Saturday, 31 March 2007

Is organic food healthier?

According to Peter Melchett in The Guardian, the science appears to indicate so. Just don't expect politicians to recognise it. The article is here.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Music to sell scones by

In three weeks, Graeme and I are planning on debuting our much anticipated farmers' market stall at the local farmers' market, which takes place every Saturday afternoon, and which is frequented by wholesome families that love local organic vegetables and also talking about compost. We will be selling scones, bagel, pierogy and savoury pies. Part of the process of planning the stall has involved us contemplating potential music to play while selling scones in the sunshine. One friend suggested that we make a mix CD of songs about food and we have decided that this is an inspired idea. Then we realised that we can think of very few songs about food.

So help us, friends. What do we put on our CD?

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Bagels! Bagels! Bagels!

So I'm a Montreal Jew. This means that I grew up on the tastiest bagels in the world. I moved to the UK four years ago, and every day away from my precious Montreal bagels is painful. The bagels in this country, they are a travesty.

A few months ago I made some very tasty whole wheat bagels from a hippie bread cookbook I found at an Oxfam bookshop a while back. They were tasty, if not a bit hard, but enjoyed by all. I've been wanting to further my bagel expertise in hopes of selling them at our local farmers' market in the future, and in doing so, I stumbled upon this recipe.

Both hilarious, and startlingly perfect, I am not even going to bother reposting the recipe because you should just click that link, read it while chuckling, and then follow the recipe exactly because it is 100% awesome. These bagels came out chewy and dense, and two days later are still edible even without toasting! They brought joy to all those who tasted them. They may have even been eaten with cream cheese and lox, as it should be.

So go go go to the linked recipe, and in the meantime, here is a shot of these puppies poofing up while boiling (one of the coolest things to watch ever):

And here is another glamour shot of the bagels, just for good measure.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Cauliflower and Saffron Bake

Because we all need a few light pink vegetables every once in a while.

So yes, I do actually make things other than cakes. A couple of weeks ago, Graeme shoved a copy of the Guardian's Weekend supplement in my face, exclaiming, "I know something you're going to want to make!" Because it turns out that I am totally food predictable, he was right. I love cauliflower, and the idea of a fragrant cauliflower dish tinted a nice light pink was too much for me to resist. I attempted it last night, as a perfect side to Heidi's 101 Cookbooks recipe for curried noodle patties (which is, by the way, an awesome idea for an "I love comfort food and have lots of stuff to use up!" dinner). We were very happy, spice-filled, campers. I really recommend this as a vegetable side dish for when you're bored with your usual steamed veggies and the like. We both liked that the cauliflower was well-cooked but still retained some crunchiness and was not at all soggy.

The only major change I made to the Guardian recipe is that for some reason I was majorly NOT in the mood for olives (which is a weird freak incident for me) and so I used marinated artichoke hearts instead. So I'm mostly reposting the original recipe, written by Yotam Ottolenghi, here with my minor changes:

The Recipe:

Cauliflower and Saffron Bake

1 medium cauliflower, divided into florets
1 red onion, sliced
70g sultanas
Bunch of marinated artichoke hearts (maybe 100g?) sliced slightly
½ tsp saffron strands, infused in 3 tbsp of boiling water
3 tbsp olive oil
2 bayleaves
Salt and pepper and paprika (I add paprika to most things)
4 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Toss together all the ingredients except the parsley.

Tip the contents of the bowl into an oven-proof dish, shake to even out a bit, cover with foil and bake for around 40-45 minutes. Halfway through the cooking, remove from the oven, lift off the lid, give the contents of the oven dish a thorough stir, cover again and return to finish off cooking. The cauliflower is ready when tender but not too soft.

Remove from the oven, lift off the foil covering and leave to cool down a little before stirring in the chopped parsley. C'est si facile!

What is healthy about this recipe: Everything! Finally a recipe where I can say this.

What is seasonal in this recipe: The cauliflower, parsley, and red onion, were all purchased from the friendly organic farmers at our local farmers' market. Their produce is always seasonal and lovely and a pleasure to use and eat. I am so psyched to see all the herbs sprouting up from the ground these days.

What I learned from this recipe:
Be more adventurous with herbs and spices!

What I will change next time: Maybe a bit more saffron actually, but I am not one for subtle flavours. And I might actually try it with the olives on a day when I'm feeling more olive-friendly.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Creamy Berry Shortcake

Lately I've been cooking things in a futile attempt to will spring into existence. I found a recipe for this shortcake, adapted from a recipe in a baking supplement that came with a recent issue of BBC Good Food magazine, my favourite mag in this genre. The photo was so gorgeous and rich and fruity looking that I was sure it would calm the nasty winds plaguing Oxford. I was wrong about that, but the cake did not disappoint on any other front. Thanks to the various layers of shortbread dough! clotted cream! berries! chocolate! it tastes really interesting in the best possible meaning of the word.

I stuck pretty close to the Good Food recipe, with three major changes. First, I forgot to put sugar in the dough (ha!) but actually preferred it that way--the berries are so sweet, it was nice not too have too much sugar in other parts of the cake or else it might be sickly. Second, I brushed the bottom layer of cake with some melted dark chocolate, just because I was, well, in the mood for chocolate. The bitterness of the chocolate added a fantastic tangyness to the cake and I actually can't imagine what it would taste like without it. So while I suppose you could make the cake without my addition of a chocolate layer, I don't recommend--everyone who had a piece agreed that it was key to what made the cake awesome. My last change was that I used a frozen fruit mix of blackberries, dark cherries, black currants, and red grapes, instead of just blackberries which is what the recipe called for. This is mostly because I don't tend to buy fresh berries out of season, and this was the closest frozen mix I could find. But in any case, it was lovely.

On to the recipe. I think it will be even tastier once fresh berries are in season!

The Recipe:

Creamy Berry Shortcake (adapted from the BBC Good Food recipe)

For the cake:
300g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
140g butter, chilled and cut into teeny tiny pieces
75mL buttermilk
1 egg, beaten

For the filling:
500g blackberries and other forest-fruits
3 tbsp caster sugar
200g clotted cream
75g chocolate (dark! 70% cocoa at least!), melted

Preheat oven to 190C/375F.

To make the dough, combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the butter, and work it into the flower until it's an even, crumbly, mixture. Make a well in the middle of it, and then add the buttermilk and egg, and work it until it becomes a soft, sticky, dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface very briefly and mould it into a nice big round. Back it for 30 minutes or so until it's all golden and risen. Cool, then slice in half to create two layers.

Put your fruit into a big bowl and mash them slightly, then mix in the sugar.

To assemble the cake: First, brush the bottom cake layer with your melted chocolate so that it's thoroughly covered, but not too thick. Cover that with a layer of your clotted cream (if you're outside the UK and can't find clotted cream, I suppose whipped cream could be an ok subsitute? It sadly doesn't have the awesome dense body that clotted cream has). Cover the cream with your berries, and top it off with the second layer of cake. Voila! Gigantic cake sandwich!

What is healthy about this recipe: Fruit?

What is seasonal in this recipe: Not much--but this is a recipe to keep in mind for summer when the berries are a-plenty.

What I learned from this recipe:
This was my first ever layered cake! I have always been fearful of the layer cake as slicing through a cake seems perilous, but it turns out that no! Slicing is easy!

What I will change next time: I don't think too many improvements are necessary, but it'd be worth experimenting with different fruit and berries.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Garlic Baked Brie with a Roasted Tomato and Garlic Salad

A couple of weeks ago our local weekend farmer's market had a stall from Simon Weaver's Cotswold Organic Dairy. The woman at the stall was selling a regular Brie and a herby Brie, and, after having samples of both, Anna and I walked away with a couple of cheeses.

The Brie would have been delicious sliced and eaten with bread, but I wanted to do something a little bit nicer with it. The day I made this was bright and sunny with daffodils sprouting up across the street and it seemed the perfect accompaniment to the seeming onset of spring.

Of course, the past couple of days have been cold and miserable with biting winds and flurries of snow so the recipe was perhaps a little bit premature. Even so, it made for an enjoyable afternoon meal.

The Recipe:

Garlic baked Brie with a roasted tomato and garlic salad

For the Brie:
1 small or medium Brie
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

For the salad:
8-10 small to medium sized tomatoes
As much garlic as you like (I think I used 6 or 7 cloves)
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 170C. Place the whole tomatos and whole peeled garlic cloves in an ovenproof dish and add a good glug of olive oil and some seasoning. Place in the oven.

In the meantime, finely slice two or three cloves of garlic. Cut slits into the top of the Brie and stuff the slits with the garlic. Place in an ovenproof dish (or on a baking tray lined with parchment paper) and put in the oven. You'll want to put the cheese in the oven when the tomatos and garlic are already soft. When the cheese is soft and runny in the middle, take out the tomatos, tear some basil leaves and scatter them over the salad, and then take out the cheese and serve it immediately with slices of French bread.

What is healthy about this recipe:
The salad should be reasonably healthy, but I can't say the same about eating half a cheese. This dish is an indulgence, but that's okay from time to time.

What is seasonal in this recipe:
This recipe is better suited to the spring or summer when tomatoes can be sourced locally. Though, to make the recipe more seasonal, all you would need to do is to make a salad or another kind of vegetable dish out of more appropriate vegetables because the cheese is fine year-round.

What I will change next time:
The recipe is really good as it is but there are a lot of variations that can be made with it. Camembert is a lovely cheese to use instead of the Brie. Instead of garlic, herbs such as thyme work really well.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Mint and Chunky Chocolate Brownies

This is a modified version of a brownie recipe that originally came to me through my dear friend Kate. I met Kate when we did our masters degrees together. During the lead-up to our exams, a group of close girlfriends from the course started a study group together, and we very intelligently deligated people not only to lead each session, but also to cook for each session. Good food makes studying for masters degrees so much more bearable. During this time, we all got to know Kate's brownies very well. And when Kate left Oxford and returned to America, and secured her recipe, because no other one will do.

I've made two major changes to it since. First, I ran into a problem with her original recipe, which calls for chocolate chips, when I was living in Bosnia--they do not have this "chocolate chips" thing there. So I had to resort to chopping up blocks of chocolate, which it turns out adds an amazing touch to dishes like this. It's nice partially because the chocolate in chocolate chips is often not quite as impressive as that of other baking chocolate (and you'll see that the key to this recipe is A Lot of Chocolate), and second because the chunks are big enough that they don't totally melt and so while biting into a piece of brownie that is already incredibly chocolaty, you get this surprise of rich chunks of chocolate, making the whole thing that much more decadent. My second change is that one day I randomly decided to add in a splash of peppermint extract, and it turned out fantastic! I almost always make it with peppermint extract now--again, this dish is rich enough that it can handle it, and the peppermint is actually quite subtle, and not at all overpowering, in flavour. It just gives it a little kick.

Brownies may seem like a lame recipe to put up on a food blog--I mean everyone already has a brownie recipe, right? And I know that everyone claims that theirs are the best. But everyone is wrong and you should try these brownies. These guys have won over my housemates (even the one who was allergic to chocolate!), have helped me through masters exams, have cheered up a bunch of women's helpline volunteers after a tough training session, and are one of the dishes my friends ask for the most. I love them.

The recipe:

Mint and Chunky Chocolate Brownies

3/4 cup unsifted flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter (I use a butter substitute that works just fine)
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons water
350g chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 325/160.
Combine flour, soda, and salt.
Throw butter, sugar, and water into a pot and cook until melted and combined. Remove the pot from the heat, add half of the chocolate, the vanilla and peppermint extracts, and stir until smooth. Transfer this mixture into a bowl and the eggs one at a time, beating well. Then add the flour mixture to all of this gradually.
Stir in the remaining chocolate.
Spread into a greased 9" square baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes.

What is healthy about this recipe:
It's not that bad as far as desserts are concerned, if you use dark chocolate and a healthier butter alternative. But they're brownies, so I'm not really willing to care that much about their nutritional value! They're healthy because they make people so happy.

What is seasonal in this recipe: Chocolate is always in season in my heart.

What I learned from this recipe: I now almost always cut up bars of chocolate instead of using chocolate chips in baking. I'm convinced that the giant chunks add so much to these recipes.

What I will change next time:
I keep wanting to try these brownies with dried cherries instead of the pepppermint. As for this version of the brownies, it does not need to change one bit.

Let me tell you about food I like.

Graeme and I are starting this blog because 95% of our conversations revolve around food. The other 5% revolve around cute animals or being outraged about politics, but you can find discussion of that stuff at our other blog. We are constantly talking about recipe ideas, new foods we'd like to try, food ethics, what you should, and shouldn't, put on a pizza. We read a lot of other food blogs. We look forward to farmers' market day more than any other day in the week. We subscribe to food magazines. We are giant food nerds.

Being and Thyme (Graeme's witty title choice) will be our outlet for this sort of talk. We will post our experiments, our successes, our forays into various aspects of food culture. We like: fresh, seasonal foods, made from scratch, made to be healthful, but free of any guilt, we like breads and veggies and local organic meats that we buy from the market every Saturday. We like the seasonal produce box we wake up to every Tuesday morning. We like fish from our fishmonger who was recently voted one of the top three in the UK. He sells the most gorgeous tuna steaks in the world. We like mostly vegetarian foods, accentuated with good, ethical, meats and fish. We like chocolate, cheesecake and pies. We like scones (Graeme makes the best ones ever!) and hearty breads (one of my joys). We like traditional foods that we grew up on (Graeme: West Coast of Canada specialties, Anna: traditional Jewish and Polish feasts). We like treating one another after a long day to something warm and interesting that makes you relax, and smile. Also, we like nachos.

We hope to share some of these things on this blog. We'll post recipes, although be warned that they will be tinged with an element of Jewish grandmother-dom: Don't expect the most exact of measurements. Expect a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. We'll try to include little sections at the end of each entry detailing "What is healthy about this recipe"; "What is seasonal in this recipe"; "What I learned" and "What I will change next time."

Just writing this has made me hungry.