The delights of Turkish bread

The bread marathon continues apace – with a few disasters along the way. My in-laws, who mostly only eat white death from the supermarket, came to stay for the weekend and I dragged out an old favourite recipe for Turkish bread, which they seemed to love (or at least eat a lot of).

I tore this recipe out of a newspaper years ago and used to make it by hand, which is satisfying but quite messy. Now I use a mixer to do the trick and gain immense satisfaction from not having to scrape dough remnants off the work surface. The best thing about this bread, apart from its spongey texture, is that you can decide to make it at morning tea time and it’ll be ready for lunch.

Turkish Bread
These instructions are for making the bread by hand. If you’re making it in a mixer with a dough hook, use low speed and mix for a couple of minutes, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat two or three times until you have a stretchy but still slightly sticky dough.

500g strong flour
2tsp sugar
2tsp salt
1 sachet dried yeast (or 1 1/2 tsp)
1 1/4 Tbsp olive oil
360ml warm water

egg wash (1 egg beaten with 3 1/2 Tbsp water)
3Tbsp sesame, cumin and/or nigella seeds (also known as kalonji or onion seeds)

Place the flour, salt, sugar, olive oil and yeast in a large bowl. Slowly add the water and mix well by hand. Drop onto a clean bench and begin kneading. The dough will be very wet but do not be tempted to add more flour.
Knead for five minutes, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat this process twice (so you’re kneading for a total of 15 minutes. By the end of this process the dough should be stretchy like a large rubber band (and your arms will be like jelly).
Rinse out your original bowl and dry, then oil it lightly. Place the dough in the bowl, turn to coat it with oil and cover the bowl with clingfilm. Leave in a warm place for an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.
Tip the dough gently onto a floured work surface and cut into three pieces. Gently pick up each piece of dough and tuck the edges underneath to form a tight oblong shape. Put each piece back on the floured bench and cover with a tea towel. Leave for 20 minutes.
Turn your oven to 250C. Uncover the dough and gently stretch each piece into an oblong shape, nearly the full length of a baking tray. Place on a lined baking tray. Brush each piece with the egg wash, then dimple them with your fingertips. Sprinkle with the seeds. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, then bake in the very hot oven for about eight minutes, until they are risen and lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Pasta sorta alla Nigella

I like to think Nigella Lawson and I have a lot in common. We both love cooking and eating and feeding people, we both love buying cookbooks and bits of kitchen kit, we both have brown hair and beautiful daughters. We both have millionaire husbands and live in swanky Georgian houses in Belgravia… oh, hang on, that’s right, I knew there was something that didn’t quite match. For all our similarities, I doubt Nigella has the same sort of slightly sick feeling in the middle of January when she gets her credit card statement. She probably doesn’t look in her pantry and think, oh god, there’s nothing to eat and another week until pay day. But if she did, I like to think this is what she might come up with…

Pasta sorta alla Nigella
This is my entry for Forever Nigella, a new blogging challenge set by the wonderful Sarah of Maison Cupcake fame. The theme for this month’s challenge is ‘Seasonal Sensations’ – which I have interpreted as ‘making something sensational even when you are broke after Christmas’. I’ve taken inspiration from Nigella’s Ultimate Greek Salad (published in Forever Summer), which we have been eating almost constantly. But with no feta or olives left in the fridge, this is what I came up with to sustain us on a night when the cupboard was bare and the only thing we had in abundance was basil in the garden. Actually, the cupboard seems bare quite often at the moment, so we are eating like this a lot (which is no bad thing).

1/2 cup olive oil
1Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed with a little salt
4-6 vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
handfuls of fresh basil, roughly torn
225g pasta
salt and pepper

At least an hour before you want to eat (preferably two or more), put the olive oil, vinegar, onion and garlic in a small bowl. Stir well and cover.
Just before you want to eat, put the tomatoes, sugar and salt in another small bowl. Stir well and leave at room temperature.
When you want to eat, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain into a serving bowl, then tip the onion and tomato mixtures on top, followed by the basil. Grind over lots of black pepper. Toss well and congratulate yourself on another night of outwitting the bailiffs.

A little seedy…

When we moved into the castle we inherited a mostly neglected and weed-infested vegetable patch, which included a clump of thyme and a spindly coriander plant. The thyme is now the size of a small shrub and the coriander has gone to seed in spectacular fashion. I pulled it out yesterday and planted some spring onions in its place, but not before I cut off all the seed heads. Offering them to visitors is my new party trick – they are SO insanely coriander-y and fresh. Or, as Jeremy put it yesterday, “Bugger the leaves, let’s just eat the seeds!”

If you’ve never eaten a fresh coriander seed then you need to get out into your garden right now (or make a mental note to do so if your garden is currently covered in slush). They’re also good scattered in salads or over olives, but nothing beats eating them straight off the stalk.

Give us today our daily bread…

Chief among my New Year resolutions is the one to make bread. About 10 years ago I had a sourdough starter on the go all the time and made bread a lot, partly because I was living in big shared flats and there were always lots of willing eaters. I’ve decided that 2011 is the year to get back in the saddle and am challenging myself to make bread of some sort at least once a week.

But because I wasn’t organised enough to have a sourdough starter on the go for January 1 (that was the old me, so 2010!), I used Hugh F-W’s recipe for a ‘cheaty yeasty sponge loaf’. This is brilliant, no-stress breadmaking – especially if you employ a mixer to do all the kneading. I do love kneading but I think I love being able to do other things while the mixer is doing all the work even more. I haven’t quite got it nailed yet, but for once time is on my side.

Cheat’s Sourdough (from River Cottage Everyday)
These instructions assume a working knowledge of basic breadmaking – if you can’t follow them, then you can definitely find far more experienced advice elsewhere on the interweb!

500g strong bread flour (I used some Italian 00 flour lurking in the pantry)
5g dried yeast (about 1 1/2 tsp)
2tsp fine sea salt
325ml warm water

The night before you want your bread to be ready, combine 250g of the flour with the yeast and water. Beat to form a thick batter, then cover with cling film and leave overnight.
In the morning, beat in the remaining flour and salt, then knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and silky. It will be fairly sticky and wet to start with. (I use the dough hook in my freestanding mixer so I can have a cup of tea and check my emails while the bread is doing its thing).
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise for an hour or two, until  doubled in size. Knock back (deflate) the dough and shape, then cover loosely and let rise until doubled in size again.
Preheat the oven to 250C. About five minutes before you want to put the loaf in the oven, put a baking tray in the oven to heat up. Take the hot baking sheet from the oven, dust it with flour, and carefully transfer the risen dough to it by tipping it out of the proving basket/bowl, upside down, on to the sheet. Slash the top of the loaf a few times with a very sharp knife or pair of scissors.
Put the loaf into the hot oven and give a few squirts of water from a clean spray bottle over and around it. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 200C, give the oven another spray, and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap its base. Leave to cool completely, on a rack (or wait at least 20 minutes) before slicing.

Do you have any foodie New Year resolutions? Better still, do you have a great bread recipe for me to try?

Sweet sweet Friday: Sweet Hana’s Raspberry Syrup

Where did 2010 go? Am I the only one who feels like the end of the year has sneaked up on them? Most people I’ve spoken to recently seem glad to see the back of 2010 and I can understand how they feel. It’s been a tough old year in lots of ways that I won’t bore you with now, but we’ve survived relatively unscathed and for that I am extremely thankful.

Portrait of the artist as a demented soak

One of the things that’s happened to our little family that I’m most grateful for is that we found Hana, who looks after the Small Girl when I’m at work.
Before we moved and I started my new job I told people I was looking for a Mary Poppins-alike. They all laughed and told me horrible stories about prison-style childcare centres or nightmare nannies, assuring me that I was looking for a needle in a haystack. In fact, finding Hana – a modern Mary Poppins – was so easy that we still can’t believe our luck. The Small Girl loves her to bits and we think she’s brilliant.

Last week Hana turned up with a pile of presents for us all (see, I told you she was lovely!), including a whole stocking-ful of treats she’d made. This pretty pink syrup was one of them. The Boy Wonder has been sneaking it to pour over strawberries and yoghurt for breakfast, but we’re saving the rest to splash into glasses of bubbles tonight for a fruity toast to 2010.

Here’s hoping we all have a sweet, sweet end to 2010 and much happiness in 2011. See you in the new year!

Hana’s Raspberry Syrup

1 cup raspberries, plus a few more to garnish
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
juice of half a lemon

Bring all ingredients to the boil in a medium saucepan. Keep boiling until the mixture thickens slightly. Strain through a sieve into a jug, then pour into sterilised jars or bottles in which you have placed a few whole raspberries. Seal and allow to cool. This syrup can be stored for about two months unopened, but store it in the fridge and use within a week once you’ve opened it. Makes about 400ml.

Do you have a favourite end of the week – and in this case, end of the year – sweet treat? Add it here to spread the sweetness of Fridays…