Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Frying Pan Dipping Bread

This is not a bread for making toast and marmalade or a quick sandwich; it’s a simple, dense bread for tearing apart and dipping into spicy soups and stews. I resurrected this recipe from an old notebook that I had been ignoring for some time and I’ve no idea where the original idea came from.

Dipping Bread

You’ll need a frying pan of 23 cm diameter or thereabouts – it will be easier if it’s a non-stick one. This should serve 4 people.

450 g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp sugar
170 ml coconut milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fast-action dried yeast

For the topping:
     2 tsp sesame seeds
     ½ tsp dried thyme
     1 tsp sumac
     1 tsp sea salt flakes

Put the flour, salt, sugar and a grind or two of pepper in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Combine the wet ingredients in a jug and stir in the dried yeast. Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix to form a firm dough. If the dough doesn’t quite come together, add a little (but only a little) water. Knead the dough briefly in the bowl, then roll it out on a floured board. Aim to get a round shape of dough about 1 cm deep. Cover with a tea towel and leave the dough on its board somewhere warm for 2 or 3 hours.

Scatter the topping ingredients over the dough and roll them into the surface. As you flatten the dough, it will tend to crack; make sure the topping mix works its way into the cracks. Don’t flatten the dough too much – you don’t want it to be larger than your pan. Some of the topping won’t stick and will fall off, but that doesn’t matter, there’s plenty of it. Shape the dough to the size of your pan by cutting off any stray, unshapely bits.

Spray or wipe the surface of the frying pan with a very small amount of oil. Press the dough into place in the pan and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes. By this time the base should be browned and crusty but not blackened and burnt. Place the pan under a medium-hot grill to complete the cooking. This should take around 5 minutes – be careful not to burn it. Cool a little on a wire rack, cut into slices as you would a cake and let everyone tear these apart as they wish.

Dipping Bread 2

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Lemon Queen of Puddings

I’ve always liked the idea of the very English, very old-fashioned Queen of Puddings – anything topped with meringue has to be a good thing after all. But the reality is that I find the sweetness can be overwhelming and the texture of the breadcrumbs can seem a little odd. For this version I’ve used a combination of lemon and almond flavours and I’ve substituted cake crumbs for the bread.
Lemon Queen of Puds 1

This recipe works best using a zesty, sharp lemon curd and, though you could make your own, your local supermarket probably has a decent alternative (Waitrose sells a particularly good zesty curd). It’s possible to add more than the 2 spoonfuls of the lemon curd which will give more of a lemony sauce, but which will very possibly make the pudding look just a bit too messy for its own good.

600 ml milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
20 g butter, plus a bit for greasing the dish
75 g cake or brioche crumbs (Madeira cake works very well)
25 g ground almonds
4 eggs, separated
250 g caster sugar
4 or 5 drops pure almond essence
2 tbsp lemon curd, as sharp as you can get

Grease a flat 1 litre dish. Pour the milk into a saucepan, add the lemon zest and butter and gently warm through, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted. Don’t let the milk get too hot. Lightly whisk the egg yolks with 25 g of the caster sugar. Pour the milk mixture over the egg yolks and sugar, whisking as you pour. Stir in the almond essence, the cake crumbs and the ground almonds. Pour this would-be custard into the prepared dish. Set aside for 30 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 170°C (for a fan oven, a little hotter otherwise). Put the dish into a roasting tin and pour boiling water around it – it should come about two thirds of the way up the side of the dish, ideally. Place in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the custard is lightly set but still has a little wobble in the centre. Take out of the oven, remove the dish from its water bath and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Spread the lemon curd evenly over the surface of the set custard. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Whisk the egg whites to the stiff peak stage then gradually whisk in the remaining 225 g of caster sugar until you have a glossy meringue. You could pipe this onto the top of the pudding but I prefer to spoon it over and rough the surface up a little. Bake in the oven for 8 –10 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned.

I think this pudding tastes best at room temperature and while you’re feeling nostalgic or watching The Railway Children.

Lemon Queen of Puds 2

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Carrot and Tomato Soup

Toward the end of this long, cold winter I have to admit that I’m getting a bit fed up with the idea of yet more root veg. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with them, but carrots seemed so much more interesting at the start of the winter. However, using a good can of Italian tomatoes adds a bit of sunshine and balances the sweetness nicely.

This should make 5 or 6 portions

Carrot and Tomato Soup

Carrots in a Can1 onion, finely chopped
500g (prepared weight) carrots, chopped
1 potato, about 150 g – 200 g, peeled and chopped
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 litre chicken stock
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
½ tsp sugar
Sprig of fresh rosemary
2 tsp sherry vinegar
A little lemon juice

In a large frying pan, soften the onion in a little oil, adding a drop or two of water to prevent it browning or cooking too quickly. Add the carrots, potato, chilli flakes and a grind or two of black pepper then pour over 750 ml of the stock. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan and cook gently for 15 minutes.

Add the can of tomatoes, the sugar, rosemary and sherry vinegar and stir everything together thoroughly. Put the lid back on the pan, bring back to a simmer and continue cooking gently for another 10 minutes or until the carrots are completely tender.

Let the mixture cool a little. Discard the rosemary and liquidise the soup, adding as much of the remaining stock as needed to get the consistency you want.

Adjust the seasoning and add a squeeze or two of lemon to taste.