The last week has seen the final cooking courses which I have been running with many of the local caterers across St Helena. We have covered a multitude of subjects, some briefly and others iin more detail. Our final course and the favourite for many, was breads and doughs We cooked all day and produced a mountain of breads in all shapes and sizes.
Now there is nothing like the smell and taste of freshly baked bread, I don’t know anyone who isn’t attracted to the aroma, even in British supermarkets where the quality of bread is somewhat questionable to say the least.. However when you speak to people about making bread you tend to get two reactions, either its the “too difficult” school of thought or its the “haven’t got time” one. Bread takes hardly any time at all, its just a case of you managing the dough rather than the other way round! It takes 10 minutes to make the initial dough, about 10 minutes to shape it after its risen and between 10 minutes (for rolls) and 40 minutes (for a loaf) to cook. Now surely we can all manage that!
So on that note, here are a couple of bread recipes which i recommend you try not once but at least twice in order to gauge your accomplishment and to fill your freezer!
I am writing the recipes using a kenwood mixer with dough hook. You can of course make the dough by hand which is far better for you as you get a work out at the same time!
Foccaccia is my favourite bread as it creates a crusty savoury flatbread which goes with barbecue, soup, cheese and anything else savoury. The topping is optional but don’t forget to sprinkle some sea salt on the crust before baking to get a really nice flavour.
Please note that flour varies in its water holding capability so always add about ¾ of the water to the flour and then see whether its sticky or stiff. For Foccaccia you want a dough which is quite wet.
This will make 5 eight inch loaves.
A couple of Tsp dry sage, depends on strength
Fine chop the onion and place in small pan, add sage and enough oil to cover the onion.
Place on a low heat until the onion is clear. DO NOT FRY.
Leave to cool. Topping needs to be same temperature as the dough when using or the dough wont rise properly.
Dough ½ oz dry yeast.
¾ oz salt
1 1/3rd pint water.
2 ½ lb White strong flour
2 Tblsp olive oil
1. Mix yeast & water in jug.
2. Mix flour & salt in mixer bowl.
3. Add most of the water & all the oil to the flour and bind with a spatula. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the rest of the water if the mix looks like it is dry
4. When liquid is absorbed turn the speed to high & beat with a dough hook for 3- 4 mins. Check the consistency of the dough; it should be soft but not runny enough to be called a batter.
5. If too runny mix in a handful or two of flour and keep beating.
6. Cover bowl loosely in cling film & leave to rise to the top of the bowl at room temp.
7. Take topping & 5 x 8 to 10 inch cake tins without gaps in the bottom
8. Paint the tins with some of the oil from topping.
9. Once dough has risen place it on a thoroughly floured surface, scraping the bowl with a spatula so not to rip the dough.
10. Divide into 5 with scraper or knife.
11. Form into round shapes by folding the edges into the centre,
12. Place in tins and paint with oil
13. Leave 15- 25 mins to rise.
14. Press down with palm of hand to flatten the bread. Let it start to rise again. By this time there should be distinct bubbles forming in the dough.
15. Once risen again sprinkle on the onion topping and salt on each
16. Bake on top shelf of a VERY HOT oven for 15- 20 mins.
Hot Onion Tart
This yeasted tart dough is a favourite of mine as it keeps in a fridge and can be used for quiches or flat tarts like the one illustrated.
Tart Dough 1 flat TSP dry Yeast
2 to 3-fl oz warm water.
250g flour as needed
½ tsp salt
2 oz soft butter
1. Mix Yeast and Water to dissolve the yeast
2. Mix the soft butter and egg together and use a hand whisk to mix with the yeasted water
3. Place Flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre
4. Stir in the wet ingredients gently and then use your hands to make it into a dough
5. Adjust the texture to a light dough by adding and subtracting liquid and flour
6. Leave to rise once
7. Use or punch it down in the bowl and leave in the fridge until use
Topping 4 finely sliced onions cooked in a pan on low with 4 oz butter
Crème Fraîche or Cream cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooked bacon, cut into matchsticks
1. Roll out dough to tart or pie thickness and flat
2. Place on baking sheet
3. Smear lightly with the cream which has had some seasoning added to it
4. Add onion and cooked bacon bits to cover, similar amount as if it were a pizza,
5. Place in very hot oven for about seven to ten mins. Serve at once
Another option is Rosemary and gorgonzola or Tomato and olive.
Tip of the week: when making breads and doughs, NEVER wash your bowls in hot water as this cooks the bits left and turns them rubbery. Just leave the bowl to soak in cold water and the dough will dissolve off within about half an hour. Also never use a cloth or scourer as they end up totally useless and full of stringy doughy bits.
My last week arrived and found me running around between work and getting ready for the great St Helena Food Festival where I was invited to run a stall! This article will appear after my departure so I do hope you came to visit the stall. The request was for me to show off some of the foods that we have been cooking in the training classes over the past weeks. Now that would be fine if I had a nice big kitchen complete with fridge and loads of space to serve from! Therefore we chose some items which could be cooked the day before and just got ready from the stall in the Mule Yard. One of the items which we did include and which was popular with the local cooks was Jelly!
Why Jelly, well it’s loved by all and is a good starting point for some great desserts. It can be as simple or as sophisticated as you like and can also be sweet or savoury. The recipes here are from the sweet side of the tracks. The Mango and Coconut jellies were included in the training sessions as they can be made from ingredients which you have here in St Helena. When Mangos are in season you can make the jelly from fresh juice or mango puree. At the moment we don’t have any mangos so go for the best quality juice you can find and use that.
Remember if you want to make your jellies “more adult” you can substitute some of the liquid for alcohol. We tried rum in the coconut jelly and it was brilliant!
NOTE: Always add Gelatine to the liquid not the other way around or it will not dissolve!
500ml Mango juice chilled
Fresh or tinned Mango cut into small pieces chilled
1. Chill the containers that the jelly is going to be put in
2. Take 100ml of mango juice and heat in microwave till hot but not boiling
3. Add the gelatine and dissolve thoroughly
4. Take the remaining cold juice and whilst whisking it add the hot liquid
5. Taste the mix and add sweetener or lemon to taste
6. Strain to remove any bits of gelatine left un-dissolved
7. Pour a little of the jelly into the moulds to cover the outsides place moulds in fridge
8. When jelly set add some of the fruit and pour a little jelly into the mould, put back in fridge
9. When jelly has set repeat the process until all the fruit and jelly has been used up.
10. Place in fridge for at least an hour until the jelly has completely set
11. Serve with cream, ice cream or a coulis made from a different fruit puree
Coconut Jelly with Mango Puree
Coconut jelly is lovely and creamy and could be enhanced further by adding ginger, lime or other flavours.
400ml coconut cream
100ml water or cream
1. Heat the coconut milk but don’t boil it...a microwave can be used
2. Heat the water or cream to very hot but not boiling and add the gelatine
3. When gelatine has dissolved add the hot coconut milk
4. Mix thoroughly and strain to remove any bits of gelatine left un-dissolved
5. Pour into moulds to set
Other flavours can be added to the Jelly, try cardamom, lime, mint
2 fresh Mango or
1 tin Mango pieces
Juice of one lime
1. Take the mango flesh and place in blender
2. Puree and taste
3. Add Lime juice to taste
4. Pass through a sieve if the puree has bits in it
5. Place in a jug or bowl until ready to serve
Pannacotta is the Michelin Star Restaurant’s jelly of choice, its made with a combination of milk, cream and some sugar and is VERY easy to make and keeps for up to three days. Once you get the hang of it, reduce the gelatine quantity a little to make the jelly more trembly!
500ml full cream milk
2 tsp vanilla essence or 1 vanilla pod scraped out
1. Heat the milk in a saucepan or microwave with the sugar until sugar is dissolved. Do not boil.
2. Pour over the gelatine and dissolve thoroughly
3. Add the cream and mix thoroughly but do not whisk
4. Add the vanilla and taste to check flavour.
5. Strain through a sieve to remove any bits of gelatine
6. Pour into moulds and place in fridge
7. Turn out onto plates when serving and serve with fruit or a sweet sauce.
Tip of the week.
This is a real “TIP”....to make things a bit more interesting when making jelly why not make one recipe of the mango and one of the coconut jelly. Get some tall see through glasses and put them in your fridge tipped to one side. Add a layer of one flavour and leave to set then a layer of the other and so on. When you serve the jellies they will not only be striped but will look like they are about to tip out of the glass!
The St Helena lemons I have seen this week, look just fantastic, in fact I was so impressed with them I took a photo of the bowl sitting on the counter at the market.
A little bit lumpy and bumpy, these lemons have ATTITUDE!
Tesco might not agree with me but I would far prefer lemons which look like they have had a normal life, rather than lemons which look like they grew and ripened in the box they were delivered in! As for juice content and flavour: St Helena Lemons win the contest again! That’s St Helena Lemons 2 Tesco Lemons 0!
My recipes this week are both sauces. One sweet and one savoury. Both are with butter which is fast becoming the new luxury food! Lemon curd is a really versatile recipe to know as the finished article can be used not only for tarts etc but can be “diluted” cream or other dairy product to make a sauce. The curd can also be swirled through a cheesecake mix to make a Fab lemon cheesecake. Other fruit can be substituted although it should be the tangy ones. Pineapple also makes a lovely curd.
4 oz butter
5 eggs at room temperature
Juice of 4 lemons at room temperature
4 oz caster sugar
1. Melt butter in double boiler or in a pan over boiling water
2. In a separate bowl mix eggs sugar and lemon juice together
3. When the butter is very hot whisk in the other ingredients
4. Keep whisking until thick which can take up to 15 or so minutes
5. Pour into sterilized jars to keep for over a month or into a plastic tub and keep in the fridge to keep for a week or so.
Lemon Butter Sauce: Savoury (Beurre Blanc)
Serve with cauliflower or courgettes (add some rosemary too), any fish, lean pork
To add different flavoured herbs you can put them in the wine and strain them out before adding the butter.
The theory behind this is similar to making homemade mayonnaise, start adding very small amounts of the butter to the liquid and don’t allow it to overheat.
This recipe may take more than one attempt to master but well worth it!
½ medium (red is best) onion or shallot very finely chopped
Juice from half a lemon
Good pinch of salt
150 ml White wine
150 to 200g Soft best butter (unsalted is best)
1. Put the onion wine and lemon juice in a small pan and bring to the boil
2. Reduce the liquid until there is only half left and its starting to go syrupy
3. Turn the heat down to VERY low or get a pan of hot water going
4. Take the liquid off the heat and start to whisk in the butter a bit at a time
5. Pop the sauce back on the heat but not so it will boil, let the liquid just warm up and always keep whisking
6. Gradually add the butter continually whisking until it tastes tangy but nice and buttery
7. Check for seasoning, it may need more salt
8. Keep warm but DO NOT reheat or the sauce will split back into liquid and butter!
Jamie Oliver makes this sauce by putting the reduced liquid into a hot thermos flask and then adding the butter. He then puts the lid on and shakes the lot for about half a minute to get the sauce thickened. You can see the recipe on his website.
Tip of the week: Always strain custards, jellies, sauces and soups before serving. Restaurants use a variety of strainers. Two of the most popular are called a conical strainer and a chinois. A conical strainer can be purchased up to very large sizes which can sit on the sides of very large pans. They are great for getting all the little bits out of a sauce or soup which the blender couldn’t manage. Use a small ladle to push the food through. They are also very good for leaving pureed food in to dry: the water will drip out the bottom.
A chinois is a VERY fine mesh strainer used in pastry departments for getting fruit purees to go clear and to strain custards. If you are a keen cook, both items are fairly reasonable to buy (under £25) and are well worth the investment as they last for years.
I spoke to my Mother in the week. She was keen to know how I am getting on and whether I’ve put on any weight and whether I could get a flu jab over here before I go home! The answers to the two questions are yes and no. I should have said no and yes and then she might have changed the subject!
To soothe her I mentioned that I have been eating loads of broccoli and it’s the best I’ve ever tasted as its coming fresh from the grower to the shop. This was of great interest to her as she has spent her life trying to keep her family health by making us eat “the right foods”. In fact if St Helena wasn’t so difficult to get to I swear she would be over here checking out the Broccoli! The fact that St Helena grown vegetables don’t sit in a warehouse or lorry for days on end means that they have more flavour and of course more nutritional value. St Helena Broccoli still has the sweetness associated with fresh young vegetables and has that dark green sheen to it. Avoid buying broccoli which is starting to turn yellow as the flavour and texture will have faded.
Both broccoli and cauliflower lend themselves to a multitude of recipes using anything from the raw florets to a cooked puree. I remember when I lived in Dubai and had my first contact with American home cooking. I went to someone’s house and they served Broccoli Dip! Something I had never eaten before. Also in Dubai, where the Indian cuisine is brilliant, I became addicted to vegetable pakoras. I include a recipe below although I’m not sure if you can get chickpea flour (also called Gram flour or Besan) over here yet. If not and you have a really powerful blender you can wizz dry chickpeas up and sieve the contents to create a flour.
Broccoli and Cauliflower Pakoras 100g of Chickpea Flour (Gram or Besan Flour)
1 medium cauliflower or Head of Broccoli
1 tsp baking powder
Couple pinches chile powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
Pinch or two of salt
Oil for frying
· Cut the vegetable into bite sized pieces
· Put the chick pea flour in a bowl with all other dry ingredients
· Add enough water to make a batter which will coat the back of a spoon without running off
· Heat the oil in a pan or wok
· Dip the florets into the batter and fry at a medium temperature until the batter is golden and crisp
· Drain well on kitchen paper
To make onion Bhajis: make the batter thicker and use onions instead of cauliflower.
250g Fresh Broccoli cut up small
2 Tblsp Chopped onion
½ clove garlic chopped
1 level Tblsp paprika
100g strong cheese
100g crème fraiche or could substitute a small tin of Nestle cream with some lemon squeezed into it
Pinch of Chile
Ground black pepper and salt to taste
· Wizz broccoli and other vegetables in a food processor
· Place in a bowl and add ¾ of the cheese and stir together
· Stir in the mayonnaise, cream and other ingredients and combine thoroughly
· Place in a small casserole dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top
· Bake in a 200 oven for about 30 minutes or until the dip is bubbling away
· Serve with toasted pitta bread or other crispy items
Remember this will be ultra hot when straight out of the oven!
Tip of the week: When using a chopping board always place a damp cloth underneath it. This will prevent the board from slipping.
Articles & Recipes
The articles first appeared in the St Helena Herald in the Autumn of 2011.