Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wholemeal bread

Now, being a nice daughter, I left the soda bread at Mum and Dad's. But not without a sense of longing.
I really wanted wholemeal bread. One of the things that's been lucky about the whole 'losing weight' thing is that I actively like brown bread and salad.
So I decided I would use up the wholemeal flour in the cupboard with a loaf. I've decided I need experiment a bit more, branch out, see what works and what doesn't. It can only improve my cooking, right?
I simply decided I'd take my normal bread recipe and make it 50/50 with wholemeal and white, because most recipes for brown bread, I'd noticed, do that.
I also knew (from where? How much of my thinking is influenced by 'something I read somewhere'?) that wholemeal doesn't rise very well, so I upped the yeast from four-and-a-half teaspoons to five, and let it rise for three hours.
By that point it was just level with the top of the pan, so I put it in.
I know I shouldn't cut bread while it's still very hot, as it's not very solid. I DON'T CARE.
It was all right hot, but I noticed a tendency I didn't like when it cooled. It was very dry. Very, very dry, and sometimes most of it just fell right off while I holding it.
I think next time I'll add honey, because 'I'm sure I read that somewhere'.
For whatever reason, it mellowed over the next couple of days, but is still a long way from being the wholemeal recipe.
What are we calling this damn award? Right: 'make again with changes'.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I feel like Superwoman

It doesn't take much.

I have pretty much simultaneously made dinner, soda bread and muffins, and without any of the panicky stress that's usually involved when I try to make more than one thing at once.

Andy was in a grumpy mood when he came home (and I'm afraid I can't say what he then added when I asked him if it was ok if I told the world via this blog). Getting a decision out of him in that state isn't the easiest, and I was rapidly getting hungry. I am not nice when I'm hungry and there comes a point when I become 'dangerous to know'. I wanted to get to Sainsbury's and buy the weekly shop before that happened.

To circumvent this, I wrote different possible main course meats on a piece of paper and told Andy to pick a number. I'd only got as far as five different options when he yelled 'Four!'. Lamb, my least favourite meat, probably. But wrangling over the decision wasn't going to help anything.

So I fired up Good Food and typed in lamb. I found a nice quick recipe. I was seriously glad at how easy it was - crush cumin and coriander seeds, fry them and the garlic, then brown the steaks. Stick over the tomato and leave. Awarded the coveted 'in the repertoire' award.

Soda bread

At this point, I started the soda bread. Dad's Irish, and the day after the lamb was the Ire v Eng rugby match. I always meet my friend Ralph, usually in my home town, to watch this one. So I was having lunch at Mum and Dad's and thought it would be nice to take over some soda bread.

Soda bread is the first bread I ever made, by a long, long way. To get my Baden-Powell Trefoil at Guides, I had to do one of a set of badges, which were all sort of local history/folkways options (the syllabus has changed since my day). Why the heck I was talking to my dad about my Guiding options I don't know, but I got to 'Ulster Folk' badge, and Dad said 'Right, you're doing that one'. And thus, I became probably the only girl in England to hold the Ulster Folk badge.

I still remember the satisfaction I got at making the simple soda bread, and wrapping it in foil to take into Guides.

Well, I think I may be in love with soda bread all over again. While I know the recipe I made for Guides had raisins in it, I wanted a proper old-school recipe and eventually found one on Kitchen Daily for a whole wheat loaf. It is a SERIOUSLY easy recipe. The hardest thing was finding the buttermilk. Now, I'm an evangelist for normal bread, but anything that's 'put all this in a bowl, shape' gets extra points. And tasty, too. The only problem, I guess is having buttermilk hanging around. Awarded 'make again soon. Very soon.' status


Food getting expensive and trying to limit my costs means I hadn't bought any dessert or ice cream. I always seem to need something sweet after a meal, and Andy kind of wanted something too. I needed to find a recipe that would fit with the not-very-much I had in the kitchen.

As you can tell, my default for such things is Good Food, and so I went over, knowing muffins or cupcakes were probably best for baking-ingredients-heavy but all-other-ingredients-light. Luckily we still had some milk which was basically ok. I found these chocolate muffins.  As commenters said, they're not all that chocolatey, but they hit the spot for our dessert. I underdid them, too; fifteen mins was not enough in my oven. I'd like to try them again, doubling the cocoa powder (which probably makes them even drier) and lengthening the cooking time. Awarded 'make again with changes' status.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Double-dipped Parmesan schnitzel

I've eaten schnitzel in some of the best beerhalls in Munich, and I love it. Just last week, I made my ersatz schnitzel, which is just eggs and flour around pork.

So when Barney Desmazery, the food editor of Good Food, tweeted: 'Double-dipped Parmesan crumbed pork schnitzel on Monday - sometimes you need to start the week as you mean to go on', I replied and asked for the recipe, because it sounded great. 'Watch this space', he said. I thought, 'there's a link coming', but, no, he replied directly to me with: 'make pork schnitzel adding freshly grated Parmasan to the crumbs and do the egg and breadcrumb bit twice.'

I have to make it now, I thought.

Any recipe you can tweet, when you think about it, has to be simple. It really was.

I misjudged the quantities and we had to whip up another egg, and then more breadcrumbs-and-Parmesan. This left Andy's schnitzel much more cheesy than mine, as initially I'd deliberately kept the Parmesan down to make sure it wouldn't over-power things.

I used the coarse grater for the cheese, which I had doubts about as soon as I'd done it, but the coarse-grated cheese and large breadcrumbs gave it a really chunky (beerhall!) feel.

Double-dipping the schnitzel is definitely worth it, and I think I'll introduce this for any schnitzel I do from now on.

It's not schnitzel without potato salad, though, is it?

I'm surprised, but it looks like I've never blogged my views on potato salad. Here they are: what's that mayonnaise doing there? Get it off my salad. In short, if it isn't German-style, and preferably hot, I don't want to know.

Here's the family recipe for potato salad, which I suspect comes from a 50s American cookbook. Boil chopped new potatoes (peeled or unpeeled - peeled's probably better) slightly longer than 20 minutes. Rough them up a bit. Pour over about equal quantities of white wine vinegar and olive oil - perhaps more olive oil. I always do this just by eye. Rough them up a bit more. Add chopped spring onion, and there you are. I believe you can add crispy bits of bacon, but Mum never does that, so of course I don't either.

I had concerns about the vinegariness of the salad and the cheese in the schnitzel. Because my schnitzel wasn't that cheesy, it was difficult to tell if they went ok, but the bite I stole from Andy's was fine, and he also said there wasn't a problem. A success, then. I'm awarding it the status of 'in the repertoire', which has just been launched.

(The photo is by Andy. He's the better photographer, but neither of us will ever shoot the cover of Vogue.)

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Chocolate praline pancake cake

  • further evidence website newsletters work
  • don't let the boyfriend 'just do one thing' while sugar is at crucial stage.

C'mon, this is my second attempt with boiling sugar, I'm allowed to stuff it up.

Saw the chocolate praline pancake cake in a Good Food website newsletter, and it just looked so good, and as you can tell, I really like gooey, chocolatey desserts.

Again, the recipe split quite easily into segments, and I think dishes are easier to do that way. (Especially if you're making braised pork chops at the same time).

First, the praline. It's simply a sugar syrup with blanched almonds and sea salt tipped it. I panicked when after boiling it went completely dry and looked almost like dessicated coconut. But I remind myself that cooking is often a case of holding your nerve, and so eventually, the 'coconut' began to smell like burnt sugar - the good kind.

Just as it was all becoming caramel, Andy became worried about the sugar round the sides of the pan (probably because he'd have to wash it up) and began asking to push it back down. I knew it was stuck fast, but eventually let him have a go. I wish I hadn't - I knew there wasn't time with melted sugar, and I had to snatch it back pretty quickly. I think the caramel was ok, perhaps a little darker than ideal. There really wasn't much syrup around the nuts, and I think if I was doing this again, I'd perhaps go up to 150g of almonds and 200g of sugar. So there'd be more caramel, and more praline all round. We found it difficult to achieve an even 'blitz' with the food processor, so some of the praline was pulverised and some intact nuts.

Much later, after dinner, we went back to do pancakes and chocolate sauce. Now, after all my experience (and the fact it always seems to me much easier than I had thought it would be when I was younger), I reckon I could make chocolate sauce in my sleep. (How about it, sub-conscious? Slightly less running through rooms and more chocolate sauce?)

I am, for whatever reason, not great at things like omelettes and pancakes. However, Andy displayed a undiscovered talent for making pancakes, though where on earth the '12 pancakes' from this recipe came from I do not know. I think we got seven.

So we layered them up, poured the chocolate sauce over it (I am not a person who believes in moderation in chocolate sauce) and baked it.

It was very pleasant, but didn't quite belie its origins as a pancake dish; the pancakes themselves made it sort of bland. I think I'd make up a set of chocolate sauce and praline and have them on hand for spare pancakes. Or, as I suspect is the idea, to impress friends if I had them over on pancake day.