Jan 202014
 

Wine barm bread sliced
It’s funny how things spread.

My twitter pal Jessica read the earlier post on how to use a cider barm to make sourdough bread. Serendipity is a wonderful thing as Jessica was racking wine that day. So Jessica contacted me on Twitter…

Jessica Bread Tweet

And so Jessica did. I’m very grateful to Jessica who sent the pictures she took and the recipe notes for her bread so I may share it more widely. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 17:22
Aug 182013
 

Home made vanilla essence
This is so simple to do, you’ll wonder why you ever spent the money on the shop stuff.

The picture shows my 500ml bottle of vanilla extract. Here’s how I make it…

Method

Take 6 to 8 vanilla pods and split them with a sharp knife, leaving them just attached at one end. Pop them in your cleaned bottle.

Top up the bottle with standard vodka.

Shake when you remember for 6-8 weeks.

When you’ve used about a third to a half, top up with more vodka, shake the bottle.

Uses

  • Use as directed in the recipe (like this courgette cake)
  • In cake, muffins, ice cream, custards and other sweet goods
  • It goes well with chocolate, coconut and coffee
  • It likes spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg
  • It complements chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts
  • All kind of soft fruit are improved with it
  • A bottle makes a great present for the foodie/baker in your life

I’ve bought my vanilla pods from Vanilla Mart.

 Posted by at 13:55
May 152013
 

Guanciale cross section view
Guanciale is the perfect preserved pork. It’s wonderfully versatile & tasty, easy to make, economical to buy & use and looks brilliant. What’s not to like about that? You can see what I made in the picture above: I’m so pleased with the result.

Guanciale means “pillow” in Italian, the reason should be obvious. My first taste was courtesy of my friend and Italian food mentor Carla Tomasi who sent me some from Rome. It was a revelation with a deep porky taste. It’s good raw, as a seasoning or a major ingredient in many dishes. When I got the Italian dry curing book Salumi for review (see here), I first searched out the recipe for guanciale. It’s ridiculously simple. The authors say it is:

…one of the most magical of the Big Eight cured cuts [and] some of the finest and most versatile salumi…

At the end of February I was fortunate to meet Huw Roberts of Oinc Oink our very local award winning pedigree Welsh pork producers. At their stall Huw had brought along some pig cheeks on the off chance that they might sell. They did.

I rushed home and got out my copy of Salumi. If you want to find out how to make your own guanciale, please read on…

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 17:24
Apr 112013
 

Potato soda bread with cheese, garlic & thyme
Kaethe from SPUDS (The Sustainable Potatoes United Development Study!) in Ireland said:

Cheesy, garlicky soda bread made w/blight resistant Blue Danubes sounds fab, but where is the recipe? Any new take on soda bread ROCKS for us Irish, especially if it incorporates SPUDS…Send a link pronto!

Who can resist a request like that? Not me 🙂

The Blue Danube potato are a part of a selection of potato varieties I am trialling for the far-sighted people at the Savari Research Trust who are developing these highly blight resistant potatoes. These potatoes are more sustainable to grow because they do not need the frequent chemical treatment and other energy dense maintenance of conventional varieties.

As you can imagine, that’s a tough gig. Specially as I’m trying to come up with some novel recipes too.

This bread is almost addictive. The potato in it makes the bread moist and tender unlike many soda breads that can seem hard and dry. The mixture of cheese, garlic and thyme makes it wonderfully savoury. It’s great as it is; slathered with good butter; toasted and topped with a fresh poached egg or eaten with (leek & potato) soup.

If you want to find out how to make it, please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:06
Apr 022013
 

Evernote Camera Roll 20130322 220654

I love the way Twitter works. In particular how ideas get propagated: across the world in an instant and inspiring new networks of enthusiastic people. And also how physical things are shared too.

This kefir bread is the result of both such things. My apologies for the pics – they’re taken quickly on an iPhone and the bread didn’t last long enough for me to take anything posher for you.

I sent Joanna at Zeb Bakes in England some kefir. As part of her experiements, Joanna (a great baker) decided to make kefir leavened bread blogged by her friend Cecilia. Joanna has written a very instructive blog post about her experience. And Cecilia is a Kiwi (New Zealander) living in mid-west USA.

So, with all this helpful stuff to read, I had to have a go at this.

As you can see from the pictures, the loaf turned out very well indeed. It was a soft bread (apart from the crisp crust), slightly sweet with a background tang. It makes lovely sandwiches and toasts well (browns very quickly). We had it au naturel, with marmalade and toasted with cheese and it went well with all of them.

You need to think a couple of days ahead as you need live kefir milk to start fermenting a flour ‘sponge’. You then add this sponge to a bigger quantity of flour to ferment the final loaf.

I’ve tweaked the recipes that preceded this to use a higher amount of kefir in the sponge and reduced the water to match. To see my recipe, please read on…

 Posted by at 17:36

Cumin & rye flake pitta bread recipe

 Autumn, Bread & baking, Fermentation, Recipes, Seasons, Spring, Summer, Winter  Comments Off on Cumin & rye flake pitta bread recipe
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.

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 Posted by at 14:57
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