Yet another Fish Pie!

What’s not to like about fish pie? Well everything if you don’t like fish, but for those of you who do, there has to be as many recipes as the proverbial Shake a Stick!

My go to version of late has been an adaption of Richard Corrigan’s simple fish pie, however this week saw yet another incarnation of yet another version. This time around it has a slight curry flavour, which if you like curry as Himself does, then this the way forward.

It contains,of course a mixture of fish along with hard boiled eggs and potatoes as well as some spinach, very much a variation on a theme.

Before Lockdown #1,#2 and three, I would raid my “Fish” freezer to find an assortment of fish, but nowadays I just buy along with my Fish order a portion of fish pie mix. So, OK this might be just ends from the fishmongers chopping board, but there is nothing wrong with that. In my mix was about 35% salmon and the rest assorted white fish. There is no waste, no skin, no bones. To this I added two small fillets of smoked haddock and a handful of frozen prawns, All in all I had +/- a kilo of fish.

A kilo of fish makes for at least 6 portions, but for me as I had to defrost the whole bag, I had to make a very large fish pie. To my fish above I also needed the following:-

  • A bag of fresh spinach ( about 200 grams but more is OK as well, I wish I had used more)
  • A leek finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery chopped
  • An onion finely sliced
  • At least 2 cloves of garlic chopped or crushed
  • At least 4 tsp of curry powder
  • 400 mls cream
  • 4 Oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 hard boiled eggs quartered or chopped
  • Juice of a lemon
  • A handful of freshly chopped coriander
  • Salt and pepper

For the topping

  • 100 mls milk or cream
  • +/- 1 kilo of potatoes depending how thick you want your topping to be,
  • 100 grms unsalted butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Salt and pepper.

Start by making the topping which is basically mashed potatoes. As usual I cook mine in the Microwave, peel after cooking and put through a potato ricer. Using a river makes for a fine mash, but don’t rush out and by one, mashing with a fork is fine, just giving a more rustic mashed potato. Once mashed heat the milk/ cream. Mix the potato with the egg yolks and butter, pour on the milk to mash a stiffish mashed potato topping. Too soft equals too sloppy for the pie, too stiff equals too difficult to spread over the pie. So a bit like Goldilocks, it needs to be Just Right!

Cook the spinach, I buy ready washed spinach ( lazy I know) as then I can just pop the bag as it is into the microwave and zap for two minutes, pop open the bag, remove spinach and drain in some paper towel, it will not be very wet anyway.

Now I always precook my fish. I dip bits in flour and sauté them and drain on paper towel. After that sauté the vegetables, along with the spices, garlic etc, pour in the cream, bring to the boil, add the cheese and lemon juice. Remove from heat. Put the fish into an oven proof dish, top with the spinach and sauce and then the mashed potatoes.

Bake at 180c ( fan) 200c for about 20 minutes until the topping is golden brown and bubbling.

Now as you can see from my photograph, that nis a big fish pie! Never mind, once cold I cut it into man size portions, freeze, vacuum pack and back into the freezer!

Guess what Himself will be having for dinner !

Les Merveilleux and Cramiques

I could have sworn that it was just last September when I decamped to Les Hauts de France, with my eldest daughter, youngest grandson and one of my dearest friends. But no, it was September 2019. My, how time flies when you are having fun! For a huge part of that we have spent confined to Barracks, or in other words, LOCKDOWN 1, 2 and 3!

Whilst on our Jolly ( #1 daughter, grandson and I were actually working, Suzette , she freshly arrived from Texas, along for the ride but ended up being the film crews #1 mate) . I digress, our first port of call was to old city of Lille, which more or less straddles France and Belgium. I say more or less, it is in Northern France but many Belgians make the daily trip across the border to work. We had a tour of the town in a Deux Chevaux and a good wander. We passed a shop, where the queue was around the corner and down the street. Our curiosity peeked, we returned on Sunday morning to check it out. They sold but two items, Les Merveilleux in ( 5 flavours) and Cramiques in three, (and maybe a croissant or two. )We felt we knew the Cramiques , a cross between a Brioche and a sweet roll, very popular in Belgium for breakfast ( and we had lived in Brussels for 13 years and thought we knew, all that was needed to know), but Les Merveilleux, we hadn’t a clue. So some were purchased and stashed in the boot of the car for future eating.

Unbeknownst to us, they were predominantly CREAM! And so after a day with the car sitting in warm sunshine, they were no longer Merveilleux, but Abominable! And inedible! Ah well such is life.

However, my friend and I discovered that there is such a shop in London Les Merveilleux de Fred in South Kensington. A visit was required and some were bought. Certainly, in Lille, they make them non stop and all are sold. Not sure about London as, they certainly are not cheap, £ 3.40 each, but then again, South Kensington is a French enclave.

The flavours are

:- Incroyable……. Speculoos , cream and white chocolate

:- Impensable…….Coffee cream and coffee crystals

:-Merveilleux……..Cream and chocolate shavings

: Manifique…………Praline Cream with almonds and caramelised hazelnuts

:- Sans Culottes……Caramel Cream and crystallised meringue

:-Excentrique……… Cherry Cream and crystallised meringue

All of them are Cream, Cream and more Cream ! But Yummy.

The other delights are the Cramiques , Fred makes them, Plain, Chocolate and then Raisins . All of them have a sugar , which to my mind is very Belgian, but not just any sugar, but Pearl sugar. Pearl sugar is very common in Belgium and is always used in their famous Gaufres de Liège, which are wonderful, served hot with lumps of molten sugar !

I have yet to try making Les Merveilleux but have made the Cramiques, which thanks to my mini bread machine, (which did the kneading for me), worked very well.

Too much bread leftover in your house? Did you know that bread and bread products freeze very well? No room in your freezer and hat,e to throw away bread, then help is at hand.

New Orleans Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce.

This is a great way of using up stale bread and the plus point is that it also freezes well, even with the sauce on top. Traditionally made with stale french bread but any bread will suffice. The quantities are very much whatever you have. I used 6 bagels and half a baguette. Using a grater on a food processor, crumb the bread. To this add 3 beaten eggs, 500 mls cream ( or milk), 100 grms sugar. Then you can add any of the following, a cup of chopped apples, chopped dates, chopped soft dried apricots, raisins or sultanas. Mix all together and make sure that all of the bread is soaked. If not add some more milk.

Grease a loaf pan, pour in the mixture and bake at 180 C ,160C ( fan) for about 45 minutes until golden brown and form. Leave to cool, slice and serve with whiskey sauce.

For the sauce, melt 250 grms butter on the stove top along with 100 grms sugar and 1/2 cup whiskey ( cheap will do). Beat an egg until it is well mixed and when the sugar has melted beat in the egg into the mixture. If by any chance it should curdle whisk well preferably by an electric whisk, it should be fine.

Slice the pudding and pour over some of the sauce. To freeze, slice and place on a baking tray, pour over the sauce and freeze the lot. When frozen, warp individually, to use, just place the pudding in a bowl, leave to defrost and pop into a microwave for about a minute to serve hot.

Preserved Lemons

This week has seen us visiting Richmond Park and Kew Gardens. Richmond Park can get very busy, especially now as we are all still confined to quarters, hence we head out early around 7 am. This week saw a marked difference in traffic volumes as schools went back the day before and the volume of traffic certainly increased.

We walked a new route and the trees were budding and lucky yesterday again to see a herd of deer ( Richmond Park is home to about 600 ). We also learnt about the hillocks which abound. They are in fact Ant Hills, home to the Yellow Meadow Ant. Some of the hills are at least a hundred years old and unfortunately because half of London has been walking in the park, many have been damaged!

We also explored again, Kew Gardens or it’s correct name of Royal Botanical Gardens Kew. We have been so many times during this lockdown and yet we still find areas that are new to us. Spring time here is magnificent and the kitchen garden area along with the medicinal area just beginning to spring to life.

Himself has been at work in the kitchen and to great success. He made Chicken Tagine with preserved lemons and olives. He used a cast iron casserole ( I don’t have a tagine, and I have an Induction Hob, so a tagine wouldn’t work anyway)

I supported various farmers in Spain this past year, it was a crowd farming effort-supporting small independent producers. I had wonderful Olive oil, to die for Mangoes, creamy unblemished avocados and 5 kilos of Devine unwaxed lemons! I immediately contacted my dear friend Jean who has in the past given me a jar of her home grown preserved lemons, and asked what to do with my haul of lemons! Preserve them in salt was the answer, which I promptly did.

For 4 people you will need:-

  • 250 mls, chicken stock
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large onions chopped
  • 3cloves ( or more to taste) finely chopped
  • 1tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • A tsp each of ground ginger and ground cumin
  • 3large or 6 small preserved lemons
  • Handful of olives, we used bald ( as that is what we had in store)
  • A cup each of chopped coriander and chopped parsley.
  • 4-6 boneless chicken breasts
  1. Heat the oil in the casserole and sauté the onions are soft but not browned
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and then the chicken
  3. Add the pepper and lemons and then the stock.
  4. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is falling apart.
  5. Add the olives and herbs.
  6. Serve with new potatoes and crusty bread.

Be very careful the lemons are preserved in salt and DO NOT ADD EXTRA SALT, taste the tagine and if you think it too salty add some potatoes to it and let them cook until soft. They will absorb some of the salt, but discard them afterwards as they too will be salty!

Preserved Lemons can be bought in Waitrose ( they have the choice of 1) but even better Amazon has a selection of at least 6).

Not more Ice Cream ?

Well, yes, in a word. I have been collecting recipes or ideas and stick them into my Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream book. What ever the recipe says, I basically ignore it. It is just the idea that I am after. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream base is the way forward, it needs no cooking.

This week saw me making Salted Caramel Ice Cream. To be honest with you, Himself will eat almost any type of Ice Cream and if it is from Baskin Robbins, then usually the more lurid the better. Case in point, Blue Raspberry, Pink Raspberry, or Wild and Reckless! Not for me!

Salted caramel ice cream is easy to make, maybe a little more time consuming than my previous Ice Creams, but still very easy.

For the Ice Cream Base you will need:-

  • 500 mls thick cream
  • 500 mls plain full fat yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs.

To make the base, whisk the eggs together until thick and fluffy. Add the sugar. Add the cream and the yoghurt and mix well together. As always I do this all in a food processor ( it saves on washing up). Put to freeze, either in an ice cream machine or simply in the freezer.

To make the salted caramel bit :-

  • 220 grms dark brown sugar
  • 300 mls pouring cream
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 30 grms unsalted butter
  • 1tsp salt

Put all of the above into a pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer and let it bubble for 4-5 minutes, it will become thicker.

Leave to cool and then put it in a container and refrigerate until the ice cream is almost set. If you add it before the ice cream is set, it will still taste very good, but will just be amalgamated into the general setting ice cream ( believe me, I did just that ) so waiting until the ice cream is practically set, you will get a ripple effect.

Serve with some chopped nuts or chocolate sprinkles, a swoop of whipped cream, if you feel a need for more cream, or eat straight out of the box !

I’ve also made more gnocchi, this time using sweet potatoes. I think on balance I prefer the ones made with normal potatoes, but really not bad.

My basic recipe remains the same:-

  • About a kilo of potatoes
  • 125 grms plain flour
  • 150 grams grated parmesan
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • Salt to taste.

Simply, peel and boil the potatoes, until soft, but not falling apart. Leave until cool enough to handle, and put through a potato ricer, or sieve. Mix in the eggs, cheese and salt, mix thoroughly..

Lay a sheet of cling film on the counter top and put a length of gnocchi mixture, ( like a long thin sausage) roll up and tie each end with string. In a large pan boil some water and drop in the ” sausages ” ( make sure they are submerged) and boil for about 10 minutes . Remove and pop them into a bowl with cold water.

When cooled, remove the cling film, cut into slices about 1/2″ or so, dip each in flour and sauté in hot butter until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper . Here I wait until they are cold and lay all of them flat on a tray and flat freeze. When frozen, I bag them ready to use, as an alternative to rice, pasta or even potatoes.I usually make multiples of the recipe.

The other thing that I am very much into making are Bagels! I have to admit I was a bit wary at first, as having tried to make them many years ago to disastrous results, I was reluctant to try again, but now, I think I have it cracked. Commercial bagels are cooked in Lye and water, but umm maybe not to do at home and the alternative seems to be very simply just add some baking soda to the boiling water! Seems to work !

Was it worth it ?

Where has this week gone? Honestly I haven’t a clue, but indeed it has gone. Mornings are brighter, evenings are lighter, and flowers and blossom are blooming! Spring is almost here!

I feel that The Sunday Times has been spying on me. Last week there was an article on flavoured butters ( and how I love flavoured butters) and this weeks here was something else, that I thought” Wait a moment” I’ve been doing that for years!

This week has seen a lot of RECYCLING and by that I mean food! It has to be obvious, it is impossible to make just one meat pie or beef stroganoff or kedgeree or Peruvian beef or ?

The extra has always been portioned, frozen, vacuumed packed, labelled and stored away in the recycling freezer drawer! Once upon a time when Himself was working and travelling every week and I traveled almost as much and sometimes more than him, the freezer had magnetic labels with notes written on, saying what was available for dinner.

Flavoured butters, I have been using some of them for years, mainly Garlic butter, Garlic and Parsley butter and Anchovy Butter. Chefs make several butters, which they make into a roll, wrap in cling film, and freeze ( or refrigerate), slice off a bit as needed. Me on the other hand, make my butters and freeze them in Ice Cube trays, pop into a plastic bag and freeze.

I have been buying Trout from Chalk Stream now for the almost a year and is the easiest thing to cook for dinner and SO enhanced with Anchovy Butter. Snails, with Garlic Butter, Garlic Bread, Maple and Cinnamon, with Pancakes, Sriracha Lime and Coriander, Harissa Butter, Horseradish and Pepper, Blue Cheese butter, Chimcichurri used on meats and fish or vegetables and the crème de la crème is Marmite Butter ( now available in Marks and Spencer! The list is endless, I also make my ginger and garlic mix and freeze in the ice cubes, along with my fresh yeast, my ice cube trays get used a lot.

This weekend we tried another Gourmet Take A Way. This time from a company called Dispatch. The service was excellent, delivery on time in all recyclable packaging.

We chose this meal from St. John, a restaurant in central London that was founded in 1993. We have eaten there just the once. The starter was Bone Marrow and is so easy to cook and is delicious, we Love It. The Main course was Braised Duck Legs served with carrots and Aioli and the Pièce de resistance (NOT) was the dessert, and Eccles Cake with a bit of cheese. They do to be honest actually serve the Eccles Cake at their restaurant, but I have to say it looked very sad. And what is more, there was just One Eccles Cake and one sliver of Cheese. Ok, maybe we didn’t need more but to serve it elegantly, put on a pretty plate in the middle of us along with the cheese.

Himself gave the meal a mere 6/10 the Photo shows, three bones on the plate, we had two, three carrots and we had two. The duck was lovely but found that the Aioli superfluous, it actually says in the instructions add a DOLLOP, which we did, but the sauce was nice without it.

The really disappointing thing was that St. John never replied to my question ” Has there been a mistake with just the one Eccles Cake?”

Would we have another meal, Yes, Dispatch offers menus from several and varied restaurants, so we have at least another month to go, so watch this space.

Spring is coming!

Here in London, signs of spring, there are daffodils and snow drops along with hellebores in shades of pink, purple and creamy green. There are catkins, sticky buds and the beginnings of blossom as well as primula and of course MUD. Brighter mornings and later evenings all heralding spring . Yippee is all I can say.

Meanwhile, we have celebrated Chinese New Year, the Year of the Ox, with spring rolls, stir fried noodles with vegetables, pancakes and Peking Duck.

I also made a Charlotte! Have not made in many a year, but there were apples and fresh rhubarb crying out to be used. For those of you who do not know what is a Charlotte, well I think it is best described as a fruity Bread and Butter pudding. Instead of bread I used brioche buns out of the freezer, sliced in to four slices . There are to my mind, not hard and fast rules. I used four buns, soft butter to spread on them and equal amounts of apples peeled and stewed in some brown sugar and rhubarb, also gently stewed. ( I used 500 gram of each)

Simply butter the bread slices and line a dish with them, add a layer of the fruit with some of the juice, more bread, more fruit and if she with a layer of bread. Melt about 4 Oz of unsalted butter and pour over the top of the pudding. Bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes or so, until it is golden and risen like a soufflé. Remove and leave to cool a little before eating. I have to admit that I got distracted and forgot the Charlotte until it was well done, but nonetheless still delicious.

Another item that I have not made for years and years are Doughnuts!, The last lot I made were like bricks but I have found a new recipe and it worked exceedingly well. In fact I was worried that I would hear a bang in the middle of the night as I had placed my dough in a container in the refrigerator and thought it might just burst out of the box, but all was well this morning. All I had to do was to let the dough come to room temperature, and then shape it into balls. This is actually easier said than done as the mixture is very soft, so it was really a case of dividing the dough into 12 portions, ball shape as best as possible, place onto a greased tray ready for frying.

Deep fry the balls, depending on size of fryer ( I use a wok) only for a couple of minutes each side in hot oil, drain and dredge with sugar.

If doughnuts are your thing,and feel like giving them a whirl then here is the recipe.

  • 400 grms bread flour
  • 1 dessert spoon of caster sugar
  • 1oz fresh yeast
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • Pinch salt
  • 100 grms soft butter
  • 120 mls tepid water.

This is of course do-able by hand but if you have a mixer with a dough hook, great.

Mix the yeast with the sugar , it will make a very creamy paste. Add it to the water and the beaten eggs. Put the flour and salt into a mixer and with the engine running pour in the liquid. Let the machine mix and knead the dough. When smooth, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise to 2x its size. , mix the dough again either by hand or in the machine ( this is called knocking back) and put the dough into a container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, bring the dough up to room temperature ( I used the microwave on the lowest setting to do this, just a minute at a time) then , divide the dough into equal amounts, try and shape into balls and place on a greased tray and again , leave them to rise, they will double in size, so leave plenty of room between them.

Heat oil in your deep pan, and when hot enough slide the dough balls into the hot oil. They take only a couple of minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon ,place onto kitchen paper to drain and then toss in caster sugar and place a on a wire rack.

They can be eaten more or less straight away, but fillings can be added when cool.

Fillings such as whipped cream ( flavoured with cinnamon sugar, chopped stem ginger, melted cooled chocolate) jam, or cooled custard. The easiest way to insert the fillings is to slice the doughnut and add the filling.

A Takeaway Dinner, well almost.

Himself, once again asked the question ” When and what am I going to cook this week?” Well this week was going to be easy, a take away dinner, well almost but not quite.

I had ordered dinner from BANQUIST. This is a company that rolls out two chefs ( usually) per month, to showcase either their restaurants or their food, as not all of the chefs have restaurants, and in fact none of them are open at the moment anyway and so more and more are offering alternative dining experiences.

This weeks extravaganza came courtesy of Jitin Joshi, who has gone from pastry Chef for Gordon Ramsey, to Executive chef at the Burj Khalifa, to leading teams at Michelin starred Benares and Gymkhana.

The food arrives at a designated time, packed in recyclable ice packs and boxes, complete with all foods needed , written instructions and a video link.

Himself, found that he actually had a lot of work to do and some of it was a challenge, but I kept well out of the way, unless asked. He dutifully watched the video, and chopped and marinated as per instructions.

The only part he didn’t actually have to cook was the date pudding, but all the rest and Wow, boy did he do good ! There were a couple of things that didn’t work quite right, there seemed to be a lacking of timings, to let the novice chef know when to put the lamb in the oven for example. We also didn’t go a bundle on the polenta , personal taste and thought that the baby fennel didn’t do much to enhance the dish, though we do normally like fennel.

He also made the cookies to go with the dessert, along with a yummy toffee sauce. The cookies I also made during our first Lockdown, almost a year ago and will share the recipe once again. They are so yummy and more-ish and easy to make that kids and grandkids can make them.

  • 2oz ( 1/2 Cup) sugar preferably caster
  • 1 large or two medium egg whites
  • About 4 Oz chopped nuts
  • Can add some sesame seeds as well.

Heat the oven to 180 C fan, 200 normal. Put the nuts on a baking tray and put into the oven for them to toast, keep a careful eye, as you don’t want them to burn.

Remove and leave to cool.

Beat the egg whites until really stiff, stir in the sugar and chopped nuts ( and seeds if using). Put some greaseproof paper on a baking sheet and spoon onto it dollops of the cookie mixture, leaving about 2″ between each dollop.

Bake for about 16-18 minutes until golden brown, then remove from oven, and carefully using a spatula lift the cookies onto a cooling tray. I would say, store in a tin, but I’m sure they won’t stay around that long !

Just to show,mahatma some people use my v.of, here is Dave making Beigels! Way to go Dave!

Himself cooks Pheasant.

This week we had two minor outings, well me two and himself three.

One of our trips was to the wonderful Richmond Park, where you will find us at the crack of dawn for our daily walk. Any later, then the car park is full and the bikers ( cyclists) make crossing from the car park quite dangerous. The other outing also for a walk was to Kew Gardens, almost deserted, which gave us chance to wander through the kitchen gardens.

The outing that himself ventured on was an Urban Walk, where he happened upon a large police presence around a tunnel that had been dug by some people protesting the building of a railroad line. The chief protagonist, is someone by the nickname of Swampy a veteran protester and now there with his children. Interesting!

Himself said ” What am I going to cook this week?” For his once a week venture into the kitchen. Pheasant said I. Pheasant ? He repeated, And pray from where do we get a pheasant ? The freezer, said I.

And so it was that for our Sunday dinner we had Pheasant.

Once upon a time we had literally just a round the corner from us a restaurant called L’Autre Pied, this was the sister restaurant to Pied a Terre, on Charlotte Street, which in reality is a short walk away. Pied a Terre has a held a Michelin Star for the last twenty plus years and they are more than willing to share some of their recipes. This is how I happen to have their recipe for Pot Roasted Pheasant.

One has to take liberties with such recipes, after all it is not baking which requires much more adherence to quantities and timings and also now, if I don’t have some of the required ingredients I utilise what I have, and this is my Go To recipe for Pheasant.

For two people you will need:-

  • A pheasant ( they are often sold as a brace, ie in pairs)
  • 1/2 litre of cider, but we used Prosecco
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large or two small Cox apples, these have a nice flavour any apples will suffice except cooking apples
  • The white of 1 leek, we used baby leeks, cut into smallish chunks
  • 2 sticks celery cut into 2 cm bits
  • 2 shallots or one white onion cut into chunks
  • 150 grms lardons
  • 50 mls chicken stock ( a cube or powder will do)
  • 75 grms hard unsalted butter
  • 75 mls cream or crème fraiche

Preheat the oven to 160 C fan or 180 C non fan

  1. Season the bird with some salt and pepper
  2. Heat an ovenproof casserole and add half of the butter, fry the the lardons until golden and then add the pheasant. Seal on all sides until golden brown.
  3. Remove the bird and then add the vegetables, followed by the cider or wine and reduce until sticky.
  4. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
  5. Put the bird back into the pan, place in the hot oven and cook for about 30 mins.
  6. Remove the bird, cover with foil and leave to rest,
  7. Return the pan to the stove top, bring to the boil again and let the sauce reduce to about half,
  8. Add the remaking butter and cream.
  9. Carve the bird into two, plate and pour over the sauce.
  10. Garnish with parsley, or other herb.

Beigels, if at first you don’t succeed !

Apart from sorting, sorting and more sorting, I am very much Playing in my kitchen. Along with bread and bagels, I want to make Brioche and Crumpets. I have several more ice cream recipes up my sleeve, which means that Himself needs to eat more Ice Cream, just to make room in the freezer. But for now it is BEIGELS.

Currently, I am also on a bagel ( Americanised spelling) kick, finally got them sorted and so much more like the ones which can be bought at the bagel shops on Brick Lane, in the East End. Beigel Bake and Beigel Shop ( non Americanised spelling) ! Both are open 24 hours a day and each make over 2,000 beiges a day. On a Sunday the queues are around the block, and during the current Lockdown, they are still open and even do Delivery. We used to go and buy them but then came the industrialised versions such as The New York Bagel Company. These bagels served a purpose, but compared to the Brick Lane ( and now mine) versions, not worth eating!

I have to admit to using a bread machine to do the kneading and the rising, the former as I have tendinitis in my wrist and the latter as I really do not have anywhere warm to leave my dough to rise. Consequently, if I am not listening for the BEEP of my machine, it can look like something from the Day of the Triffids, almost oozing over the top of the machine !as with most breads things, time and Patience is what is needed. Do not get distracted as otherwise Biegels are not so difficult to make.

To make 8 Beigels you will need

  • 1oz/25 grams fresh yeast ( I much prefer fresh to dry, can be bought on line and it also freezes well)
  • 5 tsp caster sugar
  • 300 mls tepid water
  • 440 grms/ 3 1/2 cups bread ( strong ) flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Mix the water, sugar and yeast together it will make a smooth sweet smelling creamy liquid
  2. Mix the four and salt together and pour in the yeast mixture
  3. Mix well
  4. On a floured counter top, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
  5. Brush a large bowl with some oil, tip in the dough and turn it around to get a light covering of oil
  6. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place until the dough is double in size.
  7. Tip out and punch it down and then repeat steps 5 and 6.
  8. Tip out the dough again, punch it down and leave it covered with damp cloth for 10 more minutes.
  9. Divide the dough into 8 ( use scales if you want them to all be of equal size)
  10. Take a lump of the dough and roll it around on the countertop, with the palm of your hand to make a nice smooth ball, press it flat and then push your finger through the middle to make the hole, stretch it a bit. Place on a greased baking sheet and agin cover with a damp cloth and leave for another 10 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile heat the oven to 425 F/ 220 C ( 200 Fan Oven)
  12. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and drop in the beigels one by one.( I do two at a time.) they will float to the surface, leave for a minute and then flip over, total boiling time about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put back on the greased tray. Glaze with beaten egg.
  13. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown, cool on a cooling tray, or eat at once oozing with butter.

Various toppings can be added after boiling, such as salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc.

Have fun, especially now whilst we have the time and by the way, slice and freeze, they do freeze extremely well!

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

A busy week in our Lockdown Tower. Not sure doing what, but busy nonetheless, a walk here, a walk there, cooking here and there, story time for a three year old, reading and story time for a five year old, sorting stuff, here, there and everywhere.

Whilst himself did some cooking ( a spicy Peruvian Stew) and of course another Lockdown series of bedtime stories for the Finchley Three. He takes it very seriously especially when after edition 1 #2, he was told it was Not His Best! So hours are spent each week, creating another new story.

We also had a mini Burns Night, complete with Haggis ( which I have to say tastes better drenched in Whiskey) and a piper zoomed in from Brussels.

I had a surplus of rhubarb. Himself LOVES rhubarb and I guess I went over the top, when I ordered from Watts Farm. So it had to be used. Normally I am never more creative than a rhubarb crumble. I have made a rhubarb sauce to go with fish but the ‘Go to recipe’ is the crumble.

Therefore some out of the box thinking was required and I came up with two alternatives. Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream and Rhubarb Clafoutis.

I first came across Clafoutis when we lived in Texas and had a Belgian Au Pair. She came complete with a cookery book created by her parents and Clafoutis has been in my repertoire ever since.

It is a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally made with cherries, or other red summer fruits, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. It is then dusted with powdered sugar and served lukewarm, sometimes with cream. There are , of course, many variations of a recipe but here is one. It makes 6-8 servings

  • 4 eggs
  • 100 grms sugar
  • 250 mls cream
  • 50 grms plain flour
  • 200 grms plain full fat cream cheese
  • 500 grms cooked rhubarb

Heat the oven to 200C fan or 220 C non fan oven.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, cream, cream cheese and flour.

Put the cooked rhubarb ( drain off most of the juice) into the bottom of a dish, I used a soufflé dish because of the depth. Pour on the batter and bake for +/- 35 minutes. It will rise up like a soufflé and be golden brown.

It will fall upon cooling, but serve warm with cream or crème fraiche.

Left overs? Seriously, well in that case, it can be eaten cold, or a quick zap in the microwave just to make it warm.

Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream, is DELICIOUS, especially if you are a rhubarb crumble fan ( I am not) but both the look and taste of it, is almost like custard and cream.

Make your basic crumble mix

  • 100 grms plain four
  • 3 Oz cold butter cut into chunks
  • 3oz sugar

I put the flour into the food processor along with the sugar and with the motor running drop in the butter and process just for a few seconds until the bumping of the butter stops.

Spread the crumble mix on a baking tray and bake at 200/220 ( fan/non fan) for about 10-15 minutes until golden and cooked.

I usually add, chopped nuts and / or ground almonds to my crumble mix as well.

Put to one side to cool

Drain the cooked rhubarb and again in the food processor , process into a purée.

For the basic ice cream mix

  • 500 mls double cream
  • 50 mls full fat plain yoghurt
  • 100 grms caster sugar
  • 3 eggs

Put the eggs into a food processor along with the sugar, whisk for a minute, then pour in the yoghurt and the cream. Process for a couple of minutes. Pour into a jug, and stir in the rhubarb.

Freeze either just in a container, stirring a couple of times,adding the crumble, when it starts to thicken. Likewise, if using an ice cream machine, only add the crumble mix, when you transfer the ice cream mix to the freezer.