When it comes to food preparation in the Summer months, when the children are around, I need it to fit two criteria. Firstly, for me it has to be about making food ahead – more fun all round – and secondly enjoying food that will ‘travel’. I am thinking days out, picnics and trips to the beach. You get my drift. You want something satisfying and relatively mess free. This Pan Bagnat ‘ticks all the boxes’. [Read more…]
Happy New Year folks!
So here we are in January again, the month of starting new resolutions, adopting ‘out with the old, in with the new’ philosophies and commencing new eating and exercise regimes. So yes, privately this is my mantra, and I am enjoying fresh green juices in the morning. However, publicly, I am urging you to try this delicious Focaccia with Blue Cheese and Parma Ham. [Read more…]
‘Once upon a time a twenty-something British girl lived and worked in New York City. This was a long time ago, before the word ‘blogging’ had even entered the dictionary. She worked hard and enjoyed all the city had to offer – the wonderful museums, theatre, culture and shopping. Indeed, she made a great attempt to sample many of the City’s restaurants and bars by working her way through the latest NYC Zagat’s guides. [Read more…]
This Swiss Cheese and Wild Mushroom Pizza is a treat to myself. I am guilty of complete self indulgence here.
Why, you may be asking?
Pizza in our house used to be quite straightforward. I would make it, tailor the toppings to suit everyone’s preferences and it would be consumed. Of late, although my children are not particularly fussy eaters we have had a bit of problem with pizza. One child likes pizza without cheese, all of a sudden (not really a pizza then), one likes pizza without the tomato sauce, another child just eats it and my husband only really considers pizza to be edible if it is topped with copious amounts spiced meats. Which leaves me, eating pizza that I am not passionate about, just going through the motions.
These little, filled dough balls are my ‘go-to’ bake when I want (or need) to come up with a freshly baked, savoury snack. So they don’t look ‘fancy’ but there are hugely versatile and can be adapted to suit whatever toppings you may have in the fridge, or cupboard.
So is anyone else, apart from me, enthralled by the Winter Olympics in Sochi at the moment?
Whether you are a sports fan or not, I believe these Olympic games offer so much for the spectator. Whether you are an ice hockey fan, a keen skier, a daredevil, a speed junky, or are fascinated by the entrancing figure skating, there is something for everyone here. All the competitors show such unreserved, complete dedication and some go that extra mile. Take the Indian (Independent) Skeleton Competitor, who practises on the hillside roads of India, having never practised on the ice track. Or the 43 year old Peruvian cross country skier who only took up skiing in 2005 and completed the race with a broken rib…just amazing! You can see I am hooked…
Another thing has struck me is how young the competitors are – the 15 year old Russian figure skater, or the 17 year old Japanese half pipe snowboarder – gosh, how old do I feel?
So, what is the relevance to this bake I hear you mutter? Well, it is two fold actually.
Last summer, my brother, who until recently was living in Moscow, challenged me to bake these Khachapuri breads on my blog. He enjoyed his time living in Russia and fully sampled and appreciated the regional cuisine. These breads are something he missed on his return and thought it would be fun for me to try. To be honest, I kept putting this bake off until the wintertime, when we tend to crave more rich, starchy foods. With the eyes of the world on Russia and the Olympics, now is the time to make this traditional cheese filled bread from Georgia (a neighbouring country to Russia).
So a little about this bread. Khachapuri is a traditional dish of bread filled with cheese, milk and eggs. It can be shaped in various ways and I have made the Acharuli Khachapuri, whereby the dough is formed into an open boat shape and the hot cheese mixture is topped with a raw egg and is then lightly baked further.
Whether you are used to making bread dough or not, this recipe is straightforward. No fancy pans are required just a regular baking tray. In terms of ingredients, this dough does not contain salt, which is unusual in bread making. I had assumed that the saltiness would come from the cheese, which indeed it did. Typically a Georgian cheese called Sulguni – a pickled cheese with a consistency of a Dutch cheese – is used. I used feta and Gouda cheese as a substitute and it worked beautifully. I adapted the recipe slightly by increasing the fluid content a little (I like wet doughs!) and by adding a 1/2 teaspoon to give the bread a golden hue.
This bread is actually a meal in itself. Typically, the egg on top should be just cooked and you are meant to mix it through the cheese, add butter and eat fresh from the oven with a knife and fork. We actually sliced it when it was a little cooler and ate it with cold meats. It would be lovely with a fresh coleslaw or red cabbage. The Khachapuri is a very flavoursome and satisfying bake.
So I urge you to go to give this a try. Grab the remote, tune in to the Olympics, pick your winter sport, and sample a little regional cuisine in your own home!
For other information and culinary ideas from Georgia, see www.georgiaabout.com
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 120ml water, tepid
- 5g fast action yeast
- 120ml milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 25ml vegetable oil
- 200g Gouda cheese, grated
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled
- 40g butter, softened
- 4 eggs
- 1 egg yolk, for brushing
- In a large bowl, or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, add the flour and sugar and combine.
- In a separate small bowl, add the tepid water to the yeast. Stir and leave for about 5 minutes in order for the mixture to become a little frothy. Add the water/yeast mixture, milk, beaten egg and oil to the flour mixture and combine by hand, or with a dough hook, until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a ball and cover with a tea towel. Allow to prove for a couple of hours, or until the dough has at least doubled in size.
- Lightly flour a work surface and tip the proved dough onto it. Knead for about 5 minutes and then divide the dough into two. Line two baking trays with baking parchment and sprinkle them with a little flour. Shape the divided dough into two flat 'boat'/oval shapes and place on the prepared baking trays. Leave for a further 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 240 degrees C, or Gas Mark 8 and prepare the filling. In a bowl, crumble the feta cheese, grate the Gouda, add the butter and two eggs. Mix together with a fork until well combined.
- Divide the filling equally between the two dough portions. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving about a 5cm perimeter, clear of filling. Wrap the two long sides into the middle, leaving the filling open and visible. Wrap the ends tightly to secure. The bread should look 'boat-like'. Repeat with the second dough and filling.
- Reduce the oven to 220 degrees C, Gas Mark 7. Bake both loaves for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven. Brush the loaves with the egg yolk. Break an egg onto the top of each of the loaves and return to the oven for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Serve hot or warm with additional butter, if desired.
Source: Adapted quantities from ‘Georgia About’, www.georgiaabout.com
It has been a while, I know. A belated Happy New Year to you!
To get me back in my blogging rhythm I have decided to share something which is very easy, very quick and does not require a specific trip to the supermarket. This recipe consists of everyday baking goods that you would have in your cupboard, or fridge.
Yes. Soda bread has to be the easiest, and the quickest of all bread to make. No fancy bread flour is required, just regular plain; no yeast needed, so no proving times; no fancy mixers required, just a bowl and spoon (sure, go ahead and use your mixer if you choose) and no specific tins, just a regular baking tray. You don’t even need to get your hands dirty here.
Traditionally, Irish Soda bread consists of just flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk. I have added an egg here, just to add to the flavour and crumbled blue cheese to complete the deliciousness. You can use any cheese you have, it will taste great. Also, don’t worry if you do not have buttermilk to hand. If I don’t have any, I improvise. I made this earlier in the week with a mixture of double cream and milk, in lieu of the buttermilk, but you could use natural yoghurt also. I had a great result with this substitute, so it works! Just ensure you have the correct overall volume.
I, for one (in my mind, anyway), like to think that I am ‘watching what I eat’ now it is the New Year, so bread might not be on your ‘to bake’ list. However, what a great accompaniment this bread makes to some healthy, fresh, hot soup. Pretty good toasted with butter too. Something hearty for a cold, damp January weekend…
- 500g plain flour, extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 400ml buttermilk (or a combination of natural yoghurt/double cream and milk)
- 1 egg
- 180g blue cheese, crumbled (or cheese of your choice)
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C, or Gas Mark 6.
- Into a large bowl, or freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Mix to combine.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add the buttermilk (or alternative) and combine well. Add to the flour mixture and mix slowly. When the dough has nearly come together, add the crumbled cheese. Mix further until a large ball of dough has formed.
- Line a baking tray with parchment. Tip the dough directly onto the lined tray. With your hands, form a ball and gently flatten the top. Dust with flour and with a sharp knife, score a cross over the top of the dough.
- Bake for 30 minutes, checking after 25 minutes until the bread is a rich, golden colour.
- Serve warm. Best eaten on the day of baking.
Source: Adapted from Paul Hollywood’s ‘How To Bake’
They are baked and too delicious not to share.
Great for a Halloween Party, or a warming treat for Guy Fawkes Night, these are ever so easy, so I urge you to give them a try.
- 1.3kg sweet potatoes
- vegetable oil spray
- sprinkling of paprika, to taste (optional)
- coarse sea salt, adjust to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, or Gas Mark 4. Prepare a baking tray by lining with parchment.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into chips / finger portions. Lay the potatoes onto the tray and spray with vegetable oil to ensure all visible surfaces are lightly coated. Sprinkle with paprika (optional) and course sea salt to your taste.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn the chips over, spray with a little further oil and sprinkle with the seasoning. Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes until crispy.
- Once baked, serve immediately.
Source: The Contented Baker
I wanted to post something savoury and satisfying and I think this Tricolore Braid fits that criteria on both counts.
To be honest, my head is spinning with sweet treat ideas at the moment. I am hosting a charity coffee morning this week and I am in a whirl of ideas of what I want to bake, when I will physically bake and finish the cakes as well as all the other jobs that need doing when hosting such an event. If only I could squeeze in some extra hours into the next few days!
Therefore, I wanted to share a bake that I have made on a couple of previous occasions, albeit with different fillings, knowing that this works and is something you will be immensely proud of if you give it a go.
I have (barely) adapted this braid dough recipe from James Morton’s fabulous ‘Brilliant Bread’ but I have changed the filling to suit my taste. This is my interpretation of a tricolore salad but as a filling in the braid. I have used basil pesto (my own nut-free recipe), buffalo mozzarella and slow roasted tomatoes but you could use sundried tomatoes. You can use whatever you have readily available.
In fact, the joy of a bread like this is that you can fill it with whatever you have in your fridge or store cupboard. Previously, I have used feta cheese with tapenade and tomato paste, mozzarella pearls with fresh basil. Antipasto is very popular in our house so you could use cured meats, roasted peppers, grilled artichokes. Where shall I draw the line…?
So what is easy about making this bread? Basically, mix the dough, knead a little (if you choose), prove in the fridge overnight, fill, shape, prove again and bake.
And what is a little tricky? The braid technique in itself is very straight forward. I had intended to photograph the technique but once I started the braid, I got a little carried away and it totally slipped my mind. As the dough is chilled and it is quite a damp dough, it is rather sticky. Ensure that the surfaces are heavily floured and once you cut the tabs for the braid, stretch apart so they don’t stick together.
Also, once rolled into a rectangle, trim the dough by a few centimetres at the top and bottom. Otherwise you will struggle to get it on a baking tray as it will be too long and difficult to transfer from the work surface to the prepared baking tray.
Now you know these nuances of this bake, this loaf is a wonderfully flavoursome and satisfying snack, lunch or appetizer.
- 500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting surfaces
- 1 x 7g sachet instant yeast
- 10g salt (I use Maldon, ground with a pestle and mortar)
- 25g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 300ml water
- 1 egg
- 20ml olive oil
- egg wash (beaten egg with a pinch of salt)
- 50g pesto (I used my nut-free pesto, see earlier post on Blog)
- 200g buffalo mozzarella, sliced
- 150g marinated slow roasted tomatoes (I used ready-bought)
- In the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, or a large bowl, place the flour, the salt one side of the bowl and the yeast the other. Mix, or rub in the butter and add the water, egg and olive oil until a dough comes together.
- Tip the somewhat wet dough onto a heavily floured work surface and knead for about 5-10 minutes. Form into a ball shape and put into a lightly oiled, large bowl. Cover with food wrap and chill in the fridge overnight, or until the dough has at least doubled in size.
- When you are ready to shape the dough, heavily flour the work surface. As this dough is quite wet and chilled, it is prone to sticking so it is important to ensure the surface is well floured. Tip the dough onto the surface and flour the top, damp side. With a rolling pin, roll into a rectangle, with the narrow edge towards you until the dough is approximately 1cm thick. Trim approximately 3cm at the top and bottom of the dough. Discard, or use for a 'taster' portion (see note below).
- Imagine your dough in thirds, the centre third being where you will fill the dough. Spread the pesto onto the centre third. Add the sliced mozzarella and then the tomatoes, ensuring they are no gaps - you want a good sample of all three ingredients in every slice.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the braids at angles from the middle third to the outer thirds. Each braid should be about 3 cm wide. Starting at one end, fold each tab over the opposite tab, covering the filling and tucking it in, if need be. Continue all the way along until the braid is complete. Transfer carefully to a baking tray lined with parchment. Cover with a plastic bag and leave in a warm place to prove for approximately 40 minutes.
- Prepare the egg wash by beating an egg and adding a pinch of salt. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C, or Gas Mark 7. Have a jug of cold water ready.
- Once proved for the second time, brush with egg wash and bake. Add the water to a roasting tin in the bottom of the oven to create steam and a fine crust.
- Bake for approximately 25 minutes until the crust reaches a light brown, golden colour.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
This quantity gives a very long braid. I have therefore trimmed a little off the top and bottom of the dough in the rolling process to make it a little more manageable. I was going to pro-rata the quantities but for ease it is easier just to trim instead of weighing out eggs. Use the 'trim' as a taster or experiment with different flavours.
Source: Barely adapted dough recipe and adapted filling from James Morton’s ‘Brilliant Bread’