Beignets (New Orleans style donuts)

Mardi gras didn’t really happen this year, but this time of year reminds me of New Orleans.

I was talking to a friend last week about places we had really enjoyed visiting and the food that reminded us of them and it sparked a memory of New Orleans.

About a million years ago when I was a student I worked in a US Summer camp and went travelling afterwards. I ended up in New Orleans and everyone recommended I try a visit to Cafe du Mond in the French Quarter. Their signature dish is a little plate of 3 beignets (little oblong donuts, doused in icing sugar) and a cafe au lait. The place is an institution and recalling it had me craving them. I had my very own Marcel Proust moment eating these, it was amazing (Rememberance of Things Past, is quite a dull book but is famous for passage about how food triggers memories)

This is probably best made at the weekend due to the amount of time you need to prove the dough, but other than that the beignets are pretty simple to make.

I used evaporated milk because I think it makes a richer dough, but ordinary milk is fine if you don’t have it.

N.B. When deep frying, cook at a medium heat. They will brown very quickly because of the sugar in the dough, but the first few I made had raw dough in the middle which was disgusting. I cooked rest at a lower heat and they were fine.

Ingredients

430 Grams Flour, I used strong bread flour, but plain flour is fine

125 ml Evaporated milk (ordinary milk is also fine)

175 ml Warm water (about skin temperature, not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast)

1/2 Tsp Dried yeast

50 Grams Sugar

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Egg (beaten)

30 Grams Butter (melted, and allowed to cool a little)

Icing sugar for dusting

Vegetable oil for frying

Method

  1. In a large bowl, add half the water, a teaspoon of sugar, and the yeast and stir, leave in a warm room (I use an airing cupboard because there are drafts) for 15 mins. The mix start to form a froth on top.
  2. Mix in the rest of the water, sugar, salt, milk and the egg and mix well
  3. Stir in half the flour, and then add the melted butter and remaining flour and mix well. The douch will be pretty sticky so transfer to a greased bowl and cover with cling film and keep in a fridge over night or at least 3 hours
  4. After dough has proved in the fridge its time to roll out. I’ve tried flouring the surface and rolling pin and found it stuck really badly. So the next batch I tried using a thin layer of oil on the surface and rolling and for me it worked better (I know some people prefer using a floured surface so work with what works for you
  5. Roll the dough in to an oblong and trim the edges. I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 18 oblongs (you can use a knife, but I found this worked well
  6. Heat your oil, until its warm enough that a cube of bread will sizzle when you drop it in. Cook the beignets in small batches, turning after a minute or two. You really need to pay attention to these as the colour very quickly. As I said early don’t let your oil get too hot or you’ll end up with raw dough in the middle
  7. Drain the cooked beignets on kitchen paper as soon as you take them out of the oil and then sprinkle liberally with icing sugar for a proper taste of New Orelans

Cheesy Mushroom Galette

Cheesy, mushroomy deliciousness

I think we’ve established I love a galette. What’s better than a galette, a galette with my two other great loves cheese and mushrooms.

This is definately a pure filth recipe, yes it’s rich but it’s not the type of thing you’re going to make every day.

Don’t be tempted to fry too many mushrooms at once, and don’t move them about too much

When cooking for vegetarians I often feel bad that the main course can look a bit lacklustre. This looks good when you bring it to the table and tastes amazing.

Cover the top of your cheese sauce with cling film so it does not form a skin

If you are making this, it’s really important that the filling is totally cold before you assemble the galette (otherwise you’ll end up with pastry that will melt and be impossible to handle).

Add the cold cheese sauce and mushrooms to the centre of the pastry, leaving a 3-4 cm border

The good thing is that if you are making this for a special occasion you can prepare all the elements in advance and assemble the elements just before baking.

Brush the pastry with egg yolk, and sprinkle grated cheese over the mushrooms

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 Grams Plain flour

100 Grams Butter

1 Egg yolk

1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)

Additional egg yolk to brush the galette with before baking

For the filling

500 Grams Mushrooms (sliced)

25 Grams Butter

1 Tbsp Olive oil

Salt and pepper

25 Grams Grated cheese

Cheese Sauce

25 Grams Butter

25 Grams Plain flour

250ml Milk

25 Grams Grated cheese (I used Cheddar but you can use other cheeses)

Method

  1. To make the pastry, and the flour, butter, salt, egg yolk and Cayenne to a food processor and whizz until the mix resembles breadcrumbs
  2. Gradually add some small amounts of very cold water until the mix starts to come together
  3. Turn the mix onto a floured surface and form into a ball before wrapping in cling film and chilling for at least 30 minutes
  4. For the cheese filling, melt the butter over an even heat and stir in the flour to create a soft paste
  5. Add the milk and stir continuously until the paste in combined and the sauce starts to thicken.
  6. Cook over a low heat stirring regularly for another 10 minutes until the sauce no longer tastes floury. Stir in the cheese, once it has melted remove from the heat and place a sheet of cling film on the surface to stop a skin forming
  7. In a large frying pan’ heat the oil and butter together, and half the mushrooms (if you add all the mushrooms in one go they steam not fry). One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from a chef is not to stir mushrooms too often, as it makes them release water which makes them soggy. So fry for 5 minutes each side without stirring too much, set to one side and allow to cool
  8. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface in a circle that is about 1cm thick. Transfer to a sheet of baking paper and place on a baking sheet
  9. Spread the thick cheese sauce in the centre of the pastry leaving a 3-4cm border around the edge of the pastry
  10. Place the fried mushrooms on top of the cheese sauce. Brush edges of the pastry with the remaining egg yolk and pleating the edges inward
  11. Brush the outside of the galette with egg yolk and sprinkle grated cheese over the top of the mushrooms
  12. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown

Roast Vegetable Couscous

Autumn sometimes sees a glut of great vegetables as growing season comes to end.

I love to roast these vegetables up to bring out their sweetness. Then it’s time to decide if I’m making a soup with them or a side dish like this.

If like me you like roast big batches of vegetables this can be even quicker to make as you’ll have these made already. This is really versatile, you can swap out different vegetables as they come in season.

If you’re vegan, you can enjoy this along with roasted chickpeas. I like it with griddled halloumi, or roast chicken and Greek yoghurt. It can be served hot or cold, and it’s ideal for lunch boxes.

Halloumi with roast vegetable couscous

Ingredients

200 Grams Couscous

Vegetable stock

1 Large courgette (Sliced)

100 Grams Cherry tomatoes

1 Red pepper (Sliced)

2 Tbsps Olive oil

3-4 Cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp Red wine vinegar or lemon juice

1/2 Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Dried mint, or 2 Tsps fresh mint (chopped)

50 Grams Pomegranate seeds

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the oil, sliced courgette and pepper to an oven proof dish, mix to make sure they are coated and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees. Include the garlic gloves (left whole with their skins on)
  2. After 20 mins remove from the oven. Stir and add the cherry tomatoes and sprinkle over the vinegar. Bake for another 15 mins (or until the edges of the peppers starts catch)
  3. In a heat proof bowl add the couscous cumin and mint. I recommend checking the instructions on the packet about how much liquid to add. (Then add the corresponding amount of vegetable stock)
  4. Once you have removed the vegetables from the oven, take the roasted garlic and squeeze out the soft centre and stir into the couscous
  5. Stir the vegetables into the couscous and serve

Goats Cheese and Beetroot Salad

I have vegetarian friends who scream at the thought of this, because it’s often the only vegetarian option available in restaurants.

I do sympathise, but done well there is a reason why some things are classics I understand that goats cheese is like kryptonite for some people, so I went with a really creamy soft cheese (that wasn’t too “goaty”), but this also works well cheeses like Gorgonzola.

Do you think you’re not keen on beetroot, I was an adult before I actually discovered that I liked it. I was put off by being made to try disgusting pickled beetroot as a child, and having horrible purple vinegar run into the other food on my plate. I’m probably over sharing my personal childhood trauma, but I know a lot of people have been put off for the same reason. When roasted, beetroot is sweet and earthy and goes really well with the soft cheese. I was lucky enough to get little beetroots in my farm box ranging in colour from gold, pink to deep purple, the range of colour is nice but they all taste the same, so give them a go.

Ingredients

150 Grams Soft goats cheese

200 Grams Roasted beetroot

200 Grams Salad leaves (I used rainbow chard, but use what you like)

25 Grams Walnut (Optional, I actually for forgot to add these, but they add some extra crunch to your salad)

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine vinegar

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees, wrap your beetroot in tin foil and place on a baking try. Bake until you can stick with a knife into the beetroot and an its soft. Set to one side and allow to cool, remove the skin with a knife, and cut into bite size pieces
  2. Spread your washed salad leaves across a platter, top with the beetroot
  3. Scoop teaspoon sized dollops of the cheese across the platter and sprinkle with walnuts if you are using them
  4. Mix the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the salad and serve immediately

Celeriac and Apple Remoulade

Clean, fresh and crunchy

If you’re wondering what remoulade is, the best way to describe it is a fresher, less gloopy, fancier version of coleslaw.

I’m trying to support local businesses and keep my food miles down (so I don’t feel guilty about my travel miles). So I ordered a vegetable box from a local farm. The vegetables were great, but in the middle of the box was celeriac. I had eaten it before but had never cooked with it.

It may not be pretty but it tastes great.

I decided to make remoulade, because it’s a fantastic Summer dish. This is perfect with barbecued meats, but also goes really well with fish. For vegetarians it’s a great addition to salad bowls to add some tang and texture, I also like to use it sandwiches as alternative to coleslaw. This is quick and easy to make, and will in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Great with barbecued meat or fish.

Ingredients

200 Grams Celeriac (roughly grated)

1 Large apple (roughly grated with skin left on)

Juice of half a lemon

1 Tbsp Grain mustard

3 Tbsp Mayonnaise

Method

  1. Remove the course outer skin of the celariac, and grate along with apple before adding to a bowl
  2. Cover the celeriac and apple with the lemon juice.
  3. Stir in the mustard and mayonnaise until thoroughly combined, refrigerate if not eating immediately

Vegetable Samosas

Light crispy pastry, with a soft well flavoured filling, I like these served with mango chutney.

I was doing another scan around my kitchen cupboards for something to make, and decided on samosas.

Potato and pea filling

I love a samosa, those delicious little Indian flavour bombs are usually deep fried, but these are baked to make them a little healthier. This recipe is vegan, but you can use spiced lamb as a filling. I’ve used potatoes and peas, but you swap out the peas for green beans or spinach.

Roll your divided dough into a circle and cut in half

The first couple of samosas will probably look a bit wonky until you get into the way of making them. Don’t panic these will still taste great, and if you don’t want to serve them then they will be the cook’s perk!

Wet the edges and press together to form a cone

Makes 16

For the pastry

225 Grams Plain Flour

2 Tbsp Oil or ghee

1 Tsp Onion (Nigella) seeds (optional)

Seal the edges to make a cone that you can filk

For the filling

3 Large potatoes (peeled and cut into small cubes)

1 Large onion (finely chopped)

2 Cloves of Garlic (finely chopped)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated)

2 Chillies, (finely chopped, you can add more or less depending on how much heat you like)

4 Tbsp Oil

100 Grams Peas (I use frozen, and let them thaw)

2 Tbsp Coriander (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Salt

Yummy hot or cold

Method

  1. Add the oil, onion seeds, and flour to a bowl and gradually add luke warm water until you have a dough. Knead for 5 minutes, and then wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large frying pan, and add the shopped onion. Fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes, and then add the garlic, ginger, and chillies
  3. Lower the heat and add the cubed potatoes, and a little water and simmer until potatoes are soft (you might need to add a little water as it cooks, but it should be a runny mix)
  4. Add the peas, salt and coriander and check the seasoning before allowing to cool
  5. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment
  6. Once the pastry has rested, divide it into 8 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the ball into a thin circle. Cut the circle in half.
  7. Pick up the half moon shape and wet the edges with a little water. Make a cone by pressing the edges together and fill the cone with potato mixture. Press the remaining edges together to seal the samosa, ending up with a triangle shape
  8. Continue rolling out the pastry and filling the samosas until you are finished, placing the samosas on the baking sheet. Brush them with the remaining oil and bake for 20 minutes until golden and crispy

Paneer Masala

Serve with rice or flat breads

This might look like a lot of ingredients, but getting yourself a good spice cupboard opens up a world of food possibilities. Find a good Asian supermarket and you can do this much more cheaply than buying them from a big supermarkets.

My love for cheese that you can fry has been well documented on this blog. Add it to a fragrant and well spiced masala sauce and it’s a little slice of vegetarian heaven.

Ingredients

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Cinnamon

2 Cardamon pods

2 Cloves garlic (finely chopped)

1 Tsp Fennel seeds

3-4 cm Piece of ginger (grated)

4 Cloves

1 Tsp Tumeric

1 Tsp Chilli Powder

1 Tsp Ground coriander

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

2 Tbsp Chopped coriander

Knob of butter

250 Grams Paneer ( cut into 2cm cubes)

2 Tbsp oil

Taking time to set out your spices saves time while you’re cooking, and you can tidy as you go.

Method

  1. In a large frying pan add the butter and fry the onion, then add the cinnamon, cardamon pods, cloves and fennel seeds
  2. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the ginger and garlic, and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Add the turmeric, tomato puree and chilli and fry for another minute, and 250ml hot water
  4. Bring the sauce to just before the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes
  5. In a non stick frying pan, heat the oil and fry the paneer until browned on all sides
  6. Add the paneer to the sauce and cook for another 10 minutes, allowing it to absorb the flavour.
  7. Top with chopped coriander. Serve with rice or flat breads. This keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days

French Onion Roast Potatoes

Roast potatoes topped with sweet caramelised onions and melted cheese.

Good roast potatoes are one of life’s simple pleasures. But it is possible to improve on perfection. This is a recipe that I used to make when I student and constantly broke. It’s made from simple cheap ingredients, and tastes fantastic.

Straight out of the oven.

You can eat it as a side dish, but I’m more than happy to eat a big bowl of it just on its own. You can also make this with mashed potatoes and it’s still a totally amazing comfort food, but do yourself a favour and try it with roast potatoes.

Onions caramelised, cooked low and slow.

Ingredients

1Kg Potatoes (Scrubbed with skins left on)

4-5 Large onions (Chopped)

2 Tbsp Oil

25 Grams Butter

Salt and pepper

100 Grams Cheddar Cheese (Grated), you can also use any cheese you find in the fridge.

Cover with grated cheese, before popping in the oven.

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees. Cut the potatoes into 3-4 cm cubes, and toss with 1 Tbsp of oil and spread across a baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes (or until soft)
  2. Cut the onions, I don’t cut them too finely. Heat the remaining oil and butter to a large frying pan. Add the onions and fry over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes until dark brown (not burnt) and caramalised
  3. Spread the onions over the potatoes, and then cover with the grated cheese. Return to the oven, and bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly

Soda Bread with Dulse

Most people from Northern Ireland will remember grandparents trying to force dulse on them as a child. If you were lucky enough to escape this and don’t know what dulse is, it’s deep purple seaweed gathered around the coast of Northern Ireland (and other places too). As a child I found it too salty, and the long strands too chewy (I wasn’t a fan).

The reason most grandparents tried to make kids eat it is because it’s amazingly good for you. It’s jam packed full of iodine, calcium, potassium, and all sorts of vitamins and anti oxidants.

I know apart from the health benefits, I’m not really selling dulse as something you can cook with. However, like the big food nerd that I am, I went on a coastal foraging day last year which was amazing, and ended with a fantastic meal cooked by Celia Sponcer (brilliant local chef). She used different seaweeds as seasoning for breads like focaccia and they were delicious, so she inspired me to try this. Dulse provides a saltiness to dishes, but also a deeper flavour that reminds you of the ozone smell you get when you’re at the coast.

Dulse before it has been finely chopped

In Northern Ireland dulse is sold in most greengrocers, but if you aren’t able to get hold of it you can buy it online from a lot of health food retailers or online (because it’s so good for you).

This recipe calls for buttermilk, which i never have, so if you don’t have it use ordinary milk and the juice of half a lemon (the acidity from the buttermilk/lemon juice is needed to cause the chemical reaction that makes the bread rise).

If you can’t find dulse, or aren’t brave enough to try it, this still makes really delicious and healthy bread. If you’re not using dulse replace it with 1 teaspoon of salt. It’s great served with soups, but my favourite way to enjoy this is sliced with cheese.

Enjoy with butter, or cheese and chutney

Ingredients

375 Grams Wholemeal flour

75 Grams Plain flour

1 Level Tsp Bicarbonate Soda

2 Tbsp Dulse (finely chopped)

325-350 ml Buttermilk (or use ordinary milk with the juice of half a lemon added to it)

Method

  1. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, dulse and baking powder to bowl
  2. Stir in the butter milk/milk and lemon juice mixture until it’s s soft dough
  3. Handle as little as possible, but make the dough into a ball
  4. Turn onto a sheet of baking parchment
  5. With a sharp knife, cut a cross (about one third of the depth of the dough) across the centre of the bread
  6. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 45 minutes or until the base sounds hollow when you tap it

Halloumi Fajitas

It’s not totally authentic, but it is totally delicious.

Like everyone else I’m trying to go out as little as possible at the moment. I took a craving for fajitas and didn’t have the chicken I would normally use, or tortillas.

What I did find in the fridge was halloumi, which worked brilliantly. The saltiness of the cheese is yummy with the sweet peppers and onions, with little kick of chilli heat. I didn’t have tortillas, but I substituted these with Carribbean flat breads, I made using a recipe provided by the fantastic Debbie at D Rum Pot. Fusion cooking by accident rather than design.

The fajitas take 5 minutes to prepare, before popping in the oven. You have a delicious meal in less than 30 minutes.

Mmm Melting cheesy goodness

Ingredients

200 Grams Halloumi (cut into 1,1/2 cm strips)

1 Onion (sliced)

1 Red pepper (sliced)

1 Yellow pepper (sliced)

2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1/2 Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Smoked paprika (I used the hot version, but if you are using sweet paprika then use a 1/2 teaspoon, and add a 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder

Method

  1. Add the spices and oil in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined
  2. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
  3. Add the chopped vegetables and halloumi, to the oil and spices and mix until coated
  4. Transfer to a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes (or until the halloumi is golden brown)