Thursday, 30 May 2013

Light Hollandaise

I'm as fond of the densely rich, buttery indulgence of good hollandaise as the next person. Hollandaise is a sauce that at this time of year, when the asparagus season is in full swing, comes into its own. My version however is a bit kinder if weight gain is an issue and I think it's safe to say now I'm well into my sixties, it is. I make the whole thing in a saucepan on the lowest heat, I never find it particularly difficult so I would encourage you to be brave enough to try it. If you have an electric hob where heat control is less immediate than gas, simply be prepared to slide the pan off the heat if you feel it's all getting too hot.

To make this hollandaise you will need;
4 egg yolks
200g of unsalted butter, cubed
200ml of water
100ml of white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Marigold bouillon powder or 1/2 teaspoon of salt
A pinch of pepper

Place all the ingredients in a medium size saucepan, place on a low heat and whisk gently while the mix slowly heats up. you will find the butter begins to melt and when it is fully melted it's a good sign that the liquid is getting up to temperature. Being careful to whisk well, accessing every part of the base of the pan continue until the sauce begins to thicken, it should take less than a minute to complete thickening, so be watchful. The texture of this version of hollandaise is lighter and a little foamy, perfect for draping over lightly cooked asparagus or a fillet of salmon. This quantity makes sufficient for 6 servings.

Tarragon vinegar is a good alternative.
I find spreading it cold on toast or a toasted English muffin makes a really good base for poached eggs.
This of those wonderful meringues or macarron you can make with the egg whites

Squid Ink Spaghetti with Prawn and Vodka

I know it's only black, but the colour of this spaghetti always makes the dish a delight. I can't imagine marrying it up with anything other than prawns or mussels, something from the sea. This sauce has a little vodka in it which though subtle, does bring an edge to the finished dish.

For the sauce you will need;
400g of raw prawn
1 small onion or a banana shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2og of unsalted butter
200ml of white wine
2 tablespoons of chopped tomatoes, (I used tinned)
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
2 tablespoons of vodka
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
A few strands of saffron
chopped chives to garnish

Have a large pot of water heating to boil the pasta.
Begin by slicing the prawns lengthways, this allows you to de-vein the prawns but also the smaller size pieces makes eating the dish that much better.  Begin cooking the pasta, follow the packet instructions but it's usually around 10 minutes, enough time to cook the sauce. In a large pan fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter until they become translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes on a gentle heat. Add the wine and vodka and cook until nearly all the liquid has reduced, add the tomatoes, sugar, saffron, creme fraiche and seasoning and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes, finally add the prawns and cook through for a couple of minutes, just until they turn pink, drain the spaghetti, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water to slacken off the sauce if needed, I usually find it does and the slightly starchy hot water of the pasta cooking is perfect. Turn the drained pasta into the sauce, stir through briefly to ensure the sauce is evenly distirbuted and serve with a garnish of chopped chives.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Old Hagbech Negroni

Really there is nothing new or different about my negroni, so it's a bit of a cheek calling it the Old Hagbech Negroni, in my defense however, I think there are many mediocre versions out there and the quality of this one is entirely down to the named brand ingredients.

For this cocktail you will need;
50ml Plymouth Gin
40ml Antica Formula (sweet vermouth)
40ml of Campari
2 large ice cubes
2 slices of orange for garnishing

Place the gin, sweet vermouth and campari in a glass, I use a single old fashioned, along with the ice and stir for half a minute, pop in a couple of slices of orange and a straw and serve.

Old Hagbech Lemon Posset

Lemon posset is one of the oldest desserts here in the UK, harking back to the middle ages. It is the simplest of things to put together and unlike it's Italian cousin, panna cotta which as its name implies is also made of cooked cream, it has a creamy texture rather than a set one.
I like to utilise the peel always when using lemons, why discard a source of such good flavour and I also believe the addition of the lime juice adds to the finished dish. Double cream is not available in the US as far as I am aware, the heavy cream that is sold there contains between 20 and 25% less fat than the double cream sold in the UK, I cannot therefore be certain that substituting the US heavy cream in this recipe will work.

For this recipe you will need;
700ml of double cream
200g of sugar
The juice and peel of 3 lemons
The juice of 1 lime

Begin by paring the thinnest layer of peel off the lemons, be careful not to include any of the bitter white pith. Place it along with the cream and sugar in a heavy based pan and slowly bring up to the boil. Whist stirring continuously, continue to cook the cream on the lowest heat for 3 minutes, it will appear slightly foamy, you need to watch that it doesn't boil over or catch on the bottom of the pan. Take the cream off the heat and strain out the peel, add the juice of the lemons and the lime and mix well before pouring into 6 small containers. Lemon posset requires a good 6 hours in the fridge to firm up, so this is not a last minute dessert.

Asparagus and Cheese Fondue Pizza with a Biga

Increasingly I find the quality of a pizza crust is improved no end by making the dough with a biga. I simply add half the yeast I would normally use, in this case 3 to 4 grams of fast action yeast, all of the water and enough of the flour to make a very thick batter, just before going to bed; in the morning I am greeted by a very healthy looking ferment with which to make the dough.
When it's asparagus season, here in Norfolk and cheese fondue was on the menu the night before, I think combining the two to make a pizza topping makes complete sense.

For this recipe you will need:
For the base
Half a packet of fast action yeast
500ml of water
700g of strong white bread flour
12g of salt
2 tablespoons of olive oil.

For the topping;
300g of grated mozzarella
300g of left over cheese fondue
400g of blanched asparagus
A little olive oil

Begin the night before by making the biga as described above. Leave overnight to ferment; in the morning add the remaining flour, salt and olive oil and knead until you have a smooth elastic dough. Leave to rise in a cool place, stretching and folding every hour. I find the dough is happy enough in this state for a good 6 hours but that's because I can keep it relatively cool. Transfer the dough to the fridge in order to suit you own timing, taking it out of the fridge 4 hours before you need to cook the pizzas. Divide the dough, this quantity make 4 medium size pizzas, and leave for an hour before stretching them out into a large thin round, placing on a  pizza stone heated in a hot oven, 240C and placing on your topping. Drizzle with a little olive oil and cook for 7 to 10 minutes.

I have taken to placing a few oak shavings on a sheet of kitchen foil in the bottom of my oven when I switch it on, the shavings begin to smoke as the pizza goes into the oven and the result is the distinctive flavour you get from a traditional wood fired pizza oven, sadly domestic ovens can't achieve the high heat of these ovens so the result is not exactly the same.

Fig & Fennel Caponata

Caponata is one of those dishes which allows for imagination and creativity. Traditionally associated with Sicily and including some of the wonderful aubergines to be found on the island, caponata is essentially a melange of chopped vegetables (cut smaller than its cousin ratatouille) cooked slowly together with ingredients that bring out sweet and sour flavours. The addition of pine nuts brings crunch to the finished dish. I think it's best served at room temperature with toasted slices of bread to act as a scoop. I like to minimise the use of olive oil during the actual cooking so that I can stir in a couple of tablespoons once the cooking is complete, producing an unctuous finish to the dish.

I have 5 glorious lilac trees here at Old Hagbech and the scent is intoxicating

For this variation on the traditional caponata you will need;
1 large bulb of fennel
1 orange pepper
1 large onion
6 spring onions
2 sticks of celery
4 fat cloves of garlic
200g of cherry tomatoes
200g of soft dried figs
The juice and  zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of capers, chopped
1 tablespoon of basil leaves, Greek if possible
1 tablespoon of parsley
3 tablespoons of Olive oil
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons of white wine
1 heaped teaspoon of bouillon powder or 1 flat teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Chop all the vegetables and figs into medium sized dice, still recognisable but small enough so that a scoop of the finished caponata includes the whole mix of ingredients.
Begin by frying the fennel seeds gently in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the fennel, celery, onion, pepper, spring onions and garlic and sweat slowly over a gentle heat for 7 to 10 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, capers, the wine and the juice and zest of the lemon. Cook until all liquid has been cooked off, add the sherry vinegar along with 200ml of water and the seasoning. Cover with a lid and cook on the lowest possible heat for half an hour. Stir in the chopped basil and parsley and adjust the seasoning to suit. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and leave to cool. best served the day after making, when the ingredients will have had a chance to mellow. Serve on slices of bread toasted.

This caponata partners up really well with a big slab of creamy gorgonzola!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Orange Polenta Cake

There are lots of recipes for this Italian cake out there, this is mine where I grind up the orange peel into the sugar before creaming with the butter. I find this method click here for the recipe which is used in my other orange scented cake, is far easier in the long run when you want to get the most out of orange zest.

For this recipe you will need;
240g of caster sugar
240g of unsalted butter (room temperature)
200g of ground almonds
4 medium eggs
100g of fine polenta
50g of self raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 oranges
1 teaspoon of orange flower water

For the soaking syrup,
the juice of the oranges (around 200ml)
140g of sugar
1 teaspoon of orange flower water.

Begin by lining a 20cm cake tin with parchment paper and switching on the oven to 180C. Grind the sugar and the finely peeled rind of the oranges along with the salt until you have  fine orange sugar, the link to the process is above. Cream the butter and the soft sugar until it is light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time and beat well in between. If you do this gradually enough you should avoid curdling but frankly a little curdling is not going to make a huge difference to the end result. Add the flour, polenta, ground almonds and baking powder and mix only until completely incorporated. Place the cake batter in the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning the oven down to 150 for the last 10 minutes.
Place the juice, sugar in a small pan and bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. Finally add the orange flower water.
When the cake is fully cooked, remove it from the oven, prick the cake all over with a cocktail stick and dribble the syrup slowly and evenly over the top. Leave to cool completely before taking out of the tin.

This cake is dense, far denser than my sodden orange cake mentioned above, however I find the texture pleasing, and the bite and flavour of the polenta things to enjoy
You can make a version of this using lemons, use 4 rather than two but otherwise keep the recipe as it is, you will find you need a little more juice to make the syrup.
I serve this with a cream made of creme fraiche and a little cooked rhubarb.

Cheese Fondue

I am pleased to say the cheese fondue has never fallen out of fashion in our house. So many of the sturdy enameled cast iron pots were discarded in the 80s and 90s, but ours has seen good service over the years. Partly due to the fact that it is one of my daughter's all time favourite things to eat. We have over the years introduced other things to dunk, small new potatoes remains the favourite and if only barely cooked cauliflower was easier to keep on the fondue fork, it too would get a more regular slot on the dinner table.

For this recipe you will need;
250g of grated Gruyere cheese
250g of grated Emmenthal cheese
350ml of dry white wine
1 clove of garlic, smashed with a blunt instrument
1 teaspoon of cornflour
1 tablespoon of Kirsch
1 teaspoon of marigold bouillon powder or 1/2 teaspoon of salt
 white pepper to taste

Bread and whatever else you fancy to dunk.

Begin by simmering the clove of garlic in the white wine in a heavy based saucepan, ideally a fondue pan, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile you can grate the cheese. Remove the garlic, add the cheese and slowly stir on a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until all the cheese has melted. Finally add the cornflour, slaked with the kirsch and you'll find the liquid and the soft melted cheese become one. I find it's best to whisk the fondue at this point for a minute to ensure the nature of the finished dish is stringy. Everyone who enjoys cheese fondue, enjoys the stringiness of the cheese.

This dish is far simpler to make than you would expect considering what a joyous end result you have to share. Stopping eating is a tough thing to do, I always hear, from myself as well as the guests, "I'll just have one final chunk of bread". We rarely get to the bottom, where after being on the heat, the base gets toasty and delicious. What remains in the pan is without doubt the very best filling for a toasted cheese sandwich, the following day, I know, so I am happy!

Minted Pea & Feta Dip

Bruschetta with minted pea & feta and Marion's beetroot click here for the recipe

Some of us are old enough to remember Alan Bennet's invention, the butter-bean whip, it has become a standard joke because the woman who kept threatening to bring this obscure dish to any soirée she was invited to, was herself a figure of fun. Ever since the use of the word whip, it has been out of bounds which is unfortunate since it best describes this pea and feta concoction and the word "dip" is a poor substitute for which I apologise now. Whatever you feel free to call it, this simple mixture of cooked peas, feta cheese, garlic and olive oil is a pleasing colour and above all an easy thing for folk to dip things into, to be served with drinks.

For this recipe you will need;
400g of frozen peas
200g of feta cheese
A dozen large mint leaves
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
season with bouillon powder or salt and white pepper.

Place the cooked and cooled peas in a food processor with the mint leaves and garlic and process until you have a smooth puree, add the cheese and puree again for a minute before trickling in the olive oil. Finally adjust the flavour with seasoning, be careful as the feta cheese is already on the salty side. I, as readers of my blog will know, use Marigold bouillon powder in place of salt wherever possible, it reduces the amount of sodium in my diet even though it is itself made up of 17% salt. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve with crackers or crudité, or on a bruschetta as above.

You can substitute broad beans for the peas in this dish and it's also possible to reduce the amount of processing time so that you have a more textured finished dish.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

A word on shaping loaves

I do believe if I was in a position where I had a boss breathing down my neck shouting at me and 200 loaves to shape every day for 3 months I would become rather good at shaping loaves, who wouldn't. The reality is I bake a little more often than once a week, I bake 2 or 3 loaves each time I bake and no matter how much I have read about the importance of shaping, watched videos on shaping, without the practise it's really hard to feel I make much progress or more correctly make enough progress to satisfy me.
Today I was baking my usual white sourdough; in the last few weeks I have been baking with Khorasan and Einkorn flour, I was missing the soft yet chewy whiteness of my daily bread. It was when it came to shaping the dough into three loaves that I came up with an idea. It was easy enough to pour the dough out of the large bowl I had it in, onto a  floured surface and stretch it out into a large rectangle, it was then I hit on the idea of cutting each portion, creating three long oblongs. I took each oblong and lifting up the far end, stretched it even further and rolled it up to form a large roll. I neatened off the ends and popped each loaf into a well floured proving basket seam side up. They lay there, covered for 3 hours while we popped off the Church fete. Having just slashed and baked them I am particularly pleased with the outcome. There has been a gratifying amount of "oven bloom" where the loaves once slashed have expanded nicely. I shall certainly use this method again,
The bread by the way is my standard white sourdough click here for the recipe

Wild Mushroom Orzotto

Risotto when made well is a delicious and comforting dish, there are any numbers of varieties. However, there is a place I believe for its cousin orzotto, made with pearl barley. I find when using pearl barley in place of rice, it's a good idea to precook the grain before making the orzotto. Although the majority of mushrooms in this dish are cultivated, the addition of a few wild mushrooms makes all the difference. Cooking the button mushrooms correctly is also guaranteed to bring out the best flavour. So often mushrooms are simply cooked long enough for them to soften, but the true flavour of mushrooms doesn't develop until they have been fried long enough to take on some colour and caramelise a little.

For this dish you will need;
200g of pearl barley
300g of button mushrooms
40g of dried porcini mushrooms
1 stick of celery
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil
40g of unsalted butter
500ml vegetable stock
Black or white pepper
Parmesan for serving and if you have it a little white truffle oil stirred in at the last minute.

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 200ml of the vegetable stock, after they have fully rehydrated  (30 minutes) strain them and pour the liquer back into the stock pot.
Bring 500ml of water up to a boil and put in the pearl barley, turn down the heat and cook for ten minutes. Switch off the heat and cover, the barley should absorb almost all of the remaining liquid.
In a large pan, saute the sliced button mushrooms gently until all the liquid they release, has been driven off and the mushrooms have taken on a little colour. Add the chopped onion, garlic and celery, and continue cooking until the vegetables have become translucent. Cut up the porcini mushrooms into pieces roughly the size of the button mushrooms and cook along with the rest of the vegetables for a further 2 or 3 minutes. Add the cooked pearl barley and 250ml of the vegetable stock and stir until the liquid has been almost fully absorbed, add as much of the remaining stock as you need to enable the pearl barley to be fully cooked but still retain a bite, it's important that the finished dish isn't too dry or running with too much liquid so gauge this as you go along, I find I use it all as a rule. Stir in the butter and adjust the seasoning to taste with pepper, black or white, whichever you prefer, when the orzotto is off the heat you can stir in a tablespoon of grated parmesan and a little white truffle oil if you have it. An unctuous treat which retains a good bite to both the vegetables and the pearl barley without the issue of having a starchy uncooked centre which can so easily happen with rice.

A nice garnish for this and other risotto type dishes is a tuille made of parmesan cheese. Nothing could be easier, heat an oven to 200C, place small (tablespoon) piles of grated parmesan cheese onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment, leave enough room for the tuille to spread and bake for 7 to 8 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they are ready when they are a pale golden colour and bubbling, they harden on cooling.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Rhubarb & Ginger Martini - A Waggy Boy

Algernon, an ocean of goodness!

This is an ideal martini for lovers of rhubarb and now that the rhubarb in my garden is flourishing I'm happy to be able to use it in whatever way I can. I often partner up ginger with rhubarb so a recent gift of a bottle of Domaine de Canton, a delicious ginger liquer from France seemed the ideal choice for this martini. If you can't get hold of Domaine de Canton, King's Ginger is another ginger liquer that will work well.
Readers of my blog will know that I make my own candied peel and I keep the syrup Click here for the recipe, it has many uses, one of which is sweetening rhubarb while cooking until tender. having cooked the rhubarb, strain and reserve the delicious pink syrup if only to use in this martini. You can also make rhubarb syrup by poaching rhubarb in a simple syrup of equal parts by weight water and sugar until the rhubarb is tender, using the candied orange peel syrup simply adds a hint of bitter orange, making the flavour that bit more complex.

For this martini you will need,
50ml of gin, Plymouth is my preference
20ml of Domaine de Canton
10ml of Rhubarb syrup
2 large washed ice cubes

Stir all the ingredients in a glass for 1 minute, strain into a chilled martini glass and serve. warming when the temperature outside is 4C and it's late May!

It's important to always wash ice cubes speedily in cold water before adding to, or using in the mixing of, any drinks in order to remove flavours that the ice takes on in the freezer.
This martini is sweeter than the average, if you wish to balance some of the sweetness a couple of dashes of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters will do the trick. Personally I think as long as the glass is adequately chilled the drink is perfect.

Oven cooked Chutney

I make chutney towards the end of summer when there is a glut of vegetables and fruit around, but for chutney in a hurry, this method is ideal and you can make a small amount which will keep in the fridge for 2 or 3 weeks.

For this recipe you will need,
250g of cherry tomatoes
100g of golden sultanas
6 Spring onions
1 green or red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
100ml of wine vinegar
100g of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cayene pepper, less if you wish
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Place all the vegetables and sultanas in a food processor and pulse until you have a roughly chopped mix, stop before the veg all become too small to recognise. Place in a shallow oven proof dish along with the seasoning, vinegar and sugar. Place in a moderate 180C oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Take the dish out of the oven and stir the mix every 15 minutes and every five minutes at the point where most of the liquid has cooked off. You should end up with a loose jammy texture. Remove from the oven and stir in the olive oil and an equal amount of freshly boiled water. Place in a lidded container and keep int he fridge.
This chutney can be made with fresh fruit such as plums or peaches instead of tomatoes and you can substitute dried apricots or figs for the sultanas. Experiment, you are almost certainly going to invent something wonderful.
The texture of this chutney has a slightly stiffer, less loose texture than traditional chutney with a very pleasant bite.

Sourdough with Einkorn flour

do check out the post on shaping loaves click here

Recently I have been on the lookout for different flours to use in my bread baking. I was happy with the khorasan bread I made click here for the recipe so I thought I would give one of the other Dove's Farm flours a try. Einkorn flour, at least the variety that is grown at Dove's Farm is about as close to the early wheat that was gathered and turned into bread, as we are likely to find these days. I have to say it did behave a bit oddly and required quite a lot of strong white flour kneaded into it to make it easy enough to handle, so this recipe is an approximation. Since the hydration of a dough can vary so much according to how dry the flour is, and how comfortable you feel working with wet doughs will influence how much water you add, I believe publishing this recipe might still inspire you to experiment with this oldest of all wheat varieties, if you feel confident enough and are prepared to adjust things.

For this bread you will need;
for the ferment'
1 tablespoon of starter from the fridge
150g of strong wwhite flour
50g of whole grain rye flour
200g of water.

For the main dough'
All of the ferment
400g of Einkorn flour
600g of strong white flour
600g of water
20g of salt

Begin by making up the ferment. Mix all the igredients together and leave to activate in a bowl large enough for the ferment to double in size. Leave covered for at least 8 hours.
When the ferment is showing good signs of activity, lots of bubbles collapsing on themselves and forming creases, add the remaining main dough ingredients, omitting the salt. Mix for no longer than it takes to form a soft dough. Leave covered in a chilly area overnight.
In the morning, add the salt and mix until well distributed about a minute or two at the most. Transfer the dough to a polythene box and leave for the main rise, stretching and folding the dough every hour for 3 to 4 hours. Try to avoid expelling more of the bubbles of air than you have to in doing this.
Finally divide the dough into 3 and form into whatever shape loaves you prefer. Leave to rise for a further 3 hours (a shorter time if you live anywhere warmer than Norfolk where the temperature today is a glorious 12C!) bake the loaves in a hot oven 200C for 30 to 35 minutes, slashing the top before you do so.

This bread has a good nutty flavour, despite the slightly low proportion of Einkorn flour, I will try using it again since the health claims are very impressive.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Old Hagbech Bronx

I'm fond of the odd cocktail, Negroni is one of my favourite martinis, but here is another favourite that uses Antica Formula, in my opinion the best of all sweet vermouth available. Here is my version of this classic cocktail.

You will need,
60ml of gin, my favourite is Plymouth
30ml of Antica Formula, sweet vermouth
20ml of Noilly Prat extra dry vermouth
30ml of freshly squeezed orange juice.
3 or 4 ice cubes

Place all the ingredients in a large glass and stir for 1 minute, I'm a stirrer rather than a shaker, though I'm an admirer of their furniture, strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy.

A Bronx is a perfect drink to enjoy with marcona almonds.
A Bronx is usually made with dry vermouth rather than the extra dry Noilly Prat but I prefer the lack of sweetness, hence my fondness for Negroni.

Golden Sultana Madiera Cake

Now of course traditional Madeira cake has no fruit in it but recently I have grown so fond of the flavour of these delicious little dried fruits that I wanted to put them in a cake. The trick is to pulverise the sultanas in a food processor along with the candied peel before adding the other ingredients, the result is a cake with an even tender texture and no sign of a dried fruit anywhere, but with the moistness and flavour that can only be achieved by their inclusion. I love a Victoria sponge as much as the next person but a cake that has the denseness of a Madeira cake is always a worthwhile teatime treat.

For this cake you will need,
200g of self raising flour
100g of ground almonds
240g of light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
240g of unsalted butter (softened)
200g of golden sultanas
80g of candied orange peel soaked in amaretto liquer click here for the recipe
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat the oven to 140C.
Begin by chopping up the sultanas in the food processor, adding the flour at this stage helps with the process of grinding up the dried fruit. When the sultanas have been fully processed into the flour add the remaining ingredients and process for half a minute until you have a soft evenly mixed consistency. Place the cake mix in a lined large loaf tin, measuring 22cm by 12cm by 7cm and place in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes until a skewer comes out cleanly. Leave the cake in the tin until fully cool. This cake keeps well for at least a week and is perfect with an afternoon cup of tea.

This method of pulverising the fruit before adding to a cake also works well with glacé cherries.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

A tribute to Bonnington Café

Wild garlic flowers added to both the look and taste of this dish
Just over a week ago, My daughter took me to a little cafe close to her flat in London. The Bonnington Café is run along cooperative lines and during this current climate, other businesses using the cooperative model seem to be doing better than most. There is a list of chefs who take it in turn to cook both vegetarian and vegan food, the food is modestly priced and where possible, locally sourced. All in all it was a pleasant experience and one I would enjoy repeating.

When I looked up the Bonnington Café on the internet, I found a review by Jay Rayner, it was both vicious and unhelpful and as far as I could see missed the point entirely of the purpose behind this small organisation, that of providing vegetarian and vegan food, accessible to local people in a friendly environment. Jay Rayner is a particularly sad man, who likes to give the impression that his treatment of people is entertaining and amusing, for those of us who work with such people on a therapeutic basis, it's simply that he carries a great deal of damage and would be far better off in another line of work.

Welcome Bosnia Herzegovina country No 98

When I was at the cafe I had a dish of haloumi cheese on a bed of lentils and beetroot, here is my version of this dish by way of saying thank you and do carry on the good work to the people who keep The Bonnington Cafe going. Click here to visit their home page

For this recipe you will need
Haloumi cheese
Cooked beetroot click here for the recipe
Puy lentils Click here for the recipe
Deep fried onions click here for the recipe
Wild rocket leaves or Lamb's lettuce

Begin by creating a small mound of the salad leaves of choice on a plate, arrange the lentils and beetroot around the leaves and sprinkle on a few of the deep fried onions, finally cut the cheese into 1 centimeter slices and fry gently in olive oil until they have taken on a good brown colour. Place 1,2 or even 3 slices on top of the dish depending on how hungry you are. I added a spoonful of my chipotle mayonnaise (home made mayonnaise with a little chipotle paste added) just because I find myself putting it on everything these days. 

What The Bonnington Café manages to do is to put together dishes which are assembled from components that marry together well, so often the easiest option is to cook a main star component for a meal and serve it with vegetables or a salad and  a carbohydrate of some sort. This dish can be put together in almost no time if you go to the trouble of making the components before hand, they keep well in the fridge and will inspire me to use them in different combinations. 

Puy Lentils

Lentils, in particular the tiny Puy lentils can be a stunning addition to so many dishes. Puy lentils, unlike the split orange variety will hold their shape after cooking as will their cousin the larger green variety. I find the best way of cooking them is to place them in a heavy bottomed pan with some vegetable stock and cook them gently over a low heat until all the stock has been absorbed. You can add bay leaves or other herbs such as thyme, if you fancy flavouring them more, you could also pop a chili into the pot while they're cooking to give them a little heat. Whatever you do, having a container of cooked lentils in the fridge will serve you well,

For this recipe you will need,
100g of Puy lentils
500g of vegetable stock, I use Marigold Bouillon Powder.

Place the lentils and the stock in a heavy based pan with a lid and cook on the lowest heat possible for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the lid and if there is still some liquid remaining in the bottom of the pan, leave the lid off and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes or so until the lentils are virtually dry, keep an eye on them, it's surprising how a burnt flavour permeates an entire pan of food, believe me, I know.

Marion's Beetroot

Now I love beetroot in any shape or form but I have to say this is the best method of cooking in order to intensify the flavour. My late wife Marion introduced me to this recipe and I adapted it a little, omitting the addition of olive oil. The one thing that guarantees the flavour of the beetroot being undiluted in any way is the period prior to cooking when the salt leaches out some of the juices. The beetroot then cooks in these juices becoming tender and wonderful.

For this recipe you will need:
500g of beetroot, (peeled weight)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced.

Begin by peeling the beetroot, an odd thing but trust me, it has to be done. Then with deep purple fingers, cut them up into roughly 1 centimeter dice. Place in a bowl and add the salt and the garlic, leave for an hour before placing in an ovenproof dish, cover tightly with kitchen foil and bake in a moderate, 180C oven for 45 minutes at which point the dark purple dice should yield to a sharp knife, if you decide they are not tender enough, place back in the oven for a further 10 minutes or so. Leave to cool completely before serving as an accompanying vegetable or placing in a container and storing for up to a week.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Khorasan sourdough with golden sultanas & yogurt

I have been considering the popularity of my caramelised onion and cheese bread; readers of my blog will know that in general I tend to avoid adding ingredients to the flour, water salt and yeast (wild or otherwise) that makes up my everyday bread. If I follow this tack of course the recipes are going to grind to a halt. With this in mind I have been trying to create new recipes, this is one I came up with using the Khorasan flour I found on sale the other day. Soaking the golden sultanas not only brings them back to the plump fruits that far closer resemble the grapes they once were, but makes blending them easier.

For this bread you will need,
for the ferment,
1 tablespoon of starter from the fridge
150g of strong white flour
50g of rye flour
200g of water

For the main dough,
All of the ferment
100g of golden sultanas
300g of Khorasan flour
600g of strong white flour
130g of Greek yogurt
400g of water
18g of salt

Begin by soaking the sultanas in 200g of freshly boiled water, set to one side. Make the ferment by mixing the ingredients and leaving in a bowl, covered for as long as it takes for the ferment to show signs of vigorous growth. At this time of year this means 6 to 8 hours in my cool kitchen whereas in the winter it can take up to 24 hours in my seriously chilly kitchen. To this day a warm kitchen is something I never know. The signs to watch out for are not only lots of bubbles on the surface but creases where the bubbles are collapsing back on themselves, click here for a photo.
Blend the soaked sultanas along with another 200g of water and the yogurt until you have a smooth liquid. Add this along with the flours and the ferment and mix to form quite a smooth dough. Leave to rise overnight. In the morning add the salt and mix on a medium setting for 3 to 4 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl or plastic box cover and set aside to rise. Stretch and fold the dough every hour for 3 to 4 hours before dividing into 2 and shaping into 2 loaves. Leave the loaves for a final rise, at least a couple of hours, then bake in a hot 220C oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

This dough was made using less water than I usually use, I wanted to see how the khorasan flour behaved and I find it's always better to be on the safe side and avoid very wet doughs. The texture as a result, although light and tender, has a more even crumb than I am used to, not the irregular sized holes, which trap extra butter through no fault of their own, of a more standard sourdough. The flavour however is exceptionally good, just the right amount of background sweetness which comes in at the end. I shall continue to experiment with this flour but I will return to this recipe again and again.
It should make excellent toast.