Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting KS NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Food from scratch
7:00am Saturday 24th August 2013 in Lifestyle
Food writer Tim Hayward has always loved taking things apart to figure out how they work, and in his first book he deconstructs popular items like bacon, crumpets and pickled eggs. Andy Welch reports.
Once upon a time, if we wanted to eat something, we had to catch it or grow it ourselves.
From there, humans developed different methods for cooking and preserving foods, but over time these skills have all but disappeared, lost to convenience, pre-packaged goods and mass manufacturing.
Don't feel bad about it - most of us don't have time to make our own sausages. Life's too short, especially on a Sunday morning when all you really want is a quick bacon butty while reading the paper.
Wouldn't it be nice to know how to do these things, though, even if you're not going to quit your job to begin a career smoking mackerel, or move to the country to concentrate on rearing rare-breed pigs?
Tim Hayward knows a thing or two about the old ways, and is worried that once they're gone they'll die out forever. He's an award-winning food writer, broadcaster and all-round food expert and in his new book, Food DIY, details how to make everything from restaurant classics like confit duck legs to items you're more likely to find at the local chippy, such as pickled eggs.
"The intention was to do something unlike other cookbooks, really," says 50-year-old Hayward.
"It's more than just a recipe book, it's about an ideology, and I would never expect the people reading to change the way they shop and eat forever. We've evolved beyond making your own bacon for the rest of your days.
"What I want is people to try it once, and then I think it changes your relationship with the food you're eating. Make your own bacon, and you'll never buy that unpleasantly-made stuff that turns to water in the pan ever again."
Hayward, who lives in Cambridge with his wife and daughter, started down this path years ago and says it's a natural extension of being a "massively nerdy child" taking apart radios and clocks to see how they worked.
"I think it's a way of getting more certainty in your life, taking things apart to dissect them," he says. "I don't just want to make a stew, I want to know what happens to the meat when it's cooking. I went to art college, so maybe this comes from an interest in craft, because cooking, after all, is just another craft."
He started out making bread, perfecting various sourdough recipes before trying to master his own version of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
"I spent a lot of time in the Deep South in the US, so knew that fried chicken could be better," he says. And it can be - there's a recipe for the best-tasting chicken in his book.
"I wouldn't say this way of living is some Good Life thing, it's not about being self-sufficient and saving money, although saying that, making your own smoked salmon will save you a fortune. But on the whole, it's about a high quality of food, not thrift."
Where to start then? There are some recipes and techniques in Food DIY that will need some working up to - spit-roasting a whole lamb won't be for everyone - but there are plenty for even the most amateur of home cooks to try.
"I would suggest the bacon as an easy starting point," says Hayward. "It takes minutes to do and the results are fantastic.
"Once you get your head around the fact you can cover some meat in salt, hang it, wait a week, then eat it - and it won't be full of bacteria - then there are no limits to what you can achieve."
Cut of pork belly - any size you fancy
Prague Powder No.1 (available widely online) - allow 2.5g (¼tsp) per kg of meat to be cured (the sodium nitrite keeps the bacon pink, rather than the unattractive beige of cured pork)
This is easiest and most efficient way of making your own bacon, halfway between full dry cure and wet cure (Hayward's book features recipes for both).
Get hold of a nice fatty piece of belly pork - any size you fancy as long as you can find a ziplock freezer bag that it will fit into.
Mix together the salt, sugar and Prague Powder No.1, to form what is known as a 'dry cure'. Rub the cure hard into the meat. Put the meat into the bag and pour in the rest of the cure. Zip it up and put it into the fridge. Turn it over every day and, after a week, rinse it off and pat it dry. Then slice, fry and eat.
Makes approx 12
450g strong white bread flour
1 sachet (usually 7g) of quick-action dried yeast
400g warm milk
300g warm water
5g (1tsp) baking powder
Butter for greasing and serving
Put the flour into a mixing bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and the salt and thoroughly combine.
Make a well in the middle and pour in the warm milk.
Start to work the batter with a wooden spoon, letting it down little by little with the warm water until it's smooth and pourable.
Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
Grease some metal cooking rings with butter and put them into a well-greased, heavy-bottomed skillet or frying pan. Place on a medium flame.
Quickly and lightly beat the baking powder into the batter, then pour a ladleful into each ring to a depth of around 1cm. You'll need to alter the temperature of the pan for each batch, but you're aiming for them to rise and set in 8-10 minutes without burning on the bottom.
Once the top has just set, flip the rings over, loosen the sides of the crumpets with a knife and push them out of the ring so the top of the crumpet can lightly tan. Serve hot from the pan, with fresh butter.
250g whole milk
10g quick-action dried yeast
650g strong white flour, plus some for kneading
30g caster sugar
5g (1tsp) salt
275g unsalted butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
For the glaze:
40g caster sugar
4 white sugar cubes
Warm the milk to 30C in a pan and whisk in the yeast. Leave for 10 minutes, until frothy.
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and work in the butter with your fingertips.
Stir in the milk, then bring together into a dough. If you're kneading by hand, allow to rest for 20 minutes; if you have a mixer, fit the dough hook and start kneading until it becomes elastic. This usually takes 10 minutes in the mixer or 15 by hand.
Cover the dough with a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place for two hours or until doubled in size.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and poke it out into a flat shape. Sprinkle on the sultanas and quickly work them in. Divide into 12 pieces.
With floured hands, shape each bun. Pull the corners of each piece over and down, pinching them together underneath. Keep stretching and tucking so it looks like the upper surface of the bun is stretched tight over the insides. This membrane will hold the bun's shape as it rises and cooks and give the characteristic smooth crust.
Lay the buns on a sheet of quick-release silicone paper on a baking tray, with plenty of room between them for expansion. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size again.
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas mark 4. Glaze the buns with the beaten egg, then cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the underside of the buns sounds hollow when knocked.
Dissolve the sugar in the hot water to make a syrup. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, paint the syrup over them. Before the glaze dries, crush the sugar cubes with a rolling pin and sprinkle over the top.
Hayward suggests serving with damson jam and clotted cream.
:: Food DIY by Tim Hayward is published by Fig Tree, priced £25. Available now
Three of the best...
:: KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer, £429, Lakeland
Retro good looks and the smooth, rounded design puts this mixer on top of many a kitchen 'wish list'. Comes with a 300W motor, 4.8-litre stainless steel bowl, wire whisk, dough hook, Artisan® flat beater and a patented planetary mixing action.
:: Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer, £399, available from all good cook shops and department stores
Available in a plethora of bright colours, the kMix is stylish, easy to use and multi-functional. With a 500W motor, five-litre polished stainless steel bowl with a large handle and splashguard, plus electronic speed control with a fold function, the kMix whisks, mixes and kneads beautifully.
:: Dualit Stand Mixer, £299.95, John Lewis
With a 1000W motor, 12 variable speed settings, 4.8-litre bowl and powerful planetary mixing action, this new stand mixer will allow you create a host of culinary treats with ease.
Comments are closed on this article.