It Just Has To Be Delicious

Archive for August, 2012


Jambalaya is one of those fairly quick one-pot meals which is really good for using up leftovers. It is basically a rice dish with paprika and chorizo, tinned tomatoes, various vegetables and either chicken or prawns or both. The joy of jambalaya is that you can flavour it however you like – if you want it to be a bit warm, add a chilli (or chilli paste) and/or some tabasco. You can also add sun-dried tomatoes,carrot, zucchini, fire roasted red pepper strips or any other pickles that you may have in the fridge.



This is my standard recipe, but please feel free to adapt it to your taste.

1 large onion, sliced or chopped how you like it

1 red chilli finely sliced

1 cup approx of rice

1 chorizo sliced

4 mushrooms

1 can of chopped tomatoes

1 stock cube (once you have added the tomatoes, you can make up the stock cube or powder in the empty can)

1 tablespoon paprika

half a stick of celery sliced

half a capsicum (any colour) sliced

a few sun dried tomatoes sliced

8 raw tiger prawns chopped or sliced

1. Boil the kettle. Fry the onion, chilli and chorizo slices (in a large high-sided pan or wok) in a little olive oil for a few minutes, add the capsicum and celery plus any other hard veg that you are including.

2. Sprinkle with paprika and stir fry for a few minutes.

3. Add the rice and stir it around for about 30 seconds. Add the tinned tomatoes. Dissolve the stock cube in the empty tomato tin with some boiling water (this will capture any left over tomato juice). When you hold the can, be careful because it may be very hot where it conducts the heat of the water – add the stock to the pan.

4. Stir well – the rice will begin to cook and absorb the liquid. Now add the mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes.

5. It should take approx 12 minutes to cook depending on your rice, taste the rice as you go along to see how it is doing.

6. When the rice is almost done, add the prawns – they should only take a few minutes to turn opaque.

7. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. When you serve it, the rice should be cooked, and there should be a small amount of rich tomato gravy. I like mine sprinkled with deep fried onions (you can buy these ready made from your asian supermarket).

Home made Indian food

Indian is one of my favourite cuisines, and I don’t know how I have managed to blog so far without posting anything about Indian.

Today I made a mushroom bhajee. I wanted something to go with a home made curry in the week, and I usually make a vegetable mix of spicy cauliflower and potatoes, but I fancied mushrooms and was thinking of how I could reproduce the lovely buttery mushroom bhajee from UK takeaways that I know and love. My Indian friends will be laughing at me now, wondering why I need to have veg to go with my curry – they tend to have meat curry and rice or veg curry and rice, and think it strange that I want to have meat curry with a veggie side and rice. It’s just what I am used to though – my idea of a balanced meal is some meat, some veg and some carbs.

Because I love indian food so much, there are some basic things that I have in my house: 1. A Braun multiquick blender – ideal for whizzing up curry pastes 2. A cheap coffee grinder which has never seen a coffee bean – freshly ground spices are so much better than pre-ground. If you get used to grinding your own spices, you will be making your own curry powders and garam masala, and you will love the aroma. 3. A supply of green masala paste in the fridge – this paste is so versatile, I use it to make everything from curries to veggies, and you can even mix it in with basics like beans on toast and scrambled eggs to give them a touch of spice 4. A pot of dhania/jeera – this is coriander and cumin in a nice proportion, roasted, ground and ready to use 5. Good curry books like Madhur Jaffrey recipes and Ramola Parbhoo’s ‘Traditional Indian Cooking’. 6. Plastic pots with snap-on lids to keep your spices in – spices degrade quickly in non-air tight containers, and I love the plastic ones – I just write the name of the spice on them in marker pen, and wash the writing off when the pot is used up.

Here are the recipes for the green masala paste, the dhania/jeera and the mushroom bhajee.

There will be more Indian recipes to come – this is just to get you started.

Green Masala Paste

100g green chillies stalk removed – you can remove some of the seeds if you are a ‘lightweight’

40g garlic peeled

50g fresh root ginger, peeled

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 teaspoon salt

a pinch of turmeric

Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor (I use my Braun multiquick) until you have a lovely green paste – doesn’t it smell good ? Transfer it to a suitable size jar or tub, press it down a little so that the surface is even, and pour a little oil on top. Store in the fridge.


65g coriander seeds (dhania)

35g cumin seeds (jeera)

Learn the indian names of spices – it helps when you are in the indian supermarket.

Gently roast the spices in a dry frypan over a low heat for 2 minutes. You should smell the aroma. Transfer them to a coffee grinder and grind them until you have a medium coarse mixture. Store in an airtight container.

Mushroom Bhajee

500g mushrooms (I use the white round mushrooms, but you can use any)

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (Rai)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds (Jeera)

2 large teaspoons green masala paste

1 tablespoon dhania/jeera powder (see above)

1 onion chopped medium fine (however you like it)

2 tomatoes chopped and peeled (optional)

1 teaspoon turmeric (Haldi)

2 tablespoons butter (optional)

oil such as sunflower, peanut

1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped

1. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan, and add the black mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Fry quickly for a minute or two – they will crackle, and this initial spice/oil mixture is called a ‘vagaar’.

2. Fry the onions in the vagaar, until they begin to soften slightly, then add the green masala paste, dhania/jeera and turmeric.

3. Now add the mushrooms and mix well to coat them with spices. Put a lid on the pan.

4. After approx 5 minutes, add the tomatoes (if using), butter, stir in the coriander leaves and cook on low for a further 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft.

5. Taste, and add salt, pepper and a sprinkle of garam masala if needed. There should be enough to serve 4 people as a side dish.

Chocolate Twists

I made chocolate twists today using my favourite croissant dough recipe, and they were so delicious that I think I should immediately give up work and manufacture chocolate twists for a living.

My success with croissant dough has been a bit up and down, so I have been holding off posting a recipe until I got it just right, but I think this week has taught me that if you leave the dough in the fridge for a few days (e.g. 4-5 days) it just gets better and better.

I also love the maths and science associated with this dough, because the reason that the layers puff up is because the butter creates steam when placed in a very hot oven, so the key thing is to have lots of layers of butter within the pastry, and to have the oven hot when you put the dough in to cook. Please don’t be put off by the dough recipe, it really is quite simple. I recommend rolling and folding it five times, but each roll and fold is very quick, and I can have this dough made and in the fridge in half an hour easily.

The number of rolls and folds is very important. The first fold gives you 3 layers, the second fold gives you 9 layers, the third fold gives you 27 layers, the fourth fold gives you 81 layers, and the fifth fold gives you 243 layers. You can go on and do further folds if you like, but I find that five is sufficient.

The following quantity will make 6 croissants or chocolate twists plus you should have a little bit left to make a little sampler piece – every time I cook I like to make a little taster portion so that I can eat some straight from the oven without breaking into the main yield. If you need a larger quantity, just increase the amounts accordingly.

Dough Recipe

1 cup (150g) of plain flour

37mls water

37mls milk

14g sugar

18g melted butter

1/4 tablespoon yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

70g butter slightly soft

1. Flatten the 70g portion of butter between two sheets of baking parchment to form a square approximately 13-14cm square. Wrap it in the parchment and place it in the fridge.

2. Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl. Stir with a spatula to combine and as they come together, use your hands to knead the dough into a ball. If you have time, wrap it in cling film and place it in the fridge for approx 30 minutes.

3. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface into a large square.

4. Place the butter square in the middle of the dough in a diamond shape, and wrap the dough around the butter, overlapping it to avoid the butter oozing out. You will see from my pictures that my edges are a bit rough – but don’t worry, it really doesn’t matter.

5. Roll the dough into a rectangle, if any pieces of butter poke through just sprinkle them with flour and continue.

6. Fold the rectangle into three as if you are folding a letter ready to be placed in an envelope.

7. Turn the dough and roll and fold again so that this time you are folding it in the other direction. Keep doing this until you have turned, rolled and folded at least 5 times. If at any time the butter gets really sticky, wrap the dough in cling film and put it in the fridge for a while.

8. When you have finished, wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate. You can leave it for 5-6 days, the longer you leave it, the better it will be.

Creme Patissiere for filling (the filling is not compulsory but is very nice)

1 egg separated

1 tablespoon cornflour

1 tablespoon plain flour

15 – 25g sugar (depending on how sweet you want it to be)

150ml milk

1/2 tablespoon vanilla essence

1. Separate the egg into two bowls. Add the sugar to the yolk.

2. Using an electric whisk, whisk the egg white until it is stiff and fluffy. Set this aside for later.

3. Don’t wash the whisk, go straight on to whisking the yolk and sugar until it is pale yellow and creamy smooth. Add the cornflour and flour, and a splash of the milk and whisk again.

4. Heat the remaining milk gently in a non-stick small saucepan until almost boiling.

5. While stirring, pour the milk onto the egg yolk/sugar/flour mixture, then return the whole mixture to the saucepan and heat very gently, stirring all the time to avoid sticking. Scrape every morsel from the bowl.

6. It will thicken fairly quickly, keep stirring so that it doesn’t go omeletty, and add the vanilla essence.

7. Now add half the whisked egg white (this is all you need, but you can add more if you need the custard to be looser). Fold the egg white into the custard, return to the heat and gently cook for a further 2 minutes.

8. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

To make the twists

1. Heat the oven to approx 200-220 deg C.

2. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

3. Roll out the pastry into a square approx 32cm square (the exact size does not matter).

4. Now cut it vertically into strips approx 5cm wide.

5. Spread the creme patissiere (if you are using it) along the middle of the strips and scatter dark chocolate chips along the bottom half of each strip. (You will need approx half a tablespoon of chips for each twist).

6. Fold each strip in half from top to bottom, and press around the edges. Now stretch and twist each strip and place them on the baking sheet side by side.

7. Brush with milk or egg and bake for approx 15 minutes until golden and puffed up.

8. Sprinkle with sieved icing sugar.

My favourite Vietnamese curry

Those of you who know me will know that I love a curry. This vietnamese chicken and sweet potato curry is one of my favourites – once all of the ingredients are prepared, you just chuck them in the pot and leave it to cook. Once the sweet potato is soft, it is ready to serve. It also benefits from the addition of a small amount of caramel – sweetness is very good for relieving hot raw spices, and if I am cooking a curry that tastes too hot, I will generally add a teaspoon of sugar, leave it for a few minutes and then taste again.

I got this recipe from Ghillie Basan’s Vietnamese cook book, but I have added a few tweaks of my own.


1.5 tablespoons curry powder (I use Indian Madras curry powder – if you feel really adventurous you can make your own)

1.5 tablespoons garam masala

1 tablespoon turmeric

500g chicken skinned – thighs are juicier, but I like to mix thigh and breast meat

1.5 tablespoons brown sugar (any type)

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 shallots (or half a red onion) chopped finely

2 garlic cloves chopped or crushed

4cm galangal (if you can’t find it, use ginger), peeled and grated (it will be mushy when grated)

2 lemon grass stalks (remove the outer fibrous leaves, cut the end off to reveal the white middle, keep about 3cm intact, and make 4 long slits in the other part then bash with a mallet or flat heavy knife blade to release the flavour)

2 teaspoons chilli paste (sambal oelek – or use a large dried red chilli)

1 medium to large sweet potato, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons fish sauce (use vietnamese nuoc mam if you can find it)

600ml coconut milk

small bunch coriander chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix the curry powder, garam masala and turmeric in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix to coat with the dry spices.

2. Heat the sugar on a low heat with 1.5 tablespoons of water, after a while it should dissolve and turn golden. Remove from the heat.

3. Heat a large wok and add the sesame oil. Stir fry the shallots (or onion) with the garlic, galangal and lemon grass until they smell fragrant and lovely. Stir in the chilli paste.

4. Now add the chicken with all of the dry spice mix (don’t leave any behind) – stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add the coconut milk, mix well. Then add the caramel, fish sauce and sweet potato. Rinse out the caramel saucepan with 150ml water, and add it to the curry.

6. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the chicken is cooked and the sweet potato is tender.

7. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the coriander. Remove the lemon grass stalks before serving.

Vietnamese Beef Skewers

One of my favourite dishes in Viet Hoa is the beef skewers with wine and herbs. It took me a while to find a marinade that recreated them perfectly, but here it is:


750g beef fillet

3 cloves garlic crushed

1 stalk lemon grass

1 small red chilli finely chopped

1 teaspoon caster sugar (brown is better)

1 tablespoon fish sauce (get vietnamese nuoc mam if you can)

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Put the beef in the freezer while you make the marinade.

You can chop the lemon grass if you like, but I prefer to slice the very end off, so you can see the white middle, and cut long slits down the length of the stalk, but leaving about an inch intact at the top. Then you can bash the bulbous bottom end with a mallet or a flat heavy knife to release the flavour, but the stalk remains in one piece that you can remove it easily at the end of marinading or cooking.

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl.

Slice the beef very thinly and marinate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight (cover the bowl with cling film).

Thread the beef onto skewers and cook on a hot barbecue or griddle. If you like you can sprinkle them with sesame seeds before cooking, and serve with coriander leaves.



What do you think of when you think of Tiramisu? Is it creamy, is it chocolatey, is it custardy? I imagine that every Italian home and restaurant has their own special recipe, but the one that I really enjoy that reminds me of Italy is the recipe that I devised after tasting the house speciality tiramisu at Alla Rampa Restaurant in Rome. Alla Rampa is just under the Spanish Steps, and I was so impressed with the dessert that I went back for seconds the next night. Their version is dished up from a large flat baking tray, and is coffee and sponge covered in the most delightfully light custard with marscapone and sprinkled with powdered chocolate. No creamy layers or chocolate layers in sight. I once made this for Nancy Lam and she cleaned up the dish by scooping out the remnants with her fingers and licking them, such an amazing compliment from a great lady.

If you are ever in Rome, please make sure that you pay a visit to Alla Rampa to try this amazing dessert. If you are not likely to go to Rome in the near future, follow the recipe below and let me know what you think – I hope you love it. The quantities are approximate because I made the recipe up, please feel free to adjust them to suit your taste.


1 pack of Boudoir or Savoiardi biscuits (these are sponge fingers which soak up the coffee and liqueur)

1 coffee based liqueur miniature such as Tia Maria or Kahlua (approx 100mls)

1 cup of strong black coffee (e.g. use 3 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee, or if you prefer, make ‘proper’ coffee) cooled

4 eggs – separated – whisk 2 of the whites into stiff peaks, save the other 2 whites for when you want to make a meringue

100g caster sugar

4 level tablespoons plain flour

4 level tablespoons cornflour

600mls milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

250g – 300g marscapone

chocolate powder for sprinkling

1. Take a large shallow dish and arrange the savoiardi biscuits in the dish so that the base is completely covered. If you have an oval dish like me, you will need to line the biscuits up like soldiers and then break some to fill the gaps around the edge.

2. Pour the liqueur over the biscuits trying to ensure that each biscuit gets a splash of liqueur. Now pour the coffee over the biscuits – use half the coffee first and see how it goes. The biscuits are very absorbent, so you are likely to need all of the coffee.

3. Whisk together 4 egg yolks and the sugar until thick and pale. Beat in the flour and cornflour along with a large splash of the milk.

4. Heat the rest of the milk in a medium-large saucepan until almost boiling, and pour it onto the egg mixture, stirring constantly.

5. Now tip the whole mixture back into the saucepan (use a spatula to scrape every drop out of the bowl), and heat again on a low heat, stirring all the time (otherwise it will stick). When it has boiled and thickened, remove it from the heat.

6. Fold in the whisked egg whites and return to the heat for a few minutes, you can also add the vanilla extract at this point.

7. Remove from the heat, cool for a few minutes and stir in the marscapone. The marscapone should melt quite nicely into the mixture, keep stirring until it is smooth and lovely (taste a nice big spoonful just to be sure). You can add extra marscapone if you like a creamier texture, it’s up to you.

8. When it has cooled down sufficiently, it can be lukewarm, but not hot, pour it over the soaked biscuits so that all of the biscuits are covered.

9. Using a sieve, sprinkle chocolate powder over the top so that it is completely covered. Chill for at least an hour, and serve only to your most deserving friends.

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