How to make a very good Sourdough Loaf

 

My son gave me some of his sourdough starter so I could have a go myself at making a sourdough loaf. I have tried before but it wasn’t brilliant. I can’t eat it myself as it’s made with gluten flour. My partner Mark loves it though.

I wanted to have the sourdough ready to eat on Sunday so the making process had to start on Friday.

The starter is kept in the fridge so I took it out on Friday morning, as per the instruction from son Marc. I divided it in two and threw one half away. I then fed the remainder with a cup of rye flour and some water. This was mixed together and then left on the worktop for a few hours.

In the afternoon I measured out 100g of the starter. I put the rest back in the fridge for the next loaf. I then added:

  • 300g water
  • 100g-stoneground flour
  • 400g white strong flour

 

I mixed all this together to make dough and then left the in bowl covered with a damp tea towel for 2 hours.

I then added:

10g fine sea salt and 15g cold water

The salty water was pushed into the dough with the fingers. This was left for 10 mins

After 10 mins it was time to fold and turn to get the traditional holes in the sourdough. The dough is pulled up and folded forward, and then the bowl is turned a quarter of a turn.

This is done a 3 further times with 30 minutes between each and a final 15 mins rest at the end.

After this the dough is shaped into a ball and wrapped it in a flour dredged tea towel over a colander and put in the fridge to rise overnight.

In the morning I pre warmed the oven to 220 degrees  for 30 mins.  I put in a Le Creuset casserole dish in the oven to heat up too.  Once it was hot, I also put in a roasting dish with boiling water to provide some steam.

I sprinkled some ground rice on the bottom of there casserole dish – you can use semolina – so that it didn’t stick. I slashed the top of the loaf, put the lid on and cooked it for an hour. After an hour, I took the lid off and cooked for a further 10 mins.

Let it cool as long as you can – that’s not long in our house!

 

 

 

Making Elderflower Champagne

Well, its just as well I picked all my elderflowers before the rain set in. I managed to get the Champagne bottled and its now sitting in the garage getting fizzy.

I made this last year for the first time and art was a great success. I doubled ups the recipe as we were having a family party. It went down well.

Heres the recipe – its a Women’s Institute recipe which I got from a google search. I used some of the last Spanish lemons which I had in the freezer.

Ingredients 

25-30 elderflower heads in full bloom

2kg white sugar

2 litres water

4 lemons – juice and zest

1-2 tablespoons of wine vinegar

Pinch of dried yeast

Method

Boil the water and put onto the sugar in a large bowl or bucket (sterilised)

Stir until the sugar dissolves and then make up to 6 litres with cold water.

Add the lemon juice and zest, the flowerhead and stir gently.

Cover and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days.

After a couple of days – check to see if it fermenting – if not add pinch of dried yeast.

Leave to ferment for a further 4 days.Strain the liquid through a muslin lined sieve.

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Pour into sterilised bottles – the ones with a glass and rubber seal.

Seal and leave to ferment for at leats a further 8 days before serving chilled. Make sure you doing fill to the top, to allow the gas to expand.

I found that it kept to August last year. It may of kept longer but it got shared and drunk!

The champagne is really fragrant and makes a lovely summer drink.

How to make Elderflower Cordial – no cooking required!

If like me you like a cold, refreshing and non alcoholic drink, you probably like elderflower cordial.

You can buy it in the supermarket but it is quite expensive. If, however, you can get your hands on some elderflower heads at this time of the year (in the UK) then prepare yourself for a real treat. Be quick as they aren’t around for long!

Ingredients

Elderflower heads

1.7 litres/3 pints boiling water

900g/21b caster sugar

50g/2oz citric acid – available from online stores or chemists

2 unwaxed lemons

2 unwaxed oranges

You need to collect about 30 elderflower heads. I make sure that these are not growing by the roadside, so they are not contaminated by car pollution. Just snip them off near the flower, with not too much stalk.

You may want to give them a quick rinse, to get off any little insects.

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Put 900g of caster sugar in a large bowl and pour in 3 pints (1.7litres) of boiling water. Stir and leave to cool.

Add the slices of lemons and oranges, the citric acid and finally the elderflower heads. Give it a stir and leave covered for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. You will be able to smell the elderflower fragrance almost immediately.

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After 24 hours, strain the whole lot through some muslin and transfer to sterilised bottles.

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Serve by diluting with water, sparkling water, or sparkling wine for a delicious cocktail.

I am going to pick some more to make some brilliant Elderflower Champagne and will give you the recipe soon. I made some last year, in June and we opened it at a family party we had in August. It was really fizzy and delicious.

 

Food we will be taking home from Spain – as it’s better or cheaper!

There are some foods we have been eating whilst here which are superior and/or cheaper than the UK. I am going to take a few items back which will travel ok. There are some more I would take but they proabably won’t travel very well, such as cheese, avocados, oranges, lemons.

We love the supermarkets here, as I have said before. We have been using mainly Carrefour as it’s closest but also Lidl and Mercadona. Some things are cheaper and some things are the same or a bit more expensive. However, the variety and choice of goods is far better here, in my opinion.

Olive Oil

The olive oil here is almost green – which tells you that it is good! I will be taking lots of this home.

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Tuna Fish

You can buy this in jars or tins, in oil or brine. We have been using the tuna in a jar with olive oil. The pieces of fish are lovely and chunky, not like the mashed up efforts sold in tins at home. This is actually bonito which is also very nice and is a bit cheaper than the tuna. I will probably take home both.

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Almonds

I am disappointed that whole almonds here are more expensive than in the UK. I thought that as they are grown here they would be cheaper but apparently not. It seems that Spain still import almonds from California! However, the roasted and salted ones from Lidl Spain are delicious and not available from Lidl UK.

 

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Chick Peas

Ready cooked chick peas are sold in jars here rather than tins.  The actual chick peas themselves are much plumper and tastier than the tinned variety available in the UK. You can sometimes but these in Lidl UK but usuallly only when there is a Spanish week.

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Olives

There is a HUGE choice in olives as you would imagine. Some of them are quite bitter but we have found some nice ones which come in very small tins, (which is good as they tend to go off if you open a large jar or tin) so I will be bringing back a few cans of these.

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Tomato Frito

This is a bit like passata but nicer. It comes in cartons and is good for sauces. Lidl do a good version.

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Corn Crackers

I do buy these in Lidl at home but I will be bringing some of these back. They are good for me as they are GF.

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Raisins

The black raisins are lovely and juicy and great for adding to the granola after cooking.

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Vinegars

i use a lot of wine vinegars in salad dressings but I also like to have other vinegars in my store cupboard for when I need them. I have bought red and white vinegars here,  which are cheap at approx 50p for a litre,so I will be taking some of those home. Sherry vinegar is ridiculously cheap too. I don’t use this a great deal but it’ll be there if I need it and it keeps for ages.

 

 

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Tapas Thursday’s

If you follow my Fidgety Lil Instagram account, you will have noticed that I have been doing a Tapas Thursday feature instead of a Curry Friday spot. It seemed the right thing to do as we are staying in Spain for so long.

I decided to cook 4 Tapas dishes each Thursday. It has mostly worked, except the day I made Paella and I just did that. Making 4 dishes between 2 of us has meant that there have been a LOT of leftovers, but the upside is, we don’t have to cook on a Friday!

I have spent a quite a bit of money on ingredients but, as its a bit of a hobby, and we are on an extended holiday then it’s guilt -free! Mark gets to eat the dishes (and photograph them) so he doesn’t complain either.

I have been lucky that there is nice crockery in the villa, to use in the pictures too. Some of it is very Spanish but there are some lovely classic plain white plates and bowls, which I have also used for some of the photos. There is a lovely black Paella dish which I used to cook and display the Chicken and Chorizo Paella.

It’s not all been successes, there have been a couple of things I wouldn’t cook again. For example, the almond chicken I made this week, is just not right. The sauce is made from almond, onion, garlic, stock and bread – I used GF bread. The consistency wasn’t sauce like so I added more stock and a bit of cream but we just didn’t like it very much.  Also, the Russian Salad, although very easy to make, wasn’t very exciting, so we won’t be having that again.

 

My three favourites are the Chorizo and Chicken Paella, Langoustines and Saffron Mayonnaise and Tuna and Mango Salsa. I also love the Patatas Bravas and would happily make those every week.

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I have taken the recipes I have used from online sources (BBC Good Food) and a book I downloaded to my Kindle from Amazon. Hamlyn All Colour Cookery Tapas and Spanish Dishes

I haven’t decided on next weeks 4 dishes yet but it will probably include a fish I haven’t used before.

So today we will be eating leftover Red Pepper and Egg Salad and Tomato Rice and Chicken.

Happy weekend!

Superfood Gluten Free Bread

 

As I don’t eat gluten, I am always on the look out for new bread recipes to try. Many of the GF recipes are made with white rice flour and tend to taste very bland and have no fibre content. I don’t eat sandwiches much any more but eat bread as toast, to get a bit of a crunch. Using seeds and nuts helps with the crunch as they crisp up when toasted. 

This recipe by Ella Woodward from “Deliciously Ella’ is full of wholesome ingredients. It requires no kneading, no tin and just a bit of effort for a great loaf.

I usually make it and have a few slices warm, keep a couple of slices out for the next day to toast and freeze the rest in slice portions, ready for a toasty breakfast. 

When I fancy a change from granola, I know there is some good and wholesome bread. It takes a while to toast but when its ready, I slather in butter and peanut butter (I  know…) or marmite or jam if I feel like it. 

Please have a go, you will be surprised at just how nice it is. 

When we arrived in Spain, I knocked this loaf up. I hadn’t got any almonds so used pecans and macadamias instead and it worked just as well. 

The ingredients you might not have in your cupboards are psyllium husk powder and chia seeds.These are the ingredients that bind it together. Both of these ingredients, can be bought on Ebay and health food shops. Chia seeds are now available in most supermarkets. 

Please let me know how you get on. 

Ingredients for 1 loaf

200g almonds

260g pumpkin seeds

200g brown rice flour

85g sunflower seeds

3 tablespoons psyllium husk powder 

3 tablespoons mixed herbs

2 tablespoons chia seeds

600ml cold water 

Salt and Pepper 

Method

Blend the almonds and half the pumpkin seeds in a processor until a flour forms 

Add the ‘flour’ to all the other dry ingredients in a large bowl

Add the cold water and mix together

Leave for 1 hour

Pre heat oven to 200 c

Turn the dough onto a greased baking tray

Shape into a loaf shape with your hands – don’t make it higher than 5-7 cm tall

Bake for 45- 50 mins until it turns golden brown and you can pull a clean knife out of the middle. 

Let it cool on a wire rack. 

Our Spanish Adventure

1f011c47-611e-434c-b4b3-161722a9d40aOh it’s great to escape the British greys skies in winter for the blue skies of Spain. Even when it’s cold here the sun shines and the air is dry. Eating salads instead of soup, sitting outside the cafes for coffee instead of moaning about the weather at home.  You just can’t beat it!

We love space, so when we come to Spain we hire a large villa. The one we are in this year, in Estepona, is HUGE. It can sleep 14! It’s got loads of space inside and out and has the most brilliant kitchen with everything I need to cook. However, I did bring my Magimix though because I could!

The supermarkets here are so good. The variety of fresh fruit, veg, meat, cheese, fresh fish and seafood is immense. A lot of the fish is caught locally. I am going to make it my mission to try some of the fish I have never heard of before.

Today we stocked up and also bought fresh prawns and merluza (hake) which is filleted for you. They even give you the fish heads to make stock. Avocados and tomatoes are plentiful, ripe and full of flavour. There are large bunches of fresh herbs such as parsley and mint at a fraction of the cost at home.

The garden here has oranges, lemons which we can pick and use and there is even an avocado tree with fruits on.

Although we are planning to do lots of walking, we will also be doing lots of cooking with all the local produce. I am planning Tapas Thursdays to replace Curry Friday’s for a while.

Making Christmas Goodies for Gifts

If there is one time of the year that you are allowed to have sugar its Christmas. I like to make things that you should only eat in moderation, at this time of the year. This week I have been making homemade sweets and preserves to give away as gifts. I have been using the Handmade Gifts from the Kitchen by Alison Walker this year. The book has all the things I like to make in the same place. I have had mostly successes but one failure which is bugging the hell out of me….

My Successes 

Hokey Pokey – this is chocolate dipped honeycomb. It’s lovely and crunchy finished with some dark chocolate so it’s not too sweet. 

Peanut Brittle – in my opinion there aren’t enough peanuts in the recipe so I added a few more. It has the desired salty and sweet flavour, but you can’t eat too much before you have to make a trip to the dentist! 

Peanut Butter Fudge – Mark’s new fave! If I want to give this away I have to be quick! Lovely creamy peanut taste. Very moreish. Will definitely have to make some more of this before Christmas.

Coffee and Cardamon Fudge – lovely combination, uses a tin of condensed milk. Has a different texture to the peanut butter fudge and more of a grown up taste. 

Fruits of the Forest Conserve – I used frozen redcurrant and blackberries  from the freezer which needed using up. Lovely colour in a the jar. Taste good too. I would add a dollop to gravy. 

Tiffin – a nutty, biscuit chocolate ‘cake’. Crikey it’s rich. You won’t be able to eat much. It’s easy to make and looks lovely wrapped individually in cellophane. 

Smoky Nuts – we needed something savoury to try! I used a mixture of what I had in the cupboard -brazils and peanuts and cashews. I won’t use the peanuts again but have bought some macadamias to try next week. 

Redcurrant Gin – this is still ‘cooking’. It’s going to be a lovely colour and a present for the person who is cooking my Christmas dinner! I am planning to decant it into a lovely bottle next week. 

The Failure 

Honey and Almond Nougat 

I am doing something wrong but have followed the recipe to the latter. I had to buy a new sugar thermometer so I know that I am cooking it at the right temperature. However, the consistency, colour and taste are wrong. I have had to throw away two lots now and that’s what bugs me. What a waste! I won’t be doing it again.

So next week I have a few more things to try and will let you know how I do. 

Cranks Nut Roast versus Ella’s Nut Roast

I am not a vegetarian as I eat chicken and fish, but I eat vegetarian meals every week. Part of my vegetarian repertoire is the ‘Cranks” nut roast, which I have been making since about 1983. I was given the Cranks Vegetarian book as a gift and have replaced it since then as it fell apart from over use. I first started making the nut roast as a substitute for Sunday meat roasts. Whenever we have family gatherings, I usually make this in addition to a meat roast. Invariably the meat eaters want both!

I do occasionally use other recipes like the Cashew and Parsnip Nut Roast in Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen for festive occasions. That’s a layered version which always looks nice when sliced, but uses cashews which are a bit expensive for everyday. Recently I have tried Ella’s nut roast from Deliciously Ella with Friends and I quite like it.

Whats the difference?

The Cranks recipe has fewer ingredients and uses  wholemeal breadcrumbs and lots of mixed nuts. It uses dried herbs, onions and yeast extract for flavouring. I tend to use a mixture of whatever nuts I have most of in the cupboard. It’s very quick to put together. I also use gluten free breadcrumbs these days and it works just as well. The consistency is crispy and crunchy on top with a softer centre. It has a very savoury taste.

The Ella recipe uses mushrooms, celery and carrots and herbs for flavouring and doesn’t have any bread in it – which is great for me. The consistency of the loaf is creamy which is due to the butternut squash and cashews and pine nuts. I like the  texture and flavour but the Cranks recipe is favoured by the other half.

I will probably continue to make both but I can make the Cranks one with my eyes closed so thats what we’ll have when I’m in a hurry. I usually have some GF breadcrumbs in the freezer.

Here’s the recipes so you can try both :

Cranks Nut Roast 

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Cranks Nut Roast

Ingredients 

  • I med onion
  • 25g butter
  • 225g mixed nuts
  • 100g bread or breadcrumbs
  • 300ml hot water or stock with 2 tsp yeast extract stirred in
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Chop the onion and sauté in butter till transparent
  2. Grind the nuts and bread together until quite fine
  3. Combine all the ingredients together
  4. Turn into a greased shallow baking dish and bake at 180 for 30 mins .
  5. Serve with proper home-made gravy – see below

Gravy

  • I onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 50 g butter
  • I shake Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbls mushroom ketchup
  • 1 heaped tsp redcurrant jelly
  • Glass red wine
  • 1 pint stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cornflour

Sauté the onion and celery in butter very slowly until the onion turns brown but not burnt – this may take 20 mins or so

Add wine and reduce by half

Add stock and mushroom ketchup, Worcester sauce and redcurrant jelly and season to taste. Simmer for 30 mins.

Mix the cornflour with some water to make a paste. Add to the gravy when you are ready to serve.

Ella’s Herbed Nut Roast

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Ella Nut Roast

Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts
  • generous ½ cup of cashews
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 7 ounces butternut squash, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon
  • A few good gratings of nutmeg
  • 5 tablespoons rolled oats
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon brown rice flour
  • ½ tablespoon ground chia seeds

Method

  1. Pre Heat the oven to 190 degrees Grease or line a 9″ x 5″ loaf tin
  2. Toast the pine nuts for 10 mins
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil and sauté celery, squash and carrot – when the celery is translucent add the garlic and salt and pepper
  4. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 mins
  5. Add nutmeg and herbs
  6. Place half the nuts in a food processor with the oats and whiz up as fine as they will go.
  7. Coarsely chop the remaining nuts, so they aren’t too chunky, then add these and the ground nut mixture to the pan. Add the flour and chia seeds and mix well.
  8. Press into the prepared loaf pan, cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Take the foil off and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a cool rack for 15 minutes
  9. Cut into slices. Serve with gravy

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