Monday, 4 January 2016

The Retiring Sort......

No, not a hint that I'm seriously considering retirement - I mean, that's for old folk isn't it? - it's just that I've loved the time off since I scooted out of the office on Christmas Eve - I feel I've really been able to relax properly, largely do what I want when I want and haven't had to get up at a silly hour!  I do wake early most of the time, but there's something wonderful about not having to get up for anything in particular, instead, lying in a warm bed listening to the wind and rain battering off the roof.  Ah yes, the one thing that I hoped would be a little different - that the weather would be better!  I was hoping for some crisp, cold, sunny days of previous years, but the wind and rain seem to have being present for a good bit of the holiday. Oh well, can't have everything - I've certainly not even considered it as an excuse not to run, but just to make sure I didn't try to renege from my promise to run every day, I made it the first thing I did every day (after breakfast of course).

So, running aside, I've made more bread - Paul Hollywood's seeded loaf - the toasted seeds smell wonderful when it s baking, but I still reduce the amount of the various seeds in it as I find them impossible to knead fully into the dough. A malted loaf - this didn't rise as much as I would have preferred (a cardinal sin of attempting to kill the yeast - not with kindness, but heat) - but it still tasted good.  I will try that one again. I moved away from Paul Hollywood to go back to Linda Collister - the baker behind a large number of the recipes in the Great British Bake Off books.  I have her "The Bread Book" (a present a number of years ago from my baby brother - another baker) and "Country Breads".  I made a blue cheese and pecan loaf - using up some ends of Lanark Blue and Stilton and a Pain de Ruecht - a sourdough.  I have had a jar of sourdough starter on the go since 31 January last year.  It spends some time in the fridge then, when I want to get it active again, I sit it in the kitchen for a few days, feeding it. Once the actual dough is made for the loaf, it needs a slow rise, generally overnight, so not a bread for the impatient.
The mixture

Getting there!

The Loaf
 Maybe not a perfect loaf, but not bad either. I also made a couple of loaves of Mantovana - an olive oil bread I have made many times before, which is a favourite of my other half.  Actually the book this comes from "Bread" by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno is actually his book - bought with great enthusiasm for starting to bake bread when we first moved to the country seventeen years ago. The Pain Ordinaire was made in loaf and roll form a few times, but that was it, no progress beyond that first recipe in the book. No complaints about the book from me though, it has being well used - full of really good recipes. 

I got hold of a good recipe from Ruby Tandoh - salted peanut caramel shortbread - which looked pretty irresistible to me, so I had to give that a whirl. Lovely!  I did contemplate making a black bun, for the first time ever, as the prize at a run on Hogmanay, but decided it was going to be too long a bake, so opted for some biscuits instead (which probably took as long to decorate as the black bun would have taken to bake!)

It wouldn't have been Christmas without me getting a book or two - "Nopi" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully was one of the presents under the tree, so I have tried the courgette and manouri fritters, substituting haloumi for the manouri.  Not bad, but the one I really loved was the spiced chickpea patties with coconut and curry leaf paste - the flavours were pretty spot on - lucky I had a coconut to hand! Sometimes I do buy something fairly at random, then find a recipe to fit. I've every intention of making this one again but, as it takes a while to make, it might be another for holiday time. The dinner yesterday came from "Plenty More" - a cauliflower cake - way better than it sounds - it did actually look like the picture illustrating the recipe - and got the thumbs up from my other half.

Having time on my hands has meant getting a bit crafty - some knitting and sewing. I've knitted some Christmas decorations, intended for fund-raising later this year, and sewn up a couple of cushion covers - small beginnings, but I did say I was determined to get the sewing-machine out far more often. A present of a book of "Mini Christmas Knits" from my friend and fund-raising partner meant trying out a few things to continue in my aim to reduce the mound of remnants of wool I have gathered over many years, knitting many jumpers. One day I may succeed!  Sadly, back to work tomorrow.
A forlorn reindeer....

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