Seedy difference.

This is the “seeded sour” bread from Brilliant Bread. I increased the amount of rye flour, and reduced the amount of strong white flour.
The seeds need to be toasted in a dry frying pan, until the sunflower seeds start to look noticeably coloured. By this time, the sesame seeds are smelling lovely, like toasted sesame oil. There’s enough poppy seeds in this to make you fail a drugs test in America. See if I care…
Good grief, I’ve been using the same cheap plastic bowl for about 37 years. I’m introducing the toasted seeds to the dough here, as you can see.
Let this interesting dough rest for as long as it seems to want. Overnight in the fridge is pretty much a minimum. The recipe described this as a wet dough. I think it’s not particularly wet. I used a tin, and my baking stone. New addition was a dish of boiling water at the bottom of the oven, to produce steam, so the bread could stretch as it cooked.

I am pleased with the look of the result, and looking forward to trying it with a nice Worcester blue cheese I bought the other day. It might even warrant a glass of a decent red wine to help the cheese go down.

Roast Beef for Sunday

This fine thing is the piece of beef I bought to use during the Christmas holiday, but ended up freezing because there was so much other food we were in danger of bursting.
You may notice the silly bit of elastic that was holding it together has broken. I replaced that with two proper bits of butchers’ string before it went in the oven.
Almost there! The wine’s poured, and the real gravy is ready. This meal was a joint effort, as my lovely wife makes splendid Yorkshire Puddings, while I have no idea how to do them. There are quite a few things like that, but I think I’ll carry on pretending there aren’t….
And I apologise for this shot being out of focus. I was hungry, and wanted to start eating. Yorkshire Pudding with gravy has arrived, all is right with the world.
Yes, we actually had a dessert! This has meringue, ice cream, whipped cream and blackberries, so we decided it was a deconstructed [1] Eton Mess.

[1] I’m pretty certain that we can’t be the only ones to be annoyed immensely by the way cooks/chefs on the television spread the elements of something like, say, a meat pie around the plate, and announce proudly that they have deconstructed a meat pie. No, you pretentious idiots. You have failed to make a meat pie, and served some stew with a lump of pastry nearby. 

Burns Night comes early in Wales.

Well, Burns Night doesn’t really happen earlier in Wales, but when one of you is going to be away on the actual night, it makes sense. Sadly, I completely forgot to arrange for a piper to pipe the haggis into the dining room, and the food would have gone cold if we had read all of Burns’ ode to the beastie…
I put those sauce jars on the table for no sensible reason, and neither of them got used. The potatoes were roasted in a little olive oil, with a sprinkling of salt. In the dish with them are a couple of Jerusalem artichokes that needed to be used up. To the left, mashed swede and onion; to the right, mashed parsnip and turnip. Simon Howie’s haggis has a plastic skin, but the contents are very authentic, and delicious.
Here’s mine. It was very tasty, but extremely filling. It was a good job I had forgotten to make any dessert!

Sausage sandwich!

Just so that you don’t think I make fancy food all the time, here’s the sensible loaf I made after the most recent sourdough rye saga. 

As you can see, internally, it has a nice crumb. It was ever so slightly under-baked, but we needed sandwiches! Those little rolls of crumb in the foreground are the clue that tells you it wasn’t quite baked to perfection; those don’t happen after a few more minutes in the oven.

Sausage sandwiches! That has reminded me, it’s ages since I made sausages. These were rather nice ones from Mr Tesco’s Finest range, with 97% meat…

Man vs Rye – episode 94

I thought that it might be worth a further attempt at making a sourdough rye bread. I had not realised that rye is actively malevolent, with a vindictive streak a mile wide. Read on, if you can take the horror.

The main problem with the previous attempts, I think, was that there is so very little gluten in the rye flour that it’s well-nigh impossible to give the bread a decent structure. So I substituted 200g of very strong white bread flour for 200g of the rye in the recipe. I left out the runny honey, mainly because that stuff costs a fortune, and added a little extra water because of that. After a considerable amount of work with the dough hooks on my mixer, I ended up with what looked like a reasonably well structured dough. It wasn’t particularly wet, and it held its shape.

Anyway, I added some flour to my nice round proving basket, and put the dough in. I knew it was going to need a long prove, even though, this time, the starter had been very active. I sprinkled it with a little flour, covered it, and left it overnight at room temperature.

Next day, it was still looking good. You can see it has expanded quite well, perhaps not the doubling in size that every bread recipe seems obsessed with, but by a respectable amount. So, I put a wooden board over it, and turned it the other way up. It should have fallen gently onto the board, ready to go into the oven after a quick couple of cuts. Look away now, if you wish to avoid the horror.

In an imaginative new way of going wrong, the dough separated into a main chunk on the board, and a smaller one, which was inexplicable stuck to the proving basket. And you can see that somehow, it had become wetter, and was spreading rapidly. At this point, I may possibly have muttered something like “Sod it!” 

Throwing it away, and becoming a monk, might well have been the sensible next move. Instead, I scraped the stuck bit from the proving basket, stuck it on the dough, folded the damned thing like a calzone, so it would fit on the baking stone, put it in the oven, and added water to make steam. The dough was clearly angered by this, and tried to slide off the side of the stone.

Some of it actually managed to flow over the edge of the stone, and drip into the tray at the bottom of the oven, where it turned into these bizarre things. I’m lost for words to describe them, but I can tell you they didn’t taste pleasant. 

So, here is the thing that I baked. It smells like bread. It has a nicely baked crust.

It can even be sliced, and eaten. The crumb is much better than previous attempts, although it still has a slightly under-baked layer in the middle. And it does taste very good, in spite of its efforts to become some sort of alien life form.

I mentioned these misadventures to my wife that evening (she was working away from home) and she, very sensibly, said “Why don’t you make some ordinary bread, the way you used to?” So that is what I am going to do. Rye is clearly more powerful than me, and I surrender. I will leave it to the superhumans who are able to defeat it, and force it to make proper loaves. I’m even going back to the old recipe I used to use, with a pound and a half of flour and a pint of water. In the event that even ordinary bread goes horribly wrong, and becomes possessed by demons, you will see the pictures here. More soon…

Better rye bread.

I decided to have another try at making an all-rye sourdough loaf. This time, I used a Kenwood Chef to knead it for ages, as there’s almost no gluten in rye. After very careful shaping, here it is, sitting in the tin. It needs to double in size before baking. After waiting all afternoon, I gave up and left it to the next day.

That did the trick, or very nearly so, as you can see. About eighteen hours proving! The starter was nowhere near active enough, I think. Anyway, into the oven with it, on a hot stone, and plenty of water at the bottom of the oven, to make steam. Halfway through the baking, it’s supposed to be knocked out of the tin, and continue cooking on the stone. It was stuck to the non-stick tin. Anyway, I put it back in the oven, and let it finish baking in the tin.

It was still stuck to the tin. Instead of trying to hack it out, I sealed it in the tin with foil, and left it upside down while I went shopping. My plan worked, and the steam still in the loaf unstuck it from the tin. So, there’s a tip that may help you!

Here’s the loaf. I tasted a slice, and it was very tasty indeed. Somehow, I forgot to take a picture to show you the crumb. I’ll try to remember next time I cut a slice…

Squid with orzo.

I was going to write about my current favourite recipe books, starting with an article about the main ones that I like, before doing something about a recipe from each of them. But I was hungry, so here’s Squid with Orzo, from the most recent Nigella Lawson book.

Here’s a picture of what you need. I’m not sure why the designers of this book have put the ingredients list on a different page than the method. I’m using dried dill, as we have none growing yet. The little measuring jug has 30ml of ouzo in it.

The recipe starts with chopped shallots, chopped fennel, and crushed garlic.

Those get put in a casserole, with olive oil, and cooking commences. Now, I particularly like the fact that Nigella tells you how big the casserole will need to be, to fit the resulting food. If you’ve ever had to find a bigger dish, half way through cooking something, you will know why!

In go the squids. I noticed there were no tentacles in the box when I defrosted it. I must have used those already. Keep heating gently, and stirring.

Here’s the 300g of orzo pasta, which looks like rice, but isn’t, along with my favourite brand of canned and pureed tomatoes. I only just noticed that Napolina have offices in the Liver Building, which used to have the offices of Blue Funnel Line (I worked for them for a while, back at the dawn of time) before that company went into oblivion.

Anyway, the tomatoes, a tablespoon of puree, and a can of water go in. Bring it to the boil, put the lid on, and put it in the oven, at 160°C for an hour and twenty minutes. Sure, I didn’t tell you to preheat the oven, but of course, Nigella does. Her books are full of recipes that work, with none of the awful snags I may have mentioned in a previous article, though I’m still puzzled by ingredients and method on separate pages. Orzo has a tendency to stick to the casserole; Nigella claims those are the tastiest bits! 

After the 80 minutes of cooking, you mix in some hot water, and cook for another 10 minutes with the lid off. Nigella’s food photographer has made hers look a lot redder than mine, but I can tell you it was delicious.

There’s quite a lot left, some of which may well get frozen for later. Meanwhile, I think I fancy a little more…

Roy Batty – the continuing story.

After four days of curing, I have taken the Lomo I have named Roy Batty out of the cure, rinsed it, dried it, and tied it up. A light sprinkling of pimenton on the outside, and it was ready for weighing. Now that piece of meat started out at 2000g, so I’ve already removed 475g just by curing it.

Here’s the book I am using for inspiration, with my notes on the progress so far. As you can see, I will now have to wait until the weight of the Lomo has dropped by a further 30%, to about 1070g, at which point it will be ready to eat. I’ll probably divide it up and freeze most of it, to make it last a reasonable time, and just have one cling-filmed piece on the go in the fridge, for use when required.

And here’s the Lomo in its new home for however long the drying process takes. It will probably be a few weeks, even though fridges are very good at drying out food, often when you don’t want them to.

For a next project, I think I’ll maybe try making some pastrami…

Full size Lomo. Dedicated to Roy Batty.

The Lomo I’ve made a couple of times was really rather under-sized. That was because I had used pork tenderloin, when it should really be made from pork loin. The last time I was in Tesco, I spotted this fine special offer, at £4 per kilo, right next to the same item at £5 per kilo! The string to hold it in shape for roasting, and the layer of fat, or skin, on one side had to go, of course.

 So, here it is, in all its meaty glory, ready to go into its first process, the cure that removes quite a lot of liquid from it. I used about 200g of cheap cooking salt, 100g of sugar, and about 20g of smoked paprika, the delicious Spanish pimenton that I love.

Into the cure it goes!

To the right, you can see part of an earlier mini-lomo, and a few slices I cut off for testing purposes. The test was a delicious success, of course.

I started this one on January 8th, 2016, which any Blade Runner fan will tell you was Roy Batty’s Incept date, in case you were wondering about the title I chose.

A day later, and you can see that the cure has taken a lot of fluid out of the meat. I turned it over, and put it back in the fridge for a couple more days.

It will then have to be dried, tied up, weighed, and hung up somewhere cool and dry. I should really make a drying cage to hang it outdoors, if I can. Then it will have to lose another 30% of its weight before we can start eating it.

Lamb Tagine. Mussels…

Here’s the dinner we had before our son went back to university. Lamb and apricot tagine, with spicy roasted squash, and cous-cous. The red wine went very well with it. In the background is our dessert. I didn’t make it, Mr Tesco did. I just defrosted it, and it was quite pleasant.

This is the snack we had when I got back from taking the student back to his digs. Mussels in a garlic and white wine sauce, accompanied by bread and butter, olives, cheese stuffed peppers, and a few other bits and pieces. The fizzy white wine was an enjoyable addition.