Sunday, 28 March 2010

Gluten-free Brownies

It was my sisters, boyfriends birthday this weekend, but making a cake for him isn't so easy because he's a coeliac, so can't eat anything with wheat or barley (there had to be something wrong with him but at least he's not a vegetarian). There are plenty of gluten-free cookbooks available but some of the recipes are really longwinded and after wandering around the shops looking for all the ingredients for a recipe I had found I quickly realised that this special cake was going to cost a fortune. I started to wonder what would happen if I gave him a normal cake and just told him it was gluten-free, would I kill him? How much damage could a bit of flour cause? After wrestling with the potential consequences in my mind I decided it was probably best not to finish off my potential brother-in-law and went home to wing it and try make something up. I already had buckwheat flour in the cupboard, which is naturally gluten and wheat free, and thought that its sweet and nutty flavour would marry particularly well with chocolate so decided to knock up some brownies. He can still stick a candle in one if he wants. The brownie rose a lot in the oven but having no gluten to hold the shape, it sank back down quite a bit. Overall I was quite proud of what I had made. They were rich with the distinct subtle tones of the buckwheat with slightly chewy edges.


100g buckwheat flour,
100g unsalted butter, diced,
100g caster sugar
150g of chocolate, broken into small pieces,
2 eggs lightly beaten,
50g cocoa powder,
1tsp bicarbonate of soda,

Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5. Place a glass heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Chuck the butter and chocolate into the bowl and leave to melt, stirring occasionally. Once the butter and chocolate has fully melted and blended together, stir in the sugar and once combined, add the beaten egg, sifted cocoa and buckwheat flour and add your teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Grease and line your baking vessel with greaseproof paper before scooping all your brownie mixture into it and popping it in the oven. Bake for between 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the baking tin for 5-10 minutes. Lift the brownie out by the edges of the greaseproof paper and leave to cool completely, I then put mine in the fridge for half an hour for it to firm up before cutting it into portions and peeling the greaseproof paper off the back, and dusting with icing sugar.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Lemon Curd

After finishing off a few beers last Friday evening, I wandered into the kitchen to make a start on the gin and tonics. It was meant to be a fleeting visit to the drinks shelf but when I looked amongst the fruit for a lime or lemon for my drink, I noticed we must've bought a small bag of unwaxed lemons as oppose to the usual lonely yellow chap rolling around the fridge waiting to die. As soon as I had cut one of the little lemons I became instantly sidetracked by the smell, I tend to do this when I have had a few drinks, I forgot what my main reason to come in the kitchen was and before I knew it I was turning to the fridge and the cupboards to see if they knew why I was there. Lemon curd takes just a few minutes to knock up, well about half an hour from start to finish, and fueled by gin I set about the kitchen with the thought of a lemon meringue pie the next day. Drinking gin along the way isn't for everybody though. You could find yourself sat in the corner clutching the whisk and crying. Mothers ruin - was it the gin, or secretly the lemon curd?


grated zest and juice of 3 unwaxed lemons (more if you like)
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs and an extra yolk
75g butter diced

Place a heat-proof glass bowl over a pan of simmering water, make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water though) and chuck your lemon juice and zest, caster sugar and butter in. Stir occasionally until it has all melted down into a lemony liquor.

Pour in your beaten egg bit by bit and whisk slowly in the same direction for a few minutes. Leave the curd to thicken and stir now only occasionally. Once it becomes thick and has a good bit of resistance to the whisk, remove from the heat and leave to come to room temperature. Now either spoon into sterilised jars and refrigerate or use in your lemon meringue pie like I did.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Long Crichel Bakery

I'm very hit and miss when it comes to making bread. It's something I feel I should be able to do, something I should be good at. Once in a while I will knock up a beautiful light loaf that fills the flat with that most comforting of aromas. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting into the hall outside for all my neighbours to smell too. These instances don't happen often though, and on many attempts it all goes terribly wrong. The beautiful smell is there but the dough has been underworked, over-kneeded, didn't rise, was too stodgy. Whenever anyone has eaten my bread and commented how good it might be, the truth is that it is most likely a fluke. I have only ever made a small hand full of edible bread, with the other loaves cast off in great chunks for the birds to struggle through on the lawn. Sourdough was one area I managed to do fairly well, but even then it never tasted quite as I'd hoped. Some people go crazy for bread, oggling dimly lit photos and writing passages on the methods that are more akin to a Mills & Boone novel than some food literature. Bread porn is something that spurs on great debates and many descriptive discussions. How some people can lust over such a humble food seems almost perverse and up until recently I had never quite had the adoration.

Long Crichel Bakery has changed my mind though. Feeling a little lost and like we were in the opening scene of a bad horror movie we rolled up to Long Crichel at around 11am with dark clouds and hammering rain overhead. From the outside, the renovated 18th century stable block looks like any other but on opening the door a familiar bakers smell drew us in like lambs to the slaughter. I like the cute little bakery, it's simple and to the point. Baskets of root veg, some farmhouse butter, cheeses and other select food products are on the few shelves whilst the counter is bustling with croissants, pain au chocolat, alsace tartes, simnel cakes and sausage rolls. The shelves of bread, the reason we made such a drive to come and try, were full of warm loaves all in varying shapes, sizes and colour. Set against the white washed stone walls I was beginning to understand what those bread pervs were on about now. The kind lady let me loose through the labrynthine rooms of the bakery to see the ovens and starters and trolleys full of sticky topped hot cross buns and take a few pictures. As I crossed the threshold behind the till and into the main area of the bakery I almost knocked over a whole tray of the aforementioned shiny hot cross buns. Luckily my wife has reactions like a superhero and, as per usual, saved me from terrible embarrassment.

Long Crichel Bakery is completely organic and biodynamic where available. They have perfected their craft out there in the sticks and it seems every loaf has a crunchy crust with a soft and moist inside. The bakery uses freshly milled flour from a nearby mill,  milk and butter from a Dorset dairy farm and all the bread is baked in wood fired ovens fed from a local, sustainable forest. After being shown around and taking hundreds of photos of hot cross buns I left with one for the drive home along with a five-seed sourdough loaf. The hot cross bun was still warm with the outside all sticky and crunchy with a soft fluffy inside which tasted a million miles away from any I have ever had before. The five-seed loaf has now become my best friend. I don't want it to end. It's fantastic and over the past few days we have just been eating it with nothing but butter or some cream cheese. As we near the end of the loaf and my eyes start to fill up, my wife tells me to pull myself together and stop being a dick.

Turns out the Green Deli in Ashley Cross sells Long Crichel Breads and has two deliveries a week which will save such a pilgrimage next time I fancy a decent loaf.

Below are the details of Long Crichel Bakery and The Green deli in Ashley Cross. I'd go for the five-seed sourdough myself.

Long Crichel Bakery
Long Crichel
Dorset BH21 5JU
01258 830852

The Green
24 Station Road
Ashley Cross
Dorset, BH14 8UB
01202 914656

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Old Faithful

My coffee percolator has been with me a while now, and I percolate frantically, some say i'll go blind. I have a routine of pulling it down from the shelf and loading it up with some fine ground coffee to lift me from my haze. It's a partnership, one that works well I find. Although, recently I found myself questioning our relationship. We had been to Steamer Trading, not me and the percolator but my wife and I, and dazzled by the lights and shiny chrome of the coffee machines I found myself in doubt as regards to the performance and quality of my faithful little coffee pot. Feeling a little like I had just parked my old Vauxhall Nova next to a Bentley, I started to think up ways in which I could justify the price tag which is always a little tricky when you are the only one at home who drinks the stuff. The possibilities I was shown and told were endless. Well not entirely endless at all really but it seemed a lot more dynamic and diverse than my hob-top compadre. Was there a way I could somehow create the extra work top space for the machine? Ideas of it on my bedside table and in the spare room quickly dissipated.

As I left the shop and began my walk home, feeling a little giddy from the two espresso's and the macchiato, I stopped off to buy a tin of illy. Back in the flat I reached up for the metal percolator that I keep on the shelf above the door and loaded him up before whacking it on the hob on the absolute lowest setting and waited. In the store, knocking up an espresso took no time at all. But now, sat at the kitchen table I shamelessly flicked through Glamour and Marie-Claire as I waited. As I finished looking at the feature on peep-toe Louboutins the gentle music of my kitchen came to life with the phlak, phlak sound as the last few splashes of coffee percolated up and into the top chamber. The thought of hanging up my percolator just doesn't seem right at the moment. It's only small and nestles neatly on the shelf by the pasta and whilst waiting for my coffee might take longer, the equivalent to a browse of "Award Ceremony Dresses" and a feature on handbags, slow coffee tastes better. Anyway, you're bound to earn extra brownie points when you appear to know your peep-toe from your sling-back. Well that's what I keep telling myself anyway.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Noodle soup

It's Friday night, the sun is staying out that little bit longer and my food cravings are gently beginning to change. The heavy and hearty pies and casseroles are getting pushed to the back of my mind whilst I look to repot the tomato and corgette plants I seeded just a couple of months ago. I'm keeping todays blog short and sweet. Just like the recipe, it leaves more time to do other things. Namely, drinking, talking and perhaps going for a wander down to the beach. Although that might be slightly optimistic on the daylight front.

This spicy noodle soup is easy and quick to make and leaves my mouth feeling fresh. They are quite simple, honest flavours which softly merge together to make a quick supper that isn't from a packet. I like to eat it with chop sticks which makes it last longer and also gives my body plenty of time to realise when it's full. I reckon chop sticks could shave a few pounds off me.


1 clove of garlic very finely diced
1 shallot very finely sliced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, very finely sliced into short matchstick
1 ltr Chicken or veg stock,
3 cloves
2 star anise,
1 tsp crushed sichuan pepper corns
1 sheet of dried noodles,
150g roughly chopped shitake mushrooms,
10 raw prawns
Some fresh corriander, torn

In some sesame oil lightly soften your garlic ginger and shallot. Cover with your hot stock and bring to the boil. Add the star anise, cloves and sichuan pepper and leave for a few minutes. Drop in your mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the noodles to the pot and cook to packet instructions.

Just as the noodles are about done, drop in your raw prawns and cook until they are all pink. Season to taste, stir in your torn coriander and serve in small bowls drizzled with sesame or chilli oil.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Trial Separation...

Saltiness is the alcoholic beverage's partner in crime and is only too often overlooked. One without the other simply doesn't work. Starsky without Hutch would never have got to the bottom of anything, Paul Simon was rubbish with out Garfunkel as would be Bert without Ernie. There was a time when almost every bar I propped myself up against had a dish of complimentary peanuts, the better establishments opting for bombay mix. But after an evening sojourn at a pub recently, I was caught completely agog with the words that left the barman’s stiff lips,
"we don't sell pork scratchings." he mumbled.
“Scampi fries?”
What do you have that I can eat whilst trying to enjoy my pint?”
“We have ready salted crisps and Quavers. That’s it”

I don’t know what your view is but Quavers, to me, is not beer food. Having already bought my beer I retreated to a corner table feeling quite sulky and a little uncomfortable then proceeded to drown my new found sorrow. How do they expect me to need another drink if I don’t have a dry salty mouth? I drank my beer and left before they stopped selling that too.

Bar snacks are as important to any public house as the draught ale. Whether spicy bombay mix, pungent lemon scampi fries or a comforting bag of nuts. Why are some establishments refusing to stock? Are sales down due to health conscious, calorie counting metrosexuals too obsessed with the gym and panicing over saturated fat? What's happening?

Walking into a boozer nowadays can be a largely hit and miss affair. Poorly attempted gastro pubs, themed pubs and the increasingly popular student bar have assaulted the streets for a while now and to find a “proper pub” with salty bar snacks, a barman with a tea towel thrown over one shoulder and dog laid down by the fruit machine is as rare a find today as excrement from the fabled wooden rocking horse. Fortunately, we have quite a few round our way where scampi fries and pork scratchings remain.

When was the last time you saw a dish of bombay mix sat idling on the bar, waiting for the pissy-fingered blokes to return from the loo’s and scoop the dried noodles up to their nicotine stained lips. Perhaps it isn’t such a bad thing complimentary nuts have left our bars after all. But there’s no excuse for not selling pork scratchings.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Scotch Bonnet and Bourbon Hot Sauce

A fiery hot sauce is always a welcome condiment in any man's kitchen. Not only is it a must for drunken male showdowns, but you always need something to give those cute trick or treaters come halloween. Below is my recipe for a hot sauce that in large doses could probably be used as a weapon. It was my dads birthday recently and he is always a bugger to buy for. He loves chillies and hot sauces so I thought I would brew him some up with a personallised label. He has hot sauces on literally every meal he eats so it was always going to be a winner. There is a cool ethnic food store in Charminster where I bought a carrier bag full of fresh scotch bonnet chillis for around £6 which compared to supermarkets offering just 3 for nearly £1, I considered it a bargain.

The key to hot sauces is to add other flavours but without loosing the actual flavour of the chillies. This is why scotch bonnets or habanero chillies work really well as they have a sweet, fruity flavour to them that doesn't subside once the capsaicin starts to kick in. Capsaicin is the chemical in the membrane and around the seeds which contains all the heat and burning sensation when eaten. Don't be a slap-dash chef here, make sure you taste what you are making every step of the way and introduce other flavours a little at a time, especially when using milder flavoured chillies such as jalapeno or thai.

The bourbon I used was a healthy tot of Woodford Reserve, the sweetness and smokiness of the whiskey really mellows the sauce and with the few dried chipottle chillies I threw in it just gave the sauce an extra dimension. Don't worry if you have to leave them out though. It will still taste great, though I would advise the use of bourbon.

Don’t be shy of the vinegar. It’s there to help pickle the sauce and give it a longer shelf life. The recipe below will be of a similar consistency to ketchup but by adding more vinegar you will end up with a runnier version which is equally as good. It all comes down to personal preference although some vinegars with strong flavours such as balsamic should be used in moderation so as not to overpower the flavour of the chilli peppers, but get creative and find what you like best. You can play around with flavoured vinegars, I used some tarragon vinegar which worked really well.

Hot Sauce

200ml of red wine vinegar
50ml of balsamic vinegar
Shot of Bourbon
25 Scotch bonnet chilli peppers roughly chopped
2 dried chipottle chillies
5 garlic cloves, grated or finely diced
1 shallot, finely diced
1 red onion, finely diced

Put a large high sided pan on a high heat. Combine the onion, shallot, garlic and fresh chopped chillies and sauté for 4-5 minutes.

Add the water and dried chili’s and reduce to a simmer for around 20 minutes or until the chillies are all soft and have absorbed the water.

Add the bourbon and give it a few minutes, constantly stirring until the alcohol has cooked off a bit. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Stick it all in a blender and whiz up adding your vinegars slowly, add a little extra vinegar for god measure.

Leave to cool completely before funneling into sterilized jars or bottles. Use cautiously. It’s potent stuff!