Pimping Beans on Toast

Beans on toast...

I’d been at the gym after work on Tuesday and by the time I got home, it was far too late to cook anything but a snack. We all know that beans on toast is quick and easy, and all those beans aren’t too bad for you when you need a bit of protein after a workout. The only issue with beans on toast, is that it’s a bit boring, so I decided to pimp mine with a few extras.

I added a teaspoon of homemade harissa to the beans, for a bit of added kick. Once the beans were on the toast, I ground a load of pepper on top and added a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese. Finally, two fried eggs were placed on top, and drizzled with some homemade saucy haw harissa sauce.

Granted, that poached eggs would have been better for me than fried, but at half ten at night, I went for the quick and easy option. Tasty, tangy and filling, it hit the spot; I’m not sure I’ll ever have plain beans on toast again.

Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips

Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips

I’ve had Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian for a while, but for one reason or another, I’ve not got round to cooking many of the recipes. I was home alone one Saturday night, so decided to whip up a batch of the Rosemary and Butternut Squash Polenta Chips with a pot of homemade mayonnaise.

Every time I’ve used express, fast cook type polenta, I’ve been disappointed and this time was no exception. It just tastes watery and had that slightly grainy but flabby and almost rubbery texture about it. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m cooking it properly, but I’ve cooked it to the instructions a number of times now, for a number of different recipes, so either that’s the way it’s supposed to be, or I’m just shite at cooking it. I think I’ll try cooking it for longer than the stated five minutes next time and see if that makes a difference.

The recipe calls for chopping the squash into small dice and adding them to the pan, before adding the polenta, i.e. the squash dice and polenta cook together. But small is relative, how small is small…? I diced mine up to what I thought was relatively small, but I think if I was doing it again, I’d either grate the squash, or roast it and mash it up first. The reason I’d do this, is that mostly, each mouthful was just rubbery, slightly grainy polenta, without much flavour. then you’d get some rosemary and squash and it totally transformed the experience.

Also, it looks to me like the chips in the photo that accompanies the recipe, have a slight orange hue. Indicating to me, that the squash is better distributed in those chips than in mine. I could be totally wrong though, but next time, I think I’ll try grating the squash into the polenta and seeing what difference that makes. I’ll also make them slightly smaller, as they were just a little on the big side, which I don’t think helped matters.

Finally a quick word about the mayonnaise. I made mine using bog standard rapeseed oil, not the fancy cold pressed stuff. Don’t. Just don’t. The resulting mayonnaise was horrible, you could just tell from the taste that it was made with cheap oil. I ended up ditching the mayonnaise in favour of some of my homemade Haw ketchup, a much, much nicer match.

Brioche

Brioche

I’ve been wanting to make some brioche for ages, well, ever since I got the River Cottage Bread Handbook really. Not sure why I’ve not done it before, but probably a combination of the suggestion that you use a stand mixer to knead the dough as it’s a bit sticky and not having enough confidence to attempt it free hand.

My main interest in brioche stems from seeing loads of photos of burgers on twitter and not from wanting to replace the horrendous chocolate chip brioche finger monstrosities the kids eat at the weekend, like a good Dad would. I’m sure I also read somewhere that all these trendy London burger vans were using brioche rolls, rather than white baps, so I thought that I could do something similar at home.

Being a vegetarian does have its drawbacks occasionally, and veggie burgers are one of them. It’s either some sort of textured vegetable protein, or some mass produced bread crumb encrusted bean burger, or heaven forbid, some Quorn based monstrosity. So my plan was to buy either The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet or Veggie Burgers Every Which Way and each Saturday make a burger and some brioche buns for lunch.

I keep flicking through the burger books with Amazon’s Look Inside feature, a great way to sneak a few recipes out of a book you’re thinking of buying before you splash the cash. I always come away from them with the nagging feeling that the kids wouldn’t eat what I’d make and it would all be a colossal waste of time. There’s plenty of veggie burger recipes out there on websites like BBC Good Food, so for the moment, my hard earned cash is staying in my pockets. But I’m digressing…

I suddenly decided the other Friday that I was going to stop sitting on my hands and actually get my finger out and make some brioche. So after a few beers and just before going to bed, I stumbled into the kitchen and started to get all the ingredients together. I grabbed the strong white bread flour and started to measure out the required quantity, I didn’t have enough. Never mind I thought, I have another bag, all be it a different brand, but that still wasn’t enough, so I made up with some plain white flour. I had an inkling that I should really have stopped at this point.

The eggs were the next problem, as I didn’t have any medium eggs, so instead of four medium ones, I used three large ones. I should really ensure I have all the ingredients before spontaneously deciding to make something. After combining everything in a bowl, it was time to turn it out and start kneading, at this point I realised why they recommend a stand mixture, they weren’t joking when they said it was sticky.

After ten minutes or so of slapping the dough round the kitchen worktop, it had smoothed out a bit, so I scraped it off my fingers, shaped it into a round and deposited it into a bowl, it then went into the fridge to stiffen up until the morning. Whereupon it was divvied up into eight roughly equal bits, shaped into rolls on a baking sheet, covered in a bin bag and popped into the dehydrator to prove. The only problem with this is that the dehydrator blows air onto the bag, which then collapses onto whatever is on the baking sheet, which I’m sure has an impact on how high it got as it proved. I don’t have this problem when using my banneton baskets, as the dough doesn’t rise above the side, I might have to create a support to put over the baking sheet.

After quite a few hours in the dehydrator, the dough had come alive, but had expanded out the way, rather than up the way, so I wasn’t very hopeful that they would be any good. I nearly ditched them into the bin at this point, but decided to bake them anyway, just to see if I could learn anything for future attempts. I’m glad I did, as halfway through baking they had risen quite a bit and weren’t looking too bad, so I turned them round and put them back into the oven. I should have taken them out sooner, but as I’m always afraid of under cooking things, I left them in for a too long, so they were more of a David Dickinson mahogany, than a light golden brown.

As they were ready in time for lunch, I broke out a mass produced bread crumb encrusted bean burger and set to work. I slathered some home made saucy haw ketchup on the base of the bun, then the bean burger, followed by some home made chilli pepper jelly and finally some grated cheddar. Other than the bun being slightly too small for the bean burger, the crust was a bit thick and the inside was a bit on the dense side, but overall it was much, much better than I was thinking it was going to be.

I had another for Sunday lunch, this time with added homemade red onion marmalade, which got me thinking. The brioche, saucy haw ketchup, red onion marmalade and chilli pepper jelly were all made by me, just the bean burger and cheese were bought in. Given the books and website I mentioned earlier, making my own burgers will be easy, so I need to start looking into making my own cheese, I want the whole stack to be created by me. I’ll have to grown some lettuce and tomatoes in the garden next year too, just so I can say I grew or made everything.

I’ll definitely do brioche again, but I think I’ll ensure that I have ample strong white bread flour and medium eggs before I do…