The Most Versatile Bread Dough

There is no doubt that being a parent reduces the amount of time you can spend in the kitchen. I like to get Will involved in cooking where possible but at 10 months old  what he can safely do is rather limited. He is pulling himself up on all the furniture at the moment and we have stone floors so I’m terrified of him hurting himself! I am wondering about buying a playpen so I can pop him somewhere and know he is safe. Regardless of his new  found independence,  I still believe its important for him to get used to spending time in the kitchen. I have found that his highchair is a great place for him to sit and observe what is going on; he is high enough to see the worktops. I tend to give him kitchen implements to play with as I cook – he adores silicone baking trays, the sieve and  wooden spoons! If this fails there is always food- a strawberry tends to keep him happy for 5 minutes or so! Bread making is, as cooking goes, rather baby friendly as it only really takes 15 minutes at a time, which even the most impatient little one should hopefully sit through. This dough in particular is a fantastic thing to make as from one batch you can make a whole variety of bread-types! I have used it to make pizza bases, pitta breads, flatbreads, bread rolls and even bread sticks. I have reduced the salt as much as is possible to ensure it is suitable for little ones, and because of the flours used it requires no sugar.

Ingredients

  • 200g wholewheat strong flour
  • 50g strong white flour
  • 250g plain white flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1tsp yeast
  • 20ml virgin olive oil  plus a little extra for the proving bowl
  • 340ml of warm water (could be more or less depending on the weather that day)

Method

  • Add the flours, yeast and oil to a large bowl
  • Add the salt to a well in the flour, ensuring it is kept away from the yeast
  • Add some of the water and combine, keep adding water until you have a slightly sticky dough. It is meant to be more hydrated than a traditional bread dough but this is correct, it becomes less so as its kneaded.
  • Knead for 10-15 minutes by hand or 15 minutes in a mixer. The dough should be springy and stretch-able.
  • Oil the mixing bowl, and place the dough in the bowl, covering with cling film or a damp tea towel.
  • Leave somewhere warm for 1 1/2 hours or until its doubled in size, it may take 2 hours

At this stage you can make different things:

Bread Rolls

This recipe makes 8-9 bread rolls

  • Roll fist-size balls of dough and place on a baking tray, let them prove until they have doubled in size again; this will take 45 minutes or so.
  • Bake in a pre heated oven for 12-15 minutes until they are golden and have a hollow sound
  • To add a crusty top sprinkle a little water on each one directly before popping them in the oven

Flat breads

This recipe makes 10 flatbreads

  • Take a fist-size ball of dough and flatten out on a floured surface until they are around 3 mm thick.
  • Leave to rest for 10 minutes
  • Get a frying pan as hot as you can (open the windows!)
  • Lay one flat bread in to the hot pan and cook on one side for around 2 minutes or until it is bubbling up and browning. They will get a little scorched but it tastes wonderful
  • Flip and cook the other side for a further minute
  • These can be eaten straight away or left to cool under a tea towel. The tea towel ensures the steam circulates around the flatbreads and keeps them soft.

Pittas

This recipe makes 12-14 pittas

  • Follow the flatbread method but make them slightly smaller and oval shaped.
  • Place them on a baking tray and cook in a preheated oven at 200C for 5-10 minutes until they are puffed up and gaining a little colour.

Bread Sticks

These are a real favourite in our house! Brilliant with dips and great for teething babies to gnaw on.

  • Roll out small balls of dough, about the size of a strawberry
  • Roll these out until you have long breadsticks
  • Place on a floured baking tray and leave to rest for 5 minutes
  • Cook in a preheated oven at 200C for about 10 minutes until they are crisp and golden

This dough really is a’jack of all trades’. I often double the quantity and make a few things in one go, today I made some rolls for lunch and some flatbreads for supper. I added some cumin seeds and nigella seeds to the flatbreads when I shaped them to add a little Middle-Eastern influence as they are accompanying a tagine. As with all home-made bread, because there are no nasty preservatives it doesn’t last as long as shop-bought alternatives, but the taste is so superior it won’t last long enough to go stale anyway!

I’d love to hear from you if you try the recipe, Happy baking!

 

Salmon & Leek Risotto

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Its nearly the end of June, it’s raining, its foggy and we all have colds. All in all its a grumpy house this week. Will is frustrated if we stay in all day but gets too tired and overwhelmed if we are out for too long, which is making it hard to know what to do with him! This morning we went to a soft play centre which he enjoyed for about half a hour before turning back into to a little cuddly, grizzly boy. I’m not complaining though, having a cold is horrid and he is never normally cuddly so in some ways it’s nice (for me). His body is obviously fighting hard to get him better as he is also napping a lot! He has currently been asleep for over an hour which is unheard of in the afternoon for him!

As I wrote that previous sentence he woke up, when will I ever learn!? DON’T MENTION GOOD NAPS! 

Anyway, my point was that both the weather and everyone being under the weather, meant comfort food was definitely in order for supper! Comfort food for me is bowl food – the kind of thing you can eat with just a fork. Risotto is perfect comfort food, and this salmon and leek version manages to feel both warm and cosy, as well as light and summery. It’s not hard to make either, but as with all risotto it does take some serene stirring.

To make it baby friendly there are a few sacrifices  compromises. They aren’t actually sacrifices, as it’s delicious and full-flavoured without them. There is no white wine added, although the lightness of the salmon and leek come through more as a result. It really isn’t missed in this particular recipe. There is also a lack of salt so it can feel under seasoned, but I have a trick for this which will become clear in the recipe method!

Ingredients

This is enough for 2 adults and 1 baby portion. 

  • 1 salmon fillet, deskinned
  • 75g smoked salmon
  • 200g arborio rice
  • 1 leek
  • Low salt vegetable stock cube
  • 3 tablespoons of peas
  • Small bunch of dill
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • knob of unsalted butter

Method

  • Finely slice the leek, leaving the top 2 inches of green leek for later
  • De-skin and chop the fresh salmon fillet
  • Add leek to a large sauté pan with half of the butter and soften (don’t let them colour)
  • Add the rice to the leeks and stir to coat in the butter
  • Add the stock cube to a saucepan of hot water and bring to simmer (roughly a litre of water should be fine but if you run out just add more water to your saucepan)
  • Add a couple of ladles of the stock, the fresh salmon and stir
  • Keep adding more stock as the rice absorbs whats in the pan, stirring periodically to prevent it sticking. I like to use a wooden fork for stirring as it prevents the rice from breaking down.
  • When the rice is soft but still too hard to eat (after roughly 15 minutes) add the peas and the lemon zest
  • Finely chop the dill
  • Slice the smoked salmon into thin strips
  • Finely slice lengths of the green leek top
  • Once the rice is cooked and the liquid absorbed (20-30 minutes), turn the heat off, add the remaining butter, the dill and roughly two thirds of the smoked salmon, and stir to combine.
  • Remove the baby portion
  • For the adult portions, I add the rest of the smoked salmon on top, with some of the green leek and a generous crack of black pepper.

Adding the rest of the smoked salmon to the adult portions ensures that the baby portion isn’t too salty, and the adult portions’ become adequately seasoned. I like to add the raw leek as it provides a fresh taste as well as a contrasting texture from the smooth creaminess of the risotto.

Risotto is excellent baby food as it is so versatile: you can feed it in a variety of ways. For baby led weaning you could simply squash the peas and pop this, once cooled a little on a plate/highchair tray (messy but effective). You can also wait for the risotto to cool, mash the peas and roll it into balls the size of a walnut. These can be coated in parmesan and bread crumbs and lightly fried to create finger food. Finally you can pop it all in a blender and puree to you required consistency. This is what I have done today as when Will isn’t well he prefers to be fed by me.

What are your favourite comfort foods? I’d love to know!

 

 

Feta Filo parcels 

We are going away this weekend to Cardiff; it’s going to be our first trip away with Will. I know people travel with much younger children than this, but for us it’s a first, and I must admit I’m nervous! Nervous of leaving something behind, nervous of  a mid John Lewis meltdown and most of all, nervous that Will’s routine will get completely disrupted. It took 9 and a half months for Will to sleep for longer than 2 hours in a row, and for the last couple of weeks he has been sleeping through the night, it’s been absolute bliss and I would hate to end up back at square one! So this week I’ve been making lists, lists of lists and using up everything in the fridge!

We grow courgettes and this year we are inundated! So they are constantly in my fridge and I’m forever looking for new ways to use them. This recipe is a quicker, modified version of a Jamie Oliver recipe for a filo pie.

Filo makes brilliant crispy carriers for little hands to grip, making these brilliant finger food. I made Will some spring roll shaped versions, while we had rustic parcels. Its also lighter than puff or shortcrust pastry, making these feel almost saintly. This recipe is incredibly simple, and it really showcases the ingredients, so buy the best tomatoes you can. This same advice goes for the feta and the courgettes too but the tomatoes should be lovely and sweet against the salty savouriness of the cheese.

Ingredients 

This would make 5 parcels or 4 parcels and some finger rolls for babies. 

  • 200g grated courgette
  • 100g fresh tomatoes
  • 150g feta cheese
  • 1 medium egg
  • Small handful of basil
  • A few mint leaves
  • Butter for greasing
  • 5 rectangular filo sheets

Method 

  • Preheat oven to 180c and add place the baking tray in the oven to heat up
  • Remove filo from fridge, it’s easier to work with when it’s room temperature but keep the packet sealed until the last minute. If it dries out it becomes brittle and cracks.
  • Using a course grater, grate your courgette and add to a large bowl
  • De-seed and finely dice the tomatoes and add them to the courgette
  • Crumble in the feta and add the egg, stir to combine
  • Finely chop the mint, shred the basil leaves and add to mixture.
  • Melt a small amount of butter in a dish
  • Remove filo from packet

For the parcel shaped adult versions: 

  • Cut 1 filo sheet in half to make 2 squares.
  • Lay one square in front of you, using a pastry brush, lightly cover it in melted butter, and place the other square on top of it, at an angle (see photo).
  • Spoon roughly two tablespoons of mixture into centre, gather the pastry and scrunch into he centre with a little twist as you go. They are meant to look rustic! Repeat this until you have 4 parcelsimg_5892-1.jpg

For the baby finger food versions:

  • Cut one rectangular sheet into 4 small rectangles.
  • Spoon a line of mixture into the middle of each rectangle
  • Fold the both ends over the line of mixture and then roll up to form a spring roll- like appearance
  • Once you have made your filo shapes, lightly brush them with the melted butter.
  • Remove hot baking tray from the oven, cover in baking paper and add filo parcels and/or rolls
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until the pastry is golden and crispy (mine caught a little so these photographs aren’t as good as I would have liked, but for me food is about taste, and they tasted lovely!)

These are delicious hot or cold, but the pastry is crisper when warm. We enjoyed ours with some garden-grown salad. Will enjoyed them for a few minutes before throwing them on the floor for the dog!

I’d love to hear from you if you give this a go or if you have any great courgette recipes I could try!