Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rye & Seed Soda Bread

Seeded Rye Soda bread

8 months! That's how long it's been since the last time I posted. We've moved from one tiny island to a slightly larger one... so we're now living in Southend-on-Sea in England. Who would have thought! It's a pretty seaside place and once again we're looking forward to having family and friends visiting us in this part of the world!

Rye flour, spelt flour, salt and seeds, before mixing

One thing I've been doing recently is bake our own daily bread. I'm pleased to say that the last time we ate store bought bread is at least 3 months ago. There's been a lot of experimentation involved, so we didn't always eat the best of bread loaves. We've eaten some stodgy bread, undercooked bread, dry bread and even bread with bits of brown paper stuck to the bottom, when someone (not pointing any fingers here) mistook the brown paper for baking paper.

This is how the dough looks after a light kneading

The upside is that we've also eaten some of the best bread we've ever tried. The smell of freshly baked bread is something I can never get tired of. Bread with no preservatives and no additives. I think that's enough to keep at it.

Dough, cut into 6 wedges

The Rye & Seed Soda Bread is a staple loaf in our home. It's the quickest loaf to whip up, no need for kneading or resting, no need to let it rise and bakes in 20 mins.

Soda bread is a type of quick bread which uses bicarbonate of soda instead of yeast, as a leavening agent. You need to use an acid which reacts with the baking soda, which will create tiny bubbles of  carbon dioxide, causing the loaf to rise. Traditionally buttermilk is used, however I do not always have it in my fridge whereas I always have yoghurt, so this recipe uses a mixture of milk, yoghurt and lemon juice. You can easily  substitute this for 285ml of buttermilk if you prefer.

Lovely seeds sprinkled instead

Do not expect this loaf to be light and soft. It's a dense, wholesome loaf with a distinct nutty taste, thanks to the rye flour and the seeds. It tastes great and is perfect with thick soup or with stew. It's a firm favourite, and not just because it can be on the table in less than 45 mins ;-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Fig Project - Fig, Balsamic and Peppercorn Jam

A few of the figs taking part in this project

I thought I'd be posting more frequently now that school is out. But as usual, life is full of surprises... and not always good ones at that! As some of you might know by now, M. was in a motorbike accident a few weeks ago. He's doing fine... a broken nose, a broken knee and torn ligament. Nothing that won't be fixed eventually. It's not THAT bad. I'm grateful that he's home and wheeling himself about.

Figs - Trimmed and ready for action

After abandoning my kitchen for a while, this week I was back at it, getting another surprise (this time a good one) by being gifted a nice big bag of organic figs. We ate a few but I knew that unless I did something with them, they might go to waste. All in all, I have till now ate, cooked with or somehow used around 15kg of figs. I will attempt to document all the ways I have used/will use the said figs, starting with the first fig jam I made - Fig, Balsamic and Peppercorn.

My favourite mixture of pink and black peppercorns

Actually, as my cousin L. correctly pointed out, jam might not be the correct name for what I made first. By definition, jams should be smooth, not chunky. Preserves, on the other hand are chunks of fruit, suspended in a syrup base. Not sure whether that qualifies either. It's possibly more of a chutney, having a combination of chopped fruit, vinegar, spices and sugar all simmered into a chunky mix, balanced in sweetness, tartness and spice.

Figs- added sugar, balsamic vinegar, crushed peppercorns and lemon

I love this jam. Although I am a huge fig fan, fig jams were not my favourite, due to them being too sweet. But this jam is so balanced, you might want to eat all of it straight out of the jar. And I can already see it being used in tarts, pancakes, salads or over some home made galletti (water biscuits)... but more on that later. :) For now, I'll share the recipe...

The first batch of yuminess

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

And finally...Macarons!!

My First Successful Macarons - With chocolate Ganache filling

It's been almost a year since I last posted. I do feel the shame! But at least, this time I am posting as a free woman.

I'm no longer a student. School term is finished and my days at ITS are over. My time is now divided between making cakes and desserts for customers, and testing recipes (as well as cooking for M. and cleaning... but who wants to think about that?). If that's not happiness, I don't know what is! :)

One recipe I've been wanting to test is that for Macarons. Ever since I tasted them for the first time at Ladurée in Paris, back in 2009, I have often craved for them and have been toying with the idea of making these beauties myself.

Pretty little Pink ones

It was our last day in Paris and were were supposed to visit the Louvre. We got there at 5:00pm and the museum  was closing down for the evening, so we could not get it. But did I care about not seeing the La Vallette sword or the Mona Lisa? I forgot about them as soon as I caught a glimpse of the prettiest display of confections ever. Ladurée!

Deciding which ones to choose... now that was a difficult task. But I left the shop with 10 different Macarons in hand. Such beautiful colours! I savoured them slowly, marvelling at the sheer delicacy of the taste and texture, whilst sulking a little because I had to share. That's when the love affair started

Macarons: Thin crispy outer shell, chewy inside, creamy ganache

Maybe you wondering why it took me so long to try making them myself. Maybe the ingredients were difficult to find? Maybe they're too time consuming? No & No! The only reason why I have been stalling for 3 whole years is that I have been reading about them... in books, on food blogs, everywhere! The list of troubleshooting tips is huge! Something could would obviously go wrong, wouldn't it? And I'm a coward that way...

The thing is, I just had to try. I pencilled them into my to do list, for next week. Right between "fix the magimix" and "pester M. to update my website". And less then 2 hours after they were in my list, a customer called. She wanted a cake, with macarons stuck on the side, and could I do it for tomorrow please?

Mini-Macarons on a Chocolate Gateaux

I was about to say no, but I knew that I could do them. So why postpone? Why not get it over and done with? I had just got a gentle nudge in the direction I wanted to go, and what perfect timing! 

So I went shopping, armed myself with enough ingredients for 6 batches of macarons and by the time everyone was in bed, I was prepared for a long night of trial and error in the kitchen.

Don't they look gorgeous?

It actually took 2 tries to get them right. The first time I had too many holes on top and no feet. A little research revealed that it was a problem which was easily fixed just by tapping the bottom of the baking tray and bursting those pesky little bubbles with a toothpick. I also needed to wait a little longer between piping them and baking them, for a shell to form. I had no patience the first time round, even though I knew I should have. 

The second batch was just what I was looking for! They were perfectly round, with thin smooth shiny shells and they had FEET! And they were chewy too! Oh the excitment! I was so pleased, I just had to wake up M. to show him, even though it was 2:00am :) (He was slightly less pleased, but hey! I had to share...) 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Of vintage China and (almost!) impressing the hubby

Barratts Vintage Tea Set

I've been bad recently! And for a number of reasons too... For one thing, I haven't been updating this blog at all. My only excuse for that is that I started my summer internship, working 6 days a week in a restaurant. Not a very good excuse I know. Still, I'm sticking to it. I'm hoping it will get better once I'm back to school in a month's time.

Wedgewood Enoch and Adams Coffee Pots

I'm also using the same excuse for the second thing. I have not been taking any photos of anything I've cooked so far this summer. Moreover... the fridges are bare, the cupboards empty. I simply have no time or energy to go shopping. The hubby ain't too happy (more on that later!).

Royal Grafton Favourite trio

One thing about working in a restaurant till the early hours of the morning is that on getting back home you can't really go to sleep. Everyone else in the house is asleep. I had to find a way to pass the time... and I came up with online shopping.

That's where I've been awfully bad. No apologies either. I've been buying some beautiful vintage china. Complete sets, mismatched sets, teapots, coffee pots, cake stands. And today I received the last delivery. They're all here. My beauties :)

Some of the purchases
M. was as excited as I was... opening boxes and exclaiming on the beauty of the items. We took a few photos and then we got hungry. That's when problems began. I took out some noodles and M. gave me the "You're-a-chef-and-you're-feeding-me-packaged-noodles" look. I knew at that point, that reminding him that I'm still a student would be futile. I needed a better plan. So out came the grill pan and some chicken breast, the lonesome spring onion sitting in the bottom of the fridge, the tired carrot, two beautiful bowls. 

Turkish handpainted bowls
With not much of a selection of items, I chose to stick with the packaged noodles. I first dry rubbed the chicken and grilled it together with the spring onions. The noodles were cooked in a miso soup and I then added the chopped grilled chicken, the onions, carrot shavings and some frozen peas. One minute later we were eating a faux sort of ramen.

Grilled onions and sweet carrot shavings

For such little effort and for such a quick fix-up, this result was surprisingly good. I could see that M. was almost impressed, but not quite. I had still fed him packaged noodles, after all!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Maltese Sausage & Prune risotto

Maltese Sausage & Prune Risotto 

Last week C.S. presented me with 4 sausages... Something between nicely spiced maltese sausages and salami. Her brother makes the Maltese sausages himself and then hangs them to dry, giving them a wonderful texture. We ate one straight away, then forgot about them in the pre-Patches madness, until today. I saw the package when I opened the fridge as soon as I woke up this morning and I must guiltily admit I ate a whole one for breakfast. YUM! I know my blood pressure will not be low for a while now :)

Dried Maltese Sausage

I was wondering what to do with the rest of the sausages... (lest I be tempted to finish off the remaining 2 all by myself) until I remembered another forgotten ingredient: Vialone Nano rice, kindly given to us by Eatmania at the end of the Rice Degustation event, a few weeks back. Photos of the event here.

The Rice Sample we were given by Eatmania

Since that event, my mind has been mulling around ideas of how to best use this special rice, and today I decided that combining it with another special ingredient (the sausages) sounded like a good idea. Which, may I humbly say, it was!

Chopped Sausage

Maltese sausages are all made to the same basic recipe, however each butcher will spice it to his own liking... these had a definite taste of cumin seeds and I decided that they would pair up nicely with prunes. So here it goes: dried Maltese sausage and Prune Risotto. Delicious!

Ps. I noticed that the Vialone Nano is actually much creamier than any other rice I tried before... My previous favourite was Carnarolo, but I believe this might change. The rice also remained nicely separate, despite the creaminess, and retained a nice bite.I might need to get myself a good stock of this rice!

Chopped Prunes