Candied Orange Peel

In my continuing task to use or preserve the oranges that we’ve collected from our Abel & Cole box I decided to try candying orange peel. This is the sort of thing I would usually stay well away from, it just seems too fiddly and will I actually ever use the candied oranges? Or will they just waste away, staring at me mournfully every time I open the fridge?

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After some research I could see it’s not a difficult process it just needs a little time. There are lots of recipes around and in the end I settled for this recipe on Leite’s Culinaria by Carole Bloom. I had 8 small and slightly dodgy looking oranges to use and I didn’t have any orange liqueur so I used brandy instead because, well why not?

To make the candied orange peel, you cut the oranges up into fine slices, with some flesh attached, this stops the pith becoming too bitter. You then boil them for 5 minutes 3 times, each time refreshing the water and heating it from cold. Then you remove any leftover flesh, which is a bit of a faff, before mixing them with the sugar and brandy and cooking for an hour and a half over a low heat to allow them to fully soften and absorb all the sugar.

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A couple of my orange’s had really thin skin purely because they were old, but by the end of the third 5 minute boil you couldn’t tell which of the peel was from these oranges as they’d really bulked out. I was worried that the oranges being old was going to be a problem, but actually I think this is a great way to use up any oranges that have been forgotten about and have got a bit ropey.

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I rolled the cooked peel, hot out of the pan, in sugar which gives them a crunch. I did this in batches so some of the peel cooked for longer, meaning the syrup turned into more of a caramel giving the later peels a bit more of a snap. Both the softer and the more carmelised peel is really tasty, but it’s something to be aware of if you want them all to be the same consistency, you’d need to tip them all out of the pan at once, which I can imagine being quite messy and would probably waste a lot of sugar, something I tried to avoid. I’ve been keeping these in a tub in the fridge and The Boy & I keep stealing a couple whenever we fancy something sweet, so I needn’t have worried about them going to waste. I think they’re also going to make great cake decoration, perhaps combined with a certain blood orange curd.

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I’ve already been thinking about these for this year’s Christmas presents, perhaps cooked down with spices in the brandy syrup then dipped in dark chocolate. April’s a bit early for this really isn’t it? I’d better make a note of it somewhere and come back to it later in the year.

Market Cafe Brunch

This weekend was the first weekend of spring. After months of grey skies and freakishly low temperatures the sun finally broke through and warmed our cockles, a few degrees at least.

The temperature change was minimal, but there was enough of a change on Saturday for East London to emerge from it’s winter hideout en masse. The parks were littered with groups of friends, sat in their coats and hats, beer in hand, enjoying what sunshine they could. The pavements outside of the pubs were crammed with punters savouring the early evening rays with their beer and I had to dodge more than a couple of people on my evening run who had over-indulged during the afternoon.

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Sunday was slightly colder, but the sun was still bright so The Boy and I ventured out for brunch and a little walk. As it wasn’t market day I didn’t get distracted by the delights of Spinach and Agushi so we made it all the way down Broadway Market to try Market Cafe. I’d heard good things about the new set up and the brunch had got a special mention.

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The second I saw the words ‘eggs benedict’ my mind was made up as for some reason it had been on my mind all week. The Boy tried the ham hock hash with a fried egg and a flat white to contrast my breakfast tea. The atmosphere was just what I look for in a brunch venue, busy enough to feel lively, but not packed to the rafters or so loud that you can’t hear each other speak.

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Both dishes looked great. The ham hock hash was a big pile of crispy, meaty goodness topped with a beautifully fried egg. My eggs benedict was almost perfect. The sauce was creamy and slightly sharp and the ham was lovely. The muffin was a little over toasted, but I love slightly burnt toast so I’m not really complaining, and while one of my poached eggs was spot on, the other was a bit watery and just not quite right. If I’m honest though, I could have licked the plate clean afterwards, so it can’t have been too bad.

Market Cafe
2 Broadway Market, London, E8 4QJ

Sourdough Successes

I realised that after documenting my struggles with learning how to make sourdough bread, I never got round to blogging my successes!

White Leaven Bread

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I finally got Dan Lepard’s White Leaven Bread recipe to work after repeated disasterous attempts. I was already placing a baking sheet in the oven to get hot and sliding the dough onto it, but this time I added a cloche in the form of an enormous saucepan, upturned on the baking tray. I baked the loaf under the cloche for 30 minutes, enough time for the steam to work it’s magic and then removed the cloche & baking sheet to finish the loaf on the wire oven shelf for the last 20 minutes. The result was a beautifully risen, light and airy white loaf.

The Mill Loaf

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As I felt like I’d finally conquered that recipe, I turned the page and attempted the second recipe in Dan’s The Handmade Loaf, The Mill Loaf. This is a 60% white flour & 40% wholegrain flour sourdough loaf. The recipe makes two much larger loaves than the White Leaven Bread recipe and shaped as batons rather than balls and because of this I couldn’t fit them under my makeshift cloche which left me expecting disaster. I needn’t have worried. Both loaves came out beautifully. The first I baked seam side up and it split spectacularly, the second I slashed and baked, it split a little on the bottom seam and opened up at the top slashes. Interestingly while everyone in the online sourdough world loves enormous rips  and ears on their loaves,  all the non-bakers I showed the pictures to thought the slashed version looked more professional.

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I much prefer wholemeal bread so for me this bread wins over the white loaf as it’s much more flavoursome. I will definitely make this again and I’m looking forward to experimenting with different flours to see what happens.

Sour 100% Rye Bread

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Then this week I moved on to the third recipe in The Handmade Loaf the 100% Rye loaf. My shaping needs work, hopefully I’ll learn some shaping skills on the E5 Bakehouse sourdough bread course next month. The result was a dense and moist loaf with that rich, nutty rye flavour. I loved the feel of this dough too, it was very sticky and springy. I left this loaf wrapped in greaseproof paper & tied up with string overnight as instructed and cut into it for lunch today. I topped slices with pesto, soft cheese, ground black pepper, lettuce & cherry tomatoes for a simple, refreshing lunch. These classic flavours worked with the dense, nutty bread perfectly.

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Lunching at Lardo

As The Boy has been in America with work this week we didn’t get to spend the Easter bank holiday together, so when he returned this morning we decided we’d make up for lost time and go out for lunch. There was a slight hitch in the form of a mini blizzard outside, which didn’t make going out very appealling. Luckily we now have a choice of eateries just along from us on Richmond Road, so we didn’t have to walk very far.

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After hearing many good things we decided on Lardo and arrived like intrepid explorers, covered in snow. The Italian restaurant opened last year and I’m embarrassed to say that despite it being just 5 minutes walk from out house, this was our first visit.

The Boy plumped for pizza, which I managed to resist as I have already had two this week and three pizzas in a week is a little indulgent. He went for the Taleggio & Mushroom and after much deliberation (the Lardo, Spinach & Egg pizza was calling me the entire time) I ordered the Oxtail Brassato with White Polenta. I cooked oxtail for the first time a few weeks ago, and I figured this was a good opportunity to see how it should be done.

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The waitress explained that the oxtail would take 12 minutes to cook, which was fine as for once we were in no rush. There was also a glass of wine or a soft drink included in the price of every Hearty or Pasta dish, which included the oxtail, so I savoured my free diet coke while waiting for lunch to arrive. I took the opportunity to drag details out of The Boy about his trip, he never wants to talk about work once he’s home so it’s always hard work. Then I had plenty of gossip for him from friends I’d seen over the long weekend.

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The food arrived steaming hot and smelling extremely inviting. The Boy’s pizza was generously topped and by all accounts was extremely tasty, although I can’t actually comment because mushrooms are pretty much the only thing I won’t eat. I did steal some crust though and it was thin, crisp & lightly charred, snapping lightly as you bit into it. It was my idea of the perfect pizza crust to be honest, and the fact that the pizza oven it came out of looks like a giant disco ball somehow made it even better.

My oxtail was soft and rich and falling off the bone. The sauce was thick and mixed with the smooth, pearly white polenta to create the perfect comfort lunch for a day when snow was streaming past the windows. It put my home cooked attempt to shame.

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While it took us a while to visit Lardo, but there are so many other dishes I’d love to try I’m sure it won’t take us long to return. We didn’t even manage dessert this time which is pitiful, but the main was deceptively filling. I think if you’re looking for hearty, classic Italian cooking in Hackney and cracking pizza to boot then Lardo is well worth a visit, or two.

LARDO
197-205 Richmond Road, London, E8 3NJ

Simple Blood Orange Curd

The Boy and I get our fresh fruit and vegetables delivered every week from Abel & Cole. Using up the vegetables is easy & in summer we eat a lot of fruit, but in winter we just aren’t very good at getting through all the fruit. Over the last couple of months we have got oranges, blood oranges or satsumas every single week and we’ve clearly got very tired of them because they’ve been building up in the fruitbowl. I hate wasting food, so this week I decided to experiment with a few different recipes to use up as many of them as possible.

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The usual method for preserving a glut of oranges is marmalade, but if I’m honest I’m not a big fan. However I am a huge fan of lemon curd, so my first idea was to adapt a simple lemon curd recipe to create an orange curd. When I looked at my fruit bowl I had about 4 blood oranges lurking in the pile that looked a little past their best so I thought I’d use these up first.

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While researching methods I could see that most recipes mixed the curd in a bowl over a pan of water, most strained the mixture through a sieve, and then some called for the mixture to be poured into sterilised jars while hot and others just instruct for the mixture to be left to cool in the bowl. I decided to use Dan Lepard’s easy lemon curd recipe from Short & Sweet. The recipe takes a bit of a shortcut and mixes the curd directly in a saucepan, the mixture is then strained and left to cool. I put most of the mixture into a sterilised jar while hot and what was left over I let cool and put into tupperware in the fridge, I just have to make sure I use this batch first.

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Obviously as soon as it had cooled enough, I spread it on toast to try it. The initially the taste is sweet, rich and buttery and then the sharpness from the blood orange cuts through it. My blood oranges weren’t even that fresh and flavour is still fantastic. If you made this when the oranges were fresher it would be even more zingy.

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I’ve got a few other orange preserving recipes to try this week, so if you like citrus, keep checking back!

Easy Blood Orange Curd
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s East Lemon Curd from Short & Sweet.
Makes about 400-450g.

Ingredients
5 large egg yolks
1 large egg
finely grated zest of 3 blood oranges
125ml blood orange juice
150g caster sugar
225g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

If you are planning to keep the curd in jars, wash the jars in very hot water or in a dishwasher on high. Place in the oven on a very low temperature to dry out. Wash the lids in very hot water and leave them in the very hot water until needed. If you’re reusing jars, cut some greaseproof paper circles to go between the curd & the lid. If you don’t want to faff with jars, you can store the curd in a tub in the fridge instead, but it won’t keep as long.

Place the egg yolks, egg, zest, juice and caster sugar in a saucepan over a low-moderate heat and whisk until combined. Then add the butter & stir with a wooden or plastic spoon (metal can spoilt the flavour), until melted. Keep heating until it starts to boil, gently stirring the whole time to prevent it catching on the bottom.

As it starts to boil, remove from the heat and retrieve the jars from the oven if you’re using them. Pour through a sieve into a clean mixing bowl, pressing down the mixture to make sure all the juice is through. Then, if you are just going to keep the curd in tupperware, you can just let it cool in the mixing bowl before transferring it to your container & then into the fridge. Or, if you’re using jars, pour it into the jar while hot, place a greaseproof circle on top of the curd and twist on the lid. Leave to cool before storing in the fridge.

Jarred, the curd should last a month or two, but once opened or if storing in a tub then it should last about a week.

Guinness Chocolate Chip Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

The flavour combination I am completely obsessed with is back, this time in hot cross bun form. Sourdough hot cross buns obviously. These are not your traditional hot cross buns, in fact if you like a traditional spicy, fruity hot cross bun then these are not for you! These hot cross buns are for those of us who like the idea of a hot cross bun, but then take an hour to eat it because we have to pick out all of the dried fruit as we go. I used to be that person, then I made spiced stout hot cross buns and my mind was changed. If you like a traditional hot cross bun, those are the buns for you.

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Instead these hot cross buns harness the richness of Guinness to flavour a soft, dense dough containing lots and lots of dark chocolate chips that melt when toasted and mingle with the melting butter that you will smear across it to create the most decadent breakfast I’ve had in a while. But I’m in training, so I’ve been living off porridge for longer than I dare to remember. I can’t wait to get back into proper Sunday morning breakfasts.

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You could of course use any kind of stout and another type of chocolate, but Guinness and dark chocolate are particularly strong together. In total these took me a day and a half to make, but you can follow the timings for the spiced stout sourdough hot cross buns if you want to make them in a day (plus overnight leaven creation). I know we’re only really supposed to eat hot cross buns on Good Friday, but as these aren’t traditional hot cross buns I think I’ll be untraditional and carry on eating them for a few more weeks!

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Guinness Chocolate Chip Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Makes about 16 buns.
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s Spiced Stout Buns recipe.

Ingredients

325ml Guinness (or another brand of stout if you must)
100g sourdough starter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
800g strong white flour + a couple of tablespoons extra for the crosses
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
50g caster sugar + 1 tablespoon extra for the glaze
1 large egg
50g melted butter
200g dark chocolate, chopped into chips

In the morning, whisk together the Guinness & the sourdough starter in a large bowl and stir in the spices and 250g of the strong white flour. Cover with cling film and leave to ferment for at least 6 hours.

That afternoon, mix the remaining 550g of strong white flour with the salt and caster sugar in a large bowl. Mix in the Guinness batter, egg and melted butter until you have a shaggy mess of a dough. Note added: If the batter is struggling to absorb all the flour, then add a little extra Guinness, a tablespoon at a time until it’s all mixed in. Leave for 10 minutes, I took this time to chop up my chocolate as I’m never very good at preparing things like that before I start. Add the chocolate chips to the bowl and stretch & kneed the dough until the chocolate chips are fully incorporated, cover with clingfilm or a clean, damp tea towel and leave to rest.

After 30 minutes, stretch or kneed the dough for 10 seconds or so, then cover and leave to rest again. After a second 30 minutes take the dough out of the bowl, stretch it out to a rectangle then fold the right third to the centre and then the same with the left third, turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat (check out this video for a visual aid, but don’t panic when your dough takes a lot more effort to stretch). Return it to the bowl for another rest. 60 minutes later, repeat the folding technique and return to the bowl for a final 2 hour rest.

By now we’re well into the evening, perhaps even nearing bedtime, so line a baking tray with baking paper and clear a shelf in your fridge. Divide the dough up into 100g lumps, roll them into balls and place them on the baking tray. They should be touching, but only just. Cover with clingfilm (lightly greased with a little vegetable oil to avoid sticking) or your damp tea towel and place in the fridge overnight.

When you bake them the next day is up to you. I intended to get up and bake them first thing, but in the end I didn’t have time until the afternoon. The buns will be fine in the fridge for most of the day unless you have a particularly vigorous starter. Take them out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before you plan on baking them and preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan.

Mix a little flour & water into a paste. Initially add a tablespoon of each then add flour/water a teaspoon at a time until you get the consistency you like. Spoon this into a piping bag & pipe long lines across the rows of buns to create crosses. Go slowly to ensure the batter follows the undulations of the buns & creates even crosses. Put the buns into the preheated oven & place an oven dish with a cup of boiling water at the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake for 25 minutes.

Take the buns out of the oven and dance round the kitchen to celebrate how great they look. Then, while they are still warm, mix a tablespoon of boiling water and a tablespoon of caster sugar together to form a syrup. Brush this over the buns, making sure you get in all the dips and cracks and between any lumps and bumps from the chocolate chips. It’s worth the effort.

Slide the baking paper with the buns still attached onto a wire rack to cool. The sooner you take them off the paper the better, but you need to let them cool down enough to handle as you’ll probably need to break them into individual buns to do so.

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To enjoy: Choose the biggest bun, cut it in half, lightly toast it and smear it with a large quantity of butter. Follow with the tea/coffee of your choice.

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Time for round two…