Unsupervised baking and a vegan(ish) challenge

I decided I should practice my baking skills post-Bertinet sooner rather than later and have been whirling a like dervish in the kitchen this week. First up, some mini chocolate financiers. I took Ghalid at his word and made the mixture the day before and have baked a couple of batches during the week – it really does keep well in the fridge for several days. I took some to a friend’s house to have after her lovely homemade soup. Also did a plateful for Missy B and her chums who had an afternoon off school. How to endear yourself to a group of 13 year olds…

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I also had another go at the fougasse and olive & pecorino breadsticks. My two fougasses were a bit on the small side, unlike my breadsticks, which look more like big fat fingers.

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All delicious though, so next time I’ll concentrate on shape and size. There’s something very satisfying about producing some fancy bread you made that day when your friends come to dinner. There’s always a bit of head-scratching and rifling through cookbooks when A & C come over – one a proper vegetarian and the other dairy intolerant… I can’t do cauliflower curry every time they come over, can I? This time I went for Ottolenghi’s barley risotto with marinated feta, which I hadn’t tried before. It has a good kick from the chillies and smoked paprika (can’t make this one for my little brother who has managed to develop an allergy to all things capsicum-related) and I loved the pearl barley texture. Very good with a bit of crusty fougasse and a cucumber-based salad.

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The marinated feta is a perfect accompaniment to the risotto – I’m not a big fan of caraway seeds, but if I am going to write about food and experiment, I am going to have to set aside such quibbles. And anyway, my feelings about caraway seeds pale into insignificance compared to those of my grandpa. I didn’t know he HATED them, so, aged 10 years or thereabouts, I merrily made him a batch of caraway seed biscuits from a recipe in my Herbs Annual (where is that now???). I followed him round all weekend, biscuit tin in hand, brought some biccies to every meal and generally didn’t let him out of my sight until in the end he was forced to take a bite, although I expect he managed to slip most of it down the back of the sofa till we’d left. Poor man. And such a lovely man too, he didn’t deserve such torment. Anyway, apparently Mr B didn’t much care for the barley risotto the next day, but I expect he didn’t warm it up properly. I wasn’t there – I was out with the lovely ladies of the book group (referred to most unfairly by Mr B as the bring a book drinking group…) We were very restrained last night actually. J made a fantastic chicken curry – one of her vintage Vincent Price recipes (http://www.silverscreensuppers.com). I made some little cheesecakes (pastry practice), but we didn’t get around to eating them, due to collective fatigue. So that’s J’s puds sorted for a couple of days.

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We read May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes. Feelings were mixed.

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