Guest blogger: Sybil Kapoor
Who can resist climbing out of their sleeping bag to see the dawn? As the sun rises at just before 5.40am for the Big Wild Sleepout, you should set your alarm a little earlier so that you can watch the night fade with the first rays of the sun. At this magical hour you might see deer or even a hare, nibbling the dewy grass in the early morning mist. You’ll certainly spot many birds as they flutter in the undergrowth hunting out seeds and insects. If you’re very lucky you might see a beautiful barn owl silently hunting over meadows and river banks before retiring for the day.
Bacon soda bread
Such activity creates an appetite for breakfast, so treat yourself to an alfresco breakfast with some buttered bacon soda bread and any remaining cherry tomatoes. As the sun rises, look out for insects and lizards warming themselves in the sun. If you’re near a pond, you might see lots of young froglets basking in the day’s warmth as the dragonflies skim across the surface.
Like all soda breads, this is best eaten on the day of making, but for a breakfast picnic, you can make it ahead, freeze it and then allow to defrost overnight.
Makes 450g/1lb loaf
150g/5½ oz (6 slices) dry-cured back bacon (smoked or unsmoked)
2 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil
450g/1lb plain white flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150ml/5 ½ fl oz soured cream
150ml/5 ½ fl oz water + extra as needed
1 Preheat the oven to fan 200°C/gas 7. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2 Trim the bacon of any fat and cut into small dice. Set a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the oil, and once hot, fry the diced bacon briskly for 4-5 minutes, until lightly coloured and just beginning to turn crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the pan and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
3 Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the fried bacon. Whisk together the cream and 150ml/5 ½ fl oz water. Stir the thinned cream into the flour. Mix together and, if necessary, add a little more water until you have a soft, but not a sticky dough. Different flours absorb different amounts of water, so you may need to add a further 50ml/scant 2fl oz.
4 Turn out on to a clean, lightly floured surface and quickly work into a smooth dough. Shape into a round loaf, place on the baking sheet and cut a deep cross in the top of the loaf.
5 Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through. Keep an eye on it towards the last 5-10 minutes and cover with foil for the last 5 minutes if it is going too brown. It is cooked when it sounds hollow if tapped on its bottom. Slip on to a wire rack and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes before eating.
6 For your picnic breakfast – leave until completely cold, then place in a freezer bag, push out any air, seal tightly and freeze. Only remove from the freezer when you’re packing your picnic.
Recipe from National Trust Simply Baking
Photography by Karen Thomas