Welcome to my blog! I am a fourth year sciences student who loves to cook but if you wanted to know about me, you would have visited the about tag!
This blog is designed for students and those who are less comfortable in the kitchen. It will be linked to the British academic year of September through to July and will consist of weekly updates of recipes. The content will be split into two halves, there will be “Cooking From Basics” as well as a Baking section.
Cooking From Basics will follow the academic year and aims to teach skills in the kitchen. It will start off with simple meals requiring little effort and will progress to teaching new techniques as the year goes on. As it is aimed at students, I will be providing a cost estimate per portion (based on my local shop’s prices) and also, where possible, I will explain how to make the recipe both vegetarian and possibly vegan!
Baking has been a passion of mine for a long time now. I love the creativity and freedom that comes with it and I always spend far too much time baking than I really should. The baking section of this blog will follow the things that I have been making and will provide recipes and if possible, troubleshooting for them.
I will aim to alternate between the Cooking From Basics and Baking posts but some recipes may just fall into both!
I hope you enjoy the blog and I will be back with your first instalment next week!
Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Bramley, Gala – the list of different types of apples has thousands of varieties (which you will be glad to know I have neither time, patience nor space to write out here). Apples are one of the most widely eaten fruits and have been cultivated and eaten for millennia. They appear as symbols in many religions in both good and bad settings but are nonetheless still there. Also, apples just taste plain amazing – my favourite type is Pink Lady apples, what’s yours?
In religion we find apples appearing over and over again. In Judaism, we eat apples dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanna (the Jewish new year) but interestingly there is no actual command for this; in fact people used to eat whatever was the most readily available sweet fruit, which at times has included both figs and dates, dipped in honey. The apple appears in the Song of Songs and is also referenced in the Zohar (a mystical Jewish text from the 13th century). Within Christianity, the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden is often depicted as an apple although the bible never actually states this. This confusion dates back to Roman times when versions of the bible in Latin made a typo – an incredibly minute but critical mistake. The mistake came in Genesis 2:17 when referencing ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’ when the word mălum (evil) was confused with mālum (apple). This is also where the term “Adam’s apple” comes from for the lump in men’s throats was believed to represent Adam’s inability to swallow the fruit.
In ancient Greek mythology, one of Heracles’ tasks was to collect the golden apples of immortality from the garden of the Hesperides. This tree was a wedding gift from Gaia to Hera when she accepted Zeus’ hand in marriage and was protected by a hundred headed dragon which never slept. The apple returns again in one of the most famous stories of ancient Greece: the Trojan War. The legend state that Eris – the goddess of strife and discord – tossed a golden apple into a wedding feast which the gods were attending with the inscription “for the fairest one”. Athena, Hera and Aphrodite all claimed it and eventually Zeus proclaimed the decision would fall to Paris. Paris chose Aphrodite as she had promised him the most beautiful woman in the word – Helen of Troy (at that time, Helen of Sparta) – resulting the one of the largest battles in Greek mythology and leading to the creation of Rome!
As you may have guessed, I am a fan of Greek mythology but these stories show how apples have permeated history.
Apple crumble is one of my favourite dishes at home as it’s one of those comfort foods that is just never as good when someone other than your mum makes it. I have never managed to make it as well as her but what I can have a pretty good go at is an apple tart. This recipe is more of a flan/tart than a pie as there is no pastry lid but you are welcome to add one if you like – just be warned, you may have to play around with the cooking time to make sure all the pastry is cooked through (but at least you wouldn’t have to worry about the filling burning). These apple tarts look stunning and are sure to wow any guests you serve them too! No only that but they are vegan (just use the non-egg/non-dairy alternatives given – you can’t even tell the difference).
Enjoy the recipe and happy baking!
For the pastry:
250g plain flour
125g cold margarine or butter. The margarine should be the block version, not the spreadable one from a tub.
2 tbsp sugar
1 pinch salt
Two tablespoons of water (or one egg)
For the apple compote:
4 apples – I like to use Granny Smiths as they are very tart and help offset the sweetness of the rest of the recipe
20g brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 large apples – I like Pink Ladys as they have a wonderful taste but are also crisp and easy to cut
10-20g margarine or butter
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp apricot jam or 2 tbsp syrup made with 2 parts sugar to 1 part water
To make the pastry cube the fat and rub into the flour until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar and the salt.
Make a well in the centre, add the water or egg and mix with the flat of a blunt knife until the mix starts coming together (I use just a normal table knife).
Pour out onto a surface and knead until the pastry forms a single ball. If it seems too dry, add a little bit of water as its better to knead the pastry a little more than necessary than have it fall apart when cooking.
Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge to cool.
For the compote, peel, core and chop the apples.
Place them in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients, cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes until the apple is soft.
Using either a potato masher or a blender/stick blender, puree the compote (it’s ok if it is a little bit lumpy).
Set this aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6.
Once the compote has cooled, roll out the pastry to about the thickness of a £1 coin and line a nine inch tart case or alternatively, the base of nine inch cake tin and about one inch up the side.
Spread the compote over the base of the pastry being careful not to damage the pastry as it is still uncooked.
Peel two of the remaining apples.
Use an apple corer to remove the cores and cut the apples in half from top to bottom.
Place the apples on the side and use a sharp knife to cut them 1mm slices.
Arrange the slices in concentric circles overlapping each inner circle with the one it lies within. In the central portion of each layer, add a couple of end piece of apple to fill in the height difference.
The final tart should rise slightly in the centre.
Cut up the margarine or butter and place little pieces of it all over the tart.
Sprinkle over the sugar.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the apple starts browning round the edges.
Melt the apricot jam or if using syrup, add a quarter cup of sugar and two tablespoons water to a pan and bring to a boil as the sugar dissolves. Boil for two minutes and then remove from the heat.
Remove the tart from the oven and while it is still hot, use a pastry brush to gently brush the hot syrup or jam over the apples to give them a beautiful shiny finish.
Serve the tart warm or cold with ice cream/cream/custard – whichever you prefer!
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Check out last week’s recipe for beef stir fry or if you want another sweet treat, have a look at my recipe for choux buns.
Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a recipe for Tomato and Pepper soup!
The most important things when making a stir fry are heat and speed. The oil must be hot enough to cook the ingredients quickly so that nothing turns mushy and any meat you put in doesn’t become rubbery. Woks are ideal for something like this as they concentrate the heat in one area but also make sure that you can move the contents around the pan so everything can be cooked evenly.
Everyone uses different ingredients when they make a stir fry, but for me long strips of carrot and spring onion are essential when noodles are involved. Once they soften, you can twirl them up with the noodles into a delicious ball and eat! If you use rice instead of noodles, I would recommend cutting everything a little smaller – for example cutting spring onions into circles rather than lengthwise into strips. You can also add things like beansprouts for added crunch; peanuts are also a common addition at the end. It should be noted that beansprouts scorch easily at the high temperatures required to make a good stir fry but a way to avoid this is adding them just after the sauce and place them on top of the other ingredients which allows them to steam so they are cooked but still retain their crunchy texture.
In this recipe, I use glass noodles (sometimes called cellophane noodles). These appear transparent when cooked (unlike rice vermicelli which are opaque white) and take on the colour of whatever sauce they are in, so your dish will look beautiful. I am also a fan of standard rice noodles or even stick noodles in stir fry but you have to bear in mind that these are all cooked differently so you have to adjust your timings for the rest of the dish accordingly.
The final things which should be mentioned are the meat and the sauce that you decide to use. The high heat means you can seal the meat to prevent all the juices from leaking out but leave the inside relatively uncooked so that when the sauce is added, the meat can cook as the sauce reduces and coats all of the ingredients. Make sure the sauce isn’t too sweet as the sugar can burn, so if you see the sauce getting a bit thick and starting to caramelise, add a tablespoon of water to make sure everything cooks properly.
To give your stir fry a restaurant finish, add some raw beansprouts to one side, sprinkle over some fresh herbs and thinly sliced spring onions. You can also add some crushed peanuts when making dishes like pad thai. As with most dishes, a little garnish goes a long way so I would always recommend experimenting until you find the method of plating up that looks best to you!
Prep time: 10 minutes (optional extra 20 minutes if leaving the beef to marinade)
Cook time 10 minutes
Cost per portion: around £1.80
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sherry (optional)
2 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 bunch of spring onions
1 large carrot
170g frying steak or thinly sliced beef
2 portions of glass noodles
Peel the garlic and ginger and finely chop both.
Stir in the soy sauce, sherry and honey.
Thinly slice the beef and add to the sauce and leave for about 20 minutes (if you have time).
Peel the carrot and then use the peeler to thinly slice the carrot lengthwise into long strips.
Slice the spring onions lengthwise into quarters.
Soak the noodles according to the instructions on the packet but take one minute off the soaking time as the noodles will soften more later – drain the noodles.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and add the carrot and spring onion.
Once they start to soften, move the carrots and onion to the side of the pan, lift the beef out of the marinade (reserving the liquid for later) and place it into the centre of the pan.
Turn the beef until all of it is sealed on the outside (and it all looks an opaque brown).
The moment the beef is sealed, add the noodles and reserved marinade and stir to mix everything together.
Keep cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed into the noodles.
Serve piping hot and enjoy!
This stir fry also keeps very well in the fridge and can be reheated easily in the microwave.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe and if you fancy a very different dinner, check out my recipe for spinach and ricotta lasagne or if you want to try your hand at a posh dessert, why not make some choux pastry and finish your meal with profiteroles?
Have a good one and I will see you next week with a recipe for an exciting, fancy apple tart.
A common misconception in baking is that it is difficult to make profiteroles or éclairs. This stems from the use of choux pastry as the base of these delicious goodies. Choux is famously finickity and problematic to bake but this is just not true. As long as you follow the recipe, it should work every time!
Unlike most other baked goods, no specific raising agent is used in choux pastry, rather the high moisture content results in a lot of steam being created in the oven which inflates the pastry as it cooks. The reason the flour is added to boiling water when creating the paste is that it starts to cook and the bursting of the starch granules traps even more water which helps the paste to rise in the oven. This leads to a very light shell which is hollow inside and ready to be filled with all the yummy things that we love to eat – cream, chocolate, caramel.
Once cooked, choux buns are surprisingly sturdy and can be stacked up leading to desserts like the stunning croquembouche. These are giant towers of choux filled with crème anglaise or Chantilly cream and held together by melted sugar. They are adorned with webs of spun sugar, glazed almonds and edible flowers and are really something to behold. Much as they are fun to make, I would recommend becoming more familiar with baking choux before you attempt one!
Although associated with French cuisine, the man who allegedly invented choux pastry came from Florence. He worked for Catherine de Medici and left Florence with her when she travelled to France to marry the Duke of Orleans (who later became King Henry II of France). Originally called pâte à Panterelli after its creator, the pastry had several incarnations before arriving at the pâte à Choux we know today. It is called this because of the resemblance of the cooked buns to cabbages (and choux is the French word for cabbage).
I am a massive fan of choux pastry. I first made it a seven or eight years ago and in 2011 (when I was fifteen) made my first croquembouche. Looking back, it was quite an achievement that I came out of that with only a minor burn from the melted sugar so if you do try this yourself, please be very, very careful. Having said that, I made one three years ago in a house where the power failed and I was assembling it by torch light as the sun set because I’m stubborn and don’t learn from my mistakes. Luckily I survived that one unscathed but hopefully when you try making choux pastry, it will be a little less eventful!
100g strong white flour
1 tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (2100C).
Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
Sift the flour onto a piece of baking parchment.
Heat 150ml water in a pan with the butter, sugar and salt until the butter is melted and the mixture is boiling.
Once the mix comes to the boil, pour in the flour and beat the mixture over the heat until it starts to form a ball and come away from the sides of the pan – it will look very lumpy and curdled at the start but I promise it will come together.
Once the paste starts to come away from the sides of the pan, continue to cook it – still beating it – for another minute.
Pour the mix into the flour bowl from earlier (so fewer things are made dirty) and leave the ball to cool for five or ten minutes. You can speed this up by spreading it up the sides of the bowl.
Although you can do the next stage by hand, its far faster to use an electric beater. Add the eggs one at a time – it is fine if the flour mix is still a little warm at this point.
After you have added the eggs, you should have a smooth, glossy, sticky paste.
For profiteroles, pipe into circles an inch and a half across (or just dollop it onto the tray if you can’t be bothered with all the posh stuff. If any of the profiteroles have a tip on top from the piping bag, use a damp finger to flatten it out to prevent the tips from burning.
For éclairs, pipe lines of paste four inches long onto the paper. Remember that they will expand a lot in the oven so space them out by an inch or so!
For gougères, add some grated cheese to the mix and then treat as you would for profiteroles.
Sprinkle the tray with water (not the pastry) and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Try not to open the oven until this time as it will result in the choux deflating before it is finished cooking.
Check that the choux has puffed up, is golden and hard when you take them out of the oven. If not all the puffs are cooked, rotate the tray and give them another few minutes.
Once you remove the pastry from the oven, use a sharp knife to make a small hole in the bottom of each one and place them upside down to let the steam escape.
You can also place them hole side up in the oven for another minute to help dry them out (this is particularly useful when making a croquembouche as the choux buns have to be sturdy.)
Gougères are served plain or can be filled with mushroom duxelle (see my beef wellington recipe), or meats like beef, ham or pate.
For éclairs and profiteroles,
400ml double cream
4 tbsp icing sugar
Vanilla (½ tsp vanilla paste or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)
For the ganache:
200ml double cream
250g dark chocolate (chopped)
For the filling, whip up the double cream with the sugar and vanilla to just lest than stiff peaks.
Pipe a generous amount through the hole in the bottom of each profiterole/éclair until they feel heavier and start to bulge.
For the ganache, heat the rest of the cream until just before boiling and pour it over the chocolate.
Leave for two minutes and then stir until the chocolate has melted and combines to make a glossy ganache.
Dip the top of each profiterole or éclair into the ganache and place onto a tray to set.
Lasagne is a comfort food. Layers of steaming hot pasta and filling with a crispy cheese topping; what is there not to love? It’s so versatile too as you can put whatever you like inside. My two favourite fillings are the one given below and also bolognaise (as is given in my recipe for Beef Lasagne).
With the first recorded recipe dating back to the 14th century, lasagne is one of the oldest foods I have researched for this blog. The original recipes used fermented dough, not pasta, and the dough was rolled out and boiled before being layered with the filling. Traditional lasagne de carnivale from Naples is stuffed with sausage, meatballs, boiled egg and Neapolitan ragu. Outside Italy, most people use a thicker ragu akin to bolognaise sauce inside and béchamel sauce on top. You may notice that I don’t put béchamel sauce on my lasagne but that is just because I don’t like it. You are perfectly welcome to swap the top layer of filling for béchamel sauce if you like and then continue with the recipe.
Spinach and ricotta is a classic pasta filling. It’s used in cannelloni, tortellini and ravioli as well as several other filled shapes. It’s incredibly easy to make at home and it is simple to tweak the recipe to your requirements – be that stronger cheese, more spinach or you just want a little extra garlic.
The recipe is particularly good for feeding a crowd as you can get six solid servings out of it!
Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Cost per portion: around £1.20
750g ricotta cheese
400g frozen spinach
1 clove garlic (minced)
150g grated cheddar cheese (or 100g parmesan)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 packet fresh lasagne sheets
150g mozzarella (grated)
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C)
Place the spinach in the microwave with a little water and heat on the maximum poser to defrost. Make sure to stir it every few minutes.
While the spinach is defrosting put the ricotta, garlic, egg, 100g grated cheddar (or parmesan) and seasoning in a bowl and mix together. This will form a thick pasty filling.
Stir in the water to loosen up the mixture and set 60ml (a quarter of a cup) aside. This will be used on the top of the lasagne instead of béchamel sauce.
Remove the spinach from the microwave and drain through a sieve.
Use your hands to squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible. You should end up with a solid ball by the end of it.
Pull the lump of spinach apart and stir it into the ricotta mix and now is time to start building the lasagne.
Lightly oil a baking tray and place a sheet of pasta on the base.
Spread out some of the filling on top and add another sheet on that.
Repeat this using up all the filling and finally top with the last sheet of pasta.
Spread out the spare cheese mixture from before and sprinkle on the mozzarella and reserved cheddar.
Bake for half an hour and then increase the temperature to gas mark 6 (2000C) for the last ten minutes to crisp up the top.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy making some dessert, check out my recipe for chocolate fondants or if you are looking for a slightly different main course, why not make yourself a Thai curry?
Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a recipe for choux buns with a delicious filling.
A hot, gooey chocolate fondant is one of the most indulgent ways to end a meal and, like many baked goods, they are not as hard to make as most people think. There is something exciting about cutting into a cakey looking dessert only to have a chocolatey soup pour out ready to act as a sauce to the rest of the pudding.
Although fondants and lava cakes are relatively recent desserts in the grand scheme of things, appearing in the last 50 years unlike cakes and cheesecakes which are hundreds of years old, they have become incredibly successful. Many high-end restaurants serve them and they are a staple in the home bakers’ repertoire. They can be flavoured with fruit, coffee, caramel and all manner of different things so you can mix and match to make them perfect for you.
Fondants, unlike lava cakes, are made by creaming butter and sugar before adding the eggs and flour and finally stirring in the chocolate. The high chocolate levels and low amount of flour make them dense and fudgy with a melt in the mouth texture. Perfectly cooked fondants will still ooze when they are cut but the centre is thick and viscous and incredibly rich. On the other hand, lava cakes are made by whipping eggs and sugar until thick before folding in melted chocolate and butter and finally the flour. This whipping gives the cake surrounding the centre a light and airy texture and the high butter content means the centre is super runny and flows out of the dessert when it is cut.
Lava cakes and fondants are ideal desserts for entertaining as they can be made up to two days in advance and stored in the fridge until needed when they can be whipped out and shoved into the oven just prior to serving. Even better is that as a result of the refrigeration, it takes far longer for the centres to set so you are much more likely to get the runny centre you desire which looks so impressive on the plate.
Perfecting the chocolate fondant is a matter of trial and error. If they split when you turn them out of their ramekins, try cooking them for a little longer and if they are solid all the way through, reduce the cooking time a bit. The hard part comes if they start to burn during baking as can happen in some ovens with white chocolate and green tea desserts. The best way to avoid this is to place a little foil over the top of the fondant but it must be loose to allow the dessert to rise in the oven! Using a combination of these changes will allow you to get to know your oven’s preferred baking requirements for fondants and lava cakes.
These are so easy to whip up in a hurry – it only takes ten minutes and then the oven does the rest of the work. They are a personal favourite of mine and hopefully will become one of yours too!
Makes 3 cakes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 12 minutes
180g dark/white chocolate
1 tsp Vanilla extract
30g plain flour
1 tsp matcha green tea (this is only for green tea fondants and you should use white chocolate for these)
Place a baking tray into the oven and preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).
Line the base of three ramekins with small circles of baking parchment and butter and flour the sides.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave stirring every 20 seconds to prevent it from burning. Set this aside once it is done.
Cream the butter in a bowl and slowly add the sugar until they are combined.
Add the vanilla to the butter and sugar and beat again.
Add an egg and a tablespoon of the four and beat until everything has mixed together. Repeat with the other egg.
Add in the rest of the flour and beat together.
(If you wish to make green tea fondants, add the matcha powder at this point and mix it through the rest of the batter)
Pour in the slightly cooled chocolate and mix through – the chocolate should be a little cool to the touch but not have started to set.
Divide the batter between the ramekins.
Bake for 12 minutes in the centre of the oven on the preheated tray. This will help ensure that the top of the fondants is fully cooked so they are less likely to split.
To turn them out onto a plate, run a knife around the inside edge of the ramekin. If the knife comes out with liquid filling, place the ramekin back into the oven for another two minutes. This is very important or the cake part with stick and the whole pudding will fall apart.
serve immediately with ice cream, double cream, salted caramel sauce or anything else of your choice – the possibilities are endless!
I have discovered that to get the perfect melty centre, you need to make these a couple of times to get used to the oven as the cooking time can increase or decrease depending on the oven that you use.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy making a slightly less rich chocolate dessert, have a look at my recipe for a raspberry and white chocolate tart or if you are in the mood for a delicious main course instead, why not make a Thai curry? They are creamy and spicy and perfect to keep you warm over a cold winter (or at any other time of the year for that matter).
Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a yummy vegetarian lasagne recipe.
One of the essentials in the home baker’s arsenal is shortcrust pastry. This crumbly pastry is quick and easy to make and is so versatile that it can be used in almost any situation. From quiches to pies to tartlets and petite fours, shortcrust pervades the baking world.
Like most things in baking, shortcrust pastry is all about the ratios. Made with twice as much flour as fat, the basic recipe has barely changed in about three centuries. Butter, lard, shortening or full fat margarine are rubbed into flour and then bound with a small amount of cold water. The butter is rubbed in as opposed to being blended which prevents it actually mixing with the flour. The breadcrumb like result is actually tiny bits of flour surrounded by butter which helps prevent the build-up of gluten. This is also why the pastry is kneaded only enough to come together in a ball. If it were kneaded anymore, gluten would build up making the pasty case incredibly tough and unpleasant to eat. The technique also gives rise to tiny bubbles of butter which melt in the oven leaving lots of tiny holes causing the flaky nature of the pastry.
Many variants on shortcrust pastry exist and tend to be used for specific recipes. Sweetcrust is the most common, where a small amount of sugar is added after the flour and butter are combined and the mixture is bound by an egg yolk. This is used in a lot of fruit tarts, tartes au citron and other sweet treats. Chocolate shortcrust is also very popular for, unsurprisingly, chocolate tarts although sometimes, the pastry is used when the filling isn’t chocolatey and all the chocolate flavour comes from the cocoa in the crust.
For my recipe below, the pastry is baked blind before being filled. This is because the fillings are both set in the fridge as opposed to being cooked in the oven. Blind baking requires weighing the pastry down before it is partially cooked to prevent it bubbling up in the oven. The weight is then removed before the pastry finishes cooking so the base can gain a nice golden colour. Other recipes like Bakewell tarts, where the frangipane is baked after it is added to the tart, still require the initial partial bake as this helps prevent liquid from the filling being absorbed by the pastry and causing a soggy bottom.
The white chocolate mousse that I use is very light. It isn’t too strongly flavoured as white chocolate is exceedingly sweet and although it is paired with raspberries which are relatively tart, the main raspberry flavour comes from the raspberry caramel which is also very sweet. To avoid the tart being too sugary to eat, the white chocolate mouse is mild and the texture is light and fluffy which counters the cloying sweetness from below. Decorating the tart with fresh raspberries also helps balance out the flavours.
This tart is stunning to look at – as well as eat – and is sure to make an impact on anyone you serve it to!
Raspberry and White Chocolate Tart
Prep time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 30 mins
Resting time: 2 hours 30 mins
Total time: 4 hours
For the pastry:
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water
Pinch of Salt
For the raspberry caramel:
200g raspberries (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
80ml double cream
2 tbsp glucose syrup (or another 20g sugar)
For the white chocolate mousse:
200g white chocolate
300ml double cream (split into 100ml and 200ml portions)
Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir through the sugar and a pinch of salt.
Make a well in the middle and add the water.
Mix together with a butter knife as much as you can and then pour the dough onto a cold surface and knead/squeeze it until all the little bits come together to form a homogenous ball.
Refrigerate for half an hour – you can reduce this to 15 minutes if you flatten the dough out so it has a larger surface area or put it in the freezer.
Roll out the dough to the thickness of a pound coin.
If you are using a traditional fluted tart tin (as I do in my chocolate and salted caramel tart), place the rolled out dough into the tin and make sure it is smoothed out properly.
If you would prefer to have vertical sides (which I would recommend for this recipe) so the tart is a bit deeper, cut around a 9 inch tin and place the resulting circle in the base of the tin.
Roll out the remaining dough again into a very long oblong and cut into either one strip an inch and a half in height and long enough to stretch around the inside of the tin or two strips which you can combine to make the sides of the pastry case.
Wrap the long sheet of pastry around the inside of the tin and use a little water to seal it to the base.
Prick the bottom of the pastry case several times with a fork to prevent it from bubbling up while cooking and then place the pastry back in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C).
Remove the pastry from the fridge. Place a layer of foil over the case and fill it with baking beads – if you don’t have these then you can use rice/beans/lentils or any other heavy dried food. Just remember if you use food instead of baking beads, the food will have to be thrown out.
Place in the oven for 15 minutes.
Remove the case from the oven and take the baking beads out of it before returning the case to the oven for a further 15 minutes so it fully cooked.
Remove the pastry from the oven and leave it in the tin!
To make the raspberry caramel, blend the raspberries with the cream – if you don’t have a blender, you can use a potato masher.
Strain through a mesh sieve and use a spoon to push as much of the cream through the sieve as possible leaving only a little raspberry pulp behind which can be discarded – you should have just under a cup of raspberry cream.
Place the sugar, glucose syrup and a quarter of a cup of water into a pan.
Place this on a high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Allow the sugar to boil unstirred until it reaches a dark golden colour.
Pour the raspberry cream into the sugar. BE CAREFUL as this will boil rapidly, steam a lot and possibly splatter a little.
Stir the cream through and add the butter.
Boil this for another three or four minutes to make sure the caramel will set properly.
Pour the caramel into the pastry until it comes half way up the case. You can reserve a couple of tablespoons of this for decoration if you wish.
Place this in the fridge for at least an hour or two before you make the white chocolate mousse.
To make the white chocolate mousse, break the white chocolate into a heatproof bowl with 100ml of cream.
Place this in a microwave to melt the chocolate stirring at 30 second intervals. Stop when there is still a little solid chocolate left as you do not want this mix to become too hot and the latent heat in the melted chocolate will be enough to ensure the rest of it melts.
Whip the remaining double cream and fold this into the white chocolate mix.
Pour this into the tart until it fills the pastry case and place in the fridge for at least two hours to set.
Using the reserved caramel from earlier, pipe lines across the surface of the tart and decorate with fresh raspberries for a professional finish.
This tart is delicious and the perfect way to round off a meal.
I have always found that Thai curry is one of those foods which is never as good when you make it at home as it is when you go out to eat it. This probably stems from the fact that the Thai curry paste available in most shops is nowhere near as good as the stuff that most restaurants use. It’s also taken me a long time to figure out how to get the coloured oil on top of the curry which gives it the authentic look – and in the process, really helps to meld the flavours together.
The coloured oil is formed when the coconut milk is cracked. This is where the coconut oil starts to split out of the rest of the liquid. It happens when the coconut milk is heated and boiled and as the water is driven off, the balance of oil to water is changed so the milk, which was previously an emulsion of oil in water, now has too high a fat content so the coconut oil starts to leak out. Coconut oil is a colourless liquid however it absorbs both colour and flavour from the curry paste which is why it always has a vibrant shade, far more intense than the rest of the curry.
It should be noted that not all Thai curries contain coconut milk. A notable exception is Jungle Curry which is water based. This is a direct result of the lack of coconut trees in the northern parts of Thailand where this curry came from. Unsurprisingly, it was the coconut curries which caught on in the western world. Whether that was because they are naturally creamier in texture or because they are less spicy is unknown but red, green, yellow, massaman and panang curries have all become very popular in England. Unlike their coloured counterparts both massaman and panang curry make use of peanuts giving them a distinctive flavour. Panang is very similar to red curry and can be quite spicy whereas massaman curry is very mild. It is very creamy and nutty and generally contains both peanuts and boiled potato. Despite the lack of spice in it, massaman curry is definitely one of my favourite curries.
One of the best things about curry is that you can make it to your personal preferences. You can swap ingredients in and out until you find the perfect combination for you so you never have to eat the same thing twice. In my recipes, I always use onion, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. These come canned from my local supermarket and are normally in the Asian section. It is also common to add red/green/yellow peppers to their respective coloured curries. I have also seen mange tout added to green curries as well as green beans. The chicken can also be switched out with beef, pork, tofu, quorn or just left out entirely. Prawns are also popular in curry however if you use them, you want to add them to the curry very last minute so they don’t become overcooked so make the rest of the curry first and add the prawns just before serving.
I hope you enjoy the recipes below.
Thai Chicken Curry
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
1 large chicken breast
600ml coconut milk
1 large onion
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unflavoured oil
2 garlic cloves minced/finely chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Chop the onion. I tend to chop it into eight sections by cutting it in half and then quartering both halves.
Thinly slice the chicken and set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok or large non-stick pan.
Add the curry paste and the garlic/ginger if you are using them.
Fry for a minute or two to let the flavours come out of the paste.
Add 200ml of the coconut milk. Stir until it is combined with the paste and then boil for five to ten minutes, stirring regularly, until the coconut milk splits. You will know this has happened as you will start to see coloured oil appearing on top of the mix. The coconut milk will have reduced down a lot during this time. Once you start seeing the oil appear, you should continue to boil the mix for another minute to ensure it is split properly.
Add the chicken and fry until it is sealed and opaque on the outside – about five minutes
Add the onion and fry for another minute or two.
Pour in the rest of the coconut milk, bring to the boil and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes.
Drain the bamboo and water chestnuts and stir into the curry along with the sugar and a little salt to taste.
Cook for a further two minutes until the water chestnuts and bamboo are cooked through.
Serve with rice.
Chicken, Sweet Potato and Spinach Coconut Curry
This curry is a combination of my basic curry from my last curry post but it is elevated to the next level by the addition of coconut milk instead of stock.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Chicken – off the bone
1 medium sweet potato
Spinach (I use three or four frozen blocks)
400ml coconut milk
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 tbsp unflavoured oil
Peel and cube the sweet potato.
Cut the onion into large chunks – like before, I do this into eight pieces.
Thinly slice the chicken and set aside.
Place the oil, garlic and spices into a wok and heat until the aroma starts being released.
Add two tablespoons of coconut milk to stop the spices burning.
Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is sealed and opaque on the outside.
Add the onion and sweet potato and continue to cook until the onion starts going translucent. It’s fine if the sweet potato is still hard at this point.
Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and stir it through.
Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes.
Add the spinach now. If you use fresh spinach, add it a little at a time and let it wilt down before adding the next batch otherwise it won’t all fit into the pan! If you are using frozen spinach, just add it all in at once.
Once the spinach has mixed in, bring the curry back to boil and simmer for another five minutes.
Serve immediately with rice.
I hope you enjoy these recipes. As I said before, the brilliance of curries is that you can tailor them to your tastes. By adding extra vegetables and removing others, you can create an almost unlimited amount of different meals to spice up your life.
I hope this has given you some ideas about different meals you can add to your repertoire – the hard work is already done when you buy your own curry paste.
If you want to make a lower fat curry, check out my basic curry recipe. Again, you can add whatever meat and veg you want to it and it is a water based curry so has far less saturated fat in it that coconut based curries. The base recipe I use is also vegan!
If you enjoy baking, you should also try your hand at my Raspberry and White Chocolate Tart. Crumbly shortcrust pastry layered with luscious raspberry caramel and white chocolate mousse, this is not one to be missed and will stun anyone who eats it (providing you don’t finish it yourself!)
Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a recipe for melt in the middle chocolate puddings. These things are actually amazing!