Savoury Bread Pudding topped with pancetta: Summer tastes in a new jacket

Summer’s gluts of courgettes (zucchini), tomatoes, and herbs deserve a new way to cook, and we’re not talking about messy barbecues here! Instead of a smoky bombshell why not try out a light and delicious bread pudding with a spoonful of tomato, olive and onion salad on the side?

Continue reading “Savoury Bread Pudding topped with pancetta: Summer tastes in a new jacket”

Friday night is Curry Night! Or, here is the mess within which I live

I realise that everyone doesn’t need to see the appalling mess which litters my desk, but there just isn’t time to make it pretty. In 10 minutes it’ll be eaten. Either by me, or, because I’m still baking na’an breads, by the dog if I lose focus. She has surreptitiously inched closer and is now directly below my dinner.

curry and homemade na'an (and a lot of mess)

The point is this: here is my curry. It was mega easy to make (and believe me, I know a thing or two about being terrified of a recipe). I shied away from making curry from scratch for a long time, and the first time I attempted it, I was actually 30. No other type of meal has been held off for so long in the history of Sakina.

Anyway, I’m too lazy and busy today to make a proper curry using the fabulous 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi, and neither do I have enough ingredients, so I cheated, and made a thoroughly unauthentic one, and you can too.

I’m gonna give you the curry instructions first, and the na’an bread ones second, because I have a feeling that the curry will be more likely to be made than the na’an (even though they are easier than making ordinary bread).

You will need:

Chicken breast x the number of people who are eating. Or more. I usually go for more.
2 x onions – one chopped, one sliced
Orange lentils
Yellow/red bell pepper
Your favourite curry paste
(I used Madras)
Olive oil

Chop the chicken into large bitesize pieces, and marinade in a tablespoon of curry paste and a few slugs of oil. I managed to do this several hours before dinner, so it worked very well, but that’s a rarity for me.

When you’re ready to cook, sling the onion into the bottom of a wide/large pan, with a few more slugs of oil, and fry on a low/med heat for ages. 10-15 minutes.

Wang some curry paste (how much depends on how hot you like it) into the pan, cook for about 30 seconds, and then heave a bunch of lentils in. I don’t know how many! Whatever you think. Err on the side of caution, is all, or you’ll be eating lentils for a fortnight.

Pour loads of water on top, bring to the boil, and simmer until the lentils are soft and cooked. I put a stock cube in for flavour and instead of salt, but it’s up to you.

I strung the pieces of chicken, alternated with chunks of yellow pepper onto some wooden skewers which I had hanging around since someone’s BBQ a few years ago, but you’re just as safe to bake them in a tray. Oven was at about 200 degrees C. (I wasn’t really paying attention).

When the lentils are cooked, if you have a handblender, knock yourself out – I don’t like it too smooth, just thick with texture. That’s why I sliced some of the onion.

When the chicken is cooked, unstring it into the curry, cook for a little longer, and away you go!

Homemade Na’an Breads

I got the recipe off a wicked little website called Aayi’s Recipes.

12oz plain or strong white breadflour
half tsp sugar
1 tsp dried yeast
3/4 tsp salt
2 tblsp plain yoghurt

120ml milk
3 tbsp water

Some nigella seeds (onion seeds)

Dissolve the salt and sugar into the water (needs to be slightly warmed), and add the yeast. Give it a whisk, stretch some cling film over the top of the container, and leave in a warm  place (I only gave it 5 minutes).

Mix the flour with all the other ingredients except for the onion seeds, and you’ll have a fabulous, bosom-soft bread dough. Knead that on a floury surface for a few minutes, and then stick it somewhere warm. Some brave people rise bread in the oven. I. Do. Not. Dare.

After the dough’s approximately doubled in size, heave it out, knock all the air out of it, cut it into half, then those pieces in half again, and roll out one of the pieces on a very floury surface. (BTW, the oven is now at 220 degrees C, for those who didn’t notice the sleight of hand there). If you have onion seeds, sprinkle them onto the floured surface. They’ll press in as you roll.

It doesn’t matter what shape the breads are, but they go quite easily into the tear shape that we’re used to seeing in supermarkets.

According to Aayi’s Recipes, it wants to be rolled out thicker than a chapati, and thinner than a paratha. Just play with it, experiment. I did.

Onto a hot baking tray, into the oven, and see what happens. They’re supposed to ‘puff up’. My first one was like a rugby ball, but the others puffed up randomly.

They stay in the oven for almost 7 minutes; just before then, get it out, turn it over, pour olive oil or garlic butter over it, and heave it back in again.

They’re ready when they look like na’an bread. This can happen for you.

And finally …

No one really needs a recipe for a salad, but cachumba is ace with curry. All I do is dice some cucumber really small, and half a red onion, mix the two together and add a couple of teaspoons of mint sauce. Give it all a good mix.

Heavenly Ham Sandwich

I know I’m bragging. I know I shouldn’t. But I made the best cooked ham ever last night and I have to show it off. See it here in a tiny ham and piccallili sandwich.

Sharp, salty, acidic with the vinegar, and its background of vegetables and cider lends a savoury depth. Plus the butter and white bread combination, a guaranteed win.

Piccallili by Mum.

Food I Grew Up Eating: Mum’s Cheese Pudding

Looking back to childhood and teenagerdom, there are ordinary meals that shout out to  be remembered; those I remember with no pomp and glory; oh yes, countless glorious roast dinners and fruit pies and crumbles, but the ones to which I refer are every day foods that were eaten often and enjoyed a great deal.

The cheese flan at primary school, orangey-yellow, with so much cadmium oiliness that if you pressed your knife into the top, a shallow tide would envelop the steel surface.

Lentils and rice. The boys said they now hate lentils and rice because it used to make them feel like we were ‘poor people’, but I love daal and eat it often and in accompaniment with curry.

Chicken and almond sauce. Alas, the almond sauce recipe now lost in memoriam, but soon to be resurrected (watch this space).

Welsh Rarebit; bread toasted on one side… the other clothed thickly in grated cheese mixed with beaten egg. Nice with the modern twist of wholegrain mustard swirled within, but the old version was lovely.

Haggis, black pudding and brawn. Offal? Moi? HELL YEAH!

And mum’s cheese pudding. Simple as ever, easy to adulterate with leeks or chilli but wonderful just as is. Best with beans for understated comfort glory, but more grown up with a green salad and spinach.

Cheese Pudding
Baking Dish / Casserole Dish.
Something deep enough and not too big.
Large chunk of bread/3-4 slices of plastic bread (one of the only recipes where plastic bread sludge doesn’t matter) and turn it into breadcrumbs. You want enough to make breadcrumbs that fill the baking dish you’re using.
If you’re using plastic bread, toast first, make breadcrumbs later.
Medium-sized chunk of cheese. Has to be cheddar, really, although any hardish melty cheese will work.
2 or 3 eggs, beaten with about 300ml milk

Turn out the breadcrumbs into a large bowl, add a couple of pinches of salt, mix in the grated cheese and the beaten egg and milk and squill it together with your fingers until it is a stiffish dough.

Grease the casserole dish (oil is easiest, butter is best) and turn out the dough in a big lump. Press it to cover the dish, leaving the surface nice and bumpy.

Pop into a 180 deg C preheated oven for about 30 mins until the top is nice and browned.

The picture looks ridiculous, but honestly, I just wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the full browned glory that was.
This is all that was left (also goes well with ketchup).

All that was left.... Magpie just wasn't quick enough



A Note to Bread Lovers:

Mentioned in an earlier post, the More? Bakery which is located in a small village outside Kendal has award-winning, stunning bread. One of their creations is a sourdough called Montezuma’s Revenge, presumably because it resembles a volcano with a lava flow crust of cheese rising from its centre. It also contains garlic cloves roasted inside the bread.

Sourdough is a simple but drawn out method of baking bread, a wonderful light bread that can be made from the same ‘starter’ over and over. It’s a great sandwich bread (doorstops only), being firm yet springy but Montezuma’s Revenge is just too special for sandwiches. It yearns to be ripped apart, still warm and devoured, sludgy with butter and high with the aromas of smoky garlic and toasted cheese.

Now, sourdough is wonderful, but breadmaking takes long enough as is. Having observed how the cheese sprang from the bread, I went straight home and made a Magpie Montezuma, not quite the same, but magnificent nonetheless.

Following the usual bread recipe up to the second rising and making loaves, not buns: Cut a cross into the loaf, about as deep as two-thirds the depth, almost an inch from the edges.

Cut a cross in the dough. It will widen out as it rises the second time.

Leave it to rise for its second session under a clean tea towel. When it’s twice its original size, the cross will have widened to a four pointed star, leaving a deep crevice in which to grate a serious amount of cheese (preferably emmental but cheddar will do).

Peel four (or more) garlic cloves and push them into the spaces between the points (see diagram), just making a tunnel with each clove, rather than squashing the dough.

Garlic and Cheese Dispersal

Grating the cheese all over the top of the bread is the general idea.

Cheese n Garlic Joy about to happen....

Stick it in the already preheated oven (200deg C) for 30-40 mins and smell for the moment when it’s time to rescue it. The lovely warm bread smell starts to become slightly acrid; but that’s in this kitchen and it could be different for other people.

Baked cheese n garlic joy

Eat and be happy.

***A note to commonsense: making buns may seem like a good idea at the time, but you can chow through a lot of cheese that way***


A Lesson in Following Recipes… or, Disaster Strikes in Coffee Pudding Fiasco! is a varied food blog with a lot of different writers. It has a very American style and a good mix of people who write on it. Serious Eats is a bit more classy (has a beautiful foodporn page, too).  There are some foods and recipes on there that seem quite foreign to Magpie’s limited view and the urge to try them out grew too much this afternoon.

Alas, Magpie’s greed tends to interfere with her cooking.

The Thai Coffee Bread Pudding looks completely fabulous on the image. The imaginary mouthfeel is distinctly present at the front of the hard palate and curious to see if it would turn out, Magpie converted the quantities and halved them. (The recipe serves 8-10 people!) The temperature throughout was 160deg C which was surprising. I have been baking bread&butter pudding in too high a heat for years!

Two bread buns (oven baked, not steam – crusty bread unless a sweet one), cubed, weighed in at about 6oz. Dry them out in the 160deg C oven for about 10 mins and stick them in the baking dish you’re going to use.

Heat the required and STIPULATED quantity of coffee powder (that is, 3 tblsps) in 360ml milk (more on this later) till dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together:
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg

less than 1 teaspoon (tsp) each of cardamon and cinnamon.
120g light brown sugar

Whisk into the above mixture:
the coffee milk
200ml condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

Pour over the bread into the baking dish and leave to soak for at least 20 minutes.

Paint 2oz melted butter over the top of the pudding, sprinkle it with white sugar and place in the oven for 30-40 mins. The idea is to eat it with orange zesty chantilly cream.

Unfortunately as you’ve probably guessed, Magpie thought the coffee taste wouldn’t be strong enough (having an odious view of freeze dried coffee granules), so dumped an extra 2-4 (can’t even remember, so stupid an idea it was) tablespoons of coffee into the milk.
It may not have been the £4 espresso powder stipulated, but it sure was strong. The look on Himself’s face as he consumed the first spoonfuls was the same one you’d expect accompanying a mouthful of lemons! The overload of coffee made it bitter, despite the dish’s aspirations to be a sweet, rich pudding. What a shame.

Always encouraging, Himself allocated a score of 9 out of 10 for effort and what Magpie suspected was a very generous 4/10 for ‘taste’.

It looked really lovely though.

The Food of Life

Bread might be the staff of life, but how many of us know how to make it for ourselves?

Turning 30 three years ago gave Magpie a new passion for bread, never felt before. She put it down to hormones; despite growing up in a household of breadmakers, she had never known the passion until then. Surrounded as we are by all manner of breads, from the steam baked, chemical filled crap, to the wonderful artisan breads by local bakers such as Patrick Moore, it doesn’t seem possible that we could create such indulgence for ourselves. But anyone who has ever tried to sell a difficult house should be able to pay testament to the selling properties of freshly baked bread.

It is excellently simple. Skill, of course, must be involved, but the techniques are so straightforward that a beginner can still get good results from the start.

Take 1lb (500g ish) of STRONG white bread flour.
Add 3 teaspoons of salt.

Using a litre sized bowl or measuring jug, add 1 dessertspoon (15g) sugar and fill it with enough warm water to dissolve the granules. Cool it to blood temperature. The way to tell this is to dip your finger in. When you can’t feel the water – neither warmer or cooler than your finger – you have the temperature just right.  You want about 600-800mls water. Different flours absorb it in differing ratios, so you just have to test it out as you go.

Using fresh yeast (Magpie HATES dried yeast, but it does work, so if that’s what you have, follow their instructions. Fresh yeast in the UK can be bought from Morrisons for about 50p and if in Tesco, you can ask the folks in the bakery and they might give you some for nothing)  take a piece about 1cm squared – a little more is fine; you want it to rise – and crumble it into the cooled sugar water. Stir with a spoon until dissolved.

Wrap the top of the receptacle in cling film and place in a warmish location for 30 mins. You should find it bubbling infinitesimally gently which will tell you the yeast is live. If you can’t see anything, lay your ear over the mouth of the jug. If you can’t hear fizzing, your yeast is dead. If you can…

…stir it up and pour some into the bowl of flour with an accompanying glug of oil. Sunflower, olive, whatever takes your fancy. Traditionalists might prefer butter, but this is altogether easier.  Stir with a table knife. You want the dough to be claggy without being sticky. Add more if it is dry, but not too much at a time. Not an easy judgement to make but one that comes better with practice. In the early stages, less has to be more. (More creates a loose dough that is hard to knead and impossible to control).

When you have a dough that can be handled, dump it onto a floured surface and knead for at least 8 minutes to get the glutens rolling. KNEAD, don’t TEAR. Tearing is bad. You are looking to stretch the dough.

When your dough is the same consistency of a voluptuous woman’s breasts, then you can leave it to rise for the first time. Best way is to put it straight back into the bowl with a damp, clean tea towel covering the bowl. This keeps the dough moist and if the dog stands in it (a paw print has been found before now), it doesn’t really matter.

When the dough has doubled in size (in a warm place, this should take about an hour; in a cooler one, up to three), dump it out onto the surface again and knock all the air out of it with more kneading action.
Using a blunt table knife, cut the dough approximately in half, then half again and half again. You should get about 8 ‘buns’ out of 1lb flour.  Roll them up into even-sized balls and place on a baking tray.

Cover with the cloth again, leave to rise to double one more time and then put the oven on to 200 deg C.

Place in the oven, mid-shelf, between 20-30mins.

How do you know it is baked? Turn your buns over and tap them on their flat bums. If the tap sounds hollow, you’ve got a baked bun.

Lashings of butter on warm buns, with or without cheese, nutella, peanut butter or jam makes these babies more worthy of adulation and worship than any chemical, long life creation from the supermarket.

NOTE: Oven baked bread also makes the best breadcrumbs (once stale), the best addition to homemade burgers and the world’s greatest stuffing. Plastic bread yields slime in all these uses, but home baked is the original and best.

NOTE 2: If you accidentally leave out the oil, it isn’t a disaster. The buns will be a little drier and they won’t keep as long.

One fat magpie signing off.