Sunday, September 29, 2013

Crumpets – in Search of the Hole-y Grail

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Indiana Jones had it easy. To find his Holy Grail, he merely had to deal with rats, fire, gunmen, betrayal and avoid being chopped to bits by a ship’s propeller. Mr Jones would have paled in the face of my mission – to make the Holey Grail of the griddle cake world – the perfect crumpet.
So, what constitutes the perfect crumpet?
According to my true blood English crumpet connoisseur, it must be: “light and fluffy with lots of holes in it, but it has to have a certain chewy bite to it. It is best eaten toasted and dripping with butter, which needs to soak through the holes. The holes are very important.”
Being Irish, perhaps I don’t fully appreciate the finer nuances of this yeasty little devil which is little known in the Emerald Isle. Perhaps it is ignorance that allows me to laugh in the face of such a challenge. Bring it on, I say - oh, and don’t forget the butter!

For 12 – 14 crumpets, enough for 4 – 6 people, you will need...
... crumpet rings*
125g strong white flour
125g plain flour
1 x 7g sachet of quick action dried yeast
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt
350mls water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or melted butter)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter for greasing the crumpet rings

Place the strong flour, plain flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Heat the water to between 27°C – 35°C. (This is approximately when the water feels neither hot nor cold. Too hot, it will kill the yeast. Too cold, it will just take longer to activate.) Add the olive oil (or melted butter) and vanilla extract to the warm water.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and slowly add the water, incorporating the flour from around the edges, mixing to a thick smooth batter. Cover and leave in a warm place until the surface is covered with little bubbles (about 90 minutes).
Grease the crumpet rings well with butter and place them in a large frying pan over a medium heat - 4 fit snugly in my frying pan so I make them in 3 or 4 batches.
Rub the frying pan with a little butter, just within the area crumpet rings. Wait until the butter has melted and the rings are hot (otherwise the batter will stick horribly and you’ll never want to make crumpets again).
Fill the crumpet rings a little over half way – they’ll rise further as they cook. I use about 60mls of batter per crumpet. Cook gently until the top looks dry and is full of holes - about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the crumpets over, and remove the rings if they will come away easily. Cook the crumpets for a further minute or so, until golden. Traditionally, crumpets are cooked only on one side but this results in a pale unattractive bread.
You can cool them on a wire rack and freeze them at this stage, for later revival in a toaster - which is the preferred manner of many crumpet fanciers. However, I prefer them fresh from the frying pan, smothered in butter - and large doses of an excellent homemade plum jam I was given recently.

*If you don’t have crumpet rings, melt a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Spoon the batter into the pan to form little cakes – about 2 tablespoons of batter per cake. A crumpet without the support of a crumpet ring is called a pikelet – and is just as good.

Crumpet Connoisseur Verdict:
Light and fluffy? Check!  Lots of holes? Check !  A certain chewy bite? Check !
Would you like another - just to be sure ? Check, check, check !
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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chicken ‘Kindorf’ Salad – Waldorf, kind of !

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Have you ever heard of William Arthur Ward before today? Me neither. However, you will probably know some of his words. He’s a guy frequently quoted by bumper stickers and fridge magnets and you’ll have seen this quote at some point in your life:
Every person has the power to make others happy. Some do it simply by entering a room, others by leaving the room.” So true.
For me, it totally applies to the grapes in Waldorf Salad. I know they are a classic ingredient of this classic salad but they have the power to make me happy by leaving the salad well alone.
Don’t worry. Several other non-classic ingredients that have the power to make me happy have entered the salad, and more than made up for the absence of grapes.
For Chicken Salad for 2 – 3 happy people you will need...
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
a pinch of salt 

1 large cooked chicken breast, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 red-skinned dessert apple (I used Fuji), skin on, diced
1 stick of celery, peeled of stringy bits, finely sliced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
15g almonds, roughly chopped
25g walnuts, roughly chopped
25g sultanas
35g ready-to-eat-apricots, snipped into sultana-sized pieces

Simply mix the ingredients for the dressing together until combined. Then add the salad ingredients, stirring them through the dressing until coated with the creamy sauce. Instant happiness!
(This also makes a great sandwich filling.)  

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Basmati Salad – from leftover, to lively !

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I haven’t done a War On Waste recipe for ages – perhaps it’s because I’m getting much better at not wasting food. However, I miscalculated last night’s dinner and ended up with an extra portion of basmati rice left over.

It stared accusingly from the fridge so I introduced it to a few other ingredients. In the right company, and given an overnight in the fridge to think about things, it has become a lot livelier than it was before.
For quick and lively side-salad for 2 – 3 people you will need...

1 portion of cooked basmati rice, cold
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1 Braeburn apple, (or other crisp sweet-tart apple) skin on, diced
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
25g walnuts, finely chopped
25g sultanas
1 teaspoon very finely shredded fresh mint 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 heaped teaspoon wholegrain mustard
¼ teaspoon fine table salt
a little freshly ground black pepper 

In a mixing bowl combine the salad ingredients.

Place the dressing ingredients in a screw top (or tightly-lidded) jar and shake well to combine. Pour over the salad and toss lightly to coat all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for about half an hour to allow the rice to soak up the flavours.

This will keep some grilled skate company on my plate this evening.
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