Indian Made Easy: the recipes

9781743368565On the book itself.

The introduction proclaims this as a book “about discovering a casual attitude towards Indian cookery”, and that some of the recipes have been “distilled and pared back for busy modern cooks.” I would say that this is a book for a fairly experienced cook – that is, someone who won’t be put off by making their own simmer sauce or following a few steps – but who has never cooked much Indian food. Which pretty much means me.

The recipes

Paneer: yes, ok, I made paneer. I had a litre of milk nearing its use-by and I didn’t want to waste it, so I thought I’d experiment, ok? I don’t imagine I’ll be doing this every time I want paneer but it’s nice to know I COULD. It was easy, and the instructions (except for that confusing ‘do I turn off the heat when it’s 80C or after I’ve added the acid??’ question) were easy to follow.

Charred Broccoli with Chilli and Fennel: the fennel is fennel seeds, and the garnish is what really makes this – toasted coconut, pomegranate seed and coriander! Broccoli and coconut is amazing! Also the mustard and fennel seeds were nice with it too.  Continue reading “Indian Made Easy: the recipes”

More sourdough experimentation

IMG_1082.JPGWhen my beloved saw that I wasn’t happy with how my sourdough turned out, and that I wasn’t sure if it was the flour or if I’d over-proofed, he came up with the Scientist’s Answer: run an A-B test.

So this morning we went to Bee Sustainable and got some freshly-milled whole wheat, which is what I used the first time; and we also went and bought a thin rubber sleeping mat to insulate the cardboard box I had been using (because we don’t own an esky and I’m not sure what size I would need to fit boxes or bowls).

Now, I have made two bread mixes. One, in a container originally used for plain flour, using the Laucke bread; the other, in the SR container, using the wholemeal. I already expect there to be a slight difference because I used the same recipe for both, and white flour needs less water than wholemeal – but I used the same amount anyway. I figured it was a trade-off for the experiment: different flour AND different recipe, or just different flour? It might have an impact on the rise, I’m not sure; we’ll see.

Because I am not great at visually estimating size, I’ve also got the tape measure out, as you can see. I took measurements when I first put the doughs in; I plan to measure every 30 minutes to see what happens.

STAY TUNED!

Update 1: 

IMG_1083

Update 2: Continue reading “More sourdough experimentation”

Sourdough experiments

Having a look around at sourdough recipes, we came across Cultures for Health. Which means I found a bunch of recipes to use ‘discarded’ starter, including one for pancakes.

So I decided to try sourdough pancakes. I over-estimated how much oomph would come from the starter, so I used plain flour instead of self-raising; I realised this was a mistake when the pancakes didn’t get very fluffy and were in fact a little on the gooey side. Nonetheless, they were quite tasty and I would definitely make them again with discarded starter.

IMG_1076.JPGI’ve also made more bread, and experimented this time with different flour. I know I’ve seen baker’s flour before but couldn’t find it anywhere I looked – well, except for in 10kg bags and that seemed a bit much just at the moment. So I got  Laucke bread mix, since the yeast is separate – I figured it was likely to be good for bread since it’s designed for bread machines… right?

My first slice, when admittedly it was still a bit warm, suggests that it might be a little on the gooey side. Additionally, the crust came away from the loaf proper, which might mean that I over-proofed it. Also, as you can see from both the cob and the log, it seems the oven isn’t uniform in temperature, which is interesting – the last loaves didn’t do that. I guess more experimentation is required. WHAT A SHAME.

Persian-ish French toast

When I made my first sourdough last week, I made a fruit loaf and two cob loaves. Thing is though, we’re kind of out of the habit of eating bread. So today I still have one of those loaves left (it was also a somewhat exceptional weekend which involved zero cooking). I thought, therefore, to see whether slightly stale sourdough bread would make good French toast. Or at least edible French toast.

IMG_1073.JPGI found a recipe in Sabrina Ghayour’s Sirocco for brioche doughnut French toast, inspired by everyone’s favourite Nigella. It involves vanilla and orange zest in the egg mixture, and then sugar and ground cardamom (guilty: I used pre-ground instead of grinding my own). And it was delicious. The bread was just slightly on the chewy side, but I actually didn’t mind that; it wasn’t as thickly cut as you would use brioche, which helped. The orange and cardamom were excellent.

I served myself some Greek yoghurt as well, and it was excellent.

Of course, I’ve now reminded myself how easy French toast is, so that may have Ramifications…

Bread, baby. Bread.

IMG_1037.JPGI have finally made my first batch of sourdough bread with my leaven (who might be Geoffrey… or Godfrey… or something like that…) thanks to my sourdough course at RedBeard.

Win: I managed to get the bread out of the bannetons without any hassle! This suggests I had floured the baskets well enough, which pleased me.

Slight loss: I think the bread is a bit doughy. I’m not sure whether this is a result of the house not being a constant temperature, or me not making quite the right IMG_1038.JPGmixture, or… what. But it tasted pretty good, so

Win!: it tasted pretty good! And it was mostly wholemeal (freshly milled and everything, from Bee Sustainable), but it wasn’t too heavy at all.

Experiment: I made fruit-ish bread. That is, it’s definitely got fruit in it – dried apricots and currants, and cinnamon and nutmeg, all added about an hour… ish… after it started rising. But I haven’t tasted it yet so we’ll see what it’s like… eventually. Sure looks pretty, though, doesn’t it? IMG_1039.JPG

Sourdough Course

Once upon a time I decided that doing a sourdough course was a good idea. That was backIMG_1010.JPG in January when I saw a sign at the RedBeard Bakery in Trentham advertising their courses. I took a photo; sent it to my friend Gill; and all of a sudden I was booking us in.

Our course was this past weekend, and it started with  RedBeard’s “nice buns” and golly they were nice with a lashing of butter. There were originally nine on the plate….

Next we moved into the baking area and we got stuck IMG_1016.JPGinto actually making bread. Firstly we made a wholemeal dough, using RedBeard’s own leaven; this involved flour (1kg wholemeal, 200g rye, both stoneground) and water and salt and leaven, and then a lot of kneading. I love kneading; it’s wonderfully cathartic, and although it’s intensive I also found it lulled me with its rhythm. It looked like this, eventually. Very appealing, I think you’ll agree. It was way wetter than any of us (eight people on the day) had expected, which John – head baker and owner and teacher – stressed was incredibly important in creating a good sourdough.

IMG_1013.JPGThen it had to rest for a while, so then we had a go at IMG_1012.JPGmaking a white sourdough with a dough that had been started a few hours beforehand by John’s sidekick. When John poured it out of the bucket, it reminded me of nothing else so much as the magic mud of my childhood (it’s all in the meniscus). With that dough we shaped cobs, using these awesome baskets that RedBeard has been using for however many years, and we made Vienna loaves, using their Belgian linen to make sure that the bread didn’t stick and stayed in shape.

These also had to wait for a while, before baking; IMG_1015.JPGI think we then had lunch. To be honest, it all blurred together a bit – the order of things, that is – because it was a long day (10am to about 5pm). But I remember lunch very clearly, because it was amazing. There was bread, of course, with lashings of butter; and smashed roast potatoes and garlic; and a great salad with sprouts and lettuce and tomato and seeds; and a truly incredible free-form tart involving leek, goat’s cheese, roast capsicum, and other bits of deliciousness. The whole day was great but lunch was a really delightful moment of sitting down and appreciating food.

After lunch we shaped the wholemeal into three loaf tins. We also got to make our own leaven: potato peel, and rye flour, and water. That’s it. So now I have a leaven that I need to feed ‘for the rest of my natural life…’ – or if I’m going away I either need to phone a friend, or just accept that it’s deaded and I have to make another one. Happily, it only takes about three weeks for a leaven to be ready to use. Given IMG_1018.JPGour household doesn’t eat THAT much bread, that’s not so bad.

Eventually it was time to cook the loaves, and that involved the most intimidating part of the day: using paddles and putting the bread into the very large, very hot oven. I didn’t die. No one died. When all of the bread was out, it looked like this. Yes, all of that that bread was shared between eight participants (and John took some too, actually). I came home with seven loaves. I made a lot of people at work quite happy when I gave it to them. (I did, rather guiltily, put a couple of the cobs into the freezer – John said we shouldn’t but I wanted to see what it was like for myself.)

The day wasn’t just about making and cooking bread. John was a wealth of information about the history of the bakery itself and sourdough in general. He’s very dismissive of ordinary yeast bread, rather than fully fermented sourdough, which made me a little dismissive because I do love making ‘normal’ yeast bread. It will be interesting to see whether I give it up in favour of the sourdough completely….

When I got home, we had leftover salad and bread.IMG_1019.JPGI now have a list of things I think I need – at least some sort of basket for shaping the cob, because there’s just something about a cob that appeals more than the high tin, for me. I also need to put bricks into the bottom of the oven, in order to increase its thermal mass; this is apparently a good idea for any oven, since it keeps the heat in rather than letting it all whoosh out when you open the order. Happily my darling doesn’t seem to mind the idea.

Edited to add: this is what my leaven looked like when I fed it for the first time, two days later…IMG_3807.JPG

Sure hoping that’s ok!

 

Hot cross buns

Or, the trials and tribulations of dough.

Plan: go away for Easter and bake hot cross buns.

I had made hot cross buns from BakeClass a few weeks ago, just to see what they were like and because my beloved has a somewhat fetishitic love of them. They were good. I made a couple slit changes: I did not have enough bread flour so I subbed in some normal plain flour; for me such buns need peel, so I reduced the currants and cranberries (which I used instead of dried cherries) and added the peel.

They were very good. They were also quite large, which wasn’t a problem but good to know.

So, the day before we were to leave, I got the dry ingredients (this time all bread flour) all together and made sure I had the container of chocolate bits as well as the milk and butter. My plan had been to get the buns to the second rise for while we were at church, so they just had to be baked when we got home.

First issue: for some reason my brain got all tied in knots, so I kept waking up wondering if it is was time to knead yet. Is it time? No, it’s 1.30am. Is it time? Nope, it’s 3.30.

You get the idea.

IMG_2116Anyway, when it was 7.30 I figured it was time. And that’s the point at which I realised I had no measuring instruments which meant that 1 3/4 cups of milk was going to be … hard. I eyeballed the milk container and figured, how hard could this be, to guess not quite 500ml of milk? So I guessed. I also guessed 60g of butter. And then I mixed it in and… it was sticky. Quite sticky. I turned it into the bench (onto the flour I’d requisitioned from the dry ingredients because I had not brought extra flour, of course), and there was not going to be any kneading. So I put it into the bowl and rise anyway, just to see what happened.

Then I shed a tear.

After about 10 minutes or so I decided to see whether I could use muesli in lieu of flour, just to make the dough knead a little. And what I discovered is that rising a bit makes the dough somehow rise out of its stickiness. Like, it had become entirely knead-able. So I kneaded, and left it to keep rising; after an hour I punched it and divided it into 16 (instead of the 12 recommended, because they’d been so big), and left them to rise again while we were out. This also involved brushing them with egg with my fingers, and my beloved taking the job of piping on crosses which I wasn’t going to do but he insisted and we had flour because he’d gone to get some from the people who run our holiday accommodation because one of the other people some for rolling out pastry for tarts. Because we are foodie type people.

IMG_2118When we got back from church the buns had risen hugely. They went into the oven and needed to be turned after about 10 min, and put to a higher shelf, because weird oven. But they cooked.

And, in the end, they were excellent.

Apparently I’m to keep making them.