Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cascade and 45mL

Tues 28 Oct 2008

Today, I was going to tell you about our visit to Vinopolis, but that will have to wait. Andy has drawn my attention to this item he spotted on the ABC website.

Earlier in the year, Cascade, a brewery based in Tasmania, owned by brewing behemoth Fosters, decided to downsize its stubbies but not pass on a price cut. Now, Australian bottled beer comes in two sizes: the stubby (375mL) and the longneck (750mL). Many bottled beers come with a twist top, rather than a crown cap. This means you don't have to resort to ensuring you have a bottle opener in every room of the house and one on your key ring. Indeed, it provides young men with the opportunity to prove their mettle by opening stubbies with the crook of their elbow (or eye - although I'm sceptical about that one).

But Cascade/Fosters knew better and decided to lose 45mL from a stubby and repackage in a sleeker 'European-style' 330mL bottle.

And that's what gave me a giggle and prompted this little rant. Australian corporations and politicians have a bit of a history in attempting to sell ideas to the public as 'European'. They invariably get it wrong, too.

For example, a South Australian politician said we needed to have covered air walkways at Adelaide airport because ... that's what they have in Europe. I've spent most of my holidays in the last 8 years scurrying around tarmac at various European airports, dodging inclement weather.

Similarly, another politician (or maybe the same one) said we needed extended shopping hours because ... that's what they have in Europe. Clearly, this man has been considerably more successful in going to shops in Italy around 2pm than I have ever been.

So, now the Australian public is faced with a smaller bottle of beer because ... that's what they have in Europe. If the beer drinker wanted this, he or she would probably have already been drinking Stella.

What really intrigues me is how they settled on 330mL. The cynic in me says that they could fill it with less beer, charge the same because people probably wouldn't notice - it's only 45mL, and sell the idea as 'European' if anyone had a grizzle.

Cascade sales managers, spokespeople - please visit Europe and head to a supermarket.

A beer like Stella or Kronenbourg comes in a variety of sizes: from 275mL up to 500mL, in cans or bottles. A quick look at a well known supermarket's off-licence section (on line) shows beers in bottles up to 660mL and cans in odd sizes like 568mL (well, not really odd, since it's an imperial pint). In the UK bitters and ales tend to turn up more reliably in 500mL bottles. On the continent and in a bar? You'll be served 250mL, 500mL or even a litre of draught beer.

I'm left to draw the conclusion that the cynic in me was right.

Of course, the Australian beer buying public seemed to think this was a bit of a money grabbing ruse and, with sales in some places dropping 50%, Tasmanians will be able to enjoy a stubby of Cascade from November. Other Australians will be able to buy them "during 2009" - by which time, well, they'll probably be drinking something else.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Angel Inn, Hetton

Sunday 19 October 2008

After our lovely dinner at 5 The Square we rallied ourselves and found some space for Sunday lunch at The Angel Inn in Hetton.

Unlike 5 The Square there was nothing impromptu about the visit to the Angel. It's been on "the list" for a long time, and we got as far as a reservation once. Andy had had a cold and, as it turned out, I'd failed massively on the travelling calculations, so we decided it was better to defer our visit. Fortunately, on Sunday, full bellies, rubbish weather and another cold didn't put us off.

The village of Hetton doesn't seem to be much to write about (please feel free to correct me on this!) but, thanks to its pub turned bar/restaurant/brasserie, with rooms and an excellent wine shop it's turned into something of a destination.

Would it live up to the hoopla and prove itself worth the wait?

We arrived a little early and decided to explore the village. It appears to be a single street with the pub on one side and the wine shop on the other. Fortunately for my wallet, the wine shop is closed on Sundays. We decided that we could live with being 10 minutes early.

The restaurant is a proper restaurant - plush, cosy, full (and propery) napery. Nothing puts me in a good mood like a restaurant with soft furnishings and carpet: I am actually going to be able to hear my dining companions' conversation.

On our way through I'd spotted that Champagne was on offer by the glass, so I started with that, while we ordered a bottle of Cave de la Visitation Côte Rôtie 2002 to go with our food.

Sunday lunch is a set menu at £22.50 for three courses. I started with smoked poached salmon, with beetroot, a horseradish dressing which was absolutely delicious. Next to me a (not so) little moneybag was devoured: a parcel of seafood in crisp pastry, with a lobster sauce, while Andy may (or may not, as the salmon was good) have won with a Goosnargh duck salad, with chorizo, bacon and croutons.

For main courses, everyone bar me chose the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Being difficult (especially when it came to the wine matching) I opted for the Goosnargh chicken breast, with red wine shallots, mash and girolles. OK - our main courses weren't pushing out any culinary boats but they were well executed, generous portions and all delicious.

Mains cleared, it was time to finish the red wine and contemplate dessert. I chose a fig tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream and tobacco syrup. The restaurant matched this with a class of Château de Chantegrive, so I thought it would be rude not to try out the match - it was lovely. The pudding was fantastic. The tobacco syrup was not what I expected at all: there was only a tiny amount of it and it was a beautiful peppery flavour which played against the icecream and tart well.

Other puddings were a chocolate and mango délice and baked alaskas (hmm, there must be a political joke in there somewhere ...).

As you can imagine, by the time we wrapped up with coffee we pretty much rolled out of the restaurant into the car. For £22.50 a head, the three courses at the Angel's Sunday lunch represent excellent value for money. I was impressed that our wine, which retails in the Angel's sister wine shop, had a tiny mark up - £28 retail, £40 in the restaurant. The service was good: there were a few little niggles (yes, it IS a trial when your Champagne takes just that little too long to arrive!), but I'd go back to the Angel without hesitation.

Let's just hope that next time it doesn't take me 2 years to organise my visit!

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1. The Angel Inn, Hetton, Near Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 6LT, phone: 01756 730263

other country venues on Eating Leeds: L'Enclume (Cartmel, Cumbria), The Star (Harome, North Yorkshire) and 5 The Square (Grassington, North Yorkshire).
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Monday, October 20, 2008

5 The Square

Sat 18 October 2008

A quick trip to the Dales has left me feeling extremely well fed!

We were stopping in Grassington (at Grove House B&B - it was excellent) and the original plan for Saturday was to head over to the Craven Arms in Appletreewick for the annual beer festival. Unfortunately, city-girl Alex failed to take into account sufficiently the vagaries of rural taxi services and, as we watched the grey sky drop rain over Grassington we lost our nerve. Would we find ourselves, cold and wet, in the middle of nowhere (with no mobile phone reception) in the wee hours of the morning with no way home?

With the answer looking, increasingly, as though it would be yes, we opted to stay in Grassington where we'd be reliant only on our own feet. Although small, Grassington is home to several pubs and restaurants and, based on nothing in particular, we ended up booking a table for 6pm at 5 The Square, part of the imposing Grassington House Hotel. As the 36 seat restaurant was fully booked, we were given a table in the bar, which turned out to be the perfect spot for people watching.
Things didn't get off to a brilliant start: our initial drinks order (2 beers, 1 Prosecco and 1 glass of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc) took an age to arrive. When it did, the Prosecco was not really much chop at all.

Still, that was as bad as things were going to get. We started with a selection including moules marinières, tiger prawn filo parcels and two portions of (Thirsk rare breed) pork belly with scallops and honey mustard leeks. My initial disappointment that the pork belly's skin was not crispy was replaced by quiet content when I discovered the skin was soft enough to eat, but gorgeously sticky and chewy with it. The meat was soft and moist, the scallops were cooked perfectly and everything was good. The other starters also disappeared - although not quite as quickly as mine did!

Main courses had caused a lot of umming and aahing. I eventually settled on a roast lamb rump, with Asian spices, served with chickpeas and a mint crème fraîche jus. I'd asked for the lamb to come pink and it was perfectly cooked: an even pink colour from edge to edge, juicy and tender. The chickpeas were soft with just a bit of resistence and neither the spices nor mint overwhelmed the flavour of the meat. Our other main courses consisted of home made chicken and black pudding sausage with mash, sea bass with pea puree, dauphinoise potato and roasted red pepper compote and Goosnargh chicken breast, with bacon, spinach gnocchi and greens. Judging by how the plates were cleared - everyone was as happy as me.

Somehow, we almost all managed to find space for pudding. Coffee crème brûlée (a special) for me (I was announced the winner on the pudding front), a raspberry and blackberry cheesecake, and a baked chocolate mousse. I might have been the winner, but I wouldn't have been disappointed to have ordered either of the other dishes - especially the chocolate mousse!

We washed all of this down with Mitchell Watervale Riesling from the beautiful Clare Valley. At £21.95 a bottle the mark up was neither exhorbitant nor a bargain (it appears to retail around the £9 mark and other restaurants where I found this on the list appear to be selling it for about the same price). As digestifs we enjoyed a Janneau Armagnac and a 10 year old Laphroaig.

The damage, after a reasonably generous tip, was £40 a head - not bad for all that food and drink at all. Of course, it would be very easy to cut back on this, particularly if you head to the restaurant on a Monday night where, with pre-booking, you can enjoy 4 courses for £32.50 PER COUPLE.

As you can tell, we very much enjoyed our meal at 5 The Square, but I don't want to give you the impression the experience was flawless. Our pre-dinner drinks were a bit slow coming and they really need to sort out that Prosecco. There were a few spelling mistakes that I spotted on the menu and the service, while very friendly, was uneven. There was one young man who was fantastic but some of the other waiting staff fell a little short of the mark. How can you have one waiter who knows instantly that the last pork has been sold but another who has no idea what the soup of the day is?!

Apparently the hotel and restaurant are relatively recently refurbished, and judging by the full house on Saturday and the standard of the meal we enjoyed, I would be more than happy to head back.

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1. Grassington House Hotel, 5 The Square, Grassington, North Yorkshire, BD23 5AQ, phone: 01756 752 406, map.
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Friday, October 17, 2008

Thai Khonkaen Restaurant

Thurs 16 Oct 2008

At work we have what is known as "The Anti-Bah-Humbug Initiative". In the 'good old days' (before I joined) apparently the office was the type where, on a regular basis, everyone would go out for lunch or beers after work. People have since married and had children, which scuppers the beers after work, and we've been through enough name changes and re-orgs to make even the most sociable people spend their lunches peering at their monitors. Apparently.

Anyway, any excuse for a wander, a feed and a beer ...

A week or so ago I visited Thai Khonkaen for an evening meal and was impressed enough to suggest it for lunch. This new Thai restaurant, situated at the back of House of Fraser (opposite Little Tokyo), offers a 2 course lunch deal for £5.95. Would it match up to my dinner experience?

Oh yes.

For a start, the choice of dishes is solid. You're not forced to choose one of three starters you're not really interested in. We started with the complimentary prawn crackers and ummed and aahed before coming up with our orders. Between the five of us, as starters, we had three servings of fish cakes, one chicken satay and a portion of 'Golden Bags'. A 'Golden Bag', as well as being a cause of lunch time hilarity for those who don't get out enough, is along the lines of a wonton: a deep fried little parcel of minced seafood and chicken. I was a fish cake person, although I had been tempted to try out the spring rolls. The fish cakes weren't brilliant (mainly because they weren't my mum's and her recipe came direct from the kitchens of a very well known hotel in Adelaide), but they were good enough and between them and the chilli sauce the dish had a pleasant spiciness. The Golden Bags and chicken satay both received the thumbs up.

However, it was the main courses which did really well. We had a three green curries (permutations of chicken and pork) and two of the stir fry dishes. I was a green pork curry and it was good. Again - the chilli level was bang on. It wasn't so hot you couldn't taste anything else, but still warm enough to let you know you were eating it. The curry had an interesting array of vegetables and others at my table complimented it on being not too sweet and not too coconutty. There were no complaints from the stir fry eaters, either. The main meals were all served with a very generous portion of jasmine rice. I felt full all afternoon. My hungry workmates, who are far more likely to complain about not being full, were all happy.

By the time we included drinks (including beers) AND a tip, the meal worked out at £9 a head. This is stupidly good value. The service is, as I think we've all come to expect from Thai restaurants, very friendly, quiet and attentive. When we arrived, we were asked if we were in a hurry and wanted everything at once. Rarely do you see that kind of consideration when out for lunch. I could start listing venues that really need to take note of this.

What makes me even more happy than finding a good venue for lunches out is that, having been for an evening meal, I can tell you that good service and food doesn't appear to be a one off at Thai Khonkaen. Former housemate (who has actually been to Thailand) and I arrived quite late for an evening meal and scoffed a main course each as well as a full plate of pad thai and, having paid about £25 for the privilege of an evening meal for two, left very full and happy. The evening dishes do appear to be considerably larger than the lunch dishes (probably a good thing unless you want to sleep all afternoon), and there's an early bird evening option which is £8.99.

At the moment, Thai Khonkaen is new and therefore quiet - but this shouldn't last long. It might not be in the most glamorous part of Leeds, but the restaurant's interior is smart: nowhere near as over the top as Chaophraya but a lot more impressive than somewhere like Thai Cottage. And the food - it's excellent.

1. Thai Khonkaen, 8a / 10a Market Street Arcade, Leeds, LS1 6DH, phone: 0113 242 1726, map.

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Other Thai restaurants we like: in the city centre, check out Maitai, and if you're out in Headingley, you can do worse than visit Sukhothai.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

World Bread Day - Naan

Sun 5 Oct 2008

For all the curry eating and bread making that goes on at Eating Leeds you would think we'd manage a better track record when it comes to breads from the Indian subcontinent.

The cold that seems to be afflicting the whole of Leeds has caught up with me (hmm, should have spent longer in France!) so Andy has had to do the bulk of weekend running around and I have been grumpy and tired.

Of course, when you do have a cold, one of the best things for it (besides the whiskey or cognac that everyone has been prescribing) is a big curry because all the garlic, chilli and ginger will sort you out. Andy put together a murgh makhani (butter chicken - with some extra spice) and suggested naan.

With limited patience to hand, the recipe had to be simple and immediate. Fortunately, lots of recipe books meant plenty of choice on this front and I settled on the recipe from the excellent Curry.

I chose this recipe for two reasons: no yeast and no yoghurt.

I made a half mix which produced 8 small naan: more than enough for two for supper with leftovers for lunch the next day.

As usual, everything went in the KitchenAid, and as this dough mixture is quite soft and wet, I was happy because it meant less bench wiping down!

In a jug, mix 200mL of milk (the recipe states full fat but I used semi-skinned) with 1 egg and approximately 1/2 ouce of caster sugar. Beat until the sugar has dissolved. I was a bit worried about what seemed like a lot of sugar, but the resulting read did not taste sweet.

Add the liquid to 375g of plain flour, 1 tsp of baking powder and a generous pinch of salt (almost a couple of teaspoons) and mix to a soft dough. The recipe says not to overknead, so I just let the KitchenAid work its magic until I had a soft ball.

Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave for 15 minutes.

Prepare your tandoor. Or, heat your oven to 220C (fan), with a couple of trays in the oven getting hot.

After letting the dough rest, mix in 2 scant tablespoons of vegetable oil and tip the dough onto the bench and knead lightly. Divide into 8 and roll out each piece til quite thin (if you've ever eaten naan before you'll know when you get there - as the dough is very wet you won't be able to roll it out very very thinly). Remove a hot tray from the oven, put your naan breads on it and bake for about 5 minutes.
They cook quickly - so when they start to turn gold, they're probably done.

When you take them out of the oven you could brush them with a little melted butter or ghee, or just leave them plain (which is what we did).

To me, they tasted a little like scones, and, because of this, I think I'd be tempted to have another bash at this recipe and substitute self raising flour for the plain and omit the baking powder. They also didn't keep particularly well: great with dinner, fresh from the oven and OK with lunch the next day - but that was the extent of their staying power.

I was pretty happy with this recipe but not overwhelmed, so I think I'll experiment with it and try out some of the (many) alternatives on offer. However, if I need to rustle up some naan with short notice and a bare cupboard (it happens - Andy often volunteers me to cook things at other people's houses!) this recipe will be more than adequate.

Today is World Bread Day, and this is my contribution to the World Bread Day blogging event - hence the delay in posting.

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Other bread on Eating Leeds: paratha, refrigerator bread, and a standard white.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SHF: Chocolate Chilli Fudge Cake

Sat 11 Oct 2008

Apologies for the hiatus in service - too much going out and not enough sitting in!

However, last Saturday I set to making the chocolate chilli fudge cake, which Dan Lepard shared with the world in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago - and it's going to be my contribution to this month's Sugar High Friday, hosted by Dessert First. The theme is spice and this recipe offers two: chilli (the more important, flavourwise!) and cinnamon.

In another first for me, because this recipe is a bit off the wall ... I actually followed the instructions ... sort of. My order is a little different from Mr Lepard's, but that's about as good as I get!

So ... we start by heating the oven to 160C (fan), and greasing and baselining our 23 cm springform tin. The recipe in the paper says to use a square tin while publishing a picture of a round cake. I have NO idea what was going on there ...

For the cake, finely chop (using the Magimix, of course!) 100g of plain cashew nuts. Set the nuts to one side, and then combine 200g of plain flour, 75g of cocoa, 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, about 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes (add less if you're nervous!), and 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder (to be honest, as my jar has no label I'm not entirely sure if it's baking powder or bicarb, and I seem to be able to use it when a recipe calls for either with no ill effects ...). Add 225g of light muscovado sugar (I wouldn't start substituting sugars like demerara or caster sugar for this) and 3 tbsp of tahini.

Melt 100g of dark chocolate with 75g of butter in a double boiler and add this to your dry ingredients. Finish by adding 2 large eggs and 175mL of cold milk.

Put the mixture into your cake tin, smooth the top and bake for about an hour.

Leave to cool in the tin for tipping out and leaving on a cake rack to cool properly. To finish, I made some lime icing. The recipe suggested lime water icing: I wasn't really sure what that was, and to be honest, I wasn't convinced about the whole lime thing ... but as Dan Lepard's recipes are usually spot on I kept the faith and made a very simple lime icing.

Who'd have thought I'd complain about too much sunlight!

I melted unsalted butter (probably just under 50g), then, off the heat, mixed in icing sugar and hot water until I had enough icing of the right consistency. I finished it by mixing through freshly grated lime zest.

The verdict: this cake is great! The lime icing really works! The chilli adds extra oomph (and let's face it, who doesn't like the chilli-chocolate combination!), the tahini (another element I thought was a bit weird) adds moisture and texture, the cashew nuts add moisture, texture and weight. It's all good!

Next time I might cook the cake for five minutes less, as it wasn't as fudgy as I was expecting. The original recipe gives no indication about how wet or otherwise you'd expect your skewer to be ... after an hour, there was what I thought was a bit too much moisture, and the extra 5 minutes meant my skewer came out clean. That said - the cake has kept its moisture beautifully and has made a very welcome addition to my lunch box this week! Because the cake is quite high, you get decent sized wedges for your afternoon tea.

I think so many elements of this recipe have so much going for them: a use for tahini (other than hummous!) is always welcome, and the chocolate and lime combination is something I might work at a bit more in future!

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Other "chocolate and" cakes on Eating Leeds: chocolate and red wine, chocolate and coke, chocolate and beetroot.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

WBW 50: Wine Hiking

Wed 08 Oct 08

I have to confess, when I saw this month's Wine Blogging Wednesday topic I was pretty disappointed. Russ at Wine Hiker has chosen ... wine hiking. Wine hiking?! Choose something local?!

I live in the north of England! My nearest vineyard is Yorkshire Heart (I think this is one of the most northerly vineyards on the planet) and the vines were only planted in 2006!

The last time I hiked and wine was involved it was in Morocco (well, the wine was at the end of the day). I knew I had no hope of laying my hands on a Moroccan wine (and wasn't sure I really wanted to, either!).

So, time for lateral thinking. I've just been to the southern Rhône - where I walked through a vineyard in order to sit under a tree and have lunch (yes, that's hiking). I'm a bit Grenache-d out, so let's stretch that to the Rhône in general. Hmm, so let's go for Shiraz. Oh, or a Shiraz Viognier blend - very Côte Rôtie.

I can't do local to where I live now, so let's go for local to where I grew up. I grew up in Brighton, South Australia and (happily) McLaren Vale is just 30km (or about a 40 minute drive) away.

And so I am sitting down to drink Battle of Bosworth 2006 Shiraz Viognier from McLaren Vale.

And yes, that is very very tenous. But! The closure is a screw cap which makes it ideal for hiking or picnicking in general!

All bases covered.

The wine. The short answer is that it's a very good drop. It did cost £10.99 from Oddbins, so it does need to deliver. And in this case, the Viognier is adding the flair that it should do. The nose is quite pronounced, with plenty of blackcurrant as well as warm spice. There's a touch of red fruit and some perfumed notes that I couldn't quite put my finger on. This is a real fruits of the forest nose. The palate has masses of fresh fruit: blackberry fruit rather than blackcurrant, black pepper, with some cedar and tobacco flavours developing. The tannin is very soft and well integrated but there's some good acidity and the length is great. There's some warmth from the alcohol (14.5% abv) but it is well integrated - I didn't pick it nearly as high.

As you can probably tell, I was really happy with this for £11 (Andy did think we've had better for the money but hasn't actually named those bottles yet!). It's a very approachable wine but it's not simple. The masses of fruit will appeal to those who aren't after a challenging wine but its complexity will keep adventurous drinkers (and hikers) happy.

Russ - I'm really sorry I've been so rubbish at joining in the spirit of this month's WBW! I hope you'll forgive me!

Please, 1winedude, choose something easy for WBW 51!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Beer Bread

Tues 7 Oct 2008

This week's Root Source Challenge is lager. Hmm, how easy that would be if it were all about drinking it. Of course, it's not, and while my first thoughts were along lines of pork and chicory braised in lager I had to take a reality check. I'm currently enjoying the cold which appears to not only be doing the rounds of my office but also of Leeds in general, so I had to make do with what was to hand.

Which was, predictably, flour and yeast.

Beer bread. Not something I've made before but not exactly out there either. Only recently, the Hairy Bakers made a really tasty looking ale and cheese bread ... but I wanted something where the lager was the focus.

After a bit of a google and a peruse of my cookbooks I was tired of looking at recipes where I was to use self raising flour, a ton of baking powder and just knock up a dough that goes straight in the oven. I've got the time and eventually I got fed up and made up a recipe based on a couple I'd seen and my usual bread mix.

So, I took about 30g of unsalted butter and melted it. When the butter was just melted I added 12 fl oz of lager (Kronenberg) and allowed it to warm. This was very quick because the lager was at room temperature. I poured this mix into the mighty KitchenAid, added 1 tsp of dried yeast and gave it a quick stir.

About 10 minutes later I was starting to worry because it didn't really look like there was a lot of yeast action. But it was also hard to tell, because of the butter in the beer - it was starting to form what looked like a bit of a cap. Was it too cold? Had the beer and butter been too hot when I added the yeast? Should I have added some sugar? Or should I just stop worrying, walk away and leave it for a bit?

I chose the last option and returned probably about 10 or 15 minutes later when I convinced myself that the yeast looked like it had been activated and then dumped in 500g of strong white flour. I then left the machine to do the work and it formed quite a nice dough: not stiff, but good and elastic and holding together nicely. I covered the bowl with a tea towel and walked off again.

Half an hour later - a bit more panic. It didn't look like it was rising AND I realised I had forgotten (as usual) to add salt. Oh, wait! I didn't forget to add salt! I want to know what effect the beer has on the bread's taste ... silly me ...

After another half an hour or so I decided that the dough had risen (although probably not quite doubled) and that it was time to knead it and shape it into a loaf. It's funny how as soon as you start kneading dough you know whether everything's OK or not. The dough was still lovely and elastic and had plenty of air in it. What a relief!

I was going to bake it in a loaf tin, but we find the resulting bread awkward for sandwiches, so I reverted to a round loaf. Another hour, sitting on the bench and it was ready for the oven!

from this ...

And the verdict? The flavour was really good. I tried half a slice neat and half a slice with salted butter. With the neat slice I didn't miss the salt at all and the bread has quite a distinct flavour - but not beery, at all. I suspect that's because Kronenbourg is a relatively neutral flavoured bee - dry and crisp, but not overwhelmingly hopp or citrussy. I suspect that making the bread with a stout will call for some wholemeal flour at the least! The crumb was fine and soft and the crust was ... crusty. Very good.
... to this

All in all, quite a result. I'll definitely experiment with other beers (and additional flavourings) in future - I really like the fact that I didn't add any sugar, although I appreciate that that might have to change on a beer by beer basis.

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Want to drink your beer instead? Try my every day white bread, a plain wholemeal bread, or a bread made with potatoes!
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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Tarte au Citron

Tues 30 Sept 2008

In a moment of white wine induced tomfoolery I came back from France and promptly invited some friends over for a mid-week supper. Never mind that I needed sleep, a bit of a detox or that there was washing to be done!

My main course was a very simple, but deliciously aromatic, slow cooked chicken dish. I forgot to take any photos so I'll be leaving that recipe for another time.

For pudding, I opted for tarte au citron, from The Ultimate Mixer Cookbook. This book came free with my KitchenAid, and while the recipes do give specific instructions for attachments and speeds you'll be able to use this book just as happily with a bowl and spoon!

Indeed, my pâté sablée was made in the Magimix: as far as I'm concerned that is the king when it comes to pastry making.

So, for the sweet pastry, take 150g of flour and a pinch of salt and mix in 75g of chilled unsalted butter, cut into little cubes. Add 25g of icing sugar, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence and 1 tsp of chilled water. The mixture came together really quickly, and, after a light knead to form it into a ball, it was wrapped in clingfilm and left to rest in the fridge.

As this is a chilled tart you do need to bake your pastry blind. I'm the last person who should be giving advice on this, as my first attempt (yes, there were two) saw me hit the timer on the oven and wander off. I was alerted that I might have left things a little too long when I smelt sugar caramelising. The pastry just tasted burnt! On take two, I baked the pastry case with baking beans for 10 minutes at 180C (fan). I then removed the beans (and parchment) and baked for a further 10 minutes. I think that next I'll bake for longer with the beans and then finish off briefly.

I'm usually far too lazy to bother baking pastry cases blind but this experience has taught me that really I should make far more of an effort. Of course, if you're lazier even than me, you can always buy a pastry case from the supermarket!

On to making the lemony filling ... lots of eggs, butter and sugar required. Take 5 lemons: grate their rind and then juice them. Bring the juice to the boil.

While the juice is heating up, whisk well 5 eggs, a pinch of salt, 250g of caster sugar and the lemond rind. When the lemon juice is boiling, slowly pour it in to this mix, whisking all the time. Once the lemon juice is combined, pour the mix into a clean saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring continuously. Nothing looks like it's happening for ages, but eventually the mix will start to thicken. When it coats the back of a wooden spoon remove from the heat.

If you are using a mixer you will need to pour the hot eggy-lemony mix back into a clean bowl, ready to add the butter. Or you can just add the butter by hand. Cube 150g of unsalted butter and add to the mix a piece at a time, beating well between each addition.

Once all the butter is mixed in - that is your filling done. Pour into your cooled pastry case and refrigerate. The recipe says for at least 2 hours, but this is unlikey to be enough - aim for overnight.
Serve dusted with icing sugar, a dollop of crème fraîche, and a pudding wine. I served this with Miranda Golden Botrytis 2002 which was very good. I picked this wine up over a year ago when my local Somerfield was getting rid of it at a bargain basement price (of course, now utterly disappointed I only bought one bottle). You can still but this wine but it's around £11 for a half bottle (available from Laithwaites). A cheaper (and lower alcohol) alternative would be to try serving this dessert with a high end Moscato d'Asti, such as the 'Nivole' Michele Chairlo available from £7 a half bottle from Oddbins.

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On a similar citrus note, you can check out a lime tart, or try a rich chocolate and caramel tart, or a good old fashioned Bakewell tart!
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