Lunching in East Dulwich at TART

If you are ever wondering on where in south east London might be good to meet a friend for bunch or lunch, I have just the place for you.

Recently I went to check out the newly opened bakery cafe in East Dulwich called TART, that focuses on, you guessed it, tarts – not the sweet variety mind you, although there are a few options, but the savoury. Tart (not to be confused with the food columnists) opened earlier this year in East Dulwich following the success of their Clapham Common cafe. It’s nestled on Lordship Lane at number 65.

From the outside it looks like any other chic neighbourhood cafe, but step inside and you will find all the original tiling from David Greig the grocers. The building is in fact grade II listed for its authentic 19th-century interior and is full of character. It’s the perfect place for a coffee, breakfast or a tart or two for lunch.

The doorway on the far right in the photo above leads out to a beautiful, light conservatory which we, along with every other diner, opted for as the sun was shining.  The menu, which is a one pager (menu’s should never be too long – alarm bells always go off in my head if they are) is split into ‘brunches’, ‘terribly tasty tarts’, ‘scrumptious salads’ and ‘mmmm sweet heaven’. The drinks menu had a number of wonderfully sounding juices and smoothies, as well as coffees and teas. My dining companion and I opted for a red and green juice, packed with fresh fruits of their reciprocal colours. I can honestly say they were the tastiest fresh juices I have had in ages – full of natural flavours and wonderful thirst quenching in this hot weather; we ordered two more they were that good. There is the option of brunch cocktails, but I’ll have to try them another time.

As for the food, we debated on what to try as it all sounded so appealing.  In the end we opted for the following:

Sautéed mushrooms on cornbread, a poached egg, rocket, pine nuts, garlic herb crème fraîche and truffle oil

Royale: poached eggs, smoked salmon, spinach, capers/gherkins & hollandaise in a short-crust pastry case

Butternut squash, kale, sage, walnut and stilton tart and two salads – roast carrot, lentil and rocket salad with a tahini dressing, and a sweet potato, spinach, chilli, pumpkin seeds and a masala yoghurt. The combinations sounded so good, and thankfully tasted equally so.

The portions were generous and the pastry on the tart was baked to perfection. If you ever buy a tart/quiche from a supermarket, these tarts at TART were way superior. The menu is also reasonably priced – with a tart and two salads coming in at just under £10. The brunch options were also well thought through and my sautéed mushrooms on cornbread hit the spot. The staff were friendly and accommodating, being attentive without being intrusive.

As an aside – for those who are potentially interested in investing in a food business –  Tart are currently raising capital to open a third bakery as well as supply tarts to the wholesale London market. If you are interested you can find out more information on the Seedrs website.

It was a spoiling lunch with fresh tasting, healthy choices and highly memorable tarts that had a great selection of fillings and light, crumbly pastry. Check it out if you are in either East Dulwich or Clapham Common.

Tart: 65 Lordship Lane, London SE22 8EP, no booking necessary, dogs welcome.

 

I was a guest of Tart Bakery and all views and opinions are my own.

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Wild Garlic Scones

Continuing with the wild garlic theme for another week, (I hope you are not bored yet!) I thought you might like my recipe for wild garlic scones, which are wonderful slathered with a little butter and a cup of tea. Scones are ridiculously easy to make and are great to freeze and then reheat when you want to eat one of two. All my family love this delicious snack, and as you can freeze them, are perfect all year round. A taste of spring even in the winter!

Unlike my wild garlic pesto you actually need no more than a handful of wild garlic but will still get the wonderful flavour resonating through the warm scone. If you have more of a sweet tooth then you might want to see my sweetened scone recipe here.

To make and cook these little beauties takes no more than 30 minutes, so are quick to prepare a batch. My girls always love to get involved in the kitchen and making scones is very straightforward so fun activity to do together.

 

Wild Garlic Scones

Makes around 22 scones

350g self-raising flour

pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

85g softened unsalted butter, cut into cubes

125g mature cheddar cheese, grated

1 handful of wild garlic, washed and finely chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp fennel seeds

175ml milk, gently warmed

1 egg, beaten to glaze

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and line a baking tray.
  2. In a large bowl sieve the flour and then add all the ingredients*, aside from the milk and the final egg to glaze.
  3. Mix together gently using your hands and slowly add the warmed milk to bind. Add a little more flour if it remains a little sticky.
  4. Flour your hands and the work surface and move the dough onto the surface. Flatten it with your hands and fold it over a few times. Use a rolling pin to flatten it to a thickness of about 3cm. Use the top of a small glass or a cutter to cut out the scones evenly.
  5. Place the scones at intervals on the lined baking tray so they do not touch. Brush the tops with the beaten egg.
  6. Once you have used up all the dough, place in the oven for 11 minutes exactly. Remove from oven and then either leave to cool completely and then freeze or eat immediately with some butter. YUM.

Note: *If the butter cubes are not super soft then add these first with the flour and baking powder and using your finger tips mix with the flour to create a crumbly mixture. Then add all the ingredients. 

If freezing, when you want to eat them simply defrost completely then heat in a very low oven for 2/3 minutes to rewarm the scones.

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Rhubarb and Custard Slice – Competition to win ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ cookbook by Mat Follas

Spring is in the air, well at least for the moment it is. Sunny skies make all the difference and you can notably see everyone feeling that extra bit cheery. Polo-neck jumpers can be cast aside and thick winter coats can be put away, for a while at least. With longer days and flowers beginning to make an appearance, the thought of doing some spring baking is rather attractive.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Enter Mat Follas – masterchef UK winner way back in 2009 – new book ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’. I can almost smell the delicate scents from the sweetpeas on the front cover and that cheesecake screams ‘summer’ to me. Mat, his wife Amanda and their business partner Kate, opened Bramble Cafe & Deli in Poundbury in Dorset in 2016 and this book is a collection of all the lovely recipes that they showcase in the cafe.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Sweet and savoury are both included ranging from the classics, such as the ‘Victoria Sandwich Cake’, to fancy dainties and patisseries, such as the ‘Salted Caramel Tartlets’. He includes some wonderful sounding jams, jellies and marmalades – strawberry and elderflower jam, as well as some alcoholic and non-alcoholic tipples.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

I decided to make the ‘Rhubarb and Custard Slice’, which is a take on a classic custard slice or mille-feuille. It also reminded me of my ultimate favourite cake ‘Pasteis de Nata’ also known as ‘Portguese custard tart’. It was super easy to prepare and makes a great dessert or tea-time fancy. The only slight alternation I’ll make next time is that I will oven bake the puff pastry for a little longer and lightly brush whisked egg allowing it to bronze more. Other than that it tasted great and the custard was very similar tasting to the Portuguese custard tart. Rhubarb is so pretty, and tastes fabulous that the combination of the custard and rhubarb brought back many childhood memories for me.

If you would like to win a copy of this book head on over to my instagram page and look for this photo above which will provide all the details. It’s very straightforward so have a go at winning a copy.  UK residents only I’m afraid. For those asking, the beautiful plates above I have collected over the last few years from Anthropologie, which always stock such gorgeous things.

Rhubarb & Custard Slice

recipe from ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ by Mat Follas

150g puff pastry (bought)

1 egg, whisked

300g fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2cm length pieces

vegetable oil, to coat,

50g Demerara sugar

200ml milk

100ml double/heavy cream

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

50g plain/all-purpose flour

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

100g caster sugar

non-stick 30x20cm/12×8 inch brownie pan, light oil and lined with baking parchment

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (35o Fahrenheit) Gas 4.
  2. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness and trim to fit the base of the brownie pan.
  3. Using a fork prick holes over the base to stop the pastry rising too much. Use the whisked egg to brush the pastry to help it get a beautiful bronzed colour.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 12 minutes or until it is golden brown. If it has puffed up it will shrink when you allow it to cool out of the oven.
  5. Meanwhile trim and cut the rhubarb into evenly-sized pieces, about 2cm/2/4 inch in length. Toss them with a little vegetable oil and then the Demerara sugar. Spread them out on a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until they are just softened and cooked through.
  6. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk and cream on a low heat, stirring gently until simmering, then immediately take off the heat.
  7. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, flour, vanilla and caster sugar to form a paste.
  8. Pour the hot milk and cream mixture into the mixing bowl, whisking constantly to combine into a think custard.
  9. Now return the custard to the saucepan and on a low heat whisk the custard over the heat until it has thickened and holding soft peaks. It is really important to have it on a low heat so it does not burn!
  10. Pour the thick custard over the pastry base and smooth it to make level.
  11. Place the rhubarb pieces on top of the custard – they should be half submerged.
  12. Refrigerate for at least and hour before cutting into 10 with a bread knife.
I was very kindly sent a copy of this beautiful cookbook. All views and opinions are my own.

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Homemade Spiced Granola

With all the snow we have been having recently (it’s since melted sadly) I’ve been doing some serious hibernating indoors, which ultimately means a lot of cooking and baking. When it’s cold and snowing outside, I find that there is nothing better than cooking inside in the warm, something delicious to warm the belly.

I’ve been making a range of new exciting curries, soups (my roasted sweet potato and garlic is a winner so will post it up in another post!) and then I decided to make a large batch of homemade granola. You can get as creative as you wish, it really comes down to how you like to eat granola.  My husband dislikes coconut flakes (I rather like them) so I purposely omitted them here. That’s love.  My sis is not particularly into dried fruit so if I were to make her some I would omit them. I am a nut and seed fiend so have included quite a few but you can choose just one or two varieties that you like or need using up.

I also rather like to add a little spice so I have added some turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg powder. It’s not overpowering but just gives the granola that extra boost of deliciousness. I have also used maple syrup and this brand I particularly LOVE (Holland & Barrett have a deal on at the moment: buy 2 and get one half price), but you can use honey or agave if that’s what you have to hand.

Personally I don’t drown my granola in maple syrup. By all means you can and it will become more crunchy but I find the amount below works well and the granola is crisp without all being stuck together. (The photos above are pre-baking) 1kg is a lot but I thought that it made sense to do a large batch and then store it in sealed jars. They work really well as gifts – just tie a wooden spoon to your kilner jar and it makes a very thoughtful gift and everyone loves granola after all.

 

Homemade Spiced Granola

Makes 1kg which will last a while

200ml maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1/4 (quarter) tsp turmeric powder

1tsp ginger powder

1 tsp nutmeg powder

2 tbsp coconut oil

1kg jumbo oats

170g hazelnuts

100g brazil nuts

100g pecan

20g sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds

200g berry mix (dried cranberries, blueberries, golden berries, raisins)

 

  1. Preheat a fan oven to 150 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl mix the maple syrup, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg and ginger powders with the coconut oil. Place to one side.
  3. Line a large baking tray with parchment.
  4. In a large bowl place the jumbo oats, nuts and seeds NOT THE DRIED BERRIES and stir so that they are well mixed in.
  5. Add the maple syrup mix to the oats and stir together. If you find they need a bit more maple syrup then by all means add a little more but I find this is enough for mine.
  6. Place evenly on your large baking tray and oven bake for 1 hour. Every 15 minutes you need to turn them around so that they are baked on all sides.
  7. Once they are baked mix in the berry mix and you’re done.

 

 

 

 

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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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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. 

 

 


Homemade Naan Bread, The Black Forest and The Knights Templar

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Soft pillowy naan bread dunked into a bowl of dal has got to be THE ultimate comfort food. As those who have been reading my blog for sometime will know, whenever I return from holiday the first thing I cook is some dal. It’s quick, easy and you can determine the amount of fresh chilli that you put in it. There are so many dals you can make, but I often opt for  – red split lentil dal. You can add whatever vegetable you have to hand – tomatoes, peas, carrots – but I would advise not adding more than 2 max.img_4536-3

I had spent a week in the glorious Black Forest in the south west corner of Germany. Wifi is hit and miss – hence the lack of a blog post last week, apologies – so it allows you to unwind properly and relax in this beautiful part of the country. img_4524-3

 

The top of the hills were covered in snow, but down in the valleys the pastures were green, which gave us the option of walks in the meadows and through the forests or skiing at higher altitudes.

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We were blessed with clear blue skies and warming winter sun. A stunning combination.

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Whilst our days were spent out and about in the fresh air, our evenings were spent sitting by the roaring fires eating the local produce of venison, wild boar, cheese, breads, wine, an interesting salad leaf that can only be found in the Black Forest around February (name escapes me, but it was a cross between rocket and watercress) and Black Forest gateaux – naturally.

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We drove from London, staying over for a couple of nights in Strasbourg on the way, admiring it’s impressive cathedral and quaint streets. In many ways in reminded me of Bruges or nearby Colmar – definitely worth a detour if you haven’t been.

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Strasbourg is easy to explore on foot and has a number of museums and art galleries in close proximity. A boat trip on the waterways is also a must and helps you get your bearings.

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To break up our homeward journey we stayed in Laon, in the region of Picardy. If medieval history is of interest to you then this place is an absolute must. We stayed in one of the old canon’s houses (there were  84 canons at one time living in Laon – it was the largest chapter in France in the 12th and 13th centuries) up in the attic with a view of the cathedral. Our airbnb host was a charming and well travelled French man who was keen to show us his eleventh century frescos and ruins in his cellar. The cellar stretched under the whole of his house and when we had seen what we thought was the extent of it, he revealed another doorway with steps leading further down to another level. We proceeded to explore this level and then found further steps leading to another level. It was a cavern within a cavern within a cavern.  It was without doubt the most incredibly historical cellar we have ever been in and an archaeologist/historians dream. Over the ages new floors were simply added – we could make out the old stables on one level. Apparently there are many passageways linking up the canon’s houses surrounding the cathedral. I imagine many of them are filled in or perhaps not yet discovered by their occupants living many metres above.

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The Knights Templar spent much time both in Laon and the surrounding area. They built this magnificent church (above) modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1140. Unfortunately we only managed to spend a few minutes here before we were ushered out as it was closing time, so the museum that stands beside it will have to wait for a future visit.

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The Cathedral itself is worth a visit and in fact it was what initially drew us to this hill top city a couple of years ago, as we could see it’s towers from miles away. Laon is only 80 miles north east of Paris and only a couple of hours from Calais so  it’s a good place to stopover before catching the Euro tunnel home.

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Anyway enough of my travels and back to the matter at hand….naan bread. Believe it or not they are really easy to cook yourself. Making the dough is pretty straight forward and then you need to let it rest, in a warm part of your house, for 1-2 hours to let it increase in size.

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Then it is simply a case of rolling out the naan into small, thin, oval shapes. You can add nigella (black onion seeds) or sesame seeds on the top or keep them plain. Sometimes I like to add a couple of teaspoons of garlic paste to make garlic naan. You can be as inventive as you like in all honesty.

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I tend to cook mine in a frying pan – do not add any oil – but you can also cook them under the grill if you prefer, but be watchful as they bronze quickly.

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It takes no more than a minute or so to cook them and then I add some melted butter on top. Equally if you prefer you can add some melted ghee or even milk.

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My girls (and husband) love them both with a meal or an after school snack. Serve them warm and eat straight away. A wonderful treat and perfect for chilly February weather.

 

Homemade Naan Bread

makes around 9-10 naan bread

400g plain flour

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

5g dried yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg beaten

100g full fat plain yoghurt

100ml warm full fat milk

1 tbsp butter, melted

 optional: nigella/sesame seeds/fresh coriander as a topping

If you want to make garlic naan add a couple of tsp of garlic paste at the beginning and mix into the dough.

  1. In a large mixing bowl add the flour and then make a hole in the centre and pour in the oil, dried yeast, salt, sugar, baking powder and beaten egg.
  2. Mix gently using your hands and once it has become quite crumbly add the yoghurt and then continue to mix together.
  3. Now gradually add in the warm milk until all the mixture comes together.
  4. Remove from the bowl and place a little plain flour on a cold surface.
  5. Kneed the dough for 5 minutes until it become soft and pliable.
  6. Return to the bowl and cover with cling film and leave in a warm room for over an hour so that it can increase in size.
  7. When it is ready, split the dough into even balls and begin to roll them out thinly in oval shapes.  You may need a sprinkling of extra flour at this stage to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Pierce gently with a fork. If adding nigella/sesame seeds lay a few on the top and gently roll them into the top of the naan.
  8. Heat a non-stick frying pan. When it is properly hot add a naan bread and leave for around 20 seconds before turning over and leaving for a further 20 seconds. Turn once more for a few more seconds – or longer if it is not bronzing sufficiently.
  9. Remove from the pan and add a little melted butter to the top. Keep under a warm tea towel whilst you work on the remaining naan. As the naan’s I make are quite small I can often manage two in a pan at a time.

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Culinary delights and inspiration over the Christmas period

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So my fridge – my relatively new fridge in fact (still under guarantee phew) – decides to die a dramatic death on 22nd December. Great timing. I mean it could have died in November or in the summer but no it decides to die just as I want to start cracking on with preparations for Christmas.

I will not let my fridge dampen my spirits however. On the bright side I have a freezer and a cold coal cellar so I am going to rise to the occasion and go back in time when freezers did not exist. I now have all the contents of my fridge in storage boxes with ice bags surrounding them. Some jars are in the garden in boxes in the rabbit hutch. Our rabbits passed away recently…..that’s another story….so there is room in the hutch away from prying urban foxes.

So I thought you might need some last minute inspiration of things to cook with turkey leftovers, meals after christmas and before new year and canapés etc. So first up is turkey, ham and leek pie. Very straightforward and a great way to use up the turkey and ham.

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On boxing day or 27th I will be cooking my crispy skin cod with white beans, padron peppers, spinach, dill and aioli. You can use monkfish or hake instead, whichever you decide it’s a lovely dish to serve after the filling fare of Christmas day.

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This wintery warm lentil and goats cheese salad with a fresh basil dressing will also be making an appearance. Slow cooked tomatoes are a favourite in my household and we are all rather fond of goats cheese. I also like the fact that is vegetarian, filling and incredibly tasty.

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Perhaps you have friends or family coming over for a glass of bubbles or mulled wine. Both these canapés are very straightforward and don’t take too much time to prepare. The pastry for the parmesan caraway biscuits can be made in advance and kept in the fridge. When you are ready to cook them you simply slice them thinly, lay them out on a tray and place them in the oven for around 10 minutes, or until they are lightly bronzed. Let them cool slightly and then they are ready to be devoured.

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The rosemary spiced walnuts are wonderful to snack on and are not too filling before the main event. We love them and I am sure you will too.

Whilst we are all very fortunate to have the love of family and friends around us at Christmas a great way to give a little back is reserving a place for a homeless person at one of the crisis shelters. £22.32 reserves a place for one person but also allows them to have:

 – a health check with a doctor, dentist and optician

 – shower, freshen up and clean clothes

– three nutritious meals including christmas dinner

-an introduction to Crisis’ year-round services for training and support for the future.

You can find out more and how to donate here. I think it is a wonderful charity and one that I support each year.

So that’s it from me for 2016. I wish you all a very merry christmas and a happy new year and I hope to be able to inspire you with some exciting recipes in 2017. Thank you for your continued support and readership, it means a lot to me.

Torie xx

 

 


Double Ginger Cake

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I am not a big baker. I leave that to the precision experts like my father. My kind of cooking tends to gravitate to more savoury, spiced and packed with flavour. That said I do like an uncomplicated sweet recipe or in this case a double ginger cake. I don’t have a kitchen aid or anything fancy, instead when I bake a cake I like to do everything in a bowl, ideally by hand or a hand whisk if necessary. I was browsing through Nigel Slater’s ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ the other day – great book if you haven’t got a copy, otherwise one for the christmas list – and his double ginger cake stood out for three reasons. One it was ginger – I love ginger, two – it looked quick and easy to make and three – it did not require any specialist equipment.

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My father’s belated birthday family lunch was the ideal excuse to try out Nigel’s recipe. After a long lingering lunch, cooked by my mother – parsnip soup for starters (above), followed by roast pork with fennel, finished off with blackberry and apple crumble, we donned winter coats and wellies and headed for the woods for a walk at dusk.

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Upon returning the feasting continued with my ginger cake (and a coffee cake that the birthday boy had made himself – just in case no one else had made him a cake) and tea. It got the thumbs up all round. The sponge was moist and deliciously gingery and as there was no sight of icing, it was not too saccharine sweet.

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Double Ginger Cake

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Double Ginger Cake from ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ 

Serves 10+

250g self-raising flour

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground ginger powder

halt a tsp cinnamon powder

pinch of salt

200g golden syrup

2 tbsp syrup from the stem ginger jar

125g unsalted butter

3 lumps (about 53g) stem ginger in syrup, finely diced

2 tbsp sultanas (optional)

125g dark muscovado sugar

2 eggs

240ml milk

I used a 25cmx25cm tin (Nigel used one slightly smaller). I also think it would work well in a loaf tin.

  1. Line the tin with baking parchment and place to one side.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  3. Sift the flour, ginger powder, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and place to one side.
  4. In a pan heat the golden and ginger syrup along with the butter, keeping it on a low heat.
  5. Add the finely diced ginger, sultanas (if using) and sugar to the pan. Stir allowing the sugar to dissolve completely for a couple of minutes before gently pouring it into the bowl with the flour and stirring all together so that the flour has been absorbed into the hot syrupy butter.
  6. In a small bowl break the eggs and using a fork gently beat them. Add to the milk before adding that into the bowl with the mixture.
  7. Pour into the lined baking tin and place in the oven for 35 minutes. You want to be able to able to insert a skewer and for it to come out clean.

Leave in the tin to cool completely, unless you are wanting to eat immediately that is. You can wrap it in foil and eat over the next few days – Nigel mentions allowing it to mature for a day or two will enhance the flavour further. Thankfully there are leftovers so I will be having a square every day for the next few days.

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Baked Spiced Squash and Potato Samosa, Curry For Change Campaign and Wandsworth Radio

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I love it when friends bring edible gifts, especially ones they have been handmade or grown. The other day I was given this gorgeous blue looking squash that my pal had grown in her vegetable patch in the Cotswolds. We are not too sure what it is exactly but our guess is pointing us towards pumpkin invincible (we liked the name anyway). It looked beautiful, so I let it sit around in the kitchen for over a week for us all to admire. Part of me wanted to spray it silver or gold and have it sitting by the fireplace over the christmas season, but then again I knew it would be delicious as a lot of care and love had gone into growing it, it would be a shame not to eat it such a gorgeous gift.

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I broke into it yesterday – it definitely won top prize on ‘hardest squash to break into’. It’s flesh was bright orange with seeds slightly puffier than your regular pumpkins. I removed the skin from a quarter of it and then diced it up small. The rest I covered and placed in the fridge to use on another occasion.

A lovely idea would be to incorporate the squash into some gnocchi itself – you could use my recipe for gnocchi here or incorporate it with some store bought gnocchi here.

My plan was to use the filling for some spiced baked squash and potato samosas. I was going on to Wandsworth radio later in the day to talk to presenter, Emma Gordon aka Mrs Stylist, about the charity ‘Find Your Feet’ and their ‘Curry For Change’ campaign and hosting your own supper parties to help the charity. In addition the plan was to talk about alternative christmas snacks, so thought the samosas and my Indian tomato chutney were perfect for the occasion. You can hear the interview here if you fancy hearing me on the airwaves.

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For those keen to get involved in the campaign they are really having a push next week (21st November). The charity is all about helping those who live in rural communities in northern India, Nepal, Malawi and Zimbabwe to help them ‘find their feet’ – rather than simply giving handouts, through acquiring training and skills that can break the cycle of poverty by setting up their own business to allow them to feed themselves and their families. The idea is that we host supper parties. Natco and Kingfisher beer sponsor the whole campaign and will send those who sign up here a spice pack, which invariable includes lentils and other exciting goodies. Kingfisher will also send a crate of beer to  drink at the event. You ask diners to pay what they would ordinarily spend on a curry take out and the money then goes to ‘Find Your Feet’. Natco then double the amount you raise.  It’s a simple idea that is a win win for all involved. You don’t need to be a food blogger to take part. Everyone young and old can give it a whirl – even my mother has expressed an interest to take part. The curry for change website also has lots of inspiring recipes to help you plan your curry evening. You may even see one of two of mine listed on their site.

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Back to the spiced squash samosas.

The good thing about these snacks is that they can be prepared and then frozen, pre cooking, and then when you are ready to bake them you simply place them in the oven for 20 minutes from frozen. So simple. I often like to prepare a chutney to go along with a street food snacks, such as samosas. You can see my recipe for Indian spiced tomato chutney here. It is very quick to prepare and stores in the fridge for a couple of days.

Folding the samosas is easier than you think. Place the filling in the bottom right hand corner and then fold the pastry over so that a triangle forms. Then you fold the pastry up along the line before folding over to the left hand side, continuing with the triangle theme. Just keep in mind that you need to keep folding in alternative triangles and using water or ghee to stick the sides together. There are more photos showing how it is done on my post about ‘beetroot, feta and cumin samosas’ – see here. I like to sprinkle the samosas with nigella seeds, also known as black onion seeds, equally you could sprinkle sesame seeds or even chilli flakes.

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 Baked Spiced Squash and Potato 

Makes 20

700g squash/pumpkin of your choice, cut into small cubes

1 large potato (250g), cut into small cubes

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp nigella seeds

pinch of asafoetida/hing

1 onion, finely chopped

1 birds eye green chilli, finely sliced

1 tsp ginger paste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin powder

100g frozen peas

2 packets of Jus Filo Sheets 270g each

2 tbsp melted ghee

  1. First place the cubed squash and potatoes in a pan with boiling water and let them soften, which will take around 10 minutes. If they are still a little hard, allow them to cook for a little longer. Strain and place to one side.
  2. In a separate wide pan add the oil and then add the mustard, cumin and nigella seeds followed by the asafoetida. Allow them to move around the pan for around 20 seconds before adding the onion.
  3. Allow the onion to soften for around 8 minutes, before adding the ginger paste and fresh chilli.
  4. Add the squash and potato and cover with the spices along with the cumin and turmeric powder.
  5. Using a fork or potato masher, gently squash the squash and potatoes. You don’t necessarily want it as smooth as mash, but certainly soften from it’s cubed form.
  6. Add the frozen peas and place a lid on the pan for a few minutes, adding a little water if it is becoming too dry. Take off the heat and leave to one side.
  7. Take the filo pastry out of its packet and using one sheet cut into in two horizontally. With the remaining filo pastry cover with a damp cloth.
  8. Working quickly you want to place a spoonful of the filling in the bottom right hand corner of the pastry (see photos). Place a little the melted ghee along the left hand edge of the pastry. Bring the bottom right hand corner of the pastry up to the right hand side at a diagonal to form a triangle (see photos above). Fold over from side to side until you reach the top. Stick the ends with melted ghee and either place on a plate to go into the freezer or one some greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Sprinkle with nigella or sesame seeds.
  9. Work your way through all the filling until it has all been used up. Freeze any left over filo pastry.
  10. If you are cooking immediately heat the oven to 180 degrees. Once the oven is hot place the samosas into the oven for 20 minutes – or until they are nicely bronzed.
  11. Eat when they are nice and hot with either a spiced tomato chutney or perhaps some tamarind and date chutney

If you host a curry for change dinner I would LOVE to hear about it. Take a photo and tag #chilliandmint and #curryforchange on twitter/instagram.