Summer Puddini

It will come as no surprise to any of you that I adore Nigella Lawson. From the mad cap running about after small kids in Nigella Bites right up to, well, anything, quite frankly.

I first knew of her when I asked why my friend kept her nail varnishes in the fridge.  "Oh, Nigella said to do so. It works!"

Her Christmas shows always make me want to throw fairy lights over absolutely everything and call it done. When I saw her make Puddini - mini Christmas pudding bonbons - I knew I had to make them too. I did, and became hooked.

Over the years I have changed up the recipe to make a Spring version, and now a Summer version.

Spring was Madeira cake, marmalade, white chocolate, apricot brandy, chopped glacé pear, orange and lemon extracts and a milk chocolate covering.

Summer was what I made today. I used to adore a chocolate bar when I was a child called Cabana. Tender and moist coconut filling, cherry pieces, a layer of soft caramel on the top and all covered in milk chocolate. Bounty was NOTHING compared to them, especially now.
I had that in my brain when I made these.

125 grams best-quality white chocolate (finely chopped)
PLUS 75g for swathing purposes
350 grams shop bought coconut cake
60 millilitres coconut rum
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tsp coconut or vanilla extract
2 tbs coconut milk powder
4 tbs coconut flour if the mix is a bit liquid (not all shop bought cakes are created equal)
10-15 chopped glace cherries
1/2 cup butterscotch chips (optional)

Gently melt the white chocolate. White can catch fast, so watch out.

Smoosh the cake in a bowl - icing, filling and all - and pour in the melted chocolate, syrup and rum.

Mix in the cherries and butterscotch chips if using, and then the coconut milk powder.

If the texture seems too loose to roll into balls add in coconut flour 1 tablespoon at a time.

Once the whole is a stiffish paste, cover it and pop it in the fridge to set up. It makes them easier to roll.

Once set up, roll them into balls and place them on a baking tray.  What size ball is up to you!

Melt the second lot of white chocolate, and pour a spoon over each ball. Don't use it all up though, if you want to decorate further. My chocolate skills consist of 'blob it all on and see what happens' so just go for it.

I held a few spoonfuls back, and mixed in 1/8 tsp beetroot powder* to colour it a light pink, then drizzled that over the tray of confections.

A tiny touch of desiccated coconut went on, and a piece of cherry in a fit of whimsy.

Behold, a trayful of delicious whimsy!

*I knew that the powder wouldn't cause the chocolate to seize, whereas a liquid food colouring might.


Caponata Fritters

I saw Sabrina Ghayour's Halloumi and Carrot balls in Bazaar, but had no carrots. Or dill. I did have halloumi, but I needed that for something else. Then I remembered an aubergine that needed using, so I switched from the island of Cyprus to the island of Sicily.

Caponata is a vegetable stew, sweet and sour in flavour, and pretty addictive. There are as many recipes for it as there are cooks in Sicily, so this was my take on a mini version. It must have aubergines, and tomatoes, and onion, but after that people have their own ideas. I'd have added in almonds, too, had I managed to find them!

Basic mix
1 medium aubergine, finely diced
2 spring onions, minced
6 baby plum tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, finely diced
1/2 cup sultanas
10 green olives, chopped
1 stick celery plus leaves, minced (you can leave this out if you hate it and use 1/2 tsp celery salt)
4 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tbs balsamic

100g ricotta, pressed or hung to get any moisture out
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried mint
5 -6 large basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp pul biber or chilli flakes
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
4 tbs plain flour
olive oil for frying (NOT extra virgin)

Cut the aubergine into slices, lengthways, then cut each slice into strips.

Dice each strip, and pop them into a bowl.

Drizzle with olive oil and mix well, making sure every little cube has oil, then sprinkle in 1 tsp salt and mix well again.

Take a large dry frying pan, and tip in the aubergine.

Cook on a medium heat until they start to brown and soften. No rubbery bits please!

Put the spring onion in, cook for another 5 minutes just to take the rawness out, then add in the diced tomatoes, celery, sultanas, olives and vinegar.

Mix everything in well, and cook on a low heat until any liquid has mostly evaporated.

Take off the heat and pop it all back into the aubergine bowl.

Crumble in the ricotta, add the mint, basil, pul biber and lemon zest.

In goes the one egg, and the 4 tbs flour.

Mix everything really well together, until it holds a shape when you form a rounded spoonful. If it doesn't hold, add a teaspoon of flour and try again.

Fill a heavy, deep pan with oil, to a depth of 5cm.

Let the aubergine mix sit, covered, while you heat the oil.

Once a smidge of batter sizzles when you drop it in, start frying the fritters. (Taste the fried bit at this state, just to see if you want to add more salt.)

Drop a rounded dessertspoonful at a time gently into the oil, no more than 5 or you will cool the oil too much, and then them sit, agitating the oil every so often so they don't stick. Don't panic if little bits drift off, those are crunchy treats!

Let the fritters get quite dark, then turn them over.

Once dark gold all over, drain them on a double layer of paper towel.

I fried off some basil leaves too, but if you do that, stand well back, as they splutter.

Serve hot, with whatever dip you like. Yes, I'm a ketchup girl, but sweet chili sauce would be nice, or just thick balsamic.


Spiced Chicken, Bacon and Chutney Paté

I love a good paté. From the small glass jars of chicken or beef paste available in every supermarket to the first course servings of velvety parfait in restaurants. Seeing as I love it so, I was pondering why I'd never made it. A Sainsbury substitution fixed that.

Suddenly I had 400g of chicken livers to deal with, not the 800g of lamb liver I'd ordered. I like chicken livers, especially Portuguese style stuffed into a soft roll, but Husband is not a fan of the texture, so I needed to find something else to do with them. Paté happened.
I found a reliable recipe online and then played with it. I didn't want super smooth, and I didn't want it to have purely livers in it either. I found smoked bacon in the fridge, and some dark and spicy green tomato and bramley apple chutney I'd made when we had a freezer clear out. Something about the buttery onion/bay smell made me want to add allspice, so that went in too.

Cooking commenced.

125g butter (and a bit extra to coat the top if desired)
1 large onion (white), chopped
6 slices of smoked streaky bacon, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 allspice berries, crushed to a fine powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 – 2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g free-range chicken livers
2 bay leaves
20ml apricot brandy
4 heaped dessertspoons of apple chutney (any dark fruity chutney will work)

Melt the butter in a large pan, and add the bay leaves and the onions. Cook them on a medium heat, and then after 5 minutes add in the bacon. Cook that mix until the bacon is properly opaque, then mix in the garlic, smoked paprika and the allspice and let that all cook gently together until the garlic and onions are soft.

Add your chicken livers, turn the heat up briefly to get a good sear on the livers, then add in the brandy and simmer til the livers are almost cooked through.

If there's excess liquid, don't panic.  Drain that off and set aside for later.

Pop the liver/onion mixture into a food processor, add in the chutney, and pulse. Of course you can make this as smooth as you want, but I wanted it slightly chunky.

If there's juices left, pop them back in the pan, and reduce furiously until syrupy and thickened then add them to the food processor mixture too.

Now taste it. Add in salt if you want it (personally I think livers need a decent amount of it), black pepper, more allspice if you want. You could even add in finely diced apples at this point. Give it another couple of pulses.

When it's at the texture you want, decant into jars or bowls.
Melt around 2 ounces of butter to pour onto the tops of the paté so that it's sealed in. I added a bay leaf to the top because I could.

Pop in the fridge so the butter can set hard, then serve with toast or crackers, whatever you want!


Meat Free Moshari Kokkinisto / Pastitsada

I'd made something called Moshari Kokkinisto - reddened beef - with the remains of the seitan left over from the doner experiment. I had a pretty large chunk of it left so I twisted it, pulled it and broke it into pieces. It takes some doing, as it's pretty elastic! Bear in mind that these will swell, soften and expand once you get them into the sauce so don't worry if you think you might have made them too small. Then off to the big casserole dish we went.

Extra virgin olive oil - a good 5 tbs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 quantity of seitan 'doner meat' (see previous blog post)

Gently fry the seitan pieces in the oil, and sprinkle in the cinnamon. Do this on a low heat, you want them to take on the cinnamon flavour, not crisp them up.

Cook for about 5 minutes, then set them and the oil aside

Once more to the pot!

Extra virgin olive oil - a good 5 tbs at least DO NOT SKIMP it's part of the richness and there's no meat fat
1 large onion, red or white, up to you
3 fat cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp cumin
2 whole cloves OR 1/4 tsp ground clove
1 tsp. cayenne pepper if you want
1/8 fresh nutmeg, grated
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1-1/2 cups red wine
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin water
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Slice the onion into rough half rings, and pop it into the pan on a high heat initially, while you get the onion coated in oil, then add the garlic and turn the heat down to low.
Sweat the onions and garlic until they are translucent, anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the onion.
Add in the cinnamon, cumin, clove, cayenne, nutmeg, red wine vinegar, wine, tomatoes, water, sugar and tomato puree.
Pop in the seitan, mix everything together really well, then cover and let it simmer for a good hour. You want all those flavours to mingle, and get right into the seitan.
For the next hour, pop it in the oven on around 150C and let it bake for 30 minutes, then take the lid off for 15 minutes, to make the sauce more rich.

It should end up looking like this:

I admit, I ate a fair amount of that straight up, just as it was. It's very filling, and you honestly don't need much!

The next night, I decided pasta was going to happen. Inspired by a dish called pastitsada from Corfu - essentially spiced chicken and pasta - I added some more extra virgin olive oil to the pot, snipped the seitan into much smaller pieces with scissors to make it easier to eat, added in another spoon of tomato paste and another 1/2 cup of wine, then let it simmer for another 30 minutes.

I then boiled some bucatini - or what ever pasta you like - until it still had a bit of bite, then transferred the pasta into the casserole dish using tongs. Any pasta water that gets in? Don't worry, the starch will thicken the sauce a bit.

Let the pasta cook in the sauce, soaking it all up.

Serve in fairly small portions as it's pretty much carbs + carbs, and eat topped with your cheese of choice.

I'd made a version of vegan parmesan* to try, and it worked very well with the rich sauce.

3/4 cup roasted hazelnuts
4 tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
Pulse in a food processor until you've got fine crumbs. You have to pulse as other wise the nuts warm, and the oils turn the lot into nut paste. Very tasty paste though!

*It's not parmesan, we all know that, but it is really tasty with this dish.


Hail Seitan, Destroyer of, er, bread.

I admit, I am late to this homemade seitan thing because a) I'm not a vegetarian and b) lots of restaurants out there have been doing it better, for longer but as my tooth works are ongoing, I needed a protein with no surprises.

I'm not a fan of doner meat, not because of the ears/noses/toes nonsense, but because on occasion there's a wee bone chip and OW MY TOOTH, but I do like the flavours, so I thought I'd put those into a setain dough and see how it turned out.

Rather well, it seems! I admit, a stand mixer with a dough hook is an amazing aid to making this stuff, as the more you knead it, the more texture it has, so if you make it by hand, then beat seven shades of wotsit out of it.

1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup chickpea flour
2 tbs nutritional yeast (Holland and Barrett sell it)
1 tsp salt

The seasonings
2 generous tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp baharat
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder

The liquid
1 cup boiling water
2 tbs Marmite dissolved in said water
1 tsp smoked salt* or smoked paprika stirred in to the water
1 tbs maple syrup

The other liquid
1 large pan full of simmering water

Put the dry ingredients and spices into the stand mixer. Twirl it around a bit, mixing it all up. I know it sounds like a lot of salt in here, but the dough needs it.

Slowly add the stock while the machine is going ON LOW and it will come together.

Up the speed a little and let it go for about 5 minutes or so.

When it starts to gather around the dough hook, turn it down to low and run it for another few minutes to give the gluten an extra stretching.

Grab your lump of dough, and manhandle it into a vague sausage, twisting it a bit like a rope.

Wrap tightly in foil, like a fat silver Christmas cracker, and lower gently into the simmering water.

Leave it to simmer, covered, for an hour then take it out and let it cool enough to handle.

Slice it thinly, and quickly warm it in a pan with a decent amount of olive oil to get that juiciness into it. If the heat is too high, the thinner slices will crisp up, but hey, if you want crispy, go for it!

Stuff it into a warm pitta bread with tahini, salad, whatever you like. I did tahini, chili jam and fresh lemon juice with some sliced white, as that was all I had, and that was gorgeous.

*This is the smoked salt I used. It is strong, very woodsy, but gives a proper punch of umami when dissolved in the stock. Brilliant company, too, by the way.


Cypriot Inspired Bread Pudding

Last time I made bread pudding, amongst the wave of Good Old British nostalgia that overtakes me every time I make it, there was a small voice whispering to me as I stirred the milk into the chunks of bread.
"Maybe this would work with other flavours. Maybe this would work with tahini. Thought about rose yet?"

I'm used to this voice, it's there a lot. Usually when I'm cooking one thing, concentrating on that night's dinner, it wanders up, nonchalantly commenting on how next time I could always add...and so it goes. Welcome to the food world inside my head.

I tried to ignore it but these things never go away. The only way to stop the record stuck on repeat is to make the thing and get it over with. It's hard to explain to people this compulsion to make a recipe that's in my head, but that's what it is. Better to just make it, bring it into being, and give my brain a bit of peace until the next time.

So. Tahini bread pudding. I wanted it to have Cypriot flavours, so plain old bloomer loaf would not do. Turkish oval fingerprint bread however, that worked. It's the bread we get in Cyprus to have for breakfasts, and we love it.

The soaking liquid. Sheep milk? Goat? No. Almond. Cypriots do love their almonds.

Next up, tahini. I laid in an extra supply as I wasn't sure how much I'd need. Not all tahinis are created equal. The one I found was beautifully creamy, but still pretty vehement in its sesameness.

Brown sugar and oodles of cinnamon just had to go with the tahini. Echoes of the swirled tahinopita my father used to bring home from the Greek bakery on a Sunday afternoon, which I'd eat slowly from the outer ring inwards until reaching the extra cinnamony part right in the middle. That's the very best bit.

Orange blossom water, and rose water. Yep, definitely needed those. Sultanas, without question because they are in a traditional bread pudding, and I love them.  Sliced almonds, those went in as well.

Dried rose petals for a more musky hint, to add to the bright flash of rose water.

I put in 1 tbs grape molasses just to darken the colour a bit, but that's totally optional.

Off I went.

1/2 a loaf of Turkish bread, roughly 300g cut into very small pieces
Approx 1 pint/570ml almond milk to soak the bread though you may need less - judge it as you go
1 cup/ 350g sultanas
1/2 cup/55g sliced almonds
1/3 cup/75g demerara sugar
3 tbs cinnamon
1 cup/250ml tahini + warm water to thin if needed
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp orange blossom water or orange extract or zest of 1 orange
3 tbs dried rose petals
3 tbs olive oil
2 medium eggs

Garnish for the top
Ground pistachios
Slivered almonds
Demerara sugar
Crystallised rose pieces

Put all the bread pieces in a large bowl.

Pour over the almond milk, turning the bread over to moisten it all. There must be no pieces left dry.

Let that sit and soak for 15 minutes, then stir it again to make sure all the pieces are soggy.

Add in the sultanas, sliced almonds, demerara sugar, cinnamon, tahini, rose water, orange blossom water (or orange extract or zest of 1 orange) and the dried rose petals.

Mix it all well, cover and leave to sit for a few hours, or even overnight.

After it has sat, mix it all again, adjust your cinnamon if you want (as in MORE OF IT which is the usual cry in this house).

Stir in 2 beaten eggs, and the olive oil, then pour into a solid greased square tin.  DO NOT USE A LOOSE BOTTOMED ONE. I always panic that it looks too runny, and then it's always fine.

Sprinkle the top with more sugar, rose pieces, ground pistachios, almonds, whatever you wish.

Bake at 170C for 45 minutes, or until slightly puffed and set.


Old Fashioned Bread Pudding

Last weekend I baked some bread, ate two slices, and then promptly forgot about it. It was wrapped, and out of sight, which is probably the best way for me to lose track of things. Thankfully I found it again before it went furry, but it was a lot more dense than it had been, and dry too.

That means...BREAD PUDDING.

Not bread and butter pudding, no. This is a different animal. Bread pudding as I've always known it is a great big bowl of spiced, fruited and sugared bread, all smooshed and squished together with milk until it's one homogenous mass, and then baked until it becomes a slab of darkly sweet perfection. A brilliant and thrifty way to use up stale or old bread and probably a cheap way to fill the kids up when they got in from school. I adore it, and am quite protective of it. (I've long felt that Bread and Butter Pudding was a bit of an imposter, the smaller, more delicate sister of the big, comforting and homely eldest.)

I set to with gusto, and more than a little excitement.

Oven 170C fan
1 x solid base cake tin - do not use a loose bottomed one

700g of stale white bread, cubed
Milk - whole, please, no skimmed or semi skimmed here
1/2 cup / 115g sugar (I used golden caster but use what you have)
2 1/2 tbs mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 handfuls of sultanas
2 medium eggs
50g butter, melted

Put all the bread into a large bowl. Pour over the milk until it's just under the top of the bread.
Leave it to soak, but stir and smoosh it every so often.
When all the milk has been soaked up, and the bread is all broken down, add the sugar, spices, fruit and eggs.
Brush your cake tin with some of the melted butter, then add the rest to the bread mixture.
Stir it all again, add more spice if you want, then pour the lot into the cake tin.
Bake it for 40 minutes, or until set.
Sprinkle demerara and caster sugar on top and leave to cool, then cut into slabs.

You can change this up, add what you like. Glace cherries, or candied peel, more spices, different bread, different sugars. It's your dessert after all.

Nigella Lawson says it should have suet in it. I've not tried that, but I'm willing to give it a go!


Hallloumi & Mint snacks

Greek (Orthodox) Easter came and went this year, and more or less passed me by. When you're the only Cypriot around for miles (that I know of, anyway) there doesn't seem to be a lot of point in doing much about it. If we had an Orthodox church near, I'd probably go, but we don't, and it's a very long way to North London.

Cypriots usually make tons and tons of Easter pastries, ready to break the lenten fast. It's a team effort, as there are so many made. I have made them myself a few times, but it is pretty slavish work, and this year I did not have the energy. I made lots of buttery, orange scented koulourakia biscuits, roasted some lamb, and called it done.

I still wanted that flaouna filling taste though. Mine is made from a memory of my Auntie Helen's ones, so I don't know if they are authentic or not, but the taste is as near to what I can recall. It has been a very long time since I ate hers!

So I was wondering what to do with the stock of halloumi and mint I'd laid in, just in case I found the inspiration to make the Easter pies. The inspiration never showed itself, but I still had the cheese. (Face it, I've always got the cheese.) I also had a small seeded loaf that needed using, and I recalled making bread cases for something else, and liking them quite a lot.

Bank Holiday Monday afternoon came along, and off I went.

1 x food processor or you can just grate the cheeses by hand

1 x 400g medium sliced seeded loaf - you need as many slices as will fit your bun tray
olive oil
1 250g block halloumi cut into large chunks
200g mature cheddar cut into large chunks
about a cup of fresh mint leaves
2 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sultanas
2 medium eggs

Cut the crusts off the bread, and roll each edgeless slice out until it's very flat
Oil the bun tray very well.
Brush each bread slice with olive oil, DO NOT STINT, and press into the tray hollows, making sure each slice goes all the way to the bottom. (my bun tray was quite shallow)
Bake at 170C fan until crisp and slightly golden.
Blitz the cheeses for a few goes, then add in the mints.
Blitz again.
Add in the sultanas, cinnamon and the eggs, blitz until they form a cohesive but lumpy paste.
Put a decent spoonful of the filling into each bread case, then bake at 170 again until puffed and golden brown.
I like these best lukewarm, but it's up to you!


Breakfast Bran Muffins

I admit, I do love a good bran muffin. But not the dry, cardboardy ones that used be sold as healthy. No, I want them to be flavourful, and tender, as well as full of good things.
The original recipe for these is from Kellogg, but I wanted to make it vegan, and also to add a bit more depth, so I put in more spices, and used lovely coconut milk.

Allegedly, thanks to the two full cups of All-Bran® cereal per recipe, each of these muffins offers 14% of your fiber DRV. There, aren't you glad about that?

Ingredients (yes, it's in cups. Sorry.)

1 1/4 cups self raising flour
1/4 cup of golden caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups Kellogg's® All-Bran® Original cereal
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (feel free to add in a little more if the mix is too thick)
3 tbs aquafaba
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaped tbs molasses or black treacle
1 tsp mixed spice or Spice Sanctuary Sweet Delight spice mix
Handful of sultanas

Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine KELLOGG'S ALL-BRAN cereal and coconut milk. Let stand about 2 minutes or until cereal softens. Keep mixing it to coat all the cereal.

Add the aquafaba, oil, molasses, spice mix and vanilla. Mix in really well. Smoosh it all about and mash it.

Stir in a handful of sultanas.

Add the flour mixture, stirring only until just combined. If it's too thick, add in a little more coconut milk.

Portion evenly into twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin pan cups coated with cooking spray or use paper cases. I use a cookie scoop as it's easier.

Bake at 400° F/170C fan for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

These go REALLY WELL with cheese. Just saying. 


Tahini and Chocolate Condensed Milk Cake

This is based on an Indonesian Kek Lapis recipe, layer upon layer of pillowy condensed milk cake batter, with each layer grilled before the next is added. I loved the sound of the batter, but I didn't have the time, or the back muscles, to do that, so the idea of turning it into a zebra or marble cake was hatched. One dark layer, one light.

I wanted to use tahini in the lighter coloured batter, as it is one of my favourite flavours, and that is also a natural partner with dark chocolate, so lots of cocoa powder went into the other batter. Yes, it can all get a bit messy, but man, licking the (very large) bowl is pretty essential with this one.

All ingredients must be at room temperature

1 x 9.5" x 9.5" x 2.5" square tin, well lined with non stick baking parchment. Leave enough hanging over the edges so you can lift the cake out with it.

Oven temp of 180C fan

You will also need a very large bowl, a medium bowl,  and either a stand mixer, a good electric hand whisk or serious forearms.

10 medium eggs, room temperature (Yes, 10)
16oz/454g of room temperature margarine for baking or very soft butter (yes, good baking margarine is fine here)
Half a can (200g) of sweetened condensed milk
200g light Cypressa tahini
1 cup of golden caster sugar
2 cups of plain flour (plus a few extra tablespoons if the batter curdles)

Light Layer
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon extract

Dark Layer
5 teaspoons sifted cocoa
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 tsp coffee extract
1 tsp rose extract

Bowl 1:
Put all the eggs in first and whisk until fluffy. Then add the flour and sugar. Whisk on high speed until everything is fluffy and billowy.

Bowl 2:
Beat the margarine, condensed milk and tahini together until well mixed, light and creamy. Try not to eat this with a spoon.

Pour the contents of Bowl 2 into Bowl 1, and then whisk the whole lot on high speed until it is all combined, light and creamy. It will expand somewhat.

Take out half the mixture and put it into a clean bowl or large jug. Add in the cocoa, coffee, vanilla and rose extracts to this bowl. Fold them all in really well with a spatula.

To the lighter mix, add the cinnamon and vanilla extracts.

Take a ladle of dark mix and pour in into the centre of the lined tin.

Then pour a ladle of light on top of that.

Repeat until all the mixes are used up.

Swirl a pattern into the top with a skewer if you wish.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, then test with a toothpick to see if the middle is done.

If not, put it back in for 10 minutes and check again.

If you think the top is getting too dark, pop a piece of foil on it.

Leave the whole cake to cool in the pan before lifting it out.

Cut into thin slices when cool.


No Knead Slow Cooker Bread

Totally inspired by Bakingqueen74, who has been baking in her slow cooker since forever, and then reminded, poked and prodded into actually giving it a go by the colourful bread recipes that Bootstrapcook has been posting. 

I love the no knead method, and I can stir it all together and just leave it to do its thing, so I went with that. This used up the flours I had hanging around. I am tempted to do a rye version too, and a cinnamon and raisin.

1 x 3.5 litre slow cooker, lined with enough non stick baking parchment that the edges poke out (helps to form a handle to lift the bread out)
2 cups strong bread flour, white or wholemeal
2 cups plain flour
2 tbs olive oil
1.5 tsp salt
1 7g sachet of yeast
2-2.5 cups tap hot water (if it’s too dry, add the half cup of water a bit at a time.)
100g juicy black olives, de-stoned and roughly chopped
1-2 tbs finely chopped coriander leaves (non essential)
1-2 tbs crispy onions (non essential)

Put the flour in a large bowl.
Put the yeast on one side, and the salt on another side of the flour.
Pour in the 2 cups of water, and the oil.
Mix really well with a spoon, or a spatula, or a dinner knife, or your hands if you want, until all the flour has gone, and the olive pieces are all mixed through.
Cover with cling film and leave to rise. Mine took about an hour or so in a warm kitchen.

Once it's doubled in size, line your slow cooker with non stick baking parchment, and put on high to preheat.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface. It might be pourable, it might be a less sticky dough, but whatever it is, DO NOT PANIC. It will still bread.

I use an old bank card as a dough scraper, and work and fold the flour into the dough, until it comes together into a smooth ball or oval shape, depending on your slow cooker shape. Oil your hands if you like, as that will also stop the dough sticking too much to you. You can even use two old bank or store cards, if you really don’t want to touch the dough.

Pop the ball of dough into the slow cooker. Leave it on high, and put the lid on.
Set a timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
When the timer goes off, gently lift the bread out using oven gloves, and turn it over to cook the other side for another 30 minutes.

I put the whole loaf into a 200C oven for 10 minutes to get a golden colour on it too, but you don’t have to.  It is a very tender, soft loaf, and quite addictive.


No Knead Cider Bread

No knead bread is an addiction. That you can go from gloop to bread in 2 hours (at its fastest) is just such a wonder to me. I love recipes that you can change up, fiddle around with, and they still work.
I found a shallot in the fridge that needed using, the tail end of a bag of bread flour, and a bottle of cider that was just out of date.

Oven temp of 200CF

4.5 cups of strong white bread flour (that's what was left in the bag)
2 - 2.5 cups of cider (more if needed)
1 heaped tsp sea salt
1 7g sachet of instant yeast
1 large banana shallot, sliced into fine half rings
1/4 - 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
olive oil

Peel and slice the shallot.
Put around 2 tbs olive oil into a frying pan, add the paprika and then the shallots. Mix well.
Turn the heat on, and gently fry until the edges, then the whole pieces start to darken, and the shallots are cooked through. You want them all cooked with a few crispy bits, but not burnt.
Set the pan aside to cool.

Put the flour in a large bowl.
Put the yeast one one side, and the salt on another side of the flour.
Pour in the cider.
Add the cooled shallots.
Mix really well with a spoon, or a spatula, or your hands if you want, until all the flour has gone, and the shallot pieces are all mixed through.
Cover with cling film and leave to rise. Mine took about an hour or so in a warm kitchen.
Once it's doubled in size, tip it out onto a floured surface. It might be pourable, it might be a less sticky dough, but whatever it is, DO NOT PANIC.
I use an old bank card as a dough scraper, and work and fold the flour into the dough, until it comes together into a smooth ball shape. Oil your hands if you like, as that will also stop the dough sticking too much to you.
For this loaf I popped it into a small, round cake tin with high side, that I'd lined with non stick foil.
Leave that to rise for another half hour, then put it into the oven.
Set a timer for 35 minutes.
At 30 minutes, take the loaf out of the tin and return it to the oven shelf to crisp up. Feel free to turn the oven down a bit to, say, 180, so nothing burns.

Family Fish Pie

I'm calling it a family fish pie because this amount will easily serve 4-6. It's worth making a big batch, and then freezing it in individual portions, ready for a late night home from work or two. We’d inherited a freezer full, as someone’s Pa had accidentally ordered 12 packs, instead of 1…

4 large fillets of smoked haddock OR any firm white fish fillet you like.
Enough milk to cover the haddock (around 1.5 pints/850ml) (I think non dairy, goat or lactose free milk will be ok here too)
1 shallot, peeled but left whole
1/4 tsp allspice or 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 bayleaf if you have one – optional
1 small pack cooked prawns
1/2 cup/125g frozen peas
1.5 kg Maris Piper potatoes
56g/2 ounces butter, divided
28g/1 oz plain flour
sea salt
Extra butter
Olive oil
4 hard boiled eggs, cooled and shelled

Cut each fillet in half crossways so that they fit in your pan.
Pour over the milk, pop in the shallot, bayleaf and the spice. The fish needs to be covered. DO NOT ADD SALT.
Bring to the boil, simmer on low  for 15 minutes, then leave to cool in the milk.
Drain, KEEP THE LIQUID in a jug, and set both aside.

Bechamel Sauce – just use the same pot you cooked the fish in
1 oz/28g butter or margarine or dairy free spread
1 oz/28g flour
The poaching liquor – probably about half of it, but judge as you go
Melt the butter on a low heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook it on the same low heat for a couple of minutes.
Slowly add in the poaching liquid, whisking all the time. It should gradually thicken.
You want it to get to a thickness that will coat the fish and the peas, not swamp it too much.
When it’s as thick as good custard, gently mix in the fish, prawns and peas. If it’s too thick at this point you can mix in more of the poaching liquid.
Pop all the fish mix into an ovenproof dish, making sure you get all the sauce out of the pan.
Cut the eggs in half, and arrange over the fish, pressing them down.
Rinse the sauce pan out with hot water and…

Add the peeled potato chunks to your rinsed pot, add water to cover, a good tsp sea salt, and bring to the boil.
When tender,  drain, mash well with 1 oz butter/marg/spread and a good pinch of sea salt. Taste, and add more if you think it needs it. Black pepper can be added if you like it.
If the potatoes will not smooth out enough, or are too dry, add in some of the poaching milk, 1 x tbs at a time. It needs to be smooth enough to dollop and spread evenly across the fish.
Spread the mashed potato over the top and flatten it if you can.
Use the rounded end of a butter knife or spatula to depress half moons into the mash, all the way across.
Lightly drizzle olive oil all over the top. The mash will absorb it, don’t worry.
Stand your dish on a baking tray in case of overbubble, and bake in a `180C oven for about an hour, or until the potato goes golden.
Take it out, dot with butter/spread and sprinkle very lightly with sea salt flakes.
Bake again until burnished and slightly puffed up.


Quick Chickpea and Paneer Rendang

First of all, let me explain, this is not a rendang at all, because that is usually a meat dish, but I have used a rendang spice paste in it, so just go with me on this.

Rendang is a spicy, dry meat dish which originated from Indonesia. Rendang is traditionally prepared by the Minangkabau community during festive occasions such as traditional ceremonies, wedding feasts and Eid al-Fitr, but it also made across the country. It has, along with the main meat ingredient, coconut milk mixed with a fragrant paste of ground spices and herbs, including ginger, galangal, turmeric leaves, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, chillis and other spices. The paste I had was shop bought, but the fragrance of lemon grass wafted out at me as soon as I opened the tub.

I’d had to empty out a can of chickpeas as I needed the liquid in it (known as aquafaba) for a vegan recipe. It’s a fabulous egg replacement. This left me with a whole can of chickpeas to use up, so I added some petit pois to it for greenery, and then went with the flow.

1 x 400g can of chickpeas, well drained

2 handfuls of frozen peas, defrosted

5 tbs ready fried onions (I often use these instead of fresh ones at the start of a dish. They work cooked too!)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

500ml coconut milk

2 heaped tablespoons of rendang paste

1 pack of paneer, cut into cubes

Smoked salt

Put the chickpeas and peas in a saucepan. Add maybe a tablespoon of vegetable oil and mix well.

Add in the onions, turmeric, cumin and coriander, plus the salt. Mix very well to coat.

Pour in the coconut milk, add 1 heaped tablespoon of the rendang paste, mix all around again so that the spices and the paste have been distributed properly, and leave to simmer on a very low heat while you fry off the paneer. I tasted it befire adding the paneer and added another tablespoon of the paste.


Add 1 tbs of vegetable oil to a frying pan.

Add the paneer cubes, mix to coat them in the oil and turn the heat on, medium low.

When they gain colour on one side, turn them over and get the other side golden brown too.

Add the cubes to the chickpea/coconut pan, simmer for half an hour so they soak in the flavours, and then serve over rice. Or just eat it out of the pan with a spoon…

Quick Chickpea and Paneer Rendang i


Kolokassi Kebabs Cypriot Style

Kolokassi is a tuber of little renown in the UK. It’s also called Taro, and it used a lot in Asia, even for cake making, and is what they call poi in Hawaii, where it is a staple. I know it’s hard to find here, and I apologise in advance for that.

I freely admit that I used to really dislike this tuber as a child, mainly because It Was Not a Potato in various stews. I did eventually get over my dislike of this hairy, weird looking tuber. I mean, I know it's not a potato, but it still has its place in the world. One day I was thinking about a recipe I had seen for celeriac shawarma, and was wondering how you'd go about that when I remembered I'd bought kolokassi and they needed to be used up.


Photo from https://globalstorybook.org/10-traditional-dishes-try-cyprus/

They are a little weird looking, I admit, but I have grown to love their creamy texture in bean casseroles now. Finally. It’s only taken me nearly 40 years…I’ve not tried it mashed, so maybe I’ll give that a try next time.

There are warnings about this particular foodstuff, so heed well.

DO NOT eat this raw. Not even a tiny taste just to see. It's toxic due to its calcium oxalate content. (Calcium oxalate is associated with gout and kidney stones). It's also not very tasty unless you cook it.

It can cause irritation to the skin for some, so wear gloves when you prep it, or do as I do and hold it with a paper towel whilst peeling it with one of those Y shaped vegetable peelers. Don’t wash it, as it will get a bit slimy.

Some recipes say not to slice it, but to crack it. You slice in a small way then twist the knife to crack a piece away from the main tuber. I have just sliced it in the past with no problems though so do what you feel. I did crack it into chunks with a knife rather than slice it this time, so I got a quite fibrous end to the pieces, which is what I wanted as I wanted it to look a bit meaty on the skewers. I thought for some time about what spices to use, but then realized I was overthinking, so went with the ones I know to be used a fair bit in Cyprus. Cumin and cinnamon together make a lovely marinade all on their own, so you could just use those if you like.

2 large (6”-8” in length) kolokasi, peeled and cracked or chopped into chunks

2 tsp smoked cumin (or the usual unsmoked)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pul biber or chilli flakes (more if you like it spicy)

½ tsp garlic salt

1 tsp Baharat powder

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 cup olive oil

Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for an hour. (stops them burning)

Put the kolokasi in a bowl, add the olive oil and stir well to coat.

Add in all the spices and herbs, mix really well, and leave to sit and marinate for an hour.

I then threaded them on to skewers, but you honestly don’t have to. I was being Arty.

Place them in a roasting tin with sides, pour over any spiced oil left in the bowl. Yes it is a lot, but you will need it to baste the chunks.

Roast at 170C fan for 40 minutes, basting and turning to make sure they don’t stick.

At the end of 40 minutes, test them to make sure they are cooked all the way through. Poke them with a skewer, and if there is still resistance in the centre, put them back in for another 10 minutes.

Switch the oven to grill, and turn it up to 200C. You want slightly charred edges if you can. Baste again to get all the spiced oil onto it.

Serve it wrapped in a warmed pita bread, with lots of salad. Or just eat it right off the skewer…

Raw and cracked pieces scaled

Marinated pieces scaled

Cooked scaled


Date and Oat Bars (vegan unless I’ve missed something!)

I first saw these on Tori Haschka’s blog, and loved the idea of having them as a quick breakfast snack. I like dates very much, and bakes made with them always appeal to the Sweet But Not Too Sweet tooth I have. Sweet potato as a baking ingredient has won me over since Gizzi Erskine made sweet potato and Turkish Delight brownies, way back when, so that was another must. Because it’s me, I fiddle. I can’t help it. This time, I have fiddled more.

I had excess dates, so I used more than the original recipe stated. Then it turned out I had too much sweet potato left over, and the tail end of a bag of oats, so…yes, you can see where this went.

(By the way, I bought my dates from this website. It’s on during Ramadan, and they get couriered to you, you have a choice of gorgeous tins, and each box of juicy goodness sold helps someone gets their sight back, or gets bread given to a family and so on. Well worth signing up so you can a heads-up when the deliveries are back on.)

165 g pitted dates

250 g mashed sweet potato (Peel and cut the sweet potato into pieces the size of playing dice. Microwave with 3 tbsp of water for 5-6 minutes until soft, then puree, or mash until smooth. Or else, make a bigger batch, use it as a base for sweet potato hummus/ sweet potato mash to have with steak or lamb and use the leftovers to make these.)

4 eggs or 12 tbs aquafaba

4 tbsp tahini (plus 2 tbs thinned down for the top or use any nut butter)

180 g porridge oats

4 tbs sultanas

2 tbs cocoa

1 tsp orange blossom water for the cake mix

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ras El Hanout

1/2 cup/ 30 g shredded coconut

generous pinch of sea salt


3 tbs tahini or nut butter thinned down with 1/2 tsp orange blossom water and 1/2 tsp sugar. (OBW can be a touch bitter)

1 tbs water to get the tahini or nut butter to a smoother, more runny consistency.

I used roasted sweet potatoes. I just cook them whole in their skins for around 45 minutes, so that a knife or skewer goes through with no resistance, then let them cool.

I do all of this in a food processor, and get a smooth texture that I like. I’m not a fan of whole oats in cookies or cakes. (It is also much easier on my hands to use the machine.)

Put the dates into the food processor bowl, and blend for a couple of minutes to chop them up.

Add in the aquafaba, tahini or nut butter, oats, potato, cocoa, orange blossom water, sultanas, coconut, cinnamon, sea salt and Ras El Hanout. Blitz until smooth.

You may need to scrape the sides down as desiccated coconut seems to fly about.

For the topping – if you want to use one – mix the extra 3 tbs of tahini or nut butter with 1/2 tsp orange blossom water and the sugar. Stir in warm water until it becomes a dropping consistency, or you won’t get it to drizzle on to the cake.

Line a 9.5” x 9.5”x 2” (24cm square) cake tin with baking paper. Date mixes can be very sticky.

Scrape all the mixture into the pan, and then smooth the top with the back of a wet spoon.

Drizzle the tahini over, and top with sesame seeds or coconut curls, whatever you like. I had crystallised rode petals, so added those as well for crunch.

Date and Oat Bars raw

Bake for 35 minutes at 170C fan and then leave to cool. They will turn more fudgy and dense overnight.

Date and Oat Bars


North Carolina Mopping Sauce

My man is fast becoming an expert in all things smoked. It’s how he does things.

Tex bbq

Lots of research, lots of reading and comparing, until he gets it just right. We’ve made different dry rubs, and eaten a lot of delicious things. Brisket, smoked and dry rubbed sausages, ribs (still working on those), fennel and lemon chicken thighs, more brisket, smoked mint lamb shoulder. I’ve made a lot of salads – tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil and pesto; celery, apple, sultana and walnut/pecan/pistachio; carrot with smoked salt and a burnt orange dressing; pistachio, basil and celery leaf pesto; watermelon, feta and mint; peach, ricotta, olive oil and pomegranate molasses - , ground a lot of spices and smoked aubergines and halloumi. Our cupboard has a ton of bottled barbecue sauces in there, and we’re fast running out of room.

Today we’ve got ribs again – determined to get them right, but they are tricky as they can dry out really fast if you’re not careful. We don’t often get the very meaty fatty rib cuts here, so you have to make the best of what you can get, right? He wanted to make a mopping sauce today, so off we went. First port of call was the Pitt Cue book, and then Red’s Barbecue Bible. The mop sauce in there sounded like what he wanted, so we spent a half hour in the kitchen with me getting the ingredients, and him stirring, then me stirring because I get skittish when people in charge of a very hot pan of bubbling lava don’t hold on to the handle. Hey, it’s been my solo kitchen for 26 years, sharing takes some serious getting used to!

Anyhoo, here is the sauce we ended up with. He wanted it thicker than the recipe made it, so we tasted and tweaked, tweaked and tasted, and here is it.

125g soft light brown muscovado sugar

250ml apple cider vinegar

55g ketchup (we used Hellman’s, which is sweetened with honey. It’s less punchy than other brands.)

1 tsp salt

Put the vinegar and sugar into a pan on a low heat.

When the sugar has dissolved, whisk in everything else, and simmer for a good half an hour to meld the flavours. At this stage, is is a mopping sauce, and very thin.

We tasted it, and it needed something else.

In went

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp yellow mustard

2.5 tsp cornflour slaked with 2 tsp water were then added and mixed in very well.

Simmer for another 10 minutes to thicken up, then leave to cool down until you can decant it into a squeezy bottle.

We think we’ve made something that’s a bit like a quick version of Branston Pickle juice. Personally I want it on a cheese sandwich very soon, and I think we’re going to have to make more.

(Once the ribs had had two hours in the smoker, we place them in foil, doused with the sauce, squirted with water and put them back in, all wrapped up, to essentially steam smoke for another 2 hours. It worked!)

marked moppish sauce


Vegetable Mélange

It’s the only name I could give it, to be honest, as the ideas in my head ranged from Moroccan to Persian to Turkish to Greek all in one morning and I think I eventually shoved in everything I had, apart from the things that wouldn’t actually fit in the pot.

I started out, as I often do when I need inspiration, in the local Turkish grocer, eyeing up what vegetables they had. I’d already got aubergines, which I’d planned to bake with white miso as my husband was going to be away (he doesn’t like the smell of miso), but then it turned out that he wasn’t going to be away after all so I needed to plan something else for my dinner.

It’s hard not to buy everything they have as it’s all so good, but I tried very hard not to, and then I spotted some lovely looking leeks, so thought of the braised leeks from Istanbul And Beyond, and then there were big boxes of fresh herbs as I went past the leeks. The mint looked and smelled so good, that had to come home with me so it went in to the basket. Mint in a vegetable stew adds such a delicious back note that people often can’t define, and I’ve become quite addicted to using it that way. Try it in a green bean, garlic and tomato braise, it’s delicious.

Then I recalled Olia Hercules singing the praises of dill, so thought it was time I got over my dislike of that delicately frondy herb. Maybe using it as a vegetable not as a fresh herb might do the trick.  In it went. Parsley adds a lemony freshness, and lots of colour, so that came home with me too.  There is something so…Mediterranean about wandering home with big bunches of fresh herbs sticking out of your bag.

Once I got home, winging it as I was, I first had a Moroccan tagine in my head, heady with cinnamon and fruit, then a Persian stew, with the big, bold green flavours in there that come from entire bunches of herbs. I recalled the Turkish lamb and leek braise which I’d loved, but I just didn’t want meat, and pondered about Greek green beans and tomatoes and feta. It gets busy in the cooking part of my brain!  I just started with the aubergines in the end, and then made it up from there as I went along.

You will need a large frying pan, and a large capacity pot for this. My casserole dish holds 4 litres.

Vegetable Mélange

2 medium aubergines, cut in half lengthways and then cut across into large chunks

1 carrot, sliced into 5mm thick rounds

2 large leeks, halved, cut into 3 inch pieces then rinsed well

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 large potato, skin on, cut into quarters

8 dates stoned and halved

2 heaped tbs red pepper paste

1 heaped tbs tomato puree

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 bunch mint

1 bunch parsley

1/2 bunch dill

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp chilli (I use pul biber as it has a gentle heat)

1 tsp dried mint

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 veggie stock cube

water to cover

extra virgin olive oil

Pop the aubergine chunks into a large frying pan, but with no oil initially, just a light sprinkle of salt.

Cook them on a medium heat, to get some colour on the cut sides. Add a touch of oil on a cube it starts to stick.

Once all the sides have some good colour, pop them into a large casserole dish.

Add the tomato paste and red pepper paste to the frying pan, with 1 tbs olive oil.

Stir and fry the pastes for about 5 minutes, it intensifies their flavours.

Stir in the leeks and coat well with the pastes, then add them to the casserole pot too.

Pour in the tin of drained chickpeas, then the chopped tomatoes along with their juice, then add that can full of water.

In with the spices! Cumin, pul biber, dried mint, cinnamon, salt.

Tuck in a veggie stock cube.

Add the carrot and large chunks of potato, then it the water level needs raising to cover it all, do so now.

Mix it all really well, and leave it to simmer, covered, for about an hour or two, stirring every so often to make sure the stock cube has dissolved.

Once all the vegetables are tender, chop up all the herbs, holding a little bit of each back for later, and add them in too.

Add a good 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, which enriches the juices, and stir again.

Cover and cook on the lowest heat you can for another 2 hours, then simmer uncovered, until the liquid level has reduced down by about a centimetre or two and the colour has darkened. You want it more like a stew than a soup.

Taste it, and see if you think it needs more salt or chilli for your taste.

I served mine with bulghur wheat as rice fills me up way too fast.

Bulghur Wheat Side Dish

2/3 cup of medium bulghur wheat

Enough water to cover the wheat by 1 cm

1/2 tsp salt

1 heaped tablespoon of the red pepper paste

2 tbs chopped dill

Put the bulghur in a pan or bowl.

Stir in the salt, and the paste.

Add the water, and keep mixing the paste in.

I microwaved mine in a jug for 2 minutes, then let it sit with the cling film on for 10 minutes.

It looked a bit dry, so I added 2 tbs of water, and stirred in the dill.

Microwaved for another minute, and let it sit, covered, until I was ready to serve it up.

I piled the stew over the bulghur, and added more chopped herbs, plus a little olive oil and plain Greek yoghurt.

Before cooking down

Finished dish


Nigel Slater’s Middle East: Fragrant Lebanese Rice Pudding, a variation

I adore rice pudding. From the vanilla laden stodge in a can which I will eat cold, to the snackpots, and through to the very best baked and sugared topped-with-a-baked-skin that Nans make, I will eat them all and go back for more.

It’s nursery food I suppose, but for me it’s definitely a comfort food in that I would always get fed a milk pudding if I’d not been well. It’s recovery food. If your tummy is feeling all stretched and worn, or your throat has been raspy and full of raw tickle, then a rice, macaroni, tapioca or even sago pudding just slips down easily. 

One day recently I was at home, and full of vertigo with wobbly legs, so I desperately wanted comfort food. I very carefully made this for my tea, and I think it took roughly 15 minutes beginning to end.

I had no pudding rice, but I did have the ever fragrant Basmati, and that morning I’d watched the veritable television hug that was Nigel Slater’s Middle East, so I knew what I needed.

When I realised I didn’t have much milk (I needed to stretch it out in order to leave some to make tea with) I used half evaporated coconut milk and half milk. I suppose you could do half milk and half water, but it wouldn’t have that same richness.

I more or less halved the recipe that was on the BBC website, and adjusted the fruit to what I had.

75g basmati rice

125ml evaporated coconut milk

125ml full-fat milk

1 tbsp golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

8 dried apricots, chopped

2 tbs sultanas

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp Spice Sanctuary Sweet Delights mix (you really do not need much)

1 tsp rosewater

1 tsp orange blossom water

12g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

1 tbs toasted coconut curls

A few food-grade rose petals

Put the rice in a medium-sized, heavy-based pan, and add in the milks, sugar and vanilla.

Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce the heat until the milk is bubbling gently.

Stir in the cinnamon, Sweet Delight, sultanas and apricots.

Allow to simmer for 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender, giving it the occasional stir.

If it needs more liquid, just add more coconut milk.

Serve piled with the  finely chopped pistachios and coconut curls, plus a few rose petals if you wish. I did wish, as I wanted it to look as pretty as I wasn’t feeling.

That worked as both lunch and dinner for me, and I fell asleep still extremely dizzy, but very happy.

Lebanese Rice Pudding

Spelt Flour Koulourakia–Easter Cookies

I try to make these every Easter. Buttery, short cookies that are moreish and come flavoured with orange or lemon or vanilla. As I had no fresh oranges, I decided to go with orange blossom water, orange extract and mastiha, seeing as I had some left over from making the savoury hot cross buns. I really wanted to make them dairy free too, so that my colleague could eat them, and the spelt was for the same reason, although not for the same person.

The non dairy spread was pleasant to use, much faster to work with as it was soft straight from the fridge, although I did need more flour than planned.

I used a stand mixer for this but I have done it by hand in the past. 

200g Vitalite dairy free spread (or soft butter)

130g icing sugar

6 mastic tears, ground finely with ½ tsp demerara sugar

1 medium egg (aquafaba may well work here)

2 tbs coconut milk (or dairy milk)

400-500g white spelt flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp orange flower water

1 tsp orange extract

Pinch salt

Sesame seeds (optional)

Warning: The Vitalite spread doesn’t harden up like butter in the fridge, so be prepared for your hands to feel oily when you shape the cookies.

Put the spread and icing sugar in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Mix gently/on low. (I cover the mixer with a towel so that the sugar doesn’t cloud out too much.)

Add in the ground mastic, the egg, milk, 400g of the flour, baking powder, salt and flavourings.

Mix well/mix on low until it all comes together. If it looks way too sticky, just keep adding flour a spoon at a time until it starts to stick together and gather around the spoon/beater.

It should be soft, and a bit squidgy, but it should not stick to your hands.

Shape it into a disc, wrap it in cling film and leave it in the fridge for a good hour.

When you want to shape the cookies, the shapes are up to you!

I like ‘S’ shapes, as that’s what I grew up with, but whatever shape you like is fine. Some people make twists, some circles, some S shapes. I roll mine out into a rope, then curl each end in to make the ‘snail shell’ of the S.

Some of the edges will crack when you roll and shape them, but that’s fine too.

Lay them onto lined baking trays, spaced about 2 cm apart. They will spread a bit, but if the dough is kept cold, not that much. It is a very forgiving dough, too, you feel free to re-shape if you like.

I did not egg wash mine, as I’m not overly keen on it, to be honest but do feel free to do so! Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you want to use them.

Bake for 20 minutes at 175°C. If they haven’t turned golden on the edges then put them back in for another 5 minutes. I don’t think a non dairy spread lends itself easily to goldenness.



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Winging It: Bulghur Wheat Burgers

This recipe is entirely Sabrina Ghayour’s fault. A lot of my cooking is her fault, to be honest.

She posted a photo of these bulghur wheat balls, and I remembered I had a pack of the wheat to use up, so I hit the kitchen, soon discovering that I didn’t have coriander leaves, or an onion.  Or dried cranberries. Or quite enough bulghur wheat. So here’s where the winging it started.

(NOTE: I suspect I hadn’t cooked the wheat for long enough as the stuff WOULD NOT stick together so that’s why I have ground almonds and gram flour in my version. More winging it.)

4oz bulgur wheat (I used medium)

1 medium free-range egg (or 2-3 tbs aquafaba)

2-3 tbs ready fried crispy onions

1 heaped tsp turmeric

1 heaped tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ –1 tsp pul biber

6 large mint leaves, finely chopped

1 tsp dried mint

3 heaped tbs dried barberries

4 level tbs ground almonds

3 level tbs gram flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

4 tbsp olive oil

Cook the bulgur wheat for a little longer than the packet instructions say, so it’s very puffy, about 20 minutes. (My pack said to cover with water and simmer until all the water had gone, so that’s what I did.)

Rinse under cold water to remove the starch and leave to drain until cool enough to handle.

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.

Mix all the ingredients, except the oil, for the bulgur wheat balls together. Mix it really well to make sure the flour is distributed.

Squeeze the mixture using your hands so it sticks together. If it won’t hold, add a little more gram flour.

I took half a packed cup of the mixture, and shaped it into burgers. The mix made 2 big burgers, and 3 little balls shaped with a cookie scoop.

Heat a frying pan that can also go in the oven and add the oil. Heat it gently, then once hot add the burgers carefully and fry or 3-4 minutes on each side until they go golden.

I finished them in the oven for 5-10 minutes to make sure the gram flour was cooked out.

I served my one in a brioche burger bun, with tahini slathered on both buns, fresh mint leaves, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses for a delicious tang.

I really liked this, and will make it again for certain. Just need to buy more bulghur wheat…

Burger and bun

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