cwtch up hot chocolate 

Last week was a bit of a disastrous week for me in terms of getting things done, the hubby was working super late, the kittens were going mental, my phone screen shattered and I still didn’t have a start date for my new job. Basically I just needed a cwtch ( it’s a Welsh word for a cuddle) as the hubby was otherwise engaged in work, my cwtch would take the form of a Lindt hot chocolate from Costa Coffee.Lindt hot chocolate COsta Coffee

I was initially tempted by their PR material showing a luscious velvety smooth glass of thick hot chocolate, and as I needed a little pick me up and I love Lindt chocolate and Costa Coffee, why not give it a go.  The hot chocolate is made using a Lindt powder and when poured didn’t quite fit the image that’s been presented in the PR material. I’m presented with a frothy thin hot chocolate with semi dissolved powder bombs. I was grateful for its small size but didn’t complain and maybe I should have, but I was lacking confidence that day. I’m wondering if any other Costa customers have been disappointed by this product or if I was just unlucky and the product pictured in the official PR material is a true representation of the product itself?  Needless to say I didn’t get my cwtch from this little glass of hot chocolate and that kinda saddened me.

A week later and I am still wanting a chocolate cwtch, especially as its got even colder. I reach for the little bit of Valrhona chocolate I have left and set to making a delicious glass of chocolate heaven….and there it is…..my cwtch up hot chocolate, blissful. 

cwtch up hot chocolate 

Hot chocolate
Time: 3 mins 

Serves: 1 

Ingredients 

Valrhona chocolate approximately 40g (I just use a chunk from a kilo bar) or a chocolate of your choice with a high coco solid.

One cup of milk, of your choice (I used a whole milk)

1 tsp heaped cornflour (optional)

Method 

In a saucepan place the cornflour and 1/3 of the milk, combine and add the chocolate. Place the milk and chocolate over a medium heat stirring continuously until melted,then add the rest of the milk.

Turn the flame to low and heat until the hot chocolate has thickened, remove from the heat and serve.

Notes 

If you would like the chocolate to be really super thick, add 1/2 tsp extra of cornflour at the start.

For an extra cwtch, add a good glug of armagnac 

For a fancy cwtch, add marshmallows and whipped cream before serving 

lemon and keralan vanilla drizzle cake

Left to my own devices on a gloomy Sunday afternoon my attentions focus on baking, it’s also a welcomed distraction from doing my accounts!  

Now, I’m not one for fancy cakes except for my Persian Orange Cake of course, I tend to opt for plain cakes such as this Lemon and Keralan Vanilla Drizzle Cake. So to brighten up my day  I decided to make a lemon drizzle cake and as I’ve got an abundance of 1st grade Keralan vanilla beans, I couldn’t resist adding this spice to the mix. The results of which have been very satisfying.

So why vanilla pods from Kerala ? 


Well when I visited a little while ago, I say a little while ago but my first encounter with Keralan Vanilla was while I was in Kerala 14 years ago. I thought the vanilla vines were most unusual just growing in gardens, certainly not the usual plant in the gardens of Wales, thats for sure. The memory has always stuck with me and so too my obsession for Kerala. Last year on one of my regular visits to the state, I was introduced to a spice merchant and somehow ended up returning home with 10 kilos of spice at no cost and 1/2 kilo Keralan vanilla pods at a ridiculously low cost. I was so struck but it’s quality, heady aroma and complexed flavour, I fell back in love with the spice that I had previously taken for granted using Madagascan varieties. I still have a fair bit of vanilla left and amazingly the pods are still sticky, plump, flexible pods with an intense in flavour and aroma. 


Prep time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 45-55 mins

Serves 8-10 

Ingredients:

For the cake

3 eggs, free range/organic 

75g unsalted butter, melted 

200gm vanilla caster sugar 

75g plain full fat yoghurt

200g plain flour, sieved

1tsp baking powder

2 unwaxed lemons, juice and zest

1 Keralan vanilla pod, seeds

For the icing:

80g icing sugar, sieved

1 lemon

1/2 Keralan vanilla pod seeds

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160c if fan assisted, or 170c without a fan.

Grease and line a 1 pound loaf tin.

In a bowl add the lemon juice, sugar and vanilla seeds mix with a spoon to dissolve the sugar. 

In a food mixer bowl add the eggs and whisk until a little fluffy, then add the sugar mix, melted butter and yoghurt, whisk again until combined.

Remove the bowl from the food processor and add the flour and baking powder, fold in gently with a metal spoon.

Pour the cake batter into the lined tin and cook in the oven for 45-55 minutes. Do the cake test with a skewer after 45 minutes, if it’s not clean, cook for a further 5-10 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin

In a bowl combine the icing sugar, vanilla and lemon juice, mix until smooth.

After 10 minutes pour the icing over the cake, while it’s still in the tin.

Leave the cake to cool completely then remove from the tin. 
Notes

If you would just like a lemon drizzle cake just leave out the vanilla.

fish taco

I’ve wanted to make fish tacos for a while, as I liked the sound of the crispy batter adding a new texture, the sweetness from the fruit salsa working with the sweetness of the fish and spicy smokiness of the chipotle salsa. With all that in mind and taste buds going into overdrive, dinner last night turned into “Friday Fish Fiesta”, such a fun way to celebrate the start of the weekend. It was fish tacos and classic margaritas with salt rims galore.

fish-taco

Serves: 3 

Prep time: 30 mins 

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

For the pineapple and mango salsa:

  • 3 of each mango and pineapple sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • Sea salt, to taste

For the fish

  • 4 fillets of fish, boneless and skinless. I used medium sized fillets of sea bream
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp oregano dried
  • 1tsp salt, for the batter and extra for seasoning the fish
  • 1tsp black pepper, ground
  • 120g plain flour
  • 150 ml beer approximately, I used Lagunitas Ipa. I don’t drink beer and so got terrible confused trying to figure out which one to use.  This one gave a nice flavour to the batter.
  • Vegetable oil, enough to cover a depth of 1 1/2 inch of the frying pan

Garnishes: 

  • Sour cream, thinned down a little
  • Yellow cherry tomatoes, chopped and seasoned with sea salt
  • Red cabbage, finely shredded
  • Fresh coriander leaf, chopped
  • Chipotle salsa, I used shop bought
  • Mini flour tortilla, warmed
  • Wedges of lime

Method:

In a bowl combine all the ingredients for the salsa, check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Portion the fish into your desired sizes; I kept the portions on the larger size.

Season the fish with salt and rub with the crushed garlic

In a mixing bowl place the flour, baking powder, mustard, salt, pepper, oregano and coriander.

In a frying pan, add the oil and heat to 190c

Back to the flour mix. Add the beer gradually, whisking until a smooth batter is formed. The thickness of the batter should be like yoghurt.

When the oil has reached temperature, dip the fish into the batter mix, removing the excess before placing the fish in the hot oil away from you. Cook each piece of fish for approximately 4 minutes or until golden brown. If you have done it right, your fish batter should be golden and crispy, if its soggy the oil was too hot and the batter too thick.

Remove from the cooked fish from the oil using tongs and drain on kitchen paper.

Warm the tortilla in the microwave for 30 seconds or place in a hot oven making sure the tortillas are coved so not to dry out for 5 minutes.

This is where Friday Fish Fiesta begins, grab yourself a salt rim margarita (the classic is the best, but I do like hibiscus and tamarind versions too), a little music and good company. Then load your tacos with the salsas, cabbage, tomatoes, fish, sour cream, coriander and squeeze of lime, and go in for the bite.

Notes

I really liked the crispy batter but for a healthier version, I would omit the batter and frying opting for a marinated grilled fish.

For the marinade use 2 garlic cloves crushed, 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds, 1 tsp salt, 1tsp pepper, 1tsp dried oregano, 1tsp dried coriander, juice of 1/2 lime and 1 tbsp oil. Place all the ingredients in a processor and blend, pour over the fish and marinade for 1hr. Griddle the fish with the skin left on, cook until the skin is crispy, flip the fillet and cook for a further minute or two until done.

 

 

 

persian orange cakes

There is no denying that I am a bit of a fan of Persian food. I’m seduced by its play with textures and intense flavours, there is a a certain depth from Persian food that satisfies the soul like no other.

Persian Orange Cakes were another popular recipe from my Persian pop up. These little cuties wowed so many customers, light to eat, sticky with a decedent scrumptious icing – what more would you need ?

persian-orange-cakes

Prep time: 35 minutes

Cooking Time: 25 minutes 

Serves: 10

For the cake :

  • 2 large blood oranges
  • 300g almonds, roasted and ground
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 310g caster sugar
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cardamom, ground
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, ground

For the syrup:

  • Juice from 1 blood orange
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 50ml water
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water

For the icing:

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g icing sugar, sieved
  • 1/4 tsp orange blossom water

For the decoration:

  • Orange segments
  • Edible rose petals
  • Crushed pistachio

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.

Line a muffin tin with holders.

Place the blood oranges for the cakes in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil for 5 minutes.

Drain the water boiled water and repeat the process.

Remove the oranges from the water, chop into quarters, place in a food processor and blend until smooth.

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale, I use my Kitchen aid mixer to save my arm.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, add the ground almonds, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder and processed oranges to the eggs, use a large metal spoon to fold in the ingredients

Pour mixture into the muffin cases and bake for about 25 minutes until it’s golden on the top and a skewer comes out clean.

While the cakes are cooking make the syrup by placing the orange juice, sugar and water in a saucepan, heat over a medium heat until the mixture thickens.

Remove the syrup from the heat and add the orange blossom water.

Once the cakes are cooked remove from the the oven, leave to cool for 5 minutes then drizzle over the syrup, be careful not to add too much of the syrup.

Leave the cakes to cool before icing.

To make the icing cream together the softened butter and sieved icing sugar until smooth and fluffy then cream in the mascarpone until smooth.

Spoon the icing onto the cakes and decorate with the orange segments, pistachios and rose petals.

 

saffron chicken

This recipe is for a good customer of mine, who first had this dish with me at one of my pop up kitchens and has asked relentlessly for the recipe. There are a few key ingredients I like to use in this dish. The yoghurt is a lebanese style but if you can’t get hold of this type a good quality full fat greek yoghurt will work. The next ingredients is a good quality saffron, I like to use use Irani saffron or one from La Mancha the quality of the saffron will be reflected in the price.

If you are a lover of chicken and saffron this recipe is of course for you.

img_5966

Prep time 2 hrs

Cooking time 20 minutes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 600 gms chicken, cubed
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 3 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 350gm Lebanese yogurt, natural
  • 1 pinch of saffron threads
  • 2tbsp of warm water
  • salt and pepper
  • garnish slices of red chillies and flat leaf parsley

Method

In a small bowl place the saffron and warm water, leave to infuse for 5 minutes. I infuse the saffron this way as the fats in the   yoghurt can inhibit the saffron from developing its flavour and rich intense colour

In a bowl place the yogurt, oil, garlic, turmeric, lemon juice, salt and pepper, mix to combine the ingredients.

Add the infused saffron to the yoghurt mix, remove some into an additional bowl for dressing the dish later but make sure there is a clove of garlic in it.

Finally add the chicken to the marinade, coating all the pieces. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge to marinade.

After 1hour 50 minutes remove the chicken from the fridge and leave to marinade for a further 10 minutes, this is to take the chill off the chicken and help with the cooking process.

There are two methods of cooking you can use, the first is to griddle the chicken pieces removing some of the marinade or you can bake in the oven at 160c for twenty minutes depending on the size of your chicken pieces.

To serve, dress the cooked chicken with the reserved marinade (NOT the raw chicken marinade!), sprinkle with red chilli slices and torn flat leaf parsley, this dish goes well with pomegranate tabouleh.

 

 

 

 

hummus with slow roasted Persian lamb

I am without a doubt a fan of the humble chickpea and its versatility. For myself there is no better way to celebrate its deliciousness than to make one of my favourite dishes, Hummus with Slow Roasted Persian Lamb. This recipe was a firm favourite of customers at a Persian pop up kitchen that I ran a little while ago.

This recipe is all about slow cooking but well worth the time and effort you put into the dish. I highly recommend using dried chickpeas as you get a better texture and flavour to the hummus. I also like to use a middle eastern branded tahini as it seems to have a more rounded and nutty flavour in comparison to the ones available at the supermarkets.

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Prep Time: 4hrs 

Cooking Time: 4hrs 

Serves: 8

For the hummus 

  • 250g dried chickpeas
  • 1 1/2 large lemons, juice
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
  •  200g tahini
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Iced water
  • Water

For the lamb

  • 1.6kg shoulder of lamb on the bone
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sumac
  • 2 tbsp dried rose petals
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp white cumin seeds
  • 1/2 Persian dried lime
  • 1 tbsp rose water
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp sea salt

For garnish 

  • 1/2 pomegranate – arils
  •  3 stems fresh mint torn
  • 3 stems fresh flat leaf parsley torn
  • Olive oil
  • Sumac

method 

Preheat the oven to 160c

Soak the chickpeas in cold water, set aside for approximately 2 1/2 hrs. (If not using a pressure cooker, soak overnight).

Line a roasting tin with greaseproof paper; place the lamb on the top.

Rub the rose water over the lamb.

Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan and add the spices and lime. Roast until an aroma from the spices develops but be careful not to scorch the ingredients.

Finely grind the toasted spices, lime rose petals, sumac and salt.

Rub the olive oil over the lamb and coast the whole shoulder with the spice mix.

Place the lamb in the oven and cook for 3 1/2 hrs. or until the lamb pulls apart, baste the lamb throughout the cooking process.

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Drain the chickpeas, place in a pressure cooked with approximately 2 1/2 inches of water covering the pulses. Cook on a high heat for the 1st whistle then reduce the heat to a low flame and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Once cooked open the pressure cooker and add the sea salt and set aside for 5 minutes, I find this way of seasoning the chickpeas works best.

Drain the chickpeas, place in a food processor with the garlic, tahini and lemon juice. Gradually blend the ingredients with the ice-cold water until you reach a smooth desired consistency. Place to one side until needed.

Once the lamb is cooked, remove from the roasting tray and shred the meat and spice crust.

Spread the hummus on your chosen serving plate, dress with the shredded lamb, pomegranate arils and torn herbs, finishing with a drizzle of olive oil and a sumac.

Serve with warm flat breads.