Customer service


I haven’t posted anything ‘foodie’ for quite a while so having been ‘multi-tasking’ today – doing a ‘grumpytykepix‘ post and making bread among many other things – I thought I’d pass on some thoughts from the bread-making.

Four delicious small round wholemeal loaves for 10 minutes of your time

Four delicious small round wholemeal loaves for 10 minutes of your time

I used to make all the bread in the traditional way but it is time-consuming and it became more and more difficult to find the time. I don’t think I’d have begun this blog, let alone a second, if I still made the bread in this way. But, wonder of wonders, I discovered the bread-making machine. Bought (a Schneider) from a charity shop for £10. 

A really good flour from a really helpful miller

No instructions, and I couldn’t find any guidance on the net at the time, so I’d no idea what recipe to use. However, I’d seen that a miller called Carr’s, in Cumbria just north of the English Lake District,  said they made flour especially for bread-makers. So I wrote to them telling them what machine I had. A recipe came back very quickly and, with small variations, I’ve been using it ever since.

And their flour; although the recipe works with others which I’ve had to use when I couldn’t get Carrs. I know their flour is reliable, but also their ‘customer service’ is so good I really want to support them.

However, I found that the loaf from the bread-maker was too large for the two of us at home; I therefore cut it in half and put one part in the freezer till required. Then I thought I’d try to divide it as dough and put it in the oven and that was a revelation – as you might expect, bread from the oven is better!

Dough made in the bread-maker is knocked back and shaped into four before leaving for the second rising

Dough made in the bread-maker is knocked back and shaped into four before leaving for the second rising

So now, I let the the bread-maker do the hard work (the 1.1/2hr ‘dough’ program). Turn it out and knock it back with a light kneading, a couple of minutes, divide into four and shape, leave in the warming oven for 1/2hr to rise then bake at 180degC (fan oven) for 15-20 minutes (till a knock on the bottom sounds hollow). 

It’s delicious!

Here’s the recipe:

1lb 1oz of Carr’s wholemeal bread flour

2 level tsp salt

2.1/2 level tsp sugar

2.1/2 level tsp of powdered milk (you can leave this out)

1 packet of ‘active’ dried yeast (I use Sainsburys, 57 gram in the packet)

Mix all the above in a bowl

Put 335 ml of cold water in the bread-maker

Add a knob of butter (Carr’s said 10g)

Spoon in the flour/yeast etc mixture 

Leave on the ‘dough’ programme (1.1/2 hours)

Lightly knead to knock it back. Divide into four. Shape and put on a baking tray sprinkled with semolina (only to stop it sticking – flour will do but I prefer semolina).

Put in a warm place, covered with a cloth, for about 30 mins till well risen.

Bake in a hot oven (180degC, fan) till it sounds hollow when knocked on the bottom.

Try not to eat it all while hot.

Feel free to mess about with some additions; I often add a handful of rolled oats to the mix, or a handful of sunflower seeds. Poppy seeds are good too. I like the soft ‘crust’ but you can brush with water, milk, egg or oil, to produce a different crust.

Same recipe as the 'plain' bread above but with the addition of a handful of sunflower seeds

Same recipe as the ‘plain’ bread above but with the addition of a handful of sunflower seeds

And it’s so easy, and great for the multi-tasker as your involvement in the process is five minutes at the start, and five in the middle.

That’s it!

‘Complain’ – despite the frustrations

I put ‘.’ around the word ‘complain’ because as a senior executive of a private hospital recently pointed out to me (more on this below), it should be regarded as feedback which gives an organisation or person a chance to rectify the error or omission.

The British in particular seem reluctant to bring problems to the attention of those who can do something about it. So some of my neighbours moan to me about a silly little parking squabble but don’t say anything to those who can do something about it. And many moan to me about ‘happenings’ in the NHS but again that’s as much as they do.

Of course, most of the time you will be frustrated and feel you are wasting your time, as I did when after I and my wife had telephoned our local ‘cottage hospital’ – the Wharfedale Hospital – many times to try to cancel an appointment – to be unanswered, cut off or directed to a machine which didn’t take messages. Yet when I finally got through, the receptionist refused to accept what I told her, repeating “But the phone is always answered”.

I was equally frustrated when I ‘complained’ to a large local NHS hospital that my 90 year old mother had been kept on a trolley for 11 hours on admission because, it seems “patients cannot be given a bed until they have seen a doctor and no doctors were available”. Or ‘complaints’ directed to the Chief Executive of our local housing association which are passed down to a ‘customer service manager’, resulting in the usual ‘form’ letter and no action.

This post was originally going to be about how the private hospitals to which we can now be referred by our GPs are just as bad as the NHS ones. This followed a couple of administrative errors from one of them. But I’m pleased to say that this was one of those rare occasions which backed up my contention that you should always ‘complain’.

I sent an email outlining my complaint to the Chief Executive, who was on leave at the time, but it was picked up by another senior director and …

What a difference! The senior director immediately arranged to meet my wife and myself. He explained what had gone wrong, why it had gone wrong, and the measures the organisation had taken to ensure it did not happen again. This was followed up by a letter confirming everything that had been said at the meeting.

Unfortunately I don’t feel able to name the organisation concerned because, in view of the rapid and effective response, I don’t think the original error should be publicised as I first intended.