Flour, Yeast, Water, Salt & Some Asparagus!

File 24-04-2016, 10 42 32It was finally here! The date of a ‘Bread Baking’ course I had booked many months ago, getting in a class with Richard Bertinet seems to require at least 6 months planning, which in many ways says that this guy is in demand, and he could be very good!

Some people might call me a bit of a food snob, but I don’t think I am. I just want to eat food that does not contain anything I don’t recognise as food. When you look on the labels of sandwiches in shops, it’s like a list from a chemistry set, yuch!  This was one of the reasons for booking this course, I like bread but whenever I eat it I generally feel cr@p afterwards, so wanted to see If I could start to find a method to make my own using 4 basic ingredients.

The course was full, ladies and gents as far as Cambridge had traveled to Bath to learn from a French Master Baker, author of several books including Dough his 1st book, which is now available in 9 languages and has sold over 200,000 copies (200,001 if you include my autographed copy)!

The day was awesome, learning the history of bread making and baking, handcrafting a variety of different breads from a single starting mix.

File 24-04-2016, 10 40 56This is not a course for the fainthearted, it’s hard work but we were continually refreshed by his team of excellent helpers, on hand to make Tea/Coffee and provide nibbles during the break, which was were well received.

This is the 3rd course I have taken at Richards’ cookery school, it met all expectations and the knowledge and skills that everyone gained surpassed the cost in bounds, like the previous courses what you learn with experts in their craft does NOT appear in books, it has to been seen, heard, felt and smelt!

File 24-04-2016, 10 43 32If you want to learn the techniques of a master and fancy bread then book this course, it’s a must do for anyone keen on understanding and practising how to produce awesome loaves, time after time. I am looking forward to my next time at Richards’ cookery school, with my nine year old at a class for youngsters.

AND Now!!!!!! (Drum Roll) Asparagus Done Differently!!20160423_200050-1I wasn’t going to blog this dish, I was battling with it, as maybe it was too simple. After the taste test it had to be done, it was delicious and involves a few techniques and VERY good timing.

This weeks organic veg box delivery included a bunch of Asparagus, I’ve had this vegetable before, but the missus and junior opp had not so maybe a chance to introduce a new taste into the repertoire. Also in the box was Purple Sprouting Broccoli which I also wanted to incorporate into the dish.

20160423_193413The ingredients are for two hungry adults (and a spare spear or two for junior opp to try!). Thinking of presentation, having a triangular pattern on the plate seemed a nice idea, so 3 bundles of 3 asparagus spears, tightly wrapped in Pancetta started this feast off.

Previously I had roasted 6 (organic) tomatoes, quartered and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper at 100 deg for about 2 hours, and left to cool. These would get 10-15 minutes with the Asparagus seasoned with pepper only.

Researching Hollandaise both in the cookery books on the shelf, and on the internet, produced lots of options. I thought I would gamble and try an ‘all in one’ method, 2 egg yolks, 125grm butter 1/4 lemon juice is needed for 2 people along with 2 tbs of water, just chuck it all into a saucepan and get your whisk ready.

So TIMING…..  The Hollandaise will take 12-15 minutes from scratch, the Asparagus about the same at 180 deg (fan oven) depending on thickness, the Broccoli about 2 mins in a pot of boiling lightly salted water.

To add some texture and another flavour punch you can also pre-prepare some crispy crumb. Take a couple of handfuls of PANKO breadcrumbs, in a frying pan with butter and Oil. Grate in a clove of garlic and keep stirring until the crumb is brown and crispy.

Add some picked fresh Thyme leaves (about 2 tsp) leaving the woody stalks behind. Put into a bowl to cool and grate in (small Microban works well) some Parmesan cheese, about 50 grms in my case. This is the seasoning for the crumb texture.

20160423_201834_001-1Earlier in the afternoon I had made some Dough with my son, and although it had not worked out quite as planned, we got it into the oven and baked some bread, this was to go with the Asparagus, it’s a French passion, bread is part of the meal not a course to start things off!! (it was delicious ;-))

If you have a Split oven, put your plates in to warm, along with the crumb mixture. Put your main oven onto 180 deg (fan). Bring a pan of water to the boil, add some salt and keep ready for the Broccoli.

Here we go…. Oven is hot at 180 Deg, in goes the Asparagus, Hollandaise ingredients on a low heat to melt the butter, whisk, whisk and keep whisking. When the butter has melted, turn the heat up a bit (not too hot, I never went above 3.5 on a scale of 1-9 on my hob) and keep whisking. After 10 minutes (quickly) check Asparagus, keep whisking the Hollandaise. If you see steam coming off the Hollandaise mixture at any time, turn down slightly, keep whisking.

When the Hollandaise starts to thicken, turn the water up to boil and add the Purple Sprouting Broccoli, keep whisking the Hollandaise.

You get the message I hope. The Hollandaise turned out perfectly, but you have to focus, and KEEP whisking all the time, I did almost solid for about 12 minutes.  When the lovely silky sauce starts to thicken you can start to taste and season. Its needs some salt, keep tasting and adding small amounts until it seems right (and keep whisking!). The consistency was in between single and double cream.

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I put the Asparagus Spears in a triangle, the Purple Sprouting Broccoli was drizzled with Olive Oil, mixed through and placed in the centre and the roast tomatoes around the outside. Add the Hollandaise liberally and then sprinkle the punchy crumb on top.

It was superb, the crumb adds a real punch, the tomatoes are sweet and acidic which cut through the rich Hollandaise sauce.

Have a go at this one, you won’t be disappointed.

…………………..Until next time, L8ers…………………

Kouign Amann, well Breton Kouignettes, and a couple of restaurant reviews

WP_20150201_19_33_46_ProTwitter is an interesting tool that can inspire cooking at a instant. A case in point happened to me recently when a very good cook I ‘follow’ Sabrina Ghayour, tweeted a picture from a trip to Paris. The picture was of a variant of Kouign Amann, a Breton pastry from Northern France.

Photo 08-02-2015 10 40 27The sticky buttery rich pastry just looked amazing, and as I had a team meeting coming up after the weekend, an excuse to do some research and find a suitable recipe set me going online and attacking the keyboard. My initial concern was time, having made puff pastry by hand before it was a lengthy process taking up to 3 days (allowing plenty of rest time makes it very special), and this was based on a similar process.

I found the answer here; http://eatthelove.com/2014/03/kouign-amann/

A ‘speedy’ way to make a version of the pastry, I set about gathering the ingredients and digging out the food processor from under the cupboard.

The basic premise of this recipe is to incorporate loads of salty Breton Butter (readily available from Waitrose and probably larger Tesco’s) into flour using the method described on the web link above. Once it has had some time to rest and cool down in the fridge, a series of folds to create the layers that puff up and expand when cooking. This is a yeast based dough so the final result is croissant like in its texture.

WP_20150201_17_56_23_ProThe last stage requires dusting your work top with sugar instead of flour, which will create the lovely sticky, crispy, caramelised outside after cooking is completed. It was surprisingly straightforward to do, following the steps carefully. I changed one element of the recipe, which was to use vanilla infused sugar to add an extra dimension to the dish.

WP_20150201_18_05_44_ProI couldn’t work out a way to easily get the shape from the original ‘tweeted’ picture so continued to follow the instructions on the website which requires you to cut the final dough into squares, and bring together from the centre, placing into a well oiled muffin tray as above.

They need about 40 – 45 minutes, I had some extra dough left, had some placed on an oven tray beneath the one above and a couple of them went to far! Keep and eye on them for the last 10 or so minutes as you want them dark and sticky, but they can soon burn.

Give them a go, they were bloomin’ delicious!

This week involved a lot of travelling, Newbury to Solihull, then Leeds, then Norwich, then back to Newbury so a couple of overnights would be needed.

My stomach dictates when away from home and gives me the chance to experience new food and restaurants, this week it was to be Tharavadu in Leeds and The House of Thai in Norwich.

Tharavadu is a Kerelan restaurant, a style of cuisine I had not tried before, rich in coconut and spices, and absolutely delicious.

Photo 04-02-2015 20 37 09The starter I chose was Adipose Chemmeen, marinated Prawns served with a Lemon Chutney it was amazing, tingling the palate with lots of flavour, it set the scene quite nicely.

Mains were Kerala Khozi Curry, Mambazha Pulisshery, and a Paratha. I was too busy eating this delicious meal to take a picture, but it was very very tasty indeed.

Photo 04-02-2015 21 43 20Desert was a Semolina based dish, Pineapple Kesari, studded with raisins and cashew nuts it finished the meal nicely.

The wine choice was very good and reasonably priced, I went for a Trimbach Gerwurztraminer which countered the spicy meal perfectly. The service was excellent, attentive but not overbearing, and the restaurant was busy, busy busy, so book ahead if you fancy a culinary trip to Kerala, well recommended, please give it a go.

After Kerala, my next stop was Thailand, via House of Thai in Norwich!

I had been late arriving at both restaurants as traffic had been particular bad, but have to say VERY impressed at how accommodating both places were.

Starters at House of Thai were Tung Tong, or Golden Parcels, again an amazing starter, getting the taste buds ready for the main course.

Photo 05-02-2015 20 51 11The parcels are filled with a herb marinaded chicken and vegetable mixture, wrapped in a thin pastry and fried until crispy. Great starter…….yumm

Photo 05-02-2015 21 03 59I struggled picking a main, I have eaten Thai a few times and wanted to try and find something a bit different, so Pla Kra Pao was my choice of crispy Sea Bass with stir fried oyster sauce, served with fresh Thai Red Chillies, Coriander and Basil leaves. Thai Jasmine Rice worked with the Bass nicely it was very good value for money.

Desert was interesting as an iPad was used to show pictures of each of the dishes, a really good idea. Photo 05-02-2015 21 38 43Dessert was Banana based, and studded with Coconut, not too sweet but something I had not eaten before, very tasty and I forgot the write down the name. Wine to accompany was a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

The whole meal was very tasty, service was very good and unhurried (considering I was 45 minutes late!), another cracking experience, well worth a look out if you are venturing to Norwich add this to your must do list.

Thats it for now, until next time……….L8ers……..