A day in the kitchen: (almost) domestic goddess-ing

Despite having the best looking veg box delivered last week, somehow lunches didn't happen as I'd hoped. They were hastily grabbed and probably not the healthiest option and I was keen not to repeat that again this week.  So yesterday I spent some time prepping and cooking in the kitchen so that I stood half a chance.

If you didn't see my pretty and tasty veg box, here's my Facebook post:

The box was so good - it's the type of box where you can choose your items - that our second box is arriving before we head to work this morning. We usually buy our fruit and veg from our local greengrocers, but just lately the quality seems to have gone down while the price has gone up and so I've been looking at other options. The price of this box is similar but the quality - and freshness - of the produce is far superior.

As well as these we also had some raspberries from the allotment to use - most are in the freezer - so my day of Domestic Godess-ing started with banana, apple and raspberry spelt pancakes, which of course we topped with greek yogurt, more apple puree and honey. They're good, and I use the recipe in Hugh's River Cottage Everyday as my base. I'm not sure I ever really follow it - for a start it doesn't have banana in it - but you'll discover through this post, I often only use a recipe as a guide.

Back to those lunches...

And yes, if you've scrolled down that is cake. But a homemade cake so I think that's slightly better. And any lunch this ends with cake is even better still.  

So this is my take on Elly Pear's apple and banana cake. It does have quite a bit of sugar in, as I discovered as I started to make it - oops.  Well, I consoled myself that it was helping me reduce the mountain of frozen bananas I have in the freezer.  The recipe says to use overripe bananas, not frozen ones, but I sort of adapted the recipe a bit, I also didn't add the second topping, purely because by the time it was in the oven I had moved onto other things.

Elly Pear's apple and banana cake my style

The cake recipe says it serves ten, even for a big cake person like me, I think it'll do more than that. Maybe next time though I should opt for a healthier cake, I will, if I remember. There is more to our lunches than cake, but rolls get boring (and sandwiches aren't my thing) so I've turned to those kinds of lunches where there's salad, protein and grains with lots of variety.

To help get us back on track with weekday lunches, yesterday I cooked some greenwheat freekeh and knocked up another batch and a half of Elly Pear's green harissa. I was only going to make a single batch, but my kitchen scales went a bit loopy with the coriander and so it became a batch and a half.

I think I agree with her about it being addictive, and who'd have thought that spring onions, kale, coriander, garlic, pickled jalapenos, salt and vegetable oil could produce such a winning combination.

Elly Pear's Green Harissa (it's addictive) and some freekeh for lunch

In her newest book there's also recipes using the paste - I cooked the green eggs and refried beans, and we'll be having that again. Maybe not this batch though, as a spoonful alongside grains, salad and roasted vegetables will give our lunches a bit of zing, and there's more recipes I want to try in her books too.

And a batch of pizza dough 

While the cake was cooking I was making a batch of pizza dough, as with the weather nice again we decided to fire up the pizza oven. There seemed little point making enough for one meal though so in the end I made enough for what turned out to be three occasions.  With a kilo of flour, plenty of yeast, some olive oil, salt and tepid water it's a sticky, but enthusiastic dough.

I've still the perfect my take on the recipe, but when I do I'll share it here. Already we've found that the simplest pizza toppings are the best: tomato sauce, torn mozzarella and torn basil, or with some shavings of spicy nduja sausage.

Here's one serving of the dough during its second prove, it's enough for four pizzas the size of a large side plate and a smaller, test, garlic bread pizza. With another two "meals" in the freezer, the self appointed domestic goddess title was starting to be earnt.

pizza dough on its second prove and ready to shape

But I wasn't done there as while the pizza oven was on, it seemed a missed opportunity not to make use of the heat as the oven cooled down. So the apricots from my veg box were split and doused with thyme, vanilla sugar, water and a vanilla pod. A combination I remembered seeing online recently and was looking forward to trying out. 

Apricots with thyme and vanilla ready for the pizza oven

Each year I forget just how much I like apricots and I was really looking forward to trying these. 

Outside finally the pizza oven was getting there, and pizzas were cooked and eaten. No pictures, as by now I was hungry. I'd also made some crumble to keep in the fridge to meet emergency crumble needs, and following the suggestion of rhubarb crumble in an earlier comment, it seemed the only way to go.  

Getting the pizza oven fired up took longer than we thought

Not content with that I'd also made a good looking, and well-risen sourdough to cook in the pizza oven. We knew it was possible, but as we discovered our oven was still too hot. The crust crusted up well, but before the bread could continue to rise in the heat, and it came out looking like this - oops.

Cooking sourdough in the pizza oven needs a little more practice
 
Our pizza oven sourdough tasted better than it looked

Thankfully though it tasted better than it looked and so we'll be eating this for breakfast this week. And trying again, every time we fire up the pizza oven. 

That wasn't our only mishap though as it turns out I needed my emergency crumble sooner than I thought too. That turned out much better than the bread, especially dolloped with mascarpone and eaten straight out of the tin as soon as it was done. It seemed rude not to.

A change of plan on dessert, rhubarb crumble & mascarpone

But what became of the apricots? 

The short answer is, not much and quite a lot! They cooked well and were just starting to catch so MOH took them out of the oven. And promptly dropped them. 

Apricots and dirt anyone? No, me neither

Strangely, after that neither of us wanted any...   Ah well, another time maybe.  

A patchwork bread bag

Last week, just before all the digging and skip filling got underway I took advantage of having to wait in for collections, rather than deliveries with an impromptu sewing session. I've been meaning to make myself a patchwork bread bag for quite a while, remember them in this post of Portuguese food? 

Yes a while back. But what better timing seeing as though I'd made a loaf the day before.

I had some fabric in mind and a rough idea of what I wanted to do.  As I laid the fabric out I realised I needed to find a bit more, and managed to find some more that matched well. The white with blue stripes is an old work shirt of mine I cut up to use for scrap projects. And MOH said I'd never use it...

I knew that I wanted to line the bag, as my sourdoughs can be quite floury. And then inspiration struck. I'd use an old tea towel. Well not that old, but old enough that we only ever use it to wrap bread in rather than to dry up. You know the sort, too good to throw away, but too old to be out on display!

A MEAL WITHOUT WINE IS LIKE A DAY WITHOUT SUNSHINE

A MEAL WITHOUT WINE IS LIKE A DAY WITHOUT SUNSHINE

The only thing about sewing that I'm not so keen on is all the pressing of the seams. But I know it has to be done - and here's proof I did it.

The patchwork element of the bag

The seam matching isn't perfect - quite a few match, some are close and some are way off - but that's part of its charm, right? Ahem.

So how did it turn out?

Not too bad. I added ribbon as a drawstring instead of cord and that works. I think though there's too much fabric to draw together easily, so for the next one I make I'd leave out the lining for that bit. Not quite sure how I'll do that yet, but I'm sure I'll work it out. I've got another tea towel lined up for the lining too, so I've got to give it a go and have a spare for when this one is in the wash, won't I?

The finished bag
A peek at the tea towel lining - and my loaf
The bread's in the bag - and looking way prettier than any plastic bag I know

Overall I'm pleased with it, and it's the prettiest bread storage I've had since that holiday in Portugal a couple of years ago. Pretty and functional, and you can't say fairer than that.

An Easter tea party with home-made Hot Cross Buns

Earlier in the week I received a parcel from Merchant Gourmet inviting me to make some Hot Cross Buns, and not just any old Hot Cross Buns. Their recipe also includes Chestnut Puree and Dulce de Leche, which have to be two of my favourite things ever, so this was an opportunity that I didn't want to miss.

Chestnuts are a long time favourite, and especially my mum's Chestnut stuffing which is an absolute must at Christmas. I really must get her to write it down as even though I've tried to replicate it, I've not mastered it yet.

Dulce de Leche is a newer flavour to me - if you've not tried it, it's like a caramel sauce and delicious. I was first introduced to it at our local Argentinian restaurant who do a stunning dulce de leche bread pudding, and it's always worth trying to leave some room to end the meal on. But as they do delicious morcilla and huge steaks that's always tricky!

Making the Hot Cross Buns

ingredients
mixing the dough
dulce de leche

Unusually there's dulce de leche mixed into the dough; to help ensure this was evenly mixed I stirred it through the warm milk and warm water mixture, and it gave the dough a warm, caramel colour which isn't surprising.

The upper arm work-out

With all the ingredients mixed, it was time for ten minutes of kneading. Its purpose is to stretch the gluten so the dough rises, but it's also good for an arm work-out! It's amazing that after ten minutes its appearance is so different.

before kneading
after kneading

Shaping the buns

The recipe suggests wrapping the dough around the chestnut and dulce de leche mixture but as I think the best way to have Hot Cross Buns is split and toasted I opted to use the mixture once they were toasted.

I had some challenges adding the crosses too, although they are my most successful attempt at crosses to date. I'd chosen a piping nozzle that was just too fine and the mixture struggled to flow out. I gave up at the right time and just before the piping bag burst - I wouldn't have been so happy about that. When I tried with a larger nozzle it was still hard to squeeze out, but much easier than my first go.

the second proove
adding the crosses

But when they came out of the oven, they looked great and I was impressed. 

out of the oven

They smelt good too, and we did well to resist trying one straight from the oven!

The Easter tea party 

Well it's (almost) Easter, so Easter bunnies, chicks and mini-Easter eggs were all included. And doesn't it look pretty?  

hot cross buns easter tea party

And yes, that's a tea cup full of mini-Easter eggs, I didn't want my tea getting cold.

easter bunnies & hot cross buns

The Hot Cross Buns were tasty too, they kept their caramel flavour and MOH thought they were the healthy brown sort, but the colour has come from the dulce de leche. They tasted better than the shop bought ones do, they had more about them if you know what I mean.

easter eggs and hot cross buns
easter chicks
easter personified

How do you like your Hot Cross Buns?

 

This is a collaborative post but all opinions are my own.