pumpkin seed loaf

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Ingredients – makes a small loaf

  • 350g strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 212ml hand-hot water
  • Olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Pumpkin seeds, to top the loaf

First: I am still definitely revising!! In fact, the bread making has been quite therapeutic. It feels like a long time since I thought about someone who hasn’t been dead for over 2,000 years. Emperors Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, (skipping over Nerva), Trajan and Hadrian. And Hellenistic dynasties, too: Seleucids, Attalids, Ptolemies, Antigonids and the coming of Rome. Greek poets, Latin poets, Latin poets in English translation, Latin poets in actual Latin; timeo Danai et dona ferentes. Cicero in Larinum, laying out before the judges the facinus Oppianici in lists of threes with a lot of sarcasm. The Roman Near East – distant client kingdoms of Commagene, Nabatea and Herod vying for Imperial recognition, being gradually annexed into the Roman Empire. Ancient Syrian elites aligning themselves with the Empire with Greek writing, architecture, fesvtials; ancient Syrian villages grinding olives and wine on stone rollers, eating sheep and goats. In short: my mind needed to take a break from Classical civilisations, and making bread was a brilliant way to do it!

Pumpkin seeds give a delicious extra crunch to the bread. If you have them finely sliced dried red chilies and sprigs of rosemary would be delicious alongside the seeds! Be careful whilst it’s in the oven though. Pumpkin seeds crisp very quickly, and you don’t want to risk a burnt top! Put the loaf in the middle of the oven, and watch it like a hawk (..or just check it doesn’t burn).

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast, salt and sugar, and fold with a wooden spoon.
  3. Create a well in the middle of the bowl by pushing the flour mixture to the sides. Pour in the hand-hot water, and drizzle in some olive oil. Stir well to combine. If the mixture is too runny, add a little more flour; if it needs more liquid, drizzle in a little more oil.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured side. Knead the dough – starting from the centre of the dough, push outwards with the heel of your hand. Then, fold the pushed out side of the dough back into the centre. Rotate the dough clockwise and repeat the process.
  5. The kneading will be complete when the skin of the dough begins to have a slightly blistered appearance – this is the presence of the gluten network, which will make it rise and have a fluffy centre.
  6. When the dough has been kneaded fully, place it in a clean bowl. Lightly oil some clingfilm; cover the bowl with the clingfilm, oil side facing the dough. Leave to rise – it should double in size. This can be done overnight at room temperature, or, if you’re short of time, leaving it in a warm place can speed up the process. It is important to not leave the dough in too warmer area, because this can kill the yeast and it will not rise!
  7. When the dough has doubled in size, the air needs to be knocked out of it. You can do this by simply punching the dough in the bowl. This will cause the dough to return to its original pre-risen size.
  8. Then, transfer the dough to a lightly greased loaf tin.
  9. Cover the tin with the oiled clingfilm once more, and leave to rise again. This is called proving, and it will give the bread a better texture.
  10. Once it has risen, remove the clingfilm. Lightly brush the top of the loaf with a little beaten egg. I used the back of a spoon to spread out the egg, to ensure the top of the loaf stayed smooth. Worked quite well! Then, scatter over the pumpkin seeds; they will stick to the egg yolk. Brush a tiny bit more egg over the seeds, to ensure they stay in place. Then, put in the oven and cook for 20 – 30 minutes. Pop the loaf out of its tin, and knock the bottom of the bread – it should make a hollow sound, and this will confirm it is cooked. Leave to cool, and serve in thin slices.
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seafood paella

What makes paella ‘authentic’ seems to be a contentious issue. Scroll through the comment section of almost any online recipe, and you won’t struggle to find the dispute. Lid versus newspaper, paella rice versus long grain, versus even risotto rice! Everyone’s having a go. One comment criticised a recipe’s authenticity, staking their claim to knowledge on their ex-partner’s brother’s father-in-law who was from Alicante. I have a friend who went to imageAlicante on holiday once (and doesn’t refrain from mentioning it), so maybe I too now understand Spanish cuisine. It isn’t the first time I’ve encountered these arguments, either: my first paella used a recipe branded as unauthentic.

But having made paella several times now, I have to come to a conclusion. What korma means to Britain, to Asia it does not. Do we squabble about it? No! Because we love the creamy, mild taste and savour those toasted nuts. And we still call it curry, even if it’s not really. If you’re still unconvinced, take a line from Shakespeare: “what’s in a name?“. The dish still uses rice, vegetables, meat or fish with largely the same cooking technique, whether in Britain or Spain. And it still tastes amazing. Paella is just the name attributed to dishes like this so people know what you’re on about! A name is by no means the most central part of a dish; that surely, would be its flavour. So very much in that vein, I urge you not to argue over whether the below is truly authentic paella. I’ll save you the trouble – growing scared of the ferocious rice-debate, I modified the paella I already knew how to make as I went imagealong. Instead, focus on what it tastes like! And if you still can’t resist, I’ll let you call it Seafood Rice. If it makes you feel better.

Ingredients

  • Short grain rice, roughly 3 handfuls per person
  • 1kg mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
  • 300g prawns
  • 750ml fish stock
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • 5 salad tomatoes, diced
  • Peas
  • A pinch of saffron, soaked in 1 tbsp of boiling water
  • Smoked paprika, 1 tbsp. (or a little more, to taste)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Fresh parsley

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. add the sliced onion, and cook for 5-8 minutes until it begins to soften. Then add the garlic and paprika, and fry for a further minute. Fry the prawns until slightly browned, and then remove to a plate.
  2. Add the rice to the pan, and stir to coat well in the oil and spices. Add the hot stock and the saffron along with its water, stir to ensure all the rice is submerged, then cover. Reduce to a low heat, and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Then, add the sliced peppers and quartered tomatoes to the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly al dente. Stir the rice. It should have absorbed the majority of the stock, but a small sauce should still remain. If the rice has no sauce, it is in danger of sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a little more stock or hot water.
  4. Now add the mussels, peas and return the prawns to the pan. Check the level of stock, and if not too dry, replace the pad lid. Simmer for 4-7 minutes, steaming the mussels open. It’s important to monitor the mussels at this stage, as the longer the mussels cook for, the less palatable they will become. To ensure the mussels remain juicy, do not allow them to overcook!
  5. As soon as the mussels have opened, remove them from the heat. Season, and scatter with fresh parsley. Serve with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over.

 

 

pork, apples, potatoes.

This recipe is another from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Although the shrewder amongst you may have guessed that is not from ‘Veg Everyday’! The inclusion of pork would somewhat contradict the concept of that book.  No, this recipe comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s newest book, ‘Three Good Things on a plate‘. Generally speaking, what I like most about his recipes books is that they just make sense. They are not always professing to make cooking easier, to specifically reduce methodologies or cost, nor to put a meal on a table in a limited amount of time. They instead offer a simply logical thesis: in the case of this new publication, three items that pair well do not need to be crowded by other fancy main ingredients; as a trio, they make a wholesome assembly that requires no editing. How often is it the case, that when in a restaurant and faced with a mound of food you cannot hope to finish, that you subconsciously eat only the three best components? The three components which most likely from the main staple of the dish; the fancy additions are left behind, unnecessary and to some extent forgotten. But a word of caution, sophistry will undermine the brilliance of this book – three good things do not literally translate to three ingredients alone; seasonings may be added, herbs or spices, or even a store cupboard ingredient such as tinned tomatoes, cream or stock. This is cooking! Seasoning is a given; a splash of milk here or of stock there hardly counts as an ingredient! What is imparted is that when asked to explain a dish, your reply would be “it’s basically, A, B and C” – the fundamental elements of the dish are three, although in reality more ingredients may be present. This book is perfect for those who either want to get back to, or adore the pleasures of, simple cooking. Three Good Things is what it says it is – food that tastes good without an elaborate combination, and accepting the sufficiency of good quality, but numerically low, staples of a dish will put a fantastic meal on the table to undoubtedly be enjoyed by all.

Ingredients

  • One pork chop
  • One ordinary eating apple, cored and cut into wedges
  • A medium sized potato, peeled and roughly cubed
  • Dried sage
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a baking tray, and place in the oven for 5 minutes to heat.
  2. In a medium sized saucepan, bring water to the boil. Add the cubed potatoes, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender; drain. Return the potatoes to the pan, and season.
  3. Once heated, add the potatoes to the baking tray, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes. After the allotted time, remove the baking tray from the oven and add the apple wedges. Roast for a further 15 minutes, until the apples have softened and the potatoes are crisp.
  4. Whilst the potatoes and the apples are roasting, prepare the pork chops. In a saucepan, heat a little oil. Rub dried sage, salt and pepper into the pork chop, before frying for 6 to 8 minutes on each side.
  5. Turn the oven off, and remove the baking tray. Nestle the cooked pork chop in between the potatoes and apples, and return to the oven, although off, to warm through for 5 minutes. Serve, and enjoy!recipe taken from Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate (Bloomsbury: 2012), as appearing in ‘delicious.’ magazine, December edition (2012).