What's for Supper - Danish Fennel & caraway Rye bread

 

It has been an emotional weekend. I reopened the café on a take-out basis, and was reunited with all our regular customers albeit at a distance, and from behind my face mask. Teresa and I were overwhelmed by the positive response and by those who said we had lifted their spirits beyond anything by offering what felt like a small return to normality. Not that this is anything like normality, needless to say.

Two things were clearly more missed than anything else, and they were our cinnamon buns and our Rye bread. I had so many lovely conversations about bread, and I thought I would share the super easy recipe for one of my longest standing recipes both in my bread making classes and in my café.

The baking soda based rye bread is the very first bread we teach on the Beginners Bread class, which was the first class I designed back in 2008, when I first started the school. I like to kick start what is a wonderfully relaxed Sunday morning class of mixing, kneading, shaping and baking with just a little bit of tongue in cheek competitiveness, by stating that this bread should take no more than 6-7 minutes to weigh out, mix and pour into a paper lined loaf tin, before it bakes for almost an hour and a half. Soda bread is mixed like a cake batter so its a brilliant confidence builder for complete novices, and a good way to get going before tackling yeast risen doughs and the need to knead, rise, shape and prove.

 

Fennel and Caraway Seed Soda Bread

Split the making between dry and wet ingredients. I am always looking for ways to minimise washing up when I cook at home. For this bread, I am therefore prone to opening my 500g pot of yoghurt and adding the two syrups straight into it. No need to create a sticky mixing bowl.

Switch the oven on to 180C as you will have mixed the bread within minutes.

WET INGREDIENTS

500ml Natural Greek style yoghurt

1 tablespoon treacle

2 tablespoons golden syrup

 

This bit takes 1 minute.

Now, weigh up the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl as per below. That takes about 4 minutes.

DRY INGREDIENTS

150g strong white bread flour

90g wholemeal, barleycorn or other flavoursome organic flour

60g organic rye flour

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon caraways seeds

1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

40g larger seeds - a mix of sunflower/pumpkin seeds is good

1 large teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

 

Tip and scrape out all the contents of the yoghurt pot into the dry. Fold and mix but only just so wet and dry combine, no more.

As I am lazy I like using paper loaf tin cases rather than cutting my own baking parchment.

Pour into the paper lined tin and bake in the lower third of the oven. All in all, a 6-7 minutes job, max.

Bake for 90 minutes. Tip out of the tin and cool, in the paper, on a cooling rack.

The scent from this wonderfully savoury yet molasses infused bread is intoxicating - but don't be tempted to slice it too soon, as it will fall apart if sliced while still hot.

This bread is insanely good with savoury toppings such as mature hard cheese, smoked salmon & dill mousse and prawns and mayo. I make Danish open sandwiches for the café every day. They are so easy to make, lend themselves to be topped with so many different things, and look as lovely as they taste.


What's for Supper - home made pizza

Making pizza is one of the most enjoyable activities you can possibly share with your children and teens, or let them loose on alone.

For instructions on how to make the dough, please check out the recipe on how to make bread click this sentence

The only addition needed for pizza to a standard 4-ingredient bread dough is olive oil.

We make a lot of bread for the café and we teach how to in our many bread making classes.

This slightly unusual pizza recipe is from our teaching chef Jackie Hobbs.

 

Pizzettes – dough enough for 4 x15cm pizzettes

The recipe I have given for the dough can be adapted, depending on what you have available.  You can of course use 250g strong white flour and no nuts. I would normally use fresh yeast, but you are more likely to have sachets of fast action yeast in your cupboards.  I made the dough in the morning and divided into portions which I then put in the fridge ready to roll out and use in the evening.  Coating the dough in oil at this point gives a greater crunch to the crust.

Dough -

100g strong white bread flour

100g semolina flour

50g buckwheat flour

Handful chopped nuts

1tsp salt

1 tsp fast action yeast

130g warm water

2 tbsp oil

Weigh out the dry ingredients in a bowl and then add the wet.  Mix until the whole lot comes together in a bowl.  Then knead by hand for about 10 minutes or use a dough hook in a food mixer to make an elastic dough which will take about 5 minutes.  It should be smooth and springy.  Shape into a ball and then put the dough into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to prove for about an hour till double in size approximately.  Once it has risen, divide the dough into 4 pieces on a floured work surface, shape each into a ball, coat each with a little oil and leave to rise for about 30 minutes if at room temperature.  Use a rolling pin to roll out each ball of the dough into a 15cm rounds and place onto a baking tray.  Then add your toppings of choice and bake for about 10 minutes at a temperature of 250 degrees centigrade.

Topping Options

You could stick with a traditional topping and spread each dough base with a tomato sauce, followed by mozzarella or spread on a pesto or a simpler herb oil which makes a “lighter” topping.  I used a herb oil made from oregano, a little garlic and some sunflower oil. Then topped with caramelised onions, wilted spinach, goat’s cheese and black olives.

 

 

Buon appetito!

What's for supper next:

The big news is that we are re-opening for take-outs this Saturday, the 25th April.

We will offer fresh bread, pastries, filled breakfast rolls, open rye sandwiches, filled Focaccia, salads and our much loved coffee. We will be open 9am-1pm Wednesday through to Sunday with all food presented in take-away boxes and cups. Safe queuing on our large terrace and lawn. Safe distance card payments and plenty of anti septic sprays. We will wear face masks and gloves.

As this means that I will be spending a lot more time preparing food for take away,  the recipes will appear a little more sporadically. I will aim for 2-3 per week.

 

 


What's for Supper - salmon en croute

En croute means in pastry, and what a lovely idea it is to enrobe something already delicious in pastry, to arrive at something even more indulgent and yummy. It does make timing very challenging for the cook, as you have no way of knowing if the fish or meat is cooked inside the parcel. You need to follow a reliable recipe, preferably one you have tried and tested before.

This easy Sunday supper recipes uses the following and it serves 3, not just two. Eating cold, allowing yourself a little dollop of mayo, is possibly even nicer than eating it warm...

2 salmon fillets

275g puff pastry 

A dollop of Pesto

A little lemon juice 

Sea salt and ground pepper

1 egg 

If you are using ready rolled puff pastry all you need to do is cut to size. If, like me, you are using a block of pastry, place it on a very lightly floured surface, dust with a little flour and roll out to desired size. Roll out to about 2-3mm thickness, that would be about the thickness of a 20p coin. If it is as thick as a £1 coin it is too thick. There will be some waste of pastry, as you cut off to fit the size of you salmon.

Having cut away the skin from the salmon fillets, I want that side to face down in the parcel and the pesto to be on top when I cut into the parcel, so I started with placing a bit of pesto on the pastry, then put the salmon skinned/slightly discoloured side facing me. I seasoned and squeezed over a little lemon juice.

Enrobe the salmon and seal with egg yolk. Pinch in seams and flip over.

Whilst I would considers myself reasonably apt at food presentation, I don't posses even a smidgeon of creative talent when it comes to cutting, shaping or forming. But I don't need to tell you this - it is obvious form this photo.

Put the parcels in the fridge for 20 minutes to half an hour (or longer).

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place on a paper lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

The puff pastry should be deep golden brown, and cooked right through. The salmon will be well cooked, but moist. I prefer salmon to be just short of being cooked, with a central core of coral coloured, less cooked fish. But I am happy with it cooked a little further for this dish, as it keeps really moist inside the pastry parcels.

A golden rule of thumb in culinary terms is that when you enrobe or top with pastry, you do not serve more carbs with the dish.

 

I am going to serve my salmon parcels with a salad of tender leaves, raw and steamed asparagus, and some wilted spinach. You could cream the spinach, which is one of my favourite ways to enjoy it, but with the rich pastry and the flavour of pesto, I think just plain wilted, with a little butter and plenty of salt, is right for this. To wilt spinach, pack at least 150g per person into a large saucepan, into which you have put a good knob of butter and one teaspoon of water, a good pinch of sea salt and, if you have it, a little grated nutmeg. You can be brutal with the raw spinach and push it down in the saucepan. Turn up the heat and turn the spinach using tongs as it starts to wilt. It will wilt down very quickly, we are talking a couple of minutes at the most from start to finish.

 

Asparagus should be cooked al dente and the further away from water the better the result.

So never immerse in water. Steam if you want clean tasting and tender spears, which I do for my salad here, but otherwise it fares much better when roasted briefly in the oven, griddled or tossed briefly in a hot pan, with a little oil and butter. Raw asparagus tastes exactly like fresh peas and its lovely to use, shaved lengthways in a tender leaf salad to which you also add some steamed spears. Make a dressing from olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, a little honey and scatter over some Parmesan shavings. The Parmesan works particularly well here as the salmon is topped with Pesto, in which Parmesan, or Pecorino, is an essential flavour.

 

What's for supper tomorrow...

Home made pizza! All that flour and yeast must be out there somewhere...you will need strong bread flour for this. Get the children involved - this is so much fun to make with the kids.

 

 


What's for Supper - Thai prawn noodles

Today's supper is a simple Thai style noodle dish, with our without prawns/chicken/pork/beef.

You will need glass noodles, a mix of crunchy vegetables cut into strips such as carrot, spring onions, red onion, any colour peppers, mange touts, baby corn, green beans, red or green cabbage, Bok Choi red or green chilli, garlic and your chosen animal protein, if using. I used half a bag of frozen, raw large prawns. For seasoning you need (some or all) lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, Ketjap Manis, sesame oil. If you don't have any of the salty/umami ingredients ie soy and fish sauce, use normal salt and a small dollop of Marmite or a splash of Worcester sauce. If you don't have the sweet Ketjap Manis, add some brown sugar. Taste your way to that intoxicating Thai mix of sweet, sour, salty, spicy and a bit of bitter.

Drop the glass noodles into boiling water, leave them to simmer until soft but not sloppy.

Drain into ice cold water.

Heat sunflower oil in a large frying pan, flash fry the vegetables for 1 minute, add the prawns/thin strips of chicken/beef/pork and keep frying on high temperature for 2 more minutes. Add the wet seasoning, taste your way to perfection.

Drop in the noodles.

 

Have a cold lager with this. If you prefer a white wine go with something aromatic like a Gewürztraminer or an off dry Riesling. Definitely not anything oaked, like a Chardonnay and spicy food is not the right match for any full bodied red, even when when the dish includes steak.

What's for Supper tomorrow...

Looking at the by now depleted contents of my freezer, I am thinking individual salmon en croute..

 

 


What's for Supper - Cucumber soup

Every day I receive beautiful and inspiring photos from all the teaching chefs, who all to a woman treat their families and loved ones to amazing lock-down food, based on more or less store-cupboard ingredients.

The inspiring Jackie Hobbs made this soup while the weather was warm.

Although there is a very chilly wind in Cambridge today, the sun continues to shine from a clear blue sky which turns ones thoughts to more summery food.

This soup is made from such humble ingredients - one cucumber and one potato, plus a splash or milk and stock. It tastes lovely warm as well, if you prefer warm soup to cold. Our little milk rolls would go very well with this - click here for the recipe

Cucumber soup – serves 2

This soup can be served hot or cold. If serving cold it is probably easier to make the day before. It has a delicate flavour and it is therefore important not to overpower the cucumber flavour with too much onion or very concentrated stock.  You could substitute the onion with a small amount of leek. I only used half of a little Knorr stock pot to 750ml of hot water.  If you have any left over salad leaves, watercress or spinach, then these can be added near the end of cooking.  Fresh herbs such as dill or mint could be added at this point too. If you want to make the soup dairy free or vegan then it is not necessary to add the milk as it tastes delicious without also.  

1 medium cucumber

1/2 small onion

1 medium potato

1 tablespoons oil

750ml weak vegetable stock

Juice of half a lemon

75ml cream or milk

salt and pepper

Method

Prepare the vegetables:

Dice the onion and cucumber and peel and chop the potato.

Heat the oil in a large pan and slowly cook the onion with a little salt over a gentle heat until soft and translucent.  Add the cucumber, potato and vegetable stock, bring to the boil and then turn to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potato is soft. At this point add any additional leaves or herbs, if using.  Leave to cool and then process in a liquidiser.  Add the cream or milk, if using, and juice of half a lemon.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

 

What's for Supper tomorrow 

Now that all days tend to follow the same rhythm it hardly seems relevant to distinguish between weekday and weekend food. I made steak Béarnaise the other day, and Saltimbocca was on the menu midweek. I have a craving for the sweet, sour, hot and spicy flavours of Thailand and am planning to make Thai style glass noodles with prawns for supper.

 


What's for Supper - Saltimbocca, a super simple gourmet supper

Saltimbocca remains one of my all time favourites, and is a perfect example of what makes Italian food so brilliant.

Respect for local produce, an instinctive understanding of what goes together, few ingredients, simple cooking methods and utter bliss on the plate. My life long love affair with Italy started when I visited on an Inter-rail trip as an 18-year old History of Art student. It was love at first sight. How could it not be? European trains were not the clean marvels of speed that they are today. Sleeping on dirty floors and risking cystitis rather than braving revolting toilets was the norm. So much greater the contrast when one tumbled out of the stations of Florence, Pisa and Venice to city scapes of such aching beauty and food so exquisite that it made me cry!

I had such high expectations of Venice that I was prepared for it to disappoint. It didn't. We arrived very early in the morning, after another night spent on a dirty train floor, having crossed the long Ponte della Libertà connecting Venice to the mainland, and emerging, blinking through the doors of Venezia Santa Lucia railway station straight onto the Canal Grande. I still get goose bumps when I think about that moment. The sun on the water, astounding Palazzi, the sun on my face and being carried by a perky vaporetto on a street made of water; I knew that I had fallen head over heels in love and that it would last for life.

I am a big fan of the Italian Renaissance architect Palladio, whose symmetrical country villas for rich land owners scatter the landscape between Venice and Vicenza. He also designed three beautiful churches in Venice, including the church of San Giorgio Maggiore on the island of the same name located just across the lagoon from the Piazzetta San Marco. Its classical temple façade is a brilliant white; its interior is also a brilliant white, bathed in natural light. The design is what we would probably refer to as "resolved", that is to say perfect. I find it oddly relatable to modern Scandinavian design, both a thrill and a rest for the eye. The bell-tower offers unrivalled views back over Venice and ascending it would be my top tip to anyone planning a trip to Venice when the lock down is lifted!

Anyway, back to the food!

Saltimbocca alla Romana may in fact not have originated in Rome, but in the north. Be that as it may, it is a fiendisly clever dish of just 3 main components cooked in a couple of minutes and finished off with such effortless bravura as to seem almost arrogant - a splash of Marsala. Tender escalopes, earthy sage, salty Prosciutto and sweet wine. Genius. Traditionally made with veal, I don't favour cooking veal. Even if the cruel days of crating calves to stop them from moving, in order for their muscle fibre to remain pale and tender are gone, there are serious animal welfare issues with veal. Male calves born into dairy herds are either killed at birth or shipped on long journeys to veal farms on the continent where they are kept in cruel conditions.

So I tend to use organic, free range fillet of pork, ie pork loin, or chicken when I make this dish. If you use chicken, cut through a breast fillet horizontally to crate two thin fillets. It makes a chicken fillet go twice as far! I have used pork fillet here, as I had bought one and put it in my freezer just before the lock down. I have used half a 650g fillet for this meal, and I will use the other half either in a Chinese style stir fry, or simply by pan frying medallions in butter and serving with sliced onion cooked down very very slowly to an unctuous, sweet caramel brown. This I would have to plan for a cold, rainy day, as it deserves a buttery mash to partner it on the plate.

Prepare you chicken fillets or, in my case, medallions of organic pork loin.

how to flatten out your meat to make thin escalopes - or scaloppine. All you need is some cling film and a sturdy saucepan. And possibly some ear plugs.

Add a slice of Prosciutto and a large sage leaf to each escalope.  Season the other side with freshly ground pepper and just a little salt - the ham is salty.

Dust with plain flour - this will make the wine, when added, go nicely syrupy.

Heat a knob of butter and a lug of sunflower oil in a pan until the colour is nut brown.

Add the scaloppione, prosciutto side down. Fry over a fairly high heat for 60 seconds. Flip over.

Click to see what happens when I add the Marsala; it will spit as it goes in, then carry on letting the juices and wine reduce to a lovely syrupy consistency  for about 1 minute. That's it; cooking done in 2 minutes.

I would serve this with spinach Tagliatelle cooked al dente. The dark green of the pasta looks stunning with the scarlet and green of the scaloppine, whereas white pasta doesn't. Or, serve with lemon & rosemary roasted waxy potatoes, and some wilted spinach. Delizioso!

What's for supper tomorrow

Another mouth watering yet super simple recipe from our teaching chef Jackie Hobbs, using a humble ingredient: cucumber for a chilled cucumber soup. Perfect for Friday supper, alone or as a starter, at the end of a warm day.


What's for Supper baking special - Swedish cinnamon rolls or "Kanelbullar"

I grew up in Denmark and Sweden, surrounded on the periphery by women who were all brilliant home cooks and bakers. My grandmother and all her sisters had learnt from their mum, Ida in their home in Swedish Lapland, and a couple of them had been sent to "house keeping school" and one trained as a baker and Patissière.

The Kanelbullar, literally meaning cinnamon buns, which we bake daily for the café and teach in our Bread making for Beginners class are without a doubt our signature bake. People come just for them, and often buy more to take home. The recipe is a fairly standard sweet, yeast risen dough so there is egg, butter and milk in the dough, making it soft and marshmallowy, and there is more butter and sugar as a filling, as well as cinnamon and cardamom.

We always use fresh yeast in the school and café but dried works well too.

I recommend Quick action yeast over the granules which need sponging.

Yeast                         Melted butter+milk            Flour+salt+sugar          Risen dough

 

Cinnamon buns - small batch making 6 large cinnamon buns

12g fresh/3.5g quick action yeast (half a sachet)

50g butter

125ml milk

1/2 egg - mainly yolk if you can manage to control it

40g caster sugar

A large pinch of salt

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

250g plain flour 

Filling:

40g soft, unsalted butter

25g caster sugar

1 tablespoons ground cinnamon

To top before baking:

1/2 egg, lightly beaten with a fork

Confectioner's sugar or normal sugar mixed with a little ground cardamom

  1. Melt the butter, add the milk and bring to luke-warm temperature. 
  2. Pour it into the dry ingredients, add half or your half egg!
  3. Stir using a wooden spoon or dough paddle. Work it as best you can but it will be a very wet dough. Cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
  4. Mix the ingredients for the filling.
  5. Tip the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Dust lightly with flour. Roll out to a strip of 8 x 15cm or so.
  6. Spread the filling over the dough. Fold over lengthways to a narrow long strip
  7. Cut into 2 cm wide strips. Twist the strips to and bring it around itself to form a lovely knot shape where you bring one end up through the open centre to secure the know., Place on baking parchment-covered baking sheets or in paper cases. Leave to prove for 45 minutes. The buns should have doubled in size and be slack and soft.

 

Brush with egg and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar (or caster sugar mixed with ground cardamom). Place in the top third of a pre-heated oven and bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden

Enjoy with your cup of morning coffee...and eat them all today, or freeze. Fresh home baked bread goes stale very quickly.

What's for Supper tomorrow...

Back to Italy for one of my all-time favourite dishes; Saltimbocca alla Romana. Effortless elegance - thin escalopes of veal, chicken or fillet of pork, Prosciutto, sage and that favourite ingredient of mine: Marsala! What's not to like...


What's for Supper - pasta with roasted tomato sauce or how to purée garlic and the transforming powers of salt

There are dishes that I cook over and over, and have done since I first started cooking a very long time ago. They are all simple, and their addictive deliciousness comes from doing very little to good ingredients.

Out of those, some are so much a part of my routine that I cook them weekly. Roast chicken (not least for that best of leftovers, cold chicken) a soup made from seasonal vegetables and pasta with some sort of plant based accompaniment. I love the southern Italian pasta dishes in particular. The dishes from this parched tip of the country are totally different from those of the north, where rich pasture land have given birth to meat and dairy rich dishes such as the classic sauce from Bologna. In the south, the holy trinity of tomatoes, garlic and chilli are put to good use.

Since I started cooking while at Uni, doing a History of Art degree, I have cooked pasta with tomato sauce, in some shape or form. The flavours I crave when I make it have remained the same: sweet, hot and umami - almost Asian in profile, as acidity also underpins it.

In my opinion, Tomatoes must never be deprived of the company of their best friend in the kitchen; sugar.

Unless picked ripe from a sun drenched branch, tomatoes are very high in acidity and the difference a teaspoon of caster sugar, or a lug of Balsamic vinegar makes to any sauce in which tomatoes play a part is huge. My latest discovery, borrowed from a completely different cuisine, is that Pomegranate molasses also work exceptionally well with tomatoes.

When we teach in the school, guests are often surprised at how gadget free our state of the art kitchen is. Apart from our Neff hobs and ovens, our Kenwood blenders and our knives, we don't use gadgets. One of the first thing our attendees scan the table for are garlic presses. We don't have them as garlic puréed with sea salt is infinitely better in every way.

Salt, added to a raw animal protein, whether a plant or from an animal, will draw out liquid from the protein. This is why you should avoid adding salt to a nice piece of steak, chicken or fish until just before it goes in the oven or pan. If you leave salt to sit on the protein you are planning to cook, it will result in a wet surface, which means when you come to cook it it, it won't brown or caramelise, it will simply stew and result in a grey, unappetising look with inferior flavour. The caramelising you achieve by browning is essential for flavour. Contrary to popular belief, browning does not seal in juices. Only resting does that.

My rule of thumb is rest meat for at least as long as it cooked for. A rack of lamb cooked for 16-17 minutes should rest for 16-17 minutes. The exceptions to the rule are obvious; a steak, cooked rare for only a couple of minutes, benefits from resting for longer than that and a large leg of lamb or a chicken obviously does not require resting for up to an hour, but 15-20 minutes will ensure that the juices are retained in the meat so that when it is carved, they juices won't simply go to waste on your carving board.

Capitalising on the liquid-drawing powers of salt when preparing garlic stops it from burning and also results in superior flavour. All cooks will have added raw garlic to a pan of hot fat and seen in go from creamy white to little bits of burnt charcoal in seconds. Burning garlic results in little bitter tasting, crisp pieces of charcoal scattered through the dish it underpins. This is where salt comes in.

Start by placing the flat side of a large chef's knife on a garlic clove and give it a good bash with your fist to split the skin, then peel. Next, roughly chop the garlic and add about a third of its volume in sea salt. Now, place a couple of fingers on the flat side of the tip and use it as if it were the beak of a little bird, pecking into the salt and garlic. Keep pecking away - some bits of garlic will go flying - and you will immediately see how the salt teases out water from the garlic. Continue working the tip of the knife though the garlic for about a minute. When the salt has melted and the bits of garlic have started to disintegrate, stop pecking and move your fingers further down the flat blade of the knife, so that the flat of your fingers are pressing down on the knife and paddle across the board, smearing the garlic back and forth. Within seconds it will transform into a paste.

This wet garlic paste will not burn. Instead it will blend and integrate well with the other ingredients and the flavour will be more subtle, almost almond-like.

This is how:

Now for my long standing favourite version of tomato sauce.

The ingredients are simple: fresh cherry tomatoes, of which there seems to be a constant abundance, garlic, sea salt, chilli flakes, tomato purée, caster sugar and fresh basil. If you happen to have a bottle of Pomegranate molasses in your cupboards, add a splash of that too or add a little splash of Balsamic vinegar towards the end of cooking.

And of course, we want grated Parmesan. If you don't have Parmesan, any mature hard cheese will do just as fine. A strong Cheddar, or even better, one of my two all time favourite Alpine cheeses, Gruyère or Comté will taste fantastic. Dare I say it, even more delicious in this context than Parmesan.

I like chucking roughly 1/3 of the tomatoes in the oven with a bit if salt and sugar and a drizzle of olive oil and roast them at 180C ish while I cook down the remaining 2/3 in a pan with puréed garlic, a good squirt of tomato purée, caster sugar and a sprig of basil. I start with the garlic and tomato, and as soon as they start to break down, say 3 minutes of cooking, I add the rest and a good splash of water or red wine, or a mix of both. Stir and simmer for 5-10 minutes. No need to add salt - there is plenty in the garlic.

Let the tomatoes in the pan simmer down and break up, giving them a helping stir with a wooden spoon every now and then and adding a little water if the sauce is cooking down very thick. The tomato purée will thicken the sauce quite a lot.

Cooking down the tomatoes - a little film clip here

Tip the oven roasted tomatoes, with their cooking juiced, into the pan. Check the seasoning, adding more sugar if there is not sufficient underlying sweetness in the tomatoes yet.

Meanwhile you will have cooked your pasta al dente.

How to cook perfect pasta

You need a really large saucepan, and 1 small tablespoon of salt per litre. That's right - 1 tablespoon of salt per litre. Nothing else - no oil. It is the volume of water which ensures that pasta strands don't stick. Cook your chosen pasta for a couple of minutes less than suggested on the pack. The salt and shorter cooking time will ensure al dente pasta - that is to say pasta that is cooked, yet retains a little bite at the core, easing the effect of this rich dish on your gut and on your blood sugar levels. For Bucatini this means about 8-9 minutes. When cooked, lift the pasta using a pasta fork - don't drain into a colander. This removes the need for dangerous lifting and moving of large pans full of hot water and also eliminates the risk of burns to hands and lower arms. The purpose for the cook, however, is to transfer pasta straight out of the water and into the waiting sauce. If you have never tried this you'll be amazed at the difference it makes to any pasta dish, compared to topping quickly drying pasta with a sauce.

My choice of pasta is, as always, Bucatini - long hollow pasta tubes. They have more texture and bite to them than other thin pasta and the hollow centre interacts very pleasingly with the sauce when being devoured.

Bring the salted water to a rolling boil. This is what a rolling boil looks like. Don't put a lid on and keep an eye on the pan. Give the pasta a stir when it first goes in.

The pasta has been added to the sauce, not the other way around.

Buon apetito!

What's for Supper tomorrow

Some of you have asked for my recipe for cinnamon buns, the Swedish Kanelbullar. 


What's for Supper - a plant based Indian supper

Here come a delicious selection of recipes from the much loved and much respected Jackie Hobbs. Jackie, like the rest of the team, trained at Leiths and had a previous life as a biology teacher. A science background is very often the launch pad for a career in food. One of our team has a previous career as a nurse, another worked for a well know plant research company. I started the business as a result of inspiration acquired while working as a finder of emerging trends in global consumer behaviour for large food brands. We all share a solid, classic training  acquired at Leiths and/or Le Cordon Bleu.
          Jackie's encyclopaedic knowledge of cooking, and her finger on the pulse of the latest food
          trends is second to none. Underpinning this with a forensic interest in the whys and hows of
          cooking makes Jackie an outstanding and much requested teacher in the school.
           "Will Jackie  take this class?" is often one of the first questions I am asked when receiving
          enquires about new classes. Indian cuisines is part of Jackie's heritage and these recipes are,
          as always, as reliable and delicious as they are a feast for the eyes and nose.
          Our Curries of the World class remains one of the most popular classes, since its inception
          nearly 6 years ago. Including curries and spice blends from India, Thailand and Malaysia, the
          class covers a lot of ground despite sitting in our "social/netoworking" category, where
           meeting people, sharing a cold Singha or Cobra beer and relaxing after work is just as
          important as learning new skills.

When I emailed Jackie to ask what she was cooking, she replied with these mouth watering, plant based Indian supper of Basmati rice, red lentil Dahl, roasted sweet potato, coconut relish and a cucumber and mint Raita.

Dhal

The term Dhal is used on the Indian sub continent to describe dried, split pulses, ie peas, lentils and beans. These pulses constitute a cheap and excellent source of protein in areas where religion stipulates a vegetarian diet.

The word garam refers to "heating the body" in the Ayurvedic sense of the word, as these spices are believed to elevate body temperature in Ayurvedic medicine.

Pulses

300g red lentils, washed

1 litre of water

1 tsp of salt

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 ½ tsp turmeric

Squeeze of lemon juice, fresh chopped coriander

Tarka

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 onion chopped

5 cloves garlic

2 tsp ground coriander

1tsp garam masala

salt

1.Place lentils in a pan with the salt, tinned tomatoes and turmeric. Cover with water

bring to the boil

Remove the froth, reduce the heat and put the lid on the pan – leave to

simmer for 10 minutes. Check the lentils are cooked by squeezing them

between your fingers. Once soft remove from the heat.

2.In a frying pan, heat the oil and butter and add the cumin seeds and cook for 30 sec

onds.Add the onion and garlic to the spice, fry until lightly browned. Reduce the heat

and add the ground coriander and salt.

3.Gently let the ingredients cook for 10 minutes to make a thick masala paste.

Add a ladle full of the lentils (dhal) to the masala paste in the frying pan and stir

together then empty all the contents back into the pan with the lentils

and stir. It should have the consistency of a thick soup but if it's too thick

just add a little boiling water and remove from the heat. If you prefer it

thicker just leave it on the heat to reduce until you get the consistency you

want.

4.Check the seasoning and add a salt- it tends to be required. Stir in the garam

masala powder, a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh chopped coriander.

The sweet potatoes are simply washed, cut into cubes, tossed in oil and roasted, with cumin and fennel seeds, for 30minutes at 200C.

Coconut relish is another super simple, yet utterly delicious little dish made from desiccated coconut  which is left to soak in hot water for a few minutes and mixed with mustard seeds and curry leaves, which have been fried in oil together with some red chilli and fresh ginger. This lovely combination is rounded off with a yoghurt Raita made, as always, with full fat natural yoghurt and  fresh mint leaves and grated cucumber.


What's for Supper - LOVE!

I often reflect on the amazing skills we have in our group of Leiths and Cordon Bleu trained teaching chefs. Not just the rigorous, classical training, but years of cooking for ourselves, for partners and children, and now, for ageing parents. Never has it been more obvious than now, that home made food is an expression of love, of care and of nurturing and never mere sustenance.

Love underpins and defines home cooked food and also the amazing food created by people who are passionate about extending the same level of love to guests in independent cafés, bistros and restaurants up and down the country.  This love is a stark contrast to the big global chains of fast food and, sadly, increasingly of smaller chains representing more "exclusive" brands, purporting to replicate what the initial flag ship restaurant once made.

You will all have visited places where the name above the door and the prices of the menus reflect a more upmarket original restaurant but where, unbeknownst to customers, every single dish will have been shipped in from a central production kitchen, even down to cartons of already whisked and seasoned eggs for scramble, and where the "chefs" behind the scenes cook nothing from scratch. Customers are not lied to outright - the beef is beef and the sour dough is a sour dough - simply helped - wrongly as it happens - to assume that the dishes carried out to the tables have been made by chefs in that kitchen, when they have in fact been mass produced in some distant industrial style kitchen, delivered and then assembled and re-heated.

Having the training from institutions such as Le Cordon Bleu is a bit like going through the Royal School of Ballet - it instils rigorous, sound, proven skills on which more experimental, modern creations can be built. It means that our team conveys the absolute best and most solid of skills which we combine with, between us, more than 200 years of cooking both at home and commercially! Best not reflect for too long on how old that makes us. There are 6 of us so you can do the maths...

We love sharing what we know, that is why we teach. The aim is never to show off or, god forbid, intimidate. The aim is simply to be as generous as we can, and fit in as much as is humanely possible of culinary skills, in the 4 hours we have at our disposal in any given class. We want to inspire and we love it when we witness that Eureka moment of "ah...I get it! THAT is why my bread was dense/my pastry collapsed/my soufflé sank/my sauce split/my pork is dry..."etc etc

Good food is love. It brings well being. It underpins our health. It has never been more important than now to reflect on how we eat, and what we eat. We have grown reluctant to make food for ourselves and for our families, and we choose instead to rely on, and to unquestioningly trust, mass produced, processed food made out of sight and for which the sustainability, quality and nutritional levels are unknown and completely out of our control.

It is the willing surrendering of control, of input, which I find so surprising. Freedom of choice, making decisions for every aspect of our daily lives is something we take for granted and cherish in a welfare democracy. Yet, for that most vital ingredient, the daily food we give our children and ourselves, we surrender all control and ask no questions.

Instead, we are easily and readily seduced by every new fad and trend, hungry and hopeful for some kind of miracle food flown in from far flung countries, which will deliver eternal life, when the simple fact is that, alongside a bit of regular exercise, cooking normal, every day food from scratch, using sustainable, local ingredients is your best bet for a long and healthy life.

When we cook, we see the raw and unadulterated ingredients that you use. It simply isn't possible to add levels of salt or sugar which could be bad for our health because the ensuing dish would quite simply be inedible. Just revolting. However, the many artificial sweeteners in ready made sauces, the salt added even to sweet foods such as cereal, you can't taste. All we taste are the savoury, fatty and sweet flavours which the big food manufacturers know will give the brain a high and keep all of us coming back for more.

To stay healthy, we must cook our own food. To stay engaged, we need to reconnect with food.

To sustain ourselves and our children, we need to take back control of what we put through our bodies.

I absolutely do not buy the argument that cooking from scratch is a privilege only the well to do can afford. A little bit of knowledge is all it takes to cook and to do so on a modest budget. I regularly cook food with a per portion price well below £1, often below 50p. Obtaining food at such low cost is simply not possible if the food is processed ready meals, or deliveries from chains. Lend me a tenner and I will promise you I can buy ingredients from which I can create delicious meals for a full week.

This is why cooking, taught in a relevant and enjoyable way, needs to be put back on the curriculum in schools. Government initiatives have so far failed to curtail the all-powerful global food industry. If we get our children involved in cooking with us at home, helping working parents by preparing for suppers, and shift the focus to teaching the next generation how to cook we will help them to love and expect the taste of normal home made food. That in turn will lead to a change in shopping habits which will benefit producers of ingredients, not meals, that is to say farmers, in particular small scale ones, sustainable fishing, and outlets such as green grocers and markets, rather than large scale manufacturers of processed food and pan global supermarkets whose unholy alliance have been undermining our health over then past decades. It is not just our personal health which is undermined, it is the environment. Mass produced food, quite simply, is the opposite of love and life.

So what are we waiting for? Let's get cooking and let's get the kids and teens cooking! Dig a little vegetable garden, plant some seeds for the windowsill, accompany your kids to the entrance of your nearest food shop, with a tenner worth of credit on a card, and ask them to come back out with ingredients for at least 2 family meals.