Chorizo and Thyme Bread

Fougasse-(4392)

Now that’s a great combo. That’s why I’ve chosen it for the name of this blog. And if you try this combination, you’ll know – it’ll be a bit of an a-ha moment. You see, to be honest this blog post was a long time coming and I know I will be relieved once it’s published. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you might already know that recently I bought a cook book which I didn’t like that much at first. I thought it was a total waste of money really. Having baked some recipes from it as the weeks passed by, I must now say that although I still have some lurking doubts, I am warming up to it slowly. First of all I must thank this book for this blog’s name. I have cooked with chorizo before and it has become a staple in my pantry. Lorraine Pascale made me want to try it with thyme. It turned out to be a perfect marriage.

The following recipe is my take on her Chorizo and Thyme Fougasse (click here for the actual recipe). I am grateful to Ms. Pascale for this and for some other recipes in her book which I will try very soon. I made this bread after a long walk in the beautiful Surrey countryside and loved it. So here it goes.

A very important note for this recipe: I used my bread machine to make the dough instead of a mixer with a hook. This was less messy and it worked really well for me. I will also include the traditional method later on.

For the bread machine dough method will need:

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons yeast dissolved into 250ml warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin if possible)

Have 50g of finely chopped ready-to-eat chorizo and 2 tablespoons of dried thyme at the ready, to add after the dough cycle is ready, and some milk for brushing the dough.

  1. If you have a bread machine then choose the pizza dough option which will take approximately 45 minutes. Remove the dough from the container.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
  3. Work the chorizo and thyme in the dough. When these are well combined leave the dough to rise in a warm place, preferably covered with some oiled clingfilm or a warm damp clean cloth for around 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  4. Brush the dough with the milk.
  5. For the crust to remain nice and golden place two handfuls of ice cubes at the bottom of the oven (you can also either spray the oven with some cold water before closing or fill a small roasting dish with water in place of the ice cubes).
  6. Place the dough on a lightly oiled roasting tray in the oven. Bake for around 40 minutes but keep an eye on it and check its colour every once in a while. I know this is fiddly, but it’s worth it. I’m already smelling the freshly baked bread in your kitchen!

And now for the other method, all you need to do is to replace Step 1 with the following:

  • Mix the dough ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Turn out the dough onto a floured surface.
  • Knead for 15-20 minutes. I know you have to work at it and use some muscle power but this will develop the dough’s elasticity. So please, please have patience.
  • Put the dough back in a bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
  • Continue from Step 2.

    Enjoy!

    Rob x

J’s Pancake Recipe

Blueberry-Pancakes-(4418)

I introduce to you my lovely husband J. I’ll be cheating today because this is his recipe! J likes to cook and he takes over the kitchen once in a while to whip up some tasty treats. I hand over the baton very graciously during these moments especially during weekends when I mainly bake anyway. I never regret it.

One of my personal favourites is pancakes. He makes a mean stack and they’re always special. Being a perfectionist, he worked and worked on this recipe till he got it right if I may say so myself. He thinks so too I guess but he’ll never admit it. So without further ado here it is. This recipe makes around 6 large thick American style pancakes, and of course if you have a waffle-iron you can make lovely waffles instead of pancakes.

Just a note before we start: instead of buttermilk, you can use the same quantity of milk and leave it at that. You can also add about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to the milk and let it sit for around 15-30 minutes. Also feel free to leave the salt out completely. I prefer a salt-free batter personally but I know that J likes a slightly salty flavour. For extra taste and colour contrast J likes to add some blueberries.

  • 175g plain flour
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt – optional
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk
  • 35g butter, melted
  • 250g blueberries – optional

If you don’t have buttermilk start off by preparing the milk as suggested above. If you’re using only milk then read on.

Measure the flour, baking powder, salt (if you’re using it) and sugar and mix them in a bowl.

For the waffles, or for fluffier pancakes, separate the eggs and use some muscle power to beat the whites into soft peaks.

Mix the milk/buttermilk with the egg yolks and melted butter. Pour these into the dry ingredients but try not to mix the batter too much.

Fold the soft beaten egg whites into the mixture and use a ladle to pour a bit of the pancake batter on a preheated and greased griddle (or a good non-stick pan). Sprinkle in some blueberries if you want at this stage.

Cook on one side until you see bubbles forming throughout the surface and the edges have solidified. Then turn the pancake over on the other side. Repeat until you have used all your batter.

Serve alone with some golden syrup or honey, or with fruit. Or however you want for that matter! Enjoy!

Rob x

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate-Chunk-Muffins-(4414)

A couple of weeks ago I wanted something sweet but which was not going to take the best part of the afternoon to prepare it. When it comes to that I turn to one person. You know who…don’t you?

I bought Nigella Feast recently. (About time…it was published in 2004!) In it is a lovely muffin recipe which I adapted just because I didn’t have all the ingredients. It turned out really well. The only thing is that I’ll have to buy chocolate chips the next time I try it. Chocolate chunks seem to be too heavy for these muffins to handle. But they’re great anyway. This is quick and really easy so give it a go. You will not be disappointed.

Two notes before you start:

What I do for the chocolate chunks is to take a plastic freezer or sandwich bag, put a bar of chocolate inside, close it and bash it with a rolling pin. (See? I said this was quick. Brutal but quick.)

If you want these to be extra chocolatey Nigella suggests adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder with the dry ingredients. Makes 12.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 100g chocolate chunks (or 1 bar)
  • 250ml milk
  • 90ml vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and fill a muffin tray with paper cases or line each one with baking paper cut in squares.
  2. Put all the dry ingredients, including the chocolate chunks in a large bowl.
  3. Pour the liquids in a smaller bowl, or better still in a medium measuring jug. Pour these into the dry ingredients till all is combined and just moistened. Don’t mix too much to so that the end result will be light and fluffy muffins.
  4. Spoon the mixture into their muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes until the muffins are risen and golden. Check if their completely cooked by inserting a skewer or knife.

Enjoy!

Rob x

Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese

Pappardelle-with-Squash-and-Blue-Cheese-(4391)

What a long recipe title this is! The story behind this is simple enough though, with some simple steps. It goes like this:

Step 1: Buy Nigella Book.

Step 2: Read every page intently and stick post-its to every page.

Step 3: After careful consideration choose 1 recipe…yes…just one. O-N-E I said!

Step 4: Run to the market & fill your bag with veggies for…what…20 recipes???

In the end one recipe made it through, and it’s amazing. In my view, you really cannot avoid using blue cheese, but since it’s not my recipe I can tell you that Nigella suggests some substitutions (Cheshire or Wensleydale cheese for those in the UK, or maybe some ricotta salata if you’re in the Mediterranean). Instead of butternut squash you can easily use pumpkin. So here’s the recipe with my variations. Go on…invite 4 friends for lunch and try this out. They will love it and so will you. You need:

  • 1 large butternut squash (or 800g cubed pumpkin)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mild olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons red wine or red vermouth
  • 125 ml water
  • 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried sage
  • 100g pine nuts
  • 500g fresh pappardelle (tagliatelle will also do nicely here)
  • 125g blue cheese
  1. Peel and cut the butternut squash or pumpkin into approximately 2cm cubes. Gently fry the chopped onion in the olive oil (into a pan that is big enough to hold both the sauce and the pasta in the final stage of cooking). Add the paprika when the onion turns golden in colour.
  2. Add the butternut (or pumpkin) cubes and butter into the pan and stir well. When the butternut squash is completely covered with the onion and butter add the wine (or vermouth), water and red wine vinegar. Let the ingredients bubble for a minute or so, put the lid on the pan, turn the heat down and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the butternut squash is soft but not falling apart. Add the dried sage during the last few minutes.
  3. In the meantime cook the pasta as per packet instructions and lightly toast the pine nuts. Tip the nuts in a container and let them cool. Don’t be a klutz like me and burn the pine nuts! Keep an eye on them at all times.
  4. Check the sauce to see if the squash is tender. If not let it simmer for another few minutes. Add a pinch of salt for extra seasoning but not too much. When pasta is cooked add this to the sauce and mix thoroughly.
  5. Serve either in one big serving dish or in 4 individual portions. Crumble in the blue cheese and sprinkle the pine nuts.

    Enjoy it – you will want more!

    Rob x

Beef Stew

Beef-Casserole-(4387)

J tells me that I tend to panic whenever I have friends over for lunch or dinner no matter how easy the meal was to prepare. This is perfectly true. (Yes..I am aware of it and I am really working on it.) So I never cook anything complicated to begin with. This is even more true when I have people over mainly because my Surrey flat is very small and the kitchen is tiny. I am not complaining because I’ve seen tinier kitchens than this! But I think I might have just picked up on something that my mother did. She too has a little kitchen but she makes these fantastic dishes and can whip up a meal in a jiffy with a small number of ingredients. (I really have a lovely mum!) She’s really keen on one pot suppers and I can understand why. They are easy to prepare, comforting, especially on a cold winter’s day and you can potter about the house doing your thing while they do their thing and cook.

So the following is my take on my mum’s recipe. It comes in handy when I want that comfy warm feeling of her cooking. This will easily serve 6.

Just a note before going ahead with the recipe. Sometimes I serve this with mashed potatoes but other times I don’t bother too much and add diced ones in the pot. J prefers the mash so I usually do what I’m told..*ehem*. I know that the list of ingredients is long but please bear with me. For this Beef Casserole you need:

  • 750g diced beef (in bite-sized chunks)
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons regular olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 large onion, or 2 small ones, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
  • 8 large mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 litre beef stock (or enough to cover ingredients)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon tomato paste or tomato concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (I prefer the dark brown kind but it’s really up to you)
  • 2-3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Toss the beef in flour and season with some pepper. Then brown the beef well on all sides in an oven proof pan. Remove the meat from the pan to a separate container until needed later.
  2. Gently fry the chopped leek, onion, garlic, celery, carrots and mushrooms in the same pan you seared the beef for around 5 mins, adding the wine slowly to scrape the meat juices from the bottom of the pan. Place the beef in the pot again.
  3. Add the bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste, stock and sugar and stir. Finally add the Worcestershire sauce and give everything a good mix. Cover and put the pan into the preheated oven for around 1 and a half hours.

    Serve with mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

    Rob x

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Nigella's-Chocolate-Cookies-(4379)

I should have included these babies right before Valentine’s Day, but believe me when I say that these cookies will taste great any time during the year. I have been wanting to try them for ages, as with all of the recipes in this blog, but this is totally special. It is adapted from Nigella’s Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (click here for the Nigella’s recipe and here to watch her make them).

Now you really don’t need an electric mixer. They turn out great even if you mix everything by hand. I totally omitted the salt and in truth you can even leave out the bicarbonate of soda and use baking powder instead but I included it anyway. Also my adaptation calls for only (ehem..cough) 200g of chocolate, which is approximately 2 bars of chocolate broken up into chunks. (Do this by placing the chocolate into a sealed plastic bag and bashing them with a rolling pin.) That is more than you really need, so if you want to put in less you can. But hey a chocoholic like me won’t settle for less!

Makes around 12. For the cookies you need:

  • 125g dark chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • 150g plain flour
  • 30g cocoa, sieved
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • Two 100g bars of milk chocolate broken into chunks
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Put the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate container cream the butter with the brown and caster sugars. Add the melted chocolate and mix. In this same bowl add the vanilla extract and beat in the egg.
  3. Take the dry ingredients and tip them in with the wet ingredients. Stir the chocolate chunks in with the final mixture.
  4. Using an ice-cream scoop (I find this easier) and a knife to level the mixture, spoon it onto a lined baking sheet. Make sure to leave a good gap in between scoops because they will grow (in fact, they will be huge).  You can also freeze half the cookies for later if you want to. Cook for 18 minutes. Leave to cool for a while and then move them onto a cooling rack.

    My favourite so far! Enjoy!

    Rob x

Mouclade

Mouclade-(4381)

Since Valentine’s Day came on a Monday this year, I thought it would be nice to celebrate a whole Valentine’s Weekend instead. It was also a good excuse for cooking something different every day and for testing some recipes.

The whole story behind Mouclade (in other words, Mussels with Cream) began on our first trip to the Lake District. On our last day we came across a beautiful hotel called The Queen’s Head and decided to stop there for lunch. I ordered the mussels; J had the fish pie. I was already in love with the place but when I saw (and later tasted) this big 800g pot of loveliness, I was in Food Heaven. Therefore it was only logical to head back there (excuse the pun) on our second trip and this time both of us ordered the mussels again. We were not disappointed – they tasted even better!

So until we go back once more for a third helping, I found four gorgeous recipes: two by Nigella, one by Lorraine Pascale and another by James Tanner. The following is my interpretation. I’m very pleased with the result. For two 500g portions you need:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • knob of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon curry (optional but worth trying)
  • 375 ml white wine (preferably not too dry)
  • 1 kg mussels
  • 150 ml double cream (single would also be fine)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (optional)
  1. Clean the mussels in some cold water to remove grit and beard, and discard any which are open and do not close when you knock on them gently.
  2. Chop the onion finely and gently fry in some butter. When it turns translucent add the garlic and curry.
  3. Add the wine (I used a Chardonnay). When the liquid has reached boiling point add the mussels and shake very gently to distribute them evenly around the pan. Cover the pan and let simmer for 3 – 5 minutes.
  4. Once they are open add some salt, pepper and all the cream. Shake gently again, sprinkle some parsley and serve with crusty bread. Remember to remove those mussels which have not opened and put a bowl on the table for discarded shells.

    Simply divine. Enjoy!

    Rob x

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