We aren’t really biscuit eaters here at food to glow. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t averse to them. A Hobnob biscuit and a cup of tea is a simple pleasure that I wouldn’t say no to, if offered (hint, hint). Let’s just say we don’t have a biscuit barrel full of the things. Or indeed usually any packets of them lurking in cupboards. Mainly this is because none of us has a big sweet-tooth but also because most bought biscuits are full of things we could all do well with avoiding – trans-fats, bleached flours, multiple incarnations of sugar (including the recently-notorious-but-now-just-another-sugar high fructose corn syrup), too much salt. And then there are the so-called ‘flavourings.’ We are not saints – I would happily arm wrestle you for a bag of salt and pepper Popchips – but biscuits just aren’t our thing. Usually. Continue reading
This redder-than-red curry not only looks amazing (for a curry that is – curries not being known for their looks), but features homemade paneer cheese. Yes, homemade cheese. An easy, fail-safe cheese. How good is that?
It gets better. Well, maybe not better-better, but better for you. Not only is it pretty (-ish) and has homemade cheese, this curry is also cheap, nutritious and quite low in fat. Woo hoo! Continue reading
If today I were writing a recipe reflecting where I am at the moment, this wouldn’t be it. And despite the relative exoticism of the recipe, and therefore the geographic desirability of its origins, I am happy where I am. It is 24-hour warm, which is just about all I need in a place to be content. That and the more obvious things like good food (check), security (check), and enough money to get by (I hope). Regular readers will perhaps know where I might be, but for others, here’s a clue: Mickey Mouse. And another: Gulf of Mexico.
So, unless you think California, Shanghai, Tokyo or Paris are on the Gulf of Mexico, you will have guessed Florida. I am home visiting family, getting a needed hit of sun, not going to theme parks, reading loads, and eating. And eating some more.
At some point I will be whizzing up this spice paste to pop into my Dad’s freezer for him to use after I leave. And if we have time I will knock up the recipe that I will post next week, featuring as it does homemade paneer – ridiculously easy and fun to make. But mostly I am being taken to the many new eateries that are springing up, like enthusiastic Labradors – welcoming and eager to please.
The past few days have been spent on Anna Maria Island, a dot of a place in a string of bridge-connected barrier islands that parallel the southwest mainland cities of Sarasota and Bradenton. It is idyllic with its nearly empty bleached-white beaches, low-rise homes and condos, and lack of traffic. A resort town hiding in plain sight. This is where I was married, but even without this sentimental connection, it would be one of my favourite places on Earth. But it has come to mean family, and holds many happy memories.
Although we ate simply and by our own hand, we did discover upon leaving the island two stylish and delicious new places to eat – Poppo’s Taqueria and Anna Maria Island Donuts. Both are very small enterprises, the latter being just a young bubbly couple making all donuts up to order. I am not normally a sweet person but after our very early lunch next door of – in my case - spiced tempeh with seasoned pinto beans, brown rice, pickled red onions, guacamole, freshly made green chilli sauce, and herbs over honey-lime red cabbage – we each indulged in a bespoke freshly made donut. These were as far away from Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts as is possible to get. The donuts are freshly made with not a trace of the fat in which it is cooked; slightly crisp with a soft but not airy or doughy interior. Not sweet either, although there is of course a little sugar in the dough. It is a donut after all! My sister, who has a knowledgeable and discerning sweet tooth, said hers was the best donut she had ever had. She said they are the kind of treat worth the trip alone. I don’t want to say she has a lot of experience in donut tasting, but I trust her opinion, especially because it mirrored mine. Of the seven icing/coating options I chose caramel, and topped it with chopped peanuts and sea salt. Simple and simply delicious. We all had something different, and we did a thing my fellow non-sharers and germphobes usually abhor: we passed them around for tasting and appraisal. All anyone walking past would have heard was a symphony of satisfied mmm’s and a bit of finger licking.
Both shops are in a tiny and sympathetically designed development on Pine Avenue, light years removed from the soul-less, bland ‘strip malls’ that blight many of Florida’s highways and roads. You could just as easily cycle or walk here as drive up in a car (open-topped or full-spec SUV please), which is unusual in Florida. Impressions are that these businesses are more than thriving, which hopefully means that this area at least is heralding a new wave of confidence in the economy, and life in general. Of course I didn’t think that while I was sitting there, munching down on my spicy tempeh. I was just about happy enough watching the coolest people I have ever seen in real life stroll up and place their orders to the Chris Hemsworth lookalike. But I did just wonder: when can I have a donut?
This Week 2011: Lemon Geranium Cake
This Week 2012: Five Seed No-Knead Bread
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Entertainment by Phoenix – brilliant!
Resist the tempting ready-made spice pastes, with their preserving slicks of oil and their artery-hardening sodium levels, and make this easy, freezeable mix instead. Although rogan josh is usually a rather hot and pungent beast, please tame as required by nixing or reducing the fiery dried chillies. The resulting paste should have a good, concentrated whack of flavour and heat: it will be sweetened and tamed when other fresh ingredients are later added.
This paste is enough to serve four to six in a vegetable or vegetable and protein-based curry. To use once made, add a little oil in a medium-hot pan, karai or wok, and stir-fry a chopped onion and 400-500 grams of meat, chicken, prawns, tempeh or tofu for five minutes, followed by the paste. Add in approximately 750 grams of evenly sliced vegetables, stirring to coat. Stir-fry for a few minutes before adding 500 ml of water or coconut milk, or a combination of the two. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and bubble away until the vegetables are cooked to your taste. I like to add lemon or lime juice at the end of the cooking time, as well as chopped fresh coriander leaves. You may wish to add some salt too. Serve with steamed rice or chapati.
My next post will tell you how I use this paste to make a delicious and beautiful beetroot, tomato and homemade paneer curry.
Ingredients and Directions: Puree together 3 fat peeled garlic cloves with a thumb-sized (30g) piece of peeled gingerroot, juice of half a lemon, 1 red chilli (deseeded or not, as you wish) and 1 tsp of salt.
Roast in a hot dry pan (I use a cast iron skillet): a 5 cm piece of cinnamon stick, 4 green cardamom pods, 5 whole cloves, 1 tsp peppercorns, 2 tsp coriander seeds, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 3 birds’ eye chillies (optional – very hot). Whiz these up to a powder in a spice or coffee grinder, then mix with the pureed garlic, ginger and chilli, 2 tsp ground turmeric*, 2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp hot paprika or chilli powder (optional), ¾ tsp fenugreek powder (or roast 1 tsp of the seeds, above) and 3 heaped tbsp of concentrated tomato paste.
Use immediately or pop into a clean jar, label and store in your freezer. To use from frozen, let the paste defrost enough to loosen from the jar; use as for freshly made.
This week’s recipe is a transitional one. Much like how we will wear a poloneck jumper under a summery shift dress, or pair thick wool tights with strappy sandals (at least here in the UK), today I am using a rather S/S ingredient in a slightly A/W way. When I think of grilled polenta and beans together, my immediate thought is mmm, stew with polenta. Or mmm, a bean and polenta bake. Very wintry, very -5C. What I don’t automatically think is wouldn’t this be nice with stir-fried new season’s chard.
But chard is an early-ish, cooler-weather crop, with more than a hint of hardy wintriness about it – even when young and small of leaf. It is a robust, no nonsense kind of vegetable that stands up to rough winds, cold temps and punchy flavours like no other. I would love to persevere with more adamantly Spring dishes such as last week’s crab one, but we still need the warmth of this sort of dish, combined with the promise of what is to come. For after chard comes asparagus and watercress, then broad beans, beetroot and courgettes. And then the flashier summer crops of tomatoes, artichokes, corn and aubergines, and as many tender herbs as you can ever wish. I am already making haphazard lists and scribblings of the many spring and summer-crop recipes I want to make because, like Little Orphan Annie says, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” Crossed fingers. Continue reading
In winter many of us are happy to take a bit more time preparing meals – chopping stuff to pop into the slow cooker to enjoy later; cooking down a sulfurous pile of onions to a sweet tangle of deliciousness. But Spring, well it is the shape of things to come, with gardens to be pottered in, hills to be climbed, miles to be run (the first only for me!). After a cooped up winter we just want to be outside, not inside reducing a heavy sauce or tending to a stovetop stew. So even though the temperature is not yet playing ball, I am just going to pretend it is warm, willing on the thermometer with spring-fresh meals like this. Continue reading
The word English is in quote marks as we here in the UK don’t call this style of muffins English muffins, just muffins. It is somewhat confusing, however, because US muffins – sweet and spilling over their paper cups – are much more prevalent here than the former. But you can’t spread Marmite over American-style muffins, which is the whole point of muffins in my opinion. American muffins = sugary afternoon indulgence; English muffins = tasty vehicle for Marmite and butter. You can happily have one or two of these savoury ones for a light supper with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, or perhaps top with ripe sliced avocadoes and chopped tomatoes, plus obligatory sriracha sauce. Then you can impatiently wait until the morning to split, toast and butter the leftovers, smearing with Marmite or jam as desired. And I desire. Muchly.
This recipe is a reworking of one found in Dan Lepard’s fantastic baking book, Short and Sweet: The Best of Homebaking (UK link). Loads of his recipes have caught my eye but I made this one on the actual day I bought the book. From a real live shop! I have simplified Dan’s method, ditched his vinegar and water, and added baking powder and wholemeal flour for additional oomph. Oh, and the cheese and pepper. His original recipe is not difficult if you want to give it a go. But he wants you to leave the muffins overnight – or longer! – before you actually cook them. I’ve done the waiting thing as well as this quicker way without any real difference. You may think differently though. There are still a few rises to wait out, so this is probably a weekend bake. You could also start this the night before and do the first rise in the refrigerator, as Dan suggests. They are worth the wait, regardless of approach.
There are a few other, somewhat similar, recipes I fancy trying, including this one from Alton Brown. It sounds more like the thin, holey English muffins of my childhood. But the looser, almost pancake-like batter made to achieve this type of muffin is perhaps not so amenable to titivation. And we know how I like to titivate! Otherwise known as mess with/screw up.
Dan’s recipe is a stiffer, cuttable dough – suitable for add-ins like cheese, and more like the kind we get in our UK grocery stores, but obviously better (or at least my family thought so). I like the reassurance of cutting the dough rather than the scarier thought of wrangling a loose and wayward batter into baking rings. But I will tackle that at some point. For now the more methodical, contemplative approach suits me. Either way, pass the Marmite!
Belatedly I am popping this over to April’s One Ingredient Challenge (Cheese) hosted by Nazima of Franglais Kitchen and Laura of How To Cook Good Food. Please go over and see the other cheesey offerings, and maybe even send over one of your own. They will have a roundup with images later in the month.
Recipe adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet: The Best of Homebaking (US link)
This Week in 2011: Tuna and Crème Fraiche Pizza
This Week in 2012: Forager’s Fritters
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Tom Odell, Supposed To Be. A word: stunning
These light but sturdy savoury muffins beg to be buttered and eaten right away. But any leftovers are delicious the next day, split and toasted as per bought muffins. They may look a faff to make, but they are not in the least bit difficult to prepare. You just need a bit of time and patience. You could even make a double batch to bake and freeze for eating in the future.
Polenta/cornmeal for dusting
Put the butter, sugar and milk in a large pan and heat gently just until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add in the yogurt, salt and egg. Mix until smooth. Add in the flours, baking powder, and yeast to the buttery mix and stir well. Decant the dough onto a floured surface and stretch to a rough rectangle. Sprinkle over the cheese and pepper; fold in half. Press all over with your hands and fold again from the opposite direction, pressing well. Do this another time or until you feel the cheese is distributed evenly. Surround the dough with your hands flat out and draw your hands together underneath the dough. This will help make it a rounded shape. Pop the dough into the cleaned pan, or into a large bowl.
Cover the bowl and leave in a warm, draught-free place for one hour. It probably won’t rise very much, so don’t worry. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead it for one minute, then shape it into a rectangle about the size of a sheet of notebook paper (A4). Draw up the bottom third to the middle, then bring down the top third over the whole. It will be a third of its original size now. Cover it with a tea towel and leave for another hour to gently rise.
After the second rise sprinkle polenta or cornmeal onto a tea towel covered baking tray, and very gently roll the dough out to about 1 ½ cm, keeping a rectangular shape if you can. Cut the dough into even squares, flip each onto the polenta so that both sides are dusted, then cover again for about 2 hours. The soon-to-be muffins will rise by about half.
When the dough has risen for the final time, heat the oven to 180C/350F. (Although you will start the muffins off in a hot pan, they will be completed in the oven.) Now get a heavy skillet – preferably cast iron – and heat over a medium flame. Carefully place up to four muffins in the hot pan and cover. This allows the moisture in the muffins to create steam, which will help the muffins puff up. Check the bottoms after 2-3 minutes and flip when a good dark gold, with the polenta browned. Do the same on the other side.
Put the bottom-warmed muffins on a baking tray and place in the oven for about 10 minutes – maybe a minute or so more, if needed. Carry on with the remaining muffins in the same way. Eat fresh from the oven, with next days’ leftovers split and toasted under the grill/broiler until browned.
Hands up who has OD’ed on Easter eggs. Easter eggs that are not even your own. Most of you? Ah, thought so. You can put your hands down. Maybe not into that bag of choccy mini eggs… Continue reading