Basil and Seed Loaf and a BLT

In one of her letters to Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf wrote:

“… does it strike you that one’s friendships are long conversations, perpetually broken off, but always about the same thing with the same person?”

The beauty of friendships is just that. That despite the ebb and flow of life taking it places, crashing it over rocks, battering it against embankments, and sucking it into whirlpools, there’s always that unseen thread, that one stray link that binds friends together, whether it’s a common interest or a pet peeve. And so we banter, we fill our lives with words, with conversation… but as Virginia said, it’s “about the same thing with the same person”.

Which makes me grateful for all my friends and acquaintances, people I’ve had the good fortune to have encountered, who’ve filled my life with their presence, for howsoever short or long a time it may be or have been. People I’ve known for much of my life, and those I’ve only just met or have only encountered in virtual space… I’m grateful for all, for everything… and for Virginia Woolf who made me fall in love with books and reading, and expanded my mind and heart in ways I never thought possible. And who made me realize that it’s okay to be a maverick, and a non-conformist and to cock a snoot at the world, and cook and bake and clay boy make, and paint cartons because I’m falling short of storage, and if I have to keep them around for a little while longer they may as well look pretty.

Speaking of all things nice, I just baked a loaf of bread, a seed loaf, a Basil and Seed Loaf that I’ll be sending across to Susan at YeastSpotting.

Packed full of goodness, this loaf is nutritious and makes fantastic sandwiches, which is great because summer brunch on most days ends up being a sandwich, open or closed, with or without a salad on the side. These sandwich loaves are wonderful sliced thin or thick, or even cut into croutons and toasted to be tossed into a salad or as a garnish for a cold or hot soup. I love the crust on this loaf and that happened because I placed a tray full of water on the lower shelf of the oven and sprayed the inside walls to create steam.

I used a variety of seeds in this loaf, sunflower, melon, black and white sesame and flax seeds, toasting them a bit, and then cooling them completely before adding them to the dough.

Here’s what you’ll need –

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

12gms fresh yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup powdered milk

1/3 cup mixed toasted seeds  

2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoon sun-dried tomato flavoured Extra Virgin Olive Oil (aka evoo + extra for lining the bowl, coating the bread pan and for brushing the loaf before baking)

All you have to do is activate the yeast with the sugar and water, before adding the flour, powdered milk, evoo and salt. Mix to form a rough dough. Now add the toasted seeds and chopped basil, making sure that it is well distributed throughout the dough. Knead for a good 10 – 12 minutes. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave the dough to prove for 2 hours.

Post first prove

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead after the first proving, then shape and transfer the loaf into an oiled and cornmeal dusted bread pan. I rolled up the loaf, just for fun and left it to prove for 1 ½ hours.

Rolled up… Just like that!

Made a couple of slashes into the loaf when it had risen with a sharp knife, brushed the top with some evoo and placed the loaf into a pre-heated oven into which I had placed a tray on the lower shelf.

I wanted to create a lot of steam for this loaf in order for it to get a lovely crust, so I poured some water into the hot tray, sprayed the inner walls of the oven with water and shut the door. You’ll need to spray the walls of the oven a couple of times during the baking process, but be quick and don’t open the door too much. Bake the loaf for 35 minutes at 190°C.

I turned on the grill element for a bit right at the end (5 minutes or so) to brown the top of the loaf, keeping an eye out to ensure that it got evenly browned.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing into it.

All rolled up…

Look at that!

This loaf is great eaten with loads of butter…

But it also made an excellent Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich… An open-faced BLT I dished up at brunch the next day with a Lettuce, Bocconcini and Cranberry Salad.

Now… If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I always say that everything tastes better with bacon and booze, not necessarily in that order and not necessarily together. This recipe uses just one of my favourites… Bacon, marinaded in Barbeque sauce, Dijon mustard and honey with a couple of twists of the pepper mill and then pan fried…

Bacon!

I then paired my BLT with a light and refreshing salad with a dressing that used some of the same marinade that I coated the bacon with.

I may as well give you all the ingredients at once just to make it a bit easier… have all the ingredients in place… mise-en-place. 

For the Sandwich you’ll need –

2 slices Bread (I used my Basil and Seed Loaf… sliced 1/2″ thick, and toasted with a drizzle of evoo)

3 – 4 rashers back bacon (marinaded and pan-fried or oven roasted)

2 medium tomatoes (blanched, quartered and deseeded – marinaded in 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar + 1 tablespoon evoo with a pinch of black pepper)

2 large chillies – roasted, skinned, deseeded and drizzled with 2 teaspoons of the Salad Marinade

(I used a local variety of fat green chillies called Bhavnagri Chillies which had a fair amount of bite to them, perfect for my sandwich)

a small handful of Rocket leaves

1 – 2 large leaves of Iceberg lettuce (torn up)

For the Salad –

a large handful of Rocket leaves

a large handful of Iceberg lettuce (torn up)

3 – 4 pieces of Bocconcini

a handful of dried cranberries

large pinch of black pepper

1 teaspoon Orange zest

For the Bacon Marinade –

2 tablespoons Barbeque sauce

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

(You’ll need less than half the marinade to coat the bacon. Reserve the rest for the salad dressing)

large pinch of freshly milled black pepper while frying the bacon

For the Salad Dressing –

the rest of the bacon marinade

juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 orange

pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon evoo

(Mix the dressing well and chill till required)

To construct the sandwich lets get started with pan frying the bacon, for which I brushed the pan with just a wee bit of oil, then lowered in the slices of marinaded bacon and cooked them on a medium to low flame till the fat melts and the bacon starts to get gorgeously caramelised. I love those little burnt looking bits on top… and I’ve got to admit that I started with 4 rashers and was left with 3 to make my sandwich. The one found its way into my stomach as soon as it was out of the pan and it was delicious 🙂

So once the bacon’s done, keep it aside and get started on the bread, slicing and then pan- toasting the slices with a drizzle of evoo. Let the bread cool down a bit before you start assembling.

First to go onto the gorgeous bread is the lettuce which I tossed in some of the salad marinade. Followed by a layer of tomato, then topped with a layer of green chillies and finally topped with the bacon…

Rocket and Iceberg Lettuce

Plum Tomatoes

Roasted Large Bhavnagri Chillies

Now that’s a BLT!

For the Lettuce, Bocconcini and Cranberry Salad – start by tearing up the lettuce into a bowl, toss in the cranberries and zest the orange. Then tear up the Bocconcini and add it to the salad, spoon over the chilled salad dressing. Toss and serve immediately.

Now drizzle some of that salad dressing (if there’s any left over over your BLT and enjoy…

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Tuna Melt with Mustard on Homemade Bread

There’s nothing better than breakfast seated at an open window, letting the cool early morning breeze caress you while you watch Parakeets, Bulbuls, Sunbirds, Koels and a couple of Eurasian Golden Orioles, squawk, chirp, screech and coo make the most of it before the merciless summer sun comes blazing down on them forcing them to beat a retreat into denser foliage.

Oh! Who am I kidding!

Okay the part about the birds is true, and so is the part about the early morning breeze coming in through my windows. But I’m not so much a breakfast as I am a brunch person. I’ve tried, honestly I have, but I’ve been this way since I was a kid. The only way I ever did eat breakfast was if my mother was sitting right there at the table with me, watching me down my glassful of milk and shovel down my cereal/porridge and eggs with toast or whatever else was on the breakfast menu for the day. My mum was a firm believer in the adage, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper” and she staunchly follows it till date.

But now that I’m all grown up (or so it says on my driving licence) and no longer live with mum, I get to choose my meal times, which usually consists of coffee, and more coffee with the occasional fruit at breakfast, followed by numerous little meals during the day. Leisurely brunches however remain my favourite and most preferred mealtime, which is where this post is headed. And on the menu today is a favourite, the classic Tuna Melt Sandwich.

Now would you believe it if I told you that I had my first Tuna Melt when I visited Canada on work way back in the early 90’s. Yeah, it was that late, and it was love at first bite. Lusciously creamy, the portion thankfully not all that huge, I definitely went back for seconds.

My first stop on that particular trip started off with Montreal, a city I fell in love with because of its beautiful architecture, not forgetting the delicious escargot I ate at a delightful French restaurant, one of my favourite places on some of those evenings when I had to dine alone, with just a good book for company. It is strange though that I can’t seem to remember the name of the restaurant, though I distinctly recall the face of the sommelier… typical eh?

But before I digress, No… the Tuna Melt wasn’t on the menu at the French restaurant, but was from a deli near my office… packed to go. And it was heavenly!

Here’s my take… spiced up… but of course.

I used a 200gm can of tuna chunks in light olive oil, flaking it with a fork, adding 2 teaspoons of yellow mustard seeds which I lightly pounded, to release their flavour, and about a 3/4 teaspoon of black pepper. To this I added 1 1/2 tablespoon of mayonnaise (try and make your own if possible, but you can also use a good store bought variety), and a heaped tablespoon of butter.

Next chop and add two small spring onions and a green chilli (seeds and all) to the tuna mix, and one medium tomato, from which I removed the inner pithy part including the seeds and chopped it up fine. Season with some salt (according to your taste), 10 – 12 capers roughly chopped, and a good squeeze or two of lime juice. Finishing it off with some chopped flat-leaf parsley… Yum!

Oh those tart and delicious capers!

p.s. Do not over-mix the tuna, as you want the tuna to be flaky and not turn into a pâté.

Another important aspect of a good tuna melt is the bread selection, and I used my Spinach, Sundried Tomato, Cheddar and Oat loaf for this recipe, slicing the bread quite thin and toasting the slices on both sides, on a pan till they turned crusty and brown.

Let the bread cool a little before piling the tuna mix onto it and top it all with any cheese that melts (I used Mozzarella) as generously as you can. I used about 150gms over four slices, sprinkling on some black pepper and snipped up spring onion greens.

Transfer the toasts onto a parchment lined baking tray and bake them in a preheated oven at 210° C, turning on the grill element for a few minutes, but keeping an eye out because you don’t want those luscious snowy blanketed toasts with their pepper and green onion toppings to get browned and/or burnt.

So I finally sat by my window, with my delicious Tuna Melt Open Sandwiches, juice and coffee on the side, and watched the birds who were still frolicking around since the sun hadn’t yet reached its zenith, and took a nice big bite of stringy Mozarella topped mustardy tuna goodness… Then closed my eyes and thanked God for everything I’ve had the good fortune to experience and enjoy.

And yes before I go, I have to thank the beautiful and extremely talented Dolly at http://allaboutlemon.com/ for nominating me not just for another Versatile Blogger Award but also for a Beautiful Blogger Award which I shall be passing on soon. And then as a special treat Dolly also passed on something she and her daughter designed themselves… a beautiful badge that says “You are Loved” which I’ve posted on my page. Do click on it and it will take you over to Dolly’s blog which many of you may have visited. But if you haven’t… You Must!