Brioche French toast with yoghurt, blueberry compote and bacon

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I had this in Dartmouth last year. We were there for a long weekend and had intended to hit up Cafe Alf Resco for their breakfast but after being unsuccessful twice, settled for Beth’s Bistro a couple of doors down the road instead. It turned out to be a really good choice though as Gareth had a delicious sausage sandwich and I had this beauty. Minus the bacon. The bacon was my idea. The Greek yoghurt melds with the tang of the blueberries to create a swirly creamy sauce for the french toast, then you get a hint of meaty saltiness from the bacon at the end. Because salty sweet is always a good idea.

I got this recipe from here, with a few tweaks as usual.

Brioche French Toast with Blueberry Compote, Yoghurt and Bacon

Serves 2

4 thick slices of brioche from a loaf
2 eggs
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp mixed spice or cinnamon
2 drops vanilla extract
Butter for frying

4 large heaped tbsps Greek yoghurt
100g blueberries
1/2 tbsp caster sugar (adjust depending on how sweet you wish)
6-8 slices good streaky bacon

  1. Dry fry the bacon in a hot pan, there will be plenty of oil coming out the bacon. Keep warm in a low-heated oven.
  2. Heat another pan on medium high heat and melt some butter into it.
  3. Beat the eggs, milk, caster sugar, mixed spice or cinnamon and vanilla extract together.
  4. Dip the brioche slices into the eggy mixture until each are nicely coated and soaked in the mixture.
  5. Fry the brioche until golden brown on both sides. Keep warm in the oven.
  6. Put the blueberries and 1/2 tbsp of caster sugar in a pot on medium low heat. Stir for 5 to 6 minutes until some blueberries burst and the juices turn jammy.
  7. For a serving, place two slices of french toast on a plate, top with 2 heaped tablespoons of Greek yoghurt, drizzle with the blueberry compote and artfully arrange the bacon slices over.

 

 

 

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Cheddar cornbread

This is one of my favourite recipes from Ottolenghi’s Simple. It’s sweet from the corn, it’s spicy from the chilli, it’s salty from the cheddar, it’s savoury from all the other goodness that goes into it and just envelopes you in a soft cosy blanket of carb goodness.  Incredibly delicious eaten warm right out of the oven, it also travels well and tastes good at room temperature too. We had it with bacon and avocado for breakfast before packing the rest into the car for our trip to Yorkshire.

It’s become a little tradition for me to make some snacks to bring along when we go on long weekends or holidays away. For a couple of years it was curry puffs for our trips to Cornwall. This cornbread is much less labour intensive than making pastry from scratch! We definitely enjoyed tucking into it after our long walks around Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Sutton Bank.

I’ve made a few tweaks again to make the recipe simpler. The original recipe called for the corn kernels to be dry fried first until slightly charred but I didn’t find that it added much extra flavour to the recipe and my poor pan was so difficult to clean up after! So do this step if you wish but Continue reading

Acar (Achar)

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I have such fond memories of eating these pickles growing up. The combination of spicy, sweet, sour, cold, and crunchy makes a great counterpart to any stews or meat dish. Acar and its combination of these flavours is very typical of Nyonya cuisine. My aunt who is a Nyonya used to make pickled green chillies stuffed with shredded green papaya and my cousins who share similar gluttonous traits with me would look forward to it during Chinese New Year.

Because it is quite a long recipe, Mum would only make this very occasionally as a treat but then we’d have many lovely meals with this as a side dish or to spoon onto prawn crackers to eat as a teatime snack. Mum’s recipe was slightly different with alkaline water needed to blanch the vegetables so I gave this one a go instead, from the reliable Meatmen website, with a couple of changes of my own. I omitted long beans and the fresh sliced red chillies and switched the Chinese cabbage to white cabbage as I think white cabbage gives a bit more crunch, and I only used 30g dried chillies because that was plenty spicy enough. I also didn’t use fried shallots as mum never had shallots in her pickles. The video on the website is really useful to get an idea of the steps involved.

These pickles will probably last for a couple of weeks refrigerated. Just use a clean spoon every time to spoon them out of the jars. They’d make wonderful Christmas presents.

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Acar (Achar)

Vegetables
2 cucumbers
2 carrots
1 small head cauliflower
1/2 white cabbage
1 tbsp salt

For blanching
1 litre water
500ml white vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt

Chilli paste
120g shallots
4 cloves garlic
15g fresh turmeric
4 candlenuts
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced
100g fresh chillies
30g dried chillies, soaked and drained
20g belacan
4 tbsp oil

Vinegar mix
150ml white vinegar
8 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt

100g crushed roasted peanuts
40g toasted white sesame seeds

1. Don’t bother peeling the cucumbers. Slice them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice them into 5cm long, 1cm thick batons. Cut the carrots into similar sized batons.

2. Add 1 tbsp salt into a bowl, toss the cucumbers and carrots in it and leave for an hour. This ensures that most of the liquid is drained from them.

3. Remove the spine off each leaf of white cabbage. Slice the white cabbage into 1 inch strips.

4. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, leaving the stalk off.

5. Add the blanching ingredients – water, white vinegar, sugar and salt into a pot. Let it come to a boil.

6. Blanch the cauliflower and the white cabbage for about 30 seconds each. Drain dry on kitchen towels.

7. Strain the carrots and cucumber with a dish towel. Rub dry. Mix all the vegetables into a large bowl.

8. Add all the chilli paste ingredients except the oil into a food processor and blend into a fine paste.

9. Heat the oil on medium high heat in a pan. Stir-fry the chilli paste until fragrant and add the vinegar mix to it. Stir to combine and let it come to a boil again.

10. Stir the cooked chilli paste with the vegetables. Add in the crushed roasted peanuts and toasted sesame seeds. Spoon into sterilised jars, leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate.

Note: This Jamie Oliver video shows a really simple way to sterilise glass jars and lids. This step is vital in extending the shelf life of your pickles.

Muffuletta

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When I saw this a few months ago on a random website that I can’t remember now, I made a mental note to try it out at some point. It didn’t seem too hard to make and it’s more of an assembly recipe than a cooking one. The opportunity presented itself when Gareth and I planned a cycle ride along the canals on a beautiful warm autumn’s day. This was to be a packed lunch extraordinaire, a king/queen/diva of sandwiches like no other. It didn’t harm the sandwich’s case that we were starving by the end of our ride. When your husband then says it’s the best sandwich he’s ever had, you just smile knowingly and say, you got that right.

I took inspiration from Serious Eat’s recipe but made it my own with a few tweaks as usual. It was so simple that the hardest part was opening an extremely stubborn roasted peppers bottle. I managed to get everything from my local Lidl, but as this is not a Lidl plug at all, feel free to mix up the combination of meats, cheeses and roast vegetables from any shop you please. You will have plenty of leftover ingredients to make a few more batches if you want.

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Muffuletta

Serves 4

1 round sourdough loaf

1 pack each of:
Sliced mortadella
Sliced salami
Sliced Emmental cheese

1 bottle each of:
Pesto
Pitted black olives, sliced into rounds
Roasted red peppers
Roasted courgettes
Sun-dried tomatoes

1. Prep the bread. Using a small serrated knife, cut out a circle of about 10cm diameter from the top of the loaf. Just so it’s large enough for your hand to be able to layer the ingredients inside.

2. This is the fun part. Tear out the soft insides of the loaf until you’re left with the crust of the bread and a little bit of the soft bread inside, say about 1cm thickness. You’ll be left with a bread bowl cavity. The ripped out bread can be used for croutons or to dip in soups etc.

3. Spread the pesto liberally on the inside surface of the bread with the back of a spoon. Don’t forget the bread lid as well.

4. Then start layering! Make sure you really get your hand in there and layer everything right up to the sides of the bread. Mine went like this, from the base: mortadella, salami, Emmental, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, courgettes, olives. Then repeat a second set of layers before topping with more meat to finish and replace the bread lid you removed earlier.

5. Wrap it in aluminium foil and place it in the fridge for at least an hour. Place something heavy like a cooking pan or baking dish on top to weigh it down and let the flavours develop.

6. When ready to eat, slice the loaf up into quarters and you will be rewarded with the most heavenly layered sandwich to munch into.

 

Claypot Chicken Rice

Claypot chicken rice

When you live in the UK and have a hankering for authentic Malaysian food, there isn’t unfortunately an option of popping to the nearest restaurant for a meal. The next best thing would be to try and replicate it yourself. Malaysian food here is still such an untapped resource of richness compared to Thai or Vietnamese food so here’s a tip to any budding restaurateurs out there – you have a ready made customer base who would welcome the chance of having a homey Malaysian meal anytime!

Claypot chicken rice at home is as the label says, cooked in a claypot over a fire stove which gives it a smokey flavour that enhances the dish. I own neither a claypot or a gas stove, so concessions had to be made but the end product was still just as tasty.

This recipe is from The Meatmen, with some little modifications of my own. I left out the fried salted fish which didn’t harm the flavour at all and stir-fried my greens (pak choi, choi sum or any leafy greens will do) separately.

Claypot Chicken Rice

Serves 4

Chicken marinade
500g boneless chicken thigh
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp cornflour
1/4 cup water

1 cured chinese sausage (lap cheong)
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 inches chopped ginger
3 cups rice, washed
3 cups chicken stock
2 spring onions, chopped
Fried shallots

Sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp white pepper powder
1 tsp sesame oil

  1. Cut the chicken into 2 inch cubed chunks. Mix in the marinade ingredients and marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours.
  2. Slice the chinese sausage into diagonal slices. Heat a pot up on medium heat and dry fry the sausage slices until they crisp up. Remove from the pot and drain on a kitchen towel.
  3. Use the oil released from frying the sausage slices and heat the pot up to medium high heat.
  4. Fry the garlic and ginger for a few minutes until fragrant.
  5. Add the rice and stir-fry for a few more minutes. Reduce the heat to medium.
  6. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once it boils, cover and reduce to low heat.
  7. Once the stock has evaporated from the top, add the fried sausage slices and stir the rice.
  8. Place the marinated chicken pieces in one layer on top of the rice. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes.
  9. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat to let it steam for another 10 minutes (this step is essential so the rice comes together and doesn’t stick to the sides and bottom of the pot).
  10. Mix the sauce ingredients together and add to your taste. You may not need all of the sauce.
  11. Top with chopped spring onions and fried shallots.

Flourless Chocolate Brownies

Flourless brownies 1

I had this great hankering for brownies that I tried ignoring for a while as I am currently supposedly on a diet. Hah. The call of the brownie was too strong though, so I came up with this compromise – flourless brownies! Carb-free but my oh my does it more than make up for it in sugar and fat content. Never mind, make a whole tray, save a few for treats and bring the rest in to work. Or do like me and give them to your neighbour. You will then get repaid with a note like this:

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Fact.

These are from Nigella’s website. I cut the sugar content down a little. It could even do with cutting it down a little more if you’re not a sugar fiend. And I also cut them into 20 squares as 16 may have been a portion size too large seeing as they are pretty rich.

I didn’t have a square baking tray so I improvised. I shaped some aluminium foil into a vaguely square-shaped thing, placed it to the side in a normal baking tray and squished up more foil on the other side to support it so the brownie mixture wouldn’t splodge out into one big mess. Then lined the square foil tray with baking parchment.

These are so fudgey and decadent, it is so very difficult to stop at one. They are probably one of the best brownies I’ve ever made, or dare I even say, the best (reference note above).

Flourless Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients
225 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), break into rough pieces
225 g salted butter, cut into large chunks
2 tsp vanilla extract
150 g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
150 g ground almonds
100 g pecans, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius/150 degrees Celsius fan.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over gentle heat. Keep stirring so the bottom of the mixture doesn’t catch.
  3. Take the pan off the stove, mix in the sugar and vanilla extract and let cool a little (so you don’t get scrambled eggs in the next step!).
  4. Stir the eggs, ground almonds and pecans into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Transfer to a 24cm/9 inch square foil tin (or use my improvised version) and bake for 25-30 minutes. The top will have set but the mixture underneath will still be squidgy. Let cool in the tray and when set, take it out carefully and cut into 20 squares of heavenly delight.

Everybody’s oven is different, and I know my oven is only 10 degrees lower for the equivalent temperature in a non-fan oven. So I used 160 degrees and cooked the mixture for 30 minutes.

Flourless brownies 2

 

Griddled Thai Prawns

I ventured into The Works several weeks ago after a long hiatus. With some luck and random browsing, you could get lucky with a particularly enticing novel or cookbook. Just don’t enter with preconceived intentions and you won’t get disappointed. Like checking out TK Maxx. Or Home Sense. I’m showing my bargain-hunting tendencies here.

I happened on ‘Chef on a Diet’ by Sophie Michell just lying on top of a higgledy piggledy pile. There are so many delicious, accessible recipes with interesting flavours in it, and a whole lot of carb-free ones too. This is one I think I’ll be using a lot.

The inspiration from this dish came from the Thai marinade towards the back of the book. It would also work well on chicken, fish or even griddled meat skewers or vegetables. I decided to go with prawns and had them with this mango salad. Have it with boiled white rice as well for a more substantial meal.

Thai Griddled Prawns

Ingredients
1kg raw king prawns, shell on
Coriander to garnish

Marinade
2 whole red chillies
1 lemongrass stalk
Zest of 1 lime
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
4 garlic cloves
3 banana shallots or 6 regular shallots
50ml coconut cream
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce

  1. First, prepare the prawns. Use a pair of kitchen scissors. Snip off all the legs, the antenna and the sharp poky bits above the tail, and above and either side of the head. Be careful as these bits are rather sharp.
  2. Lay the prawn flat on a board and with a sharp knife slice down the length of its back about 1/2cm deep. Remove the intestinal tract. The cut also allows the marinade to flavour the prawns further.
  3. Coarsely chop the red chillies, lemongrass, garlic and shallots and place all of the marinade ingredients into a blender and blend until fine. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
  4. Marinate the prawns for about 15 minutes.
  5. Heat a griddle pan to medium high heat. Spray with cooking oil spray.
  6. Scrape off any excess marinade from the prawns. Cook the prawns for about 2-3 minutes on each side, then turn over and cook for about 2 minutes again. As soon as the prawns turn opaque on each side, they are done.
  7. Pour the excess marinade into a little saucepan and bring to boil for a few minutes.
  8. Serve garnished with coriander, some rice and a tangy mango or papaya salad. Use the cooked marinade as a dip for the prawns.

 

Speedy seared tuna with corn salsa

I had some tuna left over after making my tuna tartare yesterday, so to switch it up I decided to cook the tuna a little bit and liven it up with a zingy corn salsa. The citrusy, smoky crust contrasted well with the peppy corn salsa. It takes no more than 30 minutes to cook from start to finish, making it another perfect meal for those short on time but still wanting something delicious to tuck into. I reckon it would work well with salmon fillets as well, if tuna’s not your thing. Give it a go and see what you think!

Seared tuna with corn salsa

Serves 2
A:
2 tuna steaks
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt
Zest of 2 limes
1 tbsp vegetable oil

B:
300g tinned sweetcorn (280g net drained)
1 avocado, chopped coarsely
Handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped coarsely
1/2 red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
1 spring onion, sliced finely
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Juice from 2 limes
Salt

  1. Roughly grind the coriander seeds and peppercorns with a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Mix in the sea salt and lime zest. Spread on a plate.
  2. Press the tuna steaks onto the spice mixture on all sides to form an even crust all around.
  3. Next, make the salsa. Mix all of the ingredients from B and season to taste with lime juice and salt.
  4. Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Sear the tuna steaks for 1 minute on each side to give a rare steak. Sear it for another minute or two if you prefer your tuna more well done.
  5. Slice the tuna in half to reveal the pink centre, pile decoratively on a plate and top with the corn salsa.

Crab bolognese

A friend of mine, GW, invited us over for dinner one night and served us this delicious crab bolognese for dinner. Needless to say, I had to recreate it for myself. And as I was on Joe Wicks’ diet and exercise plan at the time, I substituted spaghetti with courgetti. Sadly, I am now off the Wicks bandwagon but there are hopes to go back on it soon!

I looked high and low for fresh fennel and found some sorry specimens that I had to settle with in Asda. It may have been the depths of winter that made it difficult, as there is fennel galore in the shops now. Also, I made do with tinned crab meat as I didn’t have the foresight to go to the fishmonger’s for fresh crab meat but it still tasted good. The dish is light and savoury and perfect for a warm summer’s evening.

Crab Bolognese

Serves 4

1 red chilli
1 carrot
2 spring onions
1 bulb of fennel
1/2 a bunch of fresh basil, stalks and leaves separated
1 tsp fennel seeds
4 cloves of garlic
2 anchovy fillets
1 lemon, zested
300g crabmeat (brown & white)
White wine
700g passata
Spaghetti for four, or 3 courgettes, spiralized
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

  1. Place the chilli, carrot, spring onions, fennel, basil stalks and fennel seeds into a food processor with the fennel seeds and grind until finely chopped. Chop the garlic separately.
  2. Heat a pan on moderate high heat. Add the oil and fry the garlic and anchovy fillets until fragrant.
  3. Add the chopped vegetables and stir. Add the lemon zest.
  4. Meanwhile, if you’re using pasta, put it on the boil.
  5. Add the passata, a splash of white wine and brown crab meat, stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the white crab meat to warm it up. Squeeze in some lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. If using courgetti, warm it in the microwave for 2 minutes.
  8. Top piles of spaghetti or courgetti with the crab bolognese and garnish with chopped basil leaves. Enjoy!

 

Tuna tartare take 2

How about settling down to a fresh, light meal on these it’s-so-warm-I-could-pinch-myself days? This is from the same recipe I posted a while ago, only this time I served it on top of crisp multiseed flatbreads to make a more substantial meal for dinner.

It wouldn’t be an overstatement that I felt particularly virtuous chomping this down. Healthy fats from avo, tick. Oily fish brilliant for complexion, tick. Seeds for fibre, tick. Let’s pretend I didn’t have pulled pork in a brioche bun and ribs for lunch shall we?