Cheese and Bacon Rolls

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Whether you call them cinnamon rolls or chelsea buns or something else entirely, the concept of rolling a filling in bread dough to make something delicious is a great idea and something that I seem to see pretty often online. However, I started to wonder – why are these rolls always sweet? Why not make a savoury version which is really just like a pre-filled sandwich? That way, I could have a tasty lunch for no more effort than packing a couple of rolls…well, no more effort than that first thing in the morning, which is my least favourite time of day – there is of course all the mixing and kneading and cooking and rolling that is required to make these tasty morsels, but that can be done the night before.

The dough recipe below is actually my second attempt at a good dough for this. For the first one I used quite a high water to flour ratio which meant that when it came to rolling out the dough, I was stuck (literally – to the counter). I nearly gave up after that first batch of dough as I had already spent quite a long time experimenting (unsuccessfully) with a Roman nut custard recipe (more on that to come  if I ever figure it out) but I persevered and it was worth it! Try to resist adding too much extra flour to your hands and the counter when kneading the dough – you can usually go longer than you think before you need more. However, do make sure that there is a healthy sprinkling of flour on the counter when it comes to rolling it out as it is important that the dough doesn’t stick at that point. All the cup measurements are based on a 250 ml mug as equal to 1 cup. If you want to, you can add a pinch of salt to the dough when you add the flour. However, I found the salt in the bacon and cheese was enough for me and so have not included it in the recipe below.

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What you need:

3 cups plain flour

7 gram sachet fast action dried yeast

1 dessertspoon + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for greasing the pan)

1 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Large handful of roughly chopped cooked bacon

Large handful of grated cheddar cheese

What to do:

1. Mix together in a bowl the flour and yeast.

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2. Add one dessertspoon of olive oil and the water to the flour and yeast and mix together thoroughly.

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3. Tip the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead for at least 10 minutes. Then put the dough back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave to rise somewhere warm for about 20 to 30 minutes.

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4. When the dough has risen to about twice its original size, tip it out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead again for at least 10 minutes. Re-flour the surface well and then roll the dough out into a large rectangle – mine was about 60 cm long by 25 cm wide.

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5.Mix together 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the Dijon mustard – don’t worry if they don’t mix together very well.

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6. Liberally brush the olive oil and mustard mixture over the top surface of the rolled out dough and then sprinkle the bacon and cheese evenly over the oil and mustard.

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7. Roll up the rectangle of dough along one of the wide ends. I found it easiest to do this by rolling a little at a time from one end all the way along to the other end, and then going back to the first end and rolling it a little more all the way along to the other end and so on.

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8. Cut the dough into evenly sized pieces – I went for 12 tallish rolls but you may prefer more short rolls. I found that cutting the rolls squashed them a little bit flat, so I squished them into slightly more round, sausage shapes and then adjusted them further so that they stood upright, but you could just leave them in their squished shapes and lie them flat in the pan in the next step if you prefer.

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9. Put the rolls in a greased tin (to grease the tin, just brush the sides with olive oil, or, if you prefer, melted butter), spaced evenly apart, and leave to rise again, covered with a damp tea towel, somewhere warm for 20 to 30 minutes until they have approximately doubled in size. I figured it would hurt to have the bacon out for about 20 minutes and then put it straight into a hot oven, but I’ll leave that decision up to you.

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10. Just before the rolls have finished rising, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180º C or 350º F). Remove the tea towel from the top of the baking pan and bake the rolls in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped underneath.

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11. When the rolls have baked, remove them from the pan and cool on a cooling rack. These are also very good (if not best) served warm straight from the oven. Yum!

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Identity

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I am currently reading a very good book called Dangerously Alive, which is by Simon Guillebaud and recounts his time as a missionary in Burundi. In the book (on page 108 for those who have it and are interested), Simon Guillebaud gives a quote from the UK newspaper, the Independent, which relates the story of a Burundian woman who, when commanded by the soldier who had just murdered her daughter to show him her ID card, handed the soldier a Bible and said that it was her identity.

What an amazing challenge I find that story. So often, I read Jesus’ words, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, NIV) and don’t really pause to consider the implications of them. That following Jesus is a whole-heart commitment in which we let our story become His story, His way become our way, and His will the guide for our lives. It is scary and often hard to give up ‘me’ and submit to God – to find my identity in Him – but it is also exhilarating and liberating. I am many identities, but it is good to stop and take time to reflect that foremost should be the fact that I am a sinner saved by God’s grace. Jesus didn’t just say the words that I quote above – He lived them as He quite literally denied Himself, took up His cross, submitted to God the Father, and died for the sins of the world. And because of that, I am not just a saved sinner but am also a child adopted into God’s family and an heir of grace.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17, NIV).

Simple Soda Bread

This recipe is not an authentic Irish recipe. It is the result of much trial on my part – lots of loaves of failed soda bread because I used too much bicarbonate of soda in my quest for an easy and quick bread recipe. But at last I think I’ve cracked it – something that tastes good and is simple and quick to make. And having cracked it, my next task is to experiment with different flavours, but for now I think I’ll just sit with a nice, warm slice of this bread thickly spread with butter and revel in, at last, having made a loaf of soda bread that didn’t taste so soda-y that I immediately wanted to throw it away. This makes a medium-sized loaf and all the cup measurements below are, as usual, based on a 250 ml mug as equal to one cup. I used 1 cup of water – the amount you need may vary depending on how absorbent the flour you are using is, but bear in mind that it may seem, until the last minute, that there is not enough water and so, if you do add more, add it sparingly.

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What you’ll need:

2 1/2 cups plain flour

Few grains salt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 cup boiling water

What to do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180º C or 350º F).

2. Sift together into a bowl the flour, salt and bicarb.

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3. Add the water to the bowl and mix/knead it thoroughly into the flour, salt and bicarb. It may take a little while to bring in all the flour and create a firm dough (you’ll probably need to use your hands towards the end…).

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4. Shape the dough into a ball and then flatten it into a round/wheel shape about half an inch high and put it onto a greased baking tray. Cut a cross shape into the top of the loaf.

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5. Bake the bread in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about half an hour or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped underneath. When done, remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack, or (if you’re me), immediately split open the loaf and spread a hunk of the bread thickly with real butter and a spread of your choice before devouring. If you want to leave the loaf to cool before eating, spear (for example with a cake tester) a couple of places to help the steam escape.

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Halloumi Salad

Quite a few years ago, J and I had holiday flights that transited in Qatar. On the way back we had quite a few hours in Qatar airport, which was quite an experience as, at the time, the airport was undergoing a massive renovation project. The airport (at the time) was rather small with few shops and only a small handful of places to eat and drink (thankfully we had books to keep us occupied!). One shop offered a large selection of ice-cream and milkshake flavours, which appealed to us hugely as two hot and weary travellers. My milkshake choice was quickly narrowed down to strawberry (one of my favourite flavours) or date (something I had not tried in milkshake form but loved in the fruit form) and, with a long queue building up behind us, I chose strawberry. Whilst that milkshake was very nice, as I drank it I kept wondering what a date-flavoured milkshake would taste like, and harbouring slight regrets that I had not plumbed for the more adventurous choice. Those thoughts continued as we boarded our flight not long afterwards and then carried on into the following weeks, ultimately leading to me making a rather disastrous attempt at a date milkshake (dried dates blended with plain ice-cream and milk anyone…?). That incident challenged me to be more adventurous in my eating-and-drinking-out-consumption-choices and I resolved to try (with flexibility) from then on to choose the more adventurous option on a menu if there was one (except when gammon steaks are on offer, but that is a whole different love story). Whilst not always consistently applied, that resolve has lead to some delicious dish-tasting experiences that I might not have had otherwise.

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One of those choices, in a pub one lunchtime last year, was a grilled halloumi salad – a choice influenced partly by a longstanding but unfulfilled desire to try halloumi (yes, I realise halloumi isn’t necessarily quite as ‘different’ as the story above might imply my choice should be, but we are talking a regular pub menu here not a gourmet dining experience).  This simple salad does not completely replicate that salad, but it comes close, and, along with some crusty bread (which didn’t make it into my photos as I ate it before then), makes for a very tasty and easy weekday meal. If you you’ve never tried halloumi before, I would encourage you to give it a go – it is a sheep and goat’s (and sometimes cow’s) milk cheese with a relatively high melting point, meaning that you can brown it and it will keep its shape. Please excuse the poor and weird light – I blame it firstly on the rapidly fading daylight and secondly on needing to use artificial light halfway through this process as a result of that rapidly fading daylight. This makes a large salad for one person.

What you’ll need:

A handful of mixed salad greens

About a quarter of a long cucumber, washed and diced

Half a red pepper, diced

5-7 cherry tomatoes, halved

About 10 black olives

3-4 slices of halloumi (about 1/2 cm thick – and don’t worry if they fall apart a bit – as you can see from the photos below, that happened to me too)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed or diced small

Juice of half a lemon

Pinch dried oregano

Freshly ground pepper

Salt (optional – I preferred not to have any as the cheese is pretty salty already)

What to do:

1. Put the salad greens, diced cucumber and pepper, tomatoes and black olives into a bowl and set aside.

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2. Heat up a generous glug of olive oil in a frying pan and then carefully place the slices of halloumi in the pan when the oil is hot.

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3. Cook the halloumi in the hot oil for a couple of minutes until brown on the underside, and then flip over to brown on the other side (the second side will be quicker than the first).

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4. When the halloumi has browned (not browned not blackened as I did), put it on some crumpled kitchen towel to drain whilst you make the dressing for the salad.

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5. For the dressing, fry the crushed or diced garlic in the leftover hot oil in the pan for a couple of minutes until just starting to go a golden brown colour. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice, oregano, pepper and (if using) salt to the pan and stir together.

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6. Pour the dressing over the salad vegetables and toss together. Drizzle a bit more olive oil into the bowl, if it is needed.

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7. Artistically arrange the salad and fried halloumi slices on a plate (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself I did…). Drizzle a tiny bit more olive oil over the top of the halloumi and enjoy!

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Crispy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These cookies were inspired by the cereal bars that have called my name every lunchtime for the last couple of weeks. They weren’t just any cereal bars, but the type that cuts through the health claims of cereal bars in general with a thick chocolate or yogurt coating that makes all the difference to my eating pleasure – the type that is really a chocolate bar with ‘cereal’ in the title and a handful of nuts and dried fruit thrown in to appease guilty health consciences. These cookies certainly do not tick the ‘healthy’ box but I’d like to hope that they do tick a ‘happy’ box. I was certainly happy when they turned out very close in reality to the way I’d imagined them when the idea was conceived. This makes about 14 cookies (or more, depending on how much raw batter, which I actually prefer to the baked version, you eat). All the cup measurements below are based on a 250 ml mug as equal to one cup.
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What you’ll need:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
Pinch salt
1 cup crisped rice
100 grams milk chocolate
What to do:
1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180ºC or 350ºF).
2. Cream together the butter and sugar.
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3. Add the eggs and vanilla essence to the butter and sugar and beat together well with an electric beater.
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4. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl and fold into the butter/sugar/egg mixture (please imagine a photo with all of the flour incorporated into the mixture – I appear to have forgotten to take one…).
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5. Roughly chop the chocolate.
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6. Add the chopped chocolate and crisped rice to the bowl and fold into the flour/butter/sugar/egg mixture until the chocolate and crisped rice are well-distributed throughout the mixture.
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7. Place dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on a greased tray, at least 1 inch apart and flatten (or rather smush down) with the back of a fork.
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8. Bake the cookies in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes or until they are a golden brown colour.
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9. Remove the cookies from the oven and either cool on a cooling rack or (my preferred option) eat straight away whilst warm and filled with pockets of melty chocolate.
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Date and Walnut Loaf

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There is something very comforting about old family recipes – the kind that you ate as a child, learnt to make as you got older, and then take into your own home to continue the tradition. This recipe is an old recipe from my family, and possibly one of my Dad’s favourite baked things. The walnuts are optional, but I much prefer to add them. All the cup measurements below are based on a 250 ml mug as equal to one cup (yes, that is an old family tradition too…!). Unfortunately, I don’t know the dimensions of the loaf tin that should be used, but a normalish-sized one should do (mine is too small and so I end up making a handful of muffins with the leftover mixture each time I make this).

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What you need:

250 gram pack dates, roughly chopped

1 cup walnuts (whole or roughly chopped)

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 cup boiling water

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon dried ginger

1 egg, beaten

What to do:

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5 (190º C or 375º F).

2. Put the chopped dates, walnuts, butter or margarine and bicarb into a large bowl. Add the boiling water to the bowl, mix everything together and let it stand for a few minutes, stirring a couple of times to ensure that everything is well mixed and the butter/margarine fully melted.

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3. When the butter/margarine has melted and the mixture has stood for a few minutes, add the sugar to the bowl and then sift in the flour and ginger before adding the beaten egg and mixing everything together thoroughly with a whisk.

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4. Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin and bake in the middle of the pre-heated oven for about 40-60 minutes (depending on the size of the tin) until done.

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5. Tip the loaf out of the tin and try to resist immediately cutting off a slice and spreading it thickly with butter before eating it leave to cool on a cooling rack.

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