It’s Hestontastic!

Strangely, I don’t think my good lady actually thought I’d attempt to make any of the actual recipes when she bought me a copy of Heston Blumenthal‘s “Further Adventures in Search of Perfection” for Christmas last year. Sometimes I worry about how little she appears to know me. A chili con carne recipe which takes three days to prepare is exactly the sort of challenge I’m practically incapable of resisting. A black forest gateau that requires the use of a hoover? I say “bring it on!”

I do intend to have a crack at those ones, but I thought I’d ease my way in with the Bolognese recipe from “In Search of Perfection,” which takes a mere ten hours to prepare and requires no special tools.

We invited round two friends whom we have cause to thank and don’t see nearly enough of, and I gave it my best shot. Here’s the maestro himself, explaining how it’s done:

In the interests of honesty, here are the things I did differently:

  • My good lady is allergic to celery, so I took it out;
  • Every butcher I tried practically laughed in my face when I asked for minced ox tail, so I used good steak mince;
  • I don’t hold with serving a meat sauce with spaghetti, so I used pappardelle (thick ribbons);
  • I also served it with some particularly good garlic bread of my own devising.

I should also point that the video is missing a couple of minor steps. If you want to actually make it, I recommend buying the book. If you have no desire to make it whatsoever, I recommend buying the book. Both books. They are fascinating reads. If you can’t read, I recommend buying the book. It also has good pictures. I’m a little confused if that’s the case, though.

At this point you’re probably wondering if the sauce is good enough to warrant the expenditure of an entire day to make it? In short: yes. Abso-fucking-lutely. It was amazing. Will I make it again? Probably, though certainly not often. I might make it sometime when my good lady isn’t in town and I can include the celery without the risk of her death (the sauce is not quite that good). Perhaps I’ll even try begging and pleading with one of the local butchers to get some minced ox tail or a better substitute.

What I will definitely do is use some of the individual techniques. The tomato base may well become a sauce for meatballs, and the caramelized onions will almost certainly get used in a gravy or two.

Across the entire of both books are sixteen recipes. One down.

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It Burns!

Tonight is burns night. This, in case you are unsure, is the annual celebration of the Rabbie “The Baird” Burns and his works. The traditional food to be eaten on this occasion is haggis, neeps and tatties. Unfortunately I’m not much of a fan of my adopted nation’s national dish. Happily, there’s a vegetarian alternative available and it’s damn tasty.

Previous years have involved me working at The Edinburgh University Jewish Society’s annual Rabbi Burns Ball* and getting together with groups of friends of various sizes. This year was just a quiet one in the flat with my good lady, however. We did make the food a little fancy, however:

Picture stolen from previously mentioned good lady’s blog.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve just remembered that I’m also supposed to have a whisky.

* Boom boom!

It Kneads the Dough

Update: Used a link instead of an embedded video.

I like bread. I like it lot. So I was quite please when my parents gave me there bread machine and associated recipe book a couple of years ago. Their reasoning was (believe it or not) that I was the only one actually able to make bread with it. Their own attempts closely resembled articles suitable for construction, rather than ones suitable for mastication.

So I’ve used it on and off since then. Sometimes the bread was good (the sweet potato bread, for example, is awesome), sometimes it was bad (chick pea bread: no, no, no). Just lately I’ve been using it with renewed vigour, since I’ve resolved to avoid mass produced bread. Why (you might ask)? The short answer is that the methods used are damaging to the environment, in some respects the economy, and also to the digestive tract of the person who consumes it (which in my case would be me). The long answer is:

HERE

Out of curiosity I decided to have a crack at the San Francisco sour dough recipe in the book. This takes about a week to make in total, uses no yeast (none that you add, anyway), and only uses the machine for the kneading and some of the mixing.

On the whole I’m not that impressed with it. I don’t actually know what sour dough is supposed to taste like (oops), but this one doesn’t taste that great and didn’t rise very well. That last one could be my fault, since I definitely messed up some of the timing.

Ahem.

Usually with a bread machine, the timing goes something like this:

  1. Put ingredients in the machine and push go.
  2. Wait a couple of hours (about four in the case of my machine, depending on the recipe).
  3. Remove bread from machine.

That, you see, is the brilliance of it. It’s very simple and requires a distinct lack of effort on your part (aside from a scrupulous accuracy in the measurements). With the sour dough it’s more like this:

  1. Mix some stuff in a bowl.
  2. Wait three days.
  3. Add some stuff to the bowl.
  4. Wait two days.
  5. Add some more stuff to the bowl.
  6. Wait twelve hours.
  7. Put the contents of the bowl and some other things in the machine and push go on the dough setting.
  8. Wait the time it take to start mixing plus ten minutes.
  9. Turn off the machine.
  10. Wait eight hours.
  11. Add some more stuff to the machine
  12. Run an complete dough cycle (about two hours).
  13. Take the dough out of the machine and knock it back.
  14. Wait two hours.
  15. Put it in the oven.
  16. Wait twenty-five minutes.
  17. Turn the oven down.
  18. Wait ten minutes.
  19. Remove bread from the oven.

Couple this small amount of added complexity with the fact that I discovered I was missing a key ingredient around step 11 (which due to the timing was at 6 am)*, what you end up with is a near complete loss of the simplicity, an inferior product, and a dirty flappy paddle bread tin thing which is even harder to wash than it would have been if you’d actually baked the bread in it.

The point, in case you were starting to doubt that I had one, is that from now on I shall only be making relatively simple breads in the machine (and they can bloody well cook in there, as well). For fancier, more exciting breads I think I may well tread the same path as Dougal (who pointed me in the direction of the above video), buy myself a copy of this and prepare to get my hands dirty.

* Erm… and fell asleep for an hour too long around step 14.