New cookbooks and a lovely loaf

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A most welcome and generous gift from a goodie bag (work-related). I do like the Vietnamese eateries in Shoreditch but have never actually cooked Vietnamese food. This book makes it all sound very simple so I’m off to shop for ingredients shortly. It’s also most welcome as my weekend cooking (weekend cooking = more time consuming and ‘elaborate’ recipes) has been very much Jerusalem inspired in recent months with an occasional Hugh FW, St. John, Moro and Nigel Slater thrown in. And, considering that I have most of Nigel’s books since Real Fast Food, it’s a bit odd that the two Tender books completely passed me by. This one centres on fruit and has some wonderful recipes for sweet and savoury dishes. Expect lots of apples, pears and quince posts coming up, I do love a quince. And medlar, if the greengrocer happens to have them. Contemplating making medlar jelly although not entirely sure what it would go in (the perennial problem of Not Enough Jars). There are also chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts although I am a little disappointed at the lack of a really good chestnut and chocolate cake recipe. I am always on the search for the cake that would be equal to the memory of the one great aunt V used to make at this time of the year.

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This week’s loaf, I am pretty pleased with it. It’s a white and spelt sourdough, good bouncy texture inside and a better crust than last week – I blasted this one in a hot oven first. After 3 weeks of experimentation with Paul Hollywood’s method, I think I’ve now worked out what to keep from it and what to change well enough to post a recipe. This should be started at lunchtime on the day before if you want to have it ready for breakfast.

Ingredients: 400g bread flour – this can be all white or a mix of white with other flours (strong wholemeal, rye, spelt, malted). Just ensure that strong white flour dominates as the others have less gluten and don’t rise as well. So, this particular loaf was 250g strong white and 150g spelt flour. 250g sourdough starter, 250ml water and 1tsp salt. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl to form a dough then knead by hand for 10 or so minutes until elastic or 6 minutes in a mixer with a dough hook attachment. Shape into a ball and leave to prove, in an oiled bowl, covered with a cloth for 5 hours. Take out the dough and deflate, on a lightly floured work surface, roll it up tightly, flatten then blanket fold and shape into an oval, coat with flour (preferably rye or spelt) and leave to prove for a second time – on a well floured board or in a proving basket placed inside a plastic bag, for another 12-13 hours. The slow second prove will give the loaf a bit of a skin, which helps the final crust. Place a hot stone or a baking sheet in the oven an preheat to 250C (fan or, equivalent high setting). Slash the loaf then bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 180C fan and bake for a further 30 minutes.

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This morning’s reading

A couple of weeks ago, I had a very generous goodie bag, which included two classic cookbooks recently reissued by Quadrille. I had a little glance when I got them but not a proper look, that I did this morning. I don’t buy cookbooks often but have amassed a few over the years, some given, some bought. Sometimes I use them a lot and some only come out for one or two particular recipes. Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries, for example, was used a bit when it came out then put away for a few years until early this summer, when I cooked loads from it. It’s brilliant when you rediscover recipes or books you haven’t used in years – like the River Cafe Cookbook, the original blue one, which everyone bought when it came out in the nineties and then complained that the recipes were either too complicated or ingredients impossible to obtain. How the times have changed.

Anyway, back to this morning’s reading. I don’t have any classic French cookbooks – have a couple of restaurant cookbooks where chefs use French techniques but that’s about it. So this should come in quite useful:

Marcel Boulestin’s Simple French Cooking for English Homes, a 1923 cookbook. I almost fancy spending the day making all the sauces but, in order to do that, I would, of course have to go get me some beef first and make a proper consomme. Apparently, Boulestin was the first TV chef.

Eliza Acton’s Modern cookery for private families, an 1845 cookbook. I’ve actually heard of Eliza Acton before, so super happy to have this book. It is huge and has everything! Also, seems to be the first cookbook that gives measurements and cooking times as apparently cooks were meant to have known those things already. Have also taken, then ‘suitably aged’ some pictures from inside:

Perhaps the last picture – of the game page a bit ‘too aged’ and middle picture is on methods and equipment needed for preserving. Think I will spend part of Christmas holidays making things – according to Simon Hopkinson (quote on back cover), the Christmas pudding recipe is the only one he ever uses. Tempted to make but only because I’ve never made it before, not because I really love Christmas pudding. Of course, if I wait for holidays, will be way too late to make the pudding… Beloved says not to bother as we’re bound to eat too much of it elsewhere anyway.