Simon Huggins's blog

Sun, 07 Oct 2007

My stomach and me

I'm sure I am only have legs and a brain so that I can keep my stomach happy. Food rules my life. I don't understand people that can miss breakfast; my stomach would be moaning at me if I did. It does have a good side though as it means I really enjoy food and I enjoy cooking it too.

Since I have some more time on my hands these days, I've been experimenting a little more and trying some more things out so I thought I should post about them.

Bread maker

I asked for a bread maker for my birthday. I worked from home and ate bread all the time for lunch but it always went off quickly and supermarket bread isn't always amazing. The machine has been great. The even rapid bake loaves it churns out in just two hours are great. It has a timer so you can put a loaf on over night and come down to lovely fresh bread smells. The dry ingredients are easy to keep around and you just bung them all in the pan, hit a few buttons and later on a loaf appears as if by magic.

I especially like the granary loaves especially if I add a little rye flour but all the standard recipes seem good. The French bread one seems to give the right texture and taste but it's odd eating it in a loaf shape so I might have to make that one as dough and then shape and bake it separately one day.

I didn't like the olive and passata loaf; it came out an interesting orange colour flecked with the chopped olives but didn't really taste of tomatoes or olives. There's a tomato foccacia that uses sundried tomatoes that I might try out though.

There's a croissant recipe which seems to be a quantity of French dough that you put butter in, wrap around butter, and then more butter. How can it possibly go wrong? I need a free morning to try it but I think I will soon.

Basically if you don't have a bread machine you probably want one.


I watched a series of cooking programmes on BBC (Kitchen Criminals) and they seemed to be making pasta from scratch every two minutes so I was intrigued to try it. I mentioned it to my Mum and she had a machine that she'd never used that I borrowed. Sadly it's not quite as easy as it looks after TV editing.

Basically the first bit is really easy: whizzing flour, olive oil, an egg and some salt in a food processor, kneading it a bit and making it into a ball. Bung it in the fridge to rest and then the fun begins of trying to make it into a flat sheet. Lots more flour (in fact my kitchen was covered with it) and lots of patience and many attempts got me something that was vaguely what I wanted. Every time I got close it would stick together or it would rip or it would go in at an angle and I didn't have enough hands to fix all these problems at once. Even using smaller amounts of the dough is tricky. I was making ravioli the first time and it was nice but took lots of time and I didn't feel it was entirely worth the effort. I tried just simple tagliatelle last night but again it took a long time and you end up thinking that you could have just bought fresh pasta in a bag and be grabbing a handful of it instead of spending 40 minutes faffing just to get some strands.

It might be worth it if you had some amazing idea for ravioli filling but I think I'll give Mum her machine back and not buy one.


I've always really loved Pizza Express's cheesecake but never really understood how they did it especially with the texture at the edges. I'd always thought cheesecakes were just an assembly job really; my standard one is lime and mascarpone and icing sugar and it is tasty but not the same. Chatting to various people it seems the Pizza Express one is baked so I tried a recipe from a book Mum had lying around that I was flicking through.

It was a chocolate baked cheesecake and it sort of worked but was almost a little too chocolately and didn't have enough other interest. It probably wants some zest or some stem ginger or something through it. It's a terrible hardship but I think I might have to make another one to perfect it.


Like I said, I want to try croissants and I've always been looking for a good recipe for gingerbread; I really love ginger as a flavour. I never really cook with pastry much so I should perhaps try some pies or similar whilst I'm not working and have time to do these things. Any other suggestions welcome.

Sat, 01 Apr 2006

Back from shopping and feeling smug...

Once again I return from food shopping and I feel smug because I shopped at Waitrose. There's something about buying organic, free range chicken breasts that just puts a smile on my face. Or about going down their world food aisle and adding a couple of random but interesting items to my trolley.

They seem to really care where their food comes from, the stores are all a bit different and often fairly small but they do seem to be well stocked. You pay a bit more but you actually get good food and you can rely on it being good which makes a change from most supermarkets in the UK.

Part of the reason I had to go was because I saw my Mum last week for Mother's Day and she asked how I was getting along with the Chinese cook book I'd asked for for Christmas. I had to admit I hadn't used it yet partly due to a lack of ingredients - I used to pass a Chinese supermarket every time I took the bus but it shut down a while back. So this trip to Waitrose included some extra oils and some Chinese cooking wine. I still need to make some special chicken stock (richer and with ginger, garlic and spring onions) before I can actually make most of the recipes, oh and finding a source of wonton skins would be good, but I'm a lot closer than I was.