Monday, 26 November 2007

Flying by the seat of my bread pants in the style of a Daring Baker

I DID IT! I finally made the Tender Potato Bread

from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World

by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

I don't know if it was the fear of making bread but never before have I left the making of a Daring Baker challenge so late. I have until midnight tonight to post so I'd better hurry up and start typing. This morning as I sat making baubles and what have you for the School Christmas Fair drinking nice coffee and having a bit of a chat. I put to the back of my mind that I still had to make the Tender Potato Bread as chosen by our host this month, the lovely Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. At 4.30pm this afternoon when I still hadn't started I did think about posting on the DB blog to say I was quitting and that I was incapable of living up to the thing that is a Daring Baker. However I was wrong and for that I thank you Tanna. We just ate the best Focaccia, warm, fresh out of the oven that we ever did taste! The bread rolls look superb and the large loaf looks amazing too and me well I'm amazed and pretty proud of myself this evening. Those who read this blog regularly know that I am not the bread maker in the family. The boys are, both grown and small. Not anymore - I am bread maker extraordinaire!

I peeled enough potatoes to allow for Little and Small to have some for their dinner. With them fed I began a proper. There wasn't enough water from the boiled potatoes which was actually a bonus as I used cold water to get the 3 cups required and this meant it cooled it down quicker. A bonus when you're running as late as I was. Did you hear that? As late as I was. I can say that now because the bread is made and I've still got hours left to post before the witching hour. I mixed the first two cups of flour and yeast to the potato and water and let it rest. I then added most of the rest of the flour and decided to transfer to the KitchenAid as my back was starting to hurt. If anyone has any tips for kneading dough or generally doing repetitive stuff without pain when you have a torn disc in your lower spine please let me know. I did the second kneading by hand. That dough was sticky, I think I may have clogged both the bathroom and kitchen sinks with cleaning my hands and the mixing bowls. It felt really good, though a bit like a fat squidgy tummy. Anyway I decided to go for a focaccia, 6 rolls and a large-ish loaf - as you can see.

If you want to check out what all the other Daring Bakers did (nearly 400 of them now) then click here to go the Daring Bakers Blogroll. If you want to check out the recipe then click here to go to Tanna's blog.

Tanna sums up beautifully what being a Daring Baker is about. She says 'Being a Daring Baker is about trying new recipes, new techniques and taking risks. It’s about reaching just past that comfort zone.This is a Daring Baker Challenge, not a contest and not a competition because at its heart and soul is the support and sharing the how to of baking with 300+ 400+ Daring Bakers once a month.'

Thanks again Tanna, you really are a STAR!

I'm now off to sit down, put my feet up and have a huge glass of W.... ater!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Little Foodies Italy

We used this recipe for a dough that didn't need to proof / prove - whatever! Although a very tasty dough it didn't cook in the same way that our normal choice of dough does so not sure we'd use it again. We topped with passata, mozzarella, onion, mushrooms, olives and pepperoni.

Those celebrity people in the jungle have nothing on us. To say that artistic temperament came out in all of us while making pizza would be an understatement. Six year old stormed off in tears. Three year old shouted that parents were very wrong. Mummy shouted that this was supposed to be enjoyable. Daddy shouted what was all the fuss about and whose GREAT idea was it to all make pizza together. We've made pizza before several times, had lots of fun and no problems. Who knows what was different about today.

Anglo-Italian Lamb Stew with a Moroccan hit
(a slow cooked jumble in an earthenware bowl)
1lb of diced lamb (about 1.5/2 cm cubes)
1 red onion, peeled and cut diced
1 large carrot, cut however you like
Handful of cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, skin left on
Spoonful of dried oregano
Mug full of red wine - Chianti would be good - it was a large mug
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of Worcester Sauce for the British hit
Tablespoon of Harissa for the Moroccan hit

Gently brown the lamb in the olive oil, add the onions and garlic cloves, continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the red wine, worcester sauce, herbs and harissa. Pour this into an ovenproof earthenware bowl, add the tomatoes and carrots or any other veg you want to add and cook on a low heat (about 150C) in the oven for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

The tomatoes were really good!

Lentils and Sausage.... well that was the plan but brunch was on the agends today and with snaggers in the fridge we could hardly not use them. Lentils and sausage another day perhaps.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Little Foodies Italy & Happy Thanksgiving

Until the end of the nineties (literally), I hadn't been to Italy. So I thank my lucky stars that we decided to visit Sorrento for the Millenium New Year. For a first visit it couldn't have been more perfect. Driving along the Amalfi Coast towards Sorrento was everything that you could have wished for the start of the celebrations. Italian people have a passion for life that is definitely infectious. It was cold but sunny and crisp and that seemed to add to the romance of it all. With the low light that comes with Winter the lighting was amazing, making all colours seem brighter and truly more beautiful. The food - I can't do justice with words alone. I have goosebumps just thinking about it all. I'm so SO glad that is how we spent such a momentous occasion and New Year's Eve has never been the same since.

I think most people now eat Italian food of some sort on a regular basis, or at the very least once in a while. Pasta has become a staple store cupboard ingredient for everybody with children (well maybe not everybody), and pizza is definitely another favourite.

I'm sure it wont be a surprise that a lot of our first meals here include spaghetti. Inspired by the penne alla senese recipe (penne with sausage, walntus and cream) from Twelve by Tessa Kiros and the Linguine alla carbonara di salsiccia recipe (sausage carbonara) by Jamie Oliver from Jamie's Italy, we made the following.

Creamy Sausage Meatball Pasta

Creamy Sausage Meatball Pasta
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2lb or 250g good sausagemeat
a large handful of cubed pancetta
2 tablespoons of olive oil
A glug of brandy (about an egg cup size amount)
1 carton of double cream (which equates to roughly just over 1 US size cup)

This is the method we used.
With wet hands make small meatballs (the size of large grapes).
Gently fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes until they start to colour.
Add the sausage meatballs and pancetta, fry for approximately 10 minutes. Shaking the pan regularly, and turning the meatballs if necessary to make sure they colour all over.
Turn the heat up as high as possible, wait for about 20 seconds and then add the brandy.
Cook for 1 minute and then add the cream. Cook for a couple of minutes and then serve over pasta of your choice. We chose spaghetti.

A Little and Small favourite - Spaghetti with Meatballs and Passata

I'd bought about 500g / 1lb of sausagemeat so with the rest I made more meatballs and did one of Little and Small's favourites. It's quick and so easy! Spaghetti with Meatballs and Passata. Make the meatballs in the same way as above, fry with a little onion and garlic. Throw some passata into the pan, heat through and serve with spaghetti.

Note: For recipes that require sausages all of these books suggest Italian sausages. I've never seen an Italian Sausage for sale in England - ever! Jamie Oliver does at least suggest good Cumberland Sausages if you can't get hold of Italian Sausages. I used decent sausagemeat from our local butcher.

Stracotto di manzo (beef braised in red wine)

I also made Stracotto di manzo (beef braised in red wine) from Twelve by Tessa Kiros. Which requires slow cooking beef and carrots in red wine and tomato puree for hours. The only thing I did differently was used chunks of braising steak instead of using a whole piece of meat and I didn't puree the carrots. It was delicious and loved by all. I just stopped for a break and had the leftovers for my lunch.

Garlic Mushrooms and Spaghetti

Another easy dish. Peel and slice some garlic, thinly slice some mushrooms, gently fry in olive oil and then serve with Spaghetti. If you have any, a sprinkling of parsley would be great.

Also for those in the UK, have you seen the website ? It's a website that has the details for all the major online shopping supermarkets. It compares the prices and tells you who will give you the best value for what you want. All you do is register, fill your trolley/select the products you want. It then checks and compares. You then send the trolley to the supermarket of your choice. Couldn't be simpler. They've also got a health checker which gives the nutritional information of most foods and suggest healthier swaps. Worth checking out if you'd like to save a few pennies or get healthier meal suggestions. They even have their own blog. My hubby used mysupermarket sometime last year and told me I should use it. Until recently I'd put it to the back of my mind but then I used it and it really is easy!

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Little Foodies loves The Great Big Vegetable Challenge

Ever since I showed Little and Small the Great Big Vegetable Challenge blog they have been fascinated with what Charlotte prepares for Freddie, and not forgetting Alex. Being huge vegetable fans (we're very lucky!) they thought that it was very strange that Freddie didn't like vegetables. Having now watched Freddie learn to love veg, Little says "Freddie likes more different vegetables than us Mummy and that is a lot!" I hope Charolotte feels very proud of the change around. It's been fun to watch and inspirational to read about. Funnily enough Small seems to be going through a phase of not liking potatoes very much. Now this is very strange as everybody likes potatoes - don't they?!

Jacket Potatoes, Baked Potatoes whatever you call them they're easy, filling and very versatile. When Charlotte of the GBVC mentioned in an e-mail that they were having a little event that involved your best baked potato filling I immediately thought of...
creamed leeks sprinkled with parmesan breadcrumbs
creamed spinach and goats cheese with pine nuts,
curry of any sort,
chilli con carne, sour cream and grated cheese,
franks and beans
and finally never, not ever just cheese...!

We didn't make any of those though, instead we decided to make a version of something that we do often using whatever veggies we have to hand. Which yesterday just happened to be... half a large celeriac, half a large swede, one large parsnip, 2 large carrots and 2 red onions.

Method... Preheat oven to 200C - Peel and then chop all of the veg into approximately 1cm chunks. Place in an oven proof dish and then drench in olive oil that has been mixed with some Moroccan inspired spices. (We used 5 tablespoons of olive oil with 3 teaspoons of our Moroccan spice mix which currently includes: ground cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon and a little paprika). Then roast in the oven for about 45 minutes. Take out and add one tin of chopped tomatoes (you need decent ones with thick juice), put back in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve on steaming hot crispy skinned baked potatoes that have been sliced open and smothered in butter. If you're feeling all virtuous then forego the butter.

This seems to work for almost any type and combination of vegetables and is also good served with rice or pasta.

Over the last couple of weeks the kitchen has been Globe Trotting. We've had Far Eastern inspired stir frys, Cheat's Curries and Japanese style soups among other things. All made on the spur of the moment, without planning and all perfectly edible, but I can't say we've made anything that I wanted to write about.. We've used up some of the contents of our bulging cupboards and this evening we'll be heading to Italy, I can't wait!!!

I've been looking at a few books for inspiration... Jamie's Italy, Twelve by Tessa Kiros and Complete Italian Food by Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio, there's also Carluccio's website. I shall be heading over to Sara's Kitchen Pantry and San Lorenzo blogs, Ilva's Lucullian Delights and Ivonne's Cream Puffs in Venice for some inspiration too.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Little Foodies likes to Pay it Forward

I love to stop and think. I was the terribly annoying child who too often asked 'What? Where? When? Why? and Who?' I then spent quiet time digesting the answers. I became the adult who asked 'If? Maybe? Is there another way?' It's possibly because of this and the answers to some of my annoying questions which have disturbed my equilibrium that makes the whole idea of paying it foward fun and smile inducing and possibly soothing too.

Some of you may be asking what tangent I've gone off on today. Ever seen the film/movie Pay it Forward or read the book Pay it Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde? I've seen the film, not read the book but I get it. It seems that bloggers are wanting to pay it foward too, in a lovely fun way and when I saw this on the lovely Quirky Cupcake, I wanted to join in.

Edit: The orginal blog Pay it Forward is as follows... “I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, which is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.”

I'm not going to insist that you pay it forward. That's entirely up to you but I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join in. (If you want to join in that is) I don't know what the gift will be and I'm with QC on the fact that it may not get to you immediately. I am afterall a Mummy, cook, chauffeur, inn keeper, entertainer (both adult and child), and born SLOTH and this may mean that said homemade gift may take awhile. That said, I may get all creative and it may just take a matter of days. Them's the breaks. The original concept of Pay it Forward was...

'The premise of Pay It Forward is one that any person can implement in his or her own life, at any time. It begins with doing a favour for another person-- without any expectation of being paid back. Indeed one would request that the recipient of that favour do the same for someone else: ideally for three other people. The unconditional favours can be large or small. As the author observes: it doesn't have to be a big thing. It can just seem that way, depending on whom you do it for.'

The above excerpt was taken from the Pay it Foward UK site. Set up by a very inspiring couple who gave up the idea of buying their dream home so they could buy the local community hall which was under threat.

So, if you'd like a homemade gift from the Little Foodies household then do leave a comment. Remember it's the first three people to leave a comment and I have comment moderation on so you wont know immediately. Heck, if I'm feeling all creative there may be more than 3 but no guarantees.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Little Foodies Natural Cold Remedy

Nothing for over a week then twice within one day... Youngest has a horrible cold thing with temperature. If I could only get him to drink my tried and tested cold remedy I know he'd get better more quickly. I've been meaning to post this for a while. I've left it as comments for people and I swear by it.

You'll need:-
One large mug
About an inch of fresh ginger (more if you can take it)
A big dollop of honey (as much as you need or want)
Juice of one lemon
Boiling hot water

Peel the ginger, then grate into mug. A microplane works a treat but you could just chop it finely if you don't have a grater.
Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the mug. A reamer works well, as does a fork to squeeze against the flesh to get maximum amount of juice.
Add a big dollop of honey. Sometimes I like lots, other times a little.
Add boiling water.
Stir and let it brew for a few minutes.

Drink and feel it kicking those sinuses into gear!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Frugal - who am I trying to kid?! ...and a very good Pear Apple and Ginger Crumble

It's been a while. I started this post on Thursday of last week. I fear I'd got blogblock. I'd call it writer's block but that would be fraudulent. Could you imagine the reaction? I'd have the blog police on to me within a day! Receiving money for writing training courses and travel brochures doesn't really count towards being a writer or does it.... as it was for jobs that included things other than just writing I'm guessing it still doesn't count. I may go off on many tangents today so feel free to leave now or skip to the end for the crumble.

Early last week I had the pleasure of spending the morning with a lovely lady who taught me how to make a Sweet Indian Rice Dish. This was no gloopy rice pudding, it was dry, sweet and scented with cloves, cassia bark and cardamons. I'll post the recipe soon. (Thank you T, it was good fun and I loved learning to cook with you. I know other people would too!) I also got some history of how and why Sikhs celebrate Diwali. It was fascinating and you can click here, here and here to find out a little more.

I had every intention of recreating this rice dish for Diwali (The Hindu Festival of Lights). Celebrated last week around the world. Houses were cleaned, lamps lit, windows and doors opened to entice Lakshmi (the Hindu Goddess of Wealth) to enter. Unfortunately we had one child feeling sick and one with a temperature/really bad cold so there was no house cleaning and no Indian food for them. The hot snotty one is still that way. Something about starting pre-school that seems to do it every time! I spent Diwali evening with one of my oldest friends and her dog, we lit two candles and ate ready prepared Indian food from Waitrose...

I recently wrote about trying to be more frugal. It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth that no sooner had I typed the words I seemed to spend the next few weeks being more wasteful than I have been in a long time. I think what triggered it was leaving the freezer door open over night and having to throw away, among other things, our huge harvest of frozen blackberries. Harvested over weeks from our garden and local hedgerows. I was thoroughly peeved and it obviously sent me into some kind of downward spiral. I don't think we should feel guilty for eating and celebrating food. The world is as it is, but I do think we should spare a thought for those who don't have it so and I certainly think I need a good talking to for being wasteful!

Have you seen the book Hungry Planet - what the world eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, originally published in 2005, or The Atlas of Food - Who eats what, where and why by Erik Millstone and Tim Lang, originally published in 2003? They're very sobering and well worth a read. Important too if you're teaching your children about food and cultures from around the world. Other people have written about the book Hungy Planet recently, Joanna is one, Kalyn is another some time ago, infact it was Kalyn's post on Blogher that prompted me buy the book. Click here for a link to Peter Menzel Photography and here for a link to a slideshow of pictures from the book.

Climbing down from soap box now... I've been looking at some pears in a cauldron from Halloween for the past 2 weeks thinking I must make some crumble before they walked out and made their own way to the wormery. This morning I finally shook the lazy cloak off! I got the pears, cut the bad bits off (as I'd left them for so long there were more bad bits than good bits). I was left with so little pear to make pear crumble that I had to use 3 apples to bulk it up and the last of a jar of ginger preserve (best before date April 2007 - my mother-in-law will be in shock, and possibly proud if she reads that). There would have been so much more of this delicious crumble if I'd only made it earlier but then I might not have added the apple or the ginger conserve. I'd go as far as to say that despite this rambling crazy post this is one of the best crumbles I have ever made.

Pear, Apple and Ginger Crumble
Approx 150g ginger conserve (we used Waitrose out of date, open for months in the fridge!)
2 pears (cored and chopped)
3 small apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
5 tablespoons of apple juice

Cup plain flour
Half a cup of butter (chopped into pieces)
Third cup of sugar (we used unrefined golden granulated)

Put the fruit, ginger conserve and apple juice in the bottom of an oven proof dish. Then onto your crumble mix. If you're lazy use a packet. If you're still lazy but have a couple of minutes to spare and no scales then put one cup of plain flour in a large bowl, to which add half a cup of butter chopped into pieces, Rub this together to make a fine breadcrumb like texture. Then add a third of a cup of sugar and mix. Sprinkle this over your fruit and cook in a pre-heated oven (175C) for 35-40 minutes.

If your children like ginger they should love this. If not, more for the grown ups!

It would appear the blogblock is unblocked! Get it back - I hear you shout!

Sunday, 4 November 2007


You know when you're feeling miserable and can't be bothered? When the thought of throwing a party is the furthest thing from your mind? But then you get a call and somehow this particular call pulls at your party strings. Our village knows how to put on a fireworks display and about 20,000 people descend on the village because they agree. We drank, we ate, we had SPARKLERS!

I took my eye off the ball last night and this soup wasn't as good as it has been. That will teach me...

Spciy Lentil and Bacon Soup (not a recipe, more a thought, hopefully you'll get the idea.)
Packet of lardons or smoked bacon of any sort cut into pieces, garlic, onions, potatoes, packet of red lentils, big glug of concentrated chicken stock (I used Knorr touch of taste), ground cumin, ground coriander, harissa paste, water, salt and pepper and a glug of oil.

Peel and chop the veg. Gently fry all of it, then add spices, stock and water. Boil hard for 10 minutes then gently simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Blitz with a stick blender. Serve with a little cream if your arteries can take it. I forgot to add stock last night, and added garam masala instead of just cumin and coriander. It wasn't the best soup, but most people were too inebriated to care.

How to be a Domestic Goddess is a great book, full of tempting recipes. Why I haven't cooked from it more I can't tell you. Especially after trying these brownies. If you google Nigella brownie recipe there are plenty out there. On the plus side if this article from the Guardian back in 2004 is right and depending on your take on things, they're not actually that bad for you either. Click here at Channel 4 for a snowflecked version (it states less sugar in that one though).

Nigella's Brownies (from How to be a Domestic Goddess pg 193)
375g unsalted butter (soft)
375g dark chocolate (book states best quality, we had Bourneville in the house)
6 large eggs
tablespoon vanilla extract
500g caster sugar
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
300g chopped walnuts (I put them in a bag and bashed them with a rolling pin as I don't like too many pieces of walnut in my brownies).

Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Line the pan you're using (you will need two or a big one as there's a lot of mixture). Melt the butter and chocolate. In a large bowl beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl weigh the flour and add the salt. When the melted chocolate and butter has cooled a little you need to beat it together with the egg and sugar mix. Then beat in the flour and chopped walnuts. Pour and scrape into your lined pan(s) and then bake for ?? I really don't know, the book suggested 25 minutes.

This makes a seriously good brownie and I'd make it again but I'd ignore the cooking time. I thought the brownie was ready, this was after a good 15 minutes more cooking time than suggested. Nigella does say in the book that you need to keep alert, keep checking: the difference between being gungy and dry is only a few minutes. I don't have the first clue how you're supposed to test this as they're supposed to be slightly gooey and therefore the normal testing of putting a skewer in to see if it comes out clean wouldn't work - any ideas?? It looked beautiful, even more so with the sparkling candles. However when I cut into it, the middle bit wasn't cooked, it was runny and although very tasty I decided to cut off the outside bits. Scraped the inside bits back into the pan and threw it back in the oven for about 10 minutes.

I also came across this adaptation on Jasmine's Confessions of a Cardamon Addict blog. They look more than worthy of a try.
What are these?

These little beauties are for Charlotte and family at the Great Big Vegetable Challenge.
Celebrate veggies and make vegetable faces, what a great idea. So, it only took us a few months Charlotte, but we finally got round to making some for you.
Squashy had collagen in her lips, especially for the occassion and Pumpy had lip surgery that went wrong. Least said soonest mended! Sorry to hear your Mr Pumpernickel was stolen!


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