Tag Archives: River Cottage

Let Them Eat Bread

20 Jul

Yesterday was a big first for me.  I made bread.  Yup, real bread.  My very own bread.  Please excuse me, I am still a little bit stunned by it.

I used to make biscuits and scones when I was in my teens, but making bread always seemed a bit too hard, or maybe a bit too hippyish.  People who made their own bread were “back to earthers” with huge gardens, wood burning stoves, and irregular bathing habits.

Well, to be fair, I was in my teens!  Now I’m nearing fifty and discovering that I am enjoying expanding my cooking repertoire to include baking again.  I haven’t made a biscuit or a scone since I was in my early twenties.  This will probably change, but, for the moment, I am luxuriating in my new found bread making skills.

Not that it takes much skill to make soda bread.  Which is what I made.  I haven’t the time to faff around with yeast and proving the dough.  Quick and dirty Irish soda bread is the way to go for me.

Once again, I can thank Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall for the push.  I was watching the “River Cottage Every Day” episode on bread on Saturday evening.  Hugh visited a baker and they made soda bread.  Hugh made traditional soda bread, but the baker made a version containing apples, cheese and Guinness.  I was surprised at how quick it was to make a loaf of bread, so I decided to make one for myself.

The problem with ideas from television is that you don’t have all the instructions, including things like oven temperature, and exact measurements.  A quick google just left me confused when I found literally hundreds of different soda bread recipes with massive variations in oven temperature and cooking time.  I decided to go with a mean average which resulted in an oven temperature of 200 degrees C and a cooking time of 30 minutes.  Worked a treat.

I was very proud when I pulled my scrumptious smelling loaf soda bread with chia, sesame, and poppy seeds, out of the oven.

I served warm buttered slices of it with my homemade onion soup for dinner.

Bloody delicious.

Bye Bye Boring Breakfasts

13 Jul

Ever since I was a small child I’ve hated breakfast.  It came from either a cardboard box or the toaster, and was without imagination, taste, or culinary merit.  Except for on Sundays, when my dad did a fry up.  Eggy bread, bacon, and fried up leftover potatoes are a treasured memory of my childhood.  Though not something my vegetarian self would now go near.

Toast I can eat, but as I am not a lover of jams, or honey, or meat pastes, my toast tended to be smeared with butter and marmite and that was it.

I totally loath prepackaged cereals.  Even as a child I considered them disgusting and that the cardboard packaging probably tasted better than the contents, and, arguably, had more nutritional value.

However, thanks to Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, boring breakfasts are now a thing of the past and I look forward to my first meal of the day. 🙂

I came across Hugh’s book “River Cottage Every Day” at the library and it had a section on breakfasts.  This was a revelation to me.  Hugh explained how breakfast could be exciting and interesting, and what to do to make it so, and even how left overs (including cake) can be utilized to make a delicious meal to start the day.

Now my weekends are full with preparing tasty foods to be used for weekday breakfasts.

Fruit compotes are my main stay.  At the moment I have large containers of Pear and Cacao compote, and Rhubarb, Honey & Cinnamon compote in my fridge.

I also make drop scones (pikelets) out of wholemeal flour and oats for a tasty change from toast.  They are particularly tasty when smeared with yoghurt with compote piled on top.

I  now keep lots of different things to mix and match my breakfasts on a daily basis. My fridge always has greek yoghurt and thickened cream in it.

My larder contains rolled oats (mixed with fruit compote and left for 10 minutes to soften it’s delicious and filling), honey, slivered almonds, crumbed walnuts, and chia seeds – all of which are tasty when used to enhance a bowl of compote.

I keep as much fresh fruit as I can to add to my breakfast bowl as well.  Passionfruit, strawberries, cherries, and blackberries being my personal favourites.

As for leftovers, well, they can definitely be useful.  Yesterday I made lentil stew for dinner.  I didn’t make dumplings, as my memories of dumplings tend to be of things the approximate size, shape, texture, and density of a musket ball.  Instead, I made individual yorkshire puddings out of wholemeal flour, eggs and milk.  I ended up with a container of left over puddings.  So for breakfast this morning I had several yorkshire puddings smeared with honey, then a dollop of yoghurt added, followed by a dollop of rhubarb compote.

The result?  A  breakfast so bloody delicious that I wish I had made more yorkshire puddings than I did!

Can’t wait for breakfast tomorrow. 🙂

The Experimental Vegetarian

6 May

You will remember that before Christmas I started making some changes to my lifestyle, including diet.

Over the last few months the diet has evolved into a vegetarian one, with the exception of a little fish and chicken.

Part of this was for health reasons.  I found that red meat was sitting in my stomach like lead after eating it, so I thought, maybe I was eating a little too much of it.  I ate more chicken and fish instead, but in the last couple of months, even those have been pared back in favour of vegetables.  Lots of vegetables.

I enjoy cooking and what I have discovered with my foray into vegetarian cooking is that there is a lot more scope and a lot more possibilities with vegetables than with meat.  I am combining veges into complimentary mixes and really enjoying creating delicious, savoury dishes.  There are more curries coming out of my kitchen than out of a Mumbai market.

Vegetables give me more scope, because there is an almost endless variety.  With meat you have chicken, fish, lamb, beef, and pork easily available.  There are at least ten times more vegetables available at the supermarket, without the more exotic fare that is available at the specialist greengrocer.

I am also expanding my personal taste horizons.  Cooking purely with vegetables has lead me to experiment with veg I hadn’t tried before.  So far celeriac, Thai eggplant, golden beets, pak choy, oyster mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, and cipollini onions have been added to my list of delicious comestibles.  And I still have so many new vegetables to try.

It helps that we have a supermarket chain, Coles, that has a fantastic fruit and vegetable department.  Their veges are fresher and of better quality than many other supermarkets.  Of especial interest is the fact that they now carry what are known as heirloom vegetables.  Veges in their oldest known form before breeders got their hands on them.  They now carry carrots in various hues, rainbow chard, and golden beets.  Before I would have had to go to the specialist greengrocer to get my hands on these goodies.

A little Asian supermarket near me is also providing me with new and interesting vegetables to try.  Any vegetarian living in my area is truly blessed with the amount of good quality produce available.

I was also lucky that my foray into vegetarianism coincided with the ABC showing “River Cottage Veg Every Day”.  For weeks I have been watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall cook tasty looking dishes every Saturday afternoon.  I will freely admit that the series, and the accompanying book, have been a massive source of inspiration for me.

I find that I now tend to describe myself as a vegetarian.  I mostly cook vegetarian dishes.  The only meat that I cook is the chicken that goes into my winter Chicken and Three Vegetable soup.  I try to only buy organic or free range chicken if I can.  If I am going to cook and eat any meat at all, I want it to be as ethical a choice as I can possibly make.

Fish I don’t cook much.  I have more of a tendency to eat that when I am out, especially if where I am eating has bugger all vegetarian dishes on the menu.  For all vegetarian eating has become more mainstream, cafes and restaurants are slow to catch on.  One or two miserable vegetarian dishes on the menu, and they are mostly boring and unappetizing.  

I won’t ever go vegan.  I like my milk and yoghurt too much for that.  As it stands I am happy and content eating my vegetable based meals.

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