Garlic Bread Baked in a Clay Pot

IMG_1544Let me start by saying that you can also make this bread if you don’t own a clay pot (or römertopf, as we call them over here). It is a great way of baking bread, though. Clay pots are gathering dust in many a cupboard, so I think there’s a good chance you could find a cheap second-hand one online. A cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven would also work, although I think you’d need a fairly small one for a loaf this size. Many thanks to Sue for introducing me to this method. It means my mum’s old clay pot, which was mouldering in my cupboard, gets a regular workout these days.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk garlic bread. The name alone makes me drool. It conjures up an image of a billowy loaf, thoroughly scented with roast garlic. And not just scented; I want chunks of sweet, soft garlic too. As much as I love brioche and other enriched breads, to me this feels more luxurious and indulgent. And it’s a bit easier on the belly as well.IMG_1527

This a variation on Paul Hollywood’s recipe for garlic bread. I’ve adjusted quantities to make one smaller loaf , where he makes two flat garlic breads, and I use the clay pot to bake it in instead of baking them free-form, as he does.

This loaf is quite easy to make. The only fiddly bit is peeling all the cloves of garlic before you roast them. I have made garlic bread using a head of garlic roasted whole (like the garlic I use in my roast garlic and leek risotto). There’s no denying that this is easier, as there is no peeling involved, but your loaf won’t have those gorgeous bits of softened, sweet garlic in it. I firmly believe the extra work pays off.


Do watch your garlic cloves as they roast. The difference between lovely soft, sweet garlic and horrible leathery cloves is a few minutes. I roast them for 15 minutes and then watch them like a hawk. You want slightly browned garlic that is soft to the touch, no scorching.IMG_1536

To give you an idea of the dimensions of the clay pot I bake this in: it measures 24 x 18 cm (at the top, lid off) and is 8 cm deep. I line it with a sheet of reusable Teflon baking parchment that I cut to fit the pot. Nothing scientific; when I baked bread in the clay oven for the first time I laid the sheet on top of the open pot, put in the dough and cut off any bits that stuck out above the rim.


Before I forget, if you want to make this loaf without a clay pot you can use this method with the quantities mentioned below.




For the roast garlic
3 medium bulbs of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp caster sugar
generous pinch of salt

For the dough
400 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
7 g sachet of fast-acting yeast
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
260-280 ml tepid water

For over the top
olive oil
heaped tsp dried oregano

– Preheat the oven to 200°C.
– Peel the garlic cloves, put them in a small roasting tin. Sprinkle over oil, sugar and salt and mix well, using your hands.
– Roast for 20 minutes (but keep an eye on them, see above).
– Leave to cool and crack open the door of the hot oven. It needs to be cool when you put the clay pot in.

IIMG_1538 use a standing mixer to knead bread. If you don’t have one, put the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl, making sure the salt and yeast don’t touch at that point. Make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in the water and gradually incorporate it. Then knead for about ten minutes on a flat, lightly floured surface or until smooth and elastic.

– Put the flour in the bowl of the mixer.
– Put salt and yeast on either side of the bowl.
– Attach the flat paddle to the mixer and briefly mix flour, salt and yeast.
– Add the oil, then gradually pour in the water while mixing until you have a sticky, shaggy dough and there is no flour left at the bottom of the bowl.
– Turn the mixer off, then replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead the dough for six minutes, or until elastic and no longer sticky.
– Shape into a ball, put it back into the bowl and cover with cling film (my glass Kitchenaid bowl has a lid, which is perfect for proofing dough). Leave for an hour at room temperature, or until doubled in size.
– Knead the roasted garlic cloves into the risen dough. Shape into a rectangular ball, if there is such a thing.
– Line your clay pot, put in the dough and clamp on the lid.
– Rest for 45 minutes at room temperature.
– Place the clay pot in the cold oven and set temperature to 250°C.
– Bake for 50 minutes, take the lid off (being careful not to burn yourself) and bake for another five minutes. Keep an eye on it, though; if it gets too dark, take it out of the oven.
– Turn the bread out of the pot and let it cool on a wire rack.











Roast Leek and Garlic Risotto


IMG_1884-0Roasting has to be my favourite way of cooking vegetables (closely followed by grilling). The oven brings out the best flavours in veg and all you have do is drizzle over a bit of oil and bung it in there. Times are changing, but roasting is not a particularly Dutch way of preparing veg. Compared to, for instance, the English, the Dutch traditionally cook things on the hob rather than in the oven. Of course I am not a food historian but I am a Dutchman with an interest in food and I think I can safely say that. For me this changed when, over twelve years ago, I met The (lovely) Eastender, who showed me how to properly use an oven.

Now I thought I had roasted pretty much every vegetable but when I spotted a recipe for a ‘scorched’ leek risotto, I realised I was wrong. And intrigued.
I came across this recipe in a Dutch cookery book called ‘I Love Groente’ by Janneke Vreugdenhil. I made it and liked it, but felt it needed something. It was a bit too understated for me and I felt there weren’t enough contrasts, both flavour and texture-wise. Having said that, there’s no arguing about taste and I think it’s a wonderful book for both vegetarians and carnivores.

It took me a few tries to get this risotto just right for me (and hopefully for you). First of all, I added a bulb of garlic to my baking tray when I roasted the leeks. I still think it’s a small miracle that you can achieve such depth of flavour by simply putting a bulb of garlic in the oven for 30 minutes.

At first I didn’t want to add heat because I wanted the clean flavours of the roast veg to take centre stage. But after cooking the risotto a few times, I realised that a hint of heat would only make those flavours sing louder. To achieve this I fried the shallots in chilli oil.


IMG_1499Then I wanted to add more texture. I thought of putting in fried mushrooms but decided they wouldn’t add crunch or real chew. So I went with pine nuts, although I think walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts would also work here.

I also subbed the white wine (I generally use rosé wine anyway, just because there is usually a bottle of that in the fridge) with madeira. Initially, I was afraid it would just add to the sweetness of the roast garlic and leeks but it actually complements it, and the saltiness of the parmesan provides enough contrast.

And finally, for symmetry’s sake, I added slices of spring onion at the end, just so I can say there are three members of the onion family in there (shallot, leek and spring onion), all prepared differently. And because the mildish flavour of the spring onion works in this risotto, of course. I could have also added chives but that would have been showing off.

If you have really sandy leeks, you can chop them just above the ‘split’ (see photo above) and make a vertical cut. Just run under the tap to get the sand out. I wouldn’t worry too much, though; you will end up chucking the first two/three layers anyway.





2 large leeks, most of the green removed
1 bulb of garlic, left whole
3/4 tbsp pine nuts
chilli oil (if yours is very hot, a mixture of that and regular olive oil)
2 large shallots, finely chopped
175 g risotto rice
generous splash/5 tbsp of madeira
1 litre hot vegetable stock (you can freeze any left-over stock). Make sure it stays hot while you cook the risotto.
zest of 1 lemon
50 g (vegetarian) parmesan, grated
1 or 2 spring onions, finely sliced
salt and pepper


IMG_1880– Brush leeks and garlic with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes on 200°C on a lined tray.
– Take the garlic out and roast the leeks for 10 minutes longer if necessary. The skin should be slightly scorched.
– Squeeze the puree out of the roast cloves of garlic.
– Remove the tough layers of the leek (usually the first 2 or 3) and slice the softened ‘flesh’ inside. You will need a sharp knife for this.
– Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts until they turn golden brown.
– Heat the oil in a shallow pan with a thick bottom and fry the shallots till translucent.
– Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until the grains turn glassy.
– Pour in the madeira and stir until it is almost absorbed.
– Add a ladleful of hot stock, stir until almost absorbed, add another ladleful, stir, etc. Keep doing this until the rice is almost cooked (about 15 minutes).
– Stir in the garlic puree and leek and keep stirring for a few more minutes (adding stock if needed) until the rice is cooked to your liking.
– Turn off the heat. Stir in parmesan and lemon zest and season well with pepper and salt.
– Serve sprinkled with the pine nuts and slices of spring onion.