JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Heinz 57 varieties ....

... in case you've ever wondered about the other 56

Thanks to Posterous

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Oven-baked polenta

This wonderfully easy new-to-me way to cook polenta comes from Paula Wolfert's terrific new book, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking. There's none of that strewing cornmeal onto fiercely boiling water, followed by constant stirring. You just mix cornmeal, oil and cold water, put the resulting mess into the oven & let time do all the work for you. Amazingly, it comes out of the oven entirely lump-free. Not sure if it works in a metal pot, although I can't think why not.

Waitrose in Henley have just begun to stock bags of Italian stoneground cornmeal ... perfect for this, and for a loaf of cornbread later this week.

Oven polenta in a clay pot
for 6

2 cups cornmeal, stoneground if you can find it
2 tablespoons olive oil, or butter if you prefer
8-10 cups water (see note below)

Note: Paula Wolfert's instructions say: the consistency of the polenta is a factor in deciding how much liquid to use. For soft polenta, use 5 parts liquid to 1 part cornmeal and for firm polenta 4 parts liquid to 1 part cornmeal. She also specifies a wide, shallow dish; I cooked mine in a narrower, taller pot, and therefore didn't need so much water.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Stir the cornmeal, oil salt and water. Bake uncovered for one hour and twenty minutes. Stir, and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven. If you're using a clay pot, be careful where you put it or it will break; it will be safe on a folded kitchen towel, or on wood. Let the polenta rest for 10 minutes before serving.

You could spread it out flat to cool, for cut and grilled/fried polenta shapes. That's the thing to do with the leftovers (especially good if you stir in a little parmesan). But I couldn't bear to deprive my blue Orpington hens of the pleasure.

Greater spotted woodpecker

All through the winter I've seen this greater spotted woodpecker feeding in the garden. In the last few days he's been boring holes in one of the finials Lucius made for the rose pergola. It looks like a toy our children used to have years ago.

Photographed through my study window. No chance of getting much work done, particularly as he announces his presence with short bursts of drilling.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Raymond Blanc's tomato essence

Five years ago, when I started this blog, I posted two recipes on the first day. One of them has reappeared in the Telegraph, which is where I think I got it in the first place. It is Raymond Blanc's truly wonderful tomato essence ... glamour without much effort, haute cuisine without the high price of Le Manoir**. Although it's a little shocking that Monsieur Seasonality is suggesting tomatoes so early in the year.

The fundamental recipe hasn't changed - why tinker with perfection? And now, M Blanc suggests that, as well as using the golden liquid as a soup, you can use it in a tomato risotto. I'll be posting that one day soon.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Tarte tatin

I made Tarte tatin for pudding the other night; it's an indulgence, but an enjoyable one - Lucius said it was the best thing I'd ever cooked, and he was still talking about it the next day. It's very rich, so not for everyday .... but it's perfect for friends, as you have to make it early so that you don't burn your mouth on the caramel.

I followed the instructions on the box of the de Buyer tarte tatin tin I bought from Lakeland; so delicious there's no need to look for another recipe. By the way, you don't need to have a special tin for this: any heavy-duty oven-proof tin would do (a Le Creuset frying pan would be ideal, provided it doesn't have a wooden handle).

This is a very good way to use up slightly-past-their-best apples; I know we're supposed only to use the freshest produce we can, but we also need a few strategies to combat waste in the kitchen. My grandmothers used to cook up wrinkled apples, and so do I.

Tarte tatin

(it says for 2-4, but I'd say this would easily do 6)

20cm tin

shortcrust pastry (I used ready-rolled Dorset puff, a truly excellent product)
85g butter
200g granulated sugar
4-5 apples (800g is specified, probably unpeeled weight)
juice of half a lemon

Use the tin as a guide to cut a circle of pastry 2-3mm thick. Prick the pastry and put in the fridge.

Peel and core the apples. The recipe says you should end up with apple halves; that's too fiddly for me, and quarters looked fine in the finished dish. Drop them into a bowl of lemon juice as you work.

Put the butter and sugar into the pan, stirring constantly for about five minutes until the mixture starts to become golden. Arrange the apples over the caramel (pour in the lemon juice too) and keep cooking, without stirring, for 15 minutes.

Now give it five minutes in a very hot oven (250C is suggested; I used 220C on fan, and that was quite fierce enough).

Next, arrange the pastry over the apples, tucking the edges under. Put the tin back into the oven for 15 minutes (have a quick peek just before the end, you don't want the pastry to burn).

Cool the tin for 25 minutes before turning out onto a dish. It will come away easily and firmly in one piece, glued together by the caramel. Eat lukewarm.

The recipe ends with this instruction: Lovers of Tarte tatin savour it without whipped cream nor vanilla ice cream to appreciate its authentic taste. To be honest, anything with it would be overkill.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A rustic rye boule

I tried a couple of weeks ago to make a rye loaf, but it was fit only for the hens. They loved it, but they're connoisseurs of good grains and flours, rather than bread. This one is a success, because 75% of the flour is white, giving the dough enough gluten to rise. I'm still on a mission to make a loaf which is mostly rye - and I'd also like to find some darker rye meal than the very pale flours available here. Suggestions warmly welcomed.

I used the no-knead method for this loaf: it's my favourite way to bake, because of its elegant simplicity - you let time do all the work for you, and the result is a flavourful rustic boule. (You may remember the sensation this recipe caused when it went viral in 2007.)

400g flour altogether (100 of which was rye), about half a teaspoon of yeast, and a little less than a teaspoon of salt. Otherwise, no change from Jim Lahey's original no-knead method.

Related posts

Daily bread
Daily bread 2

Six seed rolls
Bread knots - another simple way to make beautiful and delicious rolls, using this dough, or your default dough

Yeast starter for bread - and the bread
make your own sourdough starter

No-knead bread the famous NY Times recipe
Speeded-up no-knead bread and a different take on it

Yoghurt bread fabulous, easy, TRY IT
Quick oat loaf
Spelt bread - it's getting easier to buy this highly-flavoured flour

Anti-oxidant tea bread - I made this for my husband for a pre-surgery boost - delicious, too!

Yeast conversion - fresh/dried/quick
Oven temperature conversions - Centigrade, Fahrenheit, gas mark, descriptive

Things to do with stale or leftover bread

Be warned, these suggestions only work with good bread - useless with supermarket pap!

Herb stuffing for roast chicken
Grilled trout with rosemary stuffing
Baked scallops
Anchovy toasts