Monday, 30 August 2010

The Great British Bake Off

I don't normally post about TV cooking programs after all we have so many these days but I am really enjoying the Great British Bake Off. It is so well... British !  Baking is such a part of our culture and this program somehow has an element of the WI (women's institute) or country shows. I'm not sure why because neither of them normally have people actually doing the cooking but they do both have very good and competitive cake displays and competitions I suppose. One thing I'm very like about this program is they are much more reasonable and down to earth about giving out results, none of these long pauses and trying to out psych the contestants which has become to common in many competitive cooking programs.

You can find the program to watch here though I don't know if none Brits will be able to access the shows . I hope you can.

The program started with ten hopeful bakers from all walks of life and each program they do three baking sessions before the lowest ranked two are knocked out. We have had two episodes so far in both they have started with a signature dish ( week 1 cake, week 2 biscuits.. cookie for americans), then they have been given the ingredients but not instructions for a very classic British dish which they then needed to use their knowledge and skill to bake it correctly. Victoria sponge last week, then this week scones, both of which are in my image at the top.. Finally they had to bake a specific dish but using their own recipes.. so week 1 was chocolate cake for a celebration and this week was three petifores - meringues, macaroons and cho pasty.

There has been a huge variety of dishes even within those limited groupings and a good few historical titbits from the presenters and useful tips from the two judges. Mary Berry is a women famous for her cookbooks and baking and Paul Hollywood is a top flight baker and both have given some great tips for instance adding a little salt to egg before you use it as an egg wash as it breaks down the egg making it easier to spread and don't let it dribble down the side of a scone because it hardens and stops it rising.

Obviously most of the baking has gluten in it and I think anyone however good would struggle to compete with the contestants on most of the challenges if they did it gluten free but it would be fun to try and see how close we could get to most of them.

Next week is bread, which will be interesting but far less applicable to gluten  free cooking than cakes and biscuits as gluten free bread is just so different in technique and how the flour reacts.

So far I am planning to make a version of one of the cakes - chocolate brownie with meringue on top and see if I can use some of the tips on scones to improve my basic scone recipe. Some of the biscuit recipes sound really interesting too and the comments about how changing the balance between flour, fat and sugar effects the type of biscuit is worth remembering.

Weekly menu -30th Aug - 3rd Sept 2010

With luck my run of illness has finished and all  of a sudden we are nearly at the end of the school holidays !  I'm going to make a concerted effort to get back into some semblance of organisation and menu planning very much helps with that so here goes.

Cheryl from Gluten Free Goodness is hosting the menu swap this week and has picked water melon. This isn't something that we eat much of as it doesn't really grow here but when we do get one it always goes down well.

So the plan this week is as follows, it is most quite easy and very British dishes this week. The weather is not brilliant of this time of year and as the evenings get darker I naturally turn to such dishes.

Monday (a Bank Holiday here) - using up leftover mince, probably served simply with new potatoes straight from the allotment and some other veg.

Tuesday - battered fish and chips.. I haven't had battered fish for ages and fish and chips is a British past-time but I can't go to the fish and chip shop like most people.

Wednesday - Trying this recipe for Pork with peaches and black bean salsa, serve with rice.

Thursday -  Veggy soup with cheese scones

Friday - Toad in the hole - sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Book Review - The Fat Duck Cookbook

As I mentioned I've not been to well recently and so have ended up sitting far more than I would like. However that has meant I've had a chance to catch up on some "light" reading.

I think I mentioned back along I got a couple of books by

Escoffier did when I was a teen. That book opened up a whole new way of looking at food for me use as I was to good but traditional English cooking. Escoffier was full of dishes with sauces, a million ways to cook a chicken breast, ingredients I had never heard of and things which seemed posh and exotic to me then and made me think about other ways of cooking.

Heston opens up similar ideas and goes one step farther because Heston is all about Why.. And that is what I always want to know Why should I do this? Why does X taste good with Y but dreadful with Z? and so on.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Sorry for being AWOL

Not been much in the interesting food recently because I've had several weeks of what feels like reaction to gluten but i can't work out what from. This obviously means I've been rather safe and boring with my diet and one of the effects is very little energy. Then to top it all off I've had a bad case of Tonsillitis so no food at all for a good section of this last week !!  I hope normal service will resume currently but at the moment I'm not even managing Daring Kitchen Challenges.