Sunday, 16 November 2008

Olive and Parmesan Bread

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I had my first dinner party since moving into my flat last night. Just a lovely, informal night with six friends, good food, some G&Ts and plenty of wine. As my friend J. wasn't too sure what time he'd arrive, due to be on putting-the-kids-to-bed-duty, I wanted to cook something that I could pretty much make ahead and then finish when everyone got here. I decided on making a lasgane and bake some bread to go with it, as I could get everything done in the morning and just had to quickly make a bechamel sauce to pour over the top, sprinkle it with cheese and stick it in the oven. Pudding, in the form of a wonderful Eaton Mess, was provided by my friend E. and B. brought a great salad along.

I dare say that everyone enjoyed themselves and the food and it wasn't until about 2.45am that I was facing mountains of dishes. When I woke up this morning I'm glad I did clean up before I went to bed, even though at the time I would have given anything for a dish washer!

The bread was supposed to be a ring, with olive and parmesan swirls running through it, but I must have kneeded so much air into it that it just kept on rising and the hole that I had left in the middle, was soon taken over by the ever expaning dough. It was lovely and fluffy as a result though. I bet it also would work great with crisp bacon and onions, fried mushrooms and herbs, or peppadew peppers.


Olive and Parmesan Bread

5 1/2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt 5 1/2-6 cups flour

1 cup kalmata olives, pitted and chopped
3/4 cup parmegiano regiano, grated
milk, for brushing

Measure the flour into a large bowl and make a deep well in the middle.

Carefilly pour the warm water into the well, and add the sugar and dried yeast to the water. Give it a stir, without collapsing the well. (A bit of the flour will 'fall in', but that is fine.)

Cover and put in a warm place. Allow the yeast to proof, it'll be ready when the surface has gone all frothy, it should take about 10-15 minutes.

Add the olive oil and salt and using your hands mix everything together until you get a dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed for about 5-8 minutes. If the dough is too sticky to handle properly and keeps sticking to the counter, you might want to add a little more flour, one heaped tbsp at a time.

Once finished with kneeding place the dough into an oiled bowl and make sure it gets coated with a little oil all round.

Cover and leave it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This usually takes somewhere between 45-60 minutes.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface again. Roll it out into a large rectangle about 3/4 inch thick.

Sprinkle with the chopped olives and 1/2 cup of parmesan, or whatever your filling of choice is.

Roll up from the long side of the rectangle, swiss roll style, and place onto a baking tray. You can bring the ends together and form a ring, or leave the bread in a log shape.

Cover with a clean tea towel and put in a warm place again for a final rise, approx 30 minutes.

In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 180C/Gas 4.

Brush your risen loaf with a little milk and sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan before placing it in the oven for about 40-45 minutes. The loaf will be done when the top is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.


I baked this bread not just because my friends were coming round, but also because the lovely Rosie from Rosie Bakes a 'Peace' of Cake, tagged me for a cause that is well worthy of support.

Breadline Africa is a registered charity in South Africa that is seeking to put an end to poverty in South Africa and further afield in Africa. Their aim is to break the cycle of poverty and help communities to achieve long term self-sustainability. Breadline Africa was founded in 1993 by social workers and communities in South Africa with minded colleagues in Europe, (who were well placed to source out donations). They are geared to help fund small ground level projects in Africa which are most likely to succeed with financial help.

On Blog Action Day Breadline Africa launched their Worldwide Blogger Bake-Off campaign. The aim is to raise $1 million in funds for a project to convert shipping containers into locations for food production and distribution in Africa. It is hoped that these sustainable community kitchens will not only provide food such as bread and soup to those in need, but also opportunities for skills development within poor communities.


Bloggers can download the Blogger Bake off widget and tag five other bloggers to do the same.

I hope my five chosen people, don't mind being tagged for this, I know you like a challenge:

Marie from A Year at Oak Cottage
Jan from What do I want to Cook Today
Nic from Cherrapeno
Sam from Antics of a Cycling Cook
Fiona from A Cottage Smallholder


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Lentil and Potato Soup with Kielbasa Tuchowska

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I don't know how it is happening, but every night I seem to get home later and later. So, it's quick dinners for me and there have been a few nights now, where I have resorted to beans on toast and similar meals to just quickly fill the hole in my stomach. I know there are better ways and when I saw Marie over at A Year at Oak Cottage posted her recipe for Lentil and Smoked Sausage Soup yesterday I knew that it would come in as a life saver, because it is quick and I'll happily tuck into a steaming bowl of soup any night!

I have adjusted Marie's recipe a bit and combined it with another recipe I often use for Turkish Red Lentil Soup and ended up with a great tasting soup that made me feel really warm and happy.


Lentil and Potato Soup with Smoked Sausage (serves 3-4)

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 medium potatoes, diced
4 cups vegetable stock
approx. 200gr Kielbasa Tuchowska
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

In a large pan, heat a little olive oil and fry the onion until translucent.

Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so.

Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes until your potatoes and lentils are cooked.

Remove the sausage and cut into slices.

Using a stick blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Return the sliced sausage.

Bring back to a simmer and once hot through serve with a nice slice of crusty bread.

Another award and a tag

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Wow, I've just been given another award. This one comes from Nina Timm at My Easy Cooking.


I would like to pass the award on to everyone out there whose blog I regularly read. There are too many of you to name individually, but I guess you know who you are, because I leave comments on most your posts (even though I've been a bit short for time lately and might not have commented each time I visit).

Also, Sam from Antics of a Cycling Cook has tagged me to share six random things about me, so here goes...

1. I have lived in Oslo, Norway for one year before I went to University.

2. I wish I had a middle name, two got to be better than one, right?!

3. I started writing my Christmas cards last night.

4. I'm the youngest of three by some distance.

5. I love shoe shopping.

6. I'm thinking of starting swing dancing classes next week.

Wow, that was harder than I thought. I know that not everyone likes to do these tags, so I'm just going to say: You're tagged if you would like to be!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Roast Vegetable Pasta Sauce with friends

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I didn't mean to not post for as long as I have, but things have been a bit manic. I've been quite busy at work, spending evenings preparing lectures and getting some work ready for the Manchester Artist Book Fair on Saturday. (If you're in Manchester at the weekend, come along it's a great event and full of lovely handmade books and cards etc. which will make great Christmas pressies.) So there hasn't been much in the way of exciting cooking happening at my house.

The only exception was on Sunday night when my friends L. and H. came round for dinner, before we all headed out into town for some swing music and as we had hoped dancing. It turned out the club was too small and too busy for much swing dancing to be happening, but we had a lovely time nevertheless. Well, I say exception, the meal I made is not high dining or exceptionally beautiful, if that is what you're thinking now, but it is great in flavour, packed with vegetables and herbs and simple to make and that's what excites me every time I make this Roast Vegetable Pasta Sauce. Both L. and H. also seemed to enjoy it as well and we all had seconds.


However, before I share the recipe with you I have to say a big THANK YOU to Fiona over at The Cottage Smallholder, for passing the Kreativ Blogger Award on to me. Fiona, I'm thrilled and very excited to receive this from you. It is now my pleasure to pass this on to six other bloggers and also as part of the award I am meant to share six things that I like.


So, firstly here are the six blogs I would like to pass this award on to (as always in no particular order):

Cherrapeno, because I love the wonderful recipes and brilliant photographs and also because Nic has helped me out with some great hints about blogging.
Maninas: Food Matters, for hosting the Eating with Season's event every month, one of my favourite blog events out there.
Little Foodies, because I love the creative ways that Amanda makes her kids love food.
Domestic Goddess in Training, because Jules shares my love for seasonal produce and trying out new things.
Tinned Tomatoes, because Holler gets me really excited about vegetarian recipes as I'm cutting more and more meat out of my diet.
Operation Night Brace, because I know I would have given up by now, but Amy and Gareth are still going and make me laugh at a regular basis.

Now to the six things that I like:

The smell of freshly baked bread.
Sunflowers and all their yellow happiness.
Writing with a fountain pen.
My bicycle.
Sitting on the sofa with a good book and a pot of tea.
Finding some money in a coat or trouser pocket that I had forgotten about.

And finally, here is the recipe:

Roast Vegetable Pasta Sauce (serves 4)

1 large aubergine, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium courgettes, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 200C/Gas 7/400F.

Place the aubergine and onion into a large baking tray and drizzle with oil Season with salt and pepper

Roast for about 25 minutes, until they start to brown. Stir once or twice during that time.

Add the courgette and return to the oven for another 20 minutes or so.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes, garlic, rosemary and thyme and put back into the oven for another 15 minutes.

Pour in the vegetable stock.

Add your cooked pasta and the basil to the tray and stir until the pasta is coated with the sauce.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan and a glass of your favourite wine.