Monthly Archives: March 2010

Naan Bread

Dinner last night was a prawn curry, cooked by my mum, but I offered to have a go at making naan breads to accompany this.  I’d idly considered making them before but this seemed like the perfect opportunity as I could concentrate on them and not have to worry about doing the curry to go with them.  So dinner was a bit of a collaborative effort last night.  I am happy to say that, after I’d made the first few, naan breads were easy and absolutely delicious!  Naan bread is like pancakes, the first one or two are a bit rubbish but once you get the right level of fat then you’re away!  Next time I will know exactly what to do and, I hope, anyone trying this recipe themselves will benefit from my experimentation. 

Ghee is the only odd ingredient here, if you can’t find it then just use butter and you’ll be fine.  I’ve seen it in major supermarkets and smaller indian/asian shops too. 

Makes 9

500g strong bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
7 g sachet fast action yeast
2 tsp granulated sugar
150ml milk (warm)
150ml natural yogurt
1 egg
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp ghee, melted

– In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, yeast and sugar. 
– In a jug beat together the yogurt, egg and oil. 
– Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the milk and the yogurt mixture. 
– Use a wooden spoon to mix together the ingredients until it forms a smooth dough, if it seems a bit sticky add more flour. 
– Turn out onto a floured worksurface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and soft. 
– Oil a bowl and place the dough in the bowl, lightly oiling it too. 
– Cover with a damp teatowel and leave to rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. 
– Knock down the dough and turn it out onto a worksurface. 
– Knead a little and roll out into a long saussage. 
– Divide into 9 equal portions. Roll these into balls.   
– Keep the balls covered by the damp teatowel while you work with the dough. 
– Heat a cast iron pan, with a lid, on the hob on a medium heat, you want it to be hot but not burn. 
– Brush the bottom of the pan with melted ghee.  It should spit and bubble but not smoke. 
– Roll out one portion of dough into an oval, aim for the classic naan teardrop shape if you can. 
– Slap the shaped dough into the pan and press it our a bit with your fingers. 
– Put the lid on the pan and leave it for 2 minutes. 
– Take the lid off and brush the top side of the naan with melted ghee then flip over and cook for a further minute with the lid on. 
– Take out of the pan and cover with a teatowel to keep warm. 
– Repeat the process with each of your portions of dough.  If you have a bigger pan than me then you could easily do 2 naan at once. 
– Serve warm with your favourite curry.


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Marshmallow Crispie Treats

I love Marshmallow Crispies, they’re one of the first things I ever made as a kid and I’m just as fond of them now as an adult.  There is this bakery near us where you can get a block of it the size of half a brick!  It’s also a quick and tasty treat to throw together.  Yes, it does involve melting sugary things, so there’s an element of risk if you set a kid loose on it, but I never managed to hurt myself and I’ve been making them for nigh on 20 years now!

I decided that since Easter is fast approaching nests were the way to go.  I’m not sure that the chicks were the best plan… although I’m sure yellow fluff will taste great covered in marshmallow!  These are sticky though.  If you’re just pressing it into a tin it’s bad enough but getting your hands involved to shape nests is tricky!  Vegetable oil is the key here, lots and lots of oil!

Makes 21 nests

50g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g marshmallows
250g rice crispies
lots of vegetable oil
2 packs mini eggs
21 chicks

– Oil 2 bun tins (I have a 12 and a 9).
– In a large pan melt the butter over a low heat.
– Add the marshmallows and heat very gently until the marshmallow melts too.  Keep stiring as you don’t want it to burn and stick.
– Add the vanilla essence and stir through.
– Once completely melted take off the heat.
– Add the rice crispies and stir until well coated.
– Lightly oil a metal spoon and well oil your hands.
– Use the spoon and your hands to scoop a heap of marshmallow crispie into the holes and shape with your fingers.
– Add the mini eggs and chicks to each one as you finish so they will stick.
– Continue until you run out of mixture.
– Leave to set in the tins for 1 hour then run a knife round the outside to loosen.
– Place each treat in a paper bun case to serve* and prevent sticky fingers!

* If you just put the mixture straight into the case it will stick to the case and you eat a lot of paper.  This way it sticks a lot less so you don’t have to increase your fibre intake so much!

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Filed under Easy, Teatime Treats

Tear-and-Share Bread

I was going to pick up a “tear-and-share” bread from the supermarket on my way home tonight but I wasn’t feeling that great and really couldn’t be bothered to brave the hoards so I came straight home instead.  However, on my way home I realised, I could make tear-and-share bread!  I could also make tear-and-share bread better! I always feel that, great as it is, the supermarket stuff can be rather dry, so mine is delicious and moist, I also added mozzerella cheese to it as well to give it even more deliciousness.  I am happy to say that something I invented in the car on the way between the station and home turned out perfectly.  Even better, I managed to make bread in the time between getting home and dinner, an hour and 3/4, all in all I’d call this bread a triumph!  My photo’s, however, are not.  I apologise for the shoddy photography but I was starving hungry and only just remembered to take pictures at all!

Makes 1 4 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ loaf (My loaf tin is an odd size I think, just a large loaf tin will be fine.)

300g strong white bread flour
1 tsp fast action yeast
1 tsp garlic salt (or salt and garlic granules)
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
175ml warm water
75/100g butter, melted*
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 ball mozzerella
25g grated cheddar

– In a large bowl mix together your flour, yeast and salt. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. 
– Mix until it forms a dough. 
– Turn out onto a work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple. 
– Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it, cover it and leave to rise in a warm/hot place for 30-45 minutes until doubled in size (I put mine in front of the fire.  Leave the dough for longer at a lower temperature if you can but this recipe is built for speed, not subtle flavouring.)
– Melt together your butter and garlic in a small bowl. 
– Chop the mozzerella into small chunks.
– Prepare your loaf tin and heat the oven to gas mark 7.  (I lined my loaf tin with a paper liner as it has a few rust spots and I was in a hurry, it’s probably less messy if you do but if you don’t then the world won’t end.)
– Turn out and lightly knead the dough for a minute then pinch small, walnut sized chunks of dough off and roll them into balls. 
– Drop a few (half a dozen or so) balls into the butter then fish them out with a spoon put them into the loaf tin to form a loose layer. 
– Once you have a rough layer over the bottom of the tin sprinkle over half the mozzerella  and grate over half the cheese. 
– Continue to ball up, dip and place your dough balls in the tin until you have a second layer. 
– Sprinkle over the remaining mozzerella and grate over the rest of the cheese. 
– Drizzle over any remaining butter. 
– Leave to rest in a warm/hot place for 10-20 minutes. 
– Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  It will rise up, go brown on the tips and bubble away nicely. 
– Serve fresh from the oven but beware of the hot butter that will drip everywhere!

* I used 100g butter but when I took it out of the tin butter went all over the place I would say use 75g.  It’ll still be moist but you might not get melted butter all over the floor!


Filed under Breads, Easy, Sides

Lemon Curd Cupcakes

Up until yesterday I wasn’t too sure what lemon curd actually was.  I just knew my mum liked it and so I set about making Lemon Curd Cupcakes for her for Mothers’ Day.  Turns out lemon curd is delicious!  I love the tangy sweetness of it, the sharpness of the lemon means it’s not too sweet to simply enjoy from the spoon, for instance!  I thought it made a lovely, perky and refreshing cupcake. 

 The key cuteness with these cupcakes it, of course the decorations.  I went on a bit of a drunken internet shopping expedition last month and as a result I now have a bunch of really cute decorations I would normally have deemed far too expensive.  Thank god for Prosecco!  The chicks and eggs were actually not expensive at all.  I got a box of 50 chicks from the pound shop in town and the bag of miniature chocolate eggs came from Tesco.  The chicks are everywhere right now and even if you can’t find these utterly adorable mini-mini eggs then larger ones will look great too. 

Makes 13

(It’s a terrible number but it either makes 13 or I have to try and change the recipe to 196g or something stupid! Think of the extras as a taster!)

200g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
zest of 1 lemon
200g self raising flour
2 tbsp milk

1 jar lemon curd

90g unsalted butter
190g icing sugar
2 tbsp milk

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tin (and 1 ramekin dish for the extra) with paper cases.
– Cream together the butter and the sugar until soft and fluffy. 
– Gradually beat in the egg a bit at a time until thoroughly combined. 
– Add most of the lemon zest (about 3/4) andf mix until well distributed. 
– Sift in the flour and fold until just combined. 
– Divide the mixture equally between the cases. 
– Bake for 25 mins.
– Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

– Meanwhile cream together the butter and icing sugar. 
– Add the milk, remaining lemon zest and 2 tbsp of the lemon curd. 
– Mix until smooth and creamy. 

– When the cupcakes are cool use a paring knife to cut a small circle in the centre of the cake and then remove the core. 
– Slice the top off the core and keep, dispose of the middle bit of cake. 
– Place a spoon of lemon curd in the hole and then put the cap of the core back on to fill the hole. 
– Carefully spread the buttercream on the cupcakes so as not to disturb the cap. 
– Decorate as you wish.  I drizzled lemon curd over as well as usuing the chicks and flowers for a hint of a different texture.

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Soft Bread Sticks

I saw an article about soft bread sticks over on The Kitchn and I was intrigued.  I only knew about the regular crunchy kind.  I don’t know how authentic or otherwise this recipe may be but I’m happy with it. Essentially this is just a long, thin, soft roll but they’re perfect for dipping in soup, which is how I had mine.  I got the impression they’re commonly used for dipping is saucy things like pasta dishes too. 

Makes 12

500g strong white bread flour
1x7g sachet fast action yeast
2 tsp salt (I used 1 of garlic salt and 1 regular salt)
2 tbsp herbes de provence
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed. 
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml warm water
60g butter, melted
2 clove garlic, crushed

– In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, yeast, salt, herbs and garlic. 
– Make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. 
– Mix until it comes together as a dough. 
– Turn out of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes.  (It won’t feel smooth as other doughs because of the garlic and herb bits.)
– Place in a lightly greased bowl in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size.  (About 1 hour.) 
– Heat the oven to gas mark 8 and line 2 baking trays. 
– Knock down the dough and lightly knead for a minute. 
– Press into a rough rectangle and cut into 12 strips. 
– Gently roll to shape each strip and place on the baking trays at least 1 inch apart. 
– Leave on the tray for 20-30 minutes until they look puffy. 
– Bake for 15-20 minutes until browning on top and the underneath sounds hollow when tapped. 
– While they are baking melt the butter and garlic in a small bowl in the microwave. 
– When you take the sticks out of the oven immediately brush the tops with the melted butter. 
– Leave to cool slightly and absorb the butter to give soft tops. 
– Enjoy with soup or other delicious dippy things. 

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Quick Tomato Soup

I love tomato soup made from fresh tomatoes in the summer and somewhere about I saw the idea for tomato soup made using tinned tomatoes.  In the depths of winter, although spring seems to be trying, I often feel that there’s just no point in buying tasteless, watery, tough tomatoes shipped in from god knows where but a bowl of comforting tomato soup can be just the thing.  A tin of Heinz has its place but sometimes you want to make things yourself.  This is quick, simple to throw together and I think that just about everyone will have the ingredients in their storecupboard essentials.  I threw this together for my lunch tomorrow.  I’m having it with my new recipe for Soft Bread Sticks. 

Serves 2-4 (depends how big your bowl is!)

1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1x 400g tin tinned tomatoes
1 pint chicken stock
3 tbsp creme fraiche
salt and pepper to taste

– Heat a splash of oil and a knob of butter in a medium sized pan until just bubbling. 
– Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of salt and fry gently until soft. 
– Add the tomatoes and stock. 
– Stir well and bring to a simmer then remove from the heat. 
– Add the creme fraiche and then use a stick blender to blend until smooth. 
– Reheat and season to taste.  (I gave mine a good whack of salt and a moderate amount of pepper as I don’t like things too peppery.)
– Serve hot.

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Filed under Easy, Starters

Malted Cupcakes

I have been playing about with the idea of malted cupcakes for a while now.  I adore Maltersers and Ovaltine and the combination of Malt and Chocolate seemed crying out for a cupcake variation!  I probably could have just googled and had a few recipes at my fingertips but I decided to go my own way with this challenge and see what I could come up with on my own.  I only made a half batch to see how they would turn out but I’ve given the recipe for the full dozen here. 

I made a few alterations to my usual cupcake recipe and I think it’s a very pleasant result.  I’m not doing cartwheels over it yet, I think I’d like to get them a bit maltier for my own taste as I didn’t feel it came through all that strong but others said it was perfectly malty for them so perhaps I simply don’t taste malty flavours so well.  Either way, I liked these!  They are deliciously soft and moist inside with a slight sugar crunch on the top.  The chocolate buttercream lends an edge of sweetness to the soft, malty cake. 

Makes 12

For the cake:
200g unsalted butter, softened
100g golden caster sugar
100g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs, beaten
200g self raising flour
60g Ovaltine (or other powdered malted drink)

For the chocolate buttercream:
120g plain chocolate
150g unsalted butter
160g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

12 Malteasers to decorate

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4 and prepare a 12 hole muffin tin with paper liners. 
– Cream together the butter and the sugars until soft and fluffy. 
– Gradually add the beaten egg a bit at a time, beating well until completely combined between additions. 
– Sift in the flour and Ovaltine then fold in until just combined. 
– Divide the mixture equally between the cases. 
– Bake for 25 minutes, test for doneness with a skewer, if it comes out clean the cake is done. 
– Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. 

While waiting make the buttercream: 
– Melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water then allow to cool.
– Cream together the butter and the sugar.
– Add the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate.
– Beat until glossy and smooth.

– Pipe or spread the buttercream onto the cakes then add a Malteaser to the top of each one.  Enjoy!

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Malaysian Chicken Curry

Since I started work I haven’t really been able to cook anything savoury because by the time I get home a.  I’m exhausted and b.  I haven’t got time!  I had a day off today and because of that I decided to cook dinner.  Malaysian Chicken Curry was what I went for.  I love soupy, coconuty curries and I fancied having a play with something a little different.  In the end I only got back from my day’s outing at 6:45 and then had to make an appearance at the pub so only started preparing at about 7:35… dinner was about an hour late.  This isn’t a 15 minute curry but it creates a lovely, hearty and different meal that if you’re more organised than I was could come together a lot quicker than it did for me.  There’s nothing difficult about this dish other than juggling some timings but if you think it through it’s simple. 

Serves 6 (Recipe said 4, it lied, I’ll be eating it for lunch for days!)

1 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
3 potatoes, chopped into ~1cm cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1″ fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon, very finely grated
2 tiny onions
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 ltr chicken stock
2 chicken breasts, very finely sliced
3 kafir lime leaves
100g coconut cream (2 sachets)
2 tbsp fish sauce
spring onions, chopped

– In a large pan add the dried chilli flakes and just enough boiling water to cover the bottom of the pan.  Set over a low heat and just simmer for 5 mins. 
– Boil the chopped potatoes in salted water for 10 mins then drain and set aside.
– Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, chilli, lemon zest, onions, a pinch of salt and oil to the large pan and then cook for 10 mins until the onions are soft. 
– Then add the chicken stock and about 2/3 of the potatoes.  Stir well and bring to a simmer. 
– Remove from the heat and then use a stick blender to blend until smooth.  
– Bring to a simmer again and add the remaining potato, the chicken, lime leaves and coconut cream.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes. 
– Add the fish sauce and stir through. 
– Serve over sticky rice* with spring onions scattered on top. 

* Short grain East Asian rice, sushi rice is available from almost every supermarket now.  If you can’t get it then noodles or basmati rice will be a fine accompanyment.

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Filed under Easy, Mains

Vanilla Cut Out Biscuits

I love a good cut out biscuit, who doesn’t like rolling and cutting dough into fun shapes?  I found myself at a bit of a lose end last night so I decided to have a go at this recipe I’d seen.  It seemed fairly simple and I managed to throw it together pretty quickly.  I made the dough before dinner then chilled it while we ate then rolled and cooked after we were done. 

The dough did get a lot more difficult to work with as it warmed up though. It was very soft and squishy after a rather short space of time so you need to work quickly and know when to stop and re-chill it.  Other than that there were no problems with it for me.  It makes a delicious shortbread-like biscuit and holds its shape very well with a minumum amount of spreading so long as you don’t roll the dough too thick.  The thicker the dough, the greater the spread so try to keep it nearer the 3mm mark than 5mm. 

Makes… well the recipe says 30, which sounds like it could be in the ballpark, we started eating them too quickly for me to count!  They’re very moreish!

225g butter, softened*
140g golden caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
280g plain flour
small pinch of salt

– Cream together the butter and the sugar until fluffy. 
– Add the egg yolk and the vanilla and beat in until well combined. 
– Sift in the flour and salt and mix until it forms a dough, bring it together with your hands. 
– Split the dough in half and flatten into discs. 
– Wrap in sandwich bags or cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30mins. 
– Heat the oven to gas mark 5 and line 2 baking trays. 
– Take one disc at a time out of the fridge and roll out between 2 sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 3mm.**
– Cut out your shapes and transfer to the lined baking sheets. 
– Bake for 10 minutes until just turning golden brown around the edges. 
– Cool on the tray for 5 mins then transfer to a wire rack. 
– Repeat in batches until all your douigh is used up, re-rolling and re-chilling as necessary.

* I give it 20 seconds in the microwave for butter straight from the fridge. 
** We save the plastic sheets that ready rolled icing and marzipan comes in for doing things like this.

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Filed under Cookies and Biscuits, Easy