Sunday, 13 February 2011

I love baking - Part I: Bread

I have never done much baking before but for the last couple of months I have discovered this incredible new world of tasty opportunities....baking is totally ace!
I love the pace of baking as you can and sometimes even have to really take your time...suits me! I love the accuracy that's needed on one hand and really getting my hands dirty on the other hand. Well, 'dirty' doesn't quite seem right as being covered in flour and sticky dough does certainly not make me feel dirty but rather exceptionally content and happy.
So I've tried myself on Christmas cookies, fancy cakes, muffins, pizza dough and bread.
I'm probably most happy about the bread-baking as it just tastes so much better than shop-bought, making it is like meditation (well as long as the dough doesn't prove all over the airing cupboard) and eating fresh made bread is pure joy. And if you find the right recipe it's also a very quick and easy thing to do.
So far I've tried out four different recipes, one for Irish Soda bread, Miss Dahl's Musician's breakfast bread and two recipes that I've found on German websites.
Irish Soda Bread

The Irish Soda bread recipe came from my favorite recipe site: BBC Good Food ( It was very easy to make, no time for proving and tasted lovely and gooey but it's not so much an everyday bread, more a Sunday morning one when you can eat it fresh with butter and jam. It doesn't last very long and because of being so gooey it feels quite heavy to eat - still, definitely worth making again sometime. 

 Second up, Miss Dahl's Musician's breakfast bread....well, of course I had to make it to see how my musician would like it :-)
Miss Dahl's Musician's Breakfast bread
It's a very simple no kneading wholemeal and oat bread that proves twice to make it nice and light. It's great with any topping, sweet or savory or pure just with butter. It lasts quite well (well actually it doesn't as we generally finish it rather swiftly) and is great toasted too.

My favorite so far is the Buckwheat bread from one of the German websites though (sorry forgot to take picture): It contains a combination of  buckwheat and spelt flour and reminds me of bread bought in German bakeries...quiet firm but not at all dry. You can add a variety of seeds e.g. poppy, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin or line seeds. What amazes me most about this, is that there is no need for kneading or proving - the bread goes into the cold oven and proves away while the oven heats clever! It develops quite a proper crust and tastes healthy and nutty and lovely....

Oh bread oh wonderful fresh is the most satisfying thing to do....the whole flat smells amazing, it's healthier, tastes better (probably not cheaper though) and makes me feel that little bit more real!
Get baking xxx

Saturday, 27 November 2010

A canape for the mayor

Cucumber, egg and mint
Phew, the last couple of weeks have been busy and a steep learning curve for me. I've decided to make a canape buffet for the Open Day at my charity so I've had days of try outs and preparation and then a whole weekend of fiddly fun before the day.
Goats cheese and roast asparagus puffs

Canapes are lovely to make and you can be really creative which is great but they are a bit time critical and really you need to put them together last minute and there is only so much preparing you can do beforehand. Our fridge was bursting with tupperware full of chopped bits and bobs, marinating away.

I made over 200 canapes - 7 different varieties: Pork, sage and caramalised apple skewers, basil and roast tomato mini quiche, roast asparagus and parmesan squares and the ones posted to the right.

It was incredibly enjoyable and exciting to make them and very satisfying to see the mayor of Brighton and all the other guests bite with delight into them at the Open Day....

Smoked salmon and soured cream crostinis
Mango, chillie and prawn croustades
My personal favorite were the cucumber, egg and mint canapes with a little bit of hot sauce because they were so unexpected and all the different elements came together so well while snaking them away (recipe: It seemed other people were a little hesitant though, guess they are for the more adventurous. I received most praise though for the goats cheese puffs (my own invention) and the mango, prawn cups (inspired by Good Food December magazine). You can buy those little cups called 'croustades' in the biscuit section of Waitrose or at Ikea. They supposedly come from Sweden even though my personal Swedish informant denies ever having heard of them. Staff at Waitrose agrees and also denies ever having heard of them so you need to find them yourself.

I definitely got enough praise to last me until my next cooking challenge - and already wonder when that might be. Maybe I can squeeze in some canapes for Christmas this year... or throw a little pre Christmas dinner party?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Jamie's not quite 30-minute meal - chicken pie!

picture taken from Channel 4 website
I might very well be the world's slowest cook. And if not the slowest at least the runner up....
I don't think there's anything wrong with being slow, I don't see any virtue in doing things just miss loads on the way concentrating on speed. I like taking my works better like that for me.
I take a long time to think about what I want to cook and can wonder around supermarkets for hours looking at produce and imagining flavour chopping skills are in dreamy slow motion and in the end I am often still eating when everyone else is ready to move on....

When I saw Jamie Oliver's new 30 minute meals programme, I was really impressed how cleverly he organises the different steps so that according to him, it is possible for any cook to create a main plus side dishes and dessert in 30min. Wow!

I didn't really expect that I'd be able to do it in the same time frame but thought there'd be hope I spend less than hours preparing one of these meals. I chose the chicken pie with French-style peas, substituted the sweet carrot mash with swede mash and left the dessert took me a little over an hour which just proves my point but
a. I was slightly lacking the discipline to follow his step by step guide and did the unthinkable and improvised a little and
b. he is cheekily cheating as all the veg is cut in a food processor according to the recipe but we don't have a food processor so had to chop all by hand as usual....I am considering getting a mandolin now!

It was my first ever chicken pie and I thought it was incredibly satisfying to make and tasted very comforting. It is very easy to make and no matter how rough the puff pastry looks when you put it in the oven it all fluffs up golden and beautiful and has that great homemade rough edge to it. The french peas with gem lettuce and mint were amazing - so tasty and creamy...totally want to do them again.

Unfortunately I've just realised that the recipe has been taken off the web...guess Jamie would like to sell some of his books as well....I think this might be one to add to the Christmas Wishlist!
Some of the 30minute meals are still on the Channel 4 website so go check them out before they disappear xx

Saturday, 30 October 2010

A moment of heaven at Cloud 9

The last two Sundays we've indulged sufficiently in all weekend pleasures. We had pub roast two weeks in a row followed by a highly addictive ice cream in a new little joy factory in the Lanes called Cloud 9. It's all pink and pastel coloured and you are welcomed by that lovely scent of ice cream cones, cakes and all things sugar....truly heavenly! We haven't tried any of the cakes yet even though they look exciting and very naughty but we are slowly working our way through the ice cream flavours and they are really quiet wonderful. My personal favorite is definitely peanut butter but hazelnut and Belgium chocolate were very delicious too. They got some crazy flavours like Stilton and Red Bull...not sure but hey, nothing wrong with a bit of experimenting.

We shall definitely be back...either to indulge in more wonderful ice cream flavours, to try out one of those stunning fairy cakes or maybe for one of their ice cream lessons so we can experience our cloud 9 at home too. Go and check it out xx

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sunday lunch at the Walmer Castle

Autumn spoiled us with another amazing Sunday full of fresh air and sunshine! And my wonderful Milton and I took the chance for a Sunday roast in the sun at Walmer Castle on Queens Park Road - more by accident than planned but so incredibly well worth it!

Milton had duck roast with a lovely spicy crust and even if rather well done it was very tasty.
I went for lamb shank and together with a Stinger Ale and the Sunday paper I got completely lost in weekend heaven!

Really friendly staff, massive portions with an incredible variety of veg (roast parsnip, sweet potatoe mash, red cabbage, creamed leek, brussel sprouts, mini carrots, green beans and roast potatoes), stuffing and a lovely fluffy yorkshire. They got Hofbraeuhaus Beer from Munich on tab as lager and as wheat beer....but I do really love Stinger especially for Sunday lunch.

Roast as Walmer Castle gets 8 out of 10 points. Eating it in the sunshine next to my love easily hits the high score though xx

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Miss Dahl's Fish Pie with Celeriac Mash

Tried out Miss Dahl's Fish Pie yesterday - as I really liked the idea of using celeriac for the mash instead of potatoes.

Sophie uses arrowroot instead of flour for the white sauce and poaches the fish in milk with a bay leaf which I haven't done before but will do in future.

I really liked the fine and subtle flavours of the pie but wasn't very impressed with the look as it's all rather creamy, white and mushy. But that might be a very personal preference as I just love colour....I love red foods and the rich brown of gravy - one of my visual favorites is a traditional sunday roast with its feast of colours and choice and wonderful wholesome goodness....bring on the weekend!

So far I've only made fish pie according to my own recipe which is probably not at all how it's supposed to be but has a layer of melted cheese on top of the mash and I did miss that golden gooey naughtiness with this pie.

Still, I've learned that leek works fantastically in a fish pie, arrowroot makes a nice white sauce and celeriac is underrated....

And after all, cooking out of Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights Cookbook generally makes me feel happy, content and connected to life's beauty of guiltless indulgence...xx

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Spaghetti with Marmite

Nigella has just cooked spaghetti with marmite which seems a bit like cooking rice with ketchup on TV to me.....but still...I'd like to try it as I do love salty food and definitely belong to the 'love it'-marmite category.
Good chunk of butter, big teaspoon of marmite and some of the pasta water...done!