How to feel rich for a quid: make bread #2

My last post about bread was for those who love sourdough, but don’t have the time or space to look after a starter. But that recipe requires patience; this is for those who have none, or rather who have very little. Soda bread, after flatbreads, is simple, quick and, if you make your own buttermilk (peasy, promise), barely requires any shopping. From start to finish, a loaf will take you about sixty minutes, mini-loaves about forty.

I have written about making soda bread before, on a former blog, and though I think that recipe is still brilliant (and I always make it in a preheated Le Creuset now), I wanted to make it even simpler. And, to do that, I have combined four different doyennes’ recipes and techniques. Continue reading

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Last of the summer salad: Nigel’s plum tabbouleh

The weather is both beautiful and strange right now: beautiful, because it’s so full of sunshine in the daytime that I am inspired to keep wearing my sandals; strange because as soon as the light goes I realise that I am risking frostbitten toes. In food terms, though, I am still making the most of the warm days and haven’t quite adopted my culinary slippers yet.

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Catherine Phipps’s chicken with braised lettuce, peas and bacon

As a child I had ‘favourite’ foods, though what they were escapes me. I think it was more a case that foods I never got to eat were on the list, so if the chance ever arose I’d waste no time choosing… But ‘favourite’ foods as an adult always seem a tad idiotic to me, because what you want to eat depends on so many factors: where you are, what the weather’s like, what you’re doing and who you’re with, for starters. Continue reading

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How to feel rich for a quid: Meera Sodha’s spicy chickpeas

It’s only at weekends that the idea of eating more than one or two dishes crosses my mind. Even then, the starter is often replaced by something that can be cooked and eaten simply: a dip, a handful of something salted or toast dressed up with a pesto or salsa.

I want something that can be given to my guests with their first drink and prepped in advance because a) they’re hungry and, more than likely, b) I don’t want to be faffing with a nibble when I’d rather be chatting. These chickpeas, from Meera Sodha’s brilliant Made in India tick all of those boxes as well as being simple (yes, you can use tinned), cheap (about 80p for this amount), gluten-free and, despite the spice, happily eaten by children as well as adults. Continue reading

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Delicious pancotto pugliese, aka sausages and beans…

Every year my sister buys me a subscription to Delicious magazine for my birthday and, every month, when it arrives, I spend a happy few hours turning down the corners of the pages, optimistically choosing what I’d like to cook. Sometimes I get one or two made, sometimes none and I wish I could do more because they are always excellent and always work.

What I particularly love about Delicious is that, about a year ago, they decided to bring out each edition in a more timely, fashion instead of, as with most magazines, a month in advance. So this week, as the temperatures started to drop, the September copy arrived. Food magazines that are properly seasonally aligned are even more important to me than fashion ones (which I never buy anymore); just as I don’t want to be choosing an autumn coat in July, I don’t want to be reading about diets in December, when I’m baking mince pies… Continue reading

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Gifts from the Garden: Debora Robertson’s chive pesto

This book has been on my shelf for a couple of years and, mostly, I’ve not been able to use it as much as I’d like because, well, I don’t have a garden. But, aha, this year the terrace has been properly planted and looked after (not being away for most of July and August has helped) and, suddenly, though definitely no gardener yet, I have herbs…

In principle, Gifts from the Garden is about how you can use your garden to make ‘gorgeous homemade presents’ but it’s much more than that. It’s full of really straightforward recipes, that, yes, can be used as gifts for others but also can be used as ‘gifts’ for yourself. It teaches you, amongst other things, how to make flavoured salts, caraway flatbreads, chilli vodka and, aha, I may need this one soon, green tomato chutney; it’s one of those books that is structured around solid basic principles so, once you have grasped the idea you can start to tweak, depending on what you have. Continue reading

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How to feel rich for a quid: make bread #1

If you look at some bread books, and courses, you’d think making bread was the hardest, most complicated thing ever attempted in a kitchen. And, in some ways, it is worth spending time on making it the best it can be; since it’s a fermented foodstuff, generally, a three-day sourdough is going to taste a lot better than a quick loaf.

But, although I do have the time and the dedication, I don’t really have the patience or the room to spend days on it. So I’m always looking for a means of making bread on a regular basis that fits with my desire for something sourdough-esque whilst suiting my tiny freelance income and my love of the speedy, cheap solution. When I found this recipe, Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread in In the Green Kitchen, whilst on a trip to the States to see my mum a few years ago, I was intrigued but, for some reason, I have never got round to making it till now. It sounds too good to be true: mix up ingredients and, well, leave. That’s it. But it isn’t.

Yes, it takes a day (though it can be left overnight) but in that day you do so little that it’s almost embarrassing to see the brilliant result. All for about 70p. If you start this late afternoon/early Saturday evening, you’ll have bread for a late Sunday breakfast. No trip to the farmer’s market required and you don’t even need a mixer. This is one of those recipes that I have made and remade, and am starting to learn off by heart. I was so fascinated by it that I took lots of photos, so that I could properly share the process with you.  I highly highly recommend it. Go on, it’s a bank holiday… Continue reading

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