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Strawberries and more uses for that Vanilla Sugar… 29 May 2006

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, desserts, easy, fruit, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes.
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Strawberrys

Yesterday we had fresh strawberries (Scottish) from the Farmers Market, and to be extra bad we were dipping them in my home-made vanilla caster sugar.

The vanilla sugar worked really well with the strawberries…so tick another reason why you should go buy some fairtrade vanilla pods from Barts Spices or Ndali.

If you’re still buying strawberries at the supermarket – stop! These fresh strawberries from the market were much juicier and sweeter, and had a better bite to them than the imported stuff, or strawberries that have simply been travelling and kicking around too much in depots.

Summer is definately here, but the strawberry pick your own time (here in Scotland) is not quite upon us. We should be out picking our own at Lowes farm by the end of June…more about that when the time comes.

Here is another picture in the meantime…

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Printing Problems 27 May 2006

Posted by cath in general info, help, printing, Recipes.
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WordPress and Firefox do not seem to like each other enough to print these recipes. Thanks to a few requests I am going to start doing something about that.

Starting with Chocolate Crispy Cakes (not very healthy but very, very good!). More will follow.

See the Printable versions of cookalicious recipes here.

Basic Recipes > Bread 16 May 2006

Posted by cath in bread, freeze-friendly, Recipes, variations.
5 comments

Basic Bread Recipe

I tend to make small loaves that fit well into my 2lb bread tin from Lakeland. The quantity is roughly 400g flour plus the other ingredients.

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp easy bake yeast

400g strong flour (a particular type for breadmaking)

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

15g butter or 1-2 tbsp oil

water at room temperature: 280mls for 100% white, up to 300mls for 100% wholemeal loaves

Optional ingredients
1 tbsp milk powder

1-4 tbsp wheatgerm (best when using white bread flours)

Seeded or Nutty Breads

up to 5 tbsp mixed seeds, such as sunflower, linseed, pumpkin, sesame, poppy

1-2 tsp cumin, caraway, fennel or other strong flavoured seeds

up to 50g walnuts, finely chopped

Other Variations

You can also add dried or fresh herbs, curry powder or pastes, fried onions, sundried tomatoes. Try your favourite ingredient in bread and share your experiments with us here.

Prepare the Dough

Mix and knead the dough – how to do this and other tips

Lightly oil the bread tin all over, place the prooved and knocked back dough into the tin and leave to rise into a full loaf.

To Bake

I recommend a fan oven temperature of 210 deg C, that's about 230 degrees in a conventional oven. Also as you heat up the oven, put a tray of water in the bottom, this produces a better crust, less blackened by the heat.

Cook your bread loaf for 25-35 minutes until browned and crusty on top. It should come cleanly out of the bread tin and sound hollow on the base when tapped.

Loaf of Bread

All about making Bread 12 May 2006

Posted by cath in bread, freeze-friendly, general info, help, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients.
10 comments

InformationWith easy to use, dried yeast sachets, everyone can make great bread at home. The only other things you’ll need are: a quality stoneground strong bread flour (White, Wholewheat, Granary or a mixture), salt, sugar, butter or oil and water. You can add seeds, nuts, curry pastes, dried fruits, herbs, anything you like really to the basic dough.

Loaf of Bread

Homemade, Stoneground White Bread with Pumpkin and Sesame Seeds

At the moment I’m using a very good bread machine (Panasonic, Sd-253) – although, you may be surprised that I don’t cook my bread in the machine. I use the dough only programs. Bread looks much better and gets a lovely crispy crust if you bake it in a bread tin the oven – no matter how you make the dough.

Making Bread Dough…
If you want to make your own bread dough, there are several options:

  1. You can knead it by hand – this is actually not hard to do as you have to be rough with bread so as long as you give it a good 15 minutes of stretching, folding, turning, thumping, squishing, rolling and whatever else you like, it should be fairly happy.
  2. You can use a dough tool or hook in a food processor – simply add the dough mix, along with water at room-temperature (this is crucial) to the processor and letting it knead the bread for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Use a bread machine – in this case you are best to follow the instructions in the guide book. Some machines offer a dough-only option, so you can set them up to make the dough for you whilst you’re at work. The machines include resting periods, kneading and the dough can be left in the machine to rise slowly after the program has finished.

Of course, in the bread machine, you can just let the bread bake as well. However, adding the extra prooving and maturing time, and turning the bread out to bake in the oven produces a far superior result.

The longer prooving time gives a better texture and you may be surprised at the weight and substantial feel of the resulting loaf.

Tip # 1: Let dough rise slowly, you can proove bread dough at room temperature, or even in the fridge overnight.

Preparing for baking…
Once you’re satisfied with the prooving, it’s time to knock the dough back – this just means to pummel and throw it about a little to remove all the air bubbles, then kneading again a little. It only takes about 5 minutes and if using a machine to make the dough, that’s all the hard work there is!

You then simply shape the bread into a fat sausage, put it in the bread tin and dust with seeds (optional) and a bit of flour.

Leave the bread to rise and fit into the tin – usually you want it to double in size. The rate at which this happens depends on the temperature, but leaving it for a few hours at room temperature in the kitchen is usually sufficient.

Pre-heat the oven to a very hot temperature, 210 deg C on my extra hot fan oven seems to do the trick (up to 230 deg C in an electric oven). Place the bread in the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes.

It should be brown, cripy, and fall out of the tin when ready. To check it’s cooked through, tap the base – it should sound hollow. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Tip # 2: Put a tray of water in the base of the oven to improve the loaf crust during baking.

A timetable for making bread…
Option 1: Start making this bread in the morning, place ingredients in the bread machine, start and leave to make Dough but not bake the bread. Get on with the day’s activities. In the afternoon/evening turn out the risen dough onto a floured (use strong bread flour) worktop. Knock the dough back, shape and place in a lightly oiled bread tin. Leave, uncovered on the worktop (away from draughts) for about 1-2 hours. Pre-heat the oven, bake for roughly 30 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack overnight. Perfect for eating in the morning.

Option 2: Start making this bread in the afternoon/evening, place ingredients in the bread machine, start and leave to make Dough but not bake the bread. In a few hours, the dough will be ready. Turn out into a large bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight. Remove the risen dough first thing in the morning and allow to warm up a little. Turn out onto a floured (use strong bread flour) worktop. Knock the dough back, shape and place in a lightly oiled bread tin. Leave, uncovered on the worktop (away from draughts) for about 1-2 hours. Pre-heat the oven, bake for roughly 30 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting. The bread should be ready to eat by lunchtime.

Other options: The bread can be left to rise for longer in the fridge – for example overnight and the next day. Make sure you use a large bowl to allow the bread plenty of room to expand.

Storing Bread…

Homemade bread does not keep fresh for long periods like store-bought sliced loaves. Wholemeal breads tend to go stale quicker than white breads as well. Best to store them in a bread bin. I also use a cotton bread bag to store bread inside the bin. The crust will soften after storage, which is why leaving it out overnight to cool keeps the crust crisp. Once cut into, bread will quickly stale.

Freezing bread is a good option. Freezing a whole loaf is a good idea if you eat a lot of bread. Freezing slices is better if you only need the odd bit. The slices defrost quickly or can even be toasted straight from the freezer.

Another option is to refresh your bread from the tin. Wrap in foil and place in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes to recrisp the crust and improve the texture of bread that has softened and begun to stale. Of course, slightly stale bread toasts well. Also use up stale bread by processing to crumbs and storing in the freezer – can be used in many recipes.

Recommended Flours

Wholemeal Flourspacer.gifGranary Flour

Tip # 3: Look out for stoneground bread flours from local mills, the flour is much more nutritious and produces high quality, nutty flavoured bread.

How much bread to make?

One 400g (weight of flour in dough) loaf makes a medium loaf easily makes 4, two-slice sandwiches, and several slices of toast or some breadcrumbs.

I usually make 1 loaf on Monday for lunchtime sandwiches Tuesday/Wednesday and possibly Thursday. Then to for a change, I’ll buy a loaf from the market on a Saturday morning (usually Sourdough as that’s a challenge I have still to face in breadmaking!)

You can make larger loaves, just the same method – maybe adding a little extra cooking time for a very large loaf.

Alternatively, make a large batch of dough and use it to make 1 loaf and a number of small rolls (shape, allow to proove again and bake for around 10 minutes in the oven). The extra dough for the rolls can also be kept in the freezer until required before prooving and baking. Similarly, made dough for loaves can be frozen until required.

Tip # 4: Cold and frozen dough will take much longer to proove. It needs to warm up to room temperature first before it really starts to increase in size. This just means a longer wait, which is why you may prefer to bake and then freeze any extra bread for use another day. If you are using frozen dough, take it out of the freezer in plenty of time – defrosting it and bringing it up to room temperature may take up to 24hrs.

Warning: Once you’ve started making bread, nothing you can buy in the supermarkets will ever be good enough again! However, you can get good quality baked bread from small bakeries, farmers markets and health food shops as well, so you don’t have to bake all the time!

Thai Recipes > Soups > Tom Yum 7 May 2006

Posted by cath in freeze-friendly, Recipes, Thai food, thai soups, variations, very spicy.
3 comments

SpicyTom Yum Gungfreeze-friendly
(Hot and Sour Soup with Prawns)

Serves 4 as a lunch with steamed rice, or as a dish in a main meal

Ingredients:
300g whole, large prawns – uncooked, unpeeled
750mls water
2 stalks lemongrass – lower 1/3 only, cut into 3cm/1inch pieces
5 kaffir lime leaves – torn into pieces, discarding stem
3 purple shallots – sliced
3 cloves garlic – crushed
2 tomatoes – cut into 8 segments each
5 thin slices of galangal (ginza) – skin removed
300g small-medium sized mushrooms – cut in half or quarters into small chunks
20 green birds-eye chillies – cut in half lengthways
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
A handful of chopped fresh coriander

Method:

  1. First, prepare the prawns. Wash, peel and de-vein the prawns, keeping the shells and heads.
  2. Put the shells and heads into a pan with the water and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10-15 minutes, you should notice a smear of oil floating on top. Strain the stock, squeezing out the flavour from the prawn peelings.
  3. Return the stock to the pan and bring back to the boil.
  4. Bruise the lemongrass in a pestle and mortar, then add to the stock with the kaffir lime leaves and mushrooms.
  5. Add the shallots, garlic, tomatoes and galangal and bring to the boil again.
  6. Add the chillies to the stock with the fish sauce.
  7. Cook the stock gently for 2 minutes, then add the prawns. Bring back to the boil and simmer until they have just changed colour.
  8. Turn off the heat.
  9. Remove from the heat, transfer into a serving bowl if required.
  10. Finally, just before serving stir in the lime juice and garnish with coriander.

It's important to stir in the lime juice right before serving, and not whilst it's still on the heat, as this keeps the flavour fresh.

Serve with fresh steamed thai fragrant rice

Cooks Notes:
Tom Yum is usually made very spicy.
You can adjust the levels to your taste, for example to reduce the heat you could use less chillies, consider removing seeds from the chillies if you only like a very mild spice. Leaving them whole also keeps the heat mild, or try bruising whole chillies lightly with a pestle and mortar to release some flavour but allow them to be easily picked out of the finished dish.
On the other hand, slicing the chillies lets out a lot of the flavour and the balance of hot, salty and sour in this dish is unbelievable. You can still avoid eating the half chillies if you like!

Thai cooks use straw mushrooms in tom yum soup and other cooking. Straw mushrooms are available in the UK in tins – watch out though, they are usually stored in brine and will need to be very well drained and rinsed. Remember to cut the mushrooms in half – they have an air pocket inside and this also fills with brine, so rinse them again to ensure the extra salt doesn't ruin your dish!
I've not seen any fresh straw mushrooms here in Edinburgh, but they'd be worth trying if you can get them. The best bet is to buy fresh mushrooms of any kind – I prefer to use brown cap mushrooms, or another closed cup variety because large flat mushrooms make sauces and soups go brown. Other fresh mushrooms such as oyster or shitake also work well.
No fresh mushrooms? Dried mushrooms make a great substitute, especially shitake. Soak in boiling water until soft (about an hour), drain, chop and add to the broth as usual. You can reserve the mushroom liquor for use in risottos or as a mushroom stock. Seal and keep in the fridge or freeze in ice cube trays, store in bags and pop into pasta sauces, gravies, soups etc.

Variations:
You can use any meat – chicken, pork, beef, fish, or for vegetarians mixed mushrooms, baby corn or tofu (and switch fish sauce for soy sauce).
Use a home made chicken stock for the best flavoured broth. Be careful of using bought stock cubes as they will add extra (unnecessary) salt to the dish – diluting twice as much as recommended should help.
Chicken and pork take a bit longer to cook, so add the raw meat after step 5 (before adding the chillies) and simmer until just cooked, then add chillies, fish sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Check the meat, when it's cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and finish the dish with lime juice and coriander.