Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours...

Having a neighbour who is also a keen gardener must be a little bit like having an allotment - there's always someone there to chat to (rather than doing any actual gardening), you swap tips and discuss ideas, but most importantly, you can swap plants and produce. The most important thing to remember is to pay attention to the sorts of things that your neighbour grows that produce a glut and make sure not to grow these yourself but grow something else for an exchange.

I shall certainly be applying this principle next year as we've had quite a few plants and a very nice pumpkin from our neighbour since she moved in last October. For a brief, halcyon period, we even had fresh eggs from her hen-keeping enterprise, until she sent them back after six weeks as she felt they weren't able to roam freely enough in her garden (and they required more work than she'd thought they would!). In return I've baked her a few cakes (making good use of those free eggs) and gifted a tomato and a sage plant, but I think we've benefited more this year. I promise to try to make amends next year!

I've never cooked with pumpkin before (obviously I've cooked with other squash, I've just never had an actual pumpkin!) so I was quite excited and determined not to waste any. I've made pumpkin soup (some to eat this week and some to freeze), a pumpkin and sage dough from which we've had some breadsticks, some rolls and some to freeze, and I'll be using up the last of the pumpkin flesh next week in a pumpkin tagliatelle recipe we have in our kitchen calendar, of all places!

I'm quite pleased with the dough, which I created by referring to two recipes and a bit of luck, so here's the recipe:

250g plain flour
250g strong white bread flour
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
400g pumpkin, cut into small cubes
a good handful of sage leaves, chopped

1. Put the pumpkin in a pan of water and cook until tender. Drain it, taking care to reserve the cooking liquid, and then puree in a food processor or by rubbing through a sieve.

2. Mix your flours, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add the puree, chopped sage and the oil then start to slowly add the reserved cooking water until you get quite a wet dough - I used about 300ml.

3. Tip out your dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until it becomes less sticky and more elastic - you might need some extra flour, but try not to add too much.

4. Put your dough in a clean bowl into which you've added a splash of olive oil. Coat the dough in the oil, cover the bowl with a clean, damp cloth and leave to rise until doubled in size - about 2 hours.

5. Tip your raised dough onto a floured surface and knock it back. Now shape into rolls, a loaf, breadsticks or any other type of bread, leave to rise again and bake as appropriate. For rolls, you'll need to leave them for an hour to double in size and then bake at 200 C for 15 minutes until golden.

Very, very good straight from the oven....

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