Saturday, 28 July 2012


So normally making guacamole is very simple for me: I put an avocado into one of Tom's hands and a knife in the other, and say something like; 'We're having chill for dinner!' and guacamole happens.  I genuinely didn't know how, until, deserted, I had to figure out how to make it for myself.

Here are most of the ingredients.  Typically, I didn't pull one key element out of the refrigerator but we can have that as a surprise later.

NB that piece of chilli is frozen - they come in great big bags, especially if you buy them at the Indian grocers, and nobody can finish them that fast.  I freeze them and then cut lumps off as required - they defrost enough to be easily to cut in about 2 minutes.

First task is avocado stoning, where you halve the beast, smack a knife into the stone (carefully avoiding cutting off own hand at wrist, or any wayward fingers) and then turn the knife like a clock hand to release the stone.  This works like a dream, though I sometimes find getting the soapy stone off the knife is a bit of an adventure.

Using a butter knife, dice the avocado flesh and then remove it to a bowl with a spoon.  Voila:

Juice your half lime and sprinkle over some salt. Leave to macerate for 20 minutes or so, while you mince 1 large clove of garlic and about an inch of red chilli.

(sneak tomato portrait) 

Cut a medium-large tomato in half and remove the seeds (I usually throw them in the main dish, if it's a saucy one), and then cut the flesh into large dice.  Take the leaves off around 6 big sprigs of coriander/cilantro and chop coarsely.

Pour off any lime juice which hasn't been absorbed into the avocado and mash it a bit with a fork or a spoon, depending on how ripe your avocado was.  Stir in the chilli, garlic and tomato.  Add the coriander/cilantro just before you serve it, and taste to see if it needs more salt.  With chips, chilli, quesadillas, tamales, bread...anything, really.  It doesn't keep so you really should finish it.  Yes.  That's why you should finish it.  Ahem.

Technically, 1 ordinary avocado could probably be said to yield 2 servings.  This has never really been noticeable for me.

Making Guac, the Tom Way

Take one soft avocado.  Cut around the stone and separate the halves.  Smack a large knife into the stone (miss own arm and fingers) and give a slight turn to remove the stone.  Use the butter knife to dice the flesh and then spoon it into a bowl.  Add the juice of half a lime and around half a teaspoon of salt.  Leave to macerate for around 20 minutes.

In the meantime, finely dice half a deseeded chilli and a clove of garlic.  Remove the seeds from half a medium-large tomato and dice the flesh quite chunkily; a finely sliced spring onion is optional.  Coarsely chop the leaves from 6 or so sprigs of coriander/cilantro.

Drain any excess lime juice from the avocado and mash it coarsely.  Stir in everything else.  Eat all at once, with gusto, chips or Mexican dishes.

Er.  This was the day it got to bedtime and I found I'd accidentally made fairy cakes.  True story.  These things happen to me...

Monday, 23 July 2012

Success! (with pitta)

I had a marvellous weekend.  Stuff went well.  I cleaned, to start with.  Sometimes that's a mood that takes me.  The weather was beautiful.  A friend came around for dinner.  We went to Ikea, and even that was fun.  I managed to scrounge a lift to the supermarket and didn't have to do my shopping online.  I learned to play a new piece of music on the concertina AND figured it out sort of on the guitar. 

We'll skate over the dental experiences of Friday and the fact that my lover is still 5,000 miles away - though the first of those was less bad than it could have been, and the second, well, he seems to be having fun and sends me a lot of photos.*

But Success with Pitta, on the third attempt, was my crowning glory.  I cheered when I saw the balloon in the oven.  The key is a blisteringly hot oven...

Pitta Bread
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

454g bread flour – I used a combination of flours, because I’m the kind of person who can get excited about that kind of thing, and went with 200g of strong white bread flour, 200g of 00 flour and 50g of spelt because I like how it tastes. Don’t use too much wholemeal, but otherwise any bread flour combination will be fine.
295g water at room temperature (using leftovers in the kettle is a good option, chlorine is bad)
12g salt (around 2tsp, err on the low side)
7g instant yeast (one of those little sachets)
27g olive oil (around 2tbsp)

Combine everything in a bowl into a sticky mass then cover the bowl with a plate and go away for half an hour. This lets the flour soak up the water properly, making it easier to work.

Kneading. This is a soft dough, it’s going to be sticky. Remove all jewellery, then scrape it out of the bowl into your hands. Proceed to stretch in your hands and then scrunch it back up and pull it in a different direction, keeping it in the air so it doesn’t stick to anything except your hands.

Keep going for 10 minutes. You’ll notice the dough changing in texture – you’ll be able to stretch it more before it starts to break. If you haven’t used any brown flour, you should be able to stretch the dough into a little windowpane without it breaking. Your arms will probably hurt a bit, but hey, got to get the workout in…

Using your third hand (or significant other, or just dealing with the fact you’re going to cover the bottle in dough), drop about a teaspoon of oil in the bottom of a bowl. It can be the first bowl, with bits still stuck to it, don’t look at me for extra washing up. Scrape the dough off your hands into one lump and put it on top of the oil, turning it to coat.

Cover the bowl again, and put the dough in the fridge for at least 4 hours, punching it down every half an hour or so. You can leave it there for up to 3 days.

An hour before you’re ready to bake, turn the oven on to its highest setting – if you’ve got the option of dual grill/oven, use that to get the temperature up as high as you can. Put a cast iron skillet in to preheat, too, or your very thickest baking sheet.

Half an hour before baking, take the dough out of the fridge and divide into 12 more or less equal Clementine sized balls. Start with the first ball formed, keeping the rest covered with a cloth. On a floured surface, roll each ball out as far as it will go (probably only about 10cm at this point) and re-cover to relax.

Go round again, and roll the first round of dough out to less than half a centimetre thick – they will be around 18cm in diameter. Keep flouring!

Check the oven temperature – it should be about as hot as it goes at this point. I Love My Oven Thermometer, and it read around 250 degrees C. Transferring your round of dough onto the hot surface without it getting all folded up is a bit of a skill, but I discovered the oven glove was a better tool than my hand because it was wider and flatter and had fewer things to catch on. The other oven glove was definitely involved in the handling of the hot pan. I only managed to burn my knee and was reasonably thrilled about that.

Slap the dough round onto the hot skillet, quickly close the oven and time 3 minutes. The bread should have puffed up like a balloon. Pick it out with tongs and move to a wire rack to cool; repeat with each round.

Stuff with Stuff. I made falafel, but halloumi and salad and pickled chillies is a bit of a fantasy for the remaining breads, which are in my freezer awaiting inspiration…

*Of VOODOO DONUTS, no less.