Monday, 14 January 2013

Battling with bread, Dan Lepard vs River Cottage.

I'm writing this for all those battling with breadmaking, as I have been.

Since moving back to London in September I have baking my own bread after nurturing a starter to life, bubbling happily on my windowsill in its new bigger jar after I walked in one morning and it'd escaped its jar all over the sill. Rebellious children. A starter, for those not of the nerdy bread persuasion, is a mix of flour, water and possibly a sugary element which serves to feed the yeast contentedly developing. You need to regularly feed said started and mine, at least, has become rather like a pet.
Anyway, I started off using Dan Lepard's 'The Handmade Loaf', simply because I wanted a bit of a helping hand and my mum had this lying around. I decided, contrary to my usual practice, to follow the recipes to the letter until I felt confident enough to veer a little more onto my own course. My starter, therefore, was created à la Dan Lepard, using raisins to speed up the yeast. So far so good. For a couple of months since I have been struggling with what is allegedly the easy option, the no-knead method, as advocated by Lepard. This technique involves mixing the dough together and kneading for a few seconds then leaving it to rest, starting with a set of 10 minute rests which extend to half hour then hour then 4 hour rests. Although the involvement is short it needs a lot of attention and I found that as essay season descended I wasn't baking because it required me effectively putting a whole day aside and my best friend becoming my digital timer (it is anyway, to be honest - I love my timer!). The bread that I was producing was by no means inedible (right), in fact it was pretty tasty, but it didn't look the way I wanted it to and involved to much stress to make it worthwhile.
After a motivational talk with my dad, who has been making his own bread for a few years now, which went somewhere along the lines of 'YOU OWN THE BREAD, THE BREAD DOESN'T OWN YOU' I decided to try another recipe.

I stumbled across this sourdough recipe on the River Cottage site. This method involves making a sponge with all of the liquid you will use, your starter and half of the flour. This is left and, once ready, the rest of the flour, salt and oil is added, the dough then kneaded and left to rise once then knocked back to rise again before baking. So far, so easier than no-kneading, although taking place over a longer period of time. The above picture is my second attempt using this technique and I am getting much better results with this recipe. It's much easier to juggle bread making with uni and having a life as it needs so little attention. I tend to mix the sponge either in the morning before lectures or before I go to bed then leave for the day/night covered in clingfilm. I then add the rest of the ingredients when bubbles are nicely formed and leave for another day/night in a coolish place. I have also repeated this step when I didn't have the time to bake the bread, worked fine. Remember to oil the clingfilm!! ESSENTIAL. Then allow the dough to rise once more for a few hours before baking in a fairly hot oven (mine has no temperatures on the dial anymore so I guesstimate).

Thursday, 10 January 2013

I make a good looking salad.



So healthy eating and all that malarky is going well other than a slight blip involving me realising that just because sprouts look pretty on the stalk (see my previous post) they are still sprouts and do not necessarily make a desirable main ingredient for a meal with being spruced up with lots of butter and bacon...
Anyway, today I made a pretty handsome salad to go with my toasted homemade bread and a delightful soft blue cheese called Montagnolo Affine, super good on toast. The salad is mixed leaf from a nice bloke at the farmer's market who runs the Wild Country Organics stall, radishes, cucumber, soft Rosary goat's cheese and a little olive oil. Simple and sweet.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Start as you mean to continue - Happy 2013 and a warm pea and lentil salad.



This is my rainbow haul from Islington Farmers' Market this morning. Pretty proud, not going to lie. Having pretty much neglected vegetables in favour of expensive cheeses last term (see my cheese tasting extravaganza here) I have decided to rediscover veg and change my approach to buying it (spotting something reduced then letting it fester in the fridge because I didn't really want it before chopping the mouldy bits off and making a dodgy soup because I don't want to waste food). New year, new appreciation of vegetables. I have to say, buying vegetable from a market on a chilly morning is much more inspiring that wrestling someones shopping basket out of the way to get to the spring onions.

I've started this new inspired health drive with Nigel Slater, of course.
Warm Pea and Lentil Salad

175g/6oz lentils, green or brown
175g/6oz shelled peas, fresh or frozen
4tbsp olive oil
fresh chives, snipped into short lengths
juice of 1 lime or lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Was the lentil in a sieve under running water, place in a saucepan, cover with water, a little salt and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 12 minutes. They should be cooked through but still have bite to them.

2. Tip the peas into a small saucepan with the oil and chives. Cook over a gentle heat for 8-12 minutes, or 5-6 if you are using frozen peas.

3. Drain the lentils and place in a bowl, tip over the hot peas and cooking juices, squeeze the lemon juice over and grind over some salt and pepper.
I added some soft crumbly Rosary goat's cheese to add some creaminess and make it a meal in itself. Was well tasty, innit.

This recipe comes from Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food which I nicked off my Nana. Sorry Nana, I will give it back, I promise. Happy new year, y'all.