Pesto, Bacon, and Mozzarella Bread

A good time to make this Pesto, Bacon, and Mozzarella Bread would be when you’re planning to feed a crowd. Possibly you have a big family. Maybe you are inviting friends over. Perhaps you need to feed hungry work colleagues. In all of those instances, this bread would be an excellent thing to bake. A slightly insane time to bake this massive bread is when there are only two of you in the house. And you just kind of fancied a bit of bread. But, of course, that’s what I did.

To give you an idea of the scale of this bread: it only just about fit in my oven. I had to cut it up for the photos. If left whole, it didn’t fit on the board, or actually even into the shot when I was trying to take pictures.

In other words, it’s awesome. A ridiculously huge loaf of bread filled with pesto, bacon, and mozzarella? What’s not to like?

This is an ideal weekend project. Pop the dough on when you get up, and then gently potter around, finishing it off in time for a luxurious brunch. Yes, it takes quite a long time, but most of that time is just passive while you’re waiting for it to prove. And there is really nothing more satisfying that making your own bread for scratch. As this particular bread is stuffed with tasty fillings, you don’t even have to had anything with it. Although it would make some epic sandwiches.





I made the dough for this in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. You could do it by hand, but the dough is essentially a brioche. It’s very wet and a bit of a pain to get all the butter in by hand. They made us do brioche without a machine at culinary school, obviously, but… yeah. It’s not an experience I am massively keen to repeat.


500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g salt
10g dried yeast (from sachets is fine)
150ml warm milk (heat it for around 30 seconds in the microwave until it’s about skin temperature)
3 eggs
200g butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
300g bacon lardons
150g pesto, fresh if you can get it
2 x 150g balls mozzarella, drained
1 egg, beaten
handful of parmesan, grated
fresh chives to finish, optional


  1. Put your flour, salt, yeast, milk, and eggs into the bowl of your mixer. Beat with the dough hook on a medium speed until it’s smooth. Slowly – over about a five minute period – add your butter, bit by bit, letting each chunk get beaten in before adding the next. You should have a glossy dough. Pop it into an oiled bowl. Cover with cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (at least an hour). You can also do this step the night before you want your bread, and let it rise overnight in the fridge.
  2. While your dough rises, pop your bacon into a frying pan on a medium heat (no need for oil). Gently fry it until cooked but not too coloured – it will cook more in the oven and if you get it too dark now it will only burn later. Tip it onto kitchen roll to drain excess fat and let it cool.
  3. When your dough has risen, line your largest baking tray with baking parchment or a silicone mat. Sprinkle it with flour. Carefully tip your dough out onto it, then, with oiled hands, gently press it out into a rectangle about 1cm thick and roughly 45cm long, with the long side facing you. Spread the dough with your pesto, scatter it with your bacon, and tear up your mozzarella into strips and lay it over the top. Roll it all up from the long end like a sausage. This is the best way to make sure the filling is evenly distributed. Join the ends of the sausage together to make a ring. It’s a delicate dough with a lot of filling so inevitably bits will tear and spill out as you move it, but this is good, because those bits will be exposed to the heat of the oven and taste delicious. Put your baking tray into a plastic bag and leave your bread to prove for another hour.
  4. Heat your oven to 220C/ 200C fan/ gas 6. Brush your bread with beaten egg, scatter the whole things with grated Parmesan, and bake it for around 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Keep an eye on it, because the enriched dough can catch and burn – if it’s starting to look too dark too early then cover it with foil.
  5. When your bread is baked, let it rest for ten minutes. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped chives, for colour, if you like. Enjoy warm or cold.




Spelt Spaghetti and Red Pesto with Wild Honey

I am a great believer in the power of a pasta dish. Sometimes there is nothing you want more than a simple, comforting bowl of steaming pasta, with a cracking sauce to make the meal sing. With great ingredients, an easy dish doesn’t have to be boring. With pasta, though, it’s natural to fall into the pattern of making the old favourites over and over again. I love spaghetti bolognese and standard pesto pasta as much as the next person (okay, more than the next person), but sometimes you fancy something a bit different. I’ve teamed up with Wild Honey again – they’re a fantastic local independent health food shop here in Oxford – to bring you a new recipe. This spelt spaghetti and red pesto is made using some ingredients from their bountiful shelves.


Why spelt spaghetti? Well, of course, normal spaghetti is delicious. For a step up and a bit of a change, though, spelt spaghetti is an excellent choice. Spelt is an ancient grain, with a delicious, nutty flavour. Spelt pasta tends to sit lighter on the stomach than standard wheat pasta, because it’s wheat free (but not gluten free) and high in fibre, so most people find it easier to digest. All in all, it’s a great option, and it goes wonderfully well with this pesto. You can find it at Wild Honey, along with the walnuts I have used to make the pesto, and lots of other goodies.


This spelt spaghetti and red pesto is the second in my series of recipe collaborations with Wild Honey. If you’d like to see the first recipe, a black quinoa and halloumi salad, head on over here.


Although spelt spaghetti is no more difficult to cook than regular spaghetti, is it pretty easy to overcook it, as it’s softer and smoother than standard wheat. I’d recommend checking early and erring on the side of caution.

This recipe for pesto will make way more than you need for the pasta, but it keeps well in the fridge in a sealed jar or tupperware, and can be used for loads of other things. Try it spread on toast and sprinkled with feta, add more oil to loosen it and use it to dress a salad, dollop it onto roast vegetables for a flavour kick…

You don’t need to be too precious with the pesto quantities: just adjust to your personal taste if you’d prefer less garlic, or more cheese, or whatever takes your fancy. Spelt spaghetti and red pesto is a forgiving dish!


spelt spaghetti (80 – 100g per person, depending on how hungry you are)
1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil
½ jar sun-dried peppers in oil
1 generous bunch parsley, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
around 1/2 a block of Parmesan, grated
100g toasted walnut pieces
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Bring a large pan of generously salted water to the boil, then cook your spaghetti according to pack instructions.
  2. While your pasta is cooking, drain your tomatoes and peppers in a sieve over a bowl, keeping the oil. Reserve a handful each of parsley and Parmesan, then pop your tomatoes, peppers, the rest of your parsley, garlic, the rest of your Parmesan, and walnuts in a food process, and blitz to a rough paste. Drizzle in some of the oil from your jars of tomatoes and peppers, and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil, then blend again until you have your desired consistency. Taste, season, and adjust to your preference.
  3. When your pasta is cooked al dente, drain it, reserving a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. Put your spelt spaghetti back in its pan with the cooking water, then stir through a couple of generous spoonfuls of the pesto, until everything is well-coated. Serve your pasta topped with your reserved parsley and Parmesan.

The Taste Test: Pesto

Unsurprisingly, eating spoonfuls of straight pesto is less enjoyable than eating chunks of Cheddar cheese, as I discovered in this week’s taste test. Nevertheless, I do really love pesto. Even the student existence of pasta-pesto-repeat didn’t put me off the stuff. I love it stirred through pasta, spread on toast, mixed into sauces, drizzled over salads… sorry, what were we talking about?

Since I’ve started doing this taste test series, I’ve been getting a bit of ‘I’d never buy XYZ from a supermarket, I always make it myself!’ Mostly regarding houmous, in fairness, but I know people who make their own cheese too. So yes, of course, you could make pesto yourself, and houmous too. Let’s be realistic though: we are all busy people, and sometimes you don’t have access to a kitchen, or you’re missing a few ingredients, or you’ve had a long day at work and you’re tired and good God, you just want some pasta and if you have to get out a food processor and make pesto yourself then you’re going to kill someone. Yes, homemade pesto is delicious. But I do buy the stuff in jars too.

As before, I feel I need a rambling disclaimer: obviously, I am doing this in my kitchen and not in a lab and I am not a scientist. These are the opinions of one person – that said, one person who has been trained to taste for quality. Also, the products used in this series are just examples – obviously each supermarket has, say, five or six different types of pesto or whatever the product may be, and I’m not going to try every single one because what am I, made of money?

Finally, I should highlight that I tasted all the products blind, and at the time of tasting and making my notes I didn’t know which product came from which shop. I sat in one room while my glamorous assistant (er, my husband), prepared the samples in another. Any notes added regarding packaging and so on were only done after blind tasting, when I learned which supermarket had made A, B, C, D, or E.

The Blind Taste Test: Pesto


per 100g

A – Waitrose – 7/10

  • The least separated, the firmest and most cohesive pesto. A vivid green, rather than being grey or sludgy. A herbaceous, almost grassy taste. Fairly good texture, able to taste Parmesan, but no obvious chunks of pine nut.

B – Tesco – 3/10

  • Quite minimal oil separation, thick pesto. A pale beige green, not as vivid as some of the others. Not a great flavour – a bit bland, quite salty.

C – Lidl – 3/10

  • Medium in composition, a little oil separation, soft but not too liquid. Very smooth. Less of a herb-y flavour than the others, no obvious basil or Parmesan, and a slightly odd aftertaste.

D – Aldi – 8/10

  • Strong green, a decent colour. A fair amount of oil coming off it. Good texture, decent flavour. Chunks of pine nut and a definite taste of Parmesan, as well as strong basil.

E – Sainsbury’s – 7/10

  • The most separated of all the pesto with a lot of oil coming off it. Quite green, not lacklustre and beige. Good strong taste of basil, pine nut, and Parmesan.



There was obvious variation and a lot of visual differences between the various pestos. Tesco and Lidl’s offerings were both beige and lacking in colour, and both of these samples had less flavour than the others – you can actually see a difference between them and the other three if you look at the pictures showing all five jars. You wouldn’t normally eat straight pesto on its own, and doing so was interesting (if not necessarily totally enjoyable), because unless I was making pesto from scratch I wouldn’t normally eat it like that and I’d probably miss out on really thinking about the flavour. Although the Aldi pesto was my favourite, the Waitrose and Sainsbury’s offerings were a close joint second and I’d happily buy any of the three.

*Prices correct at time of writing.



Roast Chicken, Apricot, and Goats’ Cheese Salad with Pesto

I hadn’t actually cooked a full roast by myself until I got to university. In my second year, I lived in a beaten-down student house with four friends, and had the run of the shabby old kitchen. The gas oven there was horrific – old and unreliable with uneven heat and prone to turning itself off for no particular reason – but the great thing about roasting huge lumps of meat is that they’re not too precious about things like consistent oven temperature.

My best friend, Annis, and I once decided to host a pre-Christmas dinner there before everyone went home for the holidays. We walked up the road to the supermarket and bought so much stuff that we had to take the trolley back to the house with us because we had no hope of carrying it otherwise. In the end, there were seventeen people crammed into our little house, eating food off whatever random assortment of china, plastic, and paper plates we could find and drinking very cheap wine. We tried to make it look Christmassy.


The humble roast chicken is still my favourite. Yes, beef and pork and lamb are all special and delicious, but for me, you can’t beat roast chicken. It’s cheap, easy, and customisable. Everyone likes it (um, except vegetarians – sorry guys), whereas I have friends who object to beef, pork, and lamb. Best of all: leftovers. I always buy a bigger chicken than we need, to ensure that when we’ve eaten I get to pick the carcass clean (oddly satisfying) and fill a Tupperware box full of delicious meat for the next day.

A cold roast chicken sandwich is a glorious thing – lightly toasted fresh bread, a little bit of garlic mayo, salad leaves, maybe some bacon, and piled high with cold roast chicken. But this time, I fancied a change.


In defiance of the spectacularly non-existent summer we’ve had, I’ve made a light, summery salad, perfect for outdoor gatherings or long, lazy suppers on warm, light evenings. I mean, yes, in reality we ate this on the sofa under a blanket with the central heating on, but never mind. The salad still had that summery spirit I was hoping for.


Notes: I’ve made enough here to feed two people, but you can easily multiply it as needed. The quantities are pretty flexible – really, just use your common sense and base it on how much of everything you have lying around.

I’ve made the pesto from scratch here, because I think it tastes so much nicer and in a salad where pesto is a key ingredient it seemed worth it to me. But the pre-made stuff in a jar will do too if you’re pushed for time. I always do it by eye and it’s a very forgiving thing to make, so don’t worry too much about quantities.


200g cold roast chicken, torn into bite-size pieces
100g soft goats’ cheese, torn into lumps
4 apricots, stoned and halved
salad leaves of your choosing – here, I’ve used one of those mixed bags of watercress, spinach, and rocket

for the pesto (if making it from scratch) 

1 large handful of basil leaves
1 small handful grated parmesan
1 small handful toasted pine nuts
juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic glove, crushed
6 tbsp good olive oil (or thereabouts)
salt and pepper


  1. If you’re making the pesto, do this first. Put all of your ingredients in a food processor and blitz until you have a glorious green paste. If it isn’t loose enough, add more oil. Taste it. Does it need more lemon? Cheese? Salt? Adjust accordingly, then set aside.
  2. Heat a grill pan on the hob until very hot. Brush your apricot halves with olive oil on both sides, and lay them cut-side down in the pan. Grill for two minutes, then flip. You should have the beginnings of a charred bar pattern – if you want it darker then leave them for three minutes per side. If you don’t have a grill pan, you can do this under a grill in the oven.
  3. Assemble your salad. If you want this done prettily on a serving platter for a gathering, start with your leaves, and then place the apricots, chicken, and goats’ cheese on top and drizzle with the pesto. If you’re not fussed about presentation, whack it all in a bowl and give it a good mix. It will still taste great.

Prosciutto, Pesto, and Goats’ Cheese Soda Bread – Bake Off Bake Along Week 3

‘This is one of the trickiest challenges we’ve ever had’, said Paul.

Aaaaand that was me out of the show-stopper. I can barely make bread, let alone make a lion’s face out of bread.

Thank god for soda bread, eh? Essentially a free-form, savoury cake. My bet is that I will be one of many people making soda bread this week. I’ll try a show-stopper at some point, promise. Just not when it involves yeast.


Full disclosure: I did also actually try to make baguettes. I used Master Hollywood’s recipe, and I was really doubtful that it was going to work from the start, hence why I knocked up a soda bread during one prove of the baguette dough as insurance. I’m sure the recipe wasn’t at fault – the problem is that I’m really not set up for bread-making. I mean, let’s take a look, shall we?

  • ‘Lightly oil a 2-3 litre square plastic container…’ – fallen at the first hurdle, don’t have one of those.
  • ‘Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook…’ – oh, how I long for a mixer, but don’t have one of those, let alone with a dough hook.
  • ‘Put each tray inside a clean plastic bag…’ – those dough bags they have on the show look really useful, but I don’t have any of those.
  • ‘Slash each one 3 times along its length on the diagonal, using a razor blade or a very sharp knife…’ – turns out that I have neither a sharp enough knife to slice dough without dragging it, nor a kitchen razor blade.
  • This recipe doesn’t even mention the couche linen to tuck the baguettes up in to prove, but that would have also been really useful if I’d had it, which I didn’t.

I know, I know, a bad baker blames her lack of tools. I am the first to admit that I also don’t know what I am doing, which can’t have helped. I don’t know quite what happened, but although the first prove seemed to go fine, the baguettes actually got smaller on the second prove and collapsed and shrunk into themselves after only half an hour. I mean, I baked them anyway, but they came out more like large breadsticks than baguettes.


So, here we have soda bread instead. To be clear, I am aware that this looks absolutely horrific. A real mess. But it tasted really good, so I got over the fact that it looked a total state fairly quickly. See that quarter chunk cut out of the loaf in the first photo? I literally ate all of that as soon as I had finished photographing it. I only meant to cut off a little corner to try it, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it I had devoured the lot like a starving wolf.

I took the instructions from the show to heart, you see: soda bread shouldn’t be kneaded too much; it should be crumbly; the texture shouldn’t be like normal bread. Who knew?! (I know, I know, loads of people. But not me). As you can see, my soda bread is pretty damn crumbly, so… success?

Source: Since Alvin’s soda bread was so highly praised, I figured that I couldn’t go too far wrong if I started off with his recipe as a base.

Notes: I made my own pesto for this, because it’s really easy and much more delicious than the stuff in jars. That said, it all gets mixed into the bread dough so it probably doesn’t make a great deal of difference – if you have a jar kicking about, do use that.

The darker bits on top of this bread that look a bit burnt are actually just where I drizzled some pesto over the top of the loaf before cooking and it went dark quickly, but those bits tasted great even though they looked rubbish.

I ate this warm and spread with salted butter and I loved it. I particularly loved how easy it was, and how adaptable. You could pretty much make this with whatever odds you had in the fridge. Bit of meat, bit of cheese, some herbs, and you’re sorted.


450g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp table salt
40g cold butter, diced
80g prosciutto, torn
200g log of goats’ cheese, cut into disks
100g (or thereabouts) pesto, fresh or from a jar
300ml buttermilk
1 tbsp butter, melted


  1. Heat your oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6, and line a baking tray with parchment or a mat. In your largest mixing bowl, sieve together your flour, bicarbonate of soda, and salt. Rub the butter in with your fingertips – I found that there was so little butter compared to flour that it never got quite to the ‘breadcrumb’ stage, but just keep going until you can’t feel the cold smoothness of the butter between your fingers any more.
  2. Reserve a couple of chunks of both the prosciutto and the goats cheese for the topping, and then add the remaining prosciutto and goats cheese to the flour mix, along with all the pesto. Give it a mix to disperse it.
  3. Mix your buttermilk with 25ml of water to thin it slightly, then make a well in your flour mix and add 3/4 of the buttermilk. Stir the mixture with a butter knife until it comes together into a shaggy, slightly sticky dough. Add more buttermilk if it feels dry and won’t hold together.
  4. Tip your dough out onto your baking sheet and shape it into a round-ish loaf. Dust it with flour and score the top in a cross shape deeply with a sharp knife – I found a bread knife best for this. Pop your remaining prosciutto and goats’ cheese on top. Bake for 40-50 minutes. When it’s done, put it on a wire rack and brush with melted butter.

The original recipe tells you to let it cool before eating it, but I thought it was best warm. Plus I am impatient and greedy, so…