People are getting into baking at home again, which is fantastic news, and the public have taken to buying and making healthy bread; it's not unusual these days to find a pot of live sourdough starter in domestic fridges. My new book is all about baking and sets out to demonstrate that there's a lot more to the art than just weighing out flour and sugar to bake a cake. Here are some savoury creations from the book, and next week we'll feature some of the sweet recipes.
Celeriac and Lancashire cheese pithivier
I'm sure most vegetarians would be really happy to be served a slice of this. And it would sit nicely at the table for a buffet, while a slice would be great with roast lamb.
A couple of good knobs of butter
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1 x 400-500g celeriac, peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250-300g ready-made, all-butter puff pastry
Plain flour, for dusting
200g Lancashire cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
Melt the butter in a pan, add the onion and gently cook for 2-3 minutes without colouring. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Cut the celeriac in half and slice it as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife or mandolin. Blanch the slices in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly-floured surface to a 1cm thickness and cut it out into two discs, one about 25cm across and the other about 30cm. Lay the smaller one on af tray and prick holes in it with a fork. Arrange a layer of the celeriac slices over the pastry, leaving a 2cm margin around the edge.
Scatter over some onion, a little cheese and season, then add another layer of celeriac slices. Continue layering up the ingredients until you have used them all up.
Brush the edges of the pastry with egg and lay the larger pastry disc on top, pressing the edges together with your fingers. You can decorate the pithivier by making lines with the back of a small knife from the centre of the pastry if you wish. Brush with egg and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 5.
Bake the pithivier for about 30-40 minutes until golden. Serve.
Makes 2 pizzas
Pizzas are fun to make at home as they are so versatile. You can make the toppings as simple or as sophisticated as you wish. To vary this pizza bianco, try adding a little freshly chopped oregano or rosemary over it before cooking, or even shaving a bit of truffle over the top to make it more luxurious.
For the base
500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast mixed with about 150ml warm water
1tbsp clear honey
3tbsp olive oil
For the topping
200-250g potatoes, very thinly sliced
1 medium red or white onion, thinly sliced
150g Taleggio, sliced
To make the pizza base, mix all of the ingredients together in a food processor (with the dough hook attachment) for 2-3 minutes to form a stiff dough, adding a little more water during mixing if the dough isn't coming together. Cover the bowl with clingfilm; leave to prove in a warm place for a few hours, until the dough has doubled in volume.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it back to its original size on a lightly-floured table. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to form a circle roughly 25-30cm in diameter. Transfer the pizza base to a piece of lightly-floured greaseproof paper. Leave the dough to rise a little under a tea towel in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to its maximum heat and place a circular pizza stone or baking tray inside to heat up for 20 minutes. Take your pizza base, arrange the topping ingredients over it evenly and slide it on to your stone or tray. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the crust is golden brown.
Red mullet en papillote
Although red mullet has a delicate flesh it actually has a robust flavour, which means it can be paired with strong flavours. I've used green chilli and coriander here, but you could add some shredded ginger if you wish. If you have a fish-bone phobia, you could always use fillets from a larger fish such as sea bass or grey mullet instead.
4 red mullet, about 180-200g each, scaled, trimmed and gutted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium green chillies, trimmed, seeded and thinly sliced
2-3tbsp olive oil
A few sprigs of coriander
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Cut out 4 circles, about 25cm in diameter, of greaseproof or baking paper.
Score the red mullet a few times on one side and lay one, scored-side up, in the centre of each circle of paper.
Season the fish, scatter the chillies on top and spoon over the olive oil.
Mix the flour with enough water to formf a thin paste. Brush or smear the flour paste around the edge of each paper circle.
Crimp the edges by folding and rolling the paper over to form a perfect seal all the way around. If it's not sticking, then secure the edges with a few paper clips.
Put the paper parcels in the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes.
Serve on plates, opening the paper up at the table and scattering over the coriander to finish.
These delicious little bread-based snacks are relatively quick to make as you only have to prove them once. The dough is made from the pizza base recipe on the previous page.
Freeze them either uncooked or lightly cooked and finish them off in the oven for an emergency snack moment or party.
80g butter or ghee
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 green chilli, trimmed and finely chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp black mustard seeds
1tsp fenugreek seeds
1tsp ground turmeric
10 curry leaves
150g yellow dried split peas, soaked for 2 hours in cold water
350ml vegetable stock
3-4tbsp chopped coriander
½ x pizza dough with one prove (see previous recipe)
80g butter, melted
1-2tsp black mustard seeds
1-2tsp cumin seedsf
To make the dhal, melt the butter or ghee in a pan and gently cook the onion, garlic, chilli and spices for 3-4 minutes without colouring. Drain and rinse the peas and add to the pan with the stock. Season and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring every so often, until the lentils are tender, the liquid has been absorbed and the consistency is risotto-like.
Stir in the coriander and leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7.
On a lightly-floured table, roll the dough out to about 3mm thick. Leave it to rest on the table for 5 minutes before cutting into roughly 4-5cm discs. Put a teaspoon of the dhal into the centre of each, brush the edges with water then bring the edges together to make a ball, reshaping them if necessary.
Place them on a lightly-oiled baking tray with the join side down and make a small slit in the top with the point of a small knife to expose the lentils. Brush with melted butter and scatter over the mustard and cumin seeds. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.
'Mark Hix on Baking' is published by Quadrille, £20. To order a copy at a special price, including p&p, call Independent Books Direct on 0843 0600 030