Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Scones they're not that hard

I went a bit scone mad at the weekend. I had a craving for some warm mellow stodgyness and decided to learn how to make scones myself. I discovered that it's incredibly easy to do, much easier than making bread or pastry.

I had a look in the old dusty Delia book and also found this recipe on the BBC website. I'm not going to bother putting the full quantities and method up here so check the link for guidelines if you want to make them. I'm not a fan of long drawn out methodical recipes. That's not how I roll.

A scone essentially is butter, self raising flour, caster sugar and milk. The butter is rubbed into the flour until it looks breadcrumby then the sugar is mixed in. I also added some sultanas, salt and a teaspoon of baking powder to help the raising. Milk is added a bit at a time while mixing it in with a knife or spoon then you can then get your hands in there and give it all a good mix.

The scone mixture should be quite soft and wetter than bread dough. Have a look at this Youtube video to get an idea for the consistency but don't pay too much attention to the recipe and the cooking method as the scones the lady makes look a bit giant and gruesome. I prefer my scones a bit smaller.

Once you've got your dough it has to be cut into scones. This part of the process can affect how the scones rise. The video shows a good way to form the dough and cut the scones out. You do not want to roll the mixture it's better to form the dough with your hands before cutting. Make sure you don't push it flatter than 1 inch. To cut use a pastry cutter and push straight down with one movement. Don't twist because if you do the scones will rise with a kink. However as you're making them yourself you are bound to knock and twist them accidentally as you push them out of the cutter and it's these happy accidents that will make them rise to look all pretty and homemade.

They don't take long to cook about 10-15 minutes in a hot oven. Put them on a cooling rack but eat them as soon as they are hot enough to touch as it was while at this stage I had my scone epiphany.

When you buy scones from the shop not only are they expensive they also have to be heated to get the desired butter melting heat. You can either toast your store bought scones of stick them in the oven. Either way you are going to dry your scones out and they've already sat in a shop for a few days. When you bake your own scones however you can eat the fresh from the oven. This means their own heat melts the butter into them. They are fresh and delicious, stodgy and light all at the same time.

I had these with some cream and damson jam.

As one batch was not enough to satiate my scone fever so I made some more but this time without sugar or sultanas but with cheddar cheese.

These went perfect with my signature breakfast dish: creamy and decent scrambled eggs. That reminds me actually I better post them up soon as there's too many people in this world eating badly made scrambled eggs.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Punk Donuts and Meerkat Pie

My friend Ben travelled up this week and made some donuts for his girlfriend Ella's birthday. He made the dough and fried the donuts at the restaurant he works in and made four different fillings for them: creme anglais (posh word for custard), jam, chocolate custard and lemon curd. Ben didn't have time unfortunately to put the filling in to the donuts and that's where the punk bit comes in.

On a busy commuter train Ben managed to get a seat on one of those tables they have. He was sharing the table with three other passengers but that didn't stopping him covering the table with twenty or so donuts, four tubs of fillings, piping bags and all the other bits you need to fill donuts. His fellow passengers didn't seem to mind as they were bewildered and transfixed by the donut assemblage. Ben's biggest worry was that the train staff would kick him for making such a mess with cream, jam, greasy sugar and donut crumbs.

Ben done a brilliant job of getting the fillings into the donuts and I've never eaten donuts which such a volume of filling. The custard and chocolate custard were my favourites and Ben managed to get enough custard in that it burst and squirted out on your first bite.

I made a meerkat pie to eat before we had the donuts. It didn't actually have meerkat in it. It was the same vegetarian filling as this one. I just made the pastry look like some meerkats.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Making My Own Houmous

I eat a lot of houmous these days and I think generally everybody does. You probably don't even realise how much you eat. It's a multi-purpose food stuff that can be used as a condiment or as a small meal on it's own with some suitable bread. You could easily whack some in a burger or sandwich or have it on the side of your plate with some posh olives and meat.

It's also suppose to be healthy. It's suppose to be something good you can eat loads of and not feel guilty. You can actually be a bit of a prick about it and gloat over people who snack on bacon sandwiches and sausage rolls while you stick to you houmous and pitta. The bottom line is it tastes good and you can eat loads of it without feeling sick and it tastes goes with a lot of other flavours easily.

I've been eating so much of it for so long now I thought it time to make it myself and it's actually really easy to make.

is made from chickpeas blended with tahini (sesame seed pulp) which is then flavoured with garlic and lemon juice.

I decided to choose dried chickpeas and cook them myself instead of using tinned ones. You have to soak them overnight before you cook them. I took this picture to illustrate why as they need to swell up with the water before they can be cooked. For the same price as a tin of ready cooked chickpeas you can by a bag of dried ones which will make as much as ten cans when cooked. They do take a bit of time to cooked. They have to go in a pan with plenty of water and need to be boiled rapidly first for ten minutes and then need boiling gently for about two hours until they are nice and soft . Make sure the pan does not boil dry or you will burn the chickpeas. Once cooked they need to be cooled before they can transcend into houmous.

I used a blender to process the chickpeas which wasn't ideal. Everything got caked round the edges and I had to scrape the houmous out with spoons after. When it was going a bit cloggy a added olive oil to grease it up. If you've got on of those magimix things it's going to be a lot easier to make.

I've made this a few times and I think a good ratio of houmous to tahini is when just under a third is tahini but your going to want to experiment and taste as you blend them together. I try to get the tahini/ chickpea mix right before adding anything else. Tahini can taste a bit foul and bitter on it's own but if the houmous doesn't have enough it doesn't really have any depth of flavour. I add a load of decent olive oil, three good size crushed garlic cloves and the juice of a medium sized lemon and then it's done.

The first thing I noticed about home made houmous is the consistency. It much chunkier and drier than store bought stuff. I'm sure they bulk it out with water to to make it go further. The second thing I noticed is that homemade houmous tastes much better. Most bought houmous uses powdered garlic instead of real garlic and citric acid instead of lemon juice where my homemade uses real ingredients and is proper lush.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Better BBQing through Chemistry

We love barbeque's here at Bags Of Flavour as older posts will attest, here are some tips via the world of science to improve your grilling technique.
"Unfortunately, if you ask the [food] safety people they'll tell you to cremate everything," said Shirley Corriher, a food chemist and cookbook author from Atlanta. Meats should be cooked long enough to kill bacteria, she noted, but they don't need to be cooked beyond medium to be truly safe. For one thing, carcinogenic chemicals called heterocyclic amines form when creatine -- a substance found in muscle tissue -- reacts at high temperatures with amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The amount of HCAs formed in grilled meats typically triples if meats are cooked well done rather than medium well, she noted.

As someone who likes his steak and lamb chops pink and juicy and not grey and over done I'm stuck with the food safety killjoys on one side and cancer on the other :-(


Thursday, 13 August 2009

Thailand: Western Food

One of the best things about going abroad is the weird appropriations of western food. Some may wish they didn't pander to the squeamish traveller unwilling to try foreign things. I however enjoy the surreal take on European favourites.

I've never eaten schnitzel as sanctioned by a proper German person or establishment. I have however eaten schnitzel in Thailand and I loved it. Thai breadcrumbs, batter and oil are fresh and the meat was quite light compared to the fabricated idea in my mind of what real German schnitzel tastes like.

AMENDMENT March 2011: I have been to Berlin now and eaten properly sanctioned German schnitzel. I have to report that my previous prediction was right and Thai schnitzel is better.

Here's a veggie burger. Look closely and you will see slices of carrots under the mayonaisse. If you can't get gerkin why not?

I did chuck the carrot out everytime I had a burger. It's wasn't that good either. Too much potato and sesame seeds were in the pattie not on the bun.

Breakfast is a good time to go exploring the oddities on the menu such as the Colombian eggs below. Now I'm not an expert of Central Amercian cuisine so correct me of I'm wrong but I'm sure Colombian eggs are not badly overcooked scrambled eggs cooked with a reduced tin of tomatoes.

The most surreal Western food I ordered was the humble sausage. Now if you've never seen a sausage before and you were use to eating decent fresh tropical fruit and seafood you would probably think a small oblong sack of mince meat was a odd thing to put in your body. So why not strategically cut it with a knife so it looks like a piece of squid?

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Eggy in the Basket

I watched the movie of V for Vendetta recently. Twice in the film two characters cook this dish called Eggy in the Basket for breakfast. I didn't see this when I read V for Vendetta so I've done some research.

When the Wackowski's and Joel Silver were busy rewriting Alan Moore's masterpiece of literature they couldn't be bothered to actually do some research into what people eat for breakfast in England and just got an American dish and gave it a quaint name therefore Eggy in the basket was born.

It's an odd way to cook an egg but it's alright. I cut a circle out of the bread using a pastry cutter and spread butter on both sides of the slice.

I chucked the bread in a hot frying pan and put a little bit of butter in the hole. As soon as the butter melted I broke an egg into the hole. It only takes a minute of frying until you need to flip, once flipped over the egg cooks in seconds.

It's quite a good lazy way to cook an egg half decent. I don't really like solo fried eggs as the whites are too rubbery. Frying the egg in a piece of bread means a good proportion of the white becomes eggy bread so you've got a decent ratio of delicious yolk to boring white. It ain't got nothing on scrambling, poaching, baking or boiling though.


Saw this on the Passive Aggressive notes blog and thought it was funny.

When you go out with a vegetarian you find things like this funny.

Canadian Maple Syrup Cream Biscuits

I'm a bit Canadian. My Mothers Father was Canadian and met my Nan when he was stationed in London during World War II. My Mum for the first time visited Canada a few weeks ago. She met the Canadian side of the family and also brought me and my brother everything in the souvenir shop.

I got a Canadian hat, t-shirt, pencils, socks, zip pullers(?), mug, magnetic thermometer and some maple syrup cream biscuits.

I like maple syrup it's good and strong and brilliant on bacon. The cream biscuits have a strong flavour too. However it's not really maple syrup it's more like sugary grass cuttings. Like eating a Happy Shopper custard cream with you head in the grass catcher of a Flymo Hovermover. They are revolting. No one who has tried so far can finish one. They did however bring back nostagic memories of lawnmovers and cutting the grass on a hot summers day. I rekon they could also bring on a bout of hayfever if you ate enough.

My lucky brother didn't get the biscuits. He got a collection of flavoured wood (hickory, cherry etc) to flavour meat on the barbecue. Not to be ungrateful but I would have liked some of that.

Since her journey to the Father land my Mother has also erected a flag pole with the Canadian flag outside of my parents house on the Isle of Sheppey.