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This afternoon I decided to attempt my first homemade soda bread. I am not the bread baker in our little family, it is usually left to Mr Rigg, but with the simplicity of a soda bread recipe (I used Darina Allen’s from her Forgotten Skills of Cooking – perhaps one of my absolute favourite recipe books) I decided I should give it a go.
I was prompted to try it out having defrosted a bottle of buttermilk, purchased previously from our local farmer’s market, which I used a tiny amount of in a coleslaw we had earlier in the week. I still had lots left over, so thought soda bread would be a good way to use it all up. The recipe called for a mixture of white and wholegrain flour, I used a mixture of white and wholegrain spelt flour.
This is what it looked like before it went into the oven…
I had no idea what consistency the dough was supposed to be, but just went with how mine turned out – I used Mr Rigg’s new wooden pizza paddle to get it onto my preheated baking stone and followed the recipe which required it to be cooked for 15 minutes at 230°C, 15 minutes at 200°C and then a further 5 minutes upside down.
Straight from the oven…
It looked pretty good when it came out of the oven, and later when it had cooled and I cut into it I was delighted to find the texture soft and springy. We cut it into slices and had it for dinner spread with cream cheese and smoked trout – but first I had to try a small wedge with farm butter and honey from our allotment (not produced by us). It was scrummy and I’m really pleased with my first attempts.
My homemade soda bread with cream cheese, smoked trout and lemon juice…
I’ve got some photos to share from my trip to London (Borough Market and the National Trust Fine Farm Produce Awards) but whilst I sort them all out I thought you might like to see these incredible English muffins.
They were hefty things that were drawing a crowd on their stall at Borough Market, and well I couldn’t resist either. I had them for breakfast this morning, pulled apart with my fingers (no bread knife involved) and toasted them.
Then when my thick slabs of salty butter didn’t melt, I bunged them under a hot grill until the butter went all golden. Topped with some homemade strawberry jam.
Last week we had incredible fish and chips from a place in Didsbury called Frankie’s Fish Bar, but it left me feeling guilty that all I’d eaten for dinner was deep-fried fish and potatoes.
So I was determined the following night to fill us full of vegetables, and this is what I came up with…
All the vegetables were English, although not grown by me. There were new potatoes, boiled and tossed in lots of salty butter and black better. Pink and white radishes sliced in half, asparagus spears and baby carrots blanched and sliced.
Broad beans and fresh peas shelled and briefly cooked in simmering water. Lots of seasonal salad leaves, crispy bacon shards, and those gorgeous nasturtium flowers (bought from Waitrose, so delighted they’re selling edible flowers).
Not a lot of complicated stuff, just a lot of shelling broad beans and slicing. But really delicious – I want to eat more of this sort of food over the summer.
When it comes to pasta bakes, I’m usually pretty unadventurous – favouring a simple tomato sauce and lumps of fresh mozzarella or the grated version. Cooked until the cheese top is golden and crisp.
Last night I decided we needed a bit of a shake up. Still featuring lots of cheese, of course, I made a cheesy broccoli pasta bake. So simple, and yet it tasted nicer than I thought it would.
Heat your oven up to about 180 – 200°C. Cut the broccoli up into bite-sized pieces. Pop a pan of water onto boil and add your pasta.
You want to just undercook the pasta (it carries on cooking in the oven), and add the broccoli for the last few minutes to cook a little. Drain the pasta and the broccoli.
While the pasta is cooking, make a cheese sauce. I use equal amounts of butter and flour to make a roux, then add hot milk a bit at a time, and stir like mad with a whisk to keep it smooth. Bring to the boil and keep whisking – this was my job when I was growing up.
Add lots of grated mature Cheddar to the sauce and stir in until melted. Pour the cheese sauce over the drained pasta and broccoli and mix together.
Put the whole lot into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over an extra bit of grated cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.
I would pop this firmly in the category of ‘Comfort Food’. Good for cold wintery nights or when you’re feeling low. This is food that hugs you.
After a breakfast of croissants, stocking opening and snacking on multiple treats, we don’t normally need much more for Christmas day lunch than a big plate of smoked salmon to share.
Father Christmas (thanks Mr Rigg’s mommy) sent us a gorgeous side of smoked salmon, and what couple be easier than thinly sliced seeded rye bread, thinly smeared with salty butter and spritzed with lemon juice.
Sometimes I like to grate a little lemon zest over the top, but this time I took some inspiration from my new Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals book and sprinkled over some crisp green cress.
That little bit of greenery helped lift my feelings after so much rich and sugary food.
All helped down with a nice glass of special fizz, bought all the way back from a holiday in the Loire Valley.
13/01/11 – somehow this post was published as January 2010…rather than January 2011 – I just found it in the wrong place!
Our Christmas day morning was spent munching on some of the best bought buttery croissants (from Waitrose) topped with generous spoonfuls of our homemade strawberry jam. And if you’re me, an extra helping of butter.
Then we helped Buddy open his stocking – our first Christmas with him – and he was so funny. He was so interested as Mr Rigg began to open the bag of goodies…
perhaps not so keen on the silly Father Christmas hat and scarf chosen by me…
…but he does love his new friend Mr Pheasant…
…especially when you squeeze him and he honks …
Ah, the joys of Christmas with animals!
Last week I went to the fishmongers to pick up some fish for tea. I was thinking along the lines of simple baked fish with crushed new potatoes maybe with some softened spring onions mixed through.
There were both gorgeous red fleshed new potatoes and spring onions at Unicorn so this has steered my thoughts. On entering the fishmongers there in the chiller was a box of golden mushrooms. Wild Scottish girolle mushrooms to be exact.
It was one of those moments where you know instantly that you will be eating them for tea. So I carefully picked out enough for myself and Mr Rigg. I also bought a piece of Grouper – never tried it before, looked like a good chunky white fish so I thought I’d give it a go.
The fish was really tasty, with quite a strong flavour. The mushrooms pan fried in hot butter were incredibly moreish. And the crushed potatoes with spring onions – it’s the sort of food you could eat straight from the pan (and do when no one else is looking!).
Wild girolle mushrooms, baked fish and crushed potatoes with spring onions
2 pieces of Grouper (or other white fish)
150g wild girolle mushrooms
New potatoes for 2
2 cloves of garlic
4 spring onions
Lots of butter
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to about 180°C.
Rub the fish in olive oil, place on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until done.
Whilst the fish is cooking, boil the new potatoes in plenty of salted water.
Clean the mushrooms (I used a pastry brush to remove any grit) and tear up any large ones. In a frying pan heat a generous knob of butter with a splash of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and fry on a high heat until golden.
Finely chop the garlic and slice the spring onions.
Drain the potatoes. Put the empty potato pan back on the heat and add some butter. Add the garlic and spring onions to the butter and cook until softened – don’t let them burn!
Once they spring onions have softened, return the potatoes to the pan and crush them up with the back of a wooden spoon – you’re not aiming for mash potato, but crushing the potatoes allows all the lovely butter and seasonings to work their way into the hot potato flesh. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
And you’re done – just simply put it all on a plate and eat!
Tonight we enjoyed a picnic dinner at our allotment after an hour or two of raised bed construction. This is what we managed to achieve – one half of my new herb bed:
We ate Majorcan new potatoes boiled then smothered hot in goat’s butter and lots of salt and pepper … grilled blackened sausages from Little Heath Farm in Dunham Massey dunked in Wilkin & Son’s tomato ketchup …
sliced tomatoes sprinkled liberally with salt and garnished with torn basil leaves (totally unseasonal but irresistable as the weather starts to warm) …
and slices of coffee coloured seeded bread from Red House Farm smeared with Oxford Blue cheese …
Sitting on an old rug looking out over our allotment eating good grub – what a blissful way to spend a weekday evening. Buddy peered down at us from the boot of the car, his nose twitching as the smell of sausages wafted up his nostrils.
Two little robins hopped around the allotments, perched on the spade…
then a tub of chicken manure pellets…
and finally an orange plastic bottle balanced atop a bamboo cane…
Last weekend N and I did some baking. We baked two loaves of white bread and a focaccia, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt crystals and chopped rosemary from the garden.
The dog tried to take a bite from each at different moments throughout the afternoon and evening. We only lost of tiny bit of crust – thankfully!
We used a white bread recipe from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking and a focaccia recipe from River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
On Sunday, we enjoyed the sunshine, walked the dog, and pottered in the garden. I did a bit of weeding, and helped N make a run for Lovage and Daisy’s hutch – it’s so smart and they now have much more room. Happy bunnies.
Late afternoon we sat and watched the rugby and ate hunks of homebaked bread spread thickly with goat’s butter and raspberry jam.
Sometimes, even on a weekend you can’t be bothered cooking or don’t have the energy. Having things lying around in the fridge or cupboards that can make a tasty meal is essential and ensures you can eat well without trying too hard.
So here you have it: