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
- Add the yeast and sugar to the water and set aside for 10 mins.
- Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the water and use your hand to mix to a rough dough.
- Turn out on to a clean surface and knead for 10 – 15 minutes until dough is silky and pliable. Place in a lightly oiled plastic bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for an hour or two until doubled in size.
- While dough is rising, briefly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan then chop roughly. Soak the figs in hot tea for 30 mins, blot dry then chop roughly.
- When dough is risen, tip on to a lightly floured surface and knock the air out. Stretch dough out into a flat rectangle and sprinkly across the nuts and figs. Roll dough up then knead again for a couple of minutes until filling is evenly distributed and dough is holding together again (it’ll be a little tricky at first but it will happen).
- Shape into a ball and place on lightly floured baking sheet. Cover ( I put a big plastic bowl upside-down over the dough) and leave to rest in a warm place for another hour.
- Meanwhile, heat the over to 190oC. Make sure there is a baking tray heating on the shelf below the one you’ll put the bread on.
- When the dough is risen, sprinkle with a little white flour then slash diagonally three times. Place in the oven. Pour a cup of water into the hot baking tray then shut the door quickly. This will create lots of steam to give you a good crust.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Let cool completely before slicing.
Very good with some salty butter and/or sharp cheddar.
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)
- Cut the pineapple into 2cm rounds then cut into semi circles. You may want to cut off the skin first – it’s easier to eat this way but less pretty.
- Squeeze a little lime juice over each slice, both sides and rub with a little brown sugar. Maybe 1/4 tspn per semi circle.
- Place on BBQ over low heat for 20 mins, turning occasionally. If your BBQ is hotter, turn more frequently and reduce cooking time.
- Serve warm with a scoop of coconut ice cream and some torn mint leaves.
One week ago it was 21°C (70°F). We had a BBQ, David got sun burnt on a bike ride and I fell asleep in the garden.
Yesterday it snowed.
Let’s ignore the fact that I’ve been gone for three months, shall we? Yes? Super. Accept this cute photo of Marco as an apology and we can just move on.
In fact, let’s just continue where we left off and pretend the following promised recipe isn’t terribly, terribly overdue. It’s a recipe for an onion tart. It’s very simple but it’s very, very good. We’re having it tonight with a lentil and greens salad (will share that soon too) and some rosemary bread. And I’ll undoubtedly polish off the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow morning – this is not a dish that lasts long in our house!
330g plain flour
½ tsp salt
75g cold salted butter
5 medium onions
Knob of butter
Glug of olive oil
½ tspn dried thyme
50g parmesan cheese
150 ml double cream
2 medium eggs
- Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and throw in the bowl. Quickly and vigorously rub the fats into the flour. Lift your hands high above the bowl to make sure the mixture remains airy. When the flour and fat are combined and resemble breadcrumbs, begin to add the cold water. Start with 30ml and mix in with a knife. Add water tablespoon by tablespoon and mix until the mixture starts to come together. Use your hands to create a smooth ball of pastry. Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour. (See Delia’s instructions for more detail.) This makes more pastry than you’ll need. I freeze the leftovers.
- Meanwhile, slice the onions to 5mm thickness. Melt the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly. When the onions begin to go translucent, add the dried thyme and continue cooking. I like my onions to be soft and just starting to go golden, for a sweeter tasting tart, cook the onions until golden and caramelised.
- In a jug, briefly whisk together the milk, cream and eggs with a little salt and pepper.
- Roll the pastry out to the thickness of a pound coin (3mm?) and line a 23cm fluted tart tin with it. Line with baking paper, add baking beans or dried chickpeas and blind bake for 25 mins in a 180oC oven. Remove the beans and paper and bake for a futher 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. Add the onions to the base of the tin and half of the cheese. Pour over the milky/eggy mixture and top with the remaining cheese. Bake in the oven for 30 mins.
- Remove from oven when golden and set and let cool for 20 mins. This tart is much taster when warm rather than hot.
A Happy New Year to you all!
I’ve got some lovely recipes to share including a chocolate cake that even I wanted to eat and an onion tart which my husband didn’t say would be improved with a little chorizo/bacon/other meat product. That’ll be another night though. It’s the first Monday night back at work after the holidays and I’m good for nothing.
Have a peek at some Marco/food photos from over the festive period instead.