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14 July 2014

I have just got home from the most idyllic week away in sleepy southern France. My lovely friend Polly's family have a house there, and it is honestly one of my favourite places in the world. France is beautiful of course, but it's the ethos and pace of life that really sneaks under your skin. Days went by where I lost all track of time, which for a fraught-Londoner is seriously out of character, and seriously great too.

In between drinking local wine (1 euro per litre from the local market, which made for long nights and hazy days) and feeding our tans, we couldn't resist firing up the pizza oven and whipping up a loaf full of beautiful French rosemary. Throw in a handful of salty black olives, and this rustic cob is the perfect utensil to mop up platefuls of boozy coq au vin (or to devour at 4.30am, if you've overindulged a little).

Thank you Pol for the loveliest holiday, and thank you Jacques for being such a model sous chef! Pudding Lane is now back home where she belongs in London and, sad as I am to have left, I'm excited to be reunited with my kitchenaid and feel so inspired by a week of gorgeous French ingredients. I also couldn't resist sharing a few of my snaps from last week - I hope you like them.

500g white (or wholemeal) bread flour
10g fast-action yeast
10g fine salt
30g unsalted butter
300ml lukewarm water
75g black olives, in oil or vacuum packed, rather than brine
2 tblsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

Begin by weighing the flour into a large, clean bowl. Add the salt to one side of the bowl, and the yeast to the other - it's important that they don't come into contact until you add your liquid. Put the butter into the middle of the bowl, then add three quarters of the water.

Using a scrunching motion, bring the mixture together with your hand. If needed, add the remaining water - the dough should be sticky at first, then become smooth as you continue to work it. Once the dough has picked up all the mixture from the bowl, tip it out onto an oiled work surface, and knead for a further 10 minutes. The dough is ready when it's stretchy and supple, and you can see the strands of gluten when you pull it thin (this is called 'window-paning').

Pop the dough into a large oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave to rise for around an hour. Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it back onto the work surface, and knock all of the air out by folding it in on itself repeatedly. Add the chopped rosemary and olives, and knead until these are well distributed. Shape the dough into a ball, and place on a baking tray. Pop this into a clean plastic bag, and leave it to rise for a further hour. Once doubled again, preheat your oven to 220C. Slash a cross on the surface of the loaf, then bake for 20-30 minutes. You will be able to tell it is baked when you knock the bottom and hear a hollow sound.

Lather with butter, or dip into rich sauces. The perfect supper-time bread.

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