Egg, by Michael Ruhlman

Books
Egg, by Michael Ruhlman

Fried, scrambled, poached, boiled?

This is going to be difficult, isn’t it?

No, no. It’ll be fine. Eggs = breakfast, right?

Yes, that’s right. They do equal ‘breakfast’, but that’s the mere tip of the iceberg. All of those ways are superb ways to eat an egg, but egg-appreciation can’t just stop with a couple of rashers of bacon alongside. There’s much more to the humble egg than just that.

Think of an egg as a spacecraft.

A spacecraft?

Yes, a spacecraft.

You’ve got to realise exactly what an egg is, and what it’s for. An egg is an incubator. It’s a container that holds the very essence of life itself, with everything that life needs to get a kick-start … protection, food, energy. It’s just like a little self-contained spacecraft, except without the whole rocket and orbiting the earth bit.

I see. A little far-fetched perhaps, but there’s a good point in there somewhere …

There sure is. The fact that an egg has all the things on board that are needed to give birth to life means that it’s the most primordial and essential of food. Those nutrients that are intended to nourish a chicken embryo give us a powerful dose of protein, amino acids, minerals and vitamins in a handy, portion-sized shell, and on top of that, it’s so very versatile.

Micheal Ruhlman, in the introduction to his new book, Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient, writes of a conversation with the author and TV presenter Alton Brown, who mused that he thought of the egg as the Rosetta Stone of the kitchen, something that ‘unlocks the secret language of the kitchen’. The egg is more than just a breakfast staple – it’s the glue that holds the kitchen together, the gateway to truly wonderful cooking:

Learn the language of the egg – understand completely the amazing and beautiful oblong orb – and you can enter new realms of cooking, rocketing you to stellar heights of culinary achievement.

Blimey! I’d better up my game with them there eggs. Where do I start?

Funny you should ask. I’ve been engrossed in Ruhlman’s book for weeks now. It’s a superb place to start if you want to find out more about cooking with eggs and the colossal range of things you can do with them.

Ruhlman has some pedigree – his earlier book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, is my most often recommended introduction to curing and preserving meat. That book gives open, no-nonsense, practical guidance on a very tricky subject indeed, and I’ve had some huge successes through using it. Egg is just the same, a comprehensive and well-researched volume of recipes and information that’s both accessible and informative. More…

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Baked chicken curry

Food & drink
Baked chicken curry

Here’s a turn up for the books.

Instead of bubbling away on the hob for a couple of hours to cook, this curry goes in the oven.

That’s right … in the oven!

Can you imagine that! It’s baked instead of braised. Unbelievable. Your world is never going to be quite the same again, I can tell.

In truth, it’s not that radical, but it does make a nice change, and adds an extra dimension to the dish, if you’re careful and don’t nudge it around too much, allowing the edges to crisp and catch, blackening in the heat of the oven … and that’s the draw, really – those slightly charred bits are delicious, reminiscent of marinaded and barbecued meat, roasted over an open fire.

In most other ways, this is a standard curry, at least in its preparation and assembly. There should be nothing to surprise in the next few lines …

Start with a chicken. A whole chicken. Don’t bother with chicken pieces – a waste of money – just buy a chicken and learn how to cut it up into pieces. You get far more bang for your buck, that way.

Once your chicken is suitably dismembered, get on with the spices, toasting two teaspoons of cumin seeds, the same of coriander seeds, and a teaspoon of fennel seeds in a dry frying pan until they turn a nutty brown colour.

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Bread, by Dean Brettschneider

Books
http://www.them-apples.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Bread.jpg

I bake a lot of bread, as you’ve probably noticed, but I’m just a novice … there’s so much to learn about turning the most basic of ingredients – flour, yeast, salt, water – into something so elemental and elegant as a loaf of bread.

I have a long way to go, and this is a large part of what draws me to bake bread. It’s a process that’s never finished.

None of this stops me from searching for that perfect loaf, that fortuitous combination of ingredients, technique, environment and luck that leads to a truly outstanding loaf. I’ve been close a few times, and it’s true that the general standard of my bread nudges gently upwards the more and more I bake, but the self-critical part of me isn’t satisfied, and I doubt it ever will be.

Good books help, and I’ve bought many. My bread making canon includes the superb River Cottage Handbook dedicated to bread, the best tenner an aspiring baker will ever spend, Daniel Leader’s Local Breads for everything European, the frankly beautiful Tartine Bread, and now Dean Brettschneider’s Bread.

This is a compact list of dependable books, and it’s rarely added to. Brettschneider’s book is the first new one on there in years.

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Rye & caraway bread

Food & drink
Rye & caraway bread

In very broad terms, most of my bread baking is either traditional British, Italian or French, with the odd nod towards American ideas about things like sourdough, which normally all point back to Europe anyway.

This misses out a whole school of baking centred around Germany, Eastern Europe and parts of Scandinavia that has rye flour at its heart.

Rye is a different thing altogether, and it produces heavy, dense loaves that are substantial and rugged, the type of loaf that look as if it’d be useful on a building site once it goes stale.

I’ve decided to investigate, and this is the first of a few bread related posts that include rye, this time in a Central European tradition of baking.

The introduction to this recipe is Dean Brettschneider’s excellent book, Bread, places this rye and caraway loaf in Jewish New York, but a little cross-referencing, notably with Daniel Leader’s superb Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole Grain Recipes from Europe’s Best Artisan Bakers reveals its roots lie in Poland and the Czech Republic. The similarities between this loaf and a rye sourdough I sometimes buy from the local and long-established Polish bakery are striking.

This type of bread is an acquired taste. It’s as far away from a standard British white sliced loaf packed full of preservatives as it’s possible to get. Caraway isn’t for everybody, rye is not forgiving. Together, you’ll consider them either sublime or intolerable. There’s no space for indifference, but try, you must,

This isn’t difficult baking – the methods should be familiar to anybody who’s baked bread before. The difference is simply in the ingredients.

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Meat Liquor, Leeds

Eating out
Meat Liquor, Leeds

I’m on record as stating quite firmly that a burger cannot be classed as ‘gourmet’ in any way shape or form.

It’s not that a burger can’t be good. It can be. It can be just the thing at times, but the thought of anywhere labelling their burgers as some kind of fine dining, gourmet affair is a bit, well, daft.

In general, I stand by that, but I’m prepared to soften my stance a little after eating at Meat Liquor, the latest burger joint in Leeds. These were burgers on an entirely different plane to any I’ve tasted before.

These places are cropping up everywhere around the city. A few months ago, it was ribs and Americana on a plate, now it’s burgers. Burger place after burger place after burger place.

Some haven’t covered themselves in glory, with their crass sexism and frankly stupid stunts, others have quietly dominated dull shopping streets. Meat Liquor just snuck into a very unpromising afterthought of an alley running into the Trinity Centre and started making burgers and playing Marilyn Manson really loudly.

Ok, so…food. Cocktails and burgers. Lots of burgers, with chips, sorry, “fries” on the side.

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