Archive | December, 2013

Apple, Lychee and blackberry (coconut)crumble with rose, cinnamon, cardamon and star anise

6 Dec

Spiced Apple, Lychee and blackberry crumble
I watched the entire 30odd minutes of kangaroo Dundee today. What is wrong with me? I watched a whole programme about a tall and strong looking fellow rescuing and nursing baby kangaroos, becoming their mother

It did get me thinking about comfort though. The primitive need. My boy fell over at playgroup whilst playing away from me and he walked around searching from me in cries that escalated in volume until he found me.

No matter where I am in the world, I always crave okra curry and hot chapatti with yoghurt after a few days. Why does it feel so easy, warm and calm to wake up next to someone you love each day. Remember the feeling of laying your head in your mothers lap and having your hair stroked, or sitting on the lap of your mum or dad in a crowd, the safe place. Maybe the smell of chips is comforting because it was a regular treat, a common feature in the winter take-away suggestions on a Friday or on blustery days by the seaside, laughing with loved ones. Or remember that time when we escaped from arguing relatives, hit the road and ended up at the seaside, in the dark in a bank holiday with nothing to eat, but chips.

Maybe the reason I keep Bollywood serials running in the background is because it feels like someone is there, maybe the sounds are familiar in a way that other shows aren’t or maybe there transport me to times when I actually watched a movie without gadgets for distraction. It’s comforting. Perhaps kadhi is cajoling because its what I’ve always eaten with khichdi when I’ve been sick. Growing up my mum would persuade me to go to the temple with her, she said she got some peace of mind at the temple. I never understood it, until I grew up.

My next recipe offers me comfort. My uncle has become old and frail, but memories of him are younger, still very mature and active. His garden was well tended back in the day. I loved walking along the oaths that were lined with unusual flowers, lots of them. I would head straight for the back of the garden, where a swing hung from an enormous tree. I’d swing and avoid kicking apples. I knew my dad would be carrying them home for apple pie.

Nowadays I give this recipe an exotic and spiced twist. The juices burst through the top of the crumble and make I could drink it. It’s really good, try it.

Ingredients
3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I used Bramley apples)
150g Blackberries
150g lychees, stoned and halved
120g sugar
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
50ml rose water
A generous knob of butter

For the crumble topping
150g plain flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter
75g dedicated coconut

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180degrees
2. Make the crumble topping first, by combining the sugar and the flour, then rubbing in the butter gently, to make a bread-crumb like texture. Then add the desiccated coconut. When it’s ready, put it in the fridge until the topping is needed.image
3. Turn your attention to the fruit, by heating and melting the butter in a pan and adding the Apples and sugar. Crisp the apples up for 3-4 minutes before stirring in the cinnamon, rose water, cardamom, and star anise. Turn off the heat and add the blackberries and lychees
4. Turn the fruit into an oven-proof dish and spread the crumble topping over the fruit, evenlyimage
Bake the crumble in the oven for approximately 20-25minutes before serving…ideally hot!

Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter

4 Dec

Christmas starters and sides-Goats cheese pakora in a spinach, sundried tomato, fennel, cumin and gram flour batter

They say you become like the people you surround yourself with.

Makes sense, doesn’t it. I mean I’m not talking about people who like to knit or read a particular genre of book. I’m talking about the energy within people. If you surround yourself with people who good-hearted, loving, supportive people who dream lovely things and smile and speak kind and generous words…that is what you’ll become. No ifs, buts, it’ll never work and life is rubbish because..

In this respect, I am blessed. My husband counts his blessings each morning and plays with my boy without checking his phone or looking at a tablet. He thinks that impossible is nothing. My parents taught me to dream and just be a kind and brave person. My brother will always listen and tell me to dust myself out, drop the negative and keep walking. My best friend cheers me on to just be happy in the day and smile for no reason. It’s also been true in the virtual world too.

Sarah from Brockhall farm makes cheese. She’s a witty, warm and utterly encouraging words to share with me for years now and my next recipe popped into my head during a twitter conversation with Sarah. It started with goats cheese, then onto Sarah’s favourite ingredient of chickpeas (chickpea flour in this recipe) spinach and tomatoes. Plus it’s Christmas and I feel like I can eat go no indulge again. So here we have it, a pakora that is goats cheese in a crisp and fluffy batter case of gram flour, spinach, sun-dried tomato and spices of fennel and cumin seeds. I’m really excited by this one. It’s really quite special. When they are warm, the goats cheese is oozy and juicy and the case is fluffy, flecked with green spinach and sweet sun-dried tomatoes…does it get any better?

I can imagine these would be great as a starter or a side at any party table. Serve hot!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

250g goats cheese (not soft) rolls
200g gram flour
120g sundried tomatoes, coarsely ground or chopped
150g spinach turned into a corse purée
Salt to taste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
300ml water
Oil for deep-frying
Chilli powder to taste
1/4 tsp turmeric

Method
1. Heat the oil for frying.
2. Whilst the oil is heating, make the batter by mixing the dry ingredients of gram flour, salt, turmeric, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and chilli powder. Mix it through.image
3. Add the spinach, sundried tomato and water and mix it all into an even and thick batter.
4. Check the oil is hot by dropping a small amount of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and rises then the oil is ready.
5. Cut the goats cheese into circles of around 1.5 cm thickness and gently dip them into the batter and coat them well. Be generous. Quickly drop them into the oil and fry them until they are golden brown.
6. Remove the pakora onto kitchen paper and serve hot with chutneys.

This week I would like to link this to Mark of Javelin Warrior’s Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays,

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

2 Dec

Christmas curry? Malaysian inspired curry of Brussels sprouts, tofu and potatoes

On Christmas Day, one of the things I most enjoy eating is a good, crisp, roasted potato that is a fluffy and moist cloud on the inside. The subtle sweetness just takes me away to a land between the chippie of my childhood and a really good gastro pub that makes juicy and delicious vegetable sausages with steaming hot onion gravy.
I think I kind of enjoy the roastie banter too. My dad thinks he makes the best ones though, naturally. He does this funny thing of squashing them just before they are ready.

The sprouts though. Some of us love them (like me) and some won’t even give them a friendly prod at Christmas. As a result, we always have loads of them knocking around in the bottom drawer of the fridge. I love the Brussel sprout with its many layers, pretty like a flower. I love that they are silky, they soak up juices between those layers and I love that they are in season.

This curry is one of those that warms the tummy and keeps it flickering and teases the taste buds. It’s a glowing bowl of aroma and an utterly balanced dish for the senses. It looks mor complicated than it is…once you’ve made the curry paste, it’s very, very straightforward. What you get is a heat, sweetness and zing. You get the perfumes from star anise, kaffir lime leaves and some wonderful lemongrass. The great thing is that the potatoes, Brussel sprouts and tofu soak up all these juices.

It’s a Malaysian inspired dish. There are so many varieties of a Malaysian curry, even the term Laksa refers to plentiful variety. This is my way…give it a go.

Ingredients

One pack of firm tofu, drained and cubed into 3cm chunks
3 tbsp ground nut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
2 medium potatoes, cut into 3-4cm chunks
200g Brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 can of coconut milk
2-3 kafir lime leaves
300ml water
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Salt to taste
1 tbsp lime juice

For the paste

5-6 small shallots
2 red chilies
1.5 inch galangal
2 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of lemongrass
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground nut oil

Method

1. Shallow fry the tofu in 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick pan until they are lightly golden. Remove onto kitchen paper.
2. Make a paste by grinding together the ingredients for the paste, it should be smooth.
3. Heat 2tbsp oil in a pan and add the cumin, coriander, star anise cinnamon and lime leaves and heat through for a minute.
4. Stir in the curry paste and on a low flame, cook for 4-5minutes until the oil is absorbed into the paste.
5. Introduce the potatoes, sprouts and tofu and mix gently.
6. Add the coconut milk and water as well as the lime juice.

Serve hot with rice.

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