Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Fresh from the oven - Edible bread bowls

This months Fresh from the oven bread challenge was hosted by Corry. She chose ‘Soup Bowls’, from Richard Bertinet’s fabulous book ‘Dough – Simple Contemporary Bread’.

I really enjoyed baking these bread bowls and found them simple and reasonably quick to make. They were a great novelty idea but not something I will make regularly. I replaced a 1/3 of the bread flour with smoked bread flour (more about here) which added an extra flavour to the soup. I served spiced vegetable and chickpea soup in mine, a recipe from this months sainsbury's magazine which was delicious (I will post the recipe shortly).

Here's what corry had to say about the bread bowls (recipe at the bottom).

The bread bowl recipe is quick and easy, It’s a great recipe to have in your repertoire and a lot of fun, There’s no dishes to clean up afterwards and you get to lick the bowl as well as eat it. If you are organized, you can have it ready in time to serve up for dinner. They also freeze well for a few weeks.

This dough has a small amount of semolina added to give it a nice texture, and some fruity olive oil to make it soft, resilient and give it a good flavour. You can also add a little chilli or spice to the dough for extra favour.

I found that the recipe makes 6 bowls using 16 x 10cm diameter pyrex bowls or 8 if you use 12cm bowls . Preparation takes 30 minutes, with 60 minutes resting time and 20 to 25 minutes to bake.

Bread bowls

500g strong bread flour
20 gm course semolina
15gm fresh yeast (or 1 sachet dried)
10 gm salt
50 gm good-quality fruity olive oil
320 gm water
chilli or spice (optional for added flavour)

Preheat the oven to 250˚C (500˚F). Mix together the flour and semolina and rub in the yeast as if you were making a crumble (Richard Bertinet’s method – see below for video link). If using a mixer, switch it on to the slowest speed, add salt, olive oil and water and mix for 2 minutes, then turn the speed up to the next lowest speed and mix for 6 to 7 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

If you are kneading by hand, knead for approximately 10 to 12 minutes or until you have a nice smooth elastic ball of dough. Richard Bertinet has a unique kneading technique referred to as the French fold that can take approximately 5 to 10 minutes depending on practice. You can view his method in a online video at the Gourmet Webpage. In this video, he is actually doing sweet dough but the same technique can be used for most bread dough.

Place the dough into a bowl that has been floured, cover with a tea towel and leave in a draught free place for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in volume.

Lightly oil or spray with non-stick spray, the outside of 6 ovenproof bows (I used pyrex bowls). Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 6 to 8 pieces (depending on the size of your baking bowls). Taking one piece of dough at a time and using a rolling pin, roll each piece into a circle (similar to making pizza). Shake off excess flour and shape each piece over an upturned bowl, patting into shape and pressing gently to remove air bubbles from between the dough and the bowl. Rest the dough for 10 minutes. Place the upturned bowls, two at a time, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, then into the preheated oven. Turn the oven down to 200˚C (400˚F) and bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes. Using a fine-bladed knife, gently loosen the bread from the bowls and ease off. Cool on a wire rack.

It is probably safer to serve the bowls on a plate, as they do become soggy after a while and the soup may leak through.

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Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Daring bakers - October 2009 - Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I was very excited when I visited the Daring Bakers forum on the 1st October to discover we would be making macarons. I have seen lots of them on various blogs (mainly the fantastic ones on Tartelette) and had been thinking about baking them for a while but just never quiet got round to it. This month has been busy though and I only found the chance to bake them last week and predictably they went very wrong! I spent ages reading through all the tips people had been posting on the forum and felt well prepared to undertake the challenge but the results say otherwise!I hope to try making macarons again one day soon and think that next time I will try a different recipe. Perhaps the one in the Ottolenghi cookbook or one from Tartelette's website. Any tips on why mine turned out this way would be appreciated!

For any one who wants to try the recipe, here it is.


Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip. You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

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Thursday, 22 October 2009

Cookbook review - John Torode's Chicken and other birds

Chicken used to be one of my favorite meats and I used to cook it at least once a week. Right now though I can't remember the last time I cooked it. Its not that I've gone off chicken but more that I'm a less fussy eater and cook a wider range of dishes. However this book could hold the next chicken recipe I cook. 256 pages on chicken and other birds, cooked in a variety of different styles and cuisines, with this book you'll never be short of inspiration for chicken again! But this book is more than a book of chicken, there are also lots of recipes and information on cooking game birds too.

The first thing I liked about this book was the removable jacket sleeve with a flow diagram of what to do with your chicken. From poaching or roasting it whole, to jointing and grilling it or using the meat in curries, pies or kebabs. This diagram inspires you to turn to the book for recipes, ideas and tips for getting the most out of your chicken. As well as the recipes which I will cover in a minute, there is lots of other useful information such as a calendar of the game seasons so you know what to eat when its at its best, a brief guide to all the types of bird you might wish to cook, what to look for when shopping for chicken (no not the 2 for £5 stickers), jointing a bird and a list of poultry and game dealers.

So on to the recipes. The book is split in to chapters on the following topics soups and stocks, snacks and starters, legs and breasts, salads, curries, barbecues, roasts, one pot wonders, tarts, pies and pasties, pasta, noodles and grains and finally confit, terrines, pates and pastrami. Each chapter has a brief introduction by John which will inspire you to try the recipes. Some of the recipes that I want to try include chicken Cesar salad, some of the 8 different chicken kebab ideas (oregano and garlic, chicken and prawns with pancetta, Chinese chicken with sesame seeds), the roast chicken with olives and lemons, and the chicken paella. There are nearly as many game bird recipes as their are chicken ones such as penne with ragout of game sausage and red wine, guinea fowl tagine, five-spiced Chinese duck with bok choy and oyster sauce and pheasant wrapped in proscuitto with polenta. I've never eaten game, let alone cooked it but should I ever decide to this will be the book I reach for. Scattered throughout the recipes John also offers lots of useful advice and tips.

Whilst I would not normal buy cookbooks that focus on one type of meat I do think this is a good book. Its stuffed full of mouth watering pictures and John's useful hints and tips. Although you may glance over this book on the shelf if your not a fan of chicken or think you know all there is to know as chicken I think this book is a great introduction to cooking other types of birds.

Thanks to Quadrille publishing for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Further information:
John Torode's chicken and other birds.
Published by Quadrille publishing, September 2009
Hardback, full colour photography, pages 256
ISBN 978 1 84400 715 8

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Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Authentic spaghetti carbonara

Until a few years ago I used to love the rich, creamy carbonara sauces most Italian restaurants serve. Ok so it's not the healthiest dish on the menu but it was a very occasional treat. Then suddenly I started to find the dish too rich for my tastes and stopped ordering it when in Italian restaurants. Maybe my tastes had changed or maybe I had had one too many rubbish carbonara's. Then as I started to get more and more in to cooking I discovered that true Italian carbonara's don't include cream at all! At this point I started to consider the idea of making a carbonara myself.

I discovered Italian Foodies sometime last year and have been following the blog since then (and also working my way through the posts/recipes from before I discovered it). It has to be up there as one of my favorite blogs. It is full of mouth watering pictures and deliciously simple recipes (mostly Italian - my favorite kind). You might have noticed that I have a list in my side bar called 'recipes I want to try'. I have been using this list to keep track of some of the recipes other blogs post that I want to try myself. Italian foodies authentic carbonara has been sat there for quiet sometime waiting for me to find the time to try it.

At the weekend we visited The Hollies farm shop in Cheshire. They were hosting a Great British food feast, with lots of local suppliers showcasing their produce and lots of food to sample. There was also a delicious hog roast and a showcase of 1000's of pumpkins (the advertising said 4000 but I didn't count them!). One of the products that caught our eye was their bacon. So armed with a packet of local bacon I decided to try my hand at a real authentic (cream free!) carbonara. I wasn't disappointed. The carbonara was simple to make and turned out fantastic, I didn't miss the cream and it really allowed the quality and taste of the bacon to shine. I wanted to share this recipe with you all and also book mark it here so I can make it again in the future. For the recipe and step by step photos see here.

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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

smoked bread recipe

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Anglesey Oyster and welsh food produce festival in Treaddur Bay, Anglesey. Whilst we were wandering round the different food stalls we came across Derimon smokery which as well as some of the smoked products you might expect (salmon, garlic, tomatoes, etc) had a few I wouldn't of expected like duck breast, mussels and bread flour. The bread flour grabbed my attention and the man of the stall was more than happy to tell me about it. He sells it in his shop and also supplies it to El Bulli! where it is used in bread buns for dipping in to oils and vinegars. He suggested using a ratio of 1 part smoked flour and 3 parts strong white bread flour as a starting point but to play around depending on how strong or mild you want the smoky flavour.

I started by using the formula he suggested and using it to make a pizza base for a ham and mushroom pizza. For me the ratio seemed just right. You got a good amount of smoky flavour which complimented the toppings well with out being overpowering. Next I decided to make a smoky bread loaf using the same ratio. The end result again was delicious and just the right amount of smoky flavour perfect for cheese on toast! I have also used some of the flour in my Fresh from the oven challenge which will be revealed on the 28th October. The only problem is I'm down to half a bag and have no idea where I can get another bag in Cheshire!Smoked bread flour loaf

125g smoked white bread flour
375g strong white bread flour
10g salt
5g fast action yeast
2 tbsp sunflower (or similar) oil
300ml warm water

  • Combine the bread flours, yeast and salt in a bowl. Add the water and oil slowly into the flour, stirring (I use a KitchenAid on low speed with a dough hook fitted) until well combined.
  • If using turn the mixer knead for a couple of minute until a smooth, satiny bread dough forms (if not using a mixer knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for approximately 10 minutes).
  • Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Leave to prove in a warm, draft free room until doubled in size (mine took 1.5-2hrs).
  • Preheat oven to 250C (or it's highest setting). Deflate the dough with your hands. Shape in to a ball and place on a baking sheet or if you own one in a lightly flour proving basket and leave to prove for 30minutes.
  • Transfer the bread from the proving basket (if using) to a baking sheet. Score a cross in the center and bake for 10 min at 250C then turn the oven down to 200C. Bake bread for a further 20-30 min. You can always cover the bread with tin foil if the crust is getting brown too fast. The bread is cooked when it sounds hollow when you tap on the base.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack.
I am submitting this entry to Yeastspotting.

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Guest post

Just to let you all know I have wrote a guest blog post on Nora the kitchen 'Splorer tonight. You can read it here, its a review of all the deliciousness posted on other food blogs this week.


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Daring cooks - Vietnamese chicken pho

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

There were two parts to this month's Daring Cooks' challenge, a compulsory and an optional challenge. The compulsory part was a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup (with the option to do it the quick way or a longer method). The optional part were deep fried chocolate wontons. Partly due to time (and partly due to not wanting to deep fry) I only did the noodle soup.

I have made a chicken noodle soup before, but as I commented then I felt the one I cooked was a bit over simplified. Since then I have bought a bottle of fish sauce but I still don't like fresh coriander. I substituted the chicken for pork (sliced up British pork loin) which I cooked in the broth. I made the recipe as described below using some homemade chicken stock from the freezer and simply omitted the fresh coriander from my bowl. The flavours of the broth were delicious and I didn't feel mine was lacking in flavours without coriander. I think I would make this again as it was quiet simple (especially for a 'daring' challenge) and flavourful.
Vietnamese Chicken Pho

Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions

Servings: Makes 4 servings


For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)


2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice


  1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
  2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
  4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
  5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
  6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
  7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
  8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

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Friday, 9 October 2009

Kidney disease cookbook

Since I started this blog I receive a lot of emails from people wanting me to promote their offers or latest campaigns but I have never really been keen on turning my blog in to free advertising space. However the email I got today was different and it is something that I am willing to make available to you and tell you about. Basically I was asked to help make a cookbook for people with kidney disease available on my website and I have agree to do just that.

One in 10 people will develop chronic kidney disease in their lifetimes in the UK alone. Some of you may be familiar with the chef Lawrence Keogh from BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen but may not be aware that he had to have a kidney transplant at the age of 35, and as a result is now limited to what foods he can consume i.e. minimal amounts of salt, sugar and fat. On the back of this he developed a cookbook especially tailored for people who have or have had problems with their kidneys.
The book contains 16 recipes and is designed to help people cook meals that are still exciting and flavourful but move away from the quite often dull low phosphate diets that many sufferers have to contend with. He wrote the book in conjunction with a renal dietician who includes information throughout the book on why each recipe is suitable in kidney disease. I think this is a great little booklet for patients suffering from kidney disease and as such I am happy to support this campaign. Currently the booklet is only available free of charge from renal dieticians. However the aim is to make this cookbook available to as many kidney disease suffers as possible, so if you or someone you know suffers from kidney disease send me an email (purelyfood @ and I will email you a copy of the PDF.

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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A weekend in the Lakes

This last weekend myself and my boyfriend went up to the lake district for a couple of nights. We had a great time relaxing, walking and enjoying delicious food. I thought I would share with you my photos and thoughts on some of the places we visited and/or ate.

We stayed at a very nice little B&B in the heart of Ambleside (stumbling distance from the pubs, restaurants and shops). The owners were really friendly and helpful, the breakfasts used local products where ever possible and our room was lovely and perfect for our needs.

We arrived Friday afternoon and after unpacking we set out to explore Ambleside and book somewhere to eat Friday and Saturday evening. Whilst wandering round Ambleside we discovered a fantastic specialist food shop - Lucy's Specialist Grocers. It stocks a wide range of food from around Cumbria including, breads, cheeses, fruit and veg and a vast selection of jams and chutneys. We bought a selection of spices shown below, all for under £2.50 (much more reasonable than the supermarket and you can control how much you buy).They also have two restaurants in Ambleside (but you really need to book ahead) and also a cooking school near Kendal.

Friday night we ate at The Glass House Restaurant and I really wish I hadn't left my camera in the B&B. The restaurant is a listed building, a converted mill and still has a working waterwheel (although it wasn't on when we were there). The restaurant is on a series of mezzanine flours and we were right at the top where all the machinery that powers the waterwheel are still visible on the ceiling. The food was delicious and reasonably priced for the lake district. Starters were around £5-6 and mains ranged from £10-14 (with the exception of a couple of more expensive dishes like fillet steak). I had the Caesar salad with warm poached egg and maple glazed pancetta to start and char grilled pork chop with bubble and squeak and courgette ribbons served with a creamy mustard sauce. My boyfriend started with crispy duck, bean sprouts, water chestnut and white radish salad and had the fish pie as a main. All the food was delicious including the complimentary bread basket to start with which I believe was home made.

On Saturday the weather started out wet and windy but if your going to the lakes you expect this. So we put on our walking boots and waterproofs and headed off to Grizedale Forest hoping the weather would improve. Thankfully it did, but not before pouring down on us! We had a good long walk through parts of the forest looking at the sculptures and as an added bonus we picked lots of blackberries.

By early afternoon we were starving so headed back to the visitors centre where there was a fantastic cafe. I don't know about anyone else but I find canteen style cafes at popular local attractions are either really bad (school dinner like, over cooked or simply prepacked sandwiches) or really good (local produce, flavourful and a reasonable amount of choice). Thankfully The Cafe in the Forrest at Grizdale fell in to the later category. The menu consisted of the usual burgers, sausages and chips but there were also casserole of the day (beef, mushrooms and Hawskhead ale) and venison burgers. I had the casserole of the day and my boyfriend had the pie of the day (Coniston beef and red wine) both cost approximately £7. Both dishes were very generous in size (the pie looks a lot smaller in this picture than it was), packed with flavour and perfect warming comfort food after a long walk. To finish with we shared a slice of their homemade toffee fudge cake. Again the portion size was very generous (more than enough to share) and the cake delicious. The only problem was it looked so delicious we forgot to take a photo!
Saturday evening we ate at Zeffirellis restaurant, a Mediterranean inspired vegetarian restaurant, cinema and jazz bar. Most Friday and Saturday evenings they have free live music upstairs in the jazz bar. We went both nights and really enjoyed ourselves. The food again was delicious and reasonably priced (around £9 for mains and pizza's). I had aubergine and mozzarella parmigiana and my boyfriend had vegetarian red bean chilli. Both dishes were very good portion sizes and full of flavour and neither of us missed the meat (a sign of a good vegeterian meal in my eyes). To finish with decided to spoil ourselves with a dessert each. I had their speciality chocolate sundae (all I can say is it was truly delicious) and my boyfriend had the tiramisu.
On Sunday it was time to pack up and head off home but not before spending the morning in Keswick followed by lunch and a spot of shopping at the Rhedged centre. They have 3 cafes and a selection of shops most selling local products. In the food shop we picked up a jar of Westmoorland's chutney and some diced shoulder of venison. If any one has any good recipes for venison stew/casserole which would be good for someone whose never cooked or eaten venison please let me know! The chutney was delicious in a simple cheese sandwich when we got home on Sunday evening. The bread is homemade Irish Blaas which I made before going away using Eat like a girls recipe. The bread is delicious with a soft light texture. I will certainly be making them again.

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Monday, 5 October 2009

Chocolate, pear and orange squares

When I asked my boyfriend what dessert or cake he would like me to bake for his birthday the response I got was anything with chocolate and pears. The chocolate was no surprise (he LOVES chocolate) but the pear threw me a little. Chocolate and pear may be a classic, tasty pairing but none of my recipe books seemed to have any recipe ideas. Then a couple of weeks before his birthday I won a copy of 200 cakes and bakes, published by Hamlyn, via a weekly contest by Octopus books on twitter. When the book arrived I was pleased to see a delicious looking, simple to make chocolate, pear and orange squares recipe (a traybake).The cake was indeed simple to make and the end result was delicious. It rose well and was light and moist and the flavours mixed well together.
The rest of the recipes in this little book also look deliciously tempting. To name just a few that appeal to me there is a strawberry macaroon cake, chocolate truffle cake, chocolate and chestnut roulade and triple chocolate pretzels. The book is full of mouthwatering photographs to tempt you and the instructions all seem clear and simple.

Hopefully you will also notice an improvement in my photographs on this entry. I have just bought one of these mini photography studios and have noticed an improvement already. Hopefully once I have more time to play around with it they will get better still. The only disappointment with this purchase is there were no instructions provided what so ever. I noticed that a lot of the pictures I took on a white background had a pinkness to them. If anyone knows what is causing this and how to correct it that would be helpful.

Chocolate, pear and orange squares
Serves 8

175g butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
125g self-raising flour
75g self-raising wholemeal flour
25g coco powder
grated rind and 2 tbsp juice from 1 orange
4 small conference pears, peeled, halved and cored

To finish
sifted icing sugar
1 little grated chocolate
a little grated orange rind

Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in alternate spoonfuls of beaten egg and flour until all has been added and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cocoa, orange rind and juice then spoon the mixture into an 18x28cm roasting tin lined with nonstick baking paper and spread the surface level.

Cut each pear half into long thin slices and fan out slightly but keep together in their original shape. Carefully lift on top of the cake and arrange in 2 rows of 4.

Bake in a preheated oven, 180C (350F), gas 4 for 30-35 minutes until well risen and the cake springs back when gently pressed with a fingertip.

Lift out of the tin using the lining paper, cut into 8 pieces and peel off the paper. Dust with icing sugar and sprinkle with grated chocolate and orange zest. Serve warm or cold as it is, or with ice cream or custard. Store in an air tight tin for up to 2 days.


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