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Sourdough Loaf Revisited

24 Feb

I’ve recently been experimenting with other types of bread, but the staple at home is my sourdough loaf, which I bake about every third day. It’s a large loaf, but hey, we eat a lot bread.

A few people were asking about it, some wondered if it was a bit of a palaver to make it. At first, I agree, it seemed all a bit complex, but you get yourself into a little routine, you plan ahead and it really isn’t all that much work if you find your rhythm.

Here’s a little step by step to how I make my bread….hope it helps any of you who are planning to take the first steps in sourdough baking. This particular loaf was left to rise too long and fell “splat” onto the baking tin – it still turned out fine, it’s so forgiving!  For a starter, head over to Sawsan’s blog

I feed my starter (kept in the kitchen in a cool spot)  each time I make my bread, so approx. every 3 days. If it’s any longer between bakes I’ll just feed it anyhow – ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup of water to replace the half cup of starter I remove. Apologies for the photos but it was dark at most stages of making the bread….real life cooking!

So, the night before I want to bake my bread I put half a cup of starter into a bowl with 250g of strong flour and 300ml of water. This is what it (the sponge)  looks like a minute or two after mixing it up with a fork. Don’t forget to feed your starter to replace what you have removed.

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This is my sponge 15 minutes later.

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About 9 hours later, next morning, my sponge looks like this.

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Then I add a further 300g of strong flour, a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil (optional) and start to knead in my mixer with a dough hook. It looks lumpy and heavy at first.

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After 10 minutes on slow speed it looks glossy and comes away from the sides of the bowl and is ready.

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I tip it onto a lightly floured surface then sprinkle a little flour on top, it’s a wet dough but don’t worry, it comes together easily.

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Shape it into a round and place it into an oiled bowl then cover with cling film.

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Leave until doubled in size (or come back from work about 9 hours later to find this…don’t worry).

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Turn it out of the bowl onto a floured surface, flour the top gently and shape into a long sausage if you are using a floured banneton or put it into a bowl lined with greaseproof paper and cover with a tea towel.

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After an hour it will have almost doubled again in size.

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Flip out onto a hot baking tray (pop the tray into your oven as it heats up) or if you don’t have a banneton put your dough and greaseproof paper directly onto the baking tray or into a heated oven dish.

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Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown at 180 degrees (fan) or 200 degrees regular oven.

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Cool on a rack before slicing.

Yes, you have to wait almost 24 hours for your loaf from starting the process, but good things, in this case, really are worth waiting for!

Monster Sandwiches with Celia’s Pan Cubano

10 Feb

We all know that one of the great pleasures of blogging comes from sharing, being inspired by fellow bloggers and getting excited by new recipe ideas.

Pan Cubano (1)

I baked the loaves late at night, sorry about the dark photo…

I’m a regular bread baker now.  My sourdough bread is made every 3 days or so, but sometimes I feel the need to shake it up and try a new recipe. A little while ago I saw a recipe over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Celia is the Queen of Sourdough and her recipe for a bread called Pan Cubano really called to me. The fact that it used Lard was probably the part which called loudest! In Southern Spain the pig is King and lard is used in many recipes. I’m in England right now but I felt nostalgic.

I didn’t use rendered pig fat in the recipe, I turned to my massive supply of goose fat which came from cooking the Christmas goose. You only need about a heaped teaspoon though, so I still have plenty leftover for delicious roast potatoes.

The bread turned out fabulously, although I didn’t get the characteristic slit in the loaf as I had no leek or palm leaves to lay down the centre of the loaf. Slitting them didn’t seem to make any difference but the flavour and texture  of the bread was incredible. Celia advised me to freeze some of the loaves if we weren’t planning on eating them all at once. Great advice as I made four loaves, each of which gave me 2 massive, builder-sized sandwiches. The sandwiches were filled with thin slices of smoked gruyere and cold twice cooked pork – amazing!

Pan Cubano (4)

Thanks Celia – for the inspiration and the amazing lunch…Go on, Be Inspired!

Caramelised Red Onion Tart with Jamón and Stilton

30 Jan

WordPress tells me that the top search on my blog, pretty much constantly, is for Olive Oil Pastry. Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that until recently I was a self-confessed pastry cheat, using ready made pastry most of the time. In the summer though, I experimented with the pastry made using olive oil instead of butter and in the autumn, with delicious English butter available, I tried out the deliciously naughty Rough Puff Pastry.

The olive oil pastry is a healthier option for more frequent use and as there are so many searches for this recipe, I thought I should make an effort to show some of the ways I use it in the kitchen. This is a delicious tart which serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter.

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Ingredients

  • 1 batch of olive oil pastry
  • 6 red onions
  • 2 small sprigs of thyme
  • Olive oil for shallow frying
  • 3 slices of jamón, prosciutto or bacon (omit if you want a vegetarian tart) cut into small pieces
  • About 3 tablespoons of crumbled stilton or some of your favourite cheese

No need for blind baking with this pastry, it goes crispy underneath, even when baked with the filling.

Half and finely slice your onions and fry slowly in about 3 tablespoons of olive until soft and slightly caramelised. This will probably take at least 20 minutes.  Season with a little pepper but you will probably not need salt if you are using the jamón and stilton which are both salty.

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Roll out the chilled pastry to fit your tart tin, prick the bottom and fill with the cooked onion mixture. Sprinkle over the jamón and cheese and bake at 200 (regular oven) or 180 degrees (fan assisted) for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is browned.

Leave to cool slightly – this is delicious served at room temperature with a salad.

Beef and Mushroom Pie

13 Jan

Flushed with the success of my recent rough puff pastry I decided to use it again in a warming pie.  Of course, I turned to my pal Mad Dog for recipe inspiration and came across his gorgeous recipe for Steak and Kidney Pie. Using this as the start point, I gathered together my ingredients and got going.

Steak and Mushroom Pie (3)

Ingredients (serves 4): 

  • About 1kg of braising steak
  • 2 medium onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 stick of celery (finely chopped)
  • 1 carrot (finely chopped)
  • About 20 button and chestnut mushrooms (finely chopped)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • a pinch of crushed chilli or chili powder
  • ground sea salt, black peppercorns, and a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary, 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato purée
  • Half a bottle of red wine plus enough beef or chicken stock to cover the meat and vegetables
  • Flour for coating the meat and extra (if needed) to thicken the sauce
  • olive oil as needed for frying
  • 1 beaten egg
  • extra salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 batch of rough puff pastry

Make your pastry and leave to rest in the fridge while you get on with the pie filling.

Cut the meat into small cubes and toss them in seasoned flour.

Fry in a little olive oil until browned on the outside (you may need to do this in batches) and set aside but don’t clean out the pan. Add more oil if necessary and gently fry the onions, carrots and celery until the onion is soft and transparent.

Return the meat to the pan and add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms start to soften then add the seasoning, herbs, tomato purée and liquid. Bring to a gentle boil and transfer to a casserole dish with a lid and continue to cook either on the stove top for about 2 hours on a very low flame or in a low oven until the meat is very tender for 2-3 hours.

Beef & Mushroom Pie (5)

Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. If the casserole is too liquid, thicken with about a heaped teaspoon of flour mixed with a teaspoon of butter and dropped into the pot and stirred gently until the sauce starts to thicken.

Allow the filling to cool (overnight is best as the flavours will develop) and then you can assemble your pie. Pour the filling into a pie dish and cover with your pastry, cutting a few holes to allow the steam to escape and brushing with a beaten egg.

Beef & Mushroom Pie (2)

I tried to get artistic like Mad Dog but my attempts were more reminiscent of the devil we saw last year on our trip to Jersey. Eek! Luckily I made a double batch of filling and I left the second pie plain…much more appetising.

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Bake for about 30-40 minutes at 220 degrees C until golden brown. Sigh!

Ham, Cheese and Mustard Pasties

8 Jan

One of the lovely things about Street Food in England is that you can eat your way around the world in the space of 100m. From Asia to America, around the Med and back to Blighty – it’s all there for you to enjoy.

Ham Cheese & Mustard Pasties (13)

A dish which has been cooked for hundreds of years in England is the Cornish Pasty, and whilst purists will tell you exactly what should and should not go into one, I think most people agree that when made well, they are delicious, filling and portable. Great picnic or street food.

This is by no means a Cornish Pasty – it was made from the leftovers of some spiced ham. And as we move further into January, I am sure many of you will have cooked a ham for the Christmas table so it’s great for using up leftovers.  This recipe is a great one to prepare to take with you on a winter walk to burn off some of the excesses of the festive season. God forbid you should get hungry! If you don’t have ham, this would be great with leftover vegetables or any roasted meats.

This was my first ever attempt at making Rough Puff Pastry and I’m so glad I went for it. It was easy to make and the flavour was far superior to shop bought puff pastry. Do give it a go!

Ham Cheese & Mustard Pasties (5)

This makes about 8 medium (but filling) pasties

Rough Puff Pastry

  • 300g room temperature (but not soft) butter
  • 300g plain flour
  • ¾ teaspoon fine salt
  • Up to about 200ml cold water

Mix the salt into the sieved flour and cut the butter into small chunks (about 1cm) and into the flour. Rub the flour and butter together gently but not to a fine texture – you still want to see chunks of butter.  Gradually add the water (how much you need will depend on your flour), mixing with your hands as you go until it comes together to form a dough.

Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 mins. After this time (when you can be getting on with the filling), take it out and roll it gently into a long rectangle. Fold it into thirds, roll again, fold again and put it back (wrapped) into the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Ham Cheese & Mustard Pasties (8)

Pasty Filling

  • 400ml of your boiling stock from the ham (or any stock, or milk)
  • 3tbs plain flour
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • About a cup of grated hard cheese (I used a strong cheddar)
  • 1 tbs English mustard
  • Black pepper
  • 200g approx. of chopped cold ham
  • About a cup of finely chopped left over cooked vegetables
  • A beaten egg

Put the stock (or milk) into a pan with the flour and oil and heat gently whilst whisking. It will start to thicken to the texture of a pouring custard. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes then add the cheese, mustard and pepper and then stir in the meat and vegetables. Put into the fridge to chill and thicken slightly.

When you are ready to assemble the pasties, heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, divide the dough into about 8 pieces (or less if you want bigger pasties), and roll each piece into a circle. Fill one side with the filling (do not over fill), fold over the pastry and press both sides together. You can either crimp the edges or press with the tines of a fork. I have a handy Empanada maker that I use.

Brush the tops of the pasties with beaten egg and place them on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 20 minutes and enjoy when then are golden brown. These are great both hot and cold – take care not to burn yourself if you can’t resist sampling them straight out of the oven!

Tarallucci – Savoury Fennel Biscuits and a little break for Chica and Big Man

6 Nov

I seem to be cooking to an Italian theme right now – no particular reason. Well, I did buy a new (second hand) cookery book, Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo. If you ever get a change to watch the series they made to go with the book, do give it a go – it features some good food from all around Italy and the pair of them behave like a funny old couple who have been married for years! The following recipe comes from the book.

Taralucci (5)

Here’s a bread type recipe which I made recently as they reminded me of nibbles my parents often serve at their home with olives and salted almonds with pre lunch or dinner drinks. The first batch I made came out a little chewy, more like crispy bagels. I cooked the second batch for longer and they were as I remembered – crispy, hard and deliciously aniseedy in flavour.

Ingredients (makes 40-50 but can easily be halved)

  • 200g semolina four
  • 200g plain flour plus extra for dusting (use all plain flour if you don’t have semolina flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 x 7g sachet of fast blend yeast (or 1 sachet of dried yeast dissolved in 150ml lukewarm water)
  • 150ml water (no need to use if you have used it to dissolve your yeast)
  • 100ml of extra virgin olive oil

Add the fennel seeds, salt and pepper to the flours and mix then add the liquids. Knead well for about 5 mins and then leave to rise for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Knead again for another 5 mins and then pat the dough into a flat, rectangular shape. Cut strips about 2cms wide off and cut each strip into 10cm lengths. Wrap each strip around a finger, flattening it slightly and pressing the ends firmly together.

Preheat the oven to 180 degress C or gas Mark 4 and bring a large pot of slightly salted water to the boil.

Drop the dough circles into the water in batches, let then rise to the surface and let them cook for about 3 minutes.

Taralucci (1)

Life them out with a slotted spoon and leave them to drain (I did this on greaseproof paper as I found they stuck to kitchen paper).

Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes until lightly browned and crispy (the original recipe calls for initial cooking for 15 mins at the higher temperature then 10 minutes at a medium temperature). Leave to cool and enjoy with a glass of something lovely.

Tomorrow we’re packing our little cases and heading over to the beautiful island of Jersey. I say beautiful because I hear it is – it will be out first visit. And we’re not worried that rain and gloomy weather are forecast as we’re going to celebrate our anniversary which also (most fortunately) coincides with a food and drink festival. Well, we might do a little sightseeing but hopefully we’ll be back a few kilos heavier and full of exciting ideas for new dishes. See you next week!

Cherry Sourdough Cake

16 Jun

Yes, the sourdough madness continues. I hate to throw food away and whilst I can’t always use my sourdough starter, especially when I have to remove half to feed it, I am now finding ways to bring it into other recipes.

We’ve had bread, and pizza, so now it’s time for something sweet. I’ve noticed too that there’s not too much fat used in these recipes, and I tend to use olive oil rather than butter, so I’m finding lower fat alternatives which has been a bonus.

As I was playing around with my cake recipe, the lovely Teleri at Olives & Artichokes, very kindly weighed, measured, baked and posted a gorgeous almond cherry cake made with olive oil (I’d asked her about her baking!). Thanks Teleri, this one is being baked today Up the Mountain!

Cherry Sourdough Cake (2)

I found several recipes for cakes on line and decided to be brave and adapt, mix and match. What was the worst that could happen? The chickies would have had cake for breakfast. Luckily for us, and unluckily for them, my first attempt worked well, so no Cherry Chickie Cake this time.

The texture of the finished cake was somewhere between a sponge cake and a scone (US biscuit). We ate it cold and it was lovely, not dry at all and not heavy (which I was concerned about). I think this would also be good warmed slightly and served with cream or ice cream. Or both.

Ingredients (cake serves 8-10 slices)

  • 1 cup of sourdough starter
  • 1/3 cup oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • ¾ cup sugar                          
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 cup of chopped, stoned cherries

Mix together the starter, the oil and the egg. Add the dry ingredients and mix in well and then add the cherries.

Put into a greased and floured cake time and bake for about 45 minutes at 180 degrees (until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is lightly browned).

Cherry Sourdough Cake (3)

This cake doesn’t rise much, but my next experiment will be to make the batter with self raising flour and then leave it to rise to see how the texture of the cake varies. Oh the things I do for you….

For more cherry recipes, click here or here.

Sourdough Pizza Base

13 Jun

I confess, I have been gripped by sourdough fever, and am now searching the internet for ways to use my starter.

A logical place for me to veer off to was a pizza base. We do enjoy homemade pizza here Up the Mountain on a fairly regular basis, and toppings usually involve a fridge clear out with half the pizza (I always make a big rectangular one, the same size as my oven tray) topped with meat and the other half vegetables. You all know I’m not a veggie, but one of my little quirks is that I’m not crazy about meat or fish on my pizza. So there!

When are the other 8 guests arriving?!

When are the other 8 guests arriving?!

Ingredients (dough)

  • 1 ½ cups of starter
  • 1 ½ cups of plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Mix all ingredients together and knead for a few minutes (I used my mixer with the dough hook). No need to leave to rise but if you don’t want to use it immediately, put into an oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. When you are ready to make the pizza, knock back the dough and roll out as thinly or thickly as you like.

This amount would make 2 large pizzas, I think I could have made less (using a cup each of flour and starter) as my pizza was thicker than I normally make it. Instead of being sensible (and healthy) and using less of the dough, I just left it more thickly rolled out than usual and made it fit my oven tray (heated) before spreading with home made tomato sauce, peppers and mushrooms on one side and jamon on the other and sprinkling with cheese before backing for about 25 minutes in a very hot oven.

Third Time Lucky – Sourdough Loaf

7 Jun

Yes, my sourdough starter is now up and running and ready to make bread with. Apologies for the length of this post, it’s hard to explain what I did in just a few words, so if you’re not interested in the process, have a look at the photos and come back again soon for some quicker recipes – you’re always welcome here!

Third TIme Lucky Loaf!

Third TIme Lucky Loaf!

First up I tried a recipe from the very good River Cottage Bread handbook, but it involved proving the bread 4 times (yes, 4 times!) which felt rather too much like a chore to me. The gas oven did not behave well and the recipe also involved trays of water and spraying the bread.

I did get a lovely tasting loaf, but the process was amazingly labour intensive. A recipe from the lovely Moro Cookbook involved very little work but my brain told me as I did it that it wasn’t going to work for me. And it didn’t. Flat as a very thick pancake bread.

I would have liked more holes in it, but it tasted wonderful...

I would have liked more holes in it, but it tasted wonderful…

I also struggled with proving and baking trays and came across a few folk who had used oven dishes with lids (or casserole dishes or Dutch ovens). Some dusted them with oatmeal to stop the bread from sticking and one person used greaseproof paper. I wish I could track her recipe down to acknowledge properly, but I can’t find it again…..apologies to the person who had this great idea.

Sourdough 2 (2)

So, with no further ado, I used a recipe from the River Cottage website, with a few tweaks of my own and the oven dish/greaseproof paper method of baking. Result? A beautiful looking and tasting loaf of sourdough bread. Now, if someone can advise me on how to make the bread denser and more sour tasting I’ll be a very happy bread baker!

For the sponge

•About 100ml active starter

•250g strong bread flour (white, wholemeal or a mixture)

•300ml warm water

 

For each loaf

•300g strong bread flour (white, wholemeal or a mixture)

•1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil (optional)

•10g salt

The night before you want to bake your loaf, create the sponge: take about 100ml of your active starter, and combine it with 250g fresh flour and 300ml warm water in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands, or very thoroughly with the handle of a wooden spoon, then cover with clingfilm and leave overnight. In the morning, it should be clearly fermenting – thick, sticky and bubbly.

Moby Dick - a beast of a sourdough starter

Moby Dick – a beast of a sourdough starter

Now make your loaf: add a fresh 300g flour to the sponge, along with 1 tbsp oil, if you like (it will make the bread a touch softer and more silky, but is not essential), and 10g salt (which is essential). Squidge it all together with your hands. You should have a fairly sticky dough. If it seems tight and firm, add a dash more warm water. If it’s unmanageably loose, add more flour (but do leave it as wet as you dare – you’ll get better bread that way).  I did this and the next stage in my mixer with the dough hook.

Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and silky. This takes in the region of 10 minutes, but it can vary depending on your own style and level of confidence. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn it so it gets a light coating of oil. Cover with lightly oiled clingfilm, or put the bowl inside a plastic bag, and leave to rise. Don’t expect it to whoosh up to twice its original size in an hour, as a conventional loaf does. Sourdough rises slowly and sedately. The best thing is to knead it in the morning then simply leave it all day (or knead in the evening and leave overnight) in a fairly cool, but draught-free, place, until it is more or less doubled in size and feels springy when you push your finger gently into it. Knock it back (deflate it) on a lightly floured surface.

The dough has risen - hallelujah!

The dough has risen – hallelujah!

You now need to prove the dough (i.e. give it a second rising). You are also going to be forming it into the shape it will be for baking. If you have a proper baker’s proving basket, use this, first dusting it generously with flour. I lined a bowl (which was roughly the same size as my oven dish) with greaseproof paper and sprinkled it with a little flour). When the dough had doubled in size (it only took a couple of hours as it was a warm day) I lifted the bread out with the paper and placed both the paper and bread into the oven dish (which I had heated for about 20 minutes) slashed the bread with a sharp knife, sprinkled it with a little flour and put the lid on the pot.

I cooked it on the high temperature the entire time for about an hour and removed the lid for the last 20 minutes of cooking.  Leave to cool completely (it’s hard to resist, but your bread really will have a better texture if you allow it to cool), enjoy!

Olive Oil Pastry – So simple, even I couldn’t mess it up….

5 Jun

I love pastry but am mostly too lazy to make it. Except at Christmas, when I make Clara’s Shortcrust Pastry. And sometimes I use it to make quiche.

Perhaps I don’t make it that often because

  1. In Spain, getting hold of butter and keeping it fresh before it reaches my fridge is a saga in itself
  2. In England, I’m either too busy ripping out nasty bathrooms or it’s easier to pop to the supermarket and buy it ready made (oops, did I just admit that in public?!)

Enough of this nonsensical pastry avoidance, Chica. Pull yourself together and make it with olive oil! So of course, I did. And you know what? It’s so easy, and so tasty, and so silky and forgiving should you break it (what, me?!) that I suspect we’ll be eating a lot more of it in the next few months. And also, with only 2 tablespoons of oil in a 4 person serving, it really can’t be bad for you, can it?

Veggie Garden Pie with Olive Oil Pastry

Ingredients to line a 24cm (9.2 inch) flan tin with enough left over to make a few cheese and marmite nibbles (my grandmother always used to make these as a treat with the leftover scraps of pastry), this is what you need:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tbs olive oil (30ml)
  • Up to 4 tbs iced water (60ml)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

I made mine in my food processor, but if making by hand, follow the same steps, it will only take you a couple of minutes longer.

Blend the flour and salt together then add the olive oil and blitz (or rub with your fingers) for a few seconds. Slowly add the water with the motor running but stop as soon as the mixture clumps together.

Press the mixture into a ball and chill (optional) for half an hour wrapped in cling film.

Cheese & Marmite Nibbles

You can roll this pastry out really thinly if you like, it behaves well. Use it to make your favourite quiches and pies. I made a vegetable pie with a filling of sautéed peppers, onions, tomatoes and blanched runner beans which sat on top of a mix of 2 tablespoons of cream cheese with one beaten egg, and topped wth sliced tomato.

And because pastry is rather dull to look at (never start a sentence with the word “and” Chica), I thought I’d show you a lovely photo from New Zealand, taken way too many years ago!

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