Yeah, I know, I know… It just happens that it was one of my first posts and I was only beggining to learn the tricks of the trade (or blogging, to be precise). And it just went bonkers, the font went small all of a sudden and the photos disappeared. So here it is… restored to its former glory.
One of the drawbacks of having too many cookbooks (storage space aside) is the somewhat irritating fact that, having leafed through hundreds of recipes, when the moment of truth comes and I actually want to try some recipe I remember reading “somewhere”, for the life of me I cannot remember which cookbook it was from. This is how this recipe was born. After fruitlessly searching for the original recipe I made it my own. So here’s my version…
Pea and mint soup
knob of butter
1 tablespoon or so of plain flour
1 litre hot vegetable stock
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped (the smaller, the quicker they will cook)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
300g frozen peas
Melt the butter in a big pan and slowly fry the chopped carrots. (I parboil them to make the next step quicker but you don’t have to). Add the onions, leeks, celery and chopped garlic.
Once you’ve sweated them (make sure they don’t burn), add the flour. This is called soffritto and it’s an important step when making a soup because it brings together and intensifies all the flavours. You’ll see soffritto used in risotto bases, stocks, stews and sauces.
Add the stock (all in one go since we’re not making risotto here), and finally the frozen peas. Turn down the heat, bring to the boil, cover and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes. (By covering the pan, you’re making sure that the liquid doesn’t evaporate as quickly but even so, feel free to add more should you see the amount of liquid has reduced).
Finally, liquidize it with a blender in the same pan, or, failing that, transfer to a liquidizer. At the very last minute, add a generous bunch of chopped mint to the soup and serve immediately. I find this recipe incredibly versatile for, as long as you keep the proportion of peas higher than the rest of the vegetables, you can do it with pretty much anything you have in the fridge. It is also incredibly filling and one of the healthiest foods I’ve known. You can also freeze it to eat whenever the mood catches your fancy. I find it especially nice with a chunk of home-made banana and honey bread.
This was posted well before I started the catering course. And after a whole month learning to make all sort of breads I discovered that this bread recipe goes against all the rules for bread making. For one it has too many bananas. And bananas, as you probably know are very high in sugar. And too much sugar kills the yeast and if the yeast is dead then your bread won’t rise.
Yes, all that is true… And yet, somehow, this bread works. I don’t know why. Maybe it is a little sturdier than your average loaf and it does take longer to prove. But it does. And toasted with some soft butter spread on it while it’s still hot it’s a dream…
Banana and Honey Bread (adapted from a recipe from Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver)
1 x basic bread recipe (see below)
8 tablespoons good, runny honey
1 handful of almonds, cracked or chopped (optional)
First of all peel your bananas then puree them in a liquidizer or food processor. The mix will be surprisingly wet. Pour it into a measuring jug, then top up with water until you have 625 ml or just over 1 pint. (I didn’t need to as the banana goo was just about that amount. That means you might need to reduce the quantity slightly as you would still need some warm water to activate the yeast, otherwise your bread won’t rise). At stage 1 of the basic bread recipe, use this banana liquid instead of the water to flavour your bread and make it nice and chewy. Also add half the honey with the nuts to the dough at this point. Then continue through the basic recipe as normal.
At stage 5 divide the dough into 10 balls. Then pack these next to each other in a flour-dusted baking tin where they will prove together. Before putting in the oven drizzle generously with the rest of the honey so that the top of the bread will caramelize, going nice and golden. Bake in your preheated oven at 190°C/375°F/gas 5 for 20 minutes.
Basic Bread (also from Jamie)
1kg/just over 2lb strong bread flour
625ml/just over 1 pint tepid water
30g/1oz fresh yeast or 3 x 7g/¼ oz sachets dried yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 level tablespoons sea salt
extra flour for dusting
Pile the flour on to a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half your water into the well, then add your yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork.
Slowly, but confidently, bring in the flour from the inside of the well. (You don’t want to break the walls of the well, or the water will go everywhere.) Continue to bring the flour to the centre until you get a stodgy, porridgey consistency – then add the remaining water. Continue to mix until it’s stodgy again, then you can be more aggressive, bringing in all the flour, making the mix less sticky. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with all the remaining flour. (Certain flours need a little bit more or less water, so feel free to adjust.)
This is where you get stuck in. With a bit of elbow grease, simply push, fold, slap and roll the dough around, over and over, for 4 or 5 minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.
Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl, cover with clingfilm, and allow it to prove for about half an hour until doubled in size – ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place. This will improve the flavour and texture of your dough and it’s always exciting to know that the old yeast has kicked into action.
Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 seconds by bashing it and squashing it. You can now shape it or flavour it as required – folded, filled, tray-baked, whatever – and leave it to prove for a second time for 30 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size once more. This is the most important part, as the second prove will give it the air that finally ends up being cooked into your bread, giving you the really light, soft texture that we all love in fresh bread. So remember – don’t fiddle with it, just let it do its thing.
Very gently place your bread dough on to a flour-dusted baking tray and into a pre-heated oven. Don’t slam the door or you’ll lose the air that you need. Bake according to the time and temperature given with your chosen recipe. You can tell if it’s cooked by tapping its bottom – if it sounds hollow it’s done, if it doesn’t then pop it back in for a little longer. Once cooked, place on a rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes. Feel free to freeze any leftover bread, preferably sliced so that you can take it out as and when you need it.
A word of warning: replacing the water with the banana gooey mixture makes the dough incredibly dense and slow to work with. You will have to give it a really good bang and bash it with a vengeance to get it going because it just won’t come together. Also, don’t be tempted to add too much warm water to the mix because this, in turn, will make the dough too sticky and what you need here is a nice, elastic dough. Having said that, it’s delicious so just be patient because it’ll be worth it!