Sundays are for long walks with Marco and baking bread. This morning there’s a distinct autumnal chill in the air. It’s not quite hat weather but it’s not far off. We’re heading to our favourite woods to chase pheasants (Marco) and pick mushrooms (me) and when we return, I’ll make my current favourite bread: Spelt, Fig and Walnut.
I’ve taken to kneading my bread by hand again. For a while there, I was using a mixer to do all the work and a fine job it did of it too. Missed the therapy of working the dough myself, though. It feels oddly right now that those 15 minutes have returned to my Sunday routine.
Fig and Walnut Bread (Got the idea for this bread from the back of the Doves’ spelt flour package. I’m not so keen on bread make entirely with spelt though. This ratio was more to my liking.)
300ml tepid water
1 tspn dried active yeast
1 tspn brown sugar
150g spelt flour
350g strong white flour
1 tspn salt
6 dried figs
A little oil
Very good with some salty butter and/or sharp cheddar.
At the beginning of the summer I took part in the Highland Cross with two friends. It’s a coast to coast event involving walking/running 20 miles then cycling 30 miles through some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery. Armed with picnics and cameras, we weren’t your normal competitors. After a couple of miles, we couldn’t even see the other walkers ahead of us and we finished almost last! I know I’d like to run in the event in the future but this summer I had an absolutely lovely day walking in the hills, chatting with my friends, cheering on the runners and munching away on silly amount of food I had in my back pack.
The Jelly Babies were kindly shared by one of the marshals. My own snack of choice was a bag of Brazil nuts and dates. And it was this snack that inspired the below sweet nut butter. It’s very rich and very good. It’s terribly good for you and, once made, will keep in the fridge for at least four weeks. Highly recommend smearing it on toast in the mornings and topping with banana.
Brazil Nut and Date Butter
250g Brazil Nuts
Pinch of salt
I fell out of love with dhal a few years ago. Before then I’d regularly make big batches for the freezer and it was a weekly staple when life got particularly hectic. One day I just couldn’t face it anymore. Like the macaroni cheese of my childhood, I’d eaten it too often and its uniform taste and texture was no longer comforting; dhal was just dull.
There’s a happy ending, though, as recently I discovered this dahl. It’s the same lentil stew but with a mix of spices and quickly fried ingredients mixed through at the end. It utterly delicious and each mouthful a little different than the one before. I an enamoured once more.
Tarka Dhal (adapted from an epsiode of Saturday Kitchen where a Goan chef cooked for Rick Stein)
For the lentil stew:
Oil (ground nut, coconut, sunflower – not olive)
1 large onion, sliced thinly
3 medium tomatoes, quartered
2 garlic cloves
1 tspn turmeric
For the “seasoning”:
Oil (as above)
1 tspn mustard seeds
1 tspn onion seeds (optional)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 medium tomatoes – skinned, deseeded and chopped
½ tspn astofoetida (optional)
Heat a good glug of the oil over a medium high heat. Once hot, add the onions and tomatoes and cook for approximately 6 minutes until onion is soft but not coloured and tomatoes are collapsing. Add the garlic and turmeric and cook for another minute. Stir in the lentils then add enough water to just cover. Add a pinch of salt then bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 mins until the lentils are softened and the water absorbed. You’ll probably need to add a little more water every now and again.
While the lentils are cooking, make the tarka. In a large frying pan, add the mustard and onion seeds to the oil. Place on a medium high heat and cook until the seeds start popping. Add the onion then cook for a minute. Add the garlic and chilli. Cook for a minute. Add the tomato and asafoetida and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and stir into the lentils. Finally, stir the coriander and a good grinding of pepper into the dhal.
Summer came to North Kessock for a few days and it was glorious. It may return, it may not. We can at least be happy knowing that we made the most of it whilst it was here. We lived outside, basking in the morning sun, watching the roof tiles steam and the bees buzzing in the clover. There were long lazy bike rides in the afternoons and a few half hearted attempts at gardening. With the evening came reading (me) and PacMan (D) on the patio with white wine (me) and local ales (D). And interspersing all of this were as many barbecues as we could possibly fit into those lovely sun drenched days.
‘Twas grand. :)
If you are thinking of doing a spot of outdoor cooking/eating, can I warmly recommend the following dessert. It’s very nice indeed and ridiculously easy if you buy the ice cream from the shop. If you want a dessert that makes you moan expletives, however, make the ice cream yourself. I used the wonderful David Lebovitz’s recipe (here) but replaced half the double/heavy cream with coconut milk.
It’s also a perfect recipe for the end of a BBQ meal as the pineapple cooks perfectly over cooling coals, meaning you can cook it slowly whilst you enjoy your main meal.
Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Ice Cream
Coconut Ice Cream (Bought or this recipe replacing half the cream for coconut milk)