Oatmeal bread with cracked wheat


It is 15 September, and schools started today after the summer. Waiting for the bus, I was passed by parents with immaculately dressed children, pulling shiny new trolley backpacks. It is still warm, but summer clothes are on the wane, at least in our neighbourhood. Women are wearing more black, definitely less pastels, but with tiny chic sweaters, or little scarves draped against the morning chill (19C). There was also a small bus strike today, so things are back to normal. The next strike, announced for 1 October, will be more noticeable – unless the weather forecast is really bad, in which case the strike may be postponed. Always an adventure!

Anyway, back to bread. I had great intentions of reviving my sourdough starter this weekend, but Sunday arrived, with no progress. My sourdough starter has been abandoned in the fridge since mid-August. We got home late after trying a new pizzeria (Pizzeria Ostiense, with piazzaioli who used to work at Da Remo in Testaccio – excellent thin Roman pizza both places) and I simply forgot….. So I made Nigella’s Ricotta Hotcakes for Sunday breakfast, and baked this loaf instead, slightly impromptu.

September oatmeal bread with cracked wheat

50 grammes oatmeal
50 grammes cracked wheat
50 grammes golden flax seeds
150 ml boiling water

300 grammes white wheat flour (I used 00)
140 grammes whole wheat flour
60 grammes rye flour
(Alternately, just use 200 grammes wholewheat flour)
2 tsp dry yeast (10 grammes or so)
400 grammes water
8 grammes salt

Pour boiling water over the cracked wheat, oatmeal and flax seeds. I use golden flax seeds, but regular brown ones would be great here too. Soak for an hour or so. Alternately soak this all the night before in cold water, if you are a bit more organized. I was not.

Now, add dried yeast and salt and water. Mix well, then add salt. Leave to rest ten minutes, then fold dough. Leave to rise for an hour or two, depending on your kitchen temperature. It is 27C here midday, so it was quick. Fold again, and shape dough. Move it to a banneton, covered (I used baking parchment in the banneton, with a plastic shower cap to cover it. Leave to rise for 1-2 hours, until it has risen nicely.
Pre-heat oven to 230C. Slash the top of the dough, 4-5 cuts, and lift the dough over to a shallow baking tin. It is a sticky dough. Bake 45 min or so, uncovered, until the loaf looks golden brown and done. Remove from oven and cool before slicing.


Notes: This was proofed a bit too long, as I had to wait for the washing machine to finish before turning the oven on. Oh, the joys of Roman electricity…. It is like rock, paper, scissors, but with washing machine, dishwasher, oven, iron ….. And the electric kettle trumps everything. Two of anything, and the fuse blows. We are used to running everything in sequence. Still, the bread was tasty, though not the prettiest loaf, and very good for sandwiches. I might try this again in small loaf tins. And I WILL feed my starter soon!

Sesame-crusted tofu with roast vegetables

Sesame crusted roast veg After holidays in Norway (excellent), it was great to be back in Rome, walk by the fruit and veg corner and restock the fridge. Shiny dark purple aubergines, elongated gnarled bell peppers, crisp zucchini, some slightly sticky plums… Oh yes, I bought it all. Not to mention grapes, pears and salad. Once I got home, there was not quite room for it all, despite now having 1.5 fridges. Well, ths little fridge is full of wine, pickled herring and pecorino cheese from Pienza, which could not be easily consumed. So we sliced up some vegetables and roasted them, and topped them with crunchy sesame tofu and fragrant basil. Hey presto: dinner! Vaguely healthy, but more importantly: tasty, so I am bringing a heaping platter of this to Fiesta Friday 33! Many thanks to the gracious hosts: Angie, Andresa and Sylvia!

Sesame-crusted tofu with roast vegetables
1-2 aubergines
3-4 zucchini
1 bellpepper
Handful of leftover cherry tomatoes
(Or any other roastable veg you have)
Small pinch of salt
3-4 tbs olive oil
200 grammes of firm tofu
4 tbs sesame seeds
For serving: handful of fresh basil

imageHeat your oven to 230C or so. Slice the vegetables (lengthwise for the zucchini), lay them out on foil-lined baking trays and drizzle oil over. Just a pinch of salt as well. As I discovered by omission, a little oil beneath the veg would have helped them not stick…. I turned the veg after some minutes, until they were all nicely roasted but still holding their shape. You can take them out of the oven and set them aside for a bit, if needed.

In the interim I drained the tofu, and cut little sticks which I blotted with kitchen roll to dry. A third oven tray was prepared with foil, and I laid all the tofu sticks out on that. Then I brushed them with a smidgeon of olive oil, and dropped sesame seeds across the tray.  I had seen something like this in a Donna Hay recipe (such chic styling!) and mine looked absolutely nothing like hers. Still, I popped the sesame tofu bits in the oven under the grill (high top heat in oven) for a few minutes until they went crispy and golden. It burns in no time, so best to keep a close eye.
Sesame crusted roast vegPeel the roast veg off the foil, heap a platter. Distribute the hot crunchy sesame tofu over the vegetables, and top with some chopped fresh basil if you have some.

Fiesta Friday
I have been so looking forward to Fiesta Friday. I need some inspiration for what to cook: it is still warm and muggy here, too early for stews and soups but I am not sure what I fancy eating either. Thanks in advance for all the amazing Fiesta Friday offerings!

Rowan-berry jelly with apples

RognebærThese are rowan berries, (rognebær). Rowan trees are also known as mountain ash, and their red-orange berries are tart and very bitter. Rowan jelly is used like lingonberry jam, with roast meat and especially game. It has a particular taste, but I thought it might be nice to try making some to have with strong cheese. Rome is still hot and sticky, and I long for autumn and cool weather, for crisp leaves underfoot and being able to bake without overheating in the kitchen. In the interim, a spot of jelly making.

Rowan berries and apples
Rowan-berry jelly with apples
1200 grammes rowan berries
800 grammes green apples
600 ml water
After straining: 450 grammes of granulated sugar per 600 ml of juice

For this, I mixed rowan berries and apples, in a 3:2 weight ratio. Both to help set the jelly, and to take the bitter edge off. Wash the apples, core them and quarter them, but do not peel. Wash the berries, removing any damaged ones, and remove all twigs. It takes a while…… Pop it all in a large pot, with just enough water to cover, and simmer until the apples are soft and the berries are releasing juice. Half an hour or so? I had a big batch, and I confess, turned it off while we had lunch and watched an old episode of Motive.
Sile saft
Now, put a couple saucers in the fridge so you can test the setting point later. Strain the juice through a muslin cloth. If you have jelly strainer contraption, they are very handy. Strain for 30-40 minutes, then discard the berry-apple mixture. (That is good for compost. Not that I could fit a compost bin on our small balcony, but one can dream…)

Bring the juice back to the boil, stirring occasionally. Skim any foam or scum off. Add the sugar, and bring it back to the boil quickly, for the last time. Add in peeled lemon and some cloves wrapped up in some muslin or thin cloth. Boil rapidly. Test for the setting point: put a spoonful on one of the cold saucer: does the jelly wrinkle once it is cold? If not, boil a bit longer. Or cheat and add pectin, if it looks very dismal. Mine set fine, for once! So I ladled it into small clean sterilized jars and left them upside down to set.

Jars of rowan jelly Cooling jars: we had some on toast the next morning, and it was bitter-sweet but nice. Now, I must remember to label these….. And look for some cheese, now that the temperature is finally dropping a bit here. There is thunder rumbling across town, so maybe autumn is coming with all the rain due tomorrow? Might I need a jumper? We have some lovely pecorino ubriaco, matured in red wine, which might just be a weekend treat. I had better revive my sourdough starter too, it has been abandoned in the fridge for a month now. It is usually robust, but we shall see……