Category Archives: Recipes

Sourdough – my base recipe

Sourdough. Lots of it. fresh with salted butter and homemade blackberry jam. Toasted with serrano ham and aged comté. After a week of non-chewy food, I was ready for bread. Proper, crusty, chewy bread. Sourdough, in other words. After all, there is only so much polenta, mash, porridge, riz au lait and yogurt one can eat before entering a state of depression.

I pretty much bake a sourdough loaf a week. Sometimes I use a spelt starter, at others a rye-based one. I also vary the flours used in the main dough. strong, organic white mixed with spelt (usually), or once in a while rye, or just plain white. I know you are supposed to be exact when you bake, but I am not at all. Probably the reason why I will never be a great pastry chef. But then, again, I am not much for cake anyway. That is, unless it is really exceptional, or an apple galette.

This recipe makes one (very) large loaf. It will keep for about a week if you use organic ingredients. It can be done in a day (morning to eve kind of thing), but it tastes much better if you do it properly. And you have to leave one hour between the folds. That cannot be skimped on. Sorry.

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6 dl water

4-5 tbsp starter culture

400 g strong, white flour

200 g spelt

1-2 tsp sea salt (not heaped!)

Day one: Mix 1 dl water and starter in a very large bowl. Add 100 g flour. Stir and leave overnight on the kitchen table or somewhere else that is not too warm, not too cold, and also not drafty.

Day two: Add 1 dl of water and a further 100 g of flour. Stir and leave overnight again.

Day three: Add the final 4 dl of water, the rest of the flour, and then the salt. Give it a good stir. Knead in a ‘robot‘ for 10 minutes (no longer for spelt, please), or for 20 minutes by hand. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour after a few minutes of kneading. The dough should be wet and springy, but not impossible to handle. If it is too dry, the bread will be dense. Leave to rise for 2 hours or so.

Take the dough out of the bowl and slam it on the table (literally). Pull and stretch the dough as much as you can without tearing it. Then fold the top third of the dough towards the middle, and afterwards the bottom third over the top. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. Turn a final time and repeat again. Return to the bowl and leave for another hour before repeating this process once more. Then repeat again (a final/3rd time) after a further hour’s rest. This time, transfer the dough to a large proving basket dusted with semolina, sprinkle the bottom of the loaf with polenta (corn meal), and cover with clingfilm. Leave the dough in peace overnight somewhere quite cool.

Day four: In the morning, turn on the oven to the maximum temperature, leaving the baking tray on the second-to-bottom shelf, and a loaf tin full of water on the shelf below. Mine gets to 240 C (fan). Go have a shower, grind some beans, and have a good coffee. Your oven should now be ready.

Take out the very hot baking tray, and turn the dough out straight onto the tray. If you please, score deeply (almost to the base) with a very sharp knife. Transfer to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, keeping a watchful eye, then turn the temperature down to 190 C (fan) for a further 20-25 minutes. The bread is baked when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

 
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Leave to cool on a wire rack.

It is a rare day, we do not enjoy sourdough.

I got one of my proving baskets here. A great, big round one: Masterproofing Round Banneton Basket (500g dough)– 22*8.5cm

Mallard with candy beets

Tomorrow my wisdom teeth come out. After a day high on morphine, I will be spending the next two weeks eating food that does not require much chewing. Pretty much my idea of hell. I intend to make up for that in advance, so meat it is.

Yesterday, I went to the market in search of a glorious t-bone steak. Or alternatively duck breasts. I came back with a whole mallard instead, and some beautiful candy beets.

A mallard is a rather skinny bird, and also not very big. It serves two, but only just.

1 mallard
1 onion
1 cooking apple (such as bramley)
2 medium candy beets
salt, pepper, olive oil
100 ml (or so) of stock
a handfull of asparagus (green)

Turn on the oven to 160C (fan). Peel and slice the beets into coins, season, and put in a roasting tin. Peel and quarter the apple and onion. Clean the mallard, stuff with the apple and onion, rub with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place on top of the beets. Put in the oven, middle shelf, and roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the juices should still be bloody – otherwise your oven is set too high. Add the stock, and return the duck to the oven for a further 30 minutes. Check that the juices run absolutely clear. If they do not, roast some more. If done, leave the duck to rest in the warm oven for 10-15 minutes.

While the bird is resting, heat a griddle pan until very hot and sear the asparagus. I like crunch, alas I cook them for only about 5 minutes.

Plate up and enjoy with a nice glass of wine. We had a great French: Château Plaisance Fronton (2011) from Corks of Cotham (which is a gem!). Bio and unfiltered. A light wine with some minerality.

Corks of Cotham: http://corksof.com/

Cauliflower and potato salad

Warm salads are what I am all about. And nuts and flowers, but it is hardly the season for the latter, so I have omitted the edible flowers this time. If you make this salad in summer, do add nasturium and/or calendula leaves. Pretty. Tasty. Easy to grow.

1/2 head of cauliflower
3-4 waxy potatoes
2 tomatoes
1 shallot
100g fresh spinach
a handfull of blanched almonds
nigella seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, salt, pepper, chili
a drop of tabasco
olive oil

Chili and lime pickles to serve.

Peel the potatoes, then dice into cubes of 2x2cm. Parboil in salted water for about 8 minutes. Drain and spread out on a baking tray lined with parchment.

Turn the oven on to 175C (fan). Cut the cauliflower into florets about the same size as the potato cubes. Mix with the potatoes, then coat lightly in olive oil, and season w freshly ground (and toasted) cumin and coriander, plus salt, pepper and chili (dried flakes – if using fresh, add after cooking). Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. The cauliflower should have slightly charred edges, and the potatoes retain a little bite.

While the potatoes and cauliflower are roasting, blanch and skin the almonds, then roast until golden. Chop roughly and set aside. Dice the tomatoes and shallot finely. Shred the spinach. Mix everything together, add the nigella seeds, and adjust the seasoning. I always add a dash or two of tabasco. If you are not a fan, adjust the acidity level with a few drops of red wine vinegar. Drizzle over a little oil before serving if you like. Serves 2 as usual if you add some pickles and an additional salad. Otherwise, enjoy a bit of sourdough bread and a hunk of cheese with a glass of red wine after.

Pearl barley soup

I don’t really love soup. That is the polite way of phrasing it. Or how my daughter would. The truth is, I just don’t like it. Soup, to me, is a poor excuse for proper food. It leaves me hungry even when I am full. That is, unless it is packed full of flavours and really thick, almost to the point that you can stand a spoon in it. This is that kind of soup. Some would not even call it a soup, but rather a take on risotto. It really is not, but that is another matter not to be discussed right now. The recipe serves 2 as usual.

2 shallots

1 stick of celery

3 potatoes (waxy)

a thick disc of butternut squash

100g pearl barley

800-1000ml stock (veal, chicken or veg)

1 bay leaf

a few sprigs of lemon thyme

a handfull of parsley

salt, pepper, coriander, nutmeg

olive oil

parmesan cheese (optional)

Finely dice the shallots, then gently fry in a glug of oil over low heat with the bay leaf and thyme for some 15 minutes.

While the onion is frying, dice the celery, butternut squash and potatoes into small cubes (1x1cm). Add to the onion mix after the 15 minutes are up, and fry for a further 5.

Season with ground coriander, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add the pearl barley and mix well, then pour in the stock. Bring to a gentle simmer, and leave for 25-30 minutes (lid on). You want the pearl barley to retain some of its bite, but it should not be hard (i.e. al dente is what you are looking for).

Spoon into bowls, grate over some parmesan, and sprinkle w chopped parsley. Add a grind of pepper and a bit of olive oil if you like. No bread needed, the soup is hearty enough as it is.

Pot roast chicken in vermouth

This is comfort food. Perfect for stormy weather.

2 chicken thighs

1 stick of celery

1/2 fennel bulb

4 banana shallots (or baby leeks)

4 medium potatoes

lemon thyme

100 ml vermouth

100 ml stock (veal, chicken or veg)

a handfull of almonds

salt, pepper, olive oil

You will need an oven-proof casserole for this – preferably one of the le Creusset ones. It should be just big enough to take everything – you do not want the chicken to touch the liquid.

Finely dice the celery. Slice the fennel finely, and peel the potatoes and cut into thin coins.

Brown the chicken thighs on all sides in a little olive oil. Remove from the pot and set aside.

Turn down the heat. Sweat the celery and fennel in the chicken fat left in the casserole. Add a glug of oil if there is not enough. After 5 minutes or so, add a few sprigs of lemon thyme, the vermouth and stock. Season w salt and pepper, and leave to simmer for some 5 minutes.

Layer the potato coins neatly on top of the celery/fennel mix. Season again, then place the chicken thighs on top, and tuck in the shallots. Season once more, and let the dish simmer (lid on, but ever so slightly ajar) at the lowest possible heat for 30 minutes. Set the oven to 175 C (fan).

Transfer the dish to the hot oven, lid removed. Leave to roast for approximately 20 minutes. It may need 5 minutes less, or 5 minutes more. Just keep an eye on it.

While the chicken casserole is roasting in the oven, gently toast the almonds (preferably blanched) until nicely golden brown. Set aside.

Remove the casserole from the oven. Plate up and sprinkle over the toasted almonds and some of the juices.

Puy lentil, butternut squash and spinach Autumn salad

It is Autumn. A cozy season without the stress of Christmas, which is why I like it. I am Scandinavian, so anything that serves as an excuse to light candles is good to me per definition. The only downside to Autumn, apart from the cold, is the inability to deal with the rain in the UK. Everything grinds to a halt. Trains suddenly cannot depart, and you are stuck. Often on a train that no longer moves, on a freezing cold and over-crowded replacement bus, or simply on the platform. This Autumnal salad can be eaten in any of such places, but it is best enjoyed warm at home.

1 mug of puy lentils

veal, chicken or vegetable stock (enough to cover the lentils by 2-3 cm)

1/2 butternut squash

1 shallot

100 grams of spinach

a good chunk of feta

a handful of olives

100g chicken breast (optional)

a handful of toasted almonds (if not using chicken)

olive oil, lemon juice

cumin and coriander seeds, chili flakes, salt, pepper

Set the oven to 200C (fan).

Peel the butternut squash with a potato peeler, then cube into pieces of roughly 2×2 cm. Coat lightly in olive oil, sprinkle over dried chili flakes, and gently crushed cumin and coriander seeds. Give a good grind of salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Roast for some 25 minutes.

Dice the chicken into pieces of 2×2 cm. Add to the butternut squash and mix well. Roast for a further 20 minutes approximately, but turning the oven down to 175 C. You want the butternut squash to be slightly charred around the edges.

Gently simmer the lentils in the stock for 40 minutes or so. Until tender, in other words, not mushy. Drain and set aside.

Finely chop the shallot, and mix with the lentils. Add the olives, and crumble in the feta. Then, shred the spinach roughly (or do not shred at all), and combine with the slightly cooled lentils. Finally, add the roast butternut squash and chicken. Give a good stir, and check the seasoning. If you are Italian, drizzle over a little olive oil.

Bagels

My first post is about bagels. Because I love them. And because I made them this morning for a lazy, cosy brunch. Fill them with what you like. My favourite is pastrami with French mustard, gherkins, and cream cheese. My boyfriend is partial to poached eggs, paper-thin slices of fried, crisp speck, and sauce mornay. Or just Nutella.

Bagels – 12 pieces

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp salt

1 tbsb cane sugar

300 ml water

7g dried yeast (1 sachet)

400g strong, white bread flour

100g spelt flour

(1 tsp bicarbonate of soda)

Optional: various seeds (nigella, sesame, poppy)

Mix all the ingredients but the flour together. Once the yeast has dissolved, add the flour. Knead in a food mixer for 5 minutes (or by hand for at least 10 minutes) until the dough is springy and shiny. Leave to rise on the kitchen table for some 3 hours or overnight, covered by a damp kitchen towel or a piece of oiled clingfilm.

Set the oven to 175 C (fan assisted, otherwise 200 C).

Divide the dough into 10-12 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, and pierce in the middle. Stick two fingers in the pierced hole and twist the piece of dough around to enlarge the opening. It needs to be big as the dough will contract.

Bring a large (pasta) pot of water to the boil. Once at boiling point, add 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda. Add 2-3 bagels to the pot of boiling water, making sure they do not touch. After 30 seconds of poaching, turn the bagels over and poach for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a lined baking tray, brush with a little milk, and sprinkle with seeds. Repeat for the remaining bagels.

Once all the bagels have been poached, transfer the baking tray to the oven (middle rack) and bake for 14 minutes. Check on them after 12 minutes or so. They may need 2 minutes more, or even 4, depending on your oven. You want them only slightly golden.

Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. They will have a slightly crisp crust at first, but after 15-30 minutes they should turn perfectly chewy.

Enjoy!

P.S.

My 4 year-old happily assists in making these. They only take about 30-45 minutes to make after proving over night, so perfect for a brunch or lazy breakfast.