Friday, 31 January 2014

Lemon Polenta Biscuits

Well we made it to February, well done everyone! What got me through the last week of January was these fabulous lemon cookies, made a on exceedingly dreary Sunday afternoon. Once they were cooled we curled up on the sofa with steaming cups of tea and dunked these sunshiney cookies (well I did, I'm the dunker of this household). For the next few days they provided a lovely accompaniment to our after work cups of tea.

I spotted the lovely Emma's tweet about her lemon polenta biscuit recipe, and immediately got up and surveyed the kitchen cupboards to see if we had the right ingredients in. Everything except the almonds, so I did a bit of searching and came up with this recipe, halfway between Emma's and this one on

These are forgiving biscuits, quick to make and if your dough starts to get a bit soft, pop in the fridge for a bit and then bring it back out again to separate into balls.

Lemon Polenta Biscuits
makes 12 - 15

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
grated zest of 2 lemons, plus juice of 1/2 lemon
150g plain flour
75g polenta

1. Put your butter and sugar in a large bowl, and cream together. Or if you are fancypants (me) pop them both in your stand mixer and mix for a couple of minutes with the beater.
2. Add in an egg yolk at a time and keep beating.
3. Add in the lemon zest and juice, flour and polenta. Mix with a spoon (if you're using a mixer it's best to switch to a spoon now), and then knead with your hands briefly to allow it to come together.
4. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, then separate the dough into 12 - 15 balls around the size of a walnut. Preheat your oven to 200c
5. Arrange on a lined baking tray, and then squish with a wet fork to flatten.
6. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly brown on the edges
7. Leave to cool and then remove from your tray, and into your mouth.

They keep for about 5 days in an airtight container.

News! I'm holding another food event. My long awaited Gujarati Supperclub is on the 22nd February in Cambridgeshire. Find out more and book one of the last few spaces here: 

Pin It

Monday, 27 January 2014

Restaurant Review - Red Onion Essex & Indian Food in the UK

I was recently contacted by a new Indian restaurant in Saffron Walden (Essex / Cambridgeshire border), Red Onion, to try out their menu. This post is two things really, a review of the restaurant and some ponderings about Indian food in the UK.

First, the Red Onion. It is a curry house based just around the corner from Saffron Walden Common, which opened last year.

For starters we had onion bhaji and Aloo Chaat. The onion bhaji was pretty textbook, they were crispy and quite big and not too oily- and served with that random salad that no one ever eats. My aloo chaat, was just a plain potato curry - what I had hoped for is spicy potatoes with crispy sev (chickpea noodles) or fried chapati with yoghurt and tamarind, that is what chaat normally consists of - it's about textures. This was unfortunately a potato curry with cucumber in it, bizarrely. It was good to see it on the menu but unfortunately it wasn't an aloo chaat.

For mains I ordered a lamb achari - the lamb was nice and tender and the sauce was tomato based with good heat and a lemony kick. Mr had a vegetable bhuna - a nice tomatoey sauce with good heat, but the vegetables seemed to be from those frozen 'vegetable mixes' you get in big bags. We also ordered muttar paneer, usually cooked with onions and a little tomato with plenty of chilli, and peas of course, our dish was coconut based, which I like with paneer, but unfortunately it was cloyingly sweet. I wouldn't have minded a little chilli powder!

We decided to try out some different breads - garlic naan, roti and chapati. The naan was really nice, fluffy inside and crispy on the bottom. The chapati was good, nice and soft and mopped up the curry well. The roti, I think it differs from the chapati as it is cooked on a tandoor, was nice too, possibly a bit too crispy.

To finish we decided not to go for the oddly presented kulfis (in coconut shells, plastic pineapple shells etc) that you always find in curry houses, but for a cup of masala chai each. Like the aloo chaat it was nice to see it on the menu, the tea was good although, I think, made from a spiced tea bag rather than brewed with a masala mix, meaning it wasn't as strong as it should be.

Overall it was a nice meal, and if you're after a 'British Curry' then that is what it will offer you. We really liked the breads and the sauces in each of our curries were good. The starters could use some work and the paneer was a little bizarre.

I think food in general has improved tenfold UK over the past 10 years, British food is better than ever, but I feel understanding about what Indian food, and probably that of other countries, is seriously lagging behind. A curry house will tell you that you are eating authentic Indian food when you're tucking into a chicken korma, dipping plain poppadoms into mango chutney, and that strange thin yoghurt sauce. When you're eating orange pilau rice and fighting your way through an oil soaked onion bhaji.

For me a curry house curry is a bit of a guilty pleasure, a bit like MacDonald's or a fish finger sandwich. It's mostly not authentic (a lot of Indian restaurants dishes are actually based on Bangladeshi cooking with Anglicised additions) but it is comforting in a way.

I think curry houses can give Indian food a bad rep. Indian food is different in each region you visit - and it is not always as unhealthy as it has a reputation for - yes we like our samosas and sugary snacks, and ghee is used - but everyday Indian food is fresh and nourishing. Lentils, fresh vegetables, wholewheat chapatis and pickles. It's not just cubed meat in a sauce served with a naan or rice.

This article in the Guardian about 'how to eat curry' is great - it explains what to look out for (south Indian food, pure vegetarian food) and what to order. Searching out restaurants like this is nearly always a good idea - you'll find plenty of them in Leicester, parts of Birmingham, Southall, Wembley and Ilford. South Indian restaurants will offer you a thali (plate) filled with different dishes, or a crispy dosa stuffed with homemade paneer or spicy potato. Pure vegetarian restaurants, which are often Gujarati (like me!) will serve chilli paneer, the best daal, chaat and sometimes gulab jamun for pudding.

Thanks to the Red Onion, Saffron Walden for inviting us for dinner. You can find out more about them here.

Pin It

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Perfect Healthy Granola Bar

Well now that is a statement isn't it? I've been searching, for so long for the perfect granola bar. I've suffered through batches of bars that just won't stick together (but thankfully do make good granola), and the ones that do stick are annoyingly the ones that are bursting with sugar and golden syrup. This just won't do. Granola bars are supposed to be breakfast food, and whilst I'm not pretending that I haven't passed a chocolate brownie off as breakfast, for a regular breakfast it isn't sustainable to eat sugar laden granola bars.

So what is the secret to a healthy sugar-free granola bar that will stick? An egg white.

What goes into your granola bar can be fairly flexible and a combination of coconut oil and honey plus that important egg white will ensure they stay together, and are robust enough to be wrapped up and chucked in your handbag for breakfast on the go (which is why I need them). Plus that egg will give you a little more protein to start the day.

Granola Bars
Makes 6 chunky granola bars, bake in a square brownie tin.

190g porridge oats
40g of desiccated coconut or coconut flakes
pinch of sea salt
70ml of coconut oil (melted) or groundnut or sunflower oil
60g of honey
70g of dried fruit
60g nuts, chopped if they are large
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 egg white

Optional but nice:
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Variations / Additions
Swap the coconut flakes for sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon of peanut butter encourages sticking together, and tastes pretty great
grated orange or lemon zest
dark chocolate chips in place of nuts (I won't tell if you don't)
Replace half the honey for maple syrup

Preheat your oven to gas mark 3 / 160c electric

Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl, except for the egg white. Mix with a large wooden spoon, or if using a stand mixer (I've just bought a very shiny new Kitchenaid!) mix on a slow speed with the paddle for 2 minutes. Add in the egg white and briefly mix to combine, mix for 10 seconds in the mixer.

Transfer to your tin, lined with greased proof paper. Press down with a spatula, so that it is all tightly packed together and evenly in the tin. Bake in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until it is golden on top.

An important bit for when it comes out of the oven - whilst still in the tin, cut the bars into pieces. Don't worry if they crumble a bit whilst they are warm.

After you've got the bars into slices just smoosh any crumbly bits down again. As they cool the bars will continue to stick together. Leave to cool completely then your bars are ready to be set free from the tin.

They'll keep for about a week in an airtight container. It makes me all kinds of happy that I can whip these up on a Sunday evening and know that breakfast is sorted for 5 days.

Pin It

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Franglais Kitchen, Cambridge Supperclub, December 2013

In December I was fortunate to be able to go to the very first Franglais Kitchen supperclub in Cambridge, hosted by Nazima and her husband Pierre, in their home. The theme was Indian French Fusion to bring together the couple's roots - think of classic French cooking techniques but with spice and inspired by popular Indian streetfood dishes. 

We started off with a glass of a French 75 cocktail - gin, sugar syrup and lemon topped off with Prosecco - perfect with the accompanying appetisers of bhel puri, pani puri and homemade Bombay mix. Bhel puri is one of my favorite Indian snacks - a mixture of small chickpea noodles 'sev', puffed rice, potato, onion topped off with tamarind chutney and green chilli chutney.  Find my recipe here.

A plate of pani puri was also laid out, another classic Indian street food, they are little puffed shells which filled with either potato or chickpea and onion before being topped with a chilled spiced 'pani' (water) which you fill the puri with, and then pop the whole thing in your mouth and crunch! Nazima's were just as they should be, a nice hit of chilli with refreshing pani and soft filling.

After the treat of the appetisers we moved to the mains. I went for a vegetarian main, mini peppers stuffed with homemade paneer served with chilli chutney. I've never had homemade paneer before, it's a lot different to shop bought, crumbly and tender and it takes on spices really well. 

After this we had a soup course, a spiced 'haleem' stew made with squash - comforting and something a little different. The soup was served with gorgeous sourdough naans, cooked on a barbecue, spiced with cumin - the idea of a sourdough naan is something I've never come across before and I definitely want to try making it.

Next was the main course, spiced poussin with stuffed okra. This was more French in style but made different by the spicing. Nazima also passed around a jar of her homemade achar, mango pickle to go alongside. 

Puddings, three of them! A delicately spiced masala chai chocolate mousse with popping candy, chocolate burfi (sweet) and a chilli chocolate macaron. A choice of puddings is always welcome and we all enjoyed working our way through each element of the last course.

Nazima and Pierre are holding another supperclub on the 31st January, this time featuring the cuisines of France and Indonesia. You can find out more and book here, not one to miss!

Pin It