Wednesday 28 July 2010

Walnut Bread - July’s Fresh From the Oven Challenge

I know patience is a virtue, but it’s one thing, among many others granted, that I’m really not very good at. Once I have an idea, or begin something, I need it to be done speedily. So this month’s challenge was really a challenge: making a starter for the bread. A challenge I didn’t really succeed in, well, I did to some extent, but my patience and the need to wait for 8 hours seemed too long!

This month’s challenge was hosted by Sarah from Simply Cooked. She chose a whole wheat walnut bread from one of her cookbooks, The Neighborhood Bakeshop by Jill Van Cleave. The recipe below is as she wrote it, and the only thing I did different was to use wholemeal flour rather than whole-wheat, although I’m not sure if it’s the same or different, and to only leave my starter for an hour, but you can see by my pictures that by that stage, it was ready to go!

Whole Wheat Walnut Bread
adapted from The Neighborhood Bakeshop by Jill Van Cleave
makes 2 loaves

1 t active dry yeast, divided
2 c (500 ml) lukewarm water (95 - 110F, 35 - 45C), divided
3 c (380 g) plain bread flour, divided
1 T honey
1 T olive or walnut oil
1 1/2 c (180 g) stone-ground whole wheat flour
1/4 c (40 g) semolina flour, or more whole wheat flour
1 t sea salt
1 1/2 c (175 g) coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

First prepare the sponge starter. Dissolve 1/2 t yeast in 1 c (250 ml) lukewarm water in a medium bowl. Let proof until bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Add 1 1/2 c (190 g) bread flour and stir until a thick batter forms.


Cover the bowl and leave at room temperature to rise and bubble for 6 to 8 hours. The starter is ready to use now or can be put in the fridge overnight. (Bring it back to room temperature before using.)

Dissolve the remaining 1/2 t yeast with the 1 c (250 ml) lukewarm water in a large bowl. Let proof for about 5 minutes.
Add the sponge starter and mix well. Stir in the honey, oil, whole wheat flour, semolina flour (if using), and salt.
Add 1 1/4 c (160 g) of the remaining bread flour gradually to form a stiff dough.
Add the walnuts.


Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for ten minutes, adding as much of the reserved flour as needed to keep it from being too sticky. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.


Grease the bowl and return the dough, turning it to coat it in oil. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in size, about 2 hours.


Divide the dough into two pieces and form into loaves. Place on a baking pan and leave them to rise again, about 30 minutes.


Bake at 400 F/205 C for 30 to 40 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack.


Again, an easy recipe I’d make again, although they were a bit flat when I took them out from the oven so I might use a tin next time. Delicious though, and great to dip in rich tomatoey sauces or spread as little tartines for aperitif or amuse bouche. Have a look at how we all did at Fresh from the Oven.

Friday 23 July 2010

Broad Bean and Pea fritters



Having a few broad beans left in the veg. plot, I eagerly looked for something a little more exciting to do with them, rather than the ‘add to salads’ usual. My first thought, as is so often the case, was to turn to Jamie, who, never failing, had a great Broad Bean Fritter recipe from his Jamie at Home book. It’s really simple, but don’t make the mistake I did of not adding enough flour.


Simply whizz together the beans, after blanching and removing the skins if necessary, coriander, chopped mint, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 level teaspoon ground cumin, ½ a fresh red chilli deseeded and finely sliced and the zest of 1 lemon. When combined, add enough flour to dry out the mixture, then form into quenelles, or balls as is your preference!


This is where I made my mistake: I popped them straight into the hot oil and because they weren’t dry enough, they fell apart. So, I’d suggest you coat each ball in flour again before dropping into the hot oil.


Fry until golden and crunchy, make a mint, lemon and yoghurt dressing and dip!

Saturday 17 July 2010

A Taste of Cherry Pie


I couldn’t resist using inspiration from Julia’s blog, A Slice of Cherry Pie, for this post, as every time I think of Cherry Pie, I now think of her so, I hope she doesn’t mind! As a teacher, you often get unusual gifts: think homemade, painted, chipped, cracked, etc! But this week, I have been the lucky recipient of two bags of cherries from a garden – now what better present? After eating several, I refrained from gobbling any more as I thought I could have a go at making a pie, not something I often do.


Cheating, I used readymade sweet short-crust pastry and popped it into two smallish pie tins lined with flour I then stewed the cherries with a little water and sugar, destoned them and popped into the cases. After stewing, the volume of cherries seemed to have decreased, so I topped with a few fresh raspberries fro my own garden, fitted the lid, glazed with milk, made a hole and popped into a hot oven until the top was brown and crisp.


Simply serve with natural yoghurt of a dollop of crème fraiche and enjoy!

Thursday 15 July 2010

Fresh from the Garden


With the little rain that we’ve had recently, the showers this week were welcomed by the garden, and in turn, by us! Everything decided upon a growing spurt and have burst into larger than life plants. The courgettes are huge, well, the plants and leaves…but the actual courgettes are getting there, and we’ve even had stuffed courgette flowers on top of salad from fresh spinach and chard with Nasturtium flowers: amazing!


Other things, despite flourishing and looking fantastic, are very sour indeed, especially the cherries from the young tree above! They take the enamel coating off your teeth, I’m sure!


The raspberries, however, are fruiting and fruiting, growing and flowering, and fruiting again…and are scrummy. So delicious, in fact, that I barely get any back to the house without stuffing them one after another into my mouth as I pick. the pink tinge around my mouth is the giveaway though! A bit like when I was little: I used to sneak out of the front door if I woke up early in summer, creep down to the nets at the bottom of the garden and cram strawberries in before I was found out!

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Fleurs de Courgettes Farcies (stuffed courgette flowers)


First, take some flowers from the garden: courgette, nasturtiums and thyme should do it.


Then make some ricotta stuffing from Jamie, (5th recipe down). Combine ricotta, grated nutmeg, grated parmesan, lemon zest, chopped mint and finely chopped red chillies, then season with salt and pepper. Put all the ingredients into a freezer bag, then squish together. Next, cut the corner off and pipe into the courgette flowers, removing the stamen first.


Make a light tempura by whisking self-raising flour with cold, fizzy water, until it reaches the consistency of double cream. Coat all the flowers in the batter and deep fry in hot oil.


Serve on top of a fresh, green salad and top with sweet chilli jam! Mmmmm!

Sunday 11 July 2010

The Ledbury, London



With two Michelin stars, and much hype via foodie friends on Twitter, it was with excitement that we dined at The Ledbury last Saturday evening. The day was hot and sunny and on arrival, we were given the option of sitting outside.They only book the interior, and if it’s a nice night, you have the option of eating on the terrace under the large parasols, which makes for a super setting and ambience. Something to bear in mind if you’re happy to eat indoors and wanted to make a late decision for a good meal out.

Girls were given a bag hook to store their handbag securely – a nice touch I thought!


We began with a pre-amuse bouche of, well, we called it fish and chips, but it was essentially a crab (I think) puree on fried, crispy potato. Simple and tasty.


The menu was as follows so I don’t have to remember the specifics of every course!


Amuse bouche was marinated salmon chunks with watercress ‘pods’ on something similar to crème fraiche. Whatever it was, it was topped with a little wild-flower, and in one case, a tiny wriggling caterpillar too! Something I’m certain wasn’t meant to be on the menu! The waiter looked mortified when we told him, after he’d gone tot he trouble of explaining the dish in detail, and quickly returned said dish to the kitchen! We thought it was hilarious so I think he was quite pleased he’s got us as a table rather than others who may have been less than impressed! Oh well, if you will use wild, fresh flowers…


3 out of 5 of us also had the win tasting menu, and the sommelier was excellent although sometimes to food was going cold while he explained the wine match to us. A shame this wasn’t always served before the food. The wine choices were varied and smooth.


The mackerel had come highly recommended and we were not to disappointed. No minibeasts this time though; just a delight of textures and flavours. The little stuffed parcel gave a different dimension to the dish and everything just fit perfectly together. Yum!


The squid risotto was very clever and was, in fact, just tiny pieces of chopped squid with no rice at all. Rich, creamy, and yes Chris, we’ll allow the foam just this once!


Chicken wings were next, and though they looked nothing like you’d expect, the skin was salty and crispy and the meat cooked to perfection. The white asparagus was particularly good.


This was a favourite amongst our table: monkfish with oxtail, a rich man’s ‘surf and turf’! The meatiness of the fish stood up to the delicious oxtailness of the jus and the green padron peppery sauce on which it was placed added yet another notable flavour.


Aubergine seems to be one of those things that when you had as a child you hated, and so never eat again. Well, yes, if you cube  and boil them they’re flavourless and grey, but if you cook them with a little more thought and imagination, they really are wonderful! Even a simply char-grill with olive oil, salt and pepper will do the trick! This one, tough, had been glazed with black sugar and garlic, and, whilst being quite sweet, had an undertones of charred-ness and complimented the fall-apart lamb beautifully.



We couldn’t resist paying a little extra for the cheese, having seen the selection as we first walked into the restaurant. I chose several soft cheese and a blue. They were laid from left to right, and are meant to be eaten from mildest to strongest, which I indeed did! The grapes and walnuts worked well, especially with the goat’s cheese and by now, we were getting full!


A pre-dessert of cherry sorbet on something creamy (bear in mind, we'd had a new glass of wine with each course!), was scrummy! Although the dessert on the menu was Crème Caramel, we were offered the choice of any dessert off the a la carte, partly, I think, as we were virtually the only ones left outside, and maybe because of the caterpillar! Whatever, the reason, we tried to choose different things, my favourite being the gingerbread soufflé below. So light it literally melted in the mouth.


The Crème Caramel was also very tasty…


And a selection of all things chocolaty!


Whilst the food was delicious, it was also the banter and service that impressed. I’d definitely return…again, and again, and again. I just wish it was closer to home.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Burger and Chips

After speak to the butcher, I really had to agree with him. I too don’t know why people buy burgers rather than make them. At their simplest, they are squashed minced beef, or lamb as you prefer. But it takes only another 3 minutes or so to spice them up a little. And if you make them yourself, you know they’ll have fresh ingredients and no preservatives or added water and salt.


I use Jamie’s ‘Botham Burger’ recipe as an idea and play with it according to what I’ve got in the fridge and cupboard.

You’ll need:

minced beef or lamb

fresh breadcrumbs

an egg

crushed coriander seeds

cumin seeds

Dijon mustard

finely chopped onions


Simply combine all the above ingredients in the quantities you prefer. I used a small pack of mince with one egg, breadcrumbs to fill a large, open handful, a dessertspoon of coriander seeds and mustard with a teaspoon of cumin. Get your hands in and really squash it together.

If the onions are finely enough chopped, the mixture should hold together well. Form into balls or more traditional burger shapes. You can either brown them off in the frying pan in hot oil, or simply pop onto a tray and stick in the oven. Cook for about 20-30 minutes at 180 deg. c, depending on how you like your beef cooked.

For a twist, push a small cube of cheese (something that will melt!) into the centre of each ball before forming and add some chilli!

Saturday 3 July 2010

World Cup Recipe Ideas

So, it’s quarter final time, and there have been a few surprises: England weren’t one of them. I really never thought we’d even make it out of the group stages, and was not very surprised when Germany whooped us!

Oh well, there’s still the next stages and the excitement of having a World Cup Final party…and if you do, you’ll need the food for it!

Netherlands, Brazil, Uruguay, Ghana, Argentina, Germany, Spain and Paraguay are your teams and, let’s face it, some of them don’t exactly inspire me and get my foodie brain working overtime, thought I fear that’s what it’s going to have to do! Now, I looked through the many recipes on my blog, and, to be honest, not many (read: maybe one?) came from, or could be attributed to any of the above countries. So I’ve gone with what I know as a first idea.


Spanish Omelette / Frittata

Tapas or Tapas with a twist



Steak and Red wine

I’ll come back to you when we reach the semi-finals and hopefully have a few more!

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