The Ordinary Cook

Back soon, hopefully

Just to say to all my lovely readers, that I am currently on holiday and was due to be back to normality and home again today.  However, due to a volcano erupting in Iceland, I can’t get home until next Thursday.  This means an extra week away for us, but  also an extra week until I can get back to regular blogging and reading everyone else’s lovely blogs. 

I hope to be back to my kitchen and cooking again soon and back to my much missed Mac.

Kath x

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A white loaf (again)

I think I may be becoming a little obsessed with bread and yeast cookery generally. I am really enjoying the challenge of getting a better loaf each time. It doesn’t always happen, I have to admit.  It is only relatively recently that I have had success with bread as you will see from one of my early posts on this site about white bread.  I now make bread at least two or three times a week and I have made lots of other yeast based cakey type things recently.  It may not be good for the waistline but it is very good for the soul.

The bread in this picture is a slight variation on my earlier white loaf post.  In this one I use half milk/ half water and a bit of butter to make a lovely soft crumb that is really tasty.  I love my spelt loaf but sometimes all you want is a soft loaf of white bread (with a good crust, of course) and this is for these moments.

I was reading A Wee Bit of Cooking‘s blog the other day, in which she cooks a loaf based on Dan Lepard’s recipe and he has a very interesting way of making bread; he mixes the dough, lets it rest, kneads very briefly, rests and repeats.  Visit A Wee Bit of Cooking for the link, it’s worth a look.  Anyway, I was inspired to try at least some of this method, so I now mix my dough and then leave it to rest for at least ten minutes before I go back to knead it (or at least switch on the mixer and let it do the hard work!). I can’t quite get my head around not needing to knead.  This resting seems to work well and does improve the crumb.

500g strong (or very strong) plain flour
7g sachet easy bake yeast
1½ tsp fine salt
150ml milk
150ml water
1 oz butter, diced

Method

Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.  Heat the milk and water to hand hot in a small saucepan and add the diced butter.  Pour the liquid into the flour and, using your hands, combine well to a smooth dough (on the slightly sticky side rather than the dry side).  Leave to rest for about ten minutes in the bowl.  Turn the dough out on to a wooden surface and knead well for about ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Clean the bowl and grease with butter or oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a bin liner or cling film.  Leave the bowl in a draught-free place until the dough has almost doubled in size.

Deflate the dough by using your fingertips and lift out of the bowl.  Now you could reshape it into a ball and leave it to rise again, which if you have the time is well worth doing as it does improve the texture of the bread . Otherwise, shape the dough into a round by stretching it under itself or shape into a baton by  flattening the dough into a square, then roll the dough much like you would a swiss roll and then using your fingers seal the join very well. Stretch the dough lengthwise until twice as long.  Fold over one-third to the middle and then fold the remaining third on to the top. Flatten again into a square with your fingers and roll up again as before, sealing well and then rolling gently into an evenly shaped baton loaf (thanks again to Daniel Steven’s Bread book for his tips on making bread).

Preheat your oven to as hot as it will go and place a baking tray or stone in to heat up.

Place the shaped loaf onto a well-floured tray and sprinkle the top well with flour.  Cover again with the bin liner and leave to prove for about 20 minutes or until nicely risen, not quite doubled in size.  Don’t allow it to rise too much as you want the yeast to have some energy left.

Slash the tops and gently pick up the loaf and place directly onto the tray or stone in the oven.  Check after twenty minutes as you may need to turn the heat down for the last ten minutes of cooking.  It should take about 30 minutes for the loaf to cook, depending on how well cooked you like your crust. The loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the base when it’s cooked.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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New addition!

There are no recipes for this post, just a happy report on a brilliant new addition to my kitchen.  It’s my birthday today and this is what Mr OC got for me:

Yippee, hooray! Have you ever seen such a thing of beauty?

I have coveted a KitchenAid for many a year and now I am the very happy owner of one.  Tonight, I will definitely be dreaming of all the brilliant times that me and my KitchenAid will be sharing together.

I am one very happy Ordinary Cook!!!

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Granola

I still have some Total Yoghurt!  Well, they did give me a lot.  I have been meaning to make granola for ages.  Mr OC eats a lot of muesli and I have a sweet tooth so this is something that pleases both of us.

Before I made it I did a Google search to find different recipes that I could adapt to suit us and I was really pleased to see that Margaret’s post on her lovely blog Kitchen Delights came near the top.  My recipe is very similar to the one that Margaret uses, (if it meet’s Margaret’s expectations then who am I to argue?) just with a tweaking of added extras and a little less maple syrup.

It didn’t really clump together,maybe more maple syrup would have helped (so perhaps I should call it toasted,sweetened muesli instead?) but it tastes really good.  It is very good sprinkled over yoghurt or with milk.  It’s also lovely to dip your hand into when passing. The only problem I have with it is that I keep eating it.

300g porridge oats
100g pecan nuts
100g cashews
50g pumpkin seeds
50g pine kernels
20g macadamia
50 g dessicated coconut
40g dried cranberries
40g dried blueberries
40g dried cherries
100ml maple syrup
2 tbsp groundnut oil
2 tbsp local honey

Method

Spread the oats, nuts and seeds onto a baking sheet.  In a jug mix together the maple syrup, honey and oil.  Drizzle this over the oat mixture and stir.

Place the baking tray in the  centre of a preheated oven at 180°c and set the timer for five minutes.  It will take the mixture about 20 minutes in total to cook but you do need to stir it every five minutes because the mixture will cook quicker at the edges. When you have fetched it out and stirred it two or three times (about 15 minutes into the cooking) and it is beginning to colour add the desiccated coconut to the mix and stir to combine.  Cook for a further five minutes. When it looks and smells lovely and toasted take it out of the oven and leave to cool.  Add the berries and mix well.

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Mince pie

Here is a mince pie made with the Christmas mincemeat, shortly before being polished off by me.  I like mince pies in all forms, whether made with shortcrust or puff pastry.  Last night I made them with shortcrust pastry.

As you will see from the picture at the bottom we love mince pies so much in this house that we also make them during the summer holidays.

This makes 24 mince pies.  You can freeze mince pies in the patty tins, once frozen you can then place them in a freezer bag for easier storage. When you are ready to cook simply place them back into the patty tin. They will need a few more minutes if cooking from frozen.

350g plain flour
175g butter
cold water

450g mincemeat

1 egg, beaten
light soft brown sugar or icing sugar to dust

Method

I always make my pastry in a food processor as it means you handle the pastry less and it makes for a crumblier texture.  Place the flour and butter in a processor and pulse until it becomes the texture of breadcrumbs. (If you are doing it by hand rub the butter and the flour lightly through your fingertips, lifting your hands up high in the air over the bowl as you do it until all of the butter and flour is combined and the texture of breadcrumbs).  Add enough cold water to form a dough (probably about 4-5 tablespoons, but add carefully) and mix until just combined.  Remove from the bowl and place in a plastic bag or cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick.  Using a 7.5cm round pastry cutter, cut 24 rounds out of the pastry and using a 6 cm round pastry cutter cut another 24 rounds out.  You will need to re-roll the pastry to use it all up and I normally do this in two batches, splitting the dough into one ball that is two-thirds of the dough for the larger rounds and the second ball that is one-third of the dough for the smaller rounds.

Place the larger rounds into the bottom of each hole in two patty tins. Using a pastry brush, brush a little egg around the top of each pie.

Place a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pie, don’t overfill or it will burst out and burn during cooking.  Place the smaller rounds on top, pressing around the edge gently. Pierce a small hole in the top of each pie with the point of a sharp knife. Brush the top of each pie with egg.

Cook in a preheated oven at 200°c (400°f, gas mark 6) for 25-30 minutes until they are golden brown.  Dust with sugar or icing sugar as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Christmas mincemeat with pecans and dried cherries

Well I missed Stir-up Sunday but I did manage to get round to making my mincemeat this week. It is worth making just for having the smell of Christmas in the house for a couple of days whilst it sits and soaks. I used Delia Smith’s recipe as a guide but added dried sour cherries and pecan nuts – two of my favourite things. I made the first batch last night, baking twelve and freezing twelve, and I am deeming this mincemeat a success. They get eaten pretty quickly in this house as the girls are both fans of a mince-pie too.  I am looking forward to making the next batch already. I use vegetarian suet so that I can offer them to anyone who may call.

This recipe makes 6lb (2.75kg) of mincemeat.

450g Bramley apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped (I used two large apples to get this weight)
200g vegetarian suet
200g raisins
200g sultanas
200g currants
100g dried sour cherries
200g whole candied peel, chopped finely
350g soft dark brown sugar
grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
50g pecan nuts, chopped
4 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ whole nutmeg, grated
6 tbsp good quality brandy

Method

Mix all of the ingredients, except the brandy, in a large bowl, making sure that everything is well combined.  Cover with a cloth and leave to stand for twelve hours.  Cover it loosely with foil and then place it in a low oven (120°c, 225°f) for three hours so that the suet melts and covers the rest of the ingredients.  This will help preserve the mincemeat for longer.  Allow it to go completely cold.  Stir the brandy in well (this is when the smell is at its most delicious and really is Christmas in a bowl!) and then spoon into sterile jars and seal.

Mincemeat will last for twelve months in a cool dark place.

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After the suet has melted
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Horseradish sauce

I roasted a rib of beef for sunday lunch this week and made this horseradish sauce to go with it.  I was impressed with its fresh and zingy taste, much nicer than anything that you can buy in a jar.  We only grew one root of horseradish in the garden this year and this is it, but we will definitely be making space in the garden for some more next year as it really is lovely to have a freshly made sauce.  The grating of the horseradish root does make your eyes stream though so be prepared. Making it with yoghurt rather than the usual cream means it is a lot healthier.  This means you can have more with none of the guilt.

2 tbsp horseradish root, grated finely
1 tsp white wine vinegar
150g greek yoghurt
salt and pepper to taste

Method
Place the grated horseradish into a bowl with the white wine vinegar and mix well, stir in the yoghurt and add salt and pepper to taste.  Chill and serve with roast beef.

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