Indian Stuffed Paratha – easier than you think

The are sooooo many varieties of Indian flat breads to choose from that making the decision on which one to prepare, and eat, can be a tricky business. Paratha are easier to make than you would think. A dough like pancake all warm and pillowy, filled with whatever savoury filling you choose. If you are familiar with the ubiquitous chapati then paratha are considered a close relative. My recipe shows you how to make them with a spiced potato and spring onion filling but you can be as adventurous as you fancy. They are ever so delicious and work really well with just a simple dal. Often the most humblest of foods can be fit for a king or queen. The preparation is pretty minimal and if you are cooking for a few you can prepare the filling earlier on in the day.

So follow these simple steps to create your very own paratha at home.

I suggest making the filling first and then let it cool whilst you make the dough.

Roll out the dough so that it is thin, but not so thin that it splits. Place a round ball of the filling in your hand and then gently place it in the centre of the dough circle. Flatten slightly.

Pull up the edges so that the filling is completely covered.

Turn it over and place some sesame seeds or nigella seeds on top. Flatten it with your hand.

Then gently roll out the dough so that it flattens further. Be careful not to roll too thinly or the contents will escape.

Heat a tawa, or large frying pan, and when it is hot brush a little melted ghee (or butter/oil) on one side of the paratha and place that side into the pan. While this side is toasting, place melted ghee on the other side and then after a minute turn over. Leave for a further 30-60 seconds so that it is nicely bronzing but not burning and then remove from the pan and eat whilst still hot. If you are preparing a few then place in a warm oven while you prepare the next.

 

Stuffed Paratha

Serves 6

125g plain flour

125g chapati flour/wholemeal flour (you can just use plain flour in which case double up on plain)

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp yoghurt

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

60 ml water

filling

350g potatoes, approx 3 medium ones (equally you can use sweet potato)

1 spring onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped

1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 tsp dry mango powder

1/2 tsp ground garam masala

1 green chilli, finely sliced (optional)

sesame/nigella seeds, to garnish

2 tbsp melted ghee/butter/oil

  1. In a large bowl add all of the dry ingredients and mix well, then add the yoghurt and oil.
  2. Slowly add in the water so that a dough forms. Use your hands to form a ball, knead for around 7 minutes so that the dough is pliable and soft. Cover with cling film whilst you make the filling.
  3. To make the filling, boil the potatoes and when soft, drain and mash them.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  5. Returning to the dough, break them into 6 even balls. Using your hands initially flatten a ball, sprinkle with a little flour and using a rolling pin roll into 6-7inch diameter circles.
  6. Using your hands scoop up some of the mashed spiced potato and create a small ball and flatten this is the middle of the dough.
  7. Move the sides of the dough up to the centre so that the spiced potato is securely covered up.
  8. Turn over the round parcel and spoon some sesame seeds on the top and then gently roll out the dough with the spiced potato filling into a round circle once again.
  9. Heat up a frying pan or tawa. When it is getting hot, melt the ghee and then brush some onto the surface of the paratha and place ghee side down onto the pan.
  10. Leave for up to a minute and brush the paratha again with ghee before turning over for a further minute. When the paratha is sufficiently bronzed place onto a warm plate and cover whilst you do the rest or pop in a warm oven.

Paratha are wonderful to have with dal or a curry or if you are really organised, for breakfast, now isn’t that worth getting up for.

 


Homemade Donuts

It’s been a whirlwind of half term activities these past couple of weeks and it has only been today that all of mine have returned to school. So apologies that my blog posting has been rather tardy. I thought it would be fun however to show you one of the activities we all got involved in over half term. A rainy day a while back we all made bagels – see here  so this time I thought donuts would be equally satisfying to make.

There is something about making your own that makes them so much more satisfying that store bought. The icing could certainly have been prettier – I think we probably iced when they were still a little warm – but I think the homemade/rustic look gives them an appealing edge don’t you think?

This recipe made us around 16 or so, but it kind of depends on how large your cutter is. They are irresistible light and fluffy to eat and the perfect teatime extravagance .

donuts

300ml whole milk

7g instant quick rise yeast

2 eggs

115g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

50g granulated sugar

pinch of salt

540g bread flour

sunflower oil (for frying)

glaze

icing sugar

milk

salt

sprinkles of your choosing

  1. Warm the milk in a pan and then place in a bowl along with the yeast and give a stir. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, by which time foam should have formed on the top.
  2. Either by hand or using a hand whisk beat together the eggs, butter, yeast/milk mixture, sugar and salt.
  3. Add the flour little by little until it has all been absorbed into the mixture. Cover and leave to rest in a warm room for an hour so that the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Sprinkle flour over a clean surface and turn out the risen dough. Gently roll it out to around 1/2 inch thickness and using a round cutter (3 inch diameter works well), cut out the circles and using a smaller cutter make the central hole. Place each donut onto a square of baking parchment. Once they have all been cut out cover again for a further 40 minutes to allow them to rise.
  5. Heat the oil in a deep pan and when it is hot – test by dropping in a little dough crumb and if it fizzles and rises to the top it is ready – then place 3 or 4 in a pan at once. Leave for around 45 seconds and then turn and leave for a further 30 seconds or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack with paper towels. Repeat until they have all been prepared.

When the donuts have cooled you need to make the glazes.

  1. In a large bowl add icing sugar, a little milk and a pinch of salt. Add the milk gradually so that you get the right consistency. If you want a specific colour icing sugar add the colouring at this stage.
  2. On a side plate get your sprinkles ready.
  3. Gently dip one side of the donut in the icing glaze followed by the sprinkles and return to the cooling rack. Repeat.
  4. Eat immediately – although they do still taste good the following day, they taste the best on the day of preparation.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Spinach Soup with Lemon and Garlic Crumbs – Book Review of ‘The Flexible Vegetarian’ by Jo Pratt

A really lovely looking cookbook landed on my door step recently. The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt is a beautiful compilation of recipes to inspire us all along vegetarian lines whether you want a purely vegetarian meal or perhaps you want to adapt it to be more meat/fish friendly.

The cover is simple and effective with a handprinted aubergine on the front. Pretty adorable don’t you agree? ‘Flexible’, because it will appeal to everyone whether you eat meat and fish or not.  Whilst all the recipes are vegetarian there is a section at the bottom of the recipe giving you an alternative to include meat/fish.  For example, one recipe that jumped out of the page at me was the ‘fennel, pumpkin and green olive tagine’ – I mean how delicious does that sound? If you follow the ‘flexible’ option then she tells you what to do to make it a chicken tagine. So simple and yet rather effective. There are some really lovely sounding recipes ‘aromatic tea-smoked mushroom ramen’, ‘courgette fritti with goat’s cheese and truffle honey’, ‘aubergine and green been laksa’, ‘Turkish pie with spinach and aubergine’ to name a few. The recipes all look very easy to follow and are perfect for lunches or dinners.

Photography by Susan Bell from The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt, published by Frances Lincoln
Photography by Susan Bell from The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt, published by Frances Lincoln

I was craving greens so was drawn to the spinach soup. I am big fan of all green vegetables and when I initially saw it it reminded me of my Forentine Lemongrass  Soup that I put up on my blog when I started it over 6 year ago (excuse the dodgy photos back then) and my wild garlic, courgette and lemon soup with poached egg and crispy panko breadcrumbs I think the similarities probably start and end with the same colour. Anyway Jo’s spinach soup looked a perfect way to give my body a good dose of healthiness in one sitting. I like the fact that the crumb combined parmesan, crispy breadcrumbs, garlic and lemon zest – a bit of zing, salt and crunch rolled into one. YUM.

It took minutes to whizz together and provided a most satisfying lunch, but would  work equally well as a starter. Her ‘flexible’ option was to combine anchovy fillets to the crumb, giving the soup a more salty depth.

 

Spinach Soup with Lemon and Garlic Crumbs (By Jo Pratt from ‘The Flexible Vegetarian’

Serves 6-8

40g butter

1 leek sliced

1 bunch of spring onions (scallions), chopped

1 stick celery, finely sliced

1 medium potato, peeled and sliced

1 bay leaf

1 litre vegetable stock

500g fresh spinach leaves

flaked sea salt and freshly group black pepper

to serve

1 tsp of  creme fraiche per serving, optional

 

For the crumbs

2 dry/stale piece white bread, whizzed in a food processor to create crumbs

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

olive oil

25g finely grated parmesan cheese

 

  1. Heat the butter in a pan and gently sauté the leek, spring onion, celery, potato and bay leaf for a few minutes and then place a lid on the pan to allow to sweat and soften  for 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to prevent sticking at the bottom of the pan.
  2. Pour in the stock and continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes so that the potato has softened.
  3. Remove the bay leaf and then add the spinach and gently stir.
  4. Using a hand blender blitz until smooth and vivid green. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.
  5. In a frying pan add a glug of oil and then fry the crumbs so that they crisp slightly. Remove from the pan and mix with the lemon zest, parmesan and a little salt and pepper if required.
  6. Serve the soup in bowls with a scattering of crispy crumb mix and a dollop of creme fraiche if using.

The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt you can order here. It is published by Frances Lincoln.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


How to Make Sri Lankan/ Southern Indian Sambar

So how have you been getting on with making ‘hoppers/appam’ at home? Has anyone been brave enough to give them a whirl? I would love to hear how you got on. You do need a special pan mind you, but they are easy to source on the web – I think this is the one that I bought. Perfect christmas gift for anyone with a keen interest in cooking? If you do give them a go PLEASE can you post it up on Instagram and tag me @chilliandmint and #chilliandminthoppers. Thank you.

As promised todays post is all about the sambar. Sambar is very similar to a dal, the main difference is that it is more of a lentil based vegetable stew, whereas dals tend to be more of a lentil soup with maybe one of two vegetables incorporated within it. Sambar often has a tamarind broth as its base note, which can also be found in dal – for example toor dal – but not exclusively. It is eaten in both Southern Indian and Sri Lanka and once you have made the spice blend you can keep making it in a relatively short space of time. I hosted a Sri Lankan lunch recently where I basically fed my pals a typical Sri Lankan breakfast…but I gave it to them for lunch (they weren’t to know). Egg hoppers, sambar, pol sambol (similar to a dry coconut chutney) and an onion relish. I think it was a hit.

When you make sambar you can use any vegetable that needs using up. Unless you live near an Asian grocers you are unlikely to come across ‘drumstick’ which is fairly typical to see in a sambar. Don’t worry, just pop in marrow, courgette, pumpkin, squash, green beans – anything that needs using up will work a treat.

Sambar Powder

50g chana dal (split husked Bengal gram)

50g urid dal (split husked black gram)

30g coriander seeds

2 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

10 dry red chillies

12 fresh curry leaves

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp asafoetida/hing powder

1 tbsp desiccated coconut (or fresh of course!)

  1. Heat a dry frying pan over a low heat and dry roast both dals until they turn bronze slightly – a couple of minutes max. Place in a bowl to one side.
  2. Using the same pan add the coriander, cumin, fenugreek, black peppercorns and dried chillies and move them around the pan for 30 seconds. A wonderful aroma will be released.
  3. Add the fresh curry leaves, asafoetida, turmeric and desiccated coconut and mix it all around the pan for another 20 seconds and then place in the bowl with the dals.
  4. Let it all cool and then whizz it up in a spice grinder. I have this one and it works a treat.
  5. Store in an airtight container and use as and when you need it.

 

Sambar

You can make it with a range of different lentils but I find that red lentils work really well as they take the least amount of time to cook.

200g red split lentils, washed under cold water for a couple of rinses

water to cover the lentils about an inch above (you can always add more if it dries out)

2 green chillies, sliced lengthways and seeds kept in

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

******

250ml tamarind water (use a walnut size piece of tamarind – see notes below)

2 tbsp oil (rapeseed/vegetable)

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

7 fresh curry leaves

2 dried chillies (split in two)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

80g of pumpkin/squash, cut into 1 cm pieces

80g carrots, cut into 1 cm pieces

80g aubergine/green/runner beans, cut into 1 cm pieces

1 large drum stick, washed and part of the outer green skin removed, chopped into 1 inch pieces, optional

250ml tamarind water (use a walnut size piece of tamarind – see notes below)

1 tbsp sambar powder

salt to taste

  1. In a deep pan add the lentils, chillies and turmeric powder and cover with water. Simmer gently, removing any scum that may form, for 10-15 minutes, by which time the lentils will have completely softened. Do not drain, instead leave to one side whilst you work through the following steps.
  2. Take a generous walnut size piece of tamarind and place in a bowl and add boiling water to cover it. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes then strain. Using the back of a spoon push through any of the tamarind pulp. Discard the stones. Place the liquid in a measuring jug and leave to one side.
  3. In a large frying pan/skillet heat the oil and then add the mustard seeds and allow them to gently pop before adding the cumin seeds, curry leaves and dried chillies. Move around the pan for 10 seconds and then add the onion and garlic. Leave to soften, stirring occasionally for around 7 minutes.
  4. Add all the vegetable pieces (they should all be around the same size, other than the drumstick) and mix in with the spices and onions.
  5. Add the sambar powder, salt and tamarind water and bring to the boil.
  6. Lower the heat and place a lid on the pan and allow the vegetables to soften completely – this will take  around 12 minutes. Check that they have softened completely before adding the lentils.
  7. Add the lentils and stir in well to the spices and vegetables. Add more salt if necessary and allow to simmer further for another 5 minutes.

It makes a wonderful ‘soup/stew’ as the days get shorter and the weather colder. If you are living in a warmer climate then sambar is equally good for you all year around.

Have a good week folks.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


How to make Egg Hoppers/Appam

How do you breakfast? On the go, sitting down at your kitchen table or perhaps at your office? With good intentions we try at least to have a ‘proper’ breakfast as a family before we  go our separate ways. My eldest daughter catches a coach to school and is out the house like a whirlwind by 7.20am and my youngest needs to at school by 8am and invariably I drive/scoot with her. As we approach Autumn and the darkness intrudes further into our mornings, I think it is important to fill your belly with some satisfying food before embarking on the challenges of the day ahead.

I always try to think of something new and exciting to feed my crew for breakfast and we often talk about it the night before. I thought it might be interesting and helpful if I create a ‘breakfast’ section under my recipe library and over the coming months I will put new ideas up here on my blog. I would love to hear what you think.

First up are my hoppers (Sri Lankan term) or appam (Keralan term). They are a typical breakfast in Sri Lankan and south India and are often eaten with a sambar or dal and a chutney. They have a coconut flavour and are made of rice flour. You do need to invest in a hoppers pan – something like this would be perfect, but my family are such fans of them that the investment made sense. I went and stayed with pals in the Cotswolds this summer and made a batch (15) for lunch one day for everyone to have with meat and vegetable curries and dal. All the kids – ranging from 4 to 14 gave them a thumbs up and for most it was the first time they had tried them.  I’m sure if you give them a try you (and your kids) will be pleasantly surprised. If you are going to make them for breakfast before school/work I would advise activating the yeast (the first part in the instructions below) before you jump in the shower. Then when you are out you can then add it to the rice flour and coconut milk, whisk and then leave to rest whilst you get changed. It’s a multi-tasking kind of breakfast. Equally it is great to have at lunch or supper, so don’t feel limited to cooking these at breakfast time.

Next week I am going to post a sambar recipe for you (which you will be able to prepare in advance) but today I simply ate them with a bowl of my marrow dal (see below) – but any of my dals would work equally well accompanying the hopper/appam.

 

Hoppers/Appam

Makes around 7-8

4g dried yeast

1 tsp white/brown sugar

35ml lukewarm water (warm to the touch but not hot!)

200g rice flour

1x400ml tin of coconut milk

pinch of salt

  1. First you need to place the yeast, sugar and water into a bowl and give a good stir. Leave the mixture for 15-20 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl add the rice flour, coconut milk and salt and once the yeast mixture has frothed and therefore activated add it to the mixture and whisk so that the batter is smooth and thick.
  3. Leave to rest at room temperature for half an hour.
  4. Warm your pan and put one ladle full of the mixture into the pan. Slowly swirl the mixture around the edge of the pan so that the mixture has reached almost up to the top of the pan. I usually swirl it around a couple of times so that all the sides are coated. Place the pan on a low heat (the reason my edges look a little bronzed is that I had the heat too high ;o) and place the lid on top of the pan.
  5. If you are going to make an egg hopper crack an egg into the centre of the pan and place the lid on top. Leave for around 3-4 minutes so that the sides are a little crispy and the egg is cooked sufficiently but is still soft in the centre. If you would rather not have an egg simply place the lid on the pan and leave for 3-3.5 mins
  6. If you are using a non-stick pan the hopper will easily slide onto a plate and serve immediately with sambar/dal and some chutney.

Dal ideas to accompany the hoppers

Bengali Dal recipe

Sri Lankan Dal recipe

Red Onion Dal recipe

Toor Dal recipe  

Marrow Dal recipe


Good Together – Drink and Feast with Mr Lyan and Friends

It felt like only the other day that Ryan Chetiyawardana aka Mr Lyan launched his first book – ‘Good Things to Drink’, which included lots of inventive beverages to tempt even the most strict teetotaller. Out on October 1st his latest book ‘Good Together – Drinks & Feast with Mr Lyan and Friends’, published by Frances Lincoln, will be launched.  I was lucky enough to be sent an advance copy so have been leafing through this delicious tome with wondrous photographs by the talented Kim Lightbody.

Photo credit © Kim Lightbody

Mr Lyan  knows his cocktails and is the man behind the award-winning London bar ‘Dandelyan’ as well as ‘Super Lyan’ (previously White Lyan). His cocktails are inventive and often have the wow factor so it’s no wonder he has been named UK Bartender of the year twice.

This book has combined food and drink to help you prepare for all types of social gatherings. He has roped in a number of his chef pals to come up with a wide range of captivating recipes and alongside those recipes are straightforward and exciting cocktails by Mr L, that you will want to try out at home. To give you a flavour of some of the chapters here are a few (along with the chefs who came up with the menu plan).

‘An Indian Extravaganza’ recipes created by Karan Gokani from Sri Lankan hotspot ‘Hoppers’

‘Pasta and Wine’ by Tim Siadatan from ‘Trullo’ and ‘Padella’

‘Eastern Banquet’ by Lisa Lov, ‘Tigermom’

‘Thanksgiving Dinner’ by Tien Ho, ‘Whole Foods’

‘The Country Table’ by James Lowe from ‘Lyle’s’

Sounds good hey!

Photo credit © Kim Lightbody

This book will appeal to those who like to experiment and perhaps go out of the comfort zone when it comes to cuisine. Unfussy eaters will love it, those who are a bit more picky will falter  – ‘lamb heart bulgur’, ‘oysters and onions’ (this is a soup), ‘pigs’ ear salad with chilli oil and sesame’! That said it has some absolute home run sounding dishes – ‘red curry of braised pork cheeks with boiled peanuts and confit potatoes’ – er YUM, ‘hot and sour tamarind broth with bitter greens and cockles’ – yup I’ll have me some of them, ‘salad of poached chicken and wild mushrooms’ – heavenly sounding, tuna with ajo blanco – mmmmm.

The cocktails  also look utterly tempting and even have some lovely non-alcoholic sounding ones such as the ‘sorrel cooler’ and the ‘oolong soda’. I love the sound of the ‘honey and burnt honey punch’, which includes  mandarins, clover or wildflower honey, clover tea, mead and so on.

Photo credit © Kim Lightbody

So for this post I decided to try out a couple of recipes from the ‘watching the game’ section. ‘Fried chicken with radishes and bloody Mary butter’ caught my eye – I was curious on this ‘crowd pleasing recipe’ and to eat along side I opted for the ‘pot-roast cauliflower with cultured butter and maldive fish’. It sounded different and have never roasted a cauliflower whole before so I was eager to see how it turned out.

So my honest feedback is that the fried chicken was good – pretty straightforward – and would appeal to most people. The bloody Mary butter I found to be disappointing and in my humble opinion does not go with the chicken. I used whipping cream, as instructed, and even added more tabasco for extra kick, but however you cut it the cream did not marry well with the chicken in this instance. Instead I would recommend either making a sriracha mayo blend or making my chipotles en adobe . Personally I think that would complement the chicken better, but that’s just my opinion.

The cauliflower with cultured butter and Maldive fish was a great idea. I added anchovies instead of Maldive fish – as it’s what I had to hand. I cooked to the exact timings but the cauliflower was still a little uncooked in the centre so I put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes to help roast it a little further. So be aware you may well need to do the same – I guess it depends on your oven and cooking pot. I love cauliflower and am always looking at new and interesting ways to cook it and I think this one ticked that box.

So it was a thumbs up, other than the butter, and there are a number of other recipes that are calling out to me, not forgetting the cocktails which I will try over the Autumn as they do look rather wonderful.

You can order a copy here or pick up a copy from all good bookshops. It is published by Frances Lincoln and retails at £20.

 

Fried Chicken with Radishes and Bloody Mary Butter

serves 4-6

1.5 kg organic chicken legs

vegetable oil

1 handful of radishes, to serve

*****

For the buttermilk brine

500ml buttermilk

2tsp smoked paprika

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

1 fresh parsley sprig (stalks and all)

1 thyme sprig (stalk only, use the leaves in the coating)

salt and pepper

*****

For the coating flour

200g plain flour

3g fresh thyme leaves

3g celery salt

2g cracked black pepper

10g onion powder

*****

For the Bloody Mary butter

300ml whipping or double (heavy) cream

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp Tabasco

1 tsp tomato paste

salt and pepper

 

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the ‘butter milk brine’ together and cover all over the chicken. Marinate for 12 hours sealed, in the fridge
  2. Mix the ‘coating flour’ ingredients together and place in a shallow bowl.
  3. Remove the chicken pieces from the fridge and place on the flour so that are coated completely. Set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  5. Heat the oil in a shallow pan over a medium heat and in batches of two seal the chicken pieces so that they are golden on both sides. Place on a plate whilst you finish doing the rest.
  6. Place into an ovenproof dish and finish off in the oven for a further 25 minutes (in the book he says 15 but I wanted to be sure they were cooked through completely).
  7. To make the ‘bloody Mary butter’ add all the ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Serve the fried chicken with the radishes and the whipped butter (or some sriracha butter or my chipotle)

 

************

Pot-Roast Cauliflower with Cultured Butter and Maldive Fish/Anchoives

75g salted butter (raw or cultured)

1 medium cauliflower

30ml (2 tbsp) raw cider vinegar

15g dried Maldive fish/anchoives

3g (1.5tsp) yellow mustard seeds

salt and pepper

parsley, chopped to garnish

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Heat an ovenproof pan (with a lid) on the hob on medium heat.
  3. Add the butter, then the cauliflower, florets down and cook for 5-7 minutes so that when you turn it over it has bronzed slightly.
  4. Turn it over and add the vinegar, Maldive fish/anchovies, mustard seeds and seasoning and cover.
  5. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes so that it is soften on the inside. Leave it for a little longer if this is not the case.
  6. Remove from the oven and place on a serving dish and cover with the juices from the pan and chopped parsley.

Eat with the fried chicken.

 

Whilst I was kindly sent an advanced copy of this book all the opinions and views are my own.

 

 

 

 

 


Ten Reasons to Visit Joshua Tree, California

On a recent road trip around California my family and I stayed in Joshua Tree for four days and three magical nights. My sister and her beau had gone the previously year and had raved about the place so I decided to follow their lead and include it in our trip this year. There is a lot going for this little town, so I thought I would break it down into ten reasons to tempt you to visit.

1. The main reason to visit Joshua Tree is to actually see the National Park itself, which is breathtaking in its stark beauty. The park includes not one but two deserts: the higher Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado Desert. Each have ecosystems whose characteristics are determined by their elevation.

Picking up my dose of Vitamin D – breathtaking views of the San Andreas Fault, Mount San Jacinto, Mount San Gorgonio, and the Salton Sea.

The landscape is otherworldly and would not surprise me if other planets have similar terrain. You get that feeling that perhaps Mars is not that different!! The famous Joshua trees (first photo) litter the horizons in every direction, but the park offers so much more in as far as wild life and cacti.  Go and seek out ‘Cholla Cactus Garden’ (pictured below), which is pretty cool. These beauties have super sharp needles so wear covered shoes and watch where you are walking. There is a clear short loop through the garden to follow.

There is also a plethora of wildlife which have adapted and learned to survive in this desert landscape. You may come across scorpions, black-tailed jackrabbits, rattle snakes, as well as non-venomous varieties, tarantula, coyotes, bighorn sheep, lizards, kangaroo rats (these were pretty cool)and lynx.

2. The nights sky is pretty epic in Joshua Tree due to very little light pollution. Every evening we would head out and sit in the jacuzzi – yes there was a jacuzzi in the airbnb we were staying in (more of that later), and watch the shooting stars and satellites zooming overhead. Sadly the iPhone isn’t advanced enough to have a beautiful photo of the milky way and stars so I can’t include a photo here. Does anyone know an app that perhaps allows you to take photos of the sky at night? Leave a comment below if you do please.

3. Airbnb offers some wonderful places to stay across the world. We stayed in the stunning Joshua Tree House (Casita). With over 117k followers I kind of knew that this place would be something special. Firstly the location is magical – about 15 minutes from the park entrance and about 10 minutes from the town of Joshua Tree itself. To reach it you drive off road down a sandy track. It’s right next door to Joshua Tree Hacienda, but both places offer privacy. Walking through the front gate you are treated to a stunning desert garden which overlooks a great expanse of desert stretching towards the town of Joshua Tree. The Casita, which has a dusky pink exterior, has been lovingly styled by Sara and Rich who have oodles of creative flair and taste.

The furniture, vintage books, lighting, swing (in the living room) the wood burner, the guitar you can use – all add to the charm of the place. Everything has been thought through and has a meaningful place. It’s also an instagramers dream.

4. If you are travelling with children, they can become ‘Junior Park Rangers’. You pick up a booklet from the tourist office at one of the gates and they need to look for things in the park and answer questions. When they have completed the booklet they return it to the tourist office where a park ranger will ‘test’ them on their knowledge of the park and what they have seen. All being well they will become Junior Park Rangers and receive a badge and little hat.  It’s fun for them to get involved and learn more about the park and wildlife in this way.

5. If you like hiking then Joshua Tree National Park offers many trails to follow. There are a few rules though that you need to pay heed to as the desert and sun does not offer those who get lost much comfort for survival. Our favourite trail, which was only 1 mile in length – but perfect considering the heat, was ‘Hidden Valley’. There are a lot longer trails, which could be good when the weather cools off in the autumn or early spring. We were also pretty cautious about going on longer hikes as a couple had gone missing on one of the trials two weeks before we had arrived and, as I write this post they have now been missing for over a month, which is pretty horrific.

It is worth following the pointers below before you set off on any hikes.

– Obvious I know but make sure your tank of petrol is full – you would not want to break down here if you have taken the car off the main roads through the park and gone done more of a track to reach some of the longer trails.

-Carry loads of water with you and in the car.

-Stick to the trails as the place is very disorientating and it could be  easy to get lost. There are lots of old gold mines in the park, and whilst most of them are covered over apparently there are some that are not.

-Take maps and a phone

-Wear sunscreen, a hat and light clothing

-Tell people where you are going

-Wear good walking shoes/trainers/boots.

6. Go and have a sound bath at the Integratron in Landers (which is near to Joshua Tree). Whilst the timings did not work out for us, my sister loved the whole experience on her trip and highly recommends. The structure was designed and built in the 1950’s by George Van Tassel (ufologist and contactee). He claimed the Integratron was capable of ‘rejuvenation, anti-gravity and time travel’. He apparently built it following instructions provided by visitors from the planet Venus. The sound bath 60 minute experience allows ‘deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and introspection’.

To book your sound bath click here.  

7. Want to live out your cowboy fantasies? A short drive from Joshua Tree is Pioneer Town, which is definitely worth scoping out. The place is a real life Old Western set created in the 1940’s that actors actually lived in whilst films were being shot – films like ‘The Cisco Kid’. The place is pretty cool and many  of the places on the ‘high street’ you can actually go into and there are locals selling all manner of things – including saddles and pottery.

8. Whilst you are in Pioneer Town head to Pappi & Harriet’s. This BBQ restaurant and music venue is pretty legendary, with big names singers occasionally making an appearance, including Paul McCartney in December 2016. They also have ‘open mic’ for those budding vocalists out there. The venue is great and definitely my kind of venue fitting less than 300 people in all. Intimate and cosy in one. Click here to see who is playing in the coming months.

9. Love vintage clothing and eclectic antiques? Then Joshua Tree and neighbouring Yucca Valley are definitely worth exploring for picking up that unique outfit for Coachella or Burning Man festivals or that special piece for your home. Most of the boutiques are based on or near by Twentynine Palms Highway. You can’t miss the brightly coloured exterior of ‘The End’ which is packed to the brim with brightly coloured vintage and contemporary clothes. Also worth checking out is the ‘Hoof & Horn’, ‘Funky and Darn Near New’, Ricochet Joshua Tree, 62 Vintage Marketplace and Pioneer Crossing and Antiques.

10. Under an hour away is beautiful Palm Springs. If you think Joshua Tree is hot then wait until you get to Palm Springs. In August it is SO hot that even restaurants with tables on the pavement are spraying diners with cooling water spray. This place sizzles but is also achingly hip. If you love midcentury modern design then you will be in heaven. We only stopped briefly (note to self to stay a few days in the future) but managed to soak up the vibes of the stylishly sophisticated, The Parker.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Courgette, Cheddar and Thyme Soda Bread

If you have a vegetable garden (sadly I do not) it is highly probable that you are being swamped by courgettes (zucchini) and marrows at the moment. Both at my dear friend’s house in the Cotswold, where I have been enjoying some time recently, and my parents’ home in Sussex, where I have also been staying – it’s the summer holidays after all – they are both drowning in these wonderful vegetables. As such I thought that it would be useful to come up with a couple of ways in which you can incorporate these ingredients into your diet.

For those who have been reading (casting an eye ;o) over my blog for sometime you will know how much I adore dal in all it’s varied forms. Marrow or courgette works really well in dal so I can highly recommend you give this one a whirl (click on link – photo of it below).

I made it for a friend the other day who was completely surprised by how tasty it was and asked me to send her the recipe. So if you are reading this Rose, this is for you.

Soda bread is a really easy and quick to make as it does not require yeast or proving, so within an hour you have a freshly baked loaf – what’s not to love?

Courgette Cheddar and Thyme Soda Bread

400g self raising/wholemeal spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 large courgette or 2 small/medium

50g giant rolled oats

70g cheddar cheese, grated

handful of fresh thyme, leaves only (chives or rosemary also work well)

284ml buttermilk

1 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

 

  1. Preheat an oven to 200 degrees (180 degrees if using a fan oven)
  2. Sieve the flour and add the baking powder into a large bowl.
  3. Place a large tea towel under a course grater and then grate the courgette. Fold the edges of the tea towel and squeeze so that all the liquid is released from the courgette. Then place into the flour.
  4. Add all the other ingredients except the egg. Save back a handful of grated cheese to use for the topping.
  5. Use a wooden spoon to begin with to bind the ingredients together and then use your hands to create a dough ball. If it remains too sticky add a little more flour to help bind it. Do not over handle the dough so that it remains light.
  6. Place it onto baking paper, lightly brush the dough with the beaten egg and add the remaining cheese on top. Using a knife make a cross in the top of the bread.
  7. Place into the oven for 35-40 minutes so that it is nicely bronzed. Remove from the oven and place on a rack.
  8. It is great to eat warm with some butter, which will melt into the bread. Equally I love to dunk it into soup.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave


Bang Bang Chicken Salad – the perfect family summer salad

If you are after an easy chicken salad that is adored by the whole family, takes minimum fuss to throw together and is packed on flavour and texture, then look no further. Chinese inspired ‘Bang Bang chicken’ has it all and is perfect when the weather is hot and you want something light. My whole family absolutely love it.

I am a huge fan of Pip & Nut peanut, almond and cashew butters – have you tried them? I found their ‘crunchy maple peanut butter’ worked so well with the recipe. (I am not paid to say this ;o) You can find them in most supermarkets now as well as health food shops such as Holland & Barrett.

Don’t stress if you can’t get hold of any – regular crunchy peanut butter will also work well.

The only ingredient that I can imagine may receive a ‘sigh’  or ‘where can I find them’ is Sichuan peppercorns. They are now super easy to find online and I have provided a link below. They are definitely one of my store cupboard favourites as the taste is just heavenly, to put it mildly. If you really can’t be bothered with tracking them down then just use regular black peppercorns this time.

 

 

Bang Bang Chicken

Part 1

450g skinless chicken breasts, chopped in two

500ml chicken stock (fresh or Knorr chicken stock pot works well)

2 star anise

1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns

1 tsp salt

25g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

 

*********

Part 2

1 large carrot, peeled and thickly grated

1 cucumber, sliced lengthways and then chopped into small bite size chunks

1 large handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

2 limes

********

Part 3

130g crunchy peanut butter – I think the best is ‘Pip & Nut and they do one which is ‘crunchy maple peanut butter’ which I like to use here

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tbsp maple syrup

 

Optional

1 fresh red chilli, finely diced

 

 

  1. Place all the ingredients in ‘part 1’ into a pan and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, so that the chicken is cooked.
  2. Slice and dice all the ingredients, apart from the lime, in ‘part 2’ and place in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze 1 lime onto the salad ingredients.
  3. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the pan and place to one side. Keep the cooking stock, but strain it and place in a small jug.
  4. Using a fork shred the chicken and then place into the large mixing bowl with the ingredients from ‘part 2’.
  5. Place all the ingredients in ‘part 3’ together and then add an additional 100ml of the cooking stock from the chicken. Gradually add to the the sauce so that it is less thick and more the consistency of cream.
  6. Add half the sauce to the mixing bowl and gently mix the ingredients together.
  7. Plate up and then add an extra spoonful of sauce over each serving as desired.
  8. Top with chilli, for those who like chilli, and place a lime quarter on each plate for added zing.

 

Freeze the rest of the stock for use another time as it tastes so good. 


Zhug – Yemeni Hot Sauce – perfect for a BBQ or Sandwich Filler

Chutneys, sauces, pickles and sambals you name it and I’ll probably love it. They really lift a meal whether you are eating modern British, Mexican, Indian, Levant or even having a simple sandwich for lunch. So when a pal mentioned whether I had heard of zhug, my response was yes, heard but not knowingly tried. He swore it was his go-to condiment, especially for BBQ, and sent me his favourite recipe for it.

The name ‘Zhug’ sounds rather cool you have to admit. Pass the zhug, if you please! Yes it definitely has a certain ring to it. It’s a Middle Eastern hot sauce originating from Yemen and then adopted by the Israelis  when the Yemenite Jews fled to Israel. It has now become a staple condiment in Israeli cuisine and I can certainly see why.

When I looked through the ingredients it was not too dissimilar to chimichurri, chermoula or even salsa verde. There are many varieties using both green and red chillies, but I opted for the green variety today. Cumin, cardamom and caraway seeds are used and these are combined with both fresh coriander and parsley. It’s zingy, hot and fresh all at once and would work equally well with meats, fish or cheese. It takes minutes to prepare and can easily be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or two.

So do you have a go-to favourite condiment? My favourite – other than Zhug –  is my Chipotle – see here.

Zhug – Yemeni Hot Sauce

adapted from Aglaia Kreme book ‘Mediterranean Hot and Spicy’

6 green birds eye chillies, seeds kept in (or removed if you prefer it less hot)

8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 tsp freshly ground caraway seeds

1tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

1/2 tsp freshly ground green cardamom

50g fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

50g fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves only

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

juice of 1 small lemon

100ml extra virgin olive oil

 

  1. Place the black pepper, caraway, cumin and cardamom seeds in a spice/coffee grinder to create a smooth powder.
  2. Then place all the ingredients into a blender and blender until smooth, adding the extra virgin olive oil a little at a time to loosen up the sauce.
  3. Store in a sterilised jar and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Great in sandwiches, with falafel wraps, BBQ meats and fish, over couscous – basically most things savoury.