Clapshot

Clapshot is a traditional Scottish dish, made with mashed neeps and tatties. One of those winter comfort dishes, where it’s almost impossible to overdo the butter and pepper.

Clapshot is, technically, really easy to make, just boil some neeps¹ and tatties², mash with loads of butter and pepper, stir through some chopped chives and away you go. It’s just as easy to get it wrong though, too much turnip can overpower the potato and if the turnip is too wet, it can make the whole lot too sloppy. Like most things, it’s all about finding the balance.

I simmered the potatoes with a bay leaf, some fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and a few halved garlic cloves, similarly, I simmered the turnip in milk, with a bay leaf and some green peppercorns. This was to try and get some extra flavour into what can be two pretty bland vegetables. One thing though, just make sure you simmer the turnip for long enough, especially if you’re going to try and force it though a ricer, as it wouldn’t quite all go through mine; I should probably have used the mouli, rather than the ricer.

Neeps and tatties ready to cook.

I think a ratio of around 3:2, potato to turnip, is probably around where you want to aim. Anymore and it can become a bit too skewed in favour of the turnip, in my opinion. Similarly, about two thirds to three quarters of a 25g bunch of chives is about right, as they can be quite potent when raw. One thing is for sure though, don’t skimp on either the butter, or the ground pepper.

Then crack open some oatcakes, but chunky ones rather than the poor excuses I used here, sit back and stuff your face.

¹ turnip, at least what the Scots call a turnip, sold as swede down South.
² potatoes, preferably floury ones like King Edward.

Taleggio and Spinach Brioche Couronne

After watching the final episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread, I really wanted to make his Savoury Brioche Couronne, but as it’s not vegetarian, I wanted to use a different filling. Step forward Yotam Ottolenghi and his Taleggio and Spinach Roulade from his new book Plenty More.

Making the brioche dough was pretty straight forward and it went into the colder of our two fridges to spend the night. Unlike the brioche that I’d made a couple of weeks before, I put this dough into a large enough container. Even so, it still ballooned enough to touch to the clingfilm that I’d placed over the top of the bowl.

The following morning the dough came out of the fridge a few hours before I knew that I was going to need to bake it. If I’m being honest, I could probably have got it out a little earlier, as the couronne didn’t see to rise that much once it was made. The dough was still quite soft, even though it had been in the fridge all night. The top had formed a little bit of a skin, so I might need to oil it a bit more next time, although it didn’t seem to affect the dough once it had been rolled out.

I had to use quite a bit of flour to stop the dough from sticking to the work surface and the rolling pin. It wasn’t as easy to handle as Paul made it look on the telly either, every time I tried to pick it up to turn it round I nearly put my fingers through it, as it was quite floppy. For some reason I didn’t get my measuring tape out, so I definitely rolled the dough out too large. It was supposed to be a 40cm x 50cm rectangle, but I went over on both dimensions, especially the width. This made the dough a bit on the thin side, which became a problem when it came to rolling up.

I was a bit worried about Yotam’s filling, as you have to slather some crème fraîche over the dough before adding the rest of the fillings. I was a bit worried that this would stop the dough from cooking properly, but given Paul’s recipe calls for four mozzarella balls, which are renown for outputting large amounts of liquid when melted, I figured that a little crème fraîche would be probably be fine. It was.

As I’d made the dough a little on the thin side, rolling it all up meant that the tomatoes and lumps of taleggio wanted to burst through the dough. In retrospect, I could have squished both flat with my hand, before scattering them across the dough. Eventually though, it was all rolled up and rolled out into long thin sausage. As I don’t own a Scottish Scraper, I just used one of my big Global knives to shop down the middle of the dough and split it in two.

When you see Paul twisting the two sausages of dough together on the telly, it looks relatively easy. In reality it wasn’t quite that simple, as the two sausages of dough just weren’t robust enough to be picked up and thrown about like that. You picked up and end and the dough just started to stretch, there was no way it was going to wrap itself into a nice looking twist with just a few flicks of the wrist.

Not to be deterred, I somehow managed to twist the two strands together and form the whole thing into a kind of ring shape. I did struggle trying to join the two ends, as can clearly be seen in the photos. Once it was successfully on a baking sheet, it was put into a polybag and left to rise for about an hour. I think it would have benefitted from a slightly longer prove, as it didn’t seem to have risen that much at all. After a bit of an egg wash, it was into the oven.

While it was cooking, I knocked up a couple of salads to go with it. One was just a simple rocket, olive, tomato and feta affair with a simple white wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette. The second, was a chicory, mulled pear and taleggio salad, with a honey mustard dressing.

I was a bit unsure about the chicory salad, as it’s not something we really use. As we don’t have a griddle pan we can use on our induction hob, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to char it enough to soften it. I needn’t have worried though, a stinking hot frying pan did the job and the salad was really nice. A perfect use for one of the Kilner jars of mulled pears that didn’t seal.

Taleggio and Spinach Brioche Couronne

So what was it like? It was really nice, if maybe a touch on the doughy side, in my opinion. I’m not sure if I thought it was doughy because that’s just what’s like, or if it would have benefited from a longer final prove, or slightly longer in the oven. Never having made one before, it’s hard to know what the outcome is actually supposed to be like.

It appeared to go down well with everyone though and the leftovers I had for the lunch the following day were pretty tasty too. It’s definitely something I would do again, maybe with a slightly longer final prove though.

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.

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.

#projectcheese

Cheese Making Supplies

I like love cheese. However, a lot of the more interesting stuff isn’t vegetarian, so what’s a bloke to do, other than make his own…? Thus #projectcheese was born.

I’m not quite sure when I decided that I was going to make my own cheese, but once the thought had wormed its way into my brain, that was it, it had to happen. So I bought a book and started eating all sort of cheese that I normally wouldn’t touch. A few months ago, I would have scoffed at the thought of enjoying a block of stinky blue cheese, although it was quite a mild one to be fair.

I also spent a bit of my Christmas money on some cheese making equipment; a starter pack, some moulds and some disposable cheese cloths. Then it was just a matter of finding some unhomogenised milk and some free time.

The first thing I had to do was make up a starter, or not. The instructions that came with the kit were for making a litre of starter that you could freeze and use as needed. The book seemed to veer between using small amounts (10ml) and a whole freeze dried packet, basically no consistency. So I decided to go with the instructions that came with the starter kit, as this would mean that I wouldn’t have to order more freeze dried starter, as it would theoretically last for the rest of year in the freezer

It was relatively easy to do. Heat some milk to 90°C, crash cool it to 20°C, add the freeze dried starter, leave for twenty four hours and package it up. So that’s exactly what I did. The hardest bit was trying to get it into those ice cube bags without getting most of it in the sink! I have to say that it looked and smelt a lot like yogurt…

It was a couple of weeks after making the starter, that I finally got round to having a go at making some cheese. One of the reasons for this, was the local Sainsbury’s not having enough unhomogenised milk in stock. I’d decided to use supermarket milk for the first couple of attempts, as I figured they wouldn’t necessarily go to plan, as I didn’t really know what I was doing. There didn’t seem much point finding some awesome local milk and then ruining it through ineptitude.

Sainsbury’s either don’t stock a lot of their own label unhomogenised milk, or it’s quite popular, as even when I tried another store, I only managed to pick up 3 litres worth, rather than the 4.5 litres I was really after. Now that I’ve made the cheese though, I’m not sure I’d have got though the resulting cheese if I’d used 4.5 litres, so there you go.

Making cheese is theoretically simple. Heat the milk gently to a set temperature and hold for a bit, add some starter to make it go a bit funky, before adding the rennet and leaving it to set. Once it’s set, pour off the whey, dump the curds into a cheesecloth lined colander, or mould and leave to drain. If you want a hard or semi-hard cheese, then press the curds in the mould to extract more whey. After a bit of draining, salt the curds and then leave for a bit longer to drain off more whey, then you’re good to go.

So I heated my milk to 30°C, actually it was more like 32°C and left it for about half an hour, before getting some of the starter out of the freezer. In retrospect, I think should have got some of the starter out of the freezer in the morning and let it thaw out, so it was revived a bit. After a further half an hour, I added the rennet and left it for ninety minutes to set. When I came back though, the milk hadn’t set and didn’t look any different to when I’d started.

The temperature had dropped slightly, so I gently heated it back up to 30°C and added another couple of frozen starter cubes and went to bed. I figured that maybe the starter hadn’t worked and the instructions made it quite clear not to add extra rennet, so adding a bit more starter might do the trick. When I came down in the morning, the entire contents of the pan had congealed into one rather wobbly and wet mass, so I poured it all into a cheesecloth lined colander to start the draining process.

I’d bought disposable cheesecloths to use, as I didn’t want the hassle of having to clean and care for a proper cloth one. They’re huge though, so I’d chopped one in two, as I figured that would be enough to line a couple of the different moulds I’d bought. I had no idea how of the volume of curds and resulting cheese I’d end up with, so figured that would be enough cheesecloth and mould to hold it all.

It would have been easier if I’d used a whole cheesecloth, as the contents of the pan only just fitted. There was no way I’d have been able to tie the ends of the cheesecloth together to enable it to be hung like the instructions stated. I was quite surprised by this, as I’d expected the curds and whey to mostly separate in the pan, not to form one large blamanche type mass.

The whey did drain out of the curds quite quickly to start with, so after a few minutes, I started ladling them into the prepared moulds. I managed to fill both moulds and should probably have left well alone at that point. But as I didn’t know what I was doing, I gave the cheesecloths a bit of a squeeze to see what would happen. A long story short, in the end the curds all fitted into one mould, where there were left to drain while I went to work.

When I got home that evening, I took the cheese out of the mould to salt it. The book was a bit vague on how to salt it. Should I break it open, add the salt and mush it all up, or should I just sprinkle it on the outside? I figured that since I was trying to make soft cheese, I would break it open and salt it, before putting it back in the mould, so that’s what I did.

I was quite surprised at how hard it had become, it certainly wasn’t as soft as something like Boursin®. The following morning, I added some garlic and chives to it, and again it was obvious that it was a bit too dry to be a proper soft spreadable cheese. If you imagine a slightly dried out and lumpy Boursin®, then you’re on the right track. I put most of it into a container and into the fridge, but took some to work with me to have for my lunch.

It wouldn’t spread, is about that main thing I’d say about it. It stuck to the knife and generally crumbled all over the place. It was also quite bland, but then it was very young and hadn’t had anytime to mature and take on some the flavour. I also dolloped rather a lot of homemade green tomato chutney all over it, which while nice and tasty, wasn’t going to let much of the cheese flavour through.

It’s nearly been a week since I made it and I’ve had some for lunch everyday apart from Sunday and there’s still some left. So I hate to think how much 4.5 litres of milk would have made and I could see that being a touch too much, especially if the rest of the family don’t eat more of it.

I’m happy that I’ve finally got my finger out and made some cheese, even though it wasn’t quite right. I’m looking forward to having another go, mainly so I can try a few different things and correct a few of the mistakes I made. I’ll certainly be defrosting the starter and maybe leaving it for a bit longer before adding the rennet. I’ll probably hang the cheesecloth next time and definitely not squeeze it, to see if that produces slightly wetter curds. Finally though, if it ends up in a similar state, then when I add the garlic and chives, I’ll whack it in the Kitchen Aid and beat it till it’s smooth.

Homemade cheese and homemade chutney, I should really have made my own rolls...

While I’m quietly pleased, I know I can do better. I’m also thinking that I need a cheese press, as I’m already thinking of running before I can walk and having a crack at some sort of Brie or Cheddar

Macaroni Cheese

I love macaroni cheese, I think it’s the combination of pasta and cheese that does it, you canny beat a bit of pasta and cheese, mmmm, pasta and cheese… Anyway, I bought The Geometry of Pasta a while back, I’m not sure why, as it’s not exactly veggie friendly. It’s great to flick through though, as the design of the book is amazing with all the black and white line drawings and any book that tells you how to make Cacio e pepe is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

The recipe for macaroni cheese is quite nice, it doesn’t contain tomato for starters, sorry Felicity, that’s just wrong. It can feel a bit greasy though, which I think it mainly down to the choice of cheese. I need to try it with fontina, rather than cheddar and see if that makes a difference.

Having made this recipe quite a lot, I think the one thing that affects the outcome more than anything else, is the thickness of the bechamel sauce. Too thick and it all becomes a bit of a sticky, lumpy mess when it’s served up. Keeping it on the thinner side, means it’s nice an oozy when served up and feels less like eating a bit greasy brick of pasta.

One other thing about this recipe, is that it claims it serves two as a main course, two giants maybe, as it can easily feed all four of us and leave us all wishing we hadn’t eaten quite as much; so it should serve three normal adults with no worries.

I’ve also been looking at buying Modernist Cuisine at Home, that kind of scientific cooking looks quite interesting, if a bit involved. However, if you do the Amazon look inside thing on this book, you’ll see there is a whole chapter on Mac and Cheese, with a number of different ways of preparing it. The recipes are all there for you to see in the preview, so I’m really tempted to buy some sodium citrate and give a couple of them a try…

Denis Cotter for Dinner

Portobello mushroom & aduki bean gratin with roast parsnip crust

My brother was round for dinner the other weekend, so I took the opportunity to break out Denis Cotter’s For The Love Of Food and cook a couple of recipes for the second time. I’d cooked both of these a few months ago when my Sister and Brother-in-law were down for a weekend and have been itching to cook them again. These are just some notes to remind myself to tweak various bits if I come to cook them again.

Portobello mushroom & aduki bean gratin with roast parsnip crust
The title of this one makes it sound really grand, but it’s essentially just a posh shepherds pie and a damn tasty one at that. If you’re going to use dried aduki beans, then you need to give them plenty of soaking time and allow up to 75 minutes or so for them to cook. If you don’t allow enough time, you can end up serving dinner rather on the late side, which is what happened the first time I cooked this. I could have just used a tin of beans, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have been quite as good.

You may also need to vary the cooking time of the portobello mushrooms depending on their size and how ruberry you like them. Personally, I like my mushrooms cooked within an inch of their life, so ten minutes isn’t enough if they are really large. This time I gave them fifteen minutes and they were still rather on the bouncy side for my liking, although it may help to chop them into slightly smaller dice, so they soften a bit more during the final cooking.

That’s pretty much it for this dish, other than a note to use a large dish, as it makes quite a lot.

Citrus, sultana & maple rice pudding with raspberries
The first time I cooked this I was in a bit of a quandary, as I know citrus juice curdles milk and there’s a lot of milk and citrus juice in this recipe. I did wonder if this was intentional, as there’s no reference to it in the recipe, but I suppose it must be. Just keep an eye on the milk and cream, it boils over in the blink of an eye, which can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re in the middle of doing something for the aduki bean gratin.

The recipe says to bake in the oven for an hour until most of the liquid has been absorbed. As you can see from the photos below, after an hour, there is still a load of liquid left. There is no mention of how still the rice pudding should be, so it be really stiff, or still quite runny when served? I used an extra ten grams of rice this time, but was still concerned that there was too much liquid left; maybe my oven isn’t as hot as it claims to be.

I might try using a blowtorch on the sugar crust next time, as sticking it under the grill results in the edges of the dish going all burnt and messy looking. Maybe I should just wipe the excess sugar off the edges, before it goes under the grill, but then I wouldn’t get to use the blowtorch…

These are both recipes that I’ll cook again, as they are both really, really nice. The best bit about cooking stuff that will feed six adults, when there are only three of you, is that you’re setup with leftovers for the next few days. Which means lunch at work is far, far tastier than anything the cafeteria serves up…