I’ve complained on my blog before about how difficult it can be to find many speciality ingredients where I live with many herbs and spices requiring a special outing. I love trying out food from across the globe and it’s so frustrating to find that the key ingredients I need are nowhere to be found.
But now I may have the answer in the form of Kitchen Nomad and their monthly box scheme. The idea is that you subscribe and each month they send you a food parcel with various ingredients from difference areas of the world along with recipe cards. I think it’s a brilliant idea – not only do I get forced out of my culinary comfort zone and get to try things I’d never have thought of cooking, I also get those hard to find ingredients. So it was with a great deal of excitment that I opened my first box and found it was the Lebanon!
The box is filled with various spice mixes including a version of Lebanese Allspice that I had never even heard of before let alone used, pomegranate molasses, za’tar, tahini and a few other things. With it were a number of different recipe cards and the first one I’ve made is the spiced lamb flatbread. Whilst the bread itself wasn’t anything special the lamb topping was something else! Spicy with a subtle sweet undertone from the molasses and a definite kick from the chilli flakes. I’d made the full amount of lamb and so I left half of it in the fridge to turn into little empanadas the next day.
I used the Dan Lepard recipe I’ve used previously but this time I left out the cumin and replaced it with a teaspoon of the Lebanese Allspice. The flour smelled amazing – really fragrant. I could have just sat and inhaled it happily!
I then fried the lamb mix until cooked and left it to cool. The pastry was then rolled out and cut into 10cm circles. I rested them for about 5 minutes and then gave them another quick roll to thin them out a bit more before putting 2 teaspoons of the lamb mix onto them and sealing with water.
You can freeze them at this stage (you just defrost before baking). I baked them for 20 min at 180C and they were delicious! Crispy fragrant pastry stuffed with tangy, spicy lamb. And just as nice eaten cold the next day. Next time I’ll turn the full lamb mix into these as they were a definite triumph! I look forward to seeing what the September box brings.
We’ve actually managed to grow some decent sized red onions this year for once – the first time for a few years. It’s frustrating as I love red onions and they are supposed to be easy to grow, but each year I end up with onions that are only a little larger than the sets I planted many months before. Not good… This year was their last chance. Whilst my garlic crop has done well I have only a handful of onions to show for my troubles and given how easy they are to buy I’ve decided that enough is enough. Next year I’ll give the area over to strawberries instead and hope for better luck.
In celebration of my meagre harvest I decided to make red onion bread. This is another Dan Lepard recipe from Short and Sweet and it starts with the creation of a red onion roux. The onions are sweated in lots of butter until soft and flour is added to create a thick roux. Finally a good splash of red vinegar is used to help retain their colour. You can’t taste it at all in the finished bread so don’t be tempted to miss it out.
I forgot to add the olives until after the roux had cooled but that didn’t seem to matter. And I added black olives rather than green as that was what I had in the fridge. I found the mixture hard to knead. It is the wettest dough I’ve dealt with in a while, nearly as bad as ciabatta, and it took a lot of will power not to add extra flour. Eventually it came together and after about an hour it had risen considerably to form something that looked worryingly like spotted dick.
Having found the kneading bad, it didn’t get any better with the shaping. As with the semolina buns I made earlier, these were rolled and then cut into rectangles. But it had lost none of its super stickiness and despite a generous coating of semolina, I had a devil of a job trying to get the dough to separate at all, let alone neatly. As you can see from these photos I ended up with a few odd shapes!
They continued to rise well and by the time I popped them into the oven, they were considerably larger. By the time they came out of the oven, they were plump and golden with a texture not unlike ciabatta which is not surprising given how wet the dough was.
These are definitely bread rolls to eat warm from the oven with a delicious smell and flavour. I thought that they were much nicer warm so if you have to keep them longer I recommend popping them back into a warm oven for about 15 mins to crisp up again. But no matter how tasty they were, it’s still not enough to motivate me to attempt growing onions again. Next time I make this it will be onions from the local shop…
It’s still hot. The news is dealing with this in its usual positive way which is that widescale death and devastation are going to result. Whilst that’s possibly true of our back lawn, I suspect that most of us are going to muddle along quite nicely until it breaks and we go back to complaining about the rain and cold again.
LSH and I headed for the Lake District for a couple of days walking. We had planned on heading up some fells but as the temperature was over 25C when we got there at 10am , we decided to stick with a low level walk broken up nicely with a couple of pub stops. This included one owned by the National Trust (The Sticklebarn) so I’m chosing to see my half of cider more as a charitable donation than a drink. We still managed to do just over 8 miles which we felt was an achievement given how hot and muggy it was. Too hot to walk in the Lakes! Has to be something of a first there.
Back home the bread is rising quickly, possibly too quickly. What would normally take about an hour on my kitchen table is taking half that. So instead of bread I’m making a quick pastry instead. I’ve had my eye on Dan Lepard’s Sweet Potato Crescents in his Short and Sweet book for a while. I’m missing a few things – sweet potatoes, a red pepper, spring onions and ground cumin – but otherwise I think I have everything I need. Sharp eyed owners of this book will quickly realise that what I’m missing are pretty much all the ingredients needed for the filling but I have a plan. Instead I’m going to use butternut squash, the emergency bottled pepper lurking in the fridge and a red onion along with freshly grinding some cumin seeds.
The pastry isn’t too difficult and turns out a lovely vibrant yellow from the turmeric. Clearly my seed pounding technique needs a bit more work as it also has little flecks of cumin running through it, but the overall effect looks good.
Whilst Dan doesn’t say to do this, I end up wrapping it in clingfilm and popping it in the fridge whilst I do the filling as it is already really sticky to work with and I fear that another 30mins will make it unrollable.
For the filling I steam 300g of chopped butternut squash until tender. Then I fry half a finely chopped red onion in 1 tbsp of sunflower oil.
After about a couple of minutes, I add 2 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced) and a finely chopped red chilli. Then I added the squash with the ground coriander and let it cook down for a few minutes. I mashed the squash with a fork and added the chopped red pepper. I gave it another minute or so before 2 tablespoons of frozen coriander leaves were stirred through it and the whole thing left to cool.
I then assembled as per the recipe and baked (we don’t have a deep fat fryer and I’m a bit squeamish about deep frying without one). The baked versions didn’t have the crispness you’d get with the fried ones but they came out OK with a nice golden sheen to them. I did feel that they lacked a bit of taste which may have been down to steaming the squash – I think that roasting it before adding to the onion etc would have given a better result and I’d probably add a bit more chilli and maybe some cumin to the filling as well. But as LSH was happily drowning them in sweet chilli sauce I don’t think he noticed. One to experiment with I think so let me know any suggestions you have. Enjoy the summer!
Another bun recipe and with it my Dan Lepard “bread roll trilogy” comes to an end. After the soft floury baps and the semolina buns I am now on the soft slider rolls that I planned to bake a few weeks ago until thwarted by the lack of custard powder.
The process starts with an unsweetened custard made with the custard power and milk with only 2 tsp of sugar. This is then left to cool and mixed with the flour, salt and yeast. The custard roux was straight forward enough but it did end up a very scary yellow. It also seemed very thick (I suspect that there is a reason my custard is usually of the ready mixed variety). Tasting it was a bit strange – you expect it to be sweet and absence of this meant it tasted like cornflour rather than custard. In his recipe Dan Lepard does say you can substitute this for the custard powder and after tasting it I can see why.
Adding the flour to it made for a very dry dough and it was hard work to knead. It is supposed to be a firm dough so I stuck with it and resisted the temptation to add any extra water. I then left it to rise and shaped into 5 decent sized buns.
After proving they got a coat of milk and I scattered white sesame seeds on the top. The final buns were nice but compared with the other bun recipes, I felt they were too dry and firm. I preferred the texture of the semolina buns to these. The original recipe is for smaller buns and maybe they work better in this form. I think that larger buns need to be softer so I probably won’t do this one again. I just need to make a lot of rhubarb crumble to use up that custard powder…
At last! We have blue sky and bright warm sun. I’m able to wander around the garden in my bare feet and wearing a dress without thick wooly tights (first time this year!). So today is another session of gardening and the weed infested pots of my earlier post are now filled with begonias. This was followed by a “productive” session of lying on the back lawn watching swallows circling far overhead and drinking Bellini. Bliss!
But I have been baking as well. LSH has made a special request for his favourite bread – Stilton and bacon. I used to make this using the olive dough recipe from Richard Bertinet’s Dough but give the success of my recent “easy white bread” this is the recipe I’ve used for the basic dough. However I have reduced the salt a little as there’s plenty in the filling.
I grilled 5 rashers of unsmoked back bacon and left to cool. I then broke it into quarters cutting off any remaining fat (I have to have fat crispy on bacon). Once the bread has had its first rise I patted it out into a rectangle and cover with bacon. Then I crumbled about 150g of Stilton over the top.
I rolled it up and made sure that it was sealed at the bottom. It was left to prove on baking paper for about 45mins. The final bread was then baked at 200c for 35min. I’ve also used the same method for sun blush tomatoes with mozzarella and pesto which was delicious! I think that caramelised onions might be worth a go as well. Let me know what ideas you have.
As the weather was so nice we had this bread for lunch sat outside on the patio. LSH made very short work of it after a busy morning weeding but at least I got to eat my share of it this time (I’ve learnt my lesson on never leaving him alone with freshly cooled bread….).
Regular readers will know that I am a bit of a Dan Lepard fan and am slowly baking my way through his Guardian recipes. However I didn’t have any of his recipe books…..until now.
It started with the news that the Kindle edition of Short and Sweet is now only £3.99. Now I love my Kindle but I don’t really think it works for recipe books but I thought I’d download a sample chapter to see what was in it. As I had the link on my phone I ended up downloading it to my Kindle app. I was expecting a lot of dry text but instead what I got were glossy colour photos and links in the recipes that took you straight to the relevant techniques at the beginning of the book. I could have it on my ipad and not only would it be flour resistant, LSH would never know that I’d bought “yet another” recipe book (he is of the opinion that you can have too many recipe books….)
So download it I did. First recipe was the Easy White Loaf. In the intro Dan Lepard says that you can add up to 200g of cheese to this. So I chopped up the last of a pack of cheddar (about 150g worth) and coated it in generous amounts of paprika and chilli powder. When the loaf had finished its first rise I patted it out into a rectangle, covered it with the cheese mix and rolled up like a Swiss roll.
It looked good with a heavy swirl of cheesiness looping through it. Unfortunately it also “swirled” out of it gluing the bread firmly to the baking tray so it became a 2 man operation to prise it free (note to self – put on baking paper next time). It was worth it though and went down well with LSH – too well in fact. I left pretty much a full loaf when I went to the hairdressers. When I got back this is how much was left.
Guess I’ll have to make it again…..
I fear that my blog is starting to sound like a one woman fan page devoted to Dan Lepard. Today was a special day in themondaybaker household as LSH is celebrating a “big” birthday with a “big” party. So I’ve been busy all morning with party prep as well as making some buns for pre-party burgers and morning-after bacon sarnies.
The first recipe I looked at were the soft slider buns which looked good but needed custard powder so they were out ( I didn’t think my carton of low fat custard was going to be able replace this somehow….) So that left me with the soft floury baps which could be made with everything I had in my cupboards. I just needed to work the timings around my various errands that I needed to run.
First the sponge. This needed a sachet of easy blend yeast. I don’t use sachets and I’ve previously used a teaspoon of easy blend yeast instead. But then I saw that a sachet supposedly equals 2 1/2 tsp of yeast! So this time round I weighed it and it was significantly more than I thought. So I mixed the sponge ingredients and left it. The recipe says to leave it for 2 1/2 – 3 hours so I headed off to collect the cake.
By the time I made it back it had been left for 2 hours and looked like this! Definitely somewhat lively….
Then I added the rest of the flour and the water, milk and butter mix. The resting time ended up being curtailed as I needed to go and get balloons and other things. But it still left a bit of a problem as I didn’t think I’d be able to get everything and get back in the hours proving time. A plan B was needed – LSH was going to have to bake them without supervision….
So I carefully shaped them into buns and sprinkled over the flour ready for proving.
I set the timer for an hour and wrote down the instructions (Turn oven on to 200C after 30 mins. When timer goes off put buns in oven. Bake for 20 min remembering to turn them mid way through cooking). I then kept sending “helpful” texts (“are buns in oven?”, “have you turned them?”, “have you taken buns out of oven?” It was a bit like baking by phone – if only there was an app). And these were the result.
Very squidgy and really soft. Ideal for burgers and bacon. I now have a stash in the freezer and I doubt that they’ll be in there long.
So here is the pre-party burger version:
And the morning after one….