Last year one of the things I got up to when I went blogging AWOL was to attend the Tea Cookery workshop run by Pei of Teanamu. I’ve cooked with tea a little bit over the years using it to smoke duck, chicken, salmon and tomatoes (yes, tomatoes) and also to make a fruit cake that was one of my Grandma’s specialties where the dried fruits are soaked in tea overnight. All have always been delicious and the tea imparts a subtle yet rich flavour to both sweet and savoury dishes, so I was looking forward to learning more about using tea in cooking but not being much of a tea expert I didn’t realise the delights I was in for.
The location is lovely, Pei holds the workshops at his home and while Pei cooks, we watch and take notes, we eat delicious food over a leisurely two – three hours. Being invited into someone’s home to learn about food feels very special, more a meeting of friends than a food workshop. As Pei makes the dishes he explains about each one and we gather round the island worktop to watch and learn.
Pei uses a range of different teas to demonstrate the varying flavours and effects that tea can bring to cooking from the very delicate to the earthy. He stresses that the dishes he has created wouldn’t normally all be served at one meal as that would be considered an over emphasis on tea but there might be one course that contained tea in some form. Tasting the dishes I think that most people would be more than happy to eat a menu such as this and the different dishes with tea as a theme would create a talking point at a dinner, that is probably against all the ideas of balance that eastern philosophy has but in terms of taste to a western palate the dishes work in harmony.
Here’s the dishes we sampled:
Steamed Tofu in a Tuo Cha Konbu Broth
Tempura Vegetables with Shiso Sencha Green Tea Salt
Grilled Salmon with Lapsang Souchong Tea Rub with Matcha Noodles
Matcha Jelly and ding Dong Sorbet with Candied Azuki Beans
As you can see all the dishes were beautifully presented and all tasted amazing. Pei runs similar workshops (the recipes will vary with season) throughout the year. The food I ate and the teas we drank started me on an exploration of tea that is still progressing. I don’t think I had ever realised how different and how delicious tea can be.
With thanks to Pei for inviting me to attend the workshop as his guest.
I don’t particulary recall eating macaroni cheese as a child not from a Heinz tin, not lovingly made by mother or grandmother, its simply not a dish that springs to mind as something we ate often. I don’t know why. So when Fiona Beckett started the idea of the ultimate mac n’ cheese (as our friends in the US of A call it) I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to create my own version. Fiona’s competition started out simple and then got lots of categories (best this, best that, best other and so on) and I toyed with the artisanal cheese category for quite sometime knowing which cheese I would choose. And then Fiona announced the prizes and my mind was made up I had to have the Emma Bridgewater macaroni cheese dish come what may. So my entry is for the most original recipe.
Starting with my artisanal cheese idea and then spooling it out into the dish my mother or grandmother could have made I decide this had to be a dish based in the foods of Lancashire (well apart from the macaroni of course). I played with adding things like vimto or tizer, might they be secret umami giving ingredients, unlikely, so they were consigned to the ‘too original’ slot. Some researching in Laura Mason and Catherine Brown’s Traditional Foods of Britain (if you don’t have this book and you love British food just get it) led me to two possibilities: potted shrimps or bury black pudding. A tough one a really tough one. So I flipped a coin and it came down on the side of the black pudding.
Here’s what I did (its in old measures in honour of my Grandma):
Ingredients (for 2 hungry people):
1 bury black pudding (the sort in a hoop shape and of about 1” diameter)
3-4 oz dried macaroni each – depending on your greed
¾ pint full fat milk
1 oz flour
1 oz butter and some for frying
4 oz Sandhams Tasty Lancashire cheese*
2 oz Booths** Special Reserve Tasty Lancashire Cheese*, grated/crumbled
pre heat oven to R4/180C
Cook the macaroni in boiling lightly salted water as per the instructions on your packet (mine said 8 minutes). When cooked drain and keep on one side.
Slices the black pudding into ½” rounds and fry quickly on either side in a small amount of butter. You are aiming for the outside to be crispy and the middle still soft. Removes the skin from the pudding and crumble the slices.
Make a white sauce of a thickish consistency (between coating and panada) using the ‘all in one’ method. So put the flour, milk and butter in a pan and heat gently stirring continouosly until it thickens. Add the 4oz of Sandhams Tasty Lancashire cheese and season to taste.
Toss the crumbled black pudding in with the cooked macaroni, stir in the cheese sauce. Tip it all in the buttered dish.
Sprinkle with the 2oz of Booths Special Reserve Tasty Lancashire.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Eat and dream of Lancashire.
* If you don’t know that there’s more than 1 version of real Lancashire cheese then watch out for my tasting of seven types coming soon. I’ve picked these two examples because like all Lancashire they melt beautifully and because they differ in strength, the Sandhams is slighty milder (but still with a good tang) the Booths** has a strong tasty Lancs hit.
** Booths is a small supermarket chain based in the North West of England. If all supermarkets were like Booths it would be a good thing.
I know I’ve been gone a while but hey now I’m back! First post after 5 weeks is this Fresh From the Oven Challenge that I hosted. I am going to do a post about going AWOL so watch out for that coming up in the next few days, but here to whet you appetite for upcoming posts is some delicious bread I can highly recommend.
Although I’ve made this loaf a lot of the past few months either white or a 50:50 white-wholemeal mix I still thought I’d do one especially for the challenge. Unfortunately the day I was baking it I was in the the final stages of web project and wasn’t really concentrating properly. It was also quite a cool day so the 2nd rise seemed to be taking for ever so I put it in the oven regardless (it was no where near the top of the tin!) . I got okay oven spring but in the first 10 minutes of cooking I lost track of time as the client called to sign off the website ready for go live and to say how pleased they were. Result a rather dense chewy loaf, with a very crusty crust and a borderline burnt top. Still tasted better than anything you get in most bakers….
Here’s what I said to the Fresh from the Oven group when I set the challenge:
I’ve done lots of um-ing and ah-ing about what to pick for the challenge, I wanted something where I could show you the kneading technique I learnt from the Dan Lepard course I went on, something that seemed specifically English and something not so time consuming that you all decided not to participate. Crumpets and pikelets were out on the basis they don’t require kneading, sourdough on the basis that you might not all have starter so that would be a week of building one. Stotties were almost in but the recipe I found had potato in and that’s not how I remember them. Staffordshire oatcakes popped up but they don’t have to be kneaded either and so on and so forth.
At last I decided to keep it simple but still English. There is lots of talk of how bad English bread is (and it is when its made on an industrial scale using the Chorleywood process) but then everyone decides to ignore all thought of English bread and fall into the arms of French and Italian and other baking heritages. I love all these other breads but I also love a good old fashioned properly made tin loaf that is soft but slightly chewy, has a nice medium crust, that toasts brilliantly and makes a mean sandwich. The secret of course is in using milk for part of the liquid this gives a softness that’s just right without making the loaf a full on slightly sweet milk loaf (although when I found this on the Lakeland site I did nearly decide to do milk loaf).
If you don’t fancy doing a tin loaf then perhaps you can take part by using the kneading technique for your favourite loaf because it seems to work for everything from sourdough to rolls to pizza base and more.
First the technique:
Dan Lepard says he developed this when he was working full time in commercial kitchens (that made artisan hand kneaded bread) because there wasn’t time for full 10 minute knead of all the different bread batches so he switched to short kneads spaced out and found it works just as well, part of the development of a good gluten structure is dependent on the time elapsed not the vigorous kneading. I liked the idea because I’d not been getting good textures with either a machine or a normal hand knead. I am now a wholesale convert.
You must use oil not flour on the kneading surface and your hands. Something like vegetable oil is good.
The dough must be quite sticky and soft to start with. It will firm up when kneaded and as time progresses.
Once you have soft sticky dough leave it covered in the bowl for 10 minutes.
Now oil your kneading surface and hands and tip the dough out.
Knead for about 12 seconds by folding in the edges to the centre, a bit like shaping a round loaf, rotate the dough as you go.
Flip the dough over, leave it on the surface and cover with a cloth. Wash out the bowl and then oil it lightly. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover.
Leave for 10-15 minutes and then do another 12 second knead. You will notice the dough is already less sticky and firmer.
Leave for 20 -30 mins and repeat the fast knead. You are aiming to have kneaded the dough 3 times in the first hour.
Leave covered to rise until at least 50% larger but not more than double in size (kneading once per hour if it takes more than hour to increase in size).
Tip out onto the oil surface and press the air out of the dough using the tips of your fingers so its square-ish in shape. Repeat the fast knead process (or fold in to thirds then rotate through 90, flatten again and fold into 3rds again).
Shape the dough as required for the particular loaf you are making. Put it in a tin, or supported in a floured cloth in a bowl.
Leave to rise until at least 50% larger and preferably almost double in size.
Slash top and bake as per your recipe.
White Tin Loaf (based on Dan Lepard’s Quick White Loaf, p63 of the Handmade Loaf)
2lb loaf tin greased and floured or lined with baking parchment (no need to line the short ends just oil them).
Oven to be pre-heated to its maximum setting (R10/250C) and with a tray of water in the bottom to create steam.
200g semi skimmed milk at room temp (Dan uses whole milk but semi skimmed seems to work fine)
150g water at room temp (remember 1g = 1ml but its easier to be accurate weighing fluids)
Mix the water and milk together in a separate bowl and whisk in the yeast.
Add the liquid to the flour and mix with the fingers of one hand to a soft sticky rough dough. You may need to add a little more liquid do this a teaspoon at a time until you have a soft sticky dough.
Follow the kneading instructions above.
The first rise will probably take about an hour from the last knead.
To shape for a tin loaf, flatten the dough to a square about the same width as your tin. Roll the dough into a cylinder and press the seam firmly, fold under the two short ends and place in the tin seam side down.
Allow to rise (covered) to 1 ½ to 2 times volume i.e. to the top of the tin.
Slash the top of the loaf along it length and put it straight into the oven for 10 minutes at maximum temperature. After 10 minutes check how it’s browning and drop the temperature as follows (these baking guidelines are from the River Cottage Bread Book):
R6/200C if the crust is pale
R4/180C if crust is noticeably browning
R3/170C if crust is browning quickly
And cook for a further 40-50 minutes.
I usually check again part way through this time and either adjust temperature again or cover the top with foil if it’s brown enough. Also note that with a traditional gas oven (i.e. one without a fan) the top may brown far too quickly on the side near the heat at the initial temperature so you might want to start at a lower setting of R8/9 for the first 10 minutes. Adapt the setting for what you know about your oven and how things usually bake.
When it’s cooked turn it out of the tin and allow to cool.
Then when it’s cooled cut a big huge doorstop of a slice, toast it and slather with lashing of butter. Yum.
The recipe also works well with a mix of 50:50 wholemeal and white bread flours. You’ll probably need 2-3 tbps extra water.
Matching food to wine or wine to food? Well normally I decide what I want to eat and then I think about what wine might go with it. I’m no expert at all, I stick mostly to ‘standard’ rules and also to wines I like. Occasionally I’ll go a bit off-piste, or someone will introduce me to something different, then I’ll revise my rules a bit. But its always the food first and the wine second.
In the last few weeks there’s been chance to turn this on its head. Try the wine and then wonder what to eat with it. Maybe if you have an extensive cellar this is a game you can play regularly….
“Darling I’ve found another bottle of that Puligny-Montrachet 1978 stuff, do you think it would be best with ……”.
These weren’t quite those kind of chances. Instead they were regular priced wines looking for new partners. First there was the Casillero cook off, great fun, great recipes and finding out that a wine I probably wouldn’t have looked at (I often avoid big brand names) was actually eminently drinkable. And now Niamh over at Eat Like a Girl is luring us with the possibility of prizes to try our hands at matching prosecco to food. Specifically Bisol Jeio prosecco and a chance to eat at the chefs table at Trinity.
Prosecco isn’t something I know much about and tempted by the possibility of a free tasting to help inspire food choices I popped over to Niamh’s (almost an institution) stall at Covent Garden on Thursday to see the lie of the land. I had a chat with Niamh about doing the stalls (hard work, great fun) and sipped the prosecco. Pears, peaches, off dry – but what to make to go with it. In my books prosecco, like most sparkling wine, makes a lovely aperitif but its maybe not quite so easy to have with food.
A little bit of googling and reading and a few thought came to mind…..pears…well they go well in salads with blue cheese and often walnuts. Pears and peaches…sometimes served with air-dried hams. A sweetish fruit and salty theme was emerging. I’d also got a hankering for something autumnal, earthy…
On the day I decided to experiment my husband turned out to be having beer in Bath, that’s the town in Avon and glass after glass of hoppy malty brown liquid, rather than any other beer/bath combination that might spring to mind. This meant that I had been abandoned/left to my own devices/was delighting in the perfect moment to do exactly as I wanted* (please delete as applicable). This was fortuitous, mostly he’s not a fan of sparkling wines, of blue cheese, or sweet/tart combinations and that’s right where I was heading.
Off to purloin ingredients from the local, erm, (super)market to combine with some goodies I already had in the fridge. I was aiming for English meets Italian. Italian wine, English inspired dish. This is where I ended up:
Goodshoeday’s autumnal sort of salad (for 2 people as a light meal or starter)
Last month I schlepped in right at the last minute with my Fresh from the oven challenge, this month I did better – hey I was there a whole week before the deadline baking away. How organised and complaint of me. Erm, well, maybe. Those who know me well know that doing what I’m told when I’m told is something I have mastered the art of mostly avoiding. So this month instead of taking the deadline to the wire I thought I’d ignore some of the very specific instructions and freeform the recipe a bit even though it wasn’t something I’d ever tried before. Did this lead me on a route to disaster – lets see……
I was pleased when I saw that Ria (of Ria’s Collections) had picked what she calls stuffed buns, because I quick glance though the recipe suggested that these were going to be like the legendary curry buns I ate at a hill station in Malaysia with my husband on our very first holiday together. Wow. We have often reminisced about these little buns, which were wonderfully soft and had a lovely curry filling. We’d never tasted anything like them before and since I’m talking quite a few years back when only the (un)lucky few had email and the internetsuperhighwaythingy was in its very early infancy we never tracked down a recipe. They became a kind of mythical dish. Could Ria’s recipe live up to all this?? We both had very high hopes.
The recipe basically seems to be one for a kind of brioche type dough made with milk, a fair bit of sugar and also egg. Ria is very clear that it MUST be kneaded for 10 minutes to achieve the right consistency. The filling is a mild chicken curry, Ria suggests paneer can be used for vegetarians. And this is when I start to freeform. I happen to have some lamb curry leftover so I decided I’m going to use that as a filling – can’t go far wrong surely. The dough just sounds too rich – I quite like brioche but since this is a joint memory we are trying to live up to here and Ian doesn’t like sweet dough’s I cut back on the sugar a bit and swap the egg for the same volume of milk. Then I just go for it and ignore the 10 minute knead instruction as well. I blame Dan Lepard for this entirely. He doesn’t do a long knead and since learning his method in mid June I’ve become a bit of a convert…you make a rough dough, leave it for about 10 minutes, come back, 10 seconds of folding, repeat this rest and knead 3 times in the first hour and then once per hour during the first rise. It’s worked well on every loaf so far I can’t see why it won’t work here. The theory is that it’s not so much the vigorous kneading but the elapsed time that creates a good network of bubbles.
The dough is quite soft and a little sticky but not too difficult to work with as it has oil in it which makes it pliable. It rises quite quickly but it is a fairly warm day. After the first rise you divide it up and shape it into rounds put some curry mix in the middle and then shape rather like a round bread roll. It has a 20 minute rise like that and then it’s in the oven. You have to be careful because the richness of the dough means it browns very quickly – they are cooked in 10 minutes.
So were they any good? Absolutely yes. They had a good soft texture and certainly lived up to our memory from Malaysia. Even with my changes the dough was still rather rich and sweet for our liking so when I try them again I’ll cut back on that further. It was a good way to use up some leftover curry and I don’t think they suffered from all my meddling – of course I might be wrong, the real deal might be even more delicious, but I’m more than happy to have found a way to recreate a happy food memory.
Thanks Ria for the recipe and I’m not sorry I meddled with it :0
Recipe for dough (I used the cup measures in Ria’s original):
1 tsp dry yeast (I used fast action yeast)
2 tbsp warm water
1/2 cup milk
salt to taste
1/2 cup oil (I used rapeseed)
2 cups all purpose flour (I used strong bread flour)
1/4 cup sugar (I sued about 1/3 cup and the dough was still too sweet I thought)
1 egg beaten (I used another couple of tablespoons of milk)
egg white and sesame seeds to decorate if you wish (I didn’t)
dissolve yeast in warm water with 1/2 tbsp of the sugar and 1/2 tbsp of flour. Leave for 10 minutes.
Boil the milk and allow to cool (gosh I didn’t do this either). Once cool add sugar oil and salt and mix until the sugar dissolves.
Add 1 cup of flour and mix to a smooth paste.
Add the egg and also the yeast mix then the rest of the flour and mix to form a soft dough.
Knead using your preferred technique.
Rest and when its doubled in volume shape into flat rounds, fill and shape into buns by folding the the sides of the rounds to the centre. Decorate with egg and seeds if you wish.
Leave to rise for 20 minutes covered with a cloth then bake at 200C for 10 minutes. I actually did them at R6/180C and they took 10 minutes. Be careful they brown very quickly.
I love going away on holiday. I love the different sights and sounds and tastes. And in particular I love the supermarkets. Yes that’s right the supermarkets. Not the food shops or markets but the supermarkets. The specialist food shops and markets are good too but you have to know a modicum of the language in question or be a dab hand at gesticulating to get something close to what you want and I mostly got stuck at “dos cervezas por favor”. So I say bring on the exploration of another nation’s food culture through it supermarkets (or indeed lack of them). They can even act as handy research libraries ahead of a trip to a real food market. After all it really helps to know that salt cod looks a lot like chunks of smashed up concrete….
So without further ado here is a foray around two (yes two) supermarkets in Bergen, Norway.
Look its actually called Safari – brilliant!
First up some potatoes with nice Aztec styling:
Ah look no beers for us today its the wrong time on Saturday afternoon so the beer is all hidden away:
Fiskekaker, fiskeboller, fiskepudding…..fiske pretty much anything. Wonder if its as good as the ones down at the fish market in town……
And erm……fløtepudding (apparently its an extra creamy fish pudding kind of thing)
Oh and some sild, sild and more sild (herrings marinated any which way you choose)
Look lomper (potato cakes) – apparently the wrapper of choice for your hot dog!
And more Roses cordials then you’d ever see in the UK:
Ah, excellent, Lapskaus…..
Right lets try another supermarket (apparently this one is posher than Safari!)
Blimey reindeer stew – tons of the stuff
Oh and a different kind of baller (potato dumplings I think)
Blue cheese (a Norwegian take on gorgonzola I think we can safely assume)
oh and some frozen reindeer meat
and last but not least weird kaviar spread stuff….
See how much more you now know about Norwegian food. Always explore the supermarket before making a a fool of yourself in a real shop.
This is my first ‘Fresh from the oven’ bread baking challenge. I missed out on the first two because, well because, I was just too slow off the mark signing up. Anyway I’ve joined up now and I’m hoping its going to a be a fun way to do some different breads and also chat with other food bloggers and improve my breadmaking.
As soon as I’d signed up and logged on I took a look at the challenge and thought ‘hmmmm interesting, not tried that before, best do some reading round the matter’. This is a technique I term displacement activity i.e. read up on things rather than getting on with doing them, instead why not mull them over, learn something new, contemplate different angles, ponder, maybe be buy a new and, of course, necessary piece of kit to aid the process.
I was sitting around on Wednesday thinking:
‘um must be time to do another loaf of bread what shall I try?’, and
‘hmmmm haven’t written a blog post for ages AND haven’t blogged any of my bread exploits’
Anyway very fortunately for me, Claire over at Purely Food, who set this months challenge, had picked English muffins and a quick squint at the recipe revealed that it didn’t require any exotic ingredients – in fact I had everything I needed right there in the cupboards. So I was sorted for a day of bread making yesterday. There’s nothing like taking a project to the deadline I always say…..
The recipe Claire had given us was from the River Cottage Handbook (#3 Bread) (see it here) but we are free to use other recipes or adapt as we see fit, all in the spirit of experimentation and sharing tips and techniques. I decided I’d stick pretty much with the recipe but halve the quantities as it said it made 9 muffins and that seemed rather too many for two people one of whom remains to be convinced that muffins are worth the fuss (lets hope these homemade ones are a hit). I also adapted the kneading technique to the one I learned from a 1 day Dan Lepard masterclass I attended back in June.
Here’s my thoughts on the recipe and how things went:
halving 325g makes it difficult to weigh out on lovely old-fashioned balance scales – I think I really do need electronic scales
I always weigh the water – weird but more accurate; remember from at school 1ml = 1g
I should have used 5g of yeast but the sachet was 7g so I put the lot in
I used extra virgin rapeseed oil instead of sunflower – because that’s what was to hand
the dough wasn’t as sticky as I expected initially so I added another splash more water – kind of undermines my accuracy of weighing the first bit as I don’t know how much a splash is
I used the Dan Lepard kneading technique – i.e. several short kneads spaced out
it was a warm-ish day so the dough seemed to rise quite fast, it only took about an hour to double in size
halving 9 gets 4.5 you can’t make 4.5 muffins I chose to make 4 instead
I cooked it on an oiled flat cast iron griddle
the muffins came out pretty giant
it’s hard to tell how brown or otherwise they should be on the outside as there’s only a picture of one split and toasted – I think mine are probably too brown
All that remains is to test them at breakfast in a bacon and egg McMuffin style. I shall report back.
The McMuffin style breakfast worked really well. We toasted the muffins lightly then buttered them, added 2 rashers of bacon (unsmoked), dolloped on some ketchup and topped with a fried egg (easy -overed) then popped the top of the muffin on and munched away. I was so busy eating I forgot to take a picture (ddoh). They tasted really good although we didn’t wrap them in greaseproof as Mathilde had suggested (see her McMuffin brunch post here),Ii might do that for extra fun if I had guests staying.
Overall I’ve been really pleased with the muffins and I’ll do them again, its nice to try something different. The texture came out nice and even and they stayed good for 3 days – don’t know if they would last longer if I’d made the bigger batch. Curiously the semolina flour on the outside makes them taste slightly salty even though they aren’t. They made a tasty change from soft rolls and they were scored 7/10.
The remaining two muffins have also been eaten at breakfast; yesterday with blackberry curd: