Posts Tagged ‘spices’

I usually find that when you buy ribs, even from a good butcher, they come with terrible cooking instructions that result in tough, chewy meat and a wasted opportunity for a great cut of meat. Because ribs are mostly made up of bone and muscle they are more suited to a low and slow cook rather than a quick flash on the barbeque. Taking several hours to cook your ribs at a low temperature make the meat meltingly soft and moist, and if you finish them off on the barbeque or under a hot grill you still get a crispy edges and sticky glaze. I’ve tried several different recipes, most involving keeping the oven at around 90°C for much of the day and they’ve all worked out well (this one is particularly good) but now I’m stuck with a tiny combi oven that won’t go below 150°C I thought tender ribs would just have to wait for the shiny new Electrolux to be installed. And who knows when that may be? (more…)


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Apple crumble pie was my Valentine’s gift to my husband (I’ll make an effort not to bore you with adulation but he’s awesome). He’s an excellent crumble maker and connoisseur and it’s rare that I can produce a crumble that measures up to his; he also makes a mean pie, mainly of the chicken variety. Perhaps I was setting the bar rather too high when I aimed to woo him with his signature dish? To my mind I was aiming to produce the ultimate in desserts by combining two of his three favourite puddings (there was no way I was trying to fit a cheesecake into the mix but, having said that, I’m now plotting some kind of apple crumble cheesecake). So, in order to surpass his best efforts, I knew I had to go further than just sitting a plain old crumble atop a pie crust.


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Aye up! Last week we escaped to a little cottage on the edge of Yorkshire and the Peak district. We replaced the rolling green hills and thatch of Devon with rugged, heathery peaks and pretty villages built from yellow-cream stone. Yorkshire has a flourishing food scene and we happened upon several excellent farmers’ markets and food festivals. The pubs within walking distance of our cottage all served the most delicious, local grub and ales; I feel like I’ve put on about a stone in weight! So no surprise that I wanted to stave off the post-holiday blues and recreate a little bit of  ‘up North’ at home.


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I’m lucky to have a plentiful supply of free walnuts from the tree in my mum’s garden. When we were little my brother and I used to spend hours climbing in its leafy branches and building forts. We never had bountiful crops, partly due to the warm winters (most trees need a good cold spell every year in order to crop well the next) and partly because of the pesky squirrel which delighted in stealing the unripe nuts. In recent years we’ve had snowy winters and the squirrel seems to have gone to the nut tree in the sky. Net result: lots of walnuts!

I’ve been working my way through a huge bowl that’s been sitting on my dining table for the last few months and finally finished them by making this cake. Having cracked so many shells only to find a shriveled-up little wisp of a nut I’m starting to see the logic in buying them ready shelled! But the effort and mess was worth it when I settled down for a cup of tea and a slice of this light, nutty cake drenched in an orange and honey syrup.


I’m a big fan of any drizzle cake, the syrup keeps the crumb moist and you can play around with all sorts of flavour combinations. Sweet tea over a fruit cake, amaretto over a pear cake; I’m planning to have a go at a tres leches cake in the near future. I felt that orange would work well with the walnut sponge; one recipe I liked recommended adding brandy but unfortunately the cupboard was bare. In its absence I used a glug of my beloved Campari which provides a fantastic marmalade-like bitter tang.

Walnut and bitter orange drizzle cake

Makes 1 x 20cm (8″) square cake

  • 115g butter
  • 75g  caster sugar
  • 25g soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 115g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 150g walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 orange
  • 115g honey
  • 2 tbsp Campari or bitter orange liqueur

Pre-heat your oven to 190°C (375°F) and grease and line a 20cm (8″) square cake tin.

In a medium bowl beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves.

Add two eggs and half the flour mix to the butter and beat until incorporated. Repeat with the remaining eggs and flour then fold in the walnuts.

Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and risen.

While the cake bakes, zest and juice the orange. Measure the amount of juice and make up to 150ml (2/3 cup) with water. Heat the honey, juice and zest and simmer for 6 minute until thickened and syrupy. Stir in the Campari.

Leaving the cake in the tin, prick the top and pour over the orange syrup. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for at least 4 hours.

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This coming Thursday expect fireworks, dragon parades and other festivities in celebration of Chinese New Year. Why not join in the fun by cooking up a Chinese feast?

In the last few years the local university has been actively recruiting foreign students and we now have a flourishing Chinese community. With the new arrivals have come a bevy of Asian food shops selling all manner of exciting ingredients (not that you’ll need anything hard-to-get for this recipe) and a fabulous New Year’s festival. My husband and I usually head out to browse the fayre and watch the fireworks before heading home for our very own New Year dinner.

Red is an important colour in Chinese culture, it symbolises good luck and is very prominent around new year. So red-cooked chicken is a lucky kind of dish, perfect for our own celebration. The red colour comes from simmering the chicken in a dark stock flavoured with soy sauce and spices. Admittedly the chicken in the above photo isn’t very red, if I had been patient and left it to sit in the fragrant stock a while longer it would have taken on a darker hue. Better still, let the chicken bubble away in a slow cooker for the day.

The chicken can be served hot or cold, in any manner of ways, it’s excellent shredded over plain steamed rice with some of the hot, savoury stock ladled on top. And that’s where the brilliance lies in this recipe – the stock. After you’ve removed the chicken, strain the stock and let it cool. You can then freeze it to use another day; each time you use it the flavour gets richer and deeper, it just keeps getting better!

For everyone out there celebrating Chinese New Year, 新年快樂!

Red-cooked chicken

Adapted from a Terry Durack recipe in The Accidental Foodie

Serves 4

  • 4 bone-in chicken legs (you could equally do a whole chicken in the slow cooker)
  • 125ml Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 125ml dark soy sauce
  • 125ml light soy sauce
  • 750ml chicken stock or water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 piece of ginger about 5cm long, peeled and sliced

In a pan large enough to fit the chicken, heat the rice wine and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Skim off any foam, cover and allow to simmer very gently over a low heat, so the bubbles just break the surface of the liquid, for 15-20 mins. Take the pan off the heat and leave to sit for at least half an hour.

Serve however you fancy; warm with rice or noodles, cold with a dipping sauce or salad.

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