Wednesday, 31 October 2012

2 Pizzas for Bruce

I can't claim to have come up with the idea of Brussels sprouts on a pizza, that credit belongs to someone in the United States, but when I first heard about it, being a Brussels sprout fan, I had to try it. The second pizza uses red onions, roasted with fennel seeds, potatoes and char-grilled artichoke hearts. Bruce got to the second pizza before I could photograph it whole. This amount of dough makes four pizza bases, but I used the remaining half to make flat breads

I use wild yeast whenever I can, even in this pizza dough which contains a small amount of instant yeast. The wild yeast adds greatly to the texture of the crust as well as the flavour.

The one that was nabbed

 You will need:
For the ferment,
1 tablespoon of starter from the fridge
200g of strong white flour
200g of water.

 For the final dough:
 All of the ferment
600g of strong white flour
3g of instant yeast
300g of water
10g of salt.

Begin by mixing up the ferment ingredients and leave covered for 8 hours. Add the ferment to the remaining ingredients and mix until you have a soft dough. Place in an oiled polythene bag and place in the fridge overnight.

Take the dough out of  the fridge 8 hours before you need to make the pizzas. Leave the dough in a large bowl, stretching and folding the dough one or two times over the resting period while it completely returns to room temperature. Now that Autumn is here, my house is cold so the timings of this recipe would have to be adjusted if you live in a warm climate.

Prepare the toppings.
I used 10 Brussels sprouts which I broke up into separate leaves, easy enough to do with the outer leaves, then simply shred up the core, I blanched the sprouts in boiling water for just 30 seconds, pine nuts, a 250g round of good mozzarella, about 50g of freshly grated Parmesan. For the second pizza I used red onions, quartered and roasted in a little olive oil, sea salt and fennel seeds, a 250g of mozzarella, 50g of Parmesan, half a dozen char-grilled  artichoke hearts from a jar. The Brussels sprout pizza gets a drizzle of olive oil blended with a few basil leaves, when it comes out of the oven.

Turn the oven to 220 degrees C. Have all of your toppings ready, divide the dough into four, forming each into a round. Take the first round and begin to flatten into a disc, stretching as you flatten. I find lifting the dough vertically, and running the perimeter through my fingers while allowing the weight of the dough to stretch the disc into the final sized pizza base is the best way to work, however form the pizza base any way you find straightforward, place it onto your pizza stone or baking sheet, whatever you use usually to make pizza, place on the toppings and bake for 5 to 10 minutes in the hot oven.


These pizzas are both without crushed tomatoes and I find the absence of tomato creates a very different, less masked flavour experience, however pizza all over the world are topped with a myriad of ingredients and the choice is only limited by your imagination. This recipe really highlights the benefits of incorporating wild yeast in the dough, using a small amount of instant yeast and using a lengthy, retarded rising time, rather than promoting these particular toppings, delicious though and well worth a try.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Masala Root Vegetables

All hope of an Indian summer disappeared a couple of days ago, with a dark sky, frost on the ground, blustery winds and eventually torrential rain. I turned to my stove, the beginning of any good comfort food. I never turn towards something sweet if I can think of something savoury to make, so Masala Potatoes seemed to be the best choice, however there was a swede staring at me from my vegetable basket and a few of the donkey carrots left (mis-shapen carrots sold at the feed merchant as donkey carrots for a pittance) I decided to extend the Masala Potatoes to include these two other veg.

you will need:

2 baking potatoes
4 large carrots
1 medium size swede.

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
5 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 red chilli chopped
10 curry leaves (if you have them)
 Salt and Pepper.

Begin by peeling the vegetables and cutting them up into chunks, the smaller the chunks the quicker they cook. Place the vegetables in a large pan of boiling water, starting with the swede and carrots, cook on a medium heat until the vegetables are just tender, add the potatoes and cook for a further ten minutes or until the potatoes too are tender, drain the vegetables and set to one side.

In small saucepan (I keep a small deep sided cast iron pan for this purpose but any small saucepan will work) heat the oil and when the oil is hot add the seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the fresh ginger, garlic and fresh chilli, cook for a minute before adding the turmeric and cayenne. If you add the powdered spice too early, you risk burning them, however adding after temperature of the oil has been reduced by the addition of the garlic, ginger and cayenne makes this less likely.

Cook the mixture in the oil until the garlic slices begin to turn pale gold, add the curry leaves and immediately add to the cooked root vegetables. Mash the whole using a potato masher or as I do the "K" tool on my Kenwood mixer. I like the finished spice mash to have a chunky texture but you can mash them until you achieve the texture you like.

As with anything I cook from another culture, my apologies if this is not how you make it, it's my version of something I really enjoy and turn to time after time.
You can make this using potatoes and adding peas towards the end of cooking.
 If you are open to the idea of using butter, adding a tablespoon while mashing, makes the final mash even creamier.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Oat Bread with Wild Yeast

The last thing I expected when I put this recipe together was that the end result would be a loaf with such a tender moist crumb. A light loaf speckled with flecks of oats, a delicious flavour, slightly sweet with a small amount of honey, I doubt I will be able to judge its keeping qualities because I suspect it will be eaten up for too quickly.

I began by toasting the oats, in a hot oven, 200C for around ten minutes, just long enough to deepen the colour a little.

To make 3 loaves you will need:

for the Ferment,
100g of starter from the fridge
150g of Strong White Flour
50g of Strong Wholewheat Flour
200g of water

For the Main Dough,
All of the Ferment
 800g of Strong White Flour
 150g Strong Wholewheat Flour
200g of Porridge Oats
1 tablespoon of Honey
750g of water
21g of salt

Begin by putting together the ferment ingredients, cover and leave for 8 hours, the ferment is ready to add to the main dough ingredients when it is showing good signs of activity see fig 1. Add the ferment to the all the main dough ingredients apart from the salt, mix together sufficiently to form a soft dough. Leave covered overnight.
Add the salt to the dough, I do this in my food mixer and it takes little more than a minute of mixing on a medium speed. Leave the dough to rise, stretching and folding the dough (this technique is described in earlier bread recipe posts) every hour for three hours. Being careful not to knock out the gas that has been formed during the last three hours, form the dough into three loaves and leave to rise for a final time before baking them at 220C for 30-35 minutes.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Lemon Curd

I don't know how anyone who has been given shop bought lemon curd would ever fall in love with it let alone attempt to make it, however the real thing in no way resembles the thick, gooey, pale and unhealthy looking stuff in a jar that is sold as lemon curd, I should add it is also far less sweet.

Lemon curd is relatively easy to make, you can make it in small batches, this recipe makes a couple of jars. Unlike jams and preserves, it doesn't keep for months and months, it's best used up within a two or three weeks of making. It makes a perfect filling for a lemon sponge cake but as Sylvia, who came over to make it with me the other morning said, it's good on anything from a plain biscuit to a finger.

You will need:
4 un-waxed lemons
300g of sugar
200g of unsalted butter
4 medium eggs.

Begin by peeling the lemons with a potato peeler, taking off only the yellow part and placing it in a food processor with the sugar, grind the sugar and peel together to form fine lemon scented sugar.

Place the lemon sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the juice of the four lemons and slowly stir over a low heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve to remove the ground up lemon peel.

Return the liquid to the saucepan, the liquid needs to be little more than room temperature before adding the four eggs and the butter, cut up into cubes.

Begin to heat the ingredients slowly over a medium heat whilst stirring, I use a whisk at this stage. The cubes of butter will melt slowly, losing their corners and finally disappearing, from this moment on it's important to keep stirring being careful to look for signs of thickening. If you feel nervous about the curd overheating, keep the saucepan on a low heat, it will just take a couple of minutes longer. As soon as the curd begins to thicken it will take only a short time to complete, so if you haven't already done so, reduce the heat and be very thorough in stirring the curd from each part of the saucepan. It's surprising how easy it is to stir around and around and completely neglect the middle of the pan for instance. As soon as the curd has thickened, pour it into clean sterilized jars.

The thing that can go wrong with making lemon curd or any other product where liquid is thickened using eggs, is the texture is spoiled by over heating or heating too quickly. 
The curd thickens up when cool.
Using the peel in this way certainly adds to the effort in making lemon curd, however, the increased lemon flavour in the final result make it very worth while
Sylvia went home and made lemon curd for herself and sent me a photo of what she made with it,

Sylvia's Lemon curd Tarts

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Walnut Bread with wild yeast

Although this is the season for fresh walnuts or wet walnuts as they are referred to here, this bread is made with dry walnuts. I often wondered why the walnut bread that is commercially available is loaded with purple food colouring, it seemed an odd choice of colour. Now having made this bread I have realised how strong the natural purple staining is around the walnuts themselves. The bread though delicious on it's own, is excellent with cheese.

Wet Walnuts
You will need:

For the levain,
100g of activated starter click here for recipe
50g of Strong White flour
50g of Strong whole wheat flour
100g of water.

For the main dough,
All of the ferment
400g of Strong White flour
200g of Strong whole wheat flour
300g of Walnuts
350g of water
14g of salt.

Make up the levain by adding the activated starter to the other levain ingredients, leave covered for 6 to 8 hours until the surface is showing good signs of fermentation (lots of bubbles and the surface caving in on itself forming creases).

Add all the main dough ingredients apart from the walnuts and salt to the levain, mixing together on a slow speed if you are using a mixer or knead together for only a minute or two to form a cohesive mass if you are making by hand. Leave covered overnight.

Toast the walnuts in a hot oven 200C for 5 to 8 minutes, once they are cool, add the walnuts and the salt to the main dough and mix to fully incorporate. Leave the dough to rise, stretching and folding the dough every hour for 3 to 4 hours or until the dough has developed good elasticity. You should find that at the beginning the dough is very soft but after the stretching and folding has been carried out a few times, the dough should show signs of tightening up more. Walnuts will break up and pop out of the dough as you work, this is not a problem, simply work them back into the dough. Be careful to avoid deflating the dough any more than you have to during this process.

When the dough has developed sufficiently, the gluten allows the dough to be stretched and at the same time the elasticity is stronger, form the dough into two equal pieces. Take each piece and form a long baton shape then finally twist each baton several times, this merely gives the finished loaf an attractive log like finish.

Leave the loaves to rise for an hour on a baking sheet before placing in a hot oven 220C for 30 to 35 minutes.


I use walnut halves, these seem to allow for a certain amount of breaking up into smaller pieces during the mixing in, in my food mixer but it's entirely possible to use broken walnut pieces for this bread

I have said before that my house is cold, I live in Norfolk and I try to avoid using the heating as much as possible, choosing instead to put on sweaters, If you are baking bread in really warm parts of the world, then do take into account the fermentation of both the levain and the main dough will take less time.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Rosemary & Garlic Focaccia

There can be few things to make and delight your diners that are easier than focaccia. The dough, softer than most breads but not as wet as ciabatta, can be put together the night before it is required and placed in the fridge to slowly develop both flavour and texture. The overnight stay in the fridge develops the gluten and eliminates the need to knead. The higher water content results in an open textured crumb, with a smattering of large holes.

For this loaf, you will need:

500g of Strong white bread flour
400g of water
10g of salt and
7g of Fast action yeast (1 packet)

For the topping:

1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves
2 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons of olive oil.

Mix the dough ingredients until you achieve a very soft smooth dough. Place the dough in a polythene bag which you have already oiled with a little oil. This makes taking the dough out of the bag in the morning that bit easier. Place the dough in the fridge overnight.

In the morning prepare a large baking sheet (mine is roughly 38c by 26c by 3c) by lining it with a sheet of baking parchment I find if you lightly oil the baking parchment it makes shaping the dough a bit easier.

Take the dough out of the polythene bag and stretch & fold the dough one or two times. place the dough in the baking sheet and stretch to cover the base. The dough will tighten as you do this, don't struggle at this point, simply leave the dough for ten minutes or so at which point the dough will have relaxed and you can continue the task. The dough should  eventually be stretched to fully fit the baking sheet. Leave the dough to return to room temperature, this can take a few hours, especially in my house, during this time the dough will double in size.

Heat the oven to 220C.
Take the rosemary and garlic and crush in a pestle and mortar, you can also do this using the end of a rolling pin in a good stout bowl. Add the olive oil to the herb mix and continue to bash to infuse the oil with the flavour of rosemary and garlic. Pick the oily herby mix up in your hand and squeeze the oil out onto the risen dough. It's fine for a little rosemary debris to fall onto the surface of the dough but it's the oil that you really need to flavour this focaccia. Finally dimple the loaf using your fingers before popping into a hot oven 220C for 20 minutes.

Hedd made Focaccia

There are of course many ways of flavouring focaccia, you can chop up sun dried tomatoes, olives or fried mushrooms for instance and add them to the dough during the original mix. It's also possible to top the focaccia with alternative toppings; finely sliced red onion is good, simply slice up one red onion finely, toss in a little salt and a little olive oil which will help the onion to cook during the baking process, before strewing the fine slices over the surface of the focaccia. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Baked Potato & Onion Seed Bread

I bake bread regularly so popping a couple of potatoes into the oven to bake while the bread is baking is always a good idea, if I don't use them for gnocchi I can always use them to make this bread flavoured with black onion seeds.

You will need:
200g of activated starter Click here for recipe and instruction
500g of Strong White flour
300g baked potato flesh
20g of onion seed
16g of salt
300g water

I arrange for the main fermentation to happen overnight, because I find it convenient to bake the bread early to mid afternoon.
Begin by activating the starter, then when the surface is showing signs of vigorous growth add 200g of starter to the 500g of Strong White flour and 300g of water and mix to fully amalgamate. Leave to rise overnight covered and at room temperature. In the morning grate the baked potato into the dough and add the salt and onion seeds. Mix thoroughly on a medium speed for three minutes to fully incorporate the potato and seeds.

Leave the dough to rise covered and at room temperature, stretching and folding every hour for 3 or 4 hours until the dough shows signs of good gluten strength. Be careful to avoid knocking out more of the precious gas bubbles than you have to.

Form into two lots and roughly shape into rounds. Leave on the work surface, covered for half an hour. Take the individual rounds and form into a nice tight skinned boule shape, sprinkle a couple of proving baskets with bran and place the loaves in seam side up. Leave covered for 2 to 3 hours or until the loaves have nearly doubled in size. Turn out onto a heated baking stone, slash and bake in a hot oven 240C for 30 to 35 minutes.

You can vary this bread by using dill seed or caraway seed, also a couple of finely chopped sage leaves work well, especially if the bread is to be eaten with cheese.


The electricity went off this morning, fortunately I had risen early to bake ricarelli for when Sylvia comes over later with her daughter Jenny for coffee. Ricarelli out of the oven cooling I was checking email when everything went off.

It turns out neighbour's trees need to be trimmed by the electricity people and I should have been notified. I'm not good with junk mail but I do know there has been nothing from the Electricity Board so I gave them a ring. After finding my way through several key options I got to speak to a very nice man somewhere in India, he said he was very sorry and I decided that was enough for me.

I decided to use the time well so drove off to buy kindling and pony carrots. Pony carrots are in fact perfectly good but deformed carrots which sell for a fraction of the more uniform ones. On my way home I suddenly thought the sack of carrots was perhaps a bit on the large side so wondered what I could begin to make with them. Maybe it was the polite voice of the Indian chap, maybe it was the rather chilly and miserable start to the day, but Mulligatawny was what popped into my mind. So on arriving back home to a rather dark kitchen, I lit a candle and began the long but worthwhile task of dicing carrots, onions, and a potato to make my soup.

Fortunately my stove top is run on gas so having brought out my largest saucepan I began by frying a teaspoon of black mustard seeds and another of cumin seeds in a tablespoonful of oil. When they began to pop I added my finely diced carrots and onions and a couple of bay leaves. I had the heat on low and from time to time stirred the vegetables while they softened. I added a teaspoon of turmeric and a one of cayene, a thumb size piece of ginger grated on a fine grater along with 5 cloves of garlic also finely grated. I added a heaped teaspoon of tomato purée and a dozen curry leaves and gave the mixture a final good stir before adding two litres of vegetable stock. I use Marigold Vegetable Bouilon powder. At this point I popped up the garden to feed the chickens and noticed some tender leaves on my broccoli plants so I picked a few, chopped them up when back in the kitchen and added them to the pot, along with some chopped coriander leaves. I seasoned the soup with some white pepper and simmered for an hour on a low heat until the vegetables were very tender.

You will need:

750g of finely diced carrots
2 large white onions finely diced
1 large baking potato or equivalent
Handful of finely chopped cabbage leaves
1 tablespoon of oil
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of  turmeric
1 teaspoon of cayene
1 teaspoon of tomato purée
5 cloves of garlic finely grated
1 thumb size piece of ginger finely grated
2 bay leaves
A dozen curry leaves
1 tablespoon of chopped coriander leaves
2 litres of vegetable stock


I should apologise to anyone who doesn't recognise any of the above as a description of Mulligatawny, you could instead call it vegetable soup spiced with Indian spices.
You can of course use any vegetables you fancy to make this soup, It's really worth taking the time to cut fine dice though, the finished soup should be a broth, packed with little diced vegetables.