There are certain events in most people's lives that are significant, and, as such, always remembered.
First day at school perhaps. Leaving home. Feeling oh-so-rich as you spend your first paypacket. That first date. The discovery of pre-cut (!) parchment paper.
March 5th 2011 is one such date for us.
We tasted possibly the best soup we have ever had.
It was a revelation. No soup has tasted the same since.
The soup in question? Heston Blumenthal's pea and ham hock soup. Bray. The Hind's Head.
I never thought I'd attempt it myself. What fool would attempt to recreate perfection?
Ahem... this fool.
You see, we were challenged by Sally from My Custard Pie to make a bread containing a vegetable for this month's Fresh From the Oven bread bake. Sally herself was inspired by the courgette bounty her garden had produced this year. And the bread I had in mind to bake was a Pancetta, Potato and Sage bread. It was a foregone conclusion that this mighty loaf needing to be dunked in a mighty soup. There was only one mighty soup that could deliver.
One trip to the butchers, a purchase of a ham hock and four hours of cooking later and Heston's Ham Hock and Pea soup was right there infront of us. The recipe, which I followed word for word can be found right here.
As for the mighty bread, the recipe is taken from The Women's Institute 'Bread', my go-to bread book.
And the recipe goes exactly like this:
175g (6oz) floury potatoes, peeled
350g (12oz) very strong white bread flour
Three qaurters of a teaspoon fast acting dried yeast
freshly gorund pepper
175ml hand-hot water
105g (3 and a half oz) smoked pancetta slices, snipped
15g fresh sage, chopped plus leaves to decorate
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1. Put the potatoes in pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender
2. Drain well and mash until smooth. Then place a piece of clingfilm over the mash to prevent the potato drying out
3. Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Season with pepper
4. Rub in the potato. Make a well in the centre and add the water. Mix to a soft dough
5. Turn out onto an unfloured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth
6. Oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in it and cover with a damp tea towel
7. Prove in a warm place until doubled in size
8. Heat a saucepan and cook the pancetta for two minutes until the pancetta becomes crispy and any fat runs out. Stir in the sage and cook for a further thirty seconds. Set aside to cool
9. Grease a baking sheet
10. Knead the pancetta and sage into a dough and form the dough into a circular shape and place on the prepared baking sheet
11. Cover the dough and prove until in doubled in size
12. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/220C/425F
13. Dip each sage leaf in oil and arrange a pattern on top of the loaf. Drizzle the remaining oil over the surface of the dough. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack
- The dough can be very very sticky, but bear with it, it'll be worth it. I promise.
- The bread tastes best on the day it is baked, but will last for up to 72 hours in an airtight container
- As for the soup? A's verdict: 'Can we have this for tea every day please!?'