Pani Puri

This is my first tentative foray into Indian food. Well, that’s not quite true; in December, I was seen to throw the entire chicken curry that I had attempted down the waste disposal – it was THAT bad. I knew I needed help and have since spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with my lovely friend, Bina, who patiently took me through several delectable dishes, which we then enjoyed over dinner. A popular street food, Pani Puri is what we enjoyed to start with and it was delicious! Puris are little crispy puffed up ‘balls’ made from wheat semolina. They don’t taste of too much until you stuff them up with this lovely filling and a choice of spicy and tangy chutneys. Topped with Sev Mamra (spicy puffed rice), these are quite delicious: the crispy shell of the puris breaks open to reveal the gently spiced filling, the kick and tanginess of the different chutneys and the cooling freshness of the coriander – a really lovely alternative to canapés and great fun, because the best bit is that you put all the elements on the table, letting friends and family assemble their own puris. My scribbled notes, taken on my afternoon with Bina, are perhaps not as accurate as they could be but John and I thoroughly enjoyed my efforts!

Makes 10

What you need…

 10 x Pani Puri (they come in boxes of 40+ from Indian supermarkets and last for ages)

1 jar ready-made green chilli chutney

1 jar ready-made date tamarind chutney

Sev Mamra (available in different sized bags – you can enjoy whatever is left over simply as a snack on its own – very moreish!)

for the filling…

2 red potatoes, chopped small

Splash rapeseed oil

2 Indian or small red onions, chopped small

2 teaspoons coriander/cumin powder (Dhana Jeerer)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

200g tinned brown chick peas (Kala Chana), strained and rinsed

Handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Using your finger, tap out a hole in the top of each of the pani puri – it’s not too important how big, just large enough to get the filling into! Pop them on a serving plate and onto the table where you’ll be eating.

Tip the potatoes into a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and then simmer until soft. Strain through a sieve.

Dry the pan and add the rapeseed oil. Over a moderate heat, fry the onions and all of the dried spices and cook 5 minutes. If the mixture gets too dry, splash in a little water, just to keep the mixture moist.

Stir in the potatoes and chick peas and warm through. Chuck in a couple of teaspoons of chopped coriander, setting the rest aside until you’re ready to eat. And that’s your filling made!

In 4 pretty little serving bowls, spoon out some of each of the chutneys, the coriander and the sev mamra. In a larger bowl, serve the warm filling. Add the bowls to the table next to the pani puri. Equip everyone with plate and teaspoons and watch your guests’ delighted faces as they create their own starter or canapés, popping a little filling into the bottom and then topping with each of the chutneys, perhaps some fresh coriander and then the sev mamra – just delicious!

Inspired by…

Bina! (Thank you soooooo much)

How easy…

Really easy – there’s only the filling to make and then everyone makes their own!

 

Homemade Pesto

 

This fits into the category of ‘if it tastes THAT good and is THAT easy’, why buy ready-prepared! This is gorgeous and just shouts ‘fresh’ – it’s tangy and really, really flavoursome. It literally took about 2 minutes to make, including getting the ingredients from the fridge! As well as stirring through pasta (which is what it was made for) I can also use it with gnocchi, as a topping for Italian toasted bread, to top pizza or popped on a nice bit of steak……the list goes on. Give it a go – it’s really lovely!

Makes enough for pasta for 4 – 6

What you need…

Large handful of basil

Large handful of flat-leaved parsley

40g roughly grated Parmesan

15g pine nuts

2 anchovy fillets

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

80ml olive oil

½ teaspoon sugar

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Juice ½ lemon (optional)

What to do…

With the exception of the lemon juice, put the lot in your food processor. Whizz until a rough paste is created. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Whizz. Taste again. Add lemon juice, if liked. Whizz. Serve. Enjoy and feel jolly smug that something tasting this great requires next to no effort!

Tip…

Keep your pesto sauce in the fridge for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.

Inspired by…

Delicious magazine

How easy…

Ridiculously. You could almost do it in your sleep!

Revani

Ooooh, this is lovely, especially with a double espresso mid morning! (My exact words were, “Yum, that was naughty and delicious!” Torn out of a magazine, this recipe for Greek Revani is gorgeous! Using semolina creates a denser sponge than normal and the syrup that is absorbed into it makes this delightful treat really moist and moreish. Gentle flavours and fragrances of orange and lemon permeate and, despite its delightfully squidgy density, it’s so light that it’s very easy to simply reach for a second slice. Highly recommended – absolutely delicious! Also, dead easy and really quick to make!

Serves 10

What you need…

1 x 23cm spring form cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

5 eggs, separated

100g caster sugar

50g plain flour

100g semolina

¼ teaspoon salt

Zest of 1 orange

50g unsalted butter, melted

50g no-peel marmalade

for the syrup

250g caster sugar

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

½ vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out

300ml water

What to do…

Preheat oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Chuck your egg yolks and sugar into the food processor and whizz until light and creamy. Whilst still running, tip the flour and semolina into the processor and then the salt, orange zest, melted butter and marmalade. Keep whizzing until smooth.

In a separate bowl, use an electric hand held whisk to whip up the egg whites until they form soft peaks and then gently fold into the cake batter in 3 batches.

Pour the whole lot into your cake tin and pop in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Put all the ingredients, including the vanilla pod into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Allow to cool a little and then sieve the syrup into a jug. Squish some of the vanilla seeds through the sieve into the strained syrup (this isn’t necessary – it’s more for appearance than taste).

When the cake has cooled for 20 – 30 minutes, transfer it from the tin to a serving plate and then use your skewer to pierce holes all over the cake, poking it right the way through. Gently pour over the syrup, watching as it soaks into the sponge, making it lovely and moist. I didn’t tip all the syrup in all at once but gradually, coming back to the cake every few minutes and pouring a bit more over once the previous amount had been absorbed, until it was all gone.

That’s it – all done, ready to indulge in – absolutely delicious!

Serving suggestion…

On its own is fabulous but if you want to dress it up a little, spoon a dollop of Greek yogurt on the top, sprinkling with slightly crushed pistachios – delightful!

Tip…

As much as Revani is gorgeous and impossible to resist when first cooked, keep it in the fridge and it will ‘gather’ over a couple of days, tasting – dare I say it – even better!

 Inspired by…

Yotam Ottolenghi for Waitrose magazine

 How easy…

Spectacularly and the results far outweigh the effort!

Revani Close up w

Fantastic Feast of Pulled Pork

OK! A savoury OMG moment! I can count the number of times I have eaten pork on the fingers of one hand probably (other than bacon and sausages – they don’t count!) But…I am drawn to a pig roast but it never quite delivers in taste what the enticing aromas promise. So, anyway this recipe caught my attention and I have to say that I am now a total convert! This pork was succulent and sooooo tasty; flexible too – it was happy stuffed in rolls or dressed up with plums and a lovely potato and apple combination that I made up on a whim. Seriously, for a relaxed family and friends supper that everyone will just love, give this one a go. Oh also, zero effort – pop in oven and walk off for 6 hours – love it!

Serves 4-6

What you need…

for the pork…

1 x roasting tin, lined with enough foil to cover the pork

1.6Kg shoulder of pork, string and rind removed

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1½ tablespoons dark brown sugar

300ml hot water

for the sides…

4 red potatoes, chunked

2 cloves of garlic, chopped,

1 teaspoon sea salt and black pepper

Splash of olive oil

2 Pink Lady apples, cored and chunked

4 Ciabatta rolls

Knob of butter

4 – 6 plums, halved and stoned

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

In a small bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.

Unroll the pork and pop it in the foil-lined roasting tin. Rub the mixed ingredients all over the pork and pop it straight in the oven for 30 minutes to brown. Reduce the heat to 150°c / 300°f / gas 2. Pour the water into the foil and then wrap the foil around the joint and seal tightly. Cook for around 6 hours or until tender.

Just before you get to the end of the 6-hour cooking time, pop the red potatoes in a baking dish, scatter over with garlic and dried rosemary, salt and pepper and the splash of olive oil; stir to mix everything together thoroughly.

Increase the oven back up to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7 and uncover the pork. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes the remove from the oven. At the same time, pop in the baking dish of potatoes.

After 10 minutes, remove the pork from the oven, cover with foil and rest for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6. Tip the apples into the potatoes, stir in and roast for another 25 minutes.

10 minutes before you are ready to serve, pop the ciabatta rolls into the oven to warm through – they should only take 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over a moderate heat and then place in the plum halves, flesh side down. Turn the heat up to high and cook for 10 minutes until the flesh is just starting to go golden brown.

Everything is now ready and your can dive in. Put the lot onto a serving platter, start pulling the pork with two forks and then leave it on the platter for everyone else to help themselves: pulled pork in ciabatta rolls or just on it’s own with the wonderful addition of a few of those potatoes and the OMG plums – they go sooooooo well. Whichever choice, it doesn’t matter – it will all go! Enjoy – a fantastic feast of pulled pork that requires next to no effort!

Inspired by…

Lovepork.co.uk

How easy…

Seriously, next to zero effort for a really fantastic sharing supper!

Passion Fruit Pots of Summer Sunshine

Another one from Mary Berry’s foolproof series, these little Passion Fruit Pots are simply delicious – they are light and fresh and the best description that I can give each of them is ‘a little pot of summer’! You can practically taste the sunshine! Simple to make, simply gorgeous to taste and quite simply, a ‘must-have’!

 Serves 6

 What you need…

 6 pretty glasses or pots to serve

600ml double cream

100g caster sugar

6 passion fruit

Juice of 1 lime

What to do…

Halve 5 of the passion fruit and scoop out the seeds and juice into the blender part of your food processor. Whizz until smooth – this will enhance the flavour and the fabulous smell will remind you of an English summer morning! Sieve into a jug. Set aside the sieved juice and throw away the seeds.

Pour the cream into a medium-sized saucepan, add the sugar and stir slowly over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then, increase the heat and boil for 3 minutes, then remove from heat.

Add the cream to the juice and stir to combine. Add the lime juice and stir – you will see that the mixture is thickening up nicely. Pour into your 6 glasses and then pop in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

To serve, cut the remaining passion fruit in half, scoop out the seeds and juice and divide between the 6 glasses – you don’t need much but it is a nice finishing touch!

Enjoy your little pots of summer sunshine – quite simply delightful!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Extremely easy and quick to whip up!

John’s Yorkshire Puddings

John’s Yorkshire Puddings are legendary. Family and friends get REALLY excited when they come to us for a Sunday Roast. John cooks the lot and it is unquestionably in a league of its own! Every element of the meal is wonderful however the Yorkshires and his gravy are simply spectacular! I’ve met many people who reckon they can’t make decent Yorkshire Puddings – try this recipe – it will transform your Sunday Lunch!

Serves: this recipe makes one large Yorkshire Pudding and 12 tiddlers. I can’t tell you how many they serve – they get demolished whether there’s 6 of us, 8 or 10!!!

1 x 20cm round baking tin and 1 x 12-hole muffin tin

Fat from top of gravy stock from the previous week’s Roast Dinner or goose fat or lard

270g plain flour

4 large eggs

275ml full fat milk and 200ml water (in same jug)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 heaped tablespoons suet

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7. I have assumed you are using the same oven to roast your meat (we have 2 chickens).

Ideally, you will have a jug of stock from the previous week’s roast dinner and topping this will be a layer of fat. Scoop off the fat and put in half tsp in the bottom of the individual moulds and two dessertspoons in the ‘family-sized’ mould. (The stock should be used as the base for this week’s gravy, excluding any remaining fat).

If you’re starting from scratch, do the same with either goose fat or lard.

Sift the flour into the bowl of a standalone electric mixer. (If you don’t have one, use a roomy bowl with an electric handheld whisk) Make a well and break in the eggs. Whisk slowly. Whilst whisking, gradually pour in the milk and water. Turn the speed up to medium and whisk for 2 minutes. Switch mixer off. Using a spatula, loosen any stuck flour from the sides or bottom. Season to taste. Mix at medium speed for a further two minutes. Leave to rest until cooking time.

Pop your baking tray and muffin tin into the oven and heat until the fat is smokin’ hot!

Sprinkle the suet into the batter and give it a quick whizz. Ladle the mixture into the your hot baking tray and muffin tin. Pop them both into the oven and cook for around 20 minutes or until golden brown. Watch those babies rise!!!!!!

Serve with your roast dinner – we don’t follow convention – Yorkshire Puddings are served with chicken, beef, suet puddings……pretty much everything!

Inspired by…

John who in turn, tweaked Delia Smith’s recipe

365-6 copy

How easy…

They are easy so don’t be hesitant – given them a go!

 

 

Fast, Fresh and Fabulous Smoked Salmon Paté

Stuck for a lovely starter that is simply no hassle at all? Looking for a quick, delicious lunch or perhaps part of a picnic or fridge raid-type of snack? Whichever, this paté is made in about 3 minutes flat and is simply delightful – light, fresh and quite delicious – dress it up or serve it as it comes, this is another one on the favourites list for so many reasons – give it a go – blink and it’ll be done!

Serves 4

What you need…

175g smoked salmon, roughly chopped

75ml double cream

50g crème fraiche

Juice of 1 lemon

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

What to do…

Chuck the lot in the food processor. Whizz until smooth. Pop into a serving dish, cover with cling film and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to indulge. That’s it! Seriously! Never buying ready-prepared again!

Inspired by…

James Martin…

How easy…

You can almost do this asleep it’s that simple!

Chicken, Mushroom and Leek Lattice Pie

I would put this under the heading of ‘comfort food’. If you’re in the right mood, making the lattice pastry lid is quite relaxing and the actual pie itself is delicious. Despite the amount of cream in it, it is neither too heavy or rich but just rather cheering on a cold, grey evening.

Serves 4 – 6

What you need…

1 x baking dish, (something like 26 x 18 x 5cms for these quantities of ingredients)

2 x 375g packs ready-rolled puff pastry

Splash olive oil

450g roasted chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 large leek, washed, trimmed and sliced

150g chestnut mushrooms, washed and chunkily sliced

200ml water

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

200ml white wine

300ml double cream

1 tablespoon tarragon, leaves torn from the stems and chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

1 egg, beaten

What to do…

To make the pastry topping: unroll both sheets of pastry so that they are lying flat. The ready-rolled puff pastry comes on baking paper so there’s no need to prepare your work surface. Cut each piece into long 3cm-wide ribbons (being a little on the OCD side I did actually use a ruler for this bit to ensure accuracy!) If your baking dish is rectangular like mine, one sheet of pastry needs to be cut long-ways and the other width-ways (see pictures). Weave the pastry ribbons together (again see pictures) until you have a pastry top that is large enough to cover your pie. Make sure there are no gaps in between the ribbons or your sauce will bubble through during cooking (mine did!) Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge to firm up whilst you cook the pie filling.

pastry a w Pastry b w pastry c w

 

Preheat the oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

In a jug, dissolve the stockpot into the water, using a small balloon whisk, creating your chicken stock.

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over a moderate heat. Add the leeks and cook for 1 minute. Chuck in the mushrooms and cook for a further minute. Add the stock, wine and double cream. Bring to the boil and reduce the liquid until it thickens slightly.

Add the chicken pieces and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix together thoroughly.

Once the chicken has warmed through, remove from the heat and spoon the mixture into your baking dish.

Brush the rim of your baking dish with egg and then flip the lid on top, so that the paper it came on is now facing upwards. Remove the paper and then press down over the rim to seal. Trim off the excess pastry with a sharp knife. Brush the pastry lid with egg and then pop your pie in the oven for 30 minutes, until the filling is piping hot and the pastry is gorgeously puffy and golden brown. Serve straight away – a lovely comforting treat and quite delicious!

Tip…

Your baking dish needs to be full to the brim with the filling otherwise the puff pastry lid will sink into it. Mine did but that said, the puffiness largely covered this mistake once the pie was cooked.

Inspired by…

The lattice pastry lid was demonstrated by Mary Berry. The filling was based on but tweaked from a recipe by Shaun Rankin, www.greatbritishchefs.com.

How easy…

The lattice pastry lid isn’t difficult but takes time, so you have to be in the right mood – if you’re in a mad hurry, this is not a good idea! That said, the rest of the dish is incredibly quick to prepare and then finishes up in the oven, allowing you to tidy up and cook a bit of greenery to go with it.

Also, the necessary roasted chicken was also immediately available to me, being left over from the 2 John cooked for our Sunday Roast.

A Little Kitchen Nugget

I realised that this food blogging culinary adventure might have gone distances that perhaps we hadn’t anticipated when two distinct things happened last week.

Firstly, husband John wandered into the kitchen and tentatively enquired as to whether we might have an ‘old faithful’ for supper that evening, rather than another new foray into recipes unknown. Recognising this as a plea for some normality in a kitchen that was becoming increasingly frenetic, with recipe books strewn over most work surfaces, bags of flour and caster sugar occupying almost permanent fixtures together the food processor, whisks and remnants of previously tried dishes, I acquiesced. Cheat’s spag bol, a stalwart of days old -appearing on our table weekly before blogging – was produced that evening. Connagh, who has got used to the surprise that we call supper, was ecstatic to see this huge bowl of familiarity (not that he doesn’t enjoy all the new dishes, particularly the chocolate-based desserts). He took his bowl to the table and was poised with the freshly grated Parmesan over his supper, when he stopped, “Are you photographing this or can I just eat it?!” I’m still not sure whether to laugh or cry!

Meanwhile, the Mary Berry-inspired honeycomb ice cream definitely hit new heights (and continues to – thank you so much to those lovely people who’ve been sharing) The wee graph on my website spiked skyward, my Facebook foodie page went berserk and even the BBC liked my tweet!

So, mindful that our weekly menus need to be peppered with some ‘old faithfuls’, I continue trawling through cookery books, watching a myriad of cookery shows on television and ripping recipes from magazines. Lovin’ it!!!! (So do they really!)

Pizza!

I know that loads of people make their own pizza and I certainly should have adopted this notion given the amount that goes down in this house, but I waited until I’d been on the planet 52 years before giving it a go! I was somewhat nervous about the whole dough-making process, which flour (00 vs. strong white bread flour) and the use of yeast (and all the different types you can get). Then the advice: James Martin advocated leaving his dough overnight, Jamie Oliver said 15 minutes, Google searches came back with anything from 30 minutes to a couple of hours! So, in the end, I cobbled this recipe together and….it’s great! I’ll be doing it again but will roll out the dough a little thinner next time. This recipe is quick, easy and as ever, homemade knocks shop-bought or even delivered into touch – give it a go!

 Makes 6 – 8 medium-sized pizzas

 What you need…

 800g ‘00’ flour (I think strong white bread flour would work just as well)

200g semolina

1 level tablespoon fine sea salt

2 x 7g sachets fast action dried yeast

1 tablespoon caster sugar

650ml lukewarm water

for the tomato sauce

2 tins Italian chopped tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon dried rosemary

½ teaspoon dried oregano

for the toppings

Go mad – put whatever you fancy on! Our choices are below

What to do…

Whop all the tomato sauce ingredients into a blender and whizz to mix together. Set aside until ready to top your pizza bases.

If you have a standalone mixer with a dough hook on it, chuck everything else in the bowl and let it do its stuff for about 5 minutes, until you can see the dough coming together. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface.

If you don’t possess one of these lovely machines, heap the flours and salt onto a clean surface and make a well in the centre. Tip the yeast, sugar and water into the well and, using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix. Keep doing this – it will go through a ‘stodgy porridge’ stage but will then start coming together as a dough.

Whichever route you took to get to this stage, now knead the dough quite assertively until you have a smooth springy soft dough – this will take about 5 minutes if you used the mixer to start with and maybe 10 minutes if you’ve done it all by hand.

Flour the top of your dough and pop it into a large, roomy bowl (I used the cleaned out mixer bowl), cover with cling film and pop it somewhere warm (I stood mine just under the radiator). Leave for 1 hour.

Dust your work surface with flour and/or semolina and then cut your dough into 6 or 8 pieces depending on whether you want medium or slightly larger pizzas. Squidge each piece into a ball and then roll out into rough circles until they are about ½ cm thick. Tear off a piece of foil slightly larger than the pizza base and spread over a little oil and then dust with flour and/or semolina. Pop the pizza base onto the foil.

Do this for each pizza base, stacking them on top of one another, each separated by an oiled and floured piece of foil. You could now cling film them and pop them in the fridge until you are ready.

When you are ready, pop a heavy baking tray on the lowest shelf of your oven and heat your oven to 250°c / 500°f / gas 9.

Apply your toppings of choice and then put the pizza in, one at a time, still on their foil, on top of the piping hot baking tray. Cook for 7 – 10 minutes until the pizza is golden and crispy (and the inevitable mozzarella is melted and bubbling).

Then, remove the pizza from the oven, leaving the baking tray in there ready to receive the next one. Your pizza will be firm so this won’t be difficult. Slide your pizza off the foil and dig in – the base will be lovely and crispy and the topping will be according to your individual taste!

What we had…

The point is, you can put whatever you fancy on, so I rummaged through the fridge and took out just about anything that I thought might work and that at least one of us liked. The joy of it then was that we built our own. Whilst the first one was cooking, the second one was being created and so on. We each created pizza specifically to appeal to our own tastes – marvellous!

I also made a garlic pizzetta to share so, in my blender I whizzed a couple of cloves of chopped garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a couple of teaspoons of dried garlic pizzetta wrosemary. Then I just brushed the oil over the top and wodged in rosemary sprigs – it was bloody lovely!

Mine: tomato sauce, mozzarella slices, a few baby spinach leaves (I would have used basil, but didn’t have any), a few slices prosciutto and a couple of chopped up sundried tomatoes. Seasoned with salt and pepper. Gorgeous!

John: tomato sauce and then what looked like a fridge-raid: chopped up chicken, prosciutto, loadsa mozzarella slices, pepperoni, chopped up sundried tomatoes.

Connagh: tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, prosciutto, pepperoni.

Other topping suggestions, chopped ham, chorizo, sliced peppers and red onions, chillies, courgettes, anchovies, thyme…and so it goes on….

Inspired by…

James Martin initially, then Jamie Oliver and then, the yeast packet and lastly, the fridge!

How easy…

Dead easy and great fun!

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