Monday, 26 August 2013

Sourdough Baguettes

I'm having a go at sourdough again. It's a funny thing - something that seems a little scary, looks a little weird and smells quite strong. But it makes amazing bread, like nothing you can buy (except from lovely bakeries) and it feels like such an achievement to make yourself.

I made my own starter a few years ago but it didn't go so well, it came out smelling a bit like paint and the bread I made also had a very chemical taste. Fellow Cambridge food blogger Ivana offered up some sourdough on Twitter so I thought it was about time to have another go - plus maybe an already active and healthy starter was the way to go this time.

This starter is very low maintenance, it stayed in it's jar for a good 5 days before I started to prepare it for baking - I think you can leave it along for up to a week between feeds. It becomes more of a pet when you are preparing for a bake, requiring a feed every 12 hours.

For the actual dough it takes about a day of going in and out of the kitchen to knead, rest, knead again, prove etc. Ivana gave me a Hilary Cacchia recipe which I'm not sure if I am allowed to reproduce but this Dan Lepard recipe looks similar. I used 150g starter, 225 very strong white bread flour, 5g salt and 100ml room temperature water.

It's then a case of kneading for a few minutes, leaving for 30 minutes. Then a process of kneading for 20 seconds, leaving for 10, then repeating 3 times. Then leave to double in size. Then dividing the dough, leaving for 15, shaping into baguettes and placing on the baking tray. Leaving to double in size. Then bake for about 15 minutes in a hot oven til golden.

I think the crumb could have been a little more 'open' but overall the bread was fantastic. A beautiful crispy top and soft fluffy interior. I sliced them lengthways and we had them simply with fried garlic mushrooms and a little parmesan on top.

I've still got plenty of starter left, sitting happily in my fridge, so hopefully there will be more recipes coming here soon! Watch this space :)

Pin It

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Nankhatai - Indian Spiced Biscuits

One of my favourite recipes from my Indian Afternoon Tea last weekend was Nankhatai - they are the perfect cup of tea biscuits and are very easy to make. You can customise them with different spices and once they are baked, different toppings.

Nankhatai can be found in most Indian bakeries and sweetmarts, they usually bake with a cracked top but I couldn't achieve this - I'm not sure what the technique is - but they tasted just as good!

Nankhatai are eggless biscuits, a lot of Indians don't eat eggs for religious reasons which is why they are such a popular baked good in India. They contain a pleasingly large amount of butter, which gives them their melting soft texture and makes them very moreish.
My biscuits are flavoured with cardamom and saffron and I topped them with chopped pistachios (bound with a little runny honey to stop them falling out), and some of them cumin seeds, which I love with sweet things.

Nankhatai - makes about 30 biscuits (easily halved)

100g softened butter
100g icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of saffron
3 pods worth of black cardamom seeds - ground finely
250g plain flour
20g gram flour / chickpea flour
30g coarse semolina
Pistachios or other nuts to decorate.

Preheat your oven 160c / gas mark 4
Cream together the butter and sugar til smooth.
Add in your spices and baking powder and stir briefly
Sift in your flours, mix with a wooden spoon first and then as it comes together use your hands to form a dough - it will be quite soft.

Line or grease a couple of large baking trays and then make 1 inch balls out of the dough and place on the sheet. They should be fully round, don't flatten otherwise you won't get lovely rounded biscuits at the end.

Once you've got all the dough balls ready press into the middle to create a small hole, being careful not to flatten them. I used a velun (a rolling pin for rotli) - you could use the end of a tablespoon very carefully to do this.

Bake for 15 minutes til they are only just a little golden on the edges. Remove from the oven and then add your pistachios or other choice of topping - other nuts work well, as does desiccated coconut, or when they are cool you can add chopped chocolate.

They keep very well for a few days in an airtight tin stored at room temperature. I recommend you have them with a cup of masala chai!

Pin It

Monday, 5 August 2013

My First Pop-Up Tea Party - Indian Afternoon Tea

On Sunday I hosted my very first food event! An Indian inspired afternoon tea featuring Gujarati snacks, sweets and Indian inspired bakes - and of course lots of tea. On the menu were two savouries, various sweets, two cakes and masala chai.

My venue was the fabulous Cambridge Cookery School - which was a dream to cook in - especially being as my kitchen is the size of a postage stamp. There were 5 ovens, or maybe 6! I lost count. I had a lot of fun prepping in there. I had the help of Miss Sue Flay, Cambridge's afternoon tea expert extraordinaire - her experience was much appreciated!

My guests arrived and I greeted them with a refreshing glass of Mango Lassi. My lassi was spiced with cumin - based on the traditional Gujarati dessert of 'Rus' - which is mango puree sprinkled with cumin and salt, eaten like a cold soup. Mango Lassi often comes with just a little salt, or fennel, the cumin was a nice change - and very nostalgic for me! My mango lassi recipe is here.

My afternoon tea consisted of two savouries, three sweets and two cakes. As you would traditionally start with finger sandwiches my guests dove into the savouries first.

Dhokra - steamed chickpea & semolina sponge, with chilli & ginger

Pea Katchoris - crispy pastries filled with peas, potato, cumin and mustard seeds

Tea station

Whilst everyone worked their way through savouries I made two big pans of masala chai with Kandula English Breakfast Tea and a sprinkling of Jacob's Jam's Chai Masala. Masala chai is made by bringing water, sugar, masala and loose tea to the boil then adding milk and bringing to the boil once again. If my guests wondered why I was staring so intently at it, it is because it can boil over in seconds if you take your eye off it - a watched pot does boil, full recipe here.

Onto the sweets - again as is traditional for afternoon tea - they made up the majority of my offering for the day. I really wanted to include some mithai on my menu, as they are integral to sweets in Indian culture - served during all celebrations - weddings, births, Diwali and when welcoming important guests.

My personal favourite mithai is ladoo - made up of tiny deep fried sugar balls which are then formed into large rounds and spiced with cardamom and decorated with pistachio nuts. These are something of a challenge to make, so they didn't make it on to my menu - but if you see them anywhere - buy them!

Kopra Pak - coconut and milk sweets with saffron and a sprinkling of chocolate
Ghor Papri - ghoor/jaggery and sesame seeds with pistachio for prettiness

Crumbly and lightly spiced Nankhatai biscuits are ideal with a cup of tea, and they were a hit with my guests. Thumbprint cookies remind me of Nankhatai - although the Indian biscuits are filled with nuts or sometimes spices. Mine had pistachio on top, and for a few brave types - cumin seeds.

What is afternoon tea without cake? First up was my Honey Sesame Dream Cake - not a based on a traditional Indian recipe but the flavours are quite Indian! I made a double batch for an extra tall cake.

My centrepiece was a Masala Chai Cake which had three components - a light sponge which was then soaked in spiced tea syrup before being sandwiched with cream cheese buttercream with a final flourish of syrup and some pistachios. My cake icing skills need a little work, I have to admit, but I was happy with the flavours. I'm planning on making that tea syrup again, but putting it into a cocktail instead!

Putting on a food event is such hard work, I'm used to organising conferences as part of my day job, but food is something else! I spent the whole weekend prepping plus all the planning before, list making, shopping, recipe collecting - but it was so FUN. I learnt lots, and some new techniques - a lot of the food I'd eaten before but never cooked before so it was a steep learning curve.

The majority of the pictures in this post were taken by Ozzy - thank you for capturing my event so perfectly. :)

Thanks so much to all who came to my tea - particular thanks to Tine at the Cookery School for the venue, Miss Sue Flay for being a fabulous assistant, Gemma at The Linton Kitchen for lending me her gorgeous china and my lovely husband for being my sous chef/assistant/calmer downer.

I'm doing this all again soon! Next is a supperclub which will be a 3 course Gujarati (vegetarian) feast. I'm still working out a date so stand by your inboxes (sign up to get emails here) or follow me on Twitter for tickets. Soon!

Pin It