Cumin & rye flake pitta bread recipe

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Mar 312013
 

Cumin & rye pitta bread

Here’s a quick and easy pitta bread recipe as requested by my kind and talented Twitter friends @evilgordon & @karlasparlour.

I served it with a tasty lamb tangia slow cooked for 7 hours and which had some of the Smen I blogged about earlier.

The method is one I’ve borrowed from Dan Lepard, it saves a whole lot of faffing with the old ‘knead for 10 minutes’. It’s not necessary.

Ingredients

450g strong white flour
300g wholemeal spelt flour
50g rye flakes
5g cumin seeds
12g fast action yeast
12g caster sugar
12g fine sea salt
45g olive oil
500g warm water

Method

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Add the olive oil and rub in to the dry ingredients.

Add the water and mix well. You want to make sure all the dry ingredients are wet and the dough is mixed, that’s all.

Cover with plastic or a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes. Do what I call a quick ‘Compass Knead’. Imagine the dough is a compass, pull in to the centre of the dough from N, E , S, W and repeat.

Cover again, leave in a warm place and repeat the Compass Knead twice more at 10 minute intervals.

Cover the dough and leave for 30 minutes in a warm place.
Take out the dough and scale it into approximately 110g pieces, you should get 12 pieces.

Leave the 12 pieces on a floured board to rest for 15 minutes.

Roll out the pieces of dough so that they are about 5mm thick and 15cm in diameter.

I cooked mine on a hot cast iron tava taking about 2 minutes for each side. They could be cooked on a tray or baking stone in a very hot oven for about 3-5 minutes. Put the cooked pitta in a clean tea towel to stay warm and moist.

Tuck in and enjoy!

 Posted by at 20:20
Mar 312013
 
Herbed and salted Smen

Kefir grains on the left; on the right the finished Smen,

Morocco has a special place in my heart as that’s where I had my honeymoon well over 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve maintained a keen interest in Moroccan & other North African cuisine.

One of the ingredients that is traditional to this part of the world is Smen (also called smansemneh, or sminn) which is a cultured, salted and flavoured butter which keeps for ages. It’s normally made from sheep or goat’s milk. You’ll see it used to spread on flatbreads, to flavour tagines and cous cous. Jamie Oliver uses it for his recipe for mechoui lamb that I wanted to cook, so I decided to see if I could make my own smen.

Most of the recipes for it that I have found on the web and in my book involve clarifying butter. This is then kneaded with salt and an infusion of herbs (oregano or fenugreek). The butter is then packed and sealed and stored to mature. In others unclarified butter has the salt & herbs added and it’s then clarified.

The web tells of Berber herds people who will bury a sealed container of smen on the day of a daughter’s birth, aging it until it is unearthed and used to season the food served on that daughter’s wedding. I’ve no idea if this is true.

I’ve been playing with milk kefir grains for a while now. I wondered if I could use them to make smen from scratch with cream without the need to clarify already made butter. Read on for my story about how this might have happened in North Africa and for my method…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:44
Mar 292013
 

Puntarelle plants one month from sowing

How to grow Puntarelle

In my last blog post, I showed you how to use this versatile vegetable. As promised, I’ll tell you how to grow them in this post.

We found these very easy to grow last year even with all the rain and lack of sun.

If you’d like me to show you how to grow them,  please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:16
Mar 212013
 

Puntarelle Shoots as cut

Puntarelle are glorious to eat. This type of chicory is a versatile vegetable which you can eat raw or cooked. It’s also a doddle to grow. We grew it for the first time last year and it will be a firm favourite for the future.

You may see recipes for Puntarella, with an ‘a‘ at the end. However, to be precise, Puntarella  is the Roman Italian word for little shoot. So puntarella is one shoot,  and puntarelle – with an ‘e‘ at the end is the plural and means many shoots. We’re nearly always eating many, so the recipes use puntarelle. You may see the plant or seeds described as Cicoria (di) Cataglogna, Cicoria di Gaeta or Cicoria Asparago (asparagus chicory). As far as I can find out, the Cicoria di Veneto is a leaf only chicory like an endive and without the shoots. And some of the Cicoria Cataglogna seeds on sale are leaf only chicories. So be careful. In my next post, I’ll give you one UK source for the seeds for the right stuff.

According to Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, seeds of asparagus chicory used to be sold (in 1976) for UK growers by Thompson & Morgan. I’m told by Charlie Hicks (the über-costermonger) that puntarelle were grown in England 100s of years ago and used to be exported to Italy. Now he has to import them for the top chefs to use. It’s appears that we’ve lost the taste for them in this neck of the woods. Perhaps I can start a revival here. If you’d like to find out more about how to grow and cook them, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 08:52
Mar 092013
 

Three Sourdough loaves
These three sourdough loaves are made with Doves Farm English Wholegrain Wheat flour mixed with Shipton Mill’s Organic White Strong Flour.

I made up the dough yesterday and folded it four times and about one hour intervals and then left it in the fridge overnight to retard.

This morning I took the dough out of the fridge to warm up while I had my breakfast, divided the dough and left it for 30 minutes. Then shaped them and put them into bannetons. They proved in a not so warm kitchen for about three hours before baking for 50 minutes with some steam trays to start.

Other posts you may like:

 

 Posted by at 14:57
Dec 042012
 

Maked ginger & pecan muffins

This is one of Debs’ inventions that I made yesterday. When I first tasted them I was in food heaven. Lovely spicy ginger flavour with the roasted pecan taste and a hint of spice. It’s such a gorgeous combination – they are my favourite muffin now.

What’s even better about this recipe is that you can make up the ingredients in the time it takes the oven to warm up and be eating muffins 25 minutes later.

I used Naked Ginger to make these ones: you can use preserved stem ginger in syrup or crystalised ginger to make them too. The Naked ginger is less sugary than crystalised. It’s an Aussie product that you can buy in the UK from Lakeland and other places.

If you want to have a try, please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 16:56
Dec 012012
 

Salumi - cover picture

Salumi delivers on its promises. If you want a comprehensive, understandable, useable and enjoyable guide to how to dry cure & preserve meats Italian style, this is it. It’s suitable for the chef, semi-pro or novice home practitioner. I wish that this book had been published a few years earlier to save me some hard won experience.

Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing is written by the authors of the acclaimed Charcuterie – Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn. Rhulman has written & co-written many bestselling books about cooking. Polcyn is Professor of Butchery & Charcuterie at Schoolcraft College in Michigan and a chef/patron of his own restaurants. They both demonstrate a clear knowledge of the science of meat preservation coupled with a love & evangelism for good food, slowly & lovingly prepared and eaten.

Salumi is a tidy hardback book that’ll fit on your worktop while you work through the instructions. It’s divided into five chapters which take you systematically through the process from carcass to consumption. It’s illustrated throughout with really clear & helpful drawings by Alan Witschonke. It has two beautiful sections of colour plates which really do the salumi proud and show you what to aim for. Each chapter has its own mini-contents at the beginning and these are helpful to see the scope of what’s there, not just to help to navigate the book. There are regular boxed out asides which give added detail and explanations or contain wonderful anecdotes. The anecdotes really bring the book alive and give it atmosphere.

Salumi - drawing & picture example

They clarify terminology up front and explain that salumi is the word for salted & cured meats and salami are a subset of these which are dry cured sausages.

In the first chapter the authors first put salumi in their cultural and philosophical context. Now this may sound a little pretentious: but the way they express it is down to earth. While their book Charcuterie was about the French tradition of meat curing and confit; Salumi is about the narrower, more focused and more difficult craft (in their view) of Italian dry curing of meat. They say:

Nature is the greatest artist, we are not the first to say, and this is what salumi is really about: taking what nature gives us and doing as little as possible to it to make it the best it can be.

They emphasise the need for high quality meat and also that in using it you must be properly prepared. Their emotion about the responsibility of the meat preparer is eloquently expressed:

…if you are not prepared, if you have a feeling bone in your body, you will experience the deep humiliation of having wasted a creature’s life because you were lazy.

Quite so and well said. But the book is not all so earnest. The section the above quote comes from is entitled: “The Experience of Breaking Down a Whole Hog (Is This Your First Time, Sweetheart?)”. And their humour peeks cheekily through in many more passages and anecdotes.

The first chapter gives really detailed instructions of how to butcher a whole pig. Having done the job myself, the instructions are clearly from people that have done it for real. The drawings come into their own here and are very helpful. They say it’s hard work and needs from three to nine people to do. No wonder when I’ve done it on my todd, I been out on my feet at the end. There’s lots of good practical advice and tips.

Salumi - clear drawings

The second chapter sets out the basics of the science behind why and how curing works. They deal with the safety and environmental/public health issues in a way that reassures. Like scuba diving, they say, if you follow the rules – you’ll be safe. They provide advice about what equipment is needed and how to improvise smokers and curing cabinets. The chapter ends with a basic recipe and some rules of thumb. In addition to the science and careful weighing of ingredients, they stress that common sense is a useful asset to have and use throughout the process.

In Chapter Three they describe and give recipes for the ‘Big Eight’ Italian dry cured meats. These are: guanciale, coppa, spalla, lardo, lonza, pancetta, prosciutto and (basic) salami. Each section describes the cuts and its uses, flavour, cure variations and gives relevant tips and things to look out for. The recipes are clear and precise, the measurements given in ounces and grammes with aniticpated timings and yields.

Salumi - clear recipes

With Chapter Four, Ruhlman & Polcyn go “Deeper into the Craft of Dry Curing and Preserving Meat”. This covers how to make more complex salami, whole muscle salami and cooked salumi. The recipes follow a similar format to those in Chapter Three and I found really inspired me to want to get to grips with the art of the Salumière. The authors’ expertise of the technical aspects of the cure and how to match and blend flavours shines through.

Finally, in Chapter Five the art of how to cook with and serve salumi is revealed. There are six mouth watering sections which cover tagliere di salumi (the salumi board), crostini, pizza, pasta & polenta, soups & salads and classic combinations. There’s enough inspiration in here for many months and years of happy cooking.

Salumi - beautiful pictures

I’ve kept, slaughtered and butchered my own pigs and made my own bacon, chorizo and sausages. So I’m an enthusiast for the process and the products. I’m also, as this blog shows, a big fan of Italian style cuisine. This book will soon look tired and battered as it’s bound to be well used, thumbed and drooled over. It’s an essential read for anyone interested in how to make preserved meats, or who wants to find out more about Italian cuisine.

Disclosure: The publishers provided me with a free copy of this book for me to review. They didn’t impose any express or implied conditions on this and I have written as I’ve found.

 Posted by at 18:33
Nov 202012
 

Harissa in jars

These are a blast for any chilliholic and will add a new dimension to the seasonings on any table. In the northern hemisphere, now is when we need to preserve green & red chillies. If you have a blender or food processor these couldn’t be easier.

Chillies and tomatoes are arguably two of the most influential culinary exports from South America where they originated. Traders took them to Europe, the middle & far east from the 16th century onwards. Their use is characteristic of many cuisines. Harissa & schug are similar to some of the original salsas & pebre of South America.

Tamsin’s tomatoes on toast with schug

They can be used virtually anywhere in your culinary repertoire. In soups or stews; as a rub on meat, fish & vegetables; spread on bread; as a dip, with hummus or felafel etc; or like a ketchup. On the left, the delicious snack my friend Tamsin made with the Schug I took as a present when we stayed with her & her family. Tamsin’s blog is a cracking read too.

Harissa is a Tunisian/Morrocan red chilli paste seasoned with spices. Some variations include tomatoes too, which round out the flavour.

Schug (zhug  or skhug)
is a Yemeni green chilli paste make with lashings of fresh coriander and seasoned with spices. There is also a red variant.

If you’d like to make these wonderful ingredients, please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 16:01
Nov 042012
 

 

Blues and bays made into vinegar using kombucha

Once you know how to make your own vinegar you can experiment with different flavours. Last year I showed you how to make your own apple cider vinegar. This year, I experimented to see if I could use the same principles to make some blackberry and apple vinegar.

I’ve also got into using Kombucha. We make kombucha tea as a tasty and healthful drink. It’s also possible to use it to turn a sugary solution into acetic acid – vinegar. All you need is a kombucha ‘SCOBY’ (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeasts).

If you’d like to find out how to do these, please read on… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 17:00
Jul 022012
 

Sourdough bread pudding
The rubbish ‘summer’ weather we’re having prompted a need for comfort food. I had a surfeit of bits & bobs of sourdough loaves in the bread bin, so bread pudding called to me.

Instead of just using the normal dried fruit, I wanted some sparkle in the pudding. The vibrant orange of apricots and red of cranberries were ideal for this. The fruit gives a lovely zing to the pudding to brighten up dull & wet days.

So if you fancy this, please read on for the recipe… Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:15
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