I’m avoiding my neighbour at the moment. As the owner of a small business, he doesn’t get many holidays in the year and is, understandably, very envious of my seven weeks of summery freedom. He has listened jealously to my travel plans every July since I moved in and has almost seemed to live vicariously through my continual jet setting. Sweden, Finland, Greece, France, Portugal, Denmark: and that’s just the past few years.
For a long time now, time off for me has meant time travelling in other countries.
This summer, though, things are different. Not only have I gone no further than the west coast of Scotland during this whole month, I even haven’t missed being in foreign lands. All I wanted to do this summer was to get a dog and to make that dog as happy and as settled as a creature could be. I think I’ve done that now and do you know what? I’ve had the greatest time doing it.
So why the neighbour avoidance? Well, he thinks I’m wasting my summer and that I should be out there “living it up”. I don’t know how to explain to him that that’s exactly what I am doing, especially when one of the things that has got me really excited in the past few weeks is learning to bake bread.
Suspect that many of you guys will understand though and so I share with you my most favouritest ever bread recipe. Adapted from a recipe in The Greens Cookbook, this deeply savoury loaf has a moist and almost cakey texture. It makes lovely thick cut sandwiches and superb cheese on toast but D and I can stop eating it with a generous smearing of very garlicky butter. Sublime.
Cottage Cheese and Oregano Bread
7g fast acting dry yeast
200ml warm water
1 tblspn honey
500g strong white flour
2 tblspns olive oil
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 medium egg, beaten lightly
75g cottage cheese
1 tblspn dried oregano
1 tblspn salt
Egg wash (beaten egg plus a little milk)
- Whisk together the yeast, honey and water in a large bowl.
- Add 150g of the flour and mix hard with a spoon until a smooth batter is formed. Cover and leave for 45 minutes in a warm place until the batter has doubled in size and is bubbly.
- While the batter is expanding, fry the onion gently in a little olive oil until just soft. Leave to cool slightly.
- Add the onion, cottage cheese, oregano, salt, egg and olive oil to the batter. Mix gently.
- Gradually add the sifted flour to the batter, folding steadily, until a thick, stiff-ish dough is formed. You may not need the entire amount of flour.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and, with well floured hands, begin to knead the bread. Continue for approx. 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and shiny (it will still be a bit sticky).
- Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover. Leave for 45 minutes until dough has doubled in size then punch the dough down (fun). Repeat process.
- Punch the dough down a third and final time and place into an oiled loaf tin. Leave for 20 mins to rise again.
- Brush the risen dough with egg wash and place in a 180oC fan oven for 50 minutes or a non-fan for 60 mins. Being quite a dense loaf (hee hee), the bread will not sound hollow when tapped.
- Turn onto a wire rack and cool before slicing.
Long holidays mean lazy lunches and this is my favourite lazy lunch of the moment.
Pretty, nutritious, filling and very, very tasty. Wonder how well it would keep in a lunch box…
Goats Cheese and Bulgar Stuffed Peppers
I red pepper, halved length ways and de-seeded
1/2 cup bulgar
1/4 tspn dried oregano
Cup of hot stock
1 tblspn chopped parsley
Pinch of cayenne
40g hard goats cheese, crumbled
- Brush the peppers lightly with oil and roast for 15 minutes to soften slightly.
- Meanwhile, add the bulgar to the hot stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave to steam for a little longer.
- Remove lid from bulgar and fluff up with a fork. Add the parsley, spring onion and cayenne. Season.
- Remove peppers from the oven. Add one tablespoon of bulgar to the inside of each and crumble some cheese on top. Repeat this process so that the peppers are totally filled with the mixture and are topped with goats cheese.
- Place back in the oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the goats cheese has melted and is beginning to brown.
- Serve with a green salad.
Marco and I have been on the road for the past week visiting family and friends in Aberdeenshire and the Borders. It was all great fun but the best part was watching my pup become aquainted with some of the other dogs in my life. Not only has he become great pals with Rosie (at last), he’s also found a mud buddy in Rufus and a fellow bounder in Winston.
Aren’t dogs great?
We’re having a much anticipated, much desired mini-heatwave here in the north of Scotland. The wind has dropped, the sun has come out and it is a sultry 24oC (75oF) outside. No snickering now: that’s a roaster for these parts. My deckchair, a book and an icy Ginnito cocktail await me in the garden. This is going to be a brief introduction!
The following recipe was created to satisfy my urge for Indian samosas without the accompanying vast amounts of calories. Like my spring rolls, I forewent the usual deep frying and used filo pastry for the wrapper instead allowing me to oven bake the samosas. The filling was also given a healthy makeover using vitamin rich sweet potatoes instead of normal spuds. A very successful experiment. These were delicious and have been made a lot this summer.
Sweet Potato and Spinach Samosas
2 tblspn vegetable oil
1 tspn mustard seeds
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 red chili, very finely chopped
1/2 tspn turmeric
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 tspn cumin
1/2 tspn curry powder
200g peeled and cubed sweet potato
Handful of fresh coriander
Filo pastry sheets
1 egg, beaten
- Heat the oil in a heavy based pan. Add the mustard seeds and onion and fry over a medium heat until the onion is softened.
- Add the chilli and cook a little longer.
- Stir in the spices and a good pinch of salt. Cook for a minute before adding the sweet potatoes and enough water to just about cover.
- Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 12 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Increase the heat and boil until all the liquid evaporates.
- Meanwhile, wilt some spinach in just a little water. Drain well and chop finely.
- Mash the sweet potato mixture and stir in the spinach. Season to taste.
- Cut filo pastry into circles approx 20cm in diameter. I just cut around a bowl.
- Stuff and fold the samosas as shown here.
- Lay samosas on a baking tray, brush with beaten egg and bake in a 200oC oven for 12-15 minutes until golden and crisp (more so than in the above picture – I was just really impatient and hungry that day).
- Eat with a yogurt and coriander raita.
The lovely Holler of Tinned Tomatoes has tagged me to do a Top Ten Photos meme. My task is to pick the ten food photographs I am most proud of and share them again with you all. I’m finding it more difficult than I had imagined. It’s really hard to consider the photographs in a purely aesthetic way and not to let my memories of how good the dish tasted or how much fun I had that night taint my decision. Also, when is a photo actually a good photo and not just a really pretty cabbage??
Anyway, here they are. My favourites.
(Click on the photo to access the original post.)
The rest of my food photos can be found on my Flickr page here.
Your turn now. This is an open invitation to all you food bloggers to complete this meme. Look forward to seeing your posts.
Have you ever come across Mallika’s blog, Quick Indian Cooking? It’s one of my favourites. Not only does she make me laugh with tales of yoga classes and mothers and the Tube and hazily remembered nights out, she also continually posts recipes that I desperately want to try out.
The above Paneer Bhujia was one such recipe and it was heavenly. Seriously, people: you must try this.
Those of you unfamiliar with Indian food may be wondering what paneer is. Similar in taste to ricotta but much denser, paneer is a mild tasting Indian white cheese. Living in London, I doubt very much that Mallika has difficulty in finding an Indian food shop that sells fresh paneer. Up here in Inverness, however, it’s a different matter. The only paneer I’ve found on sale is some dodgy longlife stuff that felt like rubber in my mouth and tasted like… well, nothing. There was only one thing to do: make my own.
And I did. Like making ricotta, the process was very simple and took under an hour. An hour very well spent, I say.
(enough for two helpings of Paneer Bhujia)
1 litre full fat milk
4 tblspns white vinegar
- In a heavy based pan, bring the milk up to a boil slowly.
- As soon as the milk begins to boil, add the vinegar, reduce the heat and stir slowly.
- At this point the curds and whey will seperate making the milk look green-ish grey with lumpy white bits. Perfect.
- Line a colander with a tea-towel and pour the mixture into it. Leave for 20 minutes to let the whey drain off.
- Squeeze out as much moisture as possible and shape the cheese into a patty. Tie the cloth with an elastic band around it. Place the cheese parcel on a board with another board on top of it and weigh this latter board down with tins to squeeze out more moisture.
- After another 20 minutes your paneer will be ready. Unwrap and eat immediately or store for up to 24 hours in an airtight container wrapped in the same damp tea-towel.
It didn’t go that well.
Marco thought Rosie was cute. Rosie thought Marco was an abomination.
She’ll come round.
We’ve been back from Stag Cottage only two days and I’m already missing it. I miss the remote glen. I miss the wood burner in the living room. I miss having pine martens in my garden. And I miss the above pretty kitchen.
My own kitchen is a brown, late 70′s, formica affair. It’s functional, but it’s seriously hideous and no amount of tile painting or handle replacing is ever going to disguise its hideousness. One day, somewhere in the distant future, I will have a light, airy kitchen with deep shelves, shiny appliances, wooden surfaces and green walls. Much like the kitchen which inspired the following dish, in fact.
Rachel’s Food is a British cookery programme hosted by Rachel Allen. To be honest, I rarely watch it as, though she seems exceptionally pleasant, I find the hostess’s vowel sounds highly irritating. I did catch it a couple of weeks ago, however, and Ms Allen was making an oven baked risotto verde which looked utterly spectacular. The following was my attempt to imitate the dish cooking the risotto on the stove top rather than in the oven.
I made this for the first time four weeks ago and we’ve eaten it every week since. Need I say more?
2 handfuls of spinach
Cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
20-ish basil leaves
1 tblspn olive oil
1 garlic clove
200g risotto rice
1 glass of white wine
50g pecorino cheese
Handful of chopped parsley
- Bring a small pan of salted water to the boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spinach to the pan and cook until wilted. Drain.
- Add the cooked spinach and peas to a food processor along with the basil. Blitz for 10 seconds until a very green, not at all smooth paste is formed.
- Meanwhile, get the risotto started. Saute the onion and garlic in the oil over a low heat until soft. Turn up the heat and add the rice. Fry until rice begins to turn opaque. Add the wine and let the alcohol burn off. Lower the heat to medium and gradually add the hot stock ladle by ladle, stirring constantly.
- When the rice is almost cooked add the very green paste to the risotto, season and continue to cook until rice is al dente.
- Remove from the heat and add the pecorino and parsley. Cover and set aside.
- Meanwhile, rub the asparagus with olive oil and seasoning. Cook on a griddle pan over a high heat for 3-4 minutes.
- Stir the risotto and serve topped with the asparagus spears and sprinkled with more pecorino.
We’re back from our holiday on the west coast. It was a magical, magical week. Somehow, the torrential rains that have been hammering the country recently missed the wee corner we were based in, enabling us to fully explore the hills and glens of the remote, beautiful Ardnamurchan penninsula and surrounding areas.
Don’t want to say too much about the following photos but I will tell you that the first photo is of the cottage we stayed in – Stag Cottage – and the following two photos are where the cottage is based. We practically had the entire glen to ourselves! Bliss.
P.S. The above are a selection of my favourite photos from the trip. There are more on my Flickr page here.
We’re off to a cottage on the west coast for a week. Got my walking boots, my camera, my books, my man and my dog. What more could I ask for?
Hope you have a great week too.