Schwartz for dinner tonight (review) #schwartz2in1

If you didn’t know already by reading this blog, I love cooking and baking, and then writing up here the new things that I’ve tried. Most of the time I just make make it up as I go along, rarely following recipes, and instead taking inspiration from dishes I’ve tasted or smelled or just heard of. There are some evenings though, when we’re all tired and hungry, that I lack inspiration or the ability to remember previous inspirational moments.

So when I saw that BritMums were offering some Schwartz 2-in-1 sachets to review as part of the “Tell us what’s for dinner tonight” challenge (I’m entering this post with a chance to win a prize) I thought I’d give them a go. As BritMums write: sometimes you need a little inspiration to make your meals even better. And that’s just what these Schwartz sachets are here to help with.

The details

Schwartz describe their new 2-in-1 range as “easy to use recipe mix sachets in one handy pack: one sachet flavours the main dish whilst the other contains ? seasoning for a complementary side dish or topping. With 5 different varieties to choose from, and an easy recipe on the back of each pack, it’s a great way to try out new dishes or transform an existing family favourite.” You can see all the different flavours here, and I was sent two of these sachets to try:

  • Mediterranean Chicken Pasta and Cheesy Crumb Topping: A blend of herbs and spices for chicken pasta with a cheesy topping
  • Garlic & Thyme Roast Chicken and Crispy Roast Potatoes: Roast chicken seasoning, with garlic and thyme, accompanied by a special seasoning to create perfect Crispy Roast Potatoes

For us, the sachet for the pasta bake is an example of a way to transform an existing family favourite, as we quite often cook a tomato-based pasta bake with veg and tuna in and cheese on the top as a quick and easy midweek meal. The recipe on the sachet suggests that you make it with chicken and peppers, but as we don’t cook meat very often, I decided to adapt it to what we had in the cupboard and veg box that week. So we had tuna, carrots and courgette instead (the “hint and tips” section on the sachet suggests that you could replace the chicken and peppers with tuna and sweetcorn, and gives you instructions for when to add these at different stages fro, the original recipe). I’m planning on using the roast chicken and potatoes mix to bake some white fish with potatoes one day, but I’m still looking out for when the fish is on the reduced shelf when we go shopping so I can grab us a bargain meal.

Schwartz 2 Collage
Before grilling…………..after grilling, yummy bubbling cheese

How easy was it?

The evening that I cooked the pasta bake was a classic for our family. We usually eat together around 6.30pm, but I’m never too sure how much I’ll be required for feeding Joel around that time. These days it’s not that much, but I can be called away at quite short notice. This is why I’m into slow cooking, it’s ready for 6.30pm having done all the prep earlier. But I digress. I started off chopping the veg, weighing out the pasta and grating the cheese, whilst Daddy and the boys were otherwise entertaining themselves. But then a tired Joel got very grizzly, so Daddy and I swapped and he carried on doing the cooking. We make a good team, and often end up cooking half a meal each. This usually involves me shouting instructions at him from the sofa, but with the recipe on the Schwartz 2-in-1 sachet, he was pleased that he could follow it himself with a couple of verbal notes from me about how I was adapting it. I too found the instructions easy to follow and adapt.

Schwartz 1 Collage
Prepping – nothing complicated

I liked the fact that the ingredients were all things that we had in the cupboard or fridge, and we could just decide at short notice that this is what we’d have for dinner, open tins and cartons, do some chopping and grating, fling it all together and that was it. No tricky steps or fancy equipment required. The larger part of the sachet contained a mix of herbs to add to the tomatoes to form a sauce, which then got mixed with the pasta, tuna and veg, and the smaller part of the sachet contained a crispy herby topping to mix with grated cheese and sprinkle them on top.

The taste test

Whilst it was cooking, both the sauce in the pan and the completed bake under the grill smelled delicious, so we were waiting with watering mouths for what was to come on our plates. We were not disappointed, the flavour did live up to the deliciousness that the smell had promised. The boys absolutely loved it – pasta is their favourite for dinner, so to get approval from them means it met their high standards. Andrew decided to call it ‘special pasta’, I’m not quite sure why, maybe he could tell that it was better than the usual pasta bakes that I whip up without the sachet! Joel expressed his opinion by making loud lip snacking noises as he shovelled fistfuls into his mouth. Us adults were also pleased with a meal that was high in taste factor but low in effort factor – the sachet really did transform what could have otherwise been a fairly ordinary pasta bake.

Schwartz 3 Collage
A very happy baby with his dinner

Any problems?

Just one problem that we found was the salt content: my little boys have good appetites, so the portion they ate of the pasta bake contains all the salt in their guideline daily amount as an under 1 and an under 3. I suspect a fair amount of this also comes from the cheese as well as the flavouring. They don’t have much other salt in the day as I don’t add it to anything (including the bread we make in the bread maker), so I don’t mind them eating something like this occasionally, but I wouldn’t want them to eat it every day unless the salt content was reduced. I find this a general problem with sachet or jar sauces, so we don’t often eat them, but they are handy to have in for the odd day here and there.

Our verdict

Overall we were very impressed by the sachet. It was easy to cook and had a yummy result. I would buy it again to have in the cupboard, though as I said it would only be for occasional use with two little ones due to the salt content. It made an ordinary meal ‘special’ for us.

This post is an entry for BritMums ‘What’s for Dinner Tonight?’ sponsored by Schwartz. Find out more about the new 2in1 mixes here

Disclaimer: I was sent the sachets free of charge for the purpose of this review, but all opinions expressed are honest and my own, based on our experience of cooking with one of them.



Red veggie crumble #slowcookersunday

This week in the veg box we got some beetroots. Last time we had beetroots in the box, I made a chocolate beetroot cake (it was so much yummier than it sounds!) But this time, as much as I was tempted to make another amazing cake, I decided we really needed a good all in one pot meal from them, that I could prep quickly in the morning and it would be ready for dinner. So of course in came the slow cooker.

Veg crumble 2

I love crumbles, and think they work just as well as a savoury dish as with fruit in a sweet dish (here’s a previous recipe that I blogged). They are real comfort food, and if you slow cook it, you don’t have the hassle of having to cook it about an hour before you eat in the evening when the kids are tired and hungry and therefore you get some stress mixed in with your comfort. Andrew was also very interested to watch me chop the veg and make the crumble, so I let him ‘help’ rub the crumble together (it was already done really, but he dipped his hands in and copied me for about 10 seconds).

Veg crumble 1

I was originally thinking of this recipe as a ‘traffic lights’ one – toddler-friendly you see – as it has beetroots, carrots and green pepper in. But once it was cooked, the beetroot colour basically took over the dish and made it look completely red. This was a hit with Andrew, who loves bright colours, though perhaps not so much actually eating beetroot! He didn’t put up much of a fight though, and was easily persuaded to put the exciting looking red bits in his mouth once the offer of some of his favourite fruits was mentioned for pudding, if he ate all his main course. The red colour also makes this savoury crumble look like a more common fruit crumble that has berries in.

As always with my slow cooker recipes, it was so simple to make….


  • 4 medium beetroots
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 100g dried red lentils
  • 900 ml hot stock (I use low salt)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 270g plain flour
  • 100g margarine
  • dried mixed herbs


  1. Wash the lentils thoroughly and leave in water whilst you prep everything else.
  2. Chop the beetroots, carrots and peppers into small chunks.
  3. Make the crumble topping by rubbing the margarine with the flour and a good sprinkling of herbs until you get a bread crumb texture.
  4. Drain the lentils and add them with the veg and stock to the slow cooker pot.
  5. Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to form a paste, then add to the pot and stir all the ingredients together.
  6. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  7. Then add the crumble topping and cook for a further 4 hours.
  8. Serve as it is – it’s a one pot meal!

Slow cooked pearl barley veggie risotto

Although I knew you could put pearly barley in soups and stews to give a thicker texture, I’d never thought of making a meal in which pearl barley was the main ingredient, used like rice to make a risotto, until I saw it used like this in a recipe in my slow cooker cookbook from which I’ve taken inspiration for various recipes that I’ve come up with. The barley gives it a slightly different taste and texture compared to ordinary risotto with rice, and I like having this for a change. Plus barley is supposed to be good for breast milk production.

The recipe for pearl barley risotto in my book isn’t really my cup of tea because it contains blue cheese, which I don’t like. So I’ve changed all the ingredients except the pearl barley and created a risotto that’s more to my taste. I included a tin of chopped tomatoes because, for risottos in general, I’m into using chopped tomatoes as part of the liquid for cooking the rice – it gives it a good flavour without having to use as much stock, which is great in terms of salt reduction for little ones, and Andrew isn’t too keen on raw tomatoes but will happily eat cooked ones from a tin in sauces on pasta and rice like this. The vegetables in this risotto were those which came in our veg box this week – all our meals these days are planned around what veg we get, and I like this because it makes me think of new things rather than always buying the same kinds of veg week in week out. I also chucked in a tin of canellini beans as the protein in our meal. The final touch was a sprinkling of grated mature cheddar to give an extra boost of flavour.

My boys approved, and Andrew even asked for seconds of ‘zotto’, so it must have gone down well. This recipe was enough for 2 meals for us, so that’s 2 evenings of not having to cook just at the time when we’re all tired and irritable. Result!


  • 230g pearl barley
  • half a large savoy cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 medium leek, finely chopped
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 900ml vegetable stock (I use low-salt for toddler)
  • 400g tin canellini beans, drained
  • 3 tbsp dried oregano
  • 50g mature cheddar, grated


  1. Put all the ingredients except the cheddar into the slow cooker pot and stir to mix them together.
  2. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. Stir well before serving with a sprinkling of grated cheese on top.


Pancakes: cheesy-leek and choccy-cherry

Wow, it’s Shrove Tuesday again already! Where did that year go?! I know it’s not quite a whole year since last year’s Pancake Day, but still I can’t quite believe what’s happened since. I distinctly remember last year’s Shrove Tuesday because I had just done a couple of pregnancy tests which had come out positive and I was about to embark on months of feeling and being sick. So this year I intended to enjoy my pancakes, and enjoy them a lot!

For tea we had some savoury and sweet pancakes. This week in our veg box we got a couple of leeks (amongst other items), so they formed the basis of our savoury pancakes, sautéed until crispy and mixed with some cheese – a good flavour combination I think. As our protein for the meal, I added a tin of tuna. And to complement these flavours I added some mixed green herbs to the pancake batter. There was some chocolate ganache left over from some cupcakes that we baked recently (blog post to follow), so that became an indulgent filling along with some dried cherries for our sweet treat pancakes. I convinced Andrew that you (or rather ‘he’) only needs a small amount of the chocolate to taste it – any more chocolate an hour before bed could have led to disaster! i love red fruits with chocolate, I think they work really well, but this time of year they’re not in season and I find the ones you can get in the shops now, which are grown abroad, don’t have the same flavour as local ones in the summer, plus they are expensive. So the dried ones that we buy as snacks for Andrew gave us the intense cherry flavour to go with the chocolate.

Here’s how I made each filling, along with the pancake batters that I whipped up…..


Pancake batters

  • 120g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 75ml water
  • 2 tbsp mixed herbs added to savoury batter
  • 2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles added to sweet batter
  • butter or margarine to fry

Cheesy-leek filling

  • knob of butter or margarine
  • 2 small leeks, chopped
  • 75g cheese, grated – I used cheddar because that’s what we had in, but you can use any cheese you like really as long as it melts in nicely.
  • 1 standard tin of tuna (optional)
  • black pepper

Choccy-cherry filling

  • 90g dried cherries (this was the size of the pack we had and we ate it all between us)
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 50ml double cream
I used the ganache that was left over from cupcake icing – there was about one third left of what was originally 150g chocolate and 150ml cream.



  1. Use a blender – either a jug one on its own base or a stick one in a jug that’s at least a pint in size – to blend all the batter ingredients together. I just shove them all in together in no particular order and then start blending once they’re all in the jug.
  2. Transfer half the batter to another jug and add the chocolate sprinkles; add the herbs to the original jug.
Cheesy-leek filling
  1. Heat the butter/margarine for the leek filling in a large frying pan and fry the leeks until they are nicely browned and soft.
  2. Take off the heat and stir through the tin of tuna and grated cheese until the cheese is just melting.
  3. Season with black pepper to taste.
Choccy-cherry filling
  1. Heat the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan on a low heat whilst stirring, until the chocolate has melted and mixed with the cream completely.
  2. Take off the heat and whisk for a couple of minutes until it becomes thicker and glossier.
  3. Leave to cool and thicken in the fridge.
  4. Put the chocolate filling into a piping bag.

Assembling all together – I did the previous three sections of prep earlier in the day or week so we were ready to roll (or rather flip!) in the evening for tea (I just heated the cheesy leeks in the microwave to serve).

  1. Heat the butter/margarine in a frying pan until it’s sizzling – I use quite a small one as I find smaller pancakes easier to handle, but you can use whatever size pan you want your finished pancakes to be.
  2. Pour some batter into the pan, enough to give a fairly thin pancake, and swirl the pan around so that the batter goes right to the edges.
  3. Cook for a few minutes, checking the underside every now and then, using a fish slice to lift the pancake edge up slightly, until it looks nicely brown underneath.
  4. Then for the flip! If you’re brave, flip it into the air directly from the pan and catch it so the uncooked side is now facing down. If like me you’re a pancake wuss, use the fish slice to flip it over in the pan.
  5. Cook for a few more minutes until the new underside is nicely browned.
  6. Take out of the pan and fill immediately with your filling – spoon some cheesy-leek filling into the centre, or pipe some chocolate filling and add a handful of dried cherries into the centre, and roll up the pancake.
  7. Eat immediately whilst still hot – Tom and I take it in turns to fry a pancake and eat one, rather than cooking them all and then eating them. We find this adds to the fun of our Shroce Tuesday tea-time.
  8. Yummy yummy (as Andrew said)!

Butternut squash risotto with pea and rosemary pesto: non-smelly cooking!

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a few weeks, you probably know that since I was about 6 weeks pregnant, I haven’t been able to smell food cooking without feeling nauseous. Until about week 15, it wasn’t just nausea – I would be physically sick whenever I smelled it. I didn’t actually realise that it was the food cooking smell that was such a major trigger to my sickness until we went on holiday for a week when I was 10 weeks pregnant: one evening we went out for a meal, and although I didn’t stay long or eat anything except some bread at the pub, when I went back to the house where we were staying I felt better than I had been all week at that time in the evening – it dawned on me that nobody had cooked anything there that evening. Since we got back from that holiday, we’ve not cooked anything in the flat. Don’t feel too sorry for my boys though, because Tom gets a free cooked lunch at work (Cambridge colleges seem to look after their staff), and Andrew has one meal a day heated up from the freezer that were very helpfully cooked by Granny at her house 80 miles away 🙂

Yummy! And my tasters thought so too - Andrew even asked for more!

Until recently we’ve mainly been eating salad, bread, cooked meats, cheese etc. I realised a while ago that boiling things like pasta, potatoes, rice was OK, because it didn’t smell that bad – the main trigger seems to be anything frying in oil/fat, particularly meat but also veg, or anything roasting in oil/fat, again particularly meat but also veg. So we’ve been able to make simple pasta and potato salads and eat them cold. I also found out relatively recently that putting a pizza in the oven for just 5-10 mins (all it needs in our efficient oven) is bearable, I guess because all it’s doing is melting cheese and heating up rather than actually cooking it. The past few weeks I’ve been able to stand the smell of baking (cakes, biscuits, bread etc.) much more than before.

Pea and rosemary pesto ready to go in the risotto when the rice is done. I love the bright green colour from the peas.

In the past week or so I’ve been feeling more adventurous in terms of thinking of things that I could ‘cook’ that don’t smell – basically this means avoiding frying or roasting. So instead of eating just cold things, we’ve actually had some ‘cooked’ meals. One of the dishes I came up with was a risotto, and it went down very well with both my tasters (aka Tom and Andrew) so I thought I’d blog it, because it’s so quick and easy to do, and really does taste as good as something that requires more ingredients and proper cooking. I don’t add salt to any of our food, both for Andrew’s sake and because I’m not a big fan of even slightly salty food – but this risotto could be made with a stock cube if you’d prefer, by just adding it to the boiling water as the rice and squash boil. I prefer to get all the flavour from the peas, cheese and rosemary in the homemade pesto. The first time I made it I left it veggie, but the second time I added a tin of tuna, because since being pregnant I’ve been more concerned that I get enough protein. It would also work with pulses as protein – I often stick beans in veggie risottos to give them a source of protein.

Anyway, here’s the recipe….

Ingredients – serves 2 adults and a toddler

  • 1 medium butternut squash, skin off and cut into small-ish cubes
  • 1 large mug of rice (I just use long grain for risottos to save on the cost of risotto rice)
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 50g cheese (I used cheddar because I’m not sure I can have parmesan at the moment as all the packs in the supermarket said unpasteurised – I’d probably try parmesan when I’m not pregnant)
  • olive oil – a few glugs
  • handful of fresh rosemary (we’re lucky that we have some growing in pots on our balcony – it’s amazing what you can grown even if you live in a flat – we have tomatoes, herbs and lettuce)


  1. Place the squash cubes and rice in a large pan and add boiling water. Leave to boil for about 10 minutes, adding more boiling water if necessary once it starts to get absorbed into the rice.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the frozen peas in the microwave (or in a pan of boiling water). Once cooked, drain any excess water and place in a food processor. (I have one of those small whizzers, so I do half at a time).
  3. Chop the cheese into chunks and place in the food processor, along with the rosemary – remove the leaves from the stalky bits.
  4. Drizzle a glug or two of olive oil into the food processor.
  5. Whizz all the ingredients together until you have a smooth paste, adding more oil if necessary.
  6. Once the rice and squash are cooked, add the pesto to them and stir well to spread it around evenly. (If there is excess water in the pan, drain before adding the pesto, but it’s best to add a bit of water at a time to the rice and squash when they’re cooking, so you don’t end up with an excess in the first place.)
  7. Serve straight away. It also freezes well for another day – just make sure it’s thoroughly defrosted and heated through again.

(Wo)man against machine: caraway seed bagels (inspired by the Great British Bake Off, episode 2)

As regular readers will know, I like to have a good story behind why I bake something. This week’s offering is no exception; in fact there’s a few different strands to the story. So you might want to grab yourself a cuppa….

Oooooo so yummy

First, I was inspired by the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) again this week, and thought I’d have a go at making bagels, which were the third bake that the contestants had to do. I once made some using the recipe for bagels that came with my parents’ bread-maker, but that was a long time ago, whilst I was still living at home (when I think of how many years that must be, it’s quite scary – let’s just say at least 10). If I remember rightly, they came out fine – they were just plain, with some oatmeal on the bottom. I remember now that I had to scour many supermarkets and health food shops to finally find that oatmeal! This is an issue I still have today, though have finally found a lovely shop in Cambridge, The Daily Bread Cooperative, which sells oatmeal (and loads of other lovely things!) at very reasonable prices. Anyway, I digress.

When I was thinking about what flavour(s) I could put in my bagels, I’d not long ago been reading a book called The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk. When I first came across La Leche League when I was struggling to breastfeed Andrew, I borrowed this book from the LLL library, and found it a very useful resource. As I’ve been thinking about how I can increase my supply again this time, as I am likely to hit similar supply problems with this baby, I’ve bought my own copy of this book. There is a whole section on foods that are supposed to be galactagogues (i.e. substances that help produce more breast milk in the mum), including oats and various herbs. I took herbal supplements in the form of capsules when Andrew was a baby, and ate lots of oats – porridge most days, as well as copious amounts of flapjack and oaty goodies. As I was reading through the list of herbs, my eye was drawn to ‘caraway seeds’. This brought back fond memories of a cake that one of my Grandmas used to bake when I was younger – we called it ‘seed cake’, and it was basically a plain sponge loaf cake with caraway seeds in. I used to LOVE that cake, and would always get excited whenever Grandma told us that it was on offer for pudding. I knew that I had to try baking something with caraway seeds in, because, after all, I would have the excuse that whatever I baked would be helping with my milk production. The interesting thing about eating/taking herbs for breast milk increasing purposes is that it’s very hard to tell if they are actually working for a particular mum. As I’ve never been able to express much (some women just can’t as easily as others), I couldn’t say that the herbs were giving me a specific increase, like, say, 6oz more per day after taking them – it’s more a case of trusting that they are working, or resigning yourself to the fact that they might not be. But if what I’m eating tastes good, that’s a good enough excuse in itself.

So, as you might have guessed, I put these two ideas (bagels, caraway seeds) together and came up with (surprise, surprise!) caraway seed bagels. Handily I managed to buy a fairly large bag of caraway seeds from The Daily Bread Coop. I thought for quite a while as to whether I should add one more flavour to the mix, for example a dried fruit or another herb or spice, but in the end I decided that I wanted that pure, unadulterated taste of caraway, just how Grandma’s cake used to taste. Instead of just popping a sprinkling of seeds on top, like you often get with poppy seed or sesame seed bagels, I went for putting the seeds into the dough itself, because it annoys me when you lose half the seeds in the bag with those kinds of bagels, and I wanted a good taste of caraway in my mouth, not the storage container!

As I set to and got the ingredients out, I stopped for a minute to contemplate whether I would used the bread-maker (dough maker setting) or mix by hand. I knew which would be easier, but in the end I decided on my own fair hands, because that was more authentically like the GBBO. As I started to knead the dough, I realised that my energy level at the time was not really up for hardcore kneading. It’s been a tiring week, and my baking session was supposed to be some relaxing me-time whilst my boys were out in town. After about 10 minutes of (admittedly half-hearted) kneading, I decided to leave the dough to prove. The worst that could happen is that it would’t rise as much. And that’s exactly what happened! The dough did double in size in about an hour’s worth of proving, but as I came to shape the dough, I could tell that is wasn’t as elastic and springy with lots of air bubbles trapped inside like it should be, so it just lost the air as I shaped it and the rings I made didn’t puff up. So my hand-made batch of bagels look like they’ve been on some kind of crash diet! Incidentally, another memory from my childhood springs to mind here. The science behind bread used to fascinate me as a child, as my Dad would bake bread with my brother and me, and explain how it worked: as you knead the dough thoroughly, the gluten in the flour reacts with the water and the dough goes all elastic; the yeast feeds on the sugar and produces gas bubbles in the process, which get trapped in the elasticity of the dough, causing it to rise.

Bagels from hand-made dough - a little bit on the thin side 🙂

Even though my bagels are skinny, I think, as always with baking, that the taste and texture of the finished bake is more important than the look of it. I actually like the texture of my less-risen bagels – they’re a kind of cross between a soft pretzel and a bagel, both of which I love. The flavour is amazing, very strong caraway, which is just what I wanted. So it’s by no means a waste – I’ve put these in the freezer, to save for when baby is born (if I don’t get to them before). I should say that I put no salt in, because I don’t add salt to anything, not even our homemade bread, as I don’t particularly like the taste of salt and it’s not good for Andrew (or us) to have lots. I’d probably get marked down for seasoning if this was a competition, but that’s just the way my tastes are.

They may be skinny, but they have a nice texture and taste good

The scientist within me was curious to test whether it really was my pathetic attempt at kneading, and therefore not making the dough elastic enough to hold the air bubbles produced by the yeast, that caused the skinny bagel look. So my experiment for the afternoon (whilst Andrew was napping) was to use exactly the same ingredients in the bread-maker, and compare the results with my hand-made batch of bagels. This was a test of (wo)man against machine. As I got the dough out of the bread-maker, it was immediately clear that it was much more elastic than my hand-kneaded dough, and it was much easier to shape into rings as it just stretched into shape rather than being prone to breaking like my first attempt did. In the end, though, the finished bagels weren’t as different as I thought they might turn out to be: they rose more than my first batch, but they’re still not as big as I thought they might be. I deliberately made the hole in the centre quite large, so that it didn’t close up and end up like a bread roll for each bagel. I knew I wanted to make smaller bagels than those you buy in the shops, because they would be a handy size for Andrew to have as a snack, so I guess the small quantity of dough for each one was never going to rise to be massive! I was erring on the cautious side. Again, they taste great, and more like a shop bought bagel in texture than my first batch, even if smaller in size.

Not-so-skinny, but still quite mini!

Well done if you’ve managed to stay with me throughout this intro: your reward is the recipe itself. If you don’t have a bread maker or some other electronic gadget for making dough, I’d suggest baking these when you’re feeling particularly strong and energetic. Maybe eat some spinach (Popeye style)? Or down a bottle of Lucozade? (Actually, I wouldn’t recommend the latter, it’s disgusting – but depends how much you want the bagels!) Ironically, I felt more energetic after going for a swim directly after I’d baked the hand-mixed bagels, but nevermind…. here’s the recipe.


  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 30g carraway seeds
  • 250ml water
  • 1 tbsp fast-action yeast (the kind you don’t need to dissolve in water first, often marketed as ‘for breadmakers’)
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar


  1. Line a few baking sheets with greaseproof paper, and preheat the oven to 200ºC (fan).
  2. Mix the flour, caraway seeds, sugars and yeast into a large bowl until evenly distributed.
  3. Slowly add the water, little by little, stirring first with a spoon and then with your hands as the mixture gets more and more dough-like.
  4. When the water is well mixed in and you have a ball of dough, transfer it to a surface lightly dusted with flour.
  5. Knead the dough for as long as it takes to have a nice and elastic texture – so you can stretch it and it doesn’t break up (this is where I didn’t stick it out for long enough). The elasticity helps the gas bubbles that the yeast produces to get trapped in the dough.

    Just look at that elastic dough in the bread-maker pan, and all those air bubbles trapped in the dough
  6. Place the elastic dough back in the bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to prove in a warm (not hot) place for about an hour, or however long it takes to double (at least) in size. I learnt from the GBBO (don’t let anyone tell you TV can’t be educational!) that ‘proving’ in this sense is so called because it proves the yeast is working – fascinating fact of the day.
  7. Split the dough into small blobs, roll into balls, flatten them, and then make a hole in the middle with your index finger.
  8. Gradually make the hole bigger by working the dough around your finger, using the rest of your hand (this technique is pretty hard to explain without video – watch the GBBO on iPlayer if this isn’t clear).
  9. In a large pan of boiling water, place 3 or 4 bagels (or however many will fit without touching each other). They should rise to the surface. Boil them for about 2 minutes, until a skin if formed and they puff up a little.

    Boiling bagels, not too many in the pan so they have room to expand
  10. Take out of the water with a slotted spoon to drain the excess water.
  11. Place on a baking sheet, spread quite far apart (I got between 4 and 6 on a sheet, depending on the size of the sheet).

    Skinny bagels ready to go into the oven, spread out on the baking tray
  12. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden. They will probably brown quite quickly towards the end of that time, so keep an eye on them.
  13. Remove from the oven, let cool on the tray, and then eat (or freeze).

The tasters’ verdict: My boys were keen to try a freshly baked bagel, and both of them approved, especially Andrew who kept asking for more! Tom had never had caraway before, and wasn’t sure at first what he thought of the slightly unusual taste, but decided that he quite liked them. I have to say, both batches were lovely fresh out of the oven, and I’m glad I liked the smell because baking smells had been a problem in pregnancy until recently. It seems I can handle the smell of baked products (bread, cakes) but as soon as I smell frying or roasting of any food, especially meat, it makes me nauseous.

Taster number one certainly approved. This was one from the 2nd batch which cheered him up after a thunderstorm woke him up from his nap