Posts tagged: cooking

Feb 08 2013

Christmas Pudding Ale seasonings

This is a message from the future! For once, it came out magnificently on the first attempt so I’ve stuck with this recipe ever since. 

So I’ve devised a recipe for what I’m hoping will be a nice Christmas Pudding Ale. The Youngs one, if I remember correctly, is just a winter warmer mixed with a stout and with a dash of coconut added. The one I’m planning is significantly more spiced.

The actual brew will be a fairly standard winter warmer – 5.22kg Pale Malt, 0.45kg Crystal Malt and 0.25kg Chocolate Malt, bittered with Kent Goldings. The trick, though, will be in the infusion I’ve concocted to be added into the last 15 minutes of the boil.

Basically, on the stove top I boiled up:

  • The juice and rind of three oranges
  • 2.5 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 6 crushed cardomom pods
  • 1.5 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp mixed spice (pudding spice)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • About an inch of liquorice root
  • 400g of clear honey
  • 200ml water

I let these boil for a good fifteen minutes or so and then sealed up in a tub and left to infuse for about a week. I’ve no idea if this is going to work out or not, but I’ll be sure to update if it does.

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Aug 07 2010

Cinder Toffee (Puff Candy)

Ok, so this is a tricky little bugger to get right, but here’s the easy bit:


  • 270 g sugar
  • 170 ml water
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

That’s it. First, some notes. These are formed from my own failed attempts to get it right. You may need some trial and error to get it working.

  1. Don’t stir. You’ll be tempted, but you have to resist. The idea is that if you just heat the sugar in a pan, the outsides burn before the sugar has fully melted / caramelised.
  2. You need to cool it FAST or it flops. I do this by having a baking tray floating in cold water in the sink. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do.
  3. Timing is EVERYTHING – as soon as the colour shifts, you need to get it out of the pot. Even when it’s in the tray it’s still hot and the middle can burn. I guess this is why crunchies are always darker on the inside.


Put the water in a pot, add the sugar, stir in, then bring to the boil. It’s going to boil for about twenty minutes, but you need to watch it like a hawk in this time. The idea is that we’re making a saturated sugar solution then boiling off the water. As the sugar drops out of solution (as the water evaporates) it’s much finer than even caster sugar and melts immediately.

DON’T STIR IT. Really, don’t. This will lower the temperature and force big clumps of sugar out of solution early and by the time they’re melted, the rest will have a nasty burnt flavour.

It’ll reduce, it’ll look gloopy and it will start to darken.

DON’T WAIT FOR IT TO BE TOFFEE COLOURED. If you do, it’ll burn in the baking tray. As soon as there’s the first sign of colour darkening, get it off the heat.

Now you need to act like a ninja – with it off the heat, stir in the bicarb FAST. It’ll froth up and go golden. You need to get it into the chilled tray fast, so stir it in rapid-like, then dump the whole lot in the tray floating in the water. All going well, once it cools, you’ll have cinder toffee. Admittedly, it’s a little flat compared to what you buy, but I think I’d need specialist equipment to cool it quicker to get it like that. Although…. ice cube trays…. hmmm 😀

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Jul 21 2010

A made-up double marinade

I’ve no idea if this is going to work, but it smells beautiful and fresh.

  • 8 banana shallots, very finely chopped / shredded
  • 4 hot green chillies, very finely chopped / shredded, with seeds kept in
  • 2 inch cube ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Organise this lot and mix it all together. Hey presto, marinade. I’m kinda double-marinading it because I have it sealed in the fridge overnight to let it all settle and then I’m going to mix it into some chicken and leave that to marinade for a day before doing something with it. Don’t know what yet, but I’ll update when I do.


Ok, so this one turned out to be an absolute stunner. Here’s what we did:

  • 2 Onions, sliced (not chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black onion seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 300ml boiling water
  • 1/4 can coconut milk
  • 3 chillies, finely chopped with seeds left in
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • fresh chopped coriander leaves

Heat oil and season with some cloves, cinnamon stick and cardomom pods as usual.

Use a high heat setting.

Fry the onion and black onion seeds until the onion darkens and begins to separate from the oil.

Add the entire contents of the marinade tub – all the chicken and all the marinade, and fry until it begins to dry. This will take a wee while as the vinegar and any juices from the chicken have to reduce.

Add the ground coriander and cumin and stir in then quickly add the boiling water. Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and allow to reduce.

Add the chillies and garam masala and simmer for a couple of minutes, then stir in the coriander leaf and serve.

Apologies for the lack of photo, but this was nommed too quickly.

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Jul 01 2010

Sweet Chilli Sauce (of the nippy variety)

Ok, so this is the easiest thing in the world to make, takes ten minutes, and tastes amazing. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 100ml white wine vinegar (malt will do, but white wine is nicer)
  • 100g muscovado (or other light brown) sugar
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3 hot green chillies, finely chopped, seeds included


First a note – this will make a HOT sauce. If you want to retain the flavour but reduce the intensity of the heat, remove the seeds from the chillies before chopping. As is usual when working with hot chillies, wear gloves or try and avoid skin contact with the chilli oils.

Mix the white wine vinegar and sugar together and put in the smallest pan you can find (we’re only making a small amount). Bring to the boil and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. The liquid will begin to darken almost immediately as the sugar caramelises.

Mix the tomato puree and water then add to the pan.

Drop in the chillies and continue simmering until the liquid has reduced to the desired thickness.

If you don’t want chunks, you can strain the liquid through a metal sieve or tea strainer to get a smooth, glossy sauce, but it’s much nicer with the chillies left in.

Works particularly well  when drizzled over tikka’d chicken stuffed in a baguette with lettuce and sour cream 🙂

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Jun 17 2010

Vegetable Stock


  • 3 tomatoes (diced)
  • 1 stick celery (diced)
  • 8-10 button mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed but whole
  • 1 bulb of fennel (diced)
  • 1/2 an onion (diced)
  • 1/2 a leek (diced)
  • 1 carrot (diced)
  • 4 fresh parsley stalks (roughly chopped)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


Heat the olive oil in the stockpot over a medium heat and add the onion, fennel, leek and carrot. Allow to sweat for 2-3 minutes.

Add enough water to cover the vegetables generously and turn the heat up to high.

Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, celery, peppercorns, parsley and garlic and stir. Cook at a rolling boil for 15 minutes.

Sieve the stock and discard the chunky bits. It will keep in the fridge for three days or can be frozen in batches.

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May 03 2010

Updated: Chicken Sneaka Masala part 3: The Masala

I’ll start out by offering sincerest apologies to anyone reading this who may consider Indian food their natural diet. I’ve taken certain liberties here to produce something that appeals to my western palate while, I hope, staying faithful to the Indian techniques normally used for this type of dish.

This is essentially a Masala – a sauce – to accompanying the Tikka detailed in the previous two posts. It’s a peculiarly western attitude to assume that a beautifully fragrant Tikka needs a ‘gravy’ to go with it, but here’s my attempt.

  • 6 shallots, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2″ cube of ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cardomom pops, 3 cloves, 1″ stick of cinnamon (for seasoning the oil)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (it’s a lot, I know, but bear with me)
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes / 3 chopped tomatoes
  • 100 ml coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • fresh coriander leaf

“Hang on,” you cry, “there’s nothing in there! It’s just a pepper sauce!”

Well, yes. The thing is, the tikka marinade is so beautifully spiced that care must be taken that it’s complimented by the sauce and not smothered. So here’s the reasoning behind it. It’s basically a standard ginger / garlic / onion base there, but I’ve substituted shallots for onions to add a little sweetness to compliment the slight sourness of the tikka marinade. Then there’s the tomatoes and the coconut milk, both of which add their own sweetness.

Now, that’s a lot of cayenne to have in there – it’s because the cayenne takes the edge off the sweetness, preventing it from becoming overpowering but will add too much heat for many people. As a result, I’m adding a fair whack of natural yoghurt right at the end to diffuse some of the heat. So, the method is:

Heat some oil and season with cinnamon, cloves and cardomom. We don’t want to add too much flavour, so after these have sizzled for 20 seconds or two, whip them out with a slotted spoon. If you don’t have one (you know who you are ;-)), it’s a handy addition to your kitchen.

Drop the shallots, ginger and garlic in the oil and fry until lightly browned, stirring continuously. Add the cayenne to this and continue stirring, take care not to burn the spice. Add the tikka’d chicken and  tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the coconut milk. You’re adding a lot of liquid here, so it’s going to take a wee bit of time to reduce (bearing in mind the chicken is already cooked). Once reduced, stir in the garam masala and yoghurt, bring back to a simmer (stirring continuously) then add the fresh coriander leaf. Cook for a minute or two, then serve on yummy rice.

There are a lot of flavours vying for attention here and I’d imagine it would be easy to make the cayenne pepper overpowering. If in doubt, use an equal amount of chilli powder instead.

EDIT: Tried this again with a few small tweaks to the sauce and it came out MUCH better. Firstly, reduce the amount of Cayenne to half a teaspoon and add half a teaspoon of ground cumin and ground coriander. Next, replace the tin of tomatoes with a tablespoon of tomato puree, add a lot more water and then let it reduce before adding the coconut milk and reducing a bit more. I left out the yoghurt and fresh coriander, but this can be added according to taste.

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May 03 2010

Chicken Sneaka Masala part 2: Sneaking

This bit is easy. It’s just tikkafying the marinaded chicken. Only reason I’m doing a post about it is to reveal the Secret Incantation of the Sacrificial Potato.

You’re going to skewer your chicken and need something to rest the skewers on so it’s suspended above the grill pan, right? Otherwise it sticks! So, get a potato, quarter it, and cut a notch in the top. Voila – skewer mount. After than it’s just a matter of slapping it in the grill and letting it cook. Two points:

  1. It’s MUCH better if you do it on a barbeque. Sadly, my ex-wife has custody of mine so the grill will have to do.
  2. Gravity is fighting you so unless your chicken chunks are very well balanced you’re just not going to be able to get them evenly done by turning the skewer. In this case, there’s no shame in sticking them in  a dry pan for a few minutes to ‘finish them off’.

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May 03 2010

Chicken Sneaka Masala part 1: Marinade

This is a pretty standard ‘tikka’ style marinade. There’s nothing clever about it and it’s been nicked wholesale from just about every Indian cookery book I’ve ever seen. It is, however, going to give a bit of flavour for my soon-to-be-produced Sneaka Masala, so I’m including it here for completeness. As ever, getting everything laid out before hand helps.

  • 1″ (ish) block of ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (notice I’m cheating and using bottled lemon juice – this is because I go through a LOT of it :))
  • 2 tsp ground cumin (seems like a lot, but then it has a lot of sourness from the lemon juice and yoghurt to work against)
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder – or according to taste. I tend to use hot chilli powder of cayenne, but that’s just me
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 80 ml natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree (bear in mind that most stuff you get in the shops is double concentrated, so remember to half the amount).

Nothing really to say about the method because it really is just a matter of bunging it all together and mixing it. What I would say, though, is put everything in except the yoghurt and mix it well, *then* add the yoghurt – a bit at a time – stirring constantly. The yoghurt is just desperate to curdle when it hits the lemon juice.

Once that’s done, just spoon it over your chicken and mix well – making sure all the chicken is coated. Theoretically, it only needs 4 hours to marinade, but you’ll get much better results if it’s left overnight. You’ll obviously want to cover it and stick it in the fridge for the duration.

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Apr 23 2010

Chicken Sneakaloo

So we invented a curry last night. Couldn’t decide what to make so in the end we decided to make it up as we went along. And it turned out pretty good too. It’s fairly fiery, with lots of sour onion flavour but very nomworthy. Here’s what we did.


  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Approx. 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 5 cardomom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 large onions
  • 2″ cube of ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • Enough chicken breast to feed two, cut into small bits
  • 2 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • Water
  • 3 hot green chillies, finely chopped with seeds kept in.
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt
  • fresh coriander


Heat a deep heavy pan with nothing in it. Roast the fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds and cumin seeds for a couple of minutes (but cover or the mustard will pop all over the place). Empty the roasted seeds into a mortar and grind until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in the pan until very hot. Add the butter and allow it to discolour – top tip: the more the butter ‘burns’, the redder the end product will be.

Finely chop the onions, ginger, and garlic and add them to the hot oil, stirring constantly until golden brown. Add the roasted spices and continue frying for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken and stir continuously until chicken is browned and sealed.

Crumble in the curry leaves and add the cayenne, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, cumin and tomato puree. Stir until everything is absorbed. Add enough water to cover all and make a thin sauce and bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat, add the chopped green chillies, and simmer until reduced and beginning to dry. The sauce will go fairly thick quite quickly.

Stir in the garam masala then add the yogurt, one teaspoon at a time, stirring until completely absorbed. Add the fresh coriander, cook for a further minute, then serve with loads of rice.

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