Hot Cross Bun Pudding

31st March 2018

Sometimes you find you have over bought on Hot Cross Buns, and they go a bit stale. Toasting them can be precarious with all the dried fruit and sugar in them, and we have had several charcoaled offering recently. Years back I made a bread-and-butter pudding with brioche,  so I thought one using Hot Cross Buns might be a good pudding for our family meal tomorrow, Easter Sunday. It doesn't take long to put together, and will reheat* well, so making it ahead of time is an option. This quantity should serve about 8 people. I am unsure as we haven't eaten it yet, but I am not expecting leftovers

Hot Cross Bun Bread-and -Butter Pudding

What you need:

8 Hot Cross Buns

30g butter

150g marzipan, cut into 0.5cm cubes

350ml milk

2 large eggs

25g white granulated sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp grated nutmeg, with a little more at the end

What to do:

1. Turn on the oven, 160C

2. Lightly butter the dish

3. Slice each bun into three slices crosswise and butter each piece

4.Fit the slices into the buttered dish, keeping the top crusts for the upper layer, adding the marzipan cubes evenly between the slices

5. Mix the eggs and milk together evenly, and  then stir in the vanilla, sugar and nutmeg

6. Pour gently over the buns in the dish, squashing them down a little bit with the back of a fork to soak up the custard mix

7. Sprinkle with a little extra sugar if you like, and grate some nutmeg over the top of the pudding

8. Leave for half an hour (longer is fine) to allow more of the custard to soak into the buns

9. Put in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes if you re going to re-heat before eating, or 35 minutes if eating straight away

Serve  warm,with cream, custard or icecream. The marzipan melts slightly, and gives a festive feel to the pudding, a bit like the marzipan in a Simnel Cake  

*Re-heat at 160C for 20-25 minutes

Spinach & Poppy Seed Bread with garlic

6th March 2018

I managed to find time today to make the "experimental" bread I have been thinking about for the last couple of weeks. Last Spring I made some bread with a kind of stuffing of Wild Garlic leaves, which led me to think about using Spinach in bread, but maybe in the dough rather than as a stuffing. Here is the recipe I ended up with today, which is straightforward enough, but you do need to allow time for proving. It made one large loaf and a fairly small one. Again, I have used cup measures, which means I don't have to get out the scales

Spinach & Poppy Seed Bread with Garlic

What you need:

large bunch of spinach (I used Perpetual Spinach), with the thick stems removed

a small head of garlic -- use less if you feel this is too much for your taste

3.5 cups of strong white bread flour, plus some for kneading

1.25 cups of warm water

2 tsp of dried yeast (This was one 7g packet)

pinch of salt

0.25 cup of poppy seeds

2tbsp olive or vegetable oil

What to do:

1. Break the garlic head into cloves and roast until soft. Leave to cool and then squeeze out the garlic paste

2. Blanch the spinach for one minute, drain really well and chop finely. Spread it out to cool, squeezing any remaining water out 

3. Put the flour in a large bowl, and add the yeast on one edge and the salt on the opposite edge (if they mix at this stage the yeast dies off before doing its work)

4. Put in the spinach, garlic, poppy seeds, oil and warm water. Mix with flat bladed knife or a spatula until there is no loose flour in the bowl

5 Turn out onto a silicon sheet or your work top, and knead, stretching the dough thoroughly, for ten minutes. When it is too sticky to work, sprinkle some extra flour over the dough

6. Put into an oiled bowl, and turn the dough to coat all sides lightly with oil

7. Cover with a damp teatowel and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. Today this took just over an hour, but if your kitchen is on the cool side, it may take twice this time. 

8. Take the dough out of the bowl and push it back down again to the original size. You should not need to add any flour at this stage

9. Lightly oil a 2lb loaf tin

10. Stretch out the dough into a flattish shape, then fold one third inwards lengthways and cover with the remaining two thirds and turn so the seam is underneath before putting it in the tin

11. Use a sharp knife to slash the top diagnonally five or six times

12. Leave covered with a damp teatowel until double the size again: today this took 45 minutes. In the meanwhile preheat the oven to 200°C

13. Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes. Test the bread is cooked by tipping it out of the tin and knocking on the bottom, which should sound hollow. You can always put it back in the oven for a little longer if you need to

14. Leave to cool on a wire rack for around an hour before slicing. It will still be warm but does not crush down when cut

We ate half our loaf buttered, with a chicken, leek and mushroom casserole, but I am sure it will be really good toasted too! The bread was very light and only slightly garlicky... it could take more without making the dough too wet I think

Now that I have made this version, I can see all sorts of ways to vary it... grated parmesan instead of poppy seeds perhaps, ground fennel seeds and chopped feta, using half parsley and half spinach.... lots of possibilities! 


Pear & Walnut Rock Cakes

27th February 2018

Freezing cold weather always makes me turn to comfort food, and the smell of baking is always welcome. Did you ever make rock cakes at school? I remember them being rock hard alright, but loved the flavour. I've tried to come up with a version easier on the teeth, including some of our favourite ingredients. I hope you enjoy them. Another "cup" measured recipe, with a cup being 235-240ml...makes life very easy

Pear & Walnut Rock Cakes (makes about 15)

What you need:

½ cup softened butter

1½ cups brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 cups plain flour

1½ tsp baking powder

1 level tsp powdered ginger

1 level tsp ground cinnamon

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup sultanas or raisins

1 large pear, peeled, cored and chopped inot pieces about 0.5 cm cubes

2 tbps milk

What to do:

1. Heat the oven to 175C and line two large baking tray with silicon sheets or nonstick baking paper

2. Beat together the softened butter and sugar until it is smooth

3. Stir in the egg and vanilla essence

4. Mix in the flour, baking powder, spices and milk. The mixture should be fairly stiff but with no loose flour, so if necessary add another spoonful of milk

5. Mix in the nuts, dried fruit and pear

6. Put heaped tablespoons of mixture about 6cm apart on the trays, making 15 or 16 in all

7. Bake for 17 minutes, until golden brown and still slightly soft when pressed in the middle

8. Remove from the sheet using a spatula and cool on a wire rack.

9. Dust very lightly with icing sugar, if you like

These keep for a day or two in a tin, but they are indeed very easy to eat, especially slightly warm, as you watch the snowflakes swirling outside the window.

The recipe is easily varied to use apple instead of pear, different nuts, white sugar instead of brown, currants instead of other dried fruit. A version with chopped dried figs and candied orange peel is good too. In fact, for most of us, I reckon there would be ingredients in the cupboard to bake a batch of these if you were snowed in for days....




Cabbage & Coconut Curry

3rd February 2018

This week I cut the last few of our cabbages as the outside leaves were beginning to discolour, and I didn't want them to rot. That means of course that we now have several large and luscious cabbages, so need to find interesting ways to eat them!

This recipe is one I haven't cooked for ages. You know how you just forget about things you made regularly for years, but it suddenly came to mind ... and here it is, last night's dinner!

Cabbage and Coconut Curry (4 servings)

What you need:

1 medium sized onion, peeled and sliced

1 smallish cabbage,finely sliced: I used a savoy, and it came out at six cups, loosely packed

2 long thin green chillies, finely sliced, seeds included (take out the seeds to reduce the heat)

1 level tbsp mustard seeds

3 heaped tsp fennel seeds

2 tsp minced garlic

3tsp minced ginger

1 tsp turmeric

1tbsp lemon juice

salt to taste

2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee

1½ cups of dessicated coconut (unsweetened)

What to do:

1.  Put the sliced onion in a non-stick frying pan (one with a lid) and cook gently until just beginning to colour

2. Add the mustard seeds, and as soon as they start to pop, put in the garlic and ginger and cook for one minute

3. Put in the turmeric and fennel seeds, about 50ml water and the lemon juice. Stir to mix

4. Put in the cabbage, chillies and coconut. Mix with the ingredients in the pan, adding more water if it is a bit dry

5. Put the lid on the pan, and simmer gently for 4 minutes until the cabbage is softened. Keep an eye on it so it does not burn at the bottom, although a small amount of colour adds flavour. If necessary, add more water a splash at a time. There should be no free liquid left at the end of cooking.

6. Add salt to taste and stir

Last night we had this with beef madras, but it is good served on its own wth plain rotis (chapatis), plain yoghourt and some spicy pickle, ganished with coriander leaves. It is easy to vary the spices: cumin seed instead of fennel for example. Caraway seeds are a good pairing with cabbage too. A fresh green chutney with mint, coriander leaves and some extra green chilli alongside is another delicious combination. (It re-heats very successfully)

I used pre-prepared ginger and garlic, and dessicated coconut, but fresh ingredients are of course very good: just get them all ready before you start to cook. Freshly grated coconut has a wonderful flavour. I have also used frozen grated coconut too


Saag Aloo

29th January 2018

With potatoes still in store, and several spinach-type leaves being harvested, this recipe makes good use of both! We used a mixture of perpetual spinach, mustard greens and komatsu, but you could use frozen spinach instead



Potato & Spinach Curry (Saag Aloo) (serves 4 as a side dish)

What you need:

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm dice or pieces

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

1tbp vegetable oil or ghee

1tsp each garlic puree and ginger puree (from scratch, ready prepared in jars, or frozen)

1 green chilli, finely chopped (or chilli powder to taste)

½ tsp cumin seeds

1tsp black onion seeds (kalonji)

1tbsp water

½ tsp turmeric

salt to taste

about 300g spinach leaves, washed,stalks removed and cut into small pieces

½ tsp garam masala (optional)

What to do:

1. Par-boil cut potatoes for about 8-10 minutes until almost cooked, and drain them. Leave them with some texture so they don't fall apart later

2.Gently fry the oil in the oil, ideally in a non-stick frying pan,until just beginning to colour around the edges

3. Add the garlic and ginger and fry until beginning to brown

4. Add the cumin and kalonji seeds. Cook until seeds start to smell fragrant, then stir in the chopped chilli

5. Put in 1tbsp water, then the turmeric and mix evenly

6. Add salt to taste, then the potatoes,. Stir gently to mix and ensure potatoes are fully covered in the spice mix. Add another spoonful of water if it is too thick to mix

7. Now add the spinach and cover the pan for 5 minutes on a low heat. the spinach will then have wilted and be easier to mix evenly with the potato. Add another spoonful of water if needed. Test that the potatoes are cooked through by pokin them with a fork

8. Sprinkle the garam masala if using, before serving

Adding a cupful of peas or chickpeas provides extra protein to make this a nutritious main meal. We enjoy it with plain yoghourt and chapatis, slightly thinned with some more water accompanied with plain rice, or as a side dish with a meat-based curry.



Dhall with vegetables

13th January 2018

After Christmas I crave simple comfort food, and dhall ticks all the boxes. This is one I made with some vegetables in it, which made it even tastier and nutritious. With a dollop of plain yoghourt and a couple of chappatis or some rice, what's not to like? There is no soaking needed as these lentils cook so quickly. Using ready made garlic & ginger puree speeded things up too: we buy large jars of this from a local shop and it is an excellent stand by

Do not be put off by the long list of ingredients: I have tried to write them in more or less the order they are needed, which should help if you have never cooked anything like this before

Dhall with Vegetables (Makes 2-3 generous servings)

What you need:

1½ cups of split red lentils (split moog dhall)

½ tsp ground turmeric

3 medium onions sliced finely

pinch of salt

1tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbps ghee (or use extra oil)

1 heaped tsp garlic puree

2 heaped tsp ginger puree

1tsp whole black peppercorns

2tsp fennel seeds

1tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds

1 tbps black mustard seeds

1tsp ground coriander

1 tsp chilli flakes or powder, according to your own taste

chopped tomato, either 6 cherry ones or 2 medium ones

1tbsp tomato puree

1 cup of french beans cut into 3cm pieces (fresh or frozen)

½ cup chopped coriander leaves

salt to taste

What to do:

1. Rinse the dhall, making sure any tiny stones are removed, and put in a saucepan with enough water to cover by about 8-10 cm. Add the turmeric, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes

2. While the dhall is cooking, gently fry the sliced onions in the oil and ghee, with a pinch of salt to help them brown. 

3. While you are waiting for the onion to brown, grind the fenugreek, fennel and black pepper together in a pestle and mortar

4. Once the onion is brown around the edges, add the mustard seeds, cooking until they start to pop, then put in the garlic and ginger purees (careful, it might spit) and stir to mix.

5. Add the spices you have just ground, plus the ground coriander and chilli powder/flakes and stir to mix. Cook for three minutes, adding water a splash at a time if needed, so they don't stick and burn. 

6. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree (In the Summer when tomatoes have more flavour, you can omit the puree) and cook slowly until their juices are released. 

7. Add enough water to give about 3cm in the pan, and put in the green beans. Cover and cook for 6 minutes for fresh, 3 for frozen beans. Turn off the heat

8. If there is any foam on the dhall, skim this off and test to ensure they are soft. There should be very little water left by now

9. Bring the onion/bean mix to a rapid boil and pour into the dhall, stirring to mix

10. Taste and add salt as needed

11. Stir in chopped coriander leaves just before serving

Dhall sits quite happily on the stove top until you are ready to serve, it keeps in the fridge in a covered dish for two or three days and freezes superbly.  I usually make extra for another day, as it is easy to increase the quantities, and the cooking time remains about the same

You can add any vegetables you like: cooked carrots are good, as is spinach, either fresh or frozen in cubes. I have also used left over cooked potato sometimes

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do