How to make creamy oat milk and nut milk at home.

I'm holding a bottle of homemade plant milk.
Photo shows me holding a bottle of homemade plant milk

Making your plant milk at home is easy, uses less packaging, and in many cases works out much cheaper as well (definitely the oat milk). What are you waiting for?

OAT MILK:

1 cup oats

4 cups water

2 dates ( or alternative sweetener such as maple syrup or vanilla essence). This is optional.

4-5tsp oil ( I used rapeseed)

Pinch salt ( optional)

1/4 to 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Blender

2 sieves

METHOD

1.Soak the oats and the dates ( if using) in the 4 cups of water for 20 mins.

2. Add other ingredients apart from the xanthan gum. No need to drain or rinse the oats first .

3. Blend

4. Set one sieve above the other over a bowl and pour the mix through. TIP: Don’t press it through or use a nut milk bag as this can make the milk turn out slimy – and it is really hard to get through a nut milk bag. Just tilt the sieve to get the milk through.

5. Return the milk to the blender, add the xanthan gum and blend again. The xanthan gum helps the mix stay together but it does give a thicker texture so you will need to adjust to taste. It’s best to start with a smaller amount and then add a bit more to see how you prefer it.

6. Pour into your preferred container and refrigerate. Although the xanthan gum helps stop separation you may want to still give the bottle a gentle shake before using.

NUT MILK

Nut milk is even simpler.

1 cup nuts ( I usually use a mix of almonds and hazelnuts but you can also use other nuts or seeds such as pumpkin seeds)

4-5 cups water

Blender

Nut milk bag

METHOD

  1. Soak the nuts in enough hot water to cover (from the kettle) for an hour (or more).
  2. Drain and rinse
  3. Add fresh water
  4. Blend
  5. Strain through a nut milk bag, muslin or other fine weave cloth. This time you can squeeze to get as much liquid as you can out.
  6. Pour into your preferred container and refrigerate.

OAT AND NUT MILK

My plant milk of choice at the moment is a mix of oat and nut milk. Because the oat milk is best filtered through a sieve and the nut milk though a nut milk bag I find it easiest to make a half batch of each and then mix them together in a bottle at the end. In this case, because of the fat from the nuts there is no need to add the oil or the xanthan gum, although a tiny bit of xanthan gum at the end does reduce the settling of the oats. I keep it super simple and just blend oats with water after the 20 mins soaking time, then sieve. I don’t find the dates or other additions to be necessary. Then I make the nut milk exactly as above and mix the 2 together.

Because the sieve allows small particles of the oats through you will need to shake it before use as the small bits settle to the bottom. If there is a lot of sediment when I’m nearing the bottom of the bottle I often add more water and give it a good shake again to make it last a bit longer.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE OAT AND NUT PULP

After making these you will be left with a small amount of oat pulp and rather more nut pulp. Don’t throw this away as it can be used up in many recipes – I often share how I use it over in my instagram account. Some of my favourites are in homemade granola, in bread, cookies and cake. Treading my own Path blog has a great recipe for vegan chocolate brownies using nut pulp. The oat pulp can easily be added to porridge. You can add some nut pulp in place of tahini and I have tried fermenting it to make vegan cheese before.

Do let me know how you get on if you give this a try – and if you have other ideas for using the nut/oat pulp.

Sourdough Bread made easy

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Hi all,

We are living in strange times and as a result more of us are baking at home. Since I first posted my sourdough bread recipe my understanding has developed and I have made the process even simpler. Photos will be added to this post later – for now I wanted to put up a quick step by step guide to assist those using a sourdough starter for the first time. This process assumes you have a sourdough starter ready to use, and that it is stored in the fridge before feeding. If you don’t have a starter check out my earlier post. You will need:

80g sourdough starter (see step 1)

560g bread flour ( I tend to use 200g of wholemeal and 360 of white but you can vary this according to preference/ what you have available)

1tsp salt

1tbsp oil ( optional but makes the crust easier to cut)350ml water (you may prefer to use slightly less if using all white flour)

Method:

  1. Remove your starter from the fridge (I keep a very small amount), and add 40g each of flour and water ( I usually feed my starter rye flour but you can use bread flour). This means you will have an additional 80g to use in the recipe later. I do this either in the morning or around lunchtime then it is ready to use in the evening.
  2. Leave it at room temperature until the starter in your jar has approximately doubled in size. Placing an elastic band around the jar can help you tell when this is. Don’t worry about it exactly doubling – the important thing is that you can see it is rising and bubbly. How long this takes depends on how warm your home is – anywhere from 4-8 hours but don’t worry if you leave it longer.
  3. Mix all the ingredients in the order listed. Remember to only use the 80g of starter and put the rest back into the fridge for next time. I use the pizza dough programme on my bread machine to mix for me. You can use a dough hook on a food processor, knead it by hand , or the more traditional way of making sourdough is to stretch and fold the dough at intervals over several hours. I usually mix mine just before going to bed. If you want to mix by hand using stretch and folds you may want to refer to the Foodbod Master recipe at: https://foodbodsourdough.com/about-my-recipe/
  4. Leave to prove. This first proof is known as the ” bulk proof” and you want the dough to almost double in size. I leave mine on the kitchen counter overnight in a bowl covered with a pan lid but if it is warm this may be too long.
  5. Once the dough has approximately doubled you can shape it into a boule. Bake with Jack has some really useful videos on You Tube to show you how to shape the dough (links at end of post). I usually do this first thing in the morning. I don’t have a banneton so I put the shaped loaf straight into the casserole dish/dutch oven that I will bake it in. This also means you don’t need to transfer the dough again.
  6. I then transfer the dough, in the casserole dish, to the fridge for a ” cold retard” This slows down fermentation so you can leave it until a convenient time to bake. I usually bake my loaf mid afternoon ( because that’s when I finish work) but you can leave it to the next day.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and carefully slash the top with a knife or razor blade. This helps contro where the loaf expands.
  8. Then place the casserole, with the lid,straight into a cold oven turned to the hottest your oven goes (mine is 230 degrees C) for 25 mins, turn down to 200 for 15 mins, then remove the lid and bake for a further 20 mins. Keep an eye on it because ovens vary. Once ready it should sound hollow when you tap the bottom.
  9. Leave to cool fully ( ideally overnight) before cutting into the bread.

Tips:

If your house is warm and it is proofing too quickly you can reduce the amount of starter you use. Remember that the starter is made of equal amounts of flour and water so for each 10g less of starter you add you should add an extra 5g each of flour and water. Experiment with small increments to see what works for you.

You can add extras such as seeds and nuts to the recipe. I often add pulp remaining from making nut milk.

Other useful links:

Using my bread machine is convenient for me but if you want to mix by hand using stretch and folds you may prefer the Foodbod master recipe

I’ve also found Bake with Jack on You Tube really useful for technique.

The Facebook group Sourdough Bread Baking is a friendly forum for sharing your successes and failures and asking questions.

Let me know how you get on.

Simple sourdough bread – by a novice

I’ll say right out that I have only been making sourdough for just over a month. If you want to know how to bake perfect looking artisan style loaves of the kind you might see for sale for £3.50 or more at a Farmers’ Market then you are in the wrong place. However, if you want to know about a simple way to make decent, totally plastic free, bread to feed your family, at a fraction of the price, I may be able to help. All you need is flour, water and salt. Plus a little bit of planning ahead.

First off, you’ll need a sourdough starter. You can buy one, or get one from a friend or via a fermenting group online. However, it is easy to make one yourself from scratch. I followed this method from Allinsons

What it doesn’t mention is that if you add 70g of flour and 70ml of water every day, unless you are using a really big jar, you’ll soon run out of space. And if your starter begins to be quite active in that time, it will overflow. You can use a much smaller amount of flour and water – the key thing is to use a 1:1 ratio. It is also a good idea while your starter is getting going to ” refresh” it by discarding some. Of course I don’t mean throw it away. Instead transfer about 80% of your starter to a separate jar and pop that in the fridge while you continue to feed the remaining 20%. Some sites say to do this every day but I didn’t discard until I began running out of space and mine still worked fine. You can use the “discard” to bake pancakes, crumpets, crackers, pizza and lots more – about which more below.

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Sourdough Starter “Bubbles”

After a few days of adding flour and water to your jar you should begin to see some activity – it will start to bubble and smell yeasty. Don’t worry if it takes longer – it depends how warm your kitchen is. I put mine in the warm airing cupboard to speed things up. This is how it looked after 5 and 7 days:

After a couple or weeks you should be able to try making a loaf. There are a couple of ways to tell if your starter is ready. After you feed it with flour and water it should double in size in a few hours and then fall back – you can put a rubber band around the jar to mark the levels to help you tell. Another way is to drop a bit of the starter into a cup of water and it should float. Being a newbie I didn’t know about either of these so I just got baking, but when I tried the float test later it worked.

Once your starter is established you can keep it in the fridge and just take it out to feed a day or two before baking, or once a week unless you are using it often – in which case keep it out on the counter and keep feeding at least daily. You can also just replace the amount you use to keep it refreshed rather than needing to discard any.

I didn’t realise when I made my first loaf that the dough really needs to be contained while rising or it will just spread out. This started off nicely shaped into a baguette but soon spread out to fit the baking tray. Oops. However once baked in still tasted good – and looking back I can see it had some quite good bubbles.

I’m not sure now which recipe I used for that first loaf but I picked up a copy of Hugh Fearney Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday in the British Heart Foundation shop in Leighton Buzzard while visiting family at half term. It has a section on bread making, including sourdough, and I’ve been using the straighforward recipe in there ever since with some minor tweaks. I also joined a Facebook Group on Sourdough Bread Making – this has lots of complicated sounding stages to making sourdough which I’m leaving until later on but have incorprated a couple of things into the way I make my loaf. I say complicated sounding because they probably aren’t really – and the folk there are very helpful.

Basic Sourdough loaf:

Step 1: Making the levain/ pre-ferment/sponge:

This step goes by several names but is essentially creating a larger amount of starter to use in your loaf. Put 85g of your starter into a large bowl and add 250g of strong white flour and 275 ml of warm water. Note that if weighing 1ml of water weighs 1g which makes life simple ( other liquids are not the same). Mix, cover with a damp teatowel, and leave overnight or all day depending on when you want to make the dough. On a weekday I like to make this before I leave for work and then make the dough when I get home but at the weekend I tend to make this in the evening and leave overnight ready to make the dough in the morning.

Step 2: After step 1 you should have a bowl of bubbly thick liquid.

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Levain ready to make your dough

Add 300g of bread flour to the levain and mix. Add 10g of salt. You can add 1tbsp of oil if you want but this is entirely optional.

At this stage some recipes tell you to stretch and fold the dough 4 or 5 times at hourly intervals but this doesn’t work timewise for me so I’m sticking with Hugh’s approach which it to just knead it once at this stage. He does however describe kneading it in a stretch and fold kind of way. The important thing is to knead until you achieve the “window pane” effect. Essentially if you lift the dough and stretch until you can almost see through it, it should still hold together rather than tearing. The suggested approach here is to turn the dough out onto a lightly floured or oiled surface and push it away with the palm of your hand, then fold it back on itself, turn by 45 degrees and then repeat until it comes together in a smooth dough. Entirely up to you whether you do this all in one go or in several bursts but it really isn’t as complicated, or necessary to do it a specific way, as it sounds. I’ve found an alternative which works very well is to use a dough programme on my bread machine. I use a 2.10 hour dough programme.

Edited to add that when mixing in the breadmaker I now add an extra 50 -75g of water ( higher end if using wholemeal flour or adding seeds that will absorb more liquid)

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Dough kneaded by my bread machine

Step 3: First proof

Once your dough is made, leave it to rise, still covered with a damp teatowel, in a warm place until roughly doubled in size.  How long this takes depends on how warm your kitchen is – the original recipe I followed suggested overnight but Ive found 2-4 hours works better for me now we are into summer.

Step 4: Shape and second proof

Now you can ” knock back” your dough and shape it into a loaf. I’m not yet very good at shaping but as I have learnt the dough spreads out I at this stage put it straight into the vessel I intend to cook it in. But you can use a bowl or a special bread proofing basket called a banneton. I just use a casserole dish, spraying a little oil inside to make sure it doesn’t stick although you can instead sprinkle a little polenta or rice flour. As you practice you should be able to shape it in such a way that it will retain its shape – I’m not there yet but there are videos on You Tube. At this stage you can leave it at room temperature for 1.5 to 3 hours until it has doubled again. Any longer than this and it is likely to overproof. At this stage it should be ready to bake. If this timing doesn’t fit with when you want to bake you can instead do the second proof in the fridge, where you can leave it several days or more if you wish. I find this approach easier timewise. This is also supposed to improve the flavour.

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Dough after proofing in the fridge

Step 4: Bake your loaf

Before you bake your loaf carefully score it with a sharp knife or razor blade. This tradition apparently dates back to when there was one shared bread oven per village and people marked their loaves to know which was theirs. I definitely haven’t perfected this technique yet. After my first flat loaf, I have been baking my bread straight in the casserole dish. If using a cast iron casserole you can put it straight into a hot oven, but if using Pyrex, or as I am doing, a non stick casserole with a glass lid, you might want to put it into a cold oven instead if you are baking straight from the fridge, to avoid risk of the glass cracking. I put my casserole straight from the fridge into a cold oven turned up to the highest temp (230 degrees on my oven). I baked it for 20 mins at this temp then turned down the heat to 200 degrees. I removed the lid after another 10 mins and then baked for a further 15 making 45 in total but do keep an eye on it as ovens vary. When it is cooked through it should sound hollow when tapped. If you start with a hot oven it might take a little less time. Then leave to cool fully before slicing.

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A sourdough loaf

You can also use your bread machine to cook the whole loaf – I’m still experimenting with a couple of different methods so will report back on that in another post.

Ways to use your ” discard” or excess starter:

Actually the main reason I started sourdough was to make crumpets rather than bread, and rather than finding I have excess to use up, I’m finding I need to make extra starter for these recipes. These need less rise than bread so can use a starter that hasn’t been recently fed.

Pancakes:

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Sourdough “discard” pancakes

Recipe from The Zero Waste Chef: pancake recipe

We found you can use 1 cup of starter to 1 egg if you prefer less eggy pancakes. These have become an expected weekend breakfast now so I have to make sure I have enough starter. The Zero Waste Chef has lots of other recipes I’m yet to try including sourdough crackers.

Crumpets:

I’m still waiting on some crumpet rings aquired from an online sell/swap/gift group (circular economy in action) so no photo of these yet although the splodge like attempt without any rings was given a thumbs up by son in taste terms. Crumpet recipe

Pizza:

There are loads of recipes out there but I liked this one for its simplicity, although I ignored the bit about kneading it after letting it to rise which sounded wrong to me:

pizza dough recipe

Edited to add – I have now gone back to using my breadmachine to make pizza dough.  I follow the recipe in the manual but omit the yeast, add 100g of starter, and then use 50g of flour and 50g of water less than the recipes requires.  Son said it made the best pizza base ever!

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Sourdough pizzas ready to bake

Even if you still think sourdough is complicated please give it a try – I was put off trying it for ages but it is a bit more of an art than a science and there is no one right way to do it. Choose the way that works for you and fits around your lifetyle. Whichever way it make tasty bread that uses fewer ingredients and with no need to buy plastic lidded tubs of yeast. It’s good for you too. And I reckon a loaf costs me about 50p to make compared to £3.50 to buy one from the Farmers’ Market.

If you like what you have read please leave me a comment below. You can also find me posting more regularly on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Sourdough loaf cross section

How to make hemp milk that doesn’t split

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This of you that have been following me on instagram will already know that I have been experimenting with different plant milks to find vegan substitutes for some of my milk consumption.

The most successful, and the most like regular milk so far was cashew milk but as I also just heard about the process of harvesting cashews, in which the pickers often suffer acid burns, this was never going to be a sustainable replacement for locally produced cows milk for me.

My favourite more sustainable, and more locally grown candidates have therefore been oat milk ( oats also readily available in card or paper and quite cheap) and hemp (so far I have bought this in plastic from local health food store but it grows in the UK and there are other suppliers online). Both of these are amazingly easy to make. Unfortunately both were very strange in hot drinks, sinking straight to the bottom of the cup. However I liked the taste of hemp milk in tea, after a few cups of getting used to the more nutty flavour.

Then came a game changing solution from someone in the Journey to Zero Waste UK Facebook group. I have been experimenting since and now have a homemade hemp milk I am happy to use in tea on a semi regular basis.

All you need is:

  • 1/2 a cup of hemp seeds
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 or 2 dates (or alternative sweetener such as maple syrup)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum ( you can find this in the baking section of supermarkets or health food stores)
  • A blender
  • A sieve / muslin cloth/ jelly bag

Method:

  • Pop the hemp seeds, date, and water into the blender.

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  • Blend for several minutes until it looks milk like.

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  • Strain through a sieve. If you prefer to remove all the black specks of hemp seed you will need to pass it through something finer such as a muslin cloth or jelly bag – I usually just use a sieve but see from the photos I took earlier that I used a jelly bag the first time.
  • Put back into the blender and add the xantham gum, then blend  again immediately.  My  original version of this recipe suggested using 1 level tsp but based on comments I have updated the post to suggest starting with a smaller amount  as it may be that different brands of xanthan vary – try 1/4 tsp to begin with and increase to taste.

  • Decant into a bottle or jar and store in the fridge ready for use.

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  • Don’t forget to scrape the sieved out hemp seeds out of the sieve/jelly bag and store those for another use – I have so far used them in cereal bars, granola or added to the next loaf of bread/pizza.

No it's not frogspawn - it's hemp pulp
No it’s not frogspawn – it’s hemp pulp

And that’s it – it should keep for 3-5 days in the fridge. Do let me know if you make it and how you get on. And I would love to hear any other plant milk making tips.

Update to add that it also tastes good with 1tbsp of chia seeds added at the beginning – you can leave those to soak for a bit first as they absorb liquid and swell up.

If you enjoyed reading don’t forget to like the post or leave me a comment. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where I post more frequently.

Looking for new ways to eat your Halloween pumpkin? Try these recipes for Pumpkin Pizza Dough and Pumpkin Pasta.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know that we managed to grown a few humungous green squash of some uncertain variety in our back garden this year.   The last one harvested this week weighed in at over 5 kg!

I was expecting them to be a green variety of butternut but they turned out to be much less flavoursome than the nutty butternuts so I have had to be inventive and a bit sneaky to get the family to eat them, especially my generally vegetable averse son who wouldn’t go near anything if he thought it contained squash.

So, I have been experimenting – these are a couple of recipes I will be making again – especially since hubby and son are off to buy a pumpkin to carve today so there will be even more to use.

Easy Pumpkin Pizza Dough

Home made pizza is a firm favourite in our house.  We like that the toppings can be tailored to each family member to avoid waste.

I searched for pumpkin pizza dough recipes and came up with several paleo or gluten free versions but I wanted to make it as close as possible to our usual pizza base so no-one would know the difference, and to keep it as simple as possible, because who has time for recipes involving about 20 ingredients? So I experimented with a basic pizza dough recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 375g bread flour (or 00 pasta flour)
  • 1tsp quick yeast or easy bake yeast
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • Approx 400g pumpkin or other winter squash  (enough to make approx 250ml puree)

Method:

  • Start by preparing your pumpkin or squash puree – peel and dice then cook the squash until just tender.  I steamed mine as I wanted to keep the flavour fairly bland so it wouldn’t be detected in the finished product but you could roast for a fuller flavour. Steaming the squash took about 10-15 mins.  Roasting may take a little longer.
  • Mash or blend the cooked squash and allow to cool.
  • Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
  • Measure out 250 ml of cooled puree – don’t worry if you have less than this as you can add water to the dough if necessary.
  • Start by adding about 200 ml of the puree to the dry ingredients and mix well to form a dough  – if the dough is still dry add more puree a little at a time.  If it is too wet you can add a little more flour.   Once it feels about right knead the dough on a well floured surface for about 5 mins until smooth and elastic.

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  • Leave the dough in a warm place for at least 30 mins to rise – it should roughly double in size.  You can leave it in the bowl covered with a damp tea towel, or simply leave it on the counter covered by your upturned mixing bowl.
  • Preheat your oven and oiled pizza trays to 200 degrees C.
  • Cut the dough into  portions and roll  to desired size  and thickness on a well floured surface.    This quantity will make 2  x 30cm round pizzas or more smaller, thinner pizzas.  We usually make quite a thin crust so I split the dough in half – put half the dough in the freezer and then made pizzas for 3 of us with the remaining half.
  • Bake the rolled dough on the hot tray for about 5 mins before removing from the oven, turning the base over and then adding your desired toppings.  This will help the base go crispy.  Return to the oven for approx 10 mins for a thin base, longer for a thicker base.

 

UPDATE – THERE IS AN EVEN EASIER WAY:  This came out so well I was confident enough to experiment with using pumpkin puree in my bread machine.  If you have a bread machine with a pizza dough programme you can use that and simply replace the water with an equal volume of pumpkin or squash puree.  I also tried the same with a regular white bread programme to make bread with hidden veg content.  No-one noticed the difference!

Easy Pumpkin Pasta

I made this with butternut squash a few weeks ago.  The method is pretty much the same as for wholemeal dried pasta but I used white flour and substituted the squash puree for the water. Pasta has to be my son’s favourite meal so if I can crack finding a homemade version he really likes it will be great.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups plain flour or pasta flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin or squash puree

Method:

Peel, dice and cook your butternut squash or pumpkin until tender by either boiling, steaming or roasting.   I started mine off on the hob and left it cooking in my Wonderbag while I was out at a class.  Perfectly cooked by the time I came home.

 

Mash or blend the squash to a smooth puree:

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Mix the dough either by hand or in a food processor – with the ratio of 1 cup puree to 2 of flour until you have a nice dough.  I didn’t measure it carefully and used too much puree so the dough on the right is rather too wet.  This is easily rectified by adding more flour until the consistency is right. (At this point I found I had run out of flour so had to dash to the shop for some more ).

Roll the dough into a ball, cover (with an upturned mixing bowl )  and leave to rest for about 10 mins.

Then, on a well floured surface, roll the dough out to be nice and thin – thinner than I managed would be good – I definitely need more practice, or a pasta machine.

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Leave them as noodles or form into your desired shape.   Either cook in boiling water for a couple of minutes or dry for future use.  When dry they will need to be cooked for 8-10 minutes.

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Happy to report that both the pizza and pasta were happily eaten with son none the wiser that he had been eating more vegetables.

As well as these I made spicy soup, cheesey pumpkin scones and pumpkin muffins, pumpkin marmalade which if it passes the taste test will be given as Christmas gifts, and have lots of diced and pureed squash in the freezer for future use so would love to hear more ideas for using up that pumpkin and squash. What’s your favourite recipe?

If you liked reading please use the links on the page to follow the blog or follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram where I share ideas more frequently .

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The easy way to make waste free, wholemeal dried pasta

Who knew that pasta was so simple to make?

I have never been a great fan of pasta, but my son absolutely loves it – he would eat pasta and pesto every single day if I’d let him.  But in the UK it is difficult to find pasta without plastic packaging, particularly if you want to buy in large quantities  (there are some options mainly in card but with a small plastic window).  Having heard it was easy I thought I should give it a go – and it really is easy – and it got the taste approval from my fussy child. You can easily buy flour in a paper bag which you can either recycle or put in your home compost.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups wholemeal bread flour
  • 1 cup hot water

Method:

Making the dough:

  • If you are using a food processor fit the dough attachment.
  • Add the flour, pour in the hot water and switch it on.  It will turn to breadcrumbs to start with but stick with it and it will soon come together into a dough.
  • Turn out onto a floured surface.
  • If you are making the dough by hand place it in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the flour and pour in the hot water a little at a time and mix together  either with your hands or a wooden spoon.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until it comes together in a dough.
  • Press the dough down into a flat round.  Divide into 4 quarters  (this will make it more manageable to roll out later).
  • Cover with a clean dry tea towel and leave for 10-15 minutes.
  • You could freeze all or some of the dough at this point for later use if you wish.

Now you can begin to turn it in into your desired shapes:

  • Working with one piece of dough at a time roll it very thinly.
  • Then you can get creative and cut and shape to your heart’s desire – but be warned, this bit can take a long time.   I like to look on it as something therapeutically undemanding on the brain to do while listening to some muscic but you could get the kids to help or invite a friend round for a natter while you work. Slicing into lasagne sheets or into strips for tagliatelle is probably the quickest.  I tried to make spirals on my first attempt but decided this time that bows might be easier.    For bows I rolled the dough then cut into strips which I then cut across into small rectangles as shown below.  To turn into bows you simply squeeze them together in the middle.

Drying your pasta:

  • If you don’t want to use your pasta straight away you can dry it for storage.  As I have an electric dehydrator I used that but if you don’t you can just spread them out and leave somewhere airy until dry.
  •  The time it takes to dry depends on the size and thickness of the shapes you have made – I dried the small bows for 3-4 hours at 50 degrees C.  The first batch of spirals were larger and took 4-5 hours.  The best thing is to keep an eye on them and remember to swap around the trays from time to time since the different levels may dry at different speeds.
  • Once fully dry you can transfer to a storage jar until needed and cook as you would shop bought dried pasta – around 8-10 mins.    If you skipped the drying part you’ll need to shorten the cooking time.

Now I know how to make basic pasta dough I’m next going to try to sneak some vegetables into the ingredients –  as he’ll happily eat shop bought green pea pasta, and red lentil pasta without realising.  I have seen people making pasta from pumpkin puree and flour as an example – but any recommendations on things to try are welcome – please comment below.

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How to impress with minimal effort – Easy Chocolate Caramel Tart

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Easy Chocolate Caramel Tart

When it comes to Christmas and New Year entertaining, easy is good.  Well, let’s be realistic, easy is good anytime.

Last week I made Banoffee Pie, to take to family for a Boxing Day tea. Since they started selling ready tinned caramel so you don’t have to boil a tin of condensed milk for hours Banoffee Pie has been my go to easy dessert.  But this dessert, inspired by Millionaire’s Shortbread, is even easier.  Yes really.

Ingredients:

  • 250g biscuits ( I used digestives as I had half a pack left from the banoffee pie but I bet something oaty like Hob Nobs would work really well)
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tin caramel (I used Carnation)
  • 200g block of milk chocolate ( I used Choceur from Aldi which comes in easily recyclable card packaging and is free from palm oil)
  • Optional decoration ( I used Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray but  as I subsequently noticed this contains palm oil  I would omit or seek an alternative in future)

( I have mentioned which products I used for convenience only – this post contains no affiliate links)

Method:

  • Grease a flan dish or baking tray well.
  • Crush the biscuits either using a food processor or by wrapping them carefully in a clean tea towel or (ideally cloth) bag and bashing with a rolling pin.
  • Melt the butter – I did this in the microwave, setting the timer to 30 secs and checking and stirring every 10 secs or so until completely melted, but melt in a pan if you prefer.
  • Stir the butter into the crushed biscuits until well combined.
  • Tip the mixture carefully into your flan dish and press down with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Chill for approx 1 hour until firm.
  • Spread the caramel carefully over the biscuit base and chill again until you are ready to top with the chocolate.
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a bain marie or in a jug in the microwave.  I prefer the microwave as it is quicker but as with the butter check and stir it frequently until just melted.
  • Pour the melted chocolate onto the caramel carefully, gently spreading with a spatula until the top is covered.
  • Decorate as required and chill again until the chocolate has set.

To serve cut carefully with a sharp knife and have your plate or bowl at the ready – it will crumble!  And enjoy. Remember, easy is good.

Seasonal Eating – Beetroot Recipe round-up

Not much is growing in our back garden at this time of year, but my dad is still harvesting and sharing beetroot from his allotment. He gave us such a lot that I ate beetroot every single day for more than a week, and twice on some days so was in need of a selection of different recipes for a bit of variety!  Some of my favourite recipes are shared below, and  thanks go to Rosie at A Green and Rosie Life and Erin at The Rogue Ginger for allowing me to include links to their beetroot recipes. The post is also being shared on Rosie’s Going Green Linky.

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Beetroot and Halloumi

Our favourite way of eating beetroot is a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s book Nigella’s Kitchen for beetroot pureed with lime juice and a little olive oil.  Nigella uses vacuum packed beetroot but if you are using fresh you need to trim the leaves (leaving a little of the stalk still attached) and boil  with the skin on until tender.  This year I have been saving energy by cooking the beetroot in my Wonderbag – I gently wash the beetroot and place it a lidded casserole dish and cover with water (it works best if the casserole is pretty full), bring to the boil for about 5 minutes and then pop it into the Wonderbag (the Wonderbag is an insulated bag which retains the heat so the food conitnues to cook without needing additional energy) for a few hours until we are ready to eat.  Once cooked, allow to cool a little and the skin can be easily peeled off by hand.  You will also have a casserole full of gloriously red beetroot water  which you can save to use in stock, soup or risotto.

Once peeled blend the beetroot with the juice of a lime and a little olive oil. Season with pepper.

Slice up a block of halloumi into about 10 slices and dry fry in a frying pan until browned.

Serve the halloumi over a bed of salad leaves (earlier in the year than now we would use rocket and land cress from the garden, along with marigold and nasturtium flowers but you can use whatever salad leaves you like).  Then drizzle the beetroot puree on top.

beetroot-and-halloumi

 

Beetroot, Potato and Chorizo Hash

Another easy recipe is this one which originally came from an Asda magazine. You can substitute other root vegetables depending what you have available, and could use leftover roast veg.

Preheat the oven to 190c.

Cut approx 300g of potatoes (you can peel them but I prefer to leave the skin on), 300g of beetroot (peeled) and one sweet potato (peeled) into cubes and boil for 5-10 mins.  Drain well.

Place the drained vegetables into a roasting tray with 2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges, and 225g of diced or sliced chorizo.

Mix together 1tbsp sunflower oil, 2tsp wholegrain mustard and 2tbsp Worcestershire Sauce.  Pour the mixture into the roasting tray and stir to coat the meat and veg.

Bake for approx 40 mins, stirring after 20 mins.

Top each serving with a fried egg and season with black pepper.

 

beetroot-and-chorizo-hash

 

 

I love risotto – I could pretty much eat it every day ( and before I had a husband and son to cater for I pretty much did, adding whatever other ingredients I happened to have).  So here is a link to my  Easy Beetroot Risotto  recipe, on the blog a few years ago.

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My Beetroot and Fennel Soup recipe was from the really early days of my blog, so there is a link to the recipe but sadly no pictures as I hadn’t yet worked out how to add them!

I also made a Beetroot Cake which my son loved, mainly because he thought it was made with raspberries!  I much prefer this to the popular beetroot/chocolate cake combination. Beetroot Cake

Heat the oven to 180C.

Grease an 8 inch cake tin.

Mix together 250g self raising flour, 2tsp baking powder and 150 of soft brown sugar.

Then add 100g of sultanas and 250g of peeled, grated beetroot.

In a separate bowl beat together 150ml of sunflower oil and 2 medium eggs, then add into the dry ingredients and mix together.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1-1 1/4 hours.

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Fellow bloggers Rosie and Erin kindly shared these great beetroot recipes from their respective blogs. Follow the links to view the full recipes on the host blog.   A reminder that you can use the whole beetroot – don’t throw away those leaves.  I often freeze them to use as a spinach substitute if I don’t want to use them straight away.

What’s your favourite way to eat beetroot?

Grated Beetroot Salad:

Rosie at blog A Green and Rosie Life kindly shared her deliciously simple recipe. for Grated Beetroot Salad

grated-beetroot-salad

Beetroot Leaves:

Erin at The Rogue Ginger shares her recipe for How to Cook Beetroot Leaves

beetroot-leaves

Rhubarb Bread Crust and Butter Pudding

It was only recently when we were trying out a bokashi bin to allow us to compost cooked food waste that I truly realised how many bread crusts we were throwing away, and how much of the bread was still attached to that crust.  It is such a waste to throw it away, and feels even more so when the bread is homemade.  From time to time I would cut off the crusts to use for breadcrumbs for example but we don’t use those a great deal so I just kept hoping that my son would eventually start eating them if I left them on.

Anyhow, I have now resigned myself to the fact that it is much lest wasteful if I just cut off the crusts beforehand.  Now I have almost a whole shelf in the freezer full of breadcrusts so had to come up with something to use them for.  I have been blitzing some up with cheese to make a crispy topping for lasagne and other pasta bakes, and found a recipe for brushing the crusts with butter, sprinkling with cinammon and sugar and baking until crispy which was a great success – my son and his friend polished that lot off pretty quickly.

We also have a lot of rhubarb so I wanted to come up with a dessert to make use of some of that as well as incorporating the bread crusts.  So here it is – bread and butter pudding (although this recipe doesn’t actually include butter but is not like British bread pudding) made with bread crusts and rhubarb.

Ingredients:

  • Rhubarb ( approx 3 stalks)
  • Bread crusts (equivalent to approx 4 slices of bread – you could of course use slices of bread instead)
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • Approx 500ml milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • Ginger and cinammon to taste.

Method:

  • Wash and chop the rhubarb and place it with the sugar into a glass jug or  microwaveable bowl – microwave for a minute or 2 until it starts to soften.
  • Spread out the bread crusts and cooked rhubarb in a shallow dish. Add some ginger to taste (this can be fresh, ground, crystallised or stem ginger – I used crystallised ginger which I chopped up and scattered amongst the bread and rhubarb)
  • Mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla essence.
  • Pour over the bread and rhubarb and leave for at least 10 minutes to soak in ( in my efforts to use them up I had used rather more bread crusts than I should and it all soaked in pretty quickly).
  • Sprinkle with cinammon or additional brown sugar to taste.

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Before baking

  • Bake at 180 degrees C for 30-40 mins until set and golden.

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Fresh from the oven

  • Serve with cream, custard or ice cream.

I made enough to last us 2 days and I would say it was actually better cold on the second day served with vanilla ice cream – I guess the flavours had more time to mingle.

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Served cold with ice cream

 

I’d love to hear your ideas for using up bread.

 

Rhubarb and Apple Jam

 

 

Rhubarb is one of the few plants that reliably turns up a bumper crop in our garden every year. It grows so well in its spot next to the compost bin that we always have way more than we know what do with, even more so since my dad split it into 4 plants a couple of years ago.  Preserving it in a jam is a great way of keeping some for later in the year (although I must admit to starting eating this straight away).   Although best made with early rhubarb you can also use larger stalks just fine.  Our rhubarb plant has been passed down through the generations so I have no idea what variety it is – it originally came from a plant in my great grandfather’s garden and as a child it came with us when we moved house.  When I first got my own place we split the plant so I could plant my own and it has since moved again with me, and a plant has been returned to dad for his allotment.

The apples and the lemon rind and juice in this recipe help it to set – if you were to leave them both out you may need to use jam sugar, which contains added pectin. If you are organised enough to have planned ahead I am sure you could use frozen diced apples which would allow you to use foraged crab apples or homegrown if you are lucky enough to have an apple tree.

Rhubarb and Apple Jam:

Ingredients:

  • 1kg rhubarb stalks, washed and trimmed, then sliced into approx 1cm chunks
  • 3 eating apples or a large cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
  • 1kg preserving sugar ( or jam sugar for added pectin)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 25g unsalted butter

Equipment needed:

  • Large bowl
  • Either a preserving pan or a heavy based large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Grater or lemon zester
  • Sterilised jars – you can reuse old jam jars. This recipe will probably make about 4-6  jars depending on the size but have a couple more ready just in case.
  • Jam or sugar thermometer (optional) or put several saucers in the fridge or freezer (to use later to test the jam setting point).

How to sterilise the jars:

Wash your jars thoroughly in soapy water or a dishwasher and dry in an oven at 140 degrees C for at least 10 mins – then keep them warm until ready to use.  Scald the clean lids in boiling water.  You can alternatively use a sterilising solution according to the pack instructions and warm the jars after rinsing thoroughly.

 Method:

  1. Place the sliced rhubarb into a large bowl with the sugar.
  2. Use the lemon zester or grater to grate the lemon rind into the bowl. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze in the juice.
  3. Give it all a stir. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth such as a tea towel and leave for a few hours, stirring occasionally.  You should see some juices start to come out of the rhubarb (if not you can leave it longer – some recipes say to leave overnight but I find a few hours works fine).
  4. Meanwhile wash and sterilise your jars as above.
  5. Empty your bowl of rhubarb and sugar with all the juices into your pan. Add the chopped apple and ginger (if using).
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil slowly so that the rhubarb and apple have time to soften.
  7. Then bring the mix to a rolling boil and boil until it reaches setting point ( see below), stirring frequently to prevent sticking (and because personally I prefer the rhubarb broken up rather than in big chunks in the final jam). I found this took about 25 mins but this may vary.
  8. Once your jam has reached setting point remove from the heat, stir in the butter and leave to cool down a little. You may find it has formed a skin on cooling in which case give it a quick stir before spooning carefully into your warmed jars.  Place the lids on while still warm.

 

How to test for setting point:

Using a jam thermometer – setting point should be achieved at around 104 -105 degrees C.  However you may find it difficult to test accurately if you are making a relatively small amount of jam in a large pan – I have never managed it and prefer the saucer method.    When you think the jam is approaching setting point (it will start to thicken a little), get a cold saucer from your fridge/freezer and carefully drop a little of the jam onto it.  Give it a moment to cool and then press with your finger – if ready it should wrinkle a little. If not cook for another few minutes and test again.