An American Interlude

pancake 1

I feel I ought to start this blog with an apology to UK readers – as is usually the case, when I leave the country the weather improves but now I’m back and it’s raining heavily and all I can hear is the water pouring down the drain pipe. The delights of the British summer! All this rain is not helping my post holiday blues.

Whilst the holiday itself is fast becoming a memory, we still have the hundreds of photos to go through and sort. So this blog is something of a sneak peak but with a distinctly baked good flavour (despite LSH’s view that I should be posting lots of photos of elk etc. I have explained that my blog is not called “The Monday Elk”…).

One of the things that I love about going abroad is the different food experiences. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets as much of a thrill from scouring the shelves of a local supermarket as from the local tourist attractions. I invariably end up coming back with some dubious food substances carefully wrapped to avoid spillages in my suitcase. This time around it was a bottle of slightly luminous prickly pear cactus syrup that, thankfully, made its way back intact.

pancakes

Being the US, I made it my mission to munch my way through an unseemly number of pancakes in our various stops. The one at the top of the blog is from the small cafe at the Signature Hotel in Las Vegas – possibly the neatest pancake of my trip and my first experience of the choice of bread that seems to come with your average American breakfast. I was surprised (and delighted) to get a choice of 4 different breads for toast no matter what type of restaurant/ cafe/ hotel we were dining in – white, wholemeal, rye and sourdough. I can safely say that I’ve never been offered sourdough as an option in the UK, which I suspect is down to the fact that it’s not as much a part of our food culture as in the US. These pancakes are from the Grand Canyon and from left to right you have buttermilk, buckwheat and blue corn which were eaten with a choice of prickly pear and maple syrup. I loved the buttermilk one and its a shame it’s so hard to get where I live (our closest supermarket looks at you in horror if you ask for lamb mince so my chances of getting buttermilk are pretty much nil!). I’ve heard you can make it with milk and lemon juice so I’m going to have to give that a go. IF you’ve made your own buttermilk do let me know what its like via the comments.

I’d never come across blue corn flour before (I thought it may be something to do with blueberries but it is flour made from the blue corn in the region). We found it again at Monument Valley used in the Navajo breads we ate there. We had Navajo Nachos in both the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.

Navajo nachos - grand canyon style

This is the Grand Canyon version – like a thicker style of tortilla topped with a mix of lettuce, tomatoes, refried beans and beef.

And this is the Monument Valley version.

Navajo nachos - navajo style

Much more like a fried puri done in the style of a Yorkshire Pudding before being filled with the same mixture. One of my favourite Indian dishes is prawn on puri and I’m tempted to have a go at presenting it in this fashion.

We also had the fried and tortilla style blue corn bread with a couple of different types of Navajo chilli. The one below is pork with a type of corn. I loved the tortilla but thought that the fried version was just a bit too greasy for my tastes.

Pork and corn chilli with breads

We also had squaw bread in Page which tasted a bit like a version of maltloaf to me (I’m currently researching recipes).

It was interesting to find that, despite the fact that we’re exposed to so much American culture here in the UK, there’s still so much that’s new about food. I have brought back a couple of bread recipe books so expect to see some more US influenced breads over the coming months. It would be interesting to here your thoughts – Am I the only one that happily meanders through foreign supermarkets? Is food one of the highlights of your holiday? And what is squaw bread?

Finally a couple of pictures just to keep LSH happy – here are the Elk of the Grand Canyon… Happy Baking!

Elk 1Elk 2

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What I see from my back door – a challenge.

Back Garden 1

Another gardening post (don’t panic – bread will be back soon!). Cecilia at The Kitchen Garden has posted a challenge for people to send in the view from their back door. So this is mine caught on a (fleetingly) sunny moment.

The main photo is of my climbing rose called Gertrude Jeykll. We bought it when we first moved here from Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate. It’s covered in tight buds and in a few weeks should be awash with fragrant pink blooms. Please try and ignore the weed infested pots – they will have flowery things in them soon!

Back Garden 2

This is the Bramley apple again. With a small Acer in a pot in the patio. This used to be at the front door but it was so windy at the front that the poor thing was constantly losing its leaves. So we’ve rescued it and it looks a lot happier back here.

Back Garden 3

Finally my Victoria plum tree. Alas it’s had no blooms this year at all. Maybe I’ll have a plum glut next year. Here’s hoping…

 

The Monday Baker Gardening Special

Phlox

We seem to be tumbling towards June at a rapid rate of knots yet I’m still putting the heating on and using a brolly remarkably regularly. To make matters worse my plum tree hasn’t blossomed at all this year which means for the first time there’ll be no plum jam, sauce, vodka (insert favourite plum recipe here). But for once we had sun and warm weather this weekend. So there has been less baking and more sowing and weeding. In “celebration” of this fact here is a bit of a gardening special (with a small amount of bread…).

I’ve sowing fennel and salad leaves and I’m waiting for my French beans to germinate. Some plants are already well underway including my courgette plants. All 6 of them have sprouted and are doing well. I’m taking a bit of a risk and have potted 2 of them up and put them outside. The forecast at the moment is for no frost so I have my fingers crossed that it stays that way. If not I have 4 back ups still in the greenhouse.

Courgette

Whilst my plum tree has been a failure this year, elsewhere I have plenty of signs of a decent fruit crop, including my Bramley apple which has a decent amount of blossom on it.

Bramley blossom

There are also loads of redcurrants and blackcurrants already starting to form as well as these little beauties – alpine strawberries. I grew these from seed a few years ago and now they have self seeded everywhere in the garden. These are hidden underneath one of my climbing roses.

Wild Strawberries

As part of my general clearing up I’ve been moving a few pots around and this is how I found this little fellow – possibly the smallest toad I’ve ever seen! He soon hopped off into a secluded spot by the side of the greenhouse.

Very small toad

It hasn’t been completely bread free though. I made some naan breads with toasted cumin seeds in to go with our curry and another batch of the semolina buns I made a couple of weeks ago but this time in as burger buns. So here they are along with my new bread basket.

Semolina buns in basket

Love Baking Bread

Bread magazineI’ve often wondered why there isn’t a magazine devoted to bread. My local newsagent is full of ones dedicated to cupcakes and cake decorating but not one on bread – till now. Love Baking Bread is brought to you by the same people who bring you those pesky cake mags but thankfully (with the exception of an ad on page 88) it’s a cupcake free zone.

Instead there is page after page of bread recipes and other bread related stuff. I’m already making a list of recipes that I want to try and there are quite a few. I couldn’t find any information on whether this is a one off or whether it will be coming out on a quarterly basis so fingers crossed this is the first of many.

However, I do have a slight reservation about it which is that none of the recipes look to be original to this magazine. If you already have recipe books by many of the bakers included here then you may find there’s little new for you. But if, like me, you’re at the beginning of your bread making journey then you’ll find the magazine acts as a good “sampler” of what various bakers’ recipes are like. So if you want to try recipes by the likes of Hollywood, Bertinet, Hadjiandreou, and others before committing to buying an entire book, then give this magazine a go.