Sunday, 10 April 2016

Silence of The Lambs

I love this time of year, not least because the flurry of little arrivals makes it feel as if Spring really has arrived - yes it is lambing season again!
Lamb snacks!
I never get tired of the whole cycle of lambs being born, the early days of them getting to grips with the world on wobbly legs, going through the boisterous stage of bouncing about the fields, then, if they are spared, becoming typical sheep.  Well, some are less typical than others - we had a flock in the field at the back of the cottage three or four years ago who figured out how to get across the cattle-grid and were impervious to the presence of humans.  Where they usually run off when approached, this particular herd totally ignored me when I tried to shoo them away from the ivy they were happily munching from my garden fence - one didn't seem to mind me patting it on the head.  Anyway, I have heard the sound of the shepherdess on the quad bike, with trailer, going backwards and forwards over the cattle-grid at the side of the house from early morning onwards over this weekend, knowing that soon we will go from hearing the odd little bleat through the night to feeling as if someone somewhere has cranked the volume up.

Anyway, regardless of when the weather is less than Spring-like, I'm still running a few miles - 22 today, getting rained on for the first few miles - and getting in some baking.  Having had a 10k to organise, which took place a week ago, I'm back to feeling my time outside work is a little more my own again and I can maybe do a few things at a more relaxed pace.  That said, I have enough of a repertoire of recipes that can be done in a hurry when time is short, but I much prefer taking food preparation in a more leisurely fashion where I can (usually a Friday with a glass of wine in hand...).

A recent Friday night meal was from "Vegetarian Cooking" by Louise Pickford - her recipe for bulgar patties stuffed with spice cheese.  When I've made this previously, I have stuck fairly rigidly to the recipe, with its filling of mozzarella, spices and lemon, but realising there was no mozzarella when I had decided I wanted to make the patties, I tried a peppery goats cheese with some chopped sweet piquillo peppers. Enjoyed the change of filling, but do like the stringy effect of the mozzarella.

The following Friday was a nice focaccia.  I really wanted to make the colourful one in the first Great British Bake Off book from Jasminder, who didn't make the final but produced this lovely bread, and I based the rest of the tea around the bread. Lovely, and highly recommended.

I really do enjoy making bread, as well as eating it obviously.  I made Paul Hollywood's Cheddar and Mustard loaf - a few ends of cheese lurking in the fridge made me think that would be a fitting end for them - and there is usually a jar of mustard or two on the go and the grain mustard just gives this a nice edge.

Over the Easter weekend, I made another bread from the same book as the focaccia - the Fennel and Cumin loaf from the winner that year, Ed Kimber.  I like this loaf, a fairly wet dough which gives it a light texture - it was highly rated on the show and I've made it quite a few times and highly rate it myself.  I also made a Tsoureki  for Easter Sunday - something I've done a lot over the years.  This is an egg/butter enriched dough which has a texture like brioche.  I watched the two-part programme with Mary Berry looking at, and making, various traditional Easter dishes, one of which was the Greek Orthodox Tsoureki. The lady who made it, had a dyed egg on the bread when she placed it in the oven - I've usually boiled two eggs, put them on the loaf when it is rising, removing them before baking - so decided this time to try the method I had seen. The bread worked pretty well, but the eggs were inedible - back to the tried and trusted next Easter as I do like to be able to eat the egg.
Ed's loaf.

Yesterday I tried out another loaf - a seeded bread from Ruby Tandoh's "Crumb" - again, a fairly wet dough which gave a good, springy texture, with the mixture of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and linseeds giving it a good flavour. I have admit I did over-prove the loaf a little, but it certainly didn't spoil it. I am certainly a fan of Ruby and I like her approach to baking.

Friday was the 81st Birthday of my Father-in-law George, so he, and my Mother-in-law Helen were invited round for dinner.  I had made the cake in advance and the pastry for the main course - the cake was filled and decorated the night before, but I did manage to go through a bit of a mad dash to get the first course put together and on the table while it was still warm, while trying to make sure that the mushroom pastries for the main course didn't burn, like the croutons that should have gone on the plate with the started.  I was rather telling that, when planning what to make, I decided on the dessert - a Mary Berry chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache - before the rest of the meal.  The starter was a mini courgette frittata with feta, topped with a warm cherry tomato salsa.  The main the said mushroom pastries, with a colourful bulgur salad, baby corn, French beans and sweet potato (a nod to my other half who is not a great fan of ordinary potatoes), then the cake, which had a cream and raspberry filling.

I think I've just managed to run that off!


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