Snap Shot of India and a delicious Indian breakfast recipe – Pongal

Happy New Year to you all. I have just returned from three glorious weeks in colourful, warm-spirited India (hence my lack of blog posts). I have seen and experienced so much that it feels that I have been away for far longer. I feel uplifted and invigorated and have returned to cold chilly London with a positive outlook and excitement for the year ahead.

If you’ve never been to India then I urge you to go. It’s incredible and, like Africa, seeps into your soul and never leaves you. It’s frenetic, chaotic and providing you leave your Western ways and customs at home, you can acclimatise to the way of life there pretty quickly. It’s crowded, intoxicating and full on, but remember to breath and relax and you will begin to enjoy everything about this magical country. I was pretty active on Instagram so if you are keen to see some of the Indian street life, food and people, then please follow me over there as well. Here are few snaps to whet your appetite.

We spent 9 days in beautiful Kolkata, visiting family and generally relaxing and seeing more of the city. Followed by a two week tour of Rajasthan. I have lots of tips and suggestions on the food front, but I am presently writing an article that I hope to get into one of the magazines or newspapers – so watch this space. The photo of ‘papri chat’ below gives you an idea of how epic the street food is in Kolkata. It is commonly thought of as the street food capital of India.

The best way to get under the skin of any city is to pound the pavements on foot and see everything up close. It’s an overload of the senses and truly engaging. In Kolkata one day, we walked 10km along the Hooghly River – a distributary of the Ganges River – and saw everything from the Mullick Ghat Flower Market, people bathing in the river, a wedding couple, the cremation ghats (I particularly wanted to show my children this, as death is dealt with in very different way in India and it is nothing to be afraid of), the district of Kumortuli Pally – Kolkata’s Potter’s community, to the Marble Palace.

Rajasthan was the second part of our trip and whilst, on paper, the trip sounded rather exhausting, it was in fact not the case. We combined culture and sights with relaxing in beautiful surroundings and meeting the local people. Staying in the Aravalli Hills, in a stunning heritage hotel in a small rural village, was a highlight. It you are planning a trip to Rajasthan, make sure you book a night or two at Rawla Narlai – where you will get to meet this fine gentleman, who I think without doubt has the best attire of any hotel staff I have ever met.

Without overloading you on my first blog post back, let me introduce the recipe that I wanted to show you today. To give you a brief back story, I was poorly for a few days with Delhi belly (not from street food but from a ‘smart’ hotel dinner). After eating next to nothing for a few days I wanted to eat comforting food that would ease me back. At our hotel in Delhi ‘pongal’ was on the breakfast menu. It’s actually a south Indian breakfast originating, I believe from Tamil Nadu. It is often referred to as ven/ghee/kara or milagu pongal but the one in the hotel simple said pongal, so I will go with that. It is made with rice and a small yellow lentil called moong dal – which you can order online from Asian Dukan in the UK. It didn’t look dreadfully appetising, but my goodness it tasted wonderful. A cross between a savoury porridge and dal – not dissimilar to Chinese congee, but in my mind – better.

I have a couple of other tasty Indian breakfast recipes on this blog – Upma  and Hoppers or Appam so thought this might be a good one to add to the list. You can make it the night before then leave it in the fridge until morning. Simply add a little boiling water to bring it back to life, and hey presto you have a deliciously subtle and tasty Indian breakfast. It’s also perfectly tasty to eat for lunch too so you can make a batch and eat it as you want over a couple of days.

 

Pongal

serves 4-6

120g basmati rice

120g yellow moong dal

900ml cold water

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)

10 approx cashew nuts

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp roughly broken up black peppercorns

1 tsp grated/chopped fresh ginger

1 stem of fresh curry leaves (Sainsburys now sell them)

1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped, optional

pinch of asafoetida/hing

pinch of turmeric powder, optional

1tsp salt, to taste

handful of freshly chopped coriander, leaves and stems

  1. This first part is optional, but it gives the dish a slightly more smokey flavour. Dry roast the dal until it begins to bronze slightly. It will take a couple of minutes, but use a wooden spoon to move it around the pan so that it does not burn. You can omit this part and simply go to 2. should you wish.
  2. Add the rice and place some water in the pan. Move the spoon around the pan then discard the water by gently pouring it out – you don’t need to use a sieve. Repeat twice and then add 900ml cold water.
  3. Leave to simmer for around 20-25 minutes, by which time the rice and dal will be soft and the water soaked up. If it becomes too dry simply add in a little more water.
  4. Using a potato masher, mash the rice and dal so that it gets broken up and more ‘mash’ like in appearance. Place to one side whilst you do the next steps.
  5. Using a frying pan, add the ghee. Once it has melted add the cashew nuts and gently move around the pan for 30 seconds before adding the cumin and mustard seeds, black pepper. They will begin to pop, so make sure that your heat is on low.
  6. Now add the fresh ginger, turmeric (optional), asafoetida, curry leaves and green chilli (optional). Move around the pan for 20 seconds or so and then add the contents of the pan into the rice and dal mixture.
  7. Move around the pan and add salt to taste. Add more water if necessary. Check to taste and heat up again if necessary. Add some freshly chopped coriander and serve.

With these cold, dark mornings we are having in the UK, what better way to start the day than with some delicate spices in a comforting bowl of Indian pongal.

More exciting Indian recipes and photos next week. Have a good weekend in the meantime.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Shakshuka and Visiting the Dead Sea area of Israel

Our final leg of our Israel trip was to visit the Dead Sea. You can do a day trip from Jerusalem, but we felt it deserved more than a passing glance, besides there was quite a lot to see in the area.

We stayed on the Ein Gedi Kibbutz, which is located on the western shore of the Dead Sea, at the edge of the Judean desert. It was founded in 1953 with its primary focus on agriculture and tourism. The kibbutz is all lush and green owing to a natural water source that runs under it, but the neighbouring area is barren and desolate. There is a hotel within the kibbutz – but we stayed in an apartment at the top of Zahava’s house, who has lived on the kibbutz, with her husband, for over 30 years.

We booked through Airbnb, so it’s easy to find if you fancy going. She and her husband were wonderful hosts, who made us feel right at home. As it was an B&B, Zahava would arrive each morning with a huge tray of delicious food that set us up for the day. We ate on the veranda before the weather got too hot, overlooking the dead sea and Masada in the distance.

As we were based on the Kibbutz we also had all the facilities available to us – pools, tennis courts, running track, supermarket, as well as a restaurant in the hotel. (Its important to note that the Ein Gedi spa by the edge of the Dead Sea – is not located in the Ein Gedi Kibbutz or hotel, but nearby) One evening we also ate in the kibbutz part of the complex, which you would not be able to do if you were simply staying in the hotel. The calm rhythm of the kibbutz dictated out days. In the morning we would head out and explore and then come back and relax in the afternoon before a late afternoon hike in a wadi. The kibbutz is within the En Gedi Nature Reserve, where there are some truly phenomenal hikes.

It’s super hot here as it is the lowest part of the earth, so as well as carrying a lot of water, I also carry an umbrella and wear a swimming costume so that I can soak in every waterfall and pool we pass. Walking in 40 degrees, requires soaking in cold water as often as possible.

The wildlife is also pretty special here. There are a some venomous snakes – I only saw one at night on the perimeter of the Kibbutz, so it’s advisable to wear covered shoes when you are on the hikes.

We also saw lots of Nubian ibex – desert dwelling goats – clambering around precariously upon the slopes of the wadi. You need to be aware of sudden rock fall if they are climbing above you.

Historically the area is fascinating with huge swaths of tourists visiting spectacular Masada. Herod the Great built a large fortress on the plateau as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. He erected two palaces there between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Jewish Roman historian – Josephus, the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, ended in the mass suicide of 960 people (the Sicarii rebels and their families) hiding there.

The fortress is huge and had impressive ways of redirecting and saving fresh water at the fort, along with swimming pools, cold pools and spas. The mosaics found by archeologist are beautifully intact.

To reach this city you can either take the snake path before sunrise or else use the cable car. It’s one of Israel’s most popular sights but as we were in one of the first cable cars of the morning we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

The other great magnet of the area is the Dead Sea itself due to its medicinal qualities. Sadly the sea has dramatically shrunk in recent years causing great concern. You can read more about this here.

When you go to the Ein Gedi spa you now have to get on a little train pulled by a tractor from the spa to the waters edge. In the 1980’s the water was right up by the spa itself.  Despite the notion that it is impossible to drown in the dead sea, this is a myth and there have been cases of people drowning. You need to keep on your back, not your front, and don’t attempt to swim.

Due to the high salinity, the water feels very heavy, kind of like bathing in salty olive oil,  so if you are on your front you can find it hard to turn on your back. It feels oily and you want to make sure you don’t get any water in your eyes or mouths. Thankfully the showers are in on the edge of the sea so that you can immediately wash the salty water off you as you get out. The medical qualities of the dead sea mud are also well known so make sure you slather yourself in mud (this is back at the spa itself) and then wait for it to dry before showering if off. Your skin will be glowing and you will be feeling pretty radiant.

The other must-see in the area is over in the West Bank – The Dead Sea Scrolls or the Qumran Cave Scrolls. It’s about 30 minutes from Ein Gedi Reserve and a good place to stop on your way back to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. There is an interesting museum there and you can hike all over the area, although those we saw hiking here had ropes and proper equipment so perhaps only for serious climbers.  The scrolls, which are ancient religious writings, were found by a shepherd in the 1940’s in 11 caves near the site of Qumram. You can see some of the caves in the photograph above.

 

I am going to leave you with a classic Israeli dish that is found throughout the Levant. Shakshuka is a delicious breakfast dish – although of course you can eat it at any time of day. It is basically poached eggs in a spiced tomato sauce with crumbled feta and parsley or coriander sprinkled on top. Everyone has their version but this is mine. It’s a big hit in my house and is super straight forward and easy to execute. Perfect for a filling breakfast before school/work as it takes 15 minutes to make from start to finish.

Shakshuka

serves 4-5

2 tbsp oil

1 white onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 sweet red pepper (these are the long ones, but bell peppers are also good), sliced lengthways and then finely sliced crossways

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp smoked paprika powder

1 tsp salt

1x 400g tin of plum tomatoes, chopped in the pan

3 large fresh tomatoes, finely diced

50ml water

4 eggs (or 5/6 depending on how many you are feeding)

To serve

1 handful of crumbles feta

1 handful of fresh coriander

 

  1. Heat a deep frying pan and add the oil.
  2. When hot, add the onions followed by the garlic and gently heat. After a couple of minutes, add the pepper, salt and spices. Move around the pan to soften for a further couple of minutes.
  3. Add both the tinned and fresh tomatoes and stir in well.
  4. Add the water and simmer to allow all the ingredients to soften and infuse. Leave for 8 minutes so that it thickens.
  5. Make a hole in the mixture and break an egg into this hole. Repeat, leaving a good gap between each egg.
  6. Place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer on a moderate-low heat for 3-5 minutes, by which time the eggs should be cooked but still soft. Leave for longer and increase the heat if they have not cooked sufficiently.
  7. Just before serving, scatter the feta cheese and fresh coriander. Spoon onto plates with some flatbread or sourdough to mop.

 

 

 

 

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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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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 tasty breakfast treat – spiced semolina (Upma)

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Semolina and I did not start out on a good footing.

For a few years when I was young I attended a convent – not as a nun, but as a pupil, and the nuns had a habit of being very strict. You had to eat every morsel on your plate and were not allowed to leave the table until your plate was clean.

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The food in the early 80’s was not something you would particularly blog about and the puddings that were dished up to us were well, how can I put this politely, not that appetising. The gruel that I particularly disliked was sloppy semolina with a dollop of sweet jam. I found it so hard to eat that on one occasion after the dining hall had emptied and I was sitting all alone and the minutes were ticking by I decided that when Sister was not looking I would deposit the contents of my bowl into my pocket. I did it like a stealth ninja and no one found out, other than my mother, who is such a sweetie she didn’t seem to make much of a fuss.

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Fast forward 34 years and I now love semolina – but only if I eat it the savoury way. In India a hugely popular breakfast snack is spiced semolina known as ‘Upma’. It is so quick and easy to put together it takes minutes to create a really warming bowl of goodness. I eat it at any time of day in all honesty – breakfast, snack, lunch, supper – you name it, it is super versatile. You can also add whatever vegetables need to be used up in the fridge, so it’s a win win in my book.

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Spiced Savoury Semolina – Upma

Serves 2-3 (or for 4 if eating as a snack)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

12 fresh curry leaves

1 fresh green chilli finely chopped

1 banana shallot or small onion, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

20g fresh ginger, finely grated

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 carrot, finely cubed

60g green beans chopped in half

40g red peanuts

150g course semolina (sooji)

275ml water

  1. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and fresh chilli. The mustard seeds will begin to splatter after 20-30 seconds so then add the shallot/onion and salt and lower the heat. Allow the shallot to soften for around 5 minutes.
  2. Add the fresh ginger and turmeric and stir gently.
  3. Now add the carrot and beans or another vegetable that needs using up along with the red peanuts.  After 1 minute add the water and leave to simmer for up to 5 minutes or when the vegetables have softened.
  4. Add the semolina gradually and stir constantly so that it does not clump together too much. Once it has soaked up the water – you can add a little more water if needed at this stage – place a lid on the pan and switch off the heat so that it can steam for a few minutes before serving.

 

 


Vietnamese Pancakes – Bahn Xeo

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Savoury food for breakfast has always been my kind of thing. Other than the pain au chocolat craving I had when I was pregnant with my first, savoury food has always been my go to breakfast choice. As such Asian food in general is my idea of heaven. Curry for breakfast, a bowl of hot steaming Vietnamese pho or Vietnamese Bahn Xeo (Vietnamese pancakes), and I am in culinary nirvana. These kind of foods I could eat all day so I am not necessarily suggesting you start cooking Vietnamese pancakes before the school/office run but having the recipe in mind when you want to try something new at any time of day.

 

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Banh Xeo (pronounced Ban say-oh – see video below if you want to sound like a pro) are thin crisp pancakes made with rice flour, coconut milk (or beer in fact), turmeric, and water. Traditionally they are filled with both pork (thinly cut pork belly strips) and prawns, but for mine I have omitted the pork and used just prawns. If you are vegetarian you could equally use some fried tofu, which would taste really good. Xeo actually means ‘sizzling’ in Vietnamese and it is this sound that you want to hear when the pancakes are crisping up. They are also known as ‘happy pancakes’ and you’ll see why after you have tasted your first mouthful.

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I pick up my rice flour from my local Asian supermarket or you can easily buy it online, it’s also only a matter of time before the bigger supermarkets will start stocking it too. I rather love the packaging of the one that I use – it’s got happy flour written all over it!

 

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The turmeric gives the lovely bright yellow hue to the pancakes and I also put in coconut milk. Some central parts of Vietnam do not use coconut milk and instead opt for beer to give the pancakes an extra crispiness, but I personally love the coconut taste to the pancakes.

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Now eating the crispy pancakes can be done in a couple of ways. You can either simply use a knife and fork and eat it like that, or in Vietnam you are often provided with a spoon and large lettuce leaves along with fresh herbs such as coriander and mint. You break off a little of the pancake …..like so

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and then place it on the lettuce leaf, along with the herbs …..

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and then roll it so you are able to pick it up and dip it in your nuoc cham dipping sauce. Easy hey. I cannot stress how delicious this is, so much so that I am craving more of these writing this post. Seriously seek out rice flour and give these a shot – I promise you you won’t regret it.

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Vietnamese Pancakes – Bahn Xeo

Serves 4

Pancake batter

175g rice flour

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

pinch of salt

250ml coconut milk

150ml cold water

*******

1 tsp coconut/groundnut oil (to go into the pan for each pancake made)

 for the filling

200g king prawns, shelled and deveined

4 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal

125g beansprouts

a handful (per person) of mixed herbs: coriander, mint, thai sweet basil

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

2 tbsp rice vinegar

5 tbsp fish sauce

2 small red chillies, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp caster sugar

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

200ml cold water

1 lime, juice only (optional)

1. First you want to make the batter. Mix all the ingredients together with a whisk so that the mixture is smooth and not too thick in consistency. You want to make it a similar consistency as if you were cooking regular European pancakes. Place to one side to rest ideally for at least 30 minutes.

2. To prepare the nuoc cham dipping sauce place the garlic and chilli in a bowl followed by the water, sugar, fish sauce, vinegar and lime (if using). Stir well so that the sugar dissolves. Place to one side.

3. Next prepare the filling. Place a small amount of coconut oil in a pan and cook the prawns on a medium low heat for 3 minutes, turning and stirring as you do so. Once they have become pinker in colour, transfer them to a plate.

4. Heat a large non stick skillet or frying pan and when it is hot add 1 tsp of coconut oil (or ground nut oil) and then ladle in one spoonful of the pancake mixture. Move it around the pan immediately so that it is completely covered. Lower the heat and let it cook for 3 minutes.

5. Place some beansprouts over one half of the pancake, along with some spring onions and place a lid on the pan for a further 2 minutes.

6. Now remove the lid and place the prawns on top of the beansprouts and spring onions. Cook for one more minute checking to see that the underside of the pancake is beginning to bronze slightly and crisp up. Place some fresh coriander, mint, Thai basil on top of the prawns and then fold one half of the pancake over the other. Leave to cook for 20 more seconds and then place on a serving plate with more fresh herbs and some lettuce.

To Serve:

Serve immediately when it is hot. Cut a bit sized portion off the pancake and place on a lettuce leaf. Add a few more herbs and then roll so that you can pick it up and dip it into the nuoc cham dipping sauce.

The video below shows you how to eat it.


Indian Eggy Toast

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If you ever feel a little lethargic/hungover/sleepy (delete as appropriate), in the mornings, my Indian take on French toast will sharpen up your senses and give you that necessary skip in your step to take on the day ahead. Drinking coffee has never rocked my boat, although I do love the smell of freshly ground coffee and would so love to love drinking it, however, I find that a burst of chilli for breakfast – yes for breakfast – does awaken the endorphins rather well.

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I also thought that it may give you some ideas on what to feed the masses if you have a number of guests staying over for Christmas. We often decamp down to my parents for part of the Christmas break and as there is ten of us we all help with the share of the cooking. This recipe is so quick that by the time someone else has laid the table you have already made a pile of these delicious beauties ready for the taking. It’s quick to rustle up more should they be a hit so its a win win – stress free and super quick.

I have added two chillies below, but by all means add only one if you want a more subtle approach

Indian Eggy Toast

produces 6/7 toasts

2 tbsp of vegetable oil

sourdough bread, sliced

4 eggs

2 chillies, finely chopped (1 if you prefer it less hot)

a small handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 tomato, finely chopped

pinch of rock salt

optional: 1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated

1. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and then add the chilli, fresh coriander, tomato, rock salt and fresh ginger (if using).

2. Slice the sourdough bread and then soak the bread in the egg mixture on both sides.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and when it is hot place the soaked sourdough into the pan. Leave to bronze on one side for a couple of minutes before turning for a further couple of minutes on the other side.

4. Serve immediately with some Sriracha chilli sauce or my chipotle sauce if you have some already made up. Both work a treat.


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.


Mary’s Granola Bars

Mary McCartney has been gracing the pages recently of certain magazines here in the UK, namely The Saturday FT Magazine (April 21st 2012) and the June issue of ‘Red’ Magazine. Known for her talent behind the camera it was a revelation, albeit a positive one, that she has just produced a cook book called ‘Food‘ that she wrote and photographed. For those who are unaware, the McCartney clan are passionate vegetarians and Mary has clearly channelled her love of all things vegetarian into her own tome. Between the two magazines I now have just under 20 of her recipes, which should appeal to a wide audience in that they look straight forward to execute and appetising enough to warrant an attempt at making.

I thought that I would follow her take on the granola bar, which to all intense and purpose is a glorified healthy flapjack right? I am always thinking of little snacks to feed Big A and Little Z when I collect Big A from school, so thought Mary’s granola bar idea would be perfect to give them to fill the gap before supper.  I am also a huge fan of agave syrup, (which I also used in this recipe) which was right at the top of her ingredients list.

The recipe is so incredibly easy that it would be perfect for Big A (whose 6) to cook on her own, with a little overseeing from Mama of course! I followed the recipe religiously, but I think I will get creative next time and change some of the ingredients around. For example I think the bars would also be delicious with pecan nuts, hazelnuts, dates, dried cranberries, coconut. If you get carried away with some new ingredients that work do let me know and maybe next time I’ll follow your suggestion.

Granola Bars

Sourced from Mary McCartney’s recipes in The Saturday FT Magazine, April 21st 2012

Makes 12-14 slices

200ml agave syrup

50g butter

4 tbs vegetable oil

1/4 ground cinnamon

1 tbs vanilla extract

200g porridge oats

80g cornflakes

100g almonds, coarsely chopped

100g dried apricots, coarsely chopped

100g raisins or sultanas

2 tbs sunflower seeds

2 tbs pumpkin seeds

 1. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. I used a 25cm x 25cm tray. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Heat the agave syrup in a pan for a few minutes and then add the  vegetable oil and butter. Take it off as the butter melts.

3. Add all the ingredients to the syrup mixture and gently fold in together so that all the ingredients are evenly covered in the syrup.

4. Transfer the contents of the pan to the baking tray and firmly press down evenly.

5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

6. Take tray out of oven and leave to cool. When it is cool, cut the granola into square, rectangles – whatever shape takes your fancy! The baking parchment will come away easily once the granola has cooled.

7. Store in an air tight container.