Sourdough pitta bread

Well, it had to come to this — with starter always on hand, I was eventually going to try making pitta bread with it. Turns out a quick Google was enough; I found a recipe on that worked first time. Here’s my version of it for the record. Strong bread flour doesn’t exist in France, so again I adapted it according to what I have. This recipe involves leaving it in the fridge overnight, but you don’t have to do that — you could just leave it at room temperature for 2-3 hours if it’s more convenient that way.

See also my non-sourdough version, which you can do on the dough cycle in a bread machine.
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Sourdough blini


This is becoming a theme — yet again I had jars of starter bubbling all over the kitchen. We fancied smoked salmon, and I was sure it must be possible to use sourdough for blini. A quick Google and I found a recipe on a Spanish blog of all places, but it’s a blog I followed till it went dormant, so I felt confident that it would work. I was right; they were delicious. Just as good as the Delia recipe that was my standby up to now, and without all the cream.

The following is my adapted recipe. Use buckwheat flour if you can, for authenticity. I didn’t have any, so I used wholegrain spelt instead. I have an electric plancha which is perfect for cooking these as it remains at a low, even temperature — otherwise use a griddle or large heavy frying pan, over a low heat.

This made about 30 blini; halve the recipe if you want fewer, but they freeze really well. I wrap 6 or 8 together in flat foil packets and freeze them in ziplock bags. Then you can just take out as many packets as you need and warm them through in the oven. They are just as good with butter and honey as they are with salmon or caviar.
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Sourdough pancakes

This is the quickest, easiest way of using up surplus sourdough starter. It makes small, American-style pancakes. Excellent with maple syrup and cream or quark, but they are also a good substitute for blinis to serve with smoked salmon and cream cheese. Hardly needs a recipe and quantities are vague. Usually I have about 100-150 ml of starter and I use one egg for this quantity. But if the batter seems too runny, add a bit of flour; if too thick, a bit of water.

They freeze well, wrapped in foil, and can be reheated in the oven, still wrapped.

Update: an even easier option is making pikelets; the method is basically the same as for these pancakes but without the egg and oil. Just mix a cup of your starter with a teaspoon of sugar, a pinch of salt, and half a teaspoon of baking powder. Let stand for a few minutes till it starts to bubble, then cook blobs of it over a low heat till the top is bubbly, before turning to cook the other side. This is so quick you can routinely do it when you’re feeding your starter and then either eat the pikelets or freeze them. Idea from here, thanks Joy!
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What to do with overgrown courgettes

A vexed question. This one was so overgrown it qualified as a marrow. We’d already done the standard stuffed marrow with half of it, and still had enough left for another meal. A bit of googling turned up something called “savoury marrow bake” at AllRecipes. I glanced at it half-heartedly and then realised it wasn’t stuffed marrow but a kind of frittata/crustless quiche for which we had all the ingredients. So we took the idea and ran with it, changing quantities to make a lighter, more slimmer-friendly dish. Of course you could add or substitute other veg if you wanted.

We were very pleasantly surprised by the result. The flour and baking powder give it a smooth yet light texture quite different from frittata. You can eat it warm or cold; we had it with a tomato sauce, but chilli jam would be excellent too. Good picnic or buffet fare, cut into small squares. Or use it as a side dish with anything that has a sauce. Definitely a keeper. Now I just need to think of a name for it.
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Sourdough focaccia

Sourdough focaccia

When you make sourdough you are always looking for ways of using up starter. This recipe (also known as fougasse in France) was a good accompaniment for post-film drinks. It’s great for picnics too. I started it in the morning and baked it late afternoon. It’s best warm or cold rather than piping hot from the oven.

This recipe is fine with ordinary plain flour, but you can use white bread flour if you want, or a half-and-half mixture. Whatever you choose, the dough is very wet and sticky to work with, so if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, I really recommend using it. If not, use the “kneading” technique of using one floured hand to stretch and fold the dough in the bowl — no need to turn it out, and you can keep your other hand clean.

Toppings: this isn’t pizza, so topping should be scanty and not too complicated — two or at most three elements. You can keep it plain by just sprinkling fleur de sel and olive oil over it. For this occasion I did some with chopped rosemary and onion, and others with sliced artichoke hearts and a few squirts of pesto. Sun-dried tomatoes and serrano ham or prosciutto are a good choice too — or use your imagination and go for something more original like crumbled blue cheese and thin slices of pear. In all cases, finish with oil and salt.
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Moroccan carrot salad

A carrot salad might sound a bit dull, but this Ottolenghi recipe is really lovely. It reminds me of the delicious carrots I had as a side dish at a Lebanese restaurant in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain. I tweaked it a bit for French tastes (no chillis!). It’s very versatile — it can be served warm or at room temperature, as a dish in its own right, as one of a selection of hors d’oeuvres, or as a side dish. You can of course vary the spices according to taste.
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Other people’s food: Savoy cabbage gratin with Saint Félicien

Now I love Savoy cabbage and I love Saint Marcellin. But even I was amazed by how good this recipe is. And even Steve, who loathes cabbage in any form except for Brussels sprouts, grudgingly conceded that it was “not bad” (admittedly after I doubled the amount of cheese). And that is high praise for a dish that is 80% cabbage. I found it ages ago on Orangette’s blog, but have only just got around to trying it. Why did I wait so long? And unlike Orangette I do have a black cat which I can stroke while braising cabbage and cackling evilly.

Monsieur Mystère

No apologies for the gratuitous cat picture; he’s more photogenic than cabbage gratin 🙂
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Carottes forestière

Carrots, courtesy of

A la forestière in French cuisine invariably means the dish contains mushrooms, because in autumn every self-respecting peasant is out there scouring the woods for fungi while hoping to avoid trigger-happy hunters. All we’ve scored so far are a few piboules from the poplar tree in our garden, but luckily dried ceps are always on hand to add a secret kick to savoury dishes.

This Jane Grigson recipe (from her Vegetable Book) worked wonders with the woody organic carrots in our veggie box. She serves them in hollowed-out bread rolls brushed with butter and crisped in the oven; I just served them on toasted muffins. They make a good vegetarian starter or light lunch/supper, but would also be an excellent accompanying vegetable for a roast, with or without the bread.

You could just use common-or-garden cultivated mushrooms, but fresh or dried ceps (porcini) will take it into another league.
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Delicious Days: Baguette with lemon-Parmesan butter

I shopped for this on the basis of the title, and it turned out to include quite a few less obvious ingredients that I didn’t have — chives, lime zest, and chilli for example — so I had to make a few substitutions, namely basil and my faithful standby chilli sherry (thank you for this idea, Fiona!).

It’s the same basic idea as garlic bread — the flavoured butter is spread liberally onto slices of baguette, and then you can either bake the slices till crisp as I did, or use the classic method of wrapping the almost-sliced-through and buttered loaf in foil and baking it. It was much appreciated, and definitely a keeper.

Kadai Murgh — chicken curry

chicken curry

“Must-stop-baking-cakes,” I muttered to myself as I browsed the blog of this month’s partner for Taste & Create, Happy Cook of My Kitchen Treasures. I seem to have baked a lot of cakes recently, many of them from my T&C partners or other bloggers, and the effects on my waistline are noticeable.

It wasn’t easy though; there were quite a few sweet dishes I fancied trying, such as Apricot-Marzipan Bundles, or coffee-craisin-mascarpone loaf. Or moelleux au chocolat. Or raspberry financiers. Well, you get the picture. HC likes making panna cotta too, and I love panna cotta.

But still, I tore myself away and decided that since HC obviously knows what she’s talking about when it comes to Indian food, I would make Kadai Murgh. Excellent choice — we both really liked it, and scraped our plates clean. I served it with a Basmati rice pilau and some yoghurt — sadly no Geeta’s mango chutney, because our local Carrefour doesn’t stock it any more — most upsetting.

This dish is dead easy to make; you can do it in little more time than it takes to cook the rice. Mine doesn’t look quite like HC’s, because I couldn’t get any tandoori powder, so I had to make do with a spoonful of paprika and some ras-el-hanout. When I tasted it at the end of the cooking time, it was a bit too spicy for me, so I just added an extra spoonful of crème fraîche to tone it down. Definitely a keeper, so thanks HC!

Visit My Kitchen Treasures for the real recipe. Here I give my own way of making pilau rice; I’ve been doing it this way for years and it always produces rice that is not soggy or stuck together. Of course you can vary seasonings to suit yourself.

For two not very greedy people, take a glass or cup of about 220 ml capacity and fill it about 3/4 full with Basmati rice. Finely chop a small onion or a shallot or two, and crush a clove of garlic. Heat some vegetable oil in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Soften the onion and garlic in it for a few minutes, then add the rice and stir to coat it with oil. Fill the glass to the top with cold water, pour into the pan, and stir once just to loosen anything that might have stuck. If you like your rice a bit more cooked than I do, you can add a little more water — a tablespoon or two. Season to taste: I use salt, pepper, two or three crushed cardamom pods, and a bay leaf. Sometimes I add crushed coriander seeds or cumin too. Put on the lid, turn down the heat to very low, and leave to cook completely undisturbed for 15 minutes. Do not take off the lid or stir!

At the end of this time you can take a peek; all the water should have been absorbed, and you can test the rice by eating a bit. If it’s done, turn off the heat and stir it up a bit in case it’s stuck to the bottom of the pan. It will keep warm with the lid on for another 10 minutes or so.