Friday, 23 October 2015

Waste not, want not: chicken risotto the thermomix way

The background to this is that the other day I was meandering around Morrisons when I saw that they had reduced some cooked chicken portions so I bought a bag with two for just over £3.00.
There was more meat on them than I expected so I had some that day and reserved the rest.  I also kept the bones and the skin.

Yesterday I boiled up the bones and skin and got quite a nice basic stock.  I also had a splash of dry white wine which I added.  It came to 400mls altogether - 300 of stock and 100 of white wine.

This is what I did with it.  Nothing original but it is nice and I am sharing.

Chicken risotto
a dollop of butter
one small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
some celery, cleaned and thinly sliced
a squeeze of garlic puree
130g risotto rice
400mls stock and wine
3 chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
salt and pepper
some cooked chicken, cut into bite sized bits
some hard Italian cheese, finely grated.

I also had some very hot water ready in the kettle, but it wasn't needed.

Melt the butter in the bowl for 1 minute at 100, speed 2
Add the onion and the celery and saute on 100, reverse speed 2 for 5 minutes or so, until it is softened.  Add the garlic puree and cook for another minute on the same.

Add the rice and saute on 100, reverse 2 for 2 minutes.

Through the top, add all the stock/wine, some ground black pepper and some salt.  If your stock is salty, don't add the salt until you can check the seasoning at the end.
Cook the rice on 100, reverse spoon for 15 mins, checking after about 12 to see if you need any more liquid.  No measuring cup!
After ten minutes, add the mushrooms.

Check that the rice is cooked and if not, cook for another couple of minutes until it is al dente/soft.
Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Add the chicken and gently stir it in - reverse speed 1
Then add the grated cheese and cook at 100 for 1 minute/reverse spoon.

That's it.
This made enough for dinner yesterday and lunch at school today.  I will heat it up in the microwave and grate over some nutmeg before serving.
The house smells rather good now!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Just a loaf of bread: part 4 - my basic recipe

(Looking for pictures and can't find any so I will take some later, when I can, and try to remember to post them in here)

So here we are at the nitty gritty.  My basic recipe.  It looks awfully long, doesn't it, and therefore complicated?  It isn't.  It is one of the simplest processes ever but easier to show than explain.  Explaining can take so many words.

Ingredients to make one loaf to bake in a llb loaf tin
200g strong flour
half tsp easy bake yeast - the kind for bread makers
half tsp salt
half tsp sugar
half tbsp heaped dried milk powder
a sploosh of oil or a dollop of butter
water as below but go with how your dough feels.  If it feels too dry, add a bit more.  Too wet isn't a problem as it all sorts out in the kneading and, as Diane said in a comment, wetter is better!  I find the amounts below are just right for the flour I use.

  • if the loaf is all white flour, add 125mls
  • if the loaf is all wholemeal, add 140mls
  • if the loaf is half and half, add 135mls

Mixing the ingredients
In a bowl place the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and milk powder, keeping the yeast and the salt separate at first.  Add the oil (if using butter, rub it in).
Add the water and start mixing with your hands or a spoon until it all starts coming together.  Then tip it out onto a floured or oiled surface and start to knead it.
Everyone has their own kneading technique and rhythm but basically it is stretch and fold, stretch and fold, over and over again, until the dough is elastic and very pliable.
This video clip on youtube is more or less what I do.
I knead for between eight to ten minutes and you can be very energetic about it if you want.  Work out frustrations and angers - the bread won't mind!

Thermomix method:
Measure in the flour and then the other ingredients, keeping the yeast and the salt separate at first and finishing with the water.
Briefly mix on 4 to 5 for a few seconds to bring it all together.
Using the knead function, knead for around ten minutes.  It can be a bit rocky so take care that it doesn't move to the edge of your working surface.  I sometimes wedge some towels round to absorb the movement.
When finished, tip out onto a floured or oiled surface.

Then, for both methods:
Shape the dough into a round by pulling up the sides into the middle and turning several times, turning over and 'rolling' around the side with your hands.
Place the dough in a bowl that has room for at least twice the amount (because it will rise), smear over a bit of oil, cover the bowl with oiled cling film* and leave it to rise.  If you have a warm place and are going to be around, fine, but you can slow down the rise by placing the bowl somewhere cooler.
Don't hang around waiting, it will take its own time.  Go and do something else.  Watched dough just laughs at you!

*  I drop a little bit of oil on the cling film and spread it over with my hands.  It stops the dough sticking to the cling film but it also makes my hands feel great after working with the dough which can draw moisture out of your hands.

Knocking back and shaping
When the dough is roughly twice the size it's time for the next stage.
Prepare your loaf tin - I use greaseproof liners after several tragedies when I had to bash the loaf to pieces to get it out of the tin (OK, maybe slight exaggeration here).  You can get them from Lakeland, Amazon and in a local pound shop (I can anyway)
Tip the dough back onto the oiled or floured surface, reserving your cling film, and knock it back - literally knock it back.  It will deflate immediately - that's what you want to happen!
Then start shaping.  Basically, you are creating the shape you want by flattening and folding but not kneading.  I flatten with the heel of my hand or my knuckles into a rectangle, then roll both ends into the middle.  Turn and repeat, then pinch the dough together where it meets in the middle.  That is the underneath of the loaf.  Sometimes I shape several times before it feels 'right'.
Turn it over and place it in your prepared loaf tin.
If you are free forming, make the shape you want by folding over again and again to create a 'tension' on the surface and place on your prepared baking tray.
Sprinkle a little flour over the loaf and cover it gently (not tightly) with the oiled cling film (oily side down, of course).
Then leave it to prove - in other words, to prove to you that the yeast is still working.  I let it rise to nearly twice the size.
Again, don't watch - go and do something else -  ironing, read a book, whatever.
About half an hour in I turn on the oven to as high as it will go.

Last stage!  Place the loaf in the middle of the oven, immediately turn the oven down to 200 (180 fan) and bake the loaf for half an hour-ish.
Take it out of the tin, using a tea towel or oven glove and tap the bottom.  It should sound hollow.  If it doesn't, pop it back into the oven (straight on the shelf will be fine) and bake it for another five minutes before checking again.
(I turn the oven off and let it bake for longer in the residual heat).

It is terribly tempting to hack into the loaf at that moment - -it looks wonderful, the house smells fantastic, you NEED some NOW!!
Don't.  Just don't.  It needs time to cool and 'settle'.  If you hack into it straight away, it won't slice properly and the crumb won't be right either.  Give it about half an hour on a cooling tray and then you can slice it, slather on butter and revel in it!  It is worth the wait, believe me.
The loaf can be kept fresh in a poly bag but wait until it is completely cool or the condensation will spoil the crust by making it go soggy.

That's it.  How I make my bread.
I do use other recipes at times but the one I have described is the one I know off by heart, the one that always works for me, the one that everyone likes.
When I was working I would make several loaves on Saturday or Sunday morning.  Now I am making bread for a few people I bake their bread on Monday mornings to take to them early afternoon, as soon as the loaves are cold and can be bagged.  As I do so, I also do other housework because I am there, have to be around so it gets done.  Another bonus for me!

If you try this, do reply and let me know how it all goes.  I'm not an expert, I've just shared what I do because the results are worth sharing.  Go on - have a go!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Just a loaf of bread: part 3 - equipment

Borrowed from Google
There's no doubt that you can spend an absolute fortune on bread making equipment.  Breadmakers, bannetons, speciality tins, kneading machines . . . the list is endless.

Bread makers are popular nowadays and there is no doubt they make the whole process dead easy.  Load it up, set the timer, go to bed and wake up to the most gorgeous aroma of freshly baked bread.  Wonderful!
I have a bread maker but haven't used it for the longest time because I've discovered that I rather enjoy the process of making bread by hand (with one exception, see below).  Also, even inexpert, fumbling me realised very quickly that you cannot hurry a good loaf - well, you can but it's not usually necessary.  While things like kneading or the actual baking can and should be timed, the rest of it is a case of working with the dough.  Sometimes it rises quickly and sometimes it rises slowly depending on all sorts of things like the yeast, the temperature or the air pressure/humidity .  You simply have to wait for it.  I haven't had many failures but those I have were caused by me telling the dough it had had its hour to rise so it was time to move on to the next bit when the dough disagreed!
Bread makers do that.  They determine the timing (obviously); they dictate to the dough.  Mostly it is OK and, for sure, a bread maker loaf is much more tasty than most supermarket bought loaves and a whole lot better value than one bought in a baker's shop, but the old fashioned way is best for me (sort of).
I'm lucky - I have the time or can make the time.  If you don't, breadmakers are certainly a good way to go and they are wonderful inventions!

There are so many different tins, etc, to bake your bread.  For me, the essentials are
a baking sheet for free form loaves
several 1 lb loaf tins (because that's the size I bake) and liners to fit
a few loaf tins in other sizes

I also have
a loaf tin with a lid to make square loaves which are great for sarnies
and - my current pride and joy - my baguette tin/sheet

I have some pyrex bowls of different sizes that I use for all sorts of kitchen stuff, not just for baking

I have a dough cutter, just because I do.  It's not essential but it does make cutting the dough easy.

I use my kitchen scales for weighing the dough when I'm making several loaves, just so I get the loaves the same size, as well as for measuring out the ingredients.

Finally - and big confession time - I have a Thermomix (regular readers may just possibly have gathered this from other entries!).  I didn't get her for making bread, I got her because she is the most brilliant bit of all-round kitchen equipment ever.  If you watch things like Great British Menu, Masterchef, etc, you will have seen it being used without necessarily realising.
One thing (among many) that I use Thermione for is kneading mydough.  You see, I HATE the feel of the wet ingredients before they have come together to create that pliable, soft thing we call dough so Thermione does it for me using the knead function.  Cheat? - yes, probably, but I do finish it off my hand and I do check the feel of the dough.

Doing it all by hand is fine.  You don't need what the great Jack Monroe calls a fancy-pants bit of equipment.  But if you are lucky enough to own one (like a Kitchen Aid, for instance), there is no doubt it makes the job a whole lot easier.

I also use bog-standard kitchen stuff like cling film, cooling racks, etc

The essentials are:
scales and measuring spoons
a bowl
a baking tin or baking sheet
a cooling rack

The rest is helpful but extra!

Part 1: introduction
Part 2: ingredients
Part 4: my recipe

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Just a loaf of bread: part 2 - ingredients

Next, a few (few???) comments on ingredients:
Borrowed from Google Images

You can use any kind of flour with gluten for my recipe.  Strong white, strong wholemeal, granary, other grain mixes, even ordinary not-strong flour although the texture will be different.  You can get bread flour in just about any supermarket or you can buy it online from specialist suppliers (at a premium price, unfortunately).  If you have a working mill near you, you're lucky!  I haven't tried using any Rye flour but a little bit might be OK.  I must try it sometime.
I mix my flours.  The dough that is currently proving as I type is a mix of a grain flour, wholemeal and white.  As long as the total weight is right, it doesn't matter.  What changes is the amount of water you use (see below).
When I did Live Below The Line I used value plain white flour and you know what?  The loaf it produced was very acceptable although I kneaded it for longer to give the gluten a chance to develop..  Rather a soft crumb, especially first day, but it toasted well, made perfectly good sarnies and was dead cheap as well as tasty!  Oh, and it  froze well.  Well under 10p for a 1lb loaf.  That's frugal!!!

Well, what can I say?  Bakers argue over yeast.  There are three main kinds unless you venture into the realms of sourdough.  There's fresh yeast, there's dried active yeast and there's easy bake yeast.  Fresh yeast is lovely but not always that easy to get hold of and to keep and I don't use it that much.  Dried active yeast works well but needs to be 'started off' with warm water and sugar.  Easy bake yeast is the sort that you need for breadmakers and it's so easy to use.  I have both kinds of dried yeast in my fridge but tend to use the easy bake although I LOVE to see the other activating and frothing up.  It is magic!

I use what comes to hand.  Veg oil is cheaper.  Olive oil imparts a lovely flavour and if you're making a flavoured bread it is great.  Sometimes I use a dollop of butter instead.  I suppose about a tbsp per loaf is about right but I rarely measure.

Salt and sugar:
Whatever.  No need to go fancy unless you want to!  My recipe uses ordinary salt and granulated sugar.

Ah - water.  An important one.  No, not because I am advocating fancy bottled water* or sparkling water.  It's not what, it is how much.  You see, what flour you use determines how much water you use.  It is all based on percentage and is a lot simpler than you would think so please, bear with me.
(* however, if you have very strongly chlorinated water, you might want to consider bottled water - at 18p a bottle from Morrison's, it's not going to break the bank)

An all white loaf needs 63% water to flour
An all wholemeal needs 70% water to flour
Mixes are somewhere in between - I tend to work on around 67%
I round all amounts to the nearest 5g

Each time I make bread I work it out and this is what I do.
I keep a little 75p (from Morrisons) calculator in the kitchen.  I input the weight of flour, divide it by 100 (to get 1%) and then multiply it by the percentage of water.
So -
Water for a single 1lb white loaf would be 200 (the weight of the flour) divided by 100 (to get 1%), multiplied by 63 which comes to 126 so I add 125g (or mls - same thing) of water
Water for a single 1lb wholemeal loaf is 200 divided by 100 multiply by 70 which is 140 so I add 140g (or mls) of water.
And so on . . .

The other question is temperature.  If I'm in a hurry I use warm water.  If I'm not I use cold.  The latter creates a slower rise but slower is better in taste terms.

Part 1: introduction
Part 3: equipment
Part 4: my recipe

Monday, 19 October 2015

Just a loaf of bread: part 1 - intro

Borrowed from Google Images.
They call it the staff of life and there's no doubt that for most of us bread is a staple in our diet. It may take some time to make from beginning to end but it is a doddle, there's no mystique about it at all, it's a very forgiving and friendly process.  The result of your baking is delicious, filling and adaptable and it can be used in so many different ways. There are recipes galore out there.

What's not to like, eh?

As regular readers know, I make my own bread and over time have developed my own recipe system which I'd like to share with you.
 I make my bread in small, 1 lb loaf tins because there's just one person in this house - me.  Bigger loaves go stale before I can finish them.  Therefore I think in units - one unit is one loaf.  I rarely make just one loaf: for a start turning on the oven for one loaf is a bit wasteful although I could use my halogen oven, I suppose.
Generally, I make three or four loaf batches, depending on circumstances.

All you need to make a loaf is flour, yeast, salt and water.  On their own, they make a perfectly decent offering.  I add a few other bits and pieces - sugar, milk powder and oil - because I like the loaf they produce but they are not strictly speaking necessary.  Sugar adds a bit to the flavour and helps the yeast, oil makes for a more pliable dough and adds to the keeping properties of the loaf and dried milk powder makes for a nice soft crumb.

So - the next three or four entries are about me and my bread.  It was going to be just one entry but it ended up so long that I have split it!  I hope it is helpful.

Part 2: ingredients
Part 3: equipment
Part 4: my recipe

Potato, onion and cheese soup

I made this yesterday for a quick early lunch and it was really good.  Using the tin of spuds made it easy and quick as they were already cooked.
It is frugal (made four portions) and vegetarian.
I used Thermione but have shown the usual method as well.

a good knob of butter
one smallish carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
a few bits of celery, chopped and de-stringed, if necessary
two white onions, peeled and chopped
a can of value potatoes, I used Morrisons Savers, 540g, drained.
some vegetable stock (I used about 10 mls marigold bouillon powder)
a squeeze of garlic puree
a good grating of nutmeg
a pinch of mustard powder (not too much)
a good pinch mixed herbs
some black pepper
some good flavoured cheese, finely grated, plus more for serving.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the carrot, celery and onion and saute very gently for about ten minutes, ensuring they don't catch.
Add the potatoes, stock powder, garlic puree, nutmeg, herbs, mustard powder and black pepper and enough boiling water to make a litre in total.
Bring to a boil and simmer for ten minutes or so until everything is soft.

Zizz to a smooth and thick paste, then add milk to slacken to desired consistency.

Add some flavoursome grated cheese - a strong cheddar maybe, or some hard Italian cheese (ensure it is vegetarian-friendly).  Stir well.  Check seasonings and adjust if necessary.  I didn't add salt as the stock powder and the cheese are both salty.

Serve with more grated cheese, some croutons, maybe a dollop of cream, creme fraiche or yogurt and another grating of nutmeg, as preferred.  I left the croutons and had a bread roll for dunking.

And in the Thermomix
Place the prepared carrot, celery and onion in ther bowl and pulse briefly.  Add the butter and pulse again.  Saute on 100m speed 2 for 10 mins
Add the potatoes and all the seasoningds as above with enough boiling water to reach the 1 litre mark.

Cook on 100, reverse speed 3 for ten minutes.

Pulse briefly until it reaches the consistency you want.  It is quite thick at this point.  It didn't take long as I wanted a little bit of 'texture' rather than a completely smooth soup.

Add milk to slacken.  Add some grated cheese as above.  Mix and reheat to 100/ speed 2.  Check seasonings and adjust if necessary.  Serve as above.

Really filling, warming and tasty.

It would be nice with some bacon or made with a good chicken stock and shreds of left over ham or chicken added, but it wouldn't then be vegetarian, obviously!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Chicken with cashew nuts

This is another slow cooker recipe which was posted on a slow cooker group page on Facebook.  Thank you to Heather Lindon for sharing it.  I slightly adapted it by using more liquid in the sauce (wine and flat cola).

It was dead easy.  I bunged all the ingredients in apart from the mushroom, peppers and cashews, turned the slow cooker onto auto and went to the allotment.  When I got home all weary and aching it was fragrant!  What with cooking the rice in Thermione, it was the easiest dinner ever!

Ingredients to serve 2
300g chicken, diced (I used boneless and skinless thighs - great flavour)
2 tbsp flour
mushrooms (I used four chestnut mushrooms)
peppers (I used one and a half yellow peppers because that's what I had)
45g cashew nuts

For the sauce:
some white wine (more than a drizzle, less than a glassful)
some flat cola (ditto)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic
half tsp fresh ginger, grated

Coat the chicken in flour by putting the chicken in a poly bag, adding the flour and shaking it all well.  Pop the floured chicken into the slow cooker.
Mix together the sauce ingredients and pour over the chicken
Stir well.
Cook on low or auto for 4-5 hours
One hour before end add the chopped peppers and mushrooms and the cashew nuts and stir again.
Cook 1 more hour.
 Serve with rice.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Red onion and apple chutney

This one came from Facebook, from a frugal group (I think, can't totally remember now).  It was a thread about making Christmas hampers.
I used it as a basic idea and added a few extra bits and bobs including the apple because I didn't have quite enough onions.  This is the result.

Red onion and apple chutney
6 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 cooking apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 bay leaves
25mls olive oil
200g soft brown sugar
150mls balsamic vinegar
150 mls red wine vinegar
half tsp ground ginger
half tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp salt
some pepper
a squeeze of garlic puree
a squeeze of chilli puree

Into the slow cooker, place the vinegars and the sugar and stir a bit.  Then add all the other ingredients and stir again.  Cover.
Cook on high all day (8 hours or more) until the mixture is dark and sticky.

Decant into warm and sterilised jars, label and leave to mature for two months or so.

It came out really well.  I did leave it in the slow cooker with the lid off for an hour to evaporate some liquid but apart from that it was all plain sailing.  It was in for about ten hours altogether and yes, it could be done on the hob but I'd have to stand and stir it to prevent sticking and burning.

It's lovely and will be even better after maturing for a couple of months
I might try chutneys in the slow cooker again.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Steak in a creamy mushroom and mustard sauce

I wasn't going to post this because it's not original but then thought 'why not - after all, most of the recipes in this blog are not really original?'.
So here it is.

I used bullet steak after hearing about it on Eat Well for Less and then seeing some in Morrisons.  Half the price (ish) of the usual; steak and supposed to be just a good.  Worth a try, thought I.

Ingredients for one.
one bullet steak of a size you want!  Mine was small-ish
some oil that will stand a very hot pan
a splash of white wine (or cider, or even red, although red changed the flavour considerably)
a dollop of butter
a couple of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
some creme fraiche (I used about 2 heaped tbsps)
some dijon mustard (to own taste)
salt and pepper

Take the steak out of the fridge half an hour before so that it is at room temperature.
Get everything else ready, as this is a cook-and-serve recipe, and keep it hot.  Have two plates warming too, one for serving and one for resting the steak.

Rub oil on the steak, both sides.
Heat a frying pan to as high a temperature as you can.  Pop in the steak and f ry quickly until rare to medium rare.  Then  take out and reserve on warmed plate to rest.
In the pan put some wine and some butter (you don't need a lot).  Stir it round to deglaze the pan.  When it reaches boiling , which doesn't take long, pop in the mushrooms and cook, stirring for about 30 seconds.  Then add the creme fraiche and the mustard, salt and pepper and stir well,  If it gets too thick, add a splash of water.  Check seasonings and adjust, if necessary.
Quickly slice the steak across the grain and put it back in the pan with any juices that have gathered on the plate.  Heat to a simmer again and serve immediately.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Smoked salmon sarnies

This isn't a recipe, more a serving suggestion.  It's far from original.  It's not extremely frugal but, compared with buying something roughly the equivalent in the shop, it is much better value.  And it's nice.

Slices of home made bread (OK, other breads/rolls will do too but this is what I did!)
a scrape of butter
Some value soft cheese
half a pack of smoked salmon trimmings (the savers/value kind if possible)
some lemon juice (from a bottle)
a little bit of salt and ground black pepper

Scrape just a little bit of butter onto the bread.  Then spread some soft cheese onto the slices.  Not loads but more than the butter.  The idea is to cover the bread so that the lemon juice doesn't sink in and make the bread soggy.
Break up the smoked salmon trimmings and place/spread them on one half of the bread.  Sprinkle over some lemon juice, some black pepper and a very little salt (or leave off the salt as there's plenty in the salmon).  Put the other half of the bread, butter and soft cheese on top and cut into appropriately sized pieces.

If you have lettuce, cucumber, baby spinach or similar, that would be nice in the sandwiches too.  If it's supposed to be posh, garnish with a bit of watercress and a wedge of lemon.

I'm just eating mine and mmmmmm.  I arranged it nicely on a plate to take a photo and then remembered that I've lent my camera to someone.  Sorry!

Chicken Normandy (or Normandy Chicken!)

This originated as a Mary Berry recipe.  For me, Mary stands up there with Delia, for creating recipes that are totally reliable and sensible.  They always work.

I have adapted it to suit what I had in.  I had to get cider (oh, dear, what a hardship), cooking bacon and some creme fraiche although I think one could do without the latter as the liquid that you get is really delicious anyway.

It is also one that could be made in a slow cooker or, I am sure, fast cooked in a pressure cooker.

This is what I did.

Ingredients to make four ample portions for hungry people
1 leek (two would be better but I didn't have two), trimmed and sliced.  I used as much as I could, white and green.
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
some cooking bacon which I went through, cutting out any big fatty bits.  Morrisons cooking bacon can be variable - choose your pack carefully and it is great value.  I guess I used about a quarter of the pack and have plans for the rest!
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
8 smallish new potatoes, cut into quarters.  I didn't peel them.
1 rib of celery, strings peeled off, sliced
400 mls (roughly) dry cider or you could use wine or chicken stock.  I chose cider as I love chicken cooked in cider
half a tsp dried mixed herbs
8 chicken thighs, skinned.  My thighs had been boned as well (because that's what I had in the freezer) but, for choice, I would keep the bone in as you get so much flavour from the bone.
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a chicken stock cube, crushed into powder
(I have underlined the ingredients to make them easier to see amidst all my waffle)

Some creme fraiche (I only used it on one portion and it was about 2 dsps) or you could use cream or soured cream.  Alternatively, you could thicken the liquid with thickening granules to make a dish that is still very delicious but much less calorific.

This is where it gets so easy.
In a hobproof and ovenproof dish, put the onion, leek, bacon, potatoes, celery and garlic and mix well (I just used my hands).  Add the herbs and the cider.
Place the chicken thighs over the top, then sprinkle over the salt (not too much as the bacon and the stock are both salty), pepper and crushed stock cube.
Cover and bake in a moderate oven for as long as it takes.  I started it at about 160 (fan oven) and then left it in at about 150 while I went out and when I came home the house smelt wonderful and it was beautifully cooked.  Take off the cover and give it another half an hour so that the liquid reduces slightly.

At this point, if you wish, it can be cooled and then frozen.  To use, thaw completely, reheat to boiling, remove from heat, stir in the creme fraiche and reheat to a simmer.

If eating straight away, place the dish on the hob, stir in the creme fraiche and reheat to simmering.  Serve immediately with some green veg in a hot bowl or plate.

It is comforting, warming and packed with flavour.

Apart from the different ways of finishing off the sauce, you could use different veg.  I almost added some sweet potato, different seasonings (smoked paprika would be scrummy) or different liquid (white wine, anyone?).  In other words it is a very adaptable process so you can use whatever you happen to have in.  Thank you, Diane, for pointing the way.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Retarding bread

That. it seems, is one of the 'official' terms for holding back the rising of dough.   Sometimes one doesn't want to be doing home stuff while the dough takes its own time to rise, prove, etc, so what can one do?

As some of my readers know, I have started making a bit of bread for other people.  I get it to them on Monday.  This last weekend I made the bread on Sunday and wrapped it.  I am sure it was perfectly OK but I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that neither of them would be able to get one of the loaves into the freezer or, indeed, cut the first loaf until it was a day old.  I know my day old bread is still perfectly soft and delicious but even so . . .

Ideally I will make the bread on the day I get it to them.  It all works in very nicely with my schedule nowadays.  However, occasionally (and this week coming is an 'occasionally') it is not possible to bake on Monday.

So I thought I would try making half the loaf on Sunday evening, retarding it in the fridge overnight and then knocking back, shaping, proving and baking on Monday morning.  It would still take time but less time and I need to know how much time.

So today I have made a small amount of dough and, after kneading, I have placed it in an oiled bowl, covered with cling film, in the fridge.  I shall leave it for eight hours and then see what happens.  It won't be wasted, it will bake into a loaf, but I need to know how long it takes to warm up and prove.  I know baking and cooling times, of course.

Tomorrow I will do the same but retard it at the proving stage when it is in the loaf tin..

I don't know whether either will work with my schedule or not - I just don't know but I am interested in finding out.

Any comments or advice?


Yesterday on my 'other' blog I was umming and ahing about which biscuits to make when friends came to lunch.  Rachel, a bloggy friend, came to my rescue with a brilliant, yet simple, recipe for gingernuts.  I made them and - wow!  They are crunchy, light, firm but won't break your fillings and, unfortunately, diet breakers!

Before I get going with the recipe, please, do take a peek at Rachel's blog.  It's brilliant and here's the link

Thanks so very much, Rachel, both for the recipe and for the permission to post it here.

 The recipe . . .

6 oz SR flour
4oz marg
3oz sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp ground ginger
half tsp bicarb

Preheat oven to 180
Melt the syrup and marg together.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir before going in with your hands.  It makes a soft and rather oily dough which is easy to handle.
Roll into little balls and place on a non stick surface on a baking sheet.  Flatten them slightly with the back of a fork.
Bake for 10 to 12 mins.

They flatten a bit and they crack.  They look and taste fab.  Go on - what are you waiting for?