How to Make Bread

Seeded-Batch-Loaf

Bread.

One of the human race’s dietary staples, and yet at 3 hours prep and 40+ minutes cooking time, I’m surprised we’ve persevered with it as much as we have!

Ciabatta, focaccia, pitta, baguette… the list is endless, so when you finally get that oh-so-rare free few hours on a Sunday, decide that only home-made will do, where on earth do you start?

By assumption if you are reading this, like me you probably turn to the internet, an abundance of bread recipes and now with those Fabulous Baker Brothers gallivanting all over Channel 4 (and Bristol), are we to believe that we can all become Master Bakers?

Of course not, even a skilled hand needs practise, trial and error to get the hang of dough consistency, kneading, rising. But we all have to start somewhere, and my tactic here was right at the beginning.

Gizzy Erskine to the rescue.

Gizzy’s basic batch loaf video recipe was easy to follow, inexpensive and the processes meant I was leaving the bread for hour-long stints at a time, whilst I prepped a moussakka, hoovered the carpets and generally went about my Sunday usuals. Perfect!

Although she uses white bread flour, I do have a personal issue with following recipes and always have to alter at least one thing (usually so I can blame that when it all goes wrong), but in this instance, swapping that for wholemeal seeded flour made for a rustic, hearty and healthy loaf.

It turned out pretty well and dipped in good extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar whilst it was still warm was the ultimate wintery Sunday treat – same time next week!

Click here to watch Gizzy Erskine’s video recipe on Channel 4.

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Be My Valentine – Boeuf Bourguignon Recipe

boeuf-bourguignon

What better way to show you love someone on Valentine’s Day than to spend three hours on a Tuesday night slaving away over a hot stove?

Ok, so Masterchef”s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe may have been a tad ambitious for a mid-week treat considering I am the world’s slowest cook, but not only does the 2 hours oven time give you time to relax & watch a movie/have a bath/glass of wine and a natter, but the end result is absolutely worth the wait.

The recipe can seem a little daunting for someone like me who doesn’t do slow-cooking, casseroles, stews etc, but once I had finished the preparation, I realised it”s actually pretty easy to pick up. I would certainly recommend this Masterchef recipe to make sure you get great, tasty results, any day of the year!

Ingredients

175g streaky bacon
2 tbsp olive oil
900g lean braising steak cut into cubes
12 small shallots
1 tbsp plain flour
300ml red wine
300ml beef stock
115g button mushrooms
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
4 tbsp chopped parsley

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160C, peel the shallots and chop the bacon

2. Fry the bacon in a little bit of oil until lightly browned and transfer to a casserole dish

3. Add a little more oil to the pan and fry the beef in batches over a high heat transferring to the casserole dish as they brown

4. Reduce the heat of the pan and fry the shallots whole for a few minutes – then transfer these to the casserole dish, making sure to leave as much of the juices in the pan as possible

5. Add the flour and a litte bit of stock to the pan and stir

6. When the flour has formed into a paste in the pan, add the beef stock and red wine and bring to the boil, stirring constantly until smooth

7. Add the mushrooms, bay leaf and herbs, season to taste with salt and pepper before pouring all the contents of the pan over the meat and shallots in the casserole dish

8. Cover and cook in the oven for around 2 hours or until the meat is very tender

9. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with mashed potatoes (try sweet potatoes for extra flavour)

Happy Valentine”s Day!

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Malaysian Laksa Luxury

Malaysian-Laksa

Ordinarily I would never encourage people to spend a Saturday night alone, but last night was my first free Saturday of the year and with my other half getting to grips with snowboarding in the Alps, I thought I’d delve into a bit of Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey.

It was a case of ”drop the book and see what page it lands on” – and he must have read my mind when the Penang Road Laksa page turned. I’ve enjoyed Singapore noodles before, which I think is of a similar elk, but I’ve always been intrigued by Laksa. It’s been a relatively new foodie favourite batted around in the mainstream for just a few years and I saw Rick Stein make a simple but tasty version of it on Masterchef Australia.

When I checked out the pastes in the back of the book, I really liked the sound of the Singapore Laska spice paste. With a handful of cashew nuts, dried shrimps and coriander seeds all included on the list, I knew it would be rich and bursting with flavour.

It didn’t disappoint and I ended up with a seriously fragrant, seriously spicy, delicious golden Laksa gravy covering soft egg noodles. Sustainably topped off with a flaked coley fillet, wild garlic leaves (hand picked by my step dad) and fresh chopped chilli, it almost felt like a shame not to be sharing it out – almost!

For the Singapore Laksa spice paste, you will need:

25g dried shrimps
10 dried chillies – seeds shaken out
1 tsp shrimp paste
2 lemon grass stalks – chopped
25g cashew nuts
4 cloves garlic – roughly chopped
40g ginger (or galangal) – roughly chopped
2 tsp turmeric
125g shallots – roughly chopped
1 tbsp freshly ground coriander seeds
3 tbsp vegetable or rapeseed oil

Soak the chillies and shimp in boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain and add with all the other ingredients in to a blender. Blend to a smooth paste.

From here you can create a curry or a soup style dish. Either fry off the paste before adding coconut milk, a little fish stock and prawns, or add your paste to a litre of water and boil for 30 minutes before passing through a sieve, pushing through as much of the flavour and liquid as possible and adding to 150ml of tamarind water. Either can be poured over soft boiled noodles and topped with your favourite fresh Oriental flavour combo.

I went for flaked fish, wild garlic leaves, cress and fresh red chilli but beansprouts, spring onion, coriander, mint and lemon grass also make great toppings.

Serve with chopsticks but make sure you”ve got some spoons handy to scoop up all the golden spicy sauce!

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Gilgamesh

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Arriving at Camden Town tube station I was giddy with excitement to see what all the fuss my friends had been making about Camden was about… Not least of all the hottest celeb London hangout – Gilgamesh.

I was lucky enough to be surprised by my other half with a weekend trip to London for our 2 year anniversary and slap bang in the middle of our 2 night trip was a VIP reservation at Gilgamesh to celebrate!

Walking over the bridge a little way up Chalk Farm Road you could be mistaken for thinking you are about to be ushered through corridors of incense, fake designer goods and falafel into the middle of a buzzing, heady, hippie market place… And you would be right – this is exactly what you should expect of the Stables Market.

As you enter this famous London market place you can’t help but imagine Amy and Blake trawling the vintage stores and scoring their next hit from the guy selling all the sterling silver jewellery.

Pass all that and the cobbles begin to open up to a tall temple style building with columns of fire either side of an escalator and a sharply dressed ”somebody” with a clipboard manning the entrance.

We announced ourselves, with that niggling fear of being told “you’re not on the list”, but were chirpily welcomed to make our ascent into the Gilgamesh Temple.

Coats on hangers, we were escorted to the Babylon VIP Lounge to start making our menu choices. Walking through the main restaurant and bar it was teeming with London’s glitterati, all in their Saturday night finest and all on edge checking everyone else on their internal fame-o-meter!

Finally we reached our table, in the far cosiest corner of the darkened, candle lit lounge, surrounded by sheer deep crimson drapes and hand carved wooden tables and walls.

If the far eastern spirit of the venue was a reflection on the food, we were in for a fragrant and spicy treat.

I had eyed the menu the night before but inconclusively needed another half an hour to make a decision… A perfect eastern mix of small plates, soups, dim sum and curries meant I was torn. In the end, forced by the politeness of our waitress who kept topping up our glasses with our gorgeously smooth bottle of Carmanere, I went for the Prawn Har Gau‚ a steamed prawn dumpling with garlic chives, presented in the miniature bamboo steamer. The prawns’ bodies were served still in-tact and were perfectly juicy and meaty, encased in their thin sticky dumpling skin. Three in the steamer made a good number for a trade: half a duck spring roll was mine!

For my entre, knowing I could steal some spicy beef Penang from across the table, I cautiously opted for the crispy Master Stock duck with fresh plum sauce and spicy salt, served with pancakes. When the duck came, I was surprised to see it was similar to that of a shredded duck dish in a good Chinese restaurant, although after one bite, I quickly realised the value. Perfectly succulent and bursting with flavour but with just enough stickiness, crispiness and coating of fresh plum sauce. Served up with seriously fresh strips of cucumber and spring onion and a side of Asian greens, this was so moorish I wanted to pick the plate up and lick it clean! But I didn’t – It’s a classy place!

Class aside however, our total bill including pre and post-dinner drinks, a good bottle of red, 2 starters, 2 mains and a side came to around £110, an absolute steal. Not only that but no longer had we leaned over the table for a quick smooch was our hostess coming over to brand us up with some wrist bands giving us free entry to the Gilgamesh club.

I was excited to eat at Gilgamesh and not only did it not disappoint, the atmosphere, decor, value and service completely exceeded my expectations. Although the food was simpler than I had imagined, Ian Pengelley has cleverly chosen some classic pan-Asian favourites and absolutely perfected them without too much fuss.

For more information, the full menu and bookings visit http://www.gilgameshbar.com

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