Sunday, 13 April 2014

Spicy Mixed Dried Fruit Hot Cross Buns

For me, this week has been about celebration. And any celebration worth celebrating has got to involve some baking! Fact.

With it being almost Easter and all, I thought it was about time I tried my hand at Hot Cross Buns. This guys' baking book has been on my shelf for a couple of years now. As you know, I'm not all that much into following recipes myself. But baking something new, well, I needed some expert, GBBO standard advice.

So swiftly turning to page 82, Chapter 3: Easter I found Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns - perfect!

Well, kind of... Inevitably I want to put my own stamp on my celebration buns. So out with the Chocolate Orange, and in with a little bit of what I fancy, which happens to be a lot of warming spice and dried mixed fruit. A fairly classic combo in anticipation of the melting butter that will marry so well with a freshly baked generously spiced and fruit bun. 

Baking these does take a bit of effort. Effort in the sense you have to wait for the dough to rise, only to bash out all the air once it has risen. And kneading can feel quite monotonous. While drawing on the cross is a bit fiddly.

(Not really selling this recipe am I!)

But actually, when it comes to celebrations, what seems like a faff isn't so much a faff when you get extremely satisfying results, somewhat impressive looking buns and a treat for yourself and others around you. 

We've all got a bit more time on our hands over the Easter break, and this is usually combined with a few more hungry mouths to feed. I couldn't recommend home made Hot Cross Buns any more highly for a scrummy Easter treat!

Spicy Mixed Fruit Hot Cross Buns (makes 8)

Preparation time: 2½ hrs (including rising time)
Cooking time: 25 mins

Hot Cross Buns

450g strong white bread flour

½ tsp salt
3 tsp ground mixed spices (mix as you wish - I used mainly cinnamon with cloves, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg)
50g caster sugar
7g fast action yeast
1 orange, zest only
1 large egg
200ml warm milk
30g melted unsalted butter, left to cool
120g mixed dried fruits


50g strong white bread flour
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp golden syrup, warmed

Here's how to make them...

1) To make the buns - sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl (apart from the dried fruit). Add in the zest of the orange.

2) Combine all the wet ingredients - the egg, milk and butter. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix using your hands.

3) Tip out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5/7 minutes until elastic. Tip in the dried fruit and combine into a ball. 

The warmest place I could find was under the sink!
4) Set aside in a lightly oiled bowl, cover in cling film and leave in a warm place to rise. Leave for about 1 hr or until doubled in size. 

5) Once risen. Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Make 8 equal sized balls from your dough and place on a baking tray. Cover in cling film and leave to rise again for another 40 mins, or until doubled in size.

6) Now it's time to add the famous cross! Simply mix together the flour and water in a bowl. It will form a thick sticky paste. If you have a piping bag - use that. If you're like me and don't, just improvise with a spoon. (There's no point making something at home if it doesn't look home made right?!)

7) Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 200˚C in a fan oven. As soon as they're done - brush each bun with the warmed golden syrup. And that's it - home made Hot Cross Buns ready to serve!

I couldn't resist a bite!

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter break and indulge in whatever you eat!

Until next time...

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Mendu Vadas with Chilli, Apple and Mint Chutney

Whilst I was in India last year I sampled some outstanding food. Moreish snacks are my favourite Indian food and every region in India has their specialities. 

Despite travelling in mainly Northern/ middle India, it was probably Southern Indian food that I ate the most. Who can resist a hot crispy dosa? Definitely not I!

But it's not only dosa the South Indian cuisine is famed for. If you haven't tried mendu vadas yet, this is your chance! It is as simple a dish as dosa but much easier to make as home. (If you have ever tried to make a dosa as thin and crispy as you can get in restaurants, then you'll know that making dosa at home is never as satisfying as eating it out!)

Along side dosas, idlis, gallons of sambhal and chutneys, Mendu Vada were ordered time and time again on my travels. If you like South Indian food as much as I do then you have to try these. They are so simple and require nothing more than a blender to make! The mixture can be kept in the freezer, ready to defrost and fry whenever you fancy a treat. 

I don't think the chutney I have chosen for this recipe is authentic in a any way, but it works. And it is a stunner of a chutney. The sweetness from the apple is a revelation which really  compliments the kick of chilli. Any left overs sit very happily in a chutney cheese sandwich

Mendu Vada with Chilli, Apple and Mint Chutney (serves 4)
Soak rice and dal over night
Preparation time:20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Mendu Vada

50g white rice
150g urad dal (also known as split black lentils)
2 tbsp chopped coriander (including the stalks)
1/2 tbsp cumin powder
1/2 hot green chilli
1/2 tsp salt (1/4 if using table salt)
Vegetable/Sunflower oil for frying (any flavourless oil will do)

Chilli, Apple and Mint Chutney

1 cooking apple, roughly chopped with the skin on
a small bunch of coriander (about a fist full), roughly chopped
a small bunch of mint (the same amount as coriander), leaves only
1 hot green chilli, keep the seeds in if you like spice and take them out if not
1 tsp sea salt (1/2 tsp if using table salt)
1 tsp sugar
1 lemon, you just need a squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp plain yoghurt

Here's how to make them... 

1. Start with the mendu vadas. Soak your lentil and rice in water over night. This will soften them and make them easy to blend.

2. Drain the rice and dal and put into a blender. Add all the other ingredients - coriander, cumin, green chilli and seasoning. 

3. Blend into a smooth paste. You may need to add a touch of water to loosen the mixture. You are looking for a thick greek yoghurt consistency. (Watch the video above at 0.14s you'll see what I mean). 

4. Heat some oil in a deep fryer. You want a medium heat otherwise the outside of the vada will cook too fast and the inside will be raw. 
Use wet hands to handle your paste otherwise it will stick to your hands! Test the heat of the oil using some of the mixture - just gently drop a blob in. You want the oil to bubble and sizzle. The mixture will turn golden but not brown over about five minutes. 

5. Now use your wet hands to shape the vada into round patties. Make a whole in the centre of each one before you drop it into the oil. I used a back of a wooden spoon to make mine!
Once cooked drain the vadas onto some kitchen towel and keep warm in a low oven.

6. Meanwhile make the chutney. Simply whiz up all the ingredients, except the yoghurt, in a blender. Taste and check for seasoning. Finally stir in the yoghurt before serving. 
The chutney will last in the fridge for up to a week.

These are such a satisfying treat and so easy to make. I hope you all enjoy giving them a go!

Until next time....

In the mean time you can see what I've been eating on Twitter and Instagram.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Roasted Tomatoes

The sun has most definitely had his hat on these past few days. And so has everyone else it seems! Chirpy, smiley faces are most welcome after the abysmal wet weather in February. 

Eating al fresco, stopping for a quick drink and going for walks in the park. It's all been happening this week. 

As a result my recipe this week has got summer written all over it: Roasted Tomatoes.

Whilst tomatoes are not exactly in season at the moment, roasting brings even the dullest tomato to life, and takes you back with its sweet aromas, to those hazy summer days. 

Tomatoes have many best friends and I have paired these tomatoes with it's very best: thyme, basil, garlic and my favourite, balsamic vinegar.

These Roasted Tomatoes are simplicity at its best. (This blog isn't called Sita's Simply Delicious for no reason!) And that's why I love them. 

Roasted Tomatoes (serves 2) 
Preration time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins

6 tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 sprigs of thyme, plus a few to garnish
1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch sugar
4 basil leaves to garnish

 Here's what you do...

Cut the tomatoes in half across the top. Cut out the hard, white core. Lay on lined baking tray giving each tomato some space to roast.

Sprinkle each tomato with the garlic and thyme leaves (pick the leaves off each sprig). Then season generously with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. 

Pour the balsamic vinegar into the centre of each tomato. Do the same with the olive oil, except let this drizzle onto the skin too.

Roast the tomatoes for 40 minutes in a pre heated oven at 180ºc. 

Finally garnish with some fresh thyme and basil leaf.

Eat the roasted tomatoes warm or cold. In a salad/ stirred through some pasta/ whizzed into a soup/ smooshed (technical term) onto some warm, toasted sourdough/ with some cheese. Or just as they are. Simple!

Until next time...

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Panko Halloumi Sticks with Caramelised Oranges and Mint

I am a see-it-want-to-eat-it kind of gal.

I am 100% guilty of spotting someone eating a packet of Thai green curry flavoured rice crackers as they stroll out of M&S and consequentially taking an impromptu detour to M&S - immediately.

True story (and there are many more where that came from!). How can you not be intrigued by green coloured crackers?

This see-it-want-to-eat-it attitude is not the healthiest when combined with Instagram. I’m surprised I haven’t drooled all over my phone yet.

Instagram is ridiculous. Gawking at well presented, tasty looking food is one thing. But gawking at well presented, tasty looking food through a filtered lens is torture. Pure torture!

Search “#food” and you’ll see what I mean.

Having said that. I am guilty of adding to this torture.

My entire Instagram is littered with “#food”.

And really, it isn’t all bad. My list of ‘restaurants to try’ has grown extensively as a result of Instagram gawking; along with my list of ingredients to experiment with.

That’s where how this recipe came about. Foodies have raved about panko (amazingly crispy Japanese breadcrumbs) since the beginning of time, it seems. So, I decided it was about time I checked out what all the fuss is about.

Result? Surprise, surprise - I am all over this rave. Panko breadcrumbs are the Godfather of breadcrumbs. They live up to their hype. 

In an effort to satisfy my craving for crispy, breaded, fried cheese...

... (a direct result of the see-it-want-to-eat-it attitude – thanks to Kush via Whatsapp) I have made Panko Halloumi Sticks with Caramelised Oranges and Mint.

Orange and halloumi is a winning combination. Unusual but it works. Caramelising the oranges gives this dish another dimension. Mint freshens things up. And panko gives it a crisp crunch.

The halloumi sticks can be deep fried or baked in the oven for the healthier option (also deep frying can be a bit of a kerfuffle). Either way, this recipe is a great sharing recipe and goes well with a generous helping of spring sunshine!

Panko Halloumi Sticks with Caramelised Oranges and Mint (serves 4)

250g halloumi, cut into 1½ cm width finger sticks
100g plain flour
200ml yoghurt, loosen with a little water
100g panko breadcrumbs
1tsp dried parsley
Olive oil
2 oranges, segmented without any pith
1tsp sugar
½ a small red onion, chopped into small cubes
10 fresh mint leaves, roughly torn

1)      Cut the halloumi into finger sticks. Try and keep them around the same size.

2)      Get dredging! Set up your dredging station. One bowl of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. The next bowl with yoghurt. And the final bowl with the breadcrumbs, season the breadcrumbs and add the dried parsley.

Now start by coating each halloumi stick with flour. Then dunk into the yoghurt. Shake off the excess yoghurt and go straight into the breadcrumbs.

3)      Lay out the breaded halloumi onto a baking sheet covered in olive oil. Drizzle the sticks with a little olive oil.

4)      Bake the halloumi sticks in a preheated oven for 15 - 20 minutes at 200ºC or until golden brown. Turn half way through cooking to ensure even browning.

5)      Segment the oranges and sprinkle with a little sugar. Caramelise in a hot pan. Turn frequently until you can see the oranges char a caramel brown colour. This should take about 5 minutes.

6)      Chop the onion finely and tear the mint. Set aside ready to adorn the halloumi and oranges.

7)      Assemble the dish by arranging a few orange segments over a pile of halloumi sticks. Sprinkle over the crunchy onion and fresh mint to serve.

Until next time...

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Hasselback Potatoes with Pesto

I love potatoes. It's no secret. I have loved them my whole life. It started from childhood, and chips. (My childhood involved a lot of chips - written about here - and waffles, and mash and jackets). Oh, it was the life! 

Choosing my next victim!

I had such an attachment to my chips. My uncle likes to tell this story about me eating chips in a swimming poolbefore I had even learnt how to swim. Yep, in a swimming pool lumped into a rubber ring, eating chips! 

It's the kind of story that surfaces any time I go for a second helping of chips (and have them down me before you can blink). Or a second helping of anything really. It's less a story about my love of chips and more about me being quite possessive over my food. You have been warned!

Personally I think he just wanted to steal a few. But I was a smart kid, you see. I knew leaving chips on the side of the pool just would not ensure their safety. And safety, of course, is of the utmost importance when it comes to chips. You have to guard them with your life. That's just normal chip protocol, right? 

Anyway, the point is I like chips. And potatoes generally. 

With 23 years of potato experience behind me, I've eaten potatoes most ways. So, this week I challenged myself to try making something new with potatoes. Something I've not tried before. 

Enter: the Hasselback Potato

It's the garlic incisions that make this potato. And the buttery, crispy, salted skin. Hasselback potatoes, where have you been all my life?!

Although I have to say, the pesto I've paired with mine is exceptional. An impromptu whiz of something green, garlicy and nutty resulted in my best pesto yet. Lucky for you I have written the recipe for both potato and pesto below!

Hasselback Potatoes with Pesto (serves 4)

 4 small Maris Piper potatoes, washed and pat dry, skin-on

4 small cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 knobs of butter
1/2 tbsp oil

1 bunch parsley
5 walnuts
1 clove of garlic
1/2 lemon, juice only
approx 5 tbsp olive oil

1) Start with the potatoes. Slice across the potato, leaving about 1 cm between each slice. Slice almost to the bottom of the potato but not quite all the way through.

2) Insert a slice of garlic into each incision. You can get creative here and insert whatever takes your fancy - chillies, ginger, herbs like rosemary, some mustard powder...

3) Lay the potatoes on a baking sheet ready for the oven. 

4) Liberally rub each potato with butter and coat in a little oil. Season well - again you don't have to stop at salt and pepper, you could try some different herbs and spices. Just make sure you are generous with salt as this will give your tatties a crispy finish.

5) Bake the potatoes at 200ºc for about 45 minutes (depending on the size of the them) or until golden and crispy and cooked all the way through.

6) Now for the pesto -  simply bung everything in a food processor and whiz! Simple as that. Season and add more oil and lemon juice if you need to. (I like my pesto quite thick.)

This recipe makes more pesto than you need for the hasselbacks. But it will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks and is perfect in pasta, on toasties, through a salad or even dolloped in a minestrone soup as I enjoyed it.

Now simply serve the pesto with your hasselbacks and enjoy as a dip or smothered over the top! 

If you know any more interesting things to do with potatoes, please feel free to get in touch. I can never have too many potato recipes!

Until next time...

Monday, 3 February 2014

Japanese Patties with Ponzu Sauce

So, my last post was a long, long time ago. I did mention I would be away for a while; however it would be a lie to say I have been in India this entire time. My excuse is valid, I would argue, because health related issues always are aren’t they?! And let me tell you, I don’t think I know a single person who goes to India and does not suffer even the slightest of ailments. That’s just the charm of India – chaotic, unclean and polluted (hence those ailments) crossed with vibrant, beautiful and unbelievably tasty!

Just a selection of some of the amazing food I ate in India!

Talking of tasty Indian food, if there is one thing that India does best in this world it has got to be cheap, moreish, street side snacks – my favourite hands-down has got to be pani puri (for those of you who don’t know what pani puri is, check out this link). I love the idea of food you just shove it in your gob. No cutlery. No fuss. No half bites. And that is exactly what pani puri is. You get the whole experience in one mouthful.  

Going with the vibe of “shove it in your gob/ no cutlery/ no fuss/ no half bites” kind of food (I can see this phrase is totally going to catch on... or maybe not) coupled with an over excited trip to the supermarket  stocking up on all things “world food, aisle 17”; this week I rustled up these tempting sticky and chewy yet crunchy and moreish Japanese delights, with an exotic sounding dipping sauce – my Japanese Patties with Ponzu Sauce.

For any Japanese aficionados out there, it is fair to say this recipe is not strictly authentically Japanese. I was completely experimental with my choice of vegetables (and slightly biased towards those which I like). I call these Japanese patties due to my use of rice flour, having been inspired by a similar method of “patty” making (although I am 100% sure nobody in Japan would ever describe them as a patty!) by that outstandingly creative chef Nobu Matsuhisa, you know, of highly acclaimed and somewhat fashionable restaurant Nobu. His recipe used daikon as its vegetable of choice, which works really well (obviously) and is surprisingly easily available in large supermarkets and local grocery stores – it’s definitely worth trying with daikon, just substitute the courgette in my recipe with daikon.

The sauce though, that is Japanese, and not only by name. I’ve added some freshly chopped chilli to give the sauce a bit of a kick. But the real zing of this dipping sauce comes from the orange juice (which is often lemon or lime juice or both in other Ponzu recipes) which makes Ponzu taste like a kind of Asian vinaigrette.

Japanese Patties with Ponzu Sauce (serves 6)

Ponzu Sauce
1 orange, juice only (alternatively use 50ml carton orange juice)
1 chilli, finely chopped
2 ½ tbsp dark soy sauce
2 ½ tbsp mirin

Japanese Patties
2 sweet potatoes, cooked (baked, roasted, steamed – whatever you like really)
1 tbsp spring onion, finely chopped
½ tsp truffle oil
6 tbsp rice flour

1 courgette
2 tbsp rice flour

1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds (or just use white sesame seeds)

1) Start with the ponzu sauce. Simply measure out the ingredients and whisk together.

2) Now for the patties. I like to make the courgette and sweet potato separately because this makes a more interesting patty, aesthetically and texturally. First it’s sweet potato. – Peel and mash the cooked sweet potato. Add the spring onion, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste and the truffle oil (don’t ask why but it just adds a little something). Mix well. Next add the rice flour a bit at a time. You want the mixture to become much drier like a crumble mix. Set aside. 

3) Now it’s time for the courgette. Peel the courgette in alternate stripes (the skin can be bitter and removing some of it removes some of that bitterness). Grate the courgette. Add a pinch of salt – this will draw out all the moisture. Squeeze the courgette in your hands to remove the excess moisture. Discard the courgette water and put the courgette into a clean bowl. Now add the rice flour – again you want a dry mix.

4) Combine the sweet potato and courgette mixtures into a ping pong ball sized ball using your hands. You should be able to get about 25 out of this recipe – but I only made half and put the rest in the fridge for another day.

5) Steam the patties for about 15 minutes. Lightly oil the surface on which the patties will sit to ensure they do not stick. Keep an eye on the water level in the steamer as if you run out of water the pot starts to burn and your patties will be adorned with an acrid taste – not pleasant!

If you do not have a steamer you can make a make-shift one! Simply place a heat proof bowl upside down in a deep sided pan or wok. Get a dish with holes to place over the top or a wide based sieve, balance on the over turned bowl. Get a lid to cover and BOOM – your own make-shift steamer!

6) Toast some sesame seeds in a dry pan until slightly golden.

7) Once the patties are cooked shallow fry them in a little oil for some colour, keep turning so they are coloured on all sides. Immediately dip in the toasted sesame so the seeds stick and you’re ready to serve alongside the Ponzu sauce. 

Until next time...