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Learn to cook like a pro

Jamie Oliver — aka ‘The Naked Chef’ teaches the hosts of ‘Today’ the culinary skills needed to make incredible meals in the kitchen.
/ Source: msnbc.com

In a special five part series, British chef Jamie Oliver — aka “The Naked Chef” — takes on the challenge to teach the hosts of “Today” how to chop, knead, roll, stuff, and poach — the culinary skills needed to make incredible meals in the kitchen. Check out his recipe for purple potato salad below.

PURPLE POTATO SALAD

I like to use a mixture of new potatoes and purple potatoes in this salad, but if you can’t find any purple ones then just use all new potatoes instead. But try to hunt them down — they’re great!

INGRIEDENTS

6 tablespoons extra virgin

olive oil

juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste

255g/9oz crème fraîche or fromage frais

500g/1lb 2oz baby new potatoes

500g/1lb 2oz purple potatoes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch of radishes, finely sliced

1 handful of fresh mint

Leaves, chopped

1 handful of chives, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Make the dressing by mixing together the olive oil, lemon juice and crème fraîche or fromage frais. Cook the potatoes in plenty of boiling salted water for around 20 minutes until tender, and drain well. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, rub off the skins with a knife and slice into bite-size pieces. Mix with the dressing, then add the radishes and herbs and season well to taste.

BASIC BREAD RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

1kg/just over 2lb strong bread flour

625ml/just over 1 pint tepid water

30g/1oz fresh yeast or 3 x 7g/Woz sachets dried yeast 2 tablespoons sugar

2 level tablespoons sea salt

extra flour for dusting

DIRECTIONS

Stage 1: Making a Well

Pile the flour on to a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half your water into the well, then add your yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork.

Stage 2: Getting It Together

Slowly, but confidently, bring in the flour from the inside of the well. (You don’t want to break the walls of the well, or the water will go everywhere.) Continue to bring the flour in to the centre until you get a stodgy, porridgey consistency - then add the remaining water. Continue to mix until it’s stodgy again, then you can be more aggressive, bringing in all the flour, making the mix less sticky. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with all the remaining flour. (Certain flours need a little more or less water, so feel free to adjust.)

Stage 3: Kneading!

This is where you get stuck in. With a bit of elbow grease, simply push, fold, slap and roll the dough around, over and over, for 4 or 5 minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.

Stage 4: First Prove

Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl, cover with clingfilm, and allow it to prove for about half an hour until doubled in size — ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place. This will improve the flavour and texture of your dough and it’s always exciting to know that the old yeast has kicked into action.

Stage 5: Second Prove, Flavouring and Shaping

Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 seconds by bashing it and squashing it. You can now shape it or flavour it as required — folded, filled, tray-baked, whatever — and leave it to prove for a second time for 30 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size once more. This is the most important part, as the second prove will give it the air that finally ends up being cooked into your bread, giving you the really light, soft texture that we all love in fresh bread. So remember - don’t fiddle with it, just let it do its thing.

Stage 6: Cooking Your Bread

Very gently place your bread dough on to a flour-dusted baking tray and into a preheated oven. Don’t slam the door or you’ll lose the air that you need. Bake according to the time and temperature given with your chosen recipe. You can tell if it’s cooked by tapping its bottom — if it sounds hollow it’s done, if it doesn’t then pop it back in for a little longer. Once cooked, place on a rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes — fandabidozi. Feel free to freeze any leftover bread.

BASIC FOACCACIA

For 2 large or 4 smaller focaccia

Below are some toppings that I like, but it’s real fun to do your own thing. Toppings mustn’t be too heavy, just a light scattering of interesting flavours. Try marinated sun-dried tomatoes, black or green olives, mixed herbs, herb oils, some interesting cheeses (not too much, though; the Italians would probably use up any old dry cheese for this).

The following amounts are for the whole quantity of bread but you may well wish to, say, make 4 different toppings for 4 small focaccias, in which case just divide the amount accordingly.

Toppings

Basil and Olive Oil Topping

This is the easiest topping and very tasty. Finely chop 1 clove of garlic and a good bunch of basil. Add roughly three times as much oil as you have of the basil mixture, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt, freshly ground black pepper and sometimes a crushed dried chilli - gives nice warmth! Be subtle.

Stage 1. Dissolve the yeast and honey (or sugar) in half the tepid water.

Stage 2. On your largest available clean surface (even a big bowl will do if surfaces are limited), make a pile of the flour, semolina flour and salt. With one hand, make a well in the centre. (If possible, it is preferable to warm the flour and semolina flour.)

Stage 3. Pour all the dissolved yeast mixture into the centre and with four fingers of one hand make circular movements, from the centre working outwards, slowly bringing in the dry ingredients until all the yeast mixture is soaked up. Then pour the other half of the tepid water into the centre and gradually incorporate all the flour to make a moist dough. (Certain flours may need a little more water, so don’t be afraid to adjust the quantities.)

Stage 4. Kneading! This is the best bit, just rolling, pushing and folding the dough over and over for 5 minutes. This develops the structure of the dough and the gluten. If any of the dough sticks to your hands, just rub them together with a little extra flour.

You can do Stages 2, 3 and 4 in a food mixer if you like, using the dough hook attachment.

Stage 5. Flour both your hands now, and lightly flour the top of the dough. Make it into a roundish shape and place on a baking tray. Score the dough with a knife - this allows it to relax and prove more quickly.

Stage 6. Leave the bread to prove for the first time. Basically we want it to double in size. This is probably the best time to preheat the oven (see oven temperatures for each bread variation). You want a warm, moist, draught-free place for the quickest prove, for example near the cooker, in the airing cupboard, in the plate warmer of a cooker or just in a warm room, and you can cover it with clingfilm if you want to speed it up. This proving process matures the flour flavour and should take approximately 40 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the conditions.

Let’s just talk about proving so you know what’s going on. The yeast is now feeding on the honey or sugar in the warmth of the tepid water. In theory the three things that all bacteria need to grow are heat, moisture and food. Any excess of these three things will kill the yeast (as well as salt, which we have used to season the bread - it’s not half so nice without it, but it does slow down the proving to some extent).

Stage 7. Right, it’s double the size and time to knock it back. Knead and punch the dough, knocking all the air out of it, for about a minute.

Stage 8. Shape the dough into whatever shape you want — round, flat, filled, or whatever (see the variations to follow) — and leave to prove a second time in a warm place until the dough is double its size.

The important thing is not to lose your confidence now; if you don’t think it’s proved enough, leave it a bit longer and check the warmth or for any draughts.

Stage 9. Now it’s time to cook your loaf. After all your hard work, don’t spoil your efforts. You want to keep the air inside the loaf, so don’t knock it, put it very gently into the oven and don’t slam the door. Bake according to the recipe time and temperature given in the variations which follow, or until it’s cooked. You can tell if it’s cooked by tapping its bottom (if it’s in a tin you’ll have to take it out) — if it sounds hollow it’s cooked, if it doesn’t then pop it back in for a little longer.

Stage 10. Place the bread on a rack to cool - for cooking time see each recipe variation. You’re going to love this bread!

SLOW-ROASTED TOMATO BREAD

This is a lovely intense sweet bread. It’s brilliant for lunch, toasted with some mozzarella cheese and a little basil, or served simply with dinner. You can make a large loaf or smaller ones as I have here, using some old tomato tins which I have washed out and lined with greaseproof paper.

Makes 6-8 ‘tin’ breads

INGREDIENTS

1kg/21/4lb cherry vine tomatoes (or plum tomatoes)

1 bulb of garlic, cut in half crosswise

1 handful of fresh basil,

leaves picked

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

optional: 1-2 dried red chillies

extra virgin olive oil

1 x basic bread recipe (see

page 312)

optional: 6-8 empty tomato

tins, or equivalent, to cook the bread in

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2. Prick the tomatoes with a knife - you can leave them on the vine. Toss them into an appropriately sized roasting tray with the garlic - you want the tomatoes to fit nice and snugly so you only have one layer. Rip in your basil, season well with salt and pepper and even a little chilli crumbled over if you like, and add 2 or 3 lugs of extra virgin olive oil. Place the tray in the preheated oven and roast for about 1 hour.

When the tomatoes are done, remove and allow to cool. Squeeze the sweet garlic out of its skin and throw the skins away. Choose 6-8 really nice tomatoes and put them aside to use on top of your bread. Remove all the stalks from the remaining tomatoes, then mash them up with the garlic, scraping up all the lovely, sticky goodness from the bottom of the tray. Start making your basic bread dough, and when it comes to adding the water, at Stage 2, pour your mushed tomatoes into a measuring

jug and just top up with water to give you the same amount of liquid as in the basic recipe. Carry on with the rest of the recipe, adjusting the amount of flour so you end up with a non-sticky, elastic, shiny bread dough. Allow it to prove for half an hour.

Shape the dough into a large loaf or smaller rolls. If you’re using tins, like I have, oil them well with olive oil and divide the dough between them and then push the remaining tomatoes into each one. Leave to prove again until doubled in size (about 15 minutes). Bake at 180C/350F/ gas 4 for around 20 minutes until golden and crisp. A larger loaf will need an extra 10-15 minutes. To check if the bread is ready, tap the bottom of it. A dull thud means it’s done.

Try this: As a quick alternative, you could work through the basic bread recipe and simply add sun-dried tomatoes. Just tear them up and squeeze them into the dough at Stage 5.

And this: Try pushing some pieces of mozzarella into the bread along with the tomatoes before baking - this will be really nice.

SWEET ROASTED RED ONION AND GARLIC BREAD

This is a genius little bread and, to be honest, served warm it’s almost like a meal in itself. Great in lunchboxes or for picnics or barbecues.

Makes 1 large loaf

INGREDIENTS

1 x basic bread recipe

4 red onions, peeled and sliced

2 bulbs of garlic, cloves peeled and sliced

10 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small handful fresh thyme, leaves picked and bashed up flour

DIRECTIONS

Make up the basic bread recipe. While it’s proving preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Put all the other ingredients apart from the flour in a small roasting tray and bake in the preheated oven for half an hour. Allow to cool, then finely chop. Bash the air out of your proved dough and roll out in a roundish shape to about 1cm/1/2 inch thick on

a flour-dusted surface. Smear the sweet onion and garlic mixture over the bread, then roll the bread up, folding in the sides and pushing it roughly into the shape that you want. Place it on an oiled baking tray, dust with flour, and score with a sharp knife. Leave to prove until doubled in size, then bake in a preheated oven at 220C/425F/gas 7 for about 35 minutes until the bread is crisp and golden and sounds hollow when tapped.

ROSEMARY AND RAISIN BREAD

This is such a fantastic combination — and really works well as a table bread served with anything. It’s especially good with a little ploughman’s lunch and even better in a Cheddar cheese sandwich with Branston pickle. The sweetness of the raisins makes it absolutely fantastic, so give it a go.

Makes 2 medium-sized loaves

INGREDIENTS

1 x basic bread recipe

1 large bunch of fresh rosemary, leaves picked

500g/1lb 2oz raisins, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Start making your basic bread dough, adding the rosemary and raisins at the start of Stage 3. You may want to add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Continue with the basic recipe until the dough is nice and elastic, then allow it to prove for about 30-60 minutes. Divide the dough in half and knead it with a little extra flour - you can shape it any way you like, but I like to make 2 long sausage-shaped loaves. Place on a tray, dust with flour, and leave to prove again until doubled in size. Score down the length of the bread with a really sharp knife (sometimes I poke a stick of rosemary into each loaf) and bake in the preheated oven at 180C/350F/gas 4 for around 25 minutes, until golden and crisp. Leave to cool before eating.

BANANA AND HONEY BREAD

INGREDIENTS

1 x basic bread recipe

6 bananas

8 tablespoons good, runny honey

optional: 1 handful of almonds, cracked or chopped

DIRECTIONS

First of all, peel your bananas then purée them in a liquidizer or food processor. The mix will be surprisingly wet. Pour it into a measuring jug, then top up with water until you have 625ml or just over 1 pint. At Stage 1 of the basic bread recipe, use this banana liquid instead of the water to flavour your bread and make it nice and chewy. Also add half the honey with the nuts to the dough at this point. Then continue through the basic recipe as normal.

At Stage 5 divide the dough into 10 balls. Then pack these next to each other in a flour-dusted baking tin where they will prove together. Before putting in the oven drizzle generously with the rest of the honey so that the top of the bread will caramelize, going nice and golden. Bake in your preheated oven at 190C/ 375F/gas 5 for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a little while, but it’s best served still warm with lots of butter and a glass of milk for breakfast while you read the paper. Also fantastic used in bread and butter pudding or simply heated up with a bit of ice cream.