River Cottage Bread Handbook
About Me: The River Cottage Bread Handbook examines the key ingredients in baking (flour, yeast, salt and water), explains the science behind the alchemic processes, and advises on the right kit to get started. This book demonstrates how to make yeast and non-yeast breads, as well as enriched doughs and home-started sourdough, and includes sixty recipes.
For this shocking-purple variation of the classic chickpea dip, bread is used as a thickener because beetroot makes a thinner purée than chickpeas. I’ve given exact quantities here, but the way to make houmous is to add the ingredients a little at a time, tasting and tweaking as you go, until you think it is perfect. You could make a larger batch – it will sit quite happily for several days in the fridge, ready to dip raw vegetables into when you fancy a snack.
This Tuscan bread salad is excellent eaten on its own for lunch, but also just right with barbecued food, or anything else you want to eat outdoors with a bottle of wine on a hot summer’s day. As with all peasant food, there are limitless variations, so feel free to adjust this recipe. That said, I would never attempt to make it if I didn’t have some really good ripe tomatoes and decent extra virgin olive oil. ￼
This is quite different from a traditional thick Scottish shortbread. Rather than rubbing butter into flour then adding sugar in the usual way, we cream the butter with the sugar first as you would for a sponge cake, which makes the mixture really light. We also add egg yolks, and roll the dough out thinly – to make rich, delicate biscuits.
This is a rural Devon, River Cottage version of the classic Italian sauce. We substitute nettles, rapeseed oil, Cheddar and breadcrumbs for basil, olive oil, Parmesan and pine nuts. Use it wherever you would use pesto – it is excellent swirled on top of creamy soups, or tossed through pasta.
Freshly baked or toasted, I love these buns and bake a batch whenever it takes my fancy, leaving off the crosses if it isn’t Easter. I also like to vary the dried fruit – a mix of chopped dates, cranberries, apricots and cherries is particularly good.
Focaccia is excellent sharing bread for serving with supper, and is really easy to make. You can certainly miss out the rosemary, and you don’t have to sprinkle the top with salt, though it is authentic. You could expand this recipe and experiment as I have often done, mixing various herbs and other flavourings into the actual dough, though I think you’d have to ask an Italian if you can still call it focaccia. You could use a food mixer to knead this soft dough.