Rainy Day Blues

It’s been raining for the last few days and the weather forecast predicts more rain for the rest of the week. Lovely for the garden, not so good for the solar system. No sun, no electricity.

Not feeling in the mood to brave the elements, and seeing that we were short of basics, namely bread, I decided to bake some for the family. I didn’t want to bake just ordinary bread so I delved into my recipes for something a little more exotic. While paging through these, deciding which one to make, my son informed me that his wife and my wife had both used the washing machine and that the solar batteries were too low to operate even the air-fryer oven or microwave. Because of the cloud cover, the solar panels were not able to charge the batteries.

My plans to bake bread were thus thwarted. The best I could do was to send the chosen bread recipes to you, my readers. Hopefully you will be able to put them to good use. I couldn’t help including something sweet. I thought if the oven’s hot, might as well bake a cake while you are about it.

Well, I eventually got wet after all. The family had to be fed and it fell upon me to go out in the rain and buy pizzas. I must admit that after a hot shower and settled in on the sofa, watching telly, the pizza tasted damn good.

Festive Browned-butter Focaccia

Left to simmer and brown slightly, butter develops a nutty deep flavour that becomes slightly sweet.


  • Dough:
  • 3 Tbsp (45ml) butter
  • 2½ cups (375g) white bread flour + extra for dusting
  • ½ Tbsp (7ml) fine salt
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) sugar
  • 1 sachet (10g) instant yeast
  • 1½ cups (375ml) lukewarm water
  • Olive oil, for greasing and drizzling
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 10 sprigs sage
  • ½–1 tsp (3–5ml) salt flakes
  • ¼ cup (60ml) butter, melted
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Pomegranate rubies (optional)


  1. Melt butter in a pan on medium heat and simmer for 4–5 minutes, or until it turns dark brown. Remove from heat.
  2. Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl or stand mixer.
  3. Add water in a steady stream while continuously mixing, until a dough forms.
  4. Add browned butter and knead dough for 10 minutes in the stand mixer bowl. (Alternatively knead by hand for about 12-15 minutes.)
  5. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingwrap directly on the surface of the dough. (Covering your dough in this way will avoid a crust forming while dough proofs.)
  6. Proof for 1 hour, then fold dough in half and proof for another 90 minutes, repeating the folding process at the 30- and 60-minute marks. (This traps air instead of knocking it out, creating the characteristic bubbly bread.)
  7. Gently place dough in a lined and well-oiled deep 35cm x 25cm tray.
  8. Spread dough out using your fingers. Sprinkle with herbs and salt flakes and poke holes all over.
  9. Drizzle with olive oil.
  10. Set aside for 15 minutes, while preheating oven to 250°C.
  11. Bake for 5 minutes, reduce heat to 220°C and bake for 10 minutes more.
  12. Simmer melted butter and garlic in a pan until butter is browned.
  13. Brush top of bread with garlic butter and bake for another 5–8 minutes.
  14. Remove, cool in the tray, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  15. Served sprinkled with pomegranate rubies.

Naan with curried minute steaks

This super-quick supper is lip-smackingly good.


  • 2 packet (2’s) naan breads
  • 350–500g beef minute steaks
  • 2–3 Tbsp (30–45ml) curry powder
  • Salt and milled pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 2–3 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • Handful each coriander and mint
  • Juice (30ml) of 1 lime
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 2 tsp (10ml) grated ginger
  • Plain low-fat yoghurt, for serving


  1. Heat naans according to packet instructions.
  2. Toss steak with curry powder until coated, and season well.
  3. Heat a pan over high heat, add a glug of oil and sear steak until cooked to your liking. Set aside to rest.
  4. Toss cucumber, tomato, onion and herbs together.
  5. Mix lime juice, chilli and ginger and toss through salad.
  6. Spread yoghurt over naans.
  7. Pile salad and steaks on top and serve.

Maize flatbread pizza

Try any pizza toppings you like.


  • 1 cup (250ml) maize meal
  • ¾ cup (180ml) self-raising flour
  • Handful parsley, chopped, plus extra for serving
  • Salt and milled pepper
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • ½ cup (125ml) milk
  • ¼ cup (60ml) tomato sauce
  • 1 cup (250ml) mature cheddar, grated
  • 1 bunch vine tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ packet pitted black olives, drained


  1. Preheat oven at 180°C
  2. Combine maize meal, flour, parsley and a pinch of salt.
  3. Combine egg and milk and whisk into maize meal mixture.
  4. Spoon batter into two oiled 20cm pizza or ovenproof pans.
  5. Bake for 12–15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and top with tomato sauce, cheddar, tomatoes and olive
  7. Return to oven and bake for 12–15 minutes.
  8. Scatter with chopped parsley and season. Serve.

No yeast Irish soda bread

Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.


  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 1 t bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 525 ml buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 220ºC.  Lightly grease and flour a cake pan.

In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients.

Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough.  Place on floured surface and lightly knead  (not too much or all the gas will escape).

Shape into a round flat shape in a round cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough.

Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped to show it is done.

Soup bread


  • 2½ t instant yeast
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 420 g cake flour
  • 1¼ t salt
  • 1 t white wine vinegar


Mix the yeast, sugar and water, set aside and allow the yeast to bubble, about 15 minutes.

Place the flour in a separate bowl, reserving ½ cup. Add the salt, vinegar and the yeast mixture to the flour. Mix using a wooden spoon, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes to form a wet dough. Add the remaining flour and knead for another few minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and set aside until doubled in size. Knock down the dough, shape into a round loaf and place on a floured baking tray.

Cut a cross into the dough, then set aside again to rise once more until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Bake the bread for 30 minutes, or until it is golden in colour and makes a hollow sound when tapped.

Easter bread (eggy bread)

In Italy, bakers whip up a corona pasquale around Easter – a bread ring studded with coloured eggs. In Greece, the dyed eggs are nestled into a plaited bread. But you don’t need to be in Europe to enjoy them!


  • 6 -8 large free-range eggs
  • 40 ml red food colouring
  • 2 T white wine vinegar
  • For the sweet dough:
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 5 T sugar
  • 10 g dry yeast
  • 2 arge free-range eggs
  • 330 g flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 115 g butter, cubed & room temperature


In a medium pot, place eggs in cold water with vinegar and food colouring. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat and allow eggs to cool in water. Turn eggs to get an even colour.

In a small pot or microwave, heat milk to luke warm temperature. Add 1 T sugar and yeast to the milk. Stir to combine and allow yeast to develop (becomes foamy/bubbly on top). Add eggs to the milk mixture and stir till well combined. In a food processor or electric mixer (dough hook), place your flour, salt and 4 T sugar. On a slow/medium speed add the milk to the flour mixture. Slowly start to add the butter, mixing well in between additions. The dough should be soft and velvety after kneading.

Lightly grease a bowl and allow dough to rest, covered with a damp cloth/plastic. Set aside in a warm area until the dough has doubled in size (1hr – 1hr 30 mins). Knock back dough and divide into 3 equal balls. Roll out 3 pipes, if dough bounces back allow to rest covered for 10 minutes. Plait the 3 “pipes”, tucking/pinching the ends together. Tuck the dyed eggs in between the plaits. Loosely cover with plastic or kitchen towel. Allow the bread to rise for 40-45 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Make an egg wash with an egg and 2 t warm water. Brush the bread with the egg wash, try avoiding the dyed eggs. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Vanilla Butter Cake

Six ingredients give you a mixture that’s cheaper than shop-bought cake mix, and just as easy.


  • 1 cup (250g) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) castor sugar
  • 2 tsp (10ml) vanilla essence
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 1½ cups (225g) self-raising flour
  • Pinch fine salt
  • Edible flowers and mint, for serving (optional)
  • Buttercream icing:
  • ¾ cup (180g) soft butter
  • 2 cups (260g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla essence
  • Squeeze lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Line a 20–23cm loose-bottomed cake tin with baking paper and spray with non-stick spray.
  3. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together for 6–8 minutes, using an electric whisk. (The mixture should triple in quantity and become pale yellow to white.)
  4. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well to incorporate before adding the next one.
  5. Sift flour into a large bowl. Add salt, then the wet mixture and mix well to combine.
  6. Pour batter into prepared cake tin.
  7. Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Cool in tin for 5–10 minutes, then unmould and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  9. For the icing, whisk butter until fluffy.
  10. Add vanilla essence and lemon juice.
  11. Add icing sugar in 3–4 batches, whisking well to incorporate before the next addition.
  12. Once cake is cool, top with icing. Decorate with flowers and mint, if you like.