Monthly Archives: March 2012

Caramelised Onion and Rosemary Bread

I have returned to twitter now after about 2 years, I’m very funny so follow me @jes_sca.

Came home from a night out to find this little dialogue. Oh the communication of the metropolitan 21st century family.

In other news, I think I’ve cracked bread-making.

As some who read this may know, bread-making is not my strength. I don’t know why either. You’d think my excellent pizza dough making skills would make me apt at making bread. WELL NO. Something happened between the 18th and 21st century that made the common person unable to make bread with their hands, do you  know what we historians call it? THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.Thanks to technology, hands and elbow grease are no longer a pre-requisite for bread-making. We have bicarb, baking powder, bread-makers, Hovis etc. However, I am a die-hard, and I just WANT TO BE ABLE TO MAKE THE GODDAMN BREAD BY MYSELF.

I succeeded one time, but I’m sure that was a fluke. I think my problem is that I don’t use enough yeast, especially when I use wholemeal flour. So this time I used 2 sachets of dried yeast, and I think that may have led to a successful loaf.

Not happy with the ordinary ‘white loaf’, I obviously had to jazz my bread up a bit. I’ve previously used mustard, but this time I chose onions, they’re cheap and make everything better. Their softness is ideal, as they make sure the centre of the loaf is moist. This bread, as you can see, is quite dense but extremely soft and not tough at all.

I always forget, however, that when I don’t wear my contact lenses that my eyes STREAM. I always gloat: “Ohhhhh I’ve cut so many onions that they don’t make my eyes water anymore”, but secretly it’s just down to my contact lenses being a barrier between me and the onion fumes. Note to self: always wear lenses when chopping onions.

PLEASE don’t be daunted by these instructions, I’ve only given a lot because I want to make it as easy as possible, most of it is common sense.

Ingredients

-1x red onion chopped

-1x white onion chopped

-3x cloves of garlic chopped

-1 tbsp butter/olive oil

-1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

-4 cups of flour, plus extra for dusting

-1 tsp salt

-250-300ml warm water

-2x 7g sachet of dried yeast

-3 tsp dried rosemary

-Pepper

Method

-Melt your butter in a frying pan, or heat the olive oil. Once melted add the onions and garlic with the balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt to stop sticking. Keep an eye on the onions, stirring from time to time. You want them to soften up. Add a bit more balsamic if they’re burning to make sure they don’t get all crispy. This will take about 10-12 minutes.

-While the onions are cooking, dissolve the yeast in the water, stir with a fork and set aside.

-In a large mixing bowl, mix together the salt, flour, rosemary and some pepper.

-Once the onions are cooked, add to the flour mixture and add some of the yeast water. With a fork, mix the mixture, adding a bit more water in order to make it come together.

-Eventually your fork will prove useless and you’ll need to get your hands a bit sticky and messy (so make sure they’re washed before hand). At this point, liberally flour a surface and turn out the mixture onto it, and knead the mixture, for kneading advice go here. The flour should be quite sticky, but SHOULD NOT get stuck to your hands.

-If you’re having some trouble, here are two common problems and how to solve them:

  • The dough keeps on falling apart and not keeping together. Add a splash more water but not a lot. Keep on working the mixture through so that water can get to all areas, you’ll find the more you knead the more moist the dough becomes.
  • The dough is extremely sticky and I can’t really do anything because my hands are too clogged up. In this case you need to add more flour, don’t worry this happens a lot to me. As said above, keep on working the flour through the mixture, the more you knead the more the flour can access the whole dough mixture and it will become more consistent.

-Okay, so knead the dough for about 10 minutes. As stressed, the dough should be sticky to touch. Place it in a floured bowl, cover with a dish cloth/cling film and leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm place (next to the boiler or a radiator).

-After two hours, the dough should have doubled in size. Turn it out onto a floured surface and deflate with your hand. Knead a tiny bit more, you will need a bit of flour if it has become sticky again, then return to the bowl and leave for about another hour.

-Pre-heat oven to 200 c. Once hot, turn out your dough again, knead it a bit and then shape it into a loaf shape. Place on a greased baking tray and brush with egg-white to give it a brown colour(optional).  It took my loaf about an 1 hour and a half, but it might take quicker for you, so keep an eye. You might need to cover with foil halfway through so the top doesn’t burn. The bread is ready when you hear a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the loaf.

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Filed under Bread, Pastries and Pizza

How to be Healthy: Italian Dressing Tofu Stew

Sorry for the over-exposed and saturated photos, I was having an off day and the lighting in my bedroom is extremely bad so my editing of photos can be distorted.

So I said I would try roasting tofu, but I wanted to make a stew instead, because I’m only human and I change my mind. I’m still not so sure about tofu. I think (and let me stress that this is just an opinion) that tofu is eaten by vegetarians/pescetarians/flexitarians(those who limit meat) as a meat substitute. It certainly has that meat-like appearance and texture, and that is not what I want. I gave up meat for a reason, and the resemblance tofu has to it is slightly off-putting. Sure it acts as a good flavour enhancer, but if I had to choose between a tofu or butter bean stew? I would choose butter beans, because not only does it absorb the flavour like tofu, but has a greater distinguishable flavour and it is not detrimental to the environment. That is the the fundamental reason I don’t eat meat, so why should I eat a soy-based product which is equally as bad as meat environmentally just because it is health-giving? There are better/healthier/cheaper alternatives. It’s not that the tofu didn’t TASTE nice, it was just that it is not for me and this would have tasted just as nice with something other than tofu.

My journey with tofu has at least taught me how to use the ingredient, and more importantly made me realise that I love being a pescetarian and in no way do I miss white or red meat.

Anyway, I loves me a stew. What we have here is a stew, with the tofu, carrots, red onions and garlic cooked in a sort of Italian dressing like mixture, and then the mixture is covered with plum tomatoes and left to simmer for about an hour until the tofu is soft. I think it took about an hour? In the time it took I had a shower, put on my lenses, did my face, got changed, went to Sainsbury’s, mopped the floor, got it dirty, mopped it again and emptied the bins. HELLO MULTI-TASKER. Enjoy the recipe, because I don’t think there will be much tofu on this site again if I can help it.

Ingredient

200 g tofu

-1 red onion

-1 carrot

-1 mushroom (optional, I just had loads leftover)

-2 cloves of garlic

-2 tbsp oil

-2 tbsp vinegar

-1 tsp french mustard

-1 tbsp of lemon juice

-1 tsp of dried herbs, cumin, coriander and paprika

-1 tin of plum tomatoes

-60 ml water

Method

– Wash tofu and wrap in clean towel, put a heavy weight on top of it such as a couple of plates or heavy cookbooks. This squeezes out all of the moisture.

-Whilst you are draining your tofu, chop all your vegetables and fry in the olive oil in a saucepan on a medium heat. Add some salt so that they don’t stick to the surface. Cook and simmer until brown and soft.

-After ten minutes of soaking, unwrap the tofu and chop into cubes. Add to the vegetables.

-Add all the ingredients BAR the tinned tomatoes AND water. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring from time to time.

-Add the chopped tomatoes and cover and leave to simmer for about 40 minutes. You might need to add the water to stop the mixture from drying out. So keep on checking and stirring the mixture to check

-Serve with some rice or some bread!

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Filed under How to be Healthy, Italian, Vegan, Vegetarian

How to be Healthy: Making Salad on a Budget

I am salad addict. I love it. Or I love them. I used to HATE salad, I would physically retch when eating it. It wasn’t a neurotic thing, I didn’t like the earthy taste or the dry texture that kind of clung to my throat, and I don’t really like the taste of the rocket that formed the basis of my mum’s salads. My mum was/is also awful at making dressings (well, she likes her dressings, but they still make me feel sick, she just adds too much mustard), when I found out how to make dressings my experiences with salad greatly improved.

I want to continue the mission of this man, Salad Pride, and transform the way people feel about salads. People think salads are comprised of lettuce and tomatoes, and placed on the side of your plate to fill up space. Not for me. I’m not gonna list the various things you can put in a salad, but I want to state that my salads are actually FILLING. People say salads can’t sustain you. THEY EFFING SUSTAIN ME. If you add the correct ingredients that provide the suitable nutrients, there’s no reason to not let salads be the centre of your life. I’m not sure if it’s me being feeble-stomached, but I can honestly say that salads FILL ME UP. Just look at Salad Pride to see how you can add grains, pulses, cheese etc to makes salads filling.

SO why salads? WHY THE HYPE? Salads are extremely healthy, the fact that the bulk of salad is made from fresh, raw vegetables (and fruit) means you’re receiving the nutrients at their optimum condition. I’m not condoning a raw diet, but eating a lot of raw food is extremely beneficial to your health. AND I KNOW people think that people who think/eat like this are weird and obsessive. And there is a common assumption that salads lovers are tired and gaunt, but I always feel great, full of energy and I never get ill.

Salad can be an expensive habit, but I stress ‘CAN’. I live on a small budget but have salads almost everyday, I always have produce that is easily grown in Britain (onions, spinach, lettuce, carrots). But recently I went to a restaurant and they introduced me to the wonders of red cabbage.

Previously I didn’t like red cabbage, it has a taste doesn’t it? It’s a bit bitter, or something. But the salad in this place was SO good, I realised that if you give cabbage a good dressing to let it soften and take away its acidity, it can taste amazing. So here is a red cabbage, apple, rocket and carrot salad. Perfect for lunch. The apple takes away the harshness of the cabbage, and the sweet carrot also counteracts this. I added the rocket to add a bit of greenage, but it’s not necessary, maybe add some lettuce, spinach, or just cut down the ingredients to cabbage, apple and carrot salad. Top with a dressing, I’ve chosen a red wine vinegar one, and it’s done! Red cabbage is very filling, something to do with its genetic make-up means it takes longer to digest, and thus it’s a low fat way to  keep you feeling fuller for longer.

AND IT’S SO CHEAP.

Ingredients- Serves 1 (the plate in this picture is MASSIVE) 

For the salad

-150 g red cabbage

-1 small braeburn apple.

-1 carrot, peeled

-1 handful of rocket

For the dressing

-3 tbsp of  red wine or balsamic vinegar

-1 tbsp of olive oil

-1/4 tsp salt

-2 tsp of lemon juice

Method

-For the salad, chop the cabbage into ribbons, and with the carrot use the peeler to create ribbons as well.  Chop the apple to whatever formation you wish. Mix in a bowl with the rocket.

-Mix together all the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad.

-Leave to sit for about 5-10 minutes so the cabbage has time to soften up.

-Eat. This would be great as a make ahead lunch however the apple will turn brown, but that doesn’t mean the salad will be ruined. In fact,   the flavours of the dressing will have a longer time to be absorbed by the cabbage.

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Filed under How to be Healthy, Quick, Vegan, Vegetarian

Special Sticky Toffee Pudding

These past 3-4 weeks, I have been dying. Literally. Physical and mental turmoil. I have had lots and lots and lots and LOTS of work to do. Important work as well, that actually counts. Oh and right when all this work comes, my computer chooses to die. Therefore everyday I get up and go to the library, stare at books and computers all day. Oh and then my ipod breaks. And then my memory stick. It could be worse because I didn’t loose work, but I definitely almost lost the will.

Then I got a cold/cough. It was not a monstrous one(I didn’t loose my voice, the sign of a bad cold for me), but I never get ill so it really threw me. It made me run down and then it exacerbated my injury. Normally I would be fine with a cold, but remember I was at uni for about 9 hours a day.

However, as my work gets proof read by my mother, my mental state has calmed and I have a bit of a cough now but that’s it. I am currently lying in bed writing this, it feels good.

So here we have a cake that you can eat to make everything better if you have lots of work, or to celebrate having no work. It’s indulgent, and it has DATES in it. WHO KNEW STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING HAD DATES IN IT!?!?! This is my favourite ever dessert. It’s so nice with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy.

Ingredients (adapted from from Nigel Slater and James Martin)

-50-60g butter

-170g brown sugar

-2 eggs

-150g self-raising flour

-1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

-1tsp vanilla essence

-200g  seedless dates

-250ml hot water

-For the toffee sauce, click here (will open in a new window)

Method

-Preheat oven to gas mark 6/200c. Grease ideally a spring-form cake tin, but any baking tray you have to hand will work.

-If using a food processor, process the dates and hot water, until it has a paste-like texture, set aside the mixture for 10 minutes and wash food processor bowl. If using hand, chopped the dates very finely and mix with hot water and set aside for 10 minutes.

-Cream together, by hand or by processor, the butter and sugar. Once that has a creamy texture, add the two eggs, process/mix well until all is combined.

-Then add the flour, bicarb and vanilla and mix again until everything is combined and resembles batter.

-Add the dates  mixture to the batter and process until everything is combined and smooth. The mixture should be a dark coffee colour. Pour into your cake tin and place in the oven for about 30-40 minutes. It is ready when the top is springy and when you put a metal spike or knife in it, it comes out clean.

-*5 minutes before serving, heat up your toffee sauce,  prod lots of holes in the top of the cake and pour about 1/4 of the sauce mixture over the cake so it goes down the holes. And leave for 2-5 minutes.

-Serve with more toffee sauce and vanilla ice-cream

Make ahead note:

-This can be done ahead of time. Simply make the cake and sauce separately. 15 minutes for eating cover  cake with foil, and place in oven at 180 c. After 10 minutes, do step *. Reheat sauce in a saucepan and serve along side cake.

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Filed under Desserts, Other