I have so much blogging to catch up on it’s ridiculous. There are cakes, breads, Band of Bakers, wedding bake offs and some glorious dinners to tell you about, but I’ll start with a belated round up of all the food & drink I documented on my Instagram in April. Follow me here if you so wish.
Last night I mixed up a couple of 60% white flour, 22% spelt flour & 18% wholemeal flour sourdough loaves following Dan Lepard’s recipe for the mill loaf. After 4 hours fermenting with periodic stretching and folding, I shaped them just before I went to bed and left them in the fridge overnight to proof. Then this morning, while getting on with various chores I baked them for 50 minutes each and by lunchtime I had fresh homemade bread to enjoy.
As I took the loaves out of the oven they were making cracking and popping sounds, which was rather worrying, but after a quick google I discovered that this is a good thing. The loaves were ‘singing’ to me, the sign of a well baked loaf apparently.
Upon cutting these open I discovered a really soft, spongy crumb with lots of holes. I think the spelt had a real impact on the smoothness on the crumb, and it tastes divine. Just a little nutty from the wholemeal flour and rye starter but otherwise a light texture with a delicately sour flavour. I think these might be my favourite loaves to date.
As I had this beautiful fresh bread to use, for lunch I made my perfect fried egg sandwich. Fresh sourdough bread smeared with butter, a sliver of mature cheddar cheese and pile of crisp lettuce topped with a juicy fried egg. A decadent lunch that’s hard to beat.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
197-205 Richmond Road, London, E8 3NJ
Recipes from this month’s Instagram recap: spiced stout sourdough hot cross buns / chocolate & Guinness sourdough hot cross buns / chocolate & Guinness sourdough cake with whiskey caramel glaze.
I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Paris. This wasn’t a normal weekend in Paris though, this was for my Grandmother’s 80th birthday and that entire side of my family went. In total there were 14 of us, which made choosing what to do and where to go almost impossible! So The Boy and I decided that the best option was to not make any plans, and to just go with the flow, which turned out to be a wise decision.
We covered all the visiting Paris basics. We drank lots of coffee and ate lots of pastry. In fact we drank and ate a lot of everything really. We walked for miles and miles. Went to beautiful shops and markets and gazed at many beautiful buildings. I got to practice my French and cringe at my family speaking English to everyone. C’est la vie. Can’t wait to go back.
Highlights included the food market Marché des Enfants Rouges, lunch at Café Le Brebant, browsing around Merci boutique, the whole family going on the carousel in Le Jardin des Tuileries, the Sunday foodmarket on Rue Montmartre, Notre Dame and the fascinating bird market on the Ile de la Cité.