Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wholemeal sourdough with cereals and seeds

I started out with the idea of making one of those dense, seed-filled 'German' loaves, but somehow things changed along the way. First off, I came back with a bag of mixed cereal flakes from my local wholefood store (oats, wheat, barley, rye, malted corn) and some sunflower seeds, together with a bag of 'semi-wholemeal flour' (whatever that means). Then I opened the fridge and found my wonderful starter staring at me reproachfully, so I ditched the idea of using instant yeast and went back to sourdough. And finally I cast around on the net for recipes but didn't find anythng I liked, so decided to adapt my own. Surprisingly enough, it came out quite close to my original intention: dense and moist without being heavy, and packed with flavour.

Makes 2 medium-sized loaves


100g mixed cereal flakes (see above)
200g warm water

200g sourdough starter (60% hydration)
200g wholemeal flour
200g white flour
300g warm water
10g salt
50g sunflower seeds

  1. Weigh the cereal flakes into a bowl, cover with 200g of warm water and set aside. After 10 minutes, strain the cereal flakes in a colander and squeeze out any excess water. Measure 300g of warm water into a large bowl, add the sourdough starter to it, break the starter into very small pieces and mix thoroughly so that there are no lumps. Add the wholemeal and white flour, strained cereal flakes, salt and sunflower seeds to the wet starter mixture, and mix very well with a spoon until it comes together.
  2. With the dough still in the bowl, stretch and fold it, leave to rest for 15 minutes (placing the bowl inside a plastic bag), then stretch and fold three more times, leaving a 15 minute interval each time. Put the bowl back inside the plastic bag and leave to rest for an hour.
  3. Oil two medium-sized loaf tins very thoroughly. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Flatten each piece out into a rough rectangle, then form into a loaf by stretching and folding into the centre. Once you have a nice loaf shape, transfer to the tin. Repeat with the other piece, then place the tins inside a large plastic bag and leave to prove for about 4 hours at room temperature, until doubled in size. (See photo.) An hour before your loaves are due to finish proving, set the oven to 240oC.
  4. Remove the loaf tins from the bag, slash the loaves  lengthwise with a sharp knife or lame, open the oven and spray it with plenty of water, transfer the loaf tins to the oven and close the door. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 220oC, and bake for a further 25 minutes until the loaves are nice and brown. Remove loaves from oven, turn out of tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. (See photo.)

dough with cereal incorporated

shaped loaves in tin

risen loaves ready for oven

baked loaves

I really enjoyed making these. I've spent a good few months mastering my sourdough and learning how to work with wetter dough (high hydration, for us bread techies), and it was very satisfying to be able to apply what I've learned by coming up with something quite different. The underlying dough is the same, but I changed the type of flour, added cereals and seeds, had to come up with a pre-soaking technique and baked in tins to create a denser loaf. I was worried it would all end in disaster, but the end result, though I say it myself, was a triumph! Hurrah. (And now back to that translation whose deadline just crept a bit closer while I was skiving off in the kitchen.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rabbit stew, hunter's style (coniglio alla cacciatore)

I posted a recipe for some rather dry lentils the other day, and was happy to receive a comment from a reader about the right proportions of liquid. I've since corrected my lentil post (lentils with chorizo and dried wild mushrooms) and updated the photo, but in the meantime I also took a wander over to my reader's site, which is dedicated exclusively to the art of the pressure pot and goes by the name of hip pressure cooking. This recipe is inspired by a version I found there, and I think the combination of a bit of non-pressure cooking (sauteeing, browning etc.) and then pressure stewing is perfect. Incidentally, I was a bit scared of tipping in the brine from my tin of olives, but I did, and the result was great. (For this reason, no salt is listed in the recipe.)

1 rabbit, cut into joints

150 g white wine vinegar
150 g white wine
150 g water
6 bay leaves

plain flour
olive oil
3 sticks of celery
1/2 onion
2 carrots
3 cloves of garlic
350 g tin of black olives
1 tin of tomatoes
250 ml of red wine
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary (or a large sprig of fresh)

  1. Put the jointed rabbit in a large bowl with the bay leaves, cover with the vinegar, wine and water, and leave to marinade in the fridge overnight.
  2. Remove the rabbit pieces from the marinade, and discard the liquid. Peel and finely chop the onion, slice the celery, peel and slice the carrots, peel and roughly crush the garlic.
  3. Heat plenty of olive oil in your pressure cooker (with the lid off, obviously!), dust the rabbit pieces in plenty of flour, and brown them on both sides in the hot oil. You will probably need to do them in three batches. Remove the browned pieces to a plate.
  4. Gently fry the onion, celery, carrot and garlic in the oil. After a few minutes, remove to a bowl, together with any oil.
  5. Deglaze the pan with a good splash of wine, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon, then add the rest of the wine, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes to boil off the alcohol.
  6. Return the browned rabbit pieces and fried vegetables to the pot, add the tomato, olives (including the brine) and rosemary, and put the lid on. Bring up to pressure, reduce hit to minimum and cook for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Banana bread

Nine months ago I started making a batch of focaccia in my kitchen, and today I finished! Okay, it didn't take me nine months to make the bread, but that is how long it took us to get the oven fixed. (It's a long story, and there were mitigating circumstances.) Anyway, I felt the oven needed to be shown who was boss, so I made a point of taking up where it had so rudely interrupted me back in January, and produced a tray of focaccia.

Next up for the great oven celebration was some banana bread. I got a recipe from the BBC Food Website, and tweaked it a little. Apart from being really easy, and quite delicious, it's a great way of using up those guilt-inducing overripe bananas which everyone seems to have in their fruit bowls.

275 g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
110 g margarine
225 g caster sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
75 ml milk
1.5 tsps lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g raisins

  1. Set the oven to 180oC, and line and grease two loaf tins (20 cm x 10 cm)
  2. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar.
  4. Add the bananas, milk, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon and raisins to the margarine and sugar mixture, and mix well.
  5. Fold the flour into the resulting batter.
  6. Pour the mixture into the loaf tins, making sure there is a centimetre of space at the top, and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes until golden.
  7. Allow the bread to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spaghetti with salt cod, chick peas and green pepper

Salt cod is easy enough to cook, but it's not cheap and takes a fair bit of preparation (4 days of desalting, including regular water changes, in this case) and I am therefore reluctant to just bin any leftovers. I had already made salt cod mayonnaise out of the leftover pil pil sauce and cooking oil, and I decided to double up by bulking out the small amount of leftover cod with some chick peas and half a green pepper, and combining it with pasta.

1/2 a packet of pasta
leftover salt cod (about 200g)
1/2 a jar of chickpeas
1/2 a large green pepper
olive oil
salt cod mayonnaise

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water. (I cooked the whole packet so I could make spaghetti fritters with the leftovers.)
  2. In the meantime, finely chop and fry the green pepper until it is done. Add the strained chickpeas to the pan, cook for a minute or two, then remove from the heat.
  3. Break the cod into flakes, removing any bones, and add to the chick peas and pepper.
  4. Strain the pasta, transfer to a large bowl, season with salt and add a little to prevent it from sticking. Pour the cod, chick peas and peppers over it, then dress with plenty of salt cod mayonnaise.

Salt cod mayonnaise

I made this with the leftover pil-pil sauce and cooking oil the last time I made bacalao al pil pil (which is salt cod in a warm mayonnaise). The original recipe has 500 ml of olive oil, of which only half is used in the pil pil sauce. So you already have 250 ml of cod-flavoured olive oil going spare. On top of that, there will probably be some leftover pil pil sauce. When I saw that I had getting on for 350 ml of top quality olive oil about to go to waste, I suggested to Gemma that I make it into mayonnaise. She looked at me as if I was a bit mad, but I made it anyway.

leftover olive oil and pil pil sauce from bacalao al pil pil

Put the olive oil and leftover sauce in a bowl, and whisk gently until it liaises to form a light mayonnaise.

This made a really good mayonnaise, which was quite light and had a delicate flavour of cod. I knew that nobody else in my family would knowingly eat it, but I tricked them by using it to dress some spaghetti with salt cod, chick peas and green peppers, which they all ate happily. (I had an extra serving of mayonnaise on top of mine.) They will only realise they ate the mayonnaise too if they read this blog entry!

As I was writing this entry, I thought I would have a quick search to see if anyone else makes salt cod mayonnaise. I came across a reference to a restaurant in Dublin called Pichet which sometimes has it on their menu, but no actual recipes, so I think this counts as a culinary googlewhack.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spanish omelette with leftover chips

Yes! Today the repairman came and fixed our gas rings. No longer will I feel as if I have been trapped in a slow motion replay every time I cook. (Unfortunately he wasn't able to fix the oven - but he did at least depart with the broken element in his hand, promising to return in a couple of days with a new one.) To celebrate, I followed Gemma's suggestion and made a Spanish omelette with leftover chips from lunchtime.

a large plate of leftover chips
4 eggs (approximately)
1 onion
olive oil

  1. Peel and roughly chop the onion, and fry it in plenty of oil in a non-stick pan until it's done. If there still is a lot of oil in the pan, pour a little of it away.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the chips roughly, put in a bowl and add 4 beaten eggs. Add the fried onion to the potato and egg mixture (leaving the oil in the pan), and season with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  3. Gently heat the oil in the pan, but don't allow it to get too hot. Pour the potato, egg and onion mixture into the pan and cook on a medium heat.
  4. After a couple of minutes or so, once the underside of the omelette has cooked, slide it out of the pan onto a plate. Using an oven glove, place the frying pan upside down over the plate, then quickly flip it over so that the omelette falls raw side down back into the pan.
  5. Now cook for another couple of minutes or so until done. It should still be very slightly runny in the middle.

This is a great way to use up leftover chips. In fact, I think it would work well with chip shop chips too, which are fat and halfway between being fried and boiled. I will try to remember this next time I have a fish supper. (That's Scottish for "fish and chips", my English chums.)

Making a smallish tortilla like this also helps to remind one that a tortilla is indeed an 'omelette'. Non-Spaniards have a tendency to overcook their tortillas and turn them into solid, dry, egg-and-potato pies, inspired no doubt by the consistency of tortillas eaten in bars and restaurants. That's how you make them if you are really worried about undercooked egg, but a true Spanish home-cooked tortilla is always a bit runny.

And, in the spirit of John Gummer, I demonstrated my faith by feeding some to my daughter. Unlike the unfortunate Cordelia (yes, that was her name), Carmela gave my tortilla an enthusiastic reception.