Bread vs Art

In exploring what else I could make with my sourdough starter, I stumbled across this beautiful example of Foccacia art – combining my love of creative arty things with my love of bread!

Naturally I had to try it out! (This pic below is not mine but an example of what I mean that I found on google).

So I decided to try making my own! Continue reading

Sourdough Pancakes

One of the suggestions in my sourdough group on facebook was things to do with leftover sourdough starter (or discard). This is because sometimes when you have bulk fed your starter to make bread you have extra leftover. I’ve tried brownies (they were nice but a little weird), and then discovered these pancakes.

Good lord were they yummy! Continue reading

FOOD!

Ok so thanks to my amazing sourdough experiments I have put on 3kgs (might also be all the wine and cake and sweeties…) and my wonderful neighbour also got me a subscription to Olive magazine for my birthday, which is packed with amazing recipes that I just needed to try immediately!

None of this is going to help my waistline, but oh my god I do love trying new things in the kitchen, AND some of these are slow-cooker recipes which is encouraging me to use mine a bit more and also helping me manage my transition back to work as I can slow-cook dinners while working from home – all kinds of win!

Here are a few things I have tried out:

Continue reading

Easy sponge cake recipe

I have always admired those people who can knock up a cake without needing a recipe.
I’ve always known it’s something to do with ratios, but can never remember what the ratios are and how to apply them, so I always end up looking up a recipe anyway.

However, my mum taught me a really simple method which I think I probably could remember, so I thought I would write it down and share it. This is for a plain vanilla sponge cake.

I have read in the past an interesting article about the science of cake, which explained that beating the sugar and butter together first coats the individual granules of sugar with fat, and traps tiny air bubbles in with the granules, meaning that when combined with the other ingredients they retain these little bubbles, making a lighter and fluffier sponge cake. This is also why caster sugar is usually recommended for cakes instead of granulated sugar as it is smaller and finer, and therefore can trap more air. So if you can, always use caster sugar in your cakes, and always beat the butter and sugar together really well before adding the other ingredients.

Here it is:

Take 3 eggs and weigh them.
Measure out the same weight of butter and sugar and self-raising flour. Take the butter (at room temp, or softened) and sugar and beat them together until light and fluffy.
Gradually add in the eggs and flour bit by bit, mixing as you go. You might also want to add in a half-teaspoon of baking powder to help it rise.
Add a half teaspoon (or whole teaspoon depending on your taste) of vanilla essence.
And then split between 2 lined or greased cake pans, and bake at 180 for approx 15-20 mins (check on it and when a skewer comes out clean, they are done.

And voila! Lovely easy sponge cake!

Adventures in Bread-making

Here is a different kind of diary – one woman’s journey of learning to make bread.

Attempt 1: The wholemeal rolls. 

This was a recipe we were given by our nursery, and we used half wholemeal half white flour, but they still came out pretty brown overall. We added sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and poppy seeds. The kid had lots of fun making this, especially all the kneading and squishing and squashing.

Not looking too good after the first proove.

Continue reading

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