I now know how to make pasta.

This is a dangerous skill, for my waistline I mean. Especially when I make pasta and then serve it with butter over the top.

Hop on over to You Make Me Swoon for todays recipe.

It is really very good and I learnt it at The Square Food Foundation which is also very good and doing great things for food in Bristol. Go check them out.

Herman Friendship Cake

August 1, 2011

Bear with me on this recipe, I think it’s lovely but some people have thought it strange!

This cake comes from a recipe called Herman the German.

Basically you get given a little starter of yeasty cake mix, which you then look after, feed and grow it for 10 days by feeding the yeast.

You then split it into four, bake one part into a cake then give the other three parts away to friends who carry on the cycle.

It gives really tasty, moist cake and you can add whatever you want at the end.

If you want to start the cake…

1 packet Dry Yeast
2 cups lukewarm Water
2 cups Flour

In a glass or plastic container, dissolve yeast in warm water then add flour and beat till smooth. Cover and let stand at room temperature 48 hours. This makes two cups of the starter.
Use one cup of Herman and give the other cup to a friend, that’s two Herman cakes out in the world!

Below are the exact instructions I was given by my colleague Liz who passed Herman to me…

“Hello, my name is Herman. I’m a sourdough cake, if I have come to live with you it’s because one of you friends believes that you will keep me alive and then introduce me to more friends. I’m supposed to be kept on a worktop for 10 days without a lid on…
You can’t put me in the fridge (or I will die). If I stop bubbling, I am dead…. Follow the instructions in how to keep me alive below; it’s been a pleasure meeting you”

 Day 1: Herman has come to live with you, first of all pour him into a large mixing bowl, cover loosely with a tea towel.

Day 2: Stir well

Day 3: Same as yesterday (easy huh?)

Day 4: Herman will be very hungry!! Add 1 cup of plain flour, sugar and milk and then stir well.

Day 5-8: Stir well

Day 9: Hungry again, add the same as Day 4 and stir well…

… Then divide the mixture into 4 equal amounts and give 3 away to your friends (only trustworthy ones please) with a copy of these instructions. Herman no. 4 will stay with you.

 Day 10: Herman’s hungry again… Stir well and add the following:

1 cup of sugar
2 cups plain flour
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder 
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup of cooking oil
2 cooking apples (in chunks)
1 cup of raisins (optional)
½ cup of walnuts (optional) 
(other optional ingredients pineapple, cherries, chopped chocolate etc)

Method: Mix everything together & put into a large greased roasting tin.
Sprinkle with ¼ cup of melted butter and ¼ cup of brown sugar.
Bake for 45 minutes at 170-180 (gas mark 5).
When cold cut into finger shaped pieces. Freezes well and is delicious warm with cream and custard… enjoy!!

I added to mine almond essence, ground almonds, flaked almonds, white chocolate chunks and raspberries. Delicious!

Give it a go, start one with your friends and see how far it spreads!

These are really just posh pies, the french-dinner party friendly versions of our pasties. Yum!

You could totally customise these and fill them with whatever you want, this is a good vegetarian dish that once again you can prepare in advance.

For each Pithivier you need;
2 circles of puff pastry, roughly 6-8 inches across
100g roasted butternut squash chunks
50g ricotta
a couple of fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper

1. First roast your butternut squash, I would cut the whole squash into the right size chunks, this means it’ll be quicker, season and roast for 20-30 minutes on a medium heat (180-200)

2. Get your ricotta into a large bowl and season

3. Fry your sage leaves with a little oil until they start to crisp and mix all 3 ingredients together.

4. Cut your puff pastry into circles and get your bottoms (slightly bigger circles) and tops in order ready.  Then dollop a bit of the mix in the middle, pop the top on and close up with a fork… you could also add a pattern on top like below.

Cook these for 20 minutes in preparing in advance, or 30 minutes if eating right away; just keep an eye on your pastry it might not even take this long.

We served these on a bed of pan-fried wild mushrooms and spinach…

With some salsa verde.

I know already this is something I will definitely be making again and again at home, imagine eating these beauties for lunch, you could make a batch and freeze them.

I am very proud of these, everyone says they are tricky but I had no problems, apart from the fact I saw what was going in to them (WOW) I would definitely recommend making these.

You need;
350ml semi skimmed milk
150ml whipping cream
1 bay leaf
75g unsalted butter
75g plain flour
250g mature cheddar, grated
6 large eggs, separated

1. Preheat the oven to 190c, heat the milk and cream gently with the bay leaf until the mixture simmers then take off the heat
Melt the butter in a large pan then stir in the flour, cook for about a minute. Remove the bay leaf from the milk and cream then add the liquid to the flour, slowly, whisking all the time.
Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes on a low heat stirring. The sauce should be very thick at this stage.
Season with salt and pepper and take off the heat.
Beat the cheese into the sauce until it melts.
Leave to cool for a bit.

2. Beat the egg yolks into the cooled sauce. In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold them into the sauce in three batches. Divide the mixture between 6 x 200ml ramekins and put them in a roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the tin to about 1cm deep. Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the water.

3. To serve put a baking sheet into the oven to heat up, run a knife around the edges of the soufflés in the ramekins and reheat on the baking sheet for 20 minutes until they rise again (they wont rise as much as the first time)

carefully turn out to serve.

I served with the salad posted on Friday, some braised cabbage (recipe below) and some mushrooms, I will post that how to tomorrow.

Such a great lunch and mostly very easy.

Marmalade Braised Cabbage

Get this in before you start on the soufflés as it doesn’t need messing with and needs a long time.

1 red cabbage, shredded (800g)
1 tbsp dark brown soft sugar
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
25g unsalted butter cut into cubes
5 tbsp fine cut marmalade

1. preheat the oven to 180c.
In a large casserole dish with a tight fitting lid, scatter a layer of cabbage, sprinkle on some sugar and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper add some knobs of butter and dot some marmalade over. Repeat this until all ingredients are used and cover.

Again I can’t tell you exactly where this recipe is from, as it’s from my scrap-book of recipes but I think it’s from Sainsburys magazine.

Soft White Rolls

April 12, 2011

 So as I said yesterday I made our burger baps for the BBQ on Sunday, and I am so happy I gave it a go as they turned out to be so good!

I made double just in case something went wrong, as I was doing the first batch I made a little mistake so thought it wise to make more.

I used a River Cottage recipe. This makes 6 rolls.

You need:
300 ml water
500g white bread flour
5g yeast
10g salt
35g butter

1. Mix water with flour, bring together into a rough mixture. Add yeast, salt and butter and work into a dough.

2. Knead for 5-10 mins. If it’s too sticky add a little bit more flour. As you work it the stickiness starts to disappear, then it becomes more elastic.

I thought it had all gone wrong here, the instructions are a bit vague and don’t tell you how the dough should look or how to knead but I remembered my bread making lesson with John and what we had done there.

The dough was not smooth like it was that night though, so I was worried.

3. Leave to prove in an oiled bowl for an hour and a half in a warm place.

I left mine in the sunshine, with a bag over it with air in (something I learnt from John)

4. Tip out onto a very lightly floured surface, knock back, then shape. Cut in half, then cut each half into 3 to make 6 balls of dough. Stamp out with your fingers then make it into a ball shape. Roll it around to make it into a nice smooth shape.

5. Put on a greased baking sheet, fairly widely spaced apart. Sprinkle flour on top. Leave to rise somewhere warm for 30 minutes.

6. Put in the oven – 15-20 mins at 210-215°C.

So easy! Don’t worry too much basically, this recipe is fine and everything turned out great.

In the end I actually made too many and we are eating them for lunch this week, I think they might actually be getting better as the days go on!

Making Real Bread

April 1, 2011

 Last week I mentioned that I hoped to talk about Real Bread some more… and I was lucky enough that John (who made the bread for our supper) invited me to bake some bread with him…

John has been baking real bread for about a year, and has been on lots of courses. He highly recommends the Hobbs House courses, which is where he learnt a lots of his skills and got the recipes for the following breads.

He hopes to open his own bakery one day, and he has impressive plans… I just hope it’s near me because it is going to be amazing!

We made so much…

First we made a dough to make a seeded wholemeal loaf, which we then mixed in John’s amazing kitchen aid (I want one!)

Which is baked in a traditional basket to give the bread its shape and look.

The lines are from the basket. We haven’t actually tried this bread yet, it has gone in the freezer I am determined not to waste a crumb of what we made and we couldn’t have possibly have eaten it all this week.

It’s going to be great toasted with some marmalade!

You can do this at home without a mixed or a special oven… try this recipe from Hobbs House here

Here is the finished product, and something else we made!

Then we made a loaf from scratch, called Cholla, a traditional Jewish bread I think this was my favourite. I have been eating slices of this all week all by itself and the loaf is disappearing fast.

It’s lovely stuff.

It was very easy with very few ingredients… water, flour, eggs, yeast and salt.

We mixed it all up and then smoothed our dough.

Look at this perfect, risen dough! I was so proud.

Then we divided into three and plaited our loaf.

This is the Boy’s perfect plait, mine did not go so well…

Then we glazed with egg and poppy seeds go into the seams and we baked…

The loaves go quite dark because of the egg wash but they are not burnt, they are delicious.

I had a piece of Cholla toast last night, with butter. Best. Toast. Ever.

You can buy this actual recipe from Hobbs House (details at the end of this post) but there are also lots online.

John also very kindly made some dough before we arrived so we could make pizza for our dinner… There is it in his beautiful cherry red kitchen aid;

There are some great pizza dough recipes out there, just have a search. I have been told that this one is foolproof; Everybody Likes Sandwiches

We divided this up and John went through different techniques to make several different types of bread.

This is a tiny ball of dough for my pita bread. With these we rolled them out quickly and till they were very thin…

Then we threw over our wrist and took it to the oven to bake for a couple of minutes.

These are great fun to make, so easy and you can watch them puff up in the oven.

I cannot tell you how much better these are than any other pita I have even eaten.

I want to make a big batch and keep them in the freezer for ready-made snacking.

The same dough also made our pizza bases and a loaf of focaccia… that’s the dough resting in olive oil.

This is John and the Boy making the dough into bases the Italian way…

Another easy make! Again you can freeze these as bases, cook for a few minutes and then keep for when you need them. You can then have fresh pizza anytime you like!

I had to make my peaches pizza again, I love it.

The focaccia was pushed into a square baking tray that had about 1/2 inch of olive oil in (loads basically!) and was then covered in rosemary and baked.

A thing of beauty.

I can tell you at this point we had eaten a lot of pizza and pita and were stuffed but we found room for this baby…

We took all of these goodies home, I now have a beautiful seeded loaf and 2 pitas in my freezer, I did have a focaccia but that is all gone!

My sandwiches this week have been amazing…

… and a Cholla which is disappearing way too fast for my liking.

You can find details of the Hobbs House courses here and everything you need to bake bread at home here plus recipes on Tom Herbert’s blog here.

Read my blog about Real Bread here with information on some local bakeries that are making proper bread.

Do let me know if you try making some bread, your successes, I have yet to try on my own and home but really want to soon, and since I need some more Cholla I have no excuse.

Massive thanks to John for sharing his skills and sending me home with a ton of bread!

Shallot Tarte Tatin

March 29, 2011

For our main dish at our supper we served roast duck breast with individual shallot tarte tatin, so I thought we could share a recipe for a larger tarte tatin to make at home to save sending you all out to buy little tart tins, and this is less fuss at home.

If you would prefer little tarts (they are cute) you can always adapt this to make lots of small ones.

You need;
500g shallots
2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
300g puff pastry
100g goats cheese

Heat oven to 200c

1. Put the shallots in a bowl and pour over boiling water to cover, leave for 5 mins, drain and peel. Cut the shallots in half

2. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, add the shallots and fry on a lowish heat for 10 mins, until they are softened and lightly browned.
Stir in the vinegar, thyme and 1 tbsp water, then cook for a further 5 mins, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and tip into a non-stick shallow cake or pie tin, about 20cm across.
Leave to cool.

3. Cut the pastry into two. Roll out each piece to about 5cm larger than the top of the cake tin.
Put one piece of pastry over the shallots and add the cheese evenly then cover with the second piece.
Trim the edges of the pastry to a little larger than the tin, then tuck the edges of the pastry down the sides of the tin.
Bake for 25-30 mins, until pastry is crisp and golden. Leave to cool in tin for 5 mins, turn out onto a flat plate, cut into wedges and serve warm.

This is slightly different to the one that we served and would world well as a side dish with some roast duck or chicken but would also be lovely as a vegetarian dish, served with a green salad all on its own.

For directions on roasting your duck;
Score the skin a couple of times with a sharp knife and season with sea salt and cracked black pepper.
Heat a frying pan with a little olive oil.
When hot, sear the duck with the skin side down, until golden brown.
Remove from the heat and place into a baking dish.
Cook in a hot oven for four to five minutes if you would like it rare, seven to eight minutes for a medium, longer if you would like it well done.
When you take the duck out make sure you leave it to rest for at least 5 minutes.


We also served with pickled cabbage and shallot puree, which was the best thing ever! I suggest you make both. I have found easy recipes for both;

Pickled Red Cabbage

Shallot Purée;
knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
350g/12oz shallots, finely chopped
300ml/10½fl oz chicken stock

1. heat the butter and olive oil together in a frying pan until foaming and gently fry the shallots for 9-10 minutes, or until very tender.
2. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the shallots begin to break down.
3. Strain the shallots, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid, and place into a food processor.
4. Blend with the reserved cooking liquid until smooth.
Scrape into a bowl and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

A lot to do but most of this can be made in advance if you want to serve to lots of people as we did.