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.

 


Methi (Fenugreek) Paratha for Durga Puja

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This coming weekend is the beginning of the Bengali Hindu festival of Durga Puja, which lasts for five days. I have written a few posts on the celebration here and here over the last couple of years. In short, the weekend is spent visiting temples in all corners of London, catching up with family and friends and eating vegetarian feasts at the temples. I am not Hindu but I enjoy being part of the occasion, which is always very lively and colourful, and of course the food is always so good.

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I was pottering around in my local Asian supermarkets this morning when I came across some methi – fresh fenugreek. Fenugreek is jam packed with health benefits. We all need it in our diet – either the seeds or fresh leaves or both. It lowers blood cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease, controls blood sugar levels – therefore diabetics are advised to eat it daily. It aids digestion, weight loss, prevents colon cancer – the list goes on. Seriously if you have not had it before please try it and then try and incorporate it into your diet. One way you can do this is by making fenugreek/methi paratha. The hard part will be locating the fresh methi.

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If you live in London then you will have no problem as you will find it at any Indian/Asian supermarket. Apparently it is really easy to grow so maybe it is something to look into growing if you are living outside a major city. I would love to hear how you get on if you go down this path.

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Anyway back to the making of the paratha. It is important to carefully take the leaves of the fenugreek plant away from the stem, as the stem is very bitter and you don’t want to be eating that. I leave the leaves to soak in a bowl for 15 minutes so that the grit and dirt sinks to the bottom. Then you can easily remove the leaves and place them in a new dry bowl along with the spices and flour.

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If you don’t have a tawa then simply use a frying pan. Once the leaves have soaked and you have made the dough it takes very little time to make the paratha.

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They are great eaten with dal such as this one or this one or simply with chutney and perhaps a little yoghurt and lemon. In India they are sometimes eaten at breakfast, but I tend to eat them for lunch or dinner.

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Methi Paratha

Makes round 5

150g wholemeal chapati flour/atta 

50g gram/chickpea flour

50g fresh methi/fenugreek (leaves only), washed and finely chopped

1 small fresh green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

1/4 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp salt, optional

2 tbsp melted ghee/butter/oil

  1. First remove the methi leaves and discard the rest of the methi stem. Place in a bowl of fresh cold water and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Gently remove the methi leaves so that the grit and dirt is at the bottom of the water bowl. Discard this water. Place in a clean dry bowl.
  3. Measure out the flours, chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and fresh chilli (if using).
  4. Use your hand to begin to bind the ingredients together. Gradually add a little warm water so that a dough forms.  Be careful not to make it too wet.
  5. Place a drop of oil in the bottom of the bowl and cover the dough, which you have now made into a ball shape. Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes.
  6. Knead the dough for a minute further and then break off a small part – about the size of a lime.
  7. Place the dough in some fresh flour and then roll it out on a dry, clean surface. If you want to make triangular paratha roll the dough into a circle and then fold it in half and then half again. I kept mine round today.
  8. Heat a tawa/frying pan and place a drop of ghee onto the pan. Then place the paratha on the pan and leave for a couple of minutes.
  9. Whilst it is cooking begin making your next paratha.
  10. Before turning over the paratha on the pan, brush a little ghee on the top and then turn over. You want the paratha to begin to have little bubbles that begin to bronze. Leave to cook on this side for a further couple of minutes. If need be turn over again and then place to one side.
  11. Repeat until all the dough has been used up.

Eat warm with dal, chutney or yogurt with a splash of fresh lemon.

Notes: You can also add finely chopped onion, 1 tsp garlic paste and/or ginger paste, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp ajwain/carom seeds, 1/2 tsp coriander powder. There are so many options so try a variation and see what works for you.img_3015

 


Easy Classic Scones for a Big Occasion

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My little brother is getting married tomorrow so I thought I would do a spot of baking. I have co-ordinated a whole team of bakers in fact to make all manner of deliciousness for guests when they arrive back at the house from the church. Scones are great when you need to bake in advance as they freeze really well. When you’re ready to eat them all you need to do is defrost them completely and then place them in a low oven  for 2 to 3 minutes to warm them up. It’s that simple.

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After you have combined the self-raising flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and butter (you crumb the butter so that it is mixed in completely) you make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in warm milk – which has a couple of drops of fresh lemon juice and vanilla extract. Using a knife mix the warm milk into the flour and a beautifully soft dough will form – you can add a little more flour if it remains too sticky.IMG_1361

Place it on a floured surface and fold it over a few times either by hand or using a rolling pin. Flatten it so that you still have about 4cm thickness and then using a cutter (5cm in diameter – smooth edges is probably more preferable but I only had a wavy edge one!) make your scones. I dug out one of my children’s cookie cutters that actually allowed the dough to bulge out the top, which I thought worked rather well. Place them spaced out on a large baking tray covered with baking paper. Glaze each scone with your beaten egg mixture.

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Place them in a preheated oven – 220C/fan 200C if using a non fan for 11 minutes precisely.

The proportions below will make 11-12 scones. I made mine in 6 batches as I found it a lot easier doing it this way.

You can either serve them immediately with clotted cream and strawberry jam or once cooled freeze them until ready to use (in which case defrost thoroughly and then reheat them for a couple of minutes in a low oven).

 

Easy Classic Scones

350g self-raising flour

pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

85g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3 tbsp caster sugar (optional – see notes below)

175ml milk

few drops of fresh lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten to glaze

strawberry jam

clotted cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/ Gas 7 and line a baking tray.
  2. In a large bowl sieve the flour and baking powder. Add the salt, sugar and cubed butter and using your finger tips break up the butter to form little crumbs when mixed with the flour – you don’t want any large butter cubes remaining.
  3. Warm the milk in a pan/microwave so that it is warm but not boiled. Add the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Make a well in the bowl of flour mixture and gently pour in the milk.
  4. Using a knife mix the milk into the flour to form a dough ball. 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. You can gently use a rolling pin but you need to make sure that the dough remains fairly thick – around 4cm deep.
  5. Place some baking paper onto your baking tray and place the scones at intervals so they do not touch. Brush the tops with 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 jam and clotted cream.

Note: A couple of batches I completely omitted (forgot) sugar and honestly I could not notice a difference once I had placed clotted cream and jam on top.

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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Crispy Savoury Donut known as Medu Vada

IMG_2627I want to introduce you to a new kid in town that will seriously impress you.

Step aside donut and cronut (croissant and donut pastry) and make way for the Indian savoury donut known as ‘medu vada’. These savoury delicacies look very similar to their saccharin cousins the donut, but are filled with lots of wonderful spices instead of sugar.

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They are really fun to make and you can add your own twists to make them your own. They are a little bit naughty in that they are fried, but hey a little bit of fried deliciousness now and again is absolutely fine in books. They are made of urad dal – the white dal you can easily find in any Asian grocers-  that is soaked for at least 3 hours and then blended to form a soft fluffy paste.

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My daughters find them equally irresistible so they really are a treat for the whole family. They are typically eaten in southern India and Sri Lanka either at breakfast time or as a snack with a coconut chutney or possibly a dal or sambal. I could quite happily eat them for my breakfast but more often then not I make them for an afternoon snack with a cup of warming tea.

They are crispy on the outside and have a soft texture on the interior.

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My recipe makes around 13 little donuts, but if you want to make more just double up on the ingredients. There are no set rules here other than not making the dough too wet.

Medu Vada – Indian Savoury Donuts

Makes 13

175g white urid dal

1/2 tsp salt

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

 12 fresh curry leaves, chopped (optional)

1 green/red fresh chilli finely chopped (optional)

  1. Soak the white urid dal in a bowl covered with water for at least 3 hours.
  2. Strain the dal and place into a blender. Blend and if needed add literally a tsp at a time of water to loosen it slightly. Do not over water. You want it to have the same consistency as a fluffy light dough.
  3. Place the lentil dough into a large bowl and with your hand lift the dough, folding it over so that it gets air into it about 15 times.
  4. Add all the ingredients and mix well with your hands or a spoon.
  5. Heat a pan with cooking oil and when it is hot wet one of your hands and create a small ball (a little larger than a golf ball) and then place your thumb in the centre to create a hole through the dough. Then gently loosen the dough off your hand and place into the hot oil. Be careful when doing this as the movement from placing the dough into the pan and removing your hand needs to be super quick.
  6. Place a few donuts in the pan at once and leave them to bronze on one side for a couple of minutes, before turning them over with a slotted spoon for another couple of minutes.
  7. You are looking to get a yellowy bronze hue as opposed to brown, so be careful to watch them closely.
  8. Remove them from the pan and place on kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.
  9. Continue to make the rest.
  10. If you are planning to serve them as a snack when friends come over simply place them in a preheated oven that has subsequently been turned off. They should stay warm for a good hour.

They are perfect to eat with a chutney, dal or sambal (see links in the body of my post).

Note: 

  • I often don’t add chilli so that all my family can comfortably eat them. For those who like the chilli kick, you can serve them with a hotter chutney, which keeps all parties happy.

 

 

 

 

 


A Year in Cheese – Now isn’t that a thought!

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The brothers Alex and Leo Guarneri who run the London fromagerie ‘Androuet’ and the restaurant next door have just brought out a rather delicious sounding cookbook called ‘A Year in Cheese’. Along with their Italian chef Alessandro Grano they have put together a collection of their favourite recipes incorporating cheese. Much like vegetables, fruit and meat, cheese is also seasonal and it is with this in mind that the brothers have come up with some tasty cheese dishes to whet the appetite all year round.

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Images from A Year in Cheese: A Seasonal Cheese Cookbook by Alex and Leo Guarneri, Recipes by Alessandro Grano. Photographs by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln.’ 

Those who love ‘kinfolk’ style, myself included, will be naturally drawn to this recipe book. I particularly love it’s matt, rustic, moody photographs and recipes that look homely and inviting. Just browsing through the book, I love the sound of the ‘portobello mushrooms stuffed with walnuts and gorgonzola’, ‘french onion soup with 18-month-old comte’, ‘baked camembert with rosemary, honey and almonds’, ‘green and white asparagus with red Leicester crisps with sauce vierge’. The ‘watermelon and feta’ combination is always a winner and the brothers have come up with their own take on one of my favourite salads – see below. Salty, sweet with a blast of colour – what’s not to love!

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Images from A Year in Cheese: A Seasonal Cheese Cookbook by Alex and Leo Guarneri, Recipes by Alessandro Grano. Photographs by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln.’ 

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The book is split into chapters according to seasons and then there is a separate chapter on cheeseboards and complementary wines. The book is original – I can’t think of another one focused on cheese in quite the same way – so for any cheese lover it is certainly a great addition to their recipe book library.

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As a christmas present, I think I would probably pair it with an interesting cheese and a fancy cheese spoon – how about this one – to complete the well thought through gift. I know that I would love to receive a gift like that.

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I decided to make their ‘tomato tarte tatin with Saint Nicolas De La Dalmerie’. It comes under the summer chapter, so perhaps I should have chosen one of the winter dishes because the cheese suggested was clearly not going to be in season. As such I replaced it with and English ‘Rosary plain’, which is a mild and creamy fresh cheese made from pasteurised goats milk.

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The recipe was delicious and quite frankly perfect for any time of year, the only thing that I need to work on was making the puff pastry rise better, as mine had not puffed up as well as the one in the photo in the book. I fear that there was too much balsamic vinegar making the pastry a little too wet to puff as much as it would like. As such I have made some alterations to the recipe.

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The olive oil that I like to use is the Nudo variety, which make a whole range of wonderful olive oils that come in eye catching tins. The extra virgin comes in the green tin (I used  this one for this recipe), the yellow tin is infused with lemons and the red tin has notes of chilli. The olive oils themselves make great gifts – see here for the trio selection, but I am also a huge fan (and have been for a number of years) of their gift idea where you ‘adopt’ an olive tree and then receive extra virgin olive oil through out the year. The gift that keeps on giving – perfect. Click here to learn more about the olive tree adoption.

 

 

Tomato Tarte Tatin with English Rosary Goats Cheese

Serves 4-6

500g cherry tomatoes, halved (you can use larger just slice them thinly)

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Nudo olive oil, for drizzling

salt and pepper

1x320g sheet of chilled puff pastry

1 egg, whisked

50g English Rosary goats cheese

 

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (375 degrees Faranheit/gas5) and butter a tart tin. I used my regular 8 inch diameter cake tin. In the book they suggest using 2 6 inch diameter tart tins.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water for 10 seconds and then move them to a bowl of cold water. The skins will then peel off easily.
  3. Half the tomatoes and then drizzle them with the balsamic vinegar, sugar, olive oil and fresh thyme.
  4. Arrange the tomatoes neatly in the tin and then drizzle the remaining juice over them and add salt and pepper.
  5. Place a pastry topping over the top of the tomatoes and prick with a fork. Gently brush the pastry with the whisked egg.
  6. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, so that the pastry has puffed and bronzed.
  7. Remove from the oven and then place a plate of the top of the tin and turn upside down so that the tomato tarte tatin comes out.
  8. Crumble the goats cheese and place under a grill for around 10 seconds so that it begins to melt.
  9. You can scatter with a few rocket leaves and pine nuts if you have them to hand.

Perfect served hot or at room temperature.

 

 


Chilli, Feta and Spring Onion Cornbread

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Cornbread is not commonly known about, or eaten for that matter, here in the UK and yet it is the most wonderfully moreish and perfect little bread that works so well with a soup or salad or as a savoury alternative to scones with jam and clotted cream at tea time – not that I eat scones and jam with clotted cream every tea time……only on special occasions!

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My eldest is often famished after a day at school followed by clubs so naturally likes to have a little snack before supper and this bread is a big hit – even with the chilli in. The bread allows you to be creative and put whatever little filling takes your fancy. I like to use feta as it has the perfect saltiness to go with the chilli and the spring onion adds an additional layer of flavour, which I love. Equally courgette and ricotta or caramelised onion and goats cheese would also work really well. Do you have a favourite combination? I would love to hear so please leave a message in the comments section below for us all to see.

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I use Greek yoghurt and milk in my cornbread but you can also use buttermilk, try them both out and see which you prefer. For this recipe I used one egg this time, but if I use small eggs then I often pop in two. As for chilli, jalapeno works well or you can use a milder/hotter one or even dried chilli flakes. Have a go, experiment and let me know what you think. It’s perfect with my Mexican tortilla soup.

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Chilli, Feta and Spring Onion Cornbread

Dry ingredients

160g fine cornmeal (polenta)

60g plain flour

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 red chilli (or 2 if you want that extra kick)

75g crumbled feta

1 spring onion, finely chopped

Wet ingredients

125ml Greek yoghurt

125ml milk

juice of half a lime

1 large egg (or 2 small eggs)

2 tbsp olive oil

1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees c.

2. Grease some baking parchment and place in your loaf tin. Mine is 24x14cm. By all means use a smaller tin – your loaf will just have more depth, which is good. Without baking parchment you may find your loaf is harder to remove from the tin after baking.

3. Mix all your dry ingredients together in one bowl.

4. Place all your wet ingredients together in another bowl/jug and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold in gently with a wooden spoon.

5. Pour into your tin and level off with a spatula. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, or until it is golden and firm to touch on the top.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for at least 5 minutes before taking the bread out of the tin and removing the baking parchment.

 Serve warm or toasted with Mexican tortilla soup


Bagel Mania

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As far as blog posts are concerned this post is definitely up there on the memorable stakes. Yes, it’s a labour of love, but I can assure you the wait and effort is more than worth it. In fact we all agreed that we had never tasted bagels so fresh and tasty, this was, of course, because they had just come out of the oven and we had toiled hard to make them ourselves.

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We’d headed out of London for the weekend to dog sit for my parents who live in the rolling Sussex countryside. I thought that bagel making would provide the perfect morning’s entertainment, with the results making a truly satisfying lunch.

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Big A and Little Z had their own bowls to make the dough and whilst a little flour, salt and yeast found itself out of the bowl, the majority made its way into the dough itself!

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Honey is added to the vegetable oil then poured into the dough mixture.

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Really getting involved in the dough-making is so rewarding, as Little Z found out.


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Big A had a natural ability at kneading the dough for ten whole minutes.

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Once the dough had been given a good work out we combined Little Z and Big A’s dough and created one large ball. Rub a little vegetable oil around a large bowl and all over the dough, and place inside the bowl. You need to cover the bowl tightly with cling film and leave it somewhere warm – but not hot for 2 hours. The airing cupboard  provided the perfect place.

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By the time we returned the cling film had created a huge dome like structure over the bowl and the dough had doubled in size.

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We decided to cover our bagels with either chilli flakes, black poppy seeds or sesame seeds, but you could also cover them in black onion seeds, grated cheese, cinnamon sugar or whatever takes your fancy.

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The best way to shape your bagel is to roll it into a ball and then to use the end of a wooden spoon and push through the centre. Once it has reached through the dough, keep the handle on the surface and wriggle it around until a hole is created to the size that you want the hole to be. You can also shape it further with your hands. When the desired shape is reached place to one side for ten minutes so as to let the dough relax into shape.

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Now this part is really unusual, but doing it will allow your bagel to have that wonderful soft sponginess in the dough, once it is baked. Don’t skip it, even if you think you’ve read the instructions wrongly…..because you haven’t, you do actually need to BOIL the bagels briefly for one and a half minutes each side by placing them in a saucepan of boiling water and black treacle, (I know sounds crazy right?) that is simmering away.

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After the brief dunk in boiling treacle water and a thorough drain, place the bagels on lightly oiled baking trays that are sprinkled lightly with polenta – this is to stop the bagels sticking to the tray. Brush a beaten egg gently over all the bagels and then decide on your choice of topping and sprinkle over the bagels, pressing down gently so that the toppings stay in place.

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Freshly baked straight out of the oven. At this point, our stomachs were rumbling and we were ready to dive into our lunch.

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More choices…..what filling to place in our bagels. We opted mainly for either:

* Grilled bacon, soft cows cheese or cream cheese, rocket and a spoonful of my chipotles sauce.

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* Smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado and rocket with a splash of lemon juice.

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Other than Little Z we all had two (a little piggy I know but oooh they were soooo good!) and the remainder we ate the following day for breakfast.

After such a good feast we decided to don our country coats and wellies and head out with Tessie the dog for a good old long walk across the fields and through the woods. A perfect day to spend a Saturday.

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Tessie loves to dive into hollow trees!!

Homemade Bagels

makes 14

adapted from Rachel Allen:Bake!

675g strong white bread flour

3 tsp salt

10.5g fast-acting yeast

375ml warm water

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp black treacle/molasses

polenta, for sprinkling

1 egg, beaten

toppings of your choice (chilli flakes, sesame seeds, black poppy seeds)

1. Sift the four, salt and yeast into a large bowl and create a well in the centre.

2. Place the warm water, honey and oil into a measuring jug and pour the liquid in in stages, using your hands to begin to make the dough. This stage is rather messy and sticky so take your time not too add too much liquid at once.

3. Once all the flour has come together to form a dough, transfer to a flat surface and sprinkle a little extra flour and then knead the dough for a good ten minutes. I tend to push the dough away with one hand and then fold the dough towards me and then turn it slightly before repeating the process. You’ll be able to pick up a good pace.

4. Lightly oil a large bowl and pour a little oil in your hands and smooth it on the dough, which you have made into a ball. Place the dough in the bowl and cover tightly with cling film. Place in a warm (but not hot hot) place for around 2 hours – the airing cupboard worked perfectly – when the dough will have doubled in size.

5. Place 6 pints of water into a large deep pan and bring to the boil. Add the black treacle and stir in throughly. Once it has come to the boil, let the treacle water simmer gently on a low heat.

6. Preheat an oven to 220 degrees centigrade (425F).

7. Meanwhile, once the treacle water is heating up, take the dough out of the bowl and place on a surface sprinkled with a little flour and knead it briefly before breaking it off into small balls for you to then make into individual bagels. The best way I found to make the bagel is to place the end of a wooden spoon into the centre of the ball, which you have flattened slightly. When it pierces through the bottom of the dough, give the wooden spoon a good twist around so that a larger hole is formed. You can then reshape slightly with your hands. Place to one side until you have used up all the dough. More hands make light work at this stage!! You will need to leave the bagels to stand for 10 minutes before moving onto the next stage, however, by the time you have finished shaping your last bagel the first few you made will be ready to be boiled.

8. Place no more than 4 bagels into the boiled simmering black treacle water and turn over after 90 seconds and leave for another 90 seconds. Then drain thoroughly and place on lightly oiled baking trays that have a sprinkling of polenta on them.

9. Brush each bagel lightly with whisked egg and then cover with your choice of topping.

10. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, by which stage they will be bronzed and ready to eat. If you would like a more bronzed bagel then turn the bagel over for a few more minutes extra cooking, although I don’t think that you’ll need it.

Eat whilst still warm for the perfect bagel.

Filling ideas:

* smoked salmon and cream cheese *goats cheese and red onion *salt beef, mustard and gherkin *bacon, soft cows milk cheese, chipotle sauce and rocket * cheddar and chutney *tuna, tomatoes and capers

What’s your favourite topping and filling? Would love to hear.