Thursday, 6 January 2011

Chestnut, almond and cinnamon twists!

When my mum came back from her weekly food shop with a tin of chestnut puree, I was a little surprised as neither of us had any idea what it was, or what we are meant to do with it. While everything else was slowly getting eaten, it sat in lonesome in the fridge for a week after Christmas until we decided to put it to good use. I thought it might go well with cinnamon and consequently pastry came straight to mind (cinnamon + pastry = yummm). Along with some leftover ground almonds (which we originally used for our Christmas dessert) and a sprinkle of demerrera to sweeten it up, we created some perfect tea time treats.

·         1 sheet of puff pastry (I used Jus rol)
·         Approx 4 tablespoons of chestnut puree (ours had a hint of vanilla)
·         1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
·         1 tablespoon of demerrera/brown sugar
·         A small handful of almonds, ground.
·         1 egg
Preheat the oven to 200C and line 2 trays with baking paper. Unroll the puff pastry sheet then carefully fold it in half as a guide to cut through the middle. Beat the egg and using a brush, egg wash one side of both halves of the pastry sheet.
One sheet should remain empty from any filling while you should spread the other half with a layer of the chestnut puree (just enough to cover the sheet but not too thick). In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and ground almond and sprinkle over the puree, to cover the whole sheet.

Carefully pick up the empty sheet and place it egg washed side down (this will help it stick to the other half) on top of the filling half of the sheet, to make a sort of sandwich. Then with a cutter or sharp knife, cut about 3 cm thick strips across the sheet. Pick up each strip carefully and twist from the ends and place on the baking sheet. Once all strips are twisted, egg wash the top of each strip before placing in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden and puffed.

 For a guide on this technique, watch this youtube video, from Pepperidge Farm:


Monday, 3 January 2011

A fiery affair with Spice Mountain curries...

Following on from the theme of curries, I thought I would tell you about my recent affair with a food ‘cheat’ product I received for Christmas. As one of my presents, I was eager to be given 6 Indian spice blends from Spice Mountain’s borough market stall, made from all natural ingredients which are personally selected and hand ground. Indian classics include Madras, Vindaloo, Korma and Tandoori as well as other traditional curries such as Sri Lankan curry and Goan Curry. Now, I’m not a cheat but I found this particular gift so appealing as I’ve never quite been able to successfully tackle Indian cooking. After burning some garam masala paste and nearly coughing to death over some to-hot-to-handle hot chillies, I gave up trying.
Fortunately, Spice Mountain make cooking curries easy and foolproof. Adding just 3 teaspoons of the blend to a tomato base created a mind blowing flavour; with spices already taken care of, there’s enough time to get creative with the base of the curry!
I’ve never been a huge fan of the regular old basmati rice so to make up for the lack of carbohydrates; I opted for chickpeas and sweet potatoes as an alternative. The two make a great pair- sweet, soft and appealing to the eye!
Sweet potato and chickpea curry
I served this as a side to some tandoori king prawns (recipe below), but this curry is substantial enough for a vegetarian main course with perhaps a bit of rice or some extra veggies.

·         1 tin of plum tomatoes (roughly chopped)
·         3 teaspoons of vinadaloo mix from Spice Mountain
·         1 small red onion, finely chopped
·         1 large sweet potato
·         1 can of chickpeas (drained)
·         A handful of chopped parsley
·         Vegetable Oil

Start off by chopping the sweet potato into medium cubes before boiling in lightly salted water for 10 minutes or until soft. It is better to peel the skin after boiling as it comes off quickly and easily. In a large frying pan, heat about 2 tablespoons of oil and add the chopped onions. Reduce heat to medium and sweat for 10 minutes until soft and sweet. Add the spice mix to the onion and fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the drained chickpeas and cook for a further 3 minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes before adding the sweet potato and fresh parsley. Cover and simmer for 10 more minutes so all the flavours have combined and potato and chickpeas tenderized.

Tandoori king prawns

·         De-shelled king prawns (cooked or uncooked) enough for 2 people.
·         2 teaspoons of tandoori marinade from Spice Mountain
·         2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt
·         A drizzle of olive/vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and leave to marinate for about 1 hour. Meanwhile, soak some wooden skewers in cold water (this stops them from burning in the oven). Once marinated, put on the skewers and under the grill for 5 minutes, turning twice.

6 spice blends cost just £12.50 from or visit their stall at the Jubilee market side of Borough Market where you will find a range of whole or ground spices from all over the world as well as other spice blends from the likes of North Africa and South East Asia.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Oh Ma Goa that was a good curry!

Everyone craves a good curry now and again. The nagging craving for something rich and spicy was how we ended up in Ma Goa, an elegant but nevertheless homely family restaurant in Putney.
My ventures to an Indian don’t normally extend past Brick Lane, where in my experience the food and service have been very much hit and miss. The food, ambiance and service exceed that of any Indian I have ever been to; did I mention they have Kingfisher on tap?
Once featured on a BBC show about traditional Indian cooking (Indian Food Made Easy), I chose Gallina Xhacutti, after watching the chef intricately blend the spices for the dish in the Ma Goa kitchen. This chicken dish was delicately tender, arriving on the bone, with a well balanced mix of roasted and ground sesame seeds, peanuts, cumin and coriander before being balanced with fresh ground coconut. The spiciness of the dish (which is warned as being hot) comes from Kashmiri chillies, as well as being used as a natural colourant for the deep brown curry. A selection of traditional breads is available, such as Sanna, Paratha and a selection of Naans. We shared the sweet coconut and chopped nut naan, which was fresh, light and to my delight, not overly chewy like the shop-bought ones typically are. I also sampled the Paratha bread, which is made with whole-wheat and fried in butter, an interesting alternative to the naan. I was reluctant to order poppadoms and chutneys, which I find only add to the final bill and not much else; boy was I wrong! The dips that accompanied the crunchy poppadoms were nothing as expected. The mint dip was light and refreshing while my personal favourite which I never got the chance to ask about tasted like an Indian version of satay sauce, so nutty and sweet! My side of coconut basmati was fragrant and fluffy with fresh coconut grated in for flavour (nothing unnatural in this meal!), garnished with curry leaves and arranged in a rustic porcelain pot.

The portion sizes are very fair, so much so that if I’d ordered a starter, a lot of good food would have been wasted. The decor is what you would expect in a modern restaurant, trendy with white table cloths, with attention-grabbing art and neutral decor. Our waiter was never without a smile and seemed very courteous. This Goan was traditional but with a modern twist, so next time you’re on a mission for a decent curry, forget about Brick Lane and head on over to Ma Goa!
I’m choosing to return to Ma Goa soon enough, but for those who are unable to make the trip, here is the recipe for my chicken xhacutti which can be found on the BBC website, straight from their kitchen:

Ma Goa’s website:
Ma Goa on Urbanspoon