Category Archives: Recipes

Persian Love Cake

Persian Love Cake-1

This fragrant, moist cake looks and tastes like a total showstopper but is actually very easy to make. The hardest part for most people will be finding the edible dried rose leaves. If you don’t have a Turkish or Middle Eastern grocers near you they can be found online.

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 12 cardamom pods, finely ground
  • 100g plain flour, sifted (you can substitute gluten free flour & baking powder to make this cake suitable for Coeliacs)
  • 275g ground almonds
  • Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 tbsp rose water
  •  A few strands saffron
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • A generous pinch of fine sea salt

For the syrup

  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 (half) tbsp rose water

For the icing

  • 200g icing sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 (half) lemon
  • 2 tsp cold water

To decorate

  • 2 tsp crushed pistachios
  • A few dried rose petals (optional)

 

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/Gas 3. Grease a 2lb loaf tin and line it with baking parchment.
  2. Squeeze the lemon for the cake mix and soak the saffron in it.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. When the mixture is thoroughly combined, beat in the eggs.
  4. Grind the cardamom pods in a spice grinder or a pestle & mortar. Add them to the cake mixture, along with the flour, ground almonds, rose water, saffron infused lemon juice, lemon zest, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour, covering for the last 15 minutes so it doesn’t brown too much on top.  To check if it is ready, stick a fork in the middle of the cake – it should come out dry.
  6. Towards the end of the cooking time, make your drizzle topping. Place the caster sugar, lemon juice and rose water in a small pan over a low heat and heat until the sugar melts.
  7. Remove the cake from the oven, poke holes all over the top of the warm cake and drizzle over the syrup. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  8. When the cake is completely cool, make the icing by combining the icing sugar, lemon juice and a few teaspoons of water until you have a smooth, thick icing. Spoon the icing over the cake and finish with a sprinkling of sliced pistachios and, if you like, rose petals.

Sit back and enjoy the praise!

 

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Shakshouka! (Middle Eastern Spicy Eggs)

ShakShoukaStyled6-10

These eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce are great for a weekend breakfast or brunch when want to knock something up out of store cupboard staples (they also sort your hangover out as well). You can dial the chilli up or down to suit your tastes and sprinkle parsley, coriander or chives over instead of the mint. The limes to squeeze over add a nice touch but they’re not essential. Eat it with any type of bread you have in to mop up all those fragrant juices.

Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped

2 tins of tomatoes, mashed with a potato masher

4 or 5 eggs

1/4 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp chilli powder plus chilli flakes to sprinkle over

1 tsp tamarind paste (or a dash of cider vinegar if you don’t have tamarind)

Pinch of sugar

3/4 tsp salt

Oil

Method

Gently fry the onion in a little oil until softened but not browned, then throw in the spices. Cook over a gentle heat until the spices are cooked out, stirring all the while. Add a little water if they’re sticking to the pan. Add the mashed tomatoes, sugar, salt and tamarind. Simmer for 10 minutes. Make an indentation for each egg and carefully crack them into them. Cover and cook on low until the eggs are just poached.

Sprinkle over a few chilli flakes, some chopped herbs of your choice (but don’t worry if you’ve haven’t got any in). Serve the pan straight to the table with lots of bread.

 

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Perfect Crackling

Crackling2

To get top quality crackling there’s a few things you have to do. First, make sure the skin is bone dry before you cook your joint. I find slow cook joints like shoulder and leg give the best crackling. Next, score the skin thinly. I do mine with a razor blade. It then needs to be both oiled and well salted, preferably with good, crunchy rock or sea salt.

Get your oven really hot and put the joint on the top shelf for 15 mins, then turn the oven down to low and put the meat on the bottom shelf. Cook it like that for around two and half hours then take it out. Slide a very sharp knife under the skin and separate it from the joint. Scrape out the jelly-like fat, sprinkle some salt in the inside of the crackling and put it back in the oven (skin side down first to dry out the inside) and this time back on the top shelf and turn it back up to high. Keep a close eye on it as can burn quickly at this stage. It takes a bit of effort but this is crackling we’re talking about here. It’s important.

When the inside is dry and crunchy, if the skin side needs a bit longer turn it over and cook for a bit longer. Cool it on a wire rack when it’s done and then get in quick, because if you’re house is anything like mine you have to be if you want to get any.

 

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Kung Pao Prawns

chinesekungpo2

Properly made Kung Pao prawns taste nothing like the overly sweet, sticky version – often padded out with peppers – most of us have encountered as part of a takeaway. Whilst it’s true they do have a sweet element to them it is much more of a fine balance between that, sourness and of course, heat. The original recipe use peanuts rather than cashews but it’s hard to find raw peanuts at all let alone skinned ones, so raw cashews it is.

Start by soaking 100g of them in boiled water to plump them up. After about an hour, drain them and put them in a small tin and roast them for 8-10 minutes on gas mark 4. If you don’t have time or you’ve forgotten you can skip this, but it does add a nice depth to the taste of the nuts if you have.

Ingredients

100g cashews (as above)

1/2 kilo shell on king prawns, de-veined and shelled but tails left on.

1/4 dozen dried red chillis broken into pieces

1 inch ginger finely chopped

3 big spring onions, most of them thinly sliced but the very tops finely chopped for garnish

1 small fresh red chilli, finely chopped for garnish

4 tablespoons Toban Djan paste

4 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar (black Chinese vinegar)

4 tablespoons honey

Light soy sauce to taste

Oil for stir frying

Make the sauce; mix all the ingredients together apart from the soy sauce. Taste it and see how much soy you want to add to suit your palate. I find Toban Djan already quite salty so I go easy on the soy sauce.

Get a couple of tablespoons smoking hot and add the ginger, cook for 60 seconds and add the spring onion, the dried chilli and the prawns. Cook until the prawns just turn pink, keep them moving and turning all the while. Next throw in the nuts and the sauce and turn through once or twice to coat the prawns and nuts then tip into a dish and serve with the chopped fresh chilli and spring onion tops scattered over.

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King Oyster Mushrooms, Chinese Style

chinese mushrooms

mushrooms2-201

King oyster mushrooms are by no means cheap but they are definitely worth the money. The texture and delicate flavour are an absolute delight. There’s lots of ways to cook them from fried in butter to being used as a vegan substitute for scallops. This is the method I used for my beauties.

S(erves two as a side dish)

2 or 3 king oyster mushrooms, depending on size

2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)

2 tablespoons black Chinese vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar)

Honey to taste (about a tablespoon)

2 tsp cornflour mixed in a little cold water to a smooth paste

Some finely chopped fresh chilli & spring onion tops.

First make the sauce; mix all the liquid ingredients together until it has a salt/sweet/sour balance that suits your plate. Then heat it up and thicken it with the cornflour, adding half to begin with and the rest if it needs it. Have the sauce as thick or thin as you like it but it’s nice if it’s thick enough to cling to the mushrooms.

Slice each mushroom into three slices length ways and score the pieces with a sharp knife (not strictly necessary but it does look nice). Pour a little oil into a non stick pan and sear the mushroom slices in batches so you can concentrate on getting a good sear on the slices. They will arch up in the same way a piece of fish would and need holding down flat to get an even sear. I do this with a metal potato masher. Keep searing and turning, adding more oil if you need to until they have a good colour.

Arrange on a dish, pour over the sauce and scatter over the chilli & spring onion.

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Tex Mex Chilli Con Mole

chilli1

There’s lots of controversy of what is and isn’t an authentic chilli and it’s a sure fire way to start an argument if you says yours is. So don’t. I’ve recently learnt there’s versions being made with coffee, tequila, with star anise added – all sorts of wonderful additions. What is certain is that a ‘mole’ is a Mexican sauce featuring the triumvirate of chilli, beef and chocolate. It’s also certain that beans were not added to chilli until the early twentieth century and it’s a feature we can attribute to Tex Mex cuisine.  The title of my dish is a mash up of all of these and I can’t claim I made it up, either; I’ve seen it used on the internet. Anyway, here’s the recipe.


Ingredients

2lb beef mince

2 large onions, diced small

4 or 5 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 tins of tomatoes, blitzed in the blender

2 tins of kidney beans

1/4 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp chilli powder (or however much suits you)

2 tablespoons paprika (preferably smoked but ordinary will do)

2 beef stock cubes

2 squares of very dark chocolate

Oil/Salt

Soften the onions in the oil without letting them brown, add the garlic and cook it out for a few minutes then throw in the spices. Cook them over a low heat, stirring all the while for 3 or 4 minutes. Add more oil if it’s too dry and catching. Add the beef and brown it in the spices, again, stirring all the while. Add the tomatoes, the kidney beans, the stock cubes made up with 1/2 pint of boiling water and a tsp salt.

Simmer low and slow for as long as you have but at least 40 minutes to marry the flavours. Put it in the slow cooker and leave it for a few hours if you want. When you’re ready to serve, turn off the heat and check the seasoning. Lay the chocolate on top of the chilli for a couple of minutes until it melts, then stir it in.

Serve with rice, finely chopped red onion, sour cream, fresh coriander and a big row about what is and isn’t authentic chilli!

 

 

 

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Quick Chargrilled Korean Chicken

fakechicken4

This really is far from authentic I’m sure, but it is quick and it is healthy and delicious so I’ll take the flak the shortcuts. It’s just leftover chicken turned in Korean Bulgogi marinade, a little soy, rice wine vinegar and sugar then flashed through a chargrill pan. I put the chicken in the marinade before I leave for work in the morning so it really gets into the chicken by the time I come home.

It’s a dinner I have when I haven’t really got time to cook and I confess to having it with good quality ready made rice pouches (the Tilda brown rice ones are nice and actually have no additives or chemicals in them – I was surprised about that as I’d always turned my nose up at them). Of course I cook rice when I have time but when I get in after 10 hours out of the house working and commuting and I’m utterly dropping with hunger it’s better than putting a crappy pizza in the oven or ordering a takeaway.

Whilst it’s chargrilling chop a bit of fresh chilli, some coriander and find the sesame  seeds in the cupboard if you’ve got any. Some steamed greens in oyster sauce – something you don’t even have to chop like sugar snap peas – go well with it for a really quick but actually very healthy and delicious dinner.

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