Category Archives: Recipes

In Pursuit of a Sourdough Starter

Couple of years ago, I had that craving for a traditional rye sourdough bread that I remember devouring, still hot, smeared with a slash of butter. That bread came from our local bakery and the baker was known in the area for doing bread the traditional way with his own sourdough starter. In the bakery, you could buy a borsch starter as well. That was back in the day in Poland, in my childhood.

Since then, buying a good bread even in Poland is a task. Here in the UK, breads are different, made with processed and fortified flour, quite light and without a substantial crust. I stopped eating mass produced breads for a good while now and I feel better for it.

Although craving for childhood treats did not go away. Therefore, I sourced some rye flour, scoured the internet for a rye bread recipe and I made a starter. I nursed it and fussed over the bread dough. The result was a disappointment to say the least. The bread rose, then it sunk and remained raw inside. I was gutted and discouraged from taking on bread baking for a while. I went back to baking quick breads with yeast in the bread machine every now and then.

Since then, artisan breads and bakeries are cropping up and I thought again of sourdough rye bread. I needed a good starter recipe, so I asked around and few people knew roughly how to do itS but it was quite superficial knowledge and each person giving me sometimes contradictory tips. I went online, there is such an abundance of recipes that it could be dizzyingly confusing.

I went through a few and I decided to follow two to see which works better. I used one recipe for wholemeal rye flour and another for all purpose flour but I preferred the mentioned rye flour.
I found organic wholemeal rye flour in a local Polish shop. The wholemeal rye flour is known in Poland as “razowa” flour, meaning it was milled only once and it contains whole grains providing all minerals and vitamins from a grain. It is the best source of yeasts for your starter, as yeasts live freely on grains.

Both recipes were following a similar method, you need to mix roughly the same amount of flour and filtered water with a wooden spoon, leave it to stand for 24 hours covered with a kitchen towel in the stable room temperature. Temperature is important, because when it is too cold the process slows down and when it gets too hot your wild yeasts most likely will produce more alcohol, making the starter unsuitable for a bread making.

It is wise to start with a small amount of a starter, if anything goes wrong, you simply discard a batch and start over again. Once the starter is well established, you can keep it in a fridge and feed it a bit more before a planned bread baking. Do remember to retain a small batch of starter after each baking for future use. Simply, you store it in a fridge and feed it every couple of days. In case it fermented too much, discard most of it and feed the starter as that should fix the issue.

The idea sounds simple, so why most people cannot be bothered or if they are bothered, why do things go wrong? Starter is a living animal, reacting to humidity and temperature. It needs wholemeal flour, rye is the best as rye grains are populated with natural wild yeasts and that promotes a good growth. Besides, breads made with such a starter have a taste and quality that baker’s yeasts breads are unable to provide. Baker’s yeasts speed up the process while dough made with a starter needs time to grow. It rewards your patience and perseverance with that unique flavour – I love to open the cupboard and smell that sourish yeasty aroma from the bread. Additionally, sourdough breads keep fresh for longer.

The wholemeal rye flour is the best source of yeast and bacteria to make your starter do the job. The rye flour makes it easy to maintain a starter in between bakings as well – it requires feeding every couple of days and extra feeding ahead baking. Yeasts live on the outside of a grain so the white rye flour might not do as good job as the whole grain. Its smell is pleasant and it stirs easily.

It is important to keep your station clean, use clean utensils and glass jars, wooden spoons preferably and handle things with clean hands. In case you introduced unfriendly bacterias into your starter, you will notice a strong, rancid smell or change in a colour. In such case, you will have to discard all the starter and start all over again.

Returning to my starter palaver, on the second day I noticed few air bubbles in one of the starters, though it did not double as it was mentioned in the recipe. Still, I fed both of them. You feed it equal amount of water and rye flour, stir with wooden spoon and leave it it to rest on your counter, away from direct sun. I give it about 40 grams of water and flour respectively. In case, the starter goes berserk, you will not lose too much ingredients and at the beginning you will be throwing away some of it before feeding it anyway. Besides it is easy to make extra more starter if you plan on baking more breads.

The following day, I saw more action, but starters were still kind of slow, so I discarded about half of each starter and fed them again and I repeated the process the next day. I think a reason behind them being slow, was unusually cold days. You just need to be patient with your “baby” at times.
After six days, it was time for starters to be well established, but the starter which was the most promising, started to produce too much alcohol, so I discarded about 3/4 of it and fed it again. Unfortunately, the next day there was no improvement. However, the other starter matured and became quite lovely with musky smell and plenty of air bubbles. I still tried to save the ailing starter, but the next day I had to discard it. The starter which was slow to begin with, proved to be a winner.

My starter seems to be doing better and better with each baking. I guess I’ve learnt a lot from the whole process too: you cannot follow every recipe to the letter and panic too early. The climate and environment you are able to provide is very important. The whole sourdough business is a slow process and requires planning ahead, perseverance and patience.

Whole rye flour is highly recommended, as it keeps starter well out of trouble even if you forget to feed it for a couple of days: just discard most of it and feed it to give it a boost. Other vital ingredients is filtered water, so no tap water as it could contain chlorine.

When you are setting up a new starter, feeding or some call it refreshing, is an important step to establish healthy starter colony. You will need to throw away a half or 3/4 of a starter before each feeding. This way yeasts will get extra boost to multiply and it also dilutes any alcohol and acid which is byproduct of a fermentation process so the yeasts will not get killed off by it.

You can store the starter in a fridge, just feed it each week, leave it on a counter for few hours or overnight before returning to a fridge. If you keep a starter on a counter, feed it more often. Keep it more thick-paste like, as it slows the process, more water speeds it up.

Last but not least, have fun baking and sampling breads. Do not shy away from experimenting with different flours and recipes. It is very homely to smell a fresh sourdough bread. The flavours it gives away are the ultimate reward for the time and patience it requires.

 

To make a starter you will need:

  • 40g wholemeal rye flour
  • 40ml filtered or bottled water
  • Clean glass jar and kitchen towel to cover
  • Combine water and flour together with a wooden spoon. Leave the jar on the counter away from the sun, in a place with a stable temperature.
  • On a second day, discard a half of mixture and feed the starter again with 40 g of flour and 40 ml of water.
  • Repeat these steps on the 3rd day. You should notice air bubbles in the starter already. You will need to repeat these steps for next 3 to 4 days until you will see your starter alive and well with plenty of air bubbles and smelling musky. It should be ready by then to use in baking.

The next stage is to bake a bread with it, a rye sourdough bread episode will follow shortly…

Purple Surprise

Today we moved away from a planned meal to something that was as impromptu as one can get. Someone suggested fresh bread rolls and that ballooned to adding fried liver and cabbages to make a homemade burger. It went so well we had to share.

Purple Surprise
Lamb’s liver in red wine sauce – onions, salt, pepper, hot chilli powder
Red cabbage with apples, cinnamon, cloves, cider vinegar
Homemade bread rolls with spelt flour
Butter

IMG_20151229_171550The lamb came out moist and spicy. It was cut in small pieces before frying to fit neatly into the roll. The red cabbage had a strong wine flavour and was just the right side of salty. It was drained in a strainer over the pot so not to soak the sandwich. The rolls were made from a Trinidad recipe for Hops Bread but they are essentially a crusty bun. As soon as they came off the pan they were cut and buttered and filled with liver and cabbage.

The drink to go with this was a hot chocolate made with Van Houten cacao and our own blend of spices and coconut milk.

The success of this meal was the best surprise.

Sada Roti from Trinidad

Mr FTF is the original export from Trinidad and therefore every now and then we do some Trini inspired cooking. Taking into account what we usually eat, Sada Roti made of flour, water and baking powder is not our regular food. IMG_20151019_204747We used non fortified white spelt flour. This roti is made quite quickly and then cooked on a hot pan, no fat for frying.

Mr FTF served them immediately, it’s the best when hot. I can imagine it goes so well with buljol – check out as well the recipe on our blog.

So it’s how we roll, we stick to the real food – avoiding modern processed grain products. At times though, we spoil ourselves with our heritage dishes. Only one rule, be kind and have a good time with people you care about dearly..

Here’s the channel where you can discover some traditional Trini foods: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnm5K1uR-3XjGtp9o8lQbeg

 

Buljol

IMG_20130901_174247_1I haven’t done this for some time and I really felt like it when I found these smocked mackerels in the fish aisle. So I did Buljol, my way.

Buljol is a Trinidadian dish Mr FTF introduced me to and it is a breakfast regular there. Actually, it’s made with salt fish and it has a distinctive flavour which I love. Provided I manage to source a good quality one over here. Although, salt fish is quite messy and laborious to prepare: it includes soaking in warm water then removing the bones and bear in mind not to soak it too long or your meal will be flaky and tasteless. Because it’s bony, it doesn’t matter how much attention you give to removing them from the flesh, some will always find its way onto your plate.

All this effort will reward you with a very unique taste; seaside salty air, tangy, fleshy and lip smacking. Don’t mind the occasional bone.

We’re quite busy though and salt fish is a treat so I tried it out with smocked mackerel once and that was a hit! The bones were way easier to clean. Even my Trini mother-in-law loved it. So here we go.

You need to discard the mackerel skin and shred the flesh with your fingers. Then slice finely tomatoes and onion. The ratio of ingredients depends on your choice. I prefer less onion more tomatoes. Then season it with pepper, salt (taste before you add any as smocked mackerel is already quite salty) and add olive oil to make the mix moist. Let the flavours blend for some time in the fridge and serve at breakfast or lunch with avocadoes or side dish of your choice. Trinis would serve it with local breads mostly called bakes.

As we keep an eye on our grain intake, we serve it with cassava, eddoes, sweet potatoes or even chips. Today was chips with Polish mayonnaise, a favourite of Mr FTF.

You have to be careful with processed chips. Most have wheat or maize flour to give a crunch and the list of additives can be quite long. I found just one that I use in a pinch that has just potatoes coated with sunflower oil. When I make it from scratch I use goose or duck fat. Simply the best!!

Ingredients:

  • smocked mackerel
  • tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper to taste

Resources:

Smocked mackerel – http://goo.gl/SHpWu9

Polish Mayonnaise – http://goo.gl/2SvB65

Chips – http://goo.gl/T2vELg

Polish Summer Cake

IMAG0882As I got feedback about our recent recipe for Yeast Cake, some of you found it great but making it a bit too complicated.

Here’s another take on fruit cake, Polish way, I believe you’ll find it simpler to bake. I came across this one on a Polish site when I was short of time and needed something quick for dessert for our guests. The end result was superb; the cake was moist, fruity with scrumptious aroma filling the FTF kitchen.

Well, here we go: combine dry ingredients together in a bowl. Then beat the soft butter until is pale and fluffy, start adding sugar, a pinch of salt and keep on beating the butter mix. Next add eggs one by one, beating after each adding. Afterwards, add dry ingredients and combine with a spatula.

Line a medium size pan with parchment paper and transfer the dough to the pan and even it out with a spatula. For the crumble: chop the ingredients together and quickly work it with your fingers. If the crumble mixture becomes too wet just add a little more of flour. Now arrange the fruits on the top of it and scatter the crumble. Bake it in the oven in 175C for about 45 minutes, until the skewer comes out dry.

This cake preserves very well and tastes fresh the following day too. A quick fix for unexpected visitors or still hungry offspring. Celebrate the summer!

Ingredients:

For cake dough:

  • 200g spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 40g potato flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 160g sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g butter

For crumble topping:

  • 150g spelt flour (almond meal would work here too)
  • 50g sugar
  • 10g cold butter

600g fruits (halved, pitted – when using plums for example)

  • Medium cake pan
  • Parchment paper
  • Wooden skewer

Resources:

Sugar – http://www.totalsweet.co.uk/

Skewer – http://goo.gl/8BbMjs

Spelt flour – http://goo.gl/IWwCgb

Polish Yeast Cake

20130821 FTF Polish Yeast Cake01Fruits are in season now. An abundance of them. All these goodies made me crave for an old timer: Yeast Fruit Cake, ultimate Polish treat during summer.

It’s not too sweet, fruity (you can actually use any fruit you have) topped with crunchy crumble and have this lightly yeasty aroma that I guess only once you smell, you know you’re at home. Well yes, it’s made of flour – I use spelt only – but I give us absolution in that particular instance! LOL

Yeast Cake could be a tricky one to make (I admit I was defeated by it few times) but do not shy away from it – this recipe is easy and always works and with the help of a bread machine it’s nearly effortless.

You’ll need bread flour – I use spelt only and it worked very well. Put it into the bread machine along with dried yeast. Then add unrefined sugar (I use Total Sweet), beaten egg and buttermilk.  In a pan, melt butter and pour into the mixture. Set the machine for a dough setting and let it do the work.

Once the dough is smooth and elastic, transfer it into a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1.5 hours. In the meantime, make yourself a cuppa and then prepare the fruits: plums (pitted) or strawberries, other summer berries, peaches, nectarines – try out your favourites.

And don’t forget to prepare a crumble for a topping as well. You’ll need spelt flour (or try almond meal), sugar (or Total Sweet) and melted butter. Work it with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.

The dough needs to double its size and when it’s ready, knead it again and transfer to a big cake pan lined with parchment paper. Top the dough with fruits, scatter crumble over them and pop into the hot oven (180C) for about 40 minutes. Check it with a wooden skewer if it’s baked (skewer should come out dry).

You can serve the Yeast Cake sliced with topping of ice cream, but it is delicious without any companion too.

Mr FTF loves it for being buttery and not too sweet. Think of panettone (less sweet though) but with fresh fruits and crumble. Simple irresistible. I don’t know how I managed to safeguard some for the next day’s after dinner treat. Smacznego!

20130821 FTF Polish Yeast Cake02

Ingredients:

For cake dough:

  • 3 cups spelt flour
  • 14g dry yeast
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 170ml buttermilk
  • 80g butter
  • 1kg fruits

For crumble topping:

  • 200g spelt flour (almond meal would work here too)
  • 100g sugar
  • 120g melted butter

Equipment:

  • Large cake pan
  • Parchment paper
  • Wooden skewer
  • Bread machine (optional but very handy)

Resources:

Sugar – http://www.totalsweet.co.uk/

Skewer – http://goo.gl/8BbMjs

Spelt flour – http://goo.gl/IWwCgb

Ice Cream – http://www.mackies.co.uk/produce/traditional.html

Eggs En Cocotte

20130813 FTF Egg En CocotteHere’s a simple way to spice up the boring scrambled/sunny side/hardboiled/omelette eggs breakfast staple. We do eggs for brekkie often as they are very yummy, nutritious and quick. My 10yr old can put them together with cheddar cheese and chives.

But some mornings though, you want something with a twist, but really not willing to slave over a stove too much. Well, one lazy Sunday morning I cooked my version of egg en cocotte (or no crust quiche I called it too) inspired by the Rachel Khoo Paris kitchen. By the way, oeufs en cocottes are delicious too.

First turn on your oven, then scour through you fridge for any sausage, cooked meat or ham, chop it roughly. You may use bacon as well, if you lucky to find one. Now, toss it on a warm pan for few minutes and after share evenly into ramekins – you may daub them with a bit of butter beforehand.

While meats in the pan, chop some onions, chives, pepper, tomatoes, olives, zucchini and I can go on – you just experiment or go with your liking. It really is dish to make use of leftovers as much as you fancy. Replace meat with fish (smoked or cooked) if that is what you have in the fridge.

You can also braise the veggies with the meats if you prefer them to be softer –or divide them straight away into the ramekins to have a bit of a crunch.

In a bowl break one egg per ramekin, mix them with grated cheddar and pour that mixture over meat/veggies. Salt and pepper to taste. A bit of fresh herbs are lovely in it too. Of course, the number of eggs is for a guidance only 🙂

If you like and have it in your fridge, please add a dollop of crème fraiche (full fat please!) to the egg and cheese mixture. Now put ramekins inside of a hot oven (gas 6) for about 10 – 15 min. They should come out with a nice golden crust when ready.

Voila! Now dig in. Enjoy it!

Ingredients:

  • Ramekins
  • 1 egg for each ramekin
  • Cheese
  • Meats
  • Vegetables
  • Creme Fraiche
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Resources:

Rachel Khoo – http://goo.gl/eaxVAm

Ramekins – http://goo.gl/a3QBNe