Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sourdough: bloom, ear and open crumb

I always hesitate before posting about bread in general and sourdough in particular. When I write up a 'normal' recipe, it's easy enough to work out what levels of knowledge to assume - I don't need to explain how to chop an onion, although I might say how finely it should be chopped if I think it's important. With bread, though, one is caught between writing for the complete beginner and writing for the experienced baker. If you assume no knowledge, then the recipe becomes unmanageably long, as every technique and term has to be explained. And if you write for those who already know how to make bread, then your recipe will be incomprehensible for anyone else.

So no recipe this time, just some shots of my latest sourdough, made with white wheat flour from Shipton Mill, together with a little white spelt flour. My bread usually gets eaten before I have a chance to photograph it, but I managed to get some photos of this loaf that nicely illustrate three of the things sourdough bakers aim for: bloom (the way the bread opens as it bakes), ear (the crusty flap where the loaf has been slashed) and a nice open crumb.

bloom


ear




open crumb

Oyster men

It's always nice to be able to share the food you enjoy with the people you love, so I was thrilled when Sammy said he wanted to try oysters:


And even happier when he decided he liked them:


Now I have somebody to eat oysters with!

Aubergine dip (baba ghanoush) - microwave version

Summer is here again, and the root vegetables in my veggie box are gradually being replaced by more exotic fare. For the last couple of weeks, this has included a lone aubergine, so I decided to make a quick aubergine dip. I couldn't be bothered with roasting or grilling it, so I thought I would try the microwave instead, and I was really pleased with the results. Unfortunately I seem to have mislaid my photo of it.

Ingredients
1 aubergine
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
handful of chopped parsley
2 tbsps of olive oil

Method

  1. Top and tail and peel the aubergine, cut it into chunks, and cook it on full power in the microwave for 10 minutes.
  2. Combine the cooked aubergine with the other ingredients in a food processor, and blend.


Monday, May 13, 2013

White bread with spelt

These white loaves tempered with some wholemeal spelt flour were made by my son, Sammy.



Ingredients
775g warm water
1125g strong white flour
100g wholemeal spelt flour
7g instant yeast
20g salt

Method

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, mix very thoroughly with a spoon, then stretch and fold in the bowl. (Do about 12 'stretch-and-folds', turning the bowl as you go.)
  2. Place the bowl inside a large plastic bag, leave to rest for 15 minutes, then do another 12 'stretch-and-folds'. Repeat the 'rest/stretch-and-fold' cycle three more times, then leave the dough to rest for a further hour.
  3. Prepare two large banettons by lining them with plenty of spelt flour.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, divide into two even portions (1kg each) and shape.
  5. To make a round boule, form the dough into a ball. To make a long batard, form the dough into a ball, then flatten slightly and fold both sides into the middle. Rotate through 90o, then fold into the middle again. Without rotating, fold a third time, then fold in half and press the edges together to seal.
  6. Place the shaped loaves seam-side up in the floured banettons, cover with a linen cloth and leave to rise at room temperature.
  7. After 30 minutes, put your baking stone onto the middle shelf of the oven, put a baking tray on the bottom shelf, and turn the oven to maximum. Leave the loaves to rise for a further 60 minutes.
  8. Boil some water in a kettle.
  9. Transfer one loaf onto a peel and slash the top (lengthwise if it is the batard, with a criss-cross or circular pattern for the boule).
  10. Pour some of the boiling water into the baking tray, quickly transfer the slashed loaf, spray a little more water into the oven, and close the door.
  11. Bake at maximum for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 225oC and bake for a further 25 minutes. Remove to a grid to cool.
  12. Repeat steps 8 to 11 above for your second loaf.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Chocolate swirls

Sammy is a fan of all things chocolate, and when I asked him what he fancied as an alternative to the ginger crush in my ginger swirls, he immediately suggested these. The results were great. Adding chocolate to dough tends to be disappointing, as it makes the dough dry while also diluting the impact of the chocolate. But spreading chocolate across a layer of dough and then rolling it solves both of those problems, and the result is both light and chocolatey.




Ingredients
the dough
175ml warm milk
300g strong white flour
1/2 egg, beaten
2.5g instant yeast
12g demerara sugar
25g melted butter
2.5g salt

the filling
1/2 egg, beaten
100g dark chocolate

the glaze
25g demerara sugar
25ml water
caster sugar for sprinkling

Method
  1. Combine all of the dough ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and mix well. With the dough still in the bowl, stretch and fold, leave for 15 minutes, then repeat the 'stretch-and-fold'/15-minute rest cycle three more times. Leave dough to stand for a further hour at room temperature.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a bain mairie. Form the dough into a boule, then roll out on a well-floured surface to form a rectangle. Brush the surface with the remaining beaten egg, spread the melted chocolate over it, and roll it to form a swiss roll.
  3. Cut the roll into slices, and arrange them next to each other in an oiled and floured flan tin or on a baking tray, and leave to rise for 1 hour.
  4. In the meantime, make the glaze by heating 25g of demerara sugar in 25ml of water until all the sugar has dissolved. 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, set the oven to 200oC.
  5. Once the swirls have risen, brush them with the glaze, sprinkle with caster sugar, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pot roast chicken

Gemma bought a big orange casserole dish the other day, and I have been rediscovering the joys of pot-roast chicken with vegetables.



Ingredients
1 whole chicken
potatoes
carrots
onions
olive oil
bay leaves
garlic
butter
English mustard
salt
pepper
water

Method

  1. Set the oven to 190oC. Peel and roughly chop the vegetables, and put them in the casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and a couple of bay leaves.
  2. Finely chop a couple of cloves of garlic, mix with plenty of butter, some mustard, and some salt and pepper, and smear generously over the chicken.
  3. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, add a little water, put the lid on and roast for about 2 hours.


Ginger swirls

These ginger swirls are sweet and spicy, and go brilliantly with a cup of coffee. 


Ingredients
the dough
175ml warm milk
300g strong white flour
1/2 egg, beaten
2.5g instant yeast
12g demerara sugar
25g melted butter
2.5g salt

the filling
10g melted butter
100g ginger crush

the glaze
25g demerara sugar
25ml water
caster sugar for sprinkling

Method

  1. Combine all of the dough ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and mix well. With the dough still in the bowl, stretch and fold thoroughly. Cover dough and leave  to stand for an hour at room temperature.
  2. Form the dough into a boule, then roll out on a well-floured surface to form a rectangle. Brush the surface with melted butter, spread the ginger cross over it, and roll it to form a swiss roll.
  3. Cut the roll into slices, and arrange them next to each other in an oiled and floured flan tin or on a baking tray, and leave to rise for 1 hour.
  4. In the meantime, make the glaze by heating 25g of demerara sugar in 25ml of water until all the sugar has dissolved. 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, set the oven to 200oC.
  5. Once the swirls have risen, brush them with the glaze, sprinkle with caster sugar, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are golden brown.


Rolled, filled dough


Filled slices, waiting to prove

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Braised sweet and sour red cabbage with chestnuts

Ingredients
olive oil
100g dried chestnuts
3 sticks of celery
2 rashers of back bacon
1 small red cabbage
1 cooking apple
3 tbsps cider vinegar
3 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
salt
pepper
water

Method

  1. Soak the dried chestnuts in hot water for 30 minutes. Wash and chop the celery, cut the bacon into small pieces, core and slice the cabbage, and core the apple and cut into chunks.
  2. Gently fry the celery in olive oil. When it has started to soften, add the bacon and continue to fry until the bacon is done.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients, together with enough water to barely cover. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to minimum and simmer until the chestnuts and cabbage are soft.


Sweet potato and pea curry with coconut milk

Sweet potaoes are another of those vegetables that I'm never quite sure what to do with, so they usually end up in soup. However, I think I'll be making this really simple curry more frequently. Unfortunately, I was so busy eating it that I forgot to take any pictures.

Ingredients
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tsps good quality curry powder
2 good-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
400g coconut milk
salt
100g petit pois

Method
  1. Fry the sliced onion in oil. When it is nearly done, add the garlic, fry for another 30 seconds or so, add the curry powder, fry for a few seconds more, then add the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and salt.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce to minimum and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft. Add the petit pois, heat through and serve.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Crepes

Crepes are back in fashion - and I don't even have to cook them.



Ingredients
200g plain flour
380g milk
2 eggs

Method
Whisk all the ingredients together, fry in a hot, lightly-oiled pan, flip and serve with the topping of your choice.



Sunday, February 17, 2013

Marinated olives

I'm not sure what Spanish food I miss the most now that we are living in Scotland, but I think  olives would definitely make any list. I can't get hold of fresh olives here, but I can get hold of barrels of salted Greek ones, and these make a good alternative for marinating at home. After some trial and error, me and Sammy decided that 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar was about as close as we could get to the delicious verdiales we used to buy at the market in Cadiz.



Ingredients
2kg salted olives
2 litres of boiling water
0.5 litres of white wine vinegar
2 tbsps dried oregano
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
virgin olive oil

Method
Mix the water and the vinegar. Drain but do not rinse the olives, then transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle with plenty of oregano, add the garlic, mix well, and transfer to large, sterilised jars. Cover with the water and vinegar mixture, top up with olive oil to seal, then close the jars with lids. Leave for a few days to allow the flavours to influse.

White sourdough

This is my 'standard' sourdough loaf . Although I describe it as a 'white' loaf, I actually add a small proportion of malted wholemeal flour to add flavour and texture.



Ingredients
625g warm water
400g white sourdough starter
20g salt
75g malted wholemeal flour
900g strong white flour

Method

  1. Measure the water into a large mixing bowl, add the starter, tearing it into very small pieces, and mix until you have a wet batter. Add all the flour and the salt, mix thoroughly with a spoon, then stretch and fold the dough in the bowl about 12 times.
  2. Place the bowl inside a plastic bag, leave at room temperature for 15 minutes, remove bowl from bag and  stretch and fold the dough another 12 times. Repeat this rest-'stretch and fold' cycle three more times (so that by the end the dough will have rested for 1 hour in total). After the last stretch-and-fold, return the dough to the bag and leave to sit at room temperature for a further hour.
  3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into two equal portions (about 1kg each). Form each piece into a loaf - I generally make one boule and one batard - and leave to rise in a well-floured, lined banetton for about 6 hours at room temperature. An hour before the loaves have finished rising, put your stone in the oven and set the oven to 250oC.
  4. When the loaves are fully risen, boil some water in the kettle. Turn out one of the loaves onto a well-floured peel, and slash the top. Pour about 200ml of water into the oven tray to create steam, transfer the loaf onto the hot stone, spray a little more water into the oven and close the door.
  5. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 225oC and bake for a further 25 minutes or so, until done. Leave to cool on a wire rack, while you bake the second loaf.

Fried matzo

This is another quick breakfast option. My grandma used to make this for me when I was a kid, and my mum made it sometimes too. I guess it's really a matzo (or cracker) omelette, which sounds a bit weird. The matzo should still have a little crunch left in it.



Ingredients
1 matzo
1 egg
salt
oil for frying

Method

  1. Break the matzo into largeish pieces (about 2 to 4 cm across) and place in a colander. Quickly run a little water over the broken matzo - enough to make it wet but not soggy.
  2. Beat the egg in a bowl, add the matzo and a little salt, and mix well.
  3. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, pour the egg and matzo mixture in, fry gently until golden, flip, and fry the underside.

Focaccia

I've been making focaccia on and off for a few years, but I think the method below is the one I will be sticking with. It isn't too involved, and the end result is as good as any other focaccia I have tasted.



Ingredients
800g strong white flour
15g salt
5g instant yeast
600g warm water
50g olive oil
salt, olive oil and sprigs of rosemary for topping

Method

  1. Combine the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and water in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with a dough scraper. Leave dough to stand at room temperature for an hour.
  2. Stretch and fold dough a few times, and leave for an hour.
  3. Stretch and fold dough a few times, and leave for one more hour.
  4. Set the oven to 220oC. Lightly grease two cookie trays. Transfer dough to a non-porous surface and divide into two pieces. Form each piece of dough into a boule, then fold it to form a fat rectangle. Transfer to one of the prepared trays and, working with wet hands, gradually stretch the dough out until it forms a large rectangle, trying to keep the thickness as even as possible. Use a dough scraper to push it into shape so that the edges are reasonably straight. and leave the dough to rise for 20 minutes.
  5. Dimple the shaped dough by pressing your fingertips into it, sprinkle with salt, put a few wet sprigs of rosemary on top, and drizzle with olive oil, then transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown. Slide the focaccia off the cookie trays onto the oven shelf, and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Eggy bread

I find it hard, first thing in the morning, to think of more than about three breakfast options - pancakes (or some variation on them), cereal, or toast. Here is a simple alternative to toast, which my mum used to make for me, and that I now make for my kids.


Ingredients
4 slices of bread
2 eggs
salt

Method
Beat the eggs in a flat dish. Add a little salt, soak the bread in the egg, then fry in a little oil, until it is done on both sides.


Hotcakes

This recipe comes from one of the many spin-offs from the Little House series, "Little House in Brookfield: The Caroline years", that tells the story of the childhood of Caroline, the mother of Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace. They are really just a variant on pancakes, but the batter is slightly stiffer, and a little sweeter.



Ingredients
300g plain flour
25g sugar
1 tbsps baking powder
300 ml milk
4 tbsps melted butter
1 large egg
1 tsps vanilla extract

Method

  1. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the wet ingredients and mix until you have a stiff but fairly smooth batter.
  2. Heat a large heavy-bottomed frying pan, and grease it well. Add large spoonfuls of the batter, cook until golden brown, turn and cook the other side as well.
  3. Serve with the topping of your choice - maple syrup, strawberry jam, whipped cream or melted chocolate.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Spicy sweet potato, fennel and peanut gratin

This is adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Veg Everyday! The sweet potatoes and the fennel came in my veggie box and I was a little stumped as to what to do with them until I came across this.



Ingredients
500g sweet potatoes
1 bulb of fennel
125 ml cream
75g good quality peanut butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp minced chilli
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method
  1. Peel and thinly slice the sweet potatoes. Remove the stalks, base and outer layer of the fennel and cut into thin slices.
  2. Mix the cream, peanut butter, salt, chilli and oil. Combine with the sliced sweet potato and fennel in a large bowl, and mix well.
  3. Layer the mixture in a gratin dish, cover with foil and bake at 190oC for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Cod's roe with tomato and green pepper (huevas aliñadas)

Huevas aliñadas or dressed roe is a standard cold tapa in Cádiz, and is a big favourite of Sammy's. There was some cod's roe in my Edinburgh fishmonger the other day, so I bought it and made this simple cod's roe salad for Sammy to welcome him back from his skiing trip with Grandma and Auntie Clara.



Ingredients
250g cooked cod´s roe
2 tomatoes
1/2 green pepper
2 spring onions
3 tbsps olive oil
1.5 tbsps vinegar
1/2 tsps salt
black pepper

Method
Cut the cod's roe into smallish pieces (about 2cm square), dice the tomatoes and green pepper, and slice the spring onions. Combine in a bowl, dress with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, mix well, and leave to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mild yellow curry powder

A mild, aromatic mix, good for fish or egg curries.



Ingredients
1 tablespoon ground curry leaves
4 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 tablespoon garam masala

Method
Grind the curry leaves in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add to the rest of the spices, mix well and store in an airtight container.

Mild chicken curry with coconut milk

This is a simple curry, mild enough for kids to eat and easy enough for them to cook.


Ingredients
vegetable oil
1 kg of chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into large chunks
250g onion, finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsps mild curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tin of coconut milk

Method
  1. In plenty of vegetable oil, gently fry the chopped onion until it is almost done.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger, and fry for another minute.
  3. Add the curry powder and salt, fry for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chicken, stir well so that is coated in the onion and spice mixture, and fry for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil, reduce heat to minimum and simmer for 30 minutes.




Simple salad dressing

This is our standard salad dressing. Simply add iPod and serve.




Ingredients
1 tsp French mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Method
Mix all of the ingredients in a jar. Put the lid on, and shake well to emulsify.

Bengali curry powder

This is a medium strength curry powder based loosely on one of the spice mixes in Food of the Great Trunk Road. The Bengali flavour comes from the use of amchoor (mango powder) and panch phoran (a mixture of five different seeds). You can buy the individual seeds and make up your own panch phoran or buy it ready mixed.


I've been meaning to make up my own spice mixes for a few years, but have never quite got round to it. However, as I have been revising my blog recently I found myself getting annoyed at my own frequent and vague references to "good quality curry powder". And I also realised that my curry recipes fell into one of three groups: those with a dauntingly long list of ingredients (too long for my kids to follow); those with vague references to "curry powder"; and those with minor variants on a standard combination of chilli powder, coriander, cumin and turmeric.

Ingredients
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp nigella seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
3 tbsps chilli powder
6 tbsps ground coriander
3 tbsps ground cumin
3 tbsps amchoor (dried mango powder)
3 tbsps turmeric
3 teaspoons garam masala

Method
Grind the whole fennel, mustard, cumin, nigella and fenugreek seeds in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the chilli powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, amchoor and garam masala. Mix well and trasfer to an airtight container.


Sourdough baguettes

This is why I make bread! 


Ingredients
(produces 2 kg of dough - enough for 8 short baguettes)
400g sourdough starter (60% hydration)
625g warm water
925g strong white flour
50g malted flour
20g salt

Method
  1. In a large bowl, add the starter to the warm water, break the starter into pieces and mix well until you have a smoothish batter. Add the flour and mix well with a spoon or dough scraper. Place the mixing bowl inside a plastic bag and leave to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Gradually add the salt, mixing or stretching the dough as you go. Now EITHER work the dough by hand on a non-porous surface for 10 minutes, put the dough back into the mixing bowl, place bowl inside a plastic bag and leave to rest at room temperature for 2 hours OR stretch and fold the dough in the bowl at 10 minute intervals for 1 hour (placing the bowl inside the bag while resting), then leave to rest at room temperature for a further 1 hour.
  3. Prepare a couche or well-floured pleated, proving cloth for your baguettes. Divide the dough into eight equal portions (about 250g each) Form each of the portions into a baguette as follows: (a) on a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a long flat rectangle, fold both sides in to the middle, and press firmly at the seams; (b) fold the dough lengthwise towards you to form a long log, then pinch the dough gently all along the seam, twisting it slightly as you go; (c) roll the dough lightly with your hands to form a rope the right length to fit your couche and oven; (d) transfer to the couche, cover and leave to prove at room temperature for about 3 hours, until the loaves have almost doubled in volume.
  4. 1.5 hours before you are ready to bake, turn the oven on at 250oC. Just before you are ready to bake, boil some water.
  5. Transfer the baguettes onto a peel that has been sprinkled with fine polenta, slash, and transfer them to the hot oven. Pour about a cup of the boiling water into the oven tray and quickly spray the sides and door of the oven with water to create steam, close oven, and bake for 15 minutes.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Simple meatballs

When I was small, meatballs were big. Now that I am big, meatballs are small.


Ingredients
olive oil
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
500g minced pork
500g minced beef
1 egg
75g breadcrumbs (or matzo meal)
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper

Method
  1. Finely chop and fry the onion in olive oil. When it is nearly done, add the finely chopped garlic and fry for another 30 seconds or so.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the fried onion and garlic with the minced pork and beef, beaten egg, breadcrumbs, salt and few twists of black pepper. Shape the mixture into walnut sized balls
  3. Heat plenty of olive oil (about 1cm deep) in a large frying pan, and fry the meatballs in batches over a low to meadium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, until done.
  4. Strain, then cook for a few more minutes in plenty of tomato sauce.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Baguettes

I am currently in the middle of a major overhaul of my blog, which involves reviewing every post to date, adding measurements where none are given, converting imperial measurements to metric, adding labels, tidying up the writing and, most important of all, killing off any dud entries. One post which bit the dust was a complicated recipe for baguettes that I seemed to remember had produced good results but that, on revisiting, was frankly fussy and looked suspiciously low on yeast. It uses a poolish or pre-fermented batter to add flavour and texture.


Ingredients (produces 1.8 kg of dough - enough for 8 short baguettes)
for the poolish
2g instant yeast
240g warm water
240g strong white flour
for the dough
460g warm water
5g instant yeast
835g strong white flour
20g salt

Method
  1. To make the poolish, in a large mixing bowl, dissolve 2g of instant yeast in 240g of warm water, add 240g of strong white flour, and mix very well. Place the bowl instide a plastic bag, and leave in fridge overnight. (If you are in a hurry, leave for 4 hours at room temperature instead.)
  2. The next day, remove the poolish from the fridge. To the mixing bowl, add 460g of water and 5g of instant yeast. Mix very well so that you have a fairly smooth batter, then add 835g of strong white flour, and mix well. Return the bowl to the bag and leave to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Gradually add the salt. EITHER work the dough by hand on a non-porous surface for 10 minutes, put the dough back into the mixing bowl, place bowl inside a plastic bag and leave to rest at room temperature for 2 hours OR stretch and fold the dough in the bowl at 10 minute intervals for 1 hour (placing the bowl inside the bag while resting), then leave to rest at room temperature for a further 1 hour.
  4. Place the baking stone in the oven, and set the oven to 250oC. Prepare a couche or well-floured pleated, proving cloth for your baguettes. Divide the dough into eight equal portions (about 200 to 220g each)
  5. Form each of the portions into a baguette as follows: (a) on a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a long flat rectangle, fold both sides in to the middle, and press firmly at the seams; (b) fold the dough lengthwise towards you to form a long log, then pinch the dough gently all along the seam, twisting it slightly as you go; (c) roll the dough lightly with your hands to form a rope the right length to fit your couche and oven; (d) transfer to the couche, cover and leave to prove at room temperature for about 1.5 hours, until the loaves have almost doubled in volume.
  6. Just before you are ready to bake, boil some water. Transfer the baguettes onto a peel or cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with fine polenta, slash, and transfer them to the hot oven. Pour about a cup of the boiling water into the oven tray and quickly spray the sides and door of the oven with water to create steam, close oven, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
unproved baguettes on couche

proved baguettes on couche

slashed baguettes on peel

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Borscht (beetroot soup)

My mum came round the other day and handed me a plastic bag. It contained a couple of bunches of beetroot and a small bag of potatoes. I looked at her quizzically. "I was going to make you some borscht," she explained, "but I couldn't be bothered, so I just brought you the ingredients instead." I was still mulling over what to do with the beetroots and whether to obey my mother's instructions, when my veggie box turned up on the doorstep with another instalment of beetroots. Apparently somebody up there was trying to tell me something.



There are lots of different types of borscht: Russian, Polish, Ukrainian; hot or cold; meaty or meat-free etc. This version is adapted from the one in Evelyn Rose's New Complete International Jewish Cookbook.

Ingredients
1 kg fresh beetroots
one carrot
one onion
1.5 l chicken stock
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
to serve
cream cheese


Method
  1. Peel and very finely chop the beetroots, carrot and onion. Put in a large saucepan with the stock, lemon juice, salt and black pepper, bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to minimum and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  2. With a stick blender, blend the soup in the pan until it is smooth.
  3. Add a generous spoonful of cream cheese to each bowl of soup as you serve.

Southern fried chicken


I haven't always been a food snob. When I was growing up in Stirling in the 1970s, I remember that McDonald's and Burger King seemed like the height of luxury and sophistication. Whenever we went down to London to visit my grandparents, my brother and I would insist that we immediately be taken to the nearest branch of McDonald's for a Big Mac and large fries with chocolate milkshake. My children, however, appear to have more sophisticated palates. Even when we find ourselves in an airport and the choices are limited, they refuse to succumb to the blandishments of Burger King.



In general, I admire the fact that their tastebuds are impervious to the marketing pressures of the culture in which we live. However, when they start making snide comments about Kentucky Fried Chicken (or KFC as it is now called) I draw the line. Nobody, but nobody, will ever convince me that that "oh so crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside" chicken is actually "slimy", let alone that the name change was the result of Col Sanders' close encounters with deep-fried rodents. I may have given up trying to persuade my kids to go to a branch of KFC, but I decided it was time to try and recreate the finger-lickin' taste at home.

Ingredients
one whole chicken
1 l water
4 teaspoons salt
300 ml milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
two eggs
300 g plain flour
50 g fine polenta
3 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons salt
vegetable oil

Method

  1. Joint the chicken into at least 10 portions. (Two wings, two thighs, two drumsticks, four breast portions)
  2. dissolve 4 teaspoons of salt in the water and soak the chicken in the salted water for at least two hours.
  3. Add the vinegar to the milk and leave to stand for at least an hour.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the milk and eggs.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, polenta, oregano and salt.
  6. Drain the chicken, and dip the pieces in the milk and egg mixture, then in the seasoned flour.
  7. Heat about 1 cm of oil in two lidded frying pans to a medium heat. Add the chicken pieces to the hot oil, reduce heat to minimum, cover pans and fry gently for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces, cover pans again and fry for another 5 minutes.
  8. Remove lids from pans, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Turn pieces again and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the chicken is done.

Parsnip latkes


It's been over six months since my last post. This is because my long-standing back problem finally decided to go critical. I twisted it in March last year and throughout the summer and well into the autumn I was unable to walk more than a couple of hundred yards or even stand up for a few minutes without experiencing severe pain down my left leg. And I also found that sitting at the computer for any length of time caused problems. I didn't completely stop cooking but I generally focused on the quick and easy end of the culinary spectrum and didn't have much energy left for blogging (or much else besides). On 28 December I went into hospital for a micro-discectomy, and three weeks later I am pretty much pain-free and mobile.

Although it's been a long nine months, there have been quite a few positives: I have certainly learned to appreciate some the simple pleasures I had been deprived of, such as walking, standing and blogging, and I've also learned how to chart a middle path between an unconvincing stoicism and constant whingeing.



In the meantime, our veggie box has continued to arrive and as autumn turned to winter parsnips have  featured with increasing regularity. Last year, I turned the parsnip glut into some rather fiddly oven-baked fritters but this year, in the wake of Hanukkah, I was inspired to make some parsnip latkes.

Ingredients
500 g parsnips
150 g onions
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Peel the parsnips and grate finely by hand or using a food processor.
  2. Peel and chop the onions, and whizz in a food processor with the eggs and salt. Add parsnips and whizz again briefly.
  3. Heat about 1 cm vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Use a tablespoon to shape the mixture into fritters, add to the oil, fry until golden-brown, turn carefully and fry the underside.