Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bread for friends

Bread for friends, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

Woo hoo! I felt like baking bread today and so I devised an 'excuse' to do this...

I've recently joined a new lab group and the people in the group are real 'foodies'! We eat together at lunchtime and guess what the topic of conversation almost invariably is? Yup! FOOD! We are Chinese, German, Indian, Algerian and African-American and we all love our food. Today I made some bread to share with them.

As usual, I used the 'Bertinet Method' of 'kneading' the bread - but this time the recipe came from Paul Hollywood's book '100 Great Breads'. I chose to make a variant of his 'Sesame Rings' but, instead of coating the bread rings in sesame seeds alone, I coated them in a mixture of sesame, poppy and caraway seeds and rock salt. I wanted bread that would be flavourful enough to be eaten alone, without butter. I'm hoping that the seeds add a lot of interest and flavour to the rings.

I hope my new friends like them!

Share food with friends.

Seafood Ramen

Seafood Ramen, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

I've been in a noodle mood lately and this noodle bowl is a result of this feeling.

I've recently 'discovered' fresh Ramen noodles - what a different foodstuff this is from the instant variety! And they barely take longer to cook than the instants...

I bought a pack of noodles one evening along with some frozen mussels and prawns (can't readily get the fresh variety in this land-locked part of England I live in...) and a couple of bunches of fresh pak choi. At home I combined these with chopped spring onions, a bit of shredded garlic and a crushed clove of garlic,. In an inspired moment, I added a little instant Japanese dashi and a scant handful of seaweed. I crumbled a bit of clear pork broth stock cube in there along with a slug or two of light soy sauce and the same amount of Thai fish sauce (nam pla). The effect was a simple, clear fresh soup.

Salt, freshly ground black pepper and a teaspoon of sugar were added at the end, to taste and the resulting dish was soooo tasty!


Enjoy food.

Lentil Stew with Smoked Sausage

Mmmmm! Now here's a quick and easy mid-week stew that practically cooks itself!

I had some nice smoked sausages from the Farmer's Outlet in Lensfield road (they turned out to be very much like coarse kielbasa sausages) and some carrots, onions and potatoes from our weekly organic box from Abel & Cole and lentils (in our store cupboard!). First, I fried off the onions and sliced and fried the sausages. Then I poured about a pint and a half of water into the pot, added the sliced carrots, chopped potatoes and about 250 grams of lentils (any type would be fine but I used green lentils). To this I added a crumbled stock cube, a little salt, 4 chopped plum tomatoes (which were going soft from last week's organic box!) a couple of bay leaves, 10 whole black peppercorns and a couple of smashed garlic cloves.

I let this simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and vegetables were cooked and the sauce was red from the tomatoes (about 30 minutes - longer would be fine too - just keep and eye on things in case you need to add more water) and we were good to go.


'Cheap' can be fast and easy too!

Roast Beef

Roast Beef, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

I don't often (rarely??!) post blogs featuring meat as the main photo (in deference to my vegetarian friends...) but this piece of beef was simply gorgeous! Once again, I got this from the Farm Outlet in Lensfield Road here in Cambridge and I used Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's technique from his book, Meat, and was really pleased with the result.

In brief, for a one kilo piece of beef, the method calls for a 30 minute 'sizzle' at 220 ˚C, followed by 20 minutes at 160 ˚C (10 min per 500 grams) and finished with a 20 minute rest period. The result is a beautifuly cooked piece of beef that's evenly rare throughout and very juicy indeed.

Steve made some very good roast potatoes - in the skin - which he flavoured with rosemary, garlic and olive oil. These complemented the beef very well. Instead of a cooked vegetable we had a salad with a home-made garlic cream dressing.

Simple fare and very satisfying, too.

Simple is good.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur, revealed, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

Here's a recipe I got from Richard Bertinet's book,"Bread"- it can be made with any type of sliced bread. Traditionally, it's made using pain de mies which is as close as the French get to "sliced bread", as we know it:

Prepare a recipe of béchamel sauce (Steve used 25 gms butter, 25 gms flour and 15o ml milk) then, season it with salt and pepper and allow it to cool. While it is cooling, preheat the oven to 200˚C. When the sauce is cool (and it will be quite thick and not saucy at all!), slice the bread and spread some béchamel on one side. Sandwich 1 or 2 slices of ham between two slices of bread, béchamel facing the ham, then thickly spread béchamel sauce on the top of the sandwich. (We added a little smear of Dijon mustard to the ham a nice touch, I think...)

Continue until you have either used up all the béchamel sauce or have run out of bread slices! Sprinkle the sandwiches generously with grated cheese (Gruyère is recommended but having none we used a 50/50 mix of cheddar and emmental) and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, until browned on top.


Steve's Roasted Potatoes

Steve's Roasted Potatoes, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

Friday night's repast was pork chops, oven roasted with 20 cloves of garlic (!). The pork chops were from the Farmer's Outlet (8, Lensfield Road, Cambridge, UK) a fantastic shop which carries locally sourced produce, baked good, meat and other goodies. We served them with potatoes roasted with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt. This turned out to be an easy and delicious Friday night dinner. As is our wont, we finished it off with a fresh salad made with lettuce from our organic vegetable box. Not a bad way to end a week!

Treat yourself well!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday night baking: pain de mie

Tonight's rather moody, atmospheric post comes to you via Richard Bertinet, my bread 'guru" - I took the recipe from his book "Dough' and followed it faithfully:

Today I baked something different to carry us through the week - pain de mie - the French version of a plain loaf bread. 'Mie' means 'crumb' and this bread is one that, unlike almost every other kind of bread baked in France, is NOT about the crust. Here, the crumb is the star of the loaf. This is the bread used in the French toasted cheese sandwich, croc monsieur and other preparations requiring a soft-crusted bread. I have designs on it - tomorrow's sandwiches, to be specific!

The recipe differs from the bread we regularly make in that it contains a small amount of milk in addition to water, flour, salt and yeast. What distinguishes pain de mie, which is baked in a loaf tin, from other French breads is the de-emphasis on the crust so the bread is baked in a loaf tin with a heavy lid on top to prevent the formation of a crust. I used a cast iron pot lid on top of a baking sheet to prevent the dough from rising above the level of the tin.

The result is a soft loaf (a consequence of the addition of milk to the recipe) with a lovely crumb and (guess what?) a very soft crust!

Enjoy sandwiches and croc monsieur and toasted cheese sandwiches!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Lasagna 1, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

What do you do when you have fresh lasagne pasta, tinned tomatoes, minced beef, ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella in your larder? How about making... lasagne!! So we did.

I made the meat sauce and the béchamel, chopped the tinned tomatoes very finely (alright, I used the food processor!) and flavoured it with onion and garlic (sautéed in olive oil) oregano, thyme, a bay leaf and salt and ground pepper. This cooked on a low heat (covered, for about an hour), until the oil separated from the juices from the vegetables. I tasted the sauce for seasoning and then assembled the lasagne in an oiled lasagne pan.

But not before we discussed the best sequence of layers! We finally decided on: pasta, meat sauce, béchamel, and cheese...pasta , meat sauce béchamel and cheese... ending with cheese.

The whole thing went in a 180˚C oven for about 40 minutes - until the dish looked toasted and browned on top. We took it out of the oven and let it rest on the stove-top while we prepared the salad and dressing.

It was lovely. We'll be cooking this again!

Eat. Love. Laugh. Live.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Cauliflower Gratin

Cauliflower gratin 2, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

I'm not too sure where the inspiration for this dish came from - could it have been inspired by the *two* heads of organic-box cauliflower that seemed to be conspiring to ambush us at the first opportunity? I don't really know for sure... but I do know that we were very, very aware of that cauliflower and constantly of interesting ways to prepare them.

Finally, Friday evening (Good Friday, in fact) presented the perfect opportunity - we were well-rested and refreshed having had a long lie-in and, towards the end of a mellow, relaxed day, we were wanting something relatively simple yet rich, warming and interesting to eat. Cauliflower gratin seemed the perfect thing - once we'd established that we had everything we needed to make it, in the store-cupboard, of course. Best of all (at least for me!) we had rigatoni - my current favourite pasta - in the cupboard!

So we set about preparing the various components of the dish I had in mind - We prepared the béchamel, the cheeses (grated cheddar and emmanthal). Once ready, everything except the pasta was put in a gratin dish and baked in a 180˚C oven for approximately 45 minutes (until the crust was well-browned). Ten minutes or so before the gratin was ready to come out of the oven we cooked the rigatoni, as per the directions on the packet.

Once cooked, the pasta was served with generous lashings of sauce and cauliflower spooned over the top. Absolutely *devine*... rich... decadent, almost!

Be generous with the sauce...