This adventure in bread-baking and chorizo soup is brought to you by the slightly eccentric Doris Grant – author of ‘Your Daily Loaf’, (which arguably led on to every single book about baking bread being titled with some kind of play on words). She came up with the, frankly, revolutionary idea that bread doesn’t really need to be kneaded, and could actually be made quickly and simply, and still come out right. She’s a fascinating woman – not only did she go to our very own Glasgow School of Art, she also taught herself how to make fancy jewellery during the war (there was a shortage, naturally) which was so good it was picked up by the Queen’s dressmaker and sold in his London boutique (find out more about her adventures here). She sufffered arthritis from a young age, which got her thinking about the impact of healthy eating, and she seems more or less to have waged a crusade against refined carbohydrates. “If you love your husbands, keep them away from white bread . . .If you don’t love them, cyanide is quicker but bleached bread is just as certain, and no questions asked”. Harsh, Doris. Harsh, but fair.
Anyway, I started baking bread because its cheaper than buying it. Then I realized its tasty. And Doris is right – it’s much, much healthier. Bonus.
The main feature of trying to eat healthy and cheaply is that less money = more time and effort. It would probably be nicer and easier to buy all those sweetly wrapped little pots of greek salad and fancy individually be-ribboned nectarines from foodhalls with mood lighting, and if I was loaded, I damn well would, and I’d love it. But actually if you have the time, and enjoy cooking, it can be a treat to set aside a while to get stuck in to a recipe. It’s a cliche, but baking bread is pretty rewarding, and (I think) it’s not just about making food but about taking care of the daily grind. As Delia verbosely said about cooking: “it’s wonderful and it’s beautiful and it’s art – it’s everything”.
Easy peasy bread recipe, thanks to Doris and Delia – no kneading required:
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Put 570g of room-temperature wholemeal flour into a bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons of easy-blend dried yeast. Give it a good stir.
2. Make a well in the middle, and pour in 400ml of water. To get exactly the right temperature of water (hand-hot), mix half boiled and half cold water together.
3. Stir it all about until it forms a dough. (Handy tip: the dough is better too sticky than too dry).
4. Dump it out on to a floured surface and stretch the dough out to an oblong, then fold one edge into the centre and the other edge over that. To make it look like a big doughy envelope.
5. Put it in a well-greased tin. (Envelope fold facing down). Like so:
6. And now. THE MAGIC. Cover it in a damp tea-towel and leave it next to a heater for half an hour. (Or in a warm room for 45 mins). It will magically grow, because of science. Like so:
7. Put it in the oven for 40 mins.. Take it out, remove from tin and knock on the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, its done. If it makes a dull thud, put it back in for a bit longer. And you’re done. Way easier than baking a cake.
My next recipe is for drizzly days in May. You can make this with whatever root vegetables are cheapest.
Chorizo and Sweet Potato Soup:
1. Chop onion and pop in a pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and set over a medium heat. Peel and chop up a couple of sweet potatoes, along with any root vegetables you like (swedes, carrots, parsnips, potatoes) and a red pepper. Add all the chopped veg.
2. Boil a kettle. Fill the pan up with just-boiled water. Add two vegetable stock cubes, salt and pepper, a tablespoon of mild curry powder and a handful of fresh chopped parsley. Next, roughly chop up a lump of chorizo. You don’t need a a lot – the last time I made this I used about 70p worth of chorizo. Add to the pan.
3. Let it boil gently until all the veg is soft. Take off the heat. Using an electric hand-held blender, blend the soup until it is a smooth reddish-gold. There should be little flecks of red chorizo and green parsley in there.
4. Add another handful of chopped parslay, and salt and pepper to taste.
This soup is the best – blended chorizo as an ingredient in things has CHANGED MY LIFE. It’s an excellent way to make root vegetables palatable (I mean who actually eats swede in its unadulterated state?) – silky, spicy, healthy soup.
This recipe is so obvious that I’m pretty sure I’m the last person to have thought of it. It is essentially ‘rice and vegetables’. I’ve included it because I felt like I’d really nailed the healthy + cheap conundrum when I started making this.
1. Boil brown rice (wholegrain Basmati is best) for a really loooooong time. About an hour I usually find is enough. Best to start this recipe when you have other things to do around the house while the rice is boiling. On the plus side, Basmati rice smells amazing when its boiling – a sort of toasty buttery popcorn smell.
2. Very finely chop up a selection of raw veg – I find the following work best: spinach, red onion, peppers, rocket, peashoots, cherry tomatoes. Put in a bowl with a teaspoon of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper, fresh chopped mint and fresh chopped parsley (again, parsley works well in many things).
3. Finely chop an aubergine and fry it in a mix of half-n-half oil and lemon juice, until soft.
4. Add aubergine to bowl.
5. When rice is finally ready, drain it and rinse it with cold water. Add to the bowl.
6. Stir it all about. Add quite a bit more lemon juice, to taste. Not only does it taste like a Greek holiday, but it looks very pretty and colourful. When you’re feeling skint, this can be made with really whatever you have on hand. The essential ingredients – brown rice, lemon, salt and pepper – are cheap as chips, and then you can add whatever veg you fancy.
I’m not going to pretend I don’t have a raging Kinder Beuno addiction that is starting to spin out of control, and I may be partial to chips and cheese around 4am on a Friday night, but having recipes like these on the go tends to make things (life, health, bank balance) generally better. Bread especially. Thanks to Doris.