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.
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.
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.
It’s a kind of recipes at dawn this, Chile Verde vs. asparagus tart, one blogger pitched against another. Masterchef without the cameras, or the publicity, or the random commentary, or the…….well almost any of it. Just a bit of fun.
You might remember back in early May I was ‘adopted’ by Karen over at ‘Karen Cooks’. We did a blogo-interview of each other to introduce our very different worlds and in the meantime I’ve been asking Karen lots of questions about food and blogging and incorporating things I’m learning into my blog. Anyway, we thought it might be fun to have a cook-off: each pick a recipe from the others blog that would be a bit challenging and new and then cook and blog it. We agreed that we mustn’t pick something too easy but also we aren’t to email back and forth to ask for guidance if we get stuck, we’ve got to make our own judgements on how to substitute things. No winner, no loser just some fun.
But as soon as you start to think about it there’s lots of hurdles and tests.
Can you get all the ingredients? On the face of it I might have an advantage here: I’m in London, population 7.55M, over 300 languages spoken and with 40% of the population from a non British background there’s a huge variety of influences and lots of shops selling all sorts of things from around the world (hopefully Chile Verde ingredients!). Karen meantime is in Havre, Montana, population just under 10,000 so maybe the food supplies will be more limited, or maybe not. I can see she’s tried lutefisk at the local church dinner so they aren’t short on interesting dishes/ingredients.
Havre, Montana (copyright Karen)
Do you even have an idea what the dish should taste like? Um no, in my case I don’t. I’ve picked it because Karen describes it as her second favourite Mexican dish ever and also she says that it’s so good you’ll taste it and think you’ve gone to heaven (well in fact the Imperial Valley in Southern California). Actually, come to think of it, I don’t even know anything about the Imperial Valley so how do I know I want to be transported there…..
And can you actually follow some one else’s instructions? Especially if you have to start to free form if you can’t find all the ingredients….
We’ll see, let the cook off commence!
Right to cook my recipe I need:
Here’s Karen’s ingredients (copyright Karen)
10 tomatillos – I’ve heard of these so surely they can’t be that hard to find….can they? I’ve no idea what they taste like and the web’s not much help. Mainly the consensus is sour tomatoes but then someone goes and says then can be quite mild and sweet. Helpful.
5lbs of boneless pork shoulder – ha easy! Britain is a veritable pork farm especially in nearby Suffolk and Norfolk. But hey 5lb (2.25kg) of pork! How many are we cooking for? Oh, right, Karen doesn’t say – maybe she had people coming over that day, or maybe it’s a great ‘make loads freeze it’ thing, but still, 5lb is a LOT of pork. Maybe we’ll scale back a bit on this. I mean imagine if we find that, for us, the Imperial Valley is more like hell and we don’t fancy a return trip, there’s now way I would want to end up with 10 portions languishing in the freezer.
2 tbsp of olive oil – at least I’m assuming that what Karen means by ‘2 T’ – anyway olive oil, yup, we’ve got plenty of that to hand.
1 tbsp chicken bouillon – again Karen says ‘1 T’ and she doesn’t say whether its powdered liquid or whatever. Well I’ve got cubes so they’ll do.
5 cloves garlic peeled –that’s nice and simple.
1 onion, coarsely chopped – another easy bit.
2 large jalapenos, stemmed and seeded – yeah easy, I’m sure I’ve seen them in the supermarket.
7oz can whole green chiles – hmmm can this one be hard, maybe, what exactly are green chiles? This will call for a bit of checking I think.
2 corn tortillas – ooo another easy bit the supermarket definitely has Mr ‘Old El Paso’ corn tortillas (Karen does kindly confirm my one question that its soft tortilla I need not nacho thingies).
So next it’s onto the internet to find out where to get my mitts on tomatillos and green chiles. A bit of rummaging tells me that green chiles are Anaheim chiles and you can get them fresh and canned, well you can, but there’s no fresh ones right now in the UK as its too early in the season. And cans don’t seem to be that easy to come by either. Ok so lets look for tomatillos. Again you can get them fresh but its way too early, they won’t be ready until at least late June and we’ve set a deadline of 16 June to post. There’s tins as well and I find that Cool Chile Co stock these and they have a stall at Borough Market – great its been ages since I’ve done a trip to Borough so that’ll be some fun AND I can go via there on my way to meet a friend for lunch AND Cool Chile do corn tortillas so I can pick up some of those.
Close to be being sorted I sit back and relax and do other stuff. How foolish of me!
On my next trip to the supermarket I check for fresh jalapenos and also look, in the somewhat small Mexican section, for green chiles. None of the latter and no fresh jalapenos either – had I imagined them in the past? There’s sliced pickled ones mind, so I might have to substitute with them.
But its okay. I’m going to Cool Chile at Borough market on 11 June and I’ll be able to make up lost ground. Yes. Well. That would be the case if the lovely RMT didn’t decide to call a 48 hour tube strike meaning its madness to go into central London unless you have to – is a can of tomatillos a ‘have to’ trip? Probably not, and as I’m in London on Friday (and the strike will be over) I might be able to pop by Borough then. No wrong again. I have to be somewhere before Borough opens (why does it only open at midday!) and there’s not going to be time to get there afterwards.
It’s getting rather close to the deadline.
Of course Borough is open on a Saturday but I’ve heard its mad busy and packed with people ambling and not buying, and I won’t even be able to do a smash and grab style shop as I don’t actually know where the stall is within the market. Although there’s a map its not that easy to read without a portable electron microscope……
My husband is now set on the idea of Chile Verde, however, and shuffles our Saturday plan around then packs me off to Borough to try to get tomatillos.
Tower Bridge, London, copyright Geoffrey Metais, from Fotolia
The tube journey is amazingly fast for once and from Monument it’s just a walk over London Bridge. Well just a walk through the thronging crowds of Euro tourists admiring Tower Bridge who’ve presumably come to take advantage of the exchange rate (and not just the views). I’m glad they are helping the battered British economy (and boy does it need some help right now) and they all seem to be having a lovely time in the sun admiring the views up and down the Thames, but I’d kind of prefer it they were splashing their Euros just slightly off my direct route to tomatillo buying. You can’t have it all ways so I do my helpful deed of the day when a couple of Irish lads ask if they are near Oxford Street and, having broken the bad news that they are way off target, I point them back in the right direction (like back on to the tube with very specific instructions).
Eventually I get to the market and plunge in through the nearest entrance, which, somewhat amazingly, brings me in pretty close to Cool Chile, and woo hoo they have tinned tomatillos. Ah, on closer inspection they prove to be giant catering tins containing 2.9kg (6lb 6oz) of whole tomatillos! Um, that’s a few more than I need. The lady says nope there are no smaller tins, they used to get them but can’t seem to anymore, they freeze well though. Right. I’ve never tasted them. I might not like them. I’ll have enough to feed a Mexican family for, well who knows how long. After some discussion we agree that I will cheat using the tomatillo salsa, it’s a normal size jar, its got a few other things in it, but it makes more sense and I won’t end up with stretched arms carrying it home.
I also find that they don’t do tinned green chiles but I am able to get the tortillas and some whole pickled jalapenos. Mission kind of accomplished I decide it’ll be nice to wander round the rest of the market and may be have a coffee from the wonderful Monmouth Coffee Store. About 2 seconds later I realise it can only have been the high of finding something that is vaguely tomatillo-y that made me think this. This market is PACKED with people ambling so slowly they are almost in reverse and there’s a queue at Monmouth coffee that is frankly, even if this ranks as one of London’s best coffees (and it does), more than any sane person could take. I make my exit and tube it home to a coffee there.
Next stop is the supermarket and pork shoulder; drat all the pieces are rolled and ready stuffed, Sunday roast style, with apple and sage – how annoying! I spy some cut as kind of chops with no extra adornments and get those, another search (thats 3 laps of the relevant sections) but no green chiles to be found at all so I go for green bell peppers and I’ll load the jalapenos a bit to balance things out. I spy a bottle of Mexican red wine (!) and decide that will be fun (or hangover material) and grab some of that.
Back home it’s time to get a move on and start cooking.
I’ve got 750g of meat (so 1/3 of Karen’s recipe). It’s hard to tell from her measures how much 10 tomatillos is so I just decide to use all the jar of salsa, 3 green peppers, 1.5 jalapenos, 3 cloves of garlic, half a small onion and 1 chicken bouillon square which I whizz together in the food processor to make the sauce. I cube the pork and cook it in oil to seal it (I do it in two batches, its easier) then in goes the sauce, stir it all round, bring it to the boil, turn down and simmer for four hours. Right now its just coming up to the 2 hour mark….so I’ll be back in while to tell you about progress.
With 30 minutes to go I’ve popped in the rest of the onion and the chopped up tortilla. I’m musing on what accompaniments to serve. The smell is pretty good so I’m hopeful it’s going to be a hit of a dish.
We served it with rice, guacamole, tomato salsa and refried beans – who knows whether that’s what you have it with but that’s what we chose.
AND THE VERDICT?
It was fairly hot, but I’m a bit of a chile wimp. I thought it was going to build up to something that had me mopping by brow with a tea towel but it didn’t, staying tingly but with the tartness of the sauce cutting through the heat to make it a really refreshing dish. The Mexican wine was pretty good too, big flavours and fruity.
So overall a 9/10. It was delicious ? and in fact I’m regretting not getting the catering can of tomatillos after all because this is a definite big addition to my cooking.
Wonder how Karen’s doing with the asparagus tart…..
Some of you might have noticed that lately I’ve joined up on Twitter and I’ve been having fun seeing what its all about and chatting to like minded foodies, finding their blogs, seeing what people have to say. There’s certainly plenty of food talk going on in the Twitter-sphere.
Yesterday there emerged a series of tweets about making chilli. Now I love chilli but I haven’t made any for a good few months and as it was damp, drizzly day I decided maybe chilli was what was needed. We tweeted a bit about whether beans are authentic or not, which chilli peppers were good and on. Beans apparently aren’t ‘authentic’ although surely its hard to determine what is ‘authentic’ in a dish as mixed up as chilli is – do you want Mexican style, American style, Tex-mex, Heston Blumenthal style?!
Last time I cooked chilli I used Hugh F-W’s recipe form his Meat Book. Its good. Very good. It’s a little different to your usual recipe calling for beef, pork and chorizo sausage (and beans) but I liked it. Never one to stick with something tried and tested I decided it was time for someone else’s recipe with, inevitably, a few of my own additions and subtractions; a recipe is a starting point not a checklist, discuss.
You need (adapted from Jamie Oliver – Happy days with the Naked Chef) – n.b. I did double this quantity but I like making a mountain of the stuff to freeze some:
2 onions, chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, chopped
rapeseed oil (or olive – I used rapeseed)
2 tsp chilli powder – your favourite type and strength
1 fresh chilli chopped – I didn’t have this so used chipotle paste
1 heaped tsp crushed cumin seeds (or ground cumin if you don’t have seeds)
1lb chuck steak (chopped small or minced) or best (organic if you can) minced beef (please not the ‘extra lean’ stuff though – you’ll lose out taste wise)
2 x 400g tins of plum or chopped tomatoes
½ stick cinnamon
2 x 400g tins red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or of course use dried ones that you have soaked and pre cooked – about a million times cheaper probably)
about 300ml Mexican beer (in my case it was Peruvian – I didn’t want a whole case of Corona on my hands and there were no single bottles at the supermarket)
I had wanted to add smoked scotch bonnet peppers (not in Jamie) but as this was a late plan the local supermarket didn’t extend to that. Also Jamie adds 200g of ‘blitzed’ sun dried tomatoes – I didn’t do this, husband not a fan of sundried tomatoes. Also the beer is not in the Jamie recipe, but as I said a recipe is starting point in my view.
What to do:
Sauté the chopped onion and garlic in the oil until soft and translucent (about 5-10 mins).
Add chilli powder, fresh chilli (or chipotle paste in my case), cumin, salt, pepper and cook for about 1 minute (mmmm the spice aromas smell good).
Add the meat and cook until browned (about 10 minutes). Its at this point Jamie adds the sun dried toms – I didn’t.
Add the tinned toms, cinnamon and the beer (Jamie adds a wine glass of water).
Bring to boil, turn down so it’s just simmering, cover and cook for 1 ½ hours. Add the beans 30 minutes before the end. I had to uncover it for the last half hour, as it seemed too liquidy – do as you think best.
Serve with rice, guacamole, sour cream with fresh coriander and lime, cornbread or whatever your favourite trimmings are. Plus of course cold beer or a chewy red wine.
It was very different from the Hugh recipe but just as tasty – the chipotle added a nice smokiness, I think I went a bit light on the overall heat factor so would add more chilli powder or chilli’s next time or stronger ones. Eating it the same day is never the best thing with chilli, it seems to mature nicely if it’s left for at least a day – but its still good the day its cooked just not as good. And it always freezes well.
When it came to deciding what to have for dinner on Saturday there was quite a bit of negotiating to be done – I fancied doing a curry but hubby gets to have what he tells me is a really good take out curry once a week for his lunch so was much less keen. As we wandered up and down the aisles in the local Waitrose pondering our choices I knew that time spent in a shop would take its toll and that if I kept my nerve he’d go with the curry idea in the end…..and so it came to pass that curry was on the menu.
I particularly wanted to do a curry as I’d spied bags of chickpea (gram) flour earlier in the week and under a somewhat misguided thought that one of the Indian breads was traditionally made with gram flour I wanted to give it a go. Quite where my notion that gram flour is used in Indian breads had come from I don’t know because of course once I got home with my 2 kilo bag and started looking out recipes I realised I was very wrong. I paused for thought, disappointed. Where was my mate Jay just when I needed some guidance on authentic uses for gram flour – not anywhere to be found. But in the back of my mind there was a niggling little thought that I had seen something made with gram flour that wasn’t a deep fried bhaji or pakora. Further searching and at last I found the recipe I was looking for ‘Onion pancakes’ in a book called Brit Spice by Manju Malhi. It a quick and easy recipe and you can adjust the flavourings to suit.
Makes about 6-10 pancakes depending on how thick you like them (so serves 2-4):
I onion, peeled and chopped
1 chilli, peeled and chopped (I didn’t have a fresh chilli so used about ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes)
1 tomato, peeled and chopped (I hate peeling tomatoes its such a faff so I left the skin on)
1tsp peeled grated root ginger (lazy ginger worked fine)
250ml/9fl oz water
150g/6oz chickpea/gram flour
1tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp salt
oil to fry
Put the onion, chilli, tomato, ginger and water in a blender and blast until you have a runny paste – doesn’t need to be ultra smooth just get it mixed together pretty well.
Put the flour, cumin and salt into a bowl and mix together so the cumin seeds are well distributed.
Add the paste from the blender and mix to get a runny batter.
When you are ready to cook the pancakes heat a frying pan (15cm/6inch size), add a little oil, ladle in some batter to cover the pan base fairly thinly and cook for about 30 seconds or so each size. Put on a warm plate and get using the rest of the batter till you have a nice stack of pancakes.
Serve with the curry of your choice or with chutney and raita. Any that are left are also good cold with dips and tangy cheese. Yum.
I’ll definitely be trying these again (not least because there’s a lot of flour left!) and might see how they come out unspiced.
So what have we done so far with our roast chicken leftovers (apart from store them safely in the fridge of course)?
Well one of the favourite options is to rustle up a quick curry – always good whether you go for a creamy or a tomato based option. Probably not very authentic but WAY BETTER than anything you’ll get in a supermarket heat and eat; and believe me I know, I’ve tried a lot of heat and eat curry in my time searching for one that’s vaguely good. They are few and far between. Even if the supermarket recipe started out more authentic it’ll never taste quite as fresh and zingy as something you do yourself. So next time you’ve some leftover chicken gives this recipe a whirl and your taste buds a treat.
We went for a tomato based option and did a side of chickpeas and purple sprouting broccoli (because we happened to have a few bits of the latter lurking in the fridge drawer).
First the chicken curry…..
(enough for two – scale up with the chicken meat for greater numbers and add some water if there’s 4 of you, more tomatoes if there’s six – we could have made enough for six with the meat we had left but decided to save it for later in the week).
The pan: we always use some kind of low sided sauté type pan for curry as this helps the sauce thicken faster than a regular sauce pan would – which is quite important.
The onion: we pretty much always start by frying up an onion fairly finely chopped so its starts to colour but not get too dark (it can get bitter if it over colours though I have found a great curry recipe with really crispy onion but I’ll save that for another post).
The spices: then we add the spices which are a mix of mostly freshly ground and a few ready prepared; we just go with the flow of what we fancy taste wise and how hot we want it to be (this last point always being up for a bit of debate as I’m a bit of a curry wimp when it comes to the chilli content). This time we used coriander and cumin seeds, ground turmeric, dried chili flakes and a chopped fresh red chilli. We toss the spices with the onions for about a minute to start to release the flavours – boy does it start to smell lovely.
Tomatoes: we add a tin of chopped tomatoes and raise the heat so it all starts to simmer down.
The chicken: as the tomatoes begin to bubble quite vigorously we add the chicken meat, which I’ve pulled off from one of the legs and cut into smallish chunks.
We leave this to bubble away fairly rapidly, keeping an eye out and stirring every so often to prevent it catching on the pan bottom.
While that’s working its curry magic we get the chick peas and sprouting broccoli on the go, cutting the latter up into small florets and tossing with the chick peas, a tiny bit of water and a few twists from a garam masala spice mill plus a good dollop of greek yoghurt to coat everything. This cooks away and thickens whilst we pop on the basmati rice and get some bowls warming.
The chicken curry needs a good 20- 30 minutes of swift bubbling to get the chicken heated through and the sauce nice and concentrated, the chick peas and broccoli need about 15 minutes cooking (thought they’ll survive more if the timings go a bit awry) and the basmati needs 10 minutes boiling and few minutes after its drained to help fluff up.
Then its into the waiting bowls, to the table and dive in for a tasty curry experience. Pretty good all round authentic or not.
Oh and there still at least two meals left on the chicken before we even get to thinking about maybe making stock.