30 March 2009

Baking Mojo

I'm happy to say that the baking mojo seems to have returned.


I had 4 egg yolks left over from the other day when I made the Coffee Masala Cake and the only thing I could think of making was pasta.

I was going to stay well clear of the Cordon Bleu book after last time. I briefly searched on the Internet and right on top was Jamie Oliver's web site. I don't like him much, but skimmed through the article. It said either eggs or egg yolks. So far so good.

The packet of pasta flour (durum wheat flour that is) said whole eggs and less flour per egg.

So I improvised a bit.


4 large egg yolks
160 g pasta flour
approximately 1 dl water

  1. Mix the eggs yolks and the flour with your fingers into a crumbly dough.

  2. Add water, a little at a time, and keep mixing until the dough comes together and is smooth, fairly pliable and a bit sticky

  3. Sprinkle flour on the work surface and knead the dough for 5 - 6 minutes. If the dough keeps sticking, add pinches of flour until it stops sticking.

  4. Cover in cling film and leave to rest for at least 15 minutes.

  5. Divide into 8 pieces. Keeping them in the cling film, take out one at a time and roll as thin as possible on a floured surface, making sure it doesn't stick.
  6. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then cut to a desired shape and allow to dry a few more minutes.

  7. Store in an air tight box in the fridge or freeze if the pasta won't be used within 24 h.

I made the pasta on Sunday and kept in the fridge overnight. We had it for dinner today and I over-cooked it a bit, while I was fiddling with our usual mixture of tuna, sweet corn, peas, olive oil and crushed chillies.

Not only did it smell like pasta when it was done, it tasted like pasta too, though a bit on the soggy side. I could easily have left it a bit thicker and cut into thinner strips or smaller pieces. I cut tagliatelle of about 1 cm width and various lengths.


Both the flour packet and the article on Jamie Oliver's web site said to divide into small pieces before rolling, particularly when doing so by hand. Divide and conquer is definitely the way to do it. I didn't even think of trying to roll the whole lot in one go. This is definitely a thing I'd repeat and will then add spinach or tomato puree. I'll also cut into smaller pieces, it'll be easier to handle after it's cooked.

Aromatic Asian Steak

With sweet and sour cucumber salad.


As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have a large number of recipes that I haven't tried.

I decided to start getting through all the recipe cards I tend to pick up every time I go to Waitrose. I laid my collection on the worktop and asked Lundulph to choose. He picked out two, the first of which is the title of this post.

I wandered down to the butcher on Saturday morning and got a nice piece of sirloin steak. It was just over 1 kg - given the amount of fat on it, I thought this would result in a doubling of the recipe.

To be on the safe side, I trebled the marinade. I had to swap out the lime juice for lemon juice, I had all other ingredients.

I took off most of the fat from the steak and put it out for the foxes. Then I sliced it into three 2 cm thick steaks. I'm not sure how it was supposed to be cut, it wasn't too clear from the photo on the Waitrose web site. I put the pieces to marinate in the morning on Sunday, so they had some 8 h to marinade.

Unfortunately, I made the salad shortly after I'd put the meat to marinade. That was sort of implied in the instructions, but since radishes were involved, they leached red colour everywhere, which is why the salad looks so manky.

I browned the steaks briefly on hot, turning several times every 30 - 40 s or so, then put in the oven along with all the marinade for 11 minutes. The marinade formed a thick sauce that mostly covered the steaks.

I boiled white basmati rice to go with it and we had a nice Georges Duboeuf Fleury from 2006, which, as Lundlulph put it, had passed it's Ribena stage and tasted like proper wine.

Overall, I think I put in too much honey, because the steak was a bit on the sweet side for me. But the whole reminded me of Mrs W's Lamb Kebabs, which I tried out last Summer.

We ate one of the steaks yesterday. One is in the fridge for Wednesday and one is in the freezer for later on in the year.

Lundulph Nostalgia

Rummaging around the freezer a few days ago, I found a packet of fish fingers. These exist in Sweden as well and were the only type of fish I'd eat while at school. The packet in question was purchased on one of the few times Lundulph would come shopping with me and last Friday seemed like a good time to tuck into it.

I bought some Heritage potatoes from Sainsbury's, they were purple and looked rather exciting. This to make mash and for a bit of colour, I had a packet of peas in the freezer too.


The interesting bit is the mashed potatoes. Despite the heritage ones being floury, i e for roasting, I steamed them along with the couple of waxy Vivaldi ones I had left over from earlier. Pushed all of them through the potato press and realised I didn't have creme fraiche as per Delia's perfect mashed potatoes.

So the way I resolved this was to use butter and home made yogurt.

I had about 1 kg potatoes to which I used 100 g unsalted butter (the only kind I use in my sweet baking escapades these days, thus the only kind in the fridge) and 6 tbsp yogurt, along with salt and ground black pepper. It tasted just as nice as with creme fraiche.

Rather nice and quick dinner, I thought.

28 March 2009

Reduced Shopping Efforts

Well, since I had three disappointing shopping sessions at the beginning of the year, I've now moved on to Sainsbury's online services. And although they aren't as refined as Ocado - don't tell you if anything is out of stock, don't send you a reminder SMS - they have been better. The first two times they were running well early and called to ask if they could deliver some 45 minute before the booked slot. The third and fourth times, they've delivered spot on within the booked slot. So from that point I'm very happy with them.

They seem to be having some stock control issues, in that some of the things I've ordered aren't availble - cornflakes or groundnut oil - cupboard stuff that they shouldn't struggle to hold. Also milk has been a bit of a hit and miss. However as is my habit, I generally tend to re-stock my larder/fridge/freezer well in advance, this hasn't been an issue. Lundulph has commented that Sainsbury's are notorious for lacking stock control also in their shops. I think I agree.

So for now, I'll keep using them, but I do need to refine my routine.

Overall, I am biased towards Sainsbury's though, from all the supermarkets I've tried, they are the ones that have pretty much all of the things I use. Waitrose generally oozes expensive feel to it and also that it doesn't have everything you might need. But maybe it's just that they have a reduced choice of everyting. Marks and Sparks are aiming for the same thing and often when the food is in a corner of the rest of the shop, I always think that's wrong - you shouldn't have food next to clothes and shoes, that just doesn't work for me. ASDA tends to have scary people in it and along with Tesco they seem to aim for the unhealthier foodstuffs, at least that's the impression I have. Morrisons/Safeways used to have quite a few interesting tings to offer, but required a thorough search for them and nowadays the other supermarkets carry these also.

A favourite of mine is Lidl. It too has often strange and scary shoppers, but when it comes to a good selection of biscuits and wafers, I think they're unbeaten. They also have a lot of canned foods and I regularly buy crates of roasted red peppers in vinegar, not to mention pickeld baby cornichons or gherkins. The peppers are great in salads or on pizza and the cornichons are wonderfully tender and also good on pizza as it happens. They also do canned button mushrooms and canned tomatoes, so I generally get crates of them too, along with sweetcorn. We tend to have salad for dinner a couple of times a week and it's very handy to have canned veggies. As I've said before, I think a salad should have at least four vegetables in it and preferably a lot more.

Anyway, I thought I'd post an update on my online grocery shopping experiences.

27 March 2009

Further Baking Badness

I'm in a rut, that's what it must be.

I thought I'd do something fairly simple just to get back on my baking feet so to speak, but no, this is not to be. I guess it's just too much else going on around me that's stressing me out to the point where I can't enjoy baking.

Last night's attempt was at Swedish Moccastrass. They are basically fancy looking shortbread type of biscuits. Overall, I think the dough was correct, but it said that it needed to be piped, and although soft and pliable, piping was not on its list of things to do and I spent about half an hour trying to even bring it down to the nozzle. The butter also started melting in my hands and oozed out of the piping bag. I attempted a remedy by adding 2 tbsp of grapeseed oil, which worked for about 15 flower shaped squirts, then it oozed out of the piping bag as well. I got angry and binned the rest.

The resulting biscuits weren't too tasty, so should up the sugar next time and down the amount of flour perhaps. But to be on the safe side, I've asked my Sister to give me a cake press for my birthday.

I didn't bother taking photos, it wasn't worth it. I'll give this recipe another try at some point, when my baking mojo is back.

24 March 2009

Bad Baking Day

Last Saturday Lundulph went to a concert and I took the opportunity for some baking - I wanted to try out a couple of recipes from my "Things to cook in 2008" list. Yes, 2008, I'm well behind.

Now, first up was focaccia. Actually I'd first experienced the French version Fougasse, from the bakery chain Paul. But it seems that the Italian Focaccia is more popular, when I searched the web. So that's what I set off to make.

As usual, I didn't do too deep research, but picked one of the recipes that came up at the beginning of a google search. The recipe seemed harmless enough, not too detailed, but enough. Sadly I was a bit sloppy and put in all the olive oil into the initial dough, completely ignoring the fact that fat prevents gluten from developing, thus ruining any possibility of success - the glugen needs to develop in order to contain the gasses from the yeast that will give the bread it's structure and texture. Besides, the dough was way too firm, but the recipe said it should be oddly enough.

Anyway, I followed the rest of the instructions, apart from the baking that took twice as long and I also skipped putting a bowl of water at the bottom of the oven - gas ovens tend to have a more moist heat.


The result smelt like a focaccia and was barely edible. One of the two focaccias burnt too and both were well dry. At this point I had a gut feeling that my next project would also fail.

Project two was a Coffee Masala Cake. I can't remember where I found it - maybe The Daring Bakers or The Fresh Loaf. The name sounded very intriguing and it had cashew nuts on top, and I've never used cashews for sweet dishes, only for korma or as a snack.

The recipe was interesting too - only egg whites and it had both baking powder and baking soda.

I didn't succeed in getting the spice and coffee mixture as frothy as specified in the recipe and I had to add 3 tbsp milk to make it runny enough to whip in the first place. The batter ended up quite thick, but still was OK for a sponge cake. Looking at the photo in the recipe now, that one's a lot runnier. I had some doubts about the amounts for the various spices, but they turned out quite good.

Still, into the oven it went. It rose very nicely, almost threatening to overflow. I added cashews and chocolate chips as instructed after 20 minutes, at which point it had a crust, but was very wobbly indeed. 15 minutes later, it still looked a bit wobbly and I thought I'd put a skewer through it to see how much it had to go. And disaster! As soon as I pulled out the skewer, the cake sank in. I quickly closed the oven door and ran off, I really didn't want to watch that.

A further 15 minutes and the cake was shaped like a bowl and was done. I've still not managed to work out what went wrong. The baking powder and soda were well mixed in with the flour, but I guess only using egg whites makes the sponge a lot more fragile.



Lundulph suggested I fill the hole with Angel Delight. But I didn't. Still the cake itself was rather tasty, quite strong on the cloves and not too sweet. I think I'll use caster sugar next time, not granulated. Also I'll reduce the cloves a bit and add more ginger - Lundulph recommended that too.

He had it with fairly thick pouring cream and said that worked out quite nicely.

So for my next project I've picked something a bit easier. But I'll wait a while, last Saturday was very depressing. I need to fine tune the cake and work out how to make focaccia too.