Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Nothing makes me feel as if I've achieved something like making bread.

Bizarre, because I have never screwed up bread. Except the time I wondered if I could use rock salt instead of table salt. (Logical - sea salt works fine). And the time it wouldn't rise because the hot water tank wasn't on.

But that's it.

I wonder why. I think it's the epitome of 'I'm properly a baker' (sssh, don't mention pastry), and it's relatively frugal. And it tastes so much better than store-bought.

I started making it when I got fed up with either paying 75p for white polysterene to carry Marmite, or 1.45 for something that tasted decent.

I initially used the Joy of Cooking recipe, and like all Joy recipes, it works, but boy does it take a long time to get there. So I switched to one from Allison's, which they've helpfully now converted for a breadmaker, so I can't link to it.

I don't see the point in breadmakers. I can make bread in 12 mins, plus rising. I wouldn't be at all surprised if I could make it in my sleep.

Shall I cut to the chase?

The recipe. This makes two loaves.

900g white bread flour
3tsp sugar
3tsp salt
41/2tsp yeast (proper active dry stuff in a tin)
180ml sunflower oil
450ml warm water (not hot, not cold)

Mix. I usually use a spoon because it's messy, but I have been known to use my fingers, in a move that's totally unrelated to all the spoons being dirty.
Turn out on to floured surface. Knead for ten minutes. I love this. Not just because, like everyone says, it's good for getting out stress, but because you get to feel the different textures changing underneath your hands. Eventually, you get to learn the stages, and when it's ready and so on. Like being a proper baker.

Roll out. Split in two (I just run a knife across the middle). Roll each one up into a Swiss roll shape.

Two important things I learnt from the Joy: the seam goes at the bottom, and both ends should touch the pan, to support the rise.

Lob in the airing cupboard with a tea-towel over the top.

Two hours in summer, four in winter. Till the dough is doubled.

Oven at 200C, down to 180 just before it goes in. Thirty to thirty-five minutes.

And the smell! Maybe it's the smell...

ETA: And possibly the time I put them too low down in the oven...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sag aloo

I'm having trouble with Sag Aloo (spinach and potato curry).
I tried this recipe a while back, and knew without cooking it it wouldn't be great, because there was no sauce.
So I tried Indian spices brand Natco. It looks better, but it's still not right. It doesn't help that it tells you to put tomato in twice. Or that it says 'scant 1/3 cup'. Yeah, that'll be an American recipe.
There is no way the potatoes would done in 15 minutes, or that amount of tomato would be sufficient.
So, anyone help me out here? I suppose Madhur Jaffrey is the next logical place to go.

UPDATE: It really wasn't bad. I roughly halved it (probably a bit more spinach than would be quite right for that), and once I'd thrown more chopped tomato over it and left it a bit longer, it was pretty good. I might keep the spices the same, though, as there wasn't a lot. I'm now making courgette fritters. Mmmmmm.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I cooked chard!

What was it like? I'll tell you when I don't tip a ton of turmeric in it.
It was this couscous recipe, without raisins (another thing, along with nuts and mushrooms, which will be unceremoniously dropped from any of my recipes).
I didn't do the lemon oil, which I think may have been my major mistake. I detest it when people say things like 'I left out the chilli, and then it didn't taste of anything' in recipe comments, so I hold my hands up to that one.
I think I like the flavour of red chard stalks, but there was something in there - the green chard stalks possibly - that tasted NASTY. The leaves themselves I can take or leave. I do apologise for the pun.
But, as I said, I tipped far too much turmeric in by accident, so my reactions are coloured (oh, sorry, there's another one) by that.
Verdict on chard: jury still out.

ETA: Chard's like spinach, in that the easiest way to drain it is simply to squeeze it in your hands. I did look a little like I'd murdered someone, though, as the water comes out coloured a vivid red...
Also, if I had time to make courgette fritters to fill myself up, I totally would be. Not a ringing endorsement for chard.

I'm back!

Wow, it's been a long time since I posted. A long time.
In which I have done so many foodie things: I started making my own bread (I seem to have got out of the way of that again), I've made pretzels, my first pies, baked several times for my choir, and just recently got a vegetable box.
I've done some non-foodie things, too, that might help with the blog: learnt more about blogging software, more about writing for the web, more about using Facebook and Twitter to publicise the blog. And I now have a digital camera, though I'm ambivalent about using it for food. I don't exactly prioritise presentation and if it's hot, dammit, I want to eat it. We'll see.

The vegetable box
The box (which is from Abel and Cole) is for two reasons. No, make that three. I'm working from home now, and it helps to provide a little bit of interest when it arrives. Two: it challenges me. I have chard, for crying out loud. I enjoy working out what I can do with it, and seeing if it takes me in directions I didn't expect. And three: it helps me eat healthier. I have all this veg, which I don't want to see go off, so I eat less meat and less all-round rubbish. I'm even snacking on carrots and celery. Mum would be so proud (hi Mum!). It seems to be working, though my actual weight will remain a closely-guarded secret until such time as I hit my target.

So I think it's only right that I kick off the resurrected blog with a recipe I never would have considered without the veg box, that reminded me there's really something very soul-enhancing about cooking, and that tasted absolutely fantastic.

Caldo verde
I first had this at my friend James' house, whose dad is an amazing cook, and so it was the first thing I thought of when I had kale.
I used the Hairy Bikers' recipe, cut down by about half (I'm a constant cutter-downer when it come to recipes). The old muddling-through you used to see on this blog in its Livejournal incarnation is still there. It calls for a potato masher, which I don't own (why mash potatoes when they are so lovely boiled?). Never mind, I'll use a spoon, I thought. Yeah, that was hard work. So it wasn't so much a potato base as lumps of potato. No matter; it made fantastic autumn soup. Try it. It will make you feel better.