My breadmaker is redundant!

Image by Franka-in-London via Flickr

Whiling away a Saturday morning in Waterstone’s I picked up a book on bread making called ‘Dough’ by a guy I had never heard of – Richard Bertinet. Richard is a Breton-born breadmaker who now runs a baking and cookery school in Bath. I liked the book immediately and so put it on my Birthday wish list. The girls duly obliged (but couldn’t find a copy of Lizzie David’s ‘An Omelette & a Glass of Wine…) and I can honestly say this has changed my approach to making bead forever.

Richard’s style is – naturally – of the French school. There are several key differences in technique. Unlike the British approach to kneading and stretching (tiring – hence the appeal of the breadmaker!) the French style involves working with a much wetter dough to start with and a shorter kneading time. Critically, the bread is flipped and folded to incorporate as much air into the dough as possible – with NO additional flouring of the dough (or work surface) as you work it. To understand the technique either buy his book which comes with a great DVD where Richard demonstrates the making of baguettes or Google video demos on YouTube. (I haven’t seen Richard on YouTube but there are other French bakers demonstrating their craft.)

Do not be put off by the initial sloppiness of the dough as you start – once you get the knack of the lift – flip – smack and repeat the dough comes together into a lovely pliable silky finish in about 5 minutes. I’ve been experimenting for the last 2 weeks and it genuinely works. The bread is superb!

PS for an even simpler approach try the ‘no-knead bread’ technique shown here from

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Sign ‘o the times

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Popped into my local spice supplier today to re-stock on a few essentials (way cheaper than a supermarket, better choice and much bigger packages of spices & condiments). I asked where the fresh curry leaves were (they freeze really well) and the manageress explained they hadn’t had any frewsh supplies in for over a week – because of the ash…
I guess this will mean many of the Asian restauranteurs will be struggling with the same shortages. The limited supplies that are just beginning to make it to the markets (they buy at Spitalfields) are 3 – 4 times the usual price at wholesale. Tiem to ‘buy local’.

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A brunch classic from Mexico

Huevos Rancheros has been widely recognised as a classic hangover cure (see Rick Stein & others). For a relatively quick and tasty brunch/lunch it takes some beating – particularly if you feel the need a chilli kick!

My version is a slight adaptation of the classic recipe – and in this case the amount made served one (me) for lunch today. The recipe is very adaptable – you can include sliced peppers, celery if you have them. One variation uses oregano – which I tend to avoid in this version – and mushrooms would work. You’ll need the following:

Small heavy frying pan (omelette size is perfect) – get this on a low heat and glug in a good 3 tbsps. of olive oil.

Chopped red onion (about a 1/4). 1 red or green chilli – de-seeded if you must. Get these sweating in the pan. 3 ripe tomatoes or 1/2 tin, chopped. 3 small (cocktail sized) cooking chorizo cut into thick slices – chuck in the pan with the onion to get the chorizo flavours into the oil. Once the chorizo and onions have melded crush and drop in one garlic clove – let this sweat and then tip in the tomatoes. (At this point I include a dash of red wine or balsamic vinegar – gives it a sweet/sour hit – I’ll leave this up to you!) If you have any flat leaf parsley chop this roughly. Cover the pan and let it simmer for 5 mins – then carefully crack one fresh egg (or more if the occasions demands) and place it in the tomato and chorizo sauce. Cover and cook gently until the egg is set. Slide out onto a warmed flat bowl and eat with tortillas or whatever bread you have to hand (I like ciabatta rolls gently toasted and smothered in butter. To serve – salt the egg and pepper the tomato sauce – and splash on a few hits of tabasco for good measure!

Huevos Rancheros by Prestopronto

Huevos Rancheros by Prestopronto

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Qype: Bewl Water in Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge WellsSportLeisure Centres

I started fly fishing here after attending a one-day introductory course with my son. I can highly recommend the course – by the afternoon you are on the banks of the lake casting ‘fluff’ (flies without hooks).
I’ve been back with a mate for a couple of evening fishing sessions – if you trace the roads around the lake you can find car parks which are free and avoid any crowds.
Still no fish as yet…

Check out my review of Bewl Water – I am baldrick – on Qype

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Pappa al pomodoro

Fresh tomatoes, tinned tomatoes
Image by WordRidden via Flickr

I’ll admit it – I’ve seen this recipe in just about every italian cook-book I own and always skimmed over it giving it little consideration.(And I can’t believe I’m alone in this!)

It’s hardly surprising given the extremely basic nature of  the ingredients – but I have learned over the years that one of the great features of Italian cuisine is how damn delicious the most un-inspiring sounding dishes can be once tried (see my post on Pasta with anchovies for further proof).

The list of ingredients is full-on Italian peasant storecupboard – tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, bread and basil being the mainstay of this dish. I was motivated to try this today as a quick and easy lunch after reading Simon Hopkinson’s description of it in the brilliant ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’. I’m glad I did. Full credit to Mr Hopkinson for the recipe – which I have adapted here slightly. (I have included a dash of balsamic, sugar and used a can of chopped toms instead of fresh. The bread was some ‘ageing’ sourdough from my last baking.)

I urge you to try this – the texture is wonderful and the flavours much more dense and complex that you would expect – and it just has to be good for you. A comforting, invigorating dish – best served warm, not hot, and finished with a dressing of good virgin olive oil and shaved parmesan cheese.

Glug some good oil into a saucepan, make up a pint of chicken stock (cube is OK) and finely chop or crush 3 garlic cloves with salt. Warm the oil and gently stew the garlic in the saucepan until just golden. Tip in the tomatoes – they will splutter – and add a teaspoon of sugar, the chicken stock and a bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and leave it alone for 5 mins. while you deal with the bread.

2 thick slices of an old rustic bread (I guess a ciabatta would be OK – I used sourdough). Cut of the crusts, roughly dice and then add to the soup. Let it break down as the soup simmers (I used a potato masher to get the texture I wanted). What you’re after is a porridge like consistency verging on the loose side – not too stodgy. Let this blip away on a low simmer for 10 – 15 mins – while you get 2 big  soup bowls warmed up. Drizzle in a scant tablespoon of balsamic vinegar – season to taste – and tear up a good handful of fresh basil, tossed in at the last-minute.

Ladle into your bowls, drizzle with good virgin olive oil and shave over a few strips of parmesan with a vegetable peeler.


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Qype: Kirthon Restaurant in Tunbridge Wells

Solution of salt in water
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Tunbridge WellsEating & DrinkingRestaurantsIndian

We’ve been to the Kirthon after colleagues recommended it as doing the best takeaway in T Wells. After half a dozen visits this has become a firm favourite with Mrs Balders – and I have only been let down once (not including making the mistake of oredering the salted lassi – think thin yogurt, salt, salt, salt…).
A lovely option on a summer’s eve is to sit outside – great when the music festival is on – it gets really buzzy!

Check out my review of Kirthon Restaurant – I am baldrick – on Qype

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British Pie Week falls flat

Steak & Ale Pie
Image by StrudelMonkey via Flickr

As a HUGE advocate for that stalwart of the British diet I am a big pie enthusiast – so I was chuffed to discover we are slap bang in the middle of the ‘official’ British Pie Week ‘once more’ (so I missed the last one completely did I?).

The Twitterverse showed Tweets relating to the event were trending rapidly upwards full of enthusiastic Tweeps sharing their favourite pies and generally being ‘pro-pie’. All good stuff.

Finding the ‘official’ blog – which is sponsored by Jus Rol – I dived in expecting to find all manner of interesting information and recipes relating to our national pastry-topped treasures. What i found left me decidedly flat and – sorry Jus Rol – pretty disappointed. For starters, there wasn’t even a Twitter or Facebook link and nothing of any real interest to get my teeth into. Where are the juicy bits for me to take away and share with my foodie chums? No history – nothing relating to techniques and Chef’s favourites (OK there is a Pie Of the Week and the chef that created it, but that’s about all).

So all in all a really sad missed opportunity. Tip for next time lads – talk to those who are really enthusiastic about the subject and you’ll get huge support and maybe some useful advice (free!) on how to make something like this really take off within the online food communities.

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