Treat me: Anzac Bread

Have you ever heard the expression, ‘an army marches on its stomach’? Whoever was in charge of provisioning the Antipodean soldiers in World War One certainly hadn’t. Researchers now believe poor diet was one of the contributing factors to the doomed Gallipoli campaign due to be commemorated in Australia and New Zealand tomorrow.

Not only were the hapless Anzacs on a hiding to nothing in terms of their strategic position and lack of equipment, they were given the most basic of rations and suffered greatly as a result. Like the song says, war – what is it good for?

I’m not sure that modern Anzac biscuits are that nutritionally sound either, but they surely rate highly in terms of improving – even in the short-term – one’s psychological state, especially when consumed with a good cup of tea. Ending (or even starting) the day with a bowl of Anzac Biscuit Ice cream offers a similar emotional health benefits. But if you’re looking for something a little more wholesome, then this easy Anzac-inspired bread could be just the ticket.

Anzac Bread
This is bread for beginners – there’s no kneading and very little hands-on effort required at all. Mix the dough before you go to the dawn service and it will just about be ready to stick in the oven when you get back.

350g strong or high grade flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
50g rolled oats
50g desiccated coconut
1 tsp dried yeast
20g butter, cold
1 Tbsp golden syrup
325ml warm water

Put the flour, oats, coconut and yeast into a large bowl. Grate in the butter and then stir vigorously to mix it in.
Add the golden syrup to the water and pour into the bowl. Mix well until a wet, sticky dough forms.
Cover with a damp tea towel or plastic bag and leave in a warm place for three to four hours, until the dough has risen and nearly doubled in size.
Turn the oven to 210C. Grease a standard loaf tin (about 21 x11 cm) and line with baking paper.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and deflate it by pressing with your fingers until it forms a rectangular shape that’s slightly narrower than the length of the loaf tin. With the short side closest to you, carefully fold the bottom third of the dough into the middle, then over again. You should have a loaf shape sitting in front of you. Carefully transfer this to the prepared loaf tin.
Let rise for 30 minutes, until it is puffy and an indent stays when you press it with a finger. Slash the top with a sharp knife, dust with a little flour and put in the oven.
Bake for 35 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Let cool for five minutes before you turn it out of the tin. Leave it on a rack to cool completely.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Fried egg crumpets

About 20 years ago, when I had just moved into my first flat, my flatmate Geoff specialised in what he called ‘egg windows’ – a fried slice of bread with an egg in the middle of it.

Geoff’s dad, an army major, had showed him how to make them when he was a kid and Geoff was a total pro. Then an architecture student, he cut the ‘window’ out of the bread with exacting precision, and he had the timing down pat. Alas, that was probably the apex of his cooking skills. His other memorable culinary moment was the time he came home drunk, put a tray of oven chips on to cook and fell asleep on the sofa. We were saved by the neighbours calling the fire brigade, but the chips were not so lucky.

I’d forgotten all about Geoff, egg windows and the fire until I saw Maya Adam show how to make what she called ‘Egg in a hole’ as part of the Child Nutrition MOOC run by Stanford University. Here was the egg window, transformed into a fast, nutritious breakfast for a child. It was genius. But even more genius is my fried egg crumpet – a fast, nutritious(ish) and utterly delicious anytime meal for everyone. Here’s how to do it.

Egg In A Hole Using Crumpets

Fried egg crumpets
One of these might do for breakfast, but I think you need two for lunch. The holey nature of the crumpet means it soaks up a) butter and b) egg, so there are lots of textural contrasts – soft, silky egg and crunchy crumpet edges. Add something green on the side and you might even be able to call it dinner.

You need:
An equal number of crumpets and eggs – let’s say two per person
A good knob of butter and a splash of olive oil to stop the butter from burning
A heavy frying pan with a lid
A round cookie cutter or small glass (about five cm in diameter)
Salt and pepper
Sriracha sauce or some other spicy condiment
Grated Parmesan, optional

Cut the middle out of the crumpets with the cookie cutter or glass. You can eat the middle bit as a cook’s perk now, or toast it to eat later, or (sacrilege!) throw it away.
Melt the butter and oil in the heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Put the crumpets in, holey side down, and cook for a couple of minutes, until golden. Flip over and let the smooth side cook for a minute.
Carefully crack an egg into the hole of each crumpet. Don’t worry if some spills over the sides, this is no big deal. Put a lid on the pan and cook, covered, for about three minutes, until the egg white is set and the outer edges are getting nice and crunchy. Carefully flip over to cook the other side until it is just set to ensure a runny yolk (obviously cook it for longer if you prefer egg yolks to be firm).
Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt, pepper and grated cheese, if using. Dollop on the spicy sauce and enjoy!

 

Instant carrot and tomato soup

I know I shouldn’t complain, but living in a building site is starting to get me down. The fact that I also have to work in one (my office building has been yellow-stickered and I’d rather not take my chances of surviving if it collapses), is adding insult to injury.

Working from home certainly has its advantages, but I struggled to find any today thanks to the bitterly cold wind turning the place into an icebox. Then I remembered that I could make myself something warming and restoring for lunch in between phone calls and emails and life seemed a little brighter. Here’s what I did.

Easy Tomato And Carrot Soup

Instant Carrot and Tomato Soup
This soup is inspired by – but unrecognisably different to – one in Soup Glorious Soup by Annie Bell. Hers involves carrots and scallops; I like to think of this one as a simpler, humbler relation. It’s an excellent rescue remedy for cold days when it feels like there’s nothing to eat (and it only takes 20 minutes to make, most of which is hands-free). This amount makes enough for two, but is easy to scale up as necessary. Don’t try to scale it down – just freeze the leftover amount for a rainy day. And for more vegetarian soup-y ideas, you might like to check out the links at No Croutons Required (though it’s ok to add croutons if you want.)

500g carrots, washed, peeled and roughly chopped
1 x 400g tin of whole peeled tomatoes
400ml (approx) good quality stock or water
salt and pepper
cream, creme fraiche or yoghurt, for swirling

Put the carrots and whole peeled tomatoes in a medium-sized saucepan and set it over medium heat. Using the tomato tin, measure in the stock or water. Cover and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the carrots are soft enough to collapse at the prod of a fork, remove from the heat. Blitz to a puree with a stick blender or in a food processor (the latter is faster but involves more washing up afterwards), then season with salt and pepper to taste. Reheat until starting to simmer, then serve with a spoonful of cream, creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt swirled across the top.

Do you work from home? What do you make for lunch?

Middle class coleslaw

I am a terrible snob. I’m not proud of this shortcoming but since there’s no point in denying it so I may as well be bold. I know I am a terrible snob because I once told someone that his mother made white trash coleslaw. In my defence, he said (and did) much, much worse to me. And that coleslaw was disgusting – tinned pineapple, cabbage, carrot and condensed milk dressing – so I don’t think I was completely out of line. Plus, his mother used to look at me like I was something she’d trodden on. Harrumph.

Anyway, that’s all ancient history and I’m over it, truly. But earlier this evening, when rustling up an impromptu salad to go with the remainder of Monday night’s roast chicken, I realised I was essentially making coleslaw too. Not posh coleslaw, not even an exotic Asian-ish one. Is there such a thing as a middle class coleslaw? I think I’ve just made it. But in good news, this is a coleslaw that transcends all barriers. Young, old, rich, poor, we can all eat and enjoy with impunity. But if you even think of putting tinned pineapple in it you deserve to choke on each mouthful.

So good to eat, so hard to make look good to eat!

Middle class coleslaw
This is the sort of thing you whip up in 10 minutes while wearing your running kit and making increasingly firm requests to your daughter to get out of the bath so you can get into it. Quantities are approximate – this much makes enough for four. Any leftovers are good in a lunchbox the next day.

1/4 of a cabbage – Savoy if you’re posh, ordinary if not, shredded
2 carrots, peeled, then grated
2 ribs of celery, destringed, then finely chopped
100g tasty cheddar, grated
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
a good pinch of sugar
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Make the dressing first. Put the smashed garlic, mustard, sugar and vinegar in a screw top jar. Screw on the lid and shake well. Add the oil, reattach the lid and shake again until emulsified. Taste – add a little more oil or vinegar to suit. It should be slightly on the sharp side to balance out the cheese.
Put the cabbage, carrot, celery and cheese in a salad bowl and toss together to mix. Sprinkle over the caraway seeds, if using, then pour over two-thirds of the dressing. Toss well, adding more dressing if necessary. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed.

Are you a food snob? Does it get you into trouble?

Spinach and garlic hummus

On Friday a master gardener is coming to visit. I have asked her not to be shocked and horrified by the state of my garden, but I’ve since realised that I am constantly shocked and horrified by it, so it’s unfair to expect her not to be. At least the landslide in the back garden is a talking point; the less said about the neglected state of what we call ‘the allotment’ the better. But, as I discovered in the weekend, there are things growing down there where the wild things are. I have terraces of parsley, proud rows of rainbow chard and a transplanted bay tree (which would not have survived the slip if it hadn’t been moved). But before I discovered these things I found a big bag of baby spinach in the fridge that needed to be used before I could harvest our greens in good conscience. This is what I did with it.

Spinach and garlic hummus
If your children – or other members of your household – are resistant to eating their greens, this may convert them. If it doesn’t, then there’s all the more for you. I ended up throwing in some parsley, because we have it in such abundance at the moment we could start selling it at the market. Actually, there’s an idea…

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
7-8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
100g baby spinach (most of one of those bags you get from the supermarket)
salt and pepper
a couple of juicy lemons
a couple of handfuls of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Put two tablespoons of the olive oil in a high-sided frying pan and place it over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until just beginning to turn golden. Tip in the chilli flakes, the spinach and the chickpeas and saute for a couple of minutes, until the spinach wilts and the chickpeas colour slightly. Transfer the mixture to a food processor, along with the juice of one lemon, five tablespoons of olive oil, a good pinch of salt, some black pepper and the parsley. Whiz, stopping to scrape down the sides of the processor as necessary. Taste and add more oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper if needed. Scrape into a bowl and drizzle with oil before serving. Store any leftover in the fridge, well covered, for a couple of days.

Throwing in the parsley also means this hummus makes the cut for Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking With Herbs challenge (you can read more about that here). If your garden is looking a little bare and you need any encouragement to get out in it, watch this. I can’t wait to see it.

Cooking with Herbs