Saturday, 4 November 2017

The Cookery Calendar Challenge

Once again I am joining in with Penny of The Homemade Heart and her Cookery Calendar Challenge. My chosen book for October was Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann, a book I was given for my birthday last February but which has sat on the shelf ever since. What a waste, for this is a real gem of a book and I think one of my favourites of all those I've tried this year, although I did have to make a special shopping trip for things like rye flour, quark and rye bread. It's a beautifully written, photographed and produced book, made up of larger chapters (Family Meals, Soups, Salads, Bread etc) but interspersed with charming mini-chapters (Summer Nights, Christmas Lunch, Easter Hygge) containing just a few recipes and lots of words and photos which create wonderful vignettes and very inspiring meal ideas.

My first recipe was actually from the Christmas section; Kale and Pancetta Tart, with a pastry crust made from spelt flour. I tend to think of quiches, or savoury tarts, as summery food, something eaten with salad and perhaps some new potatoes, so I was keen to try this one. It's easy, but not perhaps that quick. 

You begin by making the pastry in a way I'd never tried before with spelt flour and quark. I'm usually quite scared of making pastry (and will buy ready rolled whenever possible) but this was very easy to roll out and handle. While the crust is baking, you fry the pancetta with some onions, then add in kale and chopped boiled potatoes, before mixing in the beaten eggs and quark at the end and pouring it into the pastry shell.

Everything about this recipe works; kale and pancetta work well together (I always think anything pork and cabbage related are cooking friends) and the potatoes give it all a bit more solidity and make it a filling meal. The spelt pastry was a revelation; crisp, nutty and full of flavour. We ate it warm for dinner and cold for lunch the next day.

Next, a breakfast dish: Rye Bread Porridge. I was really keen to see how soggy bread could in any way translate into a tasty breakfast, but I had the rye bread (which, actually, I love and have started buying every week) and so I gave it a go. You soak two slices of stale rye bread overnight in some water, then chuck the slightly grey, revolting looking slop into a saucepan in the morning. 

As you simmer the bread and stir it, something amazing happens; the bread breaks down and absorbs the water, turning darker and velvety as it does. After five minutes or so you add some lemon juice and zest, then serve it with a little cream and syrup. It's not exactly a light option, definitely a weekend treat, but oh my goodness it's incredible. The slightly rich, dark taste of the rye is balanced by the freshness of the lemon and the syrup and cream just make the whole thing heavenly.

Finally, I made some bread. I had wanted - especially since I cooked all these over the half term break - to have a go at making my own sourdough, or perhaps some rye bread. But I just couldn't quite get my act together and felt like I had enough on my plate with a puppy and two children to feed, without nursing a sourdough starter too. So I made Easy Morning Spelt Rolls. I freely admit I was attracted to the word "easy" and what do you know, the recipe does not lie.

You make a very straightforward bread dough in the food mixer  - you just thrown in the spelt flour, yeast and water and mix for ten minutes - then you put the bowl in the fridge overnight. In the morning, it has more than doubled in size and is ready to go.

It's a very wet dough, so it needs knocking back and kneading with a generous amount of flour. Bella and Angus enjoyed this process very much.

Then you divide the dough into around twelve rolls and bake for twenty minutes. 

I froze half my dough and defrosted it this afternoon and have just baked the other six rolls for the week ahead. I will need to make more though because - and this was quite unexpected - the kids really, really, like these rolls. They don't have that hard a crust, and are soft and chewy inside with a flavour that's a bit like sourdough, and they keep really well for three or four days. They are now requesting them in their lunchboxes. Angus even said they were "lovely". Lovely! I don't know when I've ever had such a positive response to something I baked.

So, this book was full of surprises: spelt flour makes incredible pastry, rye bread porridge is delicious, and my children like spelt rolls. I feel like I should write the author a thank you note. 

November's choice is Pieminister: A Pie for All Seasons, which seemed an appropriate choice for a dreary month during which I will mainly be comfort eating.

I hope you are all well. We are all good here, and mightily relieved that Ziggy doesn't seem to be remotely troubled by the bangs from fireworks as, for those not in the UK, it's Bonfire Night tomorrow. I've just remember that I was going to make some parkin. Maybe I'll bake some tomorrow. 


  1. It's a triumph indeed when the children love something isn't it. The rolls do look absolutely delicious. I am in a bit of a cookery slump here. Really must dust of a recipe book or two and make something nice. CJ xx

  2. I am very tempted to buy this book, just from your descriptions! Those rolls look delish!

  3. Yum, all looks very delicious. I grew up with quark, miss it actually. We used to get it flavoured, just like fruit yogurt but not quite. I'd buy this book for the tart alone I think. I might try to make something similar with cavolo nero. Have a lovely Sunday xx

  4. Those rolls look absolutely delicious and it's a real result if the children request them. All the recipes look perfect for cold autumn days; we're into comfort eating mode too. It's one of the best bits of the season - especially as all the woolly jumpers can cover any extra poundage! Enjoy Bonfire Night. xx

  5. That sounds an interesting book, which I'll note down & see if the library has it before I think of buying. We are trying to eat healthier now that we are ageing. Thanks for this post. Take care.

  6. Those rolls made me so hungry. Your photos are fab at showing off your food. xxx

  7. I'm really glad you tried your new book. I don't think I've seen it here but I'll take a look. I enjoy using different grains in baking. We grind our own whole wheat flour from wheat grains, to make sure it stays fresh, and we use spelt, amaranth and some others at times. I make a quiche or frittata almost every week, since I have so many eggs from my hens (a blessing, of course, but you have to find things to do with the eggs). This week, I'll incorporate asparagus, since it was on sale at the store. I try to keep it interesting, since we have it so often. :)

  8. I have Trine's Scandinavian Baking but not this one; I'll have to check it out. I'd never have thought of making porridge this way – how intriguing. It's amazing when your kids love something you've cooked, isn't it? It happens sometimes here (more often now they're older, I'll admit) and makes for much happier mealtimes all round. You're lucky that Ziggy doesn't mind the fireworks. We have one neurotic dog here who is totally freaked out by them, sadly, and one of the cats hides under a cupboard, while the other one isn't bothered. Have a lovely week. Sam x

  9. The tart looks amazing. Challenge met.

  10. Mmmmh... lovely!! :-)
    Send the author an email and include the link to this blog post of yours, Gillian! She'll love it. I've done this several times, telling authors how much I enjoyed their work, providing a link to the review on my blog, and most of the time, I hear back from them - some even have taken the time to leave their own comment, which is always a special treat.

  11. Oh my goodness - that porridge sounds divine! I'm a huge fan of rye bread and as I'm the only one that eats it in this house often have a stale piece or two. I will have to give this a try!
    You've inspired me to dig out my Scandinavian bake book now. I bought it as everything looked so delicious (addicted to kanelbullar over here!) but many of the ingredients are not my usual store cupboard essentials. And so it has sat forlornly on the shelf for a couple of years now... I must rectify this.
    Have a great week!
    Carly xo

  12. The book looks so cosy... though perhaps containing a little too much spelt for me with a peculiar and only intolerance to spelt. Strange. The porridge looks oh so interesting. I am attempting to protect the Parkin carefully wrapped in greaseproof from hungry hands as it tastes so good a few days later... wish me luck!

  13. Beautiful bread! Something about fall just means savory cooking to me. Looking at your pictures is next best!

  14. so /thats/ how you make rye porridge. I was intrigued. I guess its a little like bread pudding or even lardy cake (but without all the rich fatty goodness). I love rye bread and pretend to myself its low carb!!

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