I promised that I would show you what to do with the leftover puff pastry after making the cheap and easy tart. Well – here it is. Even cheaper, and even easier, and doesn’t even need a knife and fork to eat. (Less washing up – vital for the lazy cook.)
Roll out the pastry and sprinkle about a third of the cheese on top.
Lightly oil a baking tray (or use one that you have just cooked a cheap and easy tart on) and twist the strips of pastry before arranging them on the tray. Leave plenty of room for expansion.
Making bread is lovely, and is about the easiest thing possible. It seems to have a kind of mystique around it, and while a nice big loaf of tiger bread from the supermarket is nice, nothing beats a nice chunk of tasty homemade bread, with butter thickly spread on top. Really good bread can be like a savoury cake – it doesn’t need anything else and has its own depths of flavour and texture.
Ignore weights and measures and just go by feel – it is almost impossible to mess up. It feels wrong calling this a recipe, so here is my method. Everyone has their own little variations, but it is all basically flour, water and yeast.
Put some bread flour in a mixing bowl. I like about a third wholemeal and two thirds white, but go with what you feel like (or happen to have in the cupboard) Apparently newer flour is better, but I’ve never noticed a difference, so buy it when it is on offer and keep in a sealed container.
You want approximately half a normal sized bag of flour. but a bit more will just make a bit more bread and vis versa.
Next you need yeast. With instant yeast, put in one packet, or do whatever the container says on the side for other types.
Then add a good big spoon of sugar and a smaller one of salt, and a big glug of oil of some kind (olive is nicer, but vegetable or sunflower is fine)
Here is my secret – you don’t have to, but you will get a better result if you crush a vitamin C tablet and add it to the mix.
Get some blood temperature water – it should just feel pleasantly warm to your fingers. Mix it in bit by bit until the dough looks like, well, dough. Don’t worry if you put too much water in – just add more flour.
This is the fun bit- chuck loads of flour onto a surface – a scrubbed table, a chopping board, whatever. Then attack the dough – pull it, squash it, squish it, roll it. I press any passing children into service for this bit – my four year old is a dab hand. If things get sticky, add more flour. Do that till you, or the child, gets bored. Then put the dough back into the bowl and put it somewhere warm – imagine it is a cat, and put it where a cat would go. Unless there is already a cat there – in that case, put it somewhere else. You can also put it in the fridge overnight if you like, which is slower, but can give better results.
When the dough is twice the size it used to be, get it out and do another knead. Then find some kind of baking tray and put the dough on it – make sure there is room for it to become double the size. Put your oven on to heat up – about 200 degrees if you have a oven that lets you choose. I used to use a range oven and just used the hot bit. Put the dough somewhere warm again – near the heating up oven could be good – until it has expanded to slightly less than twice its size. Then put in the oven.
It will be quite happy in the oven while other stuff is cooking, or I have even baked it in the oven after it is turned off from cooking a big meal.
The bread is ready when it a) looks like bread and b) if you pick it up and tap the bottom, it sounds hollow.
My slapdash approach to recipes does mean that the bread turns out different each time, but I like that. You can also add seeds, garlic, olives, cheese, onion – whatever you like, and you can put it in weird shapes if that floats your boat.
Ooh, and something worth trying is to get the oven steamy – I sometimes put a yorkshire pudding dish of hot water on the bottom of the oven. It makes the crust nicer and seems to make the bread softer.
Good, with that decided, I shall now share with you my recipe for beetroot risotto. A lot of people turn their nose up at beetroot, usually because for some very strange reason, they don’t like pickled beetroot. I can’t fathom why they wouldn’t love it, the stuff is beautiful on a cheese sandwich with some salad cream, and a handful of ready salted crisps shoved into it. You just have to hope that the beetroot doesn’t fall out of the sandwich and stain your clothes.
On the topic of beetroot staining you, for this recipe you will require rubber gloves when grating the beetroot (there’s a sentence I didn’t expect to be writing when I woke up this morning). Or, if you like having bright pink hands, you can omit the gloves.
It also helps to have all of your ingredients prepared and ready to put into the pan whilst making this, as you cannot leave the pan whilst cooking a risotto, as it has to be stirred continuously.
Right. I’m going to start on a MASSIVE rant. I’m not some supermarket hating, smug food writer who uses words like “bounty” to describe a lot of food, telling you to boycott supermarkets, and only get your fruit, veg and meat from farmers markets, I’m just not that kind of writer.
It’s not that I love supermarkets, and think the sun shines out of the CEO of Tesco’s arse, either. But I do wish they would stock seasonal vegetables, such as pumpkins, when they are in season (which is a massively long one, too, as they store for ages, too!)… sadly, supermarkets only sell pumpkins about 1 week before Halloween, and then come the 1st of November, you’ll not see them for another year.
Added onto that, there’s no point in buying a supermarket pumpkin. Don’t bother. They’re crap. They only sell big carving pumpkins, brilliant if you want a stupid orange face outside your front door, but crap if you want to eat it. So on that note, before you try this recipe, go to a farmers market, or a decent greengrocers, and if you can’t get a pumpkin, use a butternut sqaush, it’s still very similar!
Spiced Pumpkin Soup
(makes a huge amount)
P.S. This recipe makes a lot of soup, best invite the family and friends over to help polish it off!
It’s coming up to Christmas. People are stocking up on advocaat, sloe gin and all other sorts of booze to get squiffy on over Christmas. I thought I should join them all. The only thing is… just buying booze, it’s a bit boring. I mean, sure, it’ll get me drunk, and that’ll be great, anything to make life a little more bearable, but that’s just not for me. Why buy flavoured vodka based drinks, when you can make them with whatever you want?!
So now, I introduce to you:
UNCLE JOE’S MINT BALLS VODKA
All you need is 2 bags of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, a half bottle of vodka, a Kilner jar, and some patience…
Obviously, you don’t have to add both bags of sweeties – I added about one and a half and kept tasting until it tasted minty enough for me. If you want to do a whole bottle, just get four bags of Mint Balls. Sorted.
Now I can recreate a night out in Wigan Pier in the comfort of my bedroom…