Thursday, 24 February 2011

Naan bread

I mentioned on my other blog about running out of LPG and necessity being the mother of invention so last night I was still without a cooker. As supper time approached and I had left over dahl from the night before, I looked at the fire and contemplated the idea of cooking naan bread on it somehow. The germ of the idea had been sown by Chris Stovell of Home Thoughts Weekly who had suggested that the sloping lid of her wood burner would be possible for such a thing.

I consulted the internet for a recipe, read several and then made up my own. Cooking methods varied from frying to grilling. I think authentic naan is slapped on the inside of a melting hot tandoor oven and if my ship ever comes in I'm buying one of these. My sister-in-law used to live in a flat in High Wycombe and my big memory of visiting her in that flat is of the tantalising smell in the evenings of all the tandoors being fired up in neighbouring homes. The aroma of the spices, curried meat and bread carried on the warm evening air was mouth-wateringly delicious.

I used my trusty Kenwood for the mixing of the dough which was my basic foolproof white bread but with slight variations. It's about three cups of strong white bread flour, a good heaped teaspoon of dried quick mix yeast, a teaspoon of salt, two tablespoons of plain yoghurt, a shy teaspoon of sugar, a handful of black onion seeds and enough warm milk (about two thirds of a cup) to make a soft dough. Knead for five minutes until smooth and then leave to rise in a warm place.

I then divided it into eight pieces, rolled them out into rough ovals and started them cooking on my cast iron griddle on top of the wood burner.

Four little naans in a row.
 It was hot but not nearly hot enough so (bearing in mind past experience of cooking flat breads, roti and chapattis) I grabbed the toasting fork, opened the wood burner and held the naan inside over the hot coals.

It immediately fluffed and puffed up into a very authentic looking naan bread. I was so surprised I nearly dropped it. I puled it out, ripped it open and tried it. Delicious, fluffy and unmistakably naan.

If you look closely at the one at the front on the left you can see the shape of the toasting fork.
I carried on with the other seven by which time my face was nearly melting from the heat and the dining room was like the inside of a pizza oven. Brian was stripping off layers of clothes (we're unaccustomed to warmth) and repeatedly mentioning that he was hungry (the house was full of the smell of naan bread).

It was delicious, everybody loved it and from now on I won't be buying any more naan bread. Who would have thought it could be this much fun to make? Like most other things it's nicer homemade and freshly baked too. I think I'll probably start it off on top of the stove though, I couldn't quite get the griddle hot enough on top of the wood burner, but I can see me fluffing it up on the toasting fork again - I think it was the aroma of wood smoke that really nailed the flavour.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Pesto pizza rolls

These were very much inspired by the Snazzy Pizza Rolls entered into English Mum's Fresh Bread Bake-off by Arlene of The Fuzzy Times. I also made Gluttony For Beginners' dough balls, but those got eaten before I could take their picture.

Anyway this is my take on the pizza rolls thing. Not quite the same as the snazzy ones - these are more like the ones made (I think) by Tana Ramsay and they're basically just a Chelsea bun with a savoury filling.

First you need a bread dough. I tend to make mine intuitively - I have a plastic cup measure and I use two of those of strong bread flour, a teaspoon of quick mix yeast, a teaspoon of salt, a glug of olive oil (in this case a nice basil favoured one) and enough warm water to make a soft dough. I added a teaspoonful of dried herbes de Provence too for extra flavour. You could use some left over pizza dough or my focaccia dough would work just as well (but would make a bit more than this, perhaps).

Once that is kneaded and risen you need to roll it out into a large rectangle. I then spread mine with a whole tub of fresh pesto (in lieu of tomato sauce which makes me itch), some ham and emmental cheese (because that's what I had to hand).

It will then look something like this:

Next roll it up from the nearest long side into a long sausage shape (or start and then let your nine-year-old daughter take over):

Next cut it up into rounds. The knife flattens the circles, so squeeze them back into shape again. Tuck them into a suitably sized tin so they are snuggled up close enough to hold a conversation:

Leave to rise again for a little while longer (while the oven heats up to Gas Mark 6) then bake them until golden brown and sizzling:

Serve warm as a tear and share bread. Delicious!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Delia: Not just for Christmas

Boxing Day pie - on Valentine's Day
It was the usual scenario - Monday's fridge was full of little bowls of cling-film wrapped leftovers from the Sunday roast.

"Could you make a Boxing Day pie?" asked H9 as I pondered possibilities.

Of course I could! Boxing Day pie is an institution in this household. I make it every year with the leftovers from Christmas Day. It is, to all intents and purposes, the Turkey Flan with Leeks and Cheese from page 214 of my very battered and adored copy of Delia's Christmas. My children have always called it Boxing Day pie because we don't have turkey at Christmas - usually a big chicken (or two) or one year a big salmon.

Why not make it on Valentine's Day? We all love it after all!

It's basically this. First you make a cheese pastry (175g self-raising flour, 75g butter, 50g cheddar, mustard, salt and pepper, water) which Delia rubs in and grates but I just blitz in a food processor. Line a 25cm quiche tin with the pastry and bake for 15 minutes at Gas mark 5/190 degrees C. I prop up the sides of the pie with foil and prick the base with a fork.

Into that you pile some leeks (cooked in butter on Boxing Day) or whatever green veg you have left over (I used steamed Cornish greens), bits of sliced chicken, leftover roast vegetables and about 400ml of thick Bechamel sauce to which you have added some grated cheddar and a beaten egg. Sprinkle cheese over that and bake again for 25 to 30 minutes.

It's lovely eaten warm or cold and is, to quote H9 "basically just a roast dinner in a pie".


A new Delia recipe wandered into my repertoire on Sunday, this time into the pudding department and from her recently refurbished Frugal Food book. I'm a big fan of bread and butter pudding (a good way to use up excess eggs from our enthusiastic hens).

This B&B pud is a layer of buttered wholemeal bread triangles on the base (butter side down), a layer of apple slices (I smugly used spiced ones I'd bottled last autumn - otherwise cook apple slices until soft in a little butter), then another layer of buttered bread triangles (butter side up). Dredge with soft brown or demerara sugar and cinnamon, then pour over 275ml of semi skimmed milk mixed with two beaten eggs. Leave to soak for a while and then dot with butter and bake at Gas Mark 4/180 degrees C until golden brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream or single cream.

It was delicious with a lovely custardy-appley flavour and golden crunchy spicy top. No picture because once it was cooked, we ate it!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

How to bake focaccia

Englishmum is running another bake-off and this time it's bread. How could I resist! Bread is one of the reasons this blog is called what it is and it is very much a game you can eat. It's so simple, quick and foolproof and is one of the things I make most often - either on my own or with my children helping. I'm a bit of a bread obsessive - I even have a paving slab to put in my oven to bake loaves and pizzas on.

My great-grandfather was a baker - family legend has it that he delivered bread to Sudeley Castle, near Winchcombe in the Cotswolds in the latter part of the 19th century and he is buried in the churchyard near the castle.

Focaccia is my favourite bread to bake to go with homemade soup. It's a simple, easy and quick bread and you can get on with making the soup while the bread rises. I love the way the olive oil pools deliciously in the indentations and mixes with the salt to form a lovely crispy crust flavoured with the spikes of rosemary.

500g bread flour
1 tsp salt
5g quick mix yeast
325ml warm water
olive oil

Mix all of the ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook or knead together until smooth - adding a good big glug of extra virgin olive oil. This dough is quite soft, so kneading it is easier with a mixer.

Shape into a ball, put into the bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for about half an hour.

Then knead briefly and press into a baking tray - I use my brownie/flapjack tray. Push it out into a rough rectangular shape, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise again until puffed up. Turn your oven on to its hottest setting.

Use your fingers to push indentations in the dough - as many as you like. Then drizzle olive oil into the indentations. Scatter over sea salt and rosemary - chopped if you wish - then put into the oven for ten minutes. After 10 minutes turn the oven down to Gas Mark 6/200 degrees C until the focaccia sounds hollow when you tap it.

I normally cut it into fat fingers to serve.

Press your fingers in to make indentations, drizzle over olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary.
Bake until golden and aromatic. It should sound hollow when tapped.
The salt and oil give it a lovely crispy crust.
I usually cut it into fat fingers to serve.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Roast chicken and stuffing

Roast chicken and stuffing is possibly the best example - in this kitchen anyway - of KISS (keep it simple stupid).

You see my Other Half was pretty convinced that only Paxo could make good stuffing for roasted birds. So on Christmas Day, much against my better judgement, we had a packet stuffing to please He Who Would Like to Be Obeyed. It was okay but it didn't please the smaller more demanding palate (ie my eldest daughter) who, for her ninth birthday, insisted I make home made stuffing for her roast chicken.

I love a good stuffing (stop giggling at the back...) and I'm a big fan of Delia's chunky American style Christmas turkey stuffing and her chestnut stuffing. OH (foolishly) dislikes both. Actually it's not really a dislike, they just disappoint him, which is possibly worse.

So for Sunday's birthday lunch it was back to the drawing board. I consulted Delia, Tana, Gordon, Nigel, Nigella, Sarah Raven and (finally) Rachel Allen. In her Home Cooking book she has a simple sage and onion stuffing with variations.

"Oooh chorizo stuffing," I said to the OH, thinking of the lovely garlicky paprika aroma that would bring to the roasted result.

"No," said OH.

"Smoky bacon?"



So I applied the KISS principle. Straightforward sage, onion and breadcrumbs stuffing.

I followed Rachel's recipe which was to soften a chopped onion and a clove of garlic in a big lump of butter and a glug of olive oil and mix that with 100g of white breadcrumbs and come chopped sage and thyme from the garden. I put the result into a bowl and looked at it alongside my 2.4kg chicken. It looked insufficient.

So, dredging up long-lost memories of family roast dinners and the things my mother used to make, I remembered her method which was to chuck everything - slices of bread, onion, herbs, butter, sea salt, pepper - into her Kenwood blender and blitz. I used my food processor and the result was a pleasing stuffing mix which clumped nicely together.

I made pockets in the bird's breast and tucked most of the stuffing in there and the neck and there was still more, so I popped a fist-sized amount into the bird's cavity. (Writing all this seems a little like writing culinary porn...)

I roasted the bird (two hours, gas mark 5) and the result? Fabulous. A huge hit with everyone and decreed 'nearly' as good as school's* by the birthday girl.

So another kitchen lesson learned. KISS applies to stuffing birds too and (probably, but don't tell her...) mother knows best.

*School dinners set a very high standard here (Jamie take note).