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Do you ever eat a meal you’ve cooked numerous times and think, “perhaps this is my favourite meal ever”? I do. I always seem to be wondering what my favourite food or meal is, that if I had one last dinner to enjoy what would I choose?
I’ve decided that this is perhaps mine.
Someone on Instagram mentioned they’d love a recipe for my tomato pasta after I shared a picture on our Wales holiday. And although I almost don’t think it’s worthy of being called a ‘recipe’ or for me to tell anyone how to make something so simple, here it is.
It is basically pasta with a tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes, cooked very quickly. I’m sure that I was inspired to first make this after watching a TV programme where an Italian chef on the Amalfi coast in a very posh hotel was making a tomato sauce for pasta this way.
I’m pretty sure that the quality of your tomatoes matters in this dish, after all you’re hardly adding any other flavours and if you use out-of-season-wishy-washy pale looking tomatoes I think it would taste pretty miserable. So finding good quality tomatoes, preferably in the summer months when they are at their ripest and in-season is essential.
I have used all kinds of tomatoes to make this sauce – larger ones cut up, cherry tomatoes left whole, cherry tomatoes cut in half, cherry tomatoes cut into quarters, multi-coloured tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, or a mixture of whatever I have to hand.
All you want to ensure is that they are roughly the same size so that they cook at the same rate.
I’ve probably said it before, but Mr Rigg is the baker in our family. I think mainly because I just told him he was going to be, and he’s got on with it, and does it quite well now. It’s one of those skills that improves each time you do it, so it doesn’t make sense for me to attempt a handmade loaf of bread (I’m sure I could manage the ‘bung the ingredients in the bread machine’ version).
For his birthday, I bought Mr Rigg a kilner jar of sourdough started from Hobbs House Bakery. With me attempting to avoid yeast as much as possible, I really wanted to encourage him to try a sourdough, and we are now onto our third loaf.
The first couple we had teething issues with – Mr Rigg and I both like to try something once and be perfect at it instantly, or we usually give up. They seem to cook too quickly on the outside but not on the middle, they were still too undercooked in the centre, and just general niggles like that.
I’m pleased to say Mr Rigg has persevered, and last week’s loaf was a great improvement. As you can see in the pictures above and below, it rose well in the oven and had a good texture inside. Right in the middle we discovered it was still a little sticky and could have baked for a little longer – but we are learning, and improving, and most importantly not giving up.
The only downside is that I’m finding it difficult to cut out wheat with all this delicious bread floating around the kitchen, something I’m attempting to do as part of my pregnancy. I’m determined that my final month of being pregnant will be wheat and gluten free, so perhaps we won’t be baking in August.
Recently I’ve been trying to wean us off cereals – by wean, I mean I’ve just stopped buying it, which for poor Mr Rigg has meant going cold turkey on cereals at breakfast.
If you’re interested why I’m keen to steer away from cereals it’s because I’ve come to realise that there isn’t much good in them, despite what they like to tell us on their TV adverts.
We had this lovely recipe for granola that we used to make, which was delicious both with milk and yoghurt. The only problem is that I’ve also developed an interest in how grains were traditionally prepared, and how they used to be soaked before drying.
This is because things like grains and nuts and seeds have enzyme inhibitors in them, which unless soaked first, prevent us from absorbing all the goodness in them like vitamins and minerals.
Today I’m sharing this recipe for homemade hot chocolate ice cream sauce because my sister Izzy tweeted how much she wanted a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce (and we’ve been eating it this week), and because it’s rather scrummy.
We’ve tried a number of different ways of making chocolate sauce for ice cream, so this is probably a combination of a number of those, but for now in our house it will be known at Mr Rigg’s chocolate sauce, because he makes it. The other night I was tasked with making it whilst Mr Rigg washed up, so I got a lesson on how it’s made and decided to document it to share with you all too.
Hot Chocolate Ice Cream Sauce
First, take 50g of milk chocolate and break it into a saucepan.
Next, add 50g of dark chocolate (at least 70%) and add it to the milk chocolate. We used Green & Black’s organic chocolate.
Add a knob of butter to the pan (there is no specific weight measurement for this, sorry, we just to it by eye – it’s probably golf ball sized) and put it over a gentle heat.
It must be admitted that I am not a burger person. Before a few weeks ago I probably had only ever had two burgers ever in my whole life, and I’m not exaggerating. I grew up in a family who didn’t eat meat, and even when I did start eating meat I never liked burgers. I’ve had the odd bite of someone else’s to see whether I might like them, but no.
A couple of year’s ago we had a Uni reunion in Bath – a group of about 15 of us hired a house and spent the weekend there. Mr Rigg and I were nominated to cook dinner one night, and so decided to do burgers – probably because Jamie Oliver’s America cookbook had just come out, with a recipe for burgers (and everything that man makes seems to taste delicious) and in theory it seemed like a good thing for a large amount of people.
Obviously I ate a burger that night, and I actually really enjoyed it. They were really tasty burgers, and I love all the extras you stuff in a burger – in particular I love gerkins. Fast forward a few years and recently I just really had an urge to make those burgers again – they were one of those food moments that stick with you as being a really delicious meal.
Today we made bagels – our first attempt and after the results they won’t be our last. They were fun and easy to make, beautiful with their caramel sheen, and utterly scrumptious. I followed this bagel recipe and have included my thoughts on it below.
We started by making the dough – the recipe called for putting all the dry ingredients (bread flour, yeast, sugar and salt) into a food processor and briefly mixing, followed by the hot water. I used my lovely new Christmas present (the L’Equip 428 Mill Blender) and that worked ok enough, but I’m sure you could do it by hand if you don’t have a mixer.
Instead of covering in clingfilm, we used one of our trusty hotel shower caps (they work brilliantly!) and left it to rise for an hour – this is what it looked like 60 minutes later…
You turn the dough out onto your floured worktop and press it down ‘to expel any gases’. Next you cut the dough into 10 equal pieces – these will shortly become your bagels.
I am ever-so thankful for the beautiful sunny (if rather chilly!) autumn days we’ve had over the weekend and at the start of the week here in Cheshire – particularly so, because less than a week ago I was still soaking up the heat and basking under spotless blue skies in Greece. I’ve got so many lovely things to share from our holiday but before that I wanted to just enjoy a few snaps of all that I love about an English autumn.
There are pumpkins at the farm shop, I can’t help but fall in love with all those shades of orange – I just wish the little punks in our neighbourhood wouldn’t see a pile of them by my front door as a good excuse for some street football. B*%!@^#s.
This morning I made some chicken stock with a leftover roast chicken carcass, I am trying harder to find time to do this and it is so satisfying to have your own homemade stock. The best I’ve made so far went solid like jelly, which is a sure sign of its tastiness.
What do you do when your fish cakes go wrong? Reinvent them as a fish cake bake, that’s what! We had planned on making fish cakes with some very nice Wild Alaskan salmon I’d got my mitts on, but the potato ended up too wet and there was a minor crisis over what to do. I figured there’s not much difference to popping the fish cake mixture into a stoneware dish and baking it, rather than frying them in a pan.
So that’s what we did. Mr Rigg was on fish cake duty, I was in charge of homemade mayonnaise (so so delicious!). It turned out pretty nicely, with lovely crispy bits on top and plenty of rich mayonnaise to accompany it. We tried making this again the other night – turns out, it’s not easy to recreate gone-wrong fish cakes. Oh well.
Have you heard of kefir? I hadn’t until a couple of months ago and now here I am attempting to make my own. That makes it sound like there’s a lot of hard work on my behalf, but there isn’t really – the kefir grains work their magic without a lot of intervention from me.
I ordered my kefir grains online from Kefir Heaven, this is what they say about kefir if you’re not sure what it is: “In a nutshell, a kefir grain is a gelatinous, convoluted particle obtained from fermented milk.”
And why am I making my own kefir? Well, it makes a very good for you kind of yoghurt (I’m sure kefir experts might say that’s not quite right), but somehow these little glue-like grains do something magical to milk to produce a thick yoghurt like mixture that’s full of beneficial probiotic bacteria.
So this morning my kefir grains arrived from Kefir Heaven, carefully packaged up and with instructions for me to follow to ensure my grains get the best start in life. All I needed was a clean jar with a lid and 200ml milk (I used some of my raw Jersey milk).
To start with, all I have to do is carefully remove the grains and the tiny bit of milk they’re in from their plastic pouch, pop them into a clean jar, pour over the milk and seal the lid.
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…