It’s been fun!

It’s also been kitchenless.

Still, there’s been some room for constraint-inducing creativity. Subsisting mainly on sandwiches has hardly been as unpleasant as it sounds. Here’s an idea: Roast beef, provolone & deconstructed pesto.

This is the result of a) Not being able to afford (or finish) a humongous bottle of pesto & b) Being dead sick of turkey-cranberry-brie sandwiches. It’s fun, colorful and yummy!

Multigrain bread (or whatever you fancy)
Roast beef
Parmesan/Provolone/Brie (I love using these brie bites from TJ’s)
Basil leaves
Walnuts (toast them first! In the microwave is fine), crushed
A clove of garlic, split halfway, lengthwise
Butter/olive oil

If you have the fortune of being able to toast bread, toast the bread. Drizzle a little olive oil onto the bread and rub lightly with the cut side of garlic (don’t be too enthusiastic, the garlic rubs off far more strongly than it appears to). Assemble the sandwich however you like and enjoy!

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As someone who fiddles around in the kitchen a lot, Google is usually a source of abundant information. Any sort of recipe you can dream up has already been done somewhere and documented – it’s nice, though quite discouraging sometimes because it casts into doubt your ‘originality’. In any case, I was very surprised that I couldn’t find much on a japanese smoked salmon pizza I had been dreaming about. Oh, plenty of smoked salmon pizzas — crust, cream cheese, dill, red onions, salmon, capers — but I wanted to put a twist on it (nah, actually, I ran out of red onions. But I had plenty of green ones!). Google-stranded.

Thankfully, pizzas are very forgiving. As long as you have a good balance of flavours and textures and don’t sog things up too much, it will, more likely than not, taste amazing. They lend themselves very, very well to experimentation, so I gave this japanese thing a shot (gold star if you spotted the pun!).

Here’s what went into the pizza:
– Whole-wheat raw pizza dough (I used a flatbread recipe from Joythebaker)
– ‘Sauce’ – instead of traditional tomato, I went with a mixture of sour cream and a syrupy japanese glaze (aka microwaved leftover marinade from the eggplant.. more on that below)
– Avocado
– Marinated eggplant (equal parts soy sauce, mirin and brown sugar – about half to one teaspoon each. Once the slices have soaked for a couple of minutes, set them aside and microwave the liquid for 45 seconds on high until it’s syrupy and thick. Mix with equal part sour cream for the pizza sauce)
– Smoked salmon, of course.
– Goat cheese
– Those Green Onions
– Roasted nori/seaweed

Assemble as desired – it doesn’t matter, really! – and give the whole thing a drizzle of olive oil to help things along. Bake in a preheated oven (the highest it’ll go) for 5 minutes — and you’re done!

Sorry, no time to take a proper photo of the baked pizza. It was really good, surprisingly! Sliced cherry tomatoes would have been a nice touch, but I didn’t have any.. feel free to swap out whatever looks right to you. Enjoy!

These are very simple to make — shortbreads with jam sandwiched in between them. But they are exquisite and dainty-looking for so little effort, and of course, delicious.

Jammy Dodgers
biscuit recipe from warmbreadandhoney

Biscuits:

175g salted butter, chilled and cut into small nuggets
225g plain flour
125g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp natural vanilla essence

Rub the butter into the flour until you have fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, vanilla and egg yolk and knead until you have a smooth dough. Wrap this in cling-film and chill for 20-30 minutes in the fridge. While it’s chilling, preheat the oven to 175 degrees and line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment.

When the dough is ready, roll out fairly thinly (2-3mm) and cut into biscuit shapes of your choice. In half of the biscuits, you need to cut a little window for the jam to show through. Either use a smaller cutter, or a sharp knife. Place on the baking trays (they won’t spread too much, but leave a little space around each one to help them to cook evenly), and cook for 10-12 minutes until pale gold in colour. Leave them on the trays for a few minutes and then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

Sandwich your favorite jam in between a pair of hollowed and whole biscuits. Enjoy!

Does anyone know why jpegs tend to desaturate themselves on the web?

When it comes to quickbreads, there are two extremes: On one end you will find the low-this, low-that, whole-grain, high-fibre, cardboard-like species. On the other? Cuboid cake.

This particular banana bread sits squarely in the middle of that spectrum. It is a Happy Medium Banana Bread, soft and moist but not oily, scrumptious but not cloying in its sweetness. It is half whole wheat and half white, half sour cream and half 2% milk. It has flax seeds but it also has walnuts. Compromise without compromise. Try it.

Happy Medium Banana Bread
adapted from Eileen’s Best Banana Bread

75 g whole wheat flour
75 g all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons ground flax
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed (~3/4 cup)
1/4 chopped walnuts
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons sour cream (or yogurt if you like)
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons canola oil

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease or line an 8 x 4″ loaf tin.

Combine dry ingredients (flours, baking powder & soda, salt) in one large bowl and wet ingredients (everything else) in another. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to overmix.

Pour the batter into the tin and smooth out the top. Bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Note: This makes a cake that isn’t very tall, especially if your tin’s edges slant outwards. If you want a full-sized loaf, feel free to double the ingredients.

Cool in the pan for a couple of minutes and turn out onto a wire rack. Serve as is, or toasted with butter/peanut butter/jam/nutella/cream cheese. Enjoy!

This is a poached egg on a slice of new york deli rye, topped with fresh parsley and scallions.

Egg poaching is a relatively new thing for me. Did you know that it’s even easier than frying or scrambling? Set a potful of water to simmer, add a dash of vinegar, plop an egg in for about 3 minutes. Fish it out with a slotted spoon, tap a few times over kitchen towels to drain, and you’re done.

About the bread: This is one of the first bread recipes I remember baking! It was the morning the basement flooded. Fortunately, nothing of that sort happened this time around. Just good old bread: chewy, moist and very flavorful.

New York Deli Rye
from smitten kitchen who adapted this from The Bread Bible

Makes one 1 3/4-pound round loaf

Sponge
3/4 cup (4 ounces, 117 grams) bread flour
3/4 cup (3.3 ounces, 95 grams) rye flour
1/2 teaspoon (1.6 grams) instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons (0.6 ounces, 18.7 grams) sugar
1/2 tablespoon (4.6 grams) malt powder (or barley malt syrup or honey (10.5 grams), or sugar (6.2 grams))
1 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces, 354 grams) water, at room temperature

Flour Mixture
2 1/4 cups (12.5 ounces, 351 grams) bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon (2 grams) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (0.5 ounces, 14 grams) caraway seeds (you can grind these if you want to avoid the crunch)
1/2 tablespoon (0.3 ounces, 10.5 grams) coarse salt

Dough and Baking
1/2 tablespoon (0.25 ounces, 6.7 grams) vegetable oil
about 2 teaspoons (about 0.5 ounces, 16 grams) cornmeal for sprinkling

Make the sponge: Combine sponge ingredients in a large or mixer bowl and whisk until very smooth, to intentionally incorporate air — this will yield a thick batter. Set it aside.

Make the flour mixture and cover the sponge: In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour mixture and gently scoop it over the sponge to cover it completely. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.

Mix the dough [Either with a mixer] Add the oil and mix with the dough hook on low speed for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough. then raise the speed to medium and mix it for 10 minutes. The dough should be very smooth and elastic, and it should jump back when pressed with a fingertip; if it is sticky, turn it out on a counter and knead in a little extra flour.

[Or by hand] Add the oil and, with a wooden spoon or your hand, stir until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it onto a very lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, after which it might be a little sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.

Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a large container or bowl, lightly oiled. Oil the top of the dough as well. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Flip the bowl over and let the dough fall out on to a lightly floured counter, press it down gently, fold or form it back into a square-ish ball and allow it to rise a second time, back in the (re-oiled) bowl covered with plastic wrap for about 45 minutes.

Shape it and wait out the final rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently press it down again. Round it into a ball and set it on a cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet. Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. [Skim ahead to preheating your oven, which you should do soon.] When it is gently press with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.

Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 450°F for at least half an hour. On a shelf at the lowest level, place a baking sheet or bread stone. [If you want to get fancy and bread-oven like: Place a cast-iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven to preheat.]

Slash and bake the bread: With a sharp knife or singled-edged razor blade, make 1/4- to 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the top of the dough. Mist the dough with water and quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 400°F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool the bread on a wire rack.

The Poached Egg
not a recipe.. more like how to juggle Toast, Egg, and Tea in under five minutes

Egg
Water
Vinegar (about 2 teaspoons)
Salt and pepper
Toast
Butter
Herbs (chives would be lovely, parsley/scallions/oregano are great too!)
Tea bag and sugar/milk

Special equipment: Slotted spoon, pot

Bring a pot of water to boil – just enough water to cover an egg, perhaps 2 to 3 inches. Add in the vinegar and reduce heat to a simmer. Crack an egg into a small, heatproof bowl. Sometimes if we’re short on clean bowls I use a mug. Once the water is simmering (little bubbles), gently lower the bowl at an angle into the water, letting the egg slide very gently into the water. Set a timer for three minutes (or more or less according to your preference).

This is usually about the time to put your toast in the toaster. Because I’m crazy about eating things hot, I put butter on on my butter knife beforehand and prep my tea mug with teabag, sugar and milk. Put on the kettle. Set out salt and pepper, snip some herbs.. When time is up or when the white is totally cooked but the yolk still wobbly, gently fish the egg out of the pot with a slotted spoon. Drain it (with the spoon) on a kitchen towel for a couple of seconds while you butter the toast. Pour boiling water into waiting tea mug. Very gently, transfer the egg onto toast, top with herbs, salt and pepper.

Enjoy! It’s Sunday.

I get to work really, really early.

This means I can have my tea without being rushed. It also means there is no time for packing lunch – and that fussing about sleepily in the kitchen has to be done the night before. So here are a couple of things I’ve made at night. Needless to say, the lighting is less than satisfactory at 11.30pm, no matter what they say about summer and daylight saving.

Everyone around here loves digestives but they’re unreasonably expensive – at least $3.50 for a small pack. The taste of these biscuits won’t really remind you much of those cylindrical plastic packets but hopefully you will love them anyway. The texture, on the other hand, is spot on! Crunchy, light, crumbly..

I generally use a 50/50 ratio of whole wheat and white flour because then you have a balance of tenderness and nuttiness. Digestives were originally termed for their high amount of roughage, after all. You could also throw in some oats (whizzed to a fine powder or quick-cooking).

Go according to your taste. We like more savory biscuits with a hint of sweet. It doesn’t have to be plain– add some dried herbs and parmesan or your favorite loose-leaved herbal tea. Apple tea and a pinch of cinnamon. Rosemary and garlic salt. Go crazy!

ALSO!! If you aren’t baking these at an unearthly hour like I was, you could (and should) prick each biscuit with a raw strand of spaghetti before baking, multiple times. Free thrill : )

British digestive biscuits
adapted from She Cooks He Bakes

Makes 13 biscuits.

4 oz / 114 g flour (all white, half, with oats… up to you)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons tablespoons icing / confectioners’ sugar
2 oz / 57 g butter, cut into small dice and chilled
~ 2-3 tablespoons of cold milk

Before anything, prepare the butter so that as you work it can get nice and cold.

Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl, whisking or sifting to get some air in. Use a pastry cutter or your fingertips to gently crumble the butter into the mixture. Bring together into a ball with the milk. (You’re essentially making the same dough as an American buttermilk biscuit or pastry dough with a much lower proportion of fat).

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to approximately 3mm in thickness. Cut out circles – doesn’t matter how large, I just use a cup because we don’t have cutters. Be careful not to let the dough stick. Bake on parchment at 325 F for 15 minutes and store in an airtight contained for up to a week.

If you want to get fancy, scatter some chocolate chips over individual biscuits (about 6 per biscuit) during the last minute of baking. Once time is up, the chips will be melty and require just some spreading to completely cover the biscuit in a layer. They do take several hours to harden completely, though, so either you’ll have to wait or eat them with the melty chocolate.. which is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is not a ‘recipe’ but I must share it anyway. It resembles something you’d find in a Nigella book because of how the ease of preparation seems to strengthen rather than weaken the dish. This a great solution to those stressful midnight moments when you wake up and realize you haven’t made lunch for tomorrow yet and need to leave at 6.30 in the morning.

Yummy Five Ingredient Chickpea Salad
Adapted from Orangette

Can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Lug of olive oil – about 2 teaspoons
Juice of quarter-half a lemon (the zest, too, if you can find the zester without turning the kitchen upside down)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Parmesan cheese… even pre-grated, if that’s all you have (and that is, 99% of the time, all we have… nothing wrong with that! Sure, the fresh stuff tastes different and better. But it costs multiple times more)

Mix. Keep tasting and mixing and adjusting. Like most pulse salads, this is best eaten cold.

If you’ve made too large a batch and need help finishing it up, you can throw it into a processor and add olive oil/paprika for some yummy hummus, or you can smoosh it up and fry it as falafel.

Next – World peace cookies!