On Using Up What You Have

My, aren’t we a busy bee this week?  Seriously though, I have had so much to do I have barely had time to sit down, let alone write.  Mostly this has been to do with my job at a certain public service broadcaster, it’s awards season, don’t you know (dahling) and I have been super busy.  It’s not been all bad, though, at the weekend our dear friends Simon and Natalie came to visit us from Bristol and we had a weekend of mostly eating and drinking.  Saturday night was a Peckham extravaganza of pizza and wine at The Gowlett (Gowlettini, in case you’re interested), eye-poppingly strong pisco sours and keeping it real at Peckham Springs and then some gimlets and martinis at the Peckham Refreshment Rooms.  We would have gone on to Blow Up at The Bussey Building, had we not been too pissed.

On Sunday we took our tired selves up the East London Line to Hoxton for a hangover-busting lunch at MEATMission.  After talking the boys out of the Triple Chilli Challenge for the second time, we ordered (deep breath) Dead Hippie burgers, bingo wings, chilli cheese fries, currywurst, deep-fried pickles and a greek salad.  More on this later, but needless to say, I wondered if I would ever eat again.

Just one half of our feast at MEATMission

Just one half of our feast at MEATMission

In the interests of pacifying my bank balance and my waistline after such an indulgent weekend, I have been on a bit of a mission to make meals primarily out of what I have in the cupboards, fridge and freezer and buying just a few items to supplement this rather than a great big shop.  One of my new years’ resolutions (God, doesn’t that seem like a million years ago?!) was to reduce the amount of food waste in our household.  As the issue of food waste was given more coverage in the media, I began to notice that we did tend to throw a bit of food away.  Not huge amounts but often a wilted half-head of celery, a few slice of mouldy bread or some manky herbs would end up in the bin.  The main reason for this was that we would do a ‘weekly shop’ at the beginning of the week, allowing for meals for each lunchtime and evening, and would then end up going out for lunch or dinner on a whim, wasting some of the meals.  So since January, the big trips to the supermarket have ceased and I buy food only when I need it.  Saves money too.

I’ve also recently been thinking that our obsession with following recipes is partly to blame.  We not only have more access to recipes than ever before with an unprecedented number of cookbooks being released each year, a boom in food blogging and a number of recipe databases, such as those created by BBC Food and UKTV Food, we also have access to a wider range of recipes with our interest in global cuisine reaching further and further.  Wanting to follow recipes all of the time means that we end up buying more and more from the ingredients list to make specific dishes rather than focusing on what we have.  It was difficult to shift my focus, but I now look in the cupboards and think “what can I make with this” rather than look in a recipe book thinking “what do I need to make this.”  The results are sometimes experimental, but on the whole they are good.  At first I was apprehensive about using a mix of single cream and creme fraiche in my second batch of naan bread, rather than the specified yoghurt, but it all turned out OK.

Another wonderful outcome of this approach is that I rely less and less on the big supermarkets.  Let’s face it, nobody wants to trek to the Sainsbury’s Superstore to pick up a tin of lentils and a couple of red peppers, so I have been embracing local shopping a little bit more.  I am lucky enough to live in a part of London where the ethnic diversity is reflected in the type of shops we have available to us.  In Peckham there are Indian shops selling enormous bags of cheap spices, far better value than the little jars you get in supermarkets, a brilliant Persian shop, Persepolis, that sells anything and everything from the middle-east and two Chinese supermarkets.  There are also a number of vegetable stands where you can pick up a range of veg for next to nothing (I like the one right outside the entrance to Rye Lane station).  In East Dulwich there is the ‘triangle of love’ in the form of William Rose butchers, Moxons fishmongers and Le Cave de Bruno wine shop, destination of choice for a dinner party or lazy weekend dinner.  Brockley Market is a 20-minute bike ride away each Saturday and there is a new farmers market up in the Horniman Gardens in Forest Hill.  Of course, I still have to make the dash to the John Lewis food hall from time to time, if only to pretend that I’m one of those rich people that actually lives in central London. (OK, it’s a bit poncey, but it’s right next to my office).

Spinach and chickpea curry

Spinach and chickpea curry

This dish, otherwise known as ‘last night’s supper’ is an example of how to use up what you already have.  This is a spinach and chickpea curry made completely with items lurking in the flat.  There is a little exception here, as the spinach I had planned to use was ruined due to the fridge being up too high, so I had to make an emergency dash to Rye Lane for some fresh stuff.  The aforementioned grocer outside the station sells three bunches for a quid which, when you consider how much you pay in the supermarket, is a bargain.  Despite being a fridge-raid meal (or ‘storecupboard meal’, as my mum would say), it’s still a pretty decent little vegetarian curry in its own right.  If you do decide to make it, it’s best not to take the ingredients list too seriously.  Mix stuff up here and there, add things, subtract things, or use a different flavour paste.  Be a rebel.

Spinach and Chickpea Curry

  • 2 tbsp any old curry paste you have lurking about (I used Bhuna paste)
  • 1 onion, or a couple of shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tins chickpeas
  • 250g spinach (or two bunches from the man in Peckham)
  • Few drops lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

In a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, fry the curry paste for a few minutes until it starts to separate.  Add the onions and reduce the heat, cooking them until soft and translucent – about another 5-10 minutes.  Increase the heat again and add the chopped tomatoes, cook for about five minutes, stirring regularly,  until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Add the chickpeas and cook for a couple more minutes.  Season and turn the heat down to low before adding the spinach, stirring until the leaves have wilted.  Stir in the lemon juice and serve with whatever you have in the kitchen (fortunately, I had a load of basmati rice in the cupboard and two peshwari naans in the freezer – win).

Adapted from a recipe by BBC Good Food.  Serves Four.

Peshwari Naan

Peshwari naan

Peshwari naan

I am not, nor will I ever be, one of those wondrous people who get up early on a Saturday and go running in the park.  I sometimes see them, heading down towards Peckham Rye in their lycra whilst I am walking, bleary-eyed, to the local cafe for coffee and bread (which will be taken straight back to bed) and wonder whether I should make my weekends more energetic.  This weekend, my main energies were focused upon drinking martinis in the wonderful Peckham Refreshment Rooms on Friday evening, then sitting outside the French Cafe in East Dulwich on Saturday afternoon with the Grand National on Radio 5 Live, shrieking as my 18-1 horse was first, and then second. Fortunately I had the good sense to bet each way.

I keep meaning to write up my several visits to the Peckham Refreshment Rooms, but I have left most of them in a bit of a gin-soaked haze, so have not yet got around to it.  It is quickly becoming one of my favourite places to go in the East Dulwich/Peckham/Camberwell locale.  Yes, the seating arrangements are not the most comfortable, especially if you have little legs like me (the stools are very high and very hard), but it really is a small price to pay.  The wine list is excellent and very reasonably priced, they have a small but perfectly formed cocktail menu, including a rather good martini, and the food is great.  Several trips to San Sebastian has made me fall in love with the Basque way of casual eating: lots of small plates ordered as-and-when you want them, rather than a whole meal.  With little morsels of speck with celeriac remoulade and plates of chunky toast ready to be spread with nduja, the Peckham Refreshment Rooms accommodates this beautifully.

Sunday was a day of writing and television catch-up, made all the better when I realised that there was a portion of Ollie’s slow cooked lamb shoulder curry in the freezer.  A quick defrost turned this into a majestic dinner indeed, needing an accompaniment a little more special than a supermarket microwave poppadom, so I decided to make some naan.  It would be lazy of me to say that naan bread is quick to make, as no breadstuff ever is, but once you have endured the kneading and proving process, they needs another ten minutes tops as they are simply cooked in a hot frying pan until they bubble and char.  The real beauty of naan bread is that it can be made in advance and then revived in the oven for a few minutes with a little brushing of ghee or sprinkling of water.  They also freeze well, so a batch can be slipped into a ziplock freezer bag and simply defrosted when needed.  Batch-baking at its very best (and quick, in a sense).

I have a very sweet tooth, so almost always opt for the peshwari naan.  I am partial to a hot curry and I find the sweetness of the coconut and almond inside the bread adds a different dimension that none of the other sides can.  The Indian restaurant that we usually order from sends pillowy naans that, when ripped open, spill out a huge amount of filling, which I later scoop up and sprinkle across the top of my curry.  This is the kind I want to make at home.

This recipe for peshwari naan is an amalgamation of two recipes.  The dough is Dan Lepard‘s Frying Pan Naan recipe from the brilliant Short and Sweet cookbook.  I have used this naan recipe several times before and it makes a really nice, sticky dough and, like everything I have made from that particular book, never fails.  The filling is taken from the British Indian Restaurant-style Peshwari Naan recipe by The Curry Guy.  If you haven’t visited his website before, it is an excellent resource for Indian cooking. 

The filling of coconut, almonds, sultanas and sugar is made into a stiff paste with a little single cream that can easily be rolled into a ball.  Once the dough has risen and has been separated into smaller pieces, it is wrapped around the balls of filling and then rolled flat with a rolling pin.  This creates a ‘pocket’ of filling within the bread and distributes it equally throughout.  The naans are then cooked in a frying pan over a hot heat until they bubble up, just a few minutes on each side.  They turn out so well, it is unlikely that I will be buying pre-packed naans for my home curries any longer.

Peshwari Naan

For the dough:

  • 100ml cold milk
  • 125g low-fat plain yoghurt
  • 50ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp fast action yeast
  • 300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

For the filling:

  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 175g flaked almonds
  • 4 tbsp sultanas
  • 45ml single cream

Start by making the dough.  In a large bowl stir together the milk, yoghurt and boiling water until smooth before stirring in the yeast.  Add the flours, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar and mix until a sticky dough forms.  Cover the bowl and leave for half an hour.

Flour a work surface and lightly knead the dough before returning to the bowl, covering and leaving to prove for one hour.

In the meantime, make the filling by combining all of the ingredients in a food processor and processing until a smooth paste forms, this may take a couple of minutes.  Press the paste into a ball (it should be the texture of a firm putty) wrap in clingfilm and set aside.  If you cannot get the texture right, you can adjust the ingredients, adding more almonds if the mixture is too wet, or more cream if it is too dry and does not come together.

Lightly flour the work surface and pat the dough into an oval, using your fingers to knock out any air bubbles that may have formed during proving.  Cut the dough into six equal pieces, these will be roughly the size of tennis balls.

Unwrap the filling and divide this also into six equal-sized spheres.  To fill the dough, flatten out a piece of dough in your hand and place a piece of filling on top.  Wrap the edges of the dough around the filling until completely enclosed.  Press any edges together to seal the filling in completely.  Carefully roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is the shape and size that you want.

Place a large frying pan over a high heat – do not add oil – then dry fry the naan bread until bubbles start to form on the surface, about 3-4 minutes.  Flip the naan bread over with a spatula and cook on the other side.  Transfer to a plate to cool.  Repeat this process with the other five pieces of dough and filling.

Coconut Bread

Morning glory

Morning glory

I have reached the point, as I do every year, when the arrival of spring ceases to be a joy and becomes a damn nuisance.  I am talking, of course, about the scourge of pollen; the enemy of allergy-sufferers.  Hayfever season has bloody arrived.  For a few months we walk around puffy-eyed, drowsy on antihistamine and wondering if we will ever stop sneezing, until mid-summer comes and we are back to normal once again.  For the last few mornings, I have woken up with eyes so swollen it would be reasonable for people to assume that I had been in a fight.

Of course, I have ways to combat this: an antihistamine tablet and the dabbing of a cold flannel will usually bring it down in half an hour or so.  Rather large sunglasses are also a great disguise if they do not, but it does mean getting up that little bit earlier to give it time to work.  Always one to see the positives, I have used this time to rediscover the beauty of taking time over breakfast.

A leisurely breakfast is one of the joys of the weekend.  With ample time, we will either languish in a cafe reading the papers, ordering coffee after coffee; or will cook something enormous and sit at the kitchen table, listening to the radio and gossiping about the night before.  During the week there is no such bliss and breakfast is either a piece of toast eaten whilst trying to wrestle my hair into submission, or whatever delights my office canteen is offering up that day.  Interpret ‘delights’ as you will.  With my new-found time, I have rediscovered my love of perfectly-brewed leaf tea (something definitely not available from the office canteen) and breakfasts so substantial I seldom need much for lunch.

Coconut bread

Coconut bread

A while ago, I was perusing the Caravan breakfast menu online and fixated, perhaps a little too much, on their grilled coconut bread with strawberries and lemon curd cream cheese.  Since then, I have not been able to get the idea of coconut bread out of my head.  I bake rather a lot with coconut as its crunchy graininess gives an extra dimension to many a tried and tested recipe.  My banana bread with rum and coconut is an old family favourite and, recently, I added it on a whim to some chocolate brownies with surprisingly good results.  This recipe for coconut bread originally came from breakfast supremo Bill Grainger, with a few tweaks by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen.  It has also been given an extra tweak by me, swapping the ordinary milk for coconut milk. Yes, coconut milk is bloody expensive these days (the cheapest can still always be found in the World Foods aisle, if you have one), but it heightens the coconut flavour and adds a little extra moistness. 

There is a fair bit of sugar in the bread, but it isn’t actually that sweet.  I used ordinary unsweetened desiccated coconut and unsweetened coconut milk, but if you want a sweeter bread, you could seek out some of the sweetened stuff.  Or add a sprinkle of Demerara sugar to the top of the bread before baking.  Either way, you’re going to love this.

Coconut bread

Coconut bread

Coconut Bread

  • 85g butter
  • 325g plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 150g desiccated coconut
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300ml coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 175°c / 350°f / gas 4.  Grease a medium or large loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter until melted and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar and coconut milk and make a well in the centre.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs vanilla extract and coconut milk until fully combined.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix together until fully incorporated.  Stir in the melted butter but do not over mix.

Scrape the ingredients into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for around one hour, or until risen and brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the bread comes out clean.  Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Serve in slices.

London’s Hot Cross Buns: Gail’s Bakery

Hot cross buns, garibaldi bunnies, Easter cupcakes

Hot cross buns, garibaldi bunnies, Easter cupcakes

With Easter growing nearer, the quest for a good hot cross bun is becoming ever more important.  Of course, we baking types often make our own, with various twists and unusual ingredients to try to stand out from the crowd. This year I am soaking my fruit in Earl Grey tea, a slightly more subdued version of last year’s bun, for which I soaked the fruit in Morgan’s Spiced rum.  London’s bakeries are also quick off the mark to get their own seasonal offerings out there.  A few years ago, The Ginger Gourmand, on her other blog, Eats Dulwich, rated all of the hot cross buns in and around East Dulwich, which is one of my favourite blog posts ever.

As this quest began to gather momentum and suggestions for bakeries came from far and wide, I received a box of Easter goodies from Gail’s Bakery to try. Much to the delight of my ever-hungry colleagues.  Since Gail’s opened a branch in my nearby Dulwich Village, I have been a bit of a regular.  Sometimes to pick up a loaf of their excellent bread, and sometimes to get a coffee and a pastry to enjoy whilst dodging the children on the recumbent go-karts in Dulwich Park.  My favourite is a savoury pastry with cherry tomatoes, basil and goats cheese they sometimes sell.  With their reputation of great bread and pastries, their Easter range must be top notch, non?

My colleagues (selflessly) agreed to taste and give their verdict.


Hot Cross Buns

The first thing that the tasters noticed was the enormous difference between a freshly-baked hot cross bun and the packaged ones you buy in the supermarket.  On opening the box, the smell of both freshly baked bread and spices was enough to leave everybody salivating.  The buns were soft, but without that airiness that you sometimes get from a processed bun, and they had a very shiny and sticky glaze.  We were divided on whether there was enough fruit in the buns – some preferred a sparsely-fruited bun, whereas others longed for more.  The fruit was a step above the usual currants and candied peel, though, I spied a few sultanas and cranberries in the mix, which made it a little more luxurious than your standard bun.  We all agreed that the buns had the perfect amount of spicing and were not too overly sweet.  One of my colleagues commented that they would benefit from a touch more salt.  All in all, an overwhelmingly positive verdict and an excellent bun.

Garibaldi Bunnies

OK, so my reaction to the surprise garibaldi bunnies was a little overblown, but finding my childhood favourite ‘squashed fly’ biscuits in the shape of rabbits was almosy too much to bear.  These had the delicious chewiness of old-style garibaldi biscuits with the addition of a delicious dusting of cinnamon sugar.  Perfect if you couldn’t eat a whole hot cross bun.

Easter Cupcakes

Cupcakes aren’t really my thing. I am partial to one once in a while, but will nearly always choose a little friand or financier over one when given the option. It’s just all. that. icing.  The Easter cupcakes from Gail’s are the kind to give you quite the sugar rush – a sponge cake, topped not only with vanilla buttercream, but with two iced shortbread bunny ‘ears’.  They are a little too sweet for me, but the quality is superb – a light sponge with a good-quality and well made vanilla buttercream.  The ‘ears’ were my favourite part – I could have eaten a ton of these on their own.

These products were a gift from Gail’s Bakery.

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart


Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart

I’m not really sure that my blog needs another chocolate recipe, but as chocolate is the theme for tonight’s Band of Bakers event, there is one.  In any case, it is good to get this one in before Easter gets any closer and the blogosphere is awash with chocolate recipes.

It seems like a very short time since our last Band of Bakers gathering, when we were all at The Crooked Well eating far too much cheese than is healthy to eat in one evening.  Tonight’s event is a rather special event as we will be hosting it at The Chocolate Museum in Brixton.  Yesssss, there is a whole museum devoted to chocolate.  It’s run by the lovely Isabelle who also brought gourmet chocolate to the streets of Peckham in the form of her chocolate shop, Melange.  If you haven’t been over there yet, do go, their hot chocolate is to die for.

My offering for tonight’s event is a chocolate and salted caramel tart with chocolate pastry.  The filling comprises a layer of firm salted caramel, topped with a decadent dark chocolate ganache.  Both layers are chilled rather than baked, so were it not for the pastry having gone in the oven, I wouldn’t be able to bring it to the event (we aren’t called ‘Band of Assemblers’, after all).  Adding salt to chocolate and caramel is kind of old hat, heck, there probably a salted caramel product in every cafe and supermarket in the land.  Twinings have even brought out a salted caramel green tea, which I am highly skeptical of.  When done right, though, the combination of sweet and salt can be wonderfully tantalising and appeals to those who claim not to have an overly sweet tooth, my boyfriend included, who has already snagged a slice of this tart for later.

There are about 25 bakers attending tonight, all bringing chocolate bakes.  Something tells me that the combination of caffeine and sugar might lead to a sleepless night indeed.

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart

For the pastry:

  • 175g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 140g cold unsalted butter
  • 2 egg yolks

For the salted caramel:

  • 225g caster sugar
  • 100g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1½ tsp sea salt

For the chocolate ganache:

  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 250ml double cream
  • 65g chocolate malt powder

To make the pastry, sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and icing sugar and pour into a food processor.  Cut the cold butter into cubes and add to the food processor.  Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  With the motor running, add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing until the mixture comes together in a firm dough.  Turn out on to a floured surface, and gently knead for a few seconds.  Form the dough into a disc and wrap in clingfilm.  Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface and use to line a loose-bottom tart tin.  Gently push the pastry into each of the grooves, but do not trim the edges.  Return to the fridge and chill for a further 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200ºc / 400ºf / gas 6.  Line the pastry case with baking parchment and baking beans and bake blind in the oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat of the oven to 150ºc / 300ºf / gas 2, remove the baking parchment and baking beans and bake the pastry case, uncovered, for a further five minutes.  The bottom of the pastry case should be dry and cooked through.  Trim the edges and allow to cool.

Whilst the pastry is cooling, make the caramel.  Put the sugar and 75ml water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Increase the heat to medium and add the butter, stirring until it melts, then let it bubble away until it turns a light toffee colour, about 10 minutes.  Add the cream and the sea salt flakes and boil for a couple more minutes until thickened.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so before speading over the base of  the cooled pastry case and setting aside to cool completely.

To make the ganache topping, break the dark chocolate in a glass bowl and set aside.  Heat the cream in a saucepan until it almost reaches boiling point, remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate malt powder.  Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and stir constantly until the chocolate has melted and you have a smooth ganache.  Leave to cool for a few minutes before pouring over the cooled caramel.  Place the tart in the fridge for one hour to set the ganache before serving.

Cheese and Bacon Scones

Cheese and bacon scones

Cheese and bacon scones

On Saturday night, our friends John and Heather invited us over to their flat to help finish off the drinks cupboard before they move into their new house next week.  Apparently we were just the people for the job, you know, the ones who could be relied upon to drink the place dry. What a nice reputation we have.  Before our foray into the depths of the booze cabinet, we celebrated our last night out in Crystal Palace with dinner at a new American-themed burger place on the triangle, Antenna Diner.

There’s no #burgerleague review for this yet, although I may pop back to do one.  It’s definitely not the most refined burger I’ve had, but OK if you really can’t be arsed to go into central London in search of one. One thing to note is that they do not sell alcohol.  They do make a rather good vanilla and maple syrup milkshake, mind, but it would have been far better with a double shot of bourbon in it. Just sayin’.

Antenna Diner

Antenna Diner

Anyway… the scones.  When visiting people, I often take them something home-baked.  In this case, it was something that could survive the journey on the 363 bus around the bumpy roads of Sydenham Hill, and something that could stay in my bag throughout dinner without slipping, melting or beginning to smell.  I have been making a lot of savoury scones lately and have found myself preferring them to the sweeter varieties.  These are almost the same recipe as the cheese, chive and mustard scones I made for the January Band of Bakers, but with the omission of the chives and mustard and the addition of some very crispy smoked bacon.

Without meaning to blow my own trumpet, these are the most outrageously moreish thing I have ever baked.  The punch of the strong cheddar, combined with the smoky crunch of the bacon creates a salty, savouriness meaning that you both find it difficult to stop at one, and find yourself craving a cold lager.  Split and spread with some good butter, these are a wonderful hangover cure after a night of drinking your friends dry.

Cheese and Bacon Scones

  • 5 rashers smoked back bacon
  • 250g low-fat plain yoghurt
  • 25ml whole milk
  • 15g caster sugar
  • 400g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 200g strong cheddar, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten

Start by frying the bacon in a pan until very crisp.  Set aside until cooled and then chop or crumble into small pieces.

In a small bowl, mix together the yoghurt, milk and sugar and set aside.

Sift the flour, salt, cream of tartare and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.  Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Stir in the cheese and bacon.

Using a palette knife, stir in the yoghurt mixture until a sticky dough is formed.  Use the moisture in the dough to pick up any loose bits of flour from the bottom of the bowl.  Turn out on to a floured work surface and pat into a round approximately 4cm thick – try not to knead the mixture as this will create a tough texture.  Cut the scones out using a metal cutter and place them on the baking tray.  This mixture should yield about 12 scones, but it will depend on the size of the cutter you use.  Brush with the beaten egg and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes until golden brown and risen.

Mussels with Punk IPA, Curry Leaves and Coconut

Mussels with Punk IPA, curry leaves and coconut milk

Mussels with Punk IPA, curry leaves and coconut milk

As the year speeds along at a frightening rate, two things came to mind: next weekend the clocks go forward, stealing a precious hour in bed but giving us our beloved lighter evenings, and mussels season is coming to an end.  Back in November I posted the recipe for Ollie’s moules marinière and spoke about the rule of only eating mussels when there is an ‘r’ in the month.  Realising that this left me a mere six weeks or so to enjoy my favourite seafood, I popped along to the excellent Moxons in East Dulwich to pick up a bag of mussels for dinner.  A bit of a bargain at £4.50 a kilo.

I seldom make moules marinière at home as my attempt is always far inferior to Ollie’s spectacular efforts, so am often looking for new ways of cooking mussels.  The classic combination is, of course, white wine, creme fraiche and parsley, but what I had in the kitchen was a can of Brewdog Punk IPA, a can of coconut milk and a huge bag of curry leaves from SMBS Foods.  These, along with some shallots, ginger, garlic and chilli would go into make a very different moules dish altogether.

The cooking method is more or less the same with the mussels steaming in the hot liquid for a few minutes until they open.  The addition of a hefty amount of beer to the cooking broth cuts through the coconut milk and prevents it from having the sweet, cloying taste that some coconut based sauces have.  Due to the Indian influences in this dish, I thought it only right to choose an IPA (India Pale Ale) for inclusion in the dish.  Brewdog has been something of a religion in our family since, ahem, some shares were purchased, so their classic Punk IPA was the brew of choice.  You can use another beer if you prefer – IPA gives a wonderful ‘hoppiness’ to the broth, but another pale ale, or even a good-quality lager, would work just as well.

To be eaten with loads of chips and bread, and more Punk IPA, obvs.

Mussels with Punk IPA, Curry Leaves and Coconut

  • 1 tbsp vegtable oil
  • 2 eschalion shallots, finely chopped
  • Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 12 fresh curry leaves, sliced
  • 2 dried green chillies (I used birds eye as we like the heat)
  • Pinch salt
  • 250ml Brewdog Punk IPA
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • 1kg fresh mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • Coriander, roughly chopped

Put a large cooking pot with a lid over a medium heat and pour in the oil.  Gently sweat the shallots, ginger, garlic, curry leaves and chilli for around 5-10 minutes until the shallots are translucent.  Be careful not to let them brown.

Turn the heat up to high and add the beer, letting it bubble up vigorously for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol.  Turn down the heat and stir in the coconut milk, gently bringing it to a simmer.

Add the mussels to the pot, turn the heat up to high and put the lid firmly on.  Cook the mussels for about five minutes, occasionally gently shaking the pan stir them, until they have fully opened.

Ladle into serving bowls and sprinkle with the chopped coriander.  Be sure to discard any mussels that have not fully opened during cooking.

Adapted from a recipe by the Indian Culinary Centre.