Curing Egg Yolks

Sounds crazy right? Fear not, it’s remarkably simple and insanely delicious. In just 4 days you can transform an egg yolk into an umami-heavy delight with the characteristics and texture of Parmesan cheese.

The story starts as always with the freshest, highest quality ingredients you can afford. I normally use medium-size local organic free-range eggs.

Decide how many eggs you’d like to cure and select a dish or tupperware container large enough to house them comfortably without them touching each other. You’ll then need enough salt and sugar to bury them completely.

Separate your eggs and either freeze your whites (albumen) for later use, or make some meringues, omelettes or something useful.

Make yourself a curing mix by combining equal quantities of salt and sugar.  You may want to add in some other flavourings to jazz it up a bit: peppercorns, seaweed, mace, chilli flakes, cloves – whatever takes your fancy.

Put at least a 1cm of the mix in the bottom of your container, use the back of a spoon to make a little indentation for each yolk to sit in, place them in and then cover them all up with the rest of your curing mix.

egg yolk ready to be cured

Pop the lid on or cover your dish with cling film before putting them to bed in your fridge for 4 days.

Carefully remove the yolks and then rinse off any excess cure that sticking to them.

cured egg yolks ready to be rinsed

Next you’ll need to dry them out completely by placing them on a wire rack in a very low oven (50°C) for an hour or two.

drying cured egg yolks in a low oven

Your cured yolks will live happily in a container in the fridge for up to a month.

cured egg yolks

How to use them? Just finely grate them in the same way that you would use Parmesan cheese on pasta, asparagus, whatever you’d like. I just love it over buttered sourdough toast.

cured egg yolk on buttered sourdough

Sourdough Bread

As promised, here’s the recipe I’m generally following to make sourdough loaves. It assumes that you have a dutch oven, but if you don’t, you can use a large cast iron cooking pot with a tight fitting lid.

The story begins with a sourdough starter. If you don’t already have your own, you can find my recipe here.

Ingredients:

  • 80g sourdough starter
  • 580g strong white organic flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 380g water
  • 15g salt
  • Rice flour for dusting
  • Semolina for dusting

Equipment that will help:

  • Digital scales
  • Measuring jug
  • Dough scraper – good for shaping and moving your dough
  • Large bowl
  • Shower cap/cling film/cloth
  • Banneton – wicker basket for proving
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Lame, razor blade or bread knife
  • Water mister/sprayer
  • Dutch oven or cast iron pot
  • Cooling rack

Method:

Sourdough is all about time. You can’t rush flavour.

  1. The night before you want to bake, combine 80g of your sourdough starter, 80g strong organic white flour and 80g water in a bowl or tupperware container, mix thoroughly, cover and leave at room temperature.  This will be your sponge.
  2. The following morning, add 300g water to your sponge and very roughly mix in 500g strong organic white flour. Cover with a shower cap and leave for an hour to allow the flour to absorb the water. This stage is called the autolyse.
  3. Mix in 15g salt and knead the dough on a clean surface for about 10 minutes. It will hold its shape and become less sticky as the gluten develops.
  4. Shape your dough into a ball, lightly dust with flour, and place it in a bowl. Cover and leave it to rest for 1 hour.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl, knock it back and reshape it into a ball by working the outer edges into the centre. Cover and leave it to rest at room temperature for a further hour.
  6. Knock the dough back and reshape a further two times, until it has spent a total of 4 hours fermenting.
  7. Dust your banneton or bowl liberally with rice flour, shape your dough for the last time, place it inside and cover with a shower cap or cloth. Leave your dough to prove for 4 hours.
  8. Preheat your oven to full temperature with your dutch oven or cast iron pot inside. I wait around 30 minutes for everything to heat up sufficiently.
  9. Carefully turn your dough out onto a piece of greaseproof paper dusted with semolina. ready to be slashed and baked
  10. Slash the top of your dough with a lame, razor blade or sharp bread knife.
  11. Very carefully place your dough inside your dutch oven and spritz with water.
  12. Bake for 10 minutes before turning the temperature down to 230 degrees centigrade and baking for a further 40 minutes.
  13. Carefully remove your bread and leave it to rest on a cooling rack.
  14. Admire and devour.

I find that a dutch oven creates a great environment for the bread to bake in the absence of a professional oven. The reality is that there are many, many variables in play when it comes to baking bread. Literally everything makes a difference, from the water, air and flour temperatures, to brand of flour and type of oven. For this reason, regular practice, keen observation and confident intuition are what truly makes great bread. The more you bake, the more you’ll learn and develop that all important feel for what’s going on with your dough.

Godspeed folks.

freshly baked sourdough bread

Apple Crisps

Apples going spare? We seem to always have a glut in our house, so I did a little thinking and made a batch of apple crisps as a snack for the children. These children are now addicted to them. Good job that they’re super-easy to make, healthy as, well, apples, and cheaper than a bag of deep fried salty potatoes.

It’s nearly Christmas, so a dusting of aromatic cinnamon seemed only appropriate.

apple slices

Ingredients:

  • Apples
  • Cinnamon

Method:

  1. Core your apples (although this isn’t essential if you can be bothered picking out the pips).
  2. Slice them thinly using a mandolin or a food processor. I cut them to 2mm thick to get a crisp result. Any thicker and they become chewy.
  3. Lay the slices out on a baking sheet making sure they don’t overlap.
  4. Dust them with cinnamon powder.
  5. Bake at 110°C fan (120°C conventional oven) for 25 minutes.
  6. Flip them over and bake for a further 20 minutes or until they’re perfectly crisp.

The crisps will store for a few days in an airtight container if you can resist them…

baked apple crisps

 

Gluten Free Granola

Homemade granola? So easy – so much easier than you’d think!

This is my last recipe in this series of twists on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution healthy breakfasts.

I’d planned to simply create a homemade granola recipe for my twist on Jamie’s Banana & Cinnamon Porridge, but a little research has led me towards using buckwheat and making this recipe even more inclusive. The GFG!

Granola is such a delicious, nutritious and flexible breakfast that you can make in batches and store so that it’s always on hand.

making granola

Ingredients:

  • 200g buckwheat
  • 200g oats (certified Gluten Free)
  • 200g mixed nuts, roughly chopped
  • 100g mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, linseed)
  • 75g coconut flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g dried fruit (cranberries work well)
  • Milk, honey, yoghurt and fresh berries to serve (all optional)

Method:

The key here is to watch your granola like a hawk whilst toasting it in the oven – ovens vary tremendously – don’t let it burn! Turning it frequently will make sure it’s evenly cooked.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
  2. Except for the dried fruit, mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan over a low heat.
  4. Add all of the wet ingredients to the bowl and mix well.
  5. Spread the mix out on a couple of baking trays in a single layer (or bake in batches).
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 – 35 minutes, turning roughly every 10 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.
  7. Allow the granola to cool, mix in the dried fruits and store in a clean airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  8. Serve plainly with milk, or perhaps yoghurt with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey for a more decadent breakfast.

granola

 

gluten free granola

Variations:

This recipe doesn’t have to be gluten free (GF) if you’re not on a specialist diet – regular oats are much cheaper and taste exactly the same. Technically, oats are GF anyway (oats contain a similar but more tolerable protein than gluten, called avenins), however there is a risk to those suffering from coeliac disease as they may have been stored or packaged in the vicinity of barley, wheat or rye grain.

You may wish to adapt this recipe to suit your taste, in fact, I’d implore you to do so; try switching the maple syrup for honey, the coconut oil for olive oil, add cacao nibs and chia seeds, experiment with different nuts or even add a little cardamom. Have fun with it and soon you’ll be batch-cooking your own special blend on a regular basis.

Cheese & Bacon Pastries

Twists, turnovers, straws – all so deliciously naughty and yet devilishly simple to make at home.

Every now and again I have moments where I look at something familiar, and wonder why I’ve never thought of having a go at making it for myself. Often the ubiquitous is simpler than you think. Some things just aren’t worth the effort, however these pastries most certainly are.

I find it so satisfying to transform a block of puff pastry into delectable treats. Naturally, they’re not going to be a healthy option, but at least they’ll be homemade and you’ll know exactly what’s gone into them.puff pastry

Life’s too short to be making your own puff pastry, so don’t feel bad about using a shop-bought block or even splashing out a few extra pennies for the pre-rolled sheets for an even quicker turnaround.

Here’s a few options using similar ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • Puff pastry (block, rolled or even your own rough-puff)
  • Streaky bacon
  • Grated cheese (cheddar is nice and tangy but feel free to experiment)
  • Dijon or English mustard
  • Egg, beaten
  • Seeds – black/white sesame or poppy (optional)
  • Tomato, sliced (optional)
  • Dusting of flour

Method 1 – Twists:

  1. Roll out your pastry to about 3mm thick on a dusting of pastry or simply unfold your pre-rolled sheets.
  2. Brush over a thin layer of mustard.
  3. Top with grated cheese.
  4. Lay down parallel strips of streaky bacon, leaving a little gap between.
  5. Carefully cut between the bacon using a large knife to make equally sized strips.
  6. Holding each end, confidently twist.
  7. Place them onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up and help them keep their shape when cooked.
  8. Brush the pastry with a little beaten egg.
  9. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.

cheese bacon twists

Method 2 – Turnovers:

  1. Cut your rolled out pastry into even squares about 12cm x 12cm.
  2. Brush with a thin layer of mustard (optional).
  3. Add a couple of slices of tomato (optional).
  4. Lay a rasher of bacon diagonally across the pastry.
  5. Top with grated cheese.
  6. Fold one corner into the centre and brush the exposed pastry with a little beaten egg.
  7. Fold the opposite corner over to form the turnover shape.
  8. Sprinkle over a little extra cheese for good luck.
  9. Back in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.

cheese and bacon turnovers

Method 3 – Straws:

This is perfect for any offcuts or leftover pastry.

  1. Simply cut your rolled out puff pastry into strip, brush with beaten egg and top with grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of seeds.
  2. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy.
  3. Devour.

homemade cheese straws

 

Have a go at looking at the world differently. Question yourself and rise to the challenge.

For me, it’s going to be flatbreads next. I already know that they’re super-easy to make – easier than a normal loaf – yet somehow I’ve never had the confidence that my attempt would be as good as shop-bought.

Winter and the cheese bacon tomato turnovers