Wednesday, 2 April 2014

2 Day Retarded Sourdough

I have been baking and enjoying my basic recipe for white sourdough for a long time now, I have tweaked it from time to time, taken a break while I baked sourdough with gruel, sourdough with beer and yet I always come back to my basic recipe. I didn't think it could be improved and yet as often happens, circumstances brought about an opportunity to alter my process and the result is something I shall always do from now on. I am very good at putting things in my freezer, imagine my joy when I realised I actually had a second freezer in the cellar I had forgotten about. Sadly I am extremely poor at taking anything back out of the freezer(s), consequently both freezers are now  full. I have been baking a batch of bread on average about once a week, freezing one loaf and eating the other, having no room for the second loaf I decided to leave half the dough in the fridge in a plastic container for a couple of days to await baking. The result is the dough retarded for a couple of days develops an even greater depth of flavour along with a slightly deeper colour, producing a loaf with a nice open texture and a great crust. I did add a tablespoon of molasses to the original dough thinking it might just need a little extra food whilst in hibernation in the fridge.

For this bread you will need; click here for the recipe plus a tablespoon of molasses added at the main dough mixing stage. At the point where the dough is ready to be shaped into loaves, having been stretched and folded 3 or 4 times, place all or half of it into the fridge in a large, lidded plastic box (the dough does continue to grow a little) and keep for 2 days before baking. I found shaping the cold dough from the fridge and placing it into a well floured banneton before going to bed, meant that the following morning, about 8 hours later, the loaf was ready to bake, having returned to room temperature and almost doubled in size. I would say my kitchen is still on the cool side and you would have to adjust how long you leave the shaped loaf before baking according to the ambient temperature. Since baking with wild yeast is always a case of observing and moving on to the next stage when the time is right, this shouldn't really be an issue.

I must empty the freezers!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Glamorgan Sausages

Brown sauce. . . . . .bliss!

I grew up in Wales, on a hill farm, three miles from the nearest village and a million miles away from the idea of vegetarianism. You can imagine how surprised I was when, in my twenties I discovered Glamorgan sausages; sausage shaped and delicious, they were and always had been meat free.

Ask the average member of a meat eating household if they eat vegetarian food and the likely answer is no and yet in the UK we do have dishes which are served to the family, with no meat in them, we just don't label them as vegetarian. Cauliflower cheese, is a good example and clearly in the south of Wales, in Glamorgan, this sausage is another. If you have the odd crust of some good sourdough bread, these sausages offer a perfect opportunity to transform the bread into something delicious, excellent served with what one of my grandmothers called ponch meip, whereas the other grandmother from 21 miles away, called stump, a blend of swede and potato, cooked together and mashed with butter and seasoning.

Welcome Chile! bringing the number up to 127.

For this recipe you will need;
125g of 2 or 3 day old sourdough bread
200g of cheddar cheese
1 small, (50g) onion finely chopped
2 large eggs
4 sage leaves
1 teaspoon of mustard powder
Bouillon powder or salt
Lots of freshly ground white pepper.

Begin by making the breadcrumbs, I do this in the food processor and I add the sage leaves so that they get chopped up finely and become evenly distributed. Add the cheese and process until that too is finely grated and evenly mixed. Finally add the chopped onion, eggs, mustard and seasoning, I find a teaspoon of bouillon powder or 1/2 teaspoon of salt is enough. Process for no more than half a minute to produce a coarse paste.
At this point it's entirely possible to take tablespoonfuls of the mix and roll in some plain flour and fry gently until golden brown, however I like to form the sausages into more perfect shapes by placing a tablespoonful onto a sheet of clingfilm and rolling it up, before twisting both ends to form a tight sausage shape. I tie the ends together which secures them. I then poach them in simmering water for 10 minutes. At this point you can cool them and leave them in the fridge until you need them (up to 3 days). Unwrap the sausages and fry them gently in a little oil until golden brown on all sides.

The forming of these using clingfilm may feel like too much effort, but it takes less than 10 minutes and the result is very pleasing. I do think it also creates a better crust to the sausage once fried.
You can vary these sausages by adding different herbs, using leeks or spring onion in place of onion and of course using other cheeses.

Sweet Pastry

If you have a food processor, making pastry is really easy. I make all manner of pastry in mine but here is my recipe for sweet pastry, it makes a smooth textured crust, ideal for tarts. This recipe makes a tad over 600g and I usually freeze half of it.

For this recipe you will need;
320g of plain flour
180g of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
40g of caster sugar
1 medium egg
1/4 teaspoon of salt
40ml of chilled water

Begin by blending together the egg, butter, salt and sugar in a food processor to form a smooth paste. Add the flour and pulse for a minute until you have a fine texture, add the water and process until it all comes together to form a ball of pastry.
Always rest the pastry in a cool place for at least an hour before using.

Blending the butter, egg and sugar before adding the flour ensures a perfectly even, crisp biscuit like crust.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Egg Fried Rice with Vegetables

This is an easy dish, perfect for using left over rice and/or vegetables and a great accompaniment to other Oriental style dishes. If like me you plan to cook rice especially for this dish, cook the rice a few hours before hand and make sure you give the rice enough opportunity to dry out and much as possible. I place it in a large shallow bowl, break it up with a fork and turn it every now and again. One of the secrets to making successful fried rice is to have good rice, which has not been overcooked and has nice, dry separate grains.

50 years ago I tasted my first fried rice in a Chinese restaurant in Oswestry, Shropshire. It was the only thing I could afford on the menu but it was so unlike anything I had ever tasted before. Rice was something my mother made rice pudding with and it was certainly not anything I had experienced in a savoury form. I was 14 years old and I was smitten, I knew that I would no longer be content with the food of my childhood and I would spend time from then trying my best to recreate all manner of food from exotic foreign lands. Decades later I went along to a Chinese restaurant with someone who asked if all the MSG could be left out of the food we were to eat, at that time she believed she was allergic to it. It was then that I realised the fried rice we were eating tasted exactly the same as the rice I had cooked over the years and the one crucial ingredient that had been missing was the MSG. From that time on of course, I have always used it. I buy a vegetable based form from the Chinese supermarket and it's an invaluable ingredient in my pantry. MSG naturally occurs in many vegetables and of course there is lots in parmesan cheese, though the folk who believe themselves to be allergic to it never seem to have the same problem with parmesan.

For this recipe you will need;
650g of cooked rice
200g (roughly) of vegetables, must include spring onions
1 egg, beaten
1 fat clove of garlic finely chopped
100g of mushrooms, I used shitake and portobello
A thumb size piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely sliced
1 tablespoon of light flavoured oil
Soy sauce
Umami (MSG)

Begin by preparing whatever vegetables you are using, if for instance you are using flat beans or runner beans, blanch them briefly in boiling water. Pak choi or peppers, will cook sufficiently without blanching.
Slice up the mushrooms and fry gently in the oil in a large pan or wok until they have taken on colour. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger and continue frying for a further 2 or 3 minutes before adding the remaining vegetables. Add the rice and working quickly, keep moving the mixture to ensure all the rice gets heated through. Make a well in the middle of the rice and add the egg, quickly break the egg up and keep moving the mixture around to cook the egg thoroughly. Finally season with soy sauce and umami and serve with chopped fresh coriander

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Spotted Dick

A classic British pudding which it's still possible to bring a twist to and make your own. I remember well how my mother would steam puddings for far longer than suggested and the result was, in my opinion, much better. The pudding would take on a degree of caramelisation, and develop a greater depth of flavour. I steam my puddings for 2 hours rather than 1, but you can decide for yourself whether or not to do this. In this pudding I use Lexia raisins, I love how plump and full of flavour they are; it's always possible to substitute other dried fruit, golden sultanas would be good or dried sour cherries.

For this pudding, enough for 4, you will need;
150g of Lexia raisins soaked in 100ml of amaretto liqueur
150g of Self Raising flour
100g of chilled butter
80g of caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Begin by soaking the raisins in the liqueur overnight. If you don't have the time, you can always pop the raisins and liqueur into the microwave for 1 minute before leaving to cool completely.
Grease a 1 litre pudding basin with a little butter and place a disc of baking parchment in the bottom to make releasing the steamed pudding easier.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt; rub in the chilled butter to form a breadcrumb consistency. Place the eggs into a measuring jug along with any liqueur leftover after draining the raisins. Bring the volume up to 200ml with milk and beat together with a fork to break up the eggs. Add the raisins to the flour mix and finally pour in the egg and milk mixture. Mix to a soft dropping consistency and pour it into the prepared pudding basin. Cover with a disc of baking parchment and a piece of kitchen foil. Turn over the edges to seal and place the basin in a steamer to steam for 1 to 2 hours (see above).

I like to serve this pudding with home made custard, but softly whipped double cream works well too, as the cream melts onto the hot pudding, it forms a light and delicious foam, something you would be charged extra for in a restaurant.
I am beginning to find photographs of puddings are of a lower quality, I think it must be because by the time pudding is served, I have enjoyed a couple of martinis and nearly half a bottle of wine, at that stage I am less likely to adjust the focus setting as much as I should - apologies.