Lockdown

Lockdown lunch – easy flatbreads with mushroom and lentil soup

mushroom soup flatbreads

Lockdown continues with no end in sight in terms of the children going back to school. I’ve grown quite used to having them around but I feel as though I am morphing into a 1950s housewife. All meals are served on the dot at set times and my brain is clogged up with thinking about where the next one will come from and how I can mix up the random ingredients in the cupboard to form some sort of presentable family meal. Putting all my feminist principles to one side, it’s a part that I’m rather enjoying playing. PS. I do not look like a 1950s housewife. No pretty tea dresses here but rather tracksuit bottoms, no makeup and grey roots scrapped back into a rough ponytail.

We’ve now completely run out of bread and plain flour and our supply of out-of-date yeast (begged and borrowed from friends and family) is dwindling away dangerously. Luckily, we have still been able to buy self-raising flour locally so I searched the internet for a bread recipe that would make use of this. I was really delighted with the results of this flatbread recipe – loosely based on one from Jamie Oliver’s website. The dough was very forgiving and soft and it could be shaped easily without the aid of a rolling pin. It’s definitely one that you could get the kids to help with (dress it up as a home economics lesson!). My husband Ben said that they tasted a bit like crumpets which can never be a bad thing in my opinion.

The mushroom and lentil soup comes from the no-nonsense ‘New Complete Vegetarian’ by Rose Eliiot. It is rather reminiscent of healthy vegetarian cafes circa 1990, but with a few embellishments it made a perfectly respectable weekday lunch. It tasted earthy and wholesome and handily made use of store cupboard ingredients and some on-the-turn mushrooms. Weirdly my son ate it happily – despite claiming to hate both mushrooms and lentils (I didn’t tell him what was in it until the end).

The flatbreads were the star of the show though and I really recommend trying them.

Quick flatbreads (with self-raising flour)

Makes 8

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 350g plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A slug of rapeseed or olive oil
  • Optional flavourings – I added a little fenugreek and some black mustard seeds

In a large bowl mix together all of the above ingredients with your hands and mix until it all comes together into a smooth dough (use a little more flour if it’s too sticky, I needed a couple of extra sprinkles). Cover the bowl with cling film or a tea towel and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to cook, divide the dough into 8. Roll each portion into a ball and flatten out until it is about 20 cm in diameter. Use a rolling pin if you need to.

Heat a frying pan until very hot – do not add any oil. Cook each flatbread for a 1-2 minutes on either side. They’ll bubble up a bit and go nice a brown in places. You may need to reduce the heat a little if the pan gets too hot – I like it though if they catch a little in places.

Keep warm in a very low oven (around 100oC) on a plate covered with a damp tea towel while you cook the rest (the tea towel will prevent them from drying out).

Mushrooms and lentil soup

Serves 4

  • 200g pack of mushrooms (I used chestnut), chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter (approximately 15g)
  • 125g green (or Puy) lentils
  • 850ml water
  • A stock cube (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • To serve, dill or parsley, cream or grated Parmesan

Take a large frying pan and cook the onions, garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil and butter until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the lentils and the water and simmer with a lid on for 45 minutes until soft. Do not add any salt or salted stock cube until the lentils are soft as the salt prevents them from cooking.

If you are using a stock cube add this in once the lentils are soft and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Blend the soup until smooth. This will make a very thick soup. I thinned mine down with a bit more water, or you can use milk if you wish. Check the seasoning and add pepper and a little more salt if necessary.

Serve topped with dill, parsley, a drizzle of cream or olive oil, or perhaps some grated cheese.

 

Lockdown Cinnamon Buns

cinnamon buns

It has been two years since I last posted on this blog. I’m still alive and cooking away happily but have struggled to make time to photograph and post the recipes.

I re-join you with a little more time on my hands. I’m in lockdown and made redundant from my paid work but trying to wrestle with my new, unplanned job of school teacher.

In this current housebound situation meals have become the main focus of our days. In these uncertain times even simple food brings me reassurance, comfort and genuine joy. Meals also do a wonderful job of bringing our little family together when we have all crept off to our separate corners of the house to work, study (or pretend to), read and sneakily binge on YouTube, Netflix etc.

To break up the day even more we have heartily embraced the English mid-morning snack known as ‘elevenses’ (or, ‘second breakfast’ if you’re a Hobbit). With this comes a battle with my daughter over who is going to bake the sweet treat. She’s eleven now and a keen (but messy) baker with a mobile phone and her own Instagram page mainly devoted to showing off her results. We are both very relieved that flour, yeast and eggs have now returned to the shops after a few weeks of worrying absence.

Elevenses is probably our favourite and most extravagant meal (snack) of the day. Others tend to be modest affairs consisting mainly of rice and tins of beans masquerading as some sort of curry.

Top of our ‘elevenses’ favourites are these tasty Scandinavian style cinnamon buns. With these I can fantasise that I’m in a trendy Stockholm cafe enjoying the Swedish equivalent of ‘elevenses’ known as ‘fika’ (roughly translated as coffee and cake).

The original recipe came from Magnus Nilsson’s epic ‘The Nordic Cookbook’ but I have tinkered with it to make it simpler. I use my favourite no-knead method for a minimum of fuss. The process takes 24 hours from start to finish but the actual work involved is not at all onerous.

Cinnamon buns

Makes about 20

Dry ingredients

  • 600g of strong white flour
  • 150g of wholemeal flour (or use all white if you wish)
  • 125g of white sugar (granulated or caster)
  • 15g of dried easy bake yeast
  • 15g of salt

Wet ingredients

  • 150g of melted butter
  • 320ml of milk (semi-skimmed is fine)
  • 1 egg

Filing and baking

  • 150g of soft salted butter (or use unsalted and add a little salt)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cinnamon
  • 75g of brown sugar (demerara, light, dark take your pick or use white sugar if you prefer)
  • Egg wash, 1 egg mixed with a little milk (or just use milk if you don’t want to waste a valuable egg)

Add all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter (I use a microwave) and add the milk and beat in the egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well until combined. Knead gently for a minute just to make sure that all the ingredients are evenly mixed. I always use the no knead method for baking these days so this is all the kneading that’s required here.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave at room temperature to rise for around 6-8 hours. I generally do this first stage in the morning and leave to rise all day.

Tip the risen dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and roll out into a large rectangle roughly 50cm wide by 40cm. Try to get the thickness of the dough as even as possible and pull the edges to manipulate them into a rectangle (they’ll fight to stay rounded so just do your best.

Mix together 150g of softened butter with the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Spread this buttery mixture evenly over the surface of the dough leaving a 4cm border along the long edge furthest away from you. I use a butter or palette knife but the back of a spoon also works well.

Roll the dough up into a log starting from the edge closest to you and finishing with the unbuttered edge underneath.

Cut the log into slices roughly 2 cm thick. You will need a very sharp knife so that you don’t lose the shape. The end pieces will probably be a little more raggedy but don’t worry they’ll still taste great.

Transfer each slice (flat side down) onto a lightly greased baking tray. For this amount you will need two large ones with sides to catch any seepage of the buttery, cinnamon mixture.

Cover carefully with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to prove overnight.

In the morning take the buns out of the fridge and place in a warm place to rise until they are doubled in size. This will take around 1 ½ to 2 hours. I put mine in the airing cupboard.

Lightly brush the surface of the buns with the egg wash.

Bake in an oven at 200oC for around 15-20 minutes or until golden.

Cool on wire racks (if you can wait that long).