I used to live and work in Singapore, and one of the iconic snack foods there is the Curry Puff!
It’s basically a pastry turnover with a spicy curry filling – sometimes there’s meat added and/or other vegetables, but my favourite was the potato curry puff. More usually, the filling is diced potato, but the cafeteria at the school I was working at sold potato curry puffs with a smooth, mashed potato filling. I know – carb. coma material, amiright? The combination of crisp pastry and smooth, spiced mashed potato was very comforting, and over the years I’ve tried to reproduce their flavour but without much success.
Having said that, the recipe this week isn’t for a traditional curry puff at all. Traditionally, curry puffs are deep fried, occasionally with spiral pastry (similar to that used for sfogliatelle), but the thought of deep fried anything tends to fill me with the horrors these days. Another option would be to bake them, using regular pastry, but even that has a relatively high fat content, so what I decided to do was use bread dough in place of pastry.
Stuffed, filled bread buns are the ideal mobile meal or picnic item – the filling is self-contained,so there’s nothing to fall out or dry up or get soggy, and to my mind they are even more tasty because the dough wrapper seals in all the flavours during cooking. My recipe for Bierocks, for example, has such simple ingredients, but tastes amazing!
Over the years my attempts to reproduce the filling have stumbled over the spicy flavouring. I’ve tried numerous combinations of spices and each one has had some major flaw. Thinking I’d had a Eureka moment, I even tried mixing in sweet potato with the mashed potato but no *shudders* Oh dear me, that was such a ‘no’.
But now I’ve got a filling I’m happy with because I opted to buy curry paste. *waits until the shrieks of horror die down* Yes, I opened a jar and I’m not ashamed to admit it! It turns out that what my taste buds had been yearning for wasn’t an authentic, hand-crafted spice mix – it was just *waves hands about vaguely* ‘curry’. Sidebar: I also buy basic, value curry sauce – sometimes called ‘chip shop curry sauce’ and pour it over cooked chicken – with the family, it’s just as popular a meal as the home-made-from-scratch butter chicken (and made in a fraction of the time!) Go on, indulge in a jar today – it’ll set you back 20p.
Having said that, the range of curry pastes available in the supermarkets means that you can ring the changes as often as you like. Because the curry paste is concentrated, you don’t need to use much at all, and there’s also no risk of making the filling too soggy. I’ve flavoured the filling quite strongly, because there’s just a small quantity in each bun. If you want to use more filling and make turnovers/pasties, consider using less of the curry paste.
You can make these buns plain – just as a round bun with filling inside, but you can also pretty them up into the flower shapes shown above. Too often we spend a lot of time faffing with decorations for sweet things, and savoury items tend to be the poor relation, so I decided to redress the balance somewhat. An added bonus of the flower shapes is that they can be eaten delicately, by breaking off a petal at a time to nibble on! – Oooh! Get me, Mrs Etty-Kwette!
Curry Bloom Buns
The following quantities make 8 buns.
300g strong white bread flour
1 sachet easy-blend yeast
1 large eggwhite
300g cooked potato – riced/mashed
2tbs curry paste of choice – I used Patak’s Rogan Josh
1 large egg yolk
black sesame seeds or kalonji/nigella seeds
white sesame seeds
- Put all the dry ingredients for the dough, plus the oil and egg-white, into a bowl.
- Heat the water and add to the milk. This should make a warm mixture of blood heat temperature. Test by dipping a finger into the mixture to make sure it’s not too hot.
- Gradually add the milk and water mixture to the other ingredients until they come together in a ball. You might not need all of the liquids.
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth.
- Brush the dough with oil and place in an oiled bowl.
- Cover with cling-film and set aside to rise until doubled in size.
- Over a medium heat, cook the curry paste in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes, to bring out the flavours of the spices.
- Remove pan from heat and add the mashed potato. Stir thoroughly to combine, until the colour is even throughout.
- Once the dough is risen, tip out from the bowl and gently press to deflate.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Divide the dough into eight pieces.
- Divide the filling into eight pieces.
- For each bun
- Pat the dough into a circle about 10cm in diameter.
- Put a ball of potato filling in the middle of the dough.
- Damp the edges of the dough with water.
- Gather the edges of the dough around the filling and pinch to seal.
- Turn the dough parcel over and press to flatten until it measures 10cm in diameter.
- Using a sharp knife, add cuts to the flattened dough as shown in the diagram below.
- Twist each piece to the left 90° so that the filling is visible and gently flatten to make the petal shape.
- Transfer the bun to the prepared baking sheet.
- Allow the buns to rise for 15 minutes (after the last one is shaped).
- Whisk the egg-yolk and water together and brush over the shaped buns.
- Scatter the black sesame seeds in the centre of each bun, and sprinkle the pale seeds over the ‘petals’.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked and golden.
- Wrap in tea-towels and set on a wire to cool, to keep the crust soft.