Scones

Scones with jam and dollop of cream, otherwise known as Devonshire tea, is a treat few can say no to.

They are not difficult to make, but as with all easy recipes – scrambled eggs for example – a lot of people don’t get it right. The secret is to handle the dough as little as possible and get the scones into the oven quickly. It’s not bread dough and should not be kneaded: over-handling will make them tough.

With practice you can make scones in just under half an hour – perfect for a last minute afternoon tea. Ring your friends, switch the oven on and as they walk in the door you’ll just be taking the scones out of the oven.

Sour milk or buttermilk works well in scones. They say it makes them rise more and I remember as a child if the milk went sour (which it seemed to do more regularly back then) scones were on the menu. You can also use fresh milk, buttermilk or a mixture of milk and plain yoghurt. Serve with any kind of berry jam – in the photo I used blackberry. The recipe is easy to double.

250g self raising flour (or use plain flour and 2 level tsp baking powder)
½ tsp salt
50g butter (at room temp)
1 Tbs sugar
About 1 cup (250ml) buttermilk, sour milk or fresh milk
To serve:
Whipped cream
Berry jam

Heat oven to 200°C. Sieve flour (and baking powder) into a bowl. Lightly rub in the butter with fingertips until there are no more lumps. Add sugar then milk, stirring with a knife, till it all comes together. It should all stick together, just, but don’t make it too wet.

Tip onto a floured surface and form into a ball, then pat into a circle 2.5 to 3 cm thick. Cut scones with a round 2.5 to 3 cm cutter. Gather the scraps together and cut out 2-3 more from the remaining dough. Arrange on a greased shallow baking sheet. Brush tops with some extra milk. Bake for about 15 minutes until well-risen and lightly browned.

Serve slightly warm with whipped cream and berry jam.

Makes about 8

Pancake Stack with Roasted Vegetables

This colourful vegetarian dish was created when I had some pancakes which needed using up. You could probably use round wraps or soft tortillas instead of the pancakes.

I used one kind of vegetable for each layer, but if you’re in a hurry just roast all the vegetables mixed together.

1 medium sweet potato
3 large carrots
1 large red capsicum (pepper)
1 large onion
1 cup pitted black olives (optional)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 pancakes (crêpes) either bought or home-made
150g goat’s cheese or feta, crumbled
Pesto (either bought or home-made)
2/3 cup grated cheddar or parmesan

Choose a non-stick springform pan the same diameter as the pancakes. Preheat oven to 200°C. Slice all the vegetables into thick slices rather than the usual chunks, so they’re flatter. Mix each one with s little oil, salt and pepper, then spread them out in one layer, individually, on shallow baking trays lined with baking paper. Roast for 20-30 mins or until cooked and starting to brown.

You can line the bottom of the pan with baking paper, but I found it made cutting the finished dish more difficult as the paper got in the way, so next time I’ll leave it out. Spray cake pan with oil and place one pancake on the bottom. Arrange one vegetable over the pancake, dot with a few pieces of goat’s cheese or feta, drizzle with some pesto (add some oil if it’s too stiff), then top with another pancake and continue with the other vegetables, one for each layer. I put the olives in the onion layer. Finish with a pancake, sprinkle with cheddar or parmesan. Can be made ahead to this stage and kept in the fridge, covered.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake the pancake stack for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and heated through. Serve in wedges with a green salad.

Serves 4-6

Variations: use other vegetables such as zucchini, parsnip, pumpkin, mushrooms, asparagus, corn etc. Add another layer or two if you like.

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters

You only need one or two zucchini plants in the veggie patch to be inundated in the middle of summer. And if you don’t catch them when they’re small, a day or two later you’ll find they’ve turned into huge marrows! Zucchini with Tarragon and Sour Cream is a good way to use up the big ones.

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters make a tasty vegetarian meal and any leftovers are delicious cold or reheated in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes. Serve with Tzatziki and/or tomato chutney. Use regular sized zucchini or remove the seeds from bigger ones.

500g zucchini (seeds removed if large)
250g haloumi cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
1 egg
2/3 cup self-raising flour
Vegetable oil for frying the fritters
Tzatziki:
1 Lebanese cucumber, coarsely grated (or half a telegraph one)
1 cup thick plain Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
grated rind ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Salt flakes
Ground cumin
Fresh mint leaves
Tomato Baharat Jam (optional)

Coarsely grate zucchini and halloumi. If you have a coarse grating disk on your food processor, this is a breeze. Mix with remaining ingredients. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and cook the fritters, 3-4 at a time. Use a tablespoon to dollop the mixture into the pan and flatten each fritter into a thick round shape. Fry for about 4 minutes each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve with the Tzatziki, mint leaves, salt flakes and a shake of ground cumin. A little Tomato Baharat Jam, or any other tomato chutney, also goes well.

For the Tzatziki, place the grated cucumber in a sieve and sprinkle with a little salt. Leave to drain for a few minutes, then press down on the cucumber to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Mix with remaining ingredients.

Serves 4

 

Kedgeree with Curry Sauce, Hot Smoked Salmon & Poached Eggs

I grew up on a fairly basic British diet of meat and three veg. However, my mother was a British Army kid and while living in Hong Kong and Malta she was exposed to some “foreign dishes”. She had two in her repertoire – Spaghetti Bolognese and Kedgeree. Nowadays these dishes are familiar to most people, but when I was a child they were pretty unusual to find in a British household – unless of course you were “foreign”, which we weren’t.

When one of my school friends came round for dinner and Mum served one of these my guest would push the food around the plate and eat very little. No doubt about it, back then this was weird food.

You can find my mother’s recipe for Kedgeree along with an Asian variation here. I found today’s version in an airline magazine some years ago and have been meaning to make it ever since. I have a huge folder and an email box dedicated to recipes I plan to make one day, so I don’t think I’ll ever run out of inspiration for this blog!

1 cup basmati or other long grain rice
300g hot smoked salmon (or substitute ordinary smoked salmon)
1 Tbs butter or Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Tbs snipped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Curry Sauce:
1 Tbs butter or olive oil
2 shallots or spring onions, chopped
2 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbs vinegar
½ cup white wine
1 cup fish or vegetabe stock
1 cup cream or coconut cream
pinch of saffron or turmeric
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To finish:
4 poached eggs (or soft boiled)
Chopped fresh coriander
Crispy shallots (a dried product from Asian supermarkets)
Lemon or lime wedges

Place rice in a saucepan with a little more than one and a half cups of water and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil then cover and turn down heat as low as possible. Cook for 10-15 mins, or until water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave it to continue cooking in the steam.

Meanwhile for the Curry Sauce, melt butter in a frying pan and cook shallots for 2-3 mins until soft. Add curry powder and cayenne and cook, stirring for a minute. Add vinegar and cook until it has evaporated. Add wine and do the same. Add stock and cook until reduced by half. Add cream or coconut cream and saffron and cook until the sauce has a nice coating consistency.. Season to taste. (If liked pass through a sieve – see Note below)

Poach the eggs. Break the hot smoked salmon into large chunks and mix into the hot rice with the butter or olive oil and chives. Season to taste.

To serve, divide rice between four bowls. Top each serving with a poached egg and some Curry Sauce. Garnish with coriander, crispy shallots and a lemon or lime wedge.

Serves 4

Note: I used spring onions rather than shallots and decided to pass the sauce through a sieve to remove the bits. I mixed these bits into the rice, so they weren’t wasted. I just thought the sauce looked nicer without them. After sieving the sauce I reheated it to serve.

Green Vegetable Frittata with Pesto and Cheese

Frittatas are Italian omelettes. They make a delicious hot meal and any leftovers are perfect cold for lunch next day.

1 bunch asparagus and 1 small bunch broccolini
2 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To serve:
About 6 Tbs pesto (bought or home-made)
Extra virgin olive oil
100g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

Wash vegetables and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) lengths, discarding the tough ends. Heat butter in a 25cm (10 inch) cast-iron or non-stick frying pan. Add the asparagus, broccolini and garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile beat the eggs and season lightly.

When the vegetables are cooked and starting to brown, add the eggs, pulling in the sides with a spatula as they cook, as you do with an omelette. When the frittata is mostly set, sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Turn off the heat then either put the pan under a hot grill for a minute or so, or cover it with a lid and let it stand for for a minute or so. This is to set the top.

Mix enough olive oil into the pesto to make it pourable then drizzle over the top of the frittata. Top with the crumbled cheese. Cut into wedges to serve.

Serves 3-4 as a light meal

Asian Green Salad

This recipe was given to me some years ago by my friend Donelle. She made it with Pak Choi but today I decided to use fresh spinach from the garden, because we have copious amounts.

I’m not sure if you can buy packets of crispy noodles everywhere in the world. If you can’t find them substitute crushed corn chips. Just something to give a bit of crunch.

The pomegranate arils weren’t in the original recipe, but they add a touch of colour. Some supermarkets sell these either fresh or frozen. I keep them in the freezer and just scrape out a few as required to sprinkle over the top of salads.

Full of iron and other good stuff, this recipe is very healthy!

1 bunch Pak Choy (or substitute spinach or kale)
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced (use the white and most of the green)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
¾ cup flaked or slivered almonds (or substitute pine nuts)
1 packet (100g) crispy noodles
Dressing:
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Dash of Siracha (or other chilli sauce,) to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs brown sugar
To serve:
Pomegranate arils (optional)

Wash, spin dry and shred the Pak Choy, spinach or kale with a large sharp knife. Place in serving dish with the nuts, which have been lightly toasted in a dry frying pan over moderate heat. Add spring onions and coriander.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix dressing with salad and top with the crispy noodles. If liked garnish with pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel and Crème Brulée are my two favourite desserts. They’re quite similar in terms of ingredients, but one has a liquid caramel sauce while the other has a crunchy caramel topping, achieved with a blow torch.

The raspberries you can see in the photo were ones I had frozen from our garden a couple of months ago. I took them out of the freezer about half an hour before serving, so they just had time to thaw, but not to go squashy.

My Dad lived to the ripe old age of 90 and this was what he had for his last meal. I can see his face now, savouring every mouthful. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have for my Last Supper.

¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
5 eggs, thoroughly beaten with a fork
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
3 cups fresh milk (or a mixture of cream and milk)
1 tsp vanilla essence
To serve:
Thick pouring cream
Fresh or frozen berries, just thawed
A dusting of icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170°C. Heat sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and stir until sugar has dissolved. Boil without stirring until you have a rich caramel, swirling the pan so that it colours evenly without burning. Tip into a lightly oiled ovenproof dish with a capacity of 1.5 to 2 litres (I used a metal ring mold) and swirl around so that it coats the sides of the dish as well as the bottom.

Beat remaining ingredients together thoroughly with a balloon whisk, then pour through a sieve on top of the caramel, discarding any bits of egg in the sieve. Place the dish in a baking tin and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 50 minutes, remove and cool, then chill for several hours or overnight.

Loosen around the edges with a thin-bladed knife, then tip the Crème Caramel onto a serving plate. If all the caramel doesn’t come out, place the baking dish or tin in a bowl of very hot water to melt it, then pour it over the dessert. Serve with cream, fresh berries and a dusting of icing sugar.

Serves 8-10

Malaysian Spicy Fried Chicken

I tore this recipe out of one of the weekend newspaper magazines last month. It’s from Billy Law, a Malaysian cook who was on MasterChef back in 2011. I adjusted the recipe to use fewer dried chillies (2 instead of 5) and made a few other slight tweaks – spring onions instead of leeks because that’s what I had.

The result is a delicious, spicy chicken dish which should serve 4, but Matthew and I both went back for seconds and there was less than half left! The method is a bit more fiddly than the recipes I usually post, but it’s worth it. Definitely a keeper.

750g skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
3cm piece ginger, grated
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs mirin
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup potato starch (I used a packet of instant mashed potatoes)
1 egg
Vegetable oil for frying
1 small onion or ½ large one, chopped
2 dried red chillies, sliced
1/3 cup peanuts, toasted
Chopped fresh coriander
Chilli Oil:
¼ cup vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, halved
2 cm ginger, peeled and sliced
1 leek or 8 spring onions, thinly sliced (use mostly the white part)
1 Tbs dried chilli flakes
Sauce:
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs vinegar
1 Tbs cornflour mixed with ¼ cup water

Mix chicken with ginger, soy sauce, mirin and pepper and leave to marinate for an hour. Mix in the potato starch and the egg. Heat about 2.5 cm of oil in a wok and fry the chicken pieces, in 2-3 batches, until golden brown and crispy all over. Remove and drain on paper towels. Wipe out the wok.

For the Chilli Oil, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, ginger and leek or spring onion. Stir fry until golden then remove with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Add the dried chilli flakes to the oil and stir for a minute, then pour through a sieve, discarding the chilli flakes and keeping the oil.

Heat the reserved chilli oil in the wok and add the chopped onion. Stir until softening, then add the chillies and the sauce – soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and cornflour mixture – and stir till thickened. Add the fried chicken and the peanuts, stirring to coat for 1-2 minutes.

Garnish with the reserved garlic, ginger and leek mixture and fresh coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4

 

 

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms

Now that there’s just the two of us we don’t eat a lot of carbs with our evening meals. Pasta, rice and potatoes were great for filling up the hollow legs of teenagers, but we find we can do without them. So most nights we have some protein – chicken, fish, beef or whatever – with a mountain of green vegetables or salad.

That regime can get a bit boring, so once a week we have a vegetarian meal and occasionally we’ll have pasta or polenta. This recipe from the New York Times caught my eye. I read through the comments people had made after trying the recipe and made a few adjustments according to their suggestions.The original recipe serves four, so I halved the polenta but not the mushrooms and it made enough for two, with a small amount left over. The original recipe includes half an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water and mixed in with the fresh mushrooms. I didn’t have any so I left them out. This is comfort food, good for the cooler autumn evenings or Sunday night in front of the TV.

1½ cups water
1½ cups milk
¾ cup quick cooking polenta
Salt to taste
50g butter or 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
250g sliced mushrooms (ordinary ones or fancy ones)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried)
1 Tbs soy sauce
1-2 Tbs cream (sour cream or creme fraiche)
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Place water, milk, salt and polenta in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil, whisking, then continue to stir for 2 minutes or until thickened, Turn heat down as low as it will go, cover, then cook for a further 5-10 minutes until polenta tastes ready. Add a little extra water if it seems too thick and still tastes uncooked. Traditional polenta can take up to 45 minutes, but quick-cooking polenta only takes 5-10 minutes – see what it says on the packet. When it’s ready turn off the heat, check the seasoning, add half the butter or olive oil and let the polenta sit with the lid on.

Meanwhile heat remaining butter or olive oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the herbs, soy sauce and cream and continue to stir for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with pepper.

Divide the polenta between 2 or 3 serving bowls and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2-3

 

Spicy Korean Beef with Rice

 

This is a good way to use up leftover cooked rice and leftover roast beef. If you don’t have either, cook some rice and slice about 300 grams of raw beef steak into thin strips. Stir fry the beef in the oil for a couple of minutes, then remove from pan, add the vegetables to the pan and proceed according to the recipe.

2 eggs
1 Tbs water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot (coarsely grated)
1 red capsicum (pepper) cut into thin strips
2 cups leftover roast beef, cut into thin strips
1 Tbs Korean chilli paste (or substitute Harissa or Sambal Oelek)
3-4 cups cooked long grain rice
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
To garnish:
Chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp black sesame seed

Beat eggs withIn water and seasoning then make a thin omelette in a small omelette pan, using half the oil. Remove from pan onto a plate and cool, then cut into thin strips.

In a wok or large frying pan heat remaining oil and cook the onion, garlic, carrot and capsicum, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the beef, chilli paste, rice, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper or a bit more soy sauce. If it’s not spicy enough, add a little more chilli paste.

Serve in bowls, topped with the omelette, the coriander and the black sesame seeds.

Serves 3-4