Tag Archives: pepper

Ficelles [Thin Baguettes]


Ficelles are thin baguettes. They are absolutely gorgeous, extremely light and a wonderful accompaniment to soup! This recipe comes from Paul Hollywood’s excellent How To Bake, a book well worth investing in – there are so many recipes Whale & I want to make from it, everything is so tempting.

Mr Hollywood suggests using a mixer for this dough, however I used my hands and found it to be a very enjoyable dough to work with, even for a fairly novice breadmaker as myself! They’re relatively quick and painless to make (and even quicker to eat!)


250g strong white flour
200ml tepid water
5g fast-action yeast
5g salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Suggested toppings

Rosemary & Basil
Chilli Flakes & Cracked Black Pepper
Simple Sea Salt


Line a square/rectangular 2-3 litre plastic tub with oil – a standard Tupperware lunch-sized box will do the trick!

Sieve the flour into a bowl – I find using a heavy bottomed bowl makes working the dough easier – if it sticks it doesn’t tend to pick the bowl up so readily. Add the salt to one side of the flour and the yeast to the other.

Add the water approximately 30-40mls at a time. Use your hand as a dough hook, mixing the dough together. Once each 30/40ml of liquid has been absorbed, knead for a few minutes before adding the next amount of water. This process took me approximately 20-25 minutes, but the dough was quite flexible (if a little sticky at times) and easily workable. Alternatively use a dough hook at medium speed for 8-10 minutes.

Once all the water is incorporated you should have a soft, stretchy dough. Add the olive oil and incorporate as before, using your hand like a dough hook. I found I was able to knead entirely with one hand, whilst using the other to steady the bowl and I’m only little! This gives you the advantage of having at least one clean hand if you ever need to do something urgent, like answering the phone!

After 5 or so minutes working in the oil tip the dough into the oiled container, add the lid (though don’t press it shut) and leave for at least an hour. I left mine for approximately 2 hours, just on a work surface and it quadrupled in size!

Meanwhile line two baking trays with parchment. Once your dough has at least doubled, tip out onto a floured work surface but don’t knock back – you want to treat it as gently as possible to keep its airy texture. Add a little flour to the top of the dough too.

Pull out into a rough rectangle approximately 10cm by 20-25cm. Mr Hollywood suggests cutting along the long edge, however, from experience, I think it would be easier to cut along the short edge as the dough has a tendency to adhere to itself. Cut each strip at approximately 2-3cm width and gently stretch out each strip lengthways a little before placing on the baking trays. Make slight indentations all along with your finger, drizzle over a little olive oil and add your topping of choice.

Once all on the trays, cover with clingfilm and leave for a further half hour. Meanwhile preheat the over to 220oC/425oF/Gas Mark 7. Place the ficelles in the middle and cook for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Like I said, serve with soup and try not to scoff the whole batch in one go!



Sausage & Tomato Pasta


I’ve been having reservations about posting this since making it the other day. You see, our “About Us” clearly states that we are “Two students, bored with student food” and this, for all intensive purposes is student food. Maybe it should read “Two students, bored with average student food” as I feel that statement is more accurate.

I guess it all depends on your definition of student food, but to me it screams: quick, bland, microwaved (*shudder*). This recipe certainly is one of those things, in fact the only one that’s never a bad thing: it’s quick, approx 30 mins from cupboard to table. And I guess this is what persuaded me to finally post it – most people, student or not, are after quick eats quite often and this is a particularly tasty one. So let’s drop the pretensions and get on with cooking some straightforward, yumm-o food.


It’s a word. Deal with it.

Serves 4 comfortably


4 good sausages, cut into bite-size chunks
1-2 onions, sliced into quarter rings
1 red pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed/finely chopped
2 tins chopped tomatoes
250g pasta (use more if you want to bulk it up)
few handfuls frozen green beans
good glug white wine vinegar
good glug balsamic vinegar
good glug golden syrup
couple of good squeezes of tomato purée
1 bay leaf
handful fresh rosemary, oregano & thyme, all chopped

optional extras: chilli flakes/powder, cumin, basil, peas, sweetcorn…etc!


Heat oil in a large saucepan/deep frying pan over a high heat. Add the golden syrup and brown your sausages. After 5 or so minutes add the onion, then after a further 5 minutes lower the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook for a further couple of minutes.

Pour in the white wine vinegar (say 50ml) and reduce for a few minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes, purée, bay leaf, rosemary, oregano, thyme and a glug of balsamic (say 25ml). Season well. Put the kettle on (3/4 full should be ample) and when boiled add the water to another saucepan before throwing in your pasta. Add plenty of salt and a glug of oil and cook as per instructions on packet. Check hardness every so often – there’s nothing worse than mushy pasta!

Reduce the sauce for 15 minutes, tasting regularly to see if anything needs adjusting. Add the pepper and green beans and continue to cook until both tender (approx. 5 minutes). Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, give a really good stir to coat as much of the pasta as possible. I used fusili (not out of choice, just out of the fact that’s what was in the cupboard – I’m no pasta anorak!) and it works quite well as the thick sauce gets in all the spiral grooves.

Serve, topped with a little cheese, another splash of balsamic and maybe some fresh green herbs of your choosing. Just watch out for that bay leaf!

Caramelised Red Onion Chutney


That’s right folks, we’re back on the chutney bandwagon. This one is sweet, tangy and comes with a bit of a kick.

Makes 1½ lbs


7 red onions, chopped
2 white onions, chopped
1 pepper – red, yellow, orange, green, purple, whatever! – chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2-3 chilli peppers, finely chopped
120g dark brown sugar
275 ml balsamic vinegar
50ml red wine vinegar
4 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
3 bay leaves
stick of cinnamon


Again, apologies for all the chopping. It should look something like this by the end of it all:

If you’re not crying your eyes out with all those onions then you’re made of sturdier stuff than us!

Heat some oil on a low heat in a big pan and add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and cinnamon stick. Cook for 15-20 minutes until soft then add the pepper and chilli and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add all the vinegar and sugar and reduce, still on a low heat, until thick and sticky. Remove the bay leaves if they start to go too soggy. Spoon into sterilised jars or throw some straight onto a fat wedge of cheese and scoff shamelessly.


Balsamic Onion & Pepper Pizza


Friday nights are just not the same without pizza, but sometimes I like to cook pizza on other days too, such as Thursdays, or Mondays. Or, indeed Wednesdays. It doesn’t make the pizza any less enjoyable. Sometimes I like to make my own pizza and they definitely beat shop-bought simply because you can make it just the way you like it. There’s also the added bonus that, in theory, it’s healthier, so you can eat more of it. I use a standard pizza dough recipe that I copied from a recipe book before I left home. I have never experimented with other pizza dough recipes as I haven’t perfected the art of kneading just yet and I don’t think it would be a fair test of their tastiness. One day, I will find the best recipe from a nice Italian chef and I’ll make sure to write it down. Or marry him.

The best thing about making your own pizza is that you can pile on all your favourite toppings and even do half-and-half if two of you can’t quite agree. (Or you can’t quite agree with yourself). It’s the perfect recipe to use up any left-over bits and bobs in the fridge: cooked chicken, vegetables, ham, chillies, cheeses…you could even experiment with different herbs and flavours in the dough.

This is my personal favourite topping at the moment – caramelised onions and mixed peppers with a sprinkling of basil and loads of mozzarella.


225g strong white bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
1/2 tsp fast-acting dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp tomato puree
1 red onion, sliced according to preference
1 ball of mozzarella
1 tbsp olive oil
1 handful of mixed, frozen peppers (approx. one fresh pepper)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil (or chopped fresh if you have it)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (approx.)
pinch of salt and pepper


First, begin by making the dough. Weigh out and sieve the flour into a bowl, add the 1/2 tsp of salt and yeast and add the oil. Prepare 200ml of hand-hot water. Gradually add the water to a well in the centre of the flour and mix slowly. I suggest adding 50ml at a time until 150ml has been added, then slow down until you reach a firm and ever-so-slightly sticky mixture. I prefer working on the wetter side of doughy as you’re going to add a bit of flour as you knead and it is more difficult to add water as you knead.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface for around ten minutes (the idea of kneading is to gently stretch the dough in all different directions to make it easier for bubbles to form within the gluten mesh-like structure). After kneading, place the dough in an oiled bowl and ensure that all sides of the ball are covered. Cover the top of the bowl with a tea-towel or cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for around an hour or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan. Slice the onion and gently fry for around a minute. Add the peppers (frozen or otherwise) and allow them to soften slightly. Sprinkle in the sugar and basil and add a small pinch of salt and pepper to remind it that it’s dinner, not pudding.  Pour in the balsamic vinegar and allow it to reduce slightly and turn off the heat when the veg is soft and the sauce is thick.

After proving, knock back (knock back (vb.): to hit violently, smack around on the work surface, punch repeatedly whilst imagining someone you don’t like) the dough and shape your pizza. This amount of dough should make one large or two small pizzas. Place on a baking tray and spread some tomato puree on the top of each. Here you could use passata or a jar of tomatoey sauce, but I often find they make a soggy pizza, so unless you want to go all out and reduce it down to make it thicker, just use puree.

Slice the mozzarella ball and scatter around half the ball over the pizza(s). Spread the topping over the bases evenly and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake in the oven at 180° for around 15 minutes until the cheese is nicely melted and the base is slightly brown.

Best served on a Friday, in front of the television. Leftovers (should you be lucky enough to have any) make a good Saturday morning breakfast and a great pack-lunch.