Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise

Pommes de terre dauphinoise...

I had some left over double cream, and as I hadn’t made Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise for a while, decided to use it up making some.

Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise, otherwise known as gratin dauphinois (not to be confused with pommes dauphine), has to be one of the richest and most decadent ways of serving the humble spud. Sliced potato which is slathered in nutmeg and garlic flavoured double cream, before being baked until meltingly soft, what’s not to like?

As I don’t really have a dish small enough to make Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise for one, I decided to use one of the frying pans I use for making tortilla española. Even though it’s non-stick, I still buttered the inside, as that’s just what you do. Rather than also rubbing a garlic clove over the inside, which you’re supposed to do, I crushed as small one and added it to the double cream along with some freshly grated nutmeg.

Then it was into a relatively moderate oven, 150°C for 25 minutes. I then raised the temperature to 180°C, for what was supposed to be only a further ten minutes, but I didn’t think the top had taken on the correct look, so left it in for a further ten minutes.

I ate it along with a simple salad of rocket, olives, halved cherry tomatoes and crumbled feta, which was left over from the previous day. The peppery leaves and salty cheese certainly helped to cut through the richness of the cream. I’m not sure I could have eaten any more of it on my own though, it was getting a bit much by the time I got to the end. Utterly delicious though and perfect for an autumnal or wintery evening meal.

Gugelhupf

Iced gugelhupf...

After seeing various Gugelhupf on the Great British Bake Off over the years, I had to have an attempt. As I’d been given a bundt pan for my birthday, I now had the perfect excuse to give one a go.

Originally, the bundt pan was for having a crack at an Angel Food Cake, although by the look of the internet, those pans are slightly different. I had a burning desire to bake a Gugelhupf though, one that had wormed its way into my brain and wouldn’t depart, so Mary Berry’s Angel Food Cake would have to wait. The first thing to do was try and track down a recipe, which was harder than it sounds.

I was under the impression that a Gugelhupf was made from an enriched bread dough, with the addition of booze soaked dried mixed fruit. Some of the recipes I stumbled across though, had you separating the eggs and whisking up the whites, before folding in all the other ingredients. Sorry, but that’s a cake, not an enriched bread. One of the problems with something like a Gugelhupf, is that everyone has their own recipe and they’re all subtly different. A bread book... What I was after was a reference recipe, one based on some tradition, that would give a known good result. I’m still looking.

Getting a bit frustrated with the internet, I asked my wife if she could pick me up a bread book from the local library while she was there one day. I was hoping that she’d come back with one that happened to have a Gugelhupf recipe in it, lo and behold, the only one in the local library, just happened to have one. I’ve no idea how authentic the recipe in The Bread Book by Sara Lewis is, but as I didn’t really have another one, I decided to give it ago. I was a bit disconcerted by it taking about the dough as a batter, as that’s more of a cake thing as far as I’m concerned.

I wanted to go with a mix of dried fruit, but only had some old mixed peel and sultanas. I remembered that I’d bought some barberries as Yotam uses them in his new book. I was a bit worried about them being too sharp and clashing with the other fruit, but as I didn’t have anything else, into some brandy they went. The dough, sorry batter, was pretty easy to make, bung everything into the KitchenAid and mix, then prove, knock back, shape into the bundt pan and leave to rise.

After baking, I left it too cool and the following morning, liberally doused the top with some icing. As you can see from the photo at the top of the page, I maybe should have made the icing a bit thicker, but I quite like that effect. Gugelhupf! The colour on the outside was quite strong, which I think might be down to me buttering the inside of the tin before adding the dough, it’s what the recipe said to do.

I’ve also cooked Mary Berry’s cherry cake in this bundt pan and it too had significant colour on the outside, even though it was only just cooked. Again the pan was buttered before the batter was added. Both the cherry cake and the Gugelhupf fell out of the pan when it was inverted, so I may not butter it next time, just to see what happens. The pan does has a rather heavy non-stick coating on it, so I’m assuming that buttering it as well is maybe a bit too much.

The only problem with the bundt pan, is that it’s not really a Gugelhupf pan, it’s too wide and not deep enough, so you don’t get that classic Gugelhupf shape. That’s not to say that what came out of it wasn’t tasty though, it was and the whole thing disappeared in a couple of days. The next step with this kind of enriched bread, utilising the bundt pan, is a friends Rosinenstuten (raisin bread) recipe.

Apple and Bramble Crumble

Apple & Bramble Crumble

My all time favorite pudding, Autumn isn’t complete without one every weekend.

I’ve loved Apple and Bramble Crumble for as long as I can remember, I used to request it as part of my birthday meal every year when I was younger. No other crumble will suffice, it’s just not right if it doesn’t contain the jewel of the Autumnal hedgerow. I can’t walk past a bramble bush without stopping to stuff my face, it’s one of lifes great pleasures. It’s always a sad day when the last packet of frozen brambles are used up, knowing that it’ll be months and months before the next chance to pluck one from it’s thorny home.

I think one of the beauties of making Apple and Bramble Crumble is how you can tinker with it, but still retain the very essence of the dish. It doesn’t really matter if you use the bog standard recipe from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, go all Raymond Blanc and cook the crumble and filling seperatley, or spice up the filling like Tony Singh, the essence of the dish remains.

So last time I made it, I decided to go a bit off piste and rather than just following the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book recipe, I decided to follow Tony’s lead and get the spices out. Sautéing the apples in spiced butter, prior to baking... In with some jaggery, rather than plain white sugar, then a cinnamon stick and a star anise were added and left to infuse while I chopped the apples. Eaters of course, as you want your apples to stay chunky and solid and not turn to mush, like a cooker would. I also used a variety of apples, so each mouthful would yield a slightly different taste and texture.

I’ve found that I need my hob on nearly full whack to get any sort of colour on the apples within the few minutes the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book recipe says to cook them for. In this instance, that meant the aromas coming out of the pan were immense, jaggery certainly makes for a tasty caramelisation. I think maybe a couple more star anise next time though, or a longer infussion, so that flavour comes through a bit more.

All in all, it was a very tasty pimping of an otherwise bog standard Apple and Bramble Crumble and one that warrants a bit more experimentation. Maybe next time I’ll cook the filling and the topping separately and see how that works. Always serving it with ice cream mind, none of this double cream nonsense…

Pommes de Terre Duchesse

Pommes de Terre Duchesse

While browsing the list of potato dishes on the source of all that is right and correct on the internet, I stumbled upon the page for Duchess potatoes and knew instantly that I had to have a go at making them. As luck would have it, there just happened to be three egg yolks in the fridge, so rather than waiting, I headed home to make some.

My only real worry, was the piping of the mashed potato, as I’ve never piped anything before. As it turned out, it wasn’t too difficult, although the end result left rather a lot to be desired in the consistency stakes. I’m not too disappointed though, as consistency in something like piping, is only achieved through lots and lots of practice. So I might have to start piping the mash onto the top of things like Shepherd Pie to gain the necessary experience.

As the Wikipedia article was a bit vague on the length of time these should be cooked for, I decided to pop them into the oven, with the fan on and the temperature set to 220°C. Duchess potatoes fresh from the oven... I took them out after twenty minutes, as they looked nice and brown and the outside and felt dry and solid to the touch.

If I’m being honest, hey weren’t that great. They were far too dry and were crying out to be slathered in some sort of gravy or sauce. I’ll put that down to baking them for too long, maybe you’re just supposed to do it long enough that they take a bit of colour. Maybe that’s why the temperature was stated to be 240°C, get colour on them quickly, then get them out while they’re still moist and a bit squidgy. It’s certainly something to bear in mind if I ever do them again, which I might very well do…

Brioche

Brioche

I’ve been baking a lot of bread recently, at least one loaf per week, sometimes as many as three. All of them have just been my usual mix of 400g of Strong White, along with 100g of Rye, which I quite like. I wanted to try some sort of enriched bread though, something like a Gugelhupf or a Panettone, but as I had neither a Gugelhupf or a Panettone tin, I decided to have another attempt at some Brioche

I hadn’t realised that it had been so long since I’d last attempted some Brioche, nearly two years, so was keen to try again. Rather than use the recipe from Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3, I decided to use the one on Paul Hollywood’s website. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve found that I’m getting better results using Paul’s recipes, rather than Dan’s. Brioche dough trying to escape... It might just be that I’m not over proving my bread anymore, either way, Paul’s recipes just seem to produce nice bread.

I mixed up the dough and stuck it into the fridge before going out for the evening. I popped back to the house to pick something up a few hours later and opened the fridge to check on the dough, it had decided to try and break free from its shackles and was almost out of its container. There was me thinking that yeast doesn’t work at low temperatures, the Allinson dried active baking yeast that my wife accidently bought (it was supposed to be the Doves Farm quick yeast) certainly seemed happy enough to keep going for a couple of hours at least.

The following morning I shaped the dough, which was still quite sticky and pliable, into a ball and popped it into our 23cm springform tin and left it on the work surface to rise. I was a bit worried that the yeast might have exhausted itself in the fridge the night before, so after a couple of hours of inactivity, I put the tin onto a bit of work surface that had sunlight on it. Hey Presto, it’s Safeway, an hour later the dough was peeking over the top of the tin, so into the oven it went.

It required a few minutes longer than the time stated in the recipe, but then the tin I used was also an inch smaller, so presumably the Brioche was a bit thicker and needed a few extra minutes to finish. Brioche, with mulled pears, sour cream and pomegranate molasses... It came out of the tin with no issues and was left to cool while we all went down the pub for a few halves of Oakham Green Devil IPA. I must have been going on and on about it down the pub, as I ended up coming home and cutting a few slices to share around the pub garden.

The end result was fantastic, if I do say so myself, the kids must have thought so too, as they were even asking for it in the mornings before school. As I had a kilner jar of mulled pears that hadn’t sealed, I toasted some of the Brioche and had some of the pears, with some sour cream and pomegranate molasses for my breakfast. Any day that starts with a slab of toasted Brioche has to be a good day.

Mulled Pears

Mulled pears...

Last year when I was making cider, you couldn’t move in the orchard without crushing pears with each footstep. Not so this year, with hardly any fruit on the trees, so when I found some pears I grabbed them with both hands. Rather than using the paltry amount to boost the perceived sweetness of my cider, I decided to try mulling them, using the instructions in Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2.

I appeared to have collected two different varietals of pear, so decided to make two batches, one with each. The first batch was the step into the unknown, do I quarter or just half these small pears, how many cloves to stuff into each one, how full do I fill the kilner jar with syrup, the usual kind of stuff. As it turned out, the process was quite simple, although I ballsed it up at the end by inverting one of the Kilner jars when it had just come out of the oven.

I didn’t know that Kilner jars allowed the steam to escape, even when closed, so imagine my surprise to find a load of boiling syrup ejected round the seal when I turned the jar the right way round again. Unsurprisingly, this jar didn’t seal. It also didn’t seal when I tried to reprocess it in the oven the following day. So it’s currently in the fridge and the kids and I are enjoying eating the contents.

I thought the second batch would go slightly smoother, especially as I now know why you don’t touch a newly sealed Kilner jar. The second batch of pears were slightly bigger though, so even with them all being quartered, it was quite a tight fit to get them all in the two jars. Because of this, I’m not sure I managed to get all the air pockets out when add the the syrup, so when they cooled, the level of syrup was far, far too low. Also, one of the jar again failed to seal. So both of those will be reprocessed after having some light sugar syrup added to them.

Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush...

I have a love hate relationship with aubergine, but had my eyes opened when I tried some baba ganoush made by a friend. I had to have a go at making my own.

I associate baba ganoush with the Middle East, so when I was looking for a recipe my first query was basically Yotam Ottolenghi baba ganoush. What turned up was unexpected though, as it turns out that Felicity Cloake has done one of her How to make the perfect… for baba ganoush on The Guardian website.

I decided to go straight for Felicity’s recipe, as life is too short to go through the angst of picking one of the others and then being disapointed. I’ve made it twice now, and I have to say that it’s bloody delicious.

If like me, you don’t have a gas hob and don’t want to soften the aubergine under the grill, then buy a disposable barbeque. The small ones are big enough for four aubergines and the smokiness that’s imparted isn’t too much. Although it can take quite a while to soften large aubergines, as some of these wee barbeques aren’t the most powerful.

This will most likely become a staple dish at parties and barbeques going forward, it’s definitely worth trying.

Nettle Ravioli

Nettle ravioli, with wild garlic pesto...

Nettle ravioli sounded like the next logical step after making garlic pesto. I just wish I hadn’t tried to make it for four adults and two children…

My parent were visiting and as we’d picked a load of wild garlic the day before, I decided to make the nettle ravioli recipe from the River Cottage Handbook No.7 Hedgerow book. Partly as I quite fancied making some stuffed pasta, but also due to the fact that it had wild garlic in the filling and the serving suggestion was for wild garlic pesto. Essentially I was going for wild garlic overload.

I didn’t quite follow the recipe when it came to making the pasta dough, as I had a load of egg yolks in the fridge. So I followed the enriched egg pasta recipe from The Geometry of Pasta and added the nettles as it al lcame together. For some reason, half the dough didn’t want to go through the rolling machine, it just fell to bits. The other half went through fine and produced a veritable mountain of vibrant green pasta sheeting.

I could tell straight away that the amount of filling specified in the recipe was never going to fill the amount of pasta sheet I had, let alone all of the pasta sheet that I should have produced. In the end the filling ran out before I’d got through about a third of the pasta sheet. Having said that, I did switch to making mezzaluna (half moon), rather than ravioli in an attempt to speed up the process, as it was supposed to be dinner, but I was running way over time. I also made some tagliatelle with what leftover dough I managed to force through the rollers.

As I’d run over time for making these to feed everyone for dinner, I ended up freezing them and having them for my dinner a few weeks later. They were a touch on the squeaky side and not overly powerful with any of their flavours. I do think they are probably something that is best prepared and eaten fresh, especially to get the proper punch from the wild garlic.

As we have a patch of nettles just out the back of the garden, it’s definitely something I’d like to try again. If I go with the wild garlic filling again, I’ll be making double, maybe even triple quantities. I might have a go at Yvan’s method of making the nettle pasta dough though, as his looked much, much better than mine.

Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild garlic pesto ready to be blitzed...

I missed out on the wild garlic harvest last year, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake this year. This wild garlic pesto is dead easy to make and tastes great.

The recipe comes from the River Cottage Handbook No.7 Hedgerow, but is essentially just a normal pesto recipe, with the basil and garlic being replaced by wild garlic and the pinenuts by pignuts. Everything goes into the food processor and you whizz it up, adding the oil until till you get the consistency you want.

As I have no idea what a pignut looks like, or where you get one from, so I decided to use hazelnuts instead. You could of course just use pinenuts, but I didn’t have any to hand. What ever you do, don’t use walnuts, their flavour is too much, especially if you roast, or toast them, as the recipe calls for.

The resulting pesto is pretty strong when raw and leaves you with a proper garlic hum. I found that it wasn’t nearly as strong after it had been frozen and the defrosted in the pan while the pasta was draining. Just like any homemade pesto, it’s far, far tastier than any bought from a supermarket and as you can freeze it, there’s no excuse to not make an absolute bucket load.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices, Lime and Green Chilli

Yotam Ottolenghi's Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices, Lime and Green Chilli...

Another Yotam dish that looks amazing in the book, but rarely looks amazing once it’s on the plate.

If you want the squash to have nice sharp edges like in the photo, you’ll need to cut the skin off the squash before you roast it. If you peel the skin off afterwards, the edges will be all rough and uneven. You could try cutting the skin off after you’ve roasted, but you’re not going to get that nice crisp edge you get when you chop a squash before it’s been cooked.

Presentation wise, you’ll need a really big platter, unless you want all the squash slices to be piled on top of each other. Also, if you put all the dressing on top. of the squash, you’ll not be able to see the squash, as there’s quite a lot of it. Similarly, the coriander, if you chop the required amount and sprinkle it on top of the dressing, you’ll not be able to see the dressing.

Other than that, it’s a really tasty dish.