Sunday, 22 June 2014

Middle Eastern Bread with Za'atar

This is my version of Manakeesh, a popular Levantine food consisting of bread which is most commonly topped with Za'atar.

Yotam Ottolenghi describes za'atar as "A traditional spice blend from Palestine including dried thyme (za’atar) from the hills of Jenin in the north of the West Bank mixed with ground sesame seeds plus a touch of sumac, salt and vegetable oil. Perfect as a dip with Palestinian olive oil and freshly baked bread. This zesty seasoning is served at breakfast in many Middle Eastern countries – can be used with meat, fish, cheese, eggs or sprinkled on a pizza"

I first came across za'atar whilst in Israel and bought a jar back with me to experiment with back home. When mixed with olive oil, I would say that it is somewhat like pesto, with a wonderful savoury and salty taste.  It works perfectly as a topping on fleshly baked bread.



I managed to source it back in the UK in my local organic shop, Aligator Wholefoods.  I have also seen it in Fair Trade shops.

This recipe makes a small  round loaf, double all quantities for a larger one!

Ingredients




200g Strong Wholemeal Flour
A pinch of Salt
1tsp dried Coriander Leaf
1tsp dried Parsley
1/2 tsp ground Black Pepper

50ml warm Water (body temperature)
50ml warm Milk (again, body temperature)
1 sachet of Instant Yeast
1tsp Sugar or Honey

2tsp Za'atar 
2tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

1. Prepare the yeast by placing the warm water and milk in a small jug, then add the sugar and sprinkle with the yeast. Leave this for 10 minutes, until the yeast is thick and frothy.

2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, herbs, salt and pepper.


3.. Slowly add the yeast mixture until a dough is formed (you may need to add a little extra warm water if the dough doesn't come together easily.) Knead the dough on a floured surface for 10 minutes.



 4. Shape the dough into a disk and place on a baking tray (I lined mine with foil.) Cover this with clingfilm and leave the dough in a warm place to rise for 1-1.5 hours.


5. Preheat the oven to 200C, Mix together the za'atar and Olive Oil in a small bowl and spread on top of the dough.


6. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and hollow when tapped underneath. Serve warm with lashings of butter!


Friday, 8 November 2013

A Tour of York Brewery*




I actually need to give myself a slap on the wrist, because even though I have lived in York for almost 4 years, I have only just got around to investigating all the beer made right here in the city! Therefore I  jumped at the opportunity to take a guided tour of York Brewery.

The brewery is situated just inside the city walls and along with a 20 barrel brew plant, it also has a Brewery Tap Room! This was a bit of a revelation to me, as I had always assumed the brewery was just a big industrial unit, but no! After taking the tour you can sample a selection of their beers on tap (the tour price even includes a pint of real ale.)

Before the tour begins, everyone waits in the cosy attic tap room, which is a real hidden gem with it's old school northern feel. This means you can get stuck in with trying a few samples. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming, I can even hear a very lively discussion about beer happening on the very next table, a sign that this is a place which attracts real enthusiasts. There is even a brewery shop should you wish to take home in a larger quantity anything that you have enjoyed!

The building is actually 300 years old, so there's a fair bit of history here. However, it hasn't always been a brewery. I was reliably told that in its time it had been both a morgue and a brothel (not at the same time, that would be just a little bit awkward!)

I don't really want to give too much away about the tour because as a novice beer drinker, I wouldn't be able to do it justice! We were lead by an extremely knowledgeable staff member who talked us through the whole brewing process. There were many facts about beer that I was previously unaware of, such as the fact that the brewing process requires hard water. Gypsum and salts are added to create the perfect levels and the result is beer with a better body and mouth feel!

I also learnt that you don't have to make beer just out of wheat, you can use anything that basically contains natural sugar! This can be oats, rye, rice or even pumpkins! (Pumpkin beer sounds amazing actually.)

So much barley is needed! The barley is the only source of sugar in the beer and is made into malt by soaking in warm water then dried.

The big plastic tub is full of hops, a vital component in the beer making process. They are also full of antioxidants, which means that beer is indeed good for you!

In the middle are hand pumps, which were actually invented in 1792 and haven't changed since!

A useful inforgraphic about the beer making process.

Not only do you get to see the raw ingredients, you also get to walk above all the  mash tuns and other vessels! The aroma is amazing, the air is laden with the smell of the malt, creating the sense you are literally walking in a mug of ovaltine.

The mash Tun is huge! The brewery has a capacity of 40 - 50,000 pints a week.

After the fascinating tour, it was time for the tasting, arguably one of the highlights! In order to get a good overview, I tried three of York Brewery's most popular pints.

First up was the York IPA, which was wonderfully light, with a spicy tang and smooth finish.

I normally prefer dark beers, so the extremely knowledgeable staff recommended that I try the Centurion's Ghost Ale. This was slightly sweeter, but is sill extremely smooth and mellow. It was actually my personal favourite, among with the majority of the staff!

Finally, after such a dark beer, I opted for something a bit lighter and tried the Guzzler. At 3.6% this is bar far the best option for a long night and is wonderfully crisp light and refreshing.

An interior wall of the tap room displaying all of the beers of 2013.

 

I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the brewery; the tour is £6 for adults, with discounts for students and senior citizens available. It’s a fascinating way to spend a couple of hours and you are also supporting a wonderful local business. 

 

The brewery is also hosting a  beer festival from the 7-11th November, which is right now people!

 

Entry to the beer festival is free, so no excuses for missing out!
The festival runs Thursday – Saturday, 12pm – 11pm and Sunday 12pm – 8pm.
See the website for details: 
York Brewery, 12 Toft Green, York. YO1 6JT (On the corner of Salvation
turn left up Tanner Row and carry on to Toft Green). 

*The brewery kindly allowed me to take the tour and sample the beers free of charge, an opportunity I am extremely grateful for, as it means I can tell you guys all about it! I continue to only recommend places, services and products which I feel are good quality and provide great value for money.


Monday, 21 October 2013

Pecan Pumpkin Pie

Some people might put their noses up at my choice to use shop bought pastry to make this oh so festive pumpkin pie.  My response is that life is simply too short sometimes to make pastry and the shop bought stuff isn't half bad. However, I did decide to jazz things up a little and add crushed pecans to the pastry to give it a bit of crunch. That's right ladies and gentleman, not only do I use pre made pastry, I also put PECANS IN THE PIE, NOT ON TOP. It's an unholy alliance. My only regret is that I didn't use any maple syrup, as I feel it would have added the perfect finishing sweetness to the whole thing. If you want to learn from my mistake, add about a tablespoon to the pumpkin puree mixture.

I do hope you enjoy my take on the whole pumpkin pie moment we seem to be having in the culinary world. Remember, you can always go crazy and use a butternut squash, or even sweet potato!


Ingredients:

  • 350g Shortcrust Pastry,  not pre rolled as you want to be able to quickly knead the shattered pecans in
  • 40g Pecan Nuts, smashed into smithereens
  • 750g Culinary Pumpkin peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks (keep the seeds to roast later, they make a great snack!) 
  • 2 tbsp Plain Flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough and dusting the pie tin 
  • 140g Caster Sugar 
  • ½ tsp Salt 
  • ½ tsp fresh Nutmeg, grated 
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon 
  • 2 Free Range Eggs, beaten 
  • 2tbsp of Ginger Beer (I used Crabbie's Spiced Orange Ginger Beer to add some depth of flavour) 
  • 1 tbsp Icing Sugar to dust

1. Place the pumpkin in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain pumpkin; let cool. 




2. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

3. Smash up your pecans in a pestle and mortar, you want  a mixture of larger and smaller chunks, then knead this into the pastry block



4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 15 minutes. 




5. Line the pastry with baking parchment and add baking beans. Blind bake for 15 minutes.

6. Remove the beans and paper, and cook for a further 10 minutes until the base is pale and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

7. Increase oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.

8. Push the cooled pumpkin through a sieve into a large bowl to make a puree, discard any stringy bits. Add the ginger beer to this puree mixture. 

My secret weapon!


9. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and sieved flour

10. Mix in the beaten eggs, then add to the pumpkin puree and stir to combine evenly.

11. Pour into the tart shell and cook for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180C and continue to bake for 35-40 mins until the filling has just set.

12. Leave to cool and then remove the pie from the tin. Dust with icing sugar and serve plain or with cream. 


  

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Autumn Kitchen Wishlist

First of all, I would like to invite you all to sign up to my newsletter, this way you will be first to hear about any give aways or competitions on Audacity of Food!

The nights are drawing in and I have even started contemplating putting the heating on! It's official, Autumn is here. This time of year I like to dine out on stews, soups and hearty pies and maybe sneak in some comforting puddings! In order to celebrate the change of seasons and help reflect the transition happening in my kitchen, I have put together a little Autumn kitchen wish list. Obviously some are more realistic purchases than others, (even though somehow £120 for a stag mounted on a bit of glass seems totally reasonable in my strange mind!)

I hope this gives you some inspiration for your autumnal kitchen ventures!



1. Lakeland One-Cup Coffeemaker, £16.99 - I think this would be a great and simple way of getting your morning caffiene hit! It does both tea and coffee at the press of one simple bottom.

2.  Culinary Concepts Stag Cake Stand, £120 - It's a stag. On a cake stand. Beautifully pointless, and that's why I want it so much!

3. Warwickshire CountyShaped Chopping Board by County Chopper, £120 -  They aren't exactly a steal, but these chopping boards are made right down the road from me in Hull and come in the shapes of 47 counties! As I am feeling slightly homesick, the Warwickshire version would be perfect. I think these beautiful hand crafted chopping boards would also make great Christmas gifts for that annoying person who already has everything...

4.  Rituals Serenity Hand wash, £10 - I love the Rituals range in general and am an avid fan of their body products. This hand wash has my favourite scents of Sweet Almond Oil and Indian Rose. It would make a perfect addition, popped on the side of the kitchen sink, helping to make washing the dishes that bit more bearable!

5. Bettys Christmas Fruit Cake in a Tin, £18.95 - Whilst I fully appreciate that Christmas is a little while yet, good Christmas cakes will keep! Obviously anything from Bettys will be top notch and as I do live in York, it felt wrong to exclude it. Remember, the tin can also be reused long after you've scoffed the cakefor my

6.  Lakeland 1 Litre Pudding Steamer, £14.99 - This item is both a bit more practical and affordable. I am a huge lover of steamed puddings, especially those of the treacle variety! This will also come in handy for making a classic Christmas Pudding. The 1L capacity also means you will have enough to feed a fair few, unless you plan on having a date night in with just you and a comforting steamed pud.
 
7.  Hotel Chocolat Chilli Drinking Chocolate, £8.50 - Hotel Chocolat seem to have redesigned their hot chocolate packaging of late, lets hope that they are still as good! I have always particularly loved the combination of chilli and chocolate, especially in a warming drink. This will be perfect for long winter nights spent curled up under the duvet (where I am currently, no intention of leaving unless the house is on fire.)

I hope you have enjoyed my little indulgent list! I will of course keep you updated with the stag-on-glass acquisition situation. It's a toss up between paying the bills and having that little beauty tucked away somewhere. Because of course at £120, you don't expect me to use the damn thing!

Let me know if you have any further ideas for my autumn list, or if you have any of the above items and want to rate/slate them!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Review: Sweet Freedom Choc Shot

Hot chocolate has always been one of my weaknesses, especially during the autumn when the nights are getting cooler and you need that warm comforting mug of something just before bed. I have recently been trying to overhaul my eating and really cut down on my sugar intake, something that threatened to put an end to my occasional chocolate treat.

However, fate was kindly to intervene when I spotted Sweet Freedom's new product, Choc Shot, on the shelf of my local supermarket! Having previously enjoyed using their range of natural sweeteners, I was keen to give this new product a go.



What Sweet Freedom say about Choc Shot:
  • 100% natural
  • Sweetened with our magic ingredient, award winning Sweet Freedom
  • Only 14 calories per teaspoon
  • Low GI / GL - no energy highs and lows
  • Suitable for diabetics as part of a healthy diet
  • NO artificial colourings, flavourings or preservatives
  • GM & gluten free
  • Suitable for vegetarians and vegans
  • Made in the UK
Ingredients: Sweet Freedom® (natural fruit extracts; apples, grapes & carob), water, cocoa, rapeseed oil, natural chocolate flavour 

Price: I believe I paid £2.99 for the bottle which is 320g (I am an idiot who looses receipts all the time)

My opinion:

I think the squeezy dispenser is a really good idea in general for hot chocolate, as you aren't fiddling about with trying to spoon lumps of powder. It also tastes very much like regular hot chocolate when put in milk, I personally use Almond milk as it imparts a nutty flavour.

I'm also currently trying to cut out gluten from my diet, (to see if it makes a difference in my general health) so the fact that it's gluten free is a real bonus!

What I think is the real USP of this product though is it's versatility, the packaging clearly encourages you to use it in milkshakes or as a chocolate sauce on ice creams and fruit. You can check out how I enjoyed my Choc Shot this morning at the end of this post!

If used in moderation, I think it's a great way of enjoying a treat!


I drizzled mine over my morning Almond Pancakes!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Recipe: Meringue Suisse drizzled with Chocolate

There are actually three types of meringue, Meringue Suisse is the most common and most simple to make. It is made by whisking eggs whites until very stuff then whisking in part of the sugar and folding in the remainder.

Meringue Cuite, the professionals meringue, is a bit more complicated and as the name implies, is 'cooked.' It is made by whisking egg whites and icing sugar in a bowl over gently simmering water until thick and stiff, then it is removed from the heat and whisked until cold.  

Meringue Italienne is a very light soft meringue which can be piped, but is usually used in patisserie or ice cream making. It is made by pouring boiling sugar syrup onto lightly whipped egg whites and beating until cold.

I decided to stick with simplicity and make Meriangue Suisse. In order to add some decoration and a bit of decadence, I decided to drizzle my meringues with melted 70% coca chocolate.

Ingredients


4 Large Egg whites
225g Caster Sugar

100g melted Chocolate (I used the bain marie method.)


Method

 

1. Pre heat your oven to 110C. Put the eggs whites into a clean grease free bowl (Top Tip: rub a little lemon juice around the bowl then rinse with water to remove residue.) Whisk until the mixture is thick, dry and stands in peaks

2. Gradually whisk in a quarter of the sugar a tablespoon at a time. Whisk until the meringue is stiff again each time before adding more sugar.

3. Fold in the rest of the sugar all at once using a large metal spoon. You need to knock as little air out of the mixture as possible, so do this stage very gently! The mixture should be thick, stiff and glossy.



4. If you have a piping bag, then this is the stage where you would use it! Unfortunately I don't currently have one in working order, so I improvised by sort of dolloping it onto a baking sheet in (what I think are) rather charming little peaks.


5. Place your meringues in the preheated oven, then turn it off. Leave them in the cooling oven for 2 hours (you're essentially drying them out rather than cooking them.) If you have more than one tray, swap them around after one hour.

6. Your meringues are ready when they lift easily off the paper! Bake larger disks or full size meringues for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.


7. To decorate, I simply melted some good quality chocolate and drizzled it over using a small tea spoon. I then placed the decorated meringues in the fridge for 30 minutes to set the chocolate.


8. To serve I added some low fat yogurt (same texture as thick cream, so much less fat!) and topped everything off with lots of blueberries!


Let me know if you try the recipe and what you would have with your perfect meringue mix!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Recipe: Lavender and Pistachio Biscotti

I was really surprised by how easy it is to make biscotti. The basic mix has only four ingredients, to which anything you fancy can be added. I went for two different versions, lavender with chopped pistachios and lemon zest with mixed seeds!

Ingredients

 

250g/9oz Plain Flour 
½ tsp Baking Powder
250g/9oz Caster Sugar
3 Free Range Eggs

50g Chopped Pistachios
2tbsp dried Culinary Lavender

50g Mixed Seeds
Zest of one Lemon

Method

1. Pre-heat your oven to 160C

2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl and add the eggs slowly, forming a dough



3. Separate this mixture evenly into two bowls, add the chopped pistachios and lavender to one and the lemon zest and mixed seeds to another. Knead both gently until they have formed a soft dough ball.



4. Roll each dough ball into a log. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven.


5. Cool slightly and cut into 1-2cm/½-¾in thick slices.



 6. Place the slices back on the tray then bake for another 10-15 minutes, turn over and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden.

Enjoy in the Italian style with a cup of coffee for a mid morning treat!


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