Sunday, 29 April 2012

It's Raining (Again)

Sunday morning and the wind is howling, the rain is lashing, the dogs are damp from their walk (so am I) and the heating is on. On Tuesday it will be MAY, I’ve just had my long break from work, 11 days and it’s rained for 10 of them.

 Sarcasm alert - I do hate hosepipe bans!

There is a small lake in my garden which I could export to the South-East. The slugs have feasted on both the slug pellets and my courgette plants, and the rest of the veg are awash. The howling gale is rocking my greenhouses (good job I staked them and used tent pegs to anchor them down) but there is no prospect of putting plants out in this.

On the plus side, there is roast beef today, with the remains of the bread and butter pudding.

When I cleared out the freezer to make room for bread storage, I found a 600ml pot of double cream, on defrosting it had a rather strange consistency, a bit like fine sand, so I thought I would whip it and turn it into butter. I’ve seen it done on T.V. so I just put it in the mixer and turned it on.

Well nothing happened for a while, of course doubt crept in, then it began to thicken, then it turned into a sort of scrambled egg mixture,

then…………….. Suddenly it separated and I had butter.

After straining and moulding I was left with 310g of butter from 600 ml of cream,

much better than (dare I say it) supermarket butter, more like the sort of  butter that you would buy from a farm shop.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Bread Pudding

What do you do when you have just been on a three day bread course, your freezer is bulging and you have enough bread to feed an army? Well you could try a bread pudding.

People often ask me about quantities, and with a few exceptions they generally don’t matter too much. Most recipes are guidelines as far as I am concerned, and as long as it’s fairly edible that’s good enough for me. In the words of a cook I once sailed with, “If it comes out different, call it something else”.  And if all else fails, get yourself a Labrador!  

Also on the list today, my Elderflower Champagne needs bottling, and my Rhubarb wine has stopped fermenting and so can be racked, to remove the dead yeasts, stir things up a bit and get fermentation started again.

So first, Alcohol production, and my third batch of Elderflower Champagne has been gently fermenting (or working, as Grandmother Wynn used to say) for about ten days and so needs bottling, in about a fortnight it will be ready to drink.

As I said before, I use old plastic water bottles, but it’s still important that you release the pressure every couple of days to reduce the chance of a cap blowing off and the resultant spillage.

Strained and ready to Bottle

Drinkable in 10 days

Next the Rhubarb is siphoned into a clean container, topped up with water and returned to a warm place with the airlock in place.


Dead Yeast

Ready to Return to a warm place

Half an hour later it was bubbling away again.

Now the bread pudding, I decided to use the rest of the wholemeal bread and a half baguette, a layer of buttered pieces of each, sprinkled with dried fruit.

 A milk, egg and sugar mixture is made up and poured in, now you can just leave it for a few hours so the bread and fruit can soak up the liquid.

It then needs cooking till it’s all set and crisp on top. Mine took about 50 minutes at 160 degrees (Fan)

Ready to Eat

 If you are feeling adventurous, you can spread the bread with butter AND  add marmalade, or jam.

I’m back to work on Monday, but for my next set of days off I intend to make some Red Grapefruit Marmalade, and maybe Onion Relish, ready for Barbeque season. If it ever stops raining.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Bread Course

When I was at school, and even when I was qualified, I hated writing reports, I’m just not a paperwork sort of person. However this one has been a joy, because I was actually interested in the subject, and want to share it. And I know or at least hope that you, as fellow foodies, will be interested as well.

So for the last three days I have been making bread, looking back it was quite intensive, but at the time it seemed relaxed, only now I realise just how much ground we covered.

 So here it is!

Day Three

I’ve finally made it onto a bread course, and while I can’t say what the others would have been like, I’m certainly not sorry to have ended up on this one.
I was initially a bit worried, as from the website it appeared that I was on it on my own, but as it turned out there were two of us, myself and a very nice lady.

Please visit their website, for all the course details; you’ll see that they do more than bread courses.

Our hosts Holly and David were very welcoming, and we were kept topped up with coffee whilst we got started.

David took the course, and soon proved his knowledge and passion for bread, effortlessly performing the tasks that I have brought expensive machinery to perform.

The first day was spent on a bit of refreshment of techniques, including the difference that varying flour type and hydration, makes to your loaf. In about 30 minutes, we had 11 different types of dough, showing how the 4 basic ingredients can be varied.

Lunch was a delicious soup, with flatbreads, using parts of the dough we had just made, and then we were off again shaping the loaves ready to bake.

Whilst they were in the oven, we prepared starters for croissants and baguettes, which we would make on the second day, and for morning rolls. Homework was set (A piece of reading from the extensive cookery book library) then it was time for the breads to come out of the oven, cool and be assessed.

Various Flour, but all at the same Hydration

Same Flour, Various Hydration

Next day, after coffee, we carried on with the morning rolls, and started croissants and baguettes; we also made what David called a flying starter for sweet dough, basically a pre-ferment.

Croissants ready for the oven


Morning Rolls

The morning rolls were a sensation, and were just perfect for lunch with ham and mustard.

I find the whole bread-making process fascinating and at the time the things we were doing made perfect sense, but after a while I must admit to getting a bit confused and found it tricky to remember which stage went with which dough, and from which starter. I just hope that there will be a three volume course handbook. You can’t keep stopping to take notes as that would involve more hand washing than Lady Macbeth. Probably more like Politician amounts.

I digress, once again the process was arranged so that we were always doing something, and everything was hands on. In a seemingly endless line came all the loaves, the sweet dough was made, by popular agreement into saffron fruit bread, which was superb.

The Croissants, considering they had 250g of butter in them were dry and fluffy, without a trace of grease. The Baguettes were crisp and as good as anything you will find in most “Bakers”.

Croissants ready to eat

Saffron infused Tea Bread

The Best Baguettes

The day finished with sourdough, which had been bubbling away in the background since day one, and to which we had been returning to stretch and fold when we had five minutes through the day.

Loaves were shaped and put into the fridge ready for day three, which would also include accelerated sourdough. Once again a large bag of bread came home with me, my freezer is now bulging.

Day three and the pace slowed down a little, we were now in sourdough territory, and the one thing that does need is time, or does it? David showed us how to make what he calls an accelerated sourdough, modifying the method to produce a rise in less time. We also made a loaf with a mixture of flours, including rye, which is certainly interesting to work, I chased mine around the table for hours, without changing its consistency much, but suddenly – it began to behave and hold its shape.

Rye Bread, ready to Cook

Lunch was home made naan bread stuffed with a spicy lamb ragout,

Plain Naan

Stuffed Naan


after which a succession of loaves made their way in and out of the oven, and into the empty flour sack for home testing.

White Sourdough

Wholemeal Sourdough

Rye Sourdough

The Crumb

A final round-up the three days was much appreciated, together with a chance to make some notes and ask for clarification on any of the recipes.

Overall, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself over the course, I learned so much more than I had picked up from books, all taught in a relaxed, easy to understand way. I have had lots of hands on experience and when I can actually get through all the bread I have made and start making my own again, I’m sure I will be a better baker for it. And the lunches were great, especially as we were eating fresh bread that we had just made.

All for Me

My Bread Bin, it won't look like this for long!

If you are looking for a course that goes a bit beyond the basic, this one is highly recommended.

So there it is, my report on the bread course, I’m off for a bit of Sourdough Toast and marmalade (homemade of course)

Monday, 23 April 2012


I published the last piece without the photo's of the pasta bake, so here they are.

Whilst your pasta is cooking, fry some bacon and chorizo

When the chorizo is starting to release its oil, add to the tomatoes in a dish

grate in a piece of mature chedder

 and add the pasta when it is al dente
 mix well, top with more cheese and bake at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes.

Bread Course Tomorrow

It's the Bread Course tomorrow, I’m really looking forward to it, in a slightly apprehensive sort of way, I just hope that after all the disappointment of the two cancelled courses that I have tried to go on, that it’s all worth it. I also hope that it’s not too technical for my old brain to get to grips with, and that it’s not too basic either, but whatever happens I am determined to enjoy myself, and produce some breads to be proud of. And to learn enough to reproduce them at will! Not much to ask there then.

I will be taking my camera, so stay tuned for a full report at the weekend.

Now after the triumph that was roast gammon last Monday, we polished off the last of the meat yesterday, with all the usual accompaniments, and a piece of Yvonne’s fine Lemon Drizzle cake to round it off, with Clotted Cream of course.

Just big enough for 2

I thought it was about time to try a glass of the Elderflower Champagne that I recently made from last years dried flowers and that was very good as well.

For tonight, we have the tomatoes that I roasted on Saturday, mixed in with cooked pasta and topped with grated cheese, all baked in the oven, served with Garlic Bread.

Thats all after we have braved the rain for a bit of shopping, yes it's raining again here, I know we need the water but the time for rain is 2200-0600 (unless I'm working nights! )

Saturday, 21 April 2012


On today’s list (Saturday)

Make a loaf
Stake my runner beans as they are getting tall
Lamb curry
Prepare for outdoor veg

The loaf I will be making is a wholemeal seeded one, I have been making it at 70 % hydration, but it seems a bit dense so I’m going to try it at 75% today, that’s 500g Flour (400g wholemeal, 100g strong white), 50g mixed seeds and 375g water. Not forgetting the usual 10g each of Yeast and Salt of course.

Whilst it’s proving I will get on in the garden.

So I’ve supported my beans and dug over the ground ready to plant them out, building a wigwam for them.

Now they won't fall over

 I’m also putting my courgette plants out in a growbag, under a cloche.

Tomatoes in the plastic house,

Peppers in the other plastic house

Before I did that, I had to attend to some food leftovers, so they could be slow cooking.

I hate to waste food, I know I’m always saying it but it really gets to me to hear about  the amount of food that is wasted, and although I know that me eating or using less won’t directly benefit anyone else, we need to respect our food, and part of that means using as much of what you buy as possible. Something my father used to say has always stuck with me, “Take all you need, but use all you take”.
Rant over, I had tomatoes and bread that were getting a bit past it, so I cut the bread up for croutons as before

Basic Ingredient

Ready for the oven

and whilst the oven was on for them I quartered the tomatoes, sprinkled with oil and dried mixed herbs and put them in as well.

Two hours later, when I turned the oven up for the bread, I had croutons for soup all this week, and a delicious tomato and herb base for a pasta bake on Monday.

The loaf came out after 45 minutes and was eaten for lunch. The extra water has improved the crumb, although it did take 5 minutes longer in my oven to cook through.

Next job is the curry; this is a very dry one and is moistened on the plate by a yogurt and herb raita, when you are cooking you have to keep taking away juices from the meat and browning carefully to get a crisp texture to the meat and veg mixture.

Start with finely chopped onion, pepper and garlic, fry in a tiny amount of ghee until softened,

then add the lamb mince and fry slowly, draining away any fat as it is released.

As Yvonne isn’t a big fan of hot curry, I’m using a mild curry powder, add half a teaspoon at this point (or to taste), the advantage of using powder is that it adds no liquid.

Just before eating, stir in some desiccated coconut and raisons to absorb any remaining liquid.

Serve with the Raita and your choice of breads/rice/bhajees etc.