Saturday 22 March 2008

Autumnal Bread and Salad

At the start of the week it was too hot to bake soda bread. The end of the week finds the weather too cold and I have had to put on the heater to make sure the bread has a warm place to rise. That’s why we say Melbourne has four seasons in one day!

It brings to mind a fine Australian poem that most older Australians would have read at school. I have copied the choice bits to give you a taster but I encourage you to check out the full poem here because it is such a delight.

Excerpt from Said Hanrahan
by John O'Brien (1878-1952)

"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.


And so around the chorus ran
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."


In God's good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.


And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If this rain doesn't stop."

And stop it did, in God's good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o'er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.


While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.

"There'll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

Now back to last night’s dinner! When I was planning my hot cross buns, I decided I would make it a bread baking day. So I had a search for breads that took my fancy and decided on a Cheese and Onion Bread. E and I agreed it was very British. When I lived in Scotland, for a time one of my favourite lunchtime snacks was Gregg’s cheese and onion pasties, whereas E loved Walkers cheese and onion crisps.

I have been eyeing off Veganomicon in the bookstores and swithering over whether to purchase it. I am very tempted but also am mindful that I haven’t cooked much from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s other cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance which I have owned for about a year. So my challenge is to try and cook more VwaV recipes and if I do, then I can justify buying Veganomicon. Meanwhile, I still find inspiration in bookstores, I am sorry to say.

There is a recipe in Veganomicon, called Autumnal Root Vegetable Salad with Maple Fig Dressing (if I remember the title rightly). It features roasted purple potatoes, beetroots and orange sweet potato. I couldn’t resist the dazzling colours. Isa uses dried figs in her salad but I have been keen to find ways to eat fresh figs that seem to be everywhere right now. Not having the book with me, I turned to VwaV and found a maple glaze for inspiration. Finally, I destroyed its vegan credibility by topping it with a yoghurt sauce that was flavoured with Holler’s gorgeous pea pesto.

Dinner was delicious. My biggest disappointment was the purple congo potatoes which did not roast well. They tasted floury rather than fluffy. But I did take great pleasure from the darkness of the roasted vegetables which looked superb against the green leaves, the deep pink of the figs and the pale dressing. E didn’t like the figs but I thought their sweetness tasted fantastic with the yoghurt sauce and was a nice foil for the intensity of the roasted vegies. The bread was light and soft but I served it warm - unfortunately the deep cheesy flavour did not show until the bread cooled down. But I highly recommend this dinner for autumnal days when the nights are growing darker and colder.

Cheese and Onion Bread
(from The Complete Book of Bread and Bread Machines)

1 onion, finely chopped
45g/3½ tbp butter
450 g/4 cups unbleached white bread flour*
7g sachet dried yeast
5ml/1 tsp mustard powder
175g/1½ cups grated mature (sharp) Cheddar cheese
Salt and ground black pepper
150ml/⅔ cup lukewarm water
150ml/⅔ cup lukewarm milk

* Those with Australian measuring cups beware! When I made the hot cross buns, 4 cups of flour was meant to equal 600g of flour so I am wondering if I should have used less flour in this recipe. See Susan at Wild Yeast on the advantages of weighing over cup measures.

Melt half the butter in a frypan and fry onions til golden. This took me about 15-20 minutes over a low heat. Cool.

Place flour, yeast, mustard powder, seasoning and ⅔ of the cheese in a large bowl and mix. Make a well in the centre and add the milk and water. Mix to a soft dough and turn out onto a lightly floured board (you wont need much more in the way of flour for kneading this dough). Knead about 10 minutes til smooth and elastic.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with clingwrap and leave in a warm place for about 45-60 minutes until dough has doubled in size.

Punch down the dough to release the air and then knead for a few minutes til smooth. The recipe said to make 20 small balls and place them in two rows in a 25 x 10cm bread tin. I don’t have a bread tin so I made 8 balls and placed them together in a nice flower shape on a pizza tray. Cover with clingwrap and leave in a warm place til rise for 45 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 190 C.

Melt remaining butter and use to brush dough. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and onion. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown (mine took a little less time). Cool on a wire rack

Autumnal Roasted Vegetable and Fig Salad
(inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)
Serves 4

4 potatoes, cut in wedges (preferably not purple congo)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut in wedges
2 medium beetroots, peeled and cut in wedges
1-2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp seeded mustard
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Good pinch salt
Generous grind of black pepper
2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
4 figs, quartered

Yoghurt dressing:
½ cup plain yoghurt
2 tbsp pea pesto or 1 tbsp any other pesto (if you don’t have pesto you could use 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 clove crushed garlic)

Place potatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot, maple syrup, mustard and garlic in a large roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and mix well. Season to taste. Roast for 1½ hours at 200 C or until vegetables are soft.

To make yoghurt dressing mix ingredients. I used pea pesto but lots of other flavours would work here, even just yoghurt by itself or (if you want to be true to Isa’s vegan intent), a nice vinaigrette with maple syrup and mustard (because the flavours don’t come through very strongly in the roasted vegies).

To serve, place spinach leaves on a plate. Arrange roasted vegetables on the spinach, then top with figs and drizzle with dressing. (NB: Isa suggested arranging the vegetables in circles of different colours).

On stereo:
Talking with the Taxman about Poetry: Billy Bragg


  1. Clearly, you're on a roll (groan) with yeast bread-baking! This looks fabulous, but I must say that the salad sounds the most tempting to me. What colors! I agree wholeheartedly about weighing vs. measuring; when I had my little baking business, I had to weigh everything and got so accustomed to it. I found that a cup of spelt flour can range anywhere from 130 g. to 160!! And what a difference that would make. I weigh everything now, even water.

  2. What a lovely meal, I wish I could have been there for it!
    I think I have my nut roast, but I am going to have to experiment and it is top secret until then!

  3. That cheese-onion bread sounds just perfect for a week-end breakfast!

  4. I love the colours you got from your roasted veggies. They looks so attractive and warming. The bread looks wonderful and a perfect accompanyment to the meal.

  5. The cheese and onion bread sounds almost like a scone! Thanks for the nice comments on my blog. I love reading yours, and have been plotting a nut roast to send your way.

    I succumbed and bought Veganomicon from amazon recently and then had a moment of weakness in a bookshop and bought Vegan with a vengeance as well. They're both great but if I had to get just one I'd probably go with VwaV - it's got lots of good ideas and some of the best recipes are repeated in the other one.

    Happy Easter!

  6. Wow, that's one fantastic sounding meal! I always look forward to days when I can spend hours in the kitchen cooking up something special. Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

  7. thanks Ricki - I am indeed on a roll (I discovered I have yeast with a use by date next week so might try to use the whole packet before then). RE weighing - I have only just got electronic scales a few months ago and they are very helpful so will be weighing more

    Thanks Holler - would love you to be here for the meal too - and will look forward to the Top Secret Nut Roast!

    Thanks Lore - have been having hot cross buns for breakfast but enjoyed the bread with chilli non carne last night

    thanks Katie - the colours were amazing but I was really disappointed with the taste of the purple potatoes

    Thanks Lysy - that's very helpful info about veganomicon and VwaV - Look forward to your nut roast

    Thanks Lisa - lots of time in the kitchen is such a luxury, isn't it!

  8. Wonderful salad, love all the ingredients especially the figs.

  9. Your roasted veggies and bread look divine (as well as most everything I gave a quick look to here!)
    Like the bike story with this! (and baking with you mom.)

  10. thanks Pixie - I was relieved to find a use for figs before the season ends (but am finishing off my punnet of figs au naturel and enjoying them!)

    thanks MKiHC - glad you are enjoying the blog

  11. What a shame about the potatoes! They do look so rich and sumptuous.:/ I wonder how best to cook them?

    I am interested in your bread and buns - I made bread and hot crossies on Friday (which was my baking day). Yeast for the hot crossies, and sourdough bread.

  12. thanks Kathleen - I keep wanting to do purple potatoes on a shepherd's pie - maybe they will be better in a mash! (they were great in my potato, onion and cheese bread)


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