The Bear Chef

Cooking and other Food Stuff

Porter and Sprout sourdough

After the success with Terence the fourth I decided to adventure a bit. I have some sprouts leftover from Xmas and have been having an ongoing debate about how sprouts are actually tasty if cooked right. An argument we’ve a heard before and one which very few people seem to be convinced by!

I searched for recipes and found a recipe for sprout bread. Unusual but in my head it seemed to make sense and I wanted to explore a bit more.

I also saw this on of the baking blogs I read:

Beer, Fennel and Rosemary Bread

I had some porter I made last year and thought I’d use this recipe with porter, the addition of sprouts and a switch from fennel to caraway.

I’m getting my sponge / dough cycle down now – using the fridge to split the morning stage into two to bake in the evening. Tuesday night = sponge / Wednesday morning = mix and knead / Wednesday night = shape and bake.

The bread is wonderful although I had to reduce the baking time significantly as my loaf was a bit flat.

Even the sprout-doubters were semi-won over…what to do next with sprouts to convince them?

Bear bakes

Last week I turned 36 – with my birthday on 2nd January christmas, new year and birthday all roll into one big drink-and-food-athon and I usually feel a bit worse for wear by the end of it.

…which is why I was glad I was presented with a birthday cake today! I managed to enjoy it fully rather than just worrying about the endless onslaught of Christmas alcohol and sugar…

I look pretty much the same under the cake by the way.



Big thanks to  Helen for the cake.

Squash and Blue Cheese Pizza

Lucy took the helm for tonights dinner and decided to cook a squash and blue cheese pizza with sage and rosemary.

The recipe initiated in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsalls latest book River Cottage Veg Every Day! – a partner book to his last tv series where he attempted to become vegetarian over a summer to see what he could learn. Being peseta rain myself, I was very pleased that someone was there on national tv showing people how easy and enjoyable vegetarian food can be.

Anyway, i digress. The pizza was amazing and relatively simple as well. Th base was made from a mix of plain flour and extra strong canadian wholemeal flour leftover from sourdough recipes. We had enough dough and ingredients to allow for 2 pizzas, one for dinner and then one for lunch the next day. Winner! Im hoping we can make pizza one of our lunch staples for this year..

Food Pairings: Parsnip and Celeriac Soup

I’ve been reading this book on and off since christmas: The Flavour Thesaurus. I’ve really enjoyed it so far, it discusses the theory of flavour pairings and why they work in an effort to free us from simply following recipes.

With a basic understanding of which foods go with which others and a basic understanding of techniques we can make sure that we are not bound by recipes, we can discover our own methods. i really liked the principles of this and thought i would give it a go. i have followed recipes for years and have loosened up to some extent amending recipes and using prior knowledge but i couldn’t really say regularly develop any truly 100% fresh recipes for myself from an intuitive point of view.

Putting the flavour pairings hat on, i figured parsnips would work well with celeriac and thyme, lots of earthy winter flavours. i figured this would work well in a soup with a simply fried onion at the start and a bit of blending at the end. With the flavours already involved i figured i didn’t even need stock or aromatics.

It worked a treat, felt much free-er than following recipes and was much quicker as i could just launch into it without looking up recipes or researching. I do obviously like those parts of cooking so have no plans to throw that part of my life away just yet but i really enjoyed the freeform way of thinking and will definitely begin trying to embrace it more often, using the book as a reference guide to sense-check certain flavour combinations i come up with.

Here’s my topline recreation of the recipe below:

Serves 3 (i know, awkward right? i tried to do it for two but had some leftover…)

  1. fry half an onion with some salt on a low heat until translucent.
  2. add a teaspoon of cumin and a pinch of pepper.
  3. cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. add finely diced parsnip and celeriac (cut out the woody bits from the parsnips first if they’re a bit old).
  5. Cook off for about 5-10 mins then add thyme water and a bit more salt and pepper.
  6. cook until the veg are just on the turn between hard and soft
  7. blitz in a food processor
  8. reheat gently and serve (i served mine with yoghurt and curry oil, with a couple of slices of wholemeal sourdough)

my first recipe on here…whoop! (although if it doesn’t read well please let me know.)

Terence the 4th

This time i decided to take my time…even though i already knew that was the theory, for some reason i must have thought i could take shortcuts. i also don’t know whether its possible to leave any particular stage for too long so was worried about that. as i go on i’m sure i’ll learn more about the boundaries.

Terence the 4th was made with extra strong wholemeal flour. the main things i did that i think had an impact on the final bread were:

I left lots of time at each stage

I waited until the dough had risen A LOT at each stage, i didn’t make any other assumptions ort take any shortcuts – i.e. I started to use my senses about whether it was ready to move on or not (in all honesty, all the websites and blogs i read did tell me to do tat in the first place…) .

I kept the dough sticky

I didn’t add too much flour, or use lots of flour to make it easier to work. in the past i have ended the kneading with quite clean hands, but now they end up covered in sticky dough!

The Recipe

The recipe i’m using is River Cottage Sourdough. For me (and for Terence) i am using a bit less flour to keep the dough stickier.


Thursday morning – make the sponge
Thursday night – mix additional flour and knead, putting in the fridge
Friday morning – knock back the dough and knead (i know i’m not supposed to knead at this stage but i had forgotten the salt at the previous stage! it didn’t seem to affect the final loaf but i won’t be doing it again in the future), then back in the fridge.
Friday evening – out of the fridge to actually allow it to rise.
Friday night – cook
Saturday – eat with homemade parsnip and celeriac soup! lovely.


The bread is great, the sourdough taste is definitely there, it is lighter than the previous loaves and the crust is nice and chewy (and its edible to boot). I’m going to try this one again again exactly the same to check the timings, then try some other breads.


First Adventure in Cheesemaking

I received a book, Artisan Cheesemaking at Home, for xmas that would give me my first set of recipes. The book is quite precise and gives a really good introduction. The whole book is structured in stages so that you are pushed to try easy cheese first. Just as well really, as i probably would have gone straight for a camembert or stilton first when a panir or mascarpone is by far a better choice for a first cheese.

In the first week back after christmas, Lucy and I knew that we would want a takeaway but with a ‘new year, new fitness’ regime we decided to go for a ‘home takeaway’. i.e. cooking our favourite takeaway food at home. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for my first foray into cheese making with a panir dish.

I followed the recipe to the letter in terms of ingredients, measures and stages but i think i may have taken too long for some of the stages, and too quick for the initial heating of the milk.

The panir tasted amazing, but didn’t ever get into the ‘slab’ it is supposed to. The cheese ended up with a more crumbly texture than expected, and the pressing stage didn’t really do anything as the curds were already too hard. Next time i’ll need to maybe do a water bath to bring the initial temperature up slower and to respect the timings of the rest of the recipe (basically try not to get distracted).

I think i’ll go for mascarpone next but DEFINITELY give Panir another go another time. The taste was so much nicer than long life supermarket panir.

Our menu for the evening included:

  • Baked Onion Bhajis (from Jeena’s Kitchen Blog)
  • Goan Prawn Curry (from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible using the coconut milk i made last week)
  • Chard Paneer (from the Akshayapaatram Blog)
  • Boiled Rice
  • Spicy Onion Chutney (from a Homemade Spice Set xmas present from my brother and his girlfriend – i’m sure i’ll talk more about that later as i delve into the rest of them)
  • Chapatis were cancelled (too much time cooking already!)

Pickled Red Cabbage

Every week Lucy and I get a veg bag from Growing Commuinities. They really are good, and seem like a collective doing really good, interesting things around Hackney and beyond.

Unfortunately (although usually this would be fortunately), the pre-xmas bag was stuffed full of goodies and we just can’t seem to get through them. I had a whole red cabbage to use up and just couldn’t see when this would happen so i thought red cabbage pickle would be an ideal solution, to be used in lunch boxes.

I used the recipe in Let’s Preserve It, a great book about (you guessed it!) preserving that has endless recipes for preserving vegetables. I added mustard seeds as i thought they would work nicely with cabbage, and malt was my vinegar of choice. I’ll re-post once its ready in a weeks time, along with the recipe – it really was quite simple. Initial (if premature) tastings make me think its going to be good.

Lime and Coconut

After my New Years Eve Mexican Fiesta party i had a whole load of limes and coconuts leftover. Slightly ironic, since Coconut by Harry Nilsson was my midnight record that blew up my sound system…

Today (my birthday), i thought i’d begin putting those aforementioned limes and coconuts to good use.

Lime Pickle

I started making lime pickle according to this recipe. It seemed pretty thorough and i like the mix of spices used:

Lime Pickle from

I’ll keep you posted as it moves on its 5-week journey. I didn’t realise how much space 16 limes would take up and so was aiming to make 12 batches. i’ve now decided just to make 1 batch but split it in half to make ‘medium’ and ‘hot’ versions.

Coconut Milk

I have a craving for curry, and a hatred of food waste so began opening, dissecting and skinning the coconuts to make coconut milk. All the recipes i found seem to have a pretty straightforward way of making Coconut Milk:

  1. open the coconut, make sure they are not rancid (2 out of 6 of mine were so they got binned)
  2. discard (or drink) the coconut juice
  3. chop the flesh, removing the brown skin
  4. put into a blender and cover with boiled water
  5. blend
  6. put into a muslin and then drain, squeezing out all the liquid
  7. store the liquid – this is coconut milk

I also used the remaining blitzed coconut and dried out in the oven to make my own dessicated coconut for future use (half of which was later used on a birthday gingerbread house by lucy along with an excess bundle of  pinata and xmas sweets)

Apparently in a couple of days, the coconut milk will separate and give me coconut cream but i’m going to try to use it all by then.

Sourdough Crumpets

Terence needed feeding and i didn’t want to waste the ‘other bit’ so i thought i’d give these a go last night:

Sourdough Crumpets Recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini

Sourdough crumpets. Easy to make and amazingly tasty. My sourdough is pretty much wholemeal at the moment so i went for wholemeal crumpets. They were delicious. Terence seems to have a really nice fruity taste. i’m not finding it all that sour as a starter but it is definitely more tasty than your average yeast-based breads.


Today i received a cheesemaking kit and a few cheesmaking books.

I think this could become the beginning of a marvellous adventure.


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