Best scones, made with sourdough discard

13 January 2022

I am beginning to suspect that these scones are justification alone for nurturing a sourdough mother in the first place. They are so good, quite a notch above any other scones I have ever made or tried. They came into my life unexpectedly, thanks to a friend who made them for a (licit!, low-key) birthday gathering in the park last year. I quickly asked for the recipe. And immediately began playing around with ingredients.

The original recipe is with chocolate chips but I’ve been riffing on them brazenly since the beginning (I don’t love chocolate chips). Some sweet, some savory, all of them spur-of-the-moment improvisations, usually with what’s in the house.

The first were with pancetta and wild garlic, I made them for Easter last year (first and last photos). This weekend, guided again by vestiges in the fridge, it was leek, chorizo, and pecorino — so good! (even though I forgot to put in half of the leeks. Always running out of time and doing everything at the very last minute…). Cheddar and leeks would be great too. Or chives and smoked trout!

The sweet versions have remained more constant: sultanas, corinth raisins, and walnuts is a perfect combination. But I can imagine slivered almonds with little bits of dried apricots. Walnuts and figs. Pistachios and barberries…

The possibilities are endless.

Was homemade sourdough to disappear from my life, these scones might be the most missed casualty.

Sourdough discard scones adapted from Little Spoon Farm
This is a basic recipe which includes ingredient suggestions for either sweet or savory versions. Begin by choosing the type of scones desired before starting out. If I were to make plain scones I would follow the sweet recipe and include sugar at the very least, and probably vanilla extract and lemon zest too.

Wet ingredients
125g (1/2 cup) sourdough discard
1 egg
2 Tbsps heavy cream (plus 2 Tbsps to brush the scones before baking)
1 Tbsp yogurt

In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients — sourdough discard, egg, cream, and yogurt. Set aside.

Dry ingredients
250g (2 cups) flour (I usually use white spelt)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps baking powder
113g very cold butter (this is important as it will be grated into the dough)

In a large bowl, whik together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

Grate in the cold butter and use fingertips to crumble well into the flour mix until it ressembles something like coarse crumbs. Set aside.

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Components for sweet scones
2 Tbsps sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest from 1/2 lemon
160g dried fruit and nuts (for example: currants, sultanas, and walnuts; finely chopped dried apricots and slivered almonds; finely chopped figs and walnuts; chopped pistachios and barberries; …)

Components for savory scones
A handful of green: chopped wild garlic or finely sliced leeks (these I sear in a little oil in a pan for 3 to 4 minutes) or finely chopped chives — all well washed.
A handful of meat: finely diced pancetta (lightly browned in a small pan), finely cubed chorizo (can be left raw), finely cup smoked trout or salmon
A handful of grated cheese: Parmiggiano, cheddar, pecorino, … (though I might omit the cheese if using smoked fish)

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Mix the chosen components into the dry ingredients and combine to distribute evenly.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix by hand just enough to create a dough that holds together. It will be quite dry but there should be no need to add any liquid.

Create a ball, then flatten it into a very thick pancake. Place the ‘pancake’ onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cut it into eight pie wedges. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in the fridge for at least half an hour and up to overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

Brush the scones with heavy cream (and sprinkle the sweet scones with sugar if desired), slide into the oven, and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

The scones are best eaten immediately, if possible still warm!

Galette des rois with almonds and apple sauce

6 January 2022

Was it acceptable to eat a galette des rois on Tuesday 4th January 2022?

My former self never thought of galette before the 6th, which is the official date of Epiphany. For Christians, it is the 12th day of Christmas on which Jesus was presented to the magi (wise men, or ‘kings’). For us heathens, Epiphany is the excuse for galette. I was always scrupulously attached to the date, but this year, things are different. Enticed by my father who mentioned they were having a galette on Sunday (last Sunday), I decided to shatter conventions and invite friends over for an end-of-the-holidays, delayed-return-to-school, afternoon galette goûter on Tuesday. In France it is acceptable to eat galette anytime in January, is it not?!

Not so simple. My friends immediately accepted, though they were, I learned, a little confused by the invitation. Galette on the 4th? Was this acceptable? We did the research. As it turns out, like a number of countries in which Epiphany is not a bank holiday, France, since the Concordat of 1801, benefits from an official exception awarded by the Catholic church to celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday (i.e. nonworking day) that falls between the 2nd and the 8th of January. It has therefore been acceptable, this year, to eat galette since Sunday 2nd January — Phew!

In any case, it is certainly advised to continue buying, baking, eating, and sharing galettes until the end of the month.

You can find more galette stories and traditions here and here.

After the classic version with almond filling, and a venerable one with poached pears, I have cracked the almond and apple sauce recipe attempted last year. Here it is!

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Galette des rois with almonds and apple sauce
For a galette about 30 cm (12″) in diameter
I make a very tart unsweetened apple sauce, as anything else would be too sweet.

2 sheets puff pastry (best, pure-butter, store-bought kind, or self-made)
75g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
At least 6 very tart apples (Russet are great)
100g (1 cup) whole almonds (for this galette I like whole almonds with the peel that are home ground, but for ease almond flour would work too)
75 g (1/3 cup) sugar
25g candied orange or citrus peel, or zest from 1/2 orange
Pinch salt
1 egg
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp rum

1 egg yolk and 2 Tbsps milk for the eggwash
1 fève (dried fava bean or small porcelain figurine)

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer, if applicable.
Let the butter soften in a warm spot (not too hot, it shouldn’t melt!) until it becomes easy to beat with a spoon.

Meanwhile make the applesauce. Cut, core, and peel the apples in quarters. Cut each quarter in half crosswise. Place the prepared apples in a saucepan, with a milimeter of water at the bottom to help it not stick. Cook the apples over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until all the chunks are soft. Take off the heat and set aside.

Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse grind until fine. Add the sugar and, if using, the finely cut candied fruit or the orange zest, and process a few minutes longer.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy.

Add the almond/sugar mix to the butter and mix well before beating in the eggs, one at a time, combining each thoroughly into the batter. Stir in the salt, almond extract, and rum. Refrigerate if possible (Anywhere from half an hour and up to 24h until ready to use.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into two circles of the same size (about 30 cm or 12″). Use a tarte dish or other to trim the circles into neat edges.

Place one circle of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the almond cream on the dough, leaving an edge of about 1 cm (1/2 inch) along the circumference. Place the fève randomly onto the cream. Spread a layer of apple sauce on top of the almond cream. (There may be some left over, all the better!)

Make an egg wash by beating 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of milk lightly with a fork. Brush the egg wash along the circumference of the dough. Carefully place the second round of dough on top and press along the edge thoroughly to seal. (Reserve the rest of the egg wash in the fridge.)

Place the assembled galette in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes (or overnight).

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C) and remove the galette from the refrigerator. With a sharp knife, etch a design onto the galette, then brush generously with the rest of the egg wash.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the galette is golden brown.

Serve warm (lightly reheated if necessary). The person who finds the fève is queen, or king, for the day!

Roast duck with mandarins and ginger

29 December 2021

After more than twenty years of celebrating Christmas at home — in Berlin, in New York, in London, once upon a time just the two of us, and now, more often than not, with our gathered families — we may finally have found a Christmas meal tradition!

I cannot remember ever making the same meal twice for Christmas day. We’ve had goose stuffed with apples and sage, ham, venison gulash, beef Wellington, even lamb shoulders. Nothing sticks.

And though we’ve experimented with all sorts, I especially like the idea of a bird. I love goose, but I am wary of the endless jugs of fat that ultimately need collecting and filtering and jarring and storing… Turkey is instantly disqualified as there was turkey for Thanksgiving, and that seems plenty ’til next year. And so duck. It seems an obvious choice, and if we’ve not had it before (or, at least, not repeatedly) it must be because it wasn’t the perfect recipe.

Finding that perfect meal for Christmas day, which comes at the tail end of a stream of feasting since October, has been tricky, when the temptation is strong to do little else but eat Stollen all day and leaf, play, and puzzle through the Christmas gifts. The day warrants something special — simple enough, but also outrageously delicious enough, to make us want to cook again. This is it!

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Roast duck with mandarins and ginger recipe, slightly adapted from David Tanis in the NY Times
Notes: This recipe has an overnight rest, but it is also possible to do everything in one go, as we did this year.
For two ducks we doubled all the ingredients except the glaze, of which we made just the amount suggested here. It was plenty.

For the duck:

One duck (approximately 2.5kg) without neck and giblets (reserve for another use)
3 Tbsps Maldon or coarse grey sea salt
1 Tbsp homemade 5-spice powder (see recipe below)
Zest from a couple of oranges or mandarins (see ingredients for the glaze)
2 whole mandarins
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp grated garlic

For the glaze

1 1/2 cups juiced oranges or mandarins (and their zest, see above)
1 Tbsps honey
3 Tbsps soy sauce
5-cm (2-inch) piece of ginger, thickly sliced
3 star anise

Pat the duck dry and remove any excess fat from the cavirty and trim a bit of the flappy neck skin. Prick the skin of the duck all over with a sharp knife tip, taking care not to poke into the flesh. (It’s not as hard as it sounds!)

Mix together the salt and 5-spice mix and use it to season the interior as well as the exterior of the duck by taking small handfulls and rubbing it all over, inside and out.

Combine the zest from the juiced oranges (or mandarins), with the grated ginger and garlic and rub this inside the duck cavity. Cut the 2 whole mandarins into quarters, and place the quarters into the duck cavity. Tie the legs together and skewer the neck flap into place (with a skewer or toothpick). Place the duck on a rack in a roasting tin breast side up and refrigerate overnight. Alternatively, continue immediately.

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Meanwhile make the glaze and take the duck out of the refrigerator (if applicable) to come to room temperature.

To make the glaze: Bring the orange (or mandarin) juice, honey, and soy sauce to a simmer. Add the sliced ginger and star anise and simmer gently until the mixture thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Roast the duck at 220C (425F) for 20 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 150C (300F), turn the duck over (breast side down), and roast for a further one and a half hours, turning and basting the duck every half hour. After one and a half hours, turn the duck breast side up again, paint it with the glaze and roast for another 45 minutes to an hour.

Remove the duck from the oven and let it rest, covered with aluminum foil, for about 20 minutes before carving and serving. Meanwhile pour and strain the juices from the roasting tray and reheat until piping hot to serve over the duck.

The duck goes particularly well with mashed celeriac with parsley, and a spoonful of cranberry sauce leftover from Thanksgiving.

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5-spice mix
(Yields about 3 tablespoons)

1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cloves
6 star anise
5-cm (2-inch) cinnamon stick
12 allspice berries
Grind all the spices in a spice grinder to a fine powder.
Store in a small glass jar.

List | Tried and true gifts for the kitchen

8 December 2021

Every year I consider publishing some Christmas gift ideas — can’t resist a list! — but … I’m such a minimalist shopper that nearly all I own in the kitchen I’ve had for years, if not decades, so I’m the last person to ask about the newest gifty things and gadgets that have just come out!

Well precisely, perhaps. All of the things listed here have proven their usefulness and resistance over many many years. They are also, not incidentally, beautifully designed, and using them makes me happy every time — which is nearly every day.

Contrary to my list of coveted cookbooks, this guide features only things that I already own, that I’ve used for years and that I take pleasure in using, however mundane the task. So for a change it isn’t self serving (!), it’s intended purely as inspiration.

All of these I would give or have given or have received, I think each one makes an excellent gift (and I’d be happy to receive some of them again… Ha, self serving after all!).

POTS AND PANS

LODGE cast iron skillets — I use only cast iron skillets, I don’t own any others anymore (except a specific crêpe pan) and I’ve never missed them. There are other beautiful brands but I love the simple ‘undesigned’ Lodge look. It’s a classic brand and very reasonably priced. Our little nestled collection of four is used daily and serves our every need — we have a 12 inch, 8 inch, 6.5 inch, and 5 inch skillet.

Le Creuset enamelled cast iron pots — It’s a little unfair to start by saying that I’ve secretly coveted a large Staub cocotte for years… BUT Le Creuset is an indispensable part of our kitchen. We have one basic 4.2l round casserole, a large 7.5l oval casserole great for slow braising lamb and pork shoulders, and a shallow 3.5l casserole that is super useful for vegetables.

KNIVES

An amazing Japanese knife that is only taken out a few times a year to cut steak tartare, smoked salmon, or raw fish for sushi or poke bowls is completely worth it and a stellar present. (With a specific mention for the excellent shop that is Kitchen Provisions.)

But so are these (much more everyday) Opinel knives. They fold up completely and can be used at home as well as for picnics. They are indispensable and ubiquitous in every French household, and everyone has a preferred size. I love the smaller blades (no.06) for everyday picnic use, but I am also pretty smug about my enormous fairy-tale ogre’s no12 knife. Most people like the more standard no8. The knives all come in a choice of stainless steel (easy maintenance) or carbon steel (sharper), and different types of wood.

TOOLS AND ACCESSORIES

The Classic Swiss vegetable peeler may look unremarkable and even a bit uncomfortable with its sharp-edged metal handle, but these are hands down my favourite peelers. The blades are sharp and have the right angle, the handle is easy to hold, they just work the best. And personally I think they look nicer than other more ergonomically designed ones.

Mason Cash original white pudding basins — These are mixing and serving bowls rolled into one. They may not be the most resistant and durable of available kitchen bowls (I have a few metal ones too), but they are so useful and versatile, and tactile. I use them to mix bread dough, cake batter, to serve salads, and as chips bowls for apéro!

TABLEWARE

Sturdy Duralex glasses used in school cantines (and many other places) all over France for decades have now become ubiquitous elsewhere. My favourite style is the Provence tumbler (160ml / pictured above). It is harder to find than other designs but I think it’s more elegant, and suits well for a glass of wine.

Falcon tumblers — All Falcon enamelware is lovely and classic and covetable, but I am especially partial to these tumblers which we’ve been using assiduously this past year as our favourite picnic (wine) glasses.

Shanagarry Egg cups — The children gave us these beautiful eggcups for Christmas last year and I’ve only just realised they are a classic design by Stephen Pearce from the Shanagarry Pottery in County Cork, Ireland. This ignorance didn’t preclude them from becoming the only egg cups we grab in the morning, and we really do use them every single day at breakfast. I love them very much.

Ok, I can’t resist, here is ONE thing I don’t own that I would love to have one day… because anyone who has come to our house can tell you that while we are decently adept in the coffee department, our tea selection/equipment/paraphernalia is deplorable. And we’ve lived in London for eight. years. already!!

Happy gifting shopping!

List | Coveted cookbooks in 2021

29 November 2021

My head spins at the number of cookbooks that come out every season, and for a while my reaction was to hide in the sand and stop purchasing any. I was missing out, of course. And as I started to feel my cooking running in circles, last year, I also found real pleasure and solace in delving into cookbooks again. I’ve bought quite a pile over the past months, and there are a few more that I covet.

I began perusing lists. There are many lists of cookbooks to buy in 2021. Each one has one or two or a few that whisper out to me, but no compendium was entirely satisfactory. I am creating my own.

More than individual recipes, I look for books with a distinct wholeness, which might permeate from the story, the voice, to the photographs, the design, — the paper! One of my top favourites in that respect is Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem. In all those senses it is practically perfect. It transports immediately, before the beautiful cloth cover has even been opened, and from there the journey continues.

Once I have looked at, felt, and opened a book, the next test is to leaf through the recipes. If the rest holds true, a couple, or even one great recipe can be enough to convince me that the book is worth having.

Leaning on these criteria here is a subjective, very personal (wish)list of cookbooks published in the past two years. As Thomas pointedly remarked ‘Oh, so this is basically your Christmas list.’ Well, in fact, yes! In alphabetical order.

Advent / by Anja Dunk

I am cheating already as I actually bought this book as soon as it came out. I love Anja’s previous books, her charcoal drawings and linocuts, her food. I met Anja a few years ago at the most memorable Christmas cookie baking adventure, at (the now closed) FEEST in Stoke Newington, during a biblical downpour which infiltrated the café in every corner. We spent a large part of the afternoon lugging huge pans of water to contain to flood! The true reason is, the book is perfect. The organisation in 24 chapters for the 24 days of Advent, the linocut illustrations by Anja, and the sheer abundance of recipes, which is sure to complicate my Christmas preparations… So many (more) things I would like to bake! Were there to be just one book this year it would have to be Advent. It already is.

Baking with Fortitude / by Dee Rettali

I haven’t yet been to Fortitude bakehouse but a good friend knows it well and I trust her judgment completely. Having learned more about the Fortitude story, and held and leafed through the book, I know I will love it and bake from it. All made with sourdough!

Black Food / edited by Bryant Terry

Described as ‘genre defying,’ this book is a collection of essays, stories, art, and recipes. It is one of a kind and not to be missed.

The Flavour Equation / by Nik Sharma (also Season, 2018)

I am not sure how either of Nik Sharma’s books have eluded me so far, perhaps the fact that I have a pernicious habit of buying cookbooks in their original edition, and I haven’t been in the US for a few years…

Getaway / by Renee Erickson with Sara Dickerman

An exception here as I haven’t seen this book but I love the premise of food as a means of travelling, not to just one place, as is often the case, but as many mini escapades through the palate. And I’ve have heard such good things!

In Bibi’s Kitchen / Hawa Hassan and Julia Turshen

Here is another book I haven’t held, but again the idea is excellent. As described in the subtitle, it captures: ‘The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean.’

Taste / by Stanley Tucci

Because of Big Night, one of the best food films of all time. And also, I admit, everyone seems to be reading and talking about it!

Towpath / by Lori de Mori and Laura Jackson

I was a bit late to the party, but the renowned canal-side café has become my favourite coffee/breakfast/brunch/walk/or/cycle pit-stop. It really is unique, and the book captures this singularity, in all the best ways.

And here are a few other recent books I do own that I would recommend:

A to Z of pasta / by Rachel Roddy

A delicious book for all lovers of pasta. Rachel Roddy’s stories and recipes are always delectable.

Falastin / by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

The essential complement to Jerusalem (see above!)

Red Sands / by Caroline Eden

Transporting vicarious travel, in a time when we couldn’t really.


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