Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Fresh Bruschetta with parsley pesto - recipe

If you have ever ordered bruschetta in an Italian restaurant and haven't made your own at home you must. The combination of fresh flavours is amazing...these are so easy to make and will impress everyone. Just the thing when the weather is getting warmer (at last!).

I used a parsley pesto for my bruschetta, handy when fresh basil is not so accessible and I used walnuts instead of pine nuts (helps with the cost as pine nuts are so expensive). This parsley pesto is great tossed in freshly cooked pasta, 'if' you have any left over put it in a jar with olive oil and pop it in the fridge to keep for a few days.

I haven't really included much in the way of quantities for this as I just go with the flow to suit how many I am feeding or what I have in.
slices fresh sourdough bread (see last post)
chopped vine tomatoes
olive oil
sea salt - black pepper
small tin stoned olives (black or green) - chopped
grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Modena Balsamic vinegar
torn fresh basil leaves
for the parsley pesto
bunch fresh parsley (stalks included)
1 clove garlic
olive oil
sea salt
handful broken walnuts
1. Start with the parsley pesto. In a food processor add the parsley, a generous pinch of sea salt, the walnuts, clove of garlic (grated). Blitz until smooth then add olive oil until you get a spreadable paste.
2. Take the slices of sourdough bread, lay on a board then spread one side with the fresh pesto.
3. On top of this add the chopped tomatoes, chopped olives, torn basil.
4. Season with salt and pepper and finish with a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of Modena Balsamic vinegar and top with a generous grating of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

The freshest/tastiest snack or starter or nibbles for drinks...ever!

Monday, 27 May 2013

'Levain de campagne' bread - a random recipe

This months random recipe challenge from Dom at Belleau Kitchen is all about bread and I just had to join in as I have been trying very hard to improve my bread making and if you follow this blog you will have seen some of my recent efforts.

The challenge this month is to choose a recipe from a book with breads in it...I only have two books and so it was in a bit of a 'dip dish blue sash...' fashion that I chose 'How to make bread' by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. I bought this book fairly recently as it was recommended to me by Vivien Lloyd, not only an expert in preserves but a keen and skilled bread maker...I know I have eaten her amazing home made breads!

A quick flick through the book and I opened a page at this recipe for 'Levain de campagne', this is described as a French country sourdough loaf. There are several sourdough recipes in this book as one of the chapters is completely given over to sourdough breads; this covers white sourdough, wholegrain sourdough, grissini, polenta sourdough, tomato, beetroot, spiced cheese and herb, potato, fig, walnut and anise sourdoughs, hazelnut and currant, chocolate and currant, caraway rye sourdoughs. Every loaf looks outstanding!

Luckily I had some sourdough starter on the go, I have been nurturing the thing for weeks now and have attempted a couple of recipes using it but with varying success. My sourdough starter was made using rye flour this recipe called for a white starter but I took the risk.

This was definitely the best sourdough loaf I have made so far. The flavour was amazing and it had a lovely sweetened taste from the addition of the rye flour in the recipe. I am not sure the texture of my loaf is as light and airy as it should be, though it did look just like the finished loaf in the book.

I would certainly make this loaf again and I would recommend this book, not only for the lovely recipes and great bread making instructions but for inspiration alone it ticks all the boxes. The kneading techniques for this recipe are really easy as long as you are staying in the vicinity of your dough. I haven't described what these are as I think you should buy the book for that, trust me you won't regret it if you love good bread.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Stand by your jam - 22nd May 2013 is the jammie deadline

Say goodbye to jam as we know it...its about to happen.
You might have missed the latest about the change in jam regulations in England, that are about to be decided upon in the coming days and weeks.

DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ) have launched what can only be described as a non publicised ‘public’ consultation about suggested changes to the ratios of sugar to fruit in the making of jam.

These are known and the Jam and similar products (England)Regulations 2013. This consultation is not restricted just to jams as it also affects marmalade and curds (similar products). 

The Regulations will incorporate four main changes:
·       Option 1: Reduce the permitted sugar level for jams from 60% to 50%
·       Option 2: Reduce the permitted sugar level for jams from 60% to 55% with an ingredient specific exemption for Bramley apples to a level of 50%

Additional deregulatory measures under both options:
·       Remove the UK national limit for ‘reduced sugar jam’
·       Removing national provisions for curds and mincemeat

It is worth noting at this point that the government favours the 50% option.

You might think that lessening the ratio of sugar to fruit in jams, marmalades and curds is a good thing…but let me assure you its not! The impact of such a proposal will change jam as we know it, no longer will you have the lovely sweet jewel-like fruit laden goodness you spread so lavishly on your cake sponges and breads, but instead you will have something more akin to a sweet spread. Don’t get me wrong I like a spoonful of jelly-like spread on my bagel when I’m in the USA but this is not the USA and I love and want to keep my British jams. They are part of our heritage in this country and I want to keep that heritage and British jam tradition alive.

Marmalade is affected by these new proposals and mincemeat too, its not just jam.
You can read more about this issue on Vivien Lloyd's blog here. And also at Rosie’s blog here. These two are proper jam and preserves experts and know their stuff so I’m taking my lead from them and I am supporting the 60% sugar in my jam and making my views known to DEFRA.

The consultation closes on a few days on 22nd May 2013. This means you still have time to make your opinion heard and noted.

Please take a few minutes to support our heritage and preserve traditional English jam etc.

You can do this by e-mailing DEFRA at this address

All you have to do is say something like this…


I know you want to change the sugar content of jam in this country to decrease the permitted sugar levels, but actually I quite like English jam it as it is.

I want to keep English jam at a permitted sugar level of 60%.  I do not agree with either proposal to reduce the permitted sugar levels to either 50% or 55%.

Thank you for taking my views into account.

(Your name goes here)

Changes will affect curds too if they come into force.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A taste of Italy (in Lancashire) - Pumpkin risotto recipe

There are many staples in my store cupboard/fridge and these include some products of Italian origin. My often run to emergency meal is very often made from a lump of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, risotto rice, decent stock and other bits and pieces, in this you have the makings of a delicious supper in the form of a comforting risotto. Takes a bit of patience but worth the result and the ingredients peak for themselves, without the cheese its nothing.

I also have olive oil and balsamic vinegar in my store cupboard (always) and use them frequently in my cooking (see my lovely fresh Brushetta as one example, below). I was recently asked to try out a recipe using Italian foods from a region within Italy covering the provinces of Bologna, Ferrara, Mantova, Modena, Reggio Emilia, Rovigo and the Park of Po Delta, all known as Quadrilatero deli'UNESCO. What a feast for the palate it turned out to be!

The items originating from these provinces are so versatile, as well as the Bruschetta above, the olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese was used on a homemade sweet chilli and salmon pizza I made last weekend to make both the dough and to add flavour to the finished dish.

The Quadrilatero deli'UNESCO region is being promoted by Rediscover Italy on Facebook who sent me some of the towns produce to try at home in my kitchen. The suitcase of items I received came with a lovely recipe for a pumpkin risotto and although not usually a fan of trying the recipes sent with such items, this one seemed too good to miss.

I made the risotto above, and it was can find the recipe after the page break...the Brushetta and pizza recipes are for another day...worth the wait though.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Cinnamon and brown sugar bagels - recipe

After my recent bread making day I have been making all sorts of different breads and just generally having a stab at whatever I fancy...all gung ho like! We made bagels on the bread making day and when I brought them home they were eaten in a flash, so a few days alter I made another batch.

Bagels are a bit unusual as they are boiled in water prior to the final bake and after proving/rising. This gives them the unusual texture. With home made bagels you don't tend to get that shiny, smooth perfectly round exterior or the dense/tough chewy texture you get from shop bought. The home made variety may be a bit lumpy on the outside (this is where the dough has proved and then been placed into boiling water), they won't be a uniform shape and they will be much lighter...and they do taste miles and miles better.

Here is how I made mine...I made 3 variations, all with a white dough - plain poppy seed topping, plain with a cinnamon/brown sugar topping and raisin and cinnamon. Bagels will keep quite well for a few days in a container, they freeze well and are amazing toasted if they start to loose their freshness.
500g strong white flour
10g salt
1 sachet fast action yeast
1tbsp honey
1tbsp olive oil
250ml warm milk
Flour for kneading
2tsp poppy seeds
2tsp cinnamon
3tsp brown sugar
1 beaten egg
2tsp semolina
1. Begin by putting all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together with a spoon to combine. Add the oil and warm milk slowly and mix as you go to form a dough. Once the mixture is holding together, cover with a damp tea towel and leave for an hour to settle and to rise.
2. After an hour take the dough and put onto a floured worktop and knead until smooth, between 5 and 10 minutes.
3. Roll the dough into a fat sausage and cut into 6 or 8, depending how large you like your bagels.
4. Take each piece of dough and make into a small bun then roll this into a ball. Poke a finger or the end of a wooden spoon through the middle of each ball of dough. Whizz this around your index finger to stretch the middle of the bagel.
5. Place the formed bagels on a greased baking tray to rise...leave plenty of space between each bagel. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for about 45 minutes.
6. After the bagels have proved, just make sure the centre hole is still there and if it has shrunk with proving use your finger to make the hole a bit bigger.
7. Put a pan of water on to boil and then once it reaches boiling point lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
8. Use a large spoon or slotted spoon to lower the bagels into the water - you might need to do them in batches of 2 or 3 at a time. They should float on the water. After a minute simmering on one side turn them over carefully to boil the underside for another minute.
9. Pre- heat the oven to 220C fan.
10. Use a slotted spoon to remove each bagel, drain them as much as you can and place on the baking tray ready to be baked.

N.B. Bagels stick like glue to baking sheets so I used bacoglide on my baking tray and sprinkled fine semolina over the bacoglide in readiness for the bagels.

11. Once on the tray use beaten egg and a pastry brush to glaze the top and sides of each bagel, sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and brown sugar, poppy seeds or raisins and cinnamon and brown sugar. Or top with sesame seeds, dried onions, garlic flakes, chill flakes, nuts, dries fruit or any seeds are good.
12. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Turn the bagels over and bake for a further 3 or 4 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

If you want to see another version of gorgeous bagels op over to Choclette's blog to see the ones she made recently...

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Learning a new skill - Bread making with 'Cracking Good Food'

Bread! Its the new black in baking isn't it really, with Paul Hollywood's recent series on BBC 2 getting us all a bit keen and interested? My bread making hasn't been up to much to be honest, I made bread years ago and it was pretty OK but of late my attempts haven't been too good. I have thought my problem was the kneading (I can't knead for toffee) but even with a stand mixer and a dough hook I couldn't hack it. So I did no more than took myself off to a bread making course a few weeks ago on the outskirts of Manchester to try and improve my limited bread making skills.

Granary breads.
I spent the day at a school kitchen in Manchester with a number of other keen potential bread makers and in the company of Rob our very knowledgeable tutor, and not just up to speed about bread making either.
My knowledge of nutrition and some aspects of digestion improved too thanks to Rob's tuition/advice. On the day we made a loaf (with our choice of flours), a rye cob, sourdough starter, soda bread and bagels. We had a delicious lunch of freshly baked pizza with a nutritious salad.

My bread making day was run by Cracking Good Food, a non for profit organisation, they put on various courses connected to food and foraging, well worth a look if you live in the north west. I paid £75 for a full day's course and I thought that was an excellent price, a lot of other courses locally are much more expensive. One of the aims of Cracking Good Food is that the courses they run should be as accessible as possible so everyone has the opportunity to learn how to cook.
Milk loaf.

I didn't take any pictures of the day as I just wanted to enjoy it and learn as much as I could. You can see photos of the type of things that go on at these courses on Cracking Good Foods Facebook Page.

Since the course I've been making bread like a good 'un and we haven't bought bread since. I have made sourdough and I have my sourdough starter which began life on the course, I have made white breads (tin loaves and cobs), malt loaves and bagels. Of everything I was most pleased with the bagels as they always seemed a bit tricky to make and not worth the effort but trust me they are! Apart form those you can buy fresh in the USA these are THE BEST I have tasted in this country. My confidence in bread making has improved a great deal and I understand so much more now about yeasts and flours and kneading and proving and how to make a pretty decent loaf and a bagel!

Watch this space for my bagel recipe and tips, which will be coming up in a future post.
A selection of home made bagels.
Testing Paul Hollywood's malt loaf recipe.
NB. I am writing this review because I enjoyed my day baking breads with Rob at Cracking Good Food. I paid for the day myself and was not asked to write a review and Cracking Good Food did not know I was a food blogger when I went on this course. All opinions are my own.

Friday, 3 May 2013

'Dish of the month' May - Nigel Slaters' Spiced lentils and mint labne

This month its over to me to launch May's 'dish of the month'...our challenge to cook our way through The Kitchen Diaries II by Nigel Slater. I'm a few days late as its the 3rd May already...last month was a quiet month in the challenge but we still had some delightful entries, you can refresh your memory over at Janice's blog here, or you can see a pictorial version of where we are since we started in January on Pinterest here, and there have been some brilliant interpretations of Nigel's recipes since we began.

This month I decided to make spiced lentils and mint labne (May 27 and p221 in the book) its not something I have made before but it suited my tastes as unintentionally we have started to eat less meat in our diet, and I find I am more drawn to meals that are more vegetable or pulse based. So this just fitted the bill, I love lentils as it is and use them a lot in cooking, such a great source of protein, brown lentils were used to make this tasty dish.

Its very easy to make, just boil lentils until part cooked then make an aromatic paste with asian spices, fresh ginger and garlic and rapeseed oil. Add this to fried sliced onions and finish with chopped tomatoes and seasoning. The finished dish is dressed with (strained) yoghurt and I used fresh chopped mint as I bought the biggest most fresh fragrant bunch ever from my greengrocers. I used (Cotswold) rapeseed oil to blend my spices - this came in a box of food goodies I was sent to try.

I loved this recipe, it was delicious and spicy it made lots (it was a cheap meal) and I intend to freeze some and take it to work as lunch. I had mine with flat bread for supper. I can only describe as as another stunner from Nigel...but his recipes always are!

If you'd like to join us in 'Dish of the Month' you'd be very welcome, this is how to get involved...
  • Make a 'Dish of the Month' from ANY recipe by Nigel Slater
  • Link back to this blog or to 'Farmersgirl Kitchen' 
  • Use the Dish of the Month logo (below) in your post
  • If you use twitter, tweet your post with @Heavenona_Plate OR @serialcrafter and #DishoftheMonth hashtag and we will re-tweet it to our followers AND post your pictures on our special Pinterest board. 
  • If you own a copy of The Kitchen Diaries II please do not publish the recipes on your blog without permission, they are copyright.
  • If you are using any Nigel Slater recipes from the BBC Food website, please link to the recipe on BBC Food rather than publishing the recipe.  Likewise with any of Nigel's recipes on the Guardian website.
  • Only one entry per blog please.
  • Recipes must be added to the linky by the 28th of each month.
And remember to add your Dish of the Month to the linky below this post: