Crispy paratha stuffed with paneer and green chilli (aka chur chur paratha)

These stuffed paratha are a bit different from the ones that come with a filling of spicy potato in as much as they are crispy and contain paneer cheese and green chillies. Paneer is Indian cheese which you can easily get from supermarkets now. It has a very mild, milky taste and doesn’t melt which makes it perfect for cooking with so that it absorbs the flavours around it.

The parathas are made crispy by cooking them with butter/oil. When they’re good and crisp, they are taken out of the pan and put onto kitchen paper and then squashed (while still in the kitchen paper) into a cup shape with your hands, so that the paratha breaks apart to show the cheese.

Serve these paratha with a cup of tea and some yogurt to dip into, to tame the fresh, green heat of the chillies.

Chur Chur Paratha – makes 4 or more smaller ones

Chapatti dough

250g/1 1/2 cups atta flour OR plain flour OR half and half wholemeal and white plain flour

125ml water (more or less, depending on the flour and what it absorbs)

Big pinch of salt

Put the flour into a large bowl with the salt and gradually mix in the flour until you have a soft, pliable dough. It shouldn’t be hard at all and all of the flour should be absorbed. Knead for a few minutes and then pop in a plastic bag and leave aside to rest for 10 – 30 minutes. You can now safely leave the dough in the fridge for up to five days and make one stuffed paratha at a time. The dough will darken over time, but will taste even better for the time in the fridge.

Stuffing ingredients:

1 block of paneer, grated

4 green chillies, chopped finely (this depends on your heat level, I use 1 chilli per paratha so I’d use 4 for this, but go as hot as you want)

1tsp salt (to taste)

Mix all of the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl. This can also be safely kept in the fridge until needed.

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Pull off a large golf sized ball of dough and roll it into a circle. Divide the filling into 4 and pile one quarter of it onto the rolled out dough. You can see from the photo that it looks as though there is too much filling – but there isn’t!

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Bring all of the edges together into the centre to completely cover the filling. To create a little dough bag full of cheese and chilli.

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Start to roll out the bag from the top where most of the dough is, making sure to dust underneath with flour to prevent sticking. Don’t use too much pressure or the bag will burst open. Not the end of the world if it does, but it’s best not to.

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Turn the paratha over and gently roll the other side.

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Keep rolling until you can clearly see the cheese underneath, but not so thin that the cheese starts to pop through. Thicker is best, if you’re worried.

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Heat a frying pan over a medium high heat and have some melted butter or oil next to the pan, along with a teaspoon. Don’t grease the pan at all.  Lay the thickest side of the paratha onto the pan and leave it to cook for a minute or so until light brown spots appear on the underside. Turn the heat to medium low and then carefully flip it over.

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While the other side is cooking drizzle some melted butter on the cooked top and smear it around with the base of the teaspoon until it’s completely covered. Keep checking the bottom of the paratha so that it’s not burning.

Using the edge of your spatula, push into the paratha to make holes in it on both sides to prevent it from puffing up and to increase crispiness.

Flip it over again and drizzle more butter/oil over. Keep on flipping every 30 seconds or so until the paratha is good and crispy on both sides.

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Put the paratha on 3 or 4 sheets of kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and then push up with your hands to form a bowl with the paratha. Then kind of twist it around until it starts to break apart.

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I add a swirl of harrisa to my yogurt for extra flavour. The best breakfast in the world!

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I see you baby – Chicken Madras!

If you cook the onions a few days ahead, you can have this on the table quicker than you can get a take away delivered. So much tastier too! It’s tastier if you cook it and leave it in the fridge overnight, making it all even quicker!

Chicken Madras (serves 4)

3tblsp of Madras curry powder (any will do, but ours is freshly ground and comes without any added chilli powder so that you can ramp up the heat to suit yourself – get it here)

600g chicken (breast/thigh or a mixture of all – just make sure it’s off the bone)

1tsp chilli powder (more or less to taste)

1tsp salt

1tsp sugar (optional)

1 onion

1-4 green chillies (make it as hot or mild as you like)

2 cloves garlic

Roughly the same amount of ginger to garlic

400ml pasatta or 1 tin of tomatoes (if using a tin of tomatoes, whizz them until smooth and add a squirt of tomato puree for colour)

CHILLI HEAT TOP TIP: If you like a mild curry, just use 1/4-1/2 tsp chilli powder or 1 whole green chilli but don’t cut it or pierce it at all. Pop the whole thing in the curry and pull it out at the end. You can then put the cooked chilli into the dish of someone who’d appreciate the heat, leaving your portion with chilli flavour without the heat!

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In a plastic bag/bowl, combine the juice of half a lemon, 2tblsp of the Madras curry blend, 1tsp chilli powder (if using), 1 clove of garlic grated/crushed and 1tsp salt. Mix everything together until the chicken is evenly coated. Cover with cling film or close the bag and leave in the fridge for 10 minutes to overnight. When you’re ready to cook, bring it back to room temperature (don’t worry if you forget, the chicken just absorbs more flavour at room temperature)

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To prepare the onion, if you have a food processor or a mini food processor make short work of the finely chopping bit by cutting the peeled onion into quarters and whizzing. Don’t turn it into puree though!

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Heat 2-4 tblsp oil/ghee/butter and oil in a pan and cook the onion on very low heat, covered until it’s very soft – about 20 minutes, stirring very often to prevent it burning. If you think it might burn, add a splash of water or a little more oil.

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Take the lid off the onions and turn the heat to medium and carry on cooking until the onions are a lovely golden brown. Don’t rush this bit because it gives your curry a deep, savoury flavour. You can even cook the onions a few days ahead to make it all quicker. But, if you need to speed things up, it’s not the end of the world!

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While the onions are cooking finely chop/grate/crush the chillies, ginger and remaining clove of garlic. I usually chop them roughly and add them with a good splash of water to a blender and whizz them to a watery paste to speed things up. I had a spare red chilli so used that to add to the red colour of the finished dish.

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Add the ginger/chill/garlic paste to the cooked onions and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes until you can smell the garlic. Add the remaining tablespoon of Madras spice blend and stir well for a minute.

Turn the heat to high. Add the chicken to the pan and stir thoroughly until everything is incorporated and the chicken is sealed.

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Add the pasatta/tin of tomatoes and stir well to combine. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Take the lid off, turn the heat up and continue with a fast simmer until the sauce is as thick as you like it and the chicken is cooked through. Taste. Add sugar and more salt if needed, along with more chilli powder/finely chopped green/red chilli if you think it needs more heat.

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Serve with chopped coriander if liked. Delicious! Leftovers are amazing for breakfast, or made into pasties/pies, or with a jacket potato. Keeps in the fridge for 5 days. Freezable.

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Nutmeg, fresh from Grenada!

People who know Stef and I will understand that finding new ingredients makes us very happy – some might say a little too happy (but we don’t care!).

When a friend recently went on a cruise around Barbados (a rich friend, obvs) I remembered buying a nutmeg with the mace still attached when I was in my 20’s and hadn’t been able to find one since. I asked if he saw any to bring me some back.

I was so happy when I received this photo saying “Is this what you’re looking for?”

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It was what I was looking for but even better! I’d seen pictures of nutmeg still in its fruit, but never with the prospect of that very fruit coming to live with me!

The nutmeg fruit is used in preserves over there and can’t be exported because once the fruit has opened to expose the nutmeg, it deteriorates really quickly. The bright red that you can see is the mace which is a spice in its own right, you can buy it in ‘blades’ or ground and it has a similar flavour to nutmeg, but lighter. When you buy blades of mace in a shop, they are brown in colour – it was fantastic to see them so red. My friend had found them on the floor, like conkers!

I couldn’t wait to see them in the flesh.

Sure enough, a package appeared on my doorstep – the best present ever!

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It had started to wrinkle and dry a little and the leaves were long gone, but here it was and it was mine!

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The mace was still a vibrant red and the nutmeg was nestling nicely in its fruity bed. There was a promising rattle coming from inside the shell – the only way to get to the nutmeg is to take off the mace and then get the nut crackers out to crack the outer shell. Fortunately, I’d been brought some spares!

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I felt as though I’d just seen a baby duck hatch! The scent of nutmeg was intense but softer than normal.

We sliced into the fruit and cut a sliver to taste. A very vague taste of nutmeg, but overwhelmed by a ‘green’ taste. It dries your mouth like rhubarb does when you eat it, but without the tang. So… fruit-wise, not so good.

I’ve only cracked open a couple – I’m saving them for special occasions like cracking open champagne.

In the meantime, let’s start thinking about recipes to use nutmeg in!

 

 

Chilli Cheese Cornbread – perfect with Chilli

My first experience of Cornbread was seeing it on Cowboy films when I was small. The bread that came in huge, cake-like slices that was enjoyed around a campfire. I always wondered what it tasted like!

Cornbread is made out of Cornmeal (Polenta). It shouldn’t be confused with cornflour or Hasa Marina (which is the type of corn used for corn tortillas. This has added lime, which makes it stick together to form a kind of dough). Cornmeal is easy enough to pick up – lots of supermarkets stock it now in the World Food section.

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Chilli Cheese Cornbread

Oven 200C, 425F, Gas 7.

125g cornmeal

70g grated strong cheese

1/2tsp baking powder

1/2tsp chilli flakes

1tsp salt

200g plain yogurt

1 egg

2tblsp melted butter

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In a large bowl mix cornmeal, grated cheese, baking powder, chilli flakes and salt – stir well to combine.

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To the bowl, add yogurt, melted butter and egg. Mix together thoroughly.

Spoon into a well greased baking tray.

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Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown and risen.

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Serve warm with a big bowl of chilli, rice, sour cream and cheese!

 

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Raspberry and Strawberry Jam

This time of year, I have a brief wonderful moment when my all year round hoarding of jam jars, stops becoming a nuisance and starts becoming useful. We don’t eat huge amounts of jam, but there are some things that I can’t let go past without marking their season with a pot of something home-made – whether it’s rose petals for jam, chillies for jams, chutneys and pickles, lemons for curd, raisins for mincemeat or berries to make some lovely soft set jam. There’s something wonderful about opening a jar of rose petal jam in the depths of winter and remembering the fun we had running around in the sun looking for gorgeously scented dog rose petals or raspberry jam and remembering collecting them in the summer holidays.

Dog Roses. The petals are wonderfully scented and edible.
Dog Roses. The petals are wonderfully scented and edible.

This jam recipe is very forgiving and very, very simple to do. You can make it with any berries. If your strawberries are large, just make sure that you cut them up so that they’re roughly the same size as the berries that you’re using. You can halve the quantities, or even quarter them to make just one or two jars. This quantity made 5 jars of varying sizes.

Top tip: if any hot jam splashes on to you, don’t try to lick it off quickly. This will mean that you have scalding hot sugar sticking to your tongue or mouth. Wipe it off with a cloth or with cold water.

If you want to keep your jam any length of time, you must follow the simple instructions to sterilise your jars. Even if you think that they’re clean, they may harbour some bugs which will quickly make your precious jam go mouldy. If, on the other hand you’re thinking that  you’ll use the jam withing a couple of weeks, you can skip the sterilising process and just make sure that your jars are as clean as you can make them.

How to prepare your jam jars:

Soak the jars overnight in hot, soapy water to get rid of any remaining labels and glue. In the morning give them a good scrub inside and out. Do the same to the screw tops. Re-fill the bowl with more hot soapy water and wash them all again. Rinse the jars and lids in more hot water and leave them upside down on the draining board until they’ve dried a little. Don’t wipe them inside or out with anything. Leave them there until you’re ready to put the hot jam into them.

Jam Recipe

1kg of fruit – raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants etc in any proportions (an extra 100g or so won’t hurt)

1kg of jam sugar (you’ll find this by the normal sugar. It has pectin added to it, to make the jam set – this takes all of the guess work out of jam making!)

1-2 tblsp lemon juice (from a bottle is fine)

If you are making a jam with a lot of raspberries or blackberries, you might like to do what I do to get rid of a few of the pips. Put half of the raspberries and/or blackberries into a saucepan with 1tblsp of lemon juice. Turn the heat underneath it and mash the fruit with a potato masher. Bring to the boil and fast simmer for 5 minutes. Strain the cooked fruit into a sieve, over a bowl and then push the cooked fruit through the sieve until all that remains in the sieve is pips and a bit of mushed up fruit. Get it as dry as you can. Throw away the pips in the sieve and put the juice into a large saucepan with the rest of the un-cooked fruit, sugar and remaining lemon juice.

Put two small saucers into the freezer. Put the oven onto its lowest setting.

Bring the fruit to the boil and continue to boil fiercely for around 10 minutes.

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When the jam has been cooking for 5 minutes, put the clean jam jars upside down directly onto the racks in the oven. Leave them in there for 5 minutes.

Gently stir every so often to check nothing is sticking to the bottom. Take one of the saucers out of the freezer and carefully pour a desert spoon of the hot jam onto the saucer. Leave it for 30 seconds and then push it with your finger. If the jam wrinkles easily, it means that it will set when it’s cool in the jar. If it doesn’t wrinkle easily, leave the jam to cook for another couple of minutes and try the saucer test again.

Turn the heat off and leave the jam to cool for 5 minutes. Take the jam jars out of the oven and turn it off. In the cooling oven, put the jam jar lids and leave them there until you’ve put the jam in the jars.

Very, very carefully (hot jam is so dangerous) using a small non plastic jug or teacup, pour the hot jam into the hot jars (hot jam in cold jars will make them break) until it’s nicely filled with about a 1-2cm gap from the top. Continue until all of the jars are full. Using a tea cloth to hold the jar, screw on the warm lids firmly and leave them to cool completely.

A taste of Spring at market

Even though we haven’t had lots of snow and really cold mornings this year, Winter has seemed very long this year. It’s lovely to see the changes at market when new seasons begin and this year the changes seem to have come in all at once.

Even having to get up at 5 a.m. didn’t matter this morning when I got there and had a look around!

I hope these photos give a ‘Spring’ to your step this morning.

tulips 2

purple sprouting brocolli

fragrant narcissi

globe courgettes                                                                                           hyacinthbulbs

Spring Cabbage