Luke Mangan’s Sharing Plates: the food

Unknown.jpegWhen you have friends coming over for dinner, it makes sense to experiment on them with recipes from a book called Sharing Plates (sent to me by the publisher, Murdoch Books, at no cost; discussion of the book itself).

Rosemary popovers: these are in the Bread section of the book. You make a batter of flour, eggs, milk and rosemary, and then pour it into a muffin pan to bake. These were ok; they popped right out of the muffin holes (maybe mine were deeper than the 60mL specified in the recipe), which was amusing. I found them a bit too eggy to really enjoy like a bread roll, which is what I was assuming they would be like. The recipe calls for it to be served with seaweed butter (adding dried seaweed); I neither have easy access to an Asian grocery nor the inclination to try seaweed this way at home. I put thyme into some butter instead, which is still in keeping with the book as it does say you’re allowed to experiment with other herbs. I made 8, so they certainly count as ‘sharing’ food.

Salad of roasted pumpkin, chorizo, chickpeas, quinoa and blue cheese: from the Snacks and Salads section. I’ll be upfront and say I am made a few alterations to this. I don’t like blue cheese so I used a very good Persian feta instead; I left out the roast capsicum because I couldn’t be bothered; and I didn’t make/use the cabernet sauvignon dressing because I thought the chorizo left enough oil to dress the quinoa, and the chorizo and seasoned pumpkin and feta together all seemed to add enough zing. I did like the combination here of using quinoa and a few chickpeas with the chorizo and roasted pumpkin; the walnuts on top added a good crunch, and the preserved lemon a piquant tang. In the past I have made similar salads with couscous; I think quinoa is a bit lighter, and I’ll tend towards it from now on (remembering to not let it burn in the pot…). I guess salad counts as a sharing food?

Chermoula lamb: I wanted to use the salad, above, so I mixed n matched with the Chermoula lamb with pumpkin couscous, from the Meat section. Perhaps you can buy chermoula somewhere in Australia as a marinade, but I’ve not noticed it. I assume this because the ingredients list says “30g chermoula; 6x80g lamb loins…”. I’ve used chermoula before so I was happy to go make it, but I was really surprised to see if referenced here as something you would just buy. The chermoula/lamb combo was fine. To be honest I don’t really see how this counts as a ‘sharing plate’ since there’s nothing more ‘sharing’ about this than with any other recipe that serves 4-6 people.

Bounty bars: from the Sweets section. I was pretty excited about making these – the ingredients are straightforward (butter, sugar, condensed milk (!!), coconut, chocolate) and I love a Bounty. And yes, they were very tasty, and of course licking the bowls was lovely. However the instruction that “Using two forks, dip a bar into the melted chocolate and roll to coat all sides. Use one fork to remove the bar from the chocolate and the other to wipe off the excess chocolate” (p213) is deceptive. That process was far more difficult than implied: the bars had been in the freezer, to solidify, so the chocolate just stuck to them really quickly – removing excess was hard. And just getting them into and out of the chocolate was a process. Perhaps I need to use a wider-mouthed bowl, but that’s not specified in the instructions. In the end, because of how annoying the process was and because of just how much chocolate was ending up on each bar, I gave up on covering the whole thing and went with fairly serious drizzling instead. This was far easier and still, I think, deposited a good amount of chocolate on the bar. Having learnt this trick I would be happy to make these again. I did indeed make the 15 suggested by the recipe… they do count as a ‘sharing’ plate in that respect, although given that they are meant to last for a week in an airtight container, you could just as easily not share them…

At other times

Sumac-spiced pork and vela meatballs with fontina mash: the meatballs were great, although I couldn’t pick up the sumac, which was sad and perhaps not surprising since you put in the same amount of ground coriander, and then some allspice, paprika, and pepper as well. The recipe calls for you to have bacon in the mix, which I think is intriguing, as well as pork back fat… which I couldn’t find, so I just left it out. Not sure what difference it would have made, of course; perhaps smoother texture? I thought they were fine, anyway. The tomato sauce had anchovy in it, which I like for the salt and umami flavour. The potato mash was intriguing – milk, cream, butter, parmesan, and fontina. I did not add cream, because I don’t tend to have it just sitting around, but I did go out and buy some fontina specifically. Fontina is not a cheese I would willingly eat, being much stinkier than I enjoy… but I was intrigued by its addition to the mash, and I quite liked it. Having said that, I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to source fontina for future mash: it’s not that easy to find, and it’s not particularly cheap, either. I’d be happy with either more buttery mash, or adding parmesan. The meatballs and the tomato sauce were very nice. Once again, unconvinced that this really deserves the moniker ‘sharing plate’; yes you can share it, yes it would be a nice cosy dinner party meal, but… it’s not something other than that.

Lamb empanadas: certainly count as sharing plates, and these were delightful. However, the info bar at the top said it made 10 empanadas; the ingredients list specifies 4 sheets of puff pastry; and the instructions say to use a coffee mug or glass to cut “10 rounds from each sheet”…

Things I haven’t cooked but give a sense of what the book is like: the first recipe is Quail eggs benedict with chilli kale on mini muffins; the final recipe is Soft Swiss meringue with berries and almond anglaise (actually the very last recipe, in the Basics section, is Wasabi Dressing).

Bagels

What’s that you say? MORE bread? Oh yes, friends. More bread.

This time: bagels. I had vaguely thought about making them in the past but then the Monday Morning Cooking Club’s And the Feast Goes On has a recipe and… well, it looked easy. For some reason I always thought bagels were hard! (This recipe is basically the same.) Maybe I was thinking of croissants…

Anyway, today I made them.

IMG_1311.JPGMaking the dough is a cinch – it’s just a yeasted dough. I very smugly used my stand mixer, but kneading by hand would be perfectly doable. Leave to rise; divide into 12 and poke a hole in the middle and shape a bit; leave to rise again. I didn’t take a photo at this point because they looked a bit weedy, so I thought I’d failed on my first attempt.

IMG_1312.JPGThen the fun bit – boil for two minutes on each side, sprinkle with salt (or sesame seed if you like). And look! They puffed up beautifully!

Then bake. And look at those lovelies!

Some of them are clearly a bit small… I think next time I might be ultra geeky and actually weigh each portion rather than thinking I can just wing it. I know, I know. Whatever.

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And the exciting thing I discovered? You can freeze bagels easily. Just split them first, then toast them…

Yes, more bread

The awesome Terri has been experimenting with sourdough, and so I have been inspired to experiment with a different recipe for my sourdough. I decided to go with this one, partly to see whether I could go for a really long rise – because that would make it easier to make: if you can have 12-24 hours of rising, then you can make it in the morning and bake it in the evening.

So it’s cold in my house most of the time at the moment, and I’ve been using heat packs when making bread previously. Yesterday, I made the dough, and just put it in a box with some towels so it wasn’t completely cold. About 12 hours later, I put it into a tin – which I could have done at the start but… I didn’t – and then I left it overnight, and baked it this morning. So 24 hours after making the dough. And… it’s ok. In fact it’s quite edible. I think it’s a little doughy, and I wonder what it would have been like if it had only risen for 12 hours – the baker we learnt from had this whole thing about sourdough dough ‘falling off a cliff’ when it over-proofs. So I’ll be doing this recipe again and trying it with just a 12-hour proof.

STAY TUNED.

 

Baguettes

I know, I know. I keep going on about bread. It’s because I’m determined to Get It Right.

IMG_1201.JPGI tried again with white bread the other day, with the rest of the Laucke flour. I had hoped to use my new baguette pans but it seemed too gooey – I was afraid it would drip through the holes. So I baked it in a tin instead and it’s probably one of the best loaves I’ve made to date.

Yesterday I went with wholemeal again, although instead of 100g rye (to 500g wholemeal) I used the white flour, just to lighten it a bit.  I was IMG_1203.JPGsensible about the amount of water I put in – and it didn’t need as much as it would have with the rye – and the dough seemed to be about right. On the left is what they looked like when I first put them in the pans… distinctly ugly looking, right?

Happily, once they had risen they turned into the picture on the right, which is a lot better looking. And then once they had actually cooked…

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Ta dah! they look like baguettes!

 

Roti experiment

Using the recipe in Indian Made Easy, we decided to run a roti experiment.

Actually it wasn’t deliberate; it was because we made the dough as written and realised it would make eight pieces, which would be too much for two people for one night.

Anyway: we made the dough, and we cooked four of the roti, and they were lovely; finished them with some melted butter and everything. Then, my beloved had already rolled out an extra one, but we realised that cooking and reheating the next night would probably be sub-optimal. This is when the experiment was hatched.

What would be better: to pre-roll roti, or to leave the dough in balls to be rolled out the next day?

Would roti made the next day even be ok?

SCIENCE, PEEPS.

The pre-rolled roti: intriguingly, the dough itself had a greyish tinge, which was odd; my beloved wonders if the air had gone out of it. At any rate it did not puff up as well when cooked, and actually went a bit transparent while cooking which it had not the day before. Very odd. Tasted ok; definitely not as good as fresh or the unrolled dough – a bit chewier.

The still-in-balls dough: looked more like the dough from the day before. Didn’t puff up quite as much and wasn’t quite as tasty as the very fresh roti, but still acceptable. Obviously it’s not exactly ideal, and making roti isn’t exactly hard… but for camping, for example, this would be quite easy to replicate. And it is good to know that it’s ok to save the dough if you plan on having it two nights in a row.

Finally, on the second night we brushed the roti with garlic butter – one clove of garlic, chopped, put into a dollop of butter than I nuked in the microwave. I let the garlic sit in the butter for a few minutes before brushing it on the roti and that was definitely a win. My beloved thought it should have been garlickier, but that’s nothing new.

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: 

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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.