Friday, June 26, 2009

Cocktails and Dreams

Remember that film? If you're lucky, not well. But the title seems apt to introduce the culinary contribution of Cocktail Party Physics. Go to the site and scroll way down and you'll find the "Physics Cocktails" in the left-hand sidebar, including the Black Hole (5 liquers, with the tagline "so called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation") and the Quantum Theory (guaranteed to collapse your wave function). Well, it is Friday, after all.

The Quantum Theory:
  • 3/4 oz Rum
  • 1/2 oz Strega
  • 1/4 oz Grand Marnier
  • 2 oz Pineapple juice
  • Fill with Sweet and sour
  • Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.

    There are also lots of interesting posts to read. Enjoy both! But probably not at the same time - the posts deserve more focussed attention than you'll be capable of after drinking one of the cocktails...

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    Muesli - not too sweet!

    I like muesli, but increasingly find that they are too sweet, even those without added sugar. So, I did the obvious thing and mixed my own!

    I didn't find any guidance online for relative proportions of ingredients (admittedly I didn't look too hard, but how wrong could I go?), so I did a taste-test of the cereals to find which I liked most individually, and determined that, actually, they don't taste all that different (with the exception of oats). The bigger differentiator is the texture: wheat flakes are softest, rye flakes are hardest. Oats are far softer and flourier. So decision made: equal quantities of wheat, barley and rye flakes, a bit more of oats. This is also appealing as oats are significantly cheaper than the others. Win-win! On the subject of buying the cereals individually, I found them in Whole Foods.

    After that, it is just a question of determining what extras one is going to add. Well, this is simple - just think about what you like! I am partial to lots of nuts and seeds and, as I've already implied, only a bit of added sweetness. I toasted the almonds and hazelnuts to intensify the nutty flavour and really bring out the crunch, but not the cashews as I thought that might be a bit much, and some slightly waxier pieces make for more varied mouthfuls. Note that toasted nuts go rancid faster than raw ones though, so if you aren't going to eat your muesli up within a few weeks - say, a month - then it is probably best to skip this step. I used flame raisins, which are big, plump and full of flavour. You can add anything you like though - if you like sweeter museli add more fruit and less nuts, and try different fruits, or different nuts or seeds. The shelves at Holland and Barratts should provide ample inspiration. Next time, I would probably go for slightly less additives to cereals (a bit too nutty), and cranberries are very tempting...

    To almost fill a tall Kilner jar (825g total weight):
  • 100g wheat flakes
  • 100g rye flakes
  • 100g barley flakes
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 75g almonds, roughly chopped
  • 50g hazelnuts
  • 50g cashew nuts, roughly chopped
  • 100g flame raisins
  • 25g pumpkin seeds
  • 25g sunflower seeds

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C. Spread the hazelnuts and chopped almonds out on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, until fragrant and slightly coloured. Set aside to cool completely. Once cold, measure all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, stir in the nuts and decant into an airtight jar or tub to keep it fresh.

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Rye Bread

    So, the bread using the starter was a fail. I'm not even going to go into the humiliating details, just believe me that it was bad. We are now on take two with the starter. If this is also a dud, I'm going to abandon the friendship bread and go for straight sourdough. I'm a bit afraid to go down that route, as I have assumed that this is (even) harder to get going, as you don't give it a pile of yeast and lots of sugar to start with but rely on just yeasts in the air (or a tiny smidgen of packet yeast) and the flour as the food, but it's conceivable that I am wrong. Some might say likely, but if they do they won't get any bread. And since I am entertaining (and feeding) myself with rye bread made the usual (for me) way until the next starter experiment is ready, that would be a great shame for them. Because it is delicious. This was the best bread that I can recall making. It was packed with flavour and rose beautifully to give a crumb which was soft but tightly woven and perfect for sandwiches. We are going to make it again at the first Anglo-Asian Bakeathon tomorrow - I can't wait!

    See how much it has risen in the oven? The above picture was immediately before it went in. And you can see too the "stretch marks" along the fissure where the long gluten chains are all lined up and give the bread it's structure. This is what kneading prepares them to do. The shape of the loaf (high on one side vs. the other - most obvious in the top picture) is yet another demonstration of the uneven temperature distribution in my oven. Le sigh.

    Makes one 1lb loaf:
  • 250g rye flour
  • 250g white bread flour
  • 7g sachet dried yeast
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 300ml warm water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (I used 1tbsp strongly flavoured extra virgin and 1tbsp very mild as I'm out of regular)

  • Mix the flours, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water and oil. Mix with a round-bladed knife and then your hands to form a soft ball of dough. If the dough seems too sticky to knead, add a bit more flour; if it won't form a cohesive, soft ball add a little more water. Rub your hands with flour to remove all of the stuck on stickiness. Turn it out onto a floured work surface (ideally around hip height for maximum leverage) and knead until smooth and springy. Wash out your mixing bowl, oil lightly, put the ball of dough in and give it a couple of turns to get the surface lightly covered with oil too. Cover the bowl with cling film or a damp, clean tea towel and set aside until doubled in size (about an hour, depending on the temperature etc.).

    Preheat the oven to 200°C. Punch down the dough (literally, punch it! SO fun!), turn out on to the work surface and knead again briefly. Press out to a rectangle three times the size of your 1lb (500g) loaf tin. Fold one end in and then the other (imagine folding an A4 letter to go in a business-size envelope) and then put in the tin seam-side down. Leave to prove for about 15 - 30 minutes, until it has risen to above the top of the tin. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until it looks done on top and sounds hollow when you rap on the bottom with your knuckles. Sit on a wire rack, out of the tin, to cool before trying to slice it.

    Friday, June 19, 2009

    Red Salad: Radish, Beetroot and Kohlrabi

    Total crunch fest! When I made this (weeks and weeks ago - I am not efficient about writing these up, which is a pity as when I eat them they are seasonal. Note to self: stop faffing), I had in mind something along the lines of the Carrot, Avocado and Cashew Salad, though here the contrasts are more about the flavours than textures. And it's so pretty! White, white and pink, and deep purpley-red. With little yellow flecks. What more could you want? Oh yes, as fork. Just don't try to eat it curled up in a chair, straight out of the pyrex casserole in which you mixed it, because you will drop it down your front. And on the pale green chair. And then on the floor when you stand up trying not to get more on the seat. Trust me. I know.

    One very greedy (but so healthy!) portion, or perhaps more sensibly, two:
  • 5 radishes
  • 1/4 kohlrabi
  • 1 small-medium beetroot
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Pinch of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • Dry fry the spices in a small frying pan then tip out on to a plate or sheet of kitchen roll to cool. Top and tail the radishes and chop in to quarters. Peel the kohlrabi and slice into short, thin batons. Peel the beetroot (wear gloves if you don't like having vibrant magenta hands) and dice or julienne. Put all the vegetables and spices in a bowl, add the lemon juice and oil and mix thoroughly. Gobble. It might improve of steeping, but I wouldn't know.