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.
Here’s a life-altering post *she claims, modestly* in that it is for crispy, oven-baked chips. Chips, not fries (which are too thin to enjoy, in my opinion), although the term ‘wedges’ would also be permissible.
The main difference between these and other oven-baked chips is that they’re fat-free.
Not, as many another oven-baked recipe turns out, oven-baked in oil – but completely fat free.
The secret is egg-white. Add your favourite spices and flavourings to some egg-whites and whisk until frothy – although frothiness isn’t compulsory, a light whisking that just loosens the egg-white is perfectly sufficient. Toss parboiled potatoes in the mixture, lay on parchment and bake in the oven and Tadaah!
It’s that simple. No need to sigh at the prospect of having to make yet more meringues/macaroons when faced with leftover egg-whites, THIS is the new way to use them up.
Infinitely customisable, I’ve made several batches, trying different flavourings, and each one has turned out dry and crisp and fluffy inside and deliciously fat-free.
- The suggestions below are just that – suggestions only. Feel free to mix up your own combinations. If you like things spicy, add some chilli flakes, if cheese is your passion, some grated parmesan could be just the thing, caraway seeds, fennel, tarragon, cajun spices, tandoori spices, onion or garlic powder, etc.
- Now I’m also well aware that sometimes your taste-bids crave the oil/fat associated with chips, so if you have a go at the recipe below and it’s not quite doing it for you, try mixing in just 1 tablespoon of oil with the egg-white and spices, just before coating the chips. This small addition can, of course, be any oil you like – as well as all of the plain oils, infused oils would add an extra flavour dimension: garlic, herb, even truffle-oil – the possibilities are endless. Do let me know your own combinations!
Enough chat, on with the recipe!
Crisp Oven-Baked Chips
The following quantities are sufficient for 2 generous adult helpings. Scale up for larger quantities.
60ml egg-whites (2 large)
- Suggestion 1 – Herby: 2tsp mixed, dried herbs (I used ½tsp each of dried thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram), ¼tsp salt, ½tsp coarse-ground black pepper
- Suggestion 2 – Spicy: 2tsp mixed ground spices (½tsp each of coriander, cumin, garam masala, smoked paprika) ¼tsp salt, ½tsp coarse-ground black pepper,
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunky chips or wedges. They should be at least as thick as your finger, to ensure a nice contrast between crispy outsides and fluffy insides.
- Rinse the raw chips in cold water, to get rid of some of the starch and then keep them immersed in water until ready to parboil.
- Heat a pan of water. When the water is boiling, drain the raw chips from the cold water and tip them into the pan. This will cool the water down and take it off the boil.
- Bring the water back to a rolling boil and let the chips cook for a further 2 minutes. This will take about 7-8 minutes from the time you tip in the potatoes.
- Remove the chips from the water and drain in a sieve. Set aside to cool. They don’t have to be completely cold before you coat them, just not hot enough to cook the egg-white before you’ve got them coated.
- Heat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
- Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment. This is important. Foil will not do, nor will greaseproof paper, as the chips will stick.
- Whisk together the egg-white and flavourings.
- Gently toss the par-boiled chips in the flavourings. Work in 2 or 3 batches, to ensure they get evenly coated and don’t break apart.
- Lay the chips onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. If there’s any egg-white left over, use a pastry brush to dab it over the chips if liked – a thicker layer makes for more crunch.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and turn the chips over. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.
- Serve with your favourite dips, sauces and relishes.
I love this recipe for lots of reasons: it’s Deja Food, it’s comfort food, is simple, cheap, quick to put together and it’s deliciously tasty.
I’ve included a couple of twists in this seemingly simple recipe that elevates it into something really special.
The pastry is a new version of shortcrust that I have adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book. It includes cornflour, which makes the pastry extra crispy, which isn’t always easy with an all-butter pastry, and it has a really smooth, dry feel which makes it very easy to handle. I’ve thrown in some rosemary to pump up the flavour in the pastry, and the filling is simplicity itself – just diced, cooked potatoes and cheese – but with a secret ingredient that makes these pies completely awesome.
I like chutney. I’ve always liked the sharpness from the vinegar, the spiciness, the touch of sweetness – and I’ve made my fair share of them too. The secret to a good chutney is time – leaving it for two to three months after it’s made so that the flavours can develop and the throat-catching harshness of the vinegar can mellow. Taste it too soon and everything is much too strong. Which brings me to the secret ingredient: Sainsbury’s Basics Tomato Chutney. Now, you know I love you, Sainsbury’s, but you’re just not aging your Basics chutney, are you? Pop that jar open and whoosh! The whiff of vinegar and spice is mighty powerful. However, if you bake a little of this chutney into these pies something magic happens: all the harshness of the vinegar disappears and just add a piquancy that breaks up the pastry/cheese/potato combo. Don’t worry if you don’t live near a Sainsbury’s – Basics Tomato Chutney seems to be a staple in most of the major supermarkets.
These pies are great for packed lunches and picnics or just a quick and comforting lunch at home.
Cheese and Potato Pies – makes 6-8 individual pies
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water
4-5 medium cold boiled potatoes
strong cheddar cheese – grated
Basics tomato chutney
1 large egg, whisked
Individual foil pie dishes
- Put the flours, rosemary and butter 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 30 minutes.
- Cut the potatoes into centimetre cubes and put into a bowl.
- Add grated cheese to your taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds.
- Roll this piece out thinly to a thickness of 3-4mm and line your greased pie dishes, making sure there is enough pastry over the sides of the dishes to allow for joining the lid.
- Put a layer of cheese and potato into the bottom of each pie shell.
- Add 2-3 teaspoons of tomato chutney and spread into a thin layer.
- Fill the pies with the remaining cheese and potato mixture
- Roll out the pastry for the lids. Wet the undersides with a pastry brush dipped in waterand press them onto the tops of the pies firmly.
- Trim off the excess pastry with the back of a knife.
- Crimp the pastry edges by pressing into them with the tines of a fork.
- Wash over the tops of the pies with beaten egg and cut a small hole in the pastry lids to let out steam.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pies, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
- Cool on a wire rack.
I love the versatility of potatoes and doing something a bit different with them can really brighten up an otherwise ordinary weeknight meal. Not every part of meal has to be gussied up in finery – just change one thing to make everything else that bit more special. We had these potatoes last night, with (97% pork) sausages and steamed broccoli. It was fab.
Dauphinois potatoes are a traditional speciality of Dauphiné region of France – sliced potatoes, double cream, garlic and seasonings are baked for about an hour and a half to a rich, golden finish.
And there lies the downside of this delicious dish – the length of time it takes to cook. Be a bit heavy-handed with your potato slicing, and cooking time will start nudging two hours. Great if you’ve got an Aga and can set them cooking just after lunchtime – but that’s not very practical for most of us.
Also, the generous use of cream makes this dish extremely rich, which then relegates it to something one might have just occasionally, as a treat.
So here is my solution to both these problems. Dauphinois potatoes with all the creaminess and flavour of the original, but with a fraction of both the fat and cooking time. Ideal for busy people, as the preparation takes only 15-20 minutes, which means it can be thrown together before work. The dish can then rest during the day, to let all the delicious flavors mingle. After work, into the oven it goes, 20-30 minutes and bish-bash-bosh Vwa-as they say-La!
A few notes on ingredients:
- Potatoes – Must be the floury type. Varieties to look for include Desiree, King Edward, Maris Piper.
- Milk – Whole milk, unskimmed, ordinary. Some might call it ‘full fat milk’ but please, before anyone starts shrieking about unhealthiness here, let’s be realistic: Whole milk = 3.7% fat, double cream = 48% fat.
- Creme fraiche – Low fat. Just 15% fat, before you ask. The amount will depend on the shape of your baking dish.
- Nutmeg – freshly grated. It’s awesome.
- Cheese – No.
800g floury potatoes
400ml whole milk
salt & pepper
1/4 nutmeg- grated
30g unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
100-200ml Low fat crème fraîche
- Peel the potatoes and slice thinly. I use the thin slicing disc on my food processor. NB Do not rinse the slices. It’s the potato starch that will be giving the sauce its creaminess.
- Put the potato slices into a broad, heavy-bottomed pan with the rest of the ingredients except the crème fraîche.
- Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. NB Stir gently with a spatula to avoid breaking the potatoes or letting them stick to the pan. At the end of the cooking time the slices will be coated with a creamy sauce. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
- Spoon the potatoes into the baking dish and level the top. If your timetable allows the dish to rest, cover with plastic wrap until required. To bake immediately, continue as below – don’t wait to pre-heat the oven, just put the dish in and turn the oven on.
- To bake:
- Spread a thin layer of low fat crème fraîche over the top of the potatoes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Test for done-ness with the point of a sharp knife – if the potatoes are fully cooked, there should be no resistance.
Today we have one of my favourite types of recipe – Déjà-Food!
Betcha thought I was going to say Indian?
Déjà-Food is my preferred way to describe the cunning use of the leftovers from a previous meal. I’ve always disliked the word ‘leftovers’ as it might conjure up images of plate-scrapings, whereas in actual fact, it’s the food that was cooked but never served. It’s obviously a play on words stemming from the French phrase déjà vu (literally meaning ‘already seen’), but it also manages to avoid any negative conotations of that dreaded word ‘leftovers’.
Another reason why I’m such a big fan of Déjà-Food is that it means less work for me in getting a meal together. Cooking potatoes, for example, can take up to an hour to boil, if you’re cooking them whole. With cold, cooked potatoes from yesterday’s supper, this dish can come together in no more than 15 minutes.
I’m such a fan of Déjà-Food, if I’m planning ahead (I’m rarely that organised, but occasionally it happens) I will now deliberately cook extra, specifically to use the following day. There are lots of reasons for making use of leftovers, not least the financial, but not many recipes or TV programs actually go to the trouble of showing you just how easily it can be done. Saying “….and you can use the leftovers to make more great family meals” isn’t very helpful if you’re not feeling particularly inspired. Here’s hoping this recipe helps.
There are lovely big bags of baby spinach leaves in the shops at the moment, and spinach is so very good for you, you could feel doubly virtuous by whipping this together. Use green chillies by all means if you prefer, I just think the flecks of red look so pretty with the green.
Of course, this is just one suggestion for the hundreds of recipes you can make with cooked potatoes – we’ll get to the others later. Maybe start a national campaign. I’d call it “Got Spuds?”
Saag Aloo – Indian Spiced Potatoes and Spinach
50g ghee or 3tbs vegetable oil
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves of garlic
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 red chillies, de-seeded
500g cooked potatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp salt
250g baby spinach leaves, washed
- Put the ginger, garlic, onions and chillies in a mini food processor and blitz until finely chopped.
- Cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and microwave in a covered bowl for 2-3 minutes until heated through.
- In a large pan over medium heat, add the ghee or oil and then the ginger garlic mix and stir for 2 minutes.
- Add the spices and salt, stir briefly, then add the potatoes. Turn the potatoes over gently until coated with the spice mix.
- Add the spinach leaves and remove the pan from the heat. Gently stir until the spinach leaves are wilted but still bright green. The heat of the pan and the potatoes will provide enough heat to achieve this.