Baked Feta

“What’s your signature dish?” A fairly ubiquitous question which I have to admit I loath hearing as a result of routinely struggling to think of a satisfactory answer. Why? I suspect it’s because I’m far more interested in exploring new and exciting dishes than honing one in particular, but if you were to ask me which recipe I’m most proud of, this would undoubtedly be it.

Crafted from disparate concepts I’d pilfered from a couple of intriguing recipes which irritatingly I can no longer recall, the feta cheese element perfectly compliments the riot of flavours in the topping to balance everything out with surprising harmony.

Soft, warm, creamy, salty cheese, finished with a cold, sweet, spicy, sticky, aromatic, acidic, zingy dressing. Pass me a spoon.

It may not be the most elegant dish, but give it a taste and I’m sure you’ll agree that looks can be remarkably deceiving.

Ingredients:

  • 20g fresh ginger, very finely diced
  • ½ hot green chilli (10g), very finely diced
  • Handful fresh coriander, chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
  • 75g stoned dates, chopped (Medjool are best!)
  • Feta cheese (200g block is enough for 2 people)

Method:

Do not underestimate how long it takes to finely chop all the ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Place the feta in a heatproof dish and bake it for about 15 minutes or until it starts to brown very slightly on the edges. It wants to have a subtle sheen and a slight wobble to it like a panna cotta. 

feta cheese

Mix the rest of the ingredients together to make the topping.

Dress the hot cheese and serve with spoons.  

baked and topped feta cheese

Note that if you have any of the topping left over (this is probably enough for 2 blocks of feta – 4 people), it will keep for a few days if covered in the fridge…. You’ll just have to bake some more cheese or find another delicious use for it – please let me know if you do! 

baked feta cheese

Bombay & Co

Is it possible that this is the best place to eat in Cheltenham right now? For me, it’s probably the best place I’ve ever eaten in Gloucestershire. Bold words, but here’s my logic..

Bombay & Co excites me. London life bleeds my time and energy to write reviews at my former pace, but I’m simply compelled as thought it’s my civic duty to make a public service announcement. This restaurant excites me like the discovery of a lost city or a new species of butterfly – I’m desperately trying to soak up the moment and relive the details before it’s changed forever more.

Forget the menu; just ask politely to be fed and trust your host to provide you with an array of street food, carefully and thoughtfully sequenced for maximum culinary impact on your taste buds.

Gushing reviews make me nauseous, but don’t despair, there’s balance that adds to the charm. Bombay & Co would have passed me by if it weren’t for a local pal dragging me to the crappy end of the High Street. First impressions and the all-important curb-appeal? My self-confessed snobbish standards would likely have kept me from ever passing through the wonky doors between the tatty drapes. Actually, maybe it’s been there for years and I’ve simply never even noticed it.

I’d usually write lots more and wax lyrical about the dishes themselves, the flavour combinations and layout on the plate etc, but I don’t want to spoil your own personal experience. Just let them take you on a street food journey – it’s so ridiculously cheap and remarkably good value for money that you simply can’t go wrong.

Who would have thought that cheap and nasty white burger buns would marry so well with Dabeli or Pav Bhajji. They import all their spices from India and make everything from scratch; Pani Pooori, Bombay Mix, the works. They’re even opening for breakfast every Sunday folks!

The cobbled, basic setup and graffiti artwork decoration is brilliant. Even the spelling mistakes – bonus points if you can spot one. Eating is all about the experience and if anything, I’d say that it heightened the senses, making the delectable flavours even more surprising, like a ingeniously engineered juxtaposition. It’s not, but it makes me smile to think that we’re all being duped and there’s a Michelin-starred kitchen and highly-polished brigade on the other side of the swing-door. Alas the FSA hygiene rating confirms there isn’t.

It’s the balance of food, atmosphere, price and environment that makes an eating establishment truly great and stand out above the rest. Friendly, relaxed, welcoming, cheap and above all else, delicious. I beg you Bombay & Co, please don’t change a thing. It’s inevitable that they eventually will, as success and recognition lead to change, so make the most of it whilst you can; get your tiffins at the ready, the spirit of Mumbai has arrived in the Cotswolds.

pani poori at Bombay & Co Cheltenham
Dosa at Bombay & Co Cheltenham
Tandoori Pomfret at Bombay & Co Cheltenham
deliciousness

Bombay @ Co:

337 High Street, Cheltenham, GL50 3HS

dine@bombaynco.uk

01242584301

@bombaynco

Curried Popcorn

Inspired and tweaked from a Stéphane Reynaud recipe, this is a surprising twist on the norm. Popcorn can be a reasonably healthy snack, although the classic styles are far from it.

Popping your own corn couldn’t be simpler – just heat a little oil in a large pan until shimmering, add the corn kernels and cover with a lid. Give it a little shake and then wait for the popping sound to subside.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 50g popping corn
  • 35g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp garam masala (or any curry powder)
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, finely grated
  • Pinch of salt 

Method:

Once you’ve popped the corn as described above, mix in the other ingredients whilst it’s still hot and serve. Too easy.

lemon and curry flavoured popcorn

You could use pretty much any flavoured butter you might have.

Pangrattato

Everyone should have homemade pangrattato in their store cupboard. It ticks so many culinary boxes:

  • easy to make
  • easy to store
  • virtually free
  • absolutely delicious
  • improves a plethora of dishes
  • reduces food waste
  • you can’t buy it in the shops

It’s remarkably satisfying, so why wouldn’t you!?!

What is it?

A literal translation from Italian would be ‘grated bread’ – basically, pangrattato is toasted breadcrumbs.

sourdough pangrattato

Uses?

I use it as a garnish to add a little flavoured texture and make dishes more interesting – risotto, spaghetti, baked cheeses, lasagne, creamed leeks, gratins, Mac n’ Cheese! It’s gold dust in my eyes.

I’m sold, so how do I make it?

Tear up any bread that you have leftover (that’s not mouldy obviously) and pop it into a food processor with a clove of garlic and a few fresh herbs if you have them. Give it a blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs and then drizzle in a little olive oil with the motor still running. It only needs enough oil to very lightly coat the crumbs.

Tip the crumbs into a dry frying pan and toast them over a medium heat, stirring and moving them around constantly until they become golden in colour – you’ll hear the sound change as the crumb becomes crispy. Tip it out onto a tray so that it can cool evenly and then store it in a glass jar, ready for sprinkling when the moment takes you.

You can experiment with flavours if you like – try adding different combinations of herbs such as rosemary, sage or thyme, perhaps an anchovy fillet and a little of its flavourful oil or some unwaxed lemon zest. Dried chillies will give it a deeper flavour and a bit of a kick.

Now, I appreciate that many people will discard the crusts from their sliced loaf as a matter of routine. @toastale actually make good use of this bread to make beer from packet sandwich manufacturing! If you chuck your crusts and any leftover bread into a freezer bag now and again, you’ll be able to defrost it all at the same time and cook up a big batch of pangrattato every few months.

Not an ounce of my precious sourdough goes to waste!

sourdough bread

Sourdough 2.0

Sourdough is all about time. As time has passed since my last post about sourdough, I’ve patiently and diligently continued on my quest to make fantastic sourdough. I’ll reiterate that regular practice, keen observation and confident intuition are what truly makes great bread.

Dave is all grown up, well, fourteen months old at the time of writing, and I’m feeling far more proficient in my yeast husbandry. Interestingly, this craft feels quite like parenting in the sense of becoming more and more unconsciously competent as time goes by; I’ve almost stopped thinking about the details and just get on with it. 

Lots of great questions have been coming my way recently so I think it’s the perfect time to take stock and get my latest methodology down for posterity.  

For my best sourdough loaf, I currently do the following (based on my equipment and environment): 

  1. Make sure the starter is on top form and recently fed and watered – if it’s been chilling out in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process then give it a 50/50 organic flour and water feeding, a good mix to aerate it and at least a day at room temperature. You’ll know that it’s good to go if a spoonful of the starter floats in water. 
  2. Before going to bed, mix 80g of the starter with 80g of organic white bread flour and 80g water. This is your sponge. Cover it with a cloth or a shower cap (it’s your yeast-farming duty to liberate them from hotel rooms at every opportunity). 
  3. The following morning, start the autolyse process by mixing 50g organic white rye flour and 450g organic white bread flour into your sponge with 300ml tepid water. Leave it (covered with a shower cap) for an hour or so. This will allow the flour to fully absorb the water, start the fermentation process, and ultimately make it much easier to knead. 
  4. Add 15g salt dissolved in a splash of water and knead your dough for 10 minutes until it’s beautifully smooth and elastic. There’s some real technique to be developed in kneading and shaping your dough, especially when it’s wet, but it isn’t hard to get the hang of it and if you’re like me, you’ll eventually find it more therapeutic than stressful.
  5. We now venture into bulk fermentation. Leave your dough covered for an hour and then lovingly ‘stretch and fold’ with wet hands a few times to incorporate a touch more water and increase hydration à la ‘eau de bassinage’.  This technique will help to develop the gluten further and improve the crumb. Repeat this each hour and then after four hours, shape the dough. To help it keep its shape, you want to stretch the gluten to wrap around itself tightly. I do this by drawing the dough towards myself (google/youtube it). 
  6. Pop your dough into a well dusted banneton (wicker bread proving basket). I use rice flour for this as it’s anhydrous and prevents the dough sticking. Sprinkle some semolina over the top and cover it with your trusty shower cap. 
  7. Put your dough to bed in the top of your fridge and leave it until the following morning. This is the retarded method – it will slow the fermentation down, leading to a more digestible loaf. 
  8. Pop a large cast iron pot into your oven and turn it up as high as it will go. After 30 minutes everything should be stinking hot. 
  9. Take your dough from the fridge and carefully turn it out onto a piece of greaseproof paper. 
  10. Score your dough with a lame or a razor blade in confident, even strokes. This will not only make your bread look good, but it will also help it expand in the oven. 
  11. Being both quick and unbelievably careful in the process, remove your cast iron pot from the oven and lower your dough into it, give it a tiny spritz of water, pop the lid back on and then slip it back into the oven.  
  12. After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to about 210° and bake it for a further 50 minutes. 
  13. Remove your bread and leave it to cool on a wire rack.  

I’ve recently started doubling up on my ingredients to make two loaves at the same time – especially worthwhile given that sourdough bread keeps in perfect condition for such a long time. 

Good luck, godspeed and look out for future updates on my preferred method here and on instagram @foodfitforfelix  

perfect sourdough

#YeastFarmer