I’ve finally assuaged my white bread guilt and made a successfully dark and flavoursome loaf after weeks of turning out lead bricks. There are various recipes floating around for no-knead brown breads that you mix up and stick in a cold oven, but I can’t seem to make any of them work. This one, however, adapted from something I copied down from A Pod And Three Peas ages ago, does the trick. It’s a bit like homemade Vogels rye bread, only nicer.
Rye and Molasses Bread
This bread came out of the oven looking so dark and brooding I wanted to call it Heathcliff, but thought that might be a Wuthering Heights pun too far. The molasses gives it a distinctive flavour, but you could always substitute treacle or golden syrup. Either way, this bread is really, really good with slabs of cold unsalted butter.
2tsp dried yeast
650ml warm water
500g wholemeal flour
100g rye flour
100g rolled oats
Put the water and yeast into a large bowl (or the bowl of your freestanding mixer) and whisk together. Add the molasses and whisk again. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Leave for five minutes, then either plug into your mixer and let the dough hook work its magic for about five minutes or turn it out and knead it for five minutes. It is a really, really wet and sticky dough – the mixer is far easier.
Scrape the dough into a well-greased and lined large loaf tin (mine has an internal measurement of about 25cm x 8cm), slash the top and put the whole thing into a plastic bag. Leave until doubled – around 60-90 minutes – then bake at 200C for about 45 minutes. I turn it out of the tin at this point and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes to get a nice, crusty bottom. Let cool completely on a rack before slicing.
I’ve been perusing a lot of menus lately – I want to emphasise that this has been at my desk rather than at a damask-covered table – and chuckling to myself at the ridiculous labels some restaurants come up with for their dishes. There seem to be two major trends. One is to over-egg the pudding as much as possible, with lots of flowery language (and mention of froths and foams on the plate), while the other is to be as stark as possible. There’s almost as much artifice in the latter as the former, but it’s certainly more appetising.
Anyway, here are the two options for today’s pud, a deconstructed rhubarb fool:
‘Pretty in pink’: Evergreen Horowhenua rhubarb, oven-poached in the hand-squeezed juice of a Gisborne navel orange, served with a quenelle of Fonterra’s finest Greek-inspired yoghurt and a Meyer lemon-scented butter biscuit of Scottish heritage.
Or: Rhubarb, Greek yoghurt, lemon shortbread.
Rest assured it tastes pretty good either way…
You could cook this on the stove if you wanted to, but sticking it in the oven is much less fuss.
500g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5cm lengths
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 large orange
Preheat the oven to 170C. Put the rhubarb into a large, ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the sugar. Pare the rind from the orange using a potato peeler. Tuck this into the rhubarb, then cut the orange in half and squeeze over the juice. Then cut the orange into chunks and add to the dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender. Let cool, discard the orange pieces and peel, then cover and put in the fridge until ready to use.
For a ‘deconstructed’ fool, put the rhubarb and a bowl of whipped cream or Greek yoghurt on the table and invite your guests to help themselves.
(If you don’t think your fellow diners are up to a bit of DIY, fold the rhubarb through about 500g Greek yoghurt until marbled. Dollop into glass bowls and take to the table with your most special silver spoons. Either way, thin, crisp shortbread is a great accompaniment.
At this time of year there’s always lots of press extolling the virtues of slow cookers. Occasionally I wonder about getting one, then I remember that we have a giant slow cooker tucked into the corner of the kitchen. It’s called an oven. O-V-E-N. Set low, it also conveniently heats the room. Bet your benchtop slow cooker can’t do that…
Big Red Braised Beef
I’ve just taught the Boy Wonder how to make this, which is good, except I’m going to have to teach him something else really quickly lest we end up eating it all winter. It takes about 15 minutes prep on the stovetop, then you can put it in the oven and forget about it for a few hours. Quantities here are approximate – you can always stretch a smaller amount of meat with more vegetables and/or cooked beans.
2Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
3 sticks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500-750g beef suitable for stewing (shin is my favourite), cut into 2cm cubes
2tsp smoked paprika and/or 1tsp dried chilli (less if you don’t like it hot)
125ml red wine
2 tins tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 150C. Take a large, lidded, ovenproof, stoveproof pot (like a Le Creuset) and put it over medium heat. Add the olive oil, then the onions, carrots, garlic and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the spices and fry for a minute or two, then add the beef and flour Turn up the heat and fry for another couple of minutes, stirring to try to brown it as much as possible. Add the wine and let it bubble up, then add the tomatoes. Stir well. Add enough water to barely cover the meat (you may not need any) and bring to the boil. Clamp the lid on and stick the pot in the oven. Cook for at least 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until the meat is so tender it falls apart when prodded. Taste for seasoning. If the sauce is too thin, let it cook with the lid off on the stovetop for 10 minutes to reduce. Eat then and there with crusty bread or mash and some sort of greens, or let cool and refrigerate/freeze.
I got home late last night from a family funeral, emotionally drained and in that strange hungry/not hungry frame of mind that comes with standing around all day drinking cups of tea from an urn and eating club sandwiches.
The Boy Wonder had transformed himself into super housedad in my absence and when we got home from the airport this was bubbling quietly on the stove. It’s enormously comforting – he used to make it a lot about five years ago – and just the thing for a cold autumn night.
Lemony Lamb Stew
This began life as a Ray McVinnie recipe, torn out of the newspaper back in about 2003. It’s now ours by adoption.
500-700g boned lamb shoulder, cut into 2cm chunks
3Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
5 floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
1Tbsp flour (use rice flour or cornflour to make gluten-free)
2 cups beef stock
1 cup water (or 1/2 water, 1/2 white wine)
1 cup frozen peas
zest and juice of a lemon
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot and saute the garlic, onion, carrot and celery for five minutes over medium heat. Add the lamb and saute again until it colours all over, then stir in the flour. Let cook for a minute or two, then add the potatoes, stock and water. Bring to the boil, then let simmer gently for 45 minutes until the lamb is tender and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the peas and cook for another 3-4 minutes, then squeeze over the lemon juice and stir. Sprinkle with lemon zest and parsley before serving with chunks of baguette. Serves four.
Now, I know you’re going to think I’ve lost the plot when I tell you that you should whip up a batch of flatbreads to mop up your next curry or wrap around that collocation of cold meats and salad bits lurking in your fridge. But really, you should. If I can do it while the Small Girl is doing her python impersonation (ie, entwining herself around my legs in an effort to be picked up because it’s getting close to dinner time and what the hell, she just feels like it) and the Boy Wonder is getting a slew of work phone calls culminating in him putting on his superhero cape and fleeing the house, then you can do it too.
This recipe is from Hugh F-W’s River Cottage Everyday. The Boy Wonder bought me this for Christmas last year and I can confirm that it just makes me love him more every time I open it. Hugh, that is. I mean, how could I love the BW any more than I already do? (*rolls eyes*)
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Flatbreads
Honestly, this post took longer to write than making these little babies. I think we’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of them.
250g plain flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
150ml warm water
1 Tbsp olive oil
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Mix the oil and water together, then pour into the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon or your hand until a slightly sticky dough forms. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about five minutes, until it feels smooth and plump. Cover the dough with the upturned mixing bowl and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes.
When you’re ready to cook and eat the flatbreads, place a heavy non-stick or cast iron frying pan over a high heat. Roll the dough into a sausage and cut into eight pieces. Roll each out into a round (ish) shape, about 2-3mm thick. I used my hands at this point to stretch the dough like a piece of wet material. I would roll one out, then cook it, rolling out the next ones as I went.
To cook, lay a flatbread on the hot pan and let it sit for about two minutes, until it’s lifting off the bottom of the pan. Turn it over and let it cook for a minute, then remove it to a plate lined with a clean teatowel. Cover the cooked flatbreads with the teatowel to keep them warm and soft.
These are best eaten as soon as they are cooked, but any leftovers can be reasonably successfully reheated in the toaster. See, told you it was easy!