It's all about Tom...



I started baking around the time my husband gave me a book about bread making, knowing that I was very much smitten with the whole ethos, feel, and pleasure of it all.  This book was written by Tom Jaine.  It is now stained, floured, crusted and singed (don’t ask); scars of devotion that every beloved book wears with tired but comfortable honour. I worked my way through the recipes, sampling the evocative flavours of different cultural ‘takes’ on bread.  My absolute favourite was (and still is) the French Hearth Bread (Fougasse), a ladder of soft chewy sweetness with plenty of crust for little hands to hold!

Sourdough, however, remained something of a mystery.  But, thanks to my ‘pet’ Tom the Belcher, I have laughed, cursed, badly timed, flopped and cheered my way through just shy of a year of sourdough baking.  Life with my friend has now become as comfortable and as easy as my well worn oven gloves. A new rhythm has been found that, rather than impinging on our daily family/work routine, it has quietly slipped in, like a backbeat, to create a harmonious and cheerful chorus that chirps up every couple of days.. usually first thing in the morning.  Inevitably, its me slipping down into the kitchen before bird song, to slide a loaf into the oven. It’s a wonderful almost conspiratorial time of quiet mug hugging, while the house begins to stir with the smell of fresh bread creeping beneath doors into slumbering rooms. I am selfish; I’m reluctant to share this quietude with another soul!

Meanwhile, Tom the Belcher has sired offspring, as mentioned in a previous blog, and now has a third child living in Hong Kong!

His journey was lengthy and fraught with sharp corners and violent temperature fluctuations. But he arrived safely, and was delivered into the hands of a lovely family, just before Christmas.  And not only that, the he turned out to be a she!

Her name is Yogurt.

I find I now have a new job as an Agony Aunt, helping the new ‘parents’ of these warm and windy pets. But far from being an expert in sourdough, we laugh, grumble and cheer each flop and success, together. After all that’s what making bread has always been about..


Thanks must go to Tom Jaine for allowing me to reproduce the above recipe, and ultimately inspiring such a pleasurable past time with his book.

Thanks also to Tom Herbert for sharing his little Kilner jar of magic sourdough. Look what you started!!



You'll need a chest freezer and labels that stick ...


I was recently asked to write down the ten most important tips for illustrating food. It’s not something I’ve ever given a lot of thought to… As easily as our terrier edges surreptitiously onto my chair in the studio, I kind of slipped into illustrating, just by following my nose. Rather than training to BE an illustrator, I just chased after what I love doing, and so here I am 20 or so years later.

Here’s a photo of our terrier, Chewy. (We didn’t choose the name. If we had it would’ve been Houdini or Hellion.)

And here’s the article in all it’s glory! Let me know if I’ve missed any salient points!

With many thanks to the ever-inquisitive Qin!