Bara Brith

Bara Brith
Wotchers!

The obsession with yeast continues!

This time, it’s the classic Welsh speckled bread Bara Brith. Nowadays, this is usually made using baking powder as the leavener, but personally I prefer the more traditional yeast.

And bonus! There’s two recipes for you to choose from!

When looking at an old recipe, I usually study the range of recipes available and select the one that, to my imagination, sounds the nicest. If there is a tie, then I will make both and decide which makes the cut by taste. This time, however, it was too difficult to decide, so I chose not to choose and leave that decision to you.

Both recipes have their strongpoints, not least from their provenance and pedigree.

On the left of the photo above, we have the recipe from Walter Banfield’s classic book “Manna”: A Comprehensive Treatise on Bread Manufacture (1937), a book admired by Elizabeth David and breathtaking in its breadth and scope. It is based on additions made to ordinary white bread dough after its first proving. The large quantity of fruit and peel contrast brightly against the white of the dough and make for a very sturdy slice that will keep moist for a long time.

On the right of the photo, a possibly more authentic Bara Breith from Mrs E.B.Jones, who, for many years, ran the Powys Temperance Hotel on Market Square, Llanrhaeadr-Ym-Mochnant in the first half of the 20th century. The recipe was collected by Dorothy Hartley and included in her iconic book Food in England, first published in 1954. As can be seen from the picture, this recipe isn’t as heavily fruited as the first one, but it has the added interest of being made from half wheat flour and half oat flour (finely ground oatmeal). Against expectation, the crumb is very light, making it a much more delicate slice.

I love the richness of the fruit in the bread dough version, but also really enjoy the delicate flavours of Mrs Jones’ version. I suggest you make both and decide for yourself.

Both loaves will keep well wrapped in parchment and foil, in a cake tin. Both are best enjoyed sliced and buttered, with a hot cup of something in front of a roaring fire.

Mrs Jones’ Bara Brieth

Don’t feel the need to order oat flour especially for this recipe, you can make your own by blitzing rolled oats in a spice grinder, or just use medium oatmeal for a more robust texture.

60g candied orange peel – diced
100g currants
70g sultanas
225g strong white flour
225g oat flour or medium oatmeal
115g lard
115g Demerara sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg
1 tsp mixed spice
1tsp soft brown sugar
30g fresh yeast

  • Put the peel and the fruit into a bowl and pour over boiling water. Set aside to plump for about 30 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes, cream the yeast and the soft brown sugar together.
  • Put the flours and the lard into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Tip into the bowl you will be using for mixing and add the Demerara sugar, spice and salt
  • Drain the fruit, retaining the water, and use it to mix the dough. Keep the fruit warm in a low oven while the dough is kneaded.
  • Add the yeast to the flour mixture with the egg, lightly whisked. Use the (by now just) warm fruit-soaking water to mix everything to a soft dough.
  • Knead for 10 minutes.
  • Mix in the warm fruit, cover with plastic and allow to rise until doubled in size. Due to the richness of the ingredients, this may take anything between 1 and 2 hours.
  • Grease a large loaf tin.
  • When the dough has risen, tip it out and pat down to deflate. Form into a loaf shape and lay into the prepared tin.
  • Cover lightly and allow to rise for about 45 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Turn the tin around 180 degrees and lay a sheet of foil lightly over the top, to prevent the loaf browning too much.
  • Bake for a further 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove from the tin and if the bottom doesn’t sound hollow, return to the oven for 5-10 minutes to crisp up. You can place the loaf directly onto the oven bars.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Walter Banfield’s Bara Brith

450g strong white flour
½ tsp salt
1tsp soft brown sugar
30g fresh yeast
warm water to mix

115g lard in small cubes
5g mixed spice
65g Demerara sugar
1 large egg
300g currants
90g sultanas
90g raisins
60g candied orange peel – diced
50g plain flour

  • Cream the sugar and yeast together with a tablespoon of the flour and a little warm water and set aside to work
  • Mix with the rest of the ingredients into a soft dough.
  • Cover with plastic and set aside to rise for 1 hour.
  • After 30 minutes, spread the fruit (not the peel) out on a baking sheet lined with parchment and put into the oven on its lowest setting, just to warm through.
  • Grease a large loaf tin.
  • When the dough has risen to twice its original size, add in the finely cubed lard, spice, egg and sugar and knead smooth.
  • Add the warmed fruit and peel and mix thoroughly.
  • Sprinkle over the flour and mix thoroughly.
  • Shape into a large loaf and place into the prepared tin.
  • Allow a long second rise, of 1-2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Turn the tin around 180 degrees and lay a sheet of foil lightly over the top, to prevent the loaf browning too much.
  • Bake for a further 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove from the tin and if the bottom doesn’t sound hollow, return to the oven for 5-10 minutes to crisp up. You can place the loaf directly onto the oven bars.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Fresh Yeast Muffins

muffins

Wotchers!

Those of you who are Keen™ will know that there’s already a muffin recipe on the blog. Nevertheless, I decided to revisit muffins in part because it is now ridiculously easy to get hold of fresh yeast but also because a lot of muffin recipes and videos Out There™ are just plain wrong when it comes to the method of shaping them. There, I said it. Oh yes, there’s no holding me back when my dander is up.

Because there’s no need to go faffing about with rolling out the dough and using *in her best Lady Bracknell voice of disapproval* a pastry cutter. Apart from anything else, it ruins the iconic shape of the muffin (a flattened top and bottom with a smooth, soft and pale crust around the middle) with an ugly seam where the dough has been compressed as it was cut.

This recipe is adapted from one listed in Florence White’s Good Things in England and dates from 1826, and without being overly dramatic, eating them is like biting into a cloud. To keep them as soft as possible, I’ve used ordinary plain flour and used the whey from some curd cheese I made earlier this week as part of the mixing liquid, as it gives a beautifully soft crumb. Don’t worry about having to use whey, you can just make the mixture equal parts whole milk and water.

Fresh Yeast Muffins

Makes 14

560g plain flour
20g fresh yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
1tsp salt
300ml whey + 150ml whole milk OR 225ml water + 225ml milk

cornflour for dusting

semolina for cooking (optional)

  • Put the flour and salt into a bowl. I use my stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  • Crumble the yeast into a small bowl  and add the sugar. Work the sugar into the yeast then set aside for five minutes until it becomes liquid.
  • Mix the whey and milk (or milk and water) in a small pan and warm gently to blood temperature.
  • Pour the yeast into the milk mixture and then pour the whole into the flour.
  • Mix thoroughly and knead for 10 minutes – five if using a dough hook.
  • Cover and leave to rise for 1.5-2 hours.
  • Deflate the dough, knead briefly, cover, and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the work surface with cornflour. The dough is rather loose and prone to stickiness. The cornflour doesn’t stick to itself, and will therefore act as a non-stick layer between the dough and the work surface.
  • Tip the dough out and divide it into 75g portions. This quantity of dough will, when risen and cooked, make the perfectly-sized muffin – 8-9cm across and 4cm thick. You can make them larger, but remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • For each piece of dough, fold the edges in towards the middle, then turn over so that the folds are underneath and the top is smooth. Cup your hand over the dough and roll it in small circles, shaping the dough into a smooth ball. Set the ball on a cornflour-dusted surface to rise. Don’t put the balls of dough too close together, or they might rise into each other.
  • Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes from the moment the first ball of dough is shaped. They will take time to cook in batches, so with the staggered batch cooking, the last few will have risen just in time to be cooked.
  • Put a heavy-based pan onto a large ring on a low heat.
  • Cook the muffins in batches. Depending on the size of your pan, you can cook 4 or 5 at a time. Sprinkle the pan with semolina if you like, although if your pan is non-stick, this can be omitted.
  • Gently slide a thin spatula under one of the risen balls of dough and transfer it to the pan turning it upside down as you do so, so that the top of the muffin cooks first. This will help create the perfect muffin shape, because the base of the dough is already flat and the top is rounded. If you cook the base first, the top continues to rise and curve, and the drying effect of the radiated heat from the pan will dry the surface of the dough and will make it ‘reluctant’ to flatten into the traditional muffin shape. Cooking the top first, the weight of the dough allows it to settle like a gently deflating cushion, into the flattened shape, and a partial hardening of the already flat bottom (which is currently the top) is fine.
  • Cook for five minutes, then gently turn the muffins over and cook for another 5 minutes. When done, they should sound hollow when tapped.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • Wipe the pan free of semolina, then repeat until all the muffins are cooked.

To serve – very important

These instructions are adapted from Hannah Glasse, who insisted that no knife should touch muffins, as they would become heavy. Here is a guide to enjoying your fresh muffins.

You will need:
chilled butter cut into thin slices.
toppings such as jam, honey or sausage, egg and bacon, depending on degree of hunger.

  • Whilst perfectly delicious soft pillows when freshly cooked, unless you are able to eat them hot from the pan, muffins should be toasted on the outside before being served. The insides are best left un-toasted, so you can bite down through the softness to the crunchy outside. The contrast is sensational.
  • Grill  for 2-3 minutes each side until the outsides have crisped, but not darkened.
  • While the muffin is still warm, take a serrated knife – yes, I know Hannah said no to knives, but a little help is needed in order to divide the muffin.  Take your knife and gently draw it around the side of the muffin like an equator, if you will – just breaking the soft crust to a depth of 1-2mm.
  • Once the ‘skin’ (it really is too soft to be called a crust) has been scored all the way around, hold the muffin sideways and with the tips of your fingers, gently pull the muffin apart. The cutting will help it divide evenly into two halves.
  • Quickly lay a slice of cold butter between the two halves and put them together again.
  • Cover with a cloth to keep warm.
  • After about a minute, turn each buttered muffin upside down, so that the now melted butter can seep into the other half of the muffin.
  • Your muffin is now ready to be enjoyed as is, or to drizzle over the toppings of choice. Remember, do not spread your toppings, or the pressure will deflate your soft, billowy muffin.

Scone Eggs

Scone Eggs

Wotchers!

Scotch Eggs are delicious, I think we can all agree that that is fact. Alas, they are also usually deep fried, and can thus be prone to being either overcooked or dry, or greasy or, heaven forfend, all three. Something needed to be done!

Behold  my new creation – The Scone Egg™!

Everything you love about scones and Scotch eggs in a single, warm, comforting bundle of deliciousness!

These are also a natural progression from some savoury scone variations I included in MY BOOK </subtle>. If you’ve got a copy[1], you will find the scone recipe on page 248. A couple of pages later, there are some suggestions for customising a basic scone recipe. The savoury scones are very popular with The Lads that look after my car, at my local garage[2].

What started out as an attempt to combine all the deliciousness from a Breakfast Sandwich into a scone, took a bit of a detour and here we are at Scone Eggs! Soft, crumbly scone, spicy sausage, an egg that is still runny in the middle[3],  and no deep frying!

These are ideal for brunch, either as is, or you could go completely over the top and combine them with all the fixin’s for Eggs Benedict. *dabs drool from keyboard*

To ensure a liquid center to your egg, they should be boiled for no longer than 5 minutes. This makes them a little tricky to peel, but if you follow the instructions below, you will be blessed with a much lower egg ruination rate. Alternatively, go for hardboiled eggs and make the whole process altogether less fiddly, and which would also make them more sturdy and therefore suitable for picnics, etc.

You will need some small individual pudding bowls to bake them in – I use foil ones like this – which can stand several uses with careful washing between bakes.

The key to baking a light scone is, as ever, the speed with which you can get them into the oven after adding the liquid to the dry ingredients, whilst avoiding being too rough with the dough. Have everything ready – eggs boiled and cooled, foil cases oiled – and your oven at temperature before stirring in the liquid and you should be able to have them in the oven in about 5 minutes.

Scone Eggs

Makes 4-6

I’ve specified more eggs, just in case there are cracks or breakages when removing the shell. In addition, depending on how thickly you wrap the scone mixture around the egg, you may get up to 6 Scone Eggs  from this recipe. Or not. But you will most definitely get four.

6-8 large eggs

1 x 400g pack of good-quality sausages[4]
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
½-1 tsp dried thyme
½-1 tsp dried oregano
½-1 tsp dried sage
¼ tsp celery seed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes

225g plain flour
30g unsalted butter
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cream of tartar
1 large egg
½ tsp salt
80ml plain yogurt
80ml milk

1 large egg for glazing

  • Prepare the eggs.
  • Bring a pan of water to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer (this will help keep the eggs from cracking).
  • Add the eggs, gently lowering them into the water with a spoon. Allow them to cook for 5 minutes, then drain the water and cool them in cold water. The eggs will be easiest to peel once completely cold, so either add some ice or more cold water if necessary. For hardboiled eggs, cook for 10-12 minutes.
  • Once the eggs are completely cold, remove the shell. I won’t go into just how many eggs I went through in the development of this recipe, but let us just say it was substantial and resulted in the method outlined below:
    • Take a teaspoon and with the back of the spoon, tap around the ‘equator’ of the egg, making sure the shell breaks into small pieces.
    • Then use the back of the spoon to break the shell around each end of the egg.
    • With the point of a sharp knife, break away the shell from the ‘equator’ region, until you can peel both shell and skin away together, preferably still attached to one another. This is key in removing the shell smoothly and successfully. Sometimes bits of the shell will drop away leaving the skin intact. Use the point of the knife to break through until you can hold shell and skin together between your fingertips.
    • Once you can hold both skin and shell together, peel around the middle of the egg, then peel each end.
    • Lay the peeled egg carefully on a plate – its soft middle will mean it doesn’t hold its shape entirely, but enough until you’re ready to wrap the scone mixture around.
  • Prepare the sausage
    • Remove the skin from the sausages and put the meat into a frying pan over medium heat.
    • Sprinkle with pepper, salt, herbs and spice to taste.
    • Using a spatula, break up the sausage meat as it cooks.
    • Continue chopping and turning the meat until cooked through. Set aside to cool.
    • When cold, tip the cooked sausage into the bowl of a food processor and blitz very briefly to break up any large chunks. You don’t want it as fine as breadcrumbs, but at the same time no piece larger than about 1cm.
    • Set aside.
  • Make the scone mix.
    • Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
    • Put the flour, butter, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar, salt and egg into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Tip the mixture into a bowl.
    • Weigh out 200g of cooked sausage meat and add to the scone ingredients. Stir through.
    • Whisk the milk and yogurt together.
    • Check you’ve got everything to hand to get the scones into the oven, pudding tins greased, egg for glazing whisked, pastry brush handy, oven hot, etc.
    • Using a rounded knife, gradually add the milk mixture, stirring the dry ingredients as you go. You might not need all of the liquid, depending on the moisture in the sausage, so proceed cautiously – you can still bake an overly moist scone mixture, but it might slip off the egg before it is fully cooked.
    • When the mixture has come together, tip out onto a floured surface. With floured hands, roughly shape it into a circle, then divide it into quarters.
    • For each egg, do the following:
      • Take a piece of dough and place it in the palm of your left hand.
      • Use your thumb and fingers to shape a hole or pocket into the dough. Be careful not to press the dough too thin – it should be 1.5-2cm thick.
      • Take one boiled egg and place it into the pocket.
      • Mould the scone dough around the egg until it is smoothly covered. Pinch off any excess dough and put on one side. You will end up with sufficient dough to wrap another 1 or 2 eggs.
      • Decide which end of the scone is smoothest and then drop the moulded scone into a buttered pudding tin, smooth side uppermost.
      • Place on a baking sheet.
    • When all scones are formed, brush over the tops with the beaten egg.
    • Bake for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 10 minutes to ensure even colouring.
    • When fully cooked, allow to firm up for 5 minutes before gently easing them out of the tins. Run a knife around the edge first, in case the glaze has caused it to stick to the tin. Set onto a wire rack to cool.
    • Enjoy at once.

[1] You DO have a copy, don’t you!? No pressure…..

[2] I take a box of warm scones in whenever my car needs some TLC.

[3] Caveat: as long as you eat them within 30 minutes of baking – as they cool, the yolk will continue to cook and longer than half an hour and it will be solid.

[4] Should be at least 90% pork, certainly not less than 85%. My UK recommendations are

  • Black Farmer Premium Pork Sausages
  • Debbie & Andrew’s Harrogate Sausages
  • Sainsbury’s Ultimate Pork Sausages, Taste the Difference Range

This list is by no means exhaustive, they are just the brands I have tasted and can vouch for personally.


Retro Tarts

Three sweet tarts

Dark Butterscotch (back left), Toffee (back right) and Gypsy Tart (front)

Wotchers!

Despite the above picture, this post is really all about pastry. Sweet, shortcrust pastry.

Some time ago *waves hand vaguely* I introduced you to an all-butter pastry which I had adapted from an old Victorian commercial baker’s book. The crust for my Cheese and Potato Pies has about 25% cornflour, which makes it fantastically silky-smooth to handle and which also bakes beautifully crisp and dry.

The recipe this week is for a sweet version, also from the same baking handbook: slightly different flour/butter proportions and enriched with the yolk of an egg, it is both more crisp and more delicate than the savoury version and a perfect foil for the three sweet fillings I’ve lined up for you, because I thought it rather a cheek to give you just a pastry recipe this week and let you get on with it. Plus I couldn’t get a lump of pastry to look tempting all by itself, so here we are.

The fillings are very much variations on a theme of dark muscovado sugar and I’m really pleased with the three differing flavours that resulted. The Butterscotch is really dark and very much a ‘grown-up’ flavour – you could even add a slosh of real scotch to ramp it up to dinner-party level. The Toffee is very child-friendly in flavour – almost mild – and a real comfort food. The Gypsy Tart is a 2-ingredient classic that harks back to memories of school dinners. There are many recipes for the filling ‘out there’, most of which generally have too high a proportion of sugar and too much milk, resulting in gigantic pies of tooth-aching sweetness. This version makes for a light and frothy filling with just the right balance of flavour and sweetness. It is the only one of the three that needs any further cooking once poured into the pre-baked pastry shell, but at just 20 minutes in a cool oven, these too are ready in a flash.

I’ve left all three unadorned, but you could add embellishment if you like – unsweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche rather than more sweetness in a chantilly or buttercream, is my recommendation. A smattering of chocolate sprinkles for the toffee tart, perhaps? Your call.

slices

Dark Butterscotch (left), Toffee (middle), Gypsy Tart (right)

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

This quantity makes enough for one large tart or 4-8 individual tarts.

170g plain flour
56g cornflour
125g unsalted butter
15g caster sugar
1 large yolk

ice water to mix

  •  Put the flours, butter, sugar and yolk into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Roll out thinly and line your greased tart tin. If making smaller tarts, cut the pastry into 4 and roll out individually.
  • Leave the excess pastry hanging over the side of the tin/s and chill in the fridge for another 30 minutes. The pastry will shrink as it chills and then you can trim the excess. If you trim it first, the pastry will shrink down inside your tart cases, probably unevenly, and your pastry cases won’t have a nice finish.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
  • Prick the bottom of the tart/s with a fork to prevent blistering, line with baking parchment and fill with beans/rice/beads.
  • Bake for 10 minutes for small tarts, 12-14 minutes for a large tart.
  • Remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 3 minutes for small tarts, 5-8 minutes for a large tart, until fully baked.
  • Allow to cool.

Butterscotch filling

170g unsalted butter
170g dark muscovado sugar
35g plain flour
100ml milk

  • Melt the butter and sugar in a pan, stirring.
  • Make a paste of the flour with a little of the milk, then stir in the rest of the milk.
  • Pour this milk mixture into the butter mixture and whisk vigorously.
  • Continue whisking until the mixture comes to the boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring, to ‘cook out’ the taste of the flour. The mixture will thicken.
  • Remove from the heat. Add a little extra milk – or scotch! – if it seems too thick, then pour into the bake pastry case/s and allow to cool.

Toffee filling

Warm the golden syrup before measuring it out, it will be much easier to pour accurately.

100g butter
40g plain flour
250ml milk
60g dark muscovado sugar
100g golden syrup

chocolate sprinkles (optional)

  • Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Whisk until frothed and starting to darken.
  • Warm the milk and sugar together and pour into the butter mixture, whisking briskly.
  • Keep stirring over the heat until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and stir in the golden syrup.
  • If the mixture seems too thick, add a little extra milk to loosen it.
  • When you’re happy with the consistency, pour into the pastry shells and set aside to cool.
  • Scatter over the chocolate sprinkles, if using, before serving.

Gypsy Tart filling

1 x 170ml tin evaporated milk
120g dark muscovado sugar

  • Chill the tin of evaporated milk in the fridge overnight. Do not skip this step. It will not whip up to its frothy perfection unless the milk is thoroughly chilled.
  • Get rid of all the lumps in the sugar by pounding it in a pestle and mortar. Work a little at a time rather than trying to get the whole batch lump-free in one go. It’ll give you something to do while the milk chills.
  • Put the sugar and the chilled milk into a bowl and whisk for AT LEAST ten minutes. You want the sugar to dissolve and the milk to increase in volume and become light and frothy, like half-whipped double cream. You can test whether the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the mixture between finger and thumb – it should not feel grainy at all. If you have a stand mixer and a balloon whisk attachment, this might take a little less time, but not much.
  • Preheat the oven to 120°C – NO FAN
  • Pour your mousse-like mixture into your pre-baked pastry case/s. It will not rise much in baking, so you can fill them pretty full.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the filling has set: no wobble when gently shaken.
  • Set aside to cool.

Turkey Meatballs

Turkey Meatballs

Wotchers!

I love a cooking show (duh!) and I really liked The Taste, with Nigella, Bourdain and  Lefebvre, although it seems the powers that be on both sides of the Atlantic don’t share my enthusiasm, as neither the US program not the UK version is currently showing any sign of life. Ho hum.

For anyone unfamiliar with the premise, food was tasted blind, without prior knowledge of who had made it, beginning at audition level and continuing throughout the series. In addition, you only got to serve the judges a single spoon of your dish, so crafting this mouthful from an entire dish was a skill in itself.

ANYHOO…..

Had I ever auditioned, THIS, gentle readers, would have been my single-spoon audition offering.

Although this post is only for the meatballs, you can make the above meal by using previous blog posts to rustle up some Noodles and Rice and Barbecue Sauce.

This has been a very popular meal in our house for a number of years and I’m especially pleased with it as it tastes amazing whilst incorporating one of the dullest ingredients that could ever grace your shopping trolley – turkey mince. Which is CHEAP and LEAN and HEALTHY and so very, VERY dull by itself. Seriously, I nearly nodded off just typing that. However! Zing it up with some bacon, parsley and spring onions and it is a delicious surprise to all who’ve tried it. Literally. I mean, we’re talking almost cartoon-level double-takes after the first bite.

You don’t HAVE to serve it with the barbecue sauce – any spicy sauce will do – but it does marry very well with the other ingredients. Often I like to enjoy them without any sauce at all, just enjoying the mix of flavours. Similarly, don’t feel obliged to go with the noodles and rice – the meatballs make an awesome sandwich in a crusty baguette – ideal for a packed lunch because these meatballs taste almost as delicious cold as hot, as do the noodles and rice. If only there were ever enough left for sammiches…….

Turkey Meatballs

Makes about 40 small-ish meatballs.

5 rashers smoked back bacon
500g Turkey mince
4 spring onions – chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs – about 2 slices of bread.
1 egg
1/2tsp coarse-ground black pepper
4 heaped tbs chopped, fresh parsley, or 2 heaped tbs dried parsley

125ml Barbecue Sauce (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 200ºC, 180ºC Fan.
  • Put the bacon rashers into a cold frying pan and cook over a low heat until crisp. No additional oil should be necessary as the bacon will give out its own as it cooks.
  • Dry the bacon on absorbent paper, then chop finely either by hand or in a food processor.
  • Add the chopped bacon to the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  • Use a tablespoon measure or small ice-cream scoop to form the mixture into balls the size of a walnut and arrange them on a baking sheet. NB To keep the meatballs from sticking without having to use extra oil, use a baking mat/sheet of parchment.
  • Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, until the meatballs are slightly browned.
  • Tip meatballs into a large frying pan and pour over the barbeque sauce. Toss gently over a low heat to warm the sauce through and glaze the meatballs.

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

Wotchers!

Here’s a delicious Deja Food recipe that we regularly enjoy in this house, whenever there is some Tandoori Chicken going spare. That in itself is quite a challenge, since both my husband and daughter love Tandoori Chicken with a passion, so I find myself making gargantuan quantities purely in order to have anything left with which to make Butter Chicken.

Invented at the Moti Mahal (Palace of Pearl), one of the oldest restaurants in Delhi, by Mr Kundan Lal Gujral, Butter Chicken, or Murgh Makhani to give it it’s proper name, was devised as a way of keeping Tandoori Chicken moist and flavourful from one day to the next. The dark, smokiness of the cooked chicken is enriched by the Makhani gravy of spices, ghee, tomatoes and cashews, especially if you can leave them marinading overnight. The recipe below is one that I’ve used for 5-6 years, tweaking slightly to reduce the fat content whilst still retaining the rich flavours of the dish.

I’m not going to tell you how to make Tandoori Chicken, because I’d only be repeating the most excellent words of Madhur Jaffrey. Her recipe appears in Indian Cookery, a well-thumbed copy of which is gradually falling apart on one of my many shelves of cook books, but it is also available online HERE. I’m glad she has stopped advocating the lurid food colouring – it always unnerved me somewhat to see incandescent pieces of chicken on the plate. To get a little more red into my chicken, I add a generous amount of sweet paprika – the Rajah brand here in the UK gives fiery colour without the fiery heat – but since it will ultimately be lovingly enveloped in sauce, I shouldn’t fret too much about this.

A couple of points on ingredients: I strongly recommend hunting out a tin of ghee, as its almost perfumed aroma greatly enhances the dish, and dried fenugreek leaves are a must for that authentic taste. Add hot spices if you like, but I prefer it without.

Butter Chicken

1 thumb-sized piece of ginger – peeled & chopped
6 fresh chillies, red or green – deseeded
6 cloves garlic – peeled
50g ghee or clarified butter
4 x 5cm cinnamon sticks
3 black cardamom pods (if not available, use 10 green cardamom pods in total)
6 green cardamom pods
1 tbs cloves
4 bay leaves
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes – pureed smooth
100 g raw cashew nuts
1-2 tbs honey
1-2 tbs tomato paste
paprika to taste (optional)
chilli powder to taste (optional)

2 tbs dried fenugreek leaves
50 g ghee or clarified butter
60 ml crème fraiche

  • Make a paste of the ginger, garlic and chillis by blitzing in a food processor with 4 tablespoons of water until well chopped.
  • Melt the ghee/butter in a large frying pan and add the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves and bay leaves. Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the ginger/garlic/chilli mix and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
  • Add the pureed tomatoes, stir thoroughly, then turn the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and pick out the whole spices or sieve the sauce to remove them. Discard the spices.
  • Pour the sauce into a blender and add the cashews, paprika, chilli powder (if using), honey and tomato paste. Puree until thickened and smooth (about 2 minutes). Stir the contents thoroughly and puree again for 30 seconds.
  • If you’re making this to freeze, then stop now. Pour the sauce into suitable containers (this will make about 900 ml of sauce – yes, we like this sauce a LOT – and having it in the freezer can bring a meal together in minutes), label and leave to cool before freezing. If you’re preparing ahead, add your sauce to your cooked/cold Tandoori Chicken, stir, cover, and chill overnight in the fridge, otherwise add the chicken and proceed as below.
  • To Serve
    • Heat gently in a suitably large pan.
    • Add the remaining ghee and the dried fenugreek and simmer for five minutes.
    • Stir in the crème fraiche just before serving and sprinkle  a few more fenugreek leaves as garnish

Serve with plain rice and naan breads (to mop up all that lovely sauce!)


Chicken Tetrazzini

A bowl of Chicken Tetrazzini

Wotchers!

I’m going full-on retro this week, with the tweak of a classic from my days as a bistro waitress, back in nineteen tumpty-tum *waves hand vaguely*

ANYHOO….

Created in the early years of the 20th century in the United States and named after Italian opera star Luisa Tetrazzini, it is usually found on late-December tables made with leftover turkey and a can of condensed soup. *shudder*

This, however, is an altogether more delicate affair with fresh herbs and mushrooms and a splash of wine.

I love this dish for lots of reasons – it’s easy, its versatile, you can cook it from scratch, but it can also be created from cold chicken and cooked pasta, which means it can be assembled in a relatively short amount of time. The sauce – if  I say so myself – is AMAZING: I could quite happily eat it by itself. If you’re in a hurry, then it can be served straight from the pan as a pasta sauce – but if you have the time to make it ahead, it can also sit in the fridge in a casserole and then heat through in about 30 minutes when needed, with no need for any further attention.

I don’t usually fuss too much with specific types of ingredients, but for this recipe I strongly recommend using the chestnut mushrooms if possible – other mushrooms tend to turn the sauce a rather unappetising grey. Fresh thyme is also preferable, but 1.5 tsp of dried thyme can be used instead.

The amounts of both chicken and mushrooms can be varied according to taste or availability. Since the cooked mushrooms have a meaty texture, they mix well with the chicken, and can easily make a small amount of chicken stretch to a family meal. The pasta can be any shape, but shells (conchiglie) and twists (fusilli) hold sauce the best. Alternatively, egg noodles are quicker.

Chicken Tetrazzini

300-500g cooked chicken, diced
30g butter
2 tbs vegetable oil
250-500g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
5 shallots – finely chopped
5 cloves garlic – finely chopped
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves – chopped
150ml white wine

50g butter
50g flour
1 litre milk- warmed
Up to 4 tsp chicken stock powder (bouillon)
freshly ground nutmeg
A handful of chopped parsley – or more to taste

600g cooked pasta or cook 450g of dry pasta.

Optional
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

  • Put the diced chicken into a bowl and set aside.
  • Melt the butter and oil in a large pan.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook over a medium heat until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms become pale golden. This will take about 10 minutes.
  • Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme, and cook until the shallots soften and become translucent.
  • Stir in the wine and simmer until it has evaporated, then add the mushroom mixture to the chicken.
  • Melt the butter in the now empty pan and scatter in the flour to make a roux for the sauce.
  • Stir the mixture for 3-4 minutes to cook the flour, then remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the milk, a little at a time. NB – removing the pan from the heat while adding the milk will help reduce the chances of lumps forming.
  • When all the milk has been added, return the pan to the heat and continue to stir while the sauce comes to the boil and thickens.
  • Gradually add the bouillon powder, tasting between each addition to make sure it’s not becoming too salty.
  • Finally add a good grating of nutmeg and the parsley.
  • If you’re eating immediately, add the chicken mix and pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Turn the heat to low and let simmer gently while everything heats through. When thoroughly warmed, serve in bowls with a side salad or vegetables – broccoli and cauliflower go well .
  • To serve later, turn off the heat once the sauce has thickened. Allow to cool before stirring in the chicken mix and the cooked pasta. Pour the mixture into an oven-proof dish.
  • Mix together the cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top. Cover with foil and refrigerate.
  • To serve, put the dish onto a baking sheet (in case the sauce bubbles over) and put in the oven.
  • Turn the oven on to 180ºC, 160ºC Fan and allow to warm for 25-30 minutes, or until the dish is thoroughly heated and the sauce bubbling.
  • Remove the foil after 20 minutes so that the topping can become crunchy and brown.

Variations
Peas go very well with this recipe, either as a side dish or stirred into the sauce itself.
Turkey – This is equally amazing when made with turkey – a welcome standby to have when faced with mountains of Christmas leftovers.
Vegetarian – just omit the chicken and increase the amount of chestnut mushrooms to 1kg. Use vegetable bouillon powder when making the sauce.
Pasta – consider using long, flat pasta such as linguini.