With most new spring bulbs planted snugly in the ground to appear from early January, I am ashamed to say that I am sitting looking at two huge boxes full of bulbs still in their net bags. I have taken it upon myself to plant over a thousand spring bulbs for a friend for whom spring 2017 will be significant, as it is likely to be her last. I wrote a couple of years ago in ‘Truly’ about Bhavna, my friend who is living with an aggressive brain tumour. Then I told you about her love of spices and pepper. However she also adores colour – the brighter the better, so this spring planting scheme will be a blaze! With Bhavna and her family’s agreement, we will plant the already potted bulbs by digging up the lawn to create new beds. Come January–April she will be able to enjoy the spring colour from the house. It should be quite a display.
I can’t be trusted with a bulb catalogue, especially those with ‘wholesale’ on the front as you can only buy in quantity, pampering to my weakness for doing things to excess. As well as the thousand plus bulbs for Bhavna, I also have 200 wild garlic rhizomes and 500 saffron crocus bulbs (Crocus sativus) to plant in my own garden and am thankful for two young apprentices (13 years going on 14) who will be coming to help me tomorrow.
The saffron crocus grows well in this country although they flower in autumn rather than spring, which is why I am worried I have so many of them trying to flower in their net bags now. A very small amount of saffron can totally change the aroma and colour of a dish, and happily so, since saffron is the most expensive spice in the world – gosh I could be sitting on a gold mine! What I must master still, is the skill it takes to collect (with tweezers), dry and grade the saffron laced stamens. So….look out. My saffron could be sold in Ludwell Stores in a couple of years – who couldn’t resist a few grams of local gold dust!
Whilst I love the intense colour of saffron, for me I associate it more with summer, so at this time of year I turn to cinnamon. Christmas memories for me are sparked by the smell of cinnamon, in iced biscuits and mulled wine for example, filling the house with their amazing aromas. I am a great fan of cinnamon, probably using it more in sweet rather than in savoury dishes although they can be spectacular there too, adding colour and depth to Moroccan dishes like tagine. I might add cinnamon to ice cream, apple puree, custards and pies perhaps with some star anise or nutmeg. To add a word of caution however, I find ground cinnamon stales more quickly than any other spice so check the best before date or you will be adding coloured dust to your dishes, rather unpleasant and disappointing. Do try these wonderful cinnamon rolls this season, giving yourself a few relaxing moments to knead and roll before family and guests arrive home to the wondrous smell of home baking and yes, of Christmas. Have a merry one everyone.
Makes 24 if you are skilled and experienced, however for those trying this for the first time (and you really must – it’s easy-peasy) you will have anything between 1 merged lumpy loaf for tearing and sharing or 30 smaller buns. Read the recipe first as it’s best to have trays buttered and mixes made beforehand.
Approx. £5.75 when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
Cinnamon roll dough
250 ml warm milk
2½ tsp (or one packet) yeast
110 g caster sugar
113 g butter – melted gently
2 tsp salt
2 eggs (medium) mixed together well
575 g plain flour and a little for handling
Cinnamon roll filling
220 g soft brown sugar
2½ tbs freshly ground cinnamon
113 g butter
Cinnamon roll frosting
113 g softened butter
192 g icing sugar
57 g cream cheese
½ tbs vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 200°C / Gas mark 6. AGA top oven – middle shelf (at stage 8)
1. Add the yeast and sugar to the warm milk in a large bowl. Stir gently to combine and allow the yeast to foam. Once the yeast has stopped bubbling, stir in the melted butter, salt, eggs and flour. Gently mix until well combined.
2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10–12 minutes (it will be wet to start, don’t despair), then form a large ball and place into a large buttered bowl.
3. Cover the bowl with cling film or a tea towel and stand in a warm place, allowing to rise to double the size.
4. Place the risen dough on a large lightly floured surface and roll to a 1 cm (¼ inch) thickness. Your dough sheet will be quite large. Keep the dough long side to you (i.e. rectangle landscape style).
5. Spread the softened butter (not melted) over the top of the dough (be gentle).
6. Stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle generously all over the buttered dough, right to the edges.
7. Now …. with the long edge to you (as above landscape orientation), start to roll the dough tightly, front to back, long edge first like a tight swiss roll, until a log of rolled dough has been formed (with lovely layers of cinnamon sugar visible).
8. Taking a sharp knife, cut the dough roll in 2.5 cm (1 inch) slices and place on a lightly buttered sheet.
9. Allow rolls to rise for 30 minutes then cook until lightly browned for 15–20 minutes only. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
10. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting by creaming together butter, icing sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and salt.
11. Spread frosting generously over rolls while they are warm. Please share them.
A truly, truly scrumptious treat especially with a mug of steaming hot chocolate
It has been a few months since I penned an issue of ‘Truly Scrumptious’, having been away on a holiday of a lifetime. Then the last Digest issue coincided with the apple season when, really, the only contributors had to be our friends from Donhead Apple. Thank you to Richard and Karen, and Gavin and Kevin for their great contributions over the summer.
My holiday was truly stupendous (and mostly scrumptious). Fifteen days travelling through Cambodia and Vietnam, where the history, colours, food and countryside is breathtaking. However my heart went out to the people who, despite surviving civil war and armed conflict, were generous, kind and altogether quite remarkable. We saw some spectacular sights, like the 12th century Angkor Wat temple, one of the largest religious monuments ever constructed, and Ta Prohm Temple hidden deep in the jungle with its overgrown roots of enormous trees and vines (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filmed there). Having watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat our group of 12 was treated to breakfast of phở, (pronounced fur) a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of a clear broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles called bánh phở, fresh lime slices, spring onions, a few herbs or greens, shredded chicken and slivers of red and green chili. We ate at rickety tables with paper cloths, slurping from large bowls, napkins to our chins, absorbed by the environment, smells, and tastes. It was historic and I sought phởout at our various hotel breakfast bars as we travelled, but none was quite as good.
We had a very special meal with one family, deep in the jungle on the Mekong River – a large spiky elephant fish wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over a hot fire and then served with a banana flower salad and jack fruit. We had seen many of these ingredients at the local food markets which my sister and I gravitated to, away from the rest of the group. We saw boxes of squid as long and thick as my arm, sacks of fresh cinnamon, mace, star anise, dried fish of every shape and colour hanging from the rafters. There were live turtles and baby alligators, as well as mutant looking fruits and vegetables. One of the main reasons for this enormous variety lies in the obsession with fresh ingredients for every meal (very little frozen meat or fish there), so the route to the consumer is short and direct – from the garden, farm, the abattoir or the dock. We saw all kinds of produce, livestock, and equipment being transported on mopeds through country roads, villages and big cities to the markets and restaurants. There are over five million of these bikes in Vietnam, often heavily laden with live ducks hanging by their feet, dried noodles reaching 6 feet above and out from the driver, mountains of coconuts, fridges, tyres, ladders – anything including pigs, cats and dogs squashed into cages for the market. Yes, they farm the latter two for the dinner table.
Nonetheless, early into our trip I dined on deep-fried tarantula. Its legs were very greasy and its hairs stuck in your teeth. The highest level of revolt was felt snacking on a fried silk worm. They were sold on the streets in paper bags, by weight, much like we would buy sherbet lemons. Our guide had a ‘quarter’ of such treats. The abdomen of this silkworm burst inside my mouth releasing its sour creamy contents. I spat it out onto the street! Whilst I found it repulsive, the eating of insects is not peculiar to Asia by any means. I read this morning that Britain’s first insect restaurant has opened in South Wales. Grub Kitchen offers bug burgers made from crickets, mealworms, and grasshoppers and served with cheesy locust croquettes. You only need to experience eating these critters the once! Buttlings and Ludwell Stores, please steer clear!
Winter Sunshine Cake (Saffron and Lemon Syrup from Honey & Co. Food from the Middle East)
Approx. £9.50 when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
A superb cake or dessert for the dead of winter. The lemon slices glow like winter sunshine, lighting up your day, your palate and your spirits.
270g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
200g ground almonds
2 tbs plain flour
1 lemon, juice and zest
½ tsp baking powder
For the syrup and topping
2 lemons, really thinly sliced
pinch saffron (big pinch)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC / gas mark 5 (AGA roasting oven, rack on the bottom with cooling shelf above)
1. Line and grease a 24 cm diameter cake tin with greaseproof paper.
2. Place the thin lemon slices in a pan of water and bring to the boil. Drain, and repeat. By now all the bitterness should be gone.
3. Drain for a second time and then return to the pan and cover with 400 ml of fresh water. Add the remaining ingredients for the syrup and boil for 8–10 minutes. The peel should be soft and syrup thickened.
4. When cool, layer the lemon slices all over the base and a little way up the sides of your cake tin (you may have lost the bit in the middle of the slices, but that’s fine as the yellow cake mix will fill them in nicely). If you can get some of the saffron fronds to show on the base, this will add to its attractiveness.
5. Cream the butter and sugar together until well combined but not fluffy.
6. Stir in the eggs, ground almonds and turmeric, then fold in the semolina, flour, lemon juice and zest, salt and baking powder.
7. Mix well and pour into the cake tin.
8. Bake in the centre of the oven (other than AGA users) for 20–25 minutes, then turn the cake around to ensure an even bake and bake for a further 10–15 minutes, until golden and firm.
9. Remove from the oven and pour over all the remaining syrup to soak in (use a skewer to make holes over the top of the cake if you wish).
10. Allow to rest for 20 minutes before turning out, turning it on its head so the bottom-side is uppermost.
Serve with crème fraîche or cream.
A truly, truly scrumptious winter treat!
Being told by an equally immature and giggly schoolgirl that someone we both knew had “a bun in the oven”, would have us spluttering and tittering like the fatheads we were. I didn’t know what it meant or alluded to, other than in the literal sense believing that we knew lots of people, usually girls, who enjoyed baking. It must have been a funny ‘ha-ha’ hobby, if it had everyone giggling so much. Fortunately I grew up and learnt better. So without the slightest titter, I am confident to tell you that as I write, I have a bun in the oven – five in fact.
I’m making brioche – that wonderful French slightly sweet yeasty bread, rich with butter and eggs. I hadn’t made it before this last month, believing it to be temperamental and hard work, which it certainly is not.
Reputably a favourite breakfast dish in France with its soft texture, rich flavours and colour, brioche allows you to consume a packet of butter almost singlehandedly. Baked as a loaf, sliced and served toasted with even more melted butter and marmalade or jam is an absolutely must for Sunday breakfast. Brioche also makes beyond-belief French toast served with crème fraîche and summer fruits or berries or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or maple syrup. Brioche buns are traditionally cooked in fluted tins with a topknot – I don’t have any of these so the buns currently baking are in muffin cases having placed a small ball of dough on the top to match the style.
Many recipes use brioche as a base to a dish, in puddings particularly (in a bread and butter pudding, it’s a must). However, replacing some of the butter with cheese makes savoury brioche. This is a quite a different thing – equally delicious however, served with wild mushrooms, spinach, duck, chicken livers; bacon – all sorts of things.
Anyway, where has this brioche devotee in me come from? I was recently asked to Sunday lunch with friends – offering to bring something, as I politely like to do but usually regret, the friends suggested ‘pudding’ for five. My heart sank. I’m not a pudding person. These friends are fans of Ottolenghi, a phenomenal chef developing wonderful Mediterranean creations. So I reverted to one of his first cookbooks with the uninspiring title The Cookbook. My copy is splattered and covered in notes having made most of my niece’s wedding reception evening party dishes for 150 guests from this book. I decided to make Ottolenghi’s brioche galette for my host and fellow guests. This ‘substantial treat’ uses a brioche base, mascarpone and crème fraîche filling with icing sugar and crushed star anise, topped with fresh figs, berries and with a crumble mix. Cooked till just golden. Whoa…. FAB-UL-OUS.
Of all the brioche recipes I have tried – and believe me there have been many recently – this works and, whilst it only makes a small loaf, is ideal for most uses.
Makes a small loaf (500g), approx 5 small buns or one base for a galette or tart.
Approx. £1.45 when all ingredients purchased in Ludwell.
2 tbsp lukewarm water
1 tsp active dried yeast
190g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
20g caster sugar
2 medium fresh eggs, at room temperature, plus 1 egg beaten for glaze
75g cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice
1. Put the lukewarm water together with the yeast in the warmed bowl of an electric mixer. Gently stir or swish about until the yeast dissolves. Leave for 10 minutes for the yeast to activate.
2. Add all the rest of the ingredients apart from the butter and work together with a wooden spoon or spatula.
3. Using the dough hook on your electric mixer, attach the bowl to the machine and work on a low speed for around 3–4 minutes. The dough will become smooth and sticky.
4. Scrape the dough off the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium high and slowly start adding the cold butter pieces. This is a slow gradual process and could take up to six minutes – scrape down the sides if required to get a good mix.
5. Once all the butter is in keep working until the dough is shiny and smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl (possibly another 4–5 minutes).
6. Remove the dough from the bowl and place in a very lightly oiled plastic container or bowl. Cover with cling film and leave at room temperature for 1 hour.
7. Place the dough, still covered in the fridge for 16 hours minimum – up to 24 hours
8. Don’t expect the dough to change in size over this time – it’s still fine.
9. Prepare your tin (500g loaf tin – individual tins or muffin cases; flat tray for a ‘free-form’ tart or galette), by brushing lightly with melted butter or line with greaseproof paper.
10. Place the dough in the centre of a lightly flour dusted work-surface; knock down carefully (punch it gently!) then shape into the size of your tin/tins.
11. Place the dough inside the tins and cover with cling film. Leave your dough at room temperature in its tin for 1–2 hours or until twice its size.
Preheat the oven – 170°C / Gas Mark 3 / AGA roasting oven with cold shelf on middle rack
12. Brush the dough lightly with the beaten egg and place in the hot oven for 15 minutes (loaf – check after 8 minutes if making buns) – test with a skewer which should come out clean and dry.
13. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, take out of the tin to cool completely.
Toast, dunk or eat as you like – as always it’s ….truly, truly scrumptious.
Our second guest contributor (and what sounds like Donhead’s own domestic goddess), Michele Andjel-Davies tells us about her love for her family, work and baking.
There are countless evenings when I call my husband Phil on my way home from work asking him to make a 5.30 pm dash into Ludwell Stores as I have an urge to make something unusual for supper or just HAVE to try a recipe from the latest issue of delicious or have come across a new dish at work and want to try it out. Each time I am so thankful for the range and quality of ingredients in a shop less than five minutes walk from our front door. Who needs Borough Market when there is local organic meat and vegetables, stunning bread and every kind of fresh herb, sauce and seasonal ingredient just down the lane?
Food, and cooking in general, plays a huge part in my life as all my friends know. Phil and I both work in the travel industry so have spent many years nurturing this love, both in the UK and abroad. I am also lucky enough to work, and be friends with, many chefs and foodies so, whilst some people travel to Manchester for a meeting, I get to spend five days with celebrity patissier, Eric Lanlard, exploring the bakeries and patisseries of Scandinavia or hosting a spice masterclass with Atul Kochhar...it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. (Meanwhile, Phil’s left holding the fort with two small children, school run, homework and a full time job!)
Having said that, all I really want to do is be at home, be a proper Mummy and make sure that there is always a cake in the tin for when the children come home. I cook to relax and to wind down. Some people watch television, some play on the internet, some do sport but to me there’s nothing more soothing than an evening of weighing and measuring ingredients, kneading dough, collecting wild garlic for pesto or flicking through The Ginger Pig to find something interesting to do with the cuts of pork from our now sadly departed pig, Crackling Rosie. I take days off work just so I can spend the day making Seville orange marmalade, raspberry, rhubarb jam and chutneys.
Normally at this time of year I can do all this looking out of the kitchen window at the first sprigs of lavender coming through and turning their heads up to the early summer sun. Instead, we are all living in monsoon conditions with the plants and flowers bravely trying to open despite the onslaught of water. Ever hopeful though, I have included a recipe which uses lavender, as surely at some point soon our flower beds will be full of this fragrant flower which I use so much in puddings and pannacotta. A similar recipe to this one was given to me by Cake Boy himself, Eric Lanlard (www.cake-boy.co.uk), but this is my version, combining my favourites of lemon and almond with summer lavender. It is simple to make and fills the kitchen with a wonderful aroma and keeps very well wrapped in foil. It will be ideal to take to the Jubilee picnic or just to keep in the tin for a teatime treat.
Jubilee Lemon, Lavender and Almond Cake
Approx. £7.50 to make when ingredients bought from Ludwell Stores
225 g soft unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
4 large free range or organic eggs
50g plain flour
225g ground almonds
½ tsp almond essence
2 large unwaxed lemons – zested and squeezed
2 tsp dried lavender
Preheat the oven – 180°C / Gas Mark 4 / AGA roasting oven – grids shelf on floor – cold shelf above
1. Cream together the butter and sugar until almost white
2. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the flour after each egg until all eggs and flour are used
3. Stir in the ground almonds, almond essence, lemon zest, juice and lavender
4. Pour the mixture into a well greased and lined tin
5. Cook for around 60 minutes but cover with foil half way through
6. Test with a skewer after 50 minutes. (AGA users, test after 30 mins and watch carefully)
7. When skewer test leaves the skewer clear, turn out the cake carefully, and cool on a wire rack
8. Serve with lemon or lavender ice cream
A truly, truly scrumptious cake or pudding for any celebration
Many thanks to Michele
If you would like to be a guest contributor to Truly Scrumptious, please let us know. firstname.lastname@example.org
The country is in the grip of a baking frenzy, like it’s something new. It’s been building slowly starting with the fervour for cup-cakes, but now it’s gone wild and spread to all types of baking. The fuel for this passion for home baked goodies must be attributed to the current BBC 2 televison show ‘The Great British Bake-Off’.
Paul Hollywood, the nation’s baking guru and one of the judges in the show, describes baking as a science, and cooking as an art. Well, that explains it. I achieved an A’level in art and such a woefully low score in my chemistry O’level, I was ‘not classed’. Little wonder then that my cottage pie out-strips my cottage loaf and my Panna cotta, my Panettone. Science is a struggle for us arty sorts.
The increasing range of breads and pastries now sold at Ludwell Stores, together with their range of specialist flours, made me think that I ought to give it another go. I’ve matured and since losing my arty bent, I’m hoping to have absorbed some scientific understanding. Baking is so therapeutic and extremely rewarding when it works. This month therefore I am giving you an almost fool proof bread recipe made all the more attractive and individual, by cooking it in flower pots. (Even if as solid and heavy as a brick, it will look nice).
Note about flower-pots. These should be earthenware, new and tempered. To do this, you need to liberally brush the pots, inside and out with oil. Bake them in a medium oven for 20 or 30 minutes. Cool and repeat the process several times before using. Once tempered, they can be used again and again and will need little greasing. Never put your flower pots in the dishwasher or scrub with detergent, just rinse out. Serve in the pot with a delicious pate or soup, see bottom of next page for a quick easy recipe.
There are numerous speciality bread flours. I’m using a mix of flours but it’s down to individual choice. So, some basic rules when bread making:-
a) Whilst proving - stand dough away from draughts, covered loosely with oiled cling film or an oiled polythene bag.
b) Pre-warm tins (flower-pots) and bowls for best results.
c) Brown flour generally absorbs a little more water than white flour and needs less kneading.
d) I read that rubbing in and kneading can be done successfully in a food mixer, although if truth be told….not in my experience.
e) Dried yeast is absolutly fine but the baking guru turns his nose up at the sort you disolve in water first - Ludwell stores sells the 7grm packs of fast action bread yeast, which are ideal for this and most bread recipes.
f) Use a timer when kneading - four minutes of an upper arm and shoulder workout is four times longer than you would ever believe.
g) Try adding seeds: sunflower; pumpkin and poppy all work well. aif
Poppy Seed Flower Pot Bread.
Makes 2 x 1lb (450 grams) equivalent £1.70 when all ingredients purchased at Ludwell Stores.
Preheat oven to 220°C / Gas mark 7 / AGA grid shelf on floor of top oven
675g Flour mix. e.g. equal quantities of Organic strong white and six seed bread flours
2tsp Salt - sea salt preferably
20g Butter (room temperature)
10g Dried yeast
450ml Hand hot water
3tbls Poppy seeds
1. Lightly grease your flower pots or tins and put somewhere warm
2. Measure flour; salt, poppy seeds and butter into warm china/glass bowl.
3. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water.
5. Mix by hand and knead into a ball in the bowl.
6. Turn dough out onto a clean surface (do not flour the surface).
7. Knead for about 4 minutes really pushing it away from you before folding back over to repeat (YouTube has some great demonstrations)
8. Return the dough to the bowl and leave to rise in a warm, draught free place, for 60 - 90 minutes until double the size.
9. Knock back the dough (prod your finger tips into the dough) and knead again for 2-3 minutes. Divide in half or as many tins/pots you are using.
10. Slightly flatten the ball of dough with the heel of your hand and fold like a fat swiss roll. Place in the pots with the fold at the bottom. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for 30 minutes more in a warm place.
11. After the second proving, you can cut fairly deeply, with a bread knife; one or two simple diagonal slashes into the top and for a shiny top, glaze with egg wash (beaten egg with a little water.) Recommended.
12. Fill a roasting tin half way with boiling water. Place in the bottom of the preheated oven and immediately place the pots/tins on the baking shelf above the bain-marie, and bake for 20 - 45 minutes depending on loaf size.
13. When evenly browned, remove from the oven and knock out of flowerpot. If it sounds hollow on tapping the bottom of the loaf, it’s done. If not return it to the oven for another five minutes.
14. Cool on a rack. Never cut hot bread, you must let it finish in its own time or you will have steamy, heavy, squashed and doughy bread. Rolls are the exception if torn apart.
Serve with fish pate. Try… 300g smoked mackerel, trout or salmon; 200g cream cheese, juice of half a lemon; fresh chopped dill; tsp horseradish sauce. Mash together, season and adjust to taste. If using a food processor, don’t over mush the fish.
A truly, truly scrumptious lunch idea.
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.