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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


It snowed last night. Wet snow, the sort that doesn't usually settle, especially in Oxfordshire in October. I don't ever remember snow here in autumn, although someone said that the last time it happened was 38 years ago, so I probably should. Didn't think it would still be on the ground this morning, but it was: frozen and crunchy underfoot in the bright dripping sunshine.

The book I am reading tempted me to linger a little under the duvet ... The Rose Grower, by Michelle de Kretser, an almost poetic evocation of life and love during the French revolution. With roses. And food.

It was in December, thinks Saint-Pierre, two or three days before Christmas. He remembers opening a window and the way a line of snow collapsed inwards, onto the ledge; but that might have been on another occasion. He had stood on one foot beside his grandmother, leaning against this very table, and she showed him how to make cruchade. Half a century later, he still finds himself craving its warm, sweet blandness.

His older daughters wrinkle their noses at it, but his grandson loves cruchade and Mathilde is not altogether immune. A dish for children and old men. A winter dish, unsuited to high summer. But Berthe would of course have served it at dinner, if he'd asked. He didn't, for three reasons: he takes pleasure in preparing it himself; he believes his version superior to Berthe's; he doesn't want to have to share.

The mixture of maize flour, milk and a little butter has cooked slowly, thickening to the right consistency. He turns it out onto a linen cloth and blows on it, willing it to cool faster.

The night house sighs and shifts. Then settles itself, groaning. Through the kitchen window he can see a lopsided white moon.

... There is no armagnac to be found, so Saint-Pierre pours out a glass of Berthe's plum brandy. He can't resist breaking off a corner of the solidifying cruchade. His eyebrows twitch in anticipation.

... So Saint-Pierre can't lay his hands on any sugar - really, where does Berthe squirrel these things away? - but a pot of her apricot jam from the previous summer will do just as well. In fact, he prefers jam. With the point of a knife, he draws a diamond grid on the surface of the cruchade; then he cuts along the lines.

... He begins frying. The butter sizzles .. Saint-Pierre is wielding a slotted spoon, lifting the golden-yellow diamonds onto a plate .. a thick layer of apricot jam is spread on the cruchade.

"It's an old regional dish." Saint-Pierre holds out the plate. "Not to everyone's taste," he says hopefully. "Try a small piece."


Saint-Pierre sighs.

Cruchade is said to be a Gascon treat, but I can't find any trace of it on the web or in a book, not even in Elizabeth David or the magisterial Oxford Companion to Food. It sounds like a variation of polenta - worth trying if you have a sweet tooth.

I'm sending this post to The Food Quote Challenge at a new-ish blog called Almond and the Hazelnut .... the idea is to post food writing from a non-food book - Yasmin announced this challenge a couple of days ago, and then this passage from The Rose Grower shouted out at me. The deadline for the food quote challenge is November 25th. And if anyone knows any more about cruchade, I'd love to hear from them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Salt in bread dough

I bake all the bread we eat in this house, and yet it's still a little hit or miss. So I signed up as a recipe tester for Peter Reinhart's forthcoming book on artisan baking. I'm right in the middle of the first test - obviously, I can't give you the recipe. Straight away, I'm thinking harder about exactly what I'm doing, and that's because I'm (for once) doing exactly what the recipe says.

It's one of those slow-ferment recipes, the sort you barely have to knead, the sort you can keep in the fridge for more or less instant bread all week. But when I found myself putting in about twice my normal quantity of salt, I started fretting. What does salt in bread dough DO - apart from make it taste better, and raise some people's blood pressure?

Dan Lepard is pragmatic: My view is that, for the majority of bread recipes, the salt is an integral part of the loaf, and that bread usually needs to be considered a sodium-rich foodstuff, almost like salt-cured fish. Salt is part of the taste and enhances the flavour of the grain. But we eat to live, or should do if we respect the body that carries us, and it is right and proper that we vary our diet according to what our needs are. Please do vary or omit the salt used in the recipes here. We are told that even a small reduction in our dietary sodium intake will benefit us, and many of our processed foods have a hidden sodium (salt) content where you wouldn't expect it to be - in breakfast cereals, for example. For children, two slices of bread can sometimes equal their recommended daily sodium requirement (which is surprisingly small). So use salt respectfully.

Now that seems to me to be sensible advice, especially coming from a master baker, and one who has travelled all over Europe to watch artisan bakers at work (resulting in The Handmade Loaf, a wonderful and practical book).

All the same, it didn't quite answer the question. Why do bakers use salt? After all, we know it's not strictly necessary from the traditional Tuscan saltless loaf. What effect does the salt have? Most baking books are silent on this, they just exhort you to go out and buy the most expensive salt you can find (those books are going into the charity shop box). Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno hint at what's going on in their Dorling Kindersley illustrated-as-if-for-a-child book Bread:

Salt is used in most bread recipes to control the rate of fermentation and to give flavour. The presence of salt in a dough inhibits fermentation, which strengthens the developing gluten. This results in a bread with a stable crumb, a long shelf-life and more taste than breads without it.

I consulted Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery, and found a more thorough answer:

It is not only because it gives the necessary flavour, or rather corrects insipidity, that salt is so important to bread. It is also in the context of its action on the yeast and the dough during the fermentation or rising period, and for its ultimate effect on the baked loaf, particularly the crust, that salt has to be considered.

First, the flavour. Those early bakers started putting salt in their bread to improve its flavour, then slowly began to appreciate, through observation, that varying amounts of salt made the dough behave differently and affected the quality as well as the taste of the loaves.

So although the amount of salt we put in our bread should, ultimately, depend on taste, individual or collective, practical application of this theory is not so straightforward a matter.

Quite apart from the widely differing salt-toleration, or salt requirements, of each individual, the strength of the ultimate salt flavour in any batch of bread will depend to some extent on the flour used - new flour absorbs more than old flour - on the kind of dough made and on the length of time it is left to ferment.

Broadly speaking, the shorter the rising time the more yeast and less salt are needed, but this is an over-simplification because proportions of both are determined by the volume of dough concerned. The larger the batch, the relatively smaller the proportion of yeast, so the balance of salt must be adjusted, at any rate in theory, to the time calculated for the fermenting or rising of the dough.

I say in theory because when it comes down to a small batch of home-baked bread, it really is not necessary to make elaborate calculations. A few experiments will surely show what is the proper quantity of all the ingredients, their relation to rising times, and to the ultimate flavour and texture of the bread. When it comes to finding out what went wrong with a loaf or a batch of bread, made apparently in every respect identically with your last successful one, then is the moment to try to remember whether perhaps your salt was carelessly measured, or if you guessed at the quantity instead of weighing it as usual.

...To me, bread with a very low salt content is virtually uneatable, and in my calculations for the rising time of the dough the extra salt I put in is allowed for. It is worth remembering that a proper proportion of salt helps the retention of moisture in the baked loaf, and that too much makes for a hard crust.

She goes on to write about the problems in re-scaling quantities of salt and yeast when altering recipes. And she throws light on the recipe I'm currently testing:

For an overnight or eight-hour rising the yeast can again be decreased without reducing the salt content It would be the high proportion of salt which would slow up the action of the yeast, and prevent the dough over-fermenting or developing a sour taste The very short rising and proving times, often as little as 40 minutes all told, sometimes given on flour-packet recipes, can only be explained by the minimal salt content of the dough.

And, for the record, she used Cheshire rock salt, bought in 6lb jars.

Links to related posts

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

Fresh corn bread - now is the perfect autumnal moment for this
Late summer hearth bread - another perfect autumn bread, this one with grapes

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

Yeast conversion - fresh/dried/quick

Things to do with stale or leftover bread

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

Links to the best blogging bakers I know

Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups
A Year in Bread
Susan at Farmgirl Fare

this list is not exhaustive, there are dozens of wonderful blogging bakers

Monday, October 20, 2008

What is the best alternative to Bloglines??

Am I the last person to leap from the sinking ship that is Bloglines? It's been very flaky these past couple of weeks, not bothering with all sorts of fine blogs (I first realised something was up when I stopped getting my daily update of Corduroy Mansions, the i-novel by Alexander McCall-Smith ... if they're not bothering to update as big a site as the Daily Telegraph, what hope is there for even the best personal blogs?

Now I read (thank you LifeHacker) that even the founder is moving to Google reader .... does anyone know of a decent alternative? NetNewsWire?

I'd really appreciate your views, as I am the least techie person, but I do like the tech I use to work ;) ... and I've come to rely on a feedreader

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pumpkin in chilli oil

I hesitate to write about something so simple, but this week I read that American recipes for pumpkin all start open a can of pumpkin .... and so I decided to blog this very easy but delicious dish. Good on its own for a light lunch, or as a side dish.

This is THE time of year for squash - they're fresh off the vine - although they'll store all through the winter, and so we'll be eating them regularly until spring. Butternut seems to be the squash of choice for supermarkets and veg box growers alike, but, from a cook's point of view, they're pretty much interchangeable (although some have much more flavour than others*).

At least once a week at the moment, I roast pumpkin plain in a little oil, often with some sliced onion - the result is a sweet, caramel-y mix, even better when flavoured with finely chopped thyme.

This pumpkin in chilli oil is quite different: the bright contrast of red and orange gives a hint of the piquancy - the sweet blandness of the pumpkin soaks up the heat and means that this is a dish even chilli-haters can eat.

Roasted pumpkin in chilli oil

Slice some slivers of garlic into a mortar. Add a little salt, a splosh of olive oil. Then add as much chilli as you dare - start with a little, particularly if, like me, you are catering for people who think they don't like hot spice. Bash vigorously until it's all amalgamated. You can do this in a food processor, but I find mine has too big a bowl and, anyway, there's something therapeutic about wielding a pestle (although I once read that the words pestle and mortar put more people off cooking than any others - feel free to do this with a machine!) . Add more oil until you have enough to generously coat your pumpkin. (There's slightly too much oil in the photograph for a really smooth mixture ... stint at first, and then add what you need for a pouring consistency.)

Next, peel, core and cube your squash**. Put the cubes into a roasting tin, coat with the spiced oil and put into a hot oven for half an hour or so. The exact timing will depend on how hot the oven is (and if you are cooking other things, then just watch it carefully), and the size of the cubes. If you are in any doubt at all about your timings, put the squash in sooner rather than later, because it will retain the heat (or you can put it back into the oven at the end for a quick blast of heat). I find, increasingly, that we eat warm vegetables, rather than hot straight from the oven.

You can also cook this ahead and then reheat it. There'd be two reasons for this - the first would be to save on oven fuel; the second would be to get ahead when you had some spare time ... make your own convenience food, in other words.

This is my entry for this month's Heart of the Matter - Ilva's hosting this month, and she chose the colour orange ... perfect for autumn.

* In the past I've grown crown of thorns and Turk's turban - both beautiful, but neither very tasty. I'd only grow them again for their looks, although Turk's turban is a very good keeper. On the other hand, Little Gem is very tasty (and increasingly available in the supermarket) ... I'm cheating here slightly, as Little Gem is really a summer squash (more like courgette, in other words), whereas Cot, TT and butternut are all winter squash and will store well.

Related posts
Frugal, seasonal food ... all pretty simple to prepare, because I don't much like faffing around in the kitchen

Butternut squash with parsley and mint softly spiced with cinnamon, a really good addition to a vegetarian dinner
Stuffed butternut squash - this is one of my most-visited posts, and a good cheap supper dish
Roast squash bites with pumpkin seed pesto - fabulous finger food, full of goodness
Pumpkin risotto

Links to squash on other blogs

**If you're nervous about cutting a butternut, Kalyn gave good directions earlier in the week.
Butternut squash apple soup - can't decide if this sounds wonderful and worth trying, or utterly disgusting ;)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Beans on toast

Instant beans on toast ...

  • Frying pan
  • Olive oil
  • Heat
  • A few bacon bits
  • Stir
  • Can of canneloni beans
  • Heat
  • Fresh tomato - don't stint, this is the sauce
  • Chopped parsley
  • Toast
Mmmm .... so much better than Heinz.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quick mushroom sauce for pasta

When I chop vegetables, I go for speed. When Lettice chops them, she takes enough care to end up with uniformly small cubes. Her Caprese salad ends up almost like a salsa, little cubes of cheese and avocado with finely diced tomato. It's good; it may not be the slices you expected, but it's good.

This is the pasta sauce she made for lunch: utterly delicious - the pieces were so small they barely needed cooking, which gave everything a fresh taste. Mine would have been chunky and clunky (and taken longer to cook).

Lettice's mushroom sauce

Finely dice onion, sweat it in a little olive oil. Meanwhile, get to work on some tomatoes and some mushrooms. When the onions are soft, add the vegetables, plus a splash of Marsala and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Cook briefly - certainly no longer than it takes to cook the pasta. Adjust the seasoning and stir into the drained pasta.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Roasted beetroot

Last night was the Hunter's Moon, the lovely full moon that is so useful for seeing in the still-unaccustomed darkness of October. For the past couple of weeks, I have often found myself grovelling in the dark for a snip of thyme or parsley, going by feel and smell. The light of last night's moon was helpful when I needed a little thyme for the beetroot.

Roasted beetroot

Olive oil
Maldon salt

Scrub the beetroot, trim and slice into chunks. Put in a roasting tin with some slivers of garlic, a sprinkling of fresh thyme, and a little oil. Mix everything up, then roast in a hot oven for half an hour or so, until cooked and browning at the edges. Tip into a hot serving dish, and sprinkle with a little Maldon salt.

Fabulous, even for people who think they don't like beetroot ... roasting concentrates the sweetness (same goes for carrots, which can be treated exactly the same way).

This photograph shows the tree we planted on our wedding day .... now grown strong and fine, towering over the scrub oak in the neighbouring field

Another romantic present

I've discovered in the last couple of weeks that I'm not very good with an axe. Luckily, all the males round here LOVE making logs. But less luckily, they don't much like making kindling, and you can't make a fire without plenty of small sticks. And I have discovered that I'm afraid for my fingers when I'm splitting sticks lengthways.

Last night, when Lucius got home, I was in the midst of lighting the fire without enough kindling. I explained, somewhat defensively, that I was afraid for my fingers. Could you teach me to split kindling? Tomorrow, when it's light?

A little later, he came in from the workshop, and this is what he gave me:

Now how is THAT for a wonderful present?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sticky pears with gorgonzola

Here's a delicious autumn recipe for those hard pears you find everywhere at this time of year - and a way to make a little piece of cheese stretch further. No photograph, I'm afraid, because we ate it so fast - I made it in seconds as we were all sitting down for soup. It's very quick, and it brings the age-old combination of pears and blue cheese to new heights.

These flowers from the garden were on the table at the weekend - there won't be many more, as the nights are getting colder and colder.

Sticky pears with gorgonzola
for six

three pears
walnut halves

Cut three pears into eight slices each. Fry them gently in olive oil until they start to brown. Meanwhile, mix 2 tablespoons of honey with 3 of Marsala. Coat the pears with this mixture in the frying pan, then lift them out with a slotted spoon and arrange on a large flat dish. Throw a handful of walnut halves into the pan and stir fry for a minute or so, until they are completely coated in the sticky sauce. Put them on the dish, then add the cheese. Drizzle everything with the remaining sauce.

* I used the last of some chestnut honey for this, and the taste shone through, so I would say it was worth using good honey here, if you have some

**I think this would work with other flavours ... next time, I'll use the Armagnac I use for Agen prune tarts

As you may have guessed, this is Nigella (Express)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sardoni in saor

These Venetian marinated sardines have been on my must-cook list since I read Patience Gray's Honey from a Weed. They're that sweet/sour taste which I love, and which is so typical of Venice, and of Sicily.

It's often difficult to get sardines here, and when they're available, they're usually pretty pricey. So I was cheered to find that Venetians used to make this dish with all sorts of fish - a fine fat sole if they were rich - and that it's only relatively recently that the dish has become something you always make with sardines.

Which is why mine - you've probably spotted - were made with mackerel fillets. Cheap anyway, and then on special offer. This method preserves the fish short-term, so that it will last for a week or so in the fridge. Needs to be made at least 24 hours ahead. Suits me - it meant there was something to eat when we got back from the cinema last night after seeing the electrifying Karita Mattila sing Salome on the Met relay.

Marinated oily fish

sardines / mackerel / whatever's available
olive oil
red wine vinegar
some pine kernels
a piece of candied lemon peel, if you have it*

Dredge the fish in flour, and fry until browned. Lay in a flattish dish.

Slice the onions (say, two large ones to a kilo of fish) into rounds, then fry gently in the oil remaining in the pan. When they are transparent, add pine kernels (I dry roasted mine), sultanas (I soaked mine in a little hot water, as they were a little dry), chopped peel. Pour in wine vinegar - PG says to use half a litre for a kilo of fish, but after consulting other recipes, I used a wineglass-full. Bubble this for a minute or two, then pour it over the fish. The heat of the vinegar is key to the keeping qualities of the fish.

Leave them to marinade for at least a day, turning them from time to time if you think of it.

*Patience Gray says the candied lemon peel is essential; I'm not so sure, but I happened to have some, and it certainly gives the dish an extra something.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Yeast conversion

I've had a scribbled note about yeast on my desk for months ... it means I don't remember where the information comes from:

10g fresh yeast = 5g dried yeast = 3g quick yeast

Now I can throw it away ;)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cooker fuel

There's no ON switch on our new cooker.

Here's the fuel

Here's where we store it

And here's how it gets to the kitchen

This is what it's made of

Suivant les marchés - or the 100-mile diet?

Here's a thought from Jane Grigson, a challenge to the fashionably dominant idea of localism:

Suivant les marchés, that current phrase of the good restauratuer, that guarantee of honest cookery ...

The market is no small concept. In the Middle Ages our northern ships were taking salt cod down to the Mediterranean and Portugal, bringing back wheat, spices and dried fruit - dried fruit in such quantities that the people who produced it wondered what on earth we did with it in the north. I think everyone would agree that Portuguese and Mediterranean cooks do far better things with salt cod than Scandinavians, and that the British know far more about using currants and raisins than the Greeks.

Food and ideas about cooking it have been passing from one part of the world to another ever since the neolithic revolution began in the Middle East. They were part of the spread of civilization though, since people will change their tastes in painting and architecture much faster than their tastes in food, knowledge of what was eaten is far sparser than knowledge of the houses that were lived in or the clothes that were worn. Cookery books were few before the 17th century - and how close is the general diet at any period to the cookery books published? Change owed more to the movement of people, of armies, merchants, chefs, wealthy landed travellers, than to books. Before canals, the railway, good roads, most places ate what could be produced within a 30-mile radius. Ports did better of course, if they were on a big trade route. For most people food was essentially regional food and not always enough of it either. Even in good areas, peasants ate a meagre diet, since most of what they produced went for sale at local markets. Only wealthy men could buy special seeds to grow exotic vegetables, or employ gardeners who understood how to grow fine fruit unfamiliar to the place they lived in, or afford chefs trained elsewhere to provide variety and elegance at mealtimes.

Actually, it's more than one thought, as I've given you more than I planned ... but such interesting ideas, worth pondering.

How lucky we are. Long may it last.

* this comes from the introduction to The Observer Guide to European Cookery, published in 1981. It's not a great book by Jane Grigson's standards, in fact, I think the introduction is the best bit.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Curry sauce and a korma

I'm chucking out recipe books at the moment, ones I'm never ever going to use again. Tricky, though, because there's often one dish lurking in there. These two books are a case in point, Brit Spice by Manju Malhi ... good, but I don't use it at all any more, and Real Fast Indian Food by Mridula Baljekar. Horatio and I bought them when he first got keen on curry, and we cooked quite a few curries. H is sharing a student house now (in Buckingham Street, so known - inevitably - as Buckingham Palace). He lives with an acknowledged curry master, so he doesn't want the books. Off they go to Sue Ryder. But first ...

Madras Curry Sauce

We used to make vats of this together, so that Horatio could use it to simmer chicken with his friend Christian. It sounds more complicated than it is, but that's only because the ingredients list is so long. Promise.

5 tbsp vegetable oil
55g root ginger, peeled and chopped
16 cloves of garlic, peeled
8-10 shallots, peeled
3 tbsp dried curry leaves (2 tbsp if fresh)
1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground turmeric
85g tomato puree
1.2 litres water
1 1/2 tsp sugar
15g fresh coriander leaves, chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice

Heat the oil and gently fry the ginger, garlic and shallots. After three or four minutes, add the curry leaves, cumin, chilli and turmeric. Fry for a couple of minutes, then stir in the tomato paste. When it's amalgamated, add the water, sugar and salt. Simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Add the coriander and lemon juice. Remove from the heat. Leave to cool. Blitz until smooth. Pack in airtight containers and store in the freezer or fridge. It will keep in the fridge for at least a week.

Chicken Korma with whole spices
for 4

This is a lovely aromatic curry ... but Horatio likes it better without the cloves.

55g ground almonds
150ml boiling water
3 tbsp oil
5cm stick of cinnamon
6 green cardamom pods, bruised
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
one small onion, finely chopped
3cm cube of peeled and chopped ginger
4 large cloves garlic
1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp mild chilli powder

700g boneless chicken pieces, cubed
85g plain yoghurt
2-3 tomatoes skinned (or half a tin)
salt (unless using tinned tomatoes)
2-3 tbsp chopped coriander

Soak the almonds. (The original recipe calls for blanched almonds, which you later process, but I could never get them smooth enough.) Gently fry the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay in the oil (if your cardamom is green, stop when the pods puff up; chances are, you'll be splitting dry old pods to use their fragrant sticky black seeds). Add the onion, and fry til golden. Then add the ginger, garlic and the rest of the spices.

Add the chicken cubes and brown all the surfaces. Then add the yoghurt, salt and tomatoes. Stir, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes.

If you've used whole almonds, process them with their soaking water until you get a smooth paste. Either way, tip the resulting mess into the pan, stir well, and cook for another 10-12 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked through, add the coriander and serve.

Links to related posts

None of these are hot, unless you want to be heavy-handed with the chilli. They're all quick, easy, cheap and delicious.

Chickpea and spinach curry
Aromatic prawns

PS the Indian recipe book I've kept is The Essential Madhur Jaffrey


My generous husband is not a great one for impromptu presents, which makes it all the more special when he comes home with one. In the 20-something years we've been together, he's given me flowers once. They were utterly memorable, and never-to-be-beaten: on the day our first child was born, he brought one rose, one rosebud, one stick of asparagus and one sprig of mint, all picked from the garden, and stuck into a beer mug from the kitchen draining board.

Yesterday, he came home with a present, one of the best I've ever been given ....

It's a brazing torch, and it makes short work of lighting the stove. No need for paper, just a few little twigs or sticks and a couple of logs, and the fire's blazing merrily within a minute. Wonderful man. Not sure what other people do with brazing torches.

These days, I grow my own flowers for the kitchen table.

Not so slow no-knead bread

Remember that no-knead bread we all made a couple of years ago? That came from New York and involved a hot Le Creuset pan? Well, now there's a quick version, which uses wholemeal flour. Haven't tried it yet, but here's the link.

And the recipe, for those of you that aren't registered to read the NY Times. This adaptation of Jim Leahey's original recipe is by Mark Bittman, and I found it via LifeHacker, a very useful website with all sorts of wonderful wheezes.

Speeded up no-knead bread

3 cups bread flour
1 packet ( 1/4 ounce) instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Oil as needed.

1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Lightly oil a work surface and place dough on it; fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes more.

3. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-to-8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under dough and put it into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

4. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Wholemeal no-knead bread

1/2 cup whole rye flour
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Oil as needed.

1. Combine flours, cornmeal, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Oil a standard loaf pan (8 or 9 inches by 4 inches; nonstick works well). Lightly oil your hands and shape dough into a rough rectangle. Put it in pan, pressing it out to the edges. Brush top with a little more oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 1 hour more.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread about 45 minutes, or until loaf reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees. Remove bread from pan and cool on a rack.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Our woodburning range

This is our new cooker ... on a good day it takes the same amount of time to heat up as an electric oven. We can cook supper AND heat our large kitchen with a couple of logs. After three weeks I STILL can't get over it ...

PS If you look carefully, you can see a mouse carved into the chair leg ... the signature of the Mouseman