Chocolate Chilli Con Carne

Chocolate Chilli - final 1

It’s been a cold, wet and breezy week and this weekend isn’t due to be much better. So I’m battening down the hatches in the kitchen. I’ve recently taken delivery of the latest Kitchen Nomad box which was chock full of Mexican goodies including some long sought after tortilla flour and a range of different chillies. What I’ve made with it though is in no way authentic Mexican including as it does a distinctly British ingredient – a bottle of double chocolate stout.

This is the Heathcliff of chilli con carnes – a dark, brooding slightly bitter version that benefits from a long, slow cooking time and tastes even better the next day. Serves 4.
Chocolate Chilli - stout
Brown 500g of minced beef in an oven proof pan and set to one side.
Add some oil to the pan and soften one finely chopped onion til golden.
Return the mince to the pan along with 2 chopped dried arbol chillies, 1 tsp dried chilli ancho, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/2 cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp Mexican oregano, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses and 1 tbsp of tomato purée.
Cook for a couple of minutes before adding a tin of chopped tomatoes and a 500ml bottle of double chocolate stout.

Chocolate Chilli - final 2

Bring to the boil and cook in the oven at 140C for 2 hours. Add a tin of kidney beans (along with 1/2 tsp of liquid smoke if you have it) and cook for a further 30min. It won’t come to any harm if left for longer. Enjoy its dark smoky flavour with rice.

Mint Parathas

Mint paratha - final

This week LSH and I were eating out at a friend’s. She had a curry evening planned and so she asked me to bring bread (with wine obviously!). I was surprised by this – last time I took Indian breads they looked more like crispbreads than naans. So having been given a second chance I was keen to impress. So alongside the Missi Roti and some pistachio naan breads I made this flatbread. It’s a simple recipe,although it does involve a bit of “bread origami”, and is just a bit different with its flaky texture and flecks of mint.

Mint paratha - fan

Take 225g of chappatti flour (or a mix of 50:50 plain and wholemeal) and put in a bowl. Grind 1 tsp of dried mint into a powder and add to the flour along with a handful of roughly chopped fresh mint leaves. Mix together with a pinch of salt and then mix in 140ml of warm water. Put to one side for about an hour.

Divide into 6 balls. Take one and roll it out thinly into a rectangle. Brush with melted butter and then fan or pleat together. Then coil it into a snail.

Mint paratha - coil

Roll the coil out into a circle before dry frying on a medium heat for a couple of minutes each side. Repeat with the rest of the bread. Serve warm with your favourite curry.

Beef and Guinness Pie

Beef and Guinness pie 3

Now for a warming Sunday dinner. This is not a pie you can pull together midweek – this is pie that needs time, although not attention, and so slots in nicely between mounds of washing and blasts of vacuuming. This makes enough for 2- 4 people depending on appetites.

First the filling. Fry 60g of smoked bacon lardons in a frying pan in a small amount of sunflower oil til coloured and releasing fat into the pan. Scope out and set aside. Finely slice 2 shallots and then fry them in the bacon fat til soft. Then add to the bacon. Coat 600g of cubed stewing beef in 2tbsp of seasoned flour. Add a bit more oil to the pan and fry the beef in batches until brown. Put all the meat mix into a clean pan.

Take a 500ml bottle of Guinness. Add a splash to the frying pan to deglaze it. Then add this to the meat mix along with the rest of the Guinness, a splash of Worcester sauce, 2 bay leaves and 2 sprigs of thyme. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and cover.
Beef and Guinness pie 1

Leave on a low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (more won’t hurt it) until the beef is tender. Thickly slice 250g of chestnut mushrooms and add them to the pan. Cook for another 30-45 minutes. Remove the filling with a slotted spoon and reduce the remaining liquor by about a third – you want a thick sauce that just covers the meat. Put a teaspoon of cornflour into a mug and add some of the liquor a teaspoon at a time to form a thick paste. Return to the pan and boil stirring vigorously until the liquor thickens. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of redcurrant jelly (to taste) and season. Return the meat to the pan, stir and leave to cool.

Now for the pastry.
Beef and Guinness pie 2

Cube 75g of butter and 35g of lard. Add to 225g of plain flour and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Blitz until breadcrumb in texture. Then add a tablespoon of water at a time until it starts to come together and then bring together with you hands. Chill for 30mins.

Split into 1/3 and 2/3. Roll out the larger piece and line the bottom of the pie dish. Add the cold filling. Roll out the lid and then put on top of the pie filling. Crimp the edge and trim. Chill the pie for 30 mins.

Turn the oven onto 180C and preheat a baking tray. Decorate the pie and put a couple of slashes into it before washing with beaten egg. Put the pie tin onto the baking tray and bake for 45min til the pastry is golden and the filling piping hot.

Cinnamon Apple Pie

Cinnamon apple pie 2

The Bramley apples are slowly ripening and the autumn gusts are presenting me with windfalls to use. So far I have a couple of jars of cinnamon spiced apple jelly in a cupboard and a bottle of spiced apple brandy slowly maturing (which smells like apple strudel and will hopefully nice just as nice).

But what I haven’t made yet is a pie. A big homely pie like my gran used to make. She was a great cook – visits would mean Sunday dinners with peppery Yorkshire Puddings, crispy roast spuds and gravy that had little chunks of meat floating in it. This would often be followed by apple pie with crispy, flakey pastry sparkling with liberal dustings of sugar. I want to make this pie but the recipe died along with my gran and all I have left are memories of its taste. So this is my attempt at replicating this. The amounts below serve 2 very hungry people with enough for breakfast the next day.

Cinnamon apple pie 4

First the pastry – I like this to be fairly savoury so it’s a shortcrust made with a mix of butter and lard. To 225g of plain flour add a pinch of salt, 75g of cubed butter and 35g of cubed lard. Pulse in a food processor until breadcrumbs and add 1 tbsp of golden caster sugar. Then add cold water 1 tbsp at time until then pastry starts to come together. Bring it together into a ball using your hands before wrapping in cling film and chilling for at least 30 mins.

I’m pretty sure she didn’t use cinnamon but it’s one of my favourite spices and so redolent of autumn that generous amounts are needed. Peel, core and slice 2 large Bramley apples into thick pieces. Tap dry with kitchen paper.

Preheat the oven to 180C and pop a baking tray in to heat up. 100g of golden caster sugar is mixed with 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon. Set aside about 2tbsp of the mix for scattering on the pie later. To the rest add 1 heaped tbsp of plain flour and mix together with the apples.

Divide the pastry into 1/3 and 2/3. Roll out the larger piece to line an enamel pie tin (about 20cm long) and fill with the sugar coated apples. Roll out the lid. Wet the rim and cover the filling with the pastry lid, crimping the edge to fix. Cover with an egg wash and scatter with the reserved sugar.

Cinnamon apple pie 3

Put the pie onto the preheated baking tray and bake for about 40min until golden and crispy.

Serve with vast quantities of custard for a warming autumn treat. Not quite like Gran used to make but pretty good all the same.

Only 77 baking days til Xmas…..

Gingerbread man 2I have somewhat rashly promised LSH a gingerbread church with stained glass windows for Christmas.

There are however a few problems with this:

1. I’ve never made a gingerbread church in fact
2. I’ve never even attempted a gingerbread house or indeed
3. Even baked a gingerbread man and
4. I’ve never iced anything or attempted much in the way of decoration.

So just a bit of pressure then! Thankfully the Great British Bake Off book Showstoppers has a series of gingerbread recipes building up to a decorated house. My aim is to follow these and then take it up a notch.

So here is the first go – a mini batch of (nude/ undecorated) gingerbread men. Not the most exciting looking of bakes but tasty. Next step is learning how to use an icing bag and giving them a bit of dignity….

Gingerbread man 1

A light Saturday lunch – Tomato and Gruyere Tartlet

Tomato tartlet 2

This weekend is one of those quiet pottering weekends. A weekend of cleaning, walking and making some headway on the pile of ironing that is so large it’s probably visible from space (!). But we also need to eat and as I’m on a pastry binge at the moment it’s a tasty tart that I’m after.

This is an Olive magazine recipe and you can find the full sized version on the cover of its September edition. It’s a mixture of gruyere cheese (in both the pastry and filling) with roasted baby plum tomatoes with a light scattering of thyme.

Tomato tartlet 1

As this was lunch for just the 2 of us I halved the recipe and instead made two tartlets, chilling the pastry again after lining the tins to try and avoid shrinkage.

I also added a spoonful of my homemade tomato chilli jam to the gruyere and egg filling rather than Dijon mustard which cut through the rich cheesy base. As they were smaller they didn’t take quite as long to cook and we ate them warm from the oven.

Tomato tartlet end

I love most things with cheese and these were no exception. A nice crispy pastry with a squidgy tasty filling. I think I would add a bit more chilli jam next time as I feel it needs a bit more heat to it. It certainly worked well as smaller individual tartlets judging by LSH’s quickly emptied plate…

A Final Taste of Summer: Rose-scented Strawberry Tarts

Strawberry tart

We came back from holiday to a late burst of summer sun which meant that the return to “normal life” wasn’t as bad as it could have been. However the boots and jumpers are now out of the wardrobe, the final flush of roses are starting to die off and rain is currently hammering against the kitchen window. It’s only a matter of time before we clear out the veg and fruit beds in preparation for winter. So it’s time for a tasty fruit tart to try and recapture those summer memories.

Strawberry tarts - cases I came up with this tart to use some of my rose petal jelly . The pastry base is a Pate Sucree recipe from the Leith’s Baking Bible (if you’re into Baking it’s worth getting a copy as pretty much every baking technique or recipe you could want is in here). I didn’t follow the method precisely and ended up just bringing all the ingredients together on my worktop as you would for pasta. The important thing here is to chill once the mix is brought together and then chill again once you’ve put it into the pastry cases. I didn’t trim until after this second chilling when I then cut it along the rim of the cases before blind baking. As you can see there was no shrinkage (hurrah!).

Strawberry tarts - creme patI left these to cool whilst I did the creme patisseire. Again this was a Leith’s recipe with the addition of a couple of drops of rose water, rather than vanilla extract, once the custard had been made. It’s important to taste at this stage – you can always add a bit more flavour if you think it needs it. Again chill and when you’re ready to use give it a quick beat before carefully folding in the whipped cream and putting into the pastry cases.

Strawberry tart - preglaze

I then arranged half strawberries on top of the creme pat before making the glaze. This was a couple of heaped tablespoons of rose petal jelly which I heated in a pan with a splash of lemon juice. Once it was thin I used it to glaze the tarts using a silicon brush. The tarts were then chilled until ready to serve.

The rose petal jelly and rose water just gives the tarts a hint of that summery rose fragrance which works really well with the strawberries. A definite splash of summer for a rainy day.

Strawberry tarts - final