Garlicky, herby, cheesey, buttery ‘bookshelf’ bread for tearing and sharing


I had rather lost my way regarding my blog and even my food over the last couple of months. If you get notifications for my posts, perhaps you’ve realised there’s been a vacuum… at least, I hope you’ve noticed. Maybe you haven’t! I’ve even been toying whether to delete this blog and pack up writing completely of late. I have stopped short of doing anything too hasty as I realised it might well be just a case of the January blues.

I do get severely affected by the dark days, do you? I know almost everyone does to some extent (humans need some sunlight) but I seem to get quite an extreme version. There have also been a few trials and tribulations recently, so baking and the blog had to a back seat naturally, and then, frankly, I just couldn’t find the impetus to jump straight back in. I actually took up a few things that I like doing that I’d dropped which were more mindful, such as crochet and calligraphy, in place of baking and writing for the blog. The idea was to achieve some head space. I didn’t stop baking and cooking, just the things I produced were more functional: items we needed to eat like a standard family loaf, a pie or fresh pasta for dinner and a box of shortbread.

Anyway, I think this is positive that I’m here! Perhaps I just needed a break and a freshly picked bunch of perspective. And, I rekindled a couple of old skills in crocheting and calligraphy-ing. I also took time to make a few backdrops and sort out all my sewing and crafting kit ready to do some more things. That has all actually made me think about adding a few more craft-based posts in here, so maybe it’s been a positive break after all.

I started writing this recipe up last autumn and, with a few remakes of the loaf over the last week, I thought this comforting, fun-to-make bake might be a good way back for me as the first recipe for 2018.

I had the idea for this bread after making fantans (little layered bread rolls, made in a similar way to this loaf [just plain: no fillings] and baked in bun tins). I thought if I can make tiny ones, then why not a whole loaf, so people can share and rip off a slice? I suspect there are many of these loaves in recipe form out there on the interweb (it’s practically impossible to come up with anything new – pretty much everything has already been done), but I purposely avoided looking online for any as a) I didn’t want to be influenced by how someone else had shaped and styled their bread and b) I wanted to start from scratch with the recipe, again not being influenced by anyone else so I could get exactly the end results I was looking for. I started with a typical 400g white loaf mix, tweaked the ratios a little and added olive oil to get a bouncier middle, and slightly more crispy Italian-style edges to the bread. I then played with the amounts of fillings until it reached just the right butteriness and garlic amount (I warn you I like garlic so you may want to tone it down a little if you don’t like it as much as me).

I’ve called it ‘bookshelf’ bread as to me it looks like a higgledy-piggledy row of mismatched books all lined up on a shelf.

Oh my, I do now love making this loaf. It’s a little tricky to stack the dough. A couple of very collapsed-but-still-edible loaves were made to start with, until found that  tipping the loaf tin and filling the gap up with baking parchment when needed (see the actual recipe) was the key. Overall its fun to make and results in a great centerpiece that everyone can just attack, ripping off sheets of pillowy, garlicky goodness to mop up their ragu or to accompany a spread of antipasti, meats and more. We’ve also used it to rip apart and dunk strips into fondue or eaten with soups. Basically any meal you’d include a ‘normal’ garlic bread as an accompaniment you can exchange for this.


This recipe does make a small loaf, which doesn’t sound much but it still provides quite a lot of garlic bread. If you’re serving it for four or fewer people, then you may want to keep half for another day. It will last a day or two (just warm in a low oven for 10-15 minutes as it’s not the same cold!) or you can tear the cooked loaf in half and put one half in the freezer. Defrost it overnight and again refresh in a warm oven (as mentioned above).

I bake this bread at a cooler temperature and for longer than I would for a typical loaf, as I want low and slow and not crusty, this also stops the butter and cheese from burning.

You are going to get covered in garlic butter if you’re anything as messy as me…


  • Large bowl and a small heatproof (microwaveable)  bowl
  • Scraper
  • Loaf tin – 1lb / about 8cm x 26cm (and about 8cm deep)
  • Linen tea towel
  • Baking parchment or greaseproof paper
  • Knife
  • Spoon

Ingredients for the bread

  • Extra strong white bread flour – 320 g*
  • Durum wheat flour (semola rimacinata) – 80 g*

* You can just use 400 g of extra strong white bread flour if you can’t get hold of the semola/durum wheat

  • Water – 280 ml (only just tepid)
  • Olive oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Salt, fine (bought fine or freshly milled) – 1 teaspoon (5 g)
  • Fast action dried yeast – 1 teaspoon (5 g)

Ingredients for the garlic butter

  • Butter, salted – 140 g
  • Garlic – about 5 cloves, peeled and crushed (you may want a few cloves less if you’re not a keen or the cloves are extra large?)
  • Dried oregano – 1 to 1¼ teaspoons
  • Grated hard cheese (your choice of cheese, but something like Cheddar, red Leicester or Gouda are good) – about 40 g
  • Possibly some extra salt, to taste


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the bread (flour, salt, yeast, water, and oil) together in a large bowl – I prefer to use a table knife for this process, though you may like to use fingers, a flexible dough scraper or a dough hook on your machine. It will form a very rough-looking sticky mess. This is fine
  2. Leave for five – ten minutes
  3. Tip out on to a clean surface and use your scraper to get all of the residue out. Have your flour and scraper handy
  4. Knead the dough until the surface becomes silky and smooth – this will be about 10 – 12 minutes
  5. If – and only if – the dough is far to sticky to work with, dust a little flour on to the table. Otherwise you should persevere with kneading the dough without adding any more flour (this actually will change the ratio of flour to liquid and other ingredients so it’s best not to dust if you can). It should eventually start to come together without the flour and you can use your scraper from time to time to ensure all the dough is getting kneaded by scraping along the surface
  6. When the dough starts to come together, lightly oil the bowl (it’s easiest to oil your fingers and swiipe round the bowl) with flour to prevent it sticking. If you have not managed to take the dough out without leaving a lot behind, you may want to use a clean bowl
  7. Roll the dough up into a dome and place in the oiled bowl
  8. Cover the bowl either with the tea towel/cloth or cling film (or if you have one a cheapo shower cap is ace for this)
  9. Leave to rise somewhere that isn’t cold until the dough looks like it’s about twice the height it was before. This could be anywhere from 50 minutes to three hours depending on how cold a space you have)
  10. Soften the butter in the small dish (in a microwave is easiest for a few seconds) but don’t go so far that it melts (you’ll have to start again if you do)
  11. Mix in the crushed or minced garlic and the oregano
  12. I know it’s raw garlic, but taste a little of the butter – add additional salt, oregano or more crushed garlic as you see fit. I should be pretty punchy as it’s going to be spread throughout the whole loaf. Set aside somewhere not too cool
  13. Prepare the tin by using a large strip of baking parchment/paper that will lay across and into your tin, with plenty extra overspill on each side. Don’t worry about putting extra paper on the two ends of the loaf tin – there’s plenty of garlic butter to stop the loaf sticking: this is just to help you get it out of the tin and to help keep the garlic butter in the loaf
  14. Using a large teaspoon or so of the garlic butter, grease the lined tin (you may find it easier to dot a little of the butter on the tin to adhere the paper) so it will coat the outside of the loaf. Set aside
  15. Tip out the risen dough gently into your counter top or table. Knock back the air from the dough
  16. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle. The size and shape of the rectangle doesn’t matter that much – but having fairly good corners will help. Aim for the dough to be about 1 cm thick (as consistently as possible)doughRectangleForBookshelfBread.jpg
  17. Slather the garlic butter all over the rolled-out dough
  18. Using your loaf tin as a guide, you’re aiming to cut out as many squares as possible from the dough that match the width of the small end of the tin – mine is around 8cm. I get 10 or 12 squares out of my dough (depending on how effective I’ve been in rolling it out!)
  19. Don’t match the height of the tin as this is a smaller measurement. You want to have the layers of dough protruding out the top of the tin, not level with it, so match the smaller end width for your squares
  20. Holding the loaf tin at a slight angle (rest a short end on the table and lift up the other short end) start placing the squares of dough into the tin one by one, like books on a bookshelf. (If you don’t angle the tin you’ll just have a crumpled heap of dough)
  21. If you get to the end of the dough squares and still have some empty space in the tin, cut a square of baking paper and lay it against the last ‘slice’ of dough, then crumple up a bit of extra baking paper lightly and wedge this into the gap – this will hold it in place yet still have enough ‘give’ to allow the dough to expand horizontally. If it all fits perfectly in the tin, then that’s greatBookshelfBread_preBake
  22. Leave for a second proof – about 30 – 40 minutes
  23. Once the dough has risen, turn on your oven to 180° C fan / 200° C conventional
  24. Place the loaf in the oven and set a timer for 40 minutes
  25. Check the look of the loaf (without opening the oven door) after 30 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly turn the oven down by 20 degrees or cover with some greased foil
  26. After 40 minutes, sprinkle the top of the loaf with the grated cheese and return to the oven for another 5 minutes
  27. Leave to cool until it can be handled, then lift out with the baking paper
  28. The bread can be re-warmed in a low oven (about 120° C fan / 140° C conventional) for 10 minutes or so if you’re not eating it straightaway, and as mentioned about it can be frozen

Homemade ricotta – and ways to enrich, flavour or infuse it

ricottaGreenPlateOk, don’t be alarmed: it’s not full-scale, time-consuming cheesemaking.

However, you can easily, quickly and conveniently make your own ricotta and add flavourings yourself.

More often than not I just buy ricotta, but sometimes I make it myself if I’ve run out, I’ve got some full fat milk to use up or I just want my ricotta to be as nice as possible or flavoured a certain way for a particular recipe. (I’m not sure if I’m not just biased, but I think homemade is at least a little nicer than shop bought).

I’ve been using this method of half lemon juice and half vinegar to start the curdling process off for some years. I’ve only ever seen ricotta recipes that use either all rennet (not many normal kitchens have this to hand), all vinegar or all lemon juice only – this came about when I once ran out of lemon juice and had to improvise.  I liked the result and I’ve stuck to it ever since. Perhaps I should do a comparable, side-by-side taste test to see if what you use really makes a difference.

What is also different about my recipe is that I worked it out to be highly convenient for that pint or two-pint carton of full fat milk I might have in the fridge. It’s then much, much easier just to open a bottle or carton and tip it in your saucepan rather than other recipes which have a specific end amount in mind.

I’ve found that using 1 pint (568ml) of milk makes enough for two people for either a pasta filling, such as spinach and ricotta ravioli, or a light salad etc. A two pint recipe therefore is enough to serve four within a main dish or great for pastries or cakes calling for ricotta. Recipes on my blog which include ricotta are:

Mango Cheesecake recipe – uses ricotta
Flavouring and enriching

See underneath the recipe for my ideas on how to flavour the ricotta or to make a richer, creamier version.


This takes time – but it’s pretty much all left to work on its own devices. There is only about 15 minutes tops of hands-on effort involved.

  • Medium saucepan
  • Large bowl for draining
  • Colander or large sieve (choose a sieve/bowl combination that leaves a big gap between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the colander, so that the ricotta doesn’t sit in its own liquid and drains properly)
  • Muslin square (this is one place where it really has to be muslin – other cloths will have weaves that are too large or too tight for it to drain correctly)
  • Spatula
  • Tea towel (a very clean one)
Ingredients – based on 568ml / 1 pint of milk
  • Full fat milk – 568ml / 1 pint
  • Lemon juice – 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Clear distilled vinegar – 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
Ingredients – based on 1.36 l / 2 pints of milk
  • Full fat milk – 1.36 litres / 2 pints
  • Lemon juice – 3 teaspoons
  • Clear distilled vinegar – 3 teaspoons
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  1. Pour the milk into the saucepan and add the salt
  2. Have the lemon juice and vinegar measured out
  3. Bring up to just under boiling – you must watch the milk as you need to catch it when bubbles start to come to the surface and the milk begins to let off steam, but has NOT yet started boiling properly (if you want to use a thermometer this will be 82C-84C). This takes around 5 minutes and remember to stir occasionally so the milk doesn’t catch on the pan

    This is the point when you need to take this milk off the heat and add the acid
  4. Take the saucepan off the heat and immediately add the vinegar and lemon juice
  5. Stir the milk and continue to keep stirring while the curds and the whey begin to separate – about a minute or so of constant, gentle stirring

    What the milk looks like, just after the acid is added and the whey and curds are separating
  6. Place the muslin cloth inside the colander, then the colander over the bowl
  7. Tip the curds and whey over the muslin-strewn colander, so that the curds get caught in the muslin and the whey drains into the bowl

    The ricotta draining, through the muslin over the colander, into a bowl. Almost fully drained and just waiting to be given a squeeze and then it will be ready
  8. Cover it all with the clean tea towel (this keeps it clean and dirt-free. If you used a lid or hard surface you’d get unwanted condensation)
  9. Leave this to drain for a couple of hours at least (depending how your colander fits in your bowl you may occasionally need to tip out the whey if the bottom of the colander is sitting in the liquid)
  10. Squeeze the last of the whey out of the curds by twisting the muslin cloth together around the curds
  11. Dispose of the whey as you don’t need it (I’m told if you have pigs they love the stuff – I don’t think my cat would be interested…)
  12. Keep the ricotta in an air tight container in the fridge for up to three days or use immediately in a recipe


Once you’ve attempted ricotta, you may want to start adding to it.  There are two ways to do this: either add the ingredients after the ricotta has been prepared (basically just stirring them in) or by infusing the flavours at the early stage. As ricotta is quite bland but can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes it nicely lends itself to being flavoured.

Flavourings – adding to the finished ricotta

After it’s drained, you can add some additional flavourings. These are some of my suggestions or create your own:

  • Peppercorn
  • Chilli
  • Ham and pineapple (in place of ham and pineapple cottage cheese)
  • Nutmeg or ground cinnamon
  • Lemon and basil
  • Any fresh leafy herbs – thyme, hyssop, sorrel, tarragon, marjoram, lemon balm or verbena, fennel fronds 🌱
  • For sweet recipes:
  • Hazelnuts chopped in,
  • Crushed soft fruits like strawberries or raspberries,
  • A swirl of your favourite soft set jam
  • Honey and crushed figs
Flavourings – infusing the milk

Alternatively, you can add some ingredients (including some off the list above) into the milk as it warms as an infusion. In this instance you MUST sieve the milk into a separate bowl to fully remove the flavouring ingredient before you add the lemon juice and vinegar. Some suggestions are:

  • Peppercorn (less intense with no crunchy bits if you infuse!)
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Cinnamon or cassia bark
  • Any of the leafy herbs mentioned above
  • Star anise, cardamom pods or fennel seeds
Enriching the ricotta

To make an even creamier ricotta I substitute up to 50% of the milk for double or clotted cream.

My Limoncello Baked Cheesecake – the recipe uses ricotta and is on my blog

Spanish-style leftovers flan

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Spanish style leftover flan

This is a cross between a quiche and a Spanish omelette (tortilla) and uses up leftover salad potatoes, ham and cheeses.

This is a regular feature for our Saturday lunch: it’s quick and simple to knock up the pastry and sometimes I may even have a pastry case pre-made and stashed in the freezer. You do need the cheese and the potatoes, but the ham can be replaced by a number of leftover pre-cooked meats such as chicken, bacon, sausages or the last remnants of some salmon or tinned tuna. Alternatively it can be made totally vegetarian by replacing the meat with what you have left in the fridge: mushrooms, green beans, peas etc.

It’s a very frugal and tasty way to use up leftovers. It’s so adaptable that if you don’t have the pastry (or want to cut a few calories) it can be made as an omelette and finished off under a grill.

I would normally pimp up the pastry a little, such as using part polenta or spelt flour but because the theme of this recipe is frugality I’ve kept it as vanilla as possible – so that’s 100% plain flour.

  • Bowl
  • Rolling bin
  • Flan tin, greased and lined
  • Baking beans or dried pulses
  • Frying pan
  • Baking sheet
  • Pastry brush
Ingredients – pastry
  • Plain flour – 250g
  • Unsalted butter – cubed and at room-temperature butter – 125g
  • Egg, beaten  –  1
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Paprika or cayenne pepper – a teaspoon
  • Water to bind the dough – about 1 tsp or so
Ingredients – filling
  • Cold, pre-cooked salad potatoes thinly sliced –  5 or 6 medium sized salad potatoes
  • Eggs – 5
  • Grated cheese – 100g. Use up any remnants of cheese – for the flan in the image I used 70g Cheddar and 30g gruyere
  • Double cream – 50ml
  • Ham, chopped – 200g (or replace with other leftover cooked meats or make vegetarian with mushrooms, green beans, peas)
  • Shallot – 1 large
  • Garlic clove – 1 or 2
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper – 2 teaspoons
  • Black onion seeds – 1 teaspoon (does add an extra flavour element, but if you don’t have these in your cupboard either use 1 teaspoon onion granules or omit)
  • Red peppers – a handful of diced red pepper, de-seeded and with the pit removed. This is roughly 40g
  • Olive or rapeseed oil for frying
Method – pastry shell
  1. Heat your oven to 180C (fan) or about 200C conventional
  2. Put the baking tray in the oven
  3. Rub the butter into the flour
  4. Mix in 3/4 of the egg and the salt, pepper and paprika (leave the rest of the egg to one side for later)
  5. Add in the water a little at a time to help you bring the dough together – don’t over add the water
  6. Squash the dough down into a disk shape and chill in the fridge for 10 mins
  7. Grease and flour the flan tin
  8. Fetch the dough out of the fridge and place onto a floured surface or a sheet of baking parchment
  9. Add a little more flour on top to stop the rolling pin sticking or roll out under some cling film
  10. Roll out to about 3mm thick
  11. Line the flan tin with the rolled out pastry, lifting the edges up to ease the pastry into all the crevasses press down so that the pastry fits the shape of the tin.
  12. You can neaten the edge of the flan now (or after it’s been baked if you prefer to ensure that the pastry does not shrink) with a knife or by rolling the rolling pin over the top of the flan tin edge (any of these will cut off the pastry at the level of the flan tin)
  13. Prick the base all over with a fork and scrunch up enough baking parchment to cover the whole tin. Un-scrunch this and lay it out onto the pastry (scrunching helps it fit to the shape of the tin more easily). Fill with the baking beans or dried pulses
  14. Put the prepared pastry case in the oven, on top of the now-hot baking tray (this will help crisp up the bottom)
  15. Cook for about 15 mins
  16. Remove the beans/pulses and parchment
  17. Brush the rest of the beaten egg over the base of the flan
  18. Return to the oven for five minutes to ensure the base is crisp
  19. Remove from the oven.  If you didn’t trim the flan case before it went into the oven, now is the time to do this with a sharp knife
  20. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling
Method – filling
  1. Leave the oven on the same temperature from pre-baking the flan case
  2. Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry in a little oil over a medium heat until they are translucent. Set to one side
  3. In a bowl whisk the eggs, cream, salt, pepper and cayenne lightly together with a fork
  4. Chop or shred the ham finely and add to the egg mixture
  5. Grate the cheeses and add to the egg mixture as well, reserving a little to sprinkle on top
  6. Add the black onion seeds, the potatoes and the fried shallots and garlic and mix well
  7. Pour the filling mixture into the pre-baked flan case
  8. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and chop up the red peppers and sprinkle those on top too
  9. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the cheese is nicely browned and the flan is set
  10. Can be eaten warm, but can be left to cool and served cold

Courgette, cheese and bacon quiche with hyssop pastry

Courgette, cheese and bacon tart

Not much of an intro here, this is a good old classic savoury bake, given a little twist with the sweet aniseed-y flavour of hyssop taken straight from the garden.

  • Bowl
  • Rolling bin
  • Flan tin, greased and lined
  • Baking beans or dried pulses
  • Frying pan
  • Baking sheet
Ingredients – pastry
  • Plain flour – 200g
  • Polenta -50g (or if you can’t source this, omit it and just use 250g plain flour)
  • Unsalted butter – cubed and at room-temperature butter – 125g
  • Egg yolk, 1
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Paprika- half a teaspoon
  • Hyssop – about two 4 to 5 cm sprigs, finely chopped. If you don’t have access to hyssop then add about 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • Water to bind the dough – about 1 tsp or so
Ingredients – filling
  • Eggs – 4 medium (or 3 large)
  • Grated cheese (your choice but I use cheddar) – a large handful
  • Double cream – 300ml
  • Smoked streaky bacon or pancetta (or really any bacon will do at a pinch) – about 6 rashers
  • Baby courgettes – 3 (or 1 large courgette)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Method – pastry shell
  1. Heat your oven to 160C (fan) or about 180C conventional
  2. Put the baking tray in the oven
  3. Rub the butter into the flour
  4. Mix the rest of the ingredients in except for the water
  5. Add in the water a little at a time to help you bring the dough together – don’t over add the water
  6. Squash the dough down into a disk shape and chill in the fridge for 10 mins
  7. Grease and flour the flan tin
  8. Fetch the dough out of the fridge and place onto a floured surface or a sheet of baking parchment
  9. Add a little more flour on top to stop the rolling pin sticking or roll out under some cling film
  10. Roll out to about 3mm thick
  11. Line the flan tin with the rolled out pastry, lifting the edges up to ease the pastry into all the crevasses press down so that the pastry fits the shape of the tin.
  12. You can neaten the edge of the flan now (or after it’s been baked if you prefer to ensure that the pastry does not shrink) with a knife or by rolling the rolling pin over the top of the flan tin edge (any of these will cut off the pastry at the level of the flan tin)
  13. Prick the base all over with a fork and scrunch up enough baking parchment to cover the whole tin. Un-scrunch this and lay it out onto the pastry (scrunching helps it fit to the shape of the tin more easily). Fill with the baking beans or dried pulses
  14. Put the prepared pastry case in the oven, on top of the now-hot baking tray (this will help crisp up the bottom)
  15. Cook for about 14/15 mins
  16. Remove the beans/pulses and parchment and return to the oven for another couple of minutes to ensure the base is crisp
  17. Remove from the oven.  If you didn’t trim the flan case before it went into the oven now’s the time to do this with a sharp knife
  18. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling
Method – filling
  1. Slice up the bacon/pancetta into thin strips and fry until just crispy. Let cool on kitchen roll to soak up any excess fat
  2. In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper until just combined
  3. Pour this mix into the cooled flan tin and sprinkle over the cheese and fried bacon/pancetta – mix slightly to that the cheese and bacon/pancetta are evenly distributed through the flan
  4. Remove the top of the courgettes and slice the baby courgettes in two lengthways (if using larger courgettes slice lengthways then cut down each of these slices lengthways and then cut all in half – so you have eight batons)
  5. Pop the flan carefully onto a rack in the over, with it extended so you can add the courgettes
  6. Lay the courgette slices down carefully on to the top of the flan mix, being careful to try to not dunk them underneath the mix
  7. Bake for about 20 – 25 mins until slightly browned and gorgeous

Spiced beef and cheddar pasties

These are roughly based on a traditional Cornish recipe – which I adore, but I’ve spiced them up a bit and added chunks of melty cheddar. So they’re definitely not Cornish anymore, but they are nice!

Beef, veg and cheddar pasties

Makes about 5 – 6


Baking tray
Large saucepan
Saute pan
Grater or microplane
pastry brush
Rolling pin
Round plate or lid about 18 – 20 cm in diameter to use as a template
Large baking tray

Ingredients – for the pastry

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 120g unsalted butter – put a pat of butter into the freezer to harden before grating
  • 120g lard cubed (if you don’t want to use lard use 240g of butter instead but it’s definitely not the same rugged and savoury consistency) – put this into the freezer to harden before grating
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Enough cold water to bring it together (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 1 egg (for wash only)

Ingredients for the filling

  • 1 medium white onion (or about 4 shallots)
  • About 80g of swede
  • 1 medium slightly waxy potato – don’t use a floury potato or it will go to mush
  • Large handful of grated cheddar – about 65g
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Large grinding of pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 level teaspoon mustard powder
  • About 300g of skirt beef (this is definitely the best cut for pasties as it has just the right consistency and flavour, if you can’t get it chuck steak is the next best thing)
  • Oil for frying – any veggie oil will do

Method – pastry

Make the pastry first so you can let it chill and rest while you construct the filling.

  1. Weigh out the flour add the salt and paprika
  2. Grate the hard butter and lard into it. Grating keeps the fat in small strands, making the rubbing-in method quicker and easier (alternatively you can just cut the fat into cubes). Keep tossing the grated fat in the flour as you go so it coats each strand of fat (otherwise you’ll just push it all together when you start rubbing in and it’ll negate the head start that grating gave you)
  3. Rub in the fat and flour until you get fine breadcrumbs, or alternatively pop it in a food processing and blitz for a couple of seconds
  4. Add the water one tablespoon at a time and knead the dough together until it is a typical heavy dough consistency – that is, it just comes together without crumbling and takes a bit of a push to shape it
  5. Flatten it into a disc, cover it in cling film or put in a plastic food bag and stick it in the fridge for up to a couple of hours, or if you’re short of time pop it in the freezer while you make the filling

Method – filling

  1. Pop a pan of salted water on to simmer
  2. Shred the beef skirt into very fine pieces, so that it will cook inside the pasty
  3. Chop up all the veg into small dice (3 or 4 mm cubes) – keep the onion separate
  4. Put all the diced veg into the saucepan (don’t include the onion) and simmer for a few minutes until they are just about to go tender (don’t let them get soft)
  5. Saute the onion over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes until glassy, then briefly add the beef and fry for a minute or two at the most. You just want some of it to start to change colour.
  6. Set the onion and beef aside to cool
  7. Drain the veg and put into a large bowl. Add the beef and onion
  8. Mix in the salt, pepper, cayenne and mustard powder into the veg and beef
  9. Leave to cool (until at most lukewarm) before using to fill the pasty

Method – constructing

  1. Put the oven on to about 220C conventional or 200C fan
  2. Retrieve the dough and roll out to about 2 – 3 mm thickness on a lightly floured surface (this is a bit thinner than traditional, but I like less pastry and you’re probably not going to transport this one down a tin mine so it doesn’t need to be so rugged)
  3. Cut out discs from the pastry using your plate/lid/etc as a template
  4. Whisk up the egg and brush some round the edges of each disc
  5. Divide the mix up equally between the pastry discs, spooning it into the middle of each disc and leaving about 1.5 cm space round the edge (where you brushed the egg wash). You may have a little left over (you can freeze this for your next batch or to add to either cottage pie, bolognese or chilli etc)
  6. Sprinkle the grated cheddar over the filling
  7. Fold over each pasty in half, sealing the edges. You now need to crimp the edge
  8. Crimp by starting at one corner. Pick up a corner in your index finger and thumb and place a finger from your other hand just the other side of this (not at the edge of the pasty, towards the centre). Folder the corner over your finger, remove your finger and tamp down. Now repeat by picking up the ‘new’ corner created by the first crimp. Work your way round the pasty. There are plenty of YouTube videos on how to do this – and it’s easier than it sounds – just Google ‘how to crimp a Cornish pasty’
  9. Once you’ve done all the pasties brush them all with the egg wash. Make sure there are no holes in the pastry – the idea of a pasty is that the filling steams while it cooks so it needs to be sealed
  10. Place on the baking tray and cook in the centre of the oven for about 30 mins. Retrieve when they are a golden brown
  11. Best eaten while still warm (careful – the centre is boiling hot straight out of the oven) but can be eaten cold

Pão de Queijo recipe – Brazillian Cheese rolls

Pao de queijo - Brazillian cheese rolls
Pao de queijo – Brazillian cheese rolls

Notes on the recipe

Pão de Queijo (pão is bread and queijo is cheese) is a Brazilian bread alternative. It uses tapioca/manioc starch so is gluten free. I halved the original recipe as I bake so much I wasn’t sure we’d eat enough to make a full batch worthwhile (plus if it went wrong I had enough flour to try again!)

I baked these three times – they really did not want to come out quite as puffed up and rounded as those in the original recipe. There was nothing wrong with the bakes other than this; they tasted nice, and they were light and airy inside – the only one thing I did alter was the amount of cheese after the first try. I used a cheddar which is much stronger than the original Monterey Jack and the first batch was VERY cheesy (I loved it but it was a bit too much for some others who tried it) so I reduced the amount of cheese – if I’d used a milder cheese I’d have stayed with the same amount.

Still, rise or no rise, they were lovely made up into cream cheese, bacon and rocket and spinach salad rolls.

Update 4th June 2014

I ordered some more flour, this time labelled as manioc and re-tried. Apart from the new flour, the only two differences were that I spooned the mix into small muffin cases and I made sure the milk/butter mix was fully cool before incorporating. Hey presto – not sure if it’s the flour, the case, to cooling or all of them, but they came out perfect. I’ve amended the recipe below recently to include baking the rolls in muffin cases.

Tapioca – manioc – cassava – flour or starch?

I’d managed to get hold of tapioca flour from a local organic food shop, but, because the consistency was identical to cornflour (to me that wouldn’t be good enough for a well-risen bake) I wondered if labelling up of the product was different here in the UK and it meant I did need the ‘starch’ rather than ‘flour’ to get that nice rise. I looked up the starch and it started getting confusing..

Manioc, cassava and tapioca are names for the same thing – they are all derived from the yucca/cassava/manioc shrub apparently (the UK company Real Foods has some info and products).

Some places online stipulate that flours and starches are different and there is a good explanation on Leite’s Culinaria blog. This is aimed at a US audience and it’s possible labelling is different again in the UK as I’ve also seen sites which say tapioca flour is arrowroot while tapioca starch or cassava/manioc flour is what it should be. I am not sure this is true – the product is very fine, very white and has the consistency of cornflour. I bought manioc flour from Real Foods (link above) but it can also be bought from most local organic supermarkets (under any of the three names).

Pão de Queijo (makes about 30 – 35 mini rolls)


Small muffin/fairy cake cases or 2 greased muffin pans
Baking tray (if using cases)


250g tapioca/manioc/cassava flour/starch (see notes above: don’t get the tapioca flour which is arrowroot)
125 ml milk
20g butter
1/2 tsp salt
80g grated strong cheddar (or 120g of a mild grated cheese)
2 small eggs


  1. preheat the oven to 200°C conventional / 185°C fan and have a couple of baking trays ready
  2. in a pan over a low heat, melt the butter into the milk and bring it all to just boiling. Remove from the heat and let it cool down (alternatively do it in a microwave but make sure it doesn’t boil)
  3. place the muffin cases on the baking tray or prepare your muffin tins with a little grease and flour
  4. measure out the tapioca flour and add the salt. Pour on the cooled milk and butter
  5. mix in with a fork – it will go clumpy
    the tapioca flour after the milk/butter has been added and mixed in
  6. mix in the cheese and the egg until it is evenly distributed – be careful as you may not need quite all of the 2 eggs: the mix should be a little on the loose side, rather than dough-like but not fully runny
  7. spoon the mix into the cases or the prepared tins
  8. bake in the oven for about 25 mins but don’t take them out just before they go brown (the rolls are traditionally supposed to be light in colour and puffed up)
  9. eat warm as they are, or cool and use for canapes and snack rolls
    Air pockets inside make the rolls light and airy