Garlic Bread Baked in a Clay Pot

IMG_1544Let me start by saying that you can also make this bread if you don’t own a clay pot (or römertopf, as we call them over here). It is a great way of baking bread, though. Clay pots are gathering dust in many a cupboard, so I think there’s a good chance you could find a cheap second-hand one online. A cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven would also work, although I think you’d need a fairly small one for a loaf this size. Many thanks to Sue for introducing me to this method. It means my mum’s old clay pot, which was mouldering in my cupboard, gets a regular workout these days.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk garlic bread. The name alone makes me drool. It conjures up an image of a billowy loaf, thoroughly scented with roast garlic. And not just scented; I want chunks of sweet, soft garlic too. As much as I love brioche and other enriched breads, to me this feels more luxurious and indulgent. And it’s a bit easier on the belly as well.IMG_1527

This a variation on Paul Hollywood’s recipe for garlic bread. I’ve adjusted quantities to make one smaller loaf , where he makes two flat garlic breads, and I use the clay pot to bake it in instead of baking them free-form, as he does.

This loaf is quite easy to make. The only fiddly bit is peeling all the cloves of garlic before you roast them. I have made garlic bread using a head of garlic roasted whole (like the garlic I use in my roast garlic and leek risotto). There’s no denying that this is easier, as there is no peeling involved, but your loaf won’t have those gorgeous bits of softened, sweet garlic in it. I firmly believe the extra work pays off.

 

Do watch your garlic cloves as they roast. The difference between lovely soft, sweet garlic and horrible leathery cloves is a few minutes. I roast them for 15 minutes and then watch them like a hawk. You want slightly browned garlic that is soft to the touch, no scorching.IMG_1536

To give you an idea of the dimensions of the clay pot I bake this in: it measures 24 x 18 cm (at the top, lid off) and is 8 cm deep. I line it with a sheet of reusable Teflon baking parchment that I cut to fit the pot. Nothing scientific; when I baked bread in the clay oven for the first time I laid the sheet on top of the open pot, put in the dough and cut off any bits that stuck out above the rim.

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Before I forget, if you want to make this loaf without a clay pot you can use this method with the quantities mentioned below.

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INGREDIENTS

For the roast garlic
3 medium bulbs of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp caster sugar
generous pinch of salt

For the dough
400 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
7 g sachet of fast-acting yeast
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
260-280 ml tepid water

For over the top
olive oil
heaped tsp dried oregano

– Preheat the oven to 200°C.
– Peel the garlic cloves, put them in a small roasting tin. Sprinkle over oil, sugar and salt and mix well, using your hands.
– Roast for 20 minutes (but keep an eye on them, see above).
– Leave to cool and crack open the door of the hot oven. It needs to be cool when you put the clay pot in.

IIMG_1538 use a standing mixer to knead bread. If you don’t have one, put the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl, making sure the salt and yeast don’t touch at that point. Make a well in the centre of the flour, pour in the water and gradually incorporate it. Then knead for about ten minutes on a flat, lightly floured surface or until smooth and elastic.

– Put the flour in the bowl of the mixer.
– Put salt and yeast on either side of the bowl.
– Attach the flat paddle to the mixer and briefly mix flour, salt and yeast.
– Add the oil, then gradually pour in the water while mixing until you have a sticky, shaggy dough and there is no flour left at the bottom of the bowl.
– Turn the mixer off, then replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead the dough for six minutes, or until elastic and no longer sticky.
– Shape into a ball, put it back into the bowl and cover with cling film (my glass Kitchenaid bowl has a lid, which is perfect for proofing dough). Leave for an hour at room temperature, or until doubled in size.
– Knead the roasted garlic cloves into the risen dough. Shape into a rectangular ball, if there is such a thing.
– Line your clay pot, put in the dough and clamp on the lid.
– Rest for 45 minutes at room temperature.
– Place the clay pot in the cold oven and set temperature to 250°C.
– Bake for 50 minutes, take the lid off (being careful not to burn yourself) and bake for another five minutes. Keep an eye on it, though; if it gets too dark, take it out of the oven.
– Turn the bread out of the pot and let it cool on a wire rack.

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Thanh’s Amazing Lemon Drizzle Friands

20140622-163838-59918489.jpgThese little cakes achieved almost legendary status in an online foodie group I am part of. And with reason: these beauties are the stuff of dreams. They have a (deceptively) light texture, a perfect, delicate lemon flavour, and even though they look and taste like someting Marie-Antionette herself would not have sniffed at, they are not hard to make. The basic ingredients are ground almonds, egg whites, butter and icing sugar, in this case flavoured with lemon zest and lemon icing.

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Before my friend Thanh posted the recipe for these almond cakes on her gorgeous blog I had never heard of friands. That all changed, because after making these once I knew I had to have the baking equivalent of the Holy Grail, a ‘proper’ friand tin. Of course you could easily make these in a muffin tin but the oval, flower-emblazoned tins (individual or as a 12-hole tin) are the real deal. Although they are French in origin, for some reason friands are very popular in Australia, which means the tins are widely available over there, as opposed to over here, where they are more of a lucky find.

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The reason I am posting about these friands now is that I was given 6 individual friand tins (avec flower) by my lovely friend Kelly-Jane last week, and I have a 12-hole tin winging its way to me all the way from Adelaide, sent by my equally lovely aunt and uncle. I did not plan it like this, I am just surrounded by great people. 🙂

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The first time I made lemon friands I baked them in a silicon financier ‘tin’, which turned them into rectangular bars, and they were gorgeous even then. Baking them in a metal tin makes all the difference, though. Now that I have these tins, and more on the way, I am going to have to get creative with friands but I am sure these lemon drizzle friands will remain a firm favourite.

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You cand find the recipe here. I follow it pretty much to the letter, but I do add the zest of two whole lemons to the batter for extra zing.

Spinach, Peppadew and Feta muffins

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As much as I love baking things like chocolate cake and sugary meringues, if I were forced to choose between sweet and savoury baking, savoury would win hands down. Now before you reach for the unfollow button, let me assure you that there will be plenty of sweet treats on this blog, eventually.

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The thing about sweet bakes is that the joy for me is more in the actual baking than it is in the eating. Not because I count calories, but just because one sweet muffin or slice of cake will do me. I simply don’t have a sweet tooth. Now savoury baking is a whole different story. As I am typing, I am demolishing my third spinach, Peppadew and feta muffin (it’s a good thing you can wipe the screen of an Ipad), while telling myself that this morning’s workout should even it all out. Come to think of it, maybe I should stick to sugary treats…

 

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These muffins are right up my street. The tang of the feta and the saltiness of the Parmesan take centre stage but the hint of spinach and peppers makes it all a bit more interesting. I have to disagree with the Guardian (where I got this recipe from) and say that these are not ‘muffins for kids’ but grown-up ones that would go down very well with a drink, as they are doing right now, in fact.

You can find the recipe for these muffins here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/29/cook-kids-savoury-muffins

I didn’t tweak it all that much. My block of Parmesan was only 145 grams and that turned out to be enough, so you can safely reduce the cheese a bit. I used Peppadews instead of regular roast peppers and next time I make these (and I certainly will), I will use a teaspoon of chilli powder instead of paprika.

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One more thing, don’t worry if your muffin ‘batter’ is more like a dough. I thought it would be a baking disaster but they turned out splendidly. This batter made 12 slightly larger muffins instead of the 16 in the recipe, by the way.

Cheese and Lentil Loaf with Moonblush Tomato Sauce

I know it’s taking a bit of a risk, kicking off a vegetarian blog with a lentil dish. Lentils aren’t the sexiest of ingredients, and I suppose they remind some people of the sort of dishes that have undeservedly given vegetarian cooking a bad rap.

To be honest, my eyes don’t light up as soon as I hear the word lentils, either. Unless I am thinking of dishes like dhal, made with any combination of lentils and pulses, or this delicious cheese and lentil loaf.

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I was given this recipe on a food forum years ago as something to cook for those times when you’re struggling to make ends meet but still want to eat something tasty. Meaning the end of pretty much every month in my house. I don’t think I had ever cooked lentils before but I was intrigued (and skint), so I decided to try it and loved it. I have made this countless times since then, and it has never received anything but praise, even from the most lentil-phobic carnivores.

I wish I could remember the name of the person who gave me and the other forummers this recipe, so I could thank her. Because, frankly, I think it’s brilliant. It can be a perfect, easy weekday meal for 2-3, a light starter for when you have guests over and, baked in a round tin and cut into triangular wedges, served as a snack with drinks. And any leftover bits make a great filling for a sandwich, drizzled with Sriracha sauce, or any sauce you like.

Another bonus is that you can play around with it as much as you like. Sub the coriander I’ve used here with basil, chives, oregano, you name it, either fresh or dried. Or grate in that last carrot that’s been haunting the fridge (thank you for experimenting with this recipe, Hazzer), the end bit of a bag of frozen peas or a few handfuls of spinach. But don’t go overboard because if you add too much extra liquid, you might end up with lentil porridge instead of a nice cheesy loaf.

This loaf is made with red lentils, my pulse of choice. I love their smell as they cook, their earthy flavour, and the fact that they cook into a paste. Beluga or Puy lentils, which hold their shape and are often used in salads, etc, are not my favourites. Red lentils also work really well cooked with their slightly sturdier cousins, like yellow split peas or mung beans.

Now for the moonblush tomato sauce.

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When I’m in a hurry or just can’t be bothered to roast tomatoes, I briefly fry a grated clove of garlic in a bit of olive oil, add a tin of cubed tomatoes, any fresh or dried herb, some pepper and salt, and let it cook down a bit until thickened. When I do go the extra mile, I make Nigella Lawson’s moonblush tomatoes from Nigella Express (http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/moonblush-tomatoes-58and blitz them into a sauce. What I love about these tomatoes is that, in the evening, all you have to do is crank up the oven to high, halve the tomatoes, sprinkle and drizzle, bung them in, and turn the oven off. The next morning,  you have a batch of perfect, homemade, semi-dried tomatoes.

 

Enjoy!


Moonblush Tomato Sauce

500 g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tsp (Maldon) sea salt (or to taste)

¼ tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tbsp olive oil

 

– Preheat the oven to 220°C.

– Lay the tomatoes on a lined baking tray, cut side up. Sprinkle with the salt, sugar, thyme and olive oil.

– Put the tray in the oven, and immediately turn it off. Leave the tomatoes in the oven overnight or for a day without opening the door.

– Blitz the tomatoes into a sauce, using a stick blender or (mini)  food processor.

 

Cheese and Lentil Loaf 

I bake this in a silicon 24 x 9 x 6 cm ‘tin’ that is completely non-stick. You’d need to line a metal tin.

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175 g red lentils, rinsed and drained well

350 ml water

110 g mature grated cheddar or Gouda cheese

3 spring onions (or 1 small onion), chopped finely

3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or any fresh or dried herb you prefer

Sriracha sauce/harissa/sambal or whatever hot sauce you like, to taste (optional)

squirt of lemon juice

1 egg, beaten

salt and pepper

 

 

20140521-211653-76613150.jpg– Preheat the oven to 190°C

– Put lentils and water in a smallish pan and bring to the boil. Cover, turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until you have a stiff lentil paste. Check after 10 minutes to see if it’s not drying out too much.

– Take the pan off the heat and stir in all of the other ingredients.

– Put this ‘batter’ in the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden and set.

– Leave the loaf to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes while you heat up the sauce.

– Slice the loaf and serve with the sauce and a salad.