Friday, April 29, 2011

Recipe: Celebratory Crumpets

These take a long time to prepare and cook, but they are well worth the effort if you happen to have an afternoon free (on a Royal Wedding bank holiday, say...). Patience pays off-they are larger than shop bought ones and have a softer, more squidgy texture. Delicious spread with a little butter and a cup of tea.

Makes 10- 15 crumpets


-225g plain flour
-225g strong plain flour
-300ml milk, mixed with
-300ml water
-2 tbsp sunflower oil
-1 tsp sugar
-2tsp dried yeast
-1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
-100ml warm water

You will need at least two crumpet rings, 7.5 - 10cm wide x 2.5cm. The more you have the quicker it is to cook these. Four would be ideal.

1. Preheat the oven to 50C. Sift the flours and salt into a large, warm bowl, cover and warm in the oven for 10 minutes.

2. Gently warm the milk (mixed with water), oil, and sugar then stir in the yeast. The mixture needs to be luke warm - it should not be too hot or the yeast won't work. When the mixture has become frothy, remove the flour from the oven and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture and stir well. Beat for 5 minutes (I did this in a mixer). Then cover and leave in a warm place to rise for 2 hours.

3. Mix the bicarb with the warm water and stir into the batter. Beat for a further two minutes then leave for another hour.

4. Grease a large heavy based frying pan and the crumpet rings with sunflower oil. Put the pan on a medium heat and place the rings in the pan.

Ladel in the batter, filling the rings to just over half full. Leave for around 10 minutes- air will rise to the surface and leave holes. When the crumpet is cooked through the surface will be dry and covered with holes.

Carefully remove them from the rings (you may need the help of a knife), flip, and cook for a further 2 minutes on the other side.

5. Best served whilst hot, but they can be kept and toasted.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Recipe: Aromatic Vietnamese Curry with Tofu

This recipe is inspired by a dish I had in a Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin recently. The dish was called An-Do curry and the restaurant was Monsieur Vuong . This is my attempt to recreate it!

Serves 2


-2 servings of basmati rice


-1 tin coconut milk, plus same quantity again of water
-2 kaffir lime leaves
-1 lemongrass stick
-1/2 tsp ground coriander
-1 tsp soy sauce
-2 cloves garlic, chopped
-1 cm chunk of fresh ginger, chopped
-1/2 tsp black onion seeds


-50g natural peanuts (unsalted)
-1 carrot, peeled and grated
-2 spring onions, chopped
-1 red chilli, chopped
-handful of fresh coriander, chopped
-150g beansprouts

-200g natural tofu, drained and cut into cubes (tip: place the tofu in kitchen paper then under heavy books/ pan for 30 minutes to squeeze out excess water)
Sunflower oil for frying
-2 tbsp cornflour

1. Toast the peanuts in a dry pan until slightly blackened. Put to one side.

2. For the sauce, bash the lemongrass with a rolling pin (to release flavour- it's not just for fun!) then put all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer/ reduce for 20 minutes.

3. Heat 1cm of oil in a frying pan. Sprinkle the cornflour over the tofu then fry for 2 - 3 minutes or until crispy, turning once or twice in the oil. Keep warm in the oven on a low heat.

4. Flash fry the beansprouts on a high heat for 2-3 minutes.
5. To assemble the dish, first put a serving of rice in the bottom of a large bowl and ladel over half of the sauce (remove lemongrass and lime leaves first). Then add the tofu pieces, carrot and sprinkle over the peanuts, spring onions, chilli and coriander.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Fondants with Chilli and Cardamom

These are very gooey chocolate puddings with a hint of spice. Not to be eaten everyday but YUM

Serves 2


-70g butter, plus extra for greasing
-12g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
-100g good quality dark chocolate (70%), chopped
-1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
-100g caster sugar
-1/2 tsp ground cardamom
-1/2 tsp ground chilli flakes

1. Grease two metal pudding moulds (175ml) with butter and dust with flour, shaking off any excess.

2. Gently melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water ensuring the bowl doesn't touch the water. Stir until smooth and allow to cool slightly.
3. Using an electric whisk, beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until the mixture becomes pale and thick (around 5 minutes on a high setting).
4. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar, then sift in the flour and fold in along with the cardamom and chilli.
5. Divide the mixture into the prepared moulds and chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 180C.
6. Place the puddings on a baking tray and bake for around 15 minutes- or until the outside of the puddings are cooked but the inside still feels squidgy.

7. Leave to cool for 2 minutes before carefully turning out onto a plate. Serve with ice cream.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Recipe: Carrot, Leek, Feta and Mint Filo Parcels

Makes 6-8 large parcels or lots of mini ones


-10 sheets filo pastry
-100g melted butter
-4-5 carrots, diced and cooked
-100g feta cheese, diced
-1 leek, sliced
-5-6 large leaves of fresh mint, chopped
-Sunflower oil

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. Soften the chopped leek in a little oil then mix with the carrots, feta, mint and seasoning in a bowl.

3. Take a sheet of filo pastry and brush with some melted butter. Keep the rest of the filo sheets under a damp teatowel to prevent them drying out.
4. Fold the sheet in half lengthways and spoon some of the carrot mixture onto the top corner.

5. Fold this over at 90 to create a triangle shape. Brush the edges with some of the melted butter and repeat this process keeping to a 90 angle until you get to the end of the sheet. You should now have a nice triangle filo parcel. Brush the top with some butter and put on a baking tray whilst you finish the rest.

6. To make smaller triangles, lay out a sheet of filo pastry, fold in half lengthways, then cut in half. Then follow the same folding process.

7. Bake the triangles for 20 minutes or until golden. These can be served hot or cold.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Recipe: Spiced Aubergine Filo Tart


-5 sheets of filo pastry
-1 aubergine, in 2cm cubes
-1 onion, sliced
-A handful of chestnut mushrooms, quartered
-1 clove garlic, sliced
-200ml passata (or tinned chopped tomatoes)
-2 tsp Za'atar (Middle Eastern spice mix made of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac)
-1 tsp cumin seeds
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp chilli flakes
-1 egg
-100g grated cheese
-1 small pot natural yoghurt
-Olive Oil

1. Preheat the oven to 200C, grease a 23cm tin.
2. Gently fry the aubergine cubes in some olive oil in a covered pan until soft (around 10 minutes). Meanwhile fry the onion and mushrooms in some olive oil with the chili and spices. Add the garlic, fry for one minute more then add the aubergines and passata and season to taste. Reduce for a few minutes.
3. Whisk the egg, yogurt and grated cheese together. Season.
4. Line the tin with the filo sheets, one by one at angles (like a star shape) and brushing each with olive oil. Fill with the aubergine mixture then top with the cheese custard.Cut off any excess pastry.

5. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve with salad.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Pumpernickel is a dark, slightly sweet, rye bread from the Westphalia region of Germany. It is made by boiling rye for a few hours then forming a dough, baking it in rectangular tins, and then steaming it for 16 - 24 hours. This drawn out process it what makes the rye caramelise.

It's exact origins are unknown, but there are three popular legends associated with it:

1. In Osnabruck, the story goes that during a famine in 1450, local officials ordered a special bread to be baked for the poor. The bread was named bonum paniculum, meaning "good bread." Since the people didn't understand Latin, they pronounced it "Bompernickel," then over time it became known as "Pumpernickel."

2. Another story places a Frenchman at the origin of the name Pumpernickel. According to some, a French cavalry soldier at the period of the Napoleonic invasions of Germany, early in the 19th century, found himself unable to forage anything but the heavy black bread found in Westphalia. He exclaimed in disgust that it was only good for his horse, Nicole - "bon pour Nicole". The phase stuck, the locals pronouncing it with a German accent, and in time it became "pumpernickel."

3. The third theory could put you off your Pumpernickel.... "Nickel" was the shortened version of the name for Nikolaus. "Pumper" was the word for flatulence (gas). So, putting the words together, the word Pumpernickel meant Nikolaus' gas.

Anyway, I came across some in a shop today and used it to make my lunch tomorrow. My pumpernickel filling of choice is cream cheese and gherkin.

The great thing about pumpernickel is it is also the perfect size for a lunch box!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Recipe: Leek, Vintage Cheddar and Sage Tartlets

These are great as part of an afternoon tea or for a picnic.

Makes 12 tartlets


-150g crème fraîche
-3 leeks, washed and sliced
-100g vintage cheddar, cut into in small cubes
-2 eggs
-12 sage leaves
-sunflower oil

-200g flour
-50g butter, in cubes
-50g margarine, in cubes

1. Preheat the oven to 180c. To make the pastry put the flour, butter and margarine into a food processor with the salt and whizz until you have a fine breadcrumb texture. Add a few drops of water until the mixture starts to come together. Roll out and cut out 9 - 10 diameter rounds. Use this to fill a greased 12 hole muffin tin. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile make the filling. Sweat the leeks in some oil for 10 minutes or until soft, season. In a separate pan heat up some sunflower oil and fry the sage leaves 2 or 3 at a time until crisp. Set aside. In a bowl whisk the eggs and crème fraîche together and season.
3. Divide the leeks between the pastry cases and pour in some of the egg mixture in each. Top with cubes of cheddar and a crispy sage leaf.
4. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until cooked through and golden.

Recipe: Crazy two-tier Carrot Cake


-500g self-raising flour
-3 teaspoons baking powder
-300g soft brown sugar
-100g sultanas
-50g chopped walnuts
-75g dessicated coconut
-400g carrots, grated
-300ml vegetable or sunflower oil
-4 medium eggs, lightly beaten

-200g icing sugar
-75g dessicated coconut
-70g unsalted butter, softened
-300g cream cheese
-Zest of a small orange

1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and stir in the soft brown sugar. Add the sultanas, coconut, walnuts, and grated carrots. Beat the oil and eggs together and add to the bowl. Combine with either a wooden spoon or an electric mixer.
2. Spoon the mixture into two greased and lined 20cm cake tins and bake in an oven preheated to 160°C/Gas Mark 3 for 1–1 1/4 hours, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
3. To make the icing, combine all ingredients together to create a smooth paste. This is best done in a food mixer.
4. Place one cake flat side down on a cake stand. Spoon half of the icing mixture on top and spread evenly over the cake surface. Place the second cake on top and press down. Spread the remainder of the icing over the top and decorate as you wish (I used raisins!).

Serve with lots of tea.

Afternoon Tea : Leek and Sage Tartlets and Crazy Carrot Cake

Today we had a Mother's Day afternoon tea. My two-tier carrot cake ended up being much larger than I had anticipated! Luckily everything else was in smaller dimensions (tartlets, finger sandwiches) so it seemed less daunting.

The spread:

Leek, vintage Cheddar and Sage Tartlets
Finger sandwiches: Cream Cheese & Cucumber, Cheddar & Chutney, Ham & Mustard


Crazy Carrot Cake with Coconut Frosting


Earl Grey Tea

Recipes for the tartlets and cake to follow.... the cake is actually very easy to make!