Sunday, 29 January 2012

Yotam Ottolenghi's Suprise Tatin

Yotam Ottolenghi's Suprise Tatin
Yotam Ottolenghi's Suprise Tatin

Yotam Ottolenghi's cooking never fails to excite me. I look forward to reading his recipes in the Guardian each week and I have used his cookbook ‘Plenty’ for want of a better word, plenty of times!

Ottolenghi inspires me in the kitchen and has helped me be more and more creative with vegetarian food. The Vegetarian of course gives him credit too as he has had the pleasure of eating his dishes along the way.

This savoury Surprise Tatin is another great creation. The tomatoes are oven baked at a low heat giving the dish a sweet but slightly sour taste. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly this time, caramelising the onions separately instead of making a caramel base first. I also added capers for a salty crunch.

Not only does it look great but it tastes delicious too. Today I served it as the vegetarian option at a family party and was surprised to see that all the meat-eaters decided to have a slice  – good job I made double as everyone came back for seconds.

I managed to locate the recipe online and you can view it on the Telegraph website here. The recipe notes that you can use sun-blushed tomatoes but I really would recommend that you oven bake the tomatoes yourself.

Monday, 23 January 2012

It’s Farmhouse Breakfast Week – Shake Up Your Wake Up!

Spanish Tortilla

It’s Farmhouse Breakfast Week so Shake Up Your Wake Up! This campaign is all about showcasing the most important meal of the day to raise awareness of the health and nutritional benefits of breakfast.  The aim is to encourage consumers to enjoy a healthy balanced breakfast every day. 

Celebrating Farmhouse Breakfast Week is easy, there are events happening all across the country.  Why not visit your local Farmers’ Market, attend an open day at your local farm, or enjoy an all-day breakfast at your local café?

Farmhouse Breakfast Week provides a perfect opportunity to promote the wealth of wonderful breakfast produce on offer around the UK.  From butchers style bacon and sausages to speciality bread and cereals, there is a fantastic choice for everyone.

Breakfast is definitely my favourite meal of the day. On the weekend I always take time to prepare something delicious. This week I will set my alarm that little bit earlier and make the effort to fill my tummy before work.

Now then, I did cheat a little this morning (can anyone really get out of bed early on a Monday?), as I made this Spanish Tortilla yesterday. It was even tastier eating the left-overs and gave me the energy I needed to get through the usual Monday blues.
I used free-range oraganic eggs from TheGinger Pig and the potatoes are from a farm in Norfolk. 
Click here for my Spanish Tortilla recipe.
For more information on Farmhouse Breakfast Week click here.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Spinach and Chickpea Curry

Spinach and Chickpea Curry

With spinach and chickpeas as the main ingredient - this is a very nutritious curry. It is also extremely quick and easy to make.

Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side

400g cooked chickpeas
1 onion, grated
1inch ginger, peeled and grated
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1tsp cumin
1tsp ground coriander
300g spinach
Groundnut oil

Fry the onion, ginger, garlic in a little oil for a few minutes. Add the cumin and coriander for another minute.
Add the chickpeas and spinach to the pan with a splash of water. Season and cook until the spinach wilts.

Red Lentil Dhal

Red Lentil Dhal

This is a very simple dahl recipe that’s cheap and doesn’t take long to cook. The garam masala adds a delicious sweet taste to the red lentils. Dahl is a great accompaniment to most curries but can be eaten as a main too.

Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side

250g red lentils

1tsp turmeric

1 onion, grated

2 garlic cloves, grated

1cm ginger, grated

1tsp chilli flakes

1tsp garam masala

Groundnut oil

Put the lentils and turmeric in a pan and add water to cover with about an inch of water. Season and simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils are tender. The lentils soak up the water quite quickly so keep an eye on them and add more water if necessary.

Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a pan and cook the onion, garlic and chilli for a few minutes. Add the garam masala, and cook for a minute.

Stir the onion mix into the cooked lentils.

Serve with lemon rice and raita.

Lemon rice

Lemon Rice

Why have plain boiled basmati rice when you can have lemon rice instead?
Lemon rice is a delicious south Indian dish. The lemon zest gives a very refreshing and tangy flavour while the mustard seeds and cardamom pods add fragrance to the rice.

Serves: 2
200g basmati rice
400ml water
1tsp mustard seeds
4 cardamom pods, crushed
Zest of 1 lemon, juice of half
Groundnut oil
1tsp table salt

Heat a little oil in a pan, add the lemon zest, mustard seeds, cardamom pods and cook for a minute or until fragrant.

Stir in the rice, pour over the water and add the salt. Bring to the boil, stir well, turn down the heat and cover tightly. I usually use tin foil, a lid and if it still doesn’t seem secure enough I put weights on top too!

Cook on a low heat for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

Serve with a wedge of lemon each.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Fruit Slice – Bande Aux Fruits

Fruit Slice - Bande Aux Fruits

My mid-week treat. Why not treat yourself too?

Serves: 4

2 eggs
100g caster sugar
50g plain flour
10g custard powder
½ litre whole milk
A few drops vanilla essence
250g puff pastry
1tbsp apricot jam
Fruit topping of your choice

For the pastry:
Roll out the pastry until its about 1/2 cm thick and 35cm long.
Cut the pastry into a strip that’s about 12cm wide.
Place the pastry on a lightly oil baking tin.
Moisten the two edges with egg wash and lay two strips of 2cm wide pastry on top. Seal firmly and mark with the back of a knife.
Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork to stop it from rising in the oven.
Place in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 215 degrees.
Bake in the oven for 12-15minutes. Check the pastry half way and if the base has risen use a spatula to gently press it back down.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

For the Pastry Crème:
Whisk the eggs and caster sugar together until almost white. Mix in the flour, custard powder and vanilla essence.
Carefully heat the milk in a pan until a few bubbles rise to the surface then mix the milk into egg and flour mixture.
Return the mix to a clean pan and carefully heat stirring constantly until it turns into a thick custard.
Leave to cool slightly before spreading the pastry crème over the base of the puff pastry. Decorate with the fruits of your choice.

Finally, to seal everything together, make an apricot glaze by bringing to the boil the apricot jam and a little water to cover. Whilst still hot, brush the apricot glaze over the top of the fruit.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Fabulous Baker Brothers

The Fabulous Baker Brothers

The Fabulous Baker Brothers, Tom and Henry Herbert, are in high demand after their TV debut on Channel 4 last week.  Trending on twitter, and with articles popping up all over the web, everyone wants to know the secrets of the Fabulous Baker Brothers’ family, hidden at Hobbs House, Chipping Sodbury for the last five generations. 

And last night I managed to catch up with Tom Herbert, the baker, - in between his meetings in London and feeding his four hungry children at home.

The Fabulous Baker Brother Cookbook is due out this month and, in celebration, Tom is taking the kids to visit Headline publishing house, where all the magic happened. 

 “We’re even more excited about the book than the TV programme. Making the  show was fun - a lot was crammed in to a 30-minute slot. The book is much more our own. It’s essentially a baking book with the history of Hobbs House, my best baking recipes over the last ten years, and Henry’s eight years of cooking and butchery.”

Did the brothers argue about what to put in the book? “Surprisingly not! Everything happened so quickly, with the show being filmed at the same time. We actually worked well together.  I think it would have been more difficult to work with someone else.”

Tom’s baking career began at The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath, where he went on to teach bread-making. “I always wanted to convey what I was taught to others, show how it could be done in the home.” After many years working in the family business in Chipping Sodbury, Tom branched out with his bakery/bistro/café by the stream in Nailsworth, to help spread the message and teach people about bread.

“I wanted everything to centre round the dough table, with the kitchen and shop on either side. There are baking classes every few months when the whole place springs into life.”

What does he think about the mass-produced loaf and the rise in people avoiding bread altogether, claiming it makes them bloated?
“It’s no surprise that commercially produced bread can cause irritation. Cheap bread holds water, doesn’t cut well and shatters when it’s toasted. Bread has been devalued by this mechanical process. But avoiding a food type completely just makes no sense. Everyone should slow down, take their time and make their own. Freshly made bread tastes better, naturally keeps for longer and is easier to digest.”

And the Real Bread Campaign? Had he heard about that? “Yes I have! In fact I’m an ambassador for it.”
I told him that my father, Michael Bateman, started the original Sunday Times Real Bread Campaign in the 80s. And it turns out that Tom’s father, Trevor Herbert, baked the loaves that are pictured on the cover of the book!

At Hobbs House, what’s the most popular loaf? “The same as it’s always been - The Sherston Overnight loaf, a white bread with a crust that makes the best toast in the world. It’s been made the same since the 1920s, when yeast was so expensive, my great grandfather used half the amount  and left the dough to rise overnight. There’s a story about him sleeping on the dough bin and how it would wake him up when it was ready. They say that’s why there are so many of us!”

With time running out, there was one important question on my mind: What options are there for a vegetarian at The Fabulous Baker Brothers Bistro?
“All the breads are vegetarian, there are vegetarian sandwich options and always a vegetarian soup.” - prepared by Tom’s wife Anna (food editor, chef and blogger at She Shops Local).

But there’s no mention of vegetarian dishes on the Bistro’s main menu. A little embarrassed, Tom explains, “The Bistro is small with a simple menu of 3-4 starters and mains. So far we haven’t had a high demand for vegetarian options. In fact when there were vegetarian options on the menu they ended up going to waste.”
He quickly adds, “We’ll happily accommodate any vegetarian so please let us know when you book the table. We have a fantastic chef who will happily rustle up a veggie option. As the Bistro grows, so will the menu.”

I think, perhaps, I’ll go visit with the Vegetarian soon.

In the meantime, second installment on TV tomorrow night – can’t wait. Even more excited about having the book of their recipes in my kitchen!

And here are some Fabulous Baker Brother bread-making tips:

Knead the dough for 5 extra minutes. Bread needs energy to develop the gluten. The better it rises, the better the loaf – with no cracks and crumble.

Use a shower cap or similar to cover the dough tightly while it’s rising.

Keep the oven really hot to make an excellent loaf.  It varies with the loaf you are making but as a general rule, heat the oven to 240 degrees.

Add a cup of cold water to the hot oven as soon as the loaf goes in, creating steam like a sauna to get the crust really crunchy.

Use a baking stone to create better crust, lift and jump. It just makes it 5% better but you can really tell the difference.

Above all, use really good flour.

At this, Tom’s 5-year old daughter Josephine shouts out her favourite line from the TV show: “The better the flour, the better the loaf!”

The Fabulous Baker Brothers Cookbook: in trade on 19th January 2012, £20

The Fabulous Baker Brothers TV Programme:, airs Wednesday 8.30pm, Channel 4

Saturday, 7 January 2012

2012 Began in Berlin

Teuflesberg, Berlin
The Vegetarian and I decided on an impromptu trip to Berlin to see how our good friends Graeme and Alex had settled into their new lives there.

Perhaps New Year’s Day was not the best day to arrive as the city was sleeping after the celebrations. The weather was close to freezing with short bursts of rain throughout the week so a lot of our time was spent layering-up and de-layering as we walked around. 


One morning the sun came out for a few hours so we quickly jumped on a train to Teuflesberg (Devil’s Mountain) located in West Berlin. Teuflesberg is an artificial hill built out of the rubble that was left in the city after the Second World War. It is estimated to contain about 12 million cubic meters of rubble, which is the equivalent of 400,000 buildings!

Teuflesberg Listening Tower

In the late 1950s a listening post was built at the top of the hill for the West to listen in on Eastern bloc military traffic. The station stopped operating after the fall of the Berlin wall but the abandoned tower has become the hub for street artists from around the world.

Teuflesberg Street Art

Teuflesberg Abandoned Tower



Inside the big dome on top even the tiniest sound echoes – you’re aware of every noise you make – from a sigh to the sound of a violin. It’s an amazing experience, and on one side you can see the city of Berlin spreading in front of you and on the other there is an endless forest.

View From The Top Of Teuflesberg

On our way back to Berlin we were hungry and ready for lunch. I had missed the German markets in London this winter so was excited to be in the country itself and on a mission to find the best German sausage in town! But alas everything seemed to be shut after the New Year celebrations; also the three vegetarians I traveled with did not share my desire for meat. 

Evil Curry Weisser


Finally I stumbled across a fast food spot in Alexanderplatz, which sold the famous Curry Weisser (curry sausage) I had been told I had to try. It was not the delicious snack I had dreamed of and actually I couldn’t finish it; I was left feeling empty and a bit sick. I gave up on my search after this, fearing I would only be disappointed further.

Having eaten Italian, Indian and way too many sandwiches with salad cream (my least favourite condiment), I was determined to have a good meal before I left Berlin. Luckily we stumbled across Sauvage – A Paleolithic restaurant with a menu based on the dietary habits of our prehistoric ancestors. Sauvage doesn’t mimic how prehistoric man ate but uses the basic ingredients of Paleo cooking - vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, oils, nuts, seeds and herbs. All the ingredients come from organic farming or wildlife. Another term could be stone-age food – cooked without sugar, processed grains or milk.
The menu was simple with two meat dishes and one fish dish, and there was a vegetarian version for each. Not only did it satisfy my needs, the vegetarians were happy too.  

To start with we had an antipasti board with gluten-free garlic bread and goats cheese, garlic carrots and mushrooms, sauerkraut, rocket pesto, ginger paste, tomato and cucumber salad and gluten free crackers.
Sauvage Mushroom Pate
Sauvage Steak

For my main I had a steak cooked to perfection, red wine jus, celeriac mash, caramalised onions, capers, garlic carrots and salad.
The Vegetarian had the same but with a herb infused mushroom and roast nut pate and a chopped mushroom topping. The portions were plenty, leaving no room for a dessert.

All accompanied by a delicious glass of Pinot Noir and the evocative sounds of Edith Piaf.

I had a fantastic break in Berlin but sadly it ended with a horrendous cold. Luckily I discovered a German trick to help me get rid of it. Instead of the usual honey and lemon drink this version uses ginger aswell, creating a refreshing, fiery taste that wakes-up all those sleeping tastebuds.

Ginger, Lemon, Honey Drink

2inch ginger, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
1tbsp manuka honey
2 cups water

Place the ginger in a pan, cover with the water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Squeeze in the lemon and stir in the honey.

Pour through a strainer into mugs.

Optional: Make the drink even more refreshing by adding a few sprigs of fresh mint to each mug.