Monday, July 4, 2011

An American in London

My internal celebration clock went off early in the morning on Sunday. I sprang out of bed and started to contemplate what sort of feast I could prepare that would compliment my jubilant mood. I should note that something similar happens in the third week of November as well. I wanted messy, drippy sandwiches, piquant coleslaw, creamy potato salad and a home-baked crumble for dessert. And fireworks. And margaritas. And general drunken, patriotic merriment. In short, by 7:30am, my expectations for the day ahead were through the roof.
It wasn't long before I realized that I was in the wrong country to celebrate American holidays--i.e., anywhere outside of the US. The kicker: I would have to go to work on Monday while friends and family would be kicking it poolside back home. Sad face.

Never one to be deterred by as minor an issue as international borders, I set about making a 4th of July feast for a few hungry friends regardless of it being neither the 4th (but close enough) nor being in the correct hemisphere (again, close enough).

The nectarine and blueberry crumble I will save for another post--but it was, by all accounts divine. The pulled pork, however, left something to be desired, texture-wise, though the marinade was great--so I will tinker and get back to you on that.The real stars of the day were the delicious, delicate brioche rolls which acted as a perfect vehicle for the pork, and the very grown-up potato salad
sans mayo (see previous post), dressed up with velvety crème fraiche, dill and lemon.

Eat your heart out, America.

Brioche Rolls
(makes 12-15 rolls)

The best advice I can give to anyone using this recipe: Do not panic; you will be fine. The dough is pretty wet and sticky to work with, but the end result is a dream, so it's certainly worth the effort. I call this recipe a brioche, but it contains sour cream instead of butter. I think the slight tang imparts a wonderful flavor to the final product. And you don't have to feel quite as guilty serving it to your friends knowing what went into it.

500g strong white bread flour, plus a bit more for kneading

15g active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
100ml crème fraiche or sour cream, at room temp
150ml milk, at room temp
3 egg yolks, plus one egg white, at room temp
sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Directions: Measure out your flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir with a fork to combine. In a measuring jug, whisk together the crème fraiche, milk and egg yolks. If necessary, add a little water to make the total liquid measurement 375ml (this will depend on the size of the egg yolks). Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir to combine. The dough will seem very wet and sticky to begin with--incorporate the ingredients together in the bowl as much as you can before turning it out on a floured work surface. Coat your hands in flour and begin to knead, adding a little four now and then as necessary, but you are trying to add as little flour as possible. The wetter the final dough, the more tender the final crumb will be. Knead for about 8 minutes or until you are satisfied that there is gluten developing within the dough. The dough should still be fairly sticky and will stick to the board if you let it rest there. Do not panic. Scrape the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise for 3-4 hours.

Turn the risen dough out on your floured work surface and dust your hands and a knife (or bench-cutter) with flour. Cut the dough into equal pieces (as big or as small as you like--for dinner rolls, you could get about 15, but for sandwiches, you might want to go a bit bigger). Working gently so as not to crush too much air out of the dough, form the pieces into balls, pushing your thumbs into the middle and smoothing out the reverse side, placing the wrinkled side down--this gives a seamless top to the rolls. Set the formed rolls about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow the rolls to prove for about 1 hour until they look nicely puffy.

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C / 400 degrees F and place your baking rack on the second lowest rung. Brush the tops of the rolls with the egg white and sprinkle with seeds if you want to. Bake for about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the rolls. The tops should look nicely burnished and golden brown in color and the seeds will look toasted. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before serving.

Jersey Royal Potato Salad

This is a nice picnic side-dish alternative if you're not into the whole mayonnaise-potato-salad thing. It's simple, bright and herby, and when Jersey Royals are in season, this is a perfect way to make use of them without overpowering their delicate flavor. This dish is good for travelling too since it's delicious served either at any temperature. Some would argue that it tastes even better the next day once the flavors have had time to sit together in the fridge overnight.


1 1/2 pounds (or roughly 750g) baby jersey royal potatoes

200ml crème fraiche
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp dill, chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped
Handful of rocket (arugula to some of you)

Directions: Place the potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down slightly once you're reached a rolling boil and cook a further 10-15 minutes until the potatoes yield to a slight pressure with a fork. Drain the potatoes, leave to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm, cut them roughly into bite-sized pieces and toss with the olive oil and some seasoning. Add the crème fraiche, lemon juice, dill and green onions and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Plate and scatter the salad with fresh rocket leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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