No-knead bread recipe

After a few botched attempts I was sent this no-knead bread video from a friend, which has worked really well for us. However I find it annoying to have to re-watch it every time I want to bake bread and need to know the amounts, so am copying it out here, along with my own notes and a few variations for those of you who fancy giving it a go.

Original version – You’ll need:

  • 3 cups (approx 350g) plain/all-purpose or bread flour (you can also mix in half and half wholemeal flour or 1 cup wholemeal to 2 cups white flour – whatever combo you fancy). 
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried yeast (she says it doesn’t matter what kind of yeast, can be regular yeast, instant or fast-action dried yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I think it needs more than this so I go for a very generous 1.5 teaspoons)
  • 1.5 cups (approx 175ml) of very hot (but not boiling) water (she suggested around 50 degrees, which I think is roughly half cold water half boiling water, or alternatively very hot water straight from the tap, though it depends on how hot your tap gets!
  • Optional: I like to add seeds to my bread, so I add a large tablespoon of mixed sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, but other seeds would work too. You can try a little more or less until you work out how many seeds you like in your bread.
  • Cling film and Baking paper
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Large pot (Dutch oven) with a lid that can go in the oven (ideally a le creuset or cast iron pot) – make sure the lid doesn’t have a handle that will melt.

Here is the short version of the steps, with more detail given below (it might help to watch the video once to see how it is done, but I find it super annoying to have to keep watching it every time I make bread….) Continue reading

Perfect Gravy

This is adapted from my friend’s recipe, which itself was adapted from a Heston recipe, so apologies to Heston!

Ingredients:

  • Shallots (approx 5 or 6 or 250g ish), finely chopped
  • 100g butter
  • 150ml wine (the recipe says white, but I think red, white or sherry would all work)
  • 1tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cider or white wine vinegar
  • 500ml Beef stock (you can either use fresh stock or make it up from a cube or pot)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic (not in the original recipe but I bloody love garlic in everything), crushed or finely chopped
  • 20g parsley, finely chopped (I just used a handful)
  • 20g chives, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Melt the butter on a low heat and gently sweat the shallots and garlic for 10 mins or so until golden brown (you need them starting to caramelise to get the sweetness)
  2. Add the wine and boil until reduced by about 3/4 volume.
  3. Stir in the mustard and mix well before adding the beef stock
  4. Boil and reduce it further by about half
  5. Reduce the heat, and add in the herbs, lemon juice and vinegar

(Note at this point mine was tasting very sharp as I had not got much sweetness from the onions so I added a tiny bit of sugar, and then used a hand blender to zhuzz up the onions into a smooth sauce. It made it a slightly odd greyish colour but brought back all the sweetness and oniony flavour.)

At this point you can check if it needs salt or pepper, but bear in mind stock can be very salty so taste it first! You can also use cornflour to thicken it, though I think whizzing up the onions with a hand blender makes it thicker anyway so you may not need to thicken with flour.

Then all you need to do is add in any meat juices from your roast chicken/beef/lamb etc and voila! It’s the best gravy I’ve ever made, and now I have a load of little tubs in my freezer so I can have it any time I want! Yum!

Jamie’s AMAZING Chicken Tikka Masala

I LOVE a good chicken tikka masala, it’s my favourite curry by far, but there are so many crap restaurants out there, and here in Oxford in particular I find most of them pretty awful – the kind of thing that comes in a neon red/pink sauce and tastes horribly sweet and you can’t even imagine what ingredients might have been used….

However I found a few years ago a really good Jamie Oliver recipe which makes curry for about 20 people, and today I decided to try a slightly different version which serves 4 (a different but similar Jamie Oliver recipe) and it was A-MAZING.

Like, properly the best curry I’ve ever made – DELICIOUS.

His original recipe is here, I have just written it out here for your convenience with a few notes – try it, you won’t be sorry! Continue reading

Salted Caramel Chocolate Truffles

Got this recipe from a free magazine at the Co-op a few weeks ago, and it’s also on their website.

They were surprisingly delicious and truffley, and a good thing to make if you’re stuck at home and need a treat (assuming you can find the ingredients).

Ingredients:

  • 40g toffees
  • 50ml double cream
  • 200g 85% dark chocolate broken into pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder/desiccated coconut/ground pistachios or alternative things to roll them in!

(I found this really really super dark, so ended up adding a lot more cream than the recipe suggests. I think next time I would try half dark half milk chocolate maybe for balance – they were MEGA rich in the end, though this may have been because I doubled the amount of cream!).

Steps

  1. Put the toffees into a saucepan on a low heat and stir occasionally until melted (I was very impatient with this part but they do go eventually)
  2. Stir in the double cream and then add the chocolate, keeping on a low heat, stirring gently until melted and smooth
  3. Take off the heat and stir in the salt, then transfer the mixture to a bowl and leave in the fridge to cool for at least 4 hours (I tried after 3 hours but it wasn’t enough – this def needs the full chilling time).
  4. Once cool, lay out your toppings on plates and make small balls and roll them in the topping of your choice. (The original recipe suggests oiling your hands but this didn’t work at all for me – my hands were so warm they melted in my hands almost immediately and it all got VERY messy. I found it easier to use a spoon to squish and roll the ball shape first, so it didn’t melt too much while I was making the balls).

Cheat’s Risotto (Mushroom, Asparagus and Bacon Risotto)

I’ve been continuing to test out new recipes. This was another great find in my free Slimfast book. (Some have been awful but there are a few really good ones in there!).

This one is a cheat’s risotto – it’s quick and easy, not “real” risotto but much easier to cook. I like it for the speed and convenience as cooking my real risotto takes forever and requires constant stirring, as well as have so much butter and cheese and wine in that it’s incredibly unhealthy. Once again this claims to serve 2 but easily serves 3 – such a surprise for a diet book but the portions are extremely generous (and I love a big portion). Continue reading

Spicy Minced Pork Lettuce Cups

Ok so admittedly this is a recipe from a free Slimfast recipe book I recently picked up, but it was really good so I’m sharing it!

Now, the recipe claims to serve 2, but when I made it, there was enough for 3 enormous portions, or 4 regular portions (and I love a big portion). I don’t know if they were expecting me to use smaller carrots and peppers, but it’s a huge amount! Also the calorie count checks out, so if, like me, you can’t possibly eat half of it, then it’s a fairly low-calorie meal.

I also found that the seasoning was a tiny bit bland so I always end up adding a little more chilli or soy sauce than suggested, but that’s something you can adjust as you go.

And finally, I have always pooh-poohed lettuce cups as they seem so unfulfilling, but these left me feeling stuffed and full for hours, so are great for a proper big dinner where you feel full but with hardly any carbs (must be all that protein!). Continue reading

Lentil Salad

I sometimes make a healthy-ish batch of salady things for my lunches. I like salads but need them to be quite solid and hearty otherwise I’m hungry again an hour later, which is why I like a lentil salad.

This recipe is delicious, reasonably low-calorie as long as you don’t put too much oil in, but it’s also accidentally vegan so if you ever need to come up with something for a vegan guest it’s handy to have in your back pocket (just don’t add any feta!). Sadly I have once again failed to take any pictures to show you how delicious it was though.

Ingredients

  • Courgettes (two large or three small ones)
  • 1 tin of green (or puy)  lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 4 or 5 Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red onion
  • Small handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • Lemon juice
  • Balsamic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Fresh Feta cheese (optional)

Method

  1. Chop the courgettes (you can do rounds, half-rounds, or even long slices – any way works) and red onion. Toss with olive oil and roast at around 190 for half an hour or until they are soft and starting to go a little black and crispy.
  2. Allow them to cool, then add to a bowl with the lentils and sun-dried tomatoes and basil
  3. Add a little lemon juice (approx 1-2 teaspoons) and balsamic (approx 1 tablespoon), and if you like you can add a little oil (I often use the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes for extra flavour) and toss it all together

For a non-vegan version this is really good with crumbled feta mixed in too, and you can experiment with mint, coriander or parsley instead of basil for slightly different flavours. You could also roast some red pepper along with the courgettes.

Smoked Haddock Chowder

While at the library recently, as my baby girl was pulling random books off the shelves, she picked out a children’s cookbook (Professor Cook’s Dynamite Dinners) which we decided to try out.

Our first recipe was a Smoked Haddock Chowder and it was DELICIOUS! Admittedly children’s recipes are often very bland so I have added a few spices, but overall it’s a very nice recipe so I thought I would share.This one is designed to be served in a bread roll soup bowl, which is also fun, though impractical, as the bread roll is so small you can’t fit much actual soup in it. However it’s also yummy in a bowl with a crusty roll on the side! Sadly I forgot to take a picture of it though…

Ingredients

  • 6 Crusty Cob bread rolls (we only bought two and froze the excess soup)
  • 1-2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1.2 litres of milk (I only used a litre but it wasn’t enough – definitely needs the full amount)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed (I added more garlic as I needed a bit more flavour!)
  • 300g tinned sweetcorn, drained
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into small pieces
  • 450g smoked haddock fillets (skinned)
  • Handful of parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

I also added 1 vegetable stock cube (though a fish stock cube would probably work too) and a few of pinches of paprika to taste.

Steps

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c
  2. Cut the top off the rolls and pick out the soft bread, leaving the “bowl”, brush the inside with olive oil and put into the oven for 15mins to seal the bowl.
  3. Put the chopped potatoes and onion into a large saucepan with the milk and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 mins.
  4. Stir in the garlic, peppers, sweetcorn, and fish fillets (whole). Simmer for another 5-10 mins until the fish flakes easily into pieces.
  5. (At this point I also added a stock cube, some paprika, and plenty of salt and pepper to taste). Add the chopped parsley at the end.
  6. Spoon into the bread bowls (or regular bowls!) and serve.

I’m not too sure how well this freezes, but have put a couple of tubs in the freezer so we will find out!

It’s also nice that it’s a soup that doesn’t take ages to cook – really quite quick as long as your potato chunks aren’t too big.

(Postscript – I took a picture the next time I made it – here it is! Yummmmm)

Homemade Christmas

This year, partly for environmental reasons, but also mainly because of my reduced salary while on maternity leave, I am trying to do a mostly homemade Christmas (with a few small exceptions).

In order to do a good homemade Christmas you need to plan ahead and not leave it to the last minute – there’s never any time in December! But also I’ve got more time on my hands than I used to at the moment so with that in mind I have been busy making all sorts of things!

Continue reading

More crafty things

You may have noticed my blog has become utterly dominated with adoption stuff, because, you know, becoming a mum is the single biggest thing to ever happen to me. It’s fairly monotonous and dull, which is not unlike my life at the moment – very little else going on in my life so there’s less to write about.
However in my boredom I have been missing my pottery classes and so have set about doing some more knitting and sewing and crafting in the evenings to keep myself busy and less bored.

So to break up the monotony of talking about adoption and being a mum here are some of my recent crafty projects instead!