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  • Taste it, don’t waste it! The perfect Boxing Day curry for using up leftover turkey

    Tastesmiths Leftover Tikka Masala Curry

     

    A simple turkey curry is perfect for Boxing Day and what better way to use up your leftovers than by rustling up a delicious version with one of the nation’s curry-house favourites, Tikka Masala. You could make the same recipe with leftover roast chicken too.

    Whilst we’ve chosen the Tikka Masala kit for this recipe, most kits from our range will work as the perfect base to rustle up an authentic, tasty curry from leftover turkey, chicken, beef, lamb or veggies. What better time to give it a try and save on food waste at the same time?

    Follow these simple steps for an easy Turkey Tikka Masala that will keep everyone happy …

    1. When Christmas lunch is done and dusted, pull any meat from the turkey breast, legs and wings, pop in a bowl, cover and stash in the fridge ready for the next day (as a guide, to feed four people, you’ll need around 500g of cooked meat).
    2. When you’re ready to start preparing your curry, follow the ‘before you get the pans out bit’ from the recipe card included with your Tastesmiths Tikka Masala curry kit.
    3. Follow the ‘Cooking bit’ section of the recipe card until Step 10 (the ‘add the meat’ bit, step number may vary on other kits).
    4. Chop the cooked turkey or chicken into small 2cm pieces and add to the mixture, then continue to follow the rest of the recipe.
    5. As the meat is already cooked you can reduce the simmer time…cook for around 15/20, stirring occasionally, to ensure the meat is completely heated through.
    6. Our top tip… not essential, but if you have time, turn off the heat when the cooking time is up, pop a lid on the pot and allow the meat to sit in the sauce for a while to really absorb the flavours.
    7. Serve with your favourite rice, breads and other accompaniments.

     

  • ‘Korma-Chameleon’… No Boy George, Just Real Curry

    Originally Korma was reserved for Moghul Emperors as it contained expensive ingredients like almonds and coconut.

    It can be hot & spicy or sweet & mild, we’ll show you both!

     

    Beef Korma

    Korma needn’t be tied to chicken, this one’s super simple… Gently fry your diced beef off and add at ’Step 10’, beef benefits from some extra simmer-time, or if you’re able (a.k.a. patient enough) let it sit overnight to really get the flavour into the meat!

    This is a brilliant option for the slow cooker too, further details on slow-cooking our kits can be found on our site, here.

     

    Veggie Korma

    Possibly our favourite combo, the sweet Korma flavours really compliment vegetables, for this one we went with sweet potatoes and courgettes.

    Boil the sweet spuds then lightly fry the chunks with courgette, add the potato at ‘Step 10’ then the courgettes when you add the cream, easy!

     

    Vegan Korma

    Vegan Korma

    For this vegan option, we chose Tofoo Co’s organic tofu, added asparagus and parsnips.

    Parboil the veggies and tofu then fry lightly before adding to your base mixture (‘Step 10’ on the recipe).

    Almond cooking cream is a perfect substitute for double dairy cream if you wish at ‘Step 12’!

     

    Gluten-Free Korma

    We sent our Korma kit to Sam of @Glutenfreegan_ (Instagram) to get some feedback and tips on producing a gluten-free curry…

    “For the first time since my Coeliac diagnosis nearly 3 years ago I have tonight enjoyed a thoroughly authentic ‘takeaway’ feel meal and I am so, so grateful I have found your kits.”

    As our kits are gluten-free as standard, the process was easy for Sam… “The things I added were naturally gluten-free if people are adding yoghurt or pasta make sure to check their ingredients to ensure they’re safe”.

    “I’m still singing and dancing about this guys, absolutely incredible!”

  • Seasonal Goodness: Pumpkin Curry!

    Sri Lankan Chicken Pumpkin Squash 001

     

    PUMPKIN CURRY – At this time of year, pumpkins are everywhere. Each shop you visit will have a selection of sizes, and they’ll get further and further reduced in price as Halloween drifts into the past.

    How many of this tasty seasonal squash actually get eaten? We’re guessing not many, and we hate food waste! So we tasked the team to find their favourite uses for pumpkin which complements our kits – here’s the shortlist…

    Sri Lankan Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Curry

    The simplest method we found for pumpkin prep was suggested by ‘Minimalist Baker‘:

    – Halve them
    – Scoop out the seeds and ‘stuff’
    – Pop them on a tray flat side down
    – Brush with oil
    – Roast at 180 for around 50 mins

    While your squashes are baking, get that Sri Lankan kit open and follow the instructions. Once the oven timer is up –  peel, dice, and chuck them veggies into the awaiting curry mix, leaving overnight to soak up the goodness.

    You can find our ever-popular Sri Lankan kit in the store, here.

    Our pick of sides…

    Spiced Pumpkin Sabzi with Coconut

    A simple, easy and minimally spiced dish wish also happens to be vegan! The full recipe by ‘Vegan Recipes of India’ can be found here.

    Pumpkin and Coconut Pilau

    A flexible option from Delicious Mag to prepare with our Fragrant Pilau as a base. Serve as a meal in itself or as a chunky side… Find the full recipe here.

    Pumpkin Kheer

    A celebratory sweet dish widely served during Indian festivities – great as an afters, should you have space! The full instructions for this tasty dish by ‘Indian Healthy Recipes’ are here.

     

     

  • Wild garlic & cheese scones with ‘gathered’ salad

    I love this time of the year (when it’s not raining!). Go out for a walk and everything is bursting into life.

    Foraging is in my blood, my Dad’s grandmother had Romany gypsy roots and taught him about the edible things that were safe to eat when they went for walks. My Dad passed that on to me and I love the walks I have with my own children which enable me to give them a taste of ‘living off the land’.

    We went out and about today to try and gather some very simple wild food for us to enjoy when we got home (with lots of wayside snacks along the way!)

    We found a huge bank of wild garlic which we started to gather, along with our first snacks to see us along the rest of our adventure.

    A whole ‘field’ of wild garlic!

    The smell of wild garlic is really pungent and you’d think that the leaves would taste really strongly of garlic. You’d be wrong – it’s a very mild taste. A cross between spinach and chives which you can add wherever you’d add these well known herbs would be used. Great in omelettes, quiche, pesto, dressings etc.

    Wild garlic flowers are the thing that I like best about this time of the year. They are delicious! Each little white flower is a concentrated tiny bomb of garlic flavour. They taste like a cross between a fresh very sweet pea and garlic. They’re much stronger than the leaves and are quite hot. If you like watercress – you’ll love the lovely white flowers of wild garlic. Good to munch as you walk along.

    The new tender leaves of the hawthorne were shiny next to the buds that had just started to form. Both the leaves and the buds are a lovely snack and part of our salad. The older leaves aren’t so good (they just taste of ‘green’). The buds have an astringent quality to them, the same as the berries when they appear.

    The new leaves, buds and flowers of the hawthorne are edible

    Next we found some Jack by the Hedge.

    Jack by the hedge or Garlic Mustard as it’s sometimes known

    This is a useful addition to a salad as the leaves bulk out the other things that you might have. It’s supposed to have a ‘garlicky’ taste, but it’s not as overtly garlic as you may think. You may pick up a hint of garlic in some of the younger leaves, but other than that it’s pretty much the same as raw spinach but a bit sweeter. The flowers on the other hand have a much punchier flavour and are quite spicy. The seed pods when they form are a great wayside snack and do have a garlic taste.

    Everyone knows about Goose grass (or Cleavers and it’s also known). It’s the thing that children throw at each other because it sticks to clothing. It’s covered in tiny hairs which cause it to ‘stick’ onto anything that it touches which means that the older growth is difficult to eat raw and can get stuck in your throat, so it’s best avoided. It can be cooked as spinach which makes the hairs disappear. But if you want to eat it in a salad, just choose the very top new growth, it has a lovely fresh pea taste which is ideal in salads. I’ve heard that you can dry and grind the seeds which make a kind of coffee, but I’ve never tried that myself.

    Goose Grass/Cleavers. Just pick the top new sprouting growth to eat in a salad.

    We stumbled upon lots and lots of wonderful Wood Sorrel which is a magical find and normally only happens every so often to me. Today we saw it everywhere!

    A patch of Wood Sorrel

    It has a zingy lemon flavour which makes it a wonderful addition to salad or just as a garnish to fish or chicken. It’s a lot like sherbet and the flavour becomes apparent after giving it a good chew – you won’t notice anything if you give a couple of chews and then swallow! It’s a very ‘trendy’ wild food and something that you would definitely find it on the menu at the best Michelin starred restaurants. You should be careful not to take the whole plant. Just take what you need and leave the rest for another day. It doesn’t transfer well to other soil and it’s a shame to move it somewhere else when it’s obviously so happy where it is.

    Wood Sorrel

    We headed home to feast on our bounty, discussing what to do with it all on the journey. We came up with Wild Garlic scones with cheese. We happened to have some feta that needed using up and the pairing was genius!

    Wild Garlic Scones with Feta

    In a food processor (or large bowl) add 150g plain flour and 50g wholemeal flour (or any combination of the two, making up 200g), 2 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and 2tsp baking powder.

    Add 50g soft butter and whizz until it disappears or rub in. If using a food processor, empty the whizzed mixture into a large bowl.

    Chop 150 – 200g cheese (your choice, I used 120g feta and 50g strong cheddar) cut into 1cm cubes. Add the cheese to the large bowl and stir around.

    Add around 10-15 leaves of wild garlic (washed, dried and cut into strips) to the bowl and stir around. You can add more wild garlic if you want to, but don’t overdo it. I also added the flowers from around 5 stems, just to intensify the garlic flavour.

    In a jug/mug/bowl whisk 1 large egg and 2tblsp plain yogurt and stir into the dry mixture. You need to make a slightly sticky dough so you may need to use upto another 2 tbslp plain yogurt. Add it 1 tblsp at a time so that the dough doesn’t get too wet.

    Tip out onto a well floured surface and roll out to about 2-3 cm thick.

    Rolled out dough

    Cut into rounds with a glass or cutter, or pat the dough into circles if you prefer. The dough will make around 8-12 depending on the size of cutter.

    Bake in a hot oven 210C or 190C fan, Gas 7 for around 10-15 minutes or until golden.

    Wild Garlic and Cheese scones

    The only thing left to do is to assemble the salad, making sure to add lots of the lovely white wild garlic flowers for extra punch! A drizzle of olive oil and your favourite vinegar (we used some dandelion vinegar made a couple of weeks ago!) and you’re in heaven!

  • Wild berry picking in Shropshire

    Every year during October half term, we head towards the Shropshire Hills for a long walk and to pick berries in the last of the watery autumn sunshine.

    Shropshire hills

    The berries that we go to look for are Crow Berries, Cowberries (also known as Lingonberries) and Whinberries. Mostly Whinberries, but it’s a shame to leave the other berries there when they’re easily picked along with the whinberries.

    Crow Berries

    These are probably called Crow Berries because they’re black, or because Crows eat them? I don’t know why they’re called that, but they’re good to pick. Their flavour isn’t in the same league as the other two berries – they taste sweet but a little watery. They’re known as ‘pie fillers’ because of their ability to be thrown into pies along with other, tastier fruit to make a little go a long way. However, they’re incredibly high in vitamin C so are a good addition to your pie. They grow very close to the ground and you can sometimes see them as a massive carpet over rocks and hills.

    Crow Berries – easy to see, easy to miss!

    Cowberries

    Cowberries (commonly known as Lingonberries) are fantastic little things! Packed full of vitamins and good amounts of omega oils in the seeds. They are tart, like cranberries but a lot smaller. In fact, Lingonberries and Cranberries are interchangeable. Because they are so sharp, they aren’t really good for eating raw, but they are so good made into a jam which you can use in place of Redcurrant Jelly or Cranberry Sauce.

    Whinberries

    Whinberries, depending on where you live are also called Whortleberries, Bilberries, Blaeberries and Huckleberries! Whatever you call them, they’re well worth seeking out. They’re a smaller version of blueberries – just as tasty, packed with as many nutrients – but free for the picking! It can be back breaking work collecting enough for a pie, but believe me when I tell you that it is WELL worth the effort! They grow low to the ground like the other two berries, so it’s great to take children with you as they’re lower to the ground to start with! I’d recommend taking a small plastic bag that you can hook over your arm to put the Whinberries in, with a couple of smaller bags inside to separate any other berries that you find.

    Your fingers quickly get stained with the juice from the berries, but we look on it as a badge of honour and think that whoever has most purple on their hands, must have picked most berries and thus deserves a bigger slice of pie!

    We left with a good amount of berries and definitely enough Whinberries to make a pie when we got home. Put the berries in a bowl of cold water when you get home and stir around with your hand. Leave them to soak for a few minutes so that all of the tiny leaves and bugs can float to the surface and you can scoop them off. Leave to drain in a sieve. Don’t leave them to soak for too long, you don’t want them waterlogged.

    Our haul

    Whinberry Pie

    This recipe makes a buttery, crumbly pastry base and a thin, almondy top. You can make it with as many Whinberries as you’ve managed to collect – maybe bulk it out with some Blueberries from the supermarket or some Crowberries if you managed to get some of those – but the amount below makes for a lovely thick filling of delicious Whinberries.

    Pastry

    The pastry is a rich one made with 125g (8oz) plain flour, 25g (1oz) cornflour, 2tsp caster sugar, 110g butter (4oz), 1 egg yolk and 2tblsp cold water. Sift together the flours, add caster sugar. Rub in the butter. Add the yolk and water – stir together with a knife until it comes together into a ball of dough. Put in a plastic bag and chill for 15-30 minutes. Oven 400 F, 200 C Gas 6. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and line a 22cm (9 inch). Line with foil and beans and bake blind for 10 mins or so until beginning to firm. Cool.

    Spread the part cooked pastry case with around 500g whinberries (1lb), or a mixture of whinberries/cowberries and bought blueberries. You could also make this recipe just using blueberries. You won’t need to add any sugar to them – you want to be able to taste all of that gorgeous fruit.

    Pie Topping

    Oven 325 F 180 C Gas 3. Mix together 50g icing sugar (4oz) with 2 eggs, 85g ground almonds (3oz) with a whisk or an electric hand mixer. You can add a couple of drops of almond/vanilla essence to this mixture if liked. Blob the mixture over the whinberries until you’ve blobbed the mixture over pretty much all over the blueberries. You may have some gaps – don’t worry, this pie is all about the whinberries. Bake for 45-55 minutes until golden brown. Dust with icing sugar if liked.

    Serve with cream.

    Well worth the back ache…mmmmmm.

  • Turmeric

    Left to right: fresh red turmeric, fresh white (Mango ginger) turmeric, dried Haldi (turmeric) and ground turmeric.

    There has been a lot in the press just lately about the amazing health benefits of turmeric and it seems that people are eager to include more of it into their diets.

    Turmeric is that golden powder that you keep in your spice cupboard to add to the occasional curry, but we’re discovering that it has many more uses.

    At Tastesmiths, we are lucky enough to be able to experiment with the freshest ingredients available – our trips to market over the years have taught us a lot about seasonal produce. There’s something wonderful about spotting the first Jersey Royals in their hand woven baskets, commanding a truly ‘Royal’ price, or the first slender stems of asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli. I can’t resist buying a box full and sharing them out at work, so that we can all think of new ways to use them to showcase their unique fresh flavours. Even though I don’t buy a big box of fresh turmeric, from my market trips I know when it’s in season and head to my local Indian store to buy enough to freeze (just put it in a freezer bag and use from frozen).

    Turmeric is also known as Indian Saffron because of the gorgeous golden colour it imparts to everything it touches. At work, we use orange aprons because it’s the only colour that lasts a full day in the production unit. Even if we’re not packing a spice blend that includes turmeric, we seem to end up with some on our aprons!

    Turmeric (or Haldi as it’s called in Indian) is a member of the ginger family. There is a ‘red’ version and a white version which is referred to as ‘Mango Ginger’.

    ‘Red’ turmeric on the left and white (Mango Ginger) on the right

    Red Turmeric

    The red turmeric is the one that is boiled, dried and ground and gives us the golden powder that we’re used to buying in jars. This is one of the spices that doesn’t deteriorate hugely after grinding as it’s mainly used as as a colouring rather than to flavour. So that pot you’ve had in your cupboard for the past five years? Yep, it’s fine to use! When you taste fresh red turmeric, you’ll understand why less really is more when it comes to using the dried stuff. It has a pleasing crunch which gives way to a fresh taste, similar to ginger but without the heat. It also has a bitter after taste. That’s why when using turmeric, it’s best to add a small amount because it can make a whole dish taste bitter while you’re trying to achieve a deep orange colour. In a shop, if you’re unsure if what you’re seeing is fresh red turmeric, a little scrape with your finger nail will reveal the golden colour beneath the skin, so that you can be sure.

    White Turmeric

    White turmeric is used extensively in Indian pickles, chutneys and relishes. It looks like a thinner version of fresh ginger and that same finger nail scrape will reveal a white interior. It has a warmer taste that red turmeric and is still nice and crunchy. It’s a little sweeter too and does indeed have a taste similar to a tart mango. The bitter aftertaste is there too, which is why it is still only used in small quantities.

    Dried Haldi (Turmeric)

    Red turmeric is boiled, peeled and dried to preserve it. If you’re looking for it in Indian stores, look for Haldi which is its Indian name. This is what is ground into powder and sold in jars. If you want to use a fresher version of the powder, you can keep a jar of these and then finely grate them into any dish.

    Ground Turmeric

    Whenever we open a bag of turmeric in the production unit, I always think it smells of earthy boiled new potatoes with butter! So for me, turmeric and butter go hand-in-hand – dhal, beans, kedgeree, eggs all of these are made better with a bit of turmeric and butter.

    If you want to include more turmeric into your diet, you can add 1/2 tsp to anything that you’d like to have a more golden hue – scrambled eggs, egg tortilla, quiche, soup or dhal. You can add a pinch to dishes that you won’t be able to see its golden colour in, too – chilli, stews etc. Just remember to not add too much so that you don’t make your dish bitter.

    2.5cm (1″) of fresh turmeric = 1tblsp grated dried turmeric = 1tsp ground turmeric

    Turmeric Tea

    In 2 small mugs, divide: 1″ ginger, red turmeric and white turmeric peeled, thinly sliced and cut into quarters (you can substitute both turmerics for 2tsp ground turmeric), 1 lemon grass (or a lemon grass tea bag) and 6 peppercorns (optional). Add boiling water, a squeeze of lemon juice and honey to taste.

    Kedgeree

    Hard boil 2-3 eggs and set aside. Fry a finely chopped small onion in a glug of oil with a knob of butter until it’s translucent. Add 1″ of grated ginger, white turmeric and red turmeric (substitute the fresh turmerics for 1tsp ground turmeric). Add 4 tsp of curry powder (I used Tastesmiths Madras!) half a small red pepper finely chopped and a handful of peas (optional). Add a finely chopped red chilli (optional). Stir in a handful of chopped coriander or parsley. Add 3-4 handfuls (as much as you can hold in a clenched fist) of rice and stir until it’s coated in spicy butter. Add enough boiling water to just cover the rice with 2cm over (or if using a rice cooker, add 4 provided cups of rice and fill to the ‘4 servings’ with water). Stir gently and add 1/2tsp (or to taste) of salt and some pepper . Bring to the boil (or turn your rice cooker on, put the lid on and leave it to do its stuff). Cover your pan with foil and then put the lid on. Turn the heat right down and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off. Don’t look under the foil, just leave the pan alone for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes peep underneath and try a bit of rice – if it’s not quite cooked, add another splash of water and then bring back to the boil before turning off and leaving (still covered) for another 5 minutes. If using a rice cooker, leave it alone until it tells you it’s cooked! Stir 200g of flaked, smoked fish (I’m using Arbroath Smokies picked up from Whitby last week!). I also added some smoked salmon too. Peel the eggs and cut them into quarters. Serve on top of the kedgeree. Garnish with more chopped coriander/parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

  • Turkish show and tell

    I spent a lovely hour in a Turkish shop today. I’d been there many times before, but hadn’t visited for quite a long time and as I was passing it, I thought I’d drop in. I’m really pleased that I did.

    The shop is in the centre of Birmingham and the first glimpse of the stalls outside give you a taste of what’s inside – a vast array of fresh chillies. I’ve taken these home before – the larger the chilli, the less heat there is. But the white ones in particular (yellow cap) are perfect for stuffing. They taste like normal bell peppers, but they have a little kick. The larger green ones are great to add to curries or wherever you’d normally add a green pepper. They have a lovely grassy, green pepper taste with a little heat.

    Upstairs, the Turkish flat bread had just come out of the oven. There’s a stack of white paper next to the piles of warm bread, so that you can pick up a flat bread, wrap it and to take it to the till. If I’d been a little later, they would have had Lahmacun ready for lunch. These are Turkish bread bases with a fiery lamb mince on the top, like a spicy pizza without the cheese. Again, the sheets of paper are there for you to fold the Lahmacun in half and take them to the till. I missed out today…

    As I got to the till to pay, my eye as normal was drawn to the lovely things they had on the counter to tempt you at the last minute – just like they do at the supermarket, but with gorgeous hand crafted goodies – Turkish Delight drenched in icing sugar, baklava that was still in the tray it had been baked in upstairs, grapes and some things in green net bags. I was so happy to see that half of the bags contained green almonds. I’d read about them so often – they are as eagerly anticipated in the Middle East as our first strawberries or asparagus. Their season is as short too: April – July so I was so lucky to find them!

    Almonds are, in fact a member of the peach family rather than being a tree nut and you can really tell with these green almonds as their skins are fuzzy, like peaches. When you cut them in half, there is the almond that we all know and love – except it’s not. When you lift it clear of its casing and bite into it, beneath the skin there is water/jelly instead of nut! The nut hasn’t yet developed and neither has the hard shell that surrounds it. That means you can eat the whole of the green almond, fuzzy skin and all. The taste is ‘pure green’ – it’s like everything that Spring should be! Vaguely nutty, with a firm taste of peas that turns to a bitter, chicory-like note with a crispy bite. The taste isn’t something that is immediately familiar, but I think that if you put them out as a snack with drinks, they wouldn’t last long. I’ve found a couple of dishes that they can be cooked in – mostly Persian Khoreshes (stews), so I’ll be experimenting with a Tastesmith’s kit tomorrow!
    Right next to the green almonds was another bag of green things – I didn’t know what these were. The shop keeper told me that they were green plums “a real delicacy”, he said, “you eat them with salt”.

    These were crunchy and sour – like a Granny Smiths apple, but tiny and juicy! They had the same effect on my mouth as rhubarb, but were really pleasing. They are good to add to tagines and stews as a sweet/sour addition. I couldn’t see why salt should be added, but after biting into one I added a tiny sprinkle. I immediately saw why the salt works – the fruit became much sweeter and took the acid edge off. I can imagine having a bowl of these and a pinch pot of salt at a dinner party to serve with cocktails, along with olives. They have the same moreish quality.

    I seem to have discovered a whole new set of bar snacks!

  • Tomato Thyme!

    This is about the only time of the year that you should be able to buy fresh tomatoes cheaper than tinned. You may be lucky enough to have a greenhouse or sunny back garden and are now harvesting your super tasty home grown tomatoes. Either way, it’s a perfect time to make tomatoes the star of the show when it comes to using them up.

    When I went to market last week, I picked up 5 kilos of gorgeous tomatoes for just £1.80. This is about the only perk when it comes to having to get up at 5 a.m. to go and find top quality fresh produce for the kits that we make – you get to find super bargains when it comes to seasonal fruit and vegetables.

    This is my favourite Tomato Tart recipe, which takes moments to make and tastes divine! You can use any fresh herbs that you have to hand (or even some dried) and use any cheese that you have lying around in the fridge.

    Tomato Thyme Tart with Goats Cheese

    You’ll need one pack of puff pastry for this recipe, so get it out of the fridge half an hour before you need it to give it time to soften a little.

    Heat the oven to Gas mark 5, 375F, 190C.

    In a bowl, mix together 150g cheese (crumbled if it’s a soft cheese, grated if it’s a hard cheese), 1 clove of garlic finely grated or chopped and around 3-4 tablespoons of freshly chopped herbs. If you’re using fresh thyme, you can just pick off the leaves from around 10 stems and put them in with the cheese. If you only have dried, use around 2tsp. Mix well and season with black pepper. Don’t forget cheese is quite salty, so you won’t need to add salt. Make sure all of the ingredients in the bowl are well mixed.

    Roll out the pastry, trying to keep it as rectangular as you can (you can always trim it, if it goes wrong!). Don’t roll it out bigger than the biggest baking tray that you have. If you don’t have any big baking trays, cut the pastry in half to fit.

    With a sharp knife, score an edge all the way round your pastry – taking care not to cut all the way through. This will enable the edges of your pastry to rise, but will prevent the middle bit from rising and pushing off all of the tomatoes. Inside the area that you’ve scored prick with a fork to make extra sure that it won’t rise.

    Scatter the cheese mixture all over the pastry. You may think that there’s not enough of the cheesy mixture, but don’t forget – this is all about the tomatoes. The cheese is there to give an extra dimension, rather than providing all of the flavour.

    Finely slice around 10-12 tomatoes and lay them in lines over the cheese. It makes a nice pattern if you go down one way with the sliced tomatoes and up the other way – like this:

    Brush the cut edges of the tomatoes with melted butter or an oil of your choice. Season well with black pepper and sprinkle a little salt over the top before scattering some more herbs over the top of it all.

    Put the tart/s on the middle shelf and bake for around 50-55 minutes (30-40 minutes if you have two smaller tarts) until the outside is well risen and golden and the tomatoes are cooked and starting to brown and show signs of being well roast.

    Leave to cool slightly. Best served warm.

  • Sri Lankan Flatbread

    I’m a complete fanatic when it comes to authentic flatbread. I love the fact that these are the types of bread that have been made for (in some cases) thousands of years, which means that in the early days the recipes were handed down from mother to daughter rather than being written down, each region having subtle variations.

    Accompaniments replace cutlery, so if you imagine how you’d manage to eat your curry/stew without cutlery just using your hands (sometimes just your right hand), that gives you a good pointer to what you should be serving with your meal. How would you manage to eat the thinner gravy without a spoon? A spongy, thicker flatbread or plain boiled rice would enable you to mop these delicious flavours up using your hands alone. For dishes with less gravy and more substance, a good replacement for a spoon is a thinner, firmer flatbread that doubles up as a scoop.

    Yeast wasn’t always easy to come by and even if it was, the fuel that it took to cook a full loaf of bread was expensive or hard to come by. Cooking was done over a fire. Fire was essential to keep the family fed and warm, so no one wanted to waste any of the energy that it provided. Therefore, unleavened flatbreads fulfilled many needs – they didn’t need yeast or a lot of fuel to cook them. They were used as edible cutlery, plates and napkins.

    Leavened and unleavened flatbread served as a ‘filler’ too – flatbreads dipped into the flavours of the main meal meant that the person eating the flatbreads would feel full, even if they were low down the pecking order when it came to getting a serving of the main dish.

    Yorkshire Puddings are a type of British flatbread. A tray would be placed under a piece of meat to catch the drippings as they cooked. The Yorkshire pudding batter was poured into this tray and then served ahead of the main meal, so that the guests filled up before the main event. Children and servants didn’t usually get any of the meat, they made do with the Yorkshire pudding.

    The flatbreads are usually made with whatever is freely available in the region. If they can get away with using water as the liquid that binds the dough, so much the better – yogurt, coconut milk, juices sqeezed from vegetables/fruit. Anything that didn’t mean a long trek to the nearest water source.

    I made these flatbreads to go with our gorgeous Sri Lankan Curry – making good use of fresh coconuts.

    I managed to find three coconuts for £1 which meant that I opened them, prised away the coconut flesh, grated it and froze it. I also tasted the coconut milk inside and if it was sweet, I froze it in ice cube trays.

    If you haven’t got fresh coconut available, you can use desiccated coconut and a can of coconut milk as the liquid to bind the dough.

    Coconut Roti (makes 6-8)

    2 cups of white plain flour

    1 cup of grated fresh coconut or desiccated coconut

    1/2 tsp salt (optional)

    1 (ish) cup of liquid – water/canned coconut milk/fresh coconut milk

    1 handful of chopped fresh coriander (optional)

    1-2 green chillies sliced (optional)

    In a bowl, combine the flour, coconut and salt.

    Add the coriander and chilli if using and mix in.

    Add half of the liquid and mix with your hand, squishing the mixture through your fingers. Add more liquid until the dough is good and soft but not really sticky.

    Put into a plastic bag and leave for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, divide the dough into 6-8 balls. Put a dry frying pan onto the hob over a medium/high heat.

    Roll the balls of dough out quite thinly.

    Don’t stack the rolled pieces of dough because they’ll stick together.

    Place into the dry pan and wait until you see the dough starting to take on a drier appearance with tiny bubbles.

    Carry on cooking until the underside takes on brown speckles before turning over and cooking the other side. You can use a fish slice to press down on the roti to ensure even cooking.

    If you have any coconut milk that you need to use up, you can brush the cooked tops with it. You could also use solid coconut oil or butter. Plain is good too. Best served warm with a delicious curry!

  • Spicy Sweetcorn with nuts

    I’m always searching for tasty side dishes for curries, so that I can use them as part of a thali or for a quick meal. Something different, easy and yummy.

    People. Here it is.

    You can use any kind of sweet corn – frozen, tinned or fresh. This recipe also contains peanuts, but you could substitute them with cashew nuts or almonds if you prefer. There’s something moreish about the crunchy sweetcorn and cooked nuts combined with the chilli heat and spicy taste that had me addicted to it fairly quickly. If you’re catering for vegan or vegetarian guests along with meat eaters, this would be a general crowd-pleaser. It’s ready from start to finish in 15 minutes.

    The recipe calls for you to top it with Sev which is basically the spicy fried chickpea sticks that you get in Bombay Mix, which add even more yummy crunch. My advice to you is: seek it out.

    You will also need some asafoetida which is a resin used extensively in Indian cookery. It’s flavour is somewhere between garlic and onions and even though it has a very pungent smell similar to truffles, the flavour it gives to dishes can’t be replicated. It’s very cheap to buy in Asian food stores and usually comes in little plastic yellow tubs. While you’re in the Asian food store, you can get some Sev, too!

    Spicy Sweetcorn with nuts

    Drain 2 x 300g cans of sweet corn.

    First prepare a fresh paste to use in the curry:

    In a mini chopper or with a stick blender put between 1 and 5 green chillies (I used 3) chopped roughly and de-seeded if liked, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 large cloves garlic chopped roughly, a small piece (half a thumb) of ginger– peeled and roughly chopped and large pinch of turmeric. Add a small amount of water to enable you to whizz it all to a paste. When the paste is smooth, add 50g raw, unsalted peanuts (preferably still in their skin) and very briefly whizz. You don’t want to do anything more than very roughly chop the peanuts as they add a lovely crunch.

    Chop 2 handfuls of coriander (or parsley if you prefer) and set aside along with 2 tsp white sesame seeds.

    Have all of your ingredients to hand, ready to add to the saucepan quickly

    Heat a large saucepan or wok with a glug of oil and add 1tsp black mustard seeds. When the seeds start to pop and release their flavour, add a generous pinch of asafoetida closely followed by the drained corn. Turn up the heat to high and stir fry for a minute so that the sweetcorn takes on a little bit of colour.

    Use a large saucepan or wok to give the corn plenty of room to take on some colour

    Add the paste, coriander and sesame seeds and stir well before turning the heat to medium low. Leave to cook uncovered for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally until the raw garlic smell disappears. Taste and add a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and add more salt if necessary. Turn off the heat and cover. Leave for at least 10 minutes so that all of the flavours can get to know each other. You can also make this ahead of time and re-heat when required.

    Serve sprinkled with Sev and a freshly made buttered chapatti. Seriously good.