Friday, 15 April 2011

no croutons required entry

This is the first time I enter 'no croutons required', a competition hosted by Jacqueline over at This month we were supposed to pick a topic listed under our birthday month - March in my case. I chose to make an Indian Salad (or Indian-inspired salad if you're in the purist camp!) Indian salad with fresh herbs and blackeye beans - serves 2 as a light lunch

1 fresh red chilli (de-seeded if you don't like it too hot), very finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 scant teaspoon Dijon mustard (yes French, not Indian, I know lol)

Zest and Juice of half a small unwaxed lemon

Small handful each of chopped fresh mint and coriander (or parsley if you like)

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Mix this dressing up in a bowl, then get on with the other ingredients:

1/2 small red onion, chopped very finely

About 10 sweet cherry tomatoes, halved

10 cm piece of cucumber, cut into thin ribbons

1x400 g tin of blackeye beans, rinsed

Add this to the dressing and mix well, then leave for 15 - 20 minutes if you can. Check seasoning again before serving. I ate this with a very non-Indian slice of crusty bread which I thought worked well.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Some more baking

I am baking bread fairly regularly, sometimes every day. 1) like it fresh, 2) small freezer. Now that my husband is converted to homemade bread, I have to bake more often as he takes it to work too. This first bread was absolutely gorgeous and I shall be making it again very soon. It's from Ursula Ferrigno's 'The New Family Bread Book'. It uses half strong brown flour and half strong white, but I think next time I will go just strong brown as I think this bread will carry it really well. And it's only myself and Miss 1 who eat bread with dried fruits anyway and we don't mind a bit of wholemeal. I did not follow the recipe to the letter... and I rarely do. Here is the recipe as I made it. Treacle and Date bread: 250 g wholemeal flour 250 g strong white flour 20 g fresh yeast (or 3.5 tsp dried yeast) 50 g butter, cold and cubed 1 tsp fine sea salt 85 g dates, chopped (note: 100 g would be nice I think) approx 300 ml tepid water For some reason blogger wont let me write this recipe neatly on different lines. So bare with me....(as the ladies on the phone say). Rub butter into the flour and add salt (and dried yeast, if using). Mix your fresh yeast into a little of the water and add to the dry ingredients, then add more water until the dough comes together. Add the chopped dates and knead the dough until smooth. I did about 5 minutes. Form into a ball and leave to rise for 1 hour or when it has doubled in size. Then knock back gently by spreading the dough flat onto the worktop and fold the 'ends' in to the middle until it makes a round shape. Then turn it around and tuck the dough under itself to make a nice ball. Leave to prove for 30 minutes and score the bread so it has several diamond shapes. Bake at G7/ 220'C for about 30 minutes. This all depends on your oven. Mine needed to be turned down to G6/200'C half way through. Lovely as it is or with butter. Even after 3 days it was yummy. Some people has not quite got the hang of scoring yet: This bread is the plain white loaf (with some wholemeal in my case) from River Cottage. UK residents can view it here: (PS. Totally MUST have an outdoor pizza oven like that. First I need a garden though!) For every kg of flour, you need 10 g dried yeast (I used 20g fresh), 15 g sea salt and water to form a dough. Even though I mostly do stretch and fold, I did some good old kneading here and then left it to rise in the fridge overnight. Formed the loaves this morning before the school run and baked them when I came back. Simple and delicious. That people think it's hard to bake bread is a mystery to me. It seems like someone has had a slice of the bread to the left..I wonder who... :D
This bread is half strong white flour and half fine semolina. Didn't take note of how much I put in of what, but I reckon I used about 500 ml of water.

I hope to start a sourdough adventure when I come back from holiday.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Proud moment

Yesterday was a good day. A great day even. I finally decided to give homemade pasta a go. People had been telling me that it was indeed a very simple task but I was never convinced. I felt it would probably be a lot of faffing about and it would most definitely end in disappointment. Also, I don't have a pasta machine and thought that was pretty much a must. When I read Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food some time ago, it came to my attention that the Jews back in the days used to roll out their pasta dough. And I thought, well I suppose they must have done that in Italy too before the pasta machine was invented. And then yesterday, as I was flicking through Katie Caldesi's The Italian Cookery Course, I saw that she had written instructions for both hand cut pasta and machine cut pasta and the instructions were very clear and it seemed straight forward enough, so I thought, why not?

Her recipe said 100 g of flour to one egg, so I used 200 g of Doves Organic Pasta Flour (tipo '0') and 2 large Organic Eggs. I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes and left it to rest wrapped in clingfilm for 30 minutes. Then I rolled it out until it was so thin that I could see my hand through it, rolled it up and cut it into strips. It put it straight into a large pot of salted boiling water and cooked it for 2 -3 minutes. Then tossed it in freshly made pesto and served it. I was going to make a salad to go with it and had set about marinating red onion in balsamic vinegar, but got so busy with the pasta that I didn't get the time. And I also wanted to eat the pasta as soon as possible while it was fresh from the pan. Even picky Master 10 liked it, and he was very worried beforehand!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Mushroom Stroganoff and baking joy

We had our wedding anniversary recently and we're both very keen on mushrooms and so the choice fell on a most delicious dish, Mushroom Stroganoff. I turned to my very favourite cookbook - Nigella's Feast - and to the tried and tested Mushroom Stroganoff recipe in the 'Meatless Feasts' Chapter. I didn't get the chance to take a photograph when it was all dished up, but took one as it was bubbling in my beloved Le Creuset buffet pan. You can find the recipe here: Next up is Floyd's Daily Bread: Made with a poolish it has lovely flavour and the high hydration gives a great texture.

This is my favourite Focaccia from Ursula Ferrigno's Truly Italian. That book is a real gem and a must have for any lover of the Italian Cuisine in my opinion.

I first saw this cinnamon pull apart bread on Joy the Baker's blog.

I admit that I didn't follow her recipe, but used my usual sweet dough recipe and copied her way of layering the dough.. although to be fair, hers is a little bit prettier.. what can I say, I am a rustic baker! As usual I didn't pay attention to the order I uploaded the pictures, but I think you can see what is the finished product.