Croissants

IMG_2009.JPGA few years ago I thought I would try making croissants sometime. Then I was dissuaded by being told it was very time consuming and difficult.

Unknown.jpegThen my friend Alison gave me The Tivoli Road Baker and it’s got a whole section on viennoiserie and I read the instructions and I thought… well, how hard can it be? I just need two days of relatively cool weather.

Friends, that was yesterday and today. I have now made croissants.

IMG_2006.JPGI started by buying Danish butter – Lurpak – because it’s 82% fat, although I don’t know if it’s cultured as the recipe recommends. Then I just followed the recipe for the dough, which turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. Then it was into the fridge overnight.

IMG_2008.JPGToday, I did the laminating, which again is a whole lot easier than I expected. I think the process has a bad name because it really does take a long time – but that’s the resting time, not the active time. The rolling out of each stage was easy and only took a few minutes. And in fact even the process of turning the dough into the croissants – cutting into triangles and stretching and rolling up – was really easy.

IMG_2010.JPGOf course, things did not go entirely right. Because it was a cool day, I decided to follow the instructions for proofing in the oven. I put a pan in, with boiling water, and then put the teeny croissants in to rise. After an hour, I thought the oven wasn’t warm enough, so I put more hot water in. Then 20 min later I took the croissants out because it was time to turn on the oven… and butter had melted out. Yeh. So that made me feel pretty awful. Then, hilariously, because I was annoyed about that, I completely forgot to eggwash the croissants before they went in. Thus they did not quite crisp up as well as they should.

Nonetheless! I made croissants. And they aren’t terrible. They are even flaky!

IMG_2007.JPGI also found a recipe to use the leftover bits of croissant pastry. Actually I think it was meant to be just the laminated dough but I used the bits I cut off as I went as well, so it didn’t puff up as much as they could have. I was going to make just the sweet version but then a friend pointed out that savoury could work too. So I made half with pistachio and raspberries, and half with a teeny bit of tomato paste and finely chopped mushroom. They’re ok… they didn’t work as intended because not all of the dough was fully laminated. Also, not making it from frozen probably impacted too.

So there we are. Croissants. Tick that off the bucket list.

Acts of Kitchen: being vegan

AoK_logo_v2In which Jacqui and Bec graciously talk to me about being vegan: the reasons for it, the way other people talk about it, the difficulties (not many) and eating out.

And I bought a new cookbook!

Previously, with Jacqui, on teaching food studies.

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Acts of Kitchen: Richard loves cooking

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I interview Richard Condie, who has a great passion for cooking and also an incredible vegetable garden (and fruit trees).

As I mentioned: Vege Bouquets

 

Medlars:                                                                 Yottam Ottolenghi’s Sweet:
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Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: #1

The Stages of Knowing About Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.

  1. Hear about it. Get excited.
  2. Request a review copy. Get excited.
  3. Waaaaaaait.
  4. Receive a review copy. Very super excited.
  5. Start reading. Be fascinated.
  6. Keep reading. Start to feel daunted.
  7. Finish the explanatory chapter. Sit staring into space, hovering around despair at being a dreadful cook and how will you ever improve?
  8. Realise you’ve been cooking for quite a while now and it generally tastes ok so there’s maybe no need to despair? Maybe there’s just room to improve?
  9. Look at some of the recipes. They’re pretty straightforward. So maybe learning to consciously think about salt, fat and acid won’t be so hard? Plus the flavour wheels are pretty useful?
  10. Get excited. Again.

That’s right folks. You can expect to hear a lot more about this book over the coming… months…

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Simple: the food

UnknownYesterday I talked about the book itself; today, the food. This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

I’ve tried a good enough variety from the book now to say that they are mostly simple recipes, in the sense of being straightforward. They’re not all fast (which isn’t something she claims for them, either, but what some might assume), but there are few complicated steps. I like variety that Henry is including in the recipes – taking advantage, as she says in the intro, of the new ingredients available relatively easily in Western shops or online.

Some of the things I’ve tried:

Huevos rotos: basically braised eggs with fried potato and seasoning. I am so in love with this idea.

Cumin-coriander roast carrots with pomegranates and avocado: like it says on the tin, also walnuts. Very very good.

Cool greens with hot Asian dressing: the Asian there should be “Asian” (lime, fish sauce, ginger, chilli, garlic – generic Asian), but this was very tasty: any green veg you like (avo, peas of various description, cucumber, leaves…) with the dressing. Very good with the roast lamb (see below).

Salad of chorizo, avocado, and peppers with sherry dressing: turns out I had no sherry but red wine vinegar was ok. Also, fried bread (basically croutons)! Excellent in a salad!

Lamb and bulgur pilaf with figs and preserved lemon: leftover roast lamb has rarely been this good. Chickpeas, walnuts, spice… also bulgur makes a great pilaf, will make again.

Orzo with lemon and parsley: I couldn’t find orzo but it was still fine. Very, very simple.

Turkish pasta with feta, yoghurt and dill: the only dish I haven’t loved. Caramelised onion, buttermilk and Greek yoghurt, topped with dill and feta. I think I just didn’t love the yoghurt with the onion. It was very easy though.

Bacon and egg risotto: yes, that’s right. So good.

Slow-cooked lamb with pomegranates and honey: this is the lamb I paired with the Asian salad. It was very tasty and, of course, easy, since you just whack it in the oven when it’s marinated a bit. I like the pomegranate molasses with the garlic. Served with Greek yoghurt it’s superb.

IMG_1851St Clements and rosemary posset with blackberries: yes, apparently posset is what you call it when babies return some milk. Pretty sure this came first though. It’s boiled and then steeped cream (with peel and rosemary) and then mixed with citrus juice and left to set. I served it with blueberries. It was very nice and straightforward, although I do wonder if there are more interesting things to do with cream.

There are still a LOT of recipes I want to make and haven’t had a chance to. I’m very much looking forward to using this book to death.

Simple

UnknownI received this book from the publisher, Hachette, at no cost. It’s available now; RRP $39.99.

This book is a delight. It’s a bit like Julie Goodwin’s book in that it’s intended as a generalist cookbook… although I have to say I prefer Diana Henry’s cover. As well, there’s not a whole lot of cross over between the two books, which is great; this has some different chapters. I don’t know whether that’s Australia vs Britain, or just a difference in their styles, or what the publisher wanted.

Anyway. This post is about the book itself, while tomorrow’s post is about the food (spoiler: it’s been good).

So firstly: I LOVE a cookbook with a ribbon! It’s enough to make me want to retro-fit ribbons into aaaallll of my ribbonless cookbooks. Which means yes, I got a hardcover, and it’s just such a lovely object. It has wonderful heft.

Henry writes an introduction that covers an interesting array of topics. She gives the context for the book (12 years after Cook Simple); unusual ingredients becoming more available and making life more interesting; and some suggestions about how to think about cooking equipment. And, most intriguingly, a short section addressing the question of how many people each recipe serves. Finally someone confronts this issue! I like her rationale – especially the suggestion to just think about the people you’re serving and act accordingly.

The book is divided into chapters that are largely traditional – pulses, salads, chicken, vegetables and so on – with a couple of exceptions. You don’t always get a whole section on eggs; I like it. You also don’t usually get a section on chops&sausages, which… is not especially to my taste (I find chops an enormous waste of time, in terms of effort:outcome) but I can appreciate their ease, and they fit in the theme of the book. The very British aspect comes through in the fruit puddings chapter, followed by the ‘other sweet things’ chapter (cakes). And then there’s the chapter on TOAST. Yes, toast. Variations on eggs on, and smashed avo, in large part. Her reasoning is how happy toast can make you feel, and that with increasing interest in bread, that means we can make toast more interesting too. I love it.

In terms of layout, there’s a recipe per page. More than half of the recipes have pictures, most of which are pretty minimalist – ie it’s the food in a nice bowl shot in an arty way, rather than an impossible-to-replicate table setting. The recipes are easy to follow, and have that now-standard intro where it tells you maybe how to jazz it up, or exchange ingredients, or when to eat it.

Overall, this is a really nice book, and again a good one to give someone who’s just getting into cooking.

Thai Food Made Easy: the food

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This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

In the last post I discussed the appearance of the book (overall, very easy to use). This post is about the food. I’ve only cooked a few dishes so far, but each one has worked as advertised. The short version is that everything has had an interesting balance of flavours, and most of them I would happily cook again.

Sesame chicken salad: blanched celery, poached chicken, a dressing of chilli and garlic and ginger and spring onion and fish sauce and vinegar. So easy, so fresh, so lovely.

Pork and pickled cucumber salad: well, the cucumber doesn’t pickle that much, but look: I’m trying pork! This was delicious, with peanuts and coriander and mint and chilli and lime.

Prawn noodle salad (it hasn’t even been that warm here but I’m on salads anyway): more ginger! and coriander and peanuts. Again, so tasty. Would make a good starter at a fancy-pants dinner party.

Barbecued pork and herb salad: more pork! This marinade was ace: coriander seed, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, turmeric, five-spice, chilli, pepper… nom.

Massaman curry: look, I cheated and bought massaman paste. Whatever. This was fantastic. Slow cook the beef and THEN turn it into a curry with coconut cream and potato… definitely making this again.

Braised chicken with rice, turmeric and spices: like the label says. Easy and tasty.

… these are just a small example of what the book has to offer. I am dead keen to try the variation of chicken satay with lemongrass, turmeric and ginger, and the Thai fish cakes; pork belly may be in my future, and I may yet make a curry paste from scratch (again, I did do it a million years ago).

The one sad thing is that, as with Indian Made Easy, there have been a couple of instances where instructions did not entirely make sense: not making it clear how long to cook something (fortunately, that was common sense) or instructions to add a dressing at step 3… and then again at step 6. None of these are make or break, but they do surprise me in a book that should be more closely edited.