March 22, 2012

A Spotted Dog - An Almost Real Irish Soda Bread/ Cake

I
n case you are wondering, we’re still very much vegetarian and haven’t taken to eating dogs! I also will not blame you for thinking that I might have stopped blogging altogether considering my last post here was almost 2 weeks back. Let me assure that I’m not planning to retire from posting here in the foreseeable future. I’m just taking some time settling back to regular posting.
St. Patrick’sDay has been and gone this year. We don’t celebrate it, but this is when the Irish, and others who do, make Soda Bread. Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread and very simple to make as it doesn’t require all the kneading and rising time that yeasted breads need. In fact, the less you knead it, the better it turns out!



Authentic Irish Soda Bread is apparently made with flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk/ buttermilk. This was a recipe that became popular in the early 19th century in Ireland when poor conditions and non-availability of yeast meant making use of inexpensive and easily available ingredients. Irish folklore also insists that each round of Irish Soda Bread must have a 1/2" cross (X) cut into the top of it, so that the devil (or fairies, if you chose to believe that instead) may escape the bread during baking!
It is interesting to note that Soda Bread wasn’t invented in Ireland, and the earliest documented use of baking soda in bread is by native American Indians! However, the Irish adopted it wholeheartedly and today Soda Bread is as Irish as is Guiness!


 
So if you have been making Soda Bread with baking soda, eggs, butter, caraway seeds, fruit, nuts and any other addenda, you might think it was Soda Bread but it doesn’t qualify for a traditional/ authentic recipe. That doesn’t mean that the Irish do not, traditionally, add other ingredients to the basic Soda Bread recipe. They do, but they just do not call it “Soda Bread”.
If you’ve been adding fat, eggs, sugar and baking powder to your Soda Bread, technically it’s more of a “Soda Cake”! And when the Irish add raisins to their Soda Bread they call it a “Spotted Dog”, and I have no idea where the “dog” bit came from.  If you chose to flatten your dough a a bit, cut your round of Soda Bread dough right through into 4 quarters like scones, and bake them in a griddle on the stove top then they’re “Farls”.



 
My oven mitt came from Ireland and the recipe on it says “Real Irish Soda Bread” and contains the basic 4 ingredients as well as eggs, butter and baking powder. I can only conclude that once the difficult times were over, and butter and eggs became affordable, some Irish bread bakers decided to that the original Soda Bread could do with some improvement!
Irish Soda Bread is another one of those things I’ve been meaning to make for a long time now. I have spent time and effort making simple and not so simple yeasted breads but not this simple bread! We Indians believe there is a time for everything to happen, and I can only think that perhaps it is only now that the time was right for it!
 

Actually, I have to thank Sravanthi for motivating me to finally make Irish Soda Bread. She had recently been to Ireland and brought back a little something for me – an oven mitt decorated with green clover and a recipe for “real Irish Soda Bread”.  That brought back to me that I still had not made Soda Bread and I decided to give it a go, using the recipe on the mitt.
So I decided to convert the recipe for the “Real Irish Soda Bread” into a “Spotted Dog” only to discover that I had run out of raisins! Now, I’m not Irish nor do I have a Soda Bread making tradition that I need to keep up, so I went ahead and substituted the raisins with dried blueberries. This version of Soda Bread is much like buttermilk scones, except that I liked the somewhat crumbly cakey texture and crunchy crust of this bread a whole lot better.
 
 
This Soda Bread or Spotted Dog is best eaten fresh, after it has cooled down a bit. Should you have left overs, it makes excellent toast the next morning. The recipe is actually an adapted and halved version of the mitt recipe. It serves 4 so if you want a bigger bread just double the quantity of the ingredients and bake about 10 to 15 minutes longer.
An Almost Real Irish Soda Bread/ Cake
(Adapted from a recipe on my oven mitt!)

Ingredients:

50gm unsalted butter, soft and at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1 small egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dried blueberries (or raisins)
* If you do not have buttermilk, you can make a substitute by adding 1 tbsp of white vinegar (or lemon juice) to 1 cup of milk, stirring well and keeping it for 10 minutes. Then use.

Method:

In a large bowl mix together, with your fingers, the softened butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dried blueberries till blended. Don’t overdo this.
Add the buttermilk and egg and working quickly, mix together with a fork till it all comes together as a shaggy looking dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured working surface and very lightly knead the dough a couple of times so that the dough comes together as a rough looking ball. Do not overwork the dough or your bread will be tough.
Place the ball on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet and flatten very slightly. Using a sharp knife, cut and “X” on the top about half way through. This helps the bread rise well and cook through during baking.
Immediately, place the dough in an oven preheated to 200C (400F) and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the oven temperature down to 180C (350F) and bake for another 30 minutes till golden brown on top.
When done and the bread is tapped, you should hear a hollow sound. Let the bread cool on the sheet for about 10 minutes and then cool on a rack. You will be tempted, but better to wait as the bread cuts easier when cool.
This recipe serves 4.
I’m sending this bread for Bread Baking Day which is being hosted at Paulchen's Food Blog with the theme of “Bread With Egg”.
This Soda Bread is also being YeastSpotted!
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March 8, 2012

Announcing The March Edition of Does My Blog Look Good in This (DMBLGiT)? And Introducing My Judges Too!

I
t is once again, my pleasure to host “Does My Blog Look Good in This?" this month. Before I go any further with the announcement and introduce to my judges, I have to say a special thank you to Radhika of HomeMades who swapped places with me as a DMBLGiT host.
I was originally supposed to host this event in May, but I just realised mid-way through this month that May would be inconvenient for me. So I get to host the event this month, while Radhika will be the host for the May edition.




As most of would know, DMBLGiT was started in 2005 by Andrew of SpitoonExtra, and is a monthly food (and drink) photography event open to all bloggers who have posted a food photograph on their blogs. Photographs are submitted from blog posts of the previous months and these are judged, scored and the winners are selected in each of three categories (edibility, aesthetics, and originality). There will also be three overall winners.
You can see the previous month’s submissions andwinners at Sefa Firdaus’s blog.
You have probably come across my judges for this month some time or the other, but just in case you haven’t I’ll begin by having my panel of judges to introduce themselves to you. Of course, all four of them are accomplished food photographers.
I am happy they agreed to judge this month’s submissions despite my approaching them at the last minute with my request. Let’s now meet them and have them tell us a little about themselves.

This Month’s DMBLGiT Judges:

Lynne Daley


“I developed an interest in newspaper photography and fine-art photography while studying journalism at university. I won a photography contest in the early 1990s, which encouraged me to take online photography and darkroom classes.  at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art in Augusta, Georgia. I have won more awards since for my still-life work and now exhibit at cafes and art galleries in the Augusta, and Savannah, Georgia areas. I’m married with three daughters, settled in Augusta ( Georgia) where you’ll find me taking photographs for family and friends.”
You can find Lynne’s photos of coastal scenes, landscapes, and cityscapes at Photography byLuLu her photos of flowers, fruit, and food at Photo-per-Diem.  She also writes at Cafe Lynnylu, a food blog with a strong emphasis on food photography.

Aisha Yusaf


"I am an Indian girl currently living in Switzerland. Have I always aspired to be a photographer? No, it wasn't always so. But the birth of my two beautiful children, my passion for baking, and my love of travel all led me to the path of photography; wanting to capture the moment, a smile to remember for a lifetime. Taking pictures of my kids became almost impossible when they started running in the other direction as soon as they spotted the camera in my hands. That's when I got into food photography and it has been an abiding passion for the last 4 years. To me, photography is an art, and in art, as in life, passion is everything. The rest is just detail.”
Though Aisha has a passion for food as well as photographing it, she does not blog. You can however take a peek at her photography on her portfolio as well as on Flickr.



Sylvie Shirazi


“I am a freelance food photographer and food writer. I share simple, wholesome everyday recipes that celebrate the joy that real food brings to our lives, on my blog – Gourmande In The Kitchen. I hopes to inspire others to follow their instincts, trust their taste buds, and find a sense of confidence in the kitchen as well as behind the camera.”

You can find Sylvie’s recipes, photographs and photography tutorials at Gourmande In The Kitchen, and more of her food photography on her portfolio.

Soma Rathore

"Hi there! I am a ‘stay at home mom’ of two beautiful girls. After years of exploring literature and the science of computers, I have now turned my passion to discovering the science of food and photography. To say it simply, I am a Foodie and like most food photographers trying to learn and find my way around that. I am indeed a happy soul surrounded with love and friends and family and could not ask for more.”
You can explore the world of Soma’s food and photography on her blog eCurry, and on Flickr.

And The DMBLGiT Rules:

In general DMBLGiT rules which are as follows -

-  Only one food/drink photograph may be entered per person.
-  The photograph must have been taken by you.
-  The photograph must have been posted on your blog between the 1st and the 29th February, 2012.
-  The deadline to submit your entry is the midnight of the 20th March, 2012, whenever that is in your part of the world.
-  The above mentioned panel of judges will assess the quality of all of the entries before eventually selecting winners from the pictures. The winners will be selected in the following categories:
Aesthetics: composition, food styling, lighting, focus, etc.
Edibility: Does the photo make us want to take a big bite out of our computer monitor while drooling on our keyboard?
Originality: a photo that makes you stop, look twice, and think "Wow! I never thought of photographing it like that before."
Overall Winner: the photograph that scores the highest when individual scores for Aesthetics, Edibility and Originality are added up.
-  My announcement post with the winners for this month should be published on the 1st April, 2012.

And now the specific details for participating in DMBLGiT  -

1.       Draft an e-mail with DMBLGiT as the subject line.

2.      Attach one qualifying food or drink photo, 500 pixels in width. Please ensure your photograph does not have any text or watermarks on it.

3.      In your mail, please include the following details:
Your name
Your blog URL
The title of the image/what it is
The URL of the post where the photo first appeared
The camera and lens you used

4.      Then send the email to me at aparna[at]mydiversekitchen[dot]com

Please note that by submitting a photo, entrants agree to their photo being redisplayed and altered in size on the host's page and on the SpittoonExtra DMBLGiT page.
I have created a gallery in Picasa where I will be adding your photos as I receive them. If you do not receive an acknowledgment from me within 72 hours, please leave a message in the comments section of this post, and I will get back to you.
If you would like any further clarification or have any questions, please feel free to write to me, or leave a comment at the end of the post.
If you would like to host a future edition of DMBLGiT (and I hope you will), please do write to Andrew. Otherwise DMBLGiT might eventually die a premature death.
Looking forward to your participation, and seeing your beautiful food photography.


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March 6, 2012

The Organic Family Cookbook – A Review And Pumpkin Pancakes with Honey Butter, Pistachios, and Fig Jam

I
was sent this book by Sellers Publishing late last year and when I flipped through it, I knew I would be posting about it for sure.  It has taken me a couple of months to finally review The Organic Family Cookbook -Growing, Greening And Cooking Together by Anni Daulter, but in my opinion the delay shouldn’t matter because this is one of those cookbooks whose recipes are always relevant.
The Organic Family Cookbook is all about family friendly and healthy meals using organic ingredients. She advocates trying to grow whatever one can, but her recipes are really about using fresh and natural ingredients in one’s cooking.




This comes across while flipping through the book which is full of beautiful photographs (taken by Alexandra DeFurio), is that everything looks farm-fresh, wholesome, healthy and colourful.  
The recipes are short and easy to follow, accompanied not only by photographs but also sidebars where Anni Daulter shares how she and family are eco-friendly,  grow their vegetables/ fruit and how  she gets her children (teenager to toddler) to eat healthy and organic. She also provides tips on things like tips on how to green your kitchen, building a compost pile with the children, planning a family cooking day and how to dye eggs with vegetable dye.




(Image: Courtesy Sellers Publishing)


The recipes in this book are divided into different sections based on types of meals.
Naturally Tasty Breakfasts (On-the-Go 3-Cheese Savory Scones, Bodhi’s Warm Berry Quinoa With Honey Butter, Mother’s Day Sun-dried Tomatoe-Basil Pesto Ricotta Crepes, etc)
Simple Snacks (Veggie Parmesan Popcorn, Natural Cran-Strawberry Red Roll-ups, Spicy Lime And Sesame Pumpkin Seeds, etc)
Wholesome Lunches (Piquante Pepper And Sweet Potato Flatbread, Roasted Tomato Garden Tacos, Udon Noodles With Soybeans And Carrots, etc)
Family Favourite Dinners (Tom’s Favourite Mushroom And Onion Tart, Linguini With Spicy Tomato Caper Sauce, Veggie Sliders With Blue Corn Chips, etc)
Savory Sides ( Luscious Garlic Beet Chips, Stuffed Focaccia French Bread, Fig Jam With Garlic Cheese Tarts, etc)
Refreshing Desserts ( Fall Pumpkin Spice Cookies, Simple Peach Berry Souffles, Dana’s Raw Vegan Apple Pie, etc)
Homespun Extras ( Lotus Loves Honey Butter, Tofu Mayo, Fresh Fig Jam, Everyday Garden Salsa, etc)

Please see this page for a little more about the book.



(Image: Courtesy Sellers Publishing)



Now I don’t grow much stuff on my balcony, and I’m not too sure just how organic the vegetables and fruit at my local market are, but I do cook almost all my meals from scratch as do most people in India. Some of the recipes in Anni Daulter’s book may take a little (not a lot) time to put together but I agree with her when she says the effort is worth it, especially if one can involve one’s children in the process.
Some of the organic ingredients she uses may not be available in regular stores but she provides, at the end of her book, a list of speciality stores where these would be available. Even if they aren’t available anywhere where you live, like in my case, it is easy enough to use substitutes.
And if you’re vegetarian like me, a large number of recipes in this book are vegetarian and most of them that aren’t can very easily be adapted to make them vegetarian. I would definitely recommend this book as one to have on your cookbook shelf.
Please also see my review of Anni Daulter's other book, Ice Pop Joy.

About The Author:
Anni Daulter is an ecomama, professional cook, advocate for sustainable living, and author of 2 other books, Ice Pop Joy and Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies & Toddlers. She is also the cofounder of a conscious family living magazine called Bamboo and lives in Los Angeles, California with her family.




I tried making her Pumpkin Pancakes With Honey Butter And Pistachios and Fig Jam, and they were very good. I have my own recipe for Fig Jam so I didn’t make hers. I made the Honey Butter and found it enough of an accompaniment for the pancakes.
I had to make some substitutions for ingredients I couldn’t find here. So I used sugar instead of agave syrup, yogurt instead of sour cream and used 1 cup each of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour.



And that Honey Butter is pretty good, very easy to make, tastes like a very buttery toffee sauce and is sure to be a popular with children especially. It is rich but perfect with these pancakes and would be excellent with waffles or vanilla ice-cream, or with just about anything where you might use a butterscotch sauce.

 
Pumpkin Pancakes with Honey Butter, Pistachios, and Fig Jam
(From the Organic Family Cookbook by Anni Daulter)


Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons raw agave nectar, plus more for topping
2 eggs
unsalted butter, for cooking
1/2 cup chopped pistachios, for topping
honey butter, for topping
2 tablespoons fig jam, for topping (recipe page 151 of her book)

 

Method:

 
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, wheat germ, baking soda, and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, sour cream, pumpkin purée, vanilla, agave nectar, and eggs.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and mix until combined.
Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Ladle pancake batter into skillet to make medium-sized pancakes. As soon as bubbles begin to form on the top side of the batter, flip the pancakes to the second side. Both sides should be lightly browned when done.
Remove pancakes from skillet and keep warm while cooking the remaining pancakes. Serve topped with chopped pistachios, raw agave nectar, honey butter, and fig jam on the side.
 Makes 12–15 medium-size pancakes.

Author’s Notes: These pancakes are a fall favorite. I enjoy the spicy flavors and the crunch of the pistachios, and fig jam is good on just about anything. These are great for picky eaters, because they’re packed with delicious flavors (as well as healthy goodies!).
The trick to cooking pancakes well is to flip them as soon as you start to see bubbles forming in the batter. They almost look like little holes on the surface.


Honey Butter


Ingredients:

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup honey


Method:

 
Mix the butter and honey together until nicely whipped and smooth. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator for upto 1 week.
Serves 6.



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