Sunday, 22 March 2015

Pre-Nowrouz meal

My husband is Iranian so Persian New Year, or Nowrouz, is a big deal for him.

Traditionally, the start of the festivities is marked with a meal of fish and rice, but I thought it might be nice to do a variation on a theme this year. I replaced the rice with lentils and decided to roast the cod in a coating of home made curry powder and oil. My recipe (which resulted in hubby asking for seconds by the way), is as follows. There were only two of us, scale the quantities up if you are feeding a crowd.

For the spiced lentils

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 x tins of green, or puy lentils, drained and rinsed
lemon juice, to taste
3 tablespoons of chopped coriander

For the fish

2 x 250gram pieces of cod loin (you could also use hake or another firm white fish)
1teaspoon of curry powder
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Start by preparing the fish. Mix the curry powder and oil into a paste. Brush over each side of the fish and season with salt and pepper. Place in a baking tray and set aside. Heat the oven to 200oC.

Heat the olive oil in a wide saute pan. Add the onion and cook on a medium heat until softened. Then add the garlic, chilli and cumin and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until soft.

Add the lentils, mind cook on a low heat for 5 minutes. Add enough water to make a thick sauce and bring to a simmer.

Whilst the lentils are cooking, place the fish in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Just before the fish is ready, add the lemon juice and coriander, together with salt and pepper as required. Cover with a lid and set aside.

When the fish is firm, but still opaque, remove from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes.

To serve, place the lentil mix on the plate, or as I have done, the bottom of a wide bowl. Place the fish on top and serve.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Doris Grant Loaf

I know so many people who would like to make their own bread, but are put off by the whole kneading, proving, shaping and rising prior to baking. They think it's long, complicated and something resembling the "dark arts".

Of course there are many breads that can be made quickly and easily, think soda bread or flatbreads to go with a curry. There's also cornbread but that is more of a cake than bread in my opinion. But what would you recommend to someone who wants to dip their toe in the breadmaking water, that promises fairly fast results and is foolproof.

Everyone who knows me also knows that I make all my own bread, whether that be a simple pain de mie for sandwiches, bagels for a weekend breakfast or speciality breads such as brioche or using spelt or rye. There is always a loaf (or two or three) in the freezer ready to be eaten. However in the last couple of weeks I've been fighting off the tail end of a nasty infection as well as a very busy work schedule. So my breadmaking has played second fiddle. I realised yesterday that I was all out of bread and needed something fast to tide me over until I could make a batch to see us through for the coming week. Enter the Doris Grant loaf.

Before I give you the recipe I used, I thought that it would be useful to explain the history behind the loaf and Doris herself.

The bread itself was an accidental creation by Doris Grant (1905 - 2003)
who was a baker and nutritionist.  She was concerned about the wellbeing of the workers in the munitions factories during the second world war and encouraged healthy eating following the principles of Dr William Hay whose diet she used in her youth to relieve the symptoms of crippling arthritis. Whilst teaching herself to bake, she realised that she had not been following the traditional way of breadmaking. However it seemed to make no difference to the overall quality of the bread, and  proved easier and quicker than the traditional methods, so she included her ‘mistake’ in her 1944 book Your Daily Bread.

The recipe I use is a variation of both the original and Lorraine Pascal's version. Due to a digestive condition I have to be careful in the amounts of fibre I can have in my diet, so the 50/50 mix of white and wholemeal flours are ideal for me. The first time I made it, I realised that I did not have any dried yeast, so used the fresh yeast I had instead. And I sometimes swap all water for 50/50 milk and water. A word of warning however, this is a heavy loaf, but toasts beautifully.If you like the taste and texture of pure wholemeal loaves, use all wholemeal flour instead.

225g white bread flour
225g wholemeal bread flour
1teaspoon of salt
7 grams of dried yeast, or 4grams of fresh
1 tablespoon of clear honey
300ml of warm water, or 150ml water and 150ml whole mlik
vegetable oil
milk for brushing the loaf
small bowl of chilled water

To make the loaf, sift the flours and salt into a bowl. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the wheatgerm left behind after sifting (to use as a topping later). Add the yeast followed by the honey and either mix by hand or in a food processor with the dough hook attached. The dough will feel quite stiff, this is completely normal.

Flour a baking sheet. Form the dough into a round and place on the sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200oC. Slash the loaf with a sharp knife and brush with the milk. Sprinkle over the reserved wheatgerm. Place the bowl of chilled water in the base of the oven and put the loaf in to bake. Bake for 30-40 minutes (check after 30 minutes) until the loaf is brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Allow to cool on a rack and enjoy!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Friday night comfort food

I've been more than a little under the weather in the past couple of weeks. And it has had an effect on my appetite. It's hard to eat, let alone summon the enthusiasm to cook, when you can neither smell or taste anything.

Well I'm feeling a lot better now, but after a hard week at work, it was time for some well deserved comfort food. I have been experimenting with various lentil cottage pie recipes recently to come up with one that my husband really likes and makes him feel like he is not missing meat. We've had similar experiments with other recipes, where I have started to swap quorn for pulses. There was a tin of green lentils lurking in the cupboard and the vegetables needed using up before they became fit for nothing else but soup. So here it is

1tbsp of olive oil
175 grams of carrots, topped and tailed and roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
200ml of red wine
2 teaspoons of vegetable boullion (I use Marigold)
1 can of green lentils (mine was 400g), drained

900grams of sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
25grams of unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

50grams of strong cheddar

Start by heating the oil in a pan, then add the onions and cook until golden. Add the carrots, celery, thyme and oregano, cover with a lid and cook gently until softened. Add the wine, tomatoes and vegetable boullion and cook on a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

Then add the lentils and cook for a further 10 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Season to taste.

Whilst the lentil mixture is cooking, peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Boil for 15 minutes, or until soft. Drain well and mash with the butter and seasoning.

Place the lentil mixture in an ovenproof dish and top with the sweet potato mash and cheese. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, or 40 minutes from chilled if you have made in advance. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving, this will allow the pie to firm up and make it easier to portion out.