Easy, well-loved curry recipe

I don’t often do recipes on this blog but this curry is such a hit with our fussy eaters and our friends that as we were having it tonight I thought I really should blog about it. I won’t claim it as my own. It comes originally from the Cook Yourself Thin cookbook, so is pretty healthy but absolutely yummy. Now, this is no place for a curry purist, this isn’t proper homemade curry, but it is about as homemade as this busy mum gets when it comes to curry (and even busy dad is trained to make it).

I’ll give you the original recipe then tell you my modifications.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Serves 2

For the marinade:

1 tablespoon tikka masala curry paste (Patak’s is the best we’ve tried)

150g of 0% fat natural yoghurt

2 diced chicken breasts

salt

For the sauce:

1 rounded tablespoon tikka masala curry paste

1 onion finely chopped

200g passatta

200ml tin light coconut milk

1 tablespoon 0% fat natural yoghurt

handful chopped corriander

To make the marinade, mix curry paste, yogurt, chicken and salt together, cover and leave to marinade ideally overnight

Preheat oven to 220C/fan200C. Wipe marinade off chicken and place on a baking tray. Bake for 10 mins.

Meanwhile make the sauce by heating the curry paste in a saucepan. Add the onion and sweat slowly for 5-8 mins. Add passatta and coconut milk and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and add chicken. Cook over a low heat for 5 mins or until chicken cooked through. Finish by stirring through yoghurt and coriander.

Now, here’s what I do: almost never actually measure any of these ingredients. I’m fairly liberal with the curry sauce and just adjust to how much we have left. This recipe says it serves two, but all that passatta and coconut milk make for a very runny curry. We just add more meat and we can make it serve 2 adults and a 5 and 2 year old for two nights. Also we rarely use chicken breasts, we often use leftover roast chicken, in which case we might marinade in curry paste (if we remember) but don’t cook in the oven. just straight into the sauce. I’ve never added salt and can’t remember ever reading the instruction to wipe off the marinade so I’ve never done that!

When I can get away with it I add grated carrot and courgette in with the onion (carrots work best as they blend in with the sauce, or potatoes (it doesn’t keep so well over two days with potatoes as they go mushy, and I pre cook them if I do add them for a quicker meal). I have also never added coriander as I never have any, and to be honest any greenery makes Betty suspicious. I tend to add yoghurt on the plate rather than during cooking, but to be honest you could omit yoghurt from the whole recipe and it would still taste great.

Both our baby led weaned kids had this as soon as they could eat, mixed with rice (to thicken and make it easier to pick up) and with yoghurt to cool, both temperature and spice wise (though this isn’t a hot curry).

Everyone we feed this to loves it, and one friend who we loaned the cook book to has made it a staple of her household and evangelised to her friends too. I also shared it with a Twitter friend who’s family also loved it. Like I said, this isn’t for the curry connoisseur, but it is great easy, healthy dish, for a busy family, and even fussy kids.

Christmas Leftover Tiffin

20130111-165330.jpg

Every year, usually before New Years Day, make a tiffin out of all the Christmas leftover chocolate and biscuits. Often known as refrigerator cake, tiffin is essentially biscuit and chocolate.

What I do is find all the leftover selection biscuits (the dark ones no one likes) and any other biscuits laying around, and crush them all with a rolling pin (there’s no rules but I like mine quite fine).

Then gather all the left over chocolate, even the chocolate coins and Christmas tree decs, the Celebrations no one wants (Milky Way). It does need a healthy dose of dark chocolate so it’s not too sweet. Add a bit of butter and golden syrup so it’s not too hard when chilled, and melt the lot in a bowl over a pan of hot water.

Mix together. Add raisins (to make it feel healthy) or nuts (I wouldn’t. In my opinion nuts ruin a cake or chocolate) or anything else you have leftover. There are no rules about quantities but you at least want the chocolate mixture to completely coat the crushed biscuits. Press firmly into a lined dish and stick in the fridge for a couple of hours. Make sure you keep it in the fridge if you don’t polish is off in one sitting.

There really are no hard and fast rules. It’s just biscuits, butter, sugar and chocolate; it’s pretty much going to taste good whatever! With this batch I used a box of leftover mint chocolate creams. I also added a layer of chocolate on the top. The result is delicious.

Somehow eating all that leftover food in compressed cake form doesn’t seem as bad as eating the chocolates and biscuits individually…

Bread, the food of life

A few months ago I was inspired by this post from Sally Donovan and for my birthday I requested being signed up to an ‘artisan’ bakery course.

Last Sunday was the day of the course, and I returned full of inspiration, and, well lots of bread! Now, I don’t want get too personal, but I will admit to you all that I am currently following Weight Watchers. Two children, 3 years of breastfeeding and sleepless nights have left me with a bit of a mummy tummy (how cringeworthy is that phrase?). The WW diet is going fine actually, and is not that hard to stick to. But I have spent most of my late 20s with this ingrained belief that bread is somehow bad for you. Cutting out bread as a way of losing weight is a fad that regularly comes into fashion. But how bad for you can a mix of water, yeast, flour and salt be? And therein lies the problem: most breads that people by from shops, and yes, even some bakeries, have many more ingredients, and are produced quickly. The course that I attended was all about slow bread, left to rise for up to 12 hours. This slow rising allows the gluten to open up and break down, making a more delicious, longer lasting, and easily digestible bread.

The beautiful view from our teaching kitchen

On the course we did two bakes: we made rolls from scratch, which were left for only 2 hours or so, a quick rise; and a loaf of bread using premade dough which had been left overnight to bulk rise.

The beauty of the slow rise bread is that you have the benefit of time, warmth and sugars in the dough which help the yeast do its job, meaning that you really don’t need to do a much kneading as you might think, nor as much yeast.

First we mixed the ingredients for the rolls, kneading, leaving for five minutes, chatting, kneading again, leaving again, for about half an hour. Leaving aside that dough, covered in a carrier bag – yes, it was all very technical here! In fact the most technical that it got was the use of this natty little scraper to mix the ingredients together without getting too messy.

Next we were given some of the slow rise dough to knead and shape. Taking care not to use too much flour, so the dough still remained moist we folded the dough into a ‘belly button’.

Next we made Mickey Mouse ears to fold in and shape the dough into a longer shape, then pinched the seam like a Cornish pasty. The dough then went into a bread basket for final proving.

Mickey Mouse ears - this shapes the dough and adds air into it
Bread basket or 'banneton'

Before putting it in the oven the dough was scored to allow the loaf to rise even further in the initial heat of the oven. A slight dusting of flour was followed by a quick spritz with water to ensure a nice crust.

10 minutes at 230 degrees in the oven then turned down to 200.

Look how big it is!

Out of the oven looking definitely rustic!

Then on to the bread rolls, shaping them and dipping them in seeds, or brushing with egg, or dusting with flour (stops them going too dark). Sorry, I don’t have a photo of the finished rolls. But I do have one of our lovely lunch. Homemade bread, made by Dede (the course instructor), some gorgeous local cheeses, and various pickled veg, delicious!

At 2pm it was time to go, with armfuls of bread and rolls, inspiration for future loaves, and plenty of tips for airy, flavoursome bread.

The fear surrounding bread and wheat products, perpetuated by women’s magazines, the Atkins Diet and faddy food intolerances, neglects the traditions going back thousands of years of bread as a food of life. That’s not to dismiss real medical issues such as coeliac disease, but other complaints of bloating and stomach upsets are more likely to be down to the overly processed nature of modern supermarket breads, even the ones they peddle as fresh.

Bread is part of the traditions of many cultures and religions, indeed bread is seen as the symbol of Christ himself. The hot cross bun is a symbol of his return from crucifixion. In the Bible Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes, not steamed fish and a side of edamame beans. Now, those who know me know that I am an ardent atheist, but you can’t deny it’s pretty hefty symbolism. Bread is prominent in most cultures, the Jewish Challah and matzo, German Stolen, Indian Naan and Chapatti, Italian ciabatta. It’s significance is often religious, but ultimately it is social and familial. Breaking bread together is a traditional way of welcoming people into your home.

It’s no coincidence that ‘bread’ or ‘dough’ are used synonymously with money. Bread is the lifeblood of the world. The same few ingredients can make things as diverse as croissants, pitta bread and steamed dumplings. Bread is amazing, and anyone can make it. So, put away your Atkins book, put down that Kingsmill and go and buy yourself some yeast.

Here is a link to a simple bread recipe.. So what are you waiting for? Just your dough to rise!

Harts Barn Craft Centre, Forest of Dean

This is Harts Barn Craft Centre, where the bread making course was held (and paid for by DH for my birthday in case you were wondering!) I really enjoyed the course and would recommend something similar to everyone. For details of your local courses and more information on why real bread is so brilliant check out The Real Bread Campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edu-cake-tional

Doggie says "woof"!

Last Wednesday was Iris’s first birthday. She absolutely loves animals, which makes a nice change from Betty, who as a baby and a toddler was scared of anything that moved, right down to tiny weeny flies. Iris can spot a dog coming miles off, and all animals are “do-do’s” at the moment. So I thought I would make her a doggie birthday cake.

 

I made a round cake and a loaf cake from a yoghurt cake recipe to construct my dog. It’s one of the easiest cakes to make. You use a pot of yoghurt (I used toffee, but fruity ones are also lovely) and to that you add the rest of the ingredients measured with the yoghurt pot. There are variations online but a basic recipe is:

1 carton (approx 150g) yoghurt
2 cartons caster sugar (I usually reduce sugar in most cakes I make at the moment)
3 cartons self raising flour
1 carton sunflower oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

 

Tip it all in a bowl and beat. Pour into a lined tin, and again timings vary, but it probably wants a bit longer than a normal sponge. I did about 50 mins at 150 degrees in a fan oven. It makes a lovely dense sponge which has a faint taste of whatever flavoured yoghurt you’ve used. It needs some butter icing in my opinion, else it can be a bit cloying. I just used 2 parts icing sugar to one part butter, a dash of milk, and added melted chocolate for the brown icing.

On Sunday morning, the day of Iris’s little tea party, by 10.30 I had made 48 fairy cakes! I had been meaning to take some into work for a while. I recently attended a course on Risk Assessment. Now I just work in an office, sat at a computer all  day, how much risk is involved? Turned out that there are loads! Risks to your back and limbs after years of poor posture and poorly configured display equipment, risks of lack of sleep (ha!) especially if you are making long business journeys. Risks of stress and illness, exacerbated by working too many hours without adequate breaks, lighting, ventilation etc. It was really interesting actually. My idea to take it back to my team was in the form of baked goods. I doubled the amount of fairy cakes I needed to make, and instead of chocolate buttons on top I iced various words that had some H&S meaning, and instructed my colleagues that if they wanted a cake they had to email me a sentence about Health and Safety relating to that word! Most people thought it was funny and joined in with the spirit of it. But a few were curmudgeons who grumbled “Well, I don’t want cake if there are strings attached!” There’s no such thing as a free cake, I informed them, especially edu-cake-tional ones (yes, I did use the phrase edu-cake-tional, and yes, my colleagues probably do hate me :)).