Beautiful brassicas

You might remember that I used to write a monthly blog for Francoise Murat Design about season British food. Well, Francoise has had the blog redesigned and its now called Rendez-vous Deco & Jardin, it looks lovely and I’m please to say I’m back doing my monthly feature.

My first piece was on how versatile brassicas are in the kitchen are and how useful they can be in in the lean vegetable months before the UK growing season gets into swing.

You can read the article here, its packed with ideas on how to use brassicas from spicy to mild, british to asian cooking, there is sure to be something to suit you.

Making paneer

I LOVE cooking curry, its so much better when you make it yourself. And it also means you can use an ingredient I don’t think you see enough of in menus and that’s paneer.

Better still paneer is really easy to make yourself so you can feel super smug home-made curry AND home-made paneer.

Panner and whey

So last time I fancied curry I decided I’d do some paneer. I got a bargain carton of proper whole milk in the supermarket reductions and I was away.

Paneer (makes enough for 1 main dish curry for 2-4 depending on what else you serve)

2 pints whole milk
2 tbsp lemon juice

1. Heat the milk in a pan until it comes to a boil. stir it to prevent it burning.
2. Turn the heat right down and add the lemon juice stirring as you add it. Turn off the heat.
3. Continue to stir off the heat whilst the curds form.
4. When the curds have separated leave to stand for 10 minutes.
5. Carefully spoon the curds into a muslin lined colander or sieve. Fold the muslin over the top and weigh down with a plate a tin.
6. Leave to drain and firm overnight.
7. Unwrap and store in the fridge covered until needed. It will keep for two weeks.
If the curds don’t separate properly initially then add a little more lemon juice and reheat.

I used the whey in bread making, it gives a lovely loaf for toasting.

Spicy sour green pickles

So the tomatoes should have been ripe ages ago but mine still look like this:

Which means I’ll be making batches of green pickles again this year. But that’s okay because I rather like the green pickles. I made them first with under ripe plums that I collected in deepest Suffolk with Vivia of Grethic’s Grethica. She also tracked down some recipes which she posted links to here. Its worth watching the you tube clips because they are a bit bonkers but to make it a bit easier I’ve given the recipe the way I did it here.

You need:

Lots of unripe tomatoes or plums

Sour pickle:

1 quantity (see note) each of fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, red chilli flakes, cumin seeds, coriander seeds

½ quantity of salt

¼ quantity of tumeric

rapeseed oil

Sweet and sour pickle:

8% salt

4% tumeric

50% sugar

rapeseed oil

In both cases the quantities take a bit of guess work. In the second one I assumed it meant use 8% of the weight of fruit you have etc. In the first one it was harder so I just did what looked like a sensible quantity for the fruit I had the get a good level of spiciness.

This is what you do:

Cut the tomatoes (or plums) into quarters. Discard the stones if you have plums. I usually make one batch of each type so I split the total fruit in half then carry on.

Sour pickle:

Mix the spice and salt together in a bowl. Add the fruit and coat with the mix. Cover with cling film and leave somewhere light and warm for 3-4 days. Pack tightly in sterilised jars and cover with rapeseed oil. Leave it to mature for at least a month. This one is quite like lime pickle so is great with curries. I use any leftover spicy oil for cooking curry as well.

Sweet and sour pickle:

Mix the salt and tumeric together and add the fruit. Coat. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a bright warm place for 2-3 days. Add the sugar and leave for a further 3-5 days. Pack into sterilised jars and cover with oil. As this one is sweeter it also works well with cheeses or cold meats.

Here is what you end up with:

E17, the food, the place, but mostly not the band

I just looked up E17 on wikipedia…..where it tells me that it can refer to:

Well I never and I just thought it was the postal district adjacent to mine famous for its dog track (now defunct), being the birth place of William Morris (pioneer of the Arts & Crafts movement) and well all sorts of other unlikely people passing through like Ian Dury and Florence Nightingale’s dad!

But today I journeyed their not to find evidence of famous past residents but to sample its farmers market and shops. There’s a farmers market right in my own lovely high street that has now been going for a year and I love it, but its only once a month so that leaves a lot of weekends when something better than the supermarket should be the source of my food. Walthamstow farmers market is every week and despite it being a mere 2 miles from me and having been there since 2007 I’d not managed to go until today. That’s London for you, you’ll traipse to the other side of town for something you’ve heard is great but you’ll forget to check out what’s almost on your doorstep if the journey is in any way convoluted and believe me going a short distance in London is often harder than you might imagine. But spurred on by the possibility that Dallaways specialist cherry grower from the Kent/Sussex border was likely to be there off I headed, via a convoluted route of course.

First stop was to go and meet up with Lynne of A Greedy Piglet, who is Chingford way, then in her car we went back down to Walthamstow and explored the market…and the shops…and we found loads of great stuff…

On the farmers market itself we explored all the stalls…..and bought goodies from the Giggly Pig (trotters, faggots, sossies), Ted’s veg stall (radishes, patty pans, broad beans), one of the two bread stalls (100% rye loaf), Muck & Magic (Tamworth breed crackling, Red Poll mince beef, Norfolk Horn lamb mince), the herb plant stall (horseradish, french tarragon) and Alham Wood (cheeses and milk) and of course the cherries we had come for.

Then we headed for a stroll along the shops dipping in the fish shop (amazing selection of fish all looking super fresh, live crabs, salt fish) and the halal butcher (boiling chickens, cows feet, goat, mutton) to check out the produce for another day. And on into the various (green)grocery/minimarts. Walthamstow being the culturally diverse place that it is these were a mix of Turkish, Caribbean and Indian influenced shops. In all of them the staff were super helpful and rather amused at two somewhat past their first flush of youth English women exploring their shops wide-eyed like kids having a Charlie and Chocolate factory moment. After much ooo-ing and ahhh-ing we invested in dhal, pomegranate seeds, mixed aubergines, sweet peppers, puri shells, flat breads, daktyli bread, flat peaches, apricots…and I think that was it….

We struggled back to the car with out heavy bags sampling the warm flatbread as we went….then home and to work out how to fit it all in the fridge.

Please note that the items listed were our joint haul of food I did NOT buy all of this myself, though I may have bought somewhat more than half (cough)!

Fresh from the oven – buns, curry buns

Last month I schlepped in right at the last minute with my Fresh from the oven challenge, this month I did better – hey I was there a whole week before the deadline baking away. How organised and complaint of me. Erm, well, maybe. Those who know me well know that doing what I’m told when I’m told is something I have mastered the art of mostly avoiding. So this month instead of taking the deadline to the wire I thought I’d ignore some of the very specific instructions and freeform the recipe a bit even though it wasn’t something I’d ever tried before. Did this lead me on a route to disaster  – lets see……

I was pleased when I saw that Ria (of Ria’s Collections) had picked what she calls stuffed buns, because I quick glance though the recipe suggested that these were going to be like the legendary curry buns I ate at a hill station in Malaysia with my husband on our very first holiday together. Wow. We have often reminisced about these little buns, which were wonderfully soft and had a lovely curry filling. We’d never tasted anything like them before and since I’m talking quite a few years back when only the (un)lucky few had email and the internetsuperhighwaythingy was in its very early infancy we never tracked down a recipe. They became a kind of mythical dish. Could Ria’s recipe live up to all this?? We both had very high hopes.

Curry buns right out of the oven
Curry buns right out of the oven

The recipe basically seems to be one for a kind of brioche type dough made with milk, a fair bit of sugar and also egg. Ria is very clear that it MUST be kneaded for 10 minutes to achieve the right consistency. The filling is a mild chicken curry, Ria suggests paneer can be used for vegetarians. And this is when I start to freeform. I happen to have some lamb curry leftover so I decided I’m going to use that as a filling – can’t go far wrong surely. The dough just sounds too rich – I quite like brioche but since this is a joint memory we are trying to live up to here and Ian doesn’t like sweet dough’s I cut back on the sugar a bit and swap the egg for the same volume of milk. Then I just go for it and ignore the 10 minute knead instruction as well. I blame Dan Lepard for this entirely. He doesn’t do a long knead and since learning his method in mid June I’ve become a bit of a convert…you make a rough dough, leave it for about 10 minutes, come back, 10 seconds of folding, repeat this rest and knead 3 times in the first hour and then once per hour during the first rise. It’s worked well on every loaf so far I can’t see why it won’t work here. The theory is that it’s not so much the vigorous kneading but the elapsed time that creates a good network of bubbles.

The dough is quite soft and a little sticky but not too difficult to work with as it has oil in it which makes it pliable. It rises quite quickly but it is a fairly warm day. After the first rise you divide it up and shape it into rounds put some curry mix in the middle and then shape rather like a round bread roll. It has a 20 minute rise like that and then it’s in the oven. You have to be careful because the richness of the dough means it browns very quickly – they are cooked in 10 minutes.


mmmm look at that delicious
mmmm look at that delicious

So were they any good? Absolutely yes. They had a good soft texture and certainly lived up to our memory from Malaysia. Even with my changes the dough was still rather rich and sweet for our liking so when I try them again I’ll cut back on that further. It was a good way to use up some leftover curry and I don’t think they suffered from all my meddling – of course I might be wrong, the real deal might be even more delicious, but I’m more than happy to have found a way to recreate a happy food memory.

Thanks Ria for the recipe and I’m not sorry I meddled with it :0

Recipe for dough (I used the cup measures in Ria’s original):

1 tsp dry yeast (I used fast action yeast)
2 tbsp warm water
1/2 cup milk
salt to taste
1/2 cup oil (I used rapeseed)
2 cups all purpose flour (I used strong bread flour)
1/4 cup sugar (I sued about 1/3 cup and the dough was still too sweet I thought)
1 egg beaten (I used another couple of tablespoons of milk)
egg white and sesame seeds to decorate if you wish (I didn’t)

  •  dissolve yeast in warm water with 1/2 tbsp of the sugar and 1/2 tbsp of flour. Leave for 10 minutes.
  • Boil the milk and allow to cool (gosh I didn’t do this either). Once cool add sugar oil and salt and mix until the sugar dissolves.
  • Add 1 cup of flour and mix to a smooth paste.
  • Add the egg and also the yeast mix then the rest of the flour and mix to form a soft dough.
  • Knead using your preferred technique.
  • Rest and when its doubled in volume shape into flat rounds, fill and shape into buns by folding the the sides of the rounds to the centre. Decorate with egg and seeds if you wish.
  • Leave to rise for 20 minutes covered with a cloth then bake at 200C for 10 minutes. I actually did them at R6/180C and they took 10 minutes. Be careful they brown very quickly.