March 2014

March 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

How to bake bread with the author of “Southern Italian Family Cooking”

I have been a lucky lady this month, with two bread baking experiences, and my latest foray into the art of dough products was a morning spent with my friend, Carmela.

Carmela's demo
On this occasion, Carmela welcomed her 3 students into her bright and cosy kitchen and, whilst we sipped coffee and biscotti and got to know each other, she explained that we would be making Grissini, Fennel bread and a Stromboli made from Foccacia dough. Her friendly and knowledgeable practical demonstration followed and, with the various ingredients already on the table, we then continued by weighing, mixing, and kneading the various doughs. Carmela helped when required and interjected with many great tips for us to use in the future.

Ready for weighing
Baked to perfection
There is nothing like the smell of bread baking in the oven to tempt the taste-buds and, by the end of the class, our huge array of hot, crisp and tasty products made my tummy rumble loudly! Fortunately, Carmela produced a plate of thinly-sliced parma ham with a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad, which we happily munched, together with some of our new bread – it was delicious!

Of course, everything about this lovely lady is Italian. From her family roots to her present-day occupation of tutoring, Carmela produces food for her family and guests that has the warmth and deliciousness of Southern Italy. In fact, her latest book has only recently been published and I’m so pleased that I have a copy on my shelves to dip into when the sky is grey outside and I need to cook with a dollop of generous sunshine. I can assure you, these recipes pack a whole load of flavour into simple ingredients and, as chef and restauranter Theo Randall has quoted, “this is a must buy for any family that loves to cook” – I couldn’t agree more!

Southern Italian Family Cooking by Carmela Sophia Sereno is published by Constable and Robinson and is available from Amazon. Details of her future classes can be found on her website here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bay Tree Cottage Workshops - Speciality Bread

Baked to perfection
Last Saturday I had the privilege to accompany my friend, Tony, on a baking course run by Bay Tree Cottage Workshops in Farthingstone, Northamptonshire. Tony, who is blind, is already an accomplished bread producer and, in fact, makes all the loaves needed for home consumption every week but this ‘Speciality’ class proved to be just the ticket to extend his repertoire and skills.

After arrival, in Tutor Jenny’s comfortable and welcoming kitchen, and whilst we sipped our tea or coffee, she explained the recipes that would be used and the order of the day. Then, it was all ‘hands-on’ accompanied by Jenny’s knowledgeable ‘how-to’ demonstrations.

Class assembled
Jenny uses her own tried and tested recipes and is a great believer in using ingredients which are already in the cupboard and fridge, thus adapting basic formula to whatever is available on the day. 

Rolling Nettle, cheese and chive bread
The morning seemed to speed by in a blur of flour, yeast, cheese, herbs, bacon and so much more - all with a welcome coffee break half-way through and a piece of one of Jenny’s famous cakes. 

Beetroot dough

Before we knew it, the students had produced a savoury corn bread, spiced flatbread with cumin and coriander, a plaited beetroot loaf stuffed with all manner of good things, as well as several nettle and chive rolls. Can you imagine the wonderful aromas?

Tony and corn bread
Afterwards, Tony told me he had experienced a good time - his disability had not proved a problem for him or the workshop - and he had definitely learned some new techniques. 

We would therefore highly recommend to anyone the huge variety of courses available at Bay Tree Cottage as, for certain, Tony and I will be back there to experience another few hours of pleasurable and productive tuition. Thank you, Jenny.

Ready for home