Tomatoey

It was really hard trying to think what to call this post. The original recipe called it Tomato Pudding and I just didn’t think that really described it.

I’d bought the book, “First Ladies Cook Book – favourite recipes of all the Presidents of the United States” while we were on a weekend break in the north

One of the recipes in there was, apparently, a favourite of Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President, from January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961) and was called Tomato Pudding. Doesn’t sound attractive does it?

The recipe, as it was written didn’t sound that interesting either:

Tomato Pudding.

1  10-ounce can of tomato puree, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1 cup of white bread, cut into 1 inch cubes, 1/4 cup boiling water, 1/4 cup of melted butter and 6 tablespoons of light brown sugar.

Add sugar and salt to the tomato puree and water and boil for 5 minutes. Place bread cubes in a casserole. Pour melted butter over them Add the tomato mixture. bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F. Serve with quail or roasted meats.

So, a President of the United States of America, thought this was the bees-knees? And served it as a delicacy at State Dinners?  Bread and tomato?

But I could see that there was potential here… I thought at the time that the recipe was overheavy on sugar and just using puree would make the bread a rather solid block, so something was needed to lighten things up. I would, perhaps, use chopped tomatoes so there would be a difference of texture within the dish and then I needed to think what would be best served with it.

My brother makes sure that my freezer always has some game in it and I often roast a little pheasant or other bit of game, so a dish that would work alongside a roast morsel of something or other would be good.

You often find pheasant served with croutons or fried bread and I was thinking of this tomato pudding as working along those lines.

And this is what I came up with.

I had some crusty bread… I sliced about half a loaf and then cubed it. This filled a large square baking dish.

The original recipe asked for melted butter to be poured over the bread cubes but I thought if I replaced that with a drizzle of oil that would lighten it and make it a healthier option. If I used chilli oil then that would add a subtle bite to the whole dish. Chilli oil doesn’t overwhelm you with the taste of chilli, but rather comes in as a subtle afterburn, a tingle really, just enough to give things a bit of bite and interest. Even if you don’t like chillies, you should try it at least once. You will probably be very pleasantly surprised.

The original recipe used tomato puree and diluted it with water and added a huge amount of sugar.  But in the interests of dragging this dish into the 21st century and making it slightly more healthy for us….

 …I thought that chopped plum tomatoes would lighten the texture, giving it a bit of interest, so that it wasn’t just solid tomato paste covered bread.

And not sugar to sweeten things, but port. 

If the original recipe used tomato puree, that seems to me to be a rather solid substance so the water would be necessary. Using chopped tomatoes means there’s more liquid there so you wouldn’t need to add too much port.

 That would add another level of flavour (and don’t worry, any alcohol would evaporate in the cooking, so any children eating it won’t end up rolling drunk)

Port is sweet and I had a bottle that needed using up. If you don’t have any, use water and add some sugar… but I don’t think you need to add the original 6 tablespoons.

Stir it round and cook it down a bit.

Just boil it down gently until it reduces a bit.

Then, pour it over the bread cubes.

And just because I have been cutting back on  all sorts of things to make this a healthier, tastier dish, I thought a few knobs of butter on the top would help it cook and get a lovely crispy top.

I put it into the oven, alongside some pheasant to serve with it, at 175 degrees C  for 30 minutes.

And what was it like?

Really rather good. A crunchy, savoury top and a meltingly tomatoey middle. The contrasts of textures was appealling and the taste was excellent.

I think there’s room for improvement – maybe add some garlic to the tomatoes? – but served with a little pheasant leg and breast it really was rather delicious. I shall make it again to serve with roast pork and maybe add some chopped apples to it to break up the texture even more. There’s all sorts of tweaks I can think of with this.

Using half a loaf of bread (the staler the better, I think) a tin of chopped tomatoes, a dash of oil and a slurp or so of port (if you want to add it) you have a very quick and easy side dish that costs coppers.

So, Dwight D. Eisenhower, thanks for the idea. If it was good enough to be served in the White House in the 1950’s, then with a bit of tweaking it is good enough to be served in our house today.

Lasagne loveliness

You know sometimes when you feel like no matter what, you deserve a treat? Yes, I have been good on my diet and yes, I have lost weight… and yes, I would have carried on with it. In fact, I have every intention of going back on the diet. But not tonight.

The constant snow and darkness, now followed by the miserable rain; the cold and disruption to everything is getting everyone down. Added to that, the nasty fall where I banged my head…

Oh and my camera has broken. I have to use my BlackBerry, or the Bear’s camera. And I had just (as in the day-before-just) bought a new battery, and two chargers (one for the car) for my camera. Insult piled upon injury!

Well, do you really think that some steamed vegetables, say, or maybe some celery would make me feel better?

Or would this…….?

A steaming dish of lasagne… or as the lovely Saucy Smith , from lobstersandwich calls it, Faux-sagna. Read her description and recipe and then you will see why I just had to do it….

Hot, steaming pasta with delicious ragu, bound together with a cheesy bechamel sauce?

Easy to eat…. so very easy to eat while curled up on a sofa…. perhaps with some garlic bread?

Surely, after the week I have had… and the bump on the head that I got, it would be not only right, but, in fact, eminently sensible to have lasagne? I’d been reading how Saucy made her her free-form lasagne and it seemed so right.

The essence of this recipe is that you don’t use pasta sheets and build it up.. you use what you have and you make it quickly. Saucy used penne but I didn’t have any. I had half a bag of lumaconi and a jar full of macaroni. I could work with that. I’d have to… I just needed  to put the two sorts together to get enough.

I had some beef mince in the freezer, some tinned tomatoes, some Parmesan cheese. I had half a pint of milk. I had two eggs. I had everything I needed!

First of all, saute some onion until it is soft and fragrant, then

…add the mince and brown that off.

Take the pan off the heat.

Add the chopped plum tomatoes and stir it all round

And put it all in a big bowl and mix it round.

While that was going on, I had cooked the pasta… I had to do it separately as I was using two different sizes. Big bits first, then while they are draining, do the littler bits of macaroni.

That only takes a few minutes, just drain each pan full and let it dry off.

While that’s drying, make the cheesy bechamel sauce.

To make a good base bechamel, you need equal quantities of butter and flour.

 I like to use Italian ’00’ flour, which is extra fine. (I make pasta from it when I have the time, but today is not the day for that)  If you haven’t got the Italian flour don’t worry, just use plain flour.

I melted 30g of butter and then stirred in 30g of flour.

This really is the work of moments… a gentle stir round to bring it together, let it cook for a couple of minutes or so then start to add milk.

Lumpy? Yes, of course, but it just needs you to stir it quickly, consistently and well until it becomes a smooth and silky sauce

Keep going and add the milk slowly. I used the half pint. I wanted it to be thick and creamy. A sprinkle of salt and a grating of pepper freshens it up.

Once it is smooth, add handfuls of finely grated parmesan – I used maybe 80g because that was what I had (and I did need some for something else…)

The thing is, you must taste it. Does it suit you? Do you like the taste? You’re the one that is eating it.

Take it off the heat and add a couple of egg yolks (the whites can be used maybe tomorrow in scrambled eggs or an omelette. Tomorrow is another day, another meal)

Stir it in, making the sauce rich and delicious.

The rest of the grated parmesan?

Just to prove how quickly this can be done, I had started making some foccacia when I was getting the other ingredients together. Possibly the easiest bread to make in a hurry.

I tweaked it by adding chopped garlic to the dough so it was kneaded through the dough (at Christmas I made it with snippets of bacon on the top and garlic puree in it ) and then,  when it was beautifully plumped up, I scattered the fluffily fine grated parmesan over it.

That can bake when the lasagne goes in to the oven.

That’s not a great photograph but that is using my phone… trust me, it is beautifully bouncy and when I prodded it with my fingers they just sank in, the dimples just ready and waiting for a drizzle of oil.)

Back to the lasagne…

That mixture of pasta will have dried off by now so add it to the bowl with the meat and tomato mix

(Actually I am liking the look of this with the two different sizes)

Then, pour three quarters of the cheesy bechamel into the bowl and stir it through.

Don’t use all of it… I said, three quarters. The rest has to be blobbed on the top, so you must leave some

See how it makes a creamy, tomatoey mix?

How it seeps and fills the pasta?

Butter a good sized baking dish and pour the mix in

Then blob what is left of the bechamel over it. Don’t cover it… this is a random splodging of sauce!

Oven on…175 degrees

Free-form lasagne in on one shelf, foccacia on another

Quickly wipe down the benches, open some wine and prepare for bliss

The bread will take about 15 minutes and the lasagne maybe 30. That’s good because it means the foccacia has time to cool slightly before you start eating it.

Break the bread so you can both get at it

Get the lasagne out and scoop out a big bowlful

(Do you like the sound, as I do, of a spoon pulling up a portion… that first spoonful comes out with a sort of sucking popping noise.. maybe a sticky squelch… you know what I mean? It just tells you this is going to be good)

That’s not a great photo but I have to say, there’s only so long I was going to stand around, pointing my phone at it, while I breathed in the smell of lasagne.

There were delicious little morsels of macaroni and big shell like lumaconi, filled with a glorious mix of meat and tomato and cheesy bechamel.

Lovely garlicly, cheesey foccacia alongside it.

Now THAT made me feel better.

Fantastic Focaccia

The weather over the past week had made us wonder if we could get home for Christmas. There were all these weather warnings telling us not to travel unless it was absolutely essential.

Essential? This is Christmas. Of course it is essential.

When I got up on Christmas Eve morning and looked out of the bedroom window there was thick, freezing fog and snow

We should be able to manage, we thought….. and after packing the car to the roof with food and general essentials (we were going back to my empty house… with its empty kitchen) we set off.

Christmas traffic wasn’t as bad as the motoring organisations and the police made out.

It was snowy and foggy but everyone else seemed to have paid attention to the warnings and stayed at home. It was probably the fastest time we had ever made it north

You really know you are getting somewhere when you see signs for Scotch Corner.

For a Northerner living in the Midlands (which seems like the Deep South to me) getting to Scotch Corner is the first part of the true north. It always makes me smile because I know I am nearly home.

We arrived back in the village to an empty kitchen… luckily I had packed boxes of food and essential ingredients.

I’d brought olive oil, garlic, eggs, flour, yeast, white truffle balsamic glaze, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, salt, tea bags, coffee, tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and chorizo.

A pork pie made by our butcher, some bacon, cream (single and double), butter, champagne, white, red and rose wine.

Vegetable juice, pomegranate juice, fig molasses, Marmite, Parma ham, leeks, cheeses and pickles. All essentials, as you can see.

I could make anything…. anything but a cup of tea. I’d forgotten  to bring the milk,  so I had to drive to the next village to buy some so we could make a cup of tea. And there was me thinking I had all the essentials covered…….

Thing is, I hadn’t really thought of what we would eat that night. I know we had some left over cold sausages that I had put in a plastic box but we really needed something more than that.

I decided that if I made some foccacia that would help the situation…..

Usual thing… 300g of strong bread flour

7 g of instant yeast, (that’s a teaspoon and a half, I suppose, if you aren’t using the sachets)

Maldon salt

150 ml of warm water

2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Now, I was in a kitchen that I had more or less stripped of equipment, so instead of leaving it to the Kitchen Aid to mix for me, I had to do it myself

Just goes to show how easy it is to make this. One large bowl, a wooden spoon and off you go.

It comes together quickly enough.

A quick squirt of garlic puree wouldn’t go amiss

And then knead it…. dust a board with flour and stretch it, pull it, roll it and fold it.

You will feel it changing in texture… there’s sort of lumps and bumps in the dough at first and then it becomes smoother and silkier.

It’s still not perfect though and you have to let it relax. Only then do you get really good smooth dough.

At this point you have to let it rest and rise. You need to stop it drying out so either cover it in cling film or, do as I do, and put the bowl over it. That keeps the dough moist and stops it forming a crusty outside which is certainly something you don’t want while it is loitering about

It will take maybe half an hour or so

You can feel the difference as well as see it… it is resilient and springy… the lumps have disappeared and it is smooth and silky to touch.

Wipe down the bench and spread some oil on it and then put the dough down.. stretching it into shape with your fingers if you haven’t a rolling pin at hand.

You can see how wonderfully puffy it is becoming.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

It needs to have fingers poked into it to get the dimpled foccacia look and some oil drizzled over it.

And this is when I had the idea…. add bacon!

I snipped two rashers of bacon and scattered the bits over the dough.

Now that is a way to stretch your ingredients. A bacon sandwich would have used those two rashers for one sandwich. This makes it stretch over a lovely big bit of bread….

Then just put the whole thing onto a baking sheet – the oil in the dough will prevent it sticking, so don’t worry if you don’t have one of the incredibly useful silicone sheets

Stretch it out to fit and then just put it in the oven for 15 minutes or so…See? Minimal ingredients, minimal work and the shortest time in the oven.

Waiting those 15 minutes gave me enough time to have a quick wipe down of the benches and open a bottle of wine and pour us both a glass

We sat there, eating garlicky bacon scattered bread, fresh from the oven and sipping a glass of wine.

It was Christmas Eve, the snow was whirling round outside and we had driven hundreds of miles to get back home. We sat on either side of the kitchen table and toasted each other.

Merry Christmas!

Bone Idle Bread

Sometimes a simple breakfast is all we want… maybe tea and toast. And sometimes we want a sort of fruity nutty feel to the toast, and Nigella’s Lazy Loaf is just the thing.

Like most things I make, this is simplicity itself – we call it Bone Idle Bear Bread because it is so easy.

All you need is bread flour… I have been working my way through a range of seeded and grain bread  flours… some yeast, some muesli, a pinch or so of salt  and milk and water.

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To bake it in you’ll need a loaf tin and one of those silicone paper liners. Either that or line the tin with greaseproof paper but that is so fiddly, so go and buy some liners… you will thank me for it

In a big bowl, put 200g of muesli (we particularly like Dorset Cereals Really Nutty) and 325g of bread flour. This week I am using Allinsons Seed and Grain Flour and stir it round…. put a sachet of yeast.. or a teaspoon or so in

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 and stir round, adding a pinch of salt

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You’d better do this before you add the 250 ml of milk and 250 ml of water… you get a better mix

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That’s just under a pint, mix the milk and water together and pour straight in

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Stir it round.. it becomes a gloopy mix very quickly

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Then pour it (I tell you, this is pourable.. don’t panic!)

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Then… you won’t believe it but this is right.. put it into a cold oven

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THEN, and only then, turn the oven on to 110 degrees C and walk away for 45 minutes. This allows the bread mix to start to rise…..

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At the 45 minute stage, turn the oven up to 180 degrees C and leave for an hour.

Then.. take it out and leave it to cool on a rack

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This is a substantial bread…

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And it is wonderful toasted…..

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Put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea while you wait.. then spread your bread with butter…

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And then, because the Bear loves the taste of Marmite on fruited and nutty bread, a lovely mix of sweet and savoury….

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Try it with jam.. or honey….but whatever you do, try it. Easy as anything and that, my friends, is all we ask!

Tomato and chilli little loaves

Making bread is quick and easy and doing it yourself means you can tailor it to make the perfect match to whatever you are cooking. Because I was making pumpkin soup for Halloween I thought that some tomato and chilli mini loaves would be just the ticket…. a hint of chilli to liven the bread up and some sun dried tomato to round out the flavour.

So… get your flour out – you will need 350g for 8 mini loaves.

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I had dried a chilli that was left over… oh, OK, I had forgotten about a chilli that was in the kitchen fruit bowl (no, I don’t know why it was there) anyway, it had dried beautifully. Waste not want not, I always say

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So. I cut a bit of it off and chopped it finely

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Put that with the flour in a bowl with a 7g sachet of yeast… or two scant teaspoons if you are using a packet.

Add a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, a couple of dessertspoons of oil and 200ml of warm water and mix well…. either by hand or by mixer

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Whizz that round and round until it comes together into a smooth dough (or knead together by hand until you get the same effect)

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While that is kneading, chop some sundried tomatoes

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and knead them into the dough on a well dusted board. Cover the dough with cling film and leave it to rise

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I bought some tiny loaf tins (I don’t know where but they are easily found) and after an hour the dough had risen nicely. As I had 8 little loaf tins, I cut the dough into 8 pieces – how about that for logic?

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Leave them to rise again and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

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There they are going in and after about 15 minutes, out they came….

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Perfect little white loaves studded with bits of sundried tomato and the tiniest hint of chilli. Just right for that pumpkin soup…. mmmmmhmmmmmm…

Lesley

Lesley… in her own words….

So where to start……….I have a love hate relationship with food and the biggest hate of all is cooking it! I also hate vegetables except onions,tomatoes and raw peppers and like my food extremely spicy. I can’t eat on a morning, get the munchies after alcohol late at night and if I decide I like something I will eat it for every meal for weeks on end………..disturbed?………..just slightly!
I’ve been following Wendy’s blog since the beginning and have always resisted her coaxing to have a go pre-blog, but the no knead bread sounded lovely and worth a try. I do eat bread (which is a bonus) it could be made in one bowl (which was always a stipulation I’d given Wendy in the past) and it required so little effort that even I couldn’t complain! My biggest problem was that I had no ingredients and no bowl but a trip to the supermarket fixed that one and I had no excuses left. Wendy, bless her, gave me phone numbers to contact her on for hand holding and encouragement but I was brave and ventured into the kitchen alone! I made the mixture and was grateful that I’d followed other people’s experiences and knew that when Wendy said it was wet, she meant very wet! I think I’d have panicked at that stage otherwise and binned the lot! I did it just before I went to bed so left it in the kitchen until I got home from work the following day. In the morning I sneaked a look and I could see it had expanded so something was obviously working!
When I got home I cranked up the laptop and checked the next stage taking particular note of the pictures and getting quite excited when mine looked exactly the same! I dragged the mixture out rolled it in flour left a bit longer and then dusted it and wrapped it in the t-towel. The next couple of hours waiting weren’t wasted……I used them to locate the cooker and work out how to switch it on (well I did say I hate cooking!)
The final stage and I have to admit to a bit of a panic when some of it stuck to the t-towel ……but I persevered and it actually wasn’t too bad and did come away eventually. Then…..off it went into the pre-heated oven and I waited…………with a glass of tinto to keep me company and calm my nerves! I was amazed when it actually looked as it should do when I took it out of the oven and even more amazed this morning when I tasted it and it was edible…….and not just edible it was really really tasty! :-)
It’s definitely something I’ll make again so I’ll forgive Wendy for bullying – sorry that should say encouraging – me and I may even try something else in the future! :-) Oh and here’s a picture just to prove I did it! Lesley x
Lesley S bread

10 November… Lesley made Bear Bars

Lesley S Bear Bars

And she liked them! 

 “Yes that was really easy and I had to have a taste even tho they are going to be my breakfasts for the next 3 weeks – it was yummy! I did change a few things – used raisins, sultanas, cherries, mixed nuts, cashews, walnuts, des coconut, sunflower seeds and about a tablespoon of molasses sugar with the oats, flour, apple sauce and eggs :-)…”

and she was so impressed she told her friend

“They’re called Bear Bars Margie after Wendy’s hubby! Lovely tasty bars of fruit and nuts and seeds – very healthy and tons better than the shop bought ones and they’re really filling! Get Nat to make you a batch – here’s the link:…”
And then she saw the Chicken Jalfrezi……
Lesley S Chicken Jalfrezi
Lesley ” has been cooking again! I made up for the weather outside by making this from Wendy’s Jalfrezi recipe and very nice it is too! :-)) Notice I don’t take much convincing when it comes to curry! lol”
Good work, Lesley!
And then she proved she had been paying attention… and produced Bone Idle Bread!Lesley Bread

17 January 2010

Lesley has been cooking again… and this time, having a real cooking session. Shepherd’s Pie in the morning,

followed by Keema

So much for never cooking eh? And she lets slip that she regularly bakes Bear Bars….

I think the avowed non-cook is resuming her kitchen duties! Way to go Lesley!

15 April 2010

Lesley cooked again… this time the Pastryless Pie

Lesley says:

Well I’ve made this tonight and once again I’m impressed – and not just with myself for doing it! I did tinker a bit with the recipe and ended up using stilton, smoked cheddar, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes and red onion. Had the potato base and ham edging but used fromage frais instead of double cream. It tastes fabulous and I even managed the broccoli which is a bit of a miracle really because I have an affinity with The Bear when it comes to that! So thanks Wendy for another recipe added to my repertoire! x

Look at that delicious edging!

A perfect example of using a base recipe and changing it to suit your ingredients or preferences!

Laura

This section is for Laura and this is what she says about her cooking journey..

“right,  my blog thing.

where to start???? aged 19 I flew the coop and moved in with my husband to be (he was a wanker). Anyway, I had to cook, and loved feeding him. I learned largely from my grandmother and always had something up my sleeve.

And then I woke up and got rid of him (yay).

I don’t really remember what I used to cook for Jonathan because in the end it all became about Isobel. When she started solids I would cook all sorts for her. She had to take her own lunch to nursery and I was always making freezable home cooked meals for her, Annabel Karmel I love you!!!!!

As time wore on I worked more and more, and Jonathan worked more than that and we were all of a sudden having Chinese or frozen stuff. Then Wendy put a picture on Facebook of bread she’d made!! Well I had to have a go, or two…………

and the rest is history!”

Laura was  the first T.O.B Cook. She made bread……the No Knead Bread

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And it turned out brilliantly

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She has encouraged the others to try it… so well done Laura!

Then she made the butter to go with it..

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And followed that with chillies… those delicious bacon wrapped, cream cheese stuffed chillies…

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Brilliant, Laura…

Laura G slow roast pork

Slow roast pork and orange glazed carrots with roast potatoes! Mmmmmmm……

January 2010

I made Jansson’s Temptation and Laura wanted to do it too… the problem was she lived too far from Ikea to get the sprats, anchovy style. Which are an absolute essential…

I couldn’t let that hold her back so I posted her a tin ( the lady in the Post Office did look at me oddly when I said I was posting a friend some sprats…. Swedish sprats, anchovy style… :-)  )

See how technical we are? She prepares food, takes a picture with her BlackBerry and sends it to mine….

We discuss how it is going and she sends a picture of the finished dish!

(She liked it… as did her in-laws!)

Debs

This page is for Debs… I will add her pictures as she cooks and she can add her comments. Of course the ideal situation would be for her to be able to do it all by herself but as this is done by me and I haven’t the faintest idea how to change things (at the moment, anyway) this is how it will be done.

Long live amateurism!

Debbie’s first attempt was cooking the No Knead Bread

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See that style? Netbook on the counter… glass of wine at hand (condensation beading on the glass…. she’s chilled that properly)  and bread started. Full marks, that woman!

Next she did the slow roasted spiced lamb…. despite not liking couscous

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Followed by the chillies…

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Debs freely admitted she didn’t care for chillies but, you’ll notice, there isn’t a picture of the cooked chillies. That is because as soon as they were cooked they ate them. She has now made them several times and admits to thinking about them, longingly, mid afternoon and having to wait until the evening to make them.

Debs is now a chilli addict.

Her latest cooking escapade was porridge.

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I’ll leave her to comment on how everything was received but in recognition of her excellent efforts to try things out… and because I know she doesn’t have one, The Omnivorous Bear is proud to award Debs with her very own spurtle. The first prize ever awarded by the site….An authentic Scottish porridge stirring stick!

Every home should have one.

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The spurtle is now in the post to her but as we currently have a postal workers strike there’s no guarantee it will get there before next week.

Keep on cooking, Debs!

Debs then made the ginger ham… DEbs ham

this is what she said

“I know this is a rubbish photo but this is the end result. After removing the rind, I scored the remaining layer of fat and spread a thin layer of mustard, grated fresh ginger and sugar… it went into the oven for about 15 mins and that was that.

The gingerness went to well with the ham, it was absolutely fabulous and even the 6 yr olds loved it and that’s saying something!!” … and the photo was a bit indistinct.

1Nov – Debs made the pumpkin soup

Debs pumpkin soup

Tomorrow she will do the pumpkin seeds.

Eggs for breakfast?

When it comes to weekend breakfasts, there’s something very nice about having eggs of one sort or another. I was a bit bored with scrambled eggs and boiled eggs didn’t quite seem to hit the spot and what about fried eggs? Well, you needed bacon to go with fried eggs. What if you didn’t have bacon? What could you do then?

I liked the idea of baked or coddled eggs, where eggs are cooked in a little pot, usually in a bain marie in the oven. Thing about that was, first of all, I didn’t possess an egg coddler and secondly, even if I did, I didn’t want to be standing around in the kitchen waiting for the water to gently simmer round my little pots. I like breakfasts to be good and tasty I know… but I don’t want to spend hours trying to do it.

Normally I use the microwave only rarely – to reheat vegetables say or defrost something  – but I wanted to work something out. Eggs and microwaves can be tricky with the yolk going rubbery and the white staying runny. Not an appetising start to anyone’s day.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I tried this. You wouldn’t believe the variable results I have had from this… but now I can finally share with you one of our favourite Sunday breakfasts. A breakfast that can be made in just about ten minutes and then taken back to bed to eat while you read the papers and enjoy the fact that it is Sunday.

And what do you need?

220See that bread? That’s No Knead Bread, that is. Brilliant for using with Eggies because the bread has a great strong texture that holds the eggs well. And that butter? Well, I made that too!

In my many experiments I realised that while eggs can go in the microwave, they need some kind of insulation in the pot to stop the dreaded rock hard yolk scenario which clashes so badly with the gloopily wet white.

So, first of all, slice some bread

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Then scrape some butter over the slices… this sort of waterproofs the bread

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(The butter was straight from the fridge so it was hard, but really these are thin scrapes of butter)

Then, using a small pot with a lid, roughly line the inside with the bread

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The aim is to get a layer of bread round the outside of the pot so the eggs can drop into the middle. If you have any cream, just put a spoonful in the bottom with a pinch of salt

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Then, crack in a couple of lovely eggs….

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See how the eggs are kept in the middle of the pot? Protected by the bread?

You can put another teaspoon of cream on the top and then… well then you scrape the tiniest anount of butter over the rest of the slices of bread, sprinkle with salt  and lightly put the bits of bread on top – no pressing down! You are making a little lid for your bread liner

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Then, lid on and then put one at a time in the microwave.

First of all – ONE minute on medium and then 30- 40 seconds on high. Take out the pot and do the other one…..

They will still cook a little bit in the residual heat.  Lift the little bread lid and look…

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You can see the white is cooked… but what about the yolk?

Well, The Bear, being devoted to tomato sauce insists on his egg being squirted with it and then he shoves his spoon in….

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PERFECT!  Breakfast in less than ten minutes… 

Benefits? You have sort of baked/coddled Eggies; with no messy frying, or boiling, or poaching;  using the timer so you can lean against the bench while your cup of tea brews…. and the Eggies are cooked in the pot you eat them from, saving you washing up later!

It’s not the most elegant of breakfasts but it is fast and tasty and oh so comforting. The kind of breakfast a person might need if they had had a lively night and needed something restorative…….. some of you may know the feeling……

Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

Well, if you are going to make soup then you need bread to go with it. You could buy stuff, I suppose, but as we are becoming Domestic Goddesses and nothing fazes us… obviously, the way forward is to make the world’s easiest bread.

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All you need is less than an hour,

250 g of strong bread flour

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7g of instant yeast (that’s a sachet or a teaspoon of instant packet yeast – yes, you eagle eyed baking detectives, I am using a different packet from the  last time. Just thought I’d give it a go, that’s all)

Olive oil

Garlic

Rosemary

Salt – you know I love that lovely, crunchy, large crystalled Maldon.

In a large bowl, put the flour, yeast and a teaspoon of salt and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  I did it in my food mixer because (am I boring you with this? I only have one working arm you know) I needed to give it a good mixing and there’s only so much I can do…. add in 150 ml of warm water and mix it till it becomes a smooth dough.

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Get it out onto a floured wooden board and knead it till it looks smooth and bouncy. Then, on a clean surface, put down some olive oil, flop the dough onto it and using a rolling pin, roll it out…

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It just needs a rough roll to get it smoothed out.

I use silicon sheets – you can get them anywhere nowadays – I even got some in a Pound Store.  Absolutely brilliant for baking and cooking with. Anyway, put a silicon sheet on a baking tray and put your oiled dough on there.

Chop some garlic and rosemary leaves finely

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… then scatter it over your dough, then sprinkle it with lovely crunchy salt

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You need to let the dough rise in a warmish place for half an hour or so. Cover it in greased cling flim and let it rise.

I have been known to help it by standing the baking tray on top of the soup pan. Apart from anything else it frees up bench space so you can have a quick wipe down…

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Then, when it has risen up and become puffed up and bouncy. turn the oven on to 200 degrees and while that is heating, peel back the cling film, poke the foccacia all over with your fingers and drizzle it with olive oil

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Into the oven with it for fifteen or so minutes until it is golden brown

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Let it cool just a bit and then…. serve it up. Beautiful garlic and rosemary focaccia, perfect for your soup…. in fact, just perfect.