Lovage soup

About time to post a new recipe. I was visiting Finland earlier this week and spring happens to be the season for lovage there. Lovage is perhaps a little less known plant; it’s perennial, its leaves are used as herbs, seeds as spices and roots as vegetables. The leaves make for a stunning soup.

Lovage Soup

Lovely summer soup with a slightly unusual flavours. Called lipstikkakeitto in Finnish.

Ingredients

  • 45 g fresh lovage leaves, chopped
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 2 medium floury potatoes, dized
  • 150 ml cream
  • butter
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 2-3 vegetable stock cubes
  • salt
  • pinch of white pepper
  • 1400 ml water

Method

  1. Fry the onions with a knob of butter until they start turning transparent. Don’t let them brown
  2. Add potatoes, lovage, cream and boiling water
  3. Add stock cubes and season to taste with salt and white pepper
  4. Mix plain flour with a little bit of water so it turns into a paste and add to your soup to thicken it
  5. Simmer under a lid for 30-40 minutes
  6. Check seasoning and serve

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4-6

Crofton Kitchen comes alive in February

Mushroom PizzaPutting our pizza where your mouth is.

We’re taking part in Restaurant Day on 17 February 2013. Restaurant Day is an event or movement that started in Finland a few years ago. It’s a day when normal people who love food open their own restaurant. It’s also a bit of an antithesis against Finnish culture of doing things by the book and respecting the authority as most of the restaurants don’t have a licence to serve food. Go civil disobedience!

We’ll be making pizzas using an Uuni oven. This will be the first time public will be able to taste pizzas made with it. In case you haven’t heard about Uuni before, it’s a small, fast and affordable wood-fired pizza oven that I have developed. We’ve sold 91 of them via Kickstarter and they’re going into production this spring. You should visit uuni.in for more information and subscribe to our mailing list to learn when it’s available.

Menu? Here’s what I’m thinking:

Pizza
Margherita
Tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil

Diablo III
Three sausages and jalapeños

Poro Pizza
Reindeer sausage, gherkin and spring onion

Mushroom
Mushroom and mozzarella (optional jalapeño)

Dessert cakes TBC

I’m very excited about this, I’ve wanted to do a pop-up restaurant the last few times during Restaurant Day but there’s always been something in the way. If you’d like to come, booking is highly recommended. Booking is free and it’ll guarantee you a seat. Book here. Hope to see you next month!

The canonical pizza dough recipe of 2013

Autumn of 2012 marks the beginning of third year of my obsession with making pizzas. Eternal search for the unattainable perfection. I think I’m getting better. Especially more consistent. And if anything, consistency is important in becoming better. This search has, of course, resulted in me designing a whole new type of wood-fired pizza oven called Uuni. If you’re interested, have a look at the video here.

Much of the early parts of this year I spent experimenting with different water to flour ratios, amount of yeast, carrying over parts of previous dough, proofing times etc. Summer was a write-off pizza wise as we moved house and I was without an oven for a few months but now I’m back at it and I’m ready to tell you where I’m at.

Here’s the base recipe as far as ingredients go:

Pizza dough recipe – Crofton Kitchen 2012

Ingredients

  • 500 g type ’00’ flour
  • 320 ml water
  • 30 g soft brown sugar
  • 10 g dry yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • 20 ml olive oil

Flour

Main ingredient of course is the flour. Not much has changed with that. I always use 500 grams as that creates a good reference point for other ingredients. I normally use the Sainsbury’s Type ’00’ with Durum but this mostly due to my laziness towards looking out for other more exotic brands of type ’00’.

Water

I’ve been back and forward with how much water to use. Mainly experimenting with adding up to 350 ml per 500 grams of flour. Although the added extra quantity is minimal, 30 ml, it makes a massive difference in the result: lighter to work with, hard to knead and risky when trying to slide a topped pizza of the peel to the oven. No, I’m sticking with 320 ml.

Thing I’m changing with water is where it comes from. I think London has a pretty nice tasting water. It’s OK to drink but it’s really really heavy. As in, lime heavy. In comes bottled water. Normally Highland Spring or other suitably well know Scottish brand. I haven’t blind tested pizzas made with London water and bottles water but i’m quite certain that there’s a noticeable difference.

Yeast

I always us Allison’s Dry Yeast. It comes in a 125 gram tin which then lasts for a good while. Can you get fresh yeast in supermarkets in Britain? That’ll be something for testing next year.

Another thing I’ve been testing over the past year is a sort of a sour dough method. I’d leave 1/5 of the dough to in the fridge for a good 4-5 days and then use that as a starter for the next dough which would be made without any other leavening agent. I can’t really proof the benefits of this yet but there’s something nice about the generations it creates.

Method

  1. I usually start by boiling about 100 ml of the water and adding that to rest of the water. That way it ends up at around 40°C. Then I’ll whisk in the yeast followed by sugar and oil. I’ll leave it for about half an hour so the yeast can get started.
  2. Meanwhile I’ll prepare the flour by sifting it into a bowl along with the salt.
  3. Add water/yeast, mix until ready turn on lightly floured surface for kneading. Knead for 5 minutes, leave it to rest for 10 minutes and knead a further 3 minutes. (I used to do this with a 1970s Kenwood Chef mixer but I haven’t replaced it since one of the gears broke last summer.)
  4. Place the dough in a container big enough so it can at least triple in size, seal with cling film. Refrigerate for 48 hours.
  5. Take the bowl out of the fridge about two hours before baking is meant to begin and leave it to acclimatise and warm up for about an hour and a half with the cling film still on. Cut into 180 gram dough balls and pat into roughly 10 cm diameter disks. Leave the dough disks to wait until you’re ready to make the pizzas.
  6. By the time you start ‘rolling’ the pizzas, the dough should have started to rise just a little. It’s important to not let it rise too much. Knock the dough back and leave it for another few minutes. I find that the dough is stretchier after it’s rested a little.

Preparation time: 60 minute(s)

Cooking time: 24-48 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 5

I’m pretty sure above is just about everything I know about making the dough. Hope it’s helpful. I’ve got two more posts coming up about pizza, one on rolling or stretching the dough out to a pizza shape and another on my current sauce. Stay tuned!

Raisin scones

Raisin scones are a British institution

While I’m a big fan of scones, for some reason I hadn’t made any until a few weeks ago. While on the face of it they’re very simple, after my third time of making them, I can see there’s more to them.

To me, there’s three key things to a good scone. 1) light and fluffy texture yet just a little bit crumbly, 2) that crack that appears in the middle, which leads to 3), they have to split easily when top and bottom are pulled apart.

Rather than going through what I feel like I’ve done wrong, let’s look at what I’ll do differently next time.

  • Knead the dough a little less. I think I did about 2-3 minutes. Maybe 1-2 minutes is enough?
  • Lower the oven temperature to 180°C. These weren’t baked all the way through. Our fan oven is hotter/faster than normals ones. In a conventional oven, you’d set the temperature to about 220°C
  • Heat the oven before starting to make the dough so I can put them straight in after cutting
  • Find my digital scales. Last couple of months I’ve been using volume instead of more accurate weight to measure my ingredients

Scones

Ingredients

  • 225 g self-raisin flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 55 g butter
  • 30 g sugar
  • 150 ml milk
  • an egg
  • raisins

Method

  1. Start by mixing the flour and salt, then then work in the butter
  2. Stir in the sugar followed by the milk. Mix until you have a soft dough
  3. Turn the dough on to a work surface and kneed gently for a minute or two
  4. Pat down to about 2 cm thick sheet. Cut using a cookie cutter and place on a baking sheet
  5. Give the scones an egg wash and bake at 180°C for 12-15 minutes or until we’ll risen and golden brown
  6. Serve with clotted cream or butter and strawberry jam

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minutes(s)

Number of servings (yield): 104

Autumn book contest – The Little Paris Kitchen

If there ever was a twee cooking show, it was The Little Paris Kitchen earlier this year on BBC2. French classics with mixed with Rachel Khoo’s own modern twists. Instant TV classic, I think.

And, as with every self-respecting cookery programme, there’s the book to go with it.

Here’s what A. Burnes had to say about the book:

The recipes are excellent. They are all relatively simple, the ingredients are realistic (none of them either ridiculously expensive or too difficult to find), and there is always some edge to them that gives even the most familiar dishes an unusual touch.

That’s exactly what I loved about the show; if Khoo was able to cook these dishes in her tiny kitchen, I can give them a good try in mine. They were clever, yet there was nothing intimidating about them.

So, how does this work? How can you get one? We’re giving away a copy of the book to one lucky Crofton Kitchen subscriber. If you have subscribed to the mailing list, you’re already in the draw. If you haven’t yet, just fill in your email below. The draw will take place on 28th September 2012.

Take part in the competition.



Obviously, if you really really can’t wait to get the book, you can get it here on Amazon.

Small print: We can only send the book within the UK If you’re not in the UK and win, you can always ask it to be sent to a friend.

Korvapuusti

Korvapuusti is made with a traditional ‘pulla’ dough. Pulla is a Finnish sweet bread style dessert flavoured with cardamom. Similar to English Hot Cross Bun.

You can use this recipe for making many different kinds of pulla. I’ve struggled finding coarse cardamom in the UK where normally it’s sold in the pod. It’s very laborious to peal and grind them as you’ll need something like a tablespoon of it. If you live in London, you can always visit The Finnish Church in Rotherhithe and buy some from their Finnish food store.

Korvapuusti

Ingredients

  • 50 cl milk
  • 1 egg
  • 170 g sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cardamom
  • 20 g dry yeast
  • 1000 g plain flour
  • 200 g butter

Ingredients, filling and topping

  • 100 g very soft butter
  • 85 g sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • sugar crystals

Method, pulla dough

  1. Add yeast to milk that is slightly warm to touch
  2. Mix in the egg, sugar, salt, cardamom, some of the flour and butter.
  3. Keep mixing while adding rest of the flour. Mix till smooth and stretchy.
  4. Prove the dough in a warm place till it’s doubled in size, about 45 minutes
  5. Kneed the dough to remove air bubbles

Method

  1. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangular on your work surface. 40×70 cm is a good size.
  2. Spread it with butter and then sprinkle it with a mix of sugar and cinnamon. Don’t be too tight here, if you feel like it needs a bit more sugar and cinnamon, go for it
  3. Now make a roll out of it, a bit like a Swiss-roll, starting from the long edge. You should end up with a roll that is about 70 cm long. Make sure the seam is in the bottom
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough roll into little pyramids (see 16 seconds in in the time lapse video below)
  5. Place the korvapuusti’s on a paper baking tray with the pointy side up and press them down with your finger. Korva is ear in Finnish, this is where they get their name from.
  6. Prove under a tea towel for 40 minutes
  7. Brush them with the egg and sprinkle some sugar crystals on top
  8. Bake at 225°C for 10-15 minutes
  9. Enjoy while still hot with a glass of cold milk

Preparation time: 30 minute(s) plus proving time

Cooking time: 12 minutes(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Not yet a domestic goddess

It was a big independence day for me this year as I became an American citizen last week! I’m very excited about this because now I have dual citizenship. Now instead of fumbling for a hopefully witty but primarily self deprecating answer when someone asks me if I feel more British or American I can proudly look him / her in the face and declare that I am equal parts both.

So, I am back in LA and have been for just under two weeks. Two changes occur in my life when I’m in LA: The first is that I eat 95% of my meals in restaurants, and the second is that it becomes blatantly obvious that I need to lose 1Olbs. Ironically, the second one would be a lot easier if the first were not true. The stereotype that everyone walking around LA is stick thin is just not true, but there definitely are a lot more stick thin people here than anywhere else I have ever been.

Anyway, back to the point. To celebrate my citizenship, and a very good friend’s birthday, my family and I threw a barbecue on the 4th. I had big plans to learn how to make some classic BBQ staples: the ultimate potato salad, coleslaw, and as a way of uniting my two countries – a 4th of July trifle. I made none of these however, as the day before my mum decided to delegated them to someone who can actually cook… Even the trifle. I recovered from this blow and decided to make patriotic cupcakes instead.

In “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” Nigella Lawson has what she claims to be an incredibly easy recipe for fairy cakes. So easy, she claims, that one can rustle up a batch after dinner and have them ready in time for dessert. I feel I should write to Nigella and tell her this is just a lie. I had six hours to make my cupcakes and they were still not ready in time for dessert. My cupcakes were, to put it bluntly, catastrophic.

It does look easy enough… Nigella lists the ingredients and then just says to chuck them all into a food processor. We have a pretty good blender, it’s old but it still works so I wasn’t worried. Everything started out fine… Eggs – check, sugar – check, butter – check,  vanilla – check. I casually look over the ingredients for what to out out in next and realize that it doesn’t say two tablespoons of vanilla, it says half a tablespoon. My first mistake. It’s made even worse by the fact that I couldn’t find tablespoon measures so I made a rather generous estimation when pouring in the vanilla. Oh well, it’s already in there, and everyone loves vanilla. So I persevere and continue to blend. Then I realize I’ve forgotten the flour. That’s not a big deal though, just a blonde moment. I add the flour, blend a bit more, and then put it on pulse and add in the milk… and it’s great. It looks like batter, it tastes like batter, and even the vanilla seems to have mellowed out a bit. It’s so good actually that I just start shamelessly eating it with a spoon. At this point, I’ll be honest, I feel pretty good about myself. Maybe this is my calling, maybe baking is my new “thing.” (I’ll save you the suspense, it’s not).

The cupcakes go in the oven.

Here is a key difference between my life in England and my life in LA – in England I would have been shamed into making the icing from scratch. I would have asked my friends for their recipes and they would have offered tips. As it was, in LA, I had spent the entire morning before in Whole Foods insisting for the tenth time to my mum that I was NOT going to buy cupcake mix. (“But it’s so much easier! No one will be able to tell,” “that’s not the point mum, I’m supposed to be learning how to make them,” “but you can just BUY cupcakes!”) I did however cave and buy icing in a tub. In my defense, even Nigella recommends you do that in the recipe, so I didn’t feel too guilty.

I went to the oven, almost giddy with excitement, envisioning my perfectly fluffy cupcakes… only to find that the stupid things hadn’t risen. They were like little flat rocks. Little, flat, hard, dry, very vanilla-ry rocks.

Here’s a fun fact: all purpose baking flour does not rise on it’s own. In England there is a mysterious, wondrous thing called Self Raising Flour, and it does just that… It raises itself!! Why doesn’t ALL PURPOSE BAKING FLOUR rise????? Why America?? All my revived patriotism of my newest country faded instantly.

Another fun fact: British cupcake recipes are not designed for American sized muffin trays. I think if I had had more batter or a smaller tray they might have worked out better.

Who am I kidding? It’s a poor carpenter who blames her tools. My cupcakes would have been shit even if I had baked them in Nigella’s personal muffin tray.

But neither the flour I used or the tray I baked them in were the real culprits. It is an even poorer carpenter who just flat out uses the wrong tools. Nigella’s instructions call for throwing the ingredients into a food processor. Here in lies my real failure. It turns out that a blender is not the same as a food processor. Two days later I was talking to the chef at our local restaurant and telling him about my cupcake failure. I found myself deep an emotional outburst on America’s lack of self raising flour. “It’s the flour’s fault!” I adamantly declared, and explained that I had followed the instructions and thrown all of the ingredients into a blender. Suddenly the attentive look on his face turned to pure hysteria. Apparently the key to cupcakes has something to do with gluten and by using a blender I had not only sucked all of  the air out of the batter but had also completely destroyed the balance of gluten to whatever, causing it all to collapse in the oven. Also, 400 degrees was far too hot to bake them in (even though Nigella specifically said 400) and in an American oven I should have baked them at 350. And P.S. of course you can buy self raising flour in the US.

So they were a disaster. A complete disaster. I showed them to my dad who grabbed my wrist when I went to taste it and shouted “don’t! It’ll make you sick!!” with genuine concern.

I decorated them anyway, and while they came with a  “do not eat” warning when I presented them at the BBQ they were well admired… If not as well admired as the trifle, which was beautiful, and, as a bonus, actually edible.