It hasn’t gone unnoticed that home baking has become the new cool thing to do during lockdown, with everyone trying their hand at producing home made delicious treats to stuff our idle faces with to our hearts content, if only to pass the time away; Myself included.
So much so that in the first two weeks of lockdown I had whipped up no less than about six different kinds of breads/cakes/bakes – anything that I could shovel in to my increasingly large belly, or punt off on to Grant as a ‘treat for work’ to make sure that if I was going to get good and plump, I wasn’t going to do it alone.
Baking has become like sickly sweet crack to the masses, we all can’t get enough of this wholesome and gratifying activity – if you can actually find any flour that is, right now there’s more chance of spotting a fucking yeti taking a stroll through the park to get his daily exercise.
Since showing off a few successful recipe attempts on Instagram (because if it didn’t make the grid, did I even really bake it..?), some of you have asked me to share my baking ‘expertise’, and even though I’ve ripped most of them straight from Google, I figured why not. I’ll indulge my smug Delia Smith charade and dish out my recipes like hot cakes. Or bread. Whatever.
While I am far from achieving master baker status (ahem…), I like to think that I know a fair bit about food, stemming from ingesting impressive, if not alarming amounts of the stuff like a pro for many years now, so I suppose it makes sense to take a step from my usual role of reviewing culinary offerings in to proving that I can actually produce something not entirely crap myself.
So here it is, my first recipe blog, for anyone who cares. Starting with a pairing that is delicious, savoury and simple, and one that you’ll find yourself returning to for ‘just one more snack!’ all day long.
NB. I take absolutely no responsibility for the amount of calories that may be ingested subsequent to recreating these recipes. I’ve enough to worry about with the state of my own currently gargantuan arse at the moment, let alone anyone else’s.
ROSEMARY AND SEA SALT FOCCACIA
Preparation time – about 30 minutes if you’re as slow as shit like me.
Cooking time – 1 to 2 hours (plenty of time to have a snack while you wait for it to prove and cook).
Serves – I’ll leave that up to you. There will be no judgement here.
- 500g strong white bread flour, aka gold dust, plus extra for dusting. Or gold dusting. (I’ll get my coat…)
- 2 tsp table salt
- 1 sachet fast-action dried yeast
- 80ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (got to get those calories in)
- 150-250ml of warm water
- vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
- fresh rosemary
- sea salt
- Dust a large flat baking tray with flour.
- Chuck the flour into a big old bowl, add the salt and yeast, then add the olive oil, plus enough warm water to make a soft but not sticky dough. If it’s sticking to your hands like treacle then you’re doing it wrong. Go easy on the water, adding a bit at a time. If you pour it in faster than the first post lockdown pint down your gullet, it may appear to be fucked, but you can fix this. Gently kneading by way of scooping up the dough, scraping any sticky bits on the surface and slapping it back down again for a few minutes will see the dough begin to become ‘pillowy’ and more manageable. The more water that can be added (the full 250ml is great) then the lighter the bread will be. But it can take some perseverance. Also resist the temptation to add more flour as it will make the dough too heavy.
- Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until your puny weak arms feel like they’re going to fall off, on a lightly floured work surface. The dough will feel stretchy when pulled. To test if it is ready, make a ball with the dough then, using a well-floured finger, (pardon me vicar…) give it a good poke (no more than a ¼in). If the indent disappears by way of the dough springing back then it is ready to shape. If the indent stays, knead for a few minutes longer.
- Shape the dough into an oval and place it on the prepared baking tray. Flatten it out to about 30cm long and 20cm wide. Cover the dough loosely with oiled clingfilm, making sure it is airtight.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
- Leave the dough in a warm place for about an hour, or until it has almost doubled in size. Then flour up that index finger again and poke holes in the dough at regular intervals, about 4cm apart, in rows across the dough, pressing right down to the bottom. Shove some sprigs of the rosemary into the holes. Sprinkle some sea salt over the dough and bung in the top of the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the bread is well risen, pale golden-brown and looks tasty as hell.
- Remove from the oven, drizzle with the remaining olive oil in a wanky/artistic manner and leave to cool on the baking tray. (DON’T SHOVE IT IN TO YOUR GOB RIGHT AWAY OR YOU’LL BURN YOUR FUCKING MOUTH OFF YOU GREEDY PIGGY).
*Adapted recipe, originally from BBC Good Food.
CARAMELISED ONION CHUTNEY
Preparation time – 5 minutes
Cooking time – 1 hour 30 (ish)
Serves – who the hell cares, it’s chutney FFS. This made a jars worth for me.
- 3 tbsp chilli & garlic oil (or olive oil, or butter – whatever you have to be honest).
- 3 big fat onions, thinly sliced ( I used white, red would work too)
- 150g brown sugar – or muscovado if you want to be a prick about it.
- 50 grams granulated sugar
- 150mls white wine vinegar (would probably be better with red but white was all I had so fuck it)
- A fat glug of balsamic vinegar
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- ½ tsp paprika
- Sprinkle of chilli flakes
- Sprinkle of dried rosemary (technical terms…).
- Heat the oil in a pan and soften the onions over a medium-low heat for 25-30 mins stirring regularly, until gloriously gooey and awesome. DO NOT LET THEM BROWN/BURN OR IT WILL TASTE LIKE CRAP. They should reduce by about half.
- Chuck in half the sugar, crank up the heat a bit , and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are just starting to colour. Lower the heat, then add the remaining sugar, a pinch of salt and all the other ingredients.
- Simmer, until bubbling away nicely on a medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the chutney has reduced and thickened to a dark caramel colour, stirring occasionally to check it isn’t stuck to the bottom of the pan and completely buggered. If it’s turned to tar too soon, add a little water and leave to reduce again. To test if the chutney is ready, drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan – it should take a few seconds for the juices to re-cover the bottom of the pan.
- Spoon the hot chutney into a jar, let it cool fully then bung in to the fridge.
*Actually my own recipe and not one ripped off of someone else for once.
So there you have it! Freshly baked delicious crisp focaccia with sweet and sticky chutney. Add a chunk of whatever kind of cheese you fancy (but brie is especially good…) in to the equation and that is one happy little snackcident right there. Also try topping a burger or hotdog with the onion chutney at your next back yard isolation bbq for a bit of a taste sensation. You will not regret it!
Happy home cooking folks, and don’t even think about blaming me if you totally screw any of these up.
See you all on the other side when we’re all ready to apply for the next season of Masterchef.