“Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king” ~Louis Bromfield~
Who can imagine life without bread? For me, bread is more than just a basic necessity – it’s earthy, wholesome, a true comfort food. Bread in some form is a staple on the table in just about any culture. In my childhood, almost every day we ate fresh chapattis – unleavened bread my mother made. In the winter, my mother would stuff them with different vegetables – cauliflowers, peas, potatoes, cottage cheese and radishes each took their turn. Warm fresh bread dripping with butter and paired with a cup of tea is one of my fondest memories, and one I will never forget, even though my tastes when baking bread today tend more towards fluffier, leavened breads.
One of the oldest known foods in the world, bread dates back to the Stone Age when unleavened breads (or flatbreads) were very common. The accidental discovery of fermentation changed the face of baking bread completely, but there is something magical in the preparation of any kind of bread. When I crave food, it’s almost always bread. And if my body is trying to tell me I need to eat bread, I’m not about to question it.
It’s a common misconception that baking bread is a difficult task. While bread can require more effort than some other baked goods, no-knead bread recipes like beer bread that replaced arduous kneading with long fermentation periods to create texture have made the process something anyone can do. Beer, which is already a fermented drink, is the ideal choice for this type of bread baking. It creates sticky dough that must be allowed to rise and ferment for up to 18 hours. The flavour it lends to the finished beer bread results in a delicious, earthy combination that no one can resist.
How do you enjoy your bread? The comfort that is bread can be savoured in so many different forms – in sandwiches, bread with dip or cheese, dipped in soups or gravies. Breads can form the basis for sweet pudding or be deep fried to make crispy croutons for your salads. My absolute favourite of all these options is toast with butter and eggs. I haven’t really started my day until I’ve enjoyed some warm toast slathered with butter, served with a freshly cooked egg. As James Beard said, “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with butter, the greatest of feasts.”
Visiting friends in Texas recently, I was introduced to an Indian-style fresh fenugreek and spinach dish that I have craved ever since. Ideas for ways to change it have been bubbling in my mind, and returning home, I found myself desperately craving the tangy bitterness of the fenugreek. The recipes below are for my favorite beer bread and my altered version of the fenugreek and spinach dish. This combination of no knead beer bread with fenugreek and spinach dip lends itself brilliantly to pairing with some perfectly poached eggs.
- 250 gm bread flour
- 200 gm whole wheat flour
- 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 200 ml (7oz approx) beer
- 80 ml (3 oz approx) water
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp chopped fresh sage
- 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 1 bunch fresh fenugreek leaves
- 150 gm baby spinach
- 1 thai or finger chilli
- 1/2 tsp ginger, grated
- 1 tsp garlic, crushed
- 2 roma tomatoes, diced
- 150 gm sliced mushrooms
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 350 gm ricotta cheese
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with wooden spoon.
- Cover the bowl with cling foil and let it rest/ferment for 12-18 hours.
- You’ll notice bubbles on top of the dough after its been resting for 12-18 hours.
- Generously flour the counter and scrape off the dough.
- Slightly knead it just to combine the dough into a smooth round shape or any loaf shape you like.
- Cover it and let it sit for approximately 2 hours.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 475 degrees with Dutch oven or any heavy metal pan inside the oven.
- Score the dough at the top and place it in the heated pan with lid on.
- Reduce the oven temp to 425 degrees and bake for 40 min.
- Uncover the pan and bake for another 10 min or until brown.
- Cool it on a wire rack before slicing.
- Trim the leaves of fenugreek from the stem.
- Heat oil in pan and add ginger garlic and green chilli.
- Add onions and sauté for few minutes till translucent.
- Add fenugreek leaves, spinach, tomatoes and all the spices.
- Cook for 15-20 min on medium heat till the water starts to evaporate but its not dried completely.
- Meanwhile heat little oil in separate pan and cook sliced mushrooms on high heat till the liquid evaporates.
- Add balsamic vinegar and cook for another minute.
- Put these mushrooms in cooked fenugreek and spinach.
- Add cream and cook for 2-3 min.
- Turn off the heat and add ricotta.
- Serve it warm or chill in refrigerator.
!!NJOY & BAKE MORE BREAD!!