Thursday, 28 August 2014

Salted caramel cupcakes


  • 70 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 170 g plain flour
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 50 g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 210 ml (71/2fl oz) whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 670 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 210 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 70 ml whole milk
  • 30 g tinned caramel or dulce de leche
  • Pinch of good-quality sea salt (such as maldon)
  • 100 g tinned caramel or dulce de leche
  • Pinch of good-quality sea salt

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3, and line the muffin tins with paper muffin cases to make the number you require. First make the sponge. In a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment or using a hand-held electric whisk, mix the butter, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together until they form a crumb-like consistency. In a jug, mix together the milk and eggs by hand.
  • With the mixer or whisk on a slow speed, gradually pour half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and mix thoroughly until combined. Raise the speed to medium and beat until the batter is smooth and thick, with no lumps. Scrape down the sides of the bowl now and then. Once all lumps are gone, turn the speed back down and gradually pour in the remaining liquid, continuing to mix until the batter is smooth and combined.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared paper cases, filling them two-thirds full. Using a 50 millilitre ice-cream scoop can make this process easier and will result in even cupcakes. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when lightly touched. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
  • Using the freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment or the hand-held electric whisk, gradually mix the icing sugar and butter together on a low speed until combined and there are no large lumps of butter. Gradually add the milk while mixing on a slow speed. Add the dulce de leche and sea salt and mix thoroughly. Turn up the speed and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Once the cupcakes are cool, use a sharp knife to make a hollow in the centre of each cupcake, approximately two centimetres in diameter and about three centimetres deep. Retain the cut-out piece of sponge. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the dulce de leche into the hollow.
  • Replace the cut-out piece of sponge, trimming to fit and pressing down gently to ensure that the top is level with the rest of the cake.
  • Spoon generous amounts of the frosting onto each cupcake, then gently smooth over with a palette knife, making a swirl at the top if you wish. To finish, spoon about 1 teaspoon of dulce de leche on the top of each frosted cupcake, swirling it slightly into the frosting, and add a light sprinkling of sea salt.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Salt beef

Salt beef Serves: 8-10 Prep time: 30 mins Cooking time: 3 hrs plus 7 days soaking Skill level: Bit of effort Costs: Mid-price Making your own salt beef is a bit of an undertaking, it's not complicated or difficult but there are several steps to the process and you need to let it soak in a pickling mixture for about 7 days. However, having said that when salted and cooked it is melting tender, falls apart and is delicious piled onto bagels or rye bread with plenty of pickles and mustard. Traditionally saltpetre or sodium nitrite is used in the salting mixture to keep the meat pink, you can buy it from some sausage making websites, but it's not essential. Ingredients 300g soft light brown sugar 350g coarse sea salt 2tsp black peppercorns 2tsp juniper berries 1tbsp coriander seeds 6 bay leaves 1tbsp mustard seeds 50g saltpetre (optional) 2kg piece beef brisket 1 large carrot, cut into large chunks 1 onion, quartered 1 celery stick, cut into chunks 1 leek, cut into chunks Handful of parsley stalks 6 unpeeled garlic cloves Method Place the sugar, salt, peppercorns, juniper berries, coriander seeds, 4 bay leaves, mustard seeds and saltpetre in a very large pan. Add 2 litres water and bring to the boil, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 2 mins. Remove from the heat and leave until cold. Pierce the piece of beef all over with a skewer. Place in a large clean heavy duty polythene bag or a sterilized plastic food tub. Add the cold spiced liquid and seal the bag or cover the container, making sure the meat is covered by the liquid. Leave in a cool place or fridge for 7 days, turning the bag everyday. Rinse the meat thoroughly in cold water then roll up and tie with string. Place in a large pan with the vegetables, parsley stalks, remaining bay leaves and garlic. Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 21/2 hrs until meltingly tender. Leave to cool in the cooking liquid then cut into thick slices or tear into pieces with two forks. By Nichola Palmer © copyright 2014

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Tarka dal


250g/9oz chana dal (yellow dried split peas), rinsed until the water runs clear
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 whole green chillies, pricked with a knife
2cm/¾in piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
3 tomatoes
¾ tsp ground turmeric
¾ tsp garam masala
1½ tsp ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful chopped fresh coriander leaves

Preparation method

Place the lentils and 900ml/1¾ pints of the water into a pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the water with a spoon. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender, adding more water as necessary.

When the lentils have cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and use a whisk to break down the lentils. Set the mixture aside to thicken and cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 20-30 seconds, or until fragrant.

Add the onion, chillies and ginger and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown.

Blend the garlic and tomatoes to a purée in a food processor. Add the purée to the pan and stir well to combine.

Add the ground spices and 100ml/3½fl oz of water to the pan and stir well to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the oil from the sauce has risen to the surface of the sauce.

Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and stir well, adding more water as necessary to loosen the mixture. Bring the mixture to the boil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the chopped coriander just before serving.

Naan Bread


  • Makes: 2 - 3 naan breads
  • 80ml hand hot water
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried active yeast
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon plain natural yoghurt
  • coriander leaves, chopped for garnish


Prep:15min › Cook:5min › Extra time:45min proofing › Ready in:1hr5min

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the water, yeast and sugar. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes or until frothy.
  2. Add the flour, salt, half of the butter and yoghurt. With a blunt knife, stir the mixture into a shaggy mess, then knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Cover the bowl with cling film and sit in a warm spot for 45-60 minutes or until double its size. Alternatively, you can place the bowl into the refrigerator for an overnight cold prove. If allowing for an overnight prove, remember to allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding onto the next step.
  4. Punch the dough down and knead gently. Divide into 2-3 equal sized balls. Roll each ball into a naan shape (tear shaped), making them relatively thin.
  5. Brush a large frying pan with oil and wipe with a kitchen towel. Heat to a medium heat and place the dough onto it, wait until the naan bread unevenly puffs up, about 3-4 minutes. Brush some melted butter on 5-6 random spots before turning it over to cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until the spots are browned
  6. Transfer to a clean tea towel and keep it warmed. Serve hot, brushed with melted butter (if desired) and sprinkled with coriander leaves. Enjoy!

Goan fish curry

Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2.5cm/1in piece of cinnamon stick
15g/ 1/2oz fresh ginger, peeled
7 large cloves garlic, peeled
300ml/1/2pt water
1-3 mild dried red chillies
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 medium tomatoes, puréed
400ml/14fl oz coconut milk
450g/1lb firm white fish fillets, cubed
Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper


Heat the mustard seeds in oil until they pop, add the onion and cinnamon then cook until golden. Blend the ginger, garlic, chillies and 50ml/2fl oz of the water to a paste. Add this 50ml/2fl oz of the water to a paste. Add this and the powdered spices to the cooked onions. Cook until reduced, then fry over a low heat for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 100ml/4fl oz of the water, cook until completely reduced then fry the paste for 4-5 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk and the remaining water then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the fish and cook for around 4-5 minutes until done. Adjust the seasoning, then serve.

Spiced roasted pineapple with vanilla ice cream


  • 200g/7¼oz caster sugar
  • 4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • small pinch saffron strands
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken
  • 8 black peppercorns, left whole
  • 10 fennel seeds
  • 300ml/10½fl oz water
  • 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, core removed, chopped into 8 equal-sized pieces
  • good quality vanilla ice cream, to serve (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. Place the sugar and spices into a heavy-based pan and pour over the water. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring well so that the sugar dissolves, then reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering and continue to simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened and resembles syrup.
  3. Strain the mixture into a clean jug, discarding the whole spices (reserve the strained liquid). Set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, lay the pineapple pieces onto a roasting tray. Drizzle over two thirds of the sugar syrup, then transfer to the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes, basting regularly with the remaining sugar syrup.
  5. To serve, arrange two pieces of spiced, roasted pineapple into the centre of each of four serving plates. Place a scoop of ice cream alongside each, if using.