Into 2017

But first what did we learn in 2016?

Your sourdough bread is only as good as your starter, I thought mine had died (although I have read that’s not possible) but it was a miserable, vinegary smelly liquid when I neglected to feed it. However equal quantities of rye and white flour plus their combined weight in water every day for three days had her back on her feet again, and the bread (imho) is looking good.

Choose a recipe/method and stick to it and make it over and over until you have a consistent result, don’t flit from one to another always looking for the one that “works best”

Get books! because whilst scrolling through infinite websites/blogs is good, sitting down and looking through books is sometimes a better idea (and better for your eyes too) I got some great books in 2016.

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And I did finally get to join SERV as a blood biker.

Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers is the full title and basically we collect and deliver essential supplies by motorcycle to hospitals and the National Blood Bank out of hours 7pm – 6am (365 days a year) the purpose to support the NHS and keep ambulances and paramedics on the front line.

It can be blood and blood products plasma, platelets but also samples, medical records, X-rays, spinal fluids even surgical equipment, we never know who it’s for but often the calls are very urgent and bikes are more effective in traffic.

Here is a link with more information and one of a number of videos outlining our duties and service to the community.

http://www.serv.org.uk/site/

..and it’s been going a while

More to come

 

Lemon, garlic, rosemary chicken

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Some things are just so simple and so tasty and this easily prepared chicken dish is right up there with the best, the most important thing you need is time. It takes nearly 3 hours to make. That is 5 minutes to prepare and 2 hours and 55 minutes in the oven!

You need:

  • Your oven set to 160C/Gas mark 3
  • A whole chicken cut into pieces, leave the skin on
  • 2 lemons cut into 8
  • 1 head of garlic broken in to cloves but not peeled
  • A good splash of olive oil
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Black pepper and sea salt

Put everything in a roasting pan and give a good mix together with a couple of table spoons of water, cover with tin foil and put in the oven for 2 hours. Turn the oven up to 200C/Gas mark 6 and remove the foil and leave for another 45 minutes or so until the chicken skin is brown and the lemons starting to caramelise.

We had this with couscous with almonds and sultanas and was delicious, next time I will add to the chicken some cinnamon sticks and whole almonds and maybe some green olives too.

Midsummer murmurs

Here we are on the countdown to Midsummer in Scandinavia (it’s raining quite hard as I write this) and things are shaping up pretty good, days so long that it gets dark for a mere hour or two at the most and bright sunshine from 5 in the morning, the local neighborhood is busying itself tidying up already tidy gardens and folks are organizing get-togethers and the associated food and drink, the majority of the events in Sweden take place on the 20th with the 21st being a “rest day” there is herring to be eaten with new potatoes and then strawberries and cream oh and a little snaps apparently!

Whilst in Denmark the midsummer happens on the 23rd/24th (known as Sankthans) with huge bonfires in public places and I dare say some snaps too! Food wise amongst the traditional Danish hot-dogs, potato salad etc is this fantastic dessert made from buttermilk, egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla and some small biscuits that are like farleys rusks (remember?) all together with some super fresh local strawberries it’s a real delight on hot days.

The truth about croissants

I am very good at eating croissants, I made those above this morning well last night and this morning actually. I have made quite a few in my time as well, my first real job after I left catering college was in the pastry kitchen of London’s Mayfair hotel, one of my scheduled shifts started at 05.30am and we had to have the first couple of trays of croissants ready by 07.00am we made hundreds, exactly how many depended on how busy the hotel was.
The dough was always made the evening before usually by someone else so you were always relying on their skill to make it just right you had to trust them, although we followed a recipe there was a certain amount of know-how as well, the dough had to have the right consistency a bit more or a bit less milk, the time of year was a factor too, less yeast in the summer and a bit more in the winter and then the timing, not too much mixing on the machine but enough. Proving time as well, not too long but long enough, how do you know? You know because you do it every day and you were taught by someone who did it every day before you came along, you poked the dough and knew it was ready, right consistency.

The right stuff

We used good quality ingredients, the same brand all the time so we could rely on them as well, you get to know your ingredients too. The butter had to be bashed with a rolling pin to make it soft, how soft? you just knew. If someone got it wrong the night before with the dough it was you who suffered the consequences in the morning, it happened (thankfully very rarely)

Making croissants at home is not the easiest thing to do, why? because you don’t do it every day and with all of the variables in there, time, consistency, temperature, ingredients etc etc but it’s not impossible.
The recipe or method is not that complicated they are to be found in most good pastry books but you have to approach it with the right frame of mind and don’t be put off if the first time they don’t come out of the oven perfect, just try again, those around you will certainly encourage you to try again and again because the smell of them and enjoying a croissant you have made yourself, well it does take some beating.    

Lemon curd

I love making lemon curd, I love the smell of freshly grated lemon and just how quickly with a few simple ingredients you have a great spread to keep in the fridge and use for all kinds of delicious treats, spread it on bread, cakes, biscuits, add a spoonful to creme fraiche, yoghurt or just enjoy a spoonful! This is so simple it’s a recipe from the Guardian newspaper a few years ago by Nigel Slater
Try and get the best lemons you can, these I bought today were not.

Panettone versus pandoro

I was reading this article today about the difference between (and history of) Panettone and Pandoro it’s by Marco Pernini who has been the personal chef of Madonna, and at the time of writing this I have a dough resting that is somewhere between the two, will post more on that after it’s baked and undergone a thorough analysis (eaten)

Here is the recipe for my previous post for Panettone it is reasonably straightforward if a little time consuming but definitely worth all the effort.

355 g Strong flour
1/2 tspn Salt
7g Dried fast acting yeast
3 tblspns Lukewarm water
70g Sugar
2 Whole eggs
2 Yolks
Vanilla essence/seeds from vanilla pod/paste (as you prefer)
1 Lemon (grated zest)
170g Soft butter
85g Sultanas I prefer golden
60g Candied peel

Make a dough with all ingredients except the fruit and knead until smooth then add the fruit and leave in a bowl covered until double in size.
Go and do some more christmas shopping, this takes a long time, you can even leave it in the fridge overnight.
Gently knock back the dough and get the air out of it and form a smooth ball and place in a baking paper lined tin.
Leave to double it’s size again and cut a cross on the top with a sharp knife and bake in a preheated oven 200 C for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 180 C and continue to bake for maybe 40 minutes or so, you can test it by inserting a skewer or thin knife as you would with a cake.
Remove from oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes then on a wire rack.

Would love to hear how it turns out for you. Good luck!

The panettone

Not bad, a very long double prove, which I believe is good for developing the flavour, I removed the dough from the fridge around 7 this morning and finally baked it this evening at 9. I built an extension on a cake tin with corrugated card and baking paper to allow for the extra height. House smells wonderful! why 2 pictures? couldn’t decide which one I preferred and pixels are free.