make bread.

You can buy really cheap bread, or really expensive bread, or anything in between. You can buy bread in supermarkets or convenience stores or bakeries or at markets. You can decide not to eat bread at all; I’d cheerfully give up the taste and texture of bread, though I’d miss the convenience. You can buy organic sourdough or cheap white sliced or rosemary ciabatta or garlic naan. It’s all good.

I want to say a bit about why I make bread, but I feel like I have to start by pointing out that I’m not looking to convert anyone, or to defend a position, or to criticise anyone who doesn’t do the same. I don’t know why talking about bread makes me more nervous than, for example, soup, or cake, or jam. Somehow it feels like choosing a side in The Great Food Debate: I’ve read so many discussions about food snobbery and convenience and self-sufficiency and the pros and cons of widely-available cheap foods, and I don’t want to pick a team. I know the personal is political, but sometimes I just want a sandwich.

Having said all of that, probably 95% of the bread I eat nowadays is homemade, and I wanted to talk about why. Fifteen or so years ago, when breadmakers were starting to be cheap and widely available in the UK, we were given one as a gift. We lived a long way from the shops, and it was a really convenient way to not run out of bread. Through trial and error we discovered that most of the ingredients in the instruction booklet were unnecessary; as long as we had flour and yeast, we could always make more bread. I could use the last slice to make my breakfast, and have a new loaf ready by lunchtime. We could use a timer to run it overnight, and wake up to fresh bread on a Saturday morning.

So we got into the habit of using it all the time, then it broke. We managed to get a spare part and fix it, but after a few months it broke again. By then, the manufacturers weren’t bothering to sell spare parts any more, because the whole machines were so cheap that people just bought a new one. That seemed daft, and by that time we knew the bread machine’s basic recipe off by heart, so we thought we’d have a go at doing it ourselves. And it worked fine, and didn’t have the annoying hole that bread machines leave in the middle of a loaf; and we experimented, and found shortcuts and tricks and techniques that made it work even better.

I live five minutes from a supermarket with an in-store bakery, but I still make most of my bread. These are my reasons:

  • I enjoy making it. The fun creative bit of coming up with new ideas, but also the routine physical acts of kneading and shaping the dough; the magic of a loaf rising in the tin; the smell of fresh bread. And of course…
  • I enjoy eating it. Like I said, I could go without bread if I had to, unlike others in my house who would happily eat it at every meal; but if I’m going to eat bread, I want to enjoy it. I want to dip chewy, nutty wholemeal bread in my soup, or put ripe brie on walnut bread, or toast a slice of cinnamon bread and melt butter on it. Other times I want cheap white sliced bread from the supermarket, toasted and spread with butter and marmite.
  • It’s well-behaved. Homemade bread does different things from bought bread: it rarely goes mouldy, but does dry out, at which point it can be used for other things (post about bread leftovers coming later). It’s more robust, so easier to spread butter on and to use in cooking.
  • It’s easier to digest. There’s a whole argument to be had about industrial breadmaking, rapid rising, fermentation and all the rest, which I won’t get into here (though in a later post I’ll recommend some books if you want technical details). I don’t know about that, but I do know that as much as I love soft, squidgy white bread from the supermarket bakery, there’s only so much of it I can eat before it starts to feel like it’s collecting in the middle of my ribcage.
  • I don’t have to do it. Is that weird? Sometimes when we’re near the end of a loaf, I think “I’ve got to make some more bread”, and instantly I don’t want to do it. If it’s an obligation, it’s drudgery, and I push back against it. When I remember that I really don’t have to do it, that frees me up to choose to do it if I want to, or to walk to the shop if I prefer.

I don’t do it because it’s cheaper: it probably is, like for like, particularly if you have the money and storage space to buy flour in bulk quantities, but it’s not a huge difference. I don’t do it because it’s somehow morally better, or nutritionally superior; I know people will argue the case both ways, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m just having fun.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll post some very basic bread recipes, related recipes like pizza bases and breadsticks, and some good books on bread. I’ll link them all here once they’re posted. Coming up next: how to make some really easy things that are like bread, but simpler.

Book out now!

If you’re here for the food, skip the next couple of paragraphs and go right to the end – I have a treat for you. But in case there are any parents or parents-to-be reading this, I wanted to let you know about the book I’ve just published in connection with my other site, Have The Fourth One First.

I have four children, which adds up to something like a thousand years of parenting (OK, maybe it just feels like that). I’ve made lots of mistakes and wrong turnings over the years, and I make no claim to have it all sorted now (my children would certainly tell you otherwise), but I have a lot more experience, knowledge and confidence now that I wish I’d had right from the start. So I’m doing the next best thing: I’ve written it all down so that other people can have it. I’ve collected together all the ideas and information that has helped me, and other families, through everything from pregnancy and babyhood right into older childhood. Not all of it will work for you, but I promise you’ll find something you’ve never read before that makes parenting just a little bit easier.

Available now in paperback and ebook on Amazon. Please read and review, and contact me with any comments!

And if you just want something wonderful to eat, I would like to point you in the direction of these apple brownies. I don’t know what makes them brownies rather than cake, as there’s no chocolate involved, but they have a wonderful fudgy texture and are amazing hot or cold. They get eaten as fast as I can make them, mostly by me. Enjoy!

Bread and butter pudding

…or, when frugality gets wasteful.

Long story, we came away from a family party with a huge loaf of white bread – the supermarket in-store bakery kind, which is known in my family as “pull bread” because my cousin used to eat an entire loaf by pulling the squishy white insides out until all she had left was an empty crust. I quite like it as toast, but several people in the family find it gives them stomach ache, and anyway we had loads of other bread in the house already.

Perfect condition for a bread and butter pudding, which is a recipe I love because you can vague and approximate with it and adapt it to your preferences or the contents of your cupboards. This is how it goes:

  • Butter an ovenproof dish
  • Break your bread into chunks and throw them in haphazardly, or slice it and layer it neatly – just make sure you don’t have large chunks of crust, as they won’t soak up the custard.
  • If you want, you can throw in some sultanas in between the bits of bread, or spread the bread with jam or lemon curd, or muddle in some orange zest or chocolate chips. The top layer should be basically just bread, as any other ingredients will scorch if they are uncovered.
  • Make your custard. For every two pints of milk, use at least one egg and a tablespoonful of sugar – but you can use lots more eggs to make it richer, and more sugar to make it sweeter (obvs). I happen to have a 1 litre measuring jug, so I mix two eggs and half a cup of sugar (approximately) in the bottom of that then fill it with milk. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t very thoroughly mixed.
  • Pour the custard mix over the bread and leave it to soak in for a few hours, ideally. If you’re using a lot of bread you may need to make another batch of custard and top it up. For my 800g loaf I would guess I used 4 pints of milk and 5 eggs in total.
  • When you’re ready to bake it, sprinkle some sugar over it, then cover the top to begin with, so it doesn’t burn. If you don’t have a lid for your dish, use silver foil.
  • Put it in the oven at a medium temperature (maybe 170°C/325°F, but it’s quite adaptable if you need a different temperature to cook something else at the same time) for a total of about 45 minutes. For the last ten to twenty minutes, take the lid or foil off so the top can go brown.
  • When it’s ready to come out, it should have risen up, and it may be a bit wobbly or squidgy but with no liquid visible. You can eat it hot straight from the oven, or cold the next day for breakfast, and it also reheats quite well in the oven or microwave. You can make it with any leftover bread, or baguette, or rolls, or croissants or brioche or pain au chocolat…

All of which is wonderful, except that there were a lot of other things in the oven at the same time, and, naming no names, somebody dropped the huge glass dish on the floor, and there was a huge mess of broken glass and ruined pudding.

After spending the next couple of days pining for the pudding I’d been looking forward to, I was passing the supermarket just before closing time and rushed in to get some of the discounted bread from the bakery when they were clearing out at the end of the day. Several more eggs, more pints of milk, and finally we got our bread and butter pudding. Hardly frugal, or even waste-reducing, but it was worth it. I didn’t get a chance to photograph it until my family had rushed at it and eaten half of it, so I guess it was a success.

Lemon ice cream

Is January the wrong time to talk about ice cream? Maybe it’s too cold, maybe you’ve made all kinds of new year’s resolutions about fat or sugar, maybe you’re doing Veganuary… Well, one of the great things about ice cream is that you can make some today and eat it next week, or in a couple of months, so if you have a free moment maybe you could put this together and stash it away for the spring that will eventually come, or so you’ve got something really lovely with which to break your resolutions or to start your meat and dairy binge on the first day of February.

Me, I’ve just got a pot of cream in the fridge that’s approaching its use-by date.

I use a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book How To Eat, which I adapted a few years ago when I got part way through making it and discovered I didn’t have enough cream. I made up the difference with yogurt, and discovered that I preferred it that way: the slight sourness of yogurt makes a more interesting end result than the full-on fatty sweetness of using only cream. Obviously, if you like a bit of fatty sweetness, just use cream and skip the stage with the yogurt.

This recipe doesn’t use an ice cream maker, so you’ll need to get it out of the freezer to soften. Twenty minutes in the fridge while you eat your main course should be enough. Bear in mind that every time you do this then refreeze it, it will become more solid, so it may be worth freezing it in several small containers rather than one big one. Shallower is better, to allow it to soften right through. I assume you could just put it in a ice cream churn, too, instead of freezing it in a tub.

I don’t feel too bad about sharing Nigella Lawson’s recipe here, for two reasons. One, I’ve adapted both the ingredients and the method, and two, she admits in the book she took it from Shona Crawford Poole’s book Iced Delights.

Lemon ice cream recipe

  • 2-3 lemons
  • 170g / 6oz sugar
  • 227ml / 8 fl oz / 1 cup double cream
  • 227ml / 8 fl oz / 1 cup yogurt

Finely grate the lemon zest; if you don’t have a fine grater, grate it as well as you can then chop it very finely with a knife. Squeeze as much juice out of the lemons as you can (this is easier if they’re at room temperature than if they’ve just come out of the fridge, and you can also roll them between your hands before cutting them open).

Put the sugar in a smal bowl with the juice and zest, and leave it for anything from half an hour to overnight.

Whisk the cream until it’s holding soft peaks, then whisk in the lemony sugar. Then fold in the yogurt, and transfer the mixture to the containers. Freeze.

Some notes on ingredients:

For some reason the original recipe wants the zest of two lemons but the juice of three. This seems ridiculous to me, and I can’t imagine it makes much difference, so I use the zest and juice of three, if I have them, or two if I don’t. I would always prefer to err on the side of lemoniness. The original recipe specifies icing sugar, though if you have plenty of time to leave it dissolving in the lemon juice I think you could use caster sugar. And I use 227ml of cream because that’s the size of tub I usually buy, so I use a whole pot of cream then use the empty pot to measure the yogurt. But it’s conveniently nearly the same as a US cup measure, so use that if it works for you. Or if your pots of cream are slightly bigger or slightly smaller, just adjust the yogurt to make the same total amount.

Chicken noodle soup

It’s that time of year again, at least where I live: the weather is cold and gloomy, it’s dark when I get up and dark long before I go to bed, the vegetable drawer is full of uninspiring muddy roots and cabbages, and I don’t feel inspired to do much cooking.

It’s not for nothing that chicken soup has become synonymous with nurture. It’s also really very easy to make, and will make your house smell delicious three times: the first time when you roast a chicken for lunch, the second when you use the chicken leftovers to make stock, and the third when you make and eat chicken soup.

To make stock you’ll need chicken bones. If you ever roast a whole chicken, the picked-clean bones can go straight into a saucepan, ideally with a peeled and halved onion and a peeled carrot, but fine without. If you’re super organised, maybe you saved the cooking water from the vegetables that you served with the roast chicken, and you can use that, but otherwise just boil some water and pour it over the bones. Simmer for a couple of hours to get all the flavour out of the bones.

If your chicken came with giblets, you can put everything except the liver in the stock pot (cook the liver and eat it as a starter!). If you aren’t roasting a whole chicken, but are eating a few wings or a couple of thighs or whatever, you can save bones in the freezer in dribs and drabs until you have enough to bother with.

Start with some vegetables: the dullest and least inspiring vegetables can be uplifted by the stock. I always start by lightly frying any combination of onion, garlic, leek, or celery that I happen to have. When those are soft, add any other vegetables you might use (carrot, cabbage, kale or red pepper for example), and turn them briefly in the hot pan before adding the stock. Bring it to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are nearly ready. Then add whatever kind of noodles you have – I love pad thai noodles, or we have also used flat rice noodles which are gluten free. Cooking the noodles in rice makes them gloriously silky and they taste amazing; and they don’t stick together like they sometimes do if you boil and drain them. If you want to use frozen sweetcorn or peas, or beansprouts, now is a good time to add them too.

As soon as the noodles are cooked – which usually only takes a couple of minutes – serve the soup. I like to add soy sauce, and it’s also good with a bit of lemon juice, chilli oil, or sweet chilli sauce. If you have any spare meat from picking the carcass clean for stock, throw that in too.

Tips for better shortcrust pastry

Riverford put the idea of mince pies in all our minds, so we caved and made our first batch this week; it isn’t even December yet. We haven’t started mulling wine yet, but I’d better delay that a while longer: I can’t quite persuade myself it’s alcoholic, despite the added brandy, so I don’t treat it with the caution that I would, for example, room-temperature red wine, and everything becomes a bit festive and unfocused. Fine on Christmas Eve, but not so great on a Tuesday afternoon in November.

It’s been a while since I made pastry, and I was so pleased with how this batch turned out, despite waiting a couple of days in the fridge then having to be microwaved to get it soft enough to roll out! I almost always use wholemeal flour for pastry, I think it has a much more interesting taste and a better texture. We use Doves Farm, because it’s organic and tastes good and we can buy it in bulk from Suma for a reasonable price.

For mince pies I love thin, crisp shortcrust pastry, but when pastry is rolled out really thin, it can stick to the work surface or be too fragile to handle. I make mince pies in patty pans (bun tins with twelve little cups in) and I use circular cookie cutters to cut out the pastry, a bigger one for the bottom and a little one for the top. Well, when we’re feeling fancy I cut little stars for the tops, but you have to be really careful not to burn the mincemeat if it isn’t completely covered, so for workaday mince pies I just make circular lids.

To get a really thin pastry case without making the pastry too fragile to handle, I roll the pastry as thin as I can easily manage without it becoming brittle. Then, if I’m not too fussed about getting a tidy finish, I use the next size down of circle, so the circles for the bases and lids come out too small. Then I separate them out and roll them again, so they get both bigger and thinner – it’s far easier to handle the thin ready-cut circles than the whole batch of pastry. They go a bit oval, but it works fine.

If I want them to look neater and I’m feeling patient enough for a bit of extra messing about, I use the right size of cutter in the first place. I re-roll the cut circles as above, then re-cut them with the appropriate cutters. This means ending up with more offcuts, which all get clumped back together again and rolled again and cut into new circles, so they aren’t wasted, but it needs a light touch because over-handling pastry can make it tough and hard to work with.

If, on the other hand, you like chunky pastry, go ahead and roll it as thick as you like, or just press it into the patty pans like play dough without bothering to roll it.

And by the way, if your circles of pastry do stick to the work surface, we have a great thing called a scotch scraper which is basically a small flat piece of plastic with one curved edge, and is phenomenally useful for all sorts of things related to bread and dough. It’s thinner than any spatula I’ve ever owned so works well for getting under pastry without breaking it.

If you want some pastry basics, take a look here. Variations on mincemeat here and here.

It’s beginning to look a lot like… mincemeat.

It’s suddenly getting very cold at night; there is ice on the windows some mornings. My children, usually happy in as few clothes as possible, are voluntarily putting on jumpers and sometimes even socks. We’re down to our last few stored apples, and our vegetable drawer could accurately be described as “seven different things that are all basically cabbage”. Every weekend from here to 2019 is fully booked already. All of which is to say that my thoughts are turning very, very slowly towards Christmas. I know, it would be lovely not to think about it for a couple more weeks until the advent calendars are on the mantelpiece, and not really think about it in earnest until mid-December, and for all the cards and presents and food and decorations to be magicked into existence. Sadly, although Santa is pretty reliable for filling stockings, I don’t trust him to fill the cupboards and the fridge, so it’s time to get to work. I’ve been helped along by some mince pies, sent by the lovely people at Riverford: my first mince pie of the year and a very nice one, too. These ones are organic and vegetarian, and they also sell a vegan version.

So it’s time to make our first batch. I’ve posted our regular mincemeat recipe before, but this year we struggled to find time to make it while the apples were still fresh. Worried that they’d all go off before we got a chance, my husband cooked them all up in our hugest preserving pan, so we could put off making decisions about them for a bit longer. We kept the stewed apple in the fridge for couple of days until we had a bit more time, then he used it as the basis for mincemeat: add lots of sultanas, spices, orange zest, and some alcohol. Instead of sugar we used honey, as we’ve got plenty.

Unlike our usual recipe, it needs to be kept in the fridge. It smells good, but my next job is to make a batch of pastry and try it out.

Cookbooks for older children

Following my last post about cookbooks for young children, I wanted to follow up with some for older children. Except… we don’t have many. We have two “family” cookbooks and one aimed at teenagers, but in practice they’re used by adults more than children in this house; maybe that will change as the children get a bit older. I’ll tell you about them anyway, because I think they’re good books.

The River Cottage Family Cookbook claims that it’s for “anyone in the family” to use, and that children aged 10-12 and upwards (isn’t that the same as 10 and upwards?) should be able to cook from it without help. The recipes are divided onto rough groups by main ingredient – flour, milk, meat, sugar etc – and there are some useful basics in there like soda bread, pizza dough, Victoria sponge, to name just a few from the Flour chapter. Personally I think my children might be more inspired to cook from it if there were pictures for each recipe and a bit less chat in between, but as they get older they might be more inclined to sit down and read the whole thing until they find something that interests them.

The Family Cooks is aimed at parents, but I’m including it here because it’s all about food that children might realistically eat at normal mealtimes, and plenty of the recipes are extremely simple because they’re designed to be put on a weekday dinner table within ten minutes of walking in the door. Each recipe has one clear photo of the finished product, and a set of tips at the foot of the page on how you could vary the recipe and on which bits of the process are best for involving younger children. It’s very much focused on cooking from scratch using wholefood ingredients, and has been helpful for coming up with new ways to eat vegetables that we get tired of (cauliflower popcorn, kneaded kale and sweet potato soup with miso are some recipes we’ve loved).

Cooking Up A Storm is endorsed by Jamie Oliver and has some of the same “wotcha, geezer” style to it, which grates a bit. The recipes themselves are good, though, clearly explained and realistically cookable and eatable by the target audience. There are plenty of pictures but, one of my bugbears in cookbooks, I’d rather see more photos of the finished dishes and fewer of the chef having a laugh with his mates, or juggling oranges, or dressing up for a party. Is it weird that I want all the pictures in a cookbook to at least have some food in them? Also I’m fighting the urge to go through the book with a permanent marker and cross out all the stupid banter about “girls’ food” and mums fussing about and all the rest, leaving only the perfectly serviceable recipes.

In practice, when my oldest daughter (nearly 12) wants to cook, one of three things happens. One, she decides what she wants to make and we find a recipe on the internet. Two, she wants to make one of the things that we regularly cook and eat at home, so she asks me to stay with her and give instructions, and makes me promise not to interfere. Three, she uses something from the collection of written-out recipes that she’s been collecting since she did her Cook badge at Brownies four years ago. I know there are many more high-tech ways of collecting recipes, but an A5 sized ringbinder of bits of paper with recipes handwritten on them works fine for her (and for me; I’ve got my own very similar folder, though the recipes in it are a bit different). It’s been really useful for her to have some basics written out in detail – white sauce, vegetable soup, even how to make a cup of tea. Her collection is the kind of things that I can now make without a recipe, and that I use all the time. Maybe she should compile them into a cookbook…

I’ll get my coat…

After I posted about children’s cookbooks last week, my six-year-old daughter decided it was her turn to make dinner. She found a recipe in the Usborne First Cookbook for fish in breadcrumbs, so I dashed to the shops for some fish but they didn’t have place or sole fillets as recommended in the recipe, so I got some plain white fish (coley) and diced it.

As we were coating the fish in breadcrumbs I thought about what a useful technique this, for turning more or less anything from ingredient into meal: not only most kinds of filleted fish but meat or vegetables or cheese or anything you happen to have. I added a step to the recipe, because I find coating in flour helps the breadcrumbs to stick, but it’s optional. Read on for tips on making breadcrumbs, and on using up the leftovers from this process.

  • Cut your fish (or whatever) into strips or chunks of a size that won’t take too long to cook thoroughly in the frying pan – fish fillets are fine whole, but something like chicken breast needs to be cut smaller.
  • Get three plates or shallow dishes. On the first, put a layer of flour, just enough to cover the bottom. On the second, beat an egg; on the third, spread out a layer of breadcrumbs.
  • Drop a few pieces of fish onto the first plate and turn them over until they’re coated with flour. Transfer them all to the egg plate and do the same; then, finally, do the same with the breadcrumbs. Do the same with all the pieces: flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.
  • If you want a really thick coating, repeat the second and third plates: so the whole process is flour, egg, breadcrumbs, egg, breadcrumbs. Top up the plates as necessary.
  • Melt butter in a pan, or heat some oil if you prefer. When the pan is really hot, put a few pieces in, but don’t overcrowd the pan or they won’t be crispy. Cook for a few minutes until the breadcrumbs are going golden brown, then turn over and cook on the other side. When those ones are done, either eat them while you cook the next batch, or put them on a tray in a hot oven to keep them warm. If you want, you can prepare lots like this and keep them in the fridge until you’re ready, then heat them all up on a baking tray in the oven at the same time.

On breadcrumbs: if your bread goes stale and dry, you can break it into chunks and whizz it in a food processor. Alternatively, you can crush cornflakes or oat cakes, or use bought breadcrumbs.

On leftovers: it’s almost impossible to make an accurate guess at how much you’ll need of each thing, so when you’ve finished your three-plate process, you will probably have some slightly fishy flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Mis the whole lot together – if it’s too dry to stir, add a bit of milk, or another egg, and if it’s very runny you can add flour but it’s not essential. Drop splotches of this batter into your hot pan or scoop chunks of it if it’s thick) and cook on both sides until golden, and you have some tasty little pancakey, sconey things to round off your meal.