Sunday, February 28, 2010

no-knead bread (for Fresh From the Oven)

I'm so proud to be part of a baking group called Fresh from the Oven. It's a group of bakers looking to try new things and each month we choose a bread baking project. This seems to suit me just fine, since I'm a beginner when it comes to bread. For February's challenge we are all making Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread. Claire from Things We Make chose this great recipe.

I asked for Jim Lahey's book for Christmas (My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method) and I've made the No-Knead Bread several times now. It's been much talked about on the websites and blogs, since it was first written about by Mark Bittman for the New York Times (and the extremely simple recipe is found in the article). Bloggers everywhere have written about it. So I figured it might be time to learn how to make bread and also try the recipe that has been so much talked about. I have tried it as a white rustic loaf, a wholewheat loaf, and a rye loaf (below), which was my favourite.

What makes this bread recipe unique is that there is no kneading, instead the wet dough has a very long (twelve to eighteen hour) first rise. I've made it once with a 24 hour rise (in a cool place) and it was delicious. (It's a very flexible recipe, and forgiving.) Then after a two hour second rise it gets baked inside a covered pot in the oven. This means the bread is steamed in "the oven inside the oven". The resulting loaf is hard crusted but with lots of porous holes inside the fluffy bread.

Making the bread is definitely easier than any I have tried before. And timing it has been relatively easy as well. If I want to use it for a lunch or early afternoon, I mix it the night before and let if rise overnight. If I want to use it in the evening, I mix it at breakfast time (since I get up so early there are more than 12 hours between breakfast and dinner!). One night the bread was just ready at dinner time and we were so tired that we ended up just eating warm bread with oil, vinegar, and cheese as a meal. It was fantastic!

tiramisu (for the Daring Bakers)

I think my first Daring Bakers challenge has been a success. The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession. Recipes for all of the parts are available from Aparna.

I made the whole dessert from scratch, which led to some scary moments in the kitchen. Making the mascarpone cheese was the first part I attempted and although it looks more like butter, it turned out tasty in the end.

Making the lady finger biscuits was my next challenge. They are beautiful, puffy little things. I wish I had made twice as many so I could use some for another dessert, or just served plain with coffee.

I made the pastry cream, whipped cream, and zabaglione (a sweet paste made with port) and mixed them with the mascarpone. Then the whole tiramisu is assembled with layers of lady fingers (dipped in sweet espresso) and layers of the cream mixture.

Dusted with unsweetened cocoa to contrast with the cream mixture, it is a very sweet dessert with layers of spongy biscuit and smooth, cold cream.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

beef bourguignon

It was a quiet Saturday afternoon staying in, smelling the stew bubbling in the pot while I tidied around the flat. Red wine, the deep smell of beef, thyme, and bay leaves drifted to me every few minutes. I knew that I could turn that casserole beef into juicy, tender stew with the help of I Know How to Cook. It's an easy recipe that just simmers away for several hours on low heat.

We had friends coming around that evening, so we would be a party of four (and the recipe is meant to serve six). But it only calls for 600 mL of liquid in total, so I was a bit concerned it might bubble away to nothing. So I put the lid mostly on, and since I was nearby, I looked in on the stew every half hour. I'm glad I did, since by the time two hours rolled around I just had to add a splash of water. Things were beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan. And it just barely served four adults.

But, as I'm coming to expect from this cookbook, the recipe produced delicious results. There was a very rich flavour that was very warming and hearty. This stew was comfort food at its best.

Beef Bourguignon
adapted from I Know How to Cook
serves 6, allegedly

60 g button onions or shallots, peeled, whole or halved
100 g bacon lardons
700 g stewing beef, cut into pieces
30 g (1/4 c) flour
300 mL any stock, hot
300 mL red wine
1 bouquet garni
salt and pepper
100 g (about 5) mushrooms, quartered

In a heavy pan, fry the onions and bacon until light brown.
Remove from the pan and add the beef and fry until brown. Sprinkle the flour over the beef, stir for a minute, then add the stock, wine, bouquet garni, salt and pepper, and onion and bacon.
Simmer on a low heat for two hours.
Add the mushrooms and simmer for a further 30 minutes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hollandaise Sauce

One of my readers sent me a question recently about cooking vegetables.

"I find I am always looking for different ways to cook veggies. My husband is hard to please. He doesn't really like salad, and wants stuff to be really flavourful. He likes 'sauce.' He seems to think that everything needs 'sauce' or 'seasoning.' If you have any suggestions, I'd really appreciate them."

Veggies are my favourite thing to cook, and I am always looking for ways to help others love them as much as I do. Starting with fresh ingredients is always the best first step. But I am more than happy to suggest sauce ideas, too. Hollandaise sauce is a good bet because it's simple to make but adds a slightly richer flavour to a light meal such as steamed fish and veggies.

Hollandaise is a classic French sauce, so I used a recipe from I Know How to Cook, the French cooking tome, recently published in English for the first time. Hollandaise is brilliant with vegetables, fish, eggs, and even grilled steaks. It's a bit fiddly to make the first time, but doesn't take too long, and is easy to get used to. There are only three main ingredients and the recipe below makes plenty for a larger family or two meals for a couple (just reheat it very gently for the second meal).

Hollandaise Sauce
adapted from I Know How to Cook

Hollandaise sauce is one part in the trinity of Eggs Benedict, along with an English muffin and a poached egg. Learning to perfect Hollandaise is simple, and gives you triumphal bragging rights.

3 egg yolks
salt and pepper
3/4 c (175 g) butter
2 t lemon juice, warmed

Put the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl with 1 T water and a pinch of salt over a very low (barely simmering) heat. Stir vigorously.
Remove from the heat, add the butter, cut into small pieces, and stir in. Return to heat and stir until the sauce thickens. As this is happening, keep the heat low and remove the pan from the heat any time it looks as though the eggs are about to become scrambled.
Pour in the lemon juice, stir with a bit of salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

mezze (for the Daring Cooks)

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

The two required recipes were pita bread and hummus. Both of them were easy to make and very tasty. The flatbreads were warm, soft, pillowy. The hummus had a lemony zing. The recipes are available from Michele.

I also wanted to make Leon's Sweet Potato Falafel. They would be easier to make if I had planned ahead. The night before when the oven was on for something else I could have roasted the sweet potato and let it cool. Then the same-day prep would be simple.

Sweet Potato Falafel
adapted from Leon: Ingredients and Recipes by Allegra McEvedy

2 medium sweet potatos (about 700 g)
1 1/2 t ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 t garam masala
2 big handfuls (about 30 g) fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 c (120 g) gram (chickpea) flour
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 220 C/425 F. Roast the whole sweet potatos until tender, about 45 minutes. Turn off the oven, let cool, then peel.
Put the sweet potatoes, cumin, garlic, garam masala, fresh coriander, lemon juice, and gram flour in a bowl. Mash together well.
Put into the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. The mixture should now be somewhat sticky rather than wet. Add more gram flour if necessary to make a slightly sticky mixture. Use spoons or your hands to make balls. Place on a greased baking tray.
Heat the oven to 200 C/400 F. Bake the falafel for 15 minutes until the bases are golden brown.

Finally, to my mezze feast I added Spring Greens, another Leon recipe that adds a great colour to the spread.

Spring Greens
adapted from Leon: Ingredients and Recipes by Allegra McEvedy

1/2 head of cabbage
1 leek, sliced into diagonals and washed
1/2 t caraway seeds
1 c (130 g) fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 T cider or white wine vinegar
2 T olive oil
a big handful of mint, chopped
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, heat 1 c (250 mL) water to boiling. Add the cabbage, leek, and caraway seeds. Cover and simmer for four minutes.
Remove the lid and add the peas. Stir and simmer until the veg are all cooked and the water has mostly evaporated, about five minutes.
Remove from the heat, and finish with the vinegar, oil, mint, salt, and pepper.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

happy Chinese new year - ginger noodle soup

I wish I could say that I have a large Chinese food repertoire. In fact, the opposite it true. I doubt I know how to cook even one authentic Chinese dish. But I like Chinese flavours, and I enjoyed when Jeff, Mum and Dad's Chinese boarder, cooked for us over Christmas.

But I can offer this noodle soup for this weekend's festivities. It's one of my favourite soups--I've been making it for ten years since I ripped it out of one of Mum's magazines. It's not authentic Chinese, but it is tasty, easy, and warming for a winter celebration.

Ginger Noodle Soup
serves 4

500 g ground pork or ground beef
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/3 c (75 mL) hoisin sauce
2 T chopped ginger root
2 T soy sauce
4 c (1 L) stock or water
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 c sliced mushrooms
150 g noodles
1/2 c (125 mL) bean sprouts

In a large pot, brown meat for 5 to 7 minutes and then add onion, garlic, hoisin sauce, ginger, and soy sauce. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the stock or water and bring to a boil. Add the carrot and mushrooms. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the noodles and cook for 4 more minutes (or longer if directed on the packet). Garnish with bean sprouts.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

blogs I love

Wow--my first blog award. And it couldn't come from a more lovely blogger. I've enjoyed No Love Sincerer since I stumbled on it a few months ago. We have great chats about organic veg boxes and food reading. Thanks so much for the award!

Ten things I love:
1. Fresh veg boxes--yes, I am a veg addict.
2. Juicy oranges to eat at my desk in the afternoon
3. Crunchy, sweet apples--a take-anywhere snack
4. Hearing Ant's reaction to my strange meal concoctions
5. Reading cookbooks--my leisure hobby
6. Leafing through cookbooks in a book shop
7. Learning about food photography, and trying out new ideas
8. Dark chocolate after a long day at work
9. Reading food blogs and meeting new online friends
10. Enjoying a refreshing gin & tonic with a slice of lime

Ten bloggers who inspire me:
1. David at David Hall
2. Chele at Chocolate Teapot
3. LK at Healthy Delicious
4. Ele at Kitchenist
5. Hilary at Let Her Bake Cake
6. Nora at Nora the Kitchen 'Splorer
7. Deeba at Passionate about Baking
8. Alessio at Recipe Taster
9. Sunita at Sunita's World
10. The Urban Spork

There are also many more bloggers who have helped and inspired me. It's a pleasure to while away every evening reading their thoughts and salivating over their pictures. And I love the friendly blogger family in which I have now found myself.

The rules associated with the award are as follows: post the image, list ten things I love, and then pass the award on to ten more bloggers. Easy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

lamb salad with twice tomato sauce

Leftover roast lamb, a tomato, and a few salad leaves. I looked around the kitchen, wondering how I could possibly turn this into a meal. Ant is much more likely than me to turn to take-away food when the cupboards are looking bare. But I was determined. Surely there's a meal here somewhere, I thought. I had one small onion, which I sauteed with one carrot. Then I added the lamb pieces to warm them through. In the end, though, it was the sauce that turned this into a meal--a meal that felt like a real main dish.

I spread thick drops of dark red sauce generously over the warm salad. By using the one fresh tomato and a few sun-dried tomatoes, the sauce had a deep tomatoey flavour that brought the salad together.

Twice Tomato Sauce (or Dressing)
makes 1 1/2 cups

1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
4 sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 c chopped fresh basil (or 2 t dried basil)
1/2 t salt
1/4 c to 1/2 c (75 mL to 125 mL) water

Combine all the ingredients except the water in a food processor and puree until smooth.
Add the water, a few tablespoons at a time, until a thick, but pourable, sauce is formed.

It would be easy to make this a bit more thin for use as a more conventional salad dressing. Just add a little more water (or some olive oil) in the last step.


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