If you want to learn how to cook curry’s Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery is the only cookbook you actually need. Whilst I used to use this book quite a lot a few years ago I’ve tended to use curry pastes a lot the last few years as they are just so easy. This recipe is my favourite way to eat spinach and would work well as a side dish for plain grilled meat as well as with a curry. I used a tsp from a jar of minced ginger for this dish which reduced preparation time. We never used to add extra water when we cooked this in the past and having added water this time I won’t be next time.
According to Madhur Jaffrey quantities below serve 4, I halved the quantities and it served 4 as a side dish.
- 1kg/2 lb spinach, washed and trimmed
- 1 large onion, peeled
- 4 tbsp ghee/vegetable oil or butter
- 1/2 – 1 fresh, hot green chili, finely chopped
- 1 tsp very finely grated, peeled fresh ginger
- about 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 125ml/1/2 cup water (optional)
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- If large spinach leaves cut crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips, if small leaves you can use whole.
- Chop the onion finely.
- Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over over a medium-high flame. When hot, put in the onions. Stir fry for 3 minutes.
- Now put in the chopped spinach, green chili, ginger, salt and sugar. Stir and cook the spinach for 5 minutes (I needed to add in three lots to get it all in the pa).
- Add water and bring to a simmer. Cover tightly, turn heat to low and cook for about 5 – 10 extra minutes.
- Uncover and boil away some of the extra liquid. Sprinkle garam masala over the top and mix.
I didn’t manage to take a photo quick enough to get an uncut cake. This is only the second carrot cake I’ve ever made and to my mind this is superior to the Avoca carrot cake. It is from one of the Great British Bake-off (GBBO) tv series spin off baking books The Great British Book of Baking: 120 best-loved recipes from teatime treats to pies and pasties which is a lovely selection of truly British tea time treats. The aim of the book is to celebrate Britain’s baking heritage rather than feature recipes from contestants and as such if you only have one or two books on baking it would be a splendid choice.
This recipe contains walnuts and as you can see in the photo it is very definitely specked through with orange strands of carrot. It is a very soft cake and hard to cut tidily, since it is so soft I decided it would be too messy to go into school lunch boxes. It doesn’t taste too sweet the way some (especially commercial) carrot cakes do. One of my teens loves this cake, the other is not so sure but he will eat it.
For the Sponge
- 225g Self Raising Flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (I used ground)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 225g soft light brown muscovado sugar
- Grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed orange
- 100g walnut pieces
- 3 medium free-range eggs (beaten)
- 150ml sunflower oil
- 250g grated carrots (approx 3 medium carrots)
For the filling and topping
- 200g full-fat cream cheese
- 50g unsalted butter, softened (and it really does need to be soft)
- 150g icing sugar, sifted
- Grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed orange
- 2 teaspoons of orange juice
for the cake
- Preheat the oven to 180°c
- Grease and baseline two 20.5 cm round tins
- Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl
- Use a wooden spoon to mix in the sugar, orange zest and nuts followed by the beaten eggs, sunflower oil and grated carrots.
- When combined, divide the mixture between the two cake tins and spread evenly.
- Bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
For the icing
- Beat together all of the ingredients with a wooden spoon until very smooth and creamy. It should be of a spreadable consistency. (In warm weather you may need to cool the mixture in the fridge before using).
- Spread almost half of the mixture onto one of the cakes. Top with the second cake and spread the remainder of the mixture over the top.
- Optionally decorate the top of the cake with orange zest, walnuts or if you want to go completely over the top little marzipan carrots. I left mine plain.
I went to the Seychelles in the summer which included a visit to the Takamaka distillery and a rum tasting. Loved the rum, especially the coconut rum liquor they make. Next meal out I selected the first rum coco cocktail I could see on the menu Creole Spirit which turned out to be an excellent choice delicious, this is my version. It is very easy to make at home and you can adjust the relative proportions of coco rum to taste. The version we had in the Seychelles used the small sour tropical lemons, I thought a mix of lemon and lime be closer to the taste than just regular lemons. Quantities below made three glasses.
- Cut up the lemon and lime into small pieces and share between the 3 glasses
- Crush them a little with a cocktail stirrer to release some of the juice
- Add sugar syrup
- Fill the glasses to approx 2/3 full with crushed ice
- Pour over the coco rum and stir well
- Alternatively put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake well before pouring
Before I put the Christmas cookbooks away I thought I’d best try a few recipes. I’d planned to make the sticky gingerbread recipe from Nigella Christmas over Christmas but I couldn’t find any black treacle in the cupboard. This recipe really is very easy to make and delicious. I find Nigella’s recipes to be a bit more hit and miss than anyone else’s but she is consistently good on cakes. My tin was slightly bigger than she recommended so my pieces are flatter than her picture. I dusted my gingerbread with icing sugar before serving (the icing sugar had been absorbed by the left over gingerbread the next day).
- 250g butter
- 200g golden syrup
- 200g black treacle
- 125g dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp finely grated ginger
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp bicarb of soda, dissolved in 30 mls warm water (2 tbsp of water)
- 250ml full fat milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 300g plain flour
- Preheat the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas 3 and prepare a 20 x 30cm baking tray by lining it with baking paper.
- Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup, black treacle, cinnamon, cloves and the fresh and ground ginger in a medium sized saucepan and heat gently. When this mixture has melted take it off the heat and add the milk, bicarb of soda with water and the beaten eggs
- Sift the flour into a large bowl
- Pour the wet ingredients on to the flour and beat until well combined. I ended up with quite a few pockets of flour which I mostly beat out with a whisk.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 – 55 minutes (The mixture will be very runny – don’t worry that’s what it should be like). Don’t overbake.
- When ready, remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack to cool. This recipe will cut into about 20 squares and will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight tin. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.
I love this dish, it takes a while to cook but doesn’t take that much time to prepare (if your lamb is already cubed). The slow cooking means cheaper cuts of meat can be used. The cinnamon with the lamb makes it distinctly Greek in flavour and it is more of a Greek home cooked meal than anything you will find in a Greek restaurant. I first came across orzo 20 years ago when a Greek friend Maria cooked dinner for us. It is small pieces of oval pasta almost shaped like large grains of rice and it works particularly well in casseroles like this. These days it is available in most large supermarkets in the UK.
Quantities serve 6 generous portions
- 1kg diced lamb
- 2 onions
- 1 tbsp chopped oregano, or 1 tsp dried
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 cinnamon sticks , broken in half
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 1.2l hot chicken or vegetable stock
- 400g orzo
- freshly grated parmesan, to serve
- Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Cut the lamb into chunks, then spread over the base of a large, wide casserole dish. Slice onions then add them together with oregano, cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon and olive oil, then stir well.
- Bake, uncovered, for 45 mins, stirring halfway.
- Pour over the chopped tomatoes and stock, cover tightly, then return to the oven for 1½ hrs, until the lamb is very tender. (Dish can be frozen at this point, resume from next step after defrosting).
- Remove the cinnamon sticks, then stir in the orzo. Cover again, then cook for a further 20 mins, stirring halfway through. The orzo should be cooked and the sauce thickened.
- Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
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I’ve already admitted to a bad cookbook habit so it won’t come as a great surprise I have several Christmas cookbooks. I thought I’d review my three general Christmas cookbooks.
- Delia Smith’s Christmas
Delia Smith’s Christmas is my oldest and most well thumbed Christmas cook book. It was the book I used every year to get turkey cooking times and after an unsuccessful attempt with classic mincemeat that went off I subsequently always used Delia’s method of melting the suet. The red cabbage recipe is a classic and whilst I’ve never used Delia’s countdown religiously it has always been useful guidance.
In the past I’ve made the roasted red peppers stuffed with fennel which was good and I make the mushroom risotto from this book regularly. I made her venison casserole this year and will be making that again. There are still many recipes in this book that I’ve never tried. I have often thought I must try her Irish coffee pudding so this time I really will make a note to make it soon.
It contains all the information you might need for successful food at Christmas. Recipes as well as lists, timings and advice. She includes several interesting vegetarian options for Christmas dinner. Justifiably a classic, some recipes may look almost retro but all look good.
The book is spit up into the following chapters:
Lists and More Lists
All kinds of Christmas Cakes
Talking Turkey…and Geese and Hams
Christmas Puddings and Mincemeat
Preserves, Pickles and Chutneys
Christmas on Ice
Canapes and Nibbles
A Party Selection
A Vegetarian Christmas
Ducks, Geese and Game
Roasted Meats and Cold Cuts
Winter Vegetable Dishes and Salads
Christmas Desserts and Sweet Dishes
Homemade Sweets and Chocolates
The Last 36 Hours
Supper Dishes and Left-overs
Mail Order and Home Delivery Suppliers (curiously old fashioned these days)
More About Turkeys
- Nigella Christmas
I like the Nigella Christmas cookbook, it conveys her love of entertaining combined with a ‘don’t stress it’ approach. Although even with my tendency to feed anyone who comes through the door I found the idea of a ‘Welcome table’ groaning with food just to greet anyone who turned up odd. One of my criticisms with this book is its footprint. It is too big to hold easily (in my opinion large format cook books only work if they are slim enough not to be too heavy). A number of the recipes in this book have appeared in previous Nigella cookbooks and it contains at least one spectacular failure – I tried her gingerbread stuffing the Christmas after I got this book and threw it away after one taste. Aidan made her yule log which was nice but nothing spectacular.
That said I make her spruced up vanilla cake from this book several times each year, it’s a very easy cake to make before visiting family and friends and is always well received as it looks special and tastes nice. Browsing through the book for this review I noticed she includes some nice ideas for winter dinner party meals that are not christmassy so I’ll try a couple more recipes before I put this book away for the year.
The book is organised as follows:
The More the Merrier Cocktails, Canapes and Manageable Mass Catering
Seasonal Support Soups, Salads, Sauces and Serve-later sides
Come On Over…Stress free suppers
The Main Event
Joy to the World Christmas Baking and Sweet Treats
All Wrapped Up Edible Presents and Party Preserves
A Christmas Brunch for 6-8
A Bevy of Hot Drinks
Dr Lawson Prescribes…
- Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas
Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas is the most inspirational book, with stunning photographs. Sarah’s planning for Christmas includes flowers and starts in September! It is the sort of book which makes you wish you had a large well stocked garden and lots of free autumn weekends to potter around since at least half of the book is floral and foliage decorations for christmas and there are a number of edible gift recipes. Although the recipes look lovely I’ve only made the christmas pudding ice cream so far which was delicious. I suspect if I didn’t already have Delia’s book this would be my guide to making Christmas dinner as it is thorough without being over complicated. This book is split into the following sections:
Planning Ahead which includes forcing bulbs for Christmas as well as homemade chutneys.
Decorations which includes ideas for decorating your Christmas tree and making wreaths
A Christmas Party which has more flowers and lots of canape recipes
Christmas Eve Recipes from breakfast through light lunch to 3 course dinner
Christmas Day How to do all the essentials including roast goose with interesting ideas and variants for basics such as stuffings
Boxing Day Lots of interesting ideas for using up leftovers
New Year’s Eve with winter dinner party recipes