A week in the life of a loaf

You’ve handmade your beautiful, delicious loaf and although it may seem obvious what to do with it, I’ve written a week’s guide to what to do with your bread to get the most of it and to waste as little as possible (and hopefully nothing at all).

This post was started long before there was any thought of a pandemic that would keep us socially isolating and having to be very frugal with food. I’ve returned to this draft to finish it and ensure it is in keeping with the needs of lockdown cooking.

pane bianco - copyright image Lynn Clark - inksugarspice

Day one – eat a slice with a simple, extra quick curried soup – Veggie

This is a great store cupboard soup (although as I’ve chatted about in other recent posts, it sort of depends on how you stock your cupboards – not everyone keeps the same sort of things).

Finely chop a small red onion and fry off in some oil in a saucepan. Empty a tin of chopped (good quality) tomatoes in and add a tablespoon of curry paste (of your choice/preference such as balti, korma, tandoori etc). Stir until warmed through. Taste and add salt and pepper if required or a little more curry paste. Place in a bowl and add a dollop of Greek yogurt or creme fraiche and a handful of chopped coriander leaves (or parsley if you’re not a coriander fan). Eat with a slice of that bread, with or without butter

Day two – sandwiches or a Ploughman’s

My ideal* Ploughman’s platter: extra thick, ‘door stop’ slices of springy bread slathered in good butter, with: a chunk of mature Cheddar and a wedge of Double Gloucester cheeses; sliverskin pickled onions, a strong apple (something like a Russet or James Greave ideally, but a Granny Smith will do); slices of ham or Prosciutto/Bresaola; mouth-pukeringly-strong salt and vinegar crisps; a dollop of homemade tomato chutney; a few grapes; maybe some olives and some watercress. Oh and a pint of IPA, ideally.

*OK, so a Ploughman’s lunch originally would probably have been a chunk of plain bread, and just the cheese and apple. A Ploughman’s is a great frugal meal, not only is it a British/English poor man’s meal it lends itself to using up whatever you have in the fridge or cupboard. Use whatever cheese you have, what cured meats or hams, make your own chutneys to preserve your fruit and veg etc.

See my posts on preserves: https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/category/preserves-creams/

white sourdough with random slashing - Nine top tips for bread slashing art www.inksugarspice.wordpress.com #recipe #baking #breadart @inksugarspice
White sourdough, with a minimal prove

Day three – ‘more than’ cheese on toast

Toast thick slices of your bread under a grill (ideally a sourdough but work with what you have!). For each slice, weigh out about 45-50g of grated extra strong or mature cheddar and mash together with a cheese triangle or a tablespoon of cream cheese. Chop up two large slices of peppered salami and a teeny drop of English mustard, though you can omit the mustard if you’re not fond. Mix together and spread onto the toasted slice of bread and grill under just browning at the edges. Obviously scale this up for however many slices you’re making.

Day four – bruschetta – Vegan

Toast mid-thick slices of bread on both sides. Chop up a handful of baby plum tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt. Place them in a sieve and let this drain over a bowl. Once drained, tip the tomatoes into that bowl. Season the tomatoes with pepper and a little balsamic vinegar and mix it all together. Taste to see if the salt level is OK and add a little more if needed. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on the toast and rub a peeled clove of garlic over the bread. Spoon the tomato mix onto the slices of toast and serve.

Image of bruschetta, in this case tomatoes on toasted sourdough

Day five – Melba toast – Vegan/Veggie (depending on what’s in the bread you’ve made)

Sounds very posh, but it isn’t and very easy to make… Cut off about 8mm thick slices of bread. Cut off the crusts (and you can square off the toasts if you prefer). Toast the slices on both sides to a mid brown colour: don’t toast them too dark or they will not be easy to cut further without them shattering. While still warm, I lay a chopping board over the slices and weight it down with a bag or two of rice/sugar to flatten the toasts. When cool, retrieve the toasts and lay them flat, with a sharp serrated knife cut down the toast to create two slices – each of these slices will have a toasted side and an ‘internal’ side. I leave my Melba toasts like this but you can then toast this side too if you prefer. Also, some people don’t flatten the bread, I just think it makes them easier to slice. You can then cut them down into triangles or little rectangles/soldiers.

A lovely alternative to crackers or biscuits with cheese or dips, or as a side to soups or tapas. You can use sourdough for this – it entirely depends whether you mind having honey Melba toasts or not. Frankly I like sourdough Melba toast.

Day six – croutons – Vegan

Slice up 3-4 slices of sourdough into 1 cm cubes. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and test the oil temperature by chucking in a small piece of sourdough – it should start sizzling if it’s hot enough. Tip in all the sourdough pieces and keep them moving as they fry (use two wooden spoons to ‘flip’ the croutons). When the croutons are nicely browned and crisp, take them off the heat and tip them into a bowl lined with a sheet of kitchen paper to catch the excess oil. Remove the kitchen paper and grind a teaspoon each of salt and pepper over them. Now toss the croutons with a teaspoon each of onion granules, garlic granules and sprinkle on a little chopped parsley.

Day seven – breadcrumbs: for savoury dishes such as gratin, escalope, buttermilk coated chicken, making sausages etc – or for sweet treats like treacle tarts (as below)

Other ideas for bread

Romesco sauce – this Spanish sauce is just intense and goes great with tapas, over potatoes or meats

Panzanella – a classic northern Italian ‘salad’ dish

Cinnamon toast – such a breakfast staple – children in particular love it

Birdfood – when all else fails, don’t put it in the bin, at least the birds will eat it. And, despite some publicity saying people shouldn’t feed bread to birds there has been a backlash on this: some birds are in danger of starving where they’ve relied on being fed bread and now that food supply has stopped. Also, unless it’s a) very rubbish bread and b) the only thing they eat it’s better to feed them than not.

Note: if you’ve made your bread yourself, especially bread with inclusions (seeds, nuts cheese, fruit, veggies etc), enriched bread (such as brioche or sticky buns – these are a particularly good option) or a sourdough it’s going to be infinitely better for them than a packaged, sliced loaf with little to nutritional value – that’s one of the reasons why you make your own for yourself isn’t it!?

Break the bread into small pieces, especially when feed smaller birds and when there are chicks. Slightly larger pieces are OK for ducks, geese swans etc. If the bread is very dry, wet it a little. If it’s plain bread ideally add in some other foods too – suet, nuts, seeds, chopped dried fruit etc. even cold scrambled egg, chopped cooked bits of bacon fat, even grated cheese.

Here’s what the RSPB has to say:

All types of bread can be digested by birds, but ideally it should only be just one component in a varied diet. Bread does not contain the necessary protein and fat birds need from their diet, and so it can act as an empty filler. Although bread isn’t harmful to birds, try not to offer it in large quantities, since its nutritional value is relatively low. A bird that is on a diet of predominantly, or only bread, can suffer from serious vitamin deficiencies, or starve.

Food left on the ground overnight can attract rats. Soaked bread is more easily ingested than stale dry bread, and brown bread is better than white. Crumbled bread is suitable in small quantities, but moisten if it is very dry. During the breeding season, make sure bread is crumbled into tiny pieces so that it is safer to eat. Dry chunks of bread will choke baby birds, and a chick on a diet of bread may not develop into a healthy fledgling.

Do leave a comment or a question below 💚

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Thai flavours parsnip soup

img_0316Parsnips are not native to south east Asia, but they are growing in popularity in Thailand, and are now both a farmed crop and an import product. I find it interesting that one foodstuff can be pedestrian and common place in one continent can be seen as an unusual treat in another. I wouldn’t go as far as saying anyone thinks a parsnip is exotic however… I’ve seen them on sale in Thai markets next to more traditional veggies like kale and galangal roots, so parsnips + Thai flavours is not as crazy a combination as it may first sound, and it is a really fabulous flavour pairing.

This is a delicious alternative to make as a change to a typical curried parsnip soup. Although I love curried parsnip soup when it’s done well (which, let’s face it isn’t that hard), sometimes it can be a disappointment in a cafe when it’s just plain old boiled-down parsnip with some curry powder lazily tossed in. I’ve combined some authentic Thai tastes here, but I’ve tried to balance it so that you get the Thai flavours without overwhelming the parsnip. It’s all to easy to pile on flavourings and mask the main ingredient when you’re making a veggie soup, but parsnips have a lovely sweet, warming flavour and are deserving of a more delicate touch on stronger spices.

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Some photos from our last trip to Thailand

Notes

  • If you’re not worried about keeping this vegetarian you can use chicken stock, rather than vegetable stock
  • Remember that not all chillies are created equal, even in the same variety the heat can vary between plants. Two chillies bought in the same batch could be very different, so judge how much chilli you are using if you don’t like it very hot. I can give you two tips on chilli heat: tip one is to cut the chilli and lightly rub it on your lip and see how tingly it is – if it’s going to really upset you, you’ll be able to judge this way. Tip two if you’re less terrified is to blend in only half a chilli at a time before tasting: you can always add all two (or even more chillies) eventually, but taking away heat is not so easy as adding a little more in!
  • Can’t get a fresh coconut? Then a box of coconut milk powder is an awesome thing to keep in your kitchen cabinet: I use this in a number of my recipes. You can buy these ‘fairly’ easily now in the world food aisle in your bigger local supermarket or find a Caribbean store or market stall (brand names I’ve used are Maggi and Tropical Sun – I tend to pick up mine via an awesome local Caribbean market stall). Alternatively, you can use a tin of coconut milk, but drain out the liquid and use this as part of (not in addition to) the 1 litre stock content.

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Info

Serves about eight portions (this is large, but I’ve given this amount so that you can batch freeze), takes about 45 minutes to prepare and cook


Equipment

  • Large, deep saucepan with a lid (or cover with a plate)
  • Stick blender or stand blender

Ingredients

  • Parsnips – about 5 large parsnips / roughly about 900g
  • Vegetable (or chicken stock) – 1 litre
  • Banana shallot or red onion – 1
  • Garlic – 3 cloves
  • Fresh ginger – about a 1 cm piece, peeled
  • Red chillies – 2 (you need to adjust this according to your preferred heat level!)
  • Lemon grass – one fresh stalk
  • Oil, a plain olive oil or rapeseed oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Coconut, either freshly grated or use coconut milk powder – 1 cup/around 90g
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Fresh ground pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Ground turmeric – ½ teaspoon
  • Coriander or spring onions to garnish
  • Additional chillies to garnish

Method

  1. Chop the shallot/onion, the garlic and the (peeled) ginger – they don’t have to be finely chopped as, of course, they’re going to get blended later
  2. Fry the shallot/onion, garlic and ginger in the oil over a low heat until they are starting to soften
  3. Peel the parsnips and chop them into medium-sized chunks
  4. Add the parsnips to the saucepan and turn up the heat to medium-hot and fry off for two-three minutes until the parsnips are nicely coated in the oil and vegetables
  5. Pour in the stock, add the salt, pepper and turmeric and turn up the heat until it all starts to bubble gently
  6. From the bulb end of the lemon grass stalk, make a long cut along its length but don’t cut it into half – so you’ve split it but it’s still joined by about 2cm at the thin end
  7. Place the lemon grass stalk in the pan
  8. Leave to simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, with the lid on
  9. Chop the chillies
  10. When the parsnips are soft (but before they’re mushy) add in both the coconut and the lime juice and stir until the coconut is melted in
  11. Add in the chillies (or half of them if you want to test the heat level) and turn off the heat
  12. Using a stick blender, whizz up the soup in the sauce pan, or decant into a stand blender
  13. Taste test – add more chillies (or chilli powder) to your soup if it’s not hot enough for you
  14. Serve hot, decorated with more chillies (if you love it hot as I do) and a chopped handful of coriander leaves or spring onions (or even both). other ingredients that are nice sprinkled over this soup are more coconut, crispy fried onions or toasted peanuts/cashews

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Lean pasta sauce – Salsa magro

This is my adaptation of a tomato-based sauce by Pellegrino Artusi to account for my more modern palate and cooking methods. The original appears in the 1891 “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene” (Kitchen science and the art of eating well).

It’s described as ‘magro’ which means lean/skinny, but I’m making the assumption that ‘lean’ applied to the low number of fairly cheap ingredients, meaning it was more for ‘lean days’ rather than lean as in ‘diet’ or low in fat. His original use of 70g of butter may make you question the number of calories, but that divided between the five servings he suggests really isn’t that bad. It could also mean that it was a thin sauce, but as it’s served with spaghetti (not as a brodo/broth for pasta ripiena/filled pasta) I doubt that’s the case as it needs to have some body to it.

I’ve adapted it to use the more heart-healthy olive oil amongst other tweaks. I have also included the original recipe (translated) as a comparison and which you may want to try as it is a good recipe.

You may think it odd that an older pasta sauce recipe uses butter and not olive oil, but it’s not because olive oil is now everywhere, it’s because of the variety of climate in Italy and many northern regions traditionally using butter. The terrain and climate of the north favours dairy farming and not the growth of olive trees. Artusi himself came from Emilia-Romagna, a region known globally for Parmigiano Reggiano made from cows’ milk – the same milk which is used for the region’s butter. So, Artusi grew up in a region that favoured dairy farming and the production of butter.

Personally, I like both butter and olive oil (and other oils like rapeseed), but I do have a preference for their use in certain situations. Where I can I will go for the heart-healthy olive oil, but sometimes butter is needed, or indeed lard or dripping (though I use these very rarely and normally just in pastry). Olive oils I have begun to choose selectively by their quality and taste: that is, I’m not using extra virgin only because ‘it’s the best so I just buy that’ but I’ll select a light oil for a dessert recipe, a deeply fruity oil when I need the taste to come through, a classic for ‘everyday’ cooking etc. I appreciate this sounds like a lot of money to have a variety, but actually it is cheaper in the long run. Because milder, later pressing oils are significantly less expensive I use those when I can and save the posher, more expensive oils for when the time’s right and a little will do (rather than using up the expensive stuff on frying for example).

Notes on my tweaked version

  • Serves 4 with pasta (a more typical serving size than 5)
  • Also useful as a sauce for fish or chicken – will serve 6-8 in this case (add in capers for fish and sage or rosemary for chicken)
  • Also great as a perfect tomato sauce for pizza
  • This is an easy sauce; easy but fairly time consuming. It requires time to bring out the flavours. I’ve changed the tomatoes to pre-packaged passata which has cut the time down dramatically though
  • It’s a nice sauce to have simmering away while you prepare something else, perhaps making for tomorrow alongside tonight’s meal (once cool keep it in the fridge)
  • Alternatively, you can freeze it – I find freezing sauces easier and more convenient in ice cube trays. Once frozen you can pop out the cubes of sauce into a freezer bag so you can re-use the ice cube tray. It also means you can select the right amount easily and cubes defrost quicker than a large block, or you can just pop one frozen cube in a plain sauce to enrich it
  • Omit the anchovies to make it vegetarian/vegan

 

Note about ribbon pasta suggested in recipe and appropriateness

To be fair, there’s little reason for anyone who is home cooking to worry much about which pasta goes with which sauce unless you’re really interested and a) want to be authentic and b) want to learn about regionality. There is some basic guidance about which shapes work better with what, such as cupped shapes are good for chunky veg or spaghetti gets nicely covered in oily sauces (for example). Aside from that, it’s better to not worry about which pasta and just make the food, rather than worry about it so much it puts you off making the meal. Chill… use what you’ve got (penne, linguine, fettucine nests – though it won’t work with tiny shapes). And, if you do want to know, this may help:

Spaghetti is suggested by Artusi. Of course this is readily available, used throughout the whole of Italy and quick to cook. If you want to choose another ribbon shape or want to make your own instead (wider ribbons are easier to make by hand) I’ve suggested tagliatelle or trofie as close regional alternatives.

As mentioned above, the butter in the recipe (and Artusi’s homeland) suggest the recipe could have come from Emilia-Romagna and at least is a northern Italian dish. Tagliatelle is common to the same region (and also Marche, another northern area), which would link in with this assumption too and make it a reasonable choice.

Other ribbon pasta can be substituted, such as fettucine which is practically the same and you’d only know the difference if they were side-by-side or you were so familiar with either (or both of them) you’d ‘just know‘. Tagliatelle is typically a smidge wider and less likely to be found dried: northern region pasta is usually made fresh and eaten as the climate isn’t as amenable to drying, so any dried tagliatelle is a factory ‘construct’ and should properly be labeled fettucine. Fettucine is the Roman/central Italian version which also may be made and eaten fresh, but is much more likely to be the ribbon pasta found in dried nests.

Trofie are the little elongated and tapered short strand pasta shapes that are made by hand and then ridged, either with a knife or scraper or with the side of the palm to create sauce-trapping ridges. Trofie originate from Liguria, another northern Italian region. So, not Emilia-Romagna itself but the two regions share a long border, therefore trofie are a reasonably appropriate substitute if you want to make a hand-made artisan shape for this sauce.

NB although I’ve given appropriate region-based ideas for pasta shapes I have to tell you I’ve served this lovely sauce with all sorts of shapes (I really like it with orecchiette) and have included it in lasagne and on pizzas. It’s a great way to make up a tomato-glut from your garden in late summer instead of straight tomato passata or sauce. Just use enough tomatoes to equal 1 kg of passata.

Ingredients for my tweaked version of salsa magro

  • Dried spaghetti or fresh pasta (suggest a ribbon or strand shape such as tagliatelle or trofie – see above)  – 400g
  • Passata – 2 X 500g bottles
  • Chestnut or button mushrooms – 80g
  • Olive oil, extra virgin or gusto fruttato  – 140ml
  • Olive oil, mild and light – 2 tablespoons
  • Pine nuts – 60g
  • Anchovies 4 to 6, depending on how much you like anchovies
  • Two shallots, finely diced or one small red onion
  • Red wine vinegar – 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • Corn flour – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Parmesan rind, chopped
  • Fresh basil and thyme

Method

  1. First toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over a low heat until they start to go a golden brown (careful they don’t burn as they change colour quickly)
  2. Crush the pine nuts with a pinch of salt and the teaspoon of cornflour in a pestle and mortar or use a blender
  3. Gently fry the chopped shallots in the mild and light olive over a medium heat until they are just about to start going translucent – this will be about 10 minutes. Agitate or stir occasionally
  4. Dice up the anchovies and add them to the shallots and keep frying until the anchovies start to melt. Again, you’ll need to stir or agitate from time to time
  5. Now add in the tomatoes, the parmesan rind, the mushrooms, the fruity olive oil and season with salt and pepper and the large pinch of sugar
  6. Let simmer until the juice starts to dry off, stirring occasionally, and then add 120 ml of just boiled water
  7. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes, checking on it regularly to ensure it’s not catching on the bottom. If it’s drying out too quickly add a little more water
  8. You should know when it’s done when all the tomatoes have fully dissolved and the sauce is as thick as (lumpy) custard
  9. Add in the chopped herbs and taste, adjusting the seasoning to your taste
  10. Can be served immediately with pasta or gnocchi or it’s also nice to use as a sauce over chicken or fish (add a few capers or cornichons with the anchovies) or even for a vegetable bake or lasagna. Store in the fridge if not using immediately or freeze (see notes above)

Pellegrino Artusi’s original recipe – serves 5 (apologies for my translation – I’m a rusty reader but enough for most recipes, I can listen a little into conversations, but I’m appalling at speaking Italian myself)

  • Spaghetti – 500g
  • Mushrooms – 100g
  • Butter 70g
  • Pine nuts – 60g
  • Anchovies – 6
  • Tomatoes – 6 or 7 (large plum tomatoes)
  • Onion, finely diced – a 1/4 of a large onion
  • Plain flour – 1 teaspoon

Place half of the butter in a saucepan and sauté the pine nuts. Remove the nuts [once lightly browned with a slotted spoon to reserve the butter], dry and crush them with a pestle and mortar with the teaspoon of flour. Finely chop the onion and place this in the saucepan, when this is frying rapidly, add the chopped tomatoes, season with pepper and a little salt. When the tomatoes are cooked through, pass them through a mouli or sieve. Put this sauce back on the heat with the mushrooms and a little water, plus the rest of the butter. Boil for 30 minutes, adding water to keep the sauce liquid. Finally, melt the anchovies in the sauce [at a simmer]. Cook the spaghetti and dress with the sauce. Add parmesan if you want it richer.

Pretzel rolls

pretzelRollsThese are no different to the knotted pretzels you can get, and if you want to please make this recipe into knot shapes.

The key to a pretzel is its slightly malty taste and it’s very dark crust colour. The crust is chewy, rather than crunchy and inside is soft and fluffy.

Notes

The key to the colour is a quick water bath for the proved roll just before baking. The water has, ideally, had lye added to it but bicarbonate of soda makes a reasonable (if not great alternative. (Please see the difference between the two photos on this page – the main pic of oval rolls, above, was doused in baked bicarbonate of soda and are very dark and the knotted sourdough pretzels below were dunked in just bicarbonate of soda in water – much lighter but still darker than a normal roll).

If you want a half-way house, bake a tray of bicarbonate of soda in an oven set at 100C fan / 120C conventional for 60 to 90 minutes. Let it cool and use – there will be some left over for another two or three batches if you’ve baked a whole pot of the stuff. Please note: it’s a good idea to put it back in the original pot, but tear off the original packaging and replace with a clear label immediately for ‘lye’. This will stop you mistaking it for normal bicarb in future baking projects. In fact, I store mine in a completely different place from my normal bicarbonate and other leaveners.

I have made these with lye water in the past (I now can’t get hold of lye water: I used to get it from one of the local Asian supermarkets, as it’s used when making ramen from scratch, but sadly they’ve all stopped stocking it. You may be able to source it online) and I’ve made them with both just bicarb and with this baked bicarb/fake lye.

Bicarb is good enough, but if you can be bothered using baked bicarb it does make the rolls go that little bit darker. Just be warned that handling baked bicarbonate of soda/fake lye or proper lye is all very caustic and is a skin and eye irritant. Keep away from children and handle it carefully yourself. Douse with a lot of water if you get it on your skin. If you’re at all terrified, just use normal bicarbonate of soda and don’t fuss that the colour isn’t quite deep as it should be.

Equipment

  • Two large baking sheets
  • Baking paper/parchment
  • Large bowl
  • Large saucepan
  • Fish slice, large slotted spoon or similar
  • Knife
  • Cling film
  • Measuring jug

Ingredients

  • Plain flour – 250g
  • Strong white flour – 250g
  • Milk – 145 ml/g
  • Water – 145 ml/g
  • Fine salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Dark drown sugar/Demerara – 30g
  • Malt extract – 1 (generous) teaspoon
  • Dried yeast – 7g
  • Rock salt for garnishing (if required)
  • Vegetable or light olive oil just for greasing
  • Extra flour for a little dusting

Ingredients for the water bath

  • Saucepan full of water
  • 3 tablespoons of either bicarbonate of soda or baked bicarbonate (see notes above). If you have managed to get some lye water, please follow the instructions on the bottle for the amount of water you’re using)

Method

  1. Measure out the milk and water together and warm slightly (you can do this by adding much warmer water to cold milk) – the liquid needs to be tepid
  2. Soften the butter
  3. Weigh out and then mix all the ingredients (except the oil) in the large bowl, bring together into a rough mess
  4. Tip out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough comes together into a smooth ball, about 8-10 minutes
  5. Lightly oil the bottom of the bowl and put the dough back in it to prove
  6. Cover with cling film or a linen tea towel
  7. While the dough is proving you should prepare the two baking sheets with a layer of parchment/greaseproof/baking paper
  8. Lightly oil the surface of the paper – the dough is quite sticky when proving and can be a job to get off the paper
  9. If you want to make the baked bicarbonate, you could do this now (see notes above)
  10. When the dough has just about doubled in size, tip it out onto a surface and divide into six or eight equal portions (depending on how big you want your rolls to be)
  11. sourdough pretzels.png
    These are knotted pretzels, just to show the knot shape – although these are not quite the same recipe, as they are made with a sourdough starter. Also please note that these were put in water with plain bicarbonate of soda, so notice the colour is not as dark as with the pretzel rolls in the main photograph

    Form the dough portions into small oval rolls or pretzel knots (to do this, roll out into a sausage shape with thin ends and a fat middle, shape into a crescent and then twist the ends over each other once and place each end on the opposite side)

  12. Place the rolls on the prepared baking trays and cover with lightly oiled cling film
  13. Leave to rise until they are almost doubled in size and are almost springing back when lightly pressed with a finger tip (ie there’s about 15 – 20 of prove left)
  14. Put your oven on to heat up – to 200C fan or 220C conventional
  15. Fill your saucepan up with water and add the bicarbonate of soda and bring to the boil
  16. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer
  17. Carefully lower one of the rolls into the water and let float for about 5 seconds, flip over with the slotted spoon/fish slice and let the other side lie in the water for another 5 seconds
  18. Remove the roll and place back on the parchment
  19. Repeat with the rest of the rolls
  20. Make one large slash in the thickest part of the roll if you have made knots and two or three slashes in each oval roll
  21. Sprinkle with the rock salt if you want – this is particularly traditional on the knotted rolls
  22. Bake in the oven for 16-18 minutes
  23. The rolls should sound fairly hollow when tapped on the bottom (not quite so much as for a loaf) and will be a really dark brown. By the way, be brave and leave the rolls in the oven – your normal instinct will be to take them out early because they look done! Pretzels are very darkly coloured, not burnt
  24. Leave to cool, split and serve with something traditional like a Swiss cheese and Bavarian ham or whatever you like

Courgette, cheese and bacon quiche with hyssop pastry

Courgette, cheese and bacon tart

Not much of an intro here, this is a good old classic savoury bake, given a little twist with the sweet aniseed-y flavour of hyssop taken straight from the garden.

Equipment
  • Bowl
  • Rolling bin
  • Flan tin, greased and lined
  • Baking beans or dried pulses
  • Frying pan
  • Baking sheet
Ingredients – pastry
  • Plain flour – 200g
  • Polenta -50g (or if you can’t source this, omit it and just use 250g plain flour)
  • Unsalted butter – cubed and at room-temperature butter – 125g
  • Egg yolk, 1
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Paprika- half a teaspoon
  • Hyssop – about two 4 to 5 cm sprigs, finely chopped. If you don’t have access to hyssop then add about 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • Water to bind the dough – about 1 tsp or so
Ingredients – filling
  • Eggs – 4 medium (or 3 large)
  • Grated cheese (your choice but I use cheddar) – a large handful
  • Double cream – 300ml
  • Smoked streaky bacon or pancetta (or really any bacon will do at a pinch) – about 6 rashers
  • Baby courgettes – 3 (or 1 large courgette)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Method – pastry shell
  1. Heat your oven to 160C (fan) or about 180C conventional
  2. Put the baking tray in the oven
  3. Rub the butter into the flour
  4. Mix the rest of the ingredients in except for the water
  5. Add in the water a little at a time to help you bring the dough together – don’t over add the water
  6. Squash the dough down into a disk shape and chill in the fridge for 10 mins
  7. Grease and flour the flan tin
  8. Fetch the dough out of the fridge and place onto a floured surface or a sheet of baking parchment
  9. Add a little more flour on top to stop the rolling pin sticking or roll out under some cling film
  10. Roll out to about 3mm thick
  11. Line the flan tin with the rolled out pastry, lifting the edges up to ease the pastry into all the crevasses press down so that the pastry fits the shape of the tin.
  12. You can neaten the edge of the flan now (or after it’s been baked if you prefer to ensure that the pastry does not shrink) with a knife or by rolling the rolling pin over the top of the flan tin edge (any of these will cut off the pastry at the level of the flan tin)
  13. Prick the base all over with a fork and scrunch up enough baking parchment to cover the whole tin. Un-scrunch this and lay it out onto the pastry (scrunching helps it fit to the shape of the tin more easily). Fill with the baking beans or dried pulses
  14. Put the prepared pastry case in the oven, on top of the now-hot baking tray (this will help crisp up the bottom)
  15. Cook for about 14/15 mins
  16. Remove the beans/pulses and parchment and return to the oven for another couple of minutes to ensure the base is crisp
  17. Remove from the oven.  If you didn’t trim the flan case before it went into the oven now’s the time to do this with a sharp knife
  18. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling
Method – filling
  1. Slice up the bacon/pancetta into thin strips and fry until just crispy. Let cool on kitchen roll to soak up any excess fat
  2. In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper until just combined
  3. Pour this mix into the cooled flan tin and sprinkle over the cheese and fried bacon/pancetta – mix slightly to that the cheese and bacon/pancetta are evenly distributed through the flan
  4. Remove the top of the courgettes and slice the baby courgettes in two lengthways (if using larger courgettes slice lengthways then cut down each of these slices lengthways and then cut all in half – so you have eight batons)
  5. Pop the flan carefully onto a rack in the over, with it extended so you can add the courgettes
  6. Lay the courgette slices down carefully on to the top of the flan mix, being careful to try to not dunk them underneath the mix
  7. Bake for about 20 – 25 mins until slightly browned and gorgeous

Spinach gazpacho with ham ‘crisps’ and butter croutons

I was lucky enough to have been sent a gorgeous hamper of mediterranean ingredients from Lurpak (very chuffed – thanks!) and this is the first dish that I’ve made from the ingredients. A nice light lunch for two or a starter for four.

Spinach gazpacho

Equipment

  • Two baking trays – one must fit inside the other
  • Baking paper or greaseproof paper
  • Blender
  • Small frying pan
  • Bowl

Ingredients – ham ‘crisps’

  • One or two slices of Parma, Serrano or other thinly sliced ham

Method – Parma ham crisps

  1. Turn the oven on to 180C fan / 200C conventional
  2. Line the largest baking tray with a sheet of baking paper and lay the ham slices on it – make sure they are flat and do not touch
  3. Draw a knife gently down the ham to make two to three long slices – you do not have to cut all the way through
  4. Cover with another sheet of baking paper and then weigh down with the smaller baking tray
  5. Put a heavy oven proof pan or dish on top of the baking trays
  6. Pop in the oven for 18-20 mins
  7. Remove all the weights and trays and carefully snap the ham down the lines where you scored it earlier
  8. Set aside to use as a garnish

Ingredients – buttered croutons

  • Two slices of a good quality bread – sourdough or baguette, etc cut into cubes
  • Butter (obviously I used Lurpak here!)
  • Olive oil
  • Rock salt
  • Mix of fresh herbs, chopped – I used parsley, basil and thyme

Method – buttered croutons

  1. Put a large knob of butter (about 20g) in a small frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil
  2. Put over a medium-high heat and heat until just about to bubble
  3. Throw in the cube bread and coat throroughly in the butter and oil
  4. While frying keep moving the bread cubes to stop them from burning on any one side. It’s actually a bit easier if you have two wooden spoons/spatulas – one in each hand – and ‘flick’ the bread cubes into the middle with both at the same time
  5. When nice and brown, remove from the heat and sprinkle over a little rock salt, some freshly cracked black pepper and the chopped herbs

Ingredients – spinach gazpacho

  • One large shallot or two small shallots
  • One large beef tomato or two medium-sized ones (don’t use cherry tomatoes for this)
  • Half a large cucumber
  • One spring onion
  • One garlic clove
  • A quarter of a green pepper
  • Spinach – about 100g
  • Chilli pepper – about a 2cm piece of a medium hot chilli
  • A few ice cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  • Sherry or cider vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce

Method – spinach gazpacho

  1. Boil a kettle and mark a small slit or two on the skin(s) of the tomato(es) with a knife
  2. Put the tomato(es) in a bowl and pour over the boiling water
  3. After a few minutes you will be able to easily peel the skin off the tomato(es). Discard the skin
  4. Pulse the tomato, cucumber, garlic, spinach, spring onion, pepper, chilli, a sprinkle of thyme, a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of vinegar together in a blender until smooth
  5. Taste the gazpacho and add as much salt, pepper and Tabasco to your own taste
  6. Add the ice cubes and pulse briefly
  7. Pour into serving bowls

To serve

  • Place the ham ‘crisps’ on the gazpacho and sprinkle a few of the croutons over the top

Focaccia with caramelised shallots

1focaccia

A basic focaccia with the addition of shallots, slowly caramelised in sugar and fig and date balsamic vinegar with rock salt and rosemary.

Focaccia is a quintessential Italian bread and is reputedly thousands of years old, earlier than the Romans. It is traditionally round, although now you’ll see oval and square focaccia and would originally have been a flat bread. The true traditional focaccia is supposed to be thinner than most of us would expect it to be, and what we know as focaccia is more like a pavé bread (similar just more risen). The name is derived from the Latin panis focacius or hearth bread as it would have cooked on the floor of the fireplace. Focaccia led to the French fougasse and fogassa breads. It’s a simple and delicious bread to make and should be a regular feature of any baker’s repertoire.


Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Large plastic bag, cling film or tea towel to cover
  • Mixer with dough hook, if you are not making by hand
  • Round tray or stoneware dish (I use a 32cm/14″ stoneware flan dish for focaccia)
  • Saucepan

Ingredients

  • Strong white flour, 500g
  • Dried powered fast acting yeast, 5g
  • Salt, fine table, 10g
  • Olive oil, 10ml / 1 tablespoon plus a bit more for drizzling
  • Water, tepid, 325ml
  • Shallots, 5 small or 2 large
  • Sugar, 15g / 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • Balsamic vinegar, a drizzle (I actually use a gig and date balsamic vinegar*, but a traditional plain one will be fine). If you don’t have balsamic, a dash of Worcestershire sauce can work too
  • Rosemary, 2 sprigs each about 5 cm/ 2″ long – snip the leaves off the sprigs
  • Rock salt, large pinch

* I got mine from the Gourmet Spice Co at http://www.tastespice.co.uk – they visit lots of UK food fairs too


Method

  1. Put the flour, salt, yeast and water in a bowl and stir until a sticky mess, leave for a few minutes
  2. Add the oil and then either mix with a dough hook in your mixer or knead by hand for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and shiny
  3. Shape into a round and put back into the bowl and cover it
  4. Leave to rise until twice the size – this will depend on your room temperature and could be an hour or more
  5. Generously oil the bottom of the dish or tin you are using
  6. Tip out and press into the round dish or pan
  7. Cover and leave again to rise – it won’t be quite doubled – for about another hour
  8. While the bread is rising make the caramelised shallots:
    1. Finely slice the shallots length-ways
    2. Put a glug of olive oil in a sauce pan and put over a low to medium heat
    3. Gently fry the shallots until they turn clear – you do not want them to brown yet, this will be about 5 minutes
    4. Turn up the heat to medium and sprinkle over the sugar, stir the shallots until they turn light brown and start to crisp up
    5. Put a large dash of the balsamic vinegar in and fry for a further couple of minutes
    6. Remove from the heat and allow to cool
  9. Turn your oven on to 200 ºC fan / 220 ºC conventional
  10. When the dough has risen again (it should look puffy and spring back when touched lightly) push your fingertips into the dough all over to make indentations
  11. Drizzle some extra oil over the dough – it should pool in the dips you’ve created, plus the shallots
  12. Arrange the rosemary leaves into the dips
  13. Bake for about 20 minutes until slightly golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped
  14. Serve as is, or strew with fresh herbs and dip in some good quality olive oil and balasamic vinegar mix
  15. I’ve been given a discount code that anyone can use for 20% off Puro Mediterraneo olive oils [UK] online prices – visit the Puro Mediterraneo products page and quote inksugarspice18 when you order.

Spiced beef and cheddar pasties

These are roughly based on a traditional Cornish recipe – which I adore, but I’ve spiced them up a bit and added chunks of melty cheddar. So they’re definitely not Cornish anymore, but they are nice!

Beef, veg and cheddar pasties

Makes about 5 – 6

Equipment

Baking tray
Large saucepan
Saute pan
Grater or microplane
pastry brush
Rolling pin
Round plate or lid about 18 – 20 cm in diameter to use as a template
Large baking tray

Ingredients – for the pastry

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 120g unsalted butter – put a pat of butter into the freezer to harden before grating
  • 120g lard cubed (if you don’t want to use lard use 240g of butter instead but it’s definitely not the same rugged and savoury consistency) – put this into the freezer to harden before grating
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Enough cold water to bring it together (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 1 egg (for wash only)

Ingredients for the filling

  • 1 medium white onion (or about 4 shallots)
  • About 80g of swede
  • 1 medium slightly waxy potato – don’t use a floury potato or it will go to mush
  • Large handful of grated cheddar – about 65g
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Large grinding of pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 level teaspoon mustard powder
  • About 300g of skirt beef (this is definitely the best cut for pasties as it has just the right consistency and flavour, if you can’t get it chuck steak is the next best thing)
  • Oil for frying – any veggie oil will do

Method – pastry

Make the pastry first so you can let it chill and rest while you construct the filling.

  1. Weigh out the flour add the salt and paprika
  2. Grate the hard butter and lard into it. Grating keeps the fat in small strands, making the rubbing-in method quicker and easier (alternatively you can just cut the fat into cubes). Keep tossing the grated fat in the flour as you go so it coats each strand of fat (otherwise you’ll just push it all together when you start rubbing in and it’ll negate the head start that grating gave you)
  3. Rub in the fat and flour until you get fine breadcrumbs, or alternatively pop it in a food processing and blitz for a couple of seconds
  4. Add the water one tablespoon at a time and knead the dough together until it is a typical heavy dough consistency – that is, it just comes together without crumbling and takes a bit of a push to shape it
  5. Flatten it into a disc, cover it in cling film or put in a plastic food bag and stick it in the fridge for up to a couple of hours, or if you’re short of time pop it in the freezer while you make the filling

Method – filling

  1. Pop a pan of salted water on to simmer
  2. Shred the beef skirt into very fine pieces, so that it will cook inside the pasty
  3. Chop up all the veg into small dice (3 or 4 mm cubes) – keep the onion separate
  4. Put all the diced veg into the saucepan (don’t include the onion) and simmer for a few minutes until they are just about to go tender (don’t let them get soft)
  5. Saute the onion over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes until glassy, then briefly add the beef and fry for a minute or two at the most. You just want some of it to start to change colour.
  6. Set the onion and beef aside to cool
  7. Drain the veg and put into a large bowl. Add the beef and onion
  8. Mix in the salt, pepper, cayenne and mustard powder into the veg and beef
  9. Leave to cool (until at most lukewarm) before using to fill the pasty

Method – constructing

  1. Put the oven on to about 220C conventional or 200C fan
  2. Retrieve the dough and roll out to about 2 – 3 mm thickness on a lightly floured surface (this is a bit thinner than traditional, but I like less pastry and you’re probably not going to transport this one down a tin mine so it doesn’t need to be so rugged)
  3. Cut out discs from the pastry using your plate/lid/etc as a template
  4. Whisk up the egg and brush some round the edges of each disc
  5. Divide the mix up equally between the pastry discs, spooning it into the middle of each disc and leaving about 1.5 cm space round the edge (where you brushed the egg wash). You may have a little left over (you can freeze this for your next batch or to add to either cottage pie, bolognese or chilli etc)
  6. Sprinkle the grated cheddar over the filling
  7. Fold over each pasty in half, sealing the edges. You now need to crimp the edge
  8. Crimp by starting at one corner. Pick up a corner in your index finger and thumb and place a finger from your other hand just the other side of this (not at the edge of the pasty, towards the centre). Folder the corner over your finger, remove your finger and tamp down. Now repeat by picking up the ‘new’ corner created by the first crimp. Work your way round the pasty. There are plenty of YouTube videos on how to do this – and it’s easier than it sounds – just Google ‘how to crimp a Cornish pasty’
  9. Once you’ve done all the pasties brush them all with the egg wash. Make sure there are no holes in the pastry – the idea of a pasty is that the filling steams while it cooks so it needs to be sealed
  10. Place on the baking tray and cook in the centre of the oven for about 30 mins. Retrieve when they are a golden brown
  11. Best eaten while still warm (careful – the centre is boiling hot straight out of the oven) but can be eaten cold