Saturday, 9 November 2013

Pumpkin and Chickpea Coconut curry

This post is born out of pity. Pity for all those poor pumpkins left abandoned on supermarket shelves (now that Halloween is a distant memory). That, and the fact that I've been desperate to cook with coconut milk, an unknown ingredient to me as a cook. It has worked out perfectly because I have somehow evoked flavours reminiscent of my favourite katsu curry in that infamous chain Wagamamas!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Mexican Wedding Biscuits

This post is a made in dedication to my new catering venture: Benos' Kitchen.

Random name you might say, given that my name is Sita (“Sita’s Simply Delicious” – duh!). But, this name makes perfect sense. ‘Benos’ means sisters in Gujarati. My business partner (a.k.a my partner in crime) is my dear cousin sister, Nivika. And we’re both of Gujarati heritage.  

Obviously this the perfect time for me to advertise to you all - my lovely blog readers, so let me just get that out of the way first.

We really, really want to cook for you all. Really we do. Cooking is our passion. People tell us they like our food. We don’t pay them to say that. That’s just what they say. It’s party food that we do. Finger food. Bite sized. Bursting with flavour.To sum up our food in four words, we make fusion food made simple.

Here’s an excerpt from our menu so you can get a taste of the food we do.

Courgette Cups – courgette cups stuffed with a delicate blend of rosemary, thyme and garlic topped with crispy, golden breadcrumbs.

Mini Focaccia Bites – handmade authentic focaccia bread, smothered in our secret marinara sauce and melted mild, creamy cheddar cheese.

Crispy polenta bites – crispy polenta rounds topped with smooth goat’s cheese mousse and caramelised fig and red onion relish.

If you like sound of what you read and want to find out more, email us at . We even have a fancy newsletter to keep you all up to date. Send us an email and we’ll add you to our mailing list because we’re nice like that.
You can find us on twitter, and instagram, here and here, too – we basically just post food porn for you all to ogle at.

Okay, advertisement over.

This week’s recipe is for these super cute, really simple yet unbelievably delicious biscuits.

 I came across these when I was researching vegan recipes for an event Nivika and I attended. In my experience vegan food can sometimes feel lacking; Lacking flavour, lacking substance. But these vegan biscuits are just delicious. They literally melt in your mouth. And the use of maple syrup (common in a vegan recipes – as I have come to learn) is genius.

If anyone is celebrating Diwali next week – give these biscuits a go along side your usual sweets. Trust me, everyone will love them.

Mexican Wedding Biscuits (makes approx 25)
290g plain flour
30g ground almonds
85g icing sugar
225g margarine
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

(You may notice those fair hands in the video are not my own. They actually belong to my partner in crime Nivika. I'm behind the camera this week!)

1) Sift flour, almonds and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Beat margarine, maple syrup and vanilla in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Get your hands in and bind the dough together.

2) Leave in the fridge to cool for at least 10 minutes. Thereafter, mould into teaspoon sized balls. Pat down and add roasted almond flake on top. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 175ºc for 11-13 minutes. Until the edges are golden.

3) Let the biscuits cool and dust with plenty of icing sugar. 

// Click here to PRINT RECIPE //

Until next time...

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Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sweet Corn Chowder

Last pretty much sums me up at the moment. Time, days, life is just whizzing by. It is so easy to get over whelmed at how time flies as you dash about doing one thing after another, after another, after another, barely having a second to think. Every decision I make seems instantaneous in consequence. This is very disconcerting for someone who likes to plan ahead. My diary is my Bible.

Having said that, it might come as a surprise that in amongst the whirlwind of everyday life I find quiet solace in possibly the most hectic, traumatising (for some) place on earth – the London Underground.

The London Underground is like another world. You are distanced from the wider world, unreachable from the needy demands of cyberspace and commitments to friends, family and work. That time spent on the tube is yours. You cannot give that time to anyone on the phone or anyone in an email or in reply to their text message. You are free from the inundation of news feeds and time lines.

Admittedly noisy, rushing people on the Underground can cause just as much disruption to quiet mindfulness as news feeds and text messages. However this can be blocked out by escapism through music. And you will rarely find me without headphones firmly plugged in whilst travelling on the Underground.

It is here, in the routine forty minutes of my day, twice a day, that I take my solace. Whether I am jammed between a pole and a suitcase or sitting comfortably surrounded by angry, envious glares wishing that the next stop is mine so that they can have a seat; either way those forty minutes belong to me. And on days like the days I’ve been having these past couple of weeks those forty minutes consist mainly of forty winks!

The minute I get off the Underground to head home, my mind is racing and phone buzzing once again. But at the forefront of all these demands is always food. Thinking “need fresh food now” and “can’t be bothered to go to the shops, what have we got at home?” is basically how I came up with this recipe. Store cupboard ingredients plus really simple, fresh execution equals delicious, nutritious, wholesome dinner – a.k.a Sweet Corn Chowder.

Sweet Corn Chowder

Sweet Corn Chowder (serves 4)
1 white onion, chopped finely
5 small potatoes, peeled (optional) and chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 cups sweet corn (approx 250g), frozen or fresh or canned, it doesn't matter
1 hot chilli, split down the middle
1 handful coriander, chopped finely
1 tsp stock (or 1 stock cube)
3 cups milk
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp oil
A dash of cream – if you’re feeling luxurious

1) Sweat the onions gently on a low heat. Add a pinch of salt as they cook to stop them burning. Pop the bay leaves in with the onions. Let them cook together for 2 minutes.

Sweating onions with bay leaves

2) Next add the potatoes and stir into the onions briefly. Now mix the stock into 1 cup of water, pour this over the onion and potatoes. The water should just cover the potatoes. Add the chilli. (The reason I have only split the chilli down the middle and not chopped it is so that it only imparts a mild warming background flavour rather than full on heat. This soup is all about the subtleties.) Put the lid on and let the potatoes cook until soft. This will take about 7 minutes.

3) Add three cups of milk. Let this come to the boil. (Watch that the milk doesn’t boil over. Trust me scrubbing boiled milk off your cooker is not fun or easy.)

Sweet corn

4) Now take about half your sweet corn and blitz with a ladle full of soup. This can be used to thicken the soup. Add the rest of the frozen corn into the soup whole. And mix in the blitzed mixture. (FYI: I prefer frozen sweet corn to canned and fresh over both these options. But for convenience sake I try and use frozen when I can. But use whatever is convenient for you and preferred by your own taste buds of course.)

The finished soup!

5) The final flourish is a handful of chopped coriander. Serve alongside some crusty bread of choice – you’ll want something that will soak up those gorgeous flavours. That’s it - simple, delicious soup!

// Click here to PRINT RECIPE //

Until next time...

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Mini Chocolate Scones with Pear Compote

These scones are bloomin’ marvellous!

Mini Chocolate Scones

Oh, don’t mind me over here blowing my own trumpet.  It’s just that I could eat these all day, every day. They are (as most really, really good baking recipes are by my standards) adapted from my Mum’s recipe – so are inevitably going to be scrummy. I would be in a lot of trouble from Mother Hen but, she doesn’t know how to “do a blog” as she says. And well, what’s the point in me spending time teaching her how easy it is? When once she’s in front of the screen, mouse in hand, she’s going to get **new technology fear!! Get me a pen and a piece of paper!!** syndrome and forget everything I’ve told her. So I’ll give her the credit she deserves but put it up in full glory on my blog.

This recipe is adapted from her basic scone recipe, with my added twist of chocolate. And the pear compote is a perfect pairing (and my own recipe!). So actually, this dish is almost entirely my own creation. Mum, you’re lucky you got a mention!

Scones are just perfect for this time of year. Like most people, the darkening days and change in weather has got me down. I remember writing something similar around this time of year last year, when I made soup. This year, the comfort factor has been taken up a notch. Warm, sweet scones are the perfect comfort food and taste of home, alongside a big cup of tea, naturally. And they could be said to be very en vogue what with Bake Off and Downton (follow the links if you’ve been living under a rock or if you are not familiar with these British obsessions) back on our screens.

So over the winter period, on a Sunday night when most of us can be found snuggled under a blanket in front of the box, I would definitely recommend trying these British classics. And of course this recipe can be adapted to incorporate your favourite flavours – apple, hazelnut, lavender, orange and chocolate whatever takes your fancy really, this recipe definitely allows for experimentation.

Mini Chocolate Scones with Pear Compote (serves about 10)

Pear Compote:
4 Williams pears, peeled and chopped
6 tbsp (jam) sugar
1 star anise
2 tbsp hot water

Mini Chocolate Scones:
300g self raising flour
75g butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp caster sugar
50g chocolate (with at least 40% cocoa solids)
150ml milk

Start with the pear compote...

1. Peel and chop the pears into small cubes. Put all the ingredients into a microwavable bowl. Then follow the same instructions here for my microwavable jam. You should not expect a jammy texture for this compote though – it is much more dry and the pears do not break down as much. However look out for a change in colour. The pears should darken a little and soften slightly. The texture you’re left with goes perfectly with these scones.

Pear Compote

Now for the scones...

1. First put your oven at 200ºC on to preheat so it is well heated before the scones go in.

Butter and flour now resembles sand!

2. Next, weigh out the flour. Sift into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub the butter into the flour between your finger tips (as seen in the video above). Keep going until the mixture resembles sand or fine breadcrumbs. Keep the mixture light and airy by lifting it through your fingers 

Notice the round-bladed knife

3. Pour in the milk and spoon in the sugar. Mix together using a wooden spoon or round-bladed knife. Once it begins to incorporate add in your chopped chocolate pieces. (I prefer these to chocolate chips as they’re all different sizes adding texture, and you can get bigger chunks – which is always a good thing with chocolate!)

Cutting out the scones

4. Once the mixture comes together, tip out onto a well floured work surface. Knead slightly to remove any cracks in the dough. Be gently though as you don’t want to knock out all the air and over work your dough. Flatten out using your hands until the dough is 1.5cm in thickness. Use a 6cm pastry cutter to cut out your scones. (If you don’t have a pastry cutter you can use a knife to shape them manually or trace round a bottle – just try and keep them all the same shape so they cook at the same rate.) You should get around 10-12 scones from this mixture.

Almost ready for the oven!

5. Transfer onto a baking sheet lined tray. Give the scones space between them as they will expand. Brush each scone with some milk – this will give them a lovely golden sheen. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes at 200ºC until golden brown.  

My Mini Chocoalte Scones with Pear Compote

6. Once baked transfer onto a cooling rack. You can have them warm or cold. I like them best warm, with a dollop of whipped cream and a spoon of pear compote. Delicious!

I think I'm ready for Bake Off and Downton!

// Click here to PRINT RECIPE //
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Until next time... 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Chutney Cheese Sandwich with Pickled Onions

With September being the start of the academic year (here in the UK at least), it got me thinking about my school lunch box. Kids these days seem to have such exotic palates, growing up exposed to so many different cuisines both at home and when they go out, I can’t imagine they are satisfied with just a sandwich and a piece of fruit anymore. However when I was growing up my packed lunch always begun with a sandwich – cucumber and mustard mainly, sometimes jam, sometimes peanut butter, often the two together (you can tell I had a limited palate). Something between two slices of bread was always the starting point for my lunch box, followed by a box of fruit, packet of crisps, maybe a chocolate or a piece of cake and a couple of snacks for the journey home (I had a very high metabolism – and also very hungry friends on the coach home from whom it was impossible to hide any scrap of food!).

Since those lunch box days I have progressed in the way of sandwich fillings. Now pretty much anything is permitted between any two slices of bread that enter my mouth. This recipe was born in that vein because almost every Indian household will have some green chutney hanging about in their fridge, and naturally anything that is hanging about in the fridge is game when it comes to sandwich fillings. A lot of people will have their own version of this sandwich adding all sorts such as sliced tomatoes or shredded lettuce. But my recipe keeps it classic; simply chutney and cheese.

Chutney Cheese Sandwich with Pickled Onions

However it should be noted this chutney is not your average sweet mango marmalade-ish chutney. This is the real deal chutney, the chutney that my grandmother, like her own grandmother and her grandmothers grandmother too (probably) means when she refers to chutney. It gets its vivid green colour (and name) from the hoards of coriander that it begins with, plus a little extra from the mint I’ve added in for freshness. This chutney is used as a dip for absolutely anything, so even if you're not too keen on the sound of the sandwich, the chutney alone is worth a try.

To make this sandwich properly, the bread you use has to be white. You just won’t get the same crisp lightness on your toast without white bread. A packet of crisps is never too far away from any sandwich but I like mine with a side of pickled onions. They add a satisfying crunch and sharpness to the dish. Furthermore, they really couldn’t be any easier to make.
So if you want to spice up your lunch box here’s how you make my Chutney Cheese Sandwich with Pickled Onions.

Chutney Cheese Sandwich with Pickled Onions (serves 4)

Ingredients for the Chutney
For the Chutney:
1 bunch of corriander, roughly chopped
Approx 30 mint leaves
2 tsp cumin seeds
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 lemon, juice only
3 chillies, or less depending on how spicy you like it
Approx 10/15 roasted peanuts

For the Pickled Onions:
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 pinch of sea salt

To make the chutney, simply add all the ingredients, apart from the peanuts, into a blender. Blitz until smooth. Check the consistency of the chutney. Add the peanuts to thicken if necessary. Blitz until smooth – and the chutney is done. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. Alternatively you can freeze it ready for a later date.

Ingredients for the Pickled Onion

For the pickled onions, simply mix all the ingredients together and leave the onions to pickle in the juices for at least a couple of hours. (If you can make this day before you want to eat it, even better! The flavours develop over time, so the longer you leave it the better it will taste).

To assemble the sandwich simply toast one side of each slice of bread. Spread the chutney on the un-toasted side. Pile on the cheese (grated/sliced – however you like it) and sandwich together. Serve with the pickled onion on the side. This recipe couldn’t be any simpler but still tastes delicious!

Just couldn't help but take a bite!

// Click here PRINT RECIPE //

Until next time...

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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Polenta Chips

Truffle Risotto, Green Papaya Salad with Crispy Onion and Roasted Peanuts, Hot Apple and Almond Crusted Pie with Vanilla Cream. These are just some of the answers I have given in reply to that infamous question, “What is your favourite food?” all foodies get asked. These rich and interesting dishes with complex, layered flavours offer no less than what would be expected to satisfy a foodies taste buds. But in all honesty, if I had to eat Green Papaya salad with Crispy Onion and Roasted Peanuts as my final supper then, well, I really wouldn't die entirely satisfied.

If I were to tell the truth, my ultimate favourite food of all time is the very unrefined, unsophisticated British chip. Actually chip doesn't cut it, because let’s face it no one on this earth can ever stop at one. A grand plate of salted chips would do me just fine; accompanied by an equally grand dollop of ketchup.

Favourite foods are so much more than just taste qua taste. Favourite foods are about the memories those tastes evoke. Every time I eat chips I am taken right back to my entire childhood - mainly because I spent most of my childhood scoffing my face with chips. And those were happy, happy days.

I remember being in Canada, on a kids adventure with my brother and two cousins. We were on our way to a theme park all squashed together in the back of a car with a Canadian relative. Well prepared, he had packed some snacks in his backpack to keep us going for the journey. He asked “Does anyone want any chips? I have some in my bag.” My face lit up. I couldn't believe it. How had he managed to pack fresh, hot chips into his backpack? I was a little dubious. But then I thought ‘Canada is an entirely different country, miles away from England; maybe they have innovative solutions for packing hot foods into backpacks. What else could have meant by chips in his backpack?’ Alas, you can imagine my disappointment when he brought out a bag of crisps. Of course what I was dreaming of were what the Canadians call fresh, hot fries - I was completely lost in translation!

Polenta Chips
So, with a nod to my ultimate favourite food this week I have decided to share my recipe for Polenta Chips – a slightly more refined, sophisticated Italian cousin of the great British chip. These chips are packed full of flavour. The polenta gives the chips a soft interior and crisp exterior once they are fried. And rather than ketchup, I paired my Polenta Chips with Italian tomato sauce – the kind you would make with pasta. Semplice e delizioso!

Polenta Chips (serves 4)

100g polenta
530ml water
100g cheddar cheese, grated
2 small chillies, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
A large handful of parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil

//Click here to PRINT RECIPE //

Chopped chilli, garlic, parsley

Finely chop the chillies, garlic and parsley. Fry for 3 minutes until the parsley shrinks and darkens in colour.

Pouring in Polenta in a stream

Boil the water. Once it is bubbling pour in the polenta in a stream stirring constantly. Do not add all the polenta in one clump as it will be difficult to un-clump it once it hits the water. Keep stirring until the polenta is cooked through. This will take about 5 minutes.

Add in the cheese and mix in the cooked parsley, chillies and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and stir all the ingredients together. At this point the polenta can be eaten just as it is, serve in the same way you would mashed potato.

Cooling Polenta

But to make the chips, you have to let it cool completely. To do this, pout it out onto a chopping board, or wide plate or tray. Leave until completely cooled. This will take at least 30 minutes.

Shallow frying Polenta Chips

Once cooled, cut into chips. (I absentmindedly cut mine into oblongs instead of chips – but they tasted great all the same!) Shallow fry in a little oil, turning so that each side hits the pan and it is crispy on all sides. Serve with tomato sauce, or just as they are.

Until next time...

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Beetroot Salad with Roasted Sweetcorn and Mint

Recently I have transitioned from an 8 hour working week as a student to a 9-5 real-world working girl. And what a slap in the face waking up to an alarm at 7.30 every morning is. Especially after 3 years of having the choice of whether to wake up for a class at 9 or.. just attend another one later on, and no alarm! Having said that, I don't have it anywhere near as bad as half of my friends. But still, I am in mourning over my loss of those long gone luxuries of student life.

One of the things I will miss a lot is a long lunch. I used be able to order a pot of tea, and have time to sit there and get a re-fill. But now I have to be much more efficient with lunch. Although, that might be a bit of an exaggeration because it was a long lunch, at a restaurant serving interesting, healthy and really delicious salads (Ottolenghi), on my first day of work that gave me the final bit of inspiration for this Beetroot Salad with Roasted Sweetcorn and Mint.

Beetroots are everywhere are the moment. August is their season. You can get them ready cooked any time of the year. But now is the time to buy them raw. The rewards of cooking them yourself are truly great. Thier flavour intensifies as they bake/steam slowly in their own juices. They are paired with a cooling yoghurt dressing that turns the most beautiful colour as the beetroot juices seep into it - this salad needs to come with a warning for turning your lips pink!

Roasting sweetcorn for the salad was an epiphany. Crispy and crunchy yet still sweet and juicy inside. Roasted sweetcorn is a dish transforming addition to any recipe. This salad is vibrant and tasty and tastes even better the next day - perfect for any lunch box!  I took some for lunch paired with this bread.

Beetroot Salad with Roasted Sweetcorn and Mint (serves 4)
3 large beetroots 
2 cloves garlic
200g sweetcorn
150ml yoghurt
½ tsp Cumin
½ tsp Paprika
½ tbsp Olive oil
1 tsp Extra virgin olive oil
A handful of mint leaves

// Click here to PRINT RECIPE //

Beetroot Salad with Roasted Sweetcorn and Mint

Start by washing your beetroot thoroughly. Wrap loosely in foil with the garlic cloves. Make sure that there are no gaps to ensure your vegetables cook in their own steam. Place on a tray in case any juices escape, and place in a preheated oven at 190˚c for 1 ½ hours. It’s a long time, but honestly the beetroots take on the most wonderful flavour cooking in their own steam. Much better than the beets you can buy ready cooked.

Once cooked, remove the beets from the oven and open their foil package. Double check they are cooked all the way through using a knife. (You are looking for a knife to easily pierce through to the centre of the beetroots – the time this takes will vary according the size of your beets.)

Roasted Sweetcorn

Next roast the sweetcorn. Coat the sweetcorn in ½ tbsp of oil, ¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp cumin and ½ tsp paprika in a bowl. Then tip out onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 190˚c.

Whilst the sweetcorn is roasting, make your yoghurt dressing. Pass the yoghurt through a sieve to ensure your dressing is smooth and lump-less.  Squash out garlic clove from its skin and use your knife to smooth into a paste. Add this to the yoghurt. Season with a pinch of cumin and stir together.

Beetroot Salad ready to be dressed
Peel and slice your cooled beetroot into rounds, about 1cm thick and arrange on a plate (as fancily as you like). Lightly drizzle some good quality, extra virgin olive oil over the beets and season with a small pinch of salt.

Once your sweetcorn is done you are ready to assemble. Simply spoon the yoghurt dressing over of the beets. Scatter with roughly torn mint leaves and handfuls of crispy sweetcorn. This dish is best served at room temperature.

Until next time...

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Apple, Walnut, Cheddar Cheese Bread & Honey and Sesame Seed Bread

No-knead, no-rise, no-yeast bread in 40 minutes start to finish? Yep, you’d better believe it. When I first saw this recipe here I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Bread is usually a long processes involving waiting around, for a couple of hours at a time, to give your yeast a chance to prove (any bread buffs out there – get the pun?!) that it is alive and kicking (what an attention seeking little so and so!). No-knead, no-rise, no-yeast means no all.

Whilst the bread is baking in the oven, you have just about enough time to wash up, call some friends round and crack open a bottle of wine. Once this bread is out of the oven, it requires immediate consumption. This is not a dramatic over exaggerated expression of how delicious this bread is. Rather, a slight drawback of taking a short cut in baking. If left to go cold it can be a little stodgy. Of course if you do bake it in advance, I would simply advise warming it up before you eat it.  
On the plus side, this recipe is all about getting creative. Use the basic recipe of said amount of flour, salt, water and olive oil and let your imagination/taste buds do the rest! I’ve tried paprika and chilli, olive and rosemary (as used in the original) and even date and walnut. The ones in this post were my favourite. Sweet apple, crunchy walnut and salty, creamy cheese. Mouth watering already? Mine too! I just love the mix of sweet and savoury. When I go to the cinema, it’s always half sweet and half salty popcorn for me. And as for honey and sesame seed, if you’ve ever tried Jewish breads you’ll know honey and sesame is a tried and tested combination. This bread couldn’t be any easier if it tried. Now there is no excuse for not baking your own!

Apple, Walnut and Cheddar Bread (serves 8)
300g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
2/3 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water
1 green apple, cut into small cubes
Approx 50g walnuts, roughly chopped
Approx 40g cheddar cheese, grated

// Click here to PRINT RECIPE //

Start by measuring out the flour and pinch of salt. Add the oil, warm water and cheese. (The measurements are quite specific but honestly, if you pour in 1 whole tbsp of oil instead of 2/3 by mistake it’s not the end of the world. The same goes for the water and cheese.) Stir until the mixture comes together using a wooden spoon.

As the dough forms it will start to come away from the sides of the bowl. At this point tip out onto a clean surface. Push the dough around and shape into a flattened circle. Pile the apple and walnuts into the middle of your circle and pull the dough over to cover. Use your hands to try and evenly distribute the apple and walnuts into your dough. If it seems to stick to your hands, add a little more flour.

Shape into a round loaf, by tucking in the edges of your circle underneath (as seen in the video below). Use the handle of a wooden spoon to indent 8 segmentations in the loaf. This will make the loaf easier to cut/pull apart once bakes. Sprinkle some cheese on top for a cheesy crust. And now it’s ready to bake, for 30 minutes at 200 ºc.

Honey and Sesame Seed Bread (serves 8) 
300g self raising flour
A pinch of salt
2/3 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water
4 tbsp runny honey
3tbsp back sesame seeds
3tbsp white sesame seeds

// Click here to PRINT RECIPE //

Start this is the same way as the other bread. Start by measuring out the flour and pinch of salt. Add the oil, warm water, honey and sesame seeds. (The measurements are quite specific but honestly, if you pour in 1 whole tbsp of oil instead of 2/3 by mistake it’s not the end of the world. The same goes for the water, honey and sesame seeds. If you only have one kind of sesame seed, that’s fine too.) Stir until the mixture comes together using a wooden spoon.

As the dough forms it will start to come away from the sides of the bowl. At this point tip out onto a clean surface. . Push the dough around and shape into a round loaf. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to indent 8 segmentations in the loaf. This will make the loaf easier to cut/pull apart once bakes. And now it’s ready to bake, for 30 minutes at 200 ºc.

I shared my breads with four of my friends at a “bring-a-dish” dinner party at mine, so I couldn’t blog about this recipe without mentioning them. I knew we are all foodies or at least dedicated food consumers (we all went travelling together and came back a lot heavier after two months in each others company!). But I did not realise how many great recipes they all have up their sleeves! Here is a little snippet of our feast, and my God it was a feast!

Ricotta and Roasted Veg Stuffed Pancakes
Mushroom and Pesto Puffs, Camembert, Apple Toast


Apple, Walnut, Cheddar Cheese and Honey, Sesame Seed Bread 
Cheese Board

The chefs! 

Until next time...

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Mexican Guacamole and Horchata

For the past three weeks or so I have been impatiently waiting for the right time to pick my chillies. Which, I might add, I grew myself without killing or neglecting. Completely from scratch. This is a huge achievement for me as someone who has seen one too many basil plants die shrivelled and unloved on my kitchen windowsill!

Last autumn I went to a Mexican chain called Wahaca, who very generously give you a gift of chilli seeds as you leave. Those seeds became my babies over the last year. It’s not meant to take chillies that long to grow, but being the novice gardener that I am I didn't think to wait until after winter (the coldest this country has seen in years) to plant my seeds and give them a better chance at life! Then again, I've always been a fan of tough love. Nevertheless, despite my harsh parenting, the chillies have well and truly blossomed (as you will notice in my video below).

I couldn't think of anything more fitting to make using my Mexican chillies than a Mexican guacamole. And what with this amazing weather here in London, nachos and dips are the perfect way to start off an evening in the garden.

That brings me onto my chosen accompanying drink (because what crisps and dips would be complete without a drink?!) – Horchata. It’s an unusual Mexican drink, made from dry roasted rice, cinnamon mixed with condensed milk served cold with ice. Until recently the only thing I knew about Horchata was that it’s the name of a Vampire Weekend song (as some of you may have noticed by the music from my last videos, I am a Vampire Weekend fan). But alas, Horchata is an authentic Mexican drink, really easy to make and tastes amazing with a drop of rum as suggested in the recipe I followed that can be found here

Mexican Guacamole (serves 4)

2 ripe avocados
5 cherry/baby plum tomatoes or 1 normal tomato, chopped into small dice
1 small red onion, chopped into small dice
2 small green chillies, finely chopped
3/4 tsp lemon/lime juice

Simply add all the ingredients into a bowl and either use you hands or use a knife and spoon to squash the avocado into the other ingredients. Keeping the avocados whole to begin with allows you to add texture to your guacamole. You can add more/less chillies according to taste. This goes for the lemon/lime juice as well. Guacamole is best made fresh right before you want to eat it, and is best served with nachos.

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Horchata (serves 6)

1/3 cup rice
1 large piece of cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
340g evaporated milk (about 1 can)
396g condensed milk (1 can)
4/5 cups of water
cinnamon to garnish
ice to serve

Dry roast the rice and cinnamon in a pan over a medium heat. Wait for the rice to turn slightly golden. Keep tossing in the pan to avoid any rice getting overcooked as this will give a burnt taste.

Grind the rice and cinnamon in a blender until they form a fine powder.

Mix all remaining ingredients in a jug and add the powder. Stir well and then drain over a cheese cloth into another jug or large punch bowl. You can use a really fine cloth (as I did) if you don't have a cheese cloth. Refrigerate and serve cold with some ice and cinnamon powder to finish. you can even add a dash of rum when you serve if you wish, trust me this tastes great!

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If you're having a Mexican fiesta any time soon, these recipes are a must!

Until next time...