Friday, 31 August 2012

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

24-Hour Rye Bread

Nom, rye bread! I love its aroma and texture, and it goes perfectly with pastrami, lettuce and mayo, one of my favourite sandwich combos. The trouble is that trying to make an all-rye flour bread is a great way to make a doorstop. I turned to my brilliant bread book for advice and inspiration. While all the recipes suggested were sound, I needed something that I could do in my own kitchen, with the materials I had. For instance I usually have wholewheat sourdough starter on the go - in fact I really should post my usual wheat sourdough recipe - but I have no rye starter, and I don't really want yet another tub of fermenting yeasty flour in my fridge.

So I tried using the wheat sourdough to make a half rye, half wheat sourdough, and gave it plenty of time to develop. In fact, I made it over 24 hours, so I only had to attend to it briefly in the morning and in the evening. (Add yourself another 24 hours if you don't already have a tub of sourdough starter in your fridge.) The result was fantastic: perfectly risen, great texture, and of course that wonderful rye flavour. Next time I might try a bit more rye but this was quite a satisfying experiment.

For the production leaven

For the dough
  • 400g leaven (above)
  • 150g rye flour
  • 200g water
  • 100g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 200g strong white flour
  • 10g caraway seeds
  • 5g salt
  • 1tsp yeast
Mix the leaven ingredients together (in a breadmaker bucket is fine) and leave for 12-16 hours, after which the mixture should end up with bubbles on top and smell slightly acidic. (Ideally, do this in the morning before you leave for work.)

Combine the leaven and rye flour in the breadmaker by putting it on dough for a minute or so. Put the rest of the ingredients on top (keeping the salt and yeast separate) and leave for 5 hours, then put on a wholemeal (~4h) cycle. (Ideally, use the timer setting on your breadmaker so that the bread is ready in the morning.)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Mushroom and Broccoli Bread Pudding

I'm always pushing myself to try new things. Sometimes those new things are old things, such as this 70s vegetarian recipe from my charity-shop One-Pot book. I was looking for something to use up a massive $1 broccoli we'd bought, and after looking up recipes in the index, I found this one. I recoiled immediately at just the name - 'Cheddar and Broccoli Bread Pudding' - but then I figured, if it's something I'd usually never cook... now would be a good time to try. So I followed the instructions, and hey - it really wasn't bad! It tastes a little too much like the sum of its parts, so if anyone has some ideas on how to fix that, comment below. I think some herbs would be a start, but here's the recipe in its original bland glory:


  • an onion
  • 225g mushrooms
  • 450g broccoli
  • 340g wholemeal bread - about 8 slices
  • 125g mature Cheddar (half the original!!)
  • 3 eggs
  • 285ml milk
  • 2 tomaotes

Peel and finely chop the onion, then soften in some butter or olive oil in a large lidded frying pan. Meanwhile, slice the mushrooms and cut the broccoli into small florets. Add the mushrooms to the onions, toss and cook for a further two minutes, then add the broccoli, season well, cover and steam for five minutes - don't be tempted to lift the lid or the water from the mushrooms will escape.

Preheat the oven to 190 C and lightly butter a large baking dish. Slice the bread very thinly, and remove the crusts if they are tough. Line the dish with half of the bread, then spoon half of the broccoli mixture in, then half of the cheddar. Whisk the eggs with the milk and pour half into the dish. Add further layers of bread, broccoli, Cheddar and egg, then very thinly slice the tomatoes and place the slices on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for a further 15 minutes. Serve with a mixed, well-dressed salad.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Braised Lamb Shank with Shallots and Red Wine

Earlier today I ran 12k. I knew in advance I was going to be pretty much crippled afterwards, and also desperately craving protein. So we picked up a couple of hearty lamb shanks at the butchers' yesterday, ready for a long stew into tenderness. In deference to my sad throbbing legs, we even did the grocery shop in a car, instead of on the bikes as usual! Fun times.

Anyway, back to the recipe. It's a Nigel special but seriously, I think people have been cooking meat like this since the Middle Ages. Or whenever it was that wine was invented. We also found out that in stews, you can happily use pickling onions ($6/kg) instead of shallots ($12/kg): after an hour they taste identical. I'm going to go fall over now.


  • two lamb shanks (or one, or four, depending on how much meat you feel like!)
  • 250 ml red wine (doesn't have to be good enough to drink, but shouldn't be vinegar either)
  • 250 ml vegetable or meat stock
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 8-10 shallots, or pickling onions
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
In a casserole pot, fry the lamb shanks, turning once or twice so that they sear and get nice caramelised edges. Meanwhile, tail and peel the shallots, and split or cut any large ones in half. Slosh the wine onto the meat and add the shallots/onions, vegetable stock, rosemary, and crush in the garlic. Stir once, cover and simmer for an hour and a half, until the meat is falling off the bone. (Or you can pop it into a 160C oven; either way.) Stir in the mustard, and serve with fluffy mashed potatoes and some wilted spinach, with black pepper grated and lemon juice squeezed over.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Raisin Spice Bread

We spent a lovely afternoon playing games at a friend's house the other weekend, and they gave us generous wedges of this bread spread with cream cheese to snack on. They have the same breadmaker as us and the recipe was straight from the book, so I decided to make it too - amazingly I've never made a sweet bread in the machine! After this I'd love to try a brioche. And that doesn't have any fruit in it, so no chance of me messing up the dispenser setting, as I did for the first time making this :)


  • 130ml water
  • 130ml milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 575g white bread flour
  • 100g malted dark bread flour (optional, replace with white or wholemeal if you prefer)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 cup raisins
Put everything except the raisins into the breadmaker; put the raisins in the dispenser, or add at the second knead. Pop the breadmaker on 'sweet' and brush with a little sugar glaze at the end if you like.

Or, if you have no breadmaker, knead for 15 minutes, rise for 40, punch down, rise again for 30, shape however you like, rise again for 50 minutes, and then bake for 70 minutes at 115C.

They taste just like hot cross buns so you could also put the dough on, then take out, shape into small buns, rise again and bake for maybe 20 minutes to produce hot cross buns. Then the glaze is mandatory!

Refried Beans

We have been eating beans all week, thanks to the 2kg or so I made last weekend. Beans on baked potatoes, beans with barbequed sweet potato, beans in wraps and of course, beans on toast! The consequences haven't been entirely pleasant for those around us. This is the last meal I'm making with the beans, and since it's been a whole week I wanted to reheat them right through. So I threw in a couple of spring onions and the rest of my spices from my refried beans recipe, and tossed about in a pan until spicy and sizzling. It's amazing what you can do a few spices and the last sad vegetables at the bottom of the drawer: guacamole, salsa, barbequed sweet potato and shredded lettuce complement the lovely beans in some yum (freshly-defrosted) tortilla wraps.

Sunday, 19 August 2012


It's orange season down under! I remember last year I was really impressed by how good and cheap the oranges were at the tail-end of winter, and this year they're just as delicious. All over Perth, orange and lemon trees are heavy with fruit, and frustratingly they're all locked away behind garden walls, much of the fruit rotting in sunshine. Some friendly gardeners pick the fruit and leave them in big boxes outside their house for anyone to take away. I've gathered a few lemons from those boxes this year, but so far no oranges. However they're less than $1 per kilo in the market, so I pick up the least ripe, saddest-looking navels I can find (no Seville down under, that I can find), shred them with our shiny new mandolin, and make a huge vat of marmalade. I have fond childhood memories of 'helping' my parents make marmalade, and I think we only used up the last of it after a decade or so! Once again, I've made about enough for a long time...
I'm not including the recipe, since frankly it didn't set the first time, and I had to empty all the jars and boil it down by another 25%! But a few rules-of-thumb are: use a really big pot, a 1:1:0.5 ratio of fruit:sugar:water, keep a couple of pectin sachets handy, and a big stack of cold plates in the freezer for the 'wrinkle test'.

Prawn and Sweet Potato Fritters ('Ukoy')

We had a sad sweet potato hanging around in the cupboard that I wanted to use up. This recipe turned out to be a stunningly inefficient way to do that, but made totally delicious and great finger food. You could eat them as a starters, but we just made 25 or so and chowed down while watching a movie :)


  • 250ml boiling water
  • 250g raw small prawns
  • 150g plain flour
  • 80g ground rice
  • 30g cornflour
  • 2 eggs
  • black pepper
  • 125g peeled and grated sweet potato
  • 115g bean sprouts
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp mild vinegar

Cook the prawns in the boiling water (in a saucepan, presumably) for 3-4 minutes, until pink and just cooked. Drain, reserving the prawn stock and leaving both prawns and stock to cool for ten minutes or so. Pluck the heads off, and if the shells are tough (i.e. if you couldn't find really small prawns), shell them completely.

Put the flours and ground rice into a bowl and whisk in the eggs and the cooled prawn liquid; season well with black pepper and salt. Add the grated sweet potato, bean sprouts and spring onions, and fold gently to combine. Drop 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp of batter into a frying pan of hot oil, and top with 2-3 prawns, pushing into the batter and then flattening with a spatula. Fry gently so the sweet potato has time to cook through, about 2-3 minutes each side. Stack on a plate with kitchen paper.

Crush the garlic and combine with the salt and vinegar to form a dipping sauce. The fritters also work well with sweet chilli sauce.

Real Baked Beans

I remember my parents talking about how they used to bake their own beans back when they were at uni. For quite a few years I couldn't see why: baked beans are pretty cheap, right? And how good can your own be anyway?

Well, here, they're not so cheap - at least three times the price of the same beans in the UK, usually more. On the plus side, we live near a great combined market with huge sacks of the white haricot beans that one could bake into beans. Having seen those sacks every time I visit the market, and occasionally cringing as I open a tin of expensive baked beans, I eventually thought - let's do it. Let's bake some beans.

For such a classic British staple I turned to Delia, in her Frugal incarnation. I've simplified some of the steps, since her recipes always seem to involve way too much measuring and transferring from one pot to another. Oh and... because I didn't think 450g sounded like very many beans... I made a whole kilo. Which is an entire massive Le Creuset absolutely full of beans. Well, at least we're sorted for the week! They are also better than the tinned version, after all :)


  • 1 kg dried white haricot beans
  • 3 litres water
  • 3 tsp dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp molasses or treacle
  • 4 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp (or a tiny tin) of tomato puree
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 onions
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 500g streaky belly of pork

Put the beans and water in a huge oven-proof pot and bring up to the boil, then turn off the heat and leave for an hour to soak. Reheat up to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally to make sure no beans are sticking.

Preheat the oven to 120 C. Finely slice the onion and add, along with the rest of the ingredients, to the beans, and stir to combine. Tuck the piece of pork into the beans, leaving only the rind exposed, which you can slash with a knife to crisp if you intend to eat it. Cover and bake for 6 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing's sticking. The beans will absorb most of the liquid, but if they absorb all of it and start to go dry, feel free to top up with some extra water.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Porterhouse Steak, Braised Fennel and Mustard Rollini

We take our weekly stroll to the butchers' and pick up a beautiful Porterhouse steak, which we plan to sear for 90 seconds each side and split between us. Enjoying the beautiful sunshine and pottering about the house, we leave the main grocery shop until Sunday. When I come to cook our lovely steaks, I find none of the accompaniments I'd usually use, not even potatoes! I still crave that sticky, carby counterpoint to the steak, so I take some inspiration from a 'nursery classic', and also try out a new kind of pasta hanging around the cupboard.

At the bottom of the vegetable drawer sits one folorn fennel, left 'til all of the easily-prepared vegetables are already eaten. I flick through Nigel's recipe books but find he's not really a fan of fennel, dedicating it a mere two paragraphs in his massive British vegetable compendium. However, there's plenty of ideas in those few sentences, one of which is exactly the way my dad prepares chicory. I give it a go, and it's absolutely amazing.

  • a large fennel
  • 250g rollini, or other shaped pasta
  • 4-6 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • a seriously good steak, or two

Cut any discoloured parts from the fennel and slice off the toughest part of the root, but leaving most of the base intact so that the sheaves still hang together. Cut into large lengthwise wedges; a small fennel could be quartered, a large fennel cut into sixths or eighths. In a frying pan large enough that all the fennel can lie flat, melt a couple tbsp of butter and a little glug of olive oil. Add the fennel wedges and stir around gently until coated in fat. Set the heat to low, cover the pan and braise for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice. You want the fennel to be gently caramelised where it touches the pan, but not burnt, and for the trapped steam to cook the vegetable through.

10 minutes before the fennel is done, set your pasta to cook in plenty of boiling water. Meanwhile, pan-fry the steak; 90 seconds each side will give a lovely rareness, but of course feel free to alter depending on your taste and the steak's thickness. Set aside to rest. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and return it to the pan, along with the crème fraiche and mustard; warm through over a low heat, stirring so that it doesn't stick. Taste and season, then serve with the steak and braised fennel.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Purple Salad (and Potato Rosti)

It's the end of the week and the fridge needs clearing out, so it's time to reinvent old recipes by substituting almost all of the ingredients! I also had a go at making a potato rosti, but the edges of my pan were too tall, so it was impossible to detach and flip cleanly. We'll buy a good skillet and sometime I'll put a recipe for rosti up.


  • 3 medium or 4 small beetroot
  • a big handful of green beans
  • 1-2 ripe avocados
  • a few handfuls of salad leaves
  • a generous handful of basil (chives would work too)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp grain mustard

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Scrub, top and tail the beetroot and slice into wedges; peel if the skin is tough. Brush with olive oil and roast for an hour, until soft, sweet and caramelised. Top the green beans, halve and steam until green but not overdone: they will continue to cook after you remove them from the steamer. Peel and stone the avocadoes, and slice into wedges. Blend half of the basil and the rest of the ingredients in a food processor to make a thick dressing; taste and season.

When the beetroot are cooked, fold them gently with the beans, avocados and salad dressing until slightly but not totally combined (or everything will be bright magenta!). Serve immediately.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Cornish Pasties

Recently I was back in the UK, and the first thing I bought as I stepped out of the airport was a Cornish pasty. My mum used to make them for us when we were little and they were such a treat! Any spare pastry would be spread with jam and popped in the oven to make tiny bonus tarts. When I went to uni in Bristol I fell in love with all the different pasty bakeries - over the years I tried all the varieties at all the little shops until I knew where to get my favourites anywhere in town. Sadly in Cambridge, the only pasty shop was a 'Cornish Pasty Co.' chain franchise, whose pasties are always a bit sad, flat, salty and missing those beautiful generous pieces of meat that make pasties such a treat.On my return to pasty-less Perth, I resolved to make my own, for the very first time in my life!

I'm a big fan of well-cooked stewing beef; I can't stand underdone chewiness. So I simmered a very plain and warming beef stew last night, then left it covered overnight. In the morning the meat had reabsorbed much of the juices and the remaining gravy had thickened into a pasty-perfect consistency. The pasty pastry was simple: 600g plain flour, 130g butter, 130g cooking margerine, and a pinch of salt, all whizzed together in a blender to make breadcrumbs, then folded together with just enough water to combine. I cut it in half, flattened each piece into rough discs, then chilled it for twenty minutes while I prepared a nice clean dry worksurface, dusting it and a rolling pin with plain flour. I also greased a couple of baking trays and found a plate of roughly the right size to serve as a guide for cutting circles of pastry. Then I carefully rolled out each disc of pastry until it was around 4mm thick, and cut out discs, stacking them on a plate ready for use. I combined all the offcut pastry together and was able to get a couple more discs out, ending up with eight 12cm discs from that quantity of pastry.

To fill the pasties, I placed a disc on the edge of a baking tray, and filled the center, lengthwise. Then I brushed the edges with beaten egg, and brought the edges up together, pressing them together with my fingers and forming that awesome ripply pattern. According to Wikipedia, you can make pasties in this upright fashion or in the crescent fashion; both forms have been practiced in Cornwall for generations. Personally I like this shape as it's the same one my mum uses, and the filling is less likely to ooze out if you mess up the pastry join! That said, make sure to pay special attention to the tips of the pasties: squash them together very well to prevent ooze and create those wonderful decadent flaky-pastry-only moments at the beginning and end of eating a pasty.

I kept filling until I ran out of pastry - I missed running out of stew by a few spoonfuls - then brushed them lightly with beaten egg and baked for 35 minutes in a preheated 200C oven. With great restraint I managed to cool them on a rack for a couple of minutes before chowing down on a couple for dinner! I'm sure they'd be great for lunch but they didn't last long in our house :) We only managed to keep another pair of pairs for dinner the next night by sealing them in a plastic box and hiding it from ourselves. Pastry is so GOOD.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Beef and Ale Stew

This week I have a plan, and it involves stretching a kilo of cheap beef across three very tasty meals. The trick with cheap cuts of beef is to simmer them for a long time, until the gristly fatty connective tissue breaks down and becomes a thickener for the sauce. By this point the meat itself is tender and falling apart. Wonderful!

First off is the world's simplest stew, something I can always throw together if I have just a few minutes to do the preparation before I go do an hour's work -- or telecon as is usually the case on Tuesdays. Tomorrow I want to use the remaining stew in Cornish pasties, but tonight it's just as-is, with delicious fresh bread spread thickly with margarine to dip in. This recipe serves six if you were to eat it all straight away.


  • 1kg diced beef
  • two large brown onions
  • a couple of bay leaves
  • 500-600ml dark ale (so a pint or a demi depending on your country of origin)
  • 15 shallots (optional)
  • two large carrots
  • four potatoes
  • two large tomatoes
  • 300g frozen peas (optional)

Chuck the beef in a large heavy-lidded casserole pot (e.g. a Le Creuset) and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, finely dice the onions. Once the meat is a little browned on the outside, add the onions and bay leaves and fry for a further 3-4 minutes, until the onion has lost its raw smell. Pour in the ale and bring up to a simmer; allow to cook uncovered until it stops frothing. If you're using the shallots, cut off the root and peel them, and drop them whole into the stew. Cover and simmer for an hour, checking halfway through to stir and make sure it is not looking dry.

After an hour, check a piece of meat - it should slice easily with a knife, and any fat should be transparent and wobbly. If the meat is still tough or the fat is white and stringy, simmer for a further half hour and check again. Meanwhile, scrub and cube the carrots and potatoes; finely dice the tomatoes. Add to the pan, cover and simmer for a further twenty minutes, until the carrots and potatoes are soft. If using the peas, pour directly into the stew, stir to cover, and simmer for 2-3 minutes until sweet. Chcek the stew for seasoning; it may need 1-2 tsp of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Serve with hot fresh bread.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Baked Pears and Ricotta Salad

Pears are very good at the moment, but still I'm impatient for them to ripen. This recipe shortcuts the wait by baking them in the oven. I also picked up some plain baked ricotta from the deli, but if you had time you could make your own at the same time as you cook the pears.

  • 2 large pears
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 big handfuls of rocket (arugula)
  • a big handful of walnuts or pecans (or in a pinch, sunflower seeds)
  • a 200g chunk of baked ricotta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp runny honey

Preheat the oven to 200C; peel, core and quarter the pears; place in a roasting tin, dot on the butter and shake over the sugar. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and tender. Five minutes before done, place the nuts or seeds on a tray and toast in the oven for a few minutes, until crisp and nutty. Combine the dressing ingredients together; taste and season if necessary. Cut the pear and ricotta into bite-size pieces and toss with the rocket, nuts and dressing. Spike with croutons or serve with crusty bread.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Lentil Loaf

This is something I've always been vaguely intrigued by, especially when festivities roll around and vegetarians complain about having nothing to eat but nut loaf. I thought I'd see just what it's like to make a lentil loaf, using my handy copy of Delia's Frugal Food. I was missing half the ingredients so added a couple of beetroot, which made the colour much more cheerful. Served over a pumpkin pilaf with a generous dollop of mango chutney, it was quite decent. I think it's missing the sheer umame-ness of a meat loaf, but it's pretty tasty and certainly keeps well over the week.


  • 110g green split peas
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • a few springs of thyme
  • a couple of bay leaves
  • 175g whole green or brown lentils
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • a large onion
  • two carrots
  • a couple of small or a large beetroot
  • four fat cloves of garlic
  • a generous handful of fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • two eggs

Put the split peas and herbs in a saucepan and cover with hot stock; simmer for five minutes; add the lentils and simmer for a further 25-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender (don't worry if there is excess water, you don't need to drain them). Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and fry in a separate pan for a few minutes; dice the carrot and beetroot and add to the pan, and crush in the garlic. Fry for a few minutes until the garlic is fragrant. Shred the parsley and add; remove from the heat. Combine the lentil mixture, vegetable mixture and Worcestershire sauce (off the heat) and stir in the eggs when cool enough not to immediately cook them (<57 C). Taste and season (mine needed around 2tsp salt and a looooong grating of pepper.) Spoon into a well-greased 450g loaf tin, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Turn out and leave to cool for a minute or two before slicing.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Pasta e fagioli

We've been enduring a spot of cold weather recently; I even had to wear trousers when cycling to work for a couple of days! Actually I think I'm just a wimp after getting back from a nice week in Brisbane where it was 21C every day. I felt like something really homely and gorgeous, but not too meaty, after a week eating out. I googled around and found this lovely Italian 'peasant' dish which seemed perfect! There are many different versions around, but I started improvising from one that mostly included ingredients I had. (Sensible.) One thing that the recipes emphasised was that this varies massively region-to-region in Italy and it's ok to be more of a soup, or more of a sauce, or anywhere in between. So here's my take - and I will definitely be making this again as it was superb!

  • a medium onion
  • a carrot
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 425g tin of tomatoes
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 150g tubetti, macaroni or other small soup pasta
  • 400g tin of borlotti beans
  • grated Parmesan (omit if vegan, obviously!)
  • fresh parsley

Finely chop the onion and fry it over a medium heat until translucent (about five minutes). Peel and dice the carrot and add to the pan; peel and crush in the garlic cloves. Toss around and fry for a further minute, until the garlic is fragrant and softened. Pour in the tin of tomatoes, half of the stock, and add the bay leaves and rosemary sprig. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove a ladleful of the soup and blend with half of the beans (be careful to cool for a minute or so or use a large blender so as not to explode soup everywhere!). Return the paste to the pan along with the pasta and cook for another 10 minutes, until the pasta is soft. Add the last half of the beans to the pan, turn off the heat and allow to warm through. Divide into bowls and top with grated Parmesan and finely chopped parsley.