Wolf Porridge

So I’m a good baker. I may not be the best baker, but I rarely have a cake that doesn’t rise. As a young girl I made a cake every Saturday before I went ice skating, usually chocolate, let’s be honest, and I’d have a massive slice of it when I got home, having first spent my 50p on a massive chip butty at the ice rink. Ah, the seventies – what a decade of fine childhood nutrition that was.


For Christmas I got the second best Christmas gift* ever – a raspberry red stand mixer. I finally went for the Kenwood Kmix, because a) British company and b) that Kitchenaid’s almost twice the price innit? Sheesh. Anyway, I’m sure they both make a fine cake, but I love my Kenwood, because it’s mine.

(Interestingly, before Christmas Mr J sent me a link to a different Kenwood, which had more attachments and more watts and stuff like that, thinking he ought to get that one, because technically it was better. It was only marginally more expensive than this one. But, as I said to him, this one is RED, a fact which is seemingly lost on him. Tsk.)

(*Best ever Christmas gift is still the kindle. I think it might only be toppled by a new and improved kindle.)

We’ve been baking a lot from Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard, which I love not only for its density and completeness, but also for the fact that it is the first cookbook I’ve felt compelled to scribble in, adding my own notes as I go along. I think perhaps it is something to do with the fact that, unlike a lot of modern recipe books, every recipe is not given a photograph or even a whole page to itself. There is more of a jumbled in feel to the collection. The paper is also very tactile, not shiny and smooth, and it takes pencil marks exceedingly well (I still can’t bear to make marginalia in anything but a pencil).

It was the turn of his cupcakes recipe today. Turning aside from my dear Nigella‘s tried and tested fairy cakes recipe made me nervous but kitchen gambles are never irreversible. Dan suggests throwing the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract into the bowl of your delicious mixer all at once and beating for 3 minutes. Now the recipe does say to make sure the butter is soft, which it was, but I have added a note to say ‘do not try on extremely cold winter days’, or you will end up looking at tiny shards of butter being flung around in an eggy sugary mixture with not a hope in hell of coming together into anything like cake mix.

We started again, beating the sugar and butter together in a more traditional way, and everything was fine. And the cakes are fairly delicious, though I imagine if their liberation from the oven had not been held up by the liberal sprinkling of wolf porridge (a mixture of red lentils and pearl barley) all over the kitchen floor, they might be even nicer.

Baking seems to have become a staple thing in the house again, which was happening even before the arrival of the red beast, and this week was the first week in four that I actually bought a loaf of bread, as the dough hook makes chucking a loaf together a work of moments. Also it’s expedient with an impatient two year old, who likes measuring, flinging ingredients about, and licking his hands, but not so much spending ten minutes watching mum knead dough.

Our hours in the kitchen today were borne of desperation and necessity – stuck in the house with both snuffly colds and the bitter cold outside – but they were some of my favourite hours of this whole week. Finishing off by letting the boy pour lentils all over the place while I washed up from our cake adventure was delightful for him and me, seeing his growing confidence in pouring with small cups and bigger jugs, and inventing wolf porridge along the way. After all, it all sweeps up doesn’t it? It’s only a little bit of mess.

Nice to be back by the way.


    • Joanne says

      Nothing beats a proper chip butty. It’s something the North does way better than the South as well. It’s almost as if down here, they don’t realise it’s a proper food group :)

  1. says

    Glad to have you back.

    I love cooking with my little girl too. And despite owning my own Kitchen Aid, I knead all bread by hand. I just love the feel of the dough and the whole kneading process. Elly is quite good at adding more flour to the work surface, taste testing and cutting the dough in bits for rolls.

    • Joanne says

      I love the feel of it too, and I’m sure we’ll get back to doing it by hand once he has more co-ordination, but he’s entered a phase of wanting to do everything himself if it looks remotely possible, so I’m just going with it. Glad Elly has taken to baking – she’s growing up so fast (why is it that you only ever notice this in other people’s kids?)

  2. says

    And who could resist such a red wonder, I’s love a stand mixer. I remember my Mum’s Sunbeam mixer and the delicious cakes she made, just as your son will remember his Mum’s red mixer.
    Good to see you back.

    • Joanne says

      I admit, I hankered for years. My own memory is for a battered old school Kenwood Chef, which is possibly partly why I stuck with the brand. I really hope we’re making fond memories as well as mess!

  3. says

    What a great mixer and British too! We enjoy baking at home, haven’t tried any recipes by Dan Lepard, will have to look out for one of his books. Yesterday I tried lammingtons – delicious.

    • Joanne says

      Lammingtons seem like something I should know, but don’t. I will check out the recipe. Dan has a column in the Guardian every Saturday too.

  4. says

    Nice to have you back

    I love your red sexy beast…look forward to seeing more baking…I love your version of Simnel cake…much nicer than 12 bals of marzipan…

    • Joanne says

      Oh thanks Pennie – I must say that when we didn’t make one this year I was quite sad, so we’ll have to give it another go this Easter. There’s something about making your own twist on traditions – I hope the little fella carries them on.

  5. says

    For all the talk of cake and beautiful mixers, you have me craving a chip butty – something never truly recreated State-side, what with their funny bread and ‘fries’.

    • Joanne says

      Got to be white bread slathered in butter too. None of this posh healthy bread, and olive oil spreads. We don’t often have proper chip shop chips, but I think I’ve set off my own craving in talking about it again.

      Also wondering, what is funny about the bread??

      • says

        I don’t know if it is because the flour here is different (mucks up a lot of my baking), but white loaves have a completely different taste and texture here. I quite like the brown breads they have here, but very few of the white breads: usually just the farmstyle or French, neither of which would work for a proper chip butty…
        Still, there is an ‘English’ pub which serves ok chips and they don’t bat an eyelid when I ask for a side of gravy to dip them in…

  6. says

    I opted for KMix over KitchenAid too (though mine is a slightly reserved cream colour). One cold day trick I’ve discovered is to stick the bowl in the oven when you first put it on to pre-heat. Taking the chill off it seems to make everything come together better.

    • Joanne says

      Funnily enough I do that when I’m bread making, warming the bowl up with hot water or in the oven, but it didn’t occur to me to do it for cakes. What a dolt. Eventually it dawned on me and I tried to wrap a lukewarm tea towel around it, but it was useless by that point. Live and Learn…

  7. says

    Someone nearly always sneezes when I’m baking with my children. Luckily I love them all ;) Wolf porridge sounds fun, and pouring dry goods is definitely fun.

    I have a kenwood chef, my birthday gift from the husband last year. We new stand mixer owners should form a bake group, like a book group, but with recipes. How much fun would that be?

    Very enthusiastic about your return. x

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