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Archive for the ‘artisan bread’ Category

This stuffed bread makes wonderful picnic food as the filling holds itself in place allowing you to eat it with just hands – and a napkin for the fastidious. We took it for a packed lunch while decorating our new apartment and it was much more sustaining than the bag of Doritos (T’s choice, not mine) we’d munched on the day before: it didn’t stain everything orange either, which is a bit of a bonus when you’re trying to paint everything in shades of white.

butternut squash and stilton sandwich roulade

It’s a handy vegetarian addition to my picnic / packed lunch recipe repertoire.

slices of sage, squash and stilton calzoneButternut squash and blue cheese bread

  • 100g crumbled Stilton*
  • 100g diced cooked butternut squash
  • a sprig of fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 TBS chopped pecans (optional)
  • a handful of olive oil dough
  • olive oil
  • *Any creamy blue cheese such as dolcelatte, gorgonzola etc. will do just as well; here I happened to have some Stilton left over from Christmas haunting the freezer.

    Gently stretch out the ball of dough on an oiled swiss roll tin – or toaster oven tray – coaxing it towards the edges.  It will relax and stretch further so don’t be anxious about this.

    Strew the cheese and squash over the surface of the dough, padding the filling towards the edges.  Scatter with the shredded sage, then make a papoose by bringing the long edges of the dough to meet over the top and press them together to seal so the cheese doesn’t leak out when it melts in the oven. At this point it will not look at all promising, but have no fear.  Sprinkle chopped nuts, if using, across the seam and press them lightly into the dough so they stick.

    Bake in a hot oven (450F, 200C, Gas 7) for about 30 minutes, basting halfway through with a little olive (or hazelnut/walnut if you have it) oil for a delicately crunchy crust: cover the nuts with a strip of foil if they’re browning too fast (or blackening in my case, one hazard of using a toaster oven).

    Cool, loosen the bottom with a palette knife, then cut into slices or wrap the whole in foil to slice later.

    The sage makes a delicous ménage à trois with the blue cheese and squash, which the richly nutty pecans turn into a veritable orgy of flavours, or for an enjoyable alternative you could try swinging with rosemary and walnuts instead: a bit of gustatory promiscuity can produce some pretty interesting offspring.

    For a punchy packed lunch just add a handful of rocket leaves and for a picnic add whatever you like, but the way this British summer’s been shaping up you’ll be needing a blanket, windbreak, hot water bottle – and your head examined: it’s blowing a gale as I type this.

    A note to British readers: some branches of Waitrose sell frozen butternut squash, which is pretty darn handy for this recipe as it’ll cook in the microwave in 4 minutes – and there’s no skin to deal with!

    This post is my first-ever entry for the WTSIM… summer picnic blogging event.

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    fresh home made ricotta with muslin imprint
    I don’t know about you, but I adore la cucina casalinga – Italian regional home cooking – so simple, so hearty, so life-affirming; but dependent as it is on the quality of ingredients, my heart used to sink whenever a recipe called for fresh ricotta. There’s no such thing for sale in my home town, no matter what the supermarkets say; it will never be fresh enough and they may as well seal it in a coffin as in anything with a bar code, for its soul will have high-tailed it out of there long before the lid snaps shut.

    So with the summery weather (where did that go?) my time was ripe for making fresh cheese and serendipitously, The New York Times felt the same way. With instructions so elegantly simple all I needed was to calculate a couple of unit conversions, dig out a candy thermometer, snip off some muslin, then find me some buttermilk.

    Fresh home made ricotta

    heating the milk

    heating the milk

    Equipment

    large, heavy based pan
    thermometer
    heat-resistant spatula
    large sieve or colander
    1 m² muslin/cheesecloth
    fine mesh skimmer

    Ingredients

    2 litres whole milk
    500 ml buttermilk
    1 TBS salt

    forming curds

    forming curds

    Combine milks in the pan, add salt and heat steadily to 70C, running the spatula gently across the bottom to prevent sticking. Stop stirring and heat to 80C, then remove the pan from the heat and allow curds to form for 5 minutes. Then, very very gently, skim off the curds and transfer to a sieve lined with 4 layers of muslin sterilised with boiling water.

    draining curds in muslin

    draining curds in muslin

    Drain for 15 minutes, then decide if the moisture content is what you were hoping for.  For a drier curd, gather up the corners of the muslin and make a bag by securing with string or a sturdy rubber band and suspend it over a drip receptacle in the fridge (some simple improvisation called for here – I used a herb drying hook but a strong spoon or knife across the shelf above would work).

    Peel away the muslin for immediate use in sweet or savoury dishes; alternatively, place the ricotta in a lidded container and refrigerate but use early; it doesn’t keep well although I’m told it freezes brilliantly.

    So delighted to have such delectable stuff to hand we abandoned the idea of recipes entirely and savoured its snow-white tang with some chopped fresh oregano from the garden: spread over toasted slices of homemade artisan bread scraped ever-so lightly with garlic and topped with a drop or two of Alziari olive oil, it made immaculate bruschetti.

    artisanal boule, homemade ricotta with fresh oregano

    The following day ricotta spoonfuls perched prettily on top of a Menorcan vegetable soup splashed with a good and grassy Sicilian olive oil; a terrific trio.  In the picture below you can see the difference between ricotta made with two types of milk: goat’s milk for the first batch is on the upper left (easier to find than sheep’s) and cow’s milk alone is at the lower right; I found the goat milk’s texture and flavour superior to that of the cows, but both were better than any supermarket substitute.

    ricotta made with goat's and buttermilk and all cow made with vinegar

    Two essential yet priceless ingredients of ricotta are patience and gentleness, neither of which are my strengths exactly, but the process fosters a contemplative calmness. Trying too hard – stirring too much, squeezing too tight – will transmogrify the cheese into tiny, useless grains of curdled milk which may even drain away before your eyes right through the muslin, and that’s a more than palatable life lesson: take it gentle, take it slow and you’ll find there’s nothing bitter at all about this learning experience.

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    I mean this most sincerely, it’s not some cheap trick to lure porn-surfers to my food blog; why would I want to do that?  It’s wordplay on Pigs in Blankets but to satisfy those at the back, here’s an uncut image (for illustration purposes only, please) from the mind-boggling immeatchu blog.

    Not sorry to disappoint, I’m referring to the sexiest pasta sauce of all, Puttanesca; a store-cupboard classic from Naples.   Puttana being Italian for whore, puttanesca means whore-style: naturally there is some debate about how it acquired this intriguingly salty name.  It’s all true no doubt, but as importantly it’s a delicious dish to give hunger a good seeing-to and a pushover to pull a few ingredients from fridge and cupboard for the laziest gal – or guy – in town.
    raw puttanesca on olive oil dough

    Or on a languorous afternoon, do as I did: put a bit of lead in the pencil of some elderly olive oil dough and wrap it around puttanesca’s uncooked ingredients for a putta nuda al forno: salaciously delicious – or deliciously salacious…just try twisting your tongue around that.

    Putta Nuda al fornoputtanesca calzone

    • 2 salt-cured anchovies, filleted
    • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, sliced
    • 10 Niçoise olives, stoned
    • 1 TBS capers, drained
    • dried oregano
    • a fistful of olive oil dough

    Shape, strew and scatter as in first pic, stretch the long edges of dough over the filling to meet in the middle and press to seal.  Bake in a hot oven about ½ an hour, basting beforehand and after 15 minutes with oil from the tomatoes.  Cool slightly, slice and serve.

    Although there are acceptable variations to the cooked sauce, never have I encountered as total a travesty as at a certain trattoria in Vieux Nice, to which I not-entirely-ironically refer as Casa della Disasta: according to our waitress, their pasta puttanesca contained no olive, neither anchovy nor caper!  Incidentally, on top of that surprise, the line at the till was not for takeaways but disgruntled diners queuing to question the errors on their bills – all in the management’s favour, natch.  Make of that what you will.

    Add to Technorati Favorites

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    A spicy, meaty, totally convenient-y version of my stuffed olive oil bread.  Make a batch of pulled pork, freeze it on trays then bag for use later.  Pulled pork is a Southern U.S. barbecue classic, yet amenable to countless variations and interpretations by those unfettered by the shackles of tradition (did I say bigotry?).  Here’s the basic recipe:

    Pulled Pork

    Get hold of a 1 or 2 kg boneless pork shoulder joint and make a dry spice rub, for example:olive oil dough stuffed with pulled pork

    • 4 TBS cumin seeds
    • 2 TBS muscovado
    • 6 TBS pimentón
    • 1 TBS dried thyme
    • 2 TBS sea salt
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed

    Grind the cumin and mix it together with the other ingredients.  If your pork is tied up, untie it to expose maximum surface area and roll the meat around in the spice mix, rubbing in well so that the whole lot sticks.

    If you have a slow cooker it will really come into its own now: pack the pork within – no need to tie up again as you’ll be shredding not slicing – and cook at low for several hours or even overnight.  Sufficient moisture should emerge from the pork itself to make adding extra unnecessary.

    If you lack a slow cooker put the pork in an ovenproof dish and place in a hot oven (200C plus).  Turn the oven down immediately to 120C and cook for 3 or 4 hours or more, placing a lid on the dish after 2 hours if it looks like it might dry out.  If it dried out before you got to it, pour over a very little wine, stock or water just to keep everything moist – but not wet – and replace the lid.  Do make sure you’re cooking it long and slow or the meat fibres will toughen and make shredding impossible.

    Remove from oven, reserving and refrigerating any excess liquid in case you need it later (skim off fat before using); let rest and cool slightly for around 15 minutes.  Separate the joint into manageable pieces and shred the meat with two forks along its muscle fibres, discarding any large hunks of fat, although most will have melted away.

    If freezing, spread the shredded pork out on baking trays – covered with greaseproof or silicon paper so it doesn’t stick and place in the freezer overnight or until solid, then working quickly, break into chunks and throw them into a large resealable bag to dip into for use later.  It works brilliantly baked from frozen inside the olive oil dough; just make sure you freeze it in small enough clumps.

    If eating straight away, the traditional manner is to add a slurp of barbecue sauce and stuff it in a burger bun to eat with coleslaw but it also goes fantastically well over rice (loosened with any leftover liquid), on a baked potato or in a burrito, and, of course, baked inside olive oil dough to make a perfect picnic or packed lunch – in slices, even party food.

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    Yet another riff on my olive oil dough theme: I call it inside-out pissaladière as this one contains home-made onion confit, flaked tuna and a sprinkle of capers.  I ate it – just catching a last morsel for this snap – for lunch then made another variation for Mr T’s tomorrow but this time added a few anchovies and a scatter of Waitrose’s frozen Grilled Peppers for an antioxidant+fibre hit & run.  Made in a toaster oven it’s convenient and economical; two of my favourite things.  Oh, and very very tasty.
    Brush with olive oil halfway through (200C for 30 mins) for a deliciously friable crust .
    inside-out pissaladiere

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    sesame crusted bouleJust sharing my latest effort – a boule made with olive oil dough, cornflour wash and sprinkled with sesame seeds. 

    I’m starting to get the hang of the all-important “slash” technique.  Note those wonderful gluten strands, result of a slow rise: you won’t get this from a bread machine.

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    Yes, you read that right – oak smoked flour from Bacheldre Watermill – and with that great packaging, how could I resist?

    Actually it’s oak smoked stoneground strong malted blend flour and as I don’t share the English predilection for malty bits in my bread I thought my first loaf rather ho-hum. The smokiness was enjoyable though, and quite a bit cheaper than setting up a wood-fired oven.

    Possible solution: I sifted out those malty bits and fed them to the birds then made a fresh batch of dough, but the resultant loaf was still too worthy, in a knitted oatmeal kind of way, albeit with a crust to stop traffic (literally).

    My solution: blend it with regular flour at a 1:5 ratio.  Result: a whiff of wood smoke and wheatiness with an excellent rise.  Better than saving up for a wood-fired oven any day.

    £2.85 for 1.5kg from Waitrose

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