Poached Eggs – No Messing!

 

dc003-262

Category; Breakfast
Difficulty Rating; Easy (but it’s important to time the eggs confidently)
Time needed; 10 minutes
Chris’s reason for choosing this recipe; to show you how easy it is to poach an egg

Chris regularly eats poached eggs for breakfast and has done for the last 15 years. One of his pet hates is how difficult many cooks and chefs make it seem. Vinegar? Vortexes? Bowls of iced water? As far is Chris is concerned, you don’t need any of these things to successfully poach an egg. In Chris’s words; ‘you can mess around as much as you like getting your eggs to look perfect. But you don’t need to do any of that – poached eggs are very straight forward and everybody – and I mean everybody – can poach eggs’. The only thing you do need is confidence in getting your timings right.

Chris has been nicknamed the ‘egg king’ and can knock out 2, 4, 6 or 8 poached eggs at a time – all you need is a big enough pan! He is passionate about free range eggs and is lucky enough to have neighbours who keep chickens. Eggs are a cheap, protein-rich, tasty ingredient, the perfect breakfast to power Chris through his busy working day as a brewer.

For this recipe you will need a shallow pan such as a frying or sauté pan. This method is based on using large eggs and the idea is to use the toaster as a timing mechanism. The format is toast down, eggs in; when the toast is done, the eggs will be almost ready. No messing!

Method

  1. Set a shallow pan (frying pan or saute pan) of water on to boil.
  2. Grab a couple of slices of bread (as many as you need for each person).
  3. When the water is boiling turn the pan down to barely a simmer.
  4. Pop the toast down in the toaster.
  5. Carefully crack the eggs into the water. Keep the shells close to the water when doing this, don’t drop them in from a great height – this keeps the eggs together in a ‘neater’ shape. Chris doesn’t care about neat eggs for aesthetic reasons but the closer the white stays to the yolk, the better it will protect the yolk from overcooking.
  6. This is the crucial bit. When your toast is done your eggs should be very nearly done, so quickly butter your toast.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, lift an egg gently out of the water (lift the eggs out in the order you dropped them in). Give it a gentle wobble to make sure the white is set. If the white is still a bit runny put it back in for a few more seconds. You can also gently prod the egg with a clean finger to make sure the white is set, but yolk is runny. Once the white feels set but the yolk is still wobbly the eggs are done.
  8. Serve immediately on toast, on their own, or with any accompaniment you fancy –  black pudding, bacon, mushrooms, smoked salmon…

REMEMBER! To get this recipe right the timing is the crucial factor. This particular method uses large eggs and bread toasted to a medium colour. Deviating from toast colour or egg size will alter the timings!

From Banana Bread to Macarons; Part I

BananaBread01

Category; Baking/Dessert
Difficulty rating; Easy
Time needed; about 3 hours (a lot of this is prep and oven time so you can accomplish other tasks while waiting for things to soak, cook or cool!)
Becky’s reason for choosing this recipe; To encourage beginners to have a go and promote baking as a therapeutic exercise.

(You can jump straight to the recipe)

Becky’s story

BeckyBakingBananaBread01

Cooking is an art but baking is a science, so the popular saying has it. When Becky’s sister first challenged her to bake a cake, Becky initially thought it would be a disaster – she was too spontaneous and slap-dash to be good at the precision science she understood baking to be. At the time she was on leave from work suffering from depression when her sister encouraged her to bake as a therapeutic exercise. The recipe was for banana bread, a recipe that Becky’s sister assured her would be easy. It was photocopied from a Nigella Lawson cookbook with handwritten suggestions from Becky’s sister. Becky still has this original photocopied version today.

She followed the recipe and to her surprise the cake was a success; and she loved the process of baking. She continued to bake, challenging herself with more difficult recipes and as she progressed and became more accomplished,  she began to consider changing her career and baking professionally. However, she had the same misgivings about running a business she’d had about baking – too disorganised, too impulsive; she felt she didn’t have the necessary skill set. By chance she chatted with a like-minded colleague who convinced her they could do it together as a team. They set up The Travelling Tea Ladies, a business devoted to organising ‘pop up’ tea parties for events and special occasions.

A few years down the line, Becky’s business partner announced she wanted to step back from the business to pursue other goals. Today, Becky is the driving force behind The Travelling Tea Ladies, confidently juggling all the administrative demands of running a business with baking elaborate cakes she once thought were beyond her – hence the ‘macaron’ reference in the title. But she never forgets that once upon a time she didn’t believe she could run a business, or even bake a cake. Initially, baking helped Becky recover from depression; ultimately it has allowed her to re-shape her whole life and pursue a career that brings her much happiness. This recipe for banana bread is symbolic of triumph over doubt, a reminder to keep on facing the challenge, because you never know what you can do until you try. So if you think you can’t bake we encourage you to give this recipe a go.

Becky will contribute her macaron recipe in a later post.

Recipe

Banana Bread Ingredients

See the original recipe from Nigella Lawson here

  • 100g Sultanas
  • 75 ml bourbon or dark rum (note from Becky’s sister; you can use any alcohol)
  • 175g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted
  • 150g sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 small very ripe bananas (about 300g without skin)
  • 60g chopped walnuts (note from Becky’s sister; walnuts can be expensive, you can miss them out)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin, buttered and floured or with a paper insert (Becky’s sister sent a reusable liner with the tin, or you can buy paper liners at the supermarket, which is what Becky now uses)

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

See the original recipe from the BBC website here

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 300g full fat cream cheese
  • Becky also used a tablespoon of the reserved liquor from soaking the sultanas

Method

  1. Put the sultanas and alcohol in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and leave for an hour if you can, or until the sultanas have absorbed most of the liquid, then drain. NB Becky kept the drained liquid to make her icing with.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170°C or gas mark 3. Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a medium sized bowl and using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well. In a large bowl mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas. Then with your wooden spoon stir in the walnuts, drained sultanas and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.
  3. Scrape into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1-1¼ hours. When it’s ready a fine skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in a tin on a rack to cool. NB Becky turned the cake out of the tin to cool further in order to apply the frosting. If you’re frosting your cake, you will need it to be fully cooled.
  4. To make the frosting, place the butter in a large bowl with the caster sugar. Beat together for 2-3 mins until light and creamy. Beat in the cream cheese until smooth. NB Becky added a tablespoon of the reserved soaking liquor, which makes the frosting runnier. Becky likes this as it makes the frosting dribble down the sides of the cake for a rustic look.

Alternative suggestions from Becky

To make the cake more child friendly; replace the walnuts with chocolate chips and soak the sultanas in spiced tea/chai instead of alcohol.

To make a seasonal cake in the summer using local ingredients; replace the bananas with roasted, mashed rhubarb, and the walnuts and sultanas with chopped strawberries.

BananaBread02

My Green Kitchen

In the true spirit of one of the aims of the democratic cookbook – namely, to celebrate reality over aspirational ‘myths’ – I thought I would introduce my own real kitchen. Yes, it is very green and very old. But not old in the aspirationally correct way – not authentic or rustic. Just a bit 80’s looking. However, amazing meals are made in here, so it will feature again on this blog with accompanying recipes. For now, enjoy the greenness.

The Democratic Cookbook Manifesto

The aims of the democratic cookbook project are outlined below;

  1. To be inclusive. That means all recipes from all people are welcome. The only proviso is you should be passionate about the recipe. Any reason is valid; childhood favourite, guilty pleasure… it doesn’t matter how simple, unfashionable or truly terrible the recipe is as long as you believe in it.
  2. To explore identity through food. I firmly believe that food choices say a lot about us. The project is as much about people (and getting to know them) as it is about food.
  3. To remain grounded in reality, rather than idealising. Mainstream food photography can sometimes look like an advertisement for a perfect kitchen, or indeed a perfect life. While this blog will embrace photographic experimentation (see below) the aim is to avoid aspirational images. Do you dare to show your real kitchen with the outdated cupboards and the dodgy tiles you keep meaning to replace, as well as the less-than-perfect family getting in the way, and the less-than-perfect looking food at the end of it!
  4. To celebrate tasty ingredients. Recipes can stand or fall on the quality of the ingredients used. If a recipe benefits from the use of a very specific ingredient or product, I’ll be championing that ingredient on this blog.
  5. To photograph food experimentally, realistically, innovatively… It’s worth noting that first and foremost I’m a photographer. This blog will be used to experiment with photography as much as with recipes and food.

If you’re interested in contributing a recipe, please get in touch. You just have to agree to be photographed in your actual kitchen/house, cooking a real recipe that you feel passionate about. Simple!