Prawn and pepper curry

Prawn and pepper curryI’m back after a bit of a break to blog about this prawn and pepper curry – I haven’t baked much worth blogging about recently, but after making this curry for the 500th time or so, I thought it was probably about time that I posted the recipe.

It’s a simple recipe that makes good use of aromatic spices – as well as plenty of chilli! It’s a variation of something my mum makes. She uses fresh prawns with the shells still on (thanks to living very close to an excellent fish market) and doesn’t add peppers, which changes the flavour somewhat, but I think my take is fairly close.

This is best served with fresh chapatis, but if you’re feeling lazy (like I obviously was judging by the photo above!), rice or ready-made naan is perfectly fine. I find one portion of this is enough for a light meal, but you might want to supplement the prawns with Bombay potatoes or another side dish to make it more substantial. And yes, I’ll post my Bombay potatoes recipe next time I get a chance to take some photos!

Prawn and pepper curry recipe

Serves 2 as a light main

  • 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds (available from Asian grocers)
  • 3-4 whole cloves
  • 5-6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 dried red chilli (optional, but great for extra spice)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 0.5 medium pepper, chopped (red, orange or yellow is best)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 thin green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 0.5 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 200g tinned chopped or plum tomatoes (if using plum tomatoes, break them up with your fingers before using)
  • 200g raw peeled king prawns (if using frozen prawns, defrost them first)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • salt, to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a low to medium heat.
  2. Add the fenugreek seeds, cloves, peppercorns and dried red chilli (if using) to the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the onion and pepper and cook until soft.
  4. Add the garlic, green chilli, ginger, red chilli powder and turmeric. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for around 5 minutes.
  6. Add the prawns, stir and put the lid on the pan. Cook over a low heat until the prawns are pink and cooked through – the timing will depend on how big the prawns are, but around 8 minutes.
  7. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, coriander, garam masala and salt. Serve with chapatis, naan or rice, with a side dish if you like. And beware of whole spices as you eat! You can attempt to remove the cloves and peppercorns before you serve up, if you like.
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Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curryHappy new year! It’s been a while since my last post, which isn’t just because I spent the Christmas break sitting around playing video games and stuffing my face with mince pies (I totally did, though). I haven’t really baked anything new in a while, so I thought I’d make my first post of 2016 all about this delicious and super healthy sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry I made tonight – perfect for those well-intentioned new year’s resolutions.

This is another variation on my staple curry recipe, with some small tweaks to tip the spicing towards a heady note. I made a similar curry for my other half a while ago, and he was obsessed with the clove flavour coming through from the garam masala (which I make myself). My current garam masala blend isn’t quite so clove-y, so I’ve added some ground cloves to this recipe, along with extra ground cumin.

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry
The great thing about this recipe is how flexible it is – you can swap out the sweet potato and/or carrot for butternut squash or standard potatoes (top tip: red potatoes work best in curries, as they seem to soak up the flavours better than the white variety), leave out the spinach if you don’t have any to hand, throw in some split yellow lentils or even chickpeas instead of the red lentils… Just adapt it to whatever you have in the kitchen!

Did I mention that this curry is super healthy? Yes? Well, I’ll say it again – this is so good for you. I’m pretty sure you get your five a day with this recipe, and the vegetables are packed with all sorts of lovely vitamins. If you stick to my measures, the curry itself clocks in at around 400 calories, with yogurt and whatever carbs you fancy (chapatis or naan are ideal, but rice works fine as well) adding a bit extra on top. I had a mini naan from Tesco with mine (I couldn’t quite face making chapatis after my first day back at work!), which only added 127 calories to the total.

Do give this a go if you want something comforting during the winter months, but without the fat. I promise that it’ll cheer you up! In the meantime, I’ll think about something interesting to bake for the next post… all suggestions are welcome!

Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry
Sweet potato, red lentil and spinach curry recipe

Serves 2, easily doubled

Approx. 400 calories per serving, not including rice/bread

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 0.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 small white or red onion, chopped
  • 1 thin green chilli, finely chopped
  • a 1-inch cube of ginger, finely grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 0.25 tsp red chilli powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 80g red lentils
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered, or 1-2 larger tomatoes, chopped
  • 160g frozen spinach (or approx. 100g of fresh spinach)
  • 0.5 tsp ground cloves (or 4-5 whole cloves)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • yogurt and rice/chapattis/naan, to serve

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds. If using whole cloves, add those too.
  2. When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the chopped onion and fry gently for a couple of minutes, being careful to not let the seeds burn.
  3. Add the green chilli, ginger, garlic, red chilli powder and turmeric and cook – still very gently – for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
  4. Stir in the sweet potatoes, carrot, red lentils and tomatoes.
  5. Pour in enough hot water to just about cover the contents of the pan and bring to the boil, before putting a lid on the pan and simmering on a low heat for 20 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, and top up with water if required (but try not to, as the spinach will release water anyway).
  6. Add the spinach and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Take the pan off the hob and stir in the ground cloves, ground cumin, garam masala and coriander. Season with salt to taste.
  8. Remove the whole cloves if you used them (but don’t worry if you can’t find them – just warn any guests!). Serve with a dollop of yogurt and naan, chapattis or rice as desired.

Garlic and parsley soda bread

Garlic and parsley soda breadThis was a bit of a spontaneous bake. I really fancied some garlic bread to go with some pasta, but didn’t have any in, so I decided to knock up some garlic and parsley soda bread instead. It took a little under an hour to make from start to finish and was surprisingly delicious!

I think I’ve made soda bread once before, but have always found traditional bread more appealing. However, the bread episode of this year’s GBBO, where the contestants had to make flavoured quick breads, must have stuck in my brain and unconsciously persuaded me to make my own.

I used a Jack Monroe recipe for this, and followed it to the letter, but you could easily substitute/add to the flavours to suit your taste. I can image the bread being lovely with some parmesan or mature cheddar worked into the mix, or perhaps some sundried tomatoes and olives for a more Mediterranean flavour.

Garlic and parsley soda bread
The texture was very light, albeit pretty different to a standard bread – the crust wasn’t very crusty for a start. However, it really was tasty and went well with the pasta – I would definitely make this again in the event of another craving for quick garlic bread!

Cream crackers

Cream crackersI think I must like baking a little too much when I reckon it’s less effort to make a batch of cream crackers than nip 5 minutes down the road to the shop to buy some! Seriously, that’s exactly what I did. I must be crackers (sorry).

As this was a bit of a spontaneous effort, I pretty much alighted on the first British recipe for cream crackers that I found online and went with it. I had a look at a couple of US recipes, but I was very confused by the addition of actual cream to the mix… I’m pretty sure that’s not required!

Cream crackers
The dough was pretty straightforward to make (although it was a little difficult getting the dough to flatten out), but I was a little flummoxed by the actual baking of the crackers. The recipe suggests that gas mark 4 is too low, so I baked the first batch at 5, but they were still a little doughy well after the baking time was up.

However, I hit the jackpot with the second batch – they went in at gas mark 6 and voila! Perfect cream crackers after 20 minutes of baking. I think it also helped that I’d tried to flatten the dough a bit more than with the first batch. The photo directly below is of the first batch, whereas the other photos in this post are of the second batch. I think you can see a definite difference between the two.

Cream crackers
I was actually really surprised by how much they tasted like shop-bought cream crackers. It’s definitely the quality of the butter and the seasoning that makes them so perfect, so be sure to use a decent butter and don’t forget the salt!

The recipe below is my version of the one I used, with tweaks to show what worked for me. Do get the dough as flat as you possibly can – it really does make a difference to the crispiness of the crackers.

Cream crackers
Cream crackers recipe

Based on this recipe

Makes around 25 crackers, depending on size and shape

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 55g good quality salted butter
  • Cold water

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/180C fan. Line 1-2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the water a little at a time and mix until you end up with a manageable dough that’s not too sticky.
  4. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a rough oblong, making it as thin as possible.
  5. Mark the oblong lightly into three equal sections, fold one third over the middle and fold the opposite third on top. Turn the oblong 90 degrees and roll flat again before folding again.
  6. Repeat this process once more, keeping the dough as thin as you possibly can all the while.
  7. Trim any curved/rough edges with a knife, then cut the dough into squares or rectangles. Prick each one with a fork and transfer to the baking trays.
  8. Bake the crackers for 20 minutes, until golden and beginning to turn dark brown around the edges.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before eating.

Spinach and feta pizza pie

Spinach and feta pizza pie
This is a bit of an impromptu post; I wasn’t intending to blog about this spinach and feta pizza pie I made a couple of days ago, but I was asked for the recipe after posting a photo on Instagram and I thought I might as well get a blog post out of it!

In case you don’t know what a pizza pie (or deep dish pizza) is, it’s basically a pie made out of pizza dough with a filling in the middle and a conventional cheese and tomato topping (with whatever else you want to throw on top). It’s just the BEST invention if you love pizza!

I’ve made this with my boyfriend a couple of times before; the first time went well, but the pizza dough was a bit of a disaster the second time. However, I’m pleased to report that it went swimmingly this time round.

There’s a bit of effort involved with this wondrous creation, but it’s well worth it. The filling isn’t too difficult to knock up, but you need to prepare the spinach properly so it doesn’t go watery during baking.

Unfortunately, we haven’t managed to quite get the knack of it, but it’s still delicious regardless of how watery the filling is.

It’s worth either following the original recipe exactly (so use both Swiss chard and spinach, instead of just spinach as we’ve always done due to not being able to find Swiss chard in the shops) or using an alternative filling – I reckon roasted vegetables and mozzarella would work really well, or even a bolognese sauce.

Spinach and feta pizza pie
Apologies for the lack of photos, but I would have taken more if I’d known I was going to write a blog! The recipe below is based on this one. I originally found it in Vegetarian Living magazine, but it looks like the online version is a bit different, so the below is the version I’ve got with some extra changes/suggestions based on my experience of making this.

Spinach and feta pizza pie recipe

Serves 6

For the pizza crust dough:

  • 7g fast action yeast
  • 185ml lukewarm water
  • 0.75 tsp sugar
  • 225g strong flour, plus extra for rolling/dusting
  • 50g polenta
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing

For the tomato sauce (or use 200-250ml ready-made pizza sauce):

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 30g butter
  • 0.5 onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200g chopped tomatoes
  • 2-3 sundried tomatoes, drained of oil
  • 0.5 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper

For the filling:

  • 850g Swiss chard (or spinach, but beware of the wateriness!)
  • 250g spinach (frozen is – bizarrely – less watery than fresh. Defrost it first.)
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped chives or spring onions
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped dill
  • 265g cottage cheese (drain off any excess water)
  • 250g feta, crumbled
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp chopped oregano (or use dried oregano)
  • salt and black pepper
  • 35g pecorino cheese, grated + 1 tbsp extra (or use parmesan)

To make the pizza pie crust:

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1.5 tbsp of the lukewarm water.
  2. Add the sugar and 1.5 tbsp of the flour, and mix well.
  3. Cover with clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for 15 minutes.
  4. Add about half of the remaining water, all of the remaining flour, and the polenta, salt and olive oil, and mix well, adding more water if needed to create a soft dough that’s not too wet. Use the heel of your hands to work the dough for 5 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.
  5. Lightly grease the inside of another large bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough to it. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove for 45-60 minutes, or until it has doubled in size. While it’s proving, make the tomato sauce (see below).
  6. Dust a work surface with flour and tip out the dough. Knock it back with one good punch to let any air out. Cup your hands over the dough and roll it around on the surface to create a smooth ball.
  7. Place the dough on a lightly greased baking tray, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove again for 15 minutes.

To make the tomato sauce:

  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan until the butter has melted.
  2. Add the garlic and onion and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes, until well softened.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, sundried tomatoes and oregano, and simmer until the sauce has reduced to a rich, thick consistency – about 15 mins.
  4. Season to taste. Set aside and leave to cool.

To make the filling and assemble the pizza pie:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Remove the woody stalks from the Swiss chard and spinach (if using fresh). Blanch the leaves for 2 minutes in salted boiling water then drain well, squeezing out the excess moisture with your hands and then wringing out any remaining moisture with a clean tea towel. At this point you can try to dry out the leaves further in the oven, on a low heat setting.
  3. Chop the leaves very finely and combine with the chives/spring onions, dill, cottage cheese, feta, eggs, oregano and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin with olive oil and lightly dust a work surface.
  5. Separate the pizza crust dough into two balls, one weighing around 330g and the other around 170g.
  6. Roll out the larger ball of dough into a 35cm circle that’s about 3mm thick.
  7. Gently fit the dough to the cake tin, pressing firmly into the corners and up the sides so that there’s a 2.5cm overhang. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Spoon the filling into the dough-lined tin and spread evenly.
  9. Roll out the remaining dough into a 20cm wide, 3mm thick circle. Prick it all over with a fork.
  10. Place the circle of dough on top of the filling in the tin. Fold the overhang of the other piece of dough over the top to form a thick edge.
  11. Spoon the tomato sauce on top and spread evenly.
  12. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and bake the pizza pie for 15 mins, before rotating it and baking for another 15 minutes.
  13. Sprinkle the pecorino or parmesan on top and bake for a final 15 minutes or until the pizza is golden and crisp.
  14. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining 1 tbsp of pecorino/parmesan on top.
  15. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before releasing the pie from the tin. Serve and enjoy your pizza pie!

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

I fully intended to make some of my favourite courgette and mozzarella muffins for my baking turn for work recently, but had to change my plans slightly when I discovered that the courgettes I had in the fridge were in a less than pleasant condition. After rooting around on the internet, I found a similar courgette-less recipe that adapted to make these mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins.

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

I kept some of the ingredients the same as the courgette version of the muffins, but also added sundried tomatoes and took out some of the ingredients in the recipe I found on the web.

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

The muffins were pretty easy to make and baked to perfection within the stated time. With muffins, the hardest bit is really just making sure you don’t over-stir the mix, otherwise you’ll end up with some hard, dry baked goods!

I found that the amount of sugar stated in the original recipe was way too much, so my recipe below reduces this to just 1 tablespoon. I’ve also upped the amount of chilli and paprika as I couldn’t really taste them (but that may have been due to the sugar!). Overall, though, these were some excellent muffins that I’d make again if I have a craving for savoury muffins but no courgettes to hand.

Mozzarella and sundried tomato muffins

The recipe

Adapted from this recipe

Makes 12

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 250g mozzarella, diced
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 240ml milk

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 6/200C. Place paper cases in a 12-hole muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, chilli flakes, paprika and parsley.
  3. Gently stir in the mozzarella and onion.
  4. In a separate bowl/jug, whisk together the egg and butter, then beat this into the milk.
  5. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mix, being careful not to overmix to prevent the muffins from becoming dry and dense. There should still be some lumps and bits of flour.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cases in the muffin tin and bake for 25 minutes until risen and golden.
  7. Cool the muffins in the tin for 10 minutes, before removing them and placing them on a wire rack to completely cool.

First bake: cheddar and leek muffins

Cheddar and leek muffins

I made these savoury cheddar and leek muffins for work last month along with the rum and mint brownies I blogged about last time. I do like a good savoury bake, with my all-time favourite being Dan Lepard’s courgette and mozzarella muffins. So, how did these compare?

They were pretty damn good, truth be told! The method was as you would expect – mix together the dry ingredients, mix together the wet ingredients, combine the two and bake. I used a large leek and it looked like a LOT, but it turned out to the right amount for the muffin cases. I also did my usual thing of adding more cheese than specified whenever a recipe calls for it, but that’s pretty much the law for any cheese lover.

The recipe rather intriguingly calls for mustard powder. I didn’t have any so just used some actual mustard instead. I can’t say I could actually taste it, but maybe that’s because of all the extra cheese I threw in…

Cheddar and leek muffins

Taste-wise, the muffins were very similar to the courgette and mozzarella ones, but without the chilli kick. I think I still prefer the latter but these were still very nice indeed – I just can’t shake off my chilli-saturated upbringing! I’d quite like to try making these again with different kinds of cheese (and maybe some chilli) – I can imagine them being lovely with smoked or flavoured cheese.

The recipe

Can be found online here: http://www.thecheesewarehouse.co.uk/cheddar-leek-savoury-muffins/