Archives for July 2012

Bread: man v machine

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Suzy Mckeever Suzy Mckeever | 10:01 UK time, Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Set up

I set out to test the results of making bread at home, with a bread machine and by hand. These are the rules of engagement. I start with the “baker’s percentage” as my recipe for making bread by hand and using a bread machine: 100% flour, 60% water, 2% salt, 2% yeast (in this case: 1 x 7g sachet dried yeast for 500g flour). No milk powder, no fat, no wholemeal. Just good quality organic strong white bread flour.

Bread machine and hand-made loaf

Bread machine v handmade: Pamela Anderson v Pam Ayres


Round 1

I place all the ingredients, in the right order, in the bread machine. Make my option selections: basic bread, large size, regular bake. The machine is silent and shows me the four hour countdown. Unnervingly it sits there. Silent. I decide to get on with making the other dough.

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The hot dog goes posh

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Clare Hargreaves Clare Hargreaves | 16:30 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2012

The hot dog, beloved by American baseball fans, is probably not your idea of high-end gastronomy. But now a brave band of British charcutiers are taking the hot dog by the ears and shaking it about to unleash an artisan frankfurter that’s delicious, ethical and even healthy.

One charcutier poshing up the dog is Graham Waddington who works from his Gloucestershire workshop. He combines meat, herbs and spices into a machine known as a bowl cutter which produces the frankfurter’s characteristic silky smooth texture. “Using a bowl cutter you don’t need to add stabilisers and emulsifiers,” he says.

Gourmet hot dog

Is the dog about to have its gourmet day? Image: Bubbledogs

Unlike industrially made hot dogs which often contain as little as 30% meat, Graham’s are around 90% meat. To make his classic smoked ‘Weiner’ (Viennese sausage) he mixes rose veal with native breed pork and beef and smokes it all over beech and apple wood. Other items in his posh dog repertoire are a Strasbourg “Knack” and a truffle and porcini frankfurter. Incidentally, he prefers to call his products British frankfurters rather than hot dogs. “Hot dog denotes all manner of atrocious things,” he laughs.

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Seafood on a budget - can you have great quality for less?

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Hannah Briggs Hannah Briggs | 09:57 UK time, Tuesday, 24 July 2012

On my way to Port Eliot festival in Cornwall last weekend, I had one thing on my mind. Seafood. The annual literary festival, which takes place on the historic site of Port Eliot in St Germans, is best known as a celebration of words but food is becoming an increasingly popular part of the event.

Raymond Blanc's fresh grilled mackerel with soy and lime dressing

“You won’t find any greasy burger vans here,” explained chef and local resident Chris Sherville who was running the festival’s hugely popular seafood café. “Just use your nose for navigation and you’ll find your way around.”

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Olympic lunchboxes that pass muster - and security

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Deborah Reddihough Deborah Reddihough | 11:33 UK time, Friday, 20 July 2012

If you’ve managed to bag tickets for the forthcoming games but don’t want to pay the high prices for food and drinks when you arrive, what are your options? With prices as high as £1.60 for a small bottle of water and £5.90 for a tuna salad, taking a packed lunch seems an appealing alternative. And then there’s the inevitable queues to consider…

To be fair, despite the headlines about junk food’s dominance at the games, there will be a wide variety of food available at most venues, so, even if it is pricey, you’re unlikely to be cornered into eating junk food. The organisers have taken pains to ensure special diets are also catered for, meaning gluten-free, vegetarian, halal and kosher food will all be on sale.

Gold millionaire shortbread

Gold medal millionaire shortbreads: a guaranteed winner.

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Homemade ice cream: Man v. machine

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Emily Angle Emily Angle | 17:00 UK time, Friday, 13 July 2012

You can’t have ice cream without one specific machine: a freezer.  But in our continuing series of cooking without gadgets, if you don’t want to invest in another piece of single-purpose kit to clog up your kitchen, namely an ice cream maker, can you still make ice cream?

The machine
I have a powerful ice cream machine in my basement. Nothing like the electric churn atop a bucket of ice and salt my grandmother had - slow, noisy and smelling of burning engine oil.  My machine cools down in five minutes and churns ice cream in about twenty. The prep time can vary - upwards of half an hour to make a custard, then hours of chilling it in the fridge until it’s ready to churn, making it a two-day process. But at its quickest, you can upend a tub of Greek yoghurt into the machine and have soft, scoopable ice cream in minutes. This is going to be a hard machine to beat.

The freeze and stir method
The first trial was a mocha ice cream, using the freeze and stir method. The recipe combined ready-made custard, whipped cream and coffee. Fold the ingredients together, pour into a plastic box with a lid, and freeze. Every hour or so, break up the crystals of ice that are forming around the edges of the box, stir them through the mixture and return to the freezer until the mixture is ice creamy.

I could almost hear laughter emanating from the basement as I tried to break up increasingly large shards of ice with a fork. Once formed, large ice crystals won’t break up without serious power. In the end I resorted to the handheld electric mixer. But it was no good – I’d let it set too firm before stirring. The problem with this method is that once it’s out of sight in the freezer, it’s easy to forget.

Freezing coffee ice cream without a machine creates large ice crystals and a rough texture.

Whisk early, whisk often to avoid big ice crystals forming.

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Homemade pasta - man v machine

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Brendan Lancaster | 14:54 UK time, Monday, 9 July 2012

Many recipes for making fresh pasta assume you need a pasta machine, and in 'Food Factory' on BBC1 they even tried to make spaghetti with a meat mincer. Hmmm. In Italy you just need a long wooden rolling pin. This makes me wonder, can a novice get close to the delicious taste of fresh pasta at home with just a rolling pin and a little effort? 

So, I experimented by making pasta with and without a machine, and I was pleasantly surprised at the results.

A pasta machine

Haven't got one of these? No problem.

Rolling, rolling, rolling
Perhaps the most surprising discovery was that using the machine didn’t save me any time. 

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Panna cotta: the ultimate no-fuss pudding

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Emily Angle Emily Angle | 12:55 UK time, Tuesday, 3 July 2012

On this week’s Saturday Kitchen James Martin treated himself to a luxury, Michelin-starred 40th birthday feast. And finishing off the meal was one of his favourites – a buttermilk panna cotta with doughnuts and jelly.  I understood the appeal of a freshly fried doughnut as a birthday treat, but panna cotta seemed a surprisingly elegant and restrained choice.

Frankly, I don’t understand why they aren’t more popular.  Forget the faff and fat of cheesecake, never mind not having an ice cream machine, panna cotta knows all their best tricks and can still be made in five minutes before work.  Warm some cream and milk, stir in some soaked gelatine leaves or powder, a spoon of flavouring and pop it in ramekins or small bowls to set in the fridge.

Pale and quivering, panna cotta is the dessert equivalent of a supermodel – always beautiful, whatever dress she's wearing. Perhaps we deem them a little too perfect: falling instead for the femme-fatale brownie or girl-next-door crumble.

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