Saturday, 28 March 2015

bagels for non-bread makers

After spending 11 years in Montreal, all other bagels are just not the same to me anymore. Maybe it's the wood ovens or genetics or Montreal tap water. I'm not sure what kind of voodoo Montreal bakers do to make their bagels taste like they do, but I haven't found another variety that I like as much and I can't replicate them at home.

The closest I've come is this recipe from Serious Eats: It's a great one for those of us who should never be allowed to make bread because Bad Things happen. The kids love helping me make these, especially rolling them out.

Don't be put off by all the steps and the weird ass instruction to boil your bagels. They're not having a laugh, it really is the secret to making a great bagel. The only change I make to this recipe is the addition of 1tsp of baking soda to the boiling water. I have no idea what it does but I heard somewhere that this is what makes Montreal bagels so distinct; I throw it in there for good luck. Oh and I don't bother flipping them when baking and I bake for 20 minutes in total.

It does look labour intensive when you read through the recipe, but it really isn't. The process takes time because you have to let the dough rise, but the actual hands-on work is brief.

Here, let me break it down to help illustrate this:
-Chuck everything in a food processor. Blitz for about 1-2 minutes.
-Chuck dough in an oiled bowl with cling film on top. Stick it in the airing cupboard. Faff about on the Internet for an hour. 
-Divide dough into 10 pieces, make wriggly worms, drape around your hand and roll the ends on a counter so they seal. Go faff about on the Internet again for about 10 minutes.
-Boil the water/sugar/baking soda in a large pan, simmer bagels in batches for 1 minute (I usually do this in three batches, so it takes maybe 5 minutes.) The girls do the timing because small children get really excited about crap like that.
-Use child labour to brush the bagels with egg wash and to sprinkle seeds on top. Internet faffing optional at this stage.
-Bake for 20 minutes and play a few rounds of Candy Crush. Leave to cool. 

Slice and freeze if you've got some self control and won't devour all 10 bagels in the same day.

Friday, 20 March 2015

ain't nobody got time for that: weekday recipe roundup

I'm boring myself with my own cooking. I'm limited in what I can make during the week because I'm either in the office or we do All The Things after school on my non-office days. Add this to the fact that two of my kids are relatively picky eaters (thank you Jack for being a human Hoover) and I am NEVER going to cook separate meals for everyone so don't even suggest it, okay?

So this means having to do the rather soul-destroying task of weekly meal planning. I can't just bung things together when I get home, or at least I can't make a regular habit of it. Weekends and Mondays are good because I have more time to cook. The rest of the week is like a food-based game show in which the prize is children that aren't screaming and hungry.

Here is a list of some recipes I've tried out lately that were not only incredibly delicious and fit into my schedule, but the kids actually loved them. Well, except the pasta one because Mia doesn't do pasta. What kid doesn't like pasta? Honestly.

  • Buttermilk roast chicken from the fabulous Smitten Kitchen: based on a Nigella recipe, this does something magical that makes it taste a million times better than plain roasted chicken pieces. You can marinate it up to two days and just whack it in the oven after work for about 35-40 minutes. I serve this with a ready made mash from Tesco that doesn't have any crap in it and just requires a quick trip in the microwave. 
  • Quinoa with things on top (here's a link for some great tips on cooking quinoa): okay look, don't get all arsey with me because I'm mentioning a super trendy food. This quinoa is good stuff if you cook it properly and it holds up very well for a day or two afterwards, unlike its clumpy wannabe twin couscous. Bring to the boil in stock, simmer 15 minutes, drain, put a lid on it and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Job's done. You can get grilled peppers and things you can stick on top with chicken or whatever else you've got. I toss in a little olive oil, lemon juice, and sometimes feta.
  • Slow cooker meatballs: looks labour intensive but isn't, and you can prepare the meatballs the day before. An incredibly rich sauce with flavourful meatballs that made enough to feed four of us (Mia wouldn't entertain the idea) with plenty of leftovers. So, so good.
  • Slow cooker chicken tortilla soup: don't be put off by all the strange and wonderful peppers needed for this soup. I get mine online from or a Mexican online grocer - stock up and keep a bunch in the cupboard. Even Tesco is now stocking dried chipotles and poblanos these days. The most work needed for this one was the toppings because I lovingly organised them all into a lazy susan. The kids LOVED this soup. I'm tempted to add beans to it next time to bulk it out a bit. The soup was delicious and a great remedy to a weekend of overindulgence, but probably not filling enough for a normal meal (for adults) on its own. 
Just don't tell anyone that this week two of my kids had frozen chicken nuggets because I couldn't be bothered to figure out one meal that would make everyone happy.