Friday, June 22, 2012


There's an urban myth that if you go into any big supermarket and ask nicely at the bakery counter they'll happily give you a lump of fresh yeast. I've never met anyone who'd done this, and I don't have the nerve to try it. But I've found a much more expensive way of getting fresh yeast, which does at least work. The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School sells it online. Price is £3.95 plus postage of around £3 for a block of 500 grams. I imagine the cost is all to do with the preparation and that the wholesale price is a lot less. I ordered on Tuesday, the yeast was dispatched on Wednesday, I received it about 10 on Thursday, and by 2 pm I had this cooling on the table:  The yeast variety is Hirondelle, which is what my very local baker, Cooper's Bakehouse, uses. There it's described as "a slow-acting, gentle yeast". I probably used too much yeast, as it rose very quickly, but it's an impressively light half-wholemeal loaf. Next time I'll use less and give it a longer rise, so that the flavour develops better. But I'm very pleased and I now have enough fresh yeast to last me a few months. Some is still in the fridge, and I've frozen quite a bit of it in manageable lumps. It arrived in good condition in a huge amount of thermal insulation. So, if you want fresh yeast, this is something you could try. 500g is a hell of a lot for a home baker, though, so I'd suggest if you can find someone to share with, do.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Leek and walnut pie

This was an improvisation, and could be tweaked no doubt.

1 fat leek, the white part, sliced into rounds
1 fairly large shallot, finely chopped
some cubed pancetta - half of one of those twin packs Waitrose sell
2 small cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
a handful of shelled walnuts, lightly chopped
some stock (I used the liquid from boiling chick peas)
about a tablespoon of plain flour
salt, pepper, a little allspice
some mashed potato

In a big saute pan heat the oil and add the pancetta, shallot and garlic. Fry gently until the shallot is soft.
Add the leeks and let them get hot.
Add the flour, stirring it into the oil. You might want to add some butter.
Before the flour goes brown, add the stock, and mix it into the flour. Keep stirring for a while. You're basically making a white sauce.
Season creatively and add the walnuts.
Let it all cook for about 10 minutes, adding more stock if it looks too dry.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180c and prepare your mash.
Put your leek mix into a pie dish and dump the mash on top. Decorate it artistically with a fork, then bake for about 20 mins until the mash has browned a little.

Allow to cool a little before eating. If you can stand to wait, let the pie cool completely to room temperature and eat it with some kind of salad. (It was much nicer like this).

Possible tweaks would include leaving out the pancetta and adding cheese somewhere along the line.