Sweet steamed coconut milk buns

This afternoon I indulged a little and enjoyed a sit down in front of the telly.  I watched Jamie Oliver make these beautiful coconut milk buns on his ’15 Minute Meals’ show. With a midweek church meeting at our house this evening I wondered whether I could come up with a sweet version to serve instead of the usual cakes or cookies.

I used:
1 can coconut milk
2 cans (use the Coconut milk can) self raising flour
Some chopped pistachio nuts
A teaspoon of vanilla extract
The zest of one lemon (I’d have used lime if I had one in).
3 drops high strength lime extract
2 heaped dessert spoons of desicated coconut.

Mix all the ingredients together (I used the dough hook attachment on the kitchen aid). Turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead to bring together. Cut into 10 equal sized pieces and roll into balls. Place into doubled up paper muffin cases and steam for 12 minutes. I don’t have a bamboo steamer (despite one being on my ‘to buy’ list for ages) but my stainless steel one worked perfectly.

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After 12 mins they’ll look something like this:

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Make a glaze using icing sugar and milk, spoon over the warm buns and sprinkle with desicated coconut. Enjoy!

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Oh, if anyone is wondering which lime extract I used there’s a picture below. I found it at a food festival and believe me, a little goes a long way!

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Kubbah Hammute

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A lot of my childhood memories involve food. My mum’s curry, lobster and mackerel caught by Dad, Saturday morning pancakes, cheese fondue as a treat now and then, the good old Sunday roast, I could go on. These little beauts however, categorically remind me of my Granny. I remember being mesmerised watching her tiny hands make these spiced Assyrian dumplings poached in a fragrant spiced soup, while she explained in pigeon English how to do it.

Granny never wrote recipes down though, so it fell to my mum to work out actual quantities. I entered this dish in a cooking competition a couple of years ago, and although I didn’t win, the recipe was printed in a cook book to accompany the TV series. You can see it on one of my earlier blog posts here or you can buy it online here. For whatever reason the recipe was changed slightly by the book writers, but here’s the original, and best… Not that I’m biased! Here’s what you’ll need:

Stuffing
250g lean minced beef
1 large onion very finely diced
Large handful chopped curly parsley
1 rounded dessert spoon of hot curry powder
1 rounded dessert spoon of garam massala
Salt and black pepper

Dough
500g lean minced beef
500g ground rice
Salt and black pepper
1/4 pint water.

For the stuffing, fry the meat in a little oil, add the onion and dry ingredients. Once cooked add the parsley. Set aside to cool.

For the dough mix all the ingredients by hand (or the kitchen aid with the dough hook attachment works well too) adding the water a little at a time until it feels like soft bead dough. If it’s too wet add a little more ground rice otherwise the Kubbah will disintegrate while cooking. Leave to stand for half an hour.

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You’re now ready to roll. Take a golf ball amount of dough and roll into a ball.

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Use your thumb to make a hole and pinch gently round to form a small bowl shape.

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Stuff the hole with as much of the stuffing as you can squeeze in without it splitting.

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Pinch the edges together and gently toll back into a ball shape. If the dough starts to split dip your finger in a little water and smooth over the surface. Now slap the Kubbah between your hands to form into a disk shape.

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These freeze brilliantly, so once you’ve rolled them all you could put them in the freezer for a later date, or you can go ahead and make the soup to poach them in straight away.

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Soup
1 finely chopped onion
1 dessert spoon of paprika
1 chicken stock cube
1 swede cubed
1 tin tomatoes
2 dessert spoons of tomato puree
Juice of 2 lemons
Handful fresh mint leaves
Salt
Pepper
3 pints of boiling water.

In a large pan fry the onion until softened then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil and add the Kubbah a few at a time.  The soup needs to stay at a rolling boil to stop the Kubbah disintegrating. 

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The Kubbah will float to the top when they are cooked.

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Check the swede is tender (usually about 20 minutes). Serve in soup bowls and enjoy.

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Assyrian Baklava

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Baklava is widely associated with Greece, but believe it or not, us Assyrians were the first people to layer nuts with flat bread and honey back in the 8th century B.C. Greek sea merchants discovered this decadent treat as they were traveling to Mesopotamia, and took the recipe back to Athens.

There are as many regional recipes for this delight as there are ways to pronounce it, but this is my family’s version. Passed from my Granny to my mum, who has adapted it and actually worked out the measurements rather than adding a dash or this and pinch or that, this recipe is very close to my heart. So much so in fact that I’m almost reluctant to share it! It’s a taste of home, a taste of my childhood and a taste of my heritage.  Make it with passion and eat it with love.

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Four generations of the Assyrian side of the family. Granny, mum, me and my daughter a few years ago.

You’ll need:
1 packet of filo pastry (6 large sheets)
4oz butter
8oz crushed pistachio nuts (walnuts or almonds work well too)
4oz brown sugar
1 level tsp green cardamom seeds crushed

For the sauce:
2oz dark sugar
2oz honey
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons rose water
1 level tsp crushed green cardamom seeds

Melt the butter. Brush an oblong cake tin with butter before laying one of the filo sheets on top folding any excess back on itself. Brush this with butter and add a second and third brushing each with the butter.

Mix the pistachio nuts, 4oz brown sugar and a teaspoon of crushed cardamom together and sprinkle over the filo sheets. Layer up the remaining filo sheets on top of the nut mixture brushing each with butter as you go, except the top one (brushing it with butter will make it brown too fast when baking).

Cut the baklava into diamonds before baking at 160oC for about 30 minutes.

Whilst it’s baking, make the sauce by heating all the other ingredients in a saucepan until it boils, stiring continuously. Allow it to cool before pouring over the baklava. Enjoy with a cup of coffee.

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Vegetable Bake

This is a proper old school recipe I remember my mum making when I was growing up. My dad would always groan that there was no meat, but since I married a pescatarian I don’t have that problem!

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It’s a hearty, no fuss midweek dinner which everyone will like (our three year old is a big fan).  It is a meal in itself, however it makes a delicious side to roast chicken or gammon too.

You can use whatever vegetables you have to hand, but my mum recommends the following:
2 leeks
1 large potato
3 sticks celery
3 carrots
6 cauliflower florets
2 parsnips
1 cup green beans or broad beans

I also add broccoli and a couple of cloves of garlic.

Wash and chop all the veg. Fry off the leeks and garlic if you’re using it in a little olive oil. Add the rest of the veg and season with salt and pepper. Cover while you make a cheese sauce, but remember to stir regularly to prevent sticking.

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In another pan melt 2oz salted butter and stir in 2oz pain flour and a crumbled vegetable stock cube to make a roux. Cook the flour out for about 30 seconds, before pouring in 3/4 pint of milk a little at a time, stiring continually to avoid lumps. Finally add it a couple of handfuls of strong grated cheddar. Take off the heat. 

Now pour a can of chopped tomatoes over the vegetables.

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Pour the white sauce over the vegetables.

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In a blender make a crumble topping by blitzing up a handful of mixed nuts, four slices of wholemeal bread, a large handful of parsley and salt and pepper.

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Sprinkle on top of the cheese sauce.

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Bake, uncovered, at 160oC for about 45 minutes.

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Chowder bowls

It has been freezing here in the UK for the last few days. We’ve had snow, hail and lots of wind. It’s the type of weather which makes me want to snuggle up in front of a fire, with a patchwork quilt and a mug of hot chocolate. Perfect weather for this hearty, warming smoked haddock chowder served in rustic bread bowls.

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First of all make the bread. For convenience I used premixed ciabatta flour that I just had to add warm water to and knead. 

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I split the dough into quarters, shaped into balls and left to prove in the airing cupboard for about half an hour.

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Bake at about 200oC for 25 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped on the underside.

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Leave to cool before slicing the tops off and scooping out the middle. Retain all the innards for dipping in the chowder later.

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Once scooped out, brush the insides with a little olive oil and put back in the oven on a low temperature for about 20 minutes to crisp up.

Now on to the chowder. Pour about a pint and a half of skimmed milk into a saucepan.  Add four fillets of undyed smoked haddock, a halved onion, a sprig of fresh dill, a bay leaf and some thyme and bring to a gentle simmer for about eight minutes.

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In the meantime saute a leek, some celery and a peeled potato diced pretty small in some butter and olive oil. Stir regularly. After the haddock has simmered for a few minutes, add a tablespoon of plain flour to the leek mixture and cook it out for a minute or so.

Drain the haddock over the pan with the leeks in stiring continually to avoid any lumps.

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Let the sauce come to a gentle simmer. Once the sauce has thickened and the potato cubes are tender remove the skin from the haddock and flake into the sauce along with a couple of handfuls of sweetcorn kernels and some fresh spinach.

Ladel into the bread bowls and serve with the tops and innards for dunking. Sprinkle with a bit if fresh dill and enjoy!
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Homemade pot noodles

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I love the idea of convenience food, it’s just a shame that with a lot of commercial brands what you gain in convenience you lose in nutrition.

I first saw these on Pinterest and thought they were a brilliant, and very cute idea.  I find it hard to resist anything in a flip-lid jar.  Portable,  healthy and convenient, the list of what you can add to these noodle soup pots is endless. Today for the soup base I mixed a tablespoon of dark soy sauce, with a tablespoon of oyster sauce, one of sweet chilli, a teaspoon of hot sauce, a crumbled chicken oxo cube, a tablespoon of lime juice and some Szechwan pepper. I mixed it all together and divided between two 500ml flip-top jars. 

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Next place a handful of pre-cooked egg or rice noodles on top of the soup base.

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Top with thinly sliced veggies of your choice.  I used spinach, spring onions, sugar snap peas, baby corn, fresh red chilli, a few fresh mint leaves and coriander.

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Add some cooked shredded chicken and a few more coriander leaves. 

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At this point you can close the lid, put it in the fridge, take it with you to work or for a picnic. So long as the chicken is in date and everything else is fresh they will last for a few days in the fridge.  When you’re ready to eat it, pour on hot, but not boiling water up to the lower rim, give it a stir and close the lid for three minutes. Check the seasoning and add more chilli, lime, coriander or soy according to your tastes.  Enjoy!

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A hug in a bowl… Slow cooker pasta soup.

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I don’t know where in the world you are as you’re reading this, but here in Blighty the weather is just how you’d expect it to be in January. Wet and chilly. Days like this cry out for comfort food, but this soon after Christmas I wanted something warming and wholesome rather rich and indulgent. This humble broth certainly fills the brief.

We all know a good soup starts with a great stock, and what could be better than homemade free range turkey courtesy of our Christmas roast?

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Leeks, carrots, cavolo nero, celery, a clove of garlic, bay leaf, sprig of rosemary and thyme and a couple of sage leafs provide the veg component, and a couple of handfuls of small pasta such as conchigliette gave us some comforting carbs.

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Chop all the veg, throw it in the slow cooker along with the pasta and stock and cook on high for a few hours until everything is nicely cooked through. About an half an hour before serving I added some shredded cooked chicken, but of course you can omit this, or add raw chicken at the beginning. Check the seasoning and add a squeeze of lemon. Simple supper, super taste.
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Rich Chocolate and Beetroot Bundt

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HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and are ready to face 2015 with renewed vigour.

With an abundance of post-Christmas chocolate lying around at home, I decided to remove the temptation and share the love at church today with a very rich and indulgent chocolate and beetroot cake. Beautifully moist and studded with chunks of dark chocolate, this is bound to prove popular with kids and adults alike.

A lot of recipes call for cooked beetroot, but thanks to the pulversing powers of the nutribullet I used raw.

Here’s how to do it. Scrub a whole beetroot and weigh out 180g of it.  Cube and put in the nutribullet along with three large eggs.

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Blend until pulverised.

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In a bowl or blender mix 200g plain flour, 250g light brown soft sugar, 100g  good quality cocoa powder, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste before adding the beetroot and egg mixture, and 200ml melted butter. You’ll end up with a lovely rich mixture like this.

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Chop 100g of good quality dark chocolate (no higher than 70%).

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Mix into the batter before spooning into a greased bundt tin which has been sprinkled with cocoa powder to stop the cake sticking.

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Bake for 35mins at 180oC or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for ten minutes before turning out.

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For the icing steep a few cubes of the leftover beetroot in some vanilla syrup (water or milk works fine if you don’t have syrup to hand), then add the liquid to icing sugar to make a thick pink drizzle. Pipe over the cooled bundt.

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It went down well at church this morning.

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