TWTW # 14 – A Scorcher

It’s Bank Holiday Monday as I write this, and I’m a little bit later than usual sitting down to think about what’s happened in the last week. Essentially a short working week for most with the long weekend around Easter and quiet for me as I am waiting for my client to respond regarding a report. He has responded and is taking a wider view across his organisation before giving formal comments.

It’s been getting progressively warmer all week with the weekend turning into quite a scorcher and I’ve been doing quite a bit allotment and garden wise, while I’ve had the time. I’ve sown some lettuce seed as individual plugs – some for my Mum’s garden and the remainder as back-ups for the allotment. I’ve potted on some tomatoes and have got some more seed to sow a few more plants.

I’ve also started off my runner beans. Garden lore says that you should sow your runner bean seeds on the first Bank Holiday in May and plant them out on the second one, so these are a little early but that might not be a bad thing as they were covered in a little mould which I washed off and they seem to be okay – not soft or any obvious other damage other than the mould – so if they don’t grow I’ll have time to get some more.

My car was MOT’d and serviced at the beginning of the week. It passed and so there’s nothing further to do until next year or unless there’s a problem.

Wilson was also back at the vets for his next round of tests – we’re awaiting the results.


I’ve been reading “The Way Home – Tales from a Life Without Technology” by Mark Boyle, essentially the stories of the author when he completely gave up technology, including electricity and other mains utilities, living on an island near Ireland. I’m not that far in, but I’m enjoying it so far.

Slightly ironically I’m reading it on my Kindle.


I’ve also  got  the  (re)review  of “Under  The  Rock” coming  up next weekend with the chance to receive a copy of the paperback.



Been watching the new season of Bosch on Amazon over the weekend, it’s another great season of the show, and it’s great that such high quality tv can be be made to this standard – thoroughly recommended! If you’ve read Michael Connelly’s “Two Kinds of Truth”, it’s mostly based on that.


Spiced Easter Buns (Hot-Cross Buns) Made In A Breadmaker

Ingredients:

Water 240ml
Butter (melted) 50g
Sugar 50g
Egg (beaten) 1
Salt 1 tsp
Strong white bread flour 540g
Fast Action Yeast 2tsp
Ground Sweet Cinnamon 1 tsp
Nutmeg 1/4 tsp
Mix dried cherries and raisins 150g

I make these using my breadmaker to do the heavy lifting of mixing and rising the dough. You could use an ordinary mixer or make the dough by hand. The dough needs a first rise of about an hour (preferably somewhere warm), and then a second rise of about half-an-hour. Full details in the video below.

You can either make a cross in the top of the buns with a serrated blade before you glaze them or make crosses with a simple mix of icing sugar and water applied using a piping bag once they’re cooked.

 

The Week That Was # 2 (Experiments With Sourdough)

I’ve been wanting to do some sourdough baking for a while now. I already bake quite a bit of our own bread (mostly in a breadmaker), and regularly make pizza bases, rolls and other things and I wanted to give sourdough a try too.

I got a starter (you can make your own but I opted for the slightly easier option) from the Wild Baker and it arrived earlier in the week. I feed it (with flour and water) a couple of times and then it was ready to go.

There are a couple of quite long pauses for rising etc. in the sourdough process and I think next time, I’ll shift things around a bit so that these happen overnight rather than try and squeeze things all into a day-and-a-half.

That said the resulting loaf was fantastic (see above). Great tasting and a definite success. It’s always good when cookery of any kind goes well, but this was especially pleasing.


It’s been a pretty chilly week, with temperatures dropping below 0°C on most nights. This had meant that my home office has been a little inhospitable some mornings and so I’ve moved to our lounge to work.

I’ve been assisted by the dogs to keep me company (and warm), although I must admit they have been a little more distracting than normal. I assume that this is as much the change of routine for them as it is for me.

I’ve been asked by a potential client for a proposal for a piece of work, so I suspect that most of the coming week will be taken up in pulling that together. They have ambitious plans so it’s good that potentially I’ll be a part of that work.


I’m between books at the moment, but a quick visit into town to post a parcel took me past the secondhand bookshop.

I always try and leave more books with them than I take away, and this time I succeeded, although I have to admit to be quite pleased with the ones I found.

Caramelised Onion and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This is a lovely cuddle of a soup. Sweet and warming.

You’ll need:

  • A medium to large butternut squash
  • Two medium white onions
  • Demerara sugar
  • One to one-and-a-half pints of vegetable stock
  • Large bunch of parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Take the squash; peel, de-seed, and chop into small pieces. Place into a roasting tin with some olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, give this a good mix to ensure the oil, salt & pepper is covering the squash. Put into a preheated oven (gas mark 5), and roast until soft, turn once or twice. It should take about 20 – 25 minutes to cook.

While the squash is roasting, peel and chop the onions. Saute these over a medium heat in a pan with a little olive oil, as they start to brown add a large knob of butter. Once the butter has melted add enough brown demerara sugar to just cover the onions. Lower the heat and allow the onions to caramelise in the sugar. Make sure to stir regularly and don’t allow the sugar-onion mix to burn on the bottom of the pan.

Once the squash is roasted and soft (you can test with the tip of a knife), add it to the onion. Pour in enough vegetable stock (probably about a pint) to cover both and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the mixture is cooking, wash and coarsely chop and large bunch of parsley, and then add to the simmering mix.

Remove the soup from the heat and pour into a liquidizer (you may need to do this in batches) and blitz until smooth. Alternatively blitz in the pan with a hand blender (being careful not to splash yourself with the hot mixture)!

Return the now smooth mixture to the heat, and bring back to the boil.

Serve with crusty sourdough or bread of your choice.

Once cool this will keep in a refrigerator or can be frozen to enjoy at a later date.

Caramelised Onion, Feta & Beetroot Tart

At the weekend I was down on the allotment and dug the last of the beetroot from the plot (I wanted to dig over that part of the plot in preparation for the new growing season). There were quite a few good ones, but not quite enough to pickle or store for the longer term so I decided to make a tart with them.

I used a sheet of ready-made puff pastry (because that’s what I had), and greased and lined my quiche dish with it, as it takes approx half the sheet of pastry I cut the remainder into strips to add to the top of the tart once the filling was in.

I cut up two medium sized onions and gently sauteed them in a little olive oil, as they were browning I added some butter and once that had melted a tablespoon of brown sugar and allowed them to caramelise on a low heat.

I boiled the beetroot, and removed the skins and then sliced roughly into chunks.

Once the onions were ready I added them as a layer to the bottom of the flan and then tipped the beetroot and some roughly chopped feta on top.

I whisked up a couple of large eggs with approximately 100ml of milk seasoned with pepper and added this to the flan. Then topped off with the remaining puff pastry strips.

Cooked for about 40 mins at gas mark 6, until the milk / egg mixture had solidified. Served with some mixed green veg.

Making Christmas Puddings (Gluten Free, Virtually Fat Free and No Added Sugar)

It’s that time of the year when baking and making turns to Christmas.

I doubled up the ingredients in the video, but here they are to make a approximate 2.5 pint pudding:

225g whole sultanas (minced)
225g whole sultanas
225g large raisins (minced)
75g large raisins
16 giant prunes (soaked for 48hrs, then stoned and minced)
100g walnuts & almonds finely chopped
250ml prune juice (from soaking prunes)
1tsp ground mixed spice
Zest of half-a-lemon
225g ground almonds or hazlenuts
125ml brandy or whisky
2 egg yolks beaten

Making Jams and Jellies

It’s that time of year when the preserving pan comes out and I turn some of the produce from the allotment and elsewhere into preserves: jams, chutneys, jellies, and pickles.

I made some pumpkin and ginger jam (which always turns out more like a marmalade) and a first for me, quince jelly. For both of these I made videos of the process. You can watch these below.

Pumpkin & Ginger Jam

 

 

Quince Jelly