Thursday, 31 October 2013

Garlic & Cheddar soup

I will have vampires and other ghoulish characters turning up at my door this week, so I thought it best to create a recipe that uses a great deal of garlic. Halloween is one excuse, a really good deal at Al Amin, which led to my buying a lot of garlic is another. The soup is creamy and flavoursome and at this time of year with the days becoming dramatically shorter, a great comfort.

For this recipe you will need;
2 heads of garlic
2 medium size or 1 large potato, diced (roughly 300g)
100g of mature cheddar
25g of unsalted butter
1 litre of vegetable stock
5oo ml of milk
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne

Begin by peeling the garlic and sweating the cloves gently in the olive oil over a low heat for 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the cloves, they should take on only a little colour. Add the potatoes, stock, seasoning and thyme and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the garlic and potato are tender. Allow to cool a little then place the contents of the pan along with the cheddar cheese and butter in a blender and blend until smooth. Always be careful when blending hot liquids, don't overfill the blender jug and make sure the lid is secure. Add the milk and blend briefly to fully incorporate. Serve hot with crouton.

Since there is cheese in the soup, you will need to be careful when bringing it back up to the right heat to serve; don't allow the soup to overheat or the velvet texture will be lost.
If anyone asks you to feed four people and gives you no more than 1 potato, 2 heads of garlic, some sprigs of thyme and enough cheddar cheese to make a decent sandwich, this is the recipe to make!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Hagbech White bread with Date Syrup

I am fond of date syrup as an ingredient, if you need a sweet element in a dish, I think it makes sense to use something that has a greater depth and more complex flavour than sugar. My Banana cake is a good example Click here for the recipe
I was making a batch of my white sourdough yesterday and the bottle of date syrup was out on the work surface. Knowing that if you wish to enhance sourness you can add just a little sugar, just as adding a little salt will point to the sweetness of a dish, I decided to add 50ml of the date syrup to the dough. The result was spectacular. I'm sure date syrup is a really good source of nutrition for yeast.The loaves were light with good oven spring, but best of all the flavour of the crust was better than I think I have ever eaten.

The Bahamas brings the count up to 115, welcome!

In order to make this bread follow the original recipe click here and add 50ml of date syrup when adding the ferment to the main dough ingredients.

Banana Cake

A week ago my lovely niece Meg phoned up to ask if I had a banana cake recipe, I had to admit I hadn't but that I would work on creating one. Lightly cooking the banana helps considerably in enhancing the banana flavour of this cake, I also introduced a favourite ingredient of mine, date syrup. If you do not find date syrup (try whole food shops) golden syrup will work but it won't produce the nutty brown colour the date syrup will. Unlike many banana cakes, this is a light textured sponge.

For this recipe you will need;
2 large ripe bananas sliced
200g of caster sugar
50g of date syrup
50g of unsalted butter
2 large eggs
250g of self raising flour
170ml of oil, I use grapeseed
1 tablespoon of sour cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla escence
1 teaspoon of finely grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Begin by preparing a 20cm square baking tin, either grease it lightly and dust with flour or line with baking parchment.
Place the butter, sugar and date syrup in a small shallow pan and slowly bring to a boil. Add the sliced bananas and cook on a gentle heat for 5 minutes. The bananas should break up slightly but they will break up completely when mixed with the other ingredients. Allow to cool completely.
Turn the oven on to 180C.
Whisk together the eggs, oil sour cream and banana mixture until light and creamy, sieve the dry ingredients together and fold in, then transfer the mix to the prepared baking tin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out cleanly.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Roasted Cauliflower & Moghrabieh Salad

Some time ago I posted a dish including roasted cauliflower, click here for the recipe, ever since then I have only ever cooked cauliflower by roasting, the flavour and consistency is so much finer than that of boiled or steamed cauliflower. This is a simple salad which uses another grain or more strictly speaking a pasta, moghrabieh or giant couscous, but the combination of flavours makes it one I shall happily make again and again.

Sri Lanka brings the number up to 112, welcome!

Bringing the number to 113, Guadeloupe, welcome!
Finland makes it 114, welcome!

For this recipe you will need;

2oog of moghrabieh or giant couscous
500g of cauliflower florets
100g of  toasted flaked almonds
150g of golden sultanas
50ml of Disaronno amaretto liquer
1 tablespoon of chives, chopped
2 tablespoon of olive oil (1 for roasting the cauliflower)
1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Marigold bouillon powder or 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of salt (for roasting the cauliflower)
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Begin by roasting the cauliflower florets, toss the florets in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Place the florets in a shallow baking dish and roast in a hot 220C oven for 10 to 15 minutes, taking the dish out and turning the florets over, half way through. The cauliflower should be just tender and a little charred on the edges. Allow to cool while you boil the moghrabieh for 6 minutes in salted water. Simmer the golden sultanas in the amaretto liquer for a couple of minutes, this drives off the alcohol but plumps up the fruit and enhances the almond flavour of the finished dish. Drain the moghrabieh and allow to cool, Chop the chives and toss together all the ingredients including the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and the seasoning.

You can plump the sultanas in a  tablespoon of apple juice if you prefer.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Oven baked Frittata

Occasionally I find a kitchen utensil that inspires a new dish; finding this lurid green silicone "thing" was such an occasion. I imagine its original purpose was to bake cakes in, but for me I thought it would be ideal for making a frittata.

A Frittata is essentially an egg dish, more closely related to the Spanish Tortilla Española, than the French Omelette. Fritatta can make a fine addition to any picnic, equally good (better in my opinion) served at room temperature. It becomes the obvious choice when faced with a glut of eggs (mine are still going strong) and some left over cooked vegetables. For this frittata I used some cooked green beans, potatoes and I added some sliced red peppers which I simply fried for a couple of minutes.

For this recipe you will need;
7 Eggs
4oog of cooked vegetables
250g of ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)

Prepare a cake tin, I used a 21cm square silicone one which I now think of as my frittata pan, by brushing lightly with oil. heat the oven to 180C. Whisk the eggs, ricotta and seasoning until smooth and amalgamated.  Add the cooked vegetables, cut into small sized pieces to the eggs and transfer to whatever vessel you are using to bake the frittata in. Place in the oven and bake until the centre still shows a slight wobble only, about 35 to 45 minutes. Leave for 5 minutes in the pan before tipping out onto a board and cutting up to serve, or until completely cold if you are taking it on a picnic.

Thank you
You can easily vary the ingredients in this frittata; however in order to maintain a consistency that holds together when cut cold, don't use more soft cheese than 250g in proportion to 7 eggs.
As Sue says, always put a silicon container on a metal tray when placing in the oven to avoid spillage.

Hot Crab & Comté dip

This hot dip makes a perfect start to a meal, a dish that can be shared where you and another dunk either chunks of crusty bread or crouton to retrieve the molten delicious goo. Two words of warning:.
  1. Warn people that it will be hot and will require caution and patience.
  2. Be prepared for a fight to the finish.
This dip can also be made without the crab meat, substituting caramelised finely chopped onions instead.

For this recipe you will need;
150g of Comté cheese, grated
150g of white crab meat
150g of double cream
1 small clove of garlic finely minced
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of finely chopped chives
A good pinch of cayenne pepper

Begin by dry frying the cumin seeds in a small pan for a minute over a medium heat, this releases the cumin's fragrant oils. Add the cream, along with all other ingredients apart from the chives. Continue to heat and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Taste and adjust with a little salt if you think it needs it, personally I find it usually doesn't need any. Stir in the chives and place the pan under a grill just to toast the surface to a golden brown. Serve this with chunks of fresh crusty bread or crouton.

I have a small cast iron pan made by Staub which I use for this dish, it works well for the dining table but it's equally possible to transfer the mix to a small serving dish before toasting the surface under a grill.
You can easily double up the quantities to serve more people, I find this is sufficient for 2 to 3 people, more if you are using it as part of a tray of canapé, in which case I would recommend using thinly sliced crouton.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Retarding the "Sourdough with Gruel"

It's the time of year when getting the timing right with my baking is a bit of a juggling act. In another few weeks I can rely on everywhere being cold and I can return to an overnight period when the dough can ferment without salt but right now with the Indian summer we seem to be blessed with, everything is happening just that bit too quickly. Yesterday, I had some starter left over from my garlic & parsley bread, click here for the recipe and I decided to make some of my sourdough with gruel, click here for the recipe. By early evening, having fed the starter with another 200g of flour and 200ml of water, it was ready to have the main dough ingredients added. I decided to move on to this part of the process so added 1,000g of strong white flour, and the gruel I had made along with the malt extract. I kept back the salt, deciding I would add it last thing before going to bed. At 11 o-clock the dough had more than doubled in size and it was time to add the salt. A decision had to me made about what to do next so I popped the bowl into the fridge and at 6 o-clock this morning I was amazed to find how much the dough had grown even at 5 degrees C. I stretched and folded the dough a couple of times, divided it into 3 and shaped it before placing each loaf into a banneton mould well floured with rice flour. I left the loaves to fully return to room temperature before baking them at 220C for 30 to 35 minutes. This batch is even lighter than usual and the flavour has been enhanced by the extra time it took to ferment. If you are looking for a loaf of bread which is light with a soft crumb and open texture, a loaf that remains fresh for 2 to 3 days, I can't recommend a recipe more highly than this one. I'm still intrigued as to why the simple addition of oats in the form of gruel alters everything to such a degree, but it does and I'm happy.

Make sure your ferment is absolutely at its peak of activity before adding to the main dough ingredients. This is true for all bread baking. See the photo above, the surface shows signs of many bubbles and the characteristic creases of the ferment collapsing on itself.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sourdough with Garlic & Parsley

When thinking about what to add to this garlic flavoured dough, parsley seemed the obvious choice, since whenever I make garlic butter to use in making garlic bread, I always chop up and incorporate a little fresh parsley. I decided upon baton as the final shape simply because slices of this narrow loaf work perfectly as crouton,  having been brushed lightly with olive oil and toasted in a hot oven.

To make this bread you will need;
for the ferment,
1 tablespoon of starter from the fridge
200g of strong white flour
200ml of cold water.

For the main dough,
half of the ferment (the other half can be returned to the fridge or used to make other bread)
500g of strong white flour
300ml of water
10g of salt
1 head of garlic
a small bunch of fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Begin by putting together the ferment. Mix the ingredients and place in a large enough bowl for the ferment to double in size. Cover with clingfilm and set to one side for 12 hours. My kitchen is cool, if the ambient temperature of your kitchen is warm, adjust accordingly. Watch for a healthy foaming consistency.

Make the main dough by mixing half the ferment with the flour and the water. Knead or mix with a food mixer to achieve a soft but not sticky dough. Leave the dough for an hour or two while you prepare the garlic and parsley mix. Simmer the peeled bulbs from an entire head of garlic in water for 10 to 15 minutes until completely tender. drain and allow to cool. Chop the parsley up finely and add the cooled garlic. Mash into a paste like consistency with a tablespoon of olive oil.

Add the garlic/parsley mix along with the salt to the dough and knead in until evenly distributed. Leave the dough to rise for 3 to 4 hours, stretching and folding the dough every hour. You should find as the gluten strengthens, the dough will become more lighter and more springy. Divide and form into whatever loaf shape you choose, I decided upon baton and this amount of dough made 4. Leave for a final rise for 1 to 2 hours, depending again on how warm your kitchen space is. Bake at 220C for 25 to 30 minutes.

You can certainly consider doubling the amount of garlic, I found 1 head between 4 loaves a bit on the light side.
This bread can be made using commercial yeast for a lighter texture with with a flavour that has less character.