Monday, 30 December 2013

Extreme dog walking - and doughnuts, Roald Dahl style

The recent weather hasn't been kind to anyone. We've got away relatively lightly, considering, with a couple of fence panels down, and I know that there are plenty of people who've suffered real hardship. I say this before I descend to the trivial, and suggest that it's really not been a great time to be a dog owner. 

Heading out to do battle with the elements day after day, well, it's not really what you sign up for. Yes, you know you'll be out every day - that's part of the joy of dog owning. But when the weather is relentlessly grim, driving rain, howling wind, there's a little voice inside saying "Why me? Why did I do this thing, and commit myself to this daily drudge?". And then you have to pull yourself together and work out where to go that means you will not get (a) crushed by a falling tree (b) blown away to Wiltshire (c) drowned in a mire and (d) whether to even try persuding the rest of the family to come with you. 

It hasn't been easy, I tell you.

Of course there's not much use bleating about it when your dog of choice doesn't give a stuff about the weather, and indeed, seems to find the wind and rain extra invigorating - for a start he can't hear you screaming at him to come back, as he joyfully follows whatever scent trail has tickled his nostrils through the fields. And when you're a springer spaniel, frankly, the muddier the better. 

I've become accustomed to it over the 3+ years that Fred's been in our lives, but when you get an extended period of miserable weather such as we've had recently, well, it gets you down. 

We had a glorious winter's day yesterday, frosty, sunny, but when I got up this morning to resumed gales, my heart sank. And reader, I quailed. I took the coward's way out and dashed up the nearest field to give Fred the briefest of opportunities to do what a dog needs to do, before returning home, promising that "when the weather clears later" I'd take him out properly. Later. 

How then to fill a morning? Pink received Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes for Christmas. It's a set of recipes compiled by Josie Fison and Felicity Dahl, the great author's wife, based on dishes from his children's books: there's Wormy Spaghetti (from The Twits), Lickable Wallpaper for Nurseries (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Scrambled Dregs (James and the Giant Peach) and Bunce's Doughnuts (Fantastic Mr Fox). 

And so, seamlessly from dog walking to doughnuts.

Any resemblance to her mother is purely coincidental
I've made doughnuts once before in my life. It was a long time ago. We were friends with another family who lived a few streets away. They were eccentric and fabulous: the parents, both incredibly committed doctors, working in tropical diseases, and paediatrics, and 4 children, a girl a year or so older then me, and 3 boys. When we met them, they had returned from a long stint working in Malawi. They were absolutely their own people. Generous, kind and completely unreliable. I remember one Sunday they were due to come for lunch. Time passed and they didn't appear, so my father and I went round to see what was up (no anxious texting). We knocked, and the husband flung the door open with a wide smile. "Come in, come in! What can we do for you? Would you like some lunch" Completely oblivious to the fact that it was they who should have been at our house. 

One afternoon, my brothers and I found ourselves at their house with no parents in evidence. The circumstances have escaped me, as have the reasons for making doughnuts, or most of the specifics of the endeavour, but I recall that an instruction in the recipe that we were following required us, for some reason, to the "throw the dough".Where or why we were supposed to throw the dough, I have no idea, but in our infinite wisdom, we decided to take the instruction literally. 

I'll leave the scene that followed to your imagination, and I can't even remember what the resulting confections were like, but it's a memory that's stayed with me, and popped back into my head when Pink and I saw this recipe. Fortunately, no throwing is required for these babies, and apart from the deep frying at the end, it's a pretty child friendly recipe. Pink made the dough pretty much all herself with a bit of input from me. 

Even better, as the time came for the dough to go in the fridge, the rain miraculously cleared so the dog got his walk after all. 

As for the deep frying, well it's something that I've long had the fear about. I don't think I've ever really had a go, and I was a bit reluctant to attempt this recipe on that basis, but in the end, I took a deep breath and got on with it. Just like the dog walking, in fact. And it wasn't as scary as I thought it might have been. So this afternoon, dog walked, and while the Husband and Blue went off to the allotment to get some veg for dinner, Pink and I stayed home and fried us some doughnuts. 

There's no gender stereotyping in our house, no siree.

They weren't the greatest doughnuts I've ever eaten, but they were perfectly satisfactory as the fruits of a wet day's labours in the kitchen.

Cinammon Doughnuts

100g soft brown sugar
50g soft unsalted butter
1 large egg
450g plain flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinammon
pinch of salt
2 tbsp hot water
1/4 tsp vanilla essence (or equivalent)
75ml milk

oil for deep frying
caster sugar for rolling the doughnuts in after frying

(Oh & do check out my lovely new scales...)

Make the dough by creaming together the sugar and butter. Whisk up the egg a little then add gradually to the creamed butter & sugar.

In a bowl combine the flour, cinammon, salt and baking powder then stir into the mixture, along with the hot water, milk and vanilla. I was all out of extract, so used vanilla bean paste instead..

This combined easily in the Kenwood to a stiff smooth dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Lick the bowl/walk the dog*.

When your dough has refrigerated, divide it in half and leave half in the fridge while you roll out the other half and using 2 cutters, one smaller than the other, cut out your doughnuts. The book suggests using a 6 cm and a 3 cm cutter. Mine were 8 cm and 5 cm. Roll the dough to about 0.5 cm thickness and cut out to your heart's content. Re-roll the scraps and keep cutting.

When we got fed up of re-rolling, we just left the smaller circles as they were, ready to fry as hole-less doughnuts.

Fill your pan to about 5 cm with vegetable oil and bring to temperature - you need it to be 190C (375F) and this is NOT something the kids can be involved with. 

Fry your doughnuts in batches, turning once, till golden brown. I found that mine sank to the bottom when I dropped them in, then rose to the top and needed a little longer before being flipped over. 

Once cooked, drain on kitchen paper and toss in caster sugar.

Eat while warm. And try not to lick your lips. Mmmmm.

* delete as applicable

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