Creamy Spiced Dahl

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Much like the rest of the western population, after over-indulging for the whole month of December (ok….and half of November if we’re really being honest with each other), I’m two and a half weeks into this new me, healthy, clean eating, no wine, no processed foods, no junk (blah, blah, blah….yawn) lifestyle.

Although we haven’t faired too badly so far, I can feel myself on the verge of a breakdown. Those cravings are starting to creep up on me and no matter how much I tell myself that an apple will be perfect for a post dinner snack or how the superfood salad will leave me feeling positively glowing and thoroughly cleansed, there are definite cracks appearing in my willpower.

Let’s be honest, a salad (no matter how ‘super’ it may be) is really not going to hit the spot on these cold, wet January days, is it? So, to motivate you through the last hard slog of a healthy January, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite comfort foods – dahl.

Dahl is probably one of the most common dishes in an Indian household. And rightly so – there are at least over twenty varieties in the Indian repertoire. The word Dahl means dried legume (lentil or pea). But dahl encompasses a whole host of other dried beans and chickpeas as well as legumes.

Most people are aware that dahl is an excellent source of protein, low in calories and fat. However, did you know that dahls are also packed with an array of vitamins such as iron, folic acid and magnesium (to mention just a few).

More importantly, it is absolutely delicious, warm and filling so you can enjoy it guilt free which makes it perfect for your January health kick.

The recipe I’ve provided is made from a lentil called Urad, also know as the black gram or black lentil. The popular and tasty dish Dahl Makhani is made from this lentil. Although not commonly known, you will find this lentil available in most grocery stores in the world food aisle.

However, for this recipe we will be using the split urad, which essentially means that the lentil has been skinned leaving it a gorgeous golden colour. This recipe has a unique and beautifully buttery flavour, which always satisfies my comfort food cravings, but in fact there is very little butter or fat used to cook the dish.

It’s also very easy to cook and can be ready to serve in less than 20 minutes (once the dahl is cooked through).

Enjoy…. And please do let me know whether it helped you stay on track for your healthy Jan!

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 ½ cups urad lentils (also known as split urad)
4-5 cups water
½ tsp salt + a little extra to season to taste
1-2 tsps rapeseed or olive oil
¼ tsp ground red chilli
Pinch of turmeric
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp crushed garlic
¾ tsp garam masala
15g unsalted butter
Small handful of chopped coriander

Method

  1. Place the lentils in a large pot, cover with water and rub lentils through your hands to give them a wash. Rinse the lentils through a colander until you see the water runs clear.

  2. Return the lentils to the pan and cover the lentils with double the amount of water. Place on a high heat and bring to a boil.

  3. At boiling point, you should notice a thick layer of white froth covering the lentils. Turn down the heat and with a large spoon, remove the white froth.

  4. Now add ½ tsp salt and a ¼ tsp oil to the lentils and stir through. Half cover the pan with a lid and allow the lentils to cook on a medium heat until they are soft – this should take about 25-30 mins. Keep the water topped up enough to cover the lentils at all times.

  5. After 20 mins, test the lentils by pushing them against the side of the pan with a spoon. If they break under the pressure easily, they are cooked.

  6. Once cooked, add the ¼ tsp crushed garlic (leave the other ¼ tsp for tempering*) ground red chilli, ground cumin, ground coriander and turmeric. Stir through and allow the spices to cook for a further 5 mins.

  7. The last step is to the temper* (see note below) the crushed garlic and add to the dahl. Heat oil in a very small pan for 30 seconds and add the remaining ¼ tsp crushed garlic. Keep the garlic moving either by swishing the oil or moving it around with a spoon. Just as the garlic is starting to brown, carefully add the tempered garlic to the cooked lentils and stir through.

  8. Now, add a little more water if required – the dahl should be the consistency of thick soup. At this point you can whizz up the dahl (with a handheld processor) to provide a smoother dahl or you could leave it if you prefer a more textured consistency.

  9. At this point, you can leave to cool until you are ready to complete the final steps or after cooling, freeze for future use.

  10. Immediately before serving, warm the dahl, add the garam masala, butter, coriander and salt to taste.

  11. Serve piping hot, garnished with coriander and warm chappatti’s or pitta bread.


Notes:
*Tempering – Widely used method in Indian cuisine, in which whole or ground spices are heated in hot oil or ghee and then added to a dish. The hot fat has an amazing ability to extract and retain the essence, aroma and flavor of spices and herbs and then carry this essence with it when added to a dish.

 

Jewelled Channa Chaat

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It has been a busy few months in the Sass & Spice world…. Primarily to do with that fact that I’ve been prepping and have recently taught my first course in Healthy Indian Cookery at the WI Cookery School. It was fantastic fun, although a little unnerving at the beginning! However, it was very rewarding to open people’s eyes to the fact that Indian food doesn’t have to be the greasy, heavy food that is often typical of curry houses.

To help prepare for my course, I asked a few friends over so I could practice my teaching skills. It was a tremendous help and I felt much less stressed at the WI course.

During the trial courses, I served this Jewelled Channa Chaat (Spicy Chickpea Salad) as a snack to replenish the cooks after doing a hard slog in the kitchen. I was surprised at how well it went down and a few asked for the recipe, so here it is.

It completely keeps in line with my Healthy Indian theme too. The dish is very nutritious as it includes a variety of veg and the super pomegranate (full of vitamins not to mention the natural antioxidants) but so satisfying as it has so much flavour.

Chaat, essentially is a loose term used in India to describe a multitude of savoury snacks. They are typically served on roadside or market stalls, where you will find the ingredients have all been prepped in advance. The dish is specifically made to order and its made up exactly the way you like it.

The reason why the Chaat is made up fresh is because it isn’t something you can make and leave hanging around for very long – it is best eaten fresh.

Most traditional Chaat’s I’ve tried have at least one element of fried food involved. Typical of my way, I’ve taken the best elements of the dish and added a healthy fresh twist to it so you can enjoy it guilt free. Its also very quick and easy to make-up (there is minimal cooking involved), using some basic pantry items and whatever veg you have lying around.

Perfect for friends dropping by at short notice or great for an afternoon snack (served with the mandatory cup of hot chai)!

Enjoy…… let me know how you like it.


Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

For the Coriander Chutney
Small bunch of coriander
1 red chilli, deseeded, chopped roughly (optional)
2-3 tbsps yogurt

For the Tamarind Chutney **
¼ pack of dried tamarind or 1.5 – 2tsp tamarind paste
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp ginger powder
4 tsp jaggery or 6 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
Water

For the Chaat
1 medium potato or sweet potato washed
10g unsalted butter + Splash of olive oil
1 can of chickpeas, drained
4-5 Carrs Table Water Black Pepper Crackers – broken roughly into medium size pieces
1/2 red or green pepper, chopped finely
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
2-3 tsps of chaat spice *
Salt to taste
3 tbsp of pomegranate seeds

* Chaat spice (also known as Chaat Masala) is a key ingredient to a Chaat dish. It is a spice powder mix that can differ subtly by region in India but typically includes some unusual spices such as dried mango powder and asafetida as well as some of the more common spices such as cumin, coriander and ginger. You could make the full recipe from scratch but I have found very good versions in the supermarkets (such as Tesco and Morrisons) or you can get it in ethic stores.

** You can also use the ready made Tamarind Chutneys that are readily available in good supermarkets

METHOD

  • Prepare your chutneys in advance using the methods below.
  • Peel and cut the potato down the middle and parboil with ½ tsp salt for 10 mins. Once cooked, cool the potatoes enough so you can cut them up into small cubes.
  • Now fry up the potato in the butter and oil. Cook on a reasonably high heat so they are crispy on outside and soft in the middle. You could also roast in oven with a little oil if you didn’t want to shallow fry them.
  • To prepare the dish (do this immediately before serving so the crackers and potatoes don’t get soggy), combine the chickpeas, potatoes, crackers, peppers, red onion, and half of the coriander chutney and chaat spice and mix well.
    Tip: It is best to add half of the chutney and chaat spice initially, taste, then add more as required.
  • Spoon into a serving bowl. Chop the remaining coriander roughly and scatter on     top with your pomegranate. You can also drizzle some of the remaining coriander chutney on top.

Feel free to play around with the vegetables in this dish. I’ve used sweet potato and tomato in the pasts that have also worked well.


Coriander Chutney

  • Leaving a few stalks of coriander aside for garnish, in a food processor, whizz up the remaining coriander with the chilli and a splash of water until you get a smooth paste.
  • Now, add a spoon full at time of the coriander mix to the yogurt until you get a spicy, tangy chutney. Don’t add all the coriander mix to the yogurt as it may end up too spicy.

Tamarind Chutney

  • If using the dry tamarind, you will need to soak it with the required amount of water (as per instructions) until it becomes soft and mushy. Use a sieve to separate the liquid from the pulp, using a spoon to push out as much of the liquid as you can.
  • Heat the oil on a high heat in a small pan and add cumin seeds. Cover with a lid, lower the heat and allow to fry until the seeds begin to pop.
  • Add the strained tamrind pulp or tamarind paste, ginger, red chilli powder and enough water to create a thick paste. Stir through gently.
  • Now add the jaggery/sugar and salt and allow to cook through for 4-5 mins. The mixture will thicken but you can add more water to loosen it. Once cooled it will be ready for use.

 Tip: Both chutneys freeze well so any remaining chutney can be frozen for use at a later date or it will keep in the fridge in an air tight jar for a few days.

Sizzling BBQ Veggie Stack

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Ahhhh – officially the first day of summer and its torrential rain outside. You just have to love the irony of it, don’t you? I guess it wouldn’t be called an English summer without the guarantee of rain.

In between the downpours, we’ve been making the most of the barbeque, which of course means on an onslaught of meat! Not sure if any of you have been feeling the effect of the all those burgers and sausages – ‘the meat bloat’ I call it. (No? Just me then. Clearly, I need to exercise a little more self-control)!

So this dish was created as much from necessity to combat the over-indulgence as well as trying to make the most of the fresh produce currently bursting from the supermarkets.

What better combination is there when you can make use of beautiful nutritious veggies that practically leave you feeling cleansed inside and out, yet still be able to make it all outdoors?

Mr M categorically stated that that he would not be giving up the burgers for the veggies, but once presented with the colourful, fragrant dish, his senses took over and he found it hard to resist.

The selection of vegetables that I chose to put together were simply based around what flavours I thought worked well together. I also looked to find vegetables that would be filling enough for a main meal. With the marinades, I hoped to enhance the flavours of the vegetables instead of covering them up. You could of course, change up the veggies or the marinades to suit your tastes.

My favourite has to be the aubergine. The intense smoky flavour of the aubergine is bought to life through the paprika marinade and then finished off using the barbeque.

Instead of the standard garlic, mayo combo often served with standard burgers, I used a caramalised onion hummus as the condiment which I found just bought the dish together. Not to mention that it ups the protein intake (making you feel fuller longer).

When I created this dish, it was with the barbeque in mind, but it’s just as easy to do on a grill pan on a rainy day.

Happy healthy barbequing! Enjoy!!!

And please do let me have your comments and thoughts…. I would very much appreciate it. 🙂

 

Ingredients (Serving size: 4 veggie stacks)

For the Veggie Stack

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled
  • 1 large aubergine (large enough to be able to slice some burger size circles)
  • 1 large red onion, peeled
  • 4 portobello mushrooms, cleaned with the stalk removed
  • 1 red or yellow pepper
  • 50g Feta cheese
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp of crushed garlic paste (pound with pestle and mortar once crushed to give smoother texture)
  • 1 spring rosemary
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ripe beef tomato, thinly sliced
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • Light olive oil spray
  • 4 wholemeal rolls

For the Caramelised Onion Hummus (serves 4-6) *

  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • 1 x 400g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Method: 

  1. Prep your barbeque ensuring it is clean.

  2. Prepare your vegetables by slicing the sweet potatoes, aubergine and onion into ½ cm slices. Try to keep the sizes as consistent as possible. Slice the pepper in half along the length and remove the stalk and core. Then slice ½ cm off the bottom and top so the pepper can lay flat.

  3. Marinade the vegetables as follows and rest for 30 mins or so to allow the flavours to develop:

    • Sweet potatoes: 1 tbsp. olive oil, ½ tsp crushed garlic paste and rosemary leaves (bash the leaves slight to bruise and release the flavour), sea salt & pepper to taste

    • Aubergine: 1 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp crushed garlic paste, 1 tsp smoked paprika and sea salt to taste

    • Onions: ½ tsp olive oil, 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

    • Mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes: lightly spray with olive oil spray, season with a little salt and pepper.

  4. Aside from the mushrooms and tomatoes, grill the vegetables on a medium to high heat, charring all the vegetables well and ensuring they are full cooked through. Brush with additional marinate left over during the cooking process. The onions make take a little longer, but cook these on indirect heat until they are soft. Once cooked, set aside to keep warm.

  5. Grill the mushrooms and tomatoes on a high heat on both sides for a minute or two. Then place the tomato slices on top of the mushrooms and top with feta. Allow to grill until feta has as melted

  6. Prep your veggie stack by piling the vegetables into your wholemeal rolls – to be honest, I place the grilled vegetables in the middle of the table and let everyone create their own! Don’t forget the hummus!

For the Hummus: (I would make this while your vegetables are marinating)

  1. Slice the onion into roughly ½ cm thick slices. Grill these on the barbeque with a little oil until brown and soft. Allow to cool, then lightly process them in your food processor until the onions are roughly chopped. Place aside for use later.

  2. Next, process the chickpeas and a little water in the food processor into a smooth paste. Add the crushed garlic, cumin and cayenne to the mixture and blend in the lemon juice and olive oil to taste.

  3. Now add the caramalised onions, mix through and finally season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Use as a condiment for the veggie stacks, or serve on the side with crudités or pitta bread.

* The main hummus recipe has been taken directly from the ‘Leiths How to Cook’ book. The caramelised onion is an addition to the Leiths recipe.  

The Healthy (but Super Tasty) Chicken Tikka Masala

 

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I realise that it has been a considerable amount of time since my last post. I passed my foundation term at Leiths with flying colours (a distinction) though the practical exam was tough – I felt as though I was in an episode of Masterchef. Never before have I found being in the kitchen so stressful!

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen personal circumstances I have not been able to continue into the spring term. However, as some of you have responded to my recipes so kindly and urged me on, I thought I would continue with my ideas for you to explore.

So, I’ll kick-off with a classic which has never been a favourite of mine. It’s not a dish that I would ever order in a restaurant, eliminating it as unauthentic Indian food.

However, in the midst of the new year blues and diet season, a friend of mine was pining for a Chicken Tikka but as we all know, a takeaway from your local Indian probably doesn’t fit the diet bill.

This got me thinking about why Indian food has such a bad rap in the health department. I grew up on nutritious, healthy meals almost every night and not once did I have the takeaway guilt that I often feel when we’ve succumbed to our local Indian takeout. I guess Indian food is synonymous with thick naan breads, curries laden with butter and cream and don’t forget the obligatory cold beer.

So, I decided to take on the challenge that I could make my friend a low fat Chicken Tikka Masala that would meet her cravings but also remain low calorie enough not to feel the guilt.

I looked into the origins of the dish as I was curious as to how it had come about to be one of the most popular dishes served in Indian restaurants today. I found it shrouded in myth, with many stories about the invention and subsequent change to the dish to suit the western pallet. There is even one strange story that includes a can of Campbell’s tomato soup in the ingredient list! One fact that I took away was that Tikka actually means ‘bite size pieces’ and Masala, of course is the sauce that it is cooked in.

I also noted that the smoky flavour of the dish is due to the cooking of the chicken in a tandoor clay oven. Before the times of Tandoor ovens, food was cooked underground with coal being placed inside a small hole dugout in the ground. The meat was then laid upon a grill before the hole was covered up. In time, this not being the most practical solution, the tandoor was invented. Obviously, not many of you will have tandoors kicking around, so I’ve used a smoked paprika powder and found this provides that lovely combination of smoky and sweet which works so well with the spices.

So, here is my healthy, low calorie but still very tasty (as decreed by my friend) version. I used my trusted FitnessPal to calculate the calories in the dish which serves 4, and was pleasantly surprised that it only came to 300 calories per portion. Whoop whoop! And if you serve with brown rice and a roti instead of the naan you will definitely save more on the calories. Of course those calories could be used towards that cold beer…. Which is definitely the way I would go 🙂

Enjoy! And let me know what you think of it!

Ingredients

  • 650g of chicken thigh fillets (organic if possible), cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 tsp of rapeseed or olive oil
  • ½ medium size onion chopped into large pieces
  • ½ green pepper chopped into large pieces
  • 3 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tsp of fresh coriander chopped

Wet Spices

  • ½ tsp crushed fresh green chilli
  • ¾ tsp crushed garlic
  • ¾ tsp crushed ginger

Dry Spices

  • ¼ tsp red chilli for marinade / ¼ tsp red chilli for sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin for marinade / ¼ tsp ground cumin for sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander for marinade / ¼ tsp ground coriander for sauce
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander for marinade / ¼ tsp ground coriander for sauce
  • ¼ tsp garam masala for marinade / ¼ tsp garam masala for sauce
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • ½ tsp of smoked paprika powder
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180c/Gas mark 4

  2. In a large bowl, combine the dry spices for the marinade only with all the wet spices and the oil into a smooth paste. Add the salt to taste.

  3. Once the marinade ingredients are properly combined, add the chicken pieces and ensure each piece is coated well with the marinade. Finally add the onion and peppers and toss through.

  4. Arrange the chicken on a shallow roasting tray with the onions and peppers arranged throughout. Place in the oven without a cover to cook for 25-35 mins depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Turn the chicken over after 15 mins and baste with any juices from the tray.

    B’s tip: Cooking the chicken at the lower temperature will provide a softer texture to the chicken and really allow the chicken to take on the flavour of the spices.

  5. Meanwhile prepare your sauce by adding the chopped tomatoes to a pan with 1/2 tsp of oil. Cook the tomatoes until they are soft and mushy creating a thick paste/sauce. Add the remaining dry spices to the sauce and allow to cook through for 10 mins.

  6. Once the chicken is cooked, add all the chicken, peppers, onions and liquid from the tray to the tomato base. Stir through and leave to cook through for 2-3 mins before removing from the heat and allowing to cool.

  7. Just before serving, add yogurt to the cooled dish and stir through completely before reheating. Add coriander to garnish and serve.

Spicy Roast Chicken with Mint Chutney

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I’m now into week 6 at Leiths and it has amazed me and most of my fellow students just how much we’ve  learnt in such a short space of time. All of the little things that you do while cooking but you aren’t quite sure why – well these have all have started to make sense now. It’s true – there is science behind cooking!

One of the key skills that I’ve learnt over the past few weeks (which I thought was beyond me) was jointing a chicken. Following a few demonstrations by the teachers, I approached the task with much trepidation. However, once I started I felt in complete control. Much simpler then I ever thought it would be. You also get quite a sense of power brandishing a big knife around!

So, three chickens down and I quickly realised that I would be cooking a lot of chicken over the coming weeks. I have to say my Spicy Roast Chicken recipe came immediately to mind. For me, this meal is the ultimate in comfort food. It reminds me of lazy Sunday afternoons with the smell of the chicken emanating through the house. It’s such a quick and easy recipe and all the hard work is done by the marinade.

The chicken has a lovely spice finished by the tang of the lemon. I normally serve with rice and a lovely fresh salad, topped off with the cool mint chutney to even out the spice. However, it’s also great with some fresh chappati’s (if you really want to push the boat out) or pitta breads. My mouth is watering as I type this!

Anyway, its very easy to make and super delicious.

Enjoy…. And let me know how you like it!

 

Spicy Chicken with Mint Chutney (Serves 4)

Ingredients

For the chicken marinade
1 medium chicken jointed or 3.5llb chicken with different jointed pieces
½ red pepper, sliced
½ yellow pepper, sliced
1.5 tsp crushed garlic
1.5 tsp crushed ginger
¾ tsp crushed green or red chilli (if you like your food spicy, you can add more)
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground corriander
1 tbsp of olive oil
¾ tsp of salt
¼ tsp of garam masala
Pinch of turmeric
Juice of half a lemon
¼ tsp of finely grated lemon zest
Small handful of chopped coriander

For the mint chutney
250g greek yogurt
½ handful of mint leaves, chopped finely
1 shallot, finely diced
½ tsp of cumin
Pinch of salt

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, combine all the wet and dry spices with the olive oil into a smooth paste.

  2. Add salt to taste.

  3. Once the marinade ingredients are properly combined, add the chicken pieces and ensure each piece is coated well with the marinade

  4. Leave to marinade for at least 30 mins but you can leave overnight too

  5. 20 mins prior to cooking, add the lemon juice and zest

  6. Heat the oven to 200c/Gas mark 6

  7. For the chutney, place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Taste and add more salt if required.

  8. Arrange the marinated chicken in a shallow roasting tin, skin side down. Lay the sliced peppers on top of the chicken

  9. Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins (depending on the size of the pieces). Do not cover the chicken. Place larger pieces on the outside of the tray (as this is where there will be more heat).

  10. After 20 mins, turn the chicken over to skin side up, arranging the peppers back on top if possible. Bake for another 15 mins or until the chicken is cooked through completely

  11. Remove from the oven and place under the grill to brown the top of the chicken. Serve immediately with a fresh salad, rice and mint chutney

Vietnamese Fresh Rolls

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There are circumstances in life where, no matter how much you prepare, it is never enough (childbirth suddenly springs to mind)! Although not quite on the same level, my first week at Leiths has felt much this way.

Having said that, I have loved every moment and left every day with a sense of complete satisfaction.

The week has passed by in such a blur of activity; new people, new uniform, new knives (amazing), new kitchen, new methods and an insane amount of new information. I had no idea it was possible to fill three pages of an A4 pad with notes on how to prepare eggs! To be fair this covered boiling, poaching, scrambling, omelettes and custard – but still, three pages on eggs!

Another day was spent on knife skills and I am still getting over the fact that it took a whole afternoon to chop a few carrots, onions and peppers to a uniform size. We did, however move on to pastry by the end of the week so I had something more then crudités to show for my week!

I racked my brains for a recipe that would use the skills I had learnt this week. Mmmm… what to do with a plate of chopped vegetables? I can imagine you all rolling your eyes at the suggestion of vegetable soup, so lets move along swiftly.

Instead, I thought I would share a recipe that was inspired by an informal meal we had on our recent trip to Toronto. As many of you will already know, the diversity in Toronto lends itself well to the food scene. During one lunch we tried Vietnamese sandwiches. I didn’t have any expectations as personally, I think of bread as a filler (I can hear bread lovers gasping in horror as you read this, as did Mr M). However, I was pleasantly surprised – the sandwich was filled with an abundance of fresh vegetables all wrapped in a freshly baked soft bun and finished with a tangy and mildly spiced dressing that bought out the flavours in the vegetables. The flavours worked so well together and left me feeling completely satisfied.

As my version uses rice paper instead of bread, I’ve added lightly stir-fried prawns to make up for the bread. Of course you can also make up with a fresh bread bun (like Mr M) or a wrap.

A delicious way to enjoy your 5 a day! Try them out and please do let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Viet Roll - 1

Vietnamese Fresh Rolls

/ Sandwiches / Wraps

(Serves 4 -6 depending on the size of the bread or wrap)

Ingredients

4 medium size carrots – grated or cut julienne
1 tsp of sesame oil
2 tsp of fish sauce
Juice from 1 lime
2 red chilli pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp of olive oil
200g raw king prawns
2 cloves of crushed garlic
Approx. 6 sheets of rice paper sheets or 2-3 wraps or fresh bread buns
1 red pepper, sliced thinly
1 yellow pepper, sliced thinly
100g snow peas, sliced thinly
10-20 sprigs of coriander
Small handful of chives

Method:

  1. In a small bowl combine well the following ingredients

    – Sesame oil
    – Fish sauce
    – Juice from half a lime
    – Half the chopped chilli

  1. Place the carrots in a large bowl and add the combined ingredients. Have a taste and add more fish sauce and chilli based on your taste. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.B’s tip: Marinating will infuse the spicy, tangy dressing directly into the carrots, so the roll/sandwich is not left soggy by adding the dressing after. 

  2. Heat the oil in a wok at a medium heat and add the garlic and remaining chilli. Fry for 30 seconds, shaking the wok to move the chilli and garlic around so they don’t burn. Add the prawns just before the garlic turns brown.

  3. Stir-fry the prawns for 3-4 mins at a high heat or until the prawns turn pink. Once cooked through put aside to cool. Transfer to a cold bowl for quicker cooling time.

  4. Prepare your vegetables ready to fill your rolls (marinated carrots, prawns, red pepper, green pepper, snow peas and herbs)

  5. If using the rice paper, place one sheet of rice paper at a time in a medium bowl of warm water until just softened. Carefully lift from water and place on a clean board. Place 2 sprigs of coriander and some chives in the centre of the rice paper. Top with the prawns and vegetables. Roll to enclose the filling, folding in sides after first complete turn of the roll. Repeat for remaining rolls.B’s tip: Only leave the rice roll in the warm water for a few seconds, pull from the water when the paper still feels somewhat solid. The paper will continue to soften as you place your fillings in the paper and should be completely soft by the time you are ready to wrap up the roll.

  6. If using bread or wraps, fill with prawns and vegetables till comfortably full. If there is any juice left from the carrot marinade, pour this onto the filling.

  7. Serve with sweet chilli sauce

Chocolate Tart (A recipe from Leiths ‘How to Cook’)

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After repeatedly looking through the Leiths ‘How to Cook’ book which I had purchased in preparation for my course, I felt inspired to experiment a little before my course starts.

I selected a Chocolate Tart as my first trial. I knew this recipe would include pastry (which previously has always been a semi-disaster in my kitchen), but I felt motivated by the chocolate content and bolstered by the reassuring presence of the Leiths ‘How to Cook’ book.

Although I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, baking is probably not one of my strongest points. Unlike cooking, where I feel I have a natural instinct for the flavours that work, baking leaves me feeling uneasy. It’s as though I am at the mercy of the ingredients and method and feel lost without the frequent taste tests that I am used to with cooking.

My sister is the most incredible baker. I always look on with envy and awe as she unveils her wonderful cakes that not only look amazing but taste incredible. I can see she has a confidence as she prepares her sweet treats like she ‘owns’ the recipe as I look on with doubt filling my mind about how the batter doesn’t look quite right.

However, not one to be put off by a challenge, I persisted and I have to say, the pastry turned out the best I’ve ever managed – but I still wasn’t fully convinced. It will be interesting to compare notes once I bake the tart again at Leiths. The tart itself seemed to turn out fine and tasted delicious (also confirmed independently by a friend of mine and of course Mr M) but in my mind any recipe that includes three blocks of chocolate and a tub of cream is guaranteed to taste good!

I’ve outlined the recipe from the book for you below and added my hints on the method where I was feeling uneasy. Hopefully these will give you the confidence to try it for yourselves. Let me know how it turns out if you do!

Enjoy!

 

Chocolate Tart (Serves 8)

Pastry – Pate Sucree
Makes enough to line a 24cm flan ring – however I used two 12.5cm flan rings to make individual tarts and bizarrely had enough to make 4 mini tarts.

250g plain flour
Pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
4 small egg yolks
2-3 drops of vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Sift the flour and salt onto a clean work surface and, using the side of your hand, spread the flour out into a large ring.

    B’s tips: Make the ring larger than you think as the once you add the other ingredients you will need the space to comfortably mix it together without encroaching on the flour.

  2. Place the softened butter in one piece, in the middle and, using the fingertips of one hand, push down (‘peck’) on the butter to soften it a little more, but without it becoming greasy; it should be soft but still cold. It is important that the butter is uniformly soft, as if there are small lumps of cold, hard butter in the mixture they can cause greasiness and holes in the finished pastry.

    B’s tips: Leave your butter out the night before to be sure that you have the consistency described above

  3. Sprinkle over the sugar and ‘peck’ until the sugar is fully incorporated.

  4. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and continue to ‘peck’ until the egg yolk is fully incorporated and there is no colour streakiness.

  5. Using a palette knife, flick all the flour onto the butter, sugar and egg yolks and using the edge of the palette knife, ‘chop’ the flour into the butter and sugar mixture. This technique helps to keep the flour from being overworked. Use the palette knife to lift any flour left on the work surface to the top occasionally.

    B’s tips:
    – I didn’t have a palette knife so used a butter knife which although wasn’t as efficient did the job.
    – The book didn’t explicitly say this, but overworking the dough can also make it tough, so using a utensil will help avoid the overworking

  6. As you continue to do this, you will create large flakes of pastry. Continue until there are no obvious dry floury bits among the pastry; it should be a fairly uniform colour. Floury patches at this stage will mean having to overwork the pastry at the next stage to incorporate them.

  7. Now shape the pastry into a long sausage and, using the palette knife on its side, scrape a little of the large flakes together at a time. This will finally bring the pastry together and is called ‘fraisering’. As more pastry sticks to the palette knife scrape it off using a cutlery knife to avoid overworking it. Continue on in this manner until all the pastry is fraisered: one or two more fraiserings are possible, but the more you fraiser the more the pastry will be overworked.

    B’s tips: Fraisering essentially allows you to blend the dough/pastry without overworking it. I only performed the fraisering once and used the heal of my hand pushing the dough away from me flattening it. This smoothed out my dough sufficiently which helped with rolling.

  8. Bring the pastry together with your hands to form ball.

  9. Now shape the pastry into a flat disc. Wrap well in cling film and chill to allow the butter to firm before rolling out.

    B’s tips: The book didn’t advise how long to leave in the fridge but I left it to chill for 45 mins which seemed enough to allow the pastry to be rolled out properly.

Filling
Makes enough to fill the 4 mini (12.5cm flan ring) tarts or according to the book 1 x 24cm flan ring

300ml double cream
50g caster sugar
275g good quality dark chocolate (I used Green and Black’s)
60g unsalted butter
3 eggs, plus 2 extra yolks

Method:

  1. Roll out the pate sucree on a lightly floured surface into a disc about 30cm in diameter and 3mm thick. Use to line a 24cm loose-based flan tin set on a baking sheet. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until very firm to the touch. Meanwhile heat the oven to 190c/gas mark 5.

    B’s tips:
    – As I was using the smaller tins, I rolled out my pastry until it was about 3 inches bigger than the circumference of my tin and about 3mm thick.
    – I noticed that as I had already chilled the pastry previously it didn’t need too long in the fridge again – around 15 to 20 mins.

  2. Once firm, blind bake the pastry for 15-20 minutes (see notes below), ensuring the paper cartouche is pushed well into the corners of the pastry and the excess is folded over the edge of the pastry case, to help prevent it from browning. Remove the beans and cartouche, taking care as the pastry is still very soft, and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 150c/gas mark 2.

    B’s tips:
    – As I was using the smaller tins, I used rice instead of beans
    – Ensure that the cartouche is tucked well over the edge of the tin otherwise the edges will start to brown and they may burn once you put the tarts back into the oven with the filling.

  3. To make the filling, put the cream and sugar into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Break the chocolate into pieces, cut the butter into cubes and put both into a bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and butter and stir until melted, then keep stirring until the mixture is shiny and glossy.

  4. Beat the eggs and yolks well with a fork in a separate bowl. Add to the chocolate and cream mixture, stir well, then pass the mixture though a sieve into a jug.

    B’s tips:
    – You might think you can miss this step as the mixture seems very smooth at this point. However, I found that some of the egg wasn’t blended until I passed the mixture through the sieve.

  5. Carefully pour the filling into the pastry case and transfer to a shelf in the middle to lower part of the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes until softly set. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Serve the tart at room temperature.

Blind Baking Pastry

When a pastry case is filled with a custard or liquid filling, it is difficult to get the pastry cooked through by the time the filling is set. Pre-baking or ‘blind baking’ ensures that the pastry is cooked properly. Most, but not all, tarts call for this.

Making a Cartouche

To make a cartouche, use greaseproof paper 8-10cm bigger then the tart tin. Scrunch it up, then unfold it and use to line the pastry case. Add a layer of dried beans or ceramic baking beans and fold the edge of the paper over the edge of the flan ring.