I’ve be deliberating what to do with some pecans I had in the cupboard and the last of my light brown sugar I bought in Mauritius, until I spotted the hubby eyeing up the shortbread at a local food festival we went to yesterday. The hubby is super supportive of all my wild career ideas and adventures, so I just feel he deserves a treat or two, and with that in mind I’ve baked and my Buttery Pecan and Vanilla Shortbread is ready to be devoured.
If you would like to treat someone you love with these delicious treats here’s the recipe
225g unsalted butter, softened
110g light brown sugar, plus extra for dusting
175g plain flour
50g toasted pecans, ground
1 vanilla pod, seeds
Pinch of salt
In a bowl cream together the sugar, vanilla and butter until fluffy and pale.
Sieve the cornflour and plain four together, add the ground pecans and salt, combine with the butter mixture until a soft dough is formed.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of cling film to a desired thickness. I attempted to roll to 3 cm but the dough was soft, I got a bit giddy and ended up with wonky levels. (A tip here would be to chill the dough in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up the dough.)
Once rolled out cut in your desired shapes and place on a lined baking sheet.
Place in the. fridge to chill for 30 mins.
Preheat the oven to 170c/160c fan
Place the shortbread trays in the oven and bake for 20 mins or until lightly golden, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Sprinkle with a little sugar and enjoy the buttery, crumbly texture.
This post started with a long trip to the island of Mauritius, where my late father was born and where I had not been for 30 years. Mauritius for those that don’t know is a very small but wonderful tropical island in the Indian Ocean, with. a wealth of cultural influences from African, Indian and Chinese, which create a fantastic island vibe of colours, flavours and traditions known as Creole.
The image below shows one of the first views of the island as you fly in, the cove is Grand Baie in the north, which is next to our family favourite beach of Pereybere. I remember the first time I visited the island and saw the view from the plane, the vivid blue green from the sea blew me away even at the age of 13. I was relieved when I returned that the view was just as impressive and the colours were still as fresh as the ones in my memory.
While visiting the Island my husband and I caught up with some of the family, who are still living in Post Louis. The visit was great as we got to see the family home and catch up on family chat, plus we meet a new addition to the Ah-Fat family, I wonder if you can guess which one.
We ended up going out for dinner with the cousins at their favourite Chinese restaurant, which was amazing and they had chosen a really special menu for the evening. After dinner we drove past the family shop “Magasin Ah-Fat” which has the largest sign ever !!!! Apparently there was a large sign but Uncle thought it would fall down and hit someone, so it was removed and the small sign left. No wonder I couldn’t find the shop when I went looking for it on my own, I even walked passed it. The shop has been established for 50 + years and is going strong, originally selling all types of sports equipment and re stringing rackets by hand themselves, now the shop just specialises in fishing tackle and is well know on the island. You can find the shop next to the main entrance by the Alooda stall in the Market (I highly recommend the Alooda if you are there).
When I was talking with the cousins about not having dad’s recipes, it transpired they had the recipe of my dad’s Peking Duck. I though this recipe had been lost forever, as my sister and I did not get my dad to write down any of his dishes before he died and something we regret not doing. My dad was famed for this recipe and one that I had seen prepared in various stages but not prepared myself. It was a memorable process as Dad always prepared the duck by hanging it to dry in the garage and the a mount of times I walked into the duck without paying much attention in the dark was countless, not brilliant as at the time I was a veggie, you can just imagine the grumbles. I was so pleased to have this recipe given to me, it has been 14 years since my dad died and it just feels like I’ve been given a little gift to remind myself that my dad is still around.
Patrick Ah-Fat’s Peking Duck
Prep time: 24hrs
Cooking time: 1hr
1 x 1.3kg Duck, whole
1 tbsp salt, to rub onto the duck
1 heaped tsp five spice powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rum, I used green island spice rum
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 pinch of yellow food colouring
Place the duck on a rack over a roasting tin and prick the skin with a sharp knife, this will allow the fat to leech out during the cooking process.
Pour three kettles of boiling water over the duck, this will tighten the skin and start to render the fat, discard the water each time.
Drain the duck and pat dry with some kitchen roll.
Mix the five spice powder and 1tsp salt in pan and heat lightly over low flame, once the aroma starts remove from the heat.
Rub the cavity of the duck with the spice rub and seal up the cavity with a cocktail stick.
Now to make the glaze, I used Green Island spiced rum and brown sugar I brought back from Mauritius as a nod to my dad.
In a small saucepan mix the water, vinegar, honey, rum, sugar and food colouring, bring to boil. Remove glaze from heat and pour over duck.
Collect the glaze and place back in the saucepan, boil again and pour over duck. Then throw away the remaining glaze.
Rub salt all over duck, hang and leave to dry overnight. I did this in my fridge as it was too warn to hang in the utility.
Remove the duck from where it is hanging, place on a rack over a roasting tray and pat try with some kitchen roll to remove any moisture sitting on the skin.
Pre heat the oven to 180c fan, cook for 30 mins on side make sure each is a deep brown.
Leave the duck to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and remember to pour over the juices.
Serve with rice pancakes, hoisin, sauce, spring onions, carrots and cucumber.
I also served the duck with rice, and a chilli and garlic stir fry kale with black sesame seeds. don’t forget to pour the duck gravy over your rice.
I hope you give this recipe a try and enjoy as much as I did. I can also confirm that I did my dad’s recipe justice. The duck’s spicing was just right, the skin was tasty and the meat was moist and succulent.
I’ve been out of action in the kitchen for a little while as I’ve been ill, away on vacation and at the moment I’m in recovery mode from abdominal surgery. Yesterday was the first day that I was able to make it in the kitchen and cook, mainly because the husband was eating out and I had to fend for myself. Luckily for me I had a grocery delivery earlier in the day and had all my favourite ingredients to make baked smoked chipotle chilli marinated sheeps milk feta, with peperonata on bruschetta.
This dish is so simple to make and can be eaten at lunch or dinner, warm or cold, alone or in company, its a summery dish with all the right elements: salty, sweet, savoury, tart, creamy, bitter and spicy, I guess thats what’s called umami.
My favourite part of this dish is the feta, but it needs to be a pure sheep milk or a sheep and goats milk mix as I find that it has a sharper cleaner flavour than ones that contain cows milk. The creaminess of the feta next to the warm smokey heat of the chipotle chilli for me is like a marriage made in heaven and the sort of food that I can’t stop going back to and nibbling on while waiting for the rest of the elements of the dish to finish cooking.
To make this dish you will need the following
For the feta
1 x 250g block of sheep milk feta
2 large teaspoon of smoked chipotle chilli paste
For the bruschetta
slices of good quality fresh white bread
1 garlic clove
sprinkle of mixed herbs
For the peperonata
6 Ramiro peppers, deseeded and sliced
1 x large red onion, thinly sliced
2 x plum tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar for dressing.
Heat the oven to 170c
Place the feta in a heat proof bowl, spread the chipotle chilli paste over the feta, and leave to marinate.
In a roasting tray place all the ingredients for the peperonata, give it a mix to ensure all the ingredients are seasoned and coated in the olive oil. Place in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
When the pepronata has been in the oven for 35 minutes, give it a little stir and place the marinated feta in the oven as well and bake for 25 minutes.
Prepare the bruschetta by rubbing the bread with the garlic clove, place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and mixed herbs, and place in oven for 10 minutes or until golden.
Remove the peperonata, feta and bruschetta from the oven, assemble on the plate, dress with balsamic vinegar and serve.
This dish Meen Pollichathu (Fish cooked in Banana Leaf) was taught to me by good friend Divya in Chendamangalam, Kerala. This is a deliciously spicy dish that’s great served with rice or just with a parotta and will impress your guests for sure.
Traditionally this dish uses a fish that is local to the fresh waters of Kerala called Karimeen, which is not readily available in the UK so I have opted for sea bream but grey mullet or snapper lends itself well.
The banana leaves are a really important element in this dish as not only does it hold the whole dish together it imparts a flavour and keeps the fish moist and succulent.
Meen Pollichathu – Fish in Banana Leaf
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
1 large whole sea bream, scaled and gutted
1 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric
2 tbsp coconut oil
2-inch fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
5 small shallots
2 fresh green finger chillies
1tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp chilli powder
3 tsp coconut vinegar
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 onion sliced
1 tsp salt
2 sprigs of curry leaves
1 banana leaf, enough to wrap the fish twice.
Prep the banana leaf by trimming into sheets to wrap the fish, taking care to remove the central spine of the leaf. Wash in water, dry the leaves and run the leaves over a flame, this seal the leaves, making them more pliable.
Slash the fish and rub with 1tsp salt and ½ tsp turmeric.
In a wok or frying pan heat the coconut oil and fry the fish until sealed.
To make the masala place the ginger, garlic, shallots, fresh chilli green, chilli powder, pepper, salt and coconut vinegar in a masala grinder and grind until smooth.
Coat the inside and outside of the fish in all the masala, and leave to marinade for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes over lap the banana leaf sheets in a cross shape, place half the tomatoes, curry leaves and onion on top of the leaves.
Place the masala marinated fish on top of the leaves, add the remaining curry leaves, slices of onions and tomatoes, and wrap the fish in the leaves securing with a cocktail stick.
In a hot wok, add a little coconut oil and place the fish parcels in the wok frying for 10 minutes on each side.
Serve with steamed rice or parotta with wedges of limes.