Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Some time ago, we purchased on Amazon a book of Jeffrey Hamelman ‘Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes’. I have to admit that it is pretty advanced and sophisticated as for a home bakers like us. It’s a great source of essential, accurate and detailed technical information and a comprehensive array of artisan formulas. However, long, time consuming recipes, minimal number of photos, lots of yet undiscovered by us terms, such as oxidising, autolyse, stages of fermentation... I could probably go on and on about it.... I could see the lack of my knowledge in those unsuccessful baguettes I made few months ago.... Even though I followed all the steps, they were hard as a stones... hehehe But the Rome wasn’t built in one day, was it? And I don’t give up easily, believe you me! 
Today, I looked into the book again with an intention of trying again, one bread immediately caught my attention and it actually doesn’t need any pre-fermented sourdough culture (mine unfortunately died recently as I forgot to feed it). Since, I promised to dedicate all September posts to potatoes, there it is – Roast Potatoes Bread. So, reading the formula, I was a bit reluctant and worried that it will come out rubbish again... therefore, I've searched internet and looked into one of my favourite polish baking blog of Liska (nick name of the author) and obviously found this simplified version of Hamelmans’s potato bread. Liska’s one doesn’t need pate fermentee made the day before baking. However, Hamelman’s recipe suggest roasted potatoes rather than boiled potatoes (as in Liska’s formula). I find that oven roasting them concentrates the flavour in a way that boiling them does not. Moreover, leaving the skins on saves time and the dark skin bits contrasts nicely with the crumb colour once the bread is sliced. Hamelman also suggest using other ingredients, such as garlic and rosemary which I used in this recipe today and I have to say that they are beautifully composed in the entire recipe. So, the result is that: Simplified recipe of Liska + Roast potatoes, garlic and rosemary of Hamelman = Full Success!!! Just have a look at the photos.

Roasted Potatoes, Garlic and Rosemary Bread

100 g potatoes 
400 g strong bread flour 
200-250 ml of water 
1.5 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon sugar 
1.5 tsp dried yeast 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
3 cloves of garlic 
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary 

Wash the potatoes, dry them and cut into small cubes. Bake potaotes with garlic and rosemary and a few teaspoons of olive oil in the oven preheated to 200 degrees. Then, cool the potatoes and mash with a fork carelessly. Do not discard the burnt skin as it will your loaf a nicer colour and better taste. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Add the water gradually as the amount depends on the type of flour and consistency. Knead smooth and elastic dough (by hand or mixer). Transfer to a bowl greased with olive oil, cover with foil and set aside to raise for an hour. Then, form a round loaf with your hands, and transfer to the basket lined with the cloth and solidly floured to raise. Allow to raise for 45-60 minutes. If you have got a pizza stone – insert it into the oven and heat to 240 degrees. If you don’t have a pizza stone, just use the baking tray lined with a baking paper. Spray the oven walls with water or ideally, put about 1 / 2 cup of ice cubes onto a bottom of your oven. Transfer your raised dough into the oven and bake. After 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 210 degrees and bake for another 15-25 minutes. Cool your loaf down for a good 30 minutes before you start to consume it. And enjoy! 

I definitely recommend the book of Jeffrey Hamelman 'BREAD. A baker's book of techniques and recipes.' to those, more experienced home bakers. 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Anyone who doesn’t like potatoes, please raise your hand!!! I doubt there is such person! Or at least, I’ve never came across anyone who doesn’t love potatoes. Our love to any type of potatoes knows no boundaries. They can be either sweet or salty, boiled, baked, roasted, fried... you name them and we love them... This is one of the most, if not the most versatile root vegetables, potatoes are simple, rich in nutrients and vitamins and delicious in any form. In fact, we might dedicate the entire, chilly September posts to different potatoes recipes of the world. 

So let's start with this very banal and impressive Hasselback Potatoes. The recipe has its roots in Sweden and is named after Hasselbacken, a Stockholm restaurant which first served the preparation in the 1700s but you'll also see them referred to as "accordion potatoes" on some menus. To this day, they are still prepared very similar to the original recipe so that each potato is cut into thin slices, but not the entire diameter of the potato, and then roasted in a buttery olive with garlic resting between slices. However, many like to play around with seasonings and garnishes. In addition to the stylish look, there is still a phenomenon in this method – with the additional crevices that are exposed to high temperature of your oven, it becomes beautifully crispy on the outside and delicately soft and creamy inside. This definitely enhance the potatoes’ flavour. Prepared this way, they can be served as an appetizer, as a side dish to the main course or snack. We recommend leaving the potato skins and eat the potato with it, because all the most valuable nutrients, such as Iron, Proteins and Vitamin C are located just beneath its skin. 

Ingredients (for two hungry peeps) 
2 large potatoes (any kind), thoroughly washed and dried. 
4 garlic cloves 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter 
coarse sea salt and pepper 
3 tablespoons olive oil 

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Thinly slice garlic cloves. Set aside. Rinse and scrub potatoes well. We’re keeping the skin on so it needs to be clean. Slice a thin layer off of the bottom of the potatoes. This will give them a solid base to rest on to get sliced. Slice into the potatoes but not completely through them. Slice potatoes, creating very thin rounds connected at a base. Slide garlic slices in between potato slices. You might actually need to shove them in… the potato might be pretty tight. Just be careful not to tear the bottom. Place potatoes on a baking tray. Generously sprinkle potatoes with salt. Top each potato with a layer of butter. Drizzle with oil. Bake for 1 hour or until tender on the inside and crisp on the outside. Remove the tray about every 15 minutes to baste potatoes in the oil and butter on the pan. This will make the skin crispy and delicious and the potato extra buttery. When cooked through and crispy, remove from the oven, cool for 10 minutes. Top with spinach pesto and serve. 

For the Spinach Cashew Pesto
Inspiration from Joy the Baker

2 loosely packed cups of spinach 
2 garlic cloves 
1/4 cups roasted cashews 
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest 
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
salt and pepper to taste 
1/3 cup olive oil 

Place garlic cloves, spinach, nuts, lemon juice, zest and Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until spinach is broken down and, whiles still blending, slowly pour in the olive oil. Turn off food processor, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve over potatoes! any excess of pesto can be stored in a jar in a fridge and used for any type of pasta or just with a garlic bread as a snack.

Enjoy and have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

We honestly admit that we love meat (all kind) but we don't have to be a vegetarians to understand the importance of animal welfare. As a carnivorous person myself, I have to put up with the fact that animals have to die. Nevertheless, it matters about animal welfare, and it's best if the animal's life is reasonably good and it grows well in the most natural environment for quite a while before it ends up being killed and eaten. Particularly notable are the chickens that seem to be grown in the most appalling conditions and this is because of the increasingly growing demand of the world market. Thus, hens, which hit the shelves of our favourite stores look great, but do we realize what kind of life they led before they were so beautifully arranged to attract our eye in the supermarket? The whole thing about animal welfare was already publicly raised by a number of organisations but the celebrity chefs have the biggest input in this matter... especially, Jamie's Oliver whose campaign in 2007 was to make people aware of the conditions in which chickens were kept, so then people could make informed decisions about what to eat, rather than allowing the factory-farming industry to hide the shocking truth.What's interesting about his campaign is that it doesn't urged people to an absolute transition to vegetarianism, but to stimulate an informed choice. We have already made a choice... And you? We strongly recommend you to watch the entire experiment of Jamie Oliver HERE

And here we go... on the table today is this beautiful, tasty free range chicken - recipe by Jamie Oliver.

Roast chicken with vegies and herbs

1.5 kg chicken 'free range'
2 medium onions
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 bulb of garlic
olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, or a mixture of all these herbs

Take your chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before it goes into the oven. 
• Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F/gas 9 
• There’s no need to peel the vegetables – just give them a wash and roughly chop them 
• Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled 
• Pile all the veg and garlic into the middle of a large roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil 
• Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, rubbing it all over the bird 
• Carefully prick the lemon all over, using the tip of a sharp knife (if you have a microwave, you could pop the lemon in these for 40 seconds at this point as this will really bring out the flavour) 
• Put the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity, with the bunch of herbs 

To cook your chicken
• Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the roasting tray and put it into the preheated oven 
• Turn the heat down immediately to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and cook the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes 
• If you’re doing roast potatoes and veggies, this is the time to crack on with them – get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking 
• Baste the chicken halfway through cooking and if the veg look dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them burning 
• When cooked, take the tray out of the oven and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 15 minutes or so 

Enjoy and have a nice evening!

p.s if you want to read a bit more about chicken welfare, have a look here, and here and here

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