Saffron and Cinnamon Honey Served TWO ways – sweet and savoury

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Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best. A plate of freshly steamed samphire with a knob of butter, a moule mariniere with crusty bread to mop up the sauce, a mature chunk of cheddar with a crisp apple, a boiled egg dipped into cumin powder, fresh tomatoes with fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella drizzled in the finest extra-virgin olive oil, fresh asparagus dipped in butter (have you noticed there’s a butter theme going on here!). I could go on but in this day and age when many chef’s are pushing boundaries and creating new flavour sensations and wowing us with their scientific approach to the culinary arts it sometimes comes as a welcome relief to sit down and eat a meal that is not complicated and flash but is simple and truly delicious.

For those who have been following my blog for a while will know, I don’t really have a sweet tooth, well certainly not the kind to have dark chocolate cake/torte/mousse at the end of the meal. Growing up my favourite puddings were rhubarb crumble, pavlova, custard tart and anything with nuts in. Mr B on the other hand loves all the old English puds and often puts a request into my mother at around Christmas time to prepare one or two – things like jam roly poly, spotted dick, treacle pudding, tiramisu – she’s good at making all these, so I let her run with it.

Generally speaking we tend to just pick on fresh fruit at the end of the meal, which is not only delicious but also satisfying and involves no effort or preparation.

I recently came across a pudding however that immediately catapulted itself into the top league of puddings after the first mouthful. It involves 7 ingredients and can be whipped together very quickly.

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Saffron and Cinnamon Honey with Figs and Greek Yoghurt

adapted from Greek.food.com

5 figs, halved

2 large tbsp thick Greek Yoghurt per serving

2 tbsp honey

1 large pinch of saffron

1 large stick of cinnamon

40 g white sugar

300ml cold water

1. In a saucepan place the cold water, sugar, honey, cinnamon stick and saffron and stir thoroughly until the sugar has completely dissolved. Simmer gently for around 15-20 minutes. Do not over cook as the liquid will turn into a thick toffee substance, which you do not want to happen.

2. On a serving plate/bowl add a generous dollop of Greek yoghurt and place three fig halves on top of each mound of yoghurt.

3. Finally gently spoon the scented honey over the figs and yoghurt having removed the cinnamon stick first and serve.

Note: You can also gently heat the figs in the honey for a minute on both sides, however I tend to prefer them fresh with the honey drizzled on top. Try both and see which you prefer.

As you are likely to have some sweet scented honey left over the following Scandinavian influenced open sandwich works a treat with the sweetness of the honey and the saltiness of the cheese and prosciutto/parma ham.

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Open Sourdough Sandwich with Prosciutto, Cheese, Rocket, Peach and Scented Honey

Per Serving you will need:

1 slice of sour dough bread

1 slice of prosciutto

2 slices of cheese – I used Italian Taleggio La Baita above, but crumbled soft goat cheese also works really well

small handful or rocket/arugula

1/2 (half) peach

drizzle of scented honey (re above recipe)

pinch of coarse black pepper

Serve

I tend to make this open sandwich in the following order: bread, prosciutto, cheese, rocket, peach (or can be before rocket), honey and black pepper.

It makes a very satisfying lunch as the flavours compliment each other so well. For this photo shoot above I used white flat peaches but I think the sweet yellow flesh peaches would probably look more attractive on an open sandwich.

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Bengali Prawn Curry

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This Bengali prawn curry is one that was passed on to me by my mother-in-law and is, without doubt, my favourite of all prawn curries. The sweet undertones from the desiccated coconut and prawns blends superbly with the black mustard seeds and chilli powder, giving it a gently kick. I love to cook it using the king of all prawns, but it tastes equally good if you cook it using the smaller varieties as well. I do prefer to keep the tails mind you, both for appearance and because it holds the prawns together well, so if you can find prawns with shells and tails on I would always opt for those as opposed to buying the ones that have already been shelled and deveined.

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The prawns will be a greyish colour when you buy them. I bought frozen prawns and then let them defrost slowly over night in the fridge before peeling and deveining them in the morning. They remind me of the giant grilled prawns I would eat most evenings when I was staying on the shores of Lake Malawi for my honeymoon, many moons ago.

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Within seconds of being gently cooked the prawns will turn a fabulous pink and begin to curl into themselves. They only need a minute or so cooking on each side to seal them.

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The sealed prawns waiting to go into the curry sauce. The meatiness of them makes them a very satisfying and filling meal.

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Once the prawns have been added to the curry sauce let them simmer gently for a few minutes, making sure you coat the prawns sufficiently in the delicious sauce. Sprinkle ground garam masala over the prawns and give a little stir, before serving with basmati rice.

Bengali Prawn Curry

Serves 3-4

600g prawns, peeled, deveined but tails left on (I used 9 frozen super king prawns)

1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, skin removed and grated

vegetable oil

2/3 bay leaves

1 tsp black mustard seeds

25g (or 4/5 tbsp) desiccated coconut

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp chilli powder (less if you prefer it less hot)

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp salt (you may wish to add one more – taste first)

2tbsp chopped tin tomatoes

200ml boiling water

1 tsp ground garam masala

1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a fairly deep frying pan or karahi. On a low heat add the prawns, in stages if your pan is on the small side, so as to seal them. They will curl up slightly and take on a vibrant pinkish hue. After a minute or so turn them over so that both sides are sealed. Then turn them on to their backs so as the top side is also cooked. Remove from the pan and place on a plate to one side, whilst you finish cooking the remaining prawns.

2. Add a little more vegetable oil if it is running dry and keeping the oil at a low heat add the black mustard seeds. They will burst open and sizzle so make sure the oil is not too hot as they will spit! Add the bay leaves and stir with the black mustard seeds.

3. Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook gently for around 5/6 minutes until they begin to bronze in colour.

4. Add all the spices apart from the garam masala, as well as the salt and sugar.  Stir together and add the tinned chopped tomatoes.

5. Add 200ml of boiling water and add the desiccated coconut. Bring to the boil gently stiring and add the prawns. Gently cover the prawns in the sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

6. Add the ground garam masala over the prawns, give a quick stir and serve immediately.

Serve with basmati rice.


San Bei Ji – Three Cup Chicken

If you are looking for a crowd pleaser then look no further as I can guarantee you that plates will be licked clean if you serve up this dish. As well as cooking a pot for grown-ups, I made up a batch for Big A and Little Z (minus the dried chillies) and they absolutely adored it.

The dish originates from the Southern Chinese province of Jiangxi and is a speciality of Ningdu. In addition it has also become a popular dish in Taiwan. I can also guarantee it will become a firm favourite in your repertoire once you’ve tried cooking it once.

San Bei Ji literally translates as three cup chicken – the three cups being sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce. This recipe uses the trio but less liberally and the result is outstanding and quite frankly addictive.

The last part of the cooking is done in a claypot, but should you not have one to hand (or a heatproof casserole dish) simply continue cooking the final part in the pot you have been using all along. Whilst not completely authentic it will still taste equally divine.

San Bei Ji – Three Cup Chicken

Adapted from Leemi Tan’s book Lemongrass and Ginger

Serves 4 (with no leftovers!)

1.2kg boneless chicken thighs, diced into bite sized pieces

1 tsp sunflower oil

3 cm of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks

8 garlic cloves, whole and slightly crushed *

5 spring onions, cut into 5 cm pieces and thinly sliced lengthways

4 small dried chillies, chopped and seeds discarded (if you prefer it less chilli)

250ml Shaoxing rice wine

6 tbsp light soy sauce

3 tbsp sugar (whatever you have to hand)

4 tbsp sesame oil

1 handful of fresh coriander leaves

1 handful of thai basil leaves

1. Poach the chicken in boiling water for one minute to seal and then drain and keep to one side.

2. In a large pan add the sunflower oil and when it is hot add the ginger and stir fry for one minute before adding the garlic and continuing to cook for a further minute.

* to slightly crush garlic place a knife flat over the top and press down hard, allowing it to split.

3. Add the dried chillies and spring onions and continue to fry for another minute, stirring frequently. Add the chicken, rice wine, soy sauce and sugar and cover the pan and cook until the liquid has dissolved – this will take between 40-50 minutes; continue to stir occasionally.

4. Once the liquid has almost dissolved heat up a claypot/heatproof casserole dish either in an oven or if you are able to directly on the hob. Once the liquid has finally dissolved add the sesame oil and when it begins to bubble add the chicken pieces and fresh thai basil and coriander leaves and stir together for a few seconds.

5. Serve immediately so that it is sizzling hot.

Serve with boiled rice and  as a side I often eat it with steamed pak choi and some edamame beans – not particularly authentic but I find it works well.


Asian Vinaigrette

Summer is the season for salads and even a plain green salad can taste crisp and cleansing with a delicious vinaigrette or salad dressing to accompany it. My default dressing is always the typical french vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon, white wine vinegar, whole grain mustard, a little garlic and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. I fancied a change so came up with this  fresh, zingy, Asian influenced dressing, which gives a pretty standard green salad some edge – and all salads deserve to have a little ‘edge’ now again.

Its super easy and quick to prepare. If you have an old jam jar I suggest putting all the ingredients into that and then, with the lid on, giving the ingredients a good shake about to give them a thorough mix together.

Let me know what you think! My guess is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Here’s how to make it.

Asian Vinaigrette 

Serves 4-6

1 old jam jar

3 limes, squeezed

1 tsp of sesame oil

1 tsp of light soy sauce

1 tsp of nam pla fish sauce

1 to 2 tsp of white sugar

half a tsp of chilli flakes

In an old, clean jam jar squeeze three limes and then add all the ingredients. You may find that you need a little more sugar or another lime juice so be prepared perhaps to add a little more of one or two of the ingredients. I find that it does not need any salt as this is provided by the soy sauce. Shake the contents of the jar thoroughly and taste to see if the vinaigrette is to your liking.