Friday, 23 March 2007

Good-bye Dinner Routine!

I really admire all those food bloggers who not only throw one dinner party after another but are also able to create elaborate weekday dinners. Usually, on weeknights we'll have pasta/rice/gnocchi with some vegetable-based sauce. Not really exciting but not totally boring either.

A couple of days ago, I remembered having an almost overripe avocado in my fridge so I had to let go of my routine and think of something else for dinner. Unfortunately, I had trouble to think of something else than guacamole - are there any other well-known avocado recipes out there? The only other thing I could imagine was salad: some green leaves and cherry tomatoes, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, garnished with diced avocado, strips of smoked salmon, and croutons (my favourite way of getting rid of leftover bread). This was a a rather nice break of our usual dinner routine. Sorry, no real recipe this time. It was more like throwing tasty things together plus adding lots of freshly cracked pepper - but it is more than easy to reproduce. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

More Breads to try

I'm really not good in decision making. Since a couple of months, there is a book voucher lying around in my drawer. 80 bucks that just wait for me to go into the shop and get some nice books in exchange. Alas, before I go there, I have to make up my mind WHICH books I'd like to have. Since I got this voucher, I started a list with desirable cook books - mostly recommendations of other food bloggers. As the months go by, the list gets longer and longer... Not really a great help, isn't it?

I've almost settled on "Amy's Bread" (eventually, I had to give this fabulous book back to the library) but I picked up another very nice and useful bread baking book: Bread Machine Kitchen Handbook. This book features more than 150 bread recipes using an electric bread maker - not necessarily for baking but always for mixing the dough. Having recently neglected my bread maker a little bit, this book offers a lot of possibilities. It's also very comprehensive: It includes sourdough and other starters as well as specialty grains, sweet breads, and all sorts of buns and pastries. As I won't be able to try more than 150 recipes - even if I renew my library loan three times - shouldn't I get this book, too? However, with those two books in my mind, the voucher is more or less spent entirely - and isn't two bread baking books a bit too much? After all, I'm also longing for a good dessert book - but should I go for Emilie Luchetti, Dorie Greenspan, Alice Medrich, Claudia Fleming, or David Lebovitz? You see, it will still take some time to decide on my final purchase.

Meanwhile, I'd like to show you a new bread that I've made following a recipe from the Bread Machine Kitchen Handbook. I had never tried a poolish before but it was dead simple and produced an excellent result. Honestly, taste wise I wouldn't have noticed that this "Pain de Campagne" didn't use "real" sourdough but the quicker french/polish version for leavening. Very hearty taste, beautiful big holes in the crumb and a nicely browned crisp crust - I almost thought that I could settle on this recipe for my everyday bread if it weren't for the other 149 recipe that are yet to be explored...

Pain de Campagne

The ingredients

200ml water
175g white bread flour
50g wholemeal bread flour
1/4 tsp dry instant yeast

120ml water
225g white bread flour
50g wholemeal bread flour
25g rye flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dry instant yeast

For the poolish, pour the water into the pan of your bread maker (be sure to have the kneading blade inserted), top with flours, make a small dent, and add the yeast (if your bread maker's instructions call for another order of adding the ingredients, do so).

Choose the dough setting and press start. When the dough cycle has finished, leave the poolish inside for fermentation with the lid closed. Depending how sour you like your bread, leave it there for 2-8 hours. I left it in for the full 8 hours period which resulted in a pronounced and hearty taste but the bread was not really sour (which wasn't bad in my opinion).

Add the ingredients for the dough to the poolish in the bread pan, starting with wet and ending with dry ingredients (unless otherwise stated). Choose the dough setting and press start.

When the dough cycle has finished, remove the dough from the bread pan and place on a lightly floured surface. Knock it back gently to degaze and shape it into a round ball.

Place the dough on a baking sheet or piece of greaseproof paper, cover with oiled cling film if desired and leave to rise for 30-45 minutes or until almost doubled in bulk (I didn't wait quite that long). Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (200 degrees Celsius if fan-bake).

Dust the loaf with flour and slash with a sharp knife (a razor blade is best) three times in a criss-cross pattern (I slashed it only three times in one direction). Bake the loaf for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. To get a crisp crust, pour a cup of water onto the bottom of the oven during the first five minutes to create steam.

The source
Jennie Shapter: Bread Machine Kitchen Handbook. Making the most of your bread machine's potential, including more then 150 step-by-step recipes.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Back again

Finally, I made it. The first post after almost a month’s absence. Feels really weird. After coming back from our trip to Western Australia, I wanted to write about it at once. However, I got a lot of work to do in the past two weeks (which, of course, is something no freelancer will complain about). But I so missed my little blog. And I so feared that no one would ever come back to check on it again. Anyway, there won’t be any more delay as far as I’m concerned. Life with blog-reading, blog-thinking, and blog-cooking is much more interesting.

For some reason, my latest trip wasn’t all that gourmet-centred as I originally had hoped for. I suspect my boyfriend is luring me into much more sporty adventures than I’ll ever be able to lure him into culinary adventures… We went mountain-walking, tree-climbing (61m up high and quite scary, I can tell you), swimming, and diving. However, I do have a few pictures to show what we’ve been up to in foodie terms:

While driving through national parks, along coastlines, and through the pretty lonely inner parts of Western Australia in our very colourful campervan, we mostly cooked ourselves instead of going to fancy restaurants.

I did want to try some of the fancy gourmet places in Margaret River but in the end, we rather bought fancy gourmet picnic stuff in one of the wineries (pictured above) and had a very nice leisurely birthday picnic. The Coward&Black vineyard is not well known for their wines yet (which they started just a couple of years ago) but they’re very successfully selling their award-winning olive oils, sauces, and relishes. Unfortunately, we couldn’t buy everything – it all looks very tempting. After that, we still felt pretty stuffed at dinner time and decided to drive a bit further to a nice and lonely beach at Cape Freycinet. There, we cooked some seafood on our camping gas stove.

Very tasty, very romantic, only the sunset didn’t quite live up to the occasion.

Apart from a not very remarkable pub dinner, we ate out only once: Breakfast in the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. An extremely isolated spot in the middle of nowhere, this town only exists because of the mining industry. Interesting and very strange but certainly not a place to spend an entire holiday... Something that can’t be said of the shop of the Kakulas Brothers in Perth. I had already walked past the shop when the strong smell of spices caught up with me. One step across the doorstep and you think you’re in heaven! At least in foodie heaven! Open sold spices and flours, a big counter full of European cheese and only the owners will know what else! Keeping in mind that we had to fly all our souvenirs back to Sydney, I really had to restrain myself and only bought some spices and a kilogram of buckwheat flour which didn’t take up too much space. So many interesting goods and dead cheap, too – I just have to find such a shop in Sydney!