Little Summer PuddingsÂ
When it comes to bread I’ve always been a fan. From your San Franciscan sourdough, to Turkish pide, to Italian ciabatta and foccacia, Indian naan and roti, Lebanese flat breads, the quintessential French baguette and even your humble white loaf, I love them all.
If it wasn’t for bread I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it through boarding school. Toast was easily my favourite thing that the nuns managed to create, especially on Sunday nights when we got to cook our own and could butter it still hot from the toaster. If it weren’t for bread I certainly wouldn’t have had the dubious honour of holding the Marian College record for the most slices of toast consumed in a single sitting. Twenty one, if you must know, and no it wasn’t worth the belly ache afterwards. Boy was there a belly ache.
If it wasn’t for bread I’m also sure I wouldn’t have survived living on campus for the first few years of my University career. Between toast in the dining room and getting creative with toasted sandwiches in our rooms we managed to eat pretty well. (Roast pumpkin jaffel anyone?).
So as a dedicated bakery girl from way back, I’m really not sure what gave me the crazy idea that I may be gluten intolerant. Whatever it was, I decided last year to try out life gluten free. I didn’t want to make a fuss about my experiment and only mentioned it to a few people and the deal was that if I went somewhere and the only food on offer was wheat based, well then that’s what I would eat and monitor how it made me feel afterwards.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t that difficult to avoid gluten. Saying no to biscuits and cakes at work wasn’t that much of a hardship and if we were having sandwiches there were always heaps around so that I could make a meal out of the fillings. I was starting to believe that I felt better bread free. On the occasions that I did have a pizza or pasta night, I often felt terrible the day after which I began to blame on the bread rather than the inevitable over-indulgenceÂ in theÂ beverage department.
With the thought of my Christmas goose and the possibility of a rice based stuffing looming, I began to realize that really, I did miss my bread and that just possibly, if I ate it without over-doing the vino that I might find that I felt just fine. So I embarked on a gluten-every-day-trial and funnily enough, with all things in moderation, I felt even better than fine.
So with not one but two different bread stuffings (OK one was more of a bread salad made with the plentiful pan juices from our obliging goose), we celebrated a lovely Christmas in my house. And over the holidays I’ve been experimenting with a few bread based dishes that go beyond things on toastâ€¦Happy New Year everyone.
spiced roast chicken & bread salad
My first foray into bread salad with chicken was based on Skye Gyngell’s delicious little number that Maggie Beer was so fond of she included it in her latest book. It was a cracker: Summery and Christmassy all in one bowl. Since then I’ve played around with spicing up the chicken to give it more of a North African vibe.
The great thing about this salad is how the bread sucks up all the roasting juices.Â If you don’t have time to roast a chook, you could buy a pre cooked BBQ chicken and use that but you may need to increase the oil and vinegar to make sure there is enough dressing.
1.6kg free range organic chook
5 cardamom pods
1t each coriander, cumin & fenugreek seeds
1/2t freshly grated nutmeg
1t chilli powder
2T black peppercorns
1T sea salt
4T extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, halved
5 red onions, peeled and sliced into 5mm wide rounds
450g loaf sourdough or other rustic bread
100g dried black cranberries
1 bunch mint, leaves picked
2T balsamic vinegar
4T extra virgin olive oil, optional
small handful toasted sliced almonds to serve
Preheat oven to 200C. Combine spices in a spice grinder or motar & pestle and grind until you have a chunky powder. Combine ground spices with oil to make a paste. Wash & dry chook, removing any excess fat from inside the cavity. Rub spice paste all over chook and stuff lemon halves into the cavity.
Place onion rings in the base of a baking tray and top with chicken breast side down. Bake for 20mins then give the onions a stir and turn the bird so chicken is breast side up and continue to cook for another 55mins or until chicken is golden and well cooked. If you’re not sure that it’s cooked cut down the inside of one of the thighs and check that the meat at the bone isn’t bright pink.
Cover chook and allow to cool. Tear bread into bight sized chunks and place in a large salad bowl with mint and cranberries. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bone and shred into smallish pieces and add to the bread. Feel free to discard the skin if you’re worried about the fat but it has all the delicious spices, so you’ll be missing out. Add roast onions and all the pan juices and balsamic vinegar. Squeeze over juice from the lemons in the cavity and toss. Season and add additional olive oil if it seems a bit dry. Sprinkle with almonds and serve while the chicken is still slightly warm.
little summer puddings
Summer pudding is a traditional English dessert that is all about bread and berries. While is may sound a bit odd to be seeking out soggy bread, trust me it’s a match made in heaven. And because it need to be made in advance it’s the perfect thing to finish off a leisurely holiday summer dinner on the balcony.
Feel free to play around with the types of berries. Red currants are usually included but unfortunately I couldn’t get my hands on any. Pitted cherries and rhubarb would also make a lovely addition or substitution as long as you cook your rhubarb sufficiently first and increase the sugar to counter rhubarbs titillating tartness.
110g (1/2C) sugar
150g punnet boysenberries
150g punnet blackberries
250g small strawberries, dehulled & halved
100g punnet raspberries
8 slices good quality white bread
double cream or crÃ¨me fraiche for serving
Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Add half the berries and cook over a medium heat stirring to squash berries until sugar has dissolved and you have some lovely berry juices. Add half of the reserved berries and stir then strain berries, reserving the juices and allow to cool.
Cut bread into circles to fit the base of four 1C capacity ramekins or pudding moulds. Place a slice of bread in the base of each then divide strained berries between. Spoon over reserved juice until the ramekins are almost full, pushing down to fit them in. Top each ramekin with another bread circle and spoon over more juice so that all the bread is stained. Reserve some juice for serving. Cover with foil and a saucer and either stack the four ramekins on top of each other or weigh each down with a tin can. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
To serve, run a knife around the edge of each ramekin and then invert into a bowl, you may need to use the knife to prise the puddings out. Pour reserved berry juice around puds, or if you prefer you can use it to colour any white patches of bread ( I prefer to leave some white showing for contrast). Garnish with the remaining reserved berries and serve with cream passed separately.
Note: These puds also make for a decadent holiday breakfast if served with yoghurt.