Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd’s Pie)

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableApulia is the southern Italian region which makes up the “heel” of the boot after which the country of Italy is likened. The area was once known as the Wine Cellar of Europe and today, their olive oils are much coveted by the cognoscenti . Their food espouses that wonderful Mediterranean diet of olive oil, fresh vegetables, fresh fish and shellfish, pasta and regional cheeses. The meat of choice is lamb or kid which is grilled, roasted or baked which brings me to this recipe for Agnello e Patate al Forno which translates to Lamb and Potatoes of the Oven or an Italian version of Shepherd’s Pie!

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableIt’s from a wonderful book called Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti which I have had for many more years than I care to remember.  Over those years, I have made many a recipe from it but this is the one that gets made time and time again. Italian cooking is cooking from the heart. It is all about excellent quality ingredients generally cooked simply and without fuss and this ethos completely appeals to me. This recipe depends on flavoursome lamb, tasty fresh tomatoes, good pecorino cheese, good wine and fresh herbs. I have made it with and without wine – it is better with, of course. I tend to use lamb neck fillet as despite being tender, it has a lot of flavour and cooks a little more quickly than other cuts. The dish comes together in about 15 minutes and cooks for 1 – 1.5 hours depending on the cut of meat used.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableI start by pre-heating the oven to 200C/400F and placing a couple slices of bread in it to toast for the bread crumbs. I set the timer for 5 minutes too so that I don’t forget about them! Then I place the garlic, the cheese and the herbs in a small processor and blitz until the mixture resembles green crumbs, which is set aside. Once the bread is out and has cooled, I tear this up and blitz it too and mix it into the cheese and herb mixture. I peel and cut up the potatoes, dice the tomatoes and chop the lamb. A little olive oil is judiciously poured into a baking dish, into which the lamb, potatoes and tomatoes are tumbled about, seasoned and covered with the herbed breadcrumb mixture. A little wine is poured in and a little water to come halfway up the potatoes. At this point I like to pull up bits of lamb to poke through so that the tops get nice and crispy while the underneath braises in the delicious wine and tomato juices and gets melting tender. A little olive oil is then lightly drizzled over the top and it goes into the oven to cook, undisturbed for an hour or so.  In the past, I have used stock for all the liquid if wine was not at hand and also added lemon zest to herb mixture and the juice to the liquid. It smells amazing as it cooks and benefits from resting for a few minutes after coming out of the oven. Served with a peppery rocket salad, it’s a lovely meal at this time of the year.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's Table

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie)

  • Servings: serves 3 people or 2 generously, with left overs
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from  Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti

INGREDIENTS

  • 35g pecorino cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary – about 5g of needles
  • 25g fresh parsley including the stalks
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • pepper
  • 25g fresh bread crumbs
  •  500g potatoes (floury or waxy – both types are fine here)
  • 400g – 500g lamb neck fillet or lean lamb
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • salt
  • 100ml approx of white or red wine
  • 100ml approx of water or stock
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley and pecorino cheese to serve.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. If you are making your own bread crumbs, which I recommend, then place the bread slices in the oven to dry out for 5 minutes while the oven is heating up. In my experience, it is best to set a timer so that you don’t forget about them!
  2. Chop the pecorino into cubes, peel the garlic and strip the needles off the rosemary. Place in a small processor and blitz until it’s crumbly. Add the parsley and oregano and blitz again. Scrape out and set aside. When the bread has been in the oven for 5 minutes, remove to cool, then tear up and blitz into crumbs. Stir into the herb and cheese mixture and grind over lots of freshly milled pepper. Mix well.
  3. Smear the bottom of an oven proof dish with a little olive oil. Mine is about 9″ x 5″.
  4. Peel and chop the potatoes into smaller chunks that you would for a roast. So the larger ones into about 8 equal sized pieces and smaller ones into 4 and place in the dish. Cut the lamb, across the grain in similar sizes to the potatoes. Dice the tomatoes keeping them chunky. Tumble the lot into the dish and season with a good sprinkle of salt. Arrange so that bits of lamb and potato are poking through.
  5. Carefully pour in the wine and water, tilting the dish so that the liquid is evenly distributed. It should come halfway up the potatoes.
  6. Shake over the breadcrumb mixture to cover the top evenly and drizzle over a little olive oil.
  7. Cook in the oven for 1 – 1½ hours or until the potatoes are cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes then sprinkle over some fresh parsley and shaved pecorino before serving.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fruit and Nut Sourdough Crackers

Cape TownHello from gorgeous Cape Town! I’m here for a wedding but wanted to share these fabulous crackers with you.

Fruit and Nut Sourdough Crackers | Selma's TableWhenever I dry any sourdough starter, I always test some before sending it out or storing it. This recipe is just perfect for using up the test batch as it makes about a cup.

Fruit and Nut Sourdough Crackers | Selma's Table

Rehydrated sourdough starter

The artisan crackers are just delicious – on their own or with cheese and also make the most gorgeous gift too.

Fruit and Nut Sourdough Crackers | Selma's TableFruit and Nut Sourdough Crackers | Selma's TableFruit and Nut Sourdough Crackers | Selma's TableMake sure to pre soak the dried fruit before starting. I used water but next time I will soak them in strong black tea or port.

Fruit and Nut Sourdough Crackers | Selma's Table

Rosemary, Dried Fruit and Nut Sourdough Crackers

  • Servings: about 100/125 crackers
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Dinner with Julie

INGREDIENTS

  • 80 g plain/AP flour
  • 70 g wholemeal flour
  • 80 g rye flour
  • 90 g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup recently fed sourdough starter
  • 200 ml milk
  • 100 ml greek yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup dried fruit – I used berries, cherries and raisins, soaked and drained
  • 50 g chopped almonds
  • 50 g chopped hazelnuts
  • 40 g pumpkin seeds
  • 30 g sesame seeds
  • 40 g linseeds
  • 2 Tbsp/7g chopped fresh rosemary needles

1 x 6 mini loaf tin. Each one of mine measures 11.5 cm long, 6 cm wide and 3.5 cm deep.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda and salt to evenly distribute all the ingredients.
  3.  Then, add the starter, milk, the yoghurt and honey and using wooden spoon, mix well.
  4. Stir in the raisins, the nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, linseeds and rosemary.
  5. Pour the batter into .
  6. Divide the batter evenly between 8 mini  4″ x 2 1/2″ loaf pans that have been well sprayed with nonstick spray.
  7. Bake 25 – 30 minutes, until the tops have domed and turned golden-brown, and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes then turn out to cool on wire racks. You can slice  when cold but they slice more thinly when frozen.
  8. Freeze when cold and leave 15 mins or so at room temperature to soften slightly.
  9. Pre-heat oven to 150°C/300° F
  10. Slice one loaf as thinly as you can using a serrated knife and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet.
  11. Bake the crackers for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until crisp and brown. Repeat with the remaining loaves, as you need them.
  12. Store in an airtight container and try not to eat them all at once!
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sensational Meatballs with Lentils

Sensational Meatballs with LentilsI almost didn’t post this recipe, hence the lack of photos, in progress or otherwise! I’ve been making these Sensational Meatballs and Lentils for about 8 years (since 2006 according to my notes) and it was Jake who suggested that I share the recipe here on the blog when I made it the other day. It came about the usual way – picking up a few bits on the way home from work and seeing what was in the cupboards to supplement the ingredients – a bit like Ready Steady Cook! The resultant deeply flavoured, lemony Meatballs and Lentils were so delicious that I wrote up the recipe in my notebook.

This is one of those dishes that wraps you up in a warm blanket and gives you a hug; so comforting on these dark, chilly evenings. The seasonings of smoked paprika, rosemary and cumin seeds give the dish so much depth and flavour and the lemon juice and zest perk it all up.  It’s very quick to prepare, especially if you buy pre-made (raw) meatballs which can be a godsend if you are strapped for time.  Red lentils don’t require pre-soaking and cook very quickly, usually between 15 – 20 minutes and the lemon juice is the perfect complement to them. Stirring in spinach or chard leaves at the end gives it a vegetal boost with the added bonus of not having to prepare a separate side dish. You could also use frozen spinach. adding it a few minutes earlier so that it has a chance to thaw in the pot. Don’t add salt until the end otherwise the lentils stay hard.  This is quick, one pot cooking at it’s best.

Sensational Meatballs with LentilsYou start by rolling the meatballs, then sauté the onions, then the meatballs with the seasonings; stir in the stock, lentils, lemon juice and tomatoes and let the whole lot simmer away while you get the rice on and prepare the spinach which gets stirred in a couple of minutes before the end. That’s it!! I urge you to give the Meatballs and Lentils  a try – the dish is absolutely sensational!

I’m taking these to share with all the Fiesta Friday #46  revellers, so generously hosted by Angie at the Novice Gardener. Today our co hosts are  Margy @La Petite Casserole and Juju @cookingwithauntjuju. – do drop by and say hello to them!

Sensational Meatballs with Lentils

  • Servings: 4 generous portions
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g lean mince beef
  • 1 tsp of salt and a good grinding of the pepper mill
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 2 red onions, diced
  • A good splash of Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp whole, dry roasted cumin seeds
  • 1 rounded tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 200g dry red split lentils
  • 1 rounded tsp of chicken stock powder stirred into 500 ml of hot water/500ml homemade stock
  • 1 tin of tomatoes or 3-4 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 couple of bay leaves
  • 300 – 400 g fresh spinach or chard

To serve

  • Cooked rice
  • Dollop of greek yoghurt or tzatziki

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Season the minced beef with salt and pepper, stir in parsley and with a light hand, mix well to combine. Wet your hands and roll into walnut sized balls and set aside. If you are in a hurry you can substitute ready made (raw) meatballs but get the premium ones as the cheaper ones have more fat and sometimes, gristle.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions until soft and a little coloured.
  3. Stir in the rosemary, smoked paprika, garlic and lemon zest, then add the meatballs and sauté until lightly brown on all sides – about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice, the lentils, the stock, the tomatoes (break up the tomatoes if you are using whole tinned ones) and bay leaves. Let this simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it and add a little more water if necessary. It shouldn’t be too thick.
  5. While it’s simmering away, wash the spinach/chard and remove the central rib if thick and fibrous. Save them in the freezer, for the stock pot. Chop the leaves and set aside. Get the rice on.
  6. After 20 minutes, check that the lentils are cooked through and also check the seasoning. Adjust to taste – this is the time to add salt; I also like to add more cumin seeds.
  7. Stir in the spinach/chard leaves and cover the pot to allow the leaves to wilt in the heat.
  8. Serve hot with rice an a dollop of greek yoghurt or tzatziki.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes | Selma's TableA Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson is a cookbook which took my cooking and palate to another level in the mid ’90’s. A grown up’s cookbook and later voted The Most Useful Cookbook’ in 2005, chef and writer, Simon Hopkinson makes absolutely no compromises when it comes to technique or quality of ingredients and is very no-nonsense in his classic approach to cooking which is unpretentious and full of flavour. He has headed the kitchens at Hilaire (where I was fortunate enough to have dined when he was cooking) and then Bibendum; has written a food column for the Independent and also made some wonderful TV programmes; some of which are still available on the 4OD catch up service if you are in the UK. It was he who introduced me to cooking a roast chicken at a very high temperature for the first 15 minutes to tighten skin and start rendering the fat, before lowering it for the rest of the roasting time. It was also he who introduced me to the the flavour sensation that is anchovy, rosemary, garlic stuffed into slits made into a leg of lamb – that first mouthful was unforgettable – the anchovy had broken down and mellowed into an intense savouriness while the garlic and rosemary had perfumed the lamb. I rarely cook a leg of lamb any other way.

10 years later, I am watching Jamie Oliver roast a leg of lamb directly on the oven rack with a roasting tin full of potatoes underneath to catch all the fat and juices. Both he and Nigella Lawson send my kitchen OCD tendencies completely into overdrive – they are both so MESSY but perhaps I would be too if I had a brigade of assistants to wipe down every jar, utensil, surface and handle I touch. I digress. I was very taken with the idea of the potatoes roasting under the lamb, cooking in the lamb fat and absorbing all the lamby juices but there was absolutely no way that I was going to put myself through cleaning the oven afterwards.

One Sunday, few weeks later and in a hurry, I bought some lamb and potatoes, thinking I would do my usual but got home to find that I had bought a boned and rolled shoulder of lamb. I thought of Jamie Oliver’s roasting method and remembered that I had a wire rack which had feet – it could sit in a roasting tin, a few inches above the base.  So I improvised on my “usual” by making a paste out of the anchovy/rosemary/garlic trinity and added a spoonful of mustard. I unrolled the lamb and smeared it with the paste, re-rolled it using the stretchy butchers string that it came rolled in and set it on that wire rack, over a few peeled potatoes, to roast. Best. Meal. Ever.

Intensely savoury and juicy meat; potatoes which were crisp on the bottom and full of the flavours of lamb – eaten alongside some plain green beans and washed down with a glass or two of a smooth red – it really was sublime. It is not a dish I make often though – this really is a treat to have once in a while, after a long brisk walk or perhaps for a special occasion when dietary concerns can be put aside…

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes | Selma's Table

Roasted and ready to rest

This time round I included thyme leaves and a little harissa too – it was wonderful. Of course, you can leave out the harissa if you wish or substitute chill flakes and paprika but please do try it with the anchovy – the heat of the oven changes the flavour completely with no fishy taste, just a lot of big savoury flavour. And do remove the lamb from the fridge for at least an hour beforehand, to get the meat up to room temperature. It will cook more evenly this way.

A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes | Selma's Table

Today, Elaine the inspirational blogger behind Foodbod and I are once again co-hosting Fiesta Friday #36 which is held by the generous, creative and wonderful Angie @ The Novice Gardener. Do take a look at Angie’s latest post – I mean, who else can take a draft post and some left over mole and come up with this mouthwatering dish for Crepas di Mole? You can also see who has been featured from last week’s birthday-centric submissions. And, on to my co-host,  Elaine – she makes the most delicious looking and sounding food all of which is dairy, wheat and meat free. Take a look at  The foodbod range where you can order some of her flavour packed dips and goodness bars if you are lucky enough to live locally to her.

Click on the Fiesta Friday badge below to join the party – you can submit a post (please be sure to include the link and a mention in your post to Angie  FF#36 post – it’s only polite and also ensures that you can be considered for a feature next week!)  or just take a look at others are up to!  If you are new to blogging, Fiesta Friday is a great way to gain exposure and make new friends too.

If you’re new to Fiesta Friday, please do take a minute to read the guidelines.

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A Sublime Rolled Roast Shoulder of Lamb & Potatoes

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 medium floury potatoes
  • 750-900g boned and rolled shoulder of lamb
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

For the paste

  • 2 stems of rosemary leaves
  • 1 good Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 anchovies (in oil)
  • 1 tbsp of the anchovy oil or olive oil
  • 1 tsp Djion mustard
  • ½ – 1 tsp Harissa paste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Peel and halve the potatoes lengthwise. Toss in a little olive oil and salt and place in a roasting tin, cut side up.
  3. Pop in the oven to start roasting while you get on with the lamb.
  4. Unroll the lamb, fat side down. Save the stretchy butchers string, unless you have kitchen string that you can use.
  5. Blitz the paste ingredients together – it should be quite thick. Add a little more oil if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning – it shouldn’t need salt as there is plenty in the anchovy.
  6. Smear the paste on the meat, getting into all the cracks and crevices. Roll up the lamb (fat on the outside) and secure with the stretchy butchers string. Push in any paste which escapes and coat the ends of the lamb with it too.
  7. Take the tin out of the oven and turn the potatoes over so that the cut sides are face down. Bunch them up (in one layer) so that you can place the rack so that it will cover as many of them as possible.
  8. Lay the lamb on the rack, anoint the fat with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Any potatoes which are not directly under the lamb should have a tiny bit of olive oil drizzled over them too. As the lamb roasts, the fat and the lamb juices will run down onto the potatoes and infuse them with a huge amount of flavour.
  9. Roast for 1 – 1 ¼ hours then remove the lamb and set aside loosely covered with foil, to rest for at least 20 minutes. Keep the potatoes warm under some foil while you get on with any other vegetables – I love green beans with this.
  10. Remove the string and carve into juicy slices – the thickness is up to you – I prefer ½ cm thick slices – not too thin and not too thick either. The paste will have formed a sublime sauce of sorts, inside the lamb which will ooze out as you carve – make sure that everyone gets a little!

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Courgette, Red Pepper & Mint Gratin with Chèvre

Courgette and Red Pepper Gratin with Chèvre | Selma's Table

Such a glut of courgettes (zucchini) around – do you know that right now, the most popular recipe on my blog is Quick Summer Pickle – Sweet and Sour Courgettes? It gets more views every day than anything else at the moment! I love courgettes but unfortunately, Jake does not. No matter how I cook them, oven fries, griddled, sautéed, grated raw or ribboned  in a salad – he just picks them out and says that it is a texture thing. I can’t even fool him anymore by saying that it’s cucumber – he’s waaaay beyond that stage now!

So in order to satisfy my craving for them, I tend to cook them so that they will keep for a couple of days at least – that means gratins and stews. This one is a riff on the very first recipe I posted a year ago, Courgette, Feta and Thyme Bake. I still can’t photograph it that well – it’s not a looker but it tastes fabulous warm, room temperature  or cold.

This Courgette, Red Pepper & Mint Gratin with Chèvre is a good dish for a picnic or a barbecue as it can be made ahead and ideal for a buffet table as well. I like it on a slice of toasted sourdough with a rocket salad – it makes the perfect light lunch or supper. The combination of courgettes, mint, red pepper and goats cheese is lovely and fresh – perfect to see off the summer with.

Courgette and Red Pepper Gratin with Chèvre | Selma's Table

Courgette and Red Pepper Gratin with Chèvre | Selma's Table

My Courgette, Red Pepper & Mint Gratin with Chèvre is terribly easy to make. Sauté some shallots and peppers, then add the coins of courgettes, garlic and seasonings. While that is going on, mix up the custard – the eggs, creme fraiche and parmesan cheese. Then it’s just a matter of layering it all together and dotting it with chunks of chèvre (goats cheese) and popping it in the oven for half and hour or so. Now the trick with layering is to start off really parsimoniously – be as mean as you can get away with so that you have generous amounts left for the top layers. Printable recipe follows below, as always!

Courgette and Red Pepper Gratin with Chèvre | Selma's Table

Courgette and Red Pepper Gratin with Chèvre | Selma's Table

Courgette, Red Pepper & Mint Gratin with Chèvre

  • Servings: 4 - 8 servings
  • Time: 15 mins prep, 25 - 35 mins oven
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp rapeseed or mild olive oil
  • 2 large banana shallots or 1 medium onion
  • 1 large sweet red pointed pepper
  • 4 medium courgettes/zucchini
  • pinch of salt
  • pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
  • a splash of water
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves finely chopped
  • 3 medium free range or organic eggs
  • 150 ml reduced fat creme fraiche
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 100 g of soft goats cheese/chèvre

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220 C/450F and butter an oven proof dish.
  2. Warm oil in a large frying pan over a medium low flame
  3. Slice shallots into half moons and stir in.
  4. De-seed and slice the red pepper and stir in. Add a pinch of salt and give it all a stir.
  5. Slice the courgettes into ½ cm coins. When the shallots start to caramelise and the peppers are starting to soften, stir in the courgettes. Let these sauté for about 5 – 7 minutes, stirring frequently so that the shallots don’t catch. The courgettes should be just cooked through and a little browned in places. It does help to use a big frying pan.
  6. Stir in the minced garlic, the rosemary and the bouillon powder and add a little splash of water and scrape up the delicious caramelised juices that will have stuck to the pan. Turn off the heat, stir in the mint and set aside to  cool while you get on with the eggs.
  7. Lightly whisk the eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk in the creme fraiche , the lemon juice and the parmesan cheese. It will look slightly curdled and will thicken from the lemon juice but it is fine.
  8. In a well buttered ovenproof dish, layer a scant half of the vegetables and cover with a very scant half of the custard. Repeat, finishing by dotting blobs of the soft goats cheese over the top.
  9. Bake for 25-35 minutes until set and golden brown in places.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6/8 as side dish or 4 as a light lunch with salad

Also fabulous to take on picnics or in packed lunches.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fruited Soda Bread with Sunflower Seeds and Rosemary

fruited-soda-bread-with-rosemary

I have been intending to make a soda bread ever since baking one on Nina Oortman‘s brilliant bread making class.  (You can read the post I wrote about that class – Bread Angel –  Nina Oortman  by clicking on the link.)  I’ve mulled over different flavour combinations and wondered if my temperamental oven would render the bread inedible. I finally took the bull by the horns and made one, lightly perfumed with rosemary and scattered through with mixed peel, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. It was very nice indeed. Lovely with a piece of cheddar as an after school snack.

fruited-soda-bread-with-rosemary

Soda breads are so quick and easy to make – they are made without yeast and don’t require any kneading either. In fact, the less the dough is handled, the better. One has to work quickly as the baking soda starts to react pretty much straight away with the buttermilk so I wasn’t able to stop and take photos of the process this time. It will work with all sorts of different combinations of ingredients, sun dried tomato and feta cheese; cheddar and spring onion; raisin and cinnamon, chopped olives and mozzarella…

Buttermilk – The name conjures up bucolic images of  metal canisters of rich creamy milk at the barn door full of fat globules of yellow butter floating in it. Buttermilk is nothing of the sort. Originally it was used to describe the whey that was left behind after butter had been churned from cream. Today it is made from pasteurised skimmed milk to which a culture of lactic acid bacteria added. The lactic acid works on fermenting the lactose, ( the main sugar in milk) decreasing the PH which causes the milk to clabber or get thicker and taste sour. 100ml contains 59 kcals, 0.1 g of fat, 7.8g sugar, 8.8g carbohydrate and 5.5g protein which is quite respectable. Buttermilk is often used with baking soda as a raising agent as the acid activates the bicarbonate to produce carbon dioxide, thus producing pockets of air in baked goods like scones, pancakes and soda bread. It is wonderful for tenderising chicken in a marinade and making salad dressings too.

fruited-soda-bread-with-rosemary

Polish Buttermilk

If you come across any shops with Polish groceries, then look for Maslanka in the dairy section, which is the Polish name for buttermilk.

fruited-soda-bread-with-rosemary

fruited-soda-bread-with-rosemary

fruited-soda-bread-with-rosemary

fruited-soda-bread-with-rosemary

Fruited Soda Bread with Sunflower Seeds and Rosemary

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Nina Oortman’s Bread Angel Baking Class

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g strong white or plain flour (not self raising)
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (or baking soda)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 50 g mixed peel
  • 50 g dried cranberries
  • 25 g pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary needles
  • 300 g buttermilk (or full fat milk with lemon juice)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F and line a good solid baking tray with parchment.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until it is well mixed and aerated.
  3. Gently stir in the dried fruit, seeds and rosemary.
  4. Make a well in the middle of flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk.
  5. Using a dinner knife, cut in as quickly and gently as you can until all the buttermilk has been absorbed and you have a scraggy dough. Do not over mix or your loaf will be tough.
  6. Scrape the dough onto the prepared tray and shape into an oval or a round. Using a serrated knife, slash a deep cross through it. This helps with heat distribution but tradition has it that it was to let the devil out! Sprinkle a little flour over the top.
  7. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes depending on how hot your oven is. The loaf should sound hollow when you tap the base.
  8. Delicious warm and best enjoyed on the day it is made.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

If you are in or around Malvern and want to learn how to make this and yeasted breads, Nina has added another bread making class to the roster  – click on the link for more information or if you would like to book yourself in – http://www.ninasbakery.co.uk/classes.html

fruited-soda-bread-with-rosemary

Steamed Sea Bream “al Cartoccio”

Steamed Sea Bream "al Cartoccio"

Steaming fillets of delicate white fish in a paper parcel is such a quick and easy way to cook them and this recipe for Steamed Sea Bream al Cartoccio is no exception. The most difficult thing was making sure that the top of the parcel was well sealed! I got distracted after I had made the parcel (my friend had arrived and the first glass of wine had been poured…) and forgot to take a photo but you can see what the sealed parcel should look like here. We had this with the Roasted Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree which I posted yesterday and a green salad with a sharp mustardy dressing (salt, pepper, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp cider vinegar and 3 tsp EVOO)

A local Italian restaurant serves a seafood linguine al cartoccio and it is very easy to do as long as you undercook the pasta before it is parcelled.

Steamed Sea Bream "al Cartoccio"

Lay out the bream fillets on the prepared foil and parchment paper and season with salt, pepper and rosemary

Steamed Sea Bream "al Cartoccio"

Add the garlic, a little oil and butter before folding up into a parcel

As far as flavours go, you could use tarragon instead of rosemary and a little sprinkle of crushed toasted coriander seeds would also be lovely.  A little infused saffron would be delicious with rosemary and a mix of seafood. You could use other types of fish and seafood too but you may need more liquid and a little longer cooking time if the fish is thick.  If you are making these for more than two people or for a dinner party (and this is a fantastic template for a dinner party recipe as you can prepare the parcels beforehand and then cook them 10 minutes before you want to eat) then, parcel up the fish individually.

Steamed Sea Bream al Cartoccio

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 fillets of sea bream or other white fish
  • 3 or 4 cloves of Garlic Confit or roasted garlic – don’t use raw garlic as the flavour will be overpowering.
  • 1 tsp of the garlic flavoured oil if you are using garlic confit – optional
  • A few sprigs of rosemary
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp dry white wine
  • Lemon wedges to serve

You will also need 60cm pieces of foil and parchment paper to make the parcel

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220C/425F. Put a roasting tray or sheet in to pre heat as well.
  2. Make the cartoccio by placing the foil on the worktop, shiny side down. Lay the parchment paper on top and turn over the edges to seal the two together.
  3. Lay the fish fillets in the middle of the paper.
  4. Season fillets with salt and pepper, scatter over the rosemary needles and garlic. Drizzle the garlic flavoured oil over the fish and top with the butter.
  5. Bring the short ends of the paper together over the top of the fillets and roll/fold up as tightly as you can manage so that steam cannot escape. There shouldn’t be too much space inside the parcel so make it as small as you can without crushing the fillets.
  6. Then, fold up one of the sides, again, as tightly as you can. Press down on the foil to help seal it.
  7. Tip up the open parcel slightly and pour in the wine. Seal this side tightly as well. You should have a small domed parcel that is a little larger than the fish inside.
  8. Place the parcel on the pre-heated tin and cook for 10 minutes. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before opening the parcel.
  9. The wine, oil and butter will have combined to make a small amount of delicious sauce that should be spooned over the fish when you serve it.
  10. Serve with lemon wedges.

Delicious with Roasted Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree and a green salad with a sharp dressing.