From a book I’ve mentioned before, Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish, I’m using her Gdansk Vodka recipe to make 1.5 litres of what I hope will be an enjoyable tipple.

It’s currently steeping for two weeks in a sealed tupperware in a cardboard box on a high shelf. After that, it will mature for 2 months (and thus be ready for Christmas) but the author notes that it can keep maturing over years, with some saying it doesn’t reach full maturation until three years after its preparation! Well, the first batch is unlikely to last that long, but we’ll see.

The spice mix includes juniper berries, mace blades, whole cloves, whole cardamoms, cinnamon sticks, star anise, plus the zest of five unwaxed lemons and two oranges. The base is Russian Standard vodka, which I blogged about last time.

There is little point in me sharing the recipe until I can evaluate the taste, so I’ll do a follow up sometime around Christmas. The aroma coming from the infusion mix was really deep and exotic. Fingers crossed it will all have been worth it in two months’ time.

Food Photography, Recipes

Preparing the infusion for Gdansk Vodka

Gallery

I made these cardamom buns yesterday. They’re a bit like a Danish pastry – twirls of enriched pastry with a filling. In the case of these, the main flavours are nutmeg and cardamom. I use cardamom when cooking rice and also in curries – but rarely find call for it in anything else. There is definitely a place for it in sweet foods though! These buns have a lovely, exotic and aromatic taste.

I made these using a recipe found at London Eats blog.

The Recipe

To make cardamom buns (makes 12):

For the dough:

• 2 teaspoons instant yeast
• 50g sugar
• 60g butter
• 150ml milk, scalded and cooled
• 1 egg
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
• 325g strong white flour

First thing – whisk the egg and divide in two. You need half for the dough, and half for the glaze.

If using a bread machine: put one portion of the egg and the rest of the ingredients into the mixing bowl. Run the “dough” cycle. Simples!

If making by hand: put the flour and butter into a bowl, and rub with your fingers until the butter has been incorporated. Fold in the salt, sugar, nutmeg/mace and yeast. In a separate bowl, combine the milk and one portion of the egg, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir with a spoon, then work with your hands until you have a smooth, stretchy, silky dough (at least 5 minutes). Leave the dough a warm place for an hour until the dough has doubled in size. Knock back and knead again for 2-3 minutes.

Once the dough is ready, turn it onto a floured surface. Roll into a large rectangle until the dough is about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Spread with the filling, then roll up into a sausage. Use a sharp knife to cut into 12 slices.

Lay each slice, cut face up, on a bun case. Cover with cling film or a damp tea cloth and leave to rise for at least an hour until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Take the remaining egg (remember that?) and mix with a tablespoon of water. Brush the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake the buns for about 10-12 minutes until golden.

When done, remove from the oven and cover with a clean tea-towel (this will catch the steam and keep the buns soft).

For the filling:

• 60g butter, soft
• 60g caster sugar
• 2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until smooth.

My Observations

The recipe is straight-forward and easy to follow. However, the dough took much longer than I expected to rise. At least 2 hrs for the first rise. Not sure why this is as I make bread every week using fast acting yeast and the dough has usually doubled in size after 45 minutes. I don’t have much experience with enriched doughs, though. I thought it may be because the temps have dropped – but the heating is on here. Anyway, it wasn’t a problem.

I ground up two whole teaspoons of green cardamom pods (including the husk, which is edible, though a bit ‘fibrous’ if not ground up). The scent coming from the grinder was amazing. I don’t have ‘pearl sugar’ so just sprinkled over some granulated sugar.

Variations I can think of to the recipe include maybe adding some pistachios to the filling, and possibly if feeling really indulgent, glazing the buns, perhaps with an apricot jam (though they don’t really need it).

I would also consider making them on a baking sheet next time, rather than a muffin tray, in a flatter, more traditional Danish pastry style. But the smaller buns are very nice and probably a better size.

Inspiration

This recipe is from London Eats blog, here.

Baking, Bread, Food Photography, Recipes

Cardamom Buns

Gallery

Did you know that the Russian word vodka actually means ‘dear little water’? Neither did I, but the excellent book I have from the library – Salt Sugar Smoke: How to Preserve Fruit, Vegetables, Meat and Fish: The Definitive Guide to Conserving, from Jams and Jellies to Smoking and Curing, by Diana Henry says as much. It’s a book on preserving – really good recipes. Of the 5-6 books I got out of the library on the subject – this is definitely my favourite. As a result, I’m stocking up on ingredients for the flavoured alcoholic drinks I’m going to be making – most of which require vodka.

This led to decision-making needed on what vodka to buy. Having searched numerous online reviews, I came to the conclusion that Russian Standard was the one I’d go for. As luck would have it – it’s currently on offer at both Sainsbury’s and Tesco (£16 a litre at S’burys, £25 for 2x 0.7l at Tesco). Not exactly cheap – but cheaper than it normally is, for this country. So I have 3 bottles equalling 2.4 litres. The check-out lady at Tesco actually joked that she would tell my mother!

I’ve bought the sloe gin bottles (Amazon) and am now awaiting some final spices that are required in the recipes (juniper berries and mace blades). Will blog more on this subject as I progress.

Food Photography, Reviews

Dear little water (aka Vodka)

Gallery

This is a very easy loaf to make. The recipe I use is from Dan Lepard (Australian baker and Guardian food columnist – his book Short and Sweet I highly recommend). The recipe can also be found online on the Guardian website, here, or read it below.

My Observations

The only slight deviation I make from Dan’s recipe is that I don’t bother oiling the tin and I do most of the loaf in my Kenwood Food Mixer with dough hook. This makes it especially easy to do. The dough can be quite sticky by the end so flour your hands and the surface when rolling it.

Often I will not use a tin, instead hand-shaping it into something of a ‘cob’. To do this, use your hands to form the dough into a fairly narrow rectangle shape (using your knuckles to knock the dough back and take the air out of it). Then ‘roll up’ the rectangle of dough into a stubby lemon shape, pinching in the ends. This then goes on a baking tray (seam-side down). If you do this, rather than the tin, make sure it’s ‘rolled’. If you just try and do it as a ball, it tends to spread during its final prove and you will lose the height on the loaf. I also tend to slash the dough after shaping or placing in the tin – rather than, as is more often recommended, just before it goes in the oven. I have had too many incidents in the past (mostly with sourdough) where scoring the dough just before it goes into the oven leads to a mass deflation – so I don’t do that these days.

The Recipe

You’ll love this one. Thanks to the soya milk, this easy sandwich bread will stay extra-soft and moist for days after baking, and has the added boost of omega-3 oil together with lots of extra protein and oat fibre.

  • 50g rolled oats
  • 50g golden linseed
  • 275ml lukewarm soya milk
  • 1½ tsp easy-blend yeast
  • 325g strong white bread flour
  • 50g wholemeal or rye flour
  • 1½ tsp fine salt
  • Olive or sunflower oil

Put the rolled oats and linseed in a large mixing bowl, stir in 100ml of boiling water and leave for 30 minutes to soften. Add the warm soya milk and yeast, and mix well. Measure out the two flours and the salt, add these to the soya mixture, then stir everything together into a big, soft and sticky dough. Cover and leave for 10 minutes, then knead on a lightly oiled worktop for about 10 seconds. Cover and leave for another 10 minutes. Repeat this knead-and-rest sequence twice more at 10-minute intervals, then leave covered for 30 minutes.

Brush the inside of a deep, 19cm long loaf tin or similar with oil. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 2cm thick, roll it up tightly and squash it seam-side down into the tin. Cover with a cloth and leave somewhere warmish for about an hour and a half, until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220C (190C fan-assisted)/425F/gas mark 8, slash the top and bake for about 45 minutes. Take the tin out of the oven, remove the loaf from the tin, and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Inspiration

From Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet

Baking, Bread, Food Photography, Recipes

Soya and linseed tin loaf

Gallery
News

Why I’m writing a food journal

I’ve kept blogs before, for various things – both at work and personally. This blog will be a ‘single issue’ one – one that is focused on all things to do with food and drink.

I am an ‘enthusiastic amateur’ with a large appetite – and in no way a professional or chef. But I do enjoy writing about and talking about food and drink, so hopefully this blog will let me do that. I will post recipes that have inspired me – the failures as well as the successes! I also quite like picking up my old Nikon D50 SLR (with 50mm/f2 prime lens – perfect for food photography) – which has been gathering dust these past few years.

I’ll also aim to write about food-related places I have visited (restaurants, cafes – mostly around London), as well as give reviews of recipes, ingredients, kitchen items, etc, that I have tried.

Standard