Tag Archives: holiday

Of potato loaves and giant yeasted gnocchi

potato-bread3

How could you say no to a bread loaf that someone has described as “basically a huge, yeasted, baked gnocchi”?

The recipe for this Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) challenge calls for about equal amounts of mashed potatoes and flour, mixed with a small amount of the potato’s cooking water, yeast, olive oil. And after two quick rises, the bread is ready for the oven. Easy, right?

Except. I was baking in the Mr Gander Family beach hut, with a bare, holiday-house-kinda kitchen. It had a great view and gorgeous surroundings (see photos at the end of this post), but none of the baking accessories that forms my comfort zone: kitchen mixer, measuring cups, measuring spoons, kitchen scales, baking stone, and our slightly quirky but familiar oven. Instead, I made the rustic potato loaf with a large salad bowl, an old wooden spoon and by eyeballing the ingredients. It went something like this:

Me: does this look like 1/4 cup to you??

Mr Gander: …

In addition, we came back from the shops with waxy potatoes, not floury potatoes. Waxy potatoes, like kipfler potatoes, are great for salads. They have low starch content, maybe more moisture, and keep their shape when cooked. Floury potatoes, like Russet potatoes, are great for mashing because of their higher starch content and melty-fluffy-ness when mashed. Floury = great for potato bread. Waxy = maybe not so good for potato bread. (See here for more a detailed explanation.)

Probably because of the eyeballing, and the use of undesirable waxy potatoes, the potato loaf dough never quite came together into a satiny elastic ball as I expected. Instead, it looked like ciabatta dough’s cousin thrice removed: wet and shaggy, sticky, consequently a bit difficult to knead and shape; but also rises beautifully, with some irregularities in the moist, open crumb.

On a whim, I added rosemary from the garden, some whole fennel seeds, and a tiny bit of cracked pepper.

There was so much that could have gone wrong with this baking venture. I was unconsciously holding my breath until the bread came out of the oven. And – the bread loaves actually rose and browned in the oven! And most of them were eaten for dinner (before I took a photo). And the left over bread were made into toast the next morning (when I was ready to hover with the camera).

potato-bread2

I made two batches of potato loaves, each with slightly different baking times and temperatures. One turned out more like the ‘classic’ rustic potato loaf. The other turned into a kind of hybrid gnocchi-bread. Surprisingly, the gnocchi-bread was the preferred bread for a few of the Gander clan. Hmm…gotta love the in-laws !?

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Summer holidays, with a bare kitchen

We have been back at work for two weeks. Coming back from a holiday on the south coast of NSW, we slowly settle back into life in the city, our sun tans fade and I finally get that bit of sand out of the beach towel.

There was a ‘quiet gladness’ that comes from being immersed in the sea, sand and surrounding bushland. Here are some photos (some taken with our p+s camera, often with a phone), and two recipes at the end of the post.

backroad 4moruya5

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Lunch, Christmas day

beach signIt is 8pm on Christmas day, in a 1950s style beach house. I am writing this lying on a couch that doubles as a day bed. We are still recovering from a lavish Christmas lunch that ended barely a few hours ago.

[this is posted one day later, when we got internet]

Every year, Mr Gander’s family and close relatives gather on the south coast of NSW for Christmas. The family bought land in this area before running water and electricity had made its way through the bush, before sealed roads and bridges had replaced dirt tracks and car ferries across the river. Each year, Christmas lunch or dinner have consisted of a surfeit of turkey and ham with all the trimmings, and a brandy pudding with all its trimmings. 

Last year, Mr Gander and I broke from tradition and stayed in Sydney (he had just moved up from a few years in Melbourne), where I cooked a seafood Christmas lunch just for him and his immediate family. This year, I made Christmas lunch for the extended clan.

Lunch is served

christmas flowersFor this occasion, I walked a middle ground between tradition and innovation.

Instead of turkey and ham, I made farsumagru again (I had made it earlier this year and friends loved it). Farsumagru is a renowned, old-fashioned Sicilian meat (and cheese and herbs) roll that is, for me, the epitome of festive rich decadence. It is also redolent of history and culinary tradition.

For dessert, I gave everyone a summery trifle scented with rose water, followed by a traditional Christmas cake (traditional except for the decoration, but more on that next time).

Here is the full menu. The recipes will be in the following posts.

Canapes
Dates stuffed with goat cheeses and prosciutto
Mixed nuts

Entree
Home made buffalo milk labne with pita, cucumbers, and young herbs

Main
Farsumagru
Mixed herbs and walnut salad, with tarrator and pomegranate molasses dressings
Orange, fennel and parsley salad
Smashed potatoes with duck fat and rosemary

Dessert
Rose water trifle, with watermelon, strawberries, pistachios and rose petals
‘Double happiness’ Christmas cake

Drinks
Lots. Responsibly served. (enough said?)

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