Tag Archives: bread

beer bread (in which i attempt to emulate the fine cooks at ‘good neighbour’)

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We”ve got a new pub in our neighbourhood: “Good Neighbour“, & by George it’s good! We rocked on down there the day after it opened – the place was buzzing, the service & food were great, & I am now a fan of their plum cider! And of the beer bread, which we devoured while waiting for our (equally delicious) mains to arrive.

In fact, I’ve been trying to come up with a similar loaf at home. The first time I made it, the beer was probably too ‘light’ (in colour & flavour, but then I am not a beer connoisseur), so the next time I used a ‘hoppier’ version that gave a lovely flavoursome loaf, slightly sweet & pleasantly chewy without losing softness. In fact, I’ve got another lot rising at the moment, & this time I’ve used the pub’s own sparkling ale, so we’re really looking forward to it coming out of the oven! What follows is the kneaded-by-breadmaker version – if making by hand then make a ‘sponge’ with the yeast, sugar, about a cup of flour & some of the liquid, then add the rest of the flour & the softened butter & knead away.

Into the pan of the breadmaker, measure: 4 tsp ‘surebake’ (red-top) yeast, 2 Tblsp honey or brown sugar, 1 c wholemeal flour, 3 c white flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 50 g softened butter, and 1 & 1/2 c of the beer of your choice. Set the machine to ‘dough’ & leave it to work its magic – you might want to stay within earshot just to check the consistency once it starts kneading, as I’ve found that I’ve needed to add perhaps another 1/8 c warm water to the mix.

Once the machine goes ‘beep’, then shape the dough as you desire. I made buns the first time, but second time round I knocked the dough back, divided it in half & then split each half into three pieces that I rolled into long sausages (about 30 cm long). This gave me 2 plaited rolls, which I put to rise on the baking sheet before baking at 180 C for about 25 minutes. But it would be yummy in loaf tins as well.

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a sort of cassoulet

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Yesterday, when we did the shopping, there were nice meaty pork bones in the supermarket butchery. So I bought them, along with a packet of 3 chorizo sausages & also the things that were actually on the shopping list. And today I made a sort of cassoulet. It’s based on a recipe in Alison Holst’s collection of crockpot & slow=cooker dishes, but as usual I tweaked it a bit to suit what was in the herb garden & pantry.

You’ll need to start this off in the morning if using a slow cooker as it takes 6-8 hours on ‘low’ to get the meat nice & toothsome & the sauce thick & rich.

First I sliced a couple of brown onions & softened them in olive oil on a medium heat, along with 4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Then I tipped them into the bowl of my trusty slow-cooker, and added a tin of chopped tomatoes in juice, a tin of cannellini beans, 3 Tblsp of tomato paste, the leaves of several sprigs of time, a couple of Tblsp of chopped fresh marjoram, 1/2 tsp salt and a couple of bay leaves, & mixed everything together. (The original recipe calls for sage, but I haven’t had a lot of success with sage. If we enlarge the courtyard garden I’ll try growing it there as it doesn’t seem to like life in pots. Not at our place, anyway.) The chorizos I sliced about 1cm thick before adding them to the dish, and then the pork bones, and mixed again so the meat was well covered in sauce. Then I left it all to its own devices.

After a couple of hours I gave it all a stir. The mix looked a bit dry so I dropped in the half-dozen small tomatoes from the bowl on the bench, added about half a cup of water, & went away again.

A little before dinner time I fished out the pork bones & separated the now meltingly-soft meat from the bones & skin, popping the meat back in the cooker bowl & wrapping the other bits for the rubbish. Check to see if it needs seasoning – ours didn’t as the chorizos were pleasantly spicy – before sprinkling with chopped parsley & serving. Or you could use gremolata. The dish would go well with steamed greens and baked potatoes (or mash), but we had it with slices of beer bread (the recipe for which I will provide shortly 🙂 ).

It might not have been authentic, but it was certainly tasty.

parmesan-&-basil bread, with soup (pumpkin, of course!)

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Yesterday we had family coming to lunch. I had to go in to work for the morning (yes, I know it was Anzac Day, but we were running a practical exam for the NZ team hopefuls for the upcoming Biology Olympiad in Switzerland), so I got the soup ready the day before & put the bread in the bread maker. (The husband can cook, he just avoids it where possible 🙂 )

I’m sure there are heaps of recipes already out there for pumpkin soup! This is what I put together on Saturday night: first, roast your pumpkin. Actually it was pumpkins in this case – 4 of them, halved, seeds scooped out, & into the oven at 180 C until tender. While they cooked I melted 50 g butter in one of my big pans, along with a goodly slosh of olive oil, & added 2 thinly-sliced brown onions to soften & go transparent. There was garlic in the soup too, but as we’re getting rid of the little heads from summer’s harvest before getting stuck into the big stuff, I sliced the tops off 8 of them & wrapped them in foil (with a splash of oil) before putting them in the oven with the pumpkins. Once they were cooked, all I had to do was squeeze the lovely rich pulp into the soup pan. At which point I also added 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, & just a soupcon of ground chili, & stirred it all together.

The pumpkins took around 30 minutes to cook, after which (wearing oven gloves, cos they were HOT) I scooped the flesh into the pot, followed by 1 L vegetable stock & 4 medium potatoes, cut into very small dice. I should have added them with the onions but I forgot; anyway, it all worked out 😀 I left them to simmer gently, with the occasional stir, for 20-30 minutes & then used my stick blender to puree everything together. The result was a very thick puree indeed, so I thinned it a little with water and 1/2 c cream (because it was in the fridge), then put the lid back on & left it for the morning – with strict instructions to the husband to stir carefully while reheating, because otherwise it was highly likely to catch & burn at the bottom.

And before I biked in to work in the morning, I put the bread in the bread maker. This is a riff on an Alison Holst recipe from a few years back, enriched with butter & an egg. And it’s just as easily made by hand, in which case you’d make a ‘sponge’ of the yeast with a little of the measured flour & water, before working in everything else.

Into the pan of the bread maker, I measured 4 tsp active yeast (here in NZ it’s the kind in the red-topped jar), followed by 4 c flour – yesterday I used 100% white flour but 1 wholemeal:3 white is nice too, 2 Tblsp white sugar, 1 tsp salt, 50 g butter cut into small pieces, 1/2 c coarsely grated parmesan cheese, & 1/2 c finely chopped fresh basil. This was followed by an egg and enough water to make up a total liquid volume of 1&1/2 cups. On my machine that gives an XL loaf. I set the crust to ‘light’ & set the timer so that the loaf would be ready around lunchtime, pressed ‘on’, & headed off to work, happy in the knowledge that there would be lunch when I got back.

And there was.

pizza – for dessert?

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One of my brothers introduced me to this variation on pizza, way back when we still lived in Palmerston North. (He’d been keeping an eye on our place while we were away, & we’d been wondering where all the grapes had got to…) Our muscatel grapes are ripe at last, so I thought this would make a good dessert for the family.

I make pizza dough quite a lot, by hand or in the bread machine. There’s little difference in time between the 2 methods (both take around 45 minutes), but for this one I used the machine to do the kneading as I had other stuff on the go in the kitchen at the same time.

Into the mixing bowl I put 2 c strong (bread) flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tblsp olive oil, 3/4 c water, & 2 Tlbsp raw sugar. Normally I use very little sugar in pizza dough but this time I wanted it to be sweetish, on account of it being for dessert. Then I put it in the machine on the ‘pizza’ setting & set it going.

While the bread machine did its bit, I put my big pizza stone in the oven (200 degrees C) to heat, & set about preparing the grapes. I wanted around 2 cups, & had a mix of fat green grapes from the market & our own lovely golden-pink muscatels. The latter, which are smallish, I just pulled from their stems – they tend to split a little, but this is good as the escaped juices caramelise in cooking. The big green ones I halved, & flicked out their seeds with the point of a knife.

Once the dough had finished its brief rising, I kneaded it a little to get rid of the air bubbles & then rolled & stretched it to a disc a little smaller than the pizza stone. (I usually do this on a Teflon sheet & slide it onto the stone from a baking tray.) Then I studded it liberally with grapes – green ones cut side up – & sprinkled everything with 2-3 Tblsp white sugar before putting the pizza in the oven for about 20 minutes: the fruit should soften and the sugar & juices caramelise.

The scent as the finished dish came from the oven was that of a good dessert wine 🙂

butter chicken, raita & naan (nomnomnom)

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It turns out that the furriners we have staying with us at the moment (oh, all right: French niece & her Scottish partner) quite like a curry now & then. So do we, although neither the husband nor the daughter like them particularly hot. So, casting around for something to do with some of our excess cucumbers, I decided upon butter chicken, cucumber raita and – because I could! – naan bread (so that we’d have something to scoop up that lovely mass of sauce-soaked rice that you have towards the end of the meal). Oh yes, & rice; that almost goes without saying.

Now, there’s a huge range of butter chicken recipes on the net & no, I don’t have my own 🙂 You’ll find the one I used last night here, & while it may not be a traditional recipe it’s still rather nice. (I chose it because its ingredients happened to match what I had to hand.) And it was quick to put together, which I did while the bread (see later on) was resting/rising.

The raita was also quick & easy. I grabbed the largest cucumber, topped-&-tailed it, & then cut it in half lengthwise & scooped out most of the seeds. Then I cut each half into 4 longitudinal slices, sliced those crosswise into small almost-dice, & put the lot into a bowl before spooning over a goodly amount of Greek yoghurt and mixing in about 1/2 c of finely chopped mint & then salt to taste.

While I was at it I used some of the tomatoes, a red onion, & one of the lovely avocados I bought at the market on Sunday, to make a salsa, dressing it with a mix of lime & lemon juice & a bit of salt & pepper. (Yes, we have lime trees – they’re growing very well in a couple of tubs in our courtyard.)

The bread – which was lovely – is a recipe that I haven’t made in quite a while (for reasons that escape me, because the recipe is simple & quick to make). It comes from The New Zealand Bread Book which, alas! seems to be out of print at the moment.

  •  In a bowl, mix 1 c flour, 2 tsp sugar, 1 Tbsp Surebake yeast (for Kiwis – the yeast in the red-top jar 🙂 ) & 1/2 tsp salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in 1/2 c plain yoghurt (or buttermilk), followed by 1/2 c boiling water. Beat until smooth & leave to rest for 3 minutes.
  • Add 2 Tbsp cooking oil & a lightly beaten egg, & stir to mix. Sift together ** 2 c flour & 1 tsp baking powder & add this to the yeast mix. Stir to form a soft dough (at this point, I must say that I always have to add a little more liquid to the mix, to get the right softness of dough).  Knead for around 7 minutes, then return to the bowl (I usually give the bowl a wipe & then add a couple of tsp of oil, & turn the dough in it to coat), cover with plastic, & leave somewhere warm for 15 minutes.
  • Knock back the dough & divide evenly into 6 pieces. (I’m thinking of making these for lunch, to fill with salad, in which case I’ll make 12 smaller pockets cos the big ones would be a bit much to handle.) Roll each one out on a floured board to an oval shape, about 25 cm x 12 cm.  Place the naan breads on well-floured boards or trays, & leave uncovered in a warm place for 30-40 minutes. They won’t rise much – if at all – in this time.
  • While the breads are resting, preheat the oven to 250 degrees C – and put metal trays in there to heat as well. Last night I used my ceramic pizza stone & that worked a real treat.
  • When the oven’s hot, carefully pick up a naan, turn it over (that part’s important!) & place it on the very hot tray. Do the same with the next naan – you need to cook them 2-3 at a time, for 5-7 minutes until they are golden brown & puffed up. (And they puff up amazingly – it’s quite fun to watch.) Wrap in a clean tea towel while you cook the remaining naan,  & serve warm.

** I don’t own a sifter; I just stir it all through with a fork.