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Masala papad 6 February 2012

Posted by cath in mildly spicy, Recipes, shopping notes.
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Everyone loves poppadums… don’t they?
When I was young, living with my family in Hong Kong, we used to eat a lot of Indian meals out at a restaurant called ‘The Tandoor’ if i remember correctly. They had a dish there which we all loved called masala papad and although i don’t know their recipe, this is inspired by memories of that place.

Basically, it’s a poppadum topped with fresh tomato, onion and herbs. You have to add the topping at the last minute, but it looks and tastes great.

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A picture of tonight’s starter of masala papad.

Here’s how you make it…

Finely chop a small onion, a few ripe tomatoes, a clove of garlic, some fresh chili and coriander leaf. Mix together with a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Leave to let the flavours mix.

Then cook some poppadums. I use the hotplate on the aga but you can also cook them in the microwave. I love the flavoured ones you can buy from Asian shops, like these:

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Once cooked, the poppadums can be topped with a sprinkle of the tomato mixture, try to drain each spoonful on the side as too much liquid will make the poppadums soggy! Eat right away.

Of course you can just have poppadums with a range of chutneys instead, but either way i would definitely recommend cooking your own. Try it and see!

Scones 4 February 2012

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, comfort food, easy, Recipes, variations.
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Quick and easy, the secret seems to be: don’t try too hard! Instead of rolling the dough, just pat down with cool hands. Also, don’t cut them too thin, 2 cm or a bit thicker is best.

Here’s the full recipe, makes 8 or 9 small scones (6 cm size cutter):

250g self-raising flour
Pinch salt
1 level tsp baking powder
25g caster sugar
50g butter, fridge cold
125ml full fat milk
1 large egg, beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degC, grease a baking sheet.

Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Cut the cold butter into cubes and either rub in by hand or process very quickly.

Now add the sugar and mix briefly again. Add about half the beaten egg and process again adding the milk pouring it in slowly, or do this using a knife mixing until a sticky dough is formed. In the processor, keep going until a ball is formed. You should have a splash of milk leftover. By hand a little kneading in the bowl helps, but don’t handle the dough to much and keep those hands cool!

Lightly flour a board, using s-r flour again. Don’t use too much extra flour, you won’t need it. Turn out the dough ball and quickly flatten it to about 2 cm thick, no thinner!

Cut using a 6 cm round, press down evenly and then remove the excess dough from around the first scones. You need to very quickly press the dough back into a ball and push down again. Repeat until its all cut.

Place cut scones on the baking sheet. Add any remaining milk to the beaten egg leftover, mix and brush onto the top of the scones.

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden and hollow when tapped on the base.

Remove and place on a rack to cool, best served warm.

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This makes a basic, white, plain scone, perfect for cream tea…but anything can be added before mixing to a dough, so experiment away with savory and sweet additions. My favourite has to be cheese, a strong grated cheddar is good… and although you can add as much as you want, for this quantity about 50g of cheese/ dried fruit/ nuts etc. should be about right.

I’ve been eating my scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream – yum, and perfect with a nice cup of tea. Hope you enjoy making scones of all sorts.

More with Haggis 26 January 2012

Posted by cath in leftovers, Recipes, specials, variations.
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Just got too much haggis leftover from last night’s Burns supper? How about gravy (yes I like gravy with haggis, neeps and tatties), got any noodles? If so, try my noodles in gravy with haggis. A Chinese style leftovers dish.

Cook some large, flat noodles, drain and set aside.
Heat up some gravy in a shallow frying pan, crumble in some leftover cooked haggis, heat through. Pour over noodles and serve.

Any gravy will do, but here’s a quick recipe to get you started:

Water from boiling potato and neeps, red wine, lamb stock, tomato puree, garlic or better roasted garlic, bay leaf, herbs, mustard.

Boil up the liquid ingredients, add herbs, garlic, tomato and mustard, boil again. Leave until needed then reheat and strain before serving. Thicken if you prefer, with cornflour and cold water mixed to a paste, or butter and flour mixed together. Add the thickener and boil up again.

More ideas?
Haggis can be used much like mince so I’ve heard of and tried a few haggis alternatives. Haggis samosas, pakoras, wontons are quite common in Scotland. A few years ago some friends also brought haggis burritos to Edinburgh, so if you’ve got no leftovers at home and are in the area… try them at Los Cardos, Leith Walk. They sell their haggis all the time, not just Burns night, and their other options are also great.

Another fine combo found in a pub in the highlands was baked potato, Haggis, topped with melted cheese and whisky… 

Mmmm. Enjoy your burns night leftovers.

Haggis, neeps and tatties cakes 26 January 2012

Posted by cath in comfort food, freeze-friendly, Recipes, specials, variations.
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Leftover Haggis and the works from Burns night? Make sure to make the most of your leftovers. Here’s an idea for eating up leftover Burns supper ingredients.
Just like fish and potato cakes, similar Haggis, neeps and tatties cakes are great.
If you have plenty of leftover mash, here’s what to do:

Haggis cakes

Add crumbled haggis to leftover mash, I think it helps the binding to keep the mixture at least 50% potato, but any leftover neeps or other root mash can also be added. You shouldn’t need seasoning as the leftovers will have been made with salt and pepper already. Mix everything well.
Shape the mixture into small, flat cakes. Pat each side with white plain flour. Leave, shaped and floured, in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up making them easier to fry.

I’m making these tonight so the finished dish photo will come later, here are the haggis cakes ready to go in the fridge.

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To cook, shallow fry in a little oil (haggis and mash are already fatty so you don’t need a lot) until browned on both sides. Flip just once if you can, by giving the first side a good 5 minute sizzle. Flip over carefully as they can break up… this is where a rest in patty form can help.

Serve up with some fresh rocket leaves for a fancy supper or just some ketchup or brown sauce for real comfort food!

Here, the finished dish

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Cookalicious will be back soon 22 January 2012

Posted by cath in Uncategorized.
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After a long break, I hope to be back with more delicious recipes very soon.

Tomatillo Fruit 4 September 2009

Posted by cath in growing your own.
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At last, something is happening to my tomatillos :)

Tomatillo growing

Tomatillo

Growing your own 15 August 2009

Posted by cath in growing your own, Info and Cooks Notes.
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This year I’ve been growing more fruit and veg as well as the usual selection of herbs. Here’s a summary of what’s working, and what hasn’t!

Tomatoes have been a very exciting first for the bay window space. I got two small plants from a friends allotment greenhouse and I’ve seen them grow big and bushy, flower and set fruits. Finally, there is the exciting prospect of actually eating my own tomatoes as one is starting to ripen.

Ripening Plum Tomato

Ripening Plum Tomato

As well as two bushy tomato plants I also got a selection of tomatillos. They have very exciting little flowers, but alas so far no fruit have set. They have also grown a lot :) and I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that something will happen!

Tomatoes and Tomatillos

Tomatoes and Tomatillos

I’ve got a pepper plant. It’s small compared to the chillies I grew from seed, but I’ve been pollinating the first flower this week, and have high hopes for a large green pepper –  and if I get one, I’ll be sure to take a picture!

Bay tree, basil, greek basil and chives are all doing well, as are my various mints. This year I let my favourite mint die back in winter and I cut most of it away. It sprouted quite early in the year but is quite tough compared to my new mint plants. I also took a cutting of some very nice mint from my friends garden in Biggar and this has settled in nicely to indoor living.

Now the big failures! I finally took the plunge and went outside to grow! A friend gave me a courgette and 5 broccoli seedlings in June and after a while I hardened them off in the stairwell under the skylights and then outside – but I went for plant pots so as not to disturb the shared garden. Sadly, I’d never noticed what a snail and slug haven the garden was until now and my courgette was gone within about 48 hours! The broccoli was also ravaged, however, two of the plants were slightly stronger, and although not looking very pretty – they have survived the snail feast and seem to be growing slowly. We’ll see!

As for my courgette planter, well! I’ve ordered some rocket seeds and some copper strip and I’m going to try again with an August late summer salad crop with the slug barrier in place I hope this will be a return to success!

With a view to getting a lot of courgettes from my plant (too much forward planning perhaps?), I’ve been experimenting with courgette recipes to tempt my partner who was highly dubious about eating them. Good news is that he is now tucking in once or twice a week and I’ll post the recipe soon (once I’ve perfected it of course).

Hope some of this has inspired you to go out there, try growing your own…OK it doesn’t always go to plan, but its fun anyway. Not to mention very delicious and rewarding when it does work!

Cookalicious Pickings – Growing Chillies 15 August 2009

Posted by cath in growing your own, Info and Cooks Notes.
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Cookalicious first got the chilli growing bug some years ago. We love chillies here and growing your own is great. I’ve been growing them again this year and have had a bumper crop already. I even grew some of last years’ fruit seeds with all 5 germinating and growing well in various homes including my own!

Here’s a look at the chillies I’ve been cropping and eating thus far…delicious.

The incredible 3 year old chilli plant

The incredibly hot chilli plant

This meandering chilli plant has been on the go for ages! It was actually bought 3 years ago from Phantassie at the Farmers Market (I think it was called ‘Ring of Fire’!). This year it’s growth has been remarkable as I was about to throw it away in early spring – then went away for 5 days and returned to leafy new growth. A quick prune and it has been happy as ever.

The produce really has been abundant despite the lower sunshine, here’s a nice crop for some laab:

Hot green chillies

Hot green chillies

My other plants are doing well and I’ve just started harvesting fatter, rounder chillies from them, you can see some fruit dangling temptingly from the branches. These chillies are from last year, and again the Farmers Market. Again barely seeming to survive the winter, they also sprouted again unexpectedly later in spring – worth hanging on to. I just give them a good prune of the dead and any weaker stems during early to late spring and see what happens.

Fat chillies

Fat green chilli plants

I was not very careful storing my dried red chillies and can’t remember which came from which plant, so the 5 seeds that I’ve grown could have come from any of these chilli plants – oops.

This year I’ll aim to keep a chilli from each plant in a separate envelope so that I can grow some of each as the older plants need replacing. Still, it was very exciting and remarkably easy to grow from seed (indoors this is), and I would really encourage all chilli eaters to give it a try. Fresh chillies – you just can’t beat them for heat and flavour. Growing the plant from home-grown seeds – well that just completed the cycle and has solidified my need for more growing space. More on that in the next post.

Cookalicious Musings 1 February 2009

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, shopping notes.
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Was musing on excessive food packaging recently, see my other blog. It also reminded me of this comment from Tracy’s latest newsletter (Fitness with Tracy Griffen – February 2009) on the proliferation of pre-chopped vegetables and salads:

A chopping board and a knife is all you need to make carrot sticks, chopped oranges.

Yes! So get out your chopping boards people!

People can only continue to sell this stuff as long as we continue to buy it…

So the question is, are people prepared to change their habits? Can we be persuaded to use these simple skills again?

I hope so!

This year I also hope I can help some friends start their own veggie patch. I want to find out more about growing my own so that I’m prepared for when I get a garden one day! What I hope they get out of it is:

  • cost-effective, really tasty and fresh food
  • some good times outside with family and friends maybe?!
  • a sense of achievement :)
  • less trips to the supermarket
  • and a lot less packaging and waste
  • plus more material for the compost bin, yeah!

But as a gardening novice myself, we’ll have to see!

Easy Cakes > Anything Goes Fairy Cakes 4 January 2009

Posted by cath in cakes and treats, comfort food, easy, Recipes.
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Fairy Cakes

These are basic sponge cakes, and the best thing is that you can use pretty much any flavouring you like – it’s a really versatile recipe. Anyone can make these simple little cakes, they are easy and quick. The basic recipe here makes 12 cakes – but can be scaled up as required. In fact, the basic mix can also be divided and flavoured in different ways to bake a selection of cakes. You will need small paper cases to bake them in.

I use a food processor to make the mix, it’s done in a few simple steps and does not take long. They are made by the creaming method which involves beating butter and sugar together and incorporating lots of air, similarly with the eggs. Sieved self-raising flour is then added along with flavouring. Care is needed to keep the mixture light, so it rises – this is not a dense, gooey brownie!

Coffee and Walnut Fairy Cakes

Coffee and Walnut Fairy Cakes

There are some tricks to getting it right and here are my top tips:

  1. Don’t use fridge cold eggs, these tend to curdle the mixture more easily than room-temperature eggs. I also take the precaution of lightly beating the eggs with a whisk prior to adding.
  2. It’s also best to soften the butter so its a good idea to leave the butter out of the fridge as well.
  3. Pre-heat the oven, it needs to be hot, and you must put the cakes in to cook straight away, this is not a mix that can be prepared in advance (but the finished cakes will last for a few days if kept in an airtight tin).
  4. In fact beating the soft butter as a first step adds lightness to the cake mix – and is definitely worthwhile if your butter is at all cold – so if you haven’t followed tip 2 you can recover somewhat here :)
  5. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to cream the butter and sugar, I would suggest at least 5 minutes of beating on the highest setting, if not more, depending on the type of mixer you are using. Keep scraping down the bowl to ensure even mixing
  6. Once the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, it is time to add the eggs. Add them in bit by bit (e.g. add 2 beaten eggs in at least 3 additions), beat well each time. The mixture will be come quite liquid, but will still be thick and creamy looking. For extra security against curdling the mix, you can add a teaspoon of ground almonds with each addition of egg (up to 3 teaspoons).
  7. Adding the flour and any dried ingredients (nuts, cocoa, dried fruit etc.) must be done with care, quickly and without excess mixing. I use the pulse button on the processor – add 1/3 of the flour and press for a single pulse, perhaps 2 then scrape down and add the next 1/3. Add this similarly, and continue to the last addition of flour, scraping down the sides and pulsing once or twice more to ensure the flour and other dry ingredients are mixed – but only just.
  8. The mixture should be thick, and reluctantly drop from a spoon – it shouldn’t pour or be too stiff. If it falls, it is too thin and you should add a tablespoon more sieved flour to stiffen it. Or you can add a teaspoon of milk to adjust the mixture to be more fluid. Try out the recipes suggested here first and get used to the consistency of the mixture first, then experiment with your own flavours. Be careful making these additions – don’t over mix the cake now, it will reduce the air incorporates so far. Also be measured in your additions, cakes require careful balance of quantities – you won’t need to adjust these quantities much for different mixtures.
  9. When you’re done, quickly spoon the mixture into paper cases – you want to roughly half-fill them, 1 rounded tablespoon is roughly enough. Bake them straight away, in a fairly hot oven (180 deg C in a fan oven) for 12-15 minutes. Don’t take them out too early, or the sponge will not have fixed, and they may sink again. However, after 12 minutes you can safely test the middle of a cake with a skewer – it should come out clean, if not, return for 2-3 minutes and try again. Of course, if you use bigger paper cases, or overfill them, the cakes will take longer to cook.
  10. Remove the cakes from the tin straight away and leave to cool completely in their paper cases on a wire rack. You will see some condensation under the cases as you remove them from the tin – if you don’t remove them to cool on a rack, they will sweat and the cases and cakes will get damp and soggy – so don’t forget this step!

Flavouring

Now for the variety of flavouring you can add. There are basically three types of flavourings that can be added. Using liquid flavourings such as coffee, vanilla extract etc. demands a little more flour in the recipe to keep the mixture together. Adding dry, powdery ingredients such as cocoa powder, grated chocolate, drinking chocolate or ground nuts requires that the flour content be reduced by the equivalent weight. Chopped nuts, dried fruit etc. are easily added as an extra, without need to adjust the main quantities.

So with minimal tweaks the basic mixture can be combined to make any combination of flavours. Add icing for a sweet treat or keep them plain for a healthier snack.

The Recipe

Here are two versions of the basic recipe – this one uses added dry cocoa, and thus slightly less flour.

Cocoa Fairy Cakes

Ingredients

125 g softened butter

125 g caster sugar

2 large eggs

some ground almonds (3 tsp max)

110 g self-raising flour

1 small pinch table salt

15 g cocoa powder – I’ve been experimenting with using finely grated Venezuelan Black 100% cocoa bar (http://williescacao.com/) but you can use any good cocoa powder.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C (Fan oven).

2. Beat the butter well until smooth, then add the caster sugar and beat until the mixture lightens and gets fluffy (5-10 minutes).

3. Lightly beat the 2 eggs together then add a bit at a time to the mixture, beating well between additions and adding 1 or 2 tsp of ground almonds with the egg (see tip 6 above).

4. Sieve the flour and cocoa together with the salt. Add 1/3 at a time to the mixture and fold in (pulse in 2 or 3 short bursts) until everything is combined.

5. The mixture should drop slowly from a spoon, divide the mixture into the 12 paper cases in a patty tin.

6. Bake in the oven immediately, for 12-15 minutes. Check they are done using a skewer, which should come out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Use this basic recipe if you want to add dry flavourings to your cakes, or try this one which uses coffee and vanilla extract as liquids for flavouring, and thus slightly more flour. This one also contains chopped walnuts.

Coffee, Walnut and Vanilla Fairy Cakes

Ingredients

125 g softened butter

125 g caster sugar

2 large eggs

some ground almonds (4 tsp approx.)

140 g self-raising flour

1 small pinch table salt

4 tsp strong made coffee

2 tsp vanilla extract

70g chopped walnuts – reserve some for decorating.

Method

1. Follow the directions 1-3 above.

2. Add the coffee and vanilla extracts along with a teaspoon or 2 of ground almonds. Beat together.

3. Sieve the flour with the salt. Add 1/3 at a time to the mixture and fold in (pulse in 2 or 3 short bursts) until everything is combined.

4. Quickly mix in the walnuts using a few pulses.

5. The mixture should drop slowly from a spoon, add another spoon of coffee or vanilla if required to loosen it.

6. Divide the mixture into the 12 paper cases in a patty tin and bake in the oven immediately, for 12-15 minutes. When done, turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Use this basic recipe if you want to add liquid flavourings to your cakes.

Finishing Touches

For a sweet treat, icing the top of the cakes is easy to make. Try these basic quantities and adapt the flavours to suit your cakes.

Chocolate Icing

120g icing sugar

60 g softened butter

2 tbsp cocoa powder

Beat together all the ingredients until light and fluffy. If you use a processor, the mixture may first turn into a large ball, but persistent beating will smooth the mix into a spreadable topping. Add 1-2 tsp of strong made coffee, or milk, to loosen the mixture to an easier spreadable consistency (if required). Decorate with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or icing sugar.

Cappuccino Icing

4 tsp strong made coffee

1 tsp vanilla extract

120g icing sugar

60 g softened butter

2 tbsp finely grated chocolate or cocoa

Beat all the ingredients together into a soft, fluffy, spreadable icing. Decorate with chopped nuts, flaked almonds or grated chocolate.

Other toppings to try:

Melted chocolate – 55g cooking chocolate, broken into chunks, melted then spread on the cakes and left to solidify.

Chocolate and hazelnut spread makes a quick and easy topping.

Simpler water icing (100 g icing sugar plus a few drops of water at a time added and mixed well – be careful not to make the icing to thin, it will run! You can always add more icing sugar to thicken it again).

Many, many more…

So, experiment with your favourite flavours in small cake form – and let us know what combinations you like best!

Print the basic fairycakes recipe (opens pdf).

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