Category Archives: Bread

Tartine Poireaux-Oeufs Brouillés

Food is, of course, a social thing, one of the most positive, primal ways of spending time with people, but eating alone is also an affirmation. It’s a way of enjoying me.
~ Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life

With half a leek, some eggs, two small fennel bulbs, and the house to myself this morning – I hopped on to one of my favourite blogs, Orangette

I cooked the fennel separately, following Molly’s recipe for braised fennel as closely as I could without using our awful chicken stock cubes at home. It was delicate and lovely, but I don’t want to write about that now… because the other thing I had for breakfast was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I got distracted by the smell while it was cooking and forgot to add in the sour cream (my substitute for crème fraîche)…

And the best thing is, even sans crème fraîche, the Tartine Poireaux-Oeufs Brouillés (French-Style Open-Faced Sandwich with Leeks and Soft-Scrambled Eggs) was bloody good. The eggs were soft and comforting, like a hug from a trusted friend; the leeks were tender, fragrant and almost caramel-scented with the muscovado and salt. The toasted bread provided a lovely hearty base for all of this goodness. The only thing that could’ve made it better would probably be the addition of crème fraîche!

I’m going to post the recipe below, with my changes (mainly to do with leek amount, one substitution of olive oil for butter and my accidental omission of crème fraîche). Please visit Molly’s blog for the original recipe (link below) which, followed exactly, will likely yield results even more delicious than what I had today, if such a thing is possible!

    1/2 a big leek
    A nub of butter
    1 tsp muscovado sugar
    A pinch of salt
    Olive oil
    2 large eggs
    2 tsp water
    1/8 tsp salt
    A large slice of country-style crusty bread, toasted
    Freshly ground pepper
    Begin by preparing the leeks: trim the root end off each leek, and slice them across their width into roughly ¼-inch-thick coins. Use a salad spinner to wash them if you have one; I don’t, so I just washed them carefully and shook the excess water off them.
    In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, the sugar, and the salt, and stir to mix. Cover the skillet to allow the leeks to begin to sweat a bit, and, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary if they begin to cook too quickly, allow the leeks to cook for about 15 minutes, until they are fragrant, soft, and almost melting. [Here is where you add the crème fraîche if you aren’t distracted like me, and cook the leeks for another minute or so!] Set the skillet aside.
    In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, water and salt. In a small saucepan, heat a dribble of olive oil over low heat. Pour the egg mixture in and whisk constantly (I used a wooden fish slice). When the mixture begins to coagulate ever so slightly and form tiny oatmeal-like lumps, begin a little dance of removing the pot from the heat and replacing it so that the eggs don’t cook too quickly, and reach all over the corners and bottom of the pot with your whisk. The eggs are ready when they resemble loose oatmeal; the process should take between 5 and 9 minutes.
    Place the slice of toasted bread on a plate, and spoon the scrambled eggs on top of it. Top the eggs with a layer of leeks. Serve immediately, with salt and pepper as needed.
    Serves one, with leftover leek.

Dancing Babka

Dance is a song of the body. Either of joy or pain.
~ Martha Graham

The word ‘yeast’ is still a mental hurdle for me. Something about it sounds complicated, out of my depth, like it’s something for professionals (not me, anyway). My one direct encounter with it came earlier this year when I made some pitta bread at home for a flat dinner. I remember marvelling at it then; but subsequently, the old apprehension came back each time I glimpsed it in a recipe.

I’ve been reading a very inspirational book over the last few nights though, and somehow – I think that led to me walking out of New World with a bottle of active dry yeast last night.

I woke up early this morning, and decided to kick off my day off work with some babka baking from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#57 Bobba’s Babka – Page 246

I was apprehensive about the yeast. I mixed it with the oil and tepid milk and for two long minutes, nothing seemed to ‘activate’… and then, suddenly, it looked like something bad out of my old biology textbook? Alive, gurgling like a deep sea monster, ugh! – it was at once fascinating and very unappetizing…

I waited some more before I poured it doubtfully into the flour mixture, and then it looked like a mini volcanic snowstorm.

Actual bread making. I fell into a sort of happy/painful trance kneading the dough. It was reassuring, of course, to knead like mad while reading “the dough should be thick and a little difficult to mix, even with the mixer”. (although even if I had a mixer, I doubt I would use it in my first few instances of making bread – how else to get in touch with your food, to know it, touch it, sense it – own it??)…

When I added the egg and worked the sticky dough, it squelched like a pair of rain-drenched shoes the whole way and I really thought I would never get to the next stage, which was “so that it is still very sticky but not actually sticking to your hands.”

As it is, I got there, and as my fingers repelled the sticky, springy dough, I exclaimed and promptly forgot about my aching wrists. Wow! If Tessa Kiros had been here in person I would have knocked her over with a huge embrace. :-O As it is, she was spared on this occasion :-)

After 1.5 hours of being placed by the heatpump, it had enlarged to a giant puffy dough:

Muscovado sugar. Deep and luxurious, I measured it out carefully, trying not to spill any. Then I leaned over the cup and gazed at the rich colour, inhaled the delicious flavour… mmmm.

Even better smelling with the addition of cinnamon…

Butter on the other hand, I was much more lavish with today – I didn’t measured this, just dug my knife into the box and took out a random soft pile of it.

I rolled out the bread into two (near) rectangles, and spread the butter and muscovado on to them.

Finally, it was time to plait the bread.

The whole process of baking this was really… seductive. I’m not sure how else I could possibly describe it. My hands were gooey, and bread dough is hardly a sunset, a silk dress, or whatever your normal icons of romance might be – but the emerging flavours and feel of the process pretty much had me walking on air.

So much so that after I brushed egg yolk and milk on the babka and shoved the tray into the oven, I put on some music and danced on my toes. THE AIR SMELLED WONDERFUL.

Babka, done – I gave more than half of it away to a gleeful Malinda and retained the rest of it for my poor flatmates. :-)

PS. Haidee and I were at one of my favourite cafes today – and out popped a mouse! While I was a little concerned about the presence of a mouse in an eating place, I was temporarily distracted by this amusing thing: saying “oh! mouse!” and watching the women around me gasp, kind of shriek and scramble to get up and run. I mean, it’s just a mouse……?

Garlic bread

My final, considered judgment is that the hardy bulb [garlic] blesses and ennobles everything it touches – with the possible exception of ice cream and pie.
~ Angelo Pellegrini, The Unprejudiced Palate

Having garlic breath may be evil, but starting your day by cooking with garlic, I assure you, is delicious. Garlic is strong, slightly spicy, moist and just so potent – unique and full of character. I think garlic is something remarkable.

Today, from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#48 Garlic Bread – Page 225

Making this sure took a longer time than I expected, leading to a mad rush at the end as I was getting dangerously close to being late for brunch with Haidee.

I also had to redo the butter step in the recipe. Tip: there is no place for impatience when softening butter in the microwave! Microwave it for a few seconds at a time to avoid getting melted butter instead of softened butter (I now have 150g of melted butter waiting to be channelled to another cause).

Tip on handling garlic: if, like me, you don’t want your hands to smell like garlic for days… use a tablespoon to scoop up the garlic from the chopping board or wear a plastic glove before handling it.

The result was an aromatic garlic butter paste – with lots left over for use with steak or more bread, perhaps… and the 2 little garlic baguette loaves are sitting in the freezer, ready for use sometime next week! I’ll write a short report on how it tastes then.

Sandwich of your dreams

Too few people understand a really good sandwich.
~ James Beard

Jono, Char, Matt and me ate sandwiches for lunch today. These weren’t your average ham and cheese sandwiches though……

These were voluminous, dripping, wholesome, hearty, delicious, fork-and-knife-or-burger-grip-required layers of whoomph!

Here’s how you can replicate our juicy lunch affair:

    2 flat breads, halved horizontally
    Cream cheese
    Spicy chutney
    A handful of crisp lettuce leaves, washed
    6 eggs
    2 avocados, sliced
    1 red capsicum, sliced
    4 bananas, halved vertically
    350g bacon
    Grill bread halves on the barbeque. Spread a layer of cream cheese and chutney on them.
    On the barbeque, fry the eggs to runny-yolk-and-cooked-white-perfection and the bacon till it’s nice and crispy.
    Stack the lettuce leaves, capsicum slices, avocado slices, eggs, banana slices and bacon in layers on both bread ‘bottoms’, add desired salt and pepper, then put their ‘tops’ on. Do not worry if the egg yolks break, it’s so delicious when they do…
    Cut big sandwiches into halves – and you should have 4 nice hearty lunches, each sufficient even for a hungry 20-something boy. Serve with orange juice and earl grey tea (optional), in the style of continental breakfasts. Eat with fork and knife if you need to (I did). Tuck in!
    Serves 4.
    * If you don’t want to use the barbeque, fry the eggs and bananas in non-stick pans on the stove, and use the grill function in the oven for grilling bread and bacon.

Thanks Matt for cooking, Char for easter eggs, Jono for tea-making and table-setting!

After we worked our way through these (for yes, they required tedious happy chewing – not just eating!), we went for a quick shopping trip before climbing up to the top of Mt Victoria and back down again. Pretty views, the motion of walking (or moving one’s body really!) and the smell of fresh pine are always well worth the asthma-inducing efforts involved in climbing.

Went to Claire & Kristina’s birthday dinner party tonight, where we had Turkish food and enjoyed a belly dancing performance.

A full Saturday thus concluded, it is time for bed. Goodnight!

Prego Rolls

Wine is bottled poetry.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

It started off like a lyrical poem… a bath of red wine, lightly smashed garlic, rosemary (I used dried instead of fresh, to help lower this week’s grocery bills!). It smelled like – hmm, I don’t know, romance? Music? Something wonderful, anyway… I slipped the beef rump steak pieces in to marinade for awhile.

Recipe from Tessa Kiros’ “Falling Cloudberries”:
#37 Prego Rolls – Page 232

This was relatively easy to cook, and I served it with a salad, lemon wedge and a little chilli oil (see previous post for the latter).

Sadly… the chilli oil was not well-bodied (being given too little time to mature), the bread became a soft gluten-ey wine-soaked rag, the beef was too rare and had to be re-cooked, etc… oh what would I do without kind flatmates to make it better (and smilingly eat my cooking even when it’s terrible)!

Sigh! It was a fun experience cooking it nevertheless.

Even though I will probably not try making this again anytime soon.

Cypriot Flat Dinner

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.
~ Julia Child

This evening saw the making of 2 Cypriot recipes from “Falling Cloudberries”:
#15 Pitta Bread – Page 183
#16 Sheftalia (Mince Meat Parcels) – Page 179

served with tomatoes, lemon wedges, tzatziki, and tomato-sauce-for-Jono.

Pretty tired right now, so I do not have much to write – but I saw and worked with yeast for the first time ever today in making the pitta bread, and it was fun. The feel of warm foamy yeast and flour running over my fingers was simply amazing. I think I understand why, in this day and age of relatively affordable commercial bread, some people never give up baking their own.

The beginnings of pitta bread dough

Pitta bread dough! All cute and puffy.

Watermelon juice (Matt made this)

Dinner is served – and, big yay for John, Jono & Matt who make dinner more fun.