I love to cook, good food is really important to me. If you are anything like me you spend a large amount of your life in the kitchen preparing good nourishing food to eat, so this is what has been going on in my kitchen this month. If you would like to join in you would be most welcome, leave a link in the comments section.
I mentioned in my last in my kitchen post that I had been making toothpaste and deodorant and many of you asked me to share my recipes, which I did in my last post along with many other cleaning products I make. Thank you to all who commented and shared your own cleaning 'recipes'. I didn't mention why I make my own, aside from the fact that it fits neatly into my efforts to live sustainably, I do so out of necessity. About four years ago I started experiencing hives like symptoms on my hands over the course of the year it got worse and worse as I couldn't work out what was causing it. It was when I started to wake up with a swollen face and eyes swollen shut that I realised it might have something to do with the cleaning products I was using. So a new journey started into making my own, I haven't dared buy them again I really don't want to repeat that awful experience.
It has been all about baking in my kitchen this month. There has been lots of salad making too, old familiar recipes and a few new ones too, but it is the baking that will be the content of this post.
I have made Hot Cross Buns for Good Friday for a few years now using the recipe from Nigella Lawson's Feast cookbook. I have been wanting to make other types of bread with my sourdough starters and thought that Hot Cross Buns would be a good place to start. They turned out really well and didn't last that long. They were definitely from the slow cooking avenue of baking, the recipe started twenty four hours before baking day. They only needed a little attention each time, I do like that kind of baking fitting it in around other jobs be done. You can find the recipe here. I haven't tried making anything else but writing this has reminded me that I want to, if you have any suggestions or good recipes I would love to hear about them.
As part of our Spring and Easter project/traditions we observed Purim and we made these Haman's Purses for tea, a traditional dish to eat for this Jewish Festival. You can fill them with any filling you like, ours were made from dried apricots soak over night and then pureed in a blender they were delicious! I also made a stew using Carlin Peas which are a North of England speciality at this time of year, I had never heard of these peas before but they were selling them in my local health food shop just before Easter so I just had to give them a try. They are also eaten around Bonfire Night in November.
I stopped eating anything with refined sugar in about six months ago it wasn't particularly difficult as I don't really have a sweet tooth. I realised quite by chance that it was giving me stomach ache. I stopped eating it for a few weeks, then started again, and repeated a couple of times as I wanted to be sure it was that, and not something else, before I stopped eating it completely. As I have Crohn's Disease, which I manage through my diet, I kept a food diary too I didn't want to exclude yet another ingredient without being sure. I have been experimenting with other sweeteners in baking to see if they cause a problem too, but so far so good. I have made two cakes sweetened with honey (the recipes call for maple syrup which is incredibly expensive in the UK so I have been using honey instead) and apple puree. It makes a tasty moist cake and is really easy to make, definitely my kind of recipe. If you want to give them a go you can find the recipe here, and thank you to this lovely blogger for putting me onto the recipe.
I made my sourdough starters some months ago now. We don't eat a lot of bread, but I make it most weeks and have got a good rhythm going. Every Friday morning I get the starters out of the fridge (I have one rye and one spelt) where I store them in glass jars. I leave them to stand for day to warm up to room temperature. If you need to make bread more often you could probably just leave your starter on the side all the time it I haven't tried that so don't know if it will work. What I have found with making sourdough bread is that you need to find what works for the flour you are using and your climate, recipes are a good starting point but bear in mind where the author lives! There is a huge amounts of advice out there some of which will work for you and some won't, but even when it doesn't work it is never, usually, a complete disaster. So having warmed up my starters, in the evening I make the sponges combining the starters with flour and water which I leave to stand, covered, overnight. The more you make bread, the more wild yeasts you will have floating around, the more you sponge will bubble, mine looks good now but it hardly bubbled in the beginning. On the week I took these pictures the rye sponge (on the left) was more lively than the spelt, some weeks it is the other way round. In the morning I remove some of the sponge into back into my jars to become the next starter, the rest is mixed with more flour to make the actual loaves. The rye does not need any kneading as it makes a wet dough that you slop into an oiled tin to rise. The spelt I knead for a short while, if you knead it for too long it makes for a very dense chewy loaf, so until it is smooth will do. I leave it to rest for around fifteen minutes before dividing into two loaves and placing on a floured baking tray to rise. The flour stops the loaves sticking to the tray. How long I leave it depends on the temperature. The warmer the place the less time you need, a maximum of three hours if it is cool, again this is something that is best worked out for your own house. If the loaf is starting to flatten slightly it is ready for the oven! I freeze these loaves and always have a good supply in the freezer ready for those occasional weekends when I am too busy to fit in making any bread.
We have been enjoying a new to us salad recipe this month. It has many ingredients and takes time to put it all together, but I know that the more I make it the quicker I will get. It is really tasty so it is worth it!
Apricot and Chick Pea Salad
200g bulgar wheat
150g cooked chickpeas*
50g sprouted mixed pulses
50g dried apricots soak overnight and chopped
25g toasted flaked almonds
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed dried chillies
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch ground cloves
to taste salt & pepper
Pour boiling water over the bulgar wheat and leave to stand for 30 minutes then drain. Fluff the grains up with a fork.
Mix together the bulgar, chickpeas, sprouted pulses, apricots, almonds and parsley in a bowl.
To make the dressing, heat the oil in a pan, fry onion until soft. Add spices, cook for 2 minutes, season and stir into the salad immediately.
*if you are using dried chickpeas this equates to approximately 75g.
Based on a recipe from the Vegetarian Society Website.