Saturday, December 19, 2009

I didn't post Friday because I was fixing this for dinner ...

This is one of the best things we've had for dinner lately. Oh man, this was good. And since I followed Ashley's technique and read a couple recipes, then basically did my own thing, I am TOTALLY taking all of the credit for it! Don't be intimidated by the loooong ingredient list -- this is one of those recipes that basically uses half the spice drawer. It's really easy to make. And of course, feel free to change ingredients or quantities to suit your taste!

Serves: 2 plus extra for seconds or leftovers (maybe 3 full servings)
Time to make: 15 minutes prep + 30 minutes simmer

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Pinch mustard seeds
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cloves of cloves (whole, not ground)
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced or grated
2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
About 1 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned)
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 1/2 cups broth (I used low sodium chicken bouillon)
1 large or 2 smallish potatoes (Yukon gold or red), largeish dice

Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat oil in a nonstick pan. Cook mustard seeds until they pop. Add onion and cook 5 minutes or so. Add jalapenos, garlic, ginger, and spices; cook and stir another couple of minutes. Add tomatoes and cook another minute or so. Add chickpeas, broth, and diced potatoes. Bring to a simmer and let simmer 25 minutes uncovered, or until most of the liquid is gone.
Serve with brown rice and/or naan; garnish with fresh chopped cilantro if desired.
I also served with a frozen vegetable mix -- microwaved it with a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the chickpeas.

IN OTHER NEWS my husband had his LAST FINAL on Friday and is now done with his first semester of podiatry school! I am so pround of him! And also addicted to exclamation points, apparently!!! We are both looking forward to visitng our families for Christmas next week. And I am gleefully gloating over my successful Christmas shopping.

I may not post at all next week, since my parents have a horrible Internet connection (although my Mom seems to manage beautifully). If not, I wish everyone a very happy Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Bread Blog

Complete with pictures, mostly courtesy of my Dear Husband :)

Neither DH nor I are a big fan of what we call "gummi bread" (the cheap sandwich bread you buy at the store). However, we wince a little at the thought of paying $3 or more for a loaf of the good stuff. Ergo, I make bread most weeks. The process is a little involved, but after the first loaf or two it really isn't difficult. My usual recipe is a very simple bread -- using whole wheat and rye flour give it more nutritional value and flavour, and baking it at home gives it an amazing crust. You can whip it up in a heavy-duty stand mixer if you have one, but there is something deeply satisfying about thumping into a fragrant, elastic mass of dough.

Start the bread the day before you plan to bake it. Mix up the sponge (kind of a cheater's sourdough starter) and let it sit overnight. The next day, expect to spend about 4 to 5 hours shaping, rising, and baking the bread.

This is the easy part!

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1 cup warm (not hot) water
1 cup bread flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour  

In a really big mixing bowl, stir yeast and water to dissolve. Stir in flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and let sit at room temperature at least 5 hours—I find it is easiest to mix in the evening and let rise overnight.

In the morning, it will smell AMAZING and yeasty and look sort of bubbly like this:


3 cups bread flour

½ cup rye flour

1 1/3 cups warm water

2 tablespoons honey or molasses

2 teaspoons salt

Dump all ingredients in on top of the sponge from last night. (NOTE: I usually dissolve the salt and honey or molasses IN the water, as shown above, so that it mixes more evenly. My bread flour canister contains bread flour, not poison. And there is no hot sauce in this recipe!)

Mix well -- it will be pretty stiff. I mix it in with my hands and then go straight to kneading the dough, right in the bowl, to make cleanup easier. Knead for 10 minutes or so till elastic—you may knead in ½ cup or more of additional bread flour.  The dough should hold its shape like this:

Let rise at least two hours, till tripled in size, like this:

When dough has risen, spray a baking sheet. Form the dough into a sort of oblong football shape: gently spread it out, bring the "sides" in to the middle and pinch, then turn over so the seam is on bottom (try not to deflate it too much—handle gently) on the sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise till almost doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 ½ hour:

Meanwhile, move oven racks so that one rack is in the lower middle position and the other rack is below it. On the lowest rack, place an old baking dish or something (to hold water). Have some water heating on the stove or in the microwave. AND TURN THE OVEN ON TO 450deg F!

When bread is risen, slide the baking sheet with the bread onto the upper oven rack. QUICKLY and CAREFULLY pour about 2 cups hot water into the old tray underneath it and close the oven door. All that exciting steam helps the bread develop that fantastic crust.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Crust should be quite dark. Turn the oven off, open the door, and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove bread and let cool at room temperature before slicing (if you don’t wait at least an hour it will be gummy).


A few more notes:

This recipe is from this amazing cookbook. You should buy it! You can play around with the proportions of wheat, white, and rye flours, as long as you keep the total amount of flour the same. If you aren't familiar with rye flour, it gives the bread a wonderful, deep sort of flavour, AND it is PURPLE! Well, okay, really more of a lavender-grey. But still. Try it if you can find it. DO use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. It is not too hard to find and really improves the texture of the finished bread.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Should this cake happen?