Scribbles and spillages

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Sourdough notes on Bill’s wholemeal loaf

If I’m honest one of the reasons I wrote Bill’s Kitchen is to have all my favourite recipes in one place for my own personal use. I would be bonkers if that were my only reason for writing it but it was definitely a regularly hovering thought. Even though I’ve written all the recipes and cooked most of them many, many times I still often like to refer to quantities and directions when I’m cooking. I’m just not good at retaining numbers and timings in my head. But that’s not to say that I treat my recipes (or anyone else’s recipes come to that) as commandments set in stone. Almost as soon as I’d laid my hands on my very own copy of Bill’s Kitchen I was tinkering and trying more variations, alternatives and shortcuts for busy days.

Scribbles and dribbles on brownie recipe from my first book

In my own copies of my two original cookbooks (Food From The Place Below and Feasts From The Place Below) there is layer upon layer of notes, scribbles and spillages. The pages on bread, marmalade and brownies are especially thickly encrusted.

And I’ve already made a few notes in the new book. This doesn’t mean that there are mistakes in the book – amazingly I have yet to discover any bog-ups although there are surely one or two lurking there somewhere. But food journeys never end and I’m already finding tweaks and alternatives that I don’t want to forget. So here’s a few extra snippets that I’ve added or am planning to scribble on to my copy of Bill’s Kitchen:

Bill’s wholemeal loaf (p.23)

Over the last year or so I’ve become more and more addicted to sourdough bread. In Bill’s Kitchen I’ve given a mixture of sourdough and conventional recipes. But the wholemeal bread that I’m currently cooking most often at home is an entirely sourdough version of the Bill’s bread recipe on page…..The photo at the top is of my alternative sourdough quantities/instructions

Spianata (p.31)

This Italian flatbread (page………in the book) continues to be another baked addiction for me and my family. And in February I’m taking Spianata to the Bloxham Festival where I’m providing lunch for 60 all cooked from the book before giving a talk. I now nearly always make this with 100% sourdough starter and I also plan to experiment with a thinner version than that given in the book so you get a higher proportion of crust to insides. That’s the great thing about making stuff yourself – sometimes you may want it thinner and sometimes thicker. My guess is that they’ll both be delicious and appropriate for different situations. Cooking times will clearly need adjusting.

Lownz’s lamb tagine (p.167)

We had four sheep on our paddock this year (looked after by our neighbours Graham and Jo) and two of them are now in our freezer. We had substantial leftovers from the first very delicious leg that I cooked and the next day I decided to make a speedy version of Lownz’s lamb tagine. I’d been sent a couple of tubs of Ajika – a spice paste from Abkazhia which some friends of friends are producing (see for more information) – and I thought that could save me some spice-finding and garlic crushing. So I substituted a teaspoon of the hot version of Ajika for the first few spice ingredients and then added some ready-mixed ras-el-hanout. It was delicious – spicier than the original version in the book and certainly different, but very good indeed. And the pre-cooked diced leg also worked surprisingly well in place of slow-cooked diced shoulder.

Sarah’s pasta with smoked salmon (p.143)

I’ve also tried adding a teaspoon of Ajika (see above) to this recipe at the same time as the salmon/cream etc. I love warm spices with oily fish and they work well here.

Salted caramel brownies (p.203)

I frequently want to cook a double quantity of brownies at home and I tend to do this in one big commercial baking tray rather than 2 domestic-sized tins. I’ve been reminded by doing this that cooking in a much bigger tray means decreasing the temperature by 10C and increasing the baking time by 10 minutes – otherwise you get brownies which are cooked on the edge but still not quite set in the middle.

That’s just a few examples of how Bill’s Kitchen, like any good cookbook, is a stage in a journey not a straightforward encyclopedia of recipes.

So for a new year’s resolution let’s all keep cooking and experimenting and making life always a little bit tastier. It’s been an absolute delight to have so many of you telling me how much you’re enjoying reading and cooking from the book – thank you for getting in touch. And don’t forget to tell your friends to buy their own copy, either from one of the cafes or at

Happy Cooking and Happy 2018 to all of you!