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.

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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.

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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.


Sri Lankan Egg Curry and ‘Sri Lanka The Cookbook’

Recently, when I was in Sri Lanka, I was having a look at the local cookery books and, similar to the ones I had seen in Kerala, they seemed a bit dated, 70’s style.

 

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

Don’t get me wrong the recipes are probably wonderful, but today we are quite spoilt with such beautiful cookery books being published here in the UK that the bar has been raised long ago on what makes a great looking cookery book. So you can image how thrilled I was to arrive home to find Prakash Sivanathan and Niranjala Ellawala’s beautiful cookbook ‘Sri Lanka The Cookbook’ waiting for me – photo above. 

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

Firstly I adore the tactile, almost hessian feeling cover and opening up the book I was equally as impressed. The photographs, of which there are many, where well shot by Kim Lightbody – matt and crisp with great props and importantly, tasty looking recipes. Photographs are so important and sometimes I have high hopes when opening a cook book for the first time and my heart sinks a little as the photographs just don’t do justice to the book. I’m no pro by any means but I am quite particular on what I think looks good to the reader.

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

The book starts with an introduction giving a concise overview of Sri Lanka’s chequered past, it’s people and cuisine. As a side note: if you want to learn more about Sri Lanka I highly recommend these two books that I read on my recent trip. Love them both equally.

It then gives a short note about the authors themselves and their background – interestingly Niranjala is  Sinhalese from the south, growing up in the the hill country in Ratnapura and Balangoda and Prakash a Tamil from the Jaffna peninsula in the north – and then moving to London for university. Following their studies they set up ‘Elephant Walk’ restaurant in London in 2004. In 2006 it won the coveted ‘Cobra Good Curry Guide Award’ for the best Sri Lankan Restaurant in the UK.  The restaurant closed however in 2013 and the couple continue to work with food through their Coconut Kitchens cookery school.

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

The next sections are dedicated to a glossary of ingredients and how to make a range Sri Lankan curry powders, before tempting readers with a host of Sri Lankan favourites: idli, appa (hoppers), sambols and many meat, fish and vegetable kari (curries). Some of the ingredients they use are exciting as I don’t often cook with them – such as plantain, snake gourd, breadfruit. Thankfully I live near an Asian area so sourcing all these ingredients is straightforward. For the home cook who loves to try new things – this is the book for you. That said there are many ingredients which don’t require so much sourcing for ingredients – such as the prawn and coconut curry or spicy baked chicken. Come the Autumn I am definitely going to be trying the ‘wild boar curry’. There are a few pages dedicated to sweet recipes – love cake, semolina pudding, banana fritters, but it is the mains, sambols and other savoury delights, which really capture my attention.

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

It is published by Francis Lincoln and is available to buy at all good bookshops or online. This is definitely a keeper for me and I hope those of you who want to try to widen your Sri Lankan repertoire will consider getting hold of a copy. It’s a book you want to linger over and to go back to time and time again.

I thought the ‘Mutate Kulambu’ or ‘Egg Curry’ looked a lovely recipe to share with you all. It is straightforward and is great for a vegetarian lunch or supper.

 

It talks about adding a tablespoon of Thool (curry powder), but since I bought some back with my from Sri Lanka I have not followed their recipe for curry powder but thought it might be useful to include it for you if you would like to replicate this recipe here at home. Their are 2 methods and I have shown you method ‘A’.

Roasted Tamil Curry Powder: Thool

250g coriander seeds

50g cumin seeds

75g fennel seeds

20g fenugreek seeds

250g dried red chillies

20 fresh curry leaves

1 tsp ground turmeric

50g black peppercorns

 

  1. Dry roast the coriander seeds in a frying pan until they are golden brown. Keep the pan moving the pan so that the spices do not burn. Remove from the pan and place to one side.
  2. In separate batches dry roast the cumin seeds, followed by the fennel and fenugreek seeds. Set aside.
  3. Dry roast the dried red chillies for 20 seconds or so allowing them to darken in colour. Set aside.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and when it is hot add the turmeric and toss for a few seconds so that it is lightly roasted.
  5. Place all the ingredients, including the black peppercorns into a spice grinder – I love my Krups – and grind to form a fine powder.

Place in an airtight container. They say it will last up to 2 months but I keep mine for much longer to be honest.

Muttai Kulambu: Egg Curry

serves 4

4 hard boiled eggs

2 tbsp oil

half tsp mustard seeds

half medium onion, finely chopped

6 fresh curry leaves

6 garlic cloves, cut into quarters

2 green chillies chopped

half tsp fenugreek seeds

quater tsp cumin seeds

quarter tsp ground turmeric

200ml coconut milk

400ml water

1 tbsp Thool – Sri Lankan curry powder

quarter tsp salt

 

  1. After boiling the eggs for 9 minutes (if medium size and 12 minutes if large eggs), shell them and cut them in half lengthways and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium, lidded saucepan over a low heat. Add the mustard seeds and once they begin to pop – which will be a few seconds later – add the onion and curry leaves and stir for a few seconds. Add the garlic, chillies, fenugreek and cumin seeds and cook until the onions are soft and turning golden.
  3. Add the turmeric and stir. Add the coconut milk, water, curry powder and salt and mix well. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and half cover allowing the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Gently slide in the halved eggs and half cover with the lid again and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Taste for salt and remove from the heat and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chilled Delicately Spiced Watermelon Soup

It’s a sweltering 31 degrees today here in London, hotter than LA, Dallas and Bahamas and New York. I’m not complaining, although if I’m honest I wish we had a sea breeze keeping us cool, wouldn’t that be just perfect.  Thankfully I picked up a giant watermelon over the weekend (my pal took half as it was SO gigantic) so have been eating it in all manner of guises ever since.

As well as being so visually stunning watermelon is perfect for hot weather, due to its largely watery, cooling consistency. I wanted to make a savoury chilled soup that was delicately spiced and balanced sweet and savoury, not just sweet. I think I have managed it so would love you to try my recipe. Eat it as you would a chilled gazpacho, although the flavour of this is very different from anything you have probably tried before. It has sweet tones of course but has savoury notes coming from the fresh curry leaves, tomatoes, cumin seeds and hing/asafoetida. I’d love to hear what you think so please leave a message below in the comments box.

 

Chilled Spiced Watermelon Soup 

Serves 4

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

pinch of hing/asafoetida

10 fresh curry leaves

1 small birds eye green chilli, roughly chopped and deseeded

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1.4kg fresh watermelon, deseeded and chopped into small pieces

3 medium sized tomatoes

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

pinch of hing/asafoetida

10 fresh curry leaves

salt to taste

 

  1. First prepare all your ingredients and make sure they are chopped and ready to use.
  2. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds, the hing/asafoetida and the fresh curry leaves and move around the pan for 20 seconds, allowing the flavours to be released.
  3. Now add the garlic and after a couple of minutes add the ginger and tomatoes.
  4. Finally add the watermelon and a little salt. Allow to simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes.
  5. Using a hand blender blend the ingredients of the pan so the liquid is smooth.
  6. Using a colander strain all the liquid so that a lighter consistency liquid is released and any tomato skins, seeds etc are caught in the colander. Taste and season further with salt as necessary.
  7. Allow to cool and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  8. It will last for a couple of days in the fridge no problem.

 

As an idea you could add a feta crumb of fresh mint flakes on the top of each serving, but I preferred to eat it as is this time.

 

 


Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns and A Visit to the Swedish Embassy

Yesterday morning I trotted off to the Swedish embassy, with my Swedish pal, for breakfast……as you do. I was invited to learn more about Swedish food and the distributers here in the UK – take a look at ScandiKitchen. It’s the kind of invitation that you just can’t turn down.

The embassy is a stones throw (perhaps a David and Goliath stones throw if I am being honest) from Oxford street. With the blue flags with yellow crosses flying in the wind outside we bounded in to meet Mr Ambassador himself.

 

The breakfast spread was breathtaking with so much choice and variety of delicious looking and tasting Swedish foods. A wide range of smoked salmon, fresh salmon, herrings pickled in all manner of things, soft cheeses, hard cheeses, eggs, pate, breads, biscuits as well as porridges, yogurts, waffles, jams. It was definitely ‘kid in a candy store moment’.

The drinks accompany breakfast used all manner of tasty berries – apparently in Sweden alone there are over 25 varieties of edible berries. I sampled lingonberry drink, rosehip, Swedish berry smoothie, Swedish style drinking yoghurt, blueberry soup.

Hidden by one of the windows were the pastries and my eye was immediately drawn to the ubiquitous Swedish cinnamon buns. I have been meaning to make some recently so thought it would be a perfect match with this blog post to make some and include the recipe so you too can make yourself at home. Whilst they are perfect eaten warm, straight out of the oven, you can also freeze them. Once defrosted just place them in a warm oven for a few minutes to heat through.

Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns

Makes around 20

To make the dough

750g plain all purpose flour

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

2 tsp ground cardamom

350ml milk

120g unsalted butter

14g easy bake yeast

sprinkling on top of each bun of pearl sugar *

1 egg, beaten

 

for the filling

110g soft unsalted butter

90g light brown sugar

2 tbsp cinnamon powder

 

  1. First you need to make the dough. In a large bowl sieve the flour and then add the caster sugar, cardamom powder and salt.
  2. In a pan gently heat the butter and when it is melted add the milk, keeping on a very low heat (you want it luke warm and not hot), and fresh yeast and stir so that the yeast is well mixed. Take off the heat and make a whole in the centre of the flour and add the wet ingredients. Gently stir with a wooden spoon.
  3. Once the dough has come together use your hands to bind it firmly so that it is soft and does not stick to your hands as much. Take out of the bowl and place on a cold, clean work surface with a sprinkling of flour and knead for around 8 minutes. The dough will become very pliable and if it is still a little sticky just add a little flour until you can comfortably knead it.
  4. Transfer it to a lightly greased mixing bowl and cover with clingfilm and a tea towel. Leave in a warm, dark place for an hour so that it can double in size.
  5. Meanwhile make the filling by combing all the ingredients above together to make a smooth paste.
  6. I tend to make these in two batches as you need to properly spread out your buns or else they will merge into each other.
  7. Using half the dough (cover the remaining dough and leave in a warm dark place) roll it out into a rectangle to a few mm in thickness. Place half the filling on the dough and using the longer side of the dough gently roll. Make incisions through the dough using a serrated knife so that you end up with around 10 buns. Place on baking paper in an oven tray with the cut side of the bun facing upwards or in individual cake holders. Brush each bun with the beaten egg and scatter each bun with the pearl sugar. Leave to one side whilst your oven heats up.
  8. Preheat the oven to 220°C/450°F and when it has reached this heat reduce it to 190˚C/350˚F and place the buns in the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare your next batch using up the remainder of the filling and repeat.
  9. Eat straight away warm, or you can store in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for a couple of months. If freeze, thaw thoroughly and then heat up in a warm oven for a few minutes before eating.

*you could also use demerara sugar or chopped walnuts or pecan. 

 

 


Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup with Ginger and Chilli – The Brother Hubbard Cookbook

 

Last weekend I jetted over to Ireland to visit the Ballymaloe Food and Drink Literary Festival, which was a whirlwind of eating, talks, demonstrations, foraging forays (now just try to say that quickly!), and talking to A LOT of other kindred spirits who are all passionate about food in some capacity.

One talk I booked myself into was given by Garrett and James who set up ‘The Brother Hubbard’ cafe x2 in Dublin. I’ll be honest with you – I’d never heard of it or them, but I always like to hear how people start their journey into food, so thought it would be interesting to attend. I also rather liked the title of the book. It sounded intriguing.

Their one hour talk was utterly engaging and I loved the way that they embarked on some serious world travels – after the 3 month intensive course at Ballymaloe Cookery School –  in order to gain first hand food and cusine knowledge and experience, even spending time in Syria (prior to the troubles today). After a spell in Australia working in cafes to gain yet more experience they returned home to Dublin to open up their very own cafe, with a leaning on Levantine and Southern Mediterranean cuisine. It takes a brave person to give up their nice, ‘safe’ careers with pensions and all the perks to follow their passion.

It has clearly all paid off as 5 years later they have 2 cafes, one of which is about to expand threefold and 65 staff. I did not go into their talk thinking that I would necessarily buy their cookbook as I have so many, but after hearing their story and talking to them over the weekend, I thought I would be crazy not to purchase it as it is packed full of fabulous sounding recipes, using a myriad of herbs and spices. Clearly a no-brainer for me.

I also love the fact that the photos and pages are matt finish, that they have 4 yellow ribbon bookmarks – how cool is that. Publishers seriously think about doing this in other cookbooks as it is so handy to have more than one. It doesn’t have loads of photos, but the narrative is engaging that for once I don’t mind so much that there is not a photo with almost every recipe.

It’s been so hot this week – blissfully hot – that eating outside with a glass of rose has been a must. Before you ask why on earth am I showing you a soup recipe in the sweltering heat, let me just say that hot soup and drinks actually cools you down in the heat. In India I am always having a hot soup even in the heat. Give this recipe a whirl as it is a real keeper. You can also purchase the book online and at all good bookshops.

Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup with Ginger and Chilli

Recipe from ‘The Brother Hubbard Cookbook’

Serves 4 (as a substantial lunch)

1kg butternut squash, skin kept on, scoop out the seeds and dice

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp olive oil

250g onions (2-3), diced

250g celery, diced

6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped

30g fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 kg boiling water

1x400ml tin of coconut milk

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1-2 limes, juice only

fresh coriander to serve

toasted coconut flakes to serve

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Place the diced butternut squash in a large bowl. Add the oil and then sprinkle with cumin and coriander powder. Mix in well with your hands. Turn out onto a baking tray.
  2. Roast the butternut squash for 25 minutes. You want them to be soft but not very brown as it will discolour the soup.
  3. If serving with coconut flakes, use a frying pan to bronze them for a few minutes. You need to move them around constantly and do not add any oil. Place to one side.
  4. Meanwhile in a large pan add the olive oil and sweat the onions, celery and garlic. To do this simply cut a piece of baking paper and place directly over the vegetables. It does not need to be neat or perfect fitting. Place the lid on the pan. Every 5 minutes, stir the vegetables and then replace the baking paper. After 10 minutes, add the chilli and ginger and continue to sweat the vegetables for a further 5 minutes. Make sure that the ginger and chilli do not brown on the bottom.
  5. Now add the squash, which is now soft and add the boiling water, coconut milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Using a hand blender blend all the ingredients until super smooth. Adjust the seasoning and add the lime juice.
  7. Before serving add the fresh coriander and toasted coconut flakes. If you fancy you could also add a slice of red chilli.

 

 


Sri Lanka’s Tea Gardens, the Coast and Beetroot Curry

This is quite a long post so boil yourself some water and make yourself a cup of tea. Sitting comfortably……..then let’s begin.

No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without a stay in the tea gardens. The cooling climate, the rich green tea plantations and the slower pace of life is very appealing, especially after spending time in the hot dry lands of the cultural triangle. I loved the experience of staying in them when I visited Kerala so made sure they were included in our Sri Lanka itinerary. Many travellers head to Nuwara Eliya often referred by the Sri Lankan tourist industry as ‘Little England’, a nod to the British summer time retreat in the 1800, but instead we opted to stay in a few valleys away, near to a small town called Hatton. There is a train station in Hatton and if I were to revist I would take the slow steam train from Kandy to Hatton to admire the scenery and avoid the hairpin bends, which make even the most hardened traveller feel car sick. Tickets need to be bought in advance so think about this as an option even if you have a driver.

We stayed a night in Mandira Dickoya and a night in Mandira Strathdon both old colonial ‘planters’ cottages who managed the tea estates. Mandira Strathdon is best for those travelling with a family as there are adjoining rooms. On arrival you are transported to another era where the pace of life was slow and charmed.  The food at these boutique hotels is homely and authentic – check out these delicious bowls of curry that we had for supper.

Breakfast involved a freshly squeezed juice and some beautifully presented fruit – papaya with fresh lime being my favourite.

This was followed by buffalo milk curd and coconut treacle – I*N*C*R*E*D*I*B*L*E. Don’t be fooled into thinking it looks plain and tasteless. You’ll become addicted I promise you.

This was then invariable followed by the ubiquities rice hoppers with dal, chilli and pickle, sometimes with an egg in the middle. Tasty and certainly very filling.

 

 

 

In order to walk off breakfast, a guide showed us around the neighbourhood and the numerous tea plantations so that we could learn more about the tea, flora, fauna and general wildlife. Can I recommend that if you do this you wear long trousers and socks that pull up. My husband decided to take a stroll in shorts and ended up with the inevitable leeches, which caused his ankle to bleed for the proceeding three hours.

 

 

We met with some of the tea-pluckers, many of whom are the older women. The fear is that by the next generation there will be no one left to actually pick the leaves as the younger generation are not wanting to take on such hard labour. The tea plantations will revert to the forests that they once were before the arrival of the British, Dutch and Portuguese. To give you an idea of a ‘day-in-a-life’ of a tea plucker we learn’t that they rise before 6.30am and report to the factory where they are allocated an area to pluck tea leaves. They must pluck 18kg a day to get paid. For their labours they will receive the equivalant of £7 a day. As part of the job they will receive lodgings until their retirement.

A derelict tea factory stood alongside a hindu temple and tea pluckers cottages were painted in vibrant colours,  some with beautiful flower garlands adorning the porch area.

There was even the most beautiful Christian church that was still well maintained and cared for, with graves from British planters who called this corner of the world home; the views from the church were magnificent.

We visited Norwood tea factory and got to see the full cycle of a tea leaf, leaving with an enhanced respect for both the tea pluckers and the process involved to create the tea that is drunk the world over. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. 

On our return to our lodgings we chanced upon a rather fascinating festival where crowds of people had gathered. As the traffic was brought to a standstill we decided to get out on foot to take a closer look. From afar we could see young men tied to large bamboo poles that were leavered up into the air and then attached to small lorries. There was a lot of colour and noise and it looked intriguing if not a little surreal. The mind boggled as to what on earth they were actually doing. On closer inspection what appeared to be a rather jolly occasion looked, to the Western spectator (there was only us), to be dreadfully painful.

We discovered that the young men were actually tied up to the poles with small cleaver hooks going through their skin. Bizarrely it was our youngest daughter who first spotted this, who inquired whether we thought it would hurt. Bewildered and fascinated in equally measure, back at our hotel I discovered that the festival was called – Thirunaal, which coincides with the full moon around the 13/14th April and practiced by Tamil Hindus. I discovered that Sri Lanka is not the only country which practices such extreme religious devotion, it is also hugely popular in Indonesia and am sure it also takes place in India as well. The belief is that ones devotion to the hindu gods will free the body from pain incurred from the hooks. Being part of this festival the young men fulfil their vows to hindu gods.

Throughout the night, drums were heard and the festival continued as the full moon shone. It was certainly interesting to stumble upon, but felt a world away from Western civilisation.

The following day we headed for the coast, using the super highway from Columbo to Galle – 100km which takes no time at all owing to the fact that it was tolled and hence no one used it other than tourists, not even the sacred cows! As much as I love the hill stations and mountains I adore being near the sea – smelling the salty air, the sound of the waves and the palm trees gently blowing in the wind. We stayed in a small boutique hotel called Apa Villa, which is owned by Hans Hoefer – the photographer, designer and founder of Insight Guides.

It overlooks the sea, but due to the reef it is impossible to swim safely here. We didn’t mind as we had a beautiful pool to do some laps.

It was whilst staying here that we spent half a day with the kitchen staff at Hans’s other residence Apa Villa Illuketia a few kilometres inland, and which you can also stay in. This was the estate that Hans originally bought before buying his property on the coast. It has plenty of old world charm and we spent a peaceful morning with the staff, before sitting down to the lunch that we had watched being prepared.

Galle is definitely worth a visit, which was 15-20 minutes up the road from Apa Villas. This Dutch built fort town is walkable, absolutely charming and filled with fascinating shops, museum and churches.

It feels very European – well Dutch to be precise – once you get within the city walls.

We loved this great retro poster shop and thought this poster was rather apt.

We couldn’t resist a London priced cocktail at the Aman Galle Hotel occupying an elegant, 17th-century Colonial-style building to watch the world go by.

The beetroot recipe below was one that I was taught during the morning at Illuketia and works as a great accompanying dish with other fish/meat/vegetable curries or a simple dal.

Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry

2 tbsp rapeseed/coconut oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

10 fresh curry leaves

1 pandan leaf, cut into 4 strips

1/2 tomato, roughly chopped

1/4 tsp Sri Lankan chilli powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp turmeric

2 medium sized beetroot, peeled and chopped into batons

1/2 tomato, roughly chopped

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

25ml water

200ml coconut milk

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add onion, garlic, curry leaves, pandan leaf and tomato and allow to soften for a 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chilli powder, salt, garam masala and turmeric and stir into the other ingredients.
  3. After a further five minutes add the beetroot and to help soften it add the water and coconut milk. Simmer gently for around 20 minutes so that the beetroot has softened and the liquid reduced slightly.