This recipe takes at least a week to make, including the starter. But it’s simple and kind of exciting watching the various stages of the yeast developing.

Its important to use mineral water here as the chlorine, and other chemicals, in tap water may kill the yeast. It doesn’t have to be Evian or anything, Tesco Value will do.

Once you look after your starter well, you’ll have it for life! Store what you don’t use here in a plastic container in the fridge. Kept in the fridge it will need feeding once a week. To feed, discard (or ideally use) half of it. Top up with a cup each of flour and water. Take it out of the fridge a couple of days before you want to use, and leave it uncovered at room temperature, to bring it back up to it’s full strength

This recipe was adapted from Leiths Techniques Bible


For the starter

  • 225g wholemeal flour
  • 225ml warm mineral water
  • 225g wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 150ml warm mineral water

For the loaf

  • 170g starter
  • 55ml warm mineral water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 170g strong plain flour
  • 55g wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Makes 1 loaf


For the starter

  1. Place the wholemeal flour in a bowl and stir in the water. Leave to stand uncovered for 3 days at room temperature. It should thicken and begin to form small bubbles as the yeast develops
  2. On the third day, stir in the remaining flour, honey and water. Let stand for a further 3 days. If it does not bubble, or the mixture smells off, start again. Remove 170g of starter to make the bread. Feed the remaining starter with 100g of flour and 100ml mineral water and place in the refrigerator

For the loaf

  1. Place 170g of the starter in a large bowl and stir in the water and honey. Sift together the flours and add enough flour to make a soft dough
  2. Knead for 10 mins by hand, or 5 by machine with a dough hook. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and let stand at room temperature until doubled in size. This will take 12-24 hours
  3. Knock back and knead the dough again for 1 minute. Return to the oiled bowl, cover again with the clingfilm, and let rise until again doubled in bulk. This will take 3-8 hours
  4. Sprinkle the salk over the dough and knead for 1 minute. Cover the dough with clingfilm and let it rest for 10 minutes. If you have a proving basket, great, but presumably most people don’t. I lined a big sieve with a floured teatowel instead. The idea is to help the dough settle into a nice round shape, and dry it out a bit. Live it in your improvised basket for 3 hours
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 225°C. Place a pizza stone or flat tray in the middle of the oven to heat
  6. When the dough has proved, remove the stone from the oven and sprinkle liberally with flour. Carefully turn the dough onto the stone and slash with a serrated knife into a X’s and O’s pattern
  7. Place the dough in the hottest part of the oven, and place a overproof container of water at the bottom to generate steam. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the loaf is well browned, and sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. Let cool for 1 hour before slicing


Perfect Hummus courtesy of Felicity Cloake (again!). To be honest, I’ve probably only cooked dried chickpeas a couple of times before. But I got myself a new pressure cooker recently so 40 mins is way more realistic than the 4 hours mentioned in the original recipe.
Definitely the best hummus I’ve made so far - I’m sure its delicious with tinned chickpeas also if you’re short on time
Also pictured below (on the right) is my Artichoke & Lemon dip


  • 200g dried chickpeas
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 6 tbsp tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Big pinch of cumin
  • Salt, to taste
  • Olive oil and paprika, to top


  1. Put the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with twice the volume of cold water. Stir in 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and leave to soak for 24 hours (apparently the bicarb helps to soften the chickpeas)
  2. Drain, rinse well and cook in a pressure cooker for approx 40 minutes (@12psi). Release pressure slowly and allow to cool in the water (Alternatively simmer for 1-4 hours until very tender)
  3. Once cool, drain well reserving the cooking liquid. Set aside a few whole chickpeas as a garnish. Mix the tahini with half the lemon juice and the crushed garlic – it should tighten up – then stir in enough cooled cooking liquid to make a loose paste. Add this, and the chickpeas, to a food processor and whizz to make a purée
  4. Add the cumin and a generous pinch of salt, then gradually tip in enough cooking water to give a soft paste – it should just hold its shape, but not be claggy. (You’ll need approx 6 tbsp). Taste, and add more lemon juice, garlic or salt according to taste
  5. Tip into a bowl, and when ready to serve, drizzle with olive oil, garnish with the reserved chickpeas and sprinkle with a pinch of paprika

Artichoke & Lemon Dip

For the hens :)

(Also pictured in the background is hummus. That recipe is here if you’re planning a party)


  • 280g jar marinated artichokes, drained and oil reserved
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)
  • 20g parsley


  1. In a food processor, blitz together the artichokes, 3 tbsp of the reserved oil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, parsley, lemon zest and half the lemon juice
  2. Season with salt & pepper. Taste and add more lemon juice or oil if needed
  3. Garnish with a little lemon rind and parsley leaves

Ham Croquetas

These are a bit time-consuming to make but aren’t complicated at all. They are also amazingly good, well worth the effort!

If you make a big batch they can be frozen before deep-frying. Simply wrap them individually in cling-film and cook from frozen when needed

The original recipe can be found here on the Guardian website


  • 100g cured Spanish ham, very finely diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • ½ small leek, white part only - finely diced
  • 60g plain flour
  • 500ml whole milk, hot
  • Nutmeg, to grate
  • 2 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 150g panko breadcrumbs
  • 25g manchego or other hard cheese, finely grated
  • 1 litre olive oil, to fry

Makes 15 croquetas


  1. Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. When the butter melts add the leek and and fry gently for a minute. Then add 70g ham and cook until the leek has softened, and the ham fat has begun to melt
  2. Turn the heat down, gradually stir in the flour and cook gently, stirring regularly, until it loses its raw flavour – this should take about 8–10 minutes
  3. Gradually stir in the hot milk, beating it in well, until you have a smooth paste. Cook for another 15 minutes until it has the consistency of smooth mashed potato, then fold through the rest of the ham and season to taste with a grating of nutmeg and some black pepper (you won’t need any salt). Put the béchamel in a bowl and allow to cool, then cover, pressing the clingfilm on to the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours
  4. Put the beaten eggs into a bowl, and the breadcrumbs and cheese into another. With floured hands, roll spoonfuls of the mixture into cylinders and dip these into the egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs until well coated
  5. Heat the olive oil in a large pan to 180C, or until it begins to shimmer. Prepare a plate lined with kitchen roll. Fry the croquetas in batches for a couple of minutes until golden all over, then lift out with a slotted spoon and serve at once

Christmas Trimmings

Just a couple of days left to go now, so time to prep a few things in advance. I made the stuffing and veg today and they will happily keep in the fridge till needed on Christmas Day.

This is my mum’s stuffing recipe, with a few minor adjustments over the years. It’s always one of the most popular things on the table when served at Christmas, or even with a roast chicken during the year. The recipe makes *loads* of stuffing so you’ll have plenty of leftovers to go in your turkey sandwiches on Stephens Day. I “quality controlled” it by roasting a few stuffing balls for dinner, but its even better cooked inside the turkey.

Happy Christmas everyone :)

Madden Family Stuffing


  • 450g (1lb) sausage meat
  • 800g breadcrumbs
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 200g bacon lardons or diced unsmoked streaky rashers
  • 100g cashew nuts
  • ½ tbsp dark soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped sage leaves
  • large knob of butter
  • ~100ml freshly boiled water

Serves 8-10


  1. In a large dry frying pan, lightly toast the cashew nuts. Roughly chop and add to a big bowl
  2. Add a little oil to the pan and fry the bacon until starting to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl
  3. Using the same pan, gently sweat the onion until soft. Scrape the pan into the bowl, making sure to get any crispy bacon bits
  4. Mix all the other ingredients together in the bowl. Its easiest to just get stuck in and use your hands
  5. Add a little hot water, as needed, to ensure mixture isn’t too dry

Spiced Red Cabbage


  • 1 large red cabbage (about 1kg)
  • 25g butter
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • finely grated zest and juice 1 orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 150ml port
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

Serves 10-12


  1. Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage, then cut into quarters and slice out the core. Thinly slice using a sharp knife or food processor attachment
  2. Heat the butter in a large saucepan, then tip in the onions and gently fry until softened. Add the orange zest to the pan along with the cinnamon stick, then cook for 1 min more. Add the shredded cabbage, then pour over the port, balsamic vinegar, sugar, orange juice and 150ml water. Bring up to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 45 mins-1 hr until the cabbage is softened

Swede with Sage


  • 1 large turnip/swede (around 1kg)
  • 100g butter
  • approx 24 sage leaves, thinly sliced

Serves 8


  1. Peel and dice the swede into approx 1cm cubes
  2. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the swede. Season with salt and pepper and add half the sage. Cook gently for 45-60 minutes until soft. Stir through the remaining sage and serve