No Pain, no gain

It’s been a while since we had a bread recipe, this hearty French classic, Pain Rustique, has been known to beat up weedier loaves. Particularly baguettes, it doesn’t trust baguettes…

400g strong white bread flour
100g rye flour
1 tbsp salt
2 packets instant yeast
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp dried basil (note – oregano and sage work well here too)
300 ml water (or 200ml water/100ml milk for a richer dough)

Mix together all the ingredients. When they are mixed tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or so. The dough will be nice and elastic if you have kneaded it enough.

Cover the dough and set aside in a warm place to rise for two-three hours.

After rising take the dough out onto a floured surface and form into 2 sausage shapes and put on an oiled and floured baking tray. Set aside to rise for one hour.

Preheat your oven to gas 7. Slash the top of the loaves a few times and bake for 25 minutes until nice and golden. Keep an eye on it though, the high heat gives a lovely, thick crust but can catch quickly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

This loaf is a manly loaf. Lovely toasted with butter, dunked into a stew or with a really strong cheese and some pickle. It favours strong flavours.



These yummy oaty muffins are great for breakfast or with a cup of coffee. If you fancy experimenting try swapping the apple for either 1 mashed banana or two to three chopped kiwis. Yes, kiwis. Sounds wrong but actually they work really, really well.

225g porridge oats
750g milk with a squeeze of lemon juice in
3 tbsp butter
3 eggs
200g brown sugar
300g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
150g chopped apple, tossed in lemon juice
75g sultanas

Soak the oats in the milk and lemon for an hour. Cream the sugar and butter together and add the eggs and oatmeal goo. Sift in the flour and other dry ingredients and continue to mix until smooth. Last but not least fold in the fruit.

Spoon into muffin cases and bake at gas 6 for 25 minutes.


Mrs Stovies has been craving chicken kebabs of late but to service that from the kebab shop round the corner would be a) really expensive and b) not very healthy seeing as there are always chips involved. A little tinkering in the kitchen and this babber beating ‘bab was born. This a a double whammy recipe, fresh and light coleslaw without the clagginess of mayo and super moist chicken. Brilliant on the barbecue. Enjoy.

Asian Slaw

½ white cabbage, finely shredded
2 carrots, grated
1 onion, finely sliced
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 red chilli, sliced
zest and juice 2 limes
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp honey

Another easy one here. Simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and leave to marinade for about 10 minutes before serving.

Ginger and Lime Chicken

Fresh chicken breasts
1cm fresh ginger, grated
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp Tabasco sauce

Put it all together with some fresh chicken breasts and marinade for at least an hour before grilling or barbecuing. Serve in a warm pitta with a pile of slaw and salad leaves. No cutlery required.

Over the sea to Skye

Image © Duisdale House

A little while ago we disappeared off for a grown up break to Skye. When Stovies Junior arrives stays in posh hotels will become a distant memory so this one was a little extra special. It’s quite a trek from Edinburgh to Skye, especially if your SatNav takes you the long way across the top of Laggan, but the scenery and the welcome are well worth it.

Tucked away on the Southern peninsula of the island is stylish country retreat Dusidale House, set in well tended grounds with the biggest Monkey Puzzle tree you’ve ever seen (no monkeys to be found unless you count Mr Stovies).The hotel itself is decorated stylishly with a modern twist inside, although it’s really all about the views.

We just had time for a quick wander on the beach and a nap before heading down to the drawing room for pre dinner drinkies and canapes. First up was a surprisingly light blue cheese mousse with grape and quince on crumbly home made oatcake, tres bien and swiftly followed by a sweet, spicy and aromatic micro onion bahji. By happy fate we’d saved the best to last – rich confit duck en croute with sweet pops of pomegranate which cut through the meat perfectly.

Shortly after polishing off the canapes we were shown to the dining room and treated to an amuse bouche of slow braised ox cheek. Rich, unctuous meat with a nicely herbed taste, a whole bowl full would have made the best beef stew ever, but a mouthful was fabulous.

Next on our eating odyssey were starters of Scallop & Rosemary Brochette with celeriac purée and Oak Smoked Salmon Roulade with apple and quails egg salad. Perfectly cooked scallops offset by the purée were fresh and light however Mr Stovies wasn’t sold on the rosemary skewer. The salmon roulade was subtle yet satisfying, working very well with the tarte apple in the salad

For mains we opted for Loin of Dunvegan Venison with mash, cabbage, roasted garlic and parsnip. Beautifully cooked meat atop creamy but not over rich mash, with a hint of star anise in the cabbage a delicious discovery. Roasted cloves of garlic and a rich port jus made for a well rounded, meat lovers meal. On the other side of the table pregancy cravings were sated by moist Roast Chicken Breast with Dauphinoise and a superb, slightly sweet madeira sauce. Classic and flavourful.

A short but welcome reprieve before pudding – the dining room was now quite full of happily munching guests. A large selection of cheeses were available to choose from and were accompanied by fruit, celery, quince AND chutney, a real treat, especially with a glass of white Port. The homemade oatcakes made a welcome return too, if only we’d been able to take some home….

Mr Stovies is a sucker for eggy puds, so the Baked Custard Tart with sesame cream was gone in a flash. Lovely pastry, tasty filling and a very interesting sesame cream which looked thick but was a fluffy as a cloud. Best of all served with homemade puff candy. Spiffing.

It was an epic but thoroughly enjoyable dinner, we topped it all off with coffee and Petits Fours too. Blimey. Thankfully we were staying the night, moving more than a hundred yards would have been impossible!

Dinner for non resident guests £45 per person. Visit the hotel’s website for DB&B rates.

Dusidale House Hotel, Isle Ornsay, Sleat, Isle of Skye. Tel: 01471 833202

British Summer Time

It’s sunny – ish, Wimbledon is nearly around the corner and picnics start to feel like a reasonably good idea. You don’t get much more British than strawberries and cream so here’s a cake that celebrates them. The sponge mix is super easy and I use the quantities as the basis for nearly all of my cakes – it’s so simple it almost doesn’t need a recipe!

This mix is really easy to multiply so you can make any size of cake – four eggs will make enough batter for a two tier, 7 inch (8-10 slices) pile of loveliness, 7 eggs will fill two 9-10 inch tins (14-16 slices)

Weigh the eggs and write down the weight

Weight out the same amount of Self Raising Flour, Caster Sugar and Lightly Salted Butter (room temperature).

Beat the sugar and butter together until really nice and smooth, add two drops of good Vanilla Extract per egg.

Add one egg at a time mixing really well before adding the next one, this way the batter won’t curdle and the cake will be nice and fluffy.

Sift the flour, add it it 1/2 a level teaspoon of Baking Powder per egg, then mix into the wet ingredients a little at a time. Once it’s all been mixed together the batter should be a little sloppy – soft enough to drop off a spoon. If it’s not add a little milk to loosen it.

SPlit the batter between your two tins and bake at gas 4 or equivalent until springy and golden brown on top. If you put a knife into the centre of the cake it’ll come out moist but clean. for a 7 inch cake this will be about 25 minutes, for a 9-10 inch cake around 40 minutes.

Allow to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before putting onto a cake rack to cool all the way.

Now for the filling…

Put your less pretty cake (there’s always one) onto a nice plate. Spread liberally with good strawberry jam.

Whisk some double cream until quite stiff.

Chop up some strawberries (1/2 a punnet for a 7 inch cake, a whole punnet for a 9-10 inch cake) until you have a small chunk mush. Mix with the cream and add a little sugar or honey to sweeten.

Slather on top of the jam and then place the second cake on top.

Sprinkle with caster sugar then cut yourself a big wodge to enjoy with a cup of tea or a glass of bubbly.


Stovies Food Favourites #3: Stovetop Coffee Pot

It’s been ages since we’ve had one of these food favourite sections, this is definitely a Mr Stovies fave though – Mrs Stovies goes doolally if she gets even a whiff of coffee so she’s banned.

I love coffee. Scratch that. I love good coffee, bad coffee can really upset me. My favourite kitchen toy for making fantastic coffee isn’t some uber pricey machine though, it’s a handy stove top espresso pot that picked up at a car boot sale for a fiver. It’s my faithful friend when i’m working and when combined with some Artisan Roast Monsooned Malibar it makes me wonder why people pay through the nose for a frothy wothy mochacino from Starbucks…