Monday, 14 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Are you still sticking to your New Year Resolutions? 

The last couple of years I've stopped pledging to 'quit this, do less of that' and now resolve to introduce new and interesting things to my life instead, for example take up a new hobby, set myself a new challenge, make more time for's far more rewarding than starting the year with promises of deprivation, honestly.

And anyway I was never any good at sticking to those promises like giving sugar up 'for ever!', or no carbs after 6pm. Yeah, ok, like that's going to happen. It's 8.30pm and i just had some citrus shortbread...there you go, sugar and carbs after 6pm in one fell swoop. 

Not to mention this blog would be far less interesting to write (and hopefully read!) if I kept to all those boring resolutions.

And so my first baking episode of 2013 was the citrus shortbread I was just eating. It's actually the January recipe on the Abel and Cole 2013 calendar, and it's pretty much what the doctor ordered to remedy those January blues. The recipe is super simple, as you'd expect with shortbread, with just the addition of some orange zest and spices.

Actually, the other difference is using cornflour as well as normal flour...I suppose this makes it lighter, but I'll have to do a little more research.

The shortbread is beautifully fragrant and, most importantly I think, wonderfully short. It crumbles and melts in the mouth, with the initial sweetness and warmth of the sugar and spices, and then a faintly bitter afternote from the orange zest. I wasn't sure if I liked the bitter taste at first, and thought perhaps I had just put too much zest in, but actually, I quite like it now. It cuts through the typically sweet and buttery taste of normal shortbread. Not that this is usually a bad thing, but it's just something a bit different and no less delicious for it. The recipe does call for the zest of an orange or clementine, and i used an orange, so perhaps a clementine would be the sweeter option?

I'll definitely be trying the recipe again with different flavours, I think the addition of cornflour is genius, it makes it light as a feather whilst at the same time totally buttery and indulgent - magic! 

Citrus & Spice Shortbread

150g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
75g caster sugar
1 orange or clementine, zest only 
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground ginger
pinch salt
150g plain white flour
75g cornflour
Extra sugar and spices to dust - approx 2 tbsp sugar to 1/2 tsp spice

Preheat the oven to 170 degress
Beat the butter until soft, add the sugar, zest and spices 
Add the salt and sift in the flours, stir till just combined then bring together with your hands, working it as little as possible. 
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut in to biscuits.
Prick evenly with a fork and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden - this of course depends on the size of biscuit you have.
Dust with spiced sugar while still warm, allow to cool on a wire rack.




Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Rooting Around

Ok, I admit it - I am completely and utterly a 'winter person'; I prefer the clothes, the food, and feeling all cosy and warm indoors when it's howling a gale outside! I mentioned this in the office the other day and was met with horrified stares, but I'm sorry - give me skiing over surfing any day. And anyway, winter has Christmas which is surely the trump card?! 

Having said that, it's true that I am a southern softie living in London, where it never gets that cold. I realised this over the last couple of days while I was 'oop north', and let me tell you, they know what cold really means! With temperatures below freezing and holes in my gloves, I certainly wasn't extolling the delights of the colder months…I think the best description for my general demeanour was ‘total grumpus’. 

One thing that did cheer me up briefly was a delicious Thai dinner, with the highlight being a hot and sour chicken soup. Enough spice to make my tongue tingle, and the right balance of sour to make the whole thing really kick, it warmed me up from the inside out.

Now, I know Thailand isn’t exactly known for its chilly climate, but its dishes like these that get me excited about eating, and that’s what winter brings for me. It is time to say goodbye to light lunches, and hello to something a bit more robust….purely to keep our energy levels up of course ;-)

All I wanted while I was braving the arctic this week was a nice hearty dish to warm my cockles, and there is nothing better than a well spiced curry to do that. Last weekend I made a root vegetable curry which is from Abel & Cole's 2012 calendar of all places!

It’s a great way to use up bits and pieces which on their own look a pretty sad sight, which always gives me more satisfaction than it should…I think it comes from the same part of me that never fails to be astonished when I bake bread where a bit of flour, yeast, salt and water produces something glorious.

This is called a root curry but really you could throw in any veg you fancy; I used sweet potato, parsnips, carrots, and red onion. The recipe calls for you to roast the veg and make a sauce separately, then pour the sauce over the roasted veg and finish it off in the oven for a further 20 minutes. While it was in the oven I had a cheeky taste of the sauce and was thoroughly underwhelmed as it was a bit bland. But fear not friends, my disappointment was well and truly pushed to the side when I took the finished dish out of the oven. In baking the sauce you take out much of the moisture, and by doing so hugely intensify the flavours, which results in a truly delicious and satisfying meal. You can access the recipe at

I topped it with a good dollop of crème fraiche and a generous helping of coriander and it was brrrrrr-illiant! (Sorry, I couldn’t help it)

Even better, I had half of the sauce left over and so the next day I poured it over a thick fillet of Pollack (most fish would work though) and some broccoli florets, and baked in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the fish was done. I’d say the sauce was even better the next day after the flavours had some time to mingle, so it’s well worth making more than you need the first time around.

As the winter months are drawing in, my salad-for-dinner days are behind me, no matter how delicious they were. Now is the time for hearty soups, stews, and spicy curries. stomach is rumbling just thinking about them.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Back in the Saddle!

Well, this feels odd.

You may have noticed that my last post was in February 2011.



That is outrageous. I'm not exactly sure where the time went, I could have sworn it hasn't been that long since I blogged. Mercifully, it hasn't been that long since I cooked or baked something blog-worthy, but somehow there have not been enough hours in the day to write about those kitchen adventures.

Let me update you on what has happened since February 2011 then; well, firstly I finished my final year at university - I've never been prouder than the day I handed in my dissertation (bound and looking all fancy) after all the tears that went in to it! So, I graduated and was lucky enough to make the permanent move to London. I now live in Putney, and work in Wimbledon. And somehow, whilst focusing on my third year work, then moving to London, then looking for a job, and then getting settled in to the job, this blog just fell by the wayside.

My biggest blog fan, my grandfather, has been most upset by this and hassled me incessantly for the first 6 months about updating the site from 'those damn prawns'! Well, here you go Dacu - a new post for you :-) 

I have recently re-started my Abel & Cole vegetable box delivery, which I thoroughly recommend to any foodie. It's great to receive a medley of different veg each week and be surprised and delighted by the often weird and wonderful produce you receive! It's a great incentive to try new recipes and discover new favourites too, so you can expect plenty of veg focused blog posts...not forgetting plenty of baking posts as well - I am only human after all!  

There have been too many recipes tried and tested over the last 21 months to update, so I'm starting fresh with something I made today; curried parsnip soup - with parsnips from this week's veg box :-)

This is a ludicrously simple recipe which always reminds me of my childhood when my Dad used to whip up a bowl of it in the colder winter months - when, of course, parsnips are at their best.

Really, there is little point in giving quantities or measurements here since it depends all on how many people you are serving, and how spicy you like it. As a guideline though, for one quite spicy serving I used:

200g parsnips (weight when peeled and diced)
1 tsp hot curry powder
1 tblsp olive oil
500ml vegetable stock

Simply peel and dice your parsnips, then toss in a pan with a little olive oil and curry powder to taste. Cover with the stock and simmer until the parsnips are tender, then blend.

I fried up some pancetta pieces and topped the soup off with this which was a nice addition, but you could also finish it with a swirl of yoghurt

Well, that's it from me for today, but I plan to post again sooner than in 21 months' time

Definitely feeling 'back in the saddle' :-) 


Thursday, 24 February 2011

Thai Green Chicken and King Prawn Curry

After reading Nigella's book Kitchen, my latest new obsession is sushi rice. I know it's nothing earth shattering, but it's my absolute favourite carbohydrate at the moment. There's something so comforting about the slightly sweet flavour of the grains that cling to each other and soak up whatever juices or sauce that you spoon over it. The sticky texture is the ultimate comfort food, warming and satisfying on these colder days that we've had in the last couple of months - and without the guilt, that I at least, certainly feel with a big bowl of pasta or a bread-heavy meal. I can justify a big bowl of sushi rice to myself with 'It's ok, it's unprocessed and natural,' unlike the other carbs that I usually turn to for comfort - cue bread based meals like pizza, fried foods like chips or breadcrumbed dishes, or pasta dishes which, let's face it, usually come topped with cheese!!

So, on to my other current obsession - the topping for this rice: Thai Green Curry. The gentle heat with the creamy (yet not as hideously detrimental for the waistline as actual cream!) coconut milk, and subtle flavourings of lemongrass, lime and ginger creates my ultimate weekend treat at the moment. Obviously you could put whatever you wanted in it meat-wise, or in fact you could make a vegetarian one, however my particular favourite is chicken and king prawn. You don't need many prawns, they're sort of the icing on the cake, and chicken seems to compliment the flavours beautifully.

The recipe I've used is a Waitrose one which I tailored slightly to my taste, but I imagine they're all fairly similar:

Serves 3:
For the chicken:
3 chicken breasts
2 tbsp Thai green curry paste

For the curry sauce:
1 tsp olive oil

1 red onion

1cm fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

3-5 tbsp Thai green curry paste
half a jar of tamarind paste (about 40-50g)

400ml coconut milk (one can)
1-2 kaffir lime leaves (I haven't managed to get my hands on these y
et so I used a few strips of lime zest, about half a lime's worth
1 lemongrass stalk, bruised

1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1 1/2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
1/2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

frozen peas (the recipe suggests about 40g, but i just pour in as many as I feel like)

Marinade the chicken in the Thai green curry paste for at least 15 minutes before starting cooking.
Fry the onion in the oil for 3 minutes, then add the ginger and fry till it's all soft.

Still in the paste and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chicken and fry for 5 minutes.
Add 150ml boiling water to the tamarind paste, then add this along with the coconut milk, lime leaves (or zest), lemongrass, and slowly bring to a simmer - but don't boil or the chicken will toughen.

Simmer gently for 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked, then add the soy, fish sauce and chilli sauce along with the peas and simmer till the peas are tender.

Remove the lemongrass and leaves or zest, serve over rice and sprinkle with coriander and spring onions if you fancy.

Obviously this recipe doesn't include the prawns, I added them right at the end, just before the peas, so they had a few minutes to cook through. Pile high on a plate and dive in - perfection!!