Party Bread Rolls

P20150926112635.JPGThese savoury bread rolls make for great finger food to take along to a party and share. They are easily adjusted to vegetarians or vegans and can be very delicious, especially when straight from the oven.

I make a basic bread dough and let it rise for half an hour, then roll it out. This needs to rise for another 30 to 45 minutes, preferably in a warm and damp environment. I usually put it into the oven, covering the inside of the door with a tea towel wet with hot water.

Meanwhile, collect an assortment of “toppings”. Semi-dried tomatoes work great, salami or Chorizo slices, goats cheese or Swiss Gruyere, chopped olives, rosemary, fresh thyme, basil. Whatever your garden has to offer, or that magic cupboard in the larder. Perhaps you could even use up one of those jars of relish, pickles or chutney?

Spread and sprinkle the toppings of your choice across the surface of the bread dough, then roll up into one large roll and cut into slices.

Now lay out the slices on a tray with baking parchment and let recover from the ordeal for another 30 to 45 minutes, again preferably in a warm and not dry environment, then dust lightly with flour and bake at 200 C until ready within approximately 15 minutes.

Focaccia

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Few things are better than a real and really fresh Focaccia straight from the oven. The extraordinary amounts consumed with enthusiasm at our house on various occasions are simply stunning.

It is very easy to make, but you need to be around to see to it every 20 minutes over two or three hours:

Make a basic bread dough from 65 ml water on 100 ml white wheat flour. Use 400 g flour for a standard square baking tray, 250 g for a round one.

Prepare the dough. Roll it out after the second kneading and put it on baking parchment onto the tray.

Infuse 120 ml olive oil with a crushed glove of garlic and 4 crushed dried red chillies. (100 ml for a round tray).

Let the dough rise for 20 minutes, then apply the following treatment:

Use a fork to prick the dough. Penetrate the surface and 2/3 of the depth but don’t go all the way through. Then brush on as much of the oil as the dough will take; don’t let puddles sit on the surface but let it sink into your holes.

Repeat this every 20 to 30 minutes, at least four or five times or until all the oil has been absorbed. Then sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sea salt, optionally adding more red chilly flakes. Give it another 30 minutes to recover from this treatment.

Bake at 210 C (410 F) until it looks right, about 25 minutes.

Transfer on a cooling rack, cut and eat just as soon as you dare.

Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

DSC_0898.JPGA tangy Greek yogurt ice cream served with poached pears and nuts.

For the ice cream, I make a custard from 250 ml double cream, 60 g sugar, four free-range egg yolks and half a vanilla pod. Whisk in a paste made from a heaped tablespoon of corn starch, this helps keeping the ice cream in shape later.

Whisk in 500 ml of Greek Yogurt in the last few seconds, remove from the heat. Let cool down, then chill. Churn it just after the main course; chilled well, this only takes about 30 minutes in the ice cream machine.

Poach one or two pealed and cored pears with 1 tablespoon of sugar and one start anise each in 250 ml water or rice wine vinegar. Take the fruit out after approximately 30 minutes, increase the heat and reduce the liquor to a thick honey consistency.

Poaching in rice wine vinegar will probably need sweetening with honey or apply jelly but makes a nice sharp contrast to the sweet ice cream.

The version in these photos uses a Balsamic Caramel. Good old Salted Caramel or simple Balsamic Glaze would also be nice, and so would be natural dark honey.

Add some toasted and chopped pistacho or macadamia nuts for added crunch and good looks.

Elderflower Cordial

P20160528135323.JPG250 g fresh and ripe Elderflower
1 l Water
1 kg Sugar
1 unwaxed lemon
1 tbls citric acid or juice

Mix sugar and water, bring it to the boil. Let it cool down a little, then add the finely sliced lemons, additional lemon juice or citric acid to taste. Now add the unwashed flowers, stir, then cover and let rest in a cool place for 2..3 days.

Now filter the liquid through a muslin cloth and discard the solids.

Bring the syrup to the boil, then bottle into sterilised bottles.

 

Vegan Tomato Tarte

IMG_20180822_195506.jpgThis was very moorish and a good addition to my vegan repertoire: a tomato tarte.

Instead of the usual puff pastry used with Provencale tarte, which is rich in butter and not suitable for vegans, I made a light and crisp pizza base. I covered this with tapenade from dried tomatoes, garlic and black olives. I added a rich layer of extra lush and tasty beefsteak tomato slices, sprinkled with salt and chilly oil.

Vegan-approved!

Courgette Relish

IMG_20160730_125140.jpgIs it a relish, or is it a pickle?

I don’t know, but it is a good way of using up surplus courgettes and is very tasty with cheese.

Grate about 1 kg of courgettes into juliennes. Add a red pepper, two red onions, one glove of garlic, perhaps an apple, all finely diced. Add two teaspoons of salt, mix well, cover and let rest for 24 hours.

On the second day, combine 500 ml cider or white wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons caster sugar, two teaspoons turmeric, ground coriander and ground ginger each. Optionally add chilli for heat or a cinnamon stick for depth, and two or three star anise are never a mistake in my view.

Bring this to the boil, then reduce the heat. Drain the courgette mix and add to the boiling liquor. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, perhaps adding a little cornflower to thicken the liquid slightly.

Meanwhile stearilize jam jars in the oven at 140 C for 10 minutes, then fill with the hot relish, close the lid and let cool down.

Rosehip Jam

IMG_20151108_171421.jpgWalk over the fields in October or November, and you’re bound to find rosehips along the edges of the field. It’s well worth gathering a few even if you must pay the price with stings, scratches, and loss of blood.

Rose hips are full of vitamin C and make for a delicious jam.

You need a little over 1kg rose hips for 2..3 jars of jam. You also need a little time over several days:

(1) Wash the rose hips in cold water, and shake the remaining water off.

(2) Trim the bottom and top ends off, and slice the rose hips slightly. (A small cut will do.)

(3) Put the rosehips into a dry pot, close with a lid, and leave to wilt in the shade on the kitchen top for 2..3 days. You’ll find that the smell increasingly fruity over the wilting period.

(4) Add clean water, just enough to submerge all the rose hips, and gently bring to the boil. Add a spoon of sugar and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. You’ll be surprised what a thick paste you get right away. This burns easily, so make sure to stir well around the edges frequently.

(5) Pass this through a fine sieve. Nothing for the lazy cook, but think of the rewards!

(6) Repeat steps (4) and (5) with the left-overs (seeds and whatever else you didn’t pass through). This second batch will be thinner but increases the overall yield, and is still pretty fruity. You might want to skip the B-grade addition if you are working towards an entry at the WI’s rose hip jam competition.

(7) Now look what you’ve done: you made some very fine Marc de Rose Hip. Weigh it.

(8) Add the same amount of jam sugar by weight, stir well and let the sugar disolve. Gently bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Add juice from 1/3 lime per 500g of marc. Simmer for approximately 7 minutes, still stirring continuously.

(9) Rinse clean jam jars in very hot water, fill with jam to one finger from the rim, and tightly close the lid immediately. Do not touch or move until they are cooled down and have sealed themselves. There is no need to faff about with waxed or drunken papers or some-such in my opinion.

(10) Label, store in the larder, give a gift to a friend, or sample it first and then decide to keep it all to yourself.

Tomato Jam: A Lynch Job

20140901210114.jpgKevin Lynch of Closet Cooking inspired this Tomato Jam with his original recipe.

I never followed his recipe, but end up with a coffee-free and much spicier variety, which we find looks and tastes fantastic on bread with a fried egg, as the tomato layer on a pizza, or with egg-rich Pappadalle or Fettuccine. So, here goes one fairly large batch:

Wash and dry 4kg ripe tomatoes, then cut into eights. Place the pieces, skin-down, next to each other on large flat baking trays and slowly dry in the oven at 95 C for 2..3 hours. Stop when they are still slightly moist, but no longer wet. You may need to do this in batches, depending on your oven. I get 2 kg on each tray, but a convection oven takes 2 trays with ease. I open the door every 20 minutes to let the steam out and to wipe off the condensation. You’re trying to evaporate over 3 litres of water, so give your oven a hand.

When dried, let them cool down (and dry out even more).

To make the jam, do this:

Blizz the tomatoes into a puree, skin, seeds and all. This should have a slightly moist yet rich and thick consistency.

Toast one large tablespoon of coriander seeds, one large tablespoon of fennel seeds, 3 dried red chillies, a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds and 4 star anise. Transfer the hot spices to your pestle and mortar or spice grinder.

Add a splash of olive oil to the same pan and crisp 200 g of streaky dry-cured bacon or panchetta.

Meanwhile, grind your spices and enjoy the delicious aroma. Sieve to remove stalks and husk. Add a teaspoon of ground cumin.

Mix the ground spices with the tomatoes, then blizz the bacon into small bits and add to the mix.

Season to taste with balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and brown sugar.

Done.

Set some aside for tonight or tomorrow’s lunch.

Fill the rest into preserving jars and preserve in a Baine-Marie at 85 C for 90 minutes.

Artichoke Stir-Fry

DSC_0079.JPGA crisp and delicious quick stir-fry from fresh artichoke hearts, packed with flavour.

Most books discuss preparation methods which involve submerging the artichoke, or parts of it, in boiling water for some time. I prefer the stir-fry method, which doesn’t water-down the delicate taste.

Trim the artichoke by removing the stalk, most of the leaves, and the hairy carpet (which is called the choke). For this dish, where you’ll slice the hearts, it is easier to trim stalk and leaves first, then slice heart and choke combined, then remove the choke in slices. You’re left with an enormous amount of compostable waste (which the Guinea pigs only eat in the absence of other fresh food), and you have the artichoke heart. Cut it into slices 5mm thin, then cut those into halves. Irregular shapes also look nice, but will take different cooking time due to the varying thickness.

Lightly sprinkle with lime juice right away, and toss about in the lime juice occasionally until you’re ready to cook.

To cook, simply heat a good quality extra-virgin olive oil in a pan or wok, and stir-fry the artichokes for 3..4 minutes, adding more lime juice as you go along, and adding salt and black pepper to taste only in the last minute.

I usually also add capers, sometimes olives, or sauteed potatoes.

We love this stir-fry to accompany white fish, such as a pan-fried sea bass or sea bream fillet with crispy skin. Add a lime mayonnaise, or a Rouille, or a Sauce Vierge, and you’ve got a winner, a champion, a superstar on a plate.