Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Speedy syrup sponge pudding

I used to love steamed syrup sponge pudding, and I remember the little pots from M&S that were a frequent indulgence when I was a grad student. But I've not had any for ages, as it's not a dessert you often see on menus, and it didn't occur to me to make it myself as things requiring steaming for hours always seem inherently complicated. Anyway, I was delighted when this feature appeared in the Guardian recently with a link to a microwaveable syrup sponge pudding recipe. Even though this cooking method wasn't wholeheartedly endorsed by Felicity Cloake, I decided to give it a go as the possibility of pudding in 7.5 minutes was just too good to ignore.

So this is the recipe- www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4062/gooey-school-treacle-sponge which I followed with one minor alteration; adding a little lemon juice to the golden syrup in the bottom of the bowl (as per Felicity's 'perfect' recipe). This just thins the syrup a bit, and allows it to run down and soak into the sponge. I'd also recommend setting the microwave at 5 minutes initially, rather the full 7.5, as my pudding was almost done at this point.

And the end result? A brilliant steamed syrup sponge pudding! The sponge was light and not too sweet, with a thick topping of unctuous golden syrup. And I served it with loads of cold double cream, which was perfect with the hot sponge and cut through the sweetness of the syrup too. This pudding is ridiculously easy to make, and I suspect it will be appearing on my table again rather soon.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Paneer korma

I cook a fair amount of Indian food, but have yet to find a way to photograph most of it in a way that makes it look terribly appetising. Thus the above picture, that shows something vaguely yellow in a gloopy sauce. But don't let that put you off, as this Shahi-style paneer korma is really rather delicious and quite quick to make.
Shahi-style Indian food usually uses ground nuts and cream, so is pretty indulgent, but as the nights draw in I feel that a little indulgence is no bad thing. So here's my version of some classic Indian comfort food.

Recipe (enough for 2 as a main course):

One block of paneer (c.250g)
1 small onion
A thumb-sized piece of ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 dried bay leaf
0.5 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground corriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
0.5 tsp salt (or enough to season)
0.5 tblsp tomato purée
1-2 tblsp ground almonds
Around 50ml double cream
1-2 tblsp plain oil
A few tbslp of water, if needed

Firstly chop up the paneer into small-ish cubes, and sprinkle over the turmeric until the paneer is reasonably well coated. Heat the oil in a flat bottomed pan, and when it's hot carefully place the paneer and any extra turmeric in. Cook the paneer for a few minutes on each side until it's lightly browned and golden, with a bit of a 'crust'. When it's done, take the paneer out and set to one side. Make a paste from the onion, ginger and garlic (by mechanical means for convenience). The smoother it is the smoother your finished sauce will be, but as you can see from the photo above it's not essential. Fry the paste in the remaining oil in the pan for a few minutes, along with the bay leaf and chilli. If the pan is too dry, add a little extra oil. Put in all the ground spices, and carry on cooking for a few more minutes before adding the ground almonds. Once these are lightly toasted, put in the tomato purée  and if needed pour in a little water to create a thick paste. Once everything has been heated through for a few more minutes, add the cream and salt to season. Mix well to form a thick sauce, and then put the paneer cubes back in the pan to heat through. You can adjust the thickness of the sauce by adding more cream (or water) if you want too.

Serve with some plain boiled rice and steamed vegetables to balance out the richness of the cheese and cream.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Leek, mushroom, fake chicken and tarragon pie

I don't eat many pies, but suddenly had a hankering for one last weekend. I think it must be something to do with the clocks going back. I thought I'd stick to the classic combination of leek, mushroom and chicken, but as I don't eat meat, I used Quorn pieces instead. As the Quorn adds no flavour, I added a range of other things to make up for this. Though this could have made everything taste quite muddled, it was actually very good.

Recipe (enough for four hearty portions):

3 medium leeks, finely sliced
Around 8 chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tblsp chopped tarragon leaves
300g Quorn pieces, or another vegetarian equivalent
Around 300ml double cream
1 tsp English mustard
1 tblsp pecorino cheese (or a vegetarian equivalent)
2-3 tblsp olive oil
1-2 tblsp butter
Salt and pepper to season
1 pack all butter, ready-rolled puff pastry (320g)
A little milk to glaze

To make the filling, melt around a tablespoon of butter and a little oil, and when it's warm put in the mushrooms. Cook over a high-ish heat until the mushrooms start to brown, and then add in the Quorn, garlic and tarragon. Turn the heat down a little, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the garlic is cooked through and the tarragon wilted. Once it's all done, tip it out onto a plate and allow to cool. Put the rest of the butter and oil in the same pan, and cook the leeks over a medium low heat. Add about 0.5tsp salt and leave the leeks until they are soft, giving them a stir every now and again. Once fully cooked through pour in the cream, grind in a bit of pepper, add the cheese and mustard and stir well. Take off the heat and allow the leeks to cool a bit, then mix the mushrooms and Quorn back in. If the filling is ridiculously thick, stir in a little milk to loosen it. Once the filling has completely cooled, you can assembly the pie.
Spoon the filling into a suitably deep, oven-proof dish and lay the pastry over the top. Trim the edges and make some fancy shapes with the extra pastry if you want to decorate the top. Make a small cross in the centre of the pastry to let any steam escape, and brush the top with milk. Bake at gas mark 6 until the pastry is a rich golden colour.

You should end up with a richly savoury, vegetarian pie, with a crisp topping. Serve piping hot with lots of vegetables.