July 2020 – Food with Jenny
Hello there! My name is Jenny and I am a newly qualified vegan doctor living in Norwich. If you’re not familiar with Norwich it is a quaint little city in the east of England. It isn’t the sort of city that you happen to just stumble across, because simply it is in the middle of nowhere surrounded by English forestland and countryside. It is also pretty famous for Colman’s mustard…but anyway, today I want to talk briefly about becoming vegan and basically how I learnt to cook all over again.
Cooking is the centre of every occasion. It brings friends, family and sometimes complete strangers together. For me it has always been a way to express kindness and affection to those around me. A good plate of homemade food is much better than a hug in my opinion! I grew up on a very meat heavy diet. According to my family if a meal didn’t have meat in it, it wasn’t a nutritious meal. Back in university, my grandparents used to think that I was struggling financially if I made a vegetable ragu with spaghetti. “Where is the meat? Do you need me to send you some money?’ I didn’t become vegan overnight because it would have been a shock to the system. I wouldn’t know overnight how to adapt my cooking and enjoy food without feeling that I would be missing out on something. I stopped eating meat first, after two months I removed dairy and eggs from my diet, and shortly after I stopped eating fish. This worked for me, but every person is different. Why so extreme do you ask? I have my reasons, including animal welfare, the environment and of course – health. These issues are deeply personal to me and have created such an incentive for me to never look back. To those interested, there is a lot of information out there about the topic of veganism. I encourage those who are interested to investigate it a little bit and learn about why so many people are now deciding to change their diets so dramatically.
Veganism is so much more than removing the meat from the plate. It is about reinventing your cooking and cerebrating the humble vegetable. Learning how to cook tofu has been a revelation in my kitchen. I had tired tofu once in a restaurant years ago, and it wasn’t a pleasant memory. A white watery cube floating in a coconut sauce. Not very appetising at all; it turns out that a lot of people have this perception. But now I have discovered that tofu is one of the most diverse ingredients out there. For those interested I have created a website documenting all of my favourite vegan recipes over the past two years. The website is www.thisdoctorcooks.co.uk. I get so much joy from seeing others recreate my dishes. The website originally started as a way to document my ideas and recipes. But now it is much more than that. I hope you enjoy flicking through the recipes and maybe creating a few of them. If you do post the pictures of your creations on Instagram, please tag me using @thisdoctorcooks so that I can see! For now, I will leave you with one of my favourite and most popular dishes – tomato and aubergine gnocchi.
Tomato and Aubergine Gnocchi
- 750g gnocchi
- 2 medium aubergines
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 3 eschalion shallots, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 long sweet red pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 cups tomato passata
- 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- Sea salt, cracked black pepper
- Rapeseed oil
- Optional toppings: roasted vine tomatoes and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (fan).
- Place a large griddle pan over a high heat and add a splash of rapeseed oil.
- Remove the stalk from the aubergines and cut them in half lengthways. Score the flesh of the aubergine and place it flesh side down into the hot smoking griddle pan. Allow to cook the aubergine on the pan for 3-4 minutes. Remove the aubergine and place onto a baking tray. Squeeze on some lemon juice, a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes.
- Next heat a large frying pan and add a splash of rapeseed oil. When the oil is hot add the shallots and crushed garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes on a medium heat
- Next add the red pepper and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, paprika, stock, parsley, red wine vinegar and brown sugar. Leave to simmer on a medium heat, whilst you wait for the aubergine to finish cooking.
- Remove the aubergine from the oven. Once cool enough to handle roughly dice it into pieces, keeping on the skin. Add the aubergine to the tomato sauce. Using a handheld blender partially blitz the aubergine down into the sauce. Leave once again to simmer.
- Cook the gnocchi according to packet instructions and transfer directly into the sauce using a large slotted spoon, reserving the cooking water.
- Allow the gnocchi to soak up the smoky flavours of your homemade tomato and roasted aubergine sauce. Dish up and enjoy!
June 2020 – Baking With Paul Youd
For all those who made their own hot cross buns this year, don’t put away those skills until next year! Extend that expertise and turn your hot cross bun dough into a whole range of brilliant breads:
- Chelsea buns
- Swedish tea ring
- Apfel kuchen (German apple cake)
- Christmas (celebration) loaf
- Fruit loaf
- Schiacciata con l’uva
Here’s my original hot cross bun recipe – which is itself a variation on spicy fruit buns.
- 400g (or 2 mugs) strong white flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tsp each mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg
- 200g (or 1 mug) dried fruit (currants, sultanas or raisins plus mixed peel)
- 1 dessertspoon fresh yeast or 1 teaspoon dried yeast
- 250ml (or 2/3rds mug) lukewarm water
- 2 dessertspoons olive oil (optional)
Topping: When baked, brush with a glaze made with 1 teaspoon sugar and 2 teaspoons boiling water.
- Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour, sugar, spice and dried fruit into a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid, then add the olive oil.
- Have a little water to hand to add if necessary and begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with the fingers of one hand. Squeeze the mixture together and keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.
- Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up!
- Leave to prove for about an hour on your worktop, covered with a dry tea towel. Or place in an oiled plastic bag until you are ready for step 5.
Hot Cross Buns:
- When you’re ready to proceed, divide the dough into 10-12 pieces and give yourself plenty of room on your worktop. Take one of the pieces in each hand and flatten them down with the palms of your hand. Keeping them pressed down, gently move them round in a circle. After a couple of circles, start to ease the pressure off. Still moving in circles, let your hands form a hollow shape. Gradually cup your hands and relax the pressure, whilst still making the circular movement. Your little finger and thumb should make contact in turn with the side of the roll as it tightens up. Ease off the pressure altogether, and you should have a couple of bun shapes! Place the buns either on greased bun trays or on oven trays lined with baking parchment.
- If these are to be hot cross buns, press down on each one to flatten it slightly, then press a cross into it with the back of a knife. Cover with a teatowel.
- When the buns have risen appreciably, bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7, for about 15 minutes. Check after about 10.7. Whilst the buns are baking, mix 2 dessertspoons of boiling water with a rounded dessertspoon of sugar for a glaze (warm the jug and spoon first). When the buns are done brush them with the glaze straightaway. Place on a cooling rack.
Chelsea buns (use half the mix):
- Roll the dough out into a rectangle, 30cm by 20cm. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sugar. Roll up the dough along the long side, as you would a Swiss roll, and finish with the seam underneath. Cut into 6-8 pieces and place, cut side uppermost, on a prepared baking sheet, about a finger-width apart. They will grow to touch each other as they rise.
- Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until the buns have grown appreciably in size.
- Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7, checking the colour underneath the buns – they should be browned evenly across the bottom. You may need to remove the buns on the outside, which have browned underneath, and replace the others in the oven, upside down if necessary. Place on a cooling rack when they come out of the oven, brush them with the glaze and sprinkle sugar over.
Swedish tea ring (use half the mix):
- Roll the dough out into a rectangle, 30cm by 20cm. Brush with oil, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon and scatter 25g flaked almonds over. Roll up the dough along the long side, as you would a Swiss roll, and bring it to rest on the seam. Place it on a greased baking sheet (or one lined with baking parchment), and form it into a circle. Tuck one end into the other and pinch the join together.
- Leave to rise appreciably. With a sharp knife, or a pair of scissors, slash the ring halfway through at intervals of 4-5cm.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7. To check if it is done, lift one side with a palette knife; if it all lifts together, and there is colour across the base, it is done.8. Place on cooling tray and dust with icing sugar.
Apfel kuchen (German apple cake)
- Roll out the kuchen dough to around 1 cm thick. Place the dough onto a prepared baking sheet.
- Peel and core 2 medium cooking apples, cut them into quarters and each quarter into three slices and place them in rows all over the dough. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon.
- Leave to rise until the kuchen has grown appreciably, then bake for 10 minutes at 220C (425F, gas mark 7) then at 190C (375F, gas mark 6) until the apples are soft and the dough cooked – probably another 10 minutes. Check by lifting the edge of the kuchen with a palette knife – the bottom should be browning.Either eat straight away with cream, custard or ice-cream, or wait until it is cold and slice and eat as a cake.Variation:Any hard fruit – pears, nectarines. I’ve even done it with slices of mango!
Christmas (or celebration) loaf (use half the mix or make 2):
- Roll the dough out into a circle about 20cm across, then shape approximately 50g golden marzipan into a long rope, a little shorter than the width of the dough. Place the marzipan across the middle of the dough and put halves of glacé cherries along each side of the marzipan (saving 3 halved cherries for decorating the top).
- Fold one side of the dough, towards you, over the marzipan and cherries, then fold it over once more, so that the seam is underneath. Tuck the ends underneath to stop the marzipan from leaking out. Place on a prepared baking sheet.
- Using a pair of scissors, snip three cuts in a row in the top of the loaf for the half cherries. Gently, but firmly, insert a halved glacé cherry into the slits with the smooth side on top, tucking the edge of the cherry under the dough on each side (this stops them falling out as the bread rises).
- Cover with a dry tea towel and leave to prove on your worktop until the loaf has grown appreciably in size.9. Bake for 25–30 minutes at 190C, 375F or gas mark 5. To prevent it browning too fast, cover the loaf with baking parchment halfway through baking. Look for colour underneath the loaf to check it is done. Place on a cooling rack when it comes out of the oven and brush with a sugar glaze made from 1 rounded teaspoon of sugar and a dessertspoon of boiling water
- Oil a large loaf tin and shape the dough by pressing it out into a rough rectangle and rolling it up tightly. Put the dough into the tin with the seam underneath and cover with a dry teatowel.
- When the loaf has risen appreciably, bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7, for about 30-35 minutes. Check after about 15.
- Whilst the loaf is baking, mix 2 teaspoons of boiling water with a rounded teaspoon of sugar for a glaze (warm the jug and spoon first). When the loaf is done brush it several times with the glaze. Place on a cooling rack.
Really, the only difference (I think!) between spicy fruit buns and Yorkshire teacakes is that the teacakes are flattened out into a ‘bap’ shape.
- Divide the dough into 10-12 pieces. Take a piece of dough in each hand, and flatten it down with the palms. Keeping them pressed down, gently move them round in a circle. After a couple of circles, start to ease the pressure off. Still moving in circles, let your hands form a hollow shape with your fingertips and wrist both touching the worktop. Gradually cup your hand and relax the pressure, whilst still making the circular movement. The little finger and thumb should make contact in turn with the bottom of the roll as it tightens up. Ease off the pressure altogether, and you should have a round bun shape! Flatten them into rounds either with your hands or a rolling pin. They should be between 8 and 10cm across. Place the buns either on greased bun trays or on oven trays lined with baking parchment and leave to rise appreciably.
- When they’ve really increased in size, bake for about 12-15 minutes at 220C 425F or gas mark 7, checking the colour underneath the buns – they should be browned evenly across the bottom. You may need to remove the buns on the outside, which have browned underneath, and replace the others in the oven, upside down. Brush them with the glaze when they come out of the oven.
- Whilst the teacakes are baking, mix 2 teaspoons of boiling water with a rounded teaspoon of sugar for a glaze (warm the jug and spoon first). When they are done, brush them with the glaze. Place on a cooling rack.
Schiacciata con l’uva
- When you are ready to proceed, place the dough on a floured worktop and divide it into two. Shape the pieces into rounds and roll them out to between 15-18cms, with one (which will be the top) just slightly bigger than the other.
- Place the smaller round onto your prepared baking sheet and cover it with the sultanas. Place the second piece of dough over the first and tuck the edges underneath so that the loaf presents an even finish. Press the grapes firmly into the top of the loaf – in a pattern of your choice.
- Leave to prove until the dough has appreciably increased in size and bake at 200C, 400F or gas mark 6 for between 15-20 minutes. When the loaf is done it should be a good colour underneath. If the top has browned but the bottom is still pale, cover the top with foil or baking parchment to protect it and continue baking until the underneath is cooked.
Obviously, you can make the dough and make two different varieties with it – say a batch of Chelsea buns and an Apfel kuchen.
All the best, Paul Youd