Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Margaret Quinn's brown bread - served with MLLA stew

It is only Wednesday and yet it feels like a long week.  Already we have had a heatwave, a picnic in the rain, powercuts, a haircut, and unsettled nights.  The bread I bring you today is just the thing for such weeks.  I made it a few weekends back when we didn't have bread in the house and Sylvia and I were about to head off for a swim.  It seemed easier to make a quick loaf for lunch before we went than to faff about with a yeasted loaf.

Don't get me wrong.  I love yeasted bread.  I love kneading and rising and waiting.  It is just that some days I can't organise my life around a loaf.  I also was given the Irish book, Bread, Scones, Stories and Songs, for my birthday.  It interested me because the breads were all yeast-free.  Some had eggs and butter but quite a few didn't.

I am familiar with the tradition of soda bread from Ireland.  This book has a range of breads of which soda bread is but one.  These are recipes from home cooks who can whip a loaf of bread together in no time at all.  No doubt it is eaten just as quickly by large families.  Families who believe in fairies.  Well some do it seems, according to the book.  The best tidbit of information in the book is the belief by some that the slash in the bread is to let the fairies out. Doesn't that make the slashing a more joyful activity!  I am curious to try more of these breads.
Some terms used in the book are foreign to me.  Bextartar (cream of tartar) and bread soda (bicarbonate of soda or baking soda) are explained.  I am not quite sure what is meant by "sweet milk" in the recipe I used.  I used soy milk, which is what we have on hand these days.  It always seems a wee bit sweeter than dairy milk so I thought this would be fine.

The bread took me quite some time to cook.  I used a skewer when the timer rang because it just didn't feel/look right.  Sure enough the skewer came out of the middle with mixture still on it.  I blame my oven not the book.  When the bread finally came out it was craggy and quite dense.  It was an excellent rustic loaf to be enjoyed with cheese and vegemite or stew.  E noted that it wasn't very salty.  I didn't mind this as I thought it still had quite a bit of flavour.

The  stew that I served with the bread was a pumpkin, kale and chickpea curry.  It was ok but not brilliant.  I quite enjoyed it the following day when I added some extra coconut milk and salt.  I have written work-in-progress next to the recipe but I think that it was rather good once I tweaked it but I feel I need to make it again and check the recipe is right.  I almost made it again tonight but instead I decided to make this stew which I loved first time round and is quite similar.

I am sending the stew to Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen who has generously taken over responsibility for My Legume Love Affair, the monthly event celebrating beans and lentils and legumes that Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook founded.  Lisa is also hosting the February edition.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: NCR couscous salad with chermoula
Two years ago:  Chocolate cashew fudge and nut roast love!
Three years ago: Shrove Tuesday Blinis
Four years ago: MLLA8 Dal Makhani
Five years ago: PPN #52 Gyoza and Salad

Margaret Quinn's Brown Bread
From Bread, Scones, Stories and Songs by Breezy Willow

4 cups (500ml) white flour
2 cups (1 litre) wholemeal flour
1 heaped tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp bicarb soda
pinch salt - generous
450 - 650ml of milk (I used soy)

Mix the dry ingredients and add the milk.  Mix to a soft dough and knead lightly for a couple of minutes until it comes together into a big scone.  I added 650ml and it was quite sticky but was fine with a little extra flour when kneading.  Place on a floured baking tray.  Slash a cross on top of the dough with a sharp knife.  Bake at 190 C for 45 minutes (my oven is a bit slow but it took me 1 hour and 10 minutes).  Cool on a wire rack.

Pumpkin, kale and chickpea curry - work in progress
Adapted from Spark People
Serves 4

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
10 curry leaves
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp stock powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp chilli paste
400ml coconut milk
3 x 130ml tins of water (I added these gradually)
2 tins (of 400g each) chickpeas and cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
550g pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and diced
1/2  bunch kale, destemmed, chopped and washed

Fry onion in oil in large saucepan until browned.  Add garlic, ginger, curry leaves, turmeric, cumin seeds, and mustard seeds.  Cook for a minute or two until the seeds are smelling cooked.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

On the stereo:
The Moths are Real: Serafina Steer


  1. I believe "sweet milk" is called that so as to distinguish from "buttermilk" -- so the dairy version would be just normal milk.

    If any of the recipes in your book call for buttermilk, by the way, there are some easy nondairy subs for it. The easiest is probably, for each cup of buttermilk put a tablespoon of apple cider or white vinegar in your measuring cup and then add your nondairy milk to make one cup total.

    I think you can also use soy yogurt, and I've seen some other sub recipes that use cream of tartar.

    1. Thanks Jack - that is very helpful information - I often use soy milk and add lemon juice to use instead of buttermilk but I have used cider vinegar too

  2. Delicious - everything. Thanks so much for sharing the stew with MLLA.

    1. Thanks Lisa - always happy to be part of MLLA and delighted you are keeping it going

  3. I've really been in a bread-baking sort of mood these days so this brown bread looks fabulous! Definitely perfect for getting through the rest of the week!

    1. Thanks Joanne - I'm not in much of a bread baking mood lately - one the temperatures come down I hope to bake more

  4. What a delicious sounding curry, great combo of healthy veggies!

    1. Thanks Natalie - yes the curry is full of some of my favourite things

  5. I adore making bread... It is so relaxing. I had never heard of letting the fairies out by slashing the bread, but I'll have to start lashing my loaves, as I don't want to accident.y murder any fae caught in the dough! :-P What a whimsical tradition!

    1. Thanks Dayna - bread making is such a joy when I have the time - and all the traditions that come with it are delightful - esp saving the fairies :-)

  6. I know what you mean about yeasted bread. Sometimes you just need to knock up something that suits a stew or soup quickly and yeasted breads can take a bit longer! I did try making a 60 minute baguette once, it wasn't too bad.

    1. Thanks Lorraine - there is a place and a time for both yeasted and unyeasted breads in my kitchen - my pizza dough is pretty quick and is probably the yeasted dough I make the most

  7. We have also had a heatwave; a picnic in the (humid) rain; a nearby lightning strike with powercuts in the neighbourhood, although thankfully not to us; some unsettled nights; and a chickpea dish. So in other words, this recipe is perfectly timed for our house too :-)

    1. Thanks Kari - snap! the weather just seems very odd at the moment - we have had boiling hot, drizzle, overcast, boiling hot and thunderstorms this week.

  8. I love homemade bread. The greatest tip i can give you is, knock on the bread like it's a door and if it sounds hollow, it's cooked! It does remind me of a yummy irish soda loaf or an Aussie damper :) I'de eat it with vegemite!

    1. Thanks Cass - homemade bread is great - I did the knocking on the bread and it didn't feel right which is why I stuck in the skewer which confirmed my suspicions so you are right that knocking is very helpful - the loaf had actually looked cooked.

  9. This looks like my kind of meal - I love a stew.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I love stews too - and feel like one today with all this rain!


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