Eating it, cooking it, thinking about it

Either eating it, cooking it or plotting it

Sunday, 29 August 2010

rhubarb & roses

Some poaching of rhubarb aside ( with apricots, orange zest, juice, fresh ginger, sugar and cinnamon) its been an unusually light Proper Cooking few days. And I don't think poaching up a dish of rhubarb can make a compelling case for Proper Cooking really. Food has either been delivered ( those promising brown bags with the handles again, always with a grease spot the size of a 50p coin) or we've eaten out. My default meal when busy with other kitchen projects ( baking for orders) is pretty much always a baked potato. Nigel Slater describes a baked potato as the culinary equivalent of a hug, and I don't think that notion can be bettered. I like my hugs with butter and cheese, cornish sea salt ( get me) and pepper. Sour cream and spring onions too if no-ones looking. Its a meal to capsize into, and generally leaves me with a kind of post hot bath happy simpleton glow. I'd like to say said potato ( and rhubarb) were organic, in mitigation of the lack of wholesome eating thats coloured this week, but they weren't. They were from t'Co-op so I doubt it. By dint of the fact that t'Co-op is a stones throw from me and that I pass it most days, I'm frequently in there either stalking up and down the baking ailse ( looking for items I know fine well they don't stock, but hope springs eternal) or making a smash and grab, amongst commuters, for something for tea. With t'Co-op being fairly handy for me, its sort of my big corner shop. No, they don't always have everything I want ( but they've started stocking halloumi a bit more regular ! 3 Cheese Cheers !) but their fair trade range is great,(and growing) and their recently gussied up cafe part is also all fair tradey , fairly priced and very well placed for skulking in when a train is late or cancelled. Remember the snow at the beginning of this year ? Well, the train service, shall we say, was not unaffected and I spent many a thwarted foray into Manchester in t'C-op cafe , riding an emotional rollercoaster following train time updates and eating toasted teacakes. But there's about to be a new kid in town ! I see on the high street, next door to a bakery, that a new coffee and pancake shop is set to open ! During my late teens, we'd go to the Dutch Pancake House in Manchester, see a film at the Cornerhouse and would thill to our metropolitan sophistication. So I shall let you know, this place has a big plate to fill. In the meantime, heres a pic of something thats been occupying me much of this week - sugarcraft. I've 3 large orders this week, for a wedding, a christening, and a new thing for me, a supply to a local coffee shop, so I've been busy handcrafting sugar paste roses and butterflies. And eating baked potatoes.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

early riser

Exactly as the picture says. Wide awake at unpleasant o clock this morning, made a maple & seed loaf... 

450g wholemeal bread flour
200g white bread flour
350- 400ml warm water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
50g mixed seeds
tsp salt
tbsp oil ( or butter)
7g sachet yeast

All ingredients except seeds into the mixer, combine with dough hook for 10 mins.Check for dough being too wet/ dry, adjust water, or sprinkle in a little more flour if needs be. Leave to rise for an hour, covered in an oiled or floured bowl. Knock back, add in seeds , re-knead then pop into floured loaf tin ( I used a 2lb tin) and leave to rise, covered again for another hour. Bake at 200 for 30 mins, knock the bottom of the tin and you should get a hollow sound that tells you its ready. Its a toothsome little loaf, a good teeth sinker-inner.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Toasting bagels for Thomas Stearns

Inadvertently, its been the week of sweetcorn. Monday saw an impromptu bbq, determined to make the most of summers last hurrah with a couple of friends. We had it baked on the bbq ,wrapped in foil, then charred a little with requisite butter dribbling down our arms and chins ( well, mine anyway). By 9pm it was fierce chilly but we were stoic. Til, ohh, 10pm , when eton mess and comfier seats called us inside. Tuesday was salt & pepper king prawns with egg fried rice. My egg fried rice always includes sweetcorn ( and peas) . Its akin to law in this house, and works as a great almost pillowy foil to the zippy salt and pepper king prawns - designed to make your mouth feel like that Dodo in the fruit juice advert, taste buds howling and  jangling "I'm Alive !". Well worth the inevitable tongue shrivel. Weds was left over egg fried rice for lunch, and for tea, cajun blackened salmon, sweet potato wedges and fresh boiled corn on the cob. Thursday was more left over fried rice . I'm constitutionally incapable of making a one-meal sized portion. I always hope for leftovers, like a sad eyed dog eyeing the table. I find leftovers almost as promising as a brown paper bag arriving into the house. Especially a brown paper bag with handles, theres every chance then its a takeaway or, thrillingly, it'll be from our local deli, Praze, purveyors of very fine cheeses and Elderflower champagne. Anyway, to make a succesful sandwich and throw a succesful party, you have to be generous ( another Law in this house) And so with cooking tea. Not like King Henry the 8th or anything, but enough going so as to not feel anxious. Thursday was sweetcorn free, but Friday returned to form with a chicken and sweetcorn soup. I have these little episodes, the new-best-friending of a particular food. Sometimes it'll be with a particular ingredient for Proper Cooking, other times, especially if left to my own devices , it'll be peanut butter and toast for a week. This coming week however, may well be a little heavy on the bagels ( with peanut butter ) . I made 15 of them this morning ( see, I didn't fib about the plotting of leftovers), some with poppy seeds, some just sprinkled with semolina. One just snaffled seconds out of the oven with butter. I had a small baking session underway as it was ( birthday cupcakes) so it was very little effort to measure out a few more ingredients and let the dough get on with its slow rising. TS Eliot's Prufrock, hauntingly, reductively and brilliantly had a life measured out in coffee spoons. I have a life measured out in baking tablespoons. Its a bit cheerier. Pull up a chair Tom, pop your collar and I'll toast you a bagel .

1 kg bread flour ( plain flour wouldn't be awful)
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500ml warm water
1 egg beaten
2 tbsps maple syrup ( or sugar would be fine)

Combine everything except the egg and maple syrup ( thats for later) in a mixer and mix for a good ten mins til elastic and pliable. This is a very stiff dough so it takes a bit more power than usual. You can of course do it by hand. Put the dough into an oiled bowl and cover ( I use a clean plastic carrier bag to cover. It gives room  for the dough to grow and is mightily convenient). It'll take about an hour to double in size. When it has risen, knock it back, the break it into 3 pieces. Roll each of these pieces into a fat sausage, and then cut this into 5 rounds. Roll them either into sausages again, and seal the ends with a bit of pinching and water, or roll into little fat rounds and stab through the middle with a wooden spoon, whirling the bagel about on it abit to make the hole bigger. Sit the 15 bagels aside on oiled trays to rise for 20 mins. After 20 mins, bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the maple syrup. On a good-ish rolling boil, drop in 2- 3 bagels at time and poach them for 1 minute, flipping over once. Return them to the oiled tray ( when I lifted my bagels off the tray I whizzed a bit of semolina under where it had sat) , brush with beaten egg and sprinkle on whatever you fancy, then bake for 15 - 20 mins, til nicely browned at approx 220 degrees ( 200 fan) . Use greaseproof if you are worried about them sticking to the tray.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Pizza pizzaza

The dough, the bruschetta, the pizza. Saturday night, done.

The Colonel, La Tasca, Dark Peak Ale and Me

Its been a funny old week, foodwise ( which is how I measure most weeks, come to think of it) . Saintly steamed veg and quorn sausages on Monday, swooping nose dive on Tuesday straight into a bottle of rose and bucket of fried chicken from the white whiskered Colonel (what ? what ? you have no guilty secrets? No diary lea on toast ?) a meal out at Glossops finest pub on Wednesday , The Wheatsheaf - real home cooking, fresh made pastry on the pies, locally sourced meat & fish, generous portions. I remember Rick Stein bemoaning recently that British Pubs are fast becoming more the go-to place for thai fishcakes rather than a Ploughmans. Not so the Wheatsheaf . Sure, you can have here your chicken  in cajun spices, and your fish ( fresh) in chilli and lime - but you're well advised to set about the cheese and onion pie, Dark Peak Ale and Steak pie ( local meats, locally brewed ale) or the Barnsley chop. And I do. Set about them, I mean. We happily waited an extra half hour not so long ago, for the seasonal wimberry pie to come steaming from the kitchen. Light buttery crisp pastry, great toothstaining purple wodge of wimberries, sweet and tart, deep as a ball pool and just as giddy making. With ice cream, thank you very much. I don't have any undisclosed interest in the Wheatsheaf by the way, I just like it. Very much. Thursday , a cheap and cheerful get together at La Tasca on Deansgate, Manchester with a couple of friends. Tapas, whats not to like ? Yes, I know....  Evuna, Luso, El Rincon are much more The Thing and we've been to and love them all. But there was (still is till Sep 5th, fact fans) 50% off at La Tasca at the moment so that was that. And as I've probably established with my visit to the Colonel, there's no food snobbery here ( I mean, you eat dairy lea on toast) there's a time and a place for everything. Particularly at 50% off. And then Friday, under the weather and and lacking in pizazz, Tesco's Finest king prawn malaysian biryani. It was very good, as it happens. Not just one top note layer of heat and spice. I'd have it again . I'm thinking home made pizza tonight. I thought that before I even wrote the word pizazz. In the meantime, heres a pic (blurry, I'm working on it...) of a fruitcake made a couple of weeks ago and steadily being plied with sherry in time for a wedding in September. Its to go on top of a 200 strong cupcake tower . Hows that for pizazz ?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

You can tell its summer, the rain gets warmer

Its grey and chill, here in Glossop. Its August and the heating is on. Not for nothing are we called the Dark Peak. There was a nod to summer yesterday, in the kitchen at least with baking a vaguely Greek, light and airy orange yoghurt cake, but todays a day for roast rib of beef, mustard crust, port gravy and roast potatoes. Followed by a slice of said cake. Best get the oven on then.

Greek orange cake

Greece by way of Glossop. And a zested orange and half a tub of low fat greek yoghurt that needed using.

Oven at 160 (fan) or 180 conventional. Line the base of an 8 inch cake tin, grease bottom and sides.

310g plain flour
4tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
250g greek yoghurt ( I used low fat)
150ml vegetable or sunflower oil
half tsp good almond extract
half tsp vanilla extract
                                             2 tsp poppy seeds

Orange sugar syrup
175 caster sugar
200ml water
juice of a large orange

stir all sugar syrup ingredients together, and let bubble and boil in a pan for 5 - 7 mins. Let cool slightly.

Sift the flour and baking power into a bowl. Add the salt, sugar and mix. Make a well, add in the eggs, yohgurt, extracts, oil & poppy seeds. Combine with wooden spoon. Pour into tin, bake for approx 45 mins. Let it cool for 20 mins or so, then prick holes in the top and then spoon over the orange sugar syrup.