Baked Churros & Caramelised Salted White Chocolate

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Churros from the Spanish restaurant at the end of my road replaced sticky toffee pudding as my favourite dessert last year. While the baked variety doesn’t hit the same notes as fried churros, they have a charm of their own – somewhere between a doughnut and a cake, and with the same sugary cinnamon loveliness on the outside as the real deal. The recipe below is adapted from a really good one I found on Erica’s Sweet Tooth blog here (i added more milk to make them a little more moist and reduced the cooking time, other measurements below just switched to grams/ml). Traditionally these are served with dark or milk chocolate, but having recently discovered caramelised salted white chocolate (thank you Food 52) I jumped at the opportunity to bring that into the mix. Any spare chocolate sauce can be kept in a jar and reheated as soon as you can think of another excuse to use it (on ice cream is simple, but yummy – the Food 52 suggestion of eating it in between two biscuits is firmly on my to do list). S

Churros Recipe (makes 30):

190g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
110g caster sugar
75g unsalted butter (slightly soft)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
130ml milk

For the coating: 50g butter, 200g caster sugar and 3 tsp cinnamon (you don’t use it all – I bulked this up to make the coating easier)

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Method:

Preheat the oven to 170°C

Step one: Sift the flour, baking powder together with the spices and salt and set aside

Step two: Beat together the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy (pics below when it first comes together and then a couple of minutes later so you can see the colour change you are looking for)

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Step three: Add one egg and beat until combined

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Step four: With a spoon, stir in the flour mix and milk alternately. Mix until just combined taking care not to overwork the mixture

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Step five: Take a mini cupcake tray (around 1 inch diameter) and lightly grease with butter and rub over with a paper towel to remove any excess

Step six: Using a teaspoon, spoon the mixture into the cupcake tray (they will rise so you do not need them to be as big as you think, around the size of a brussels sprout)

Step seven: Bake for 12-14 minutes until risen (they should spring back to you when you lightly press the top when cooked).

Step eight: Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack. At this point I panicked a little bit that they didn’t really look like churros, but they transform when sugar coated. If making in advance I would store them like this in an airtight container and do the final step on the day you use them.

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Step nine: When cooled, set up a little production line of a tub of melted butter, and a bowl of sugar and cinnamon. Using a pastry brush, cover the outside of the churro in butter and dip in the sugar mix, tossing to coat evenly. Serve with chocolate sauce (recipe below).

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Caramelised Salted White Chocolate Recipe (makes 2 x 220ml):

4oog white chocolate (I used Green & Blacks)
Salt (to taste – you can see in the picture roughly how much I used)

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Method:

Preheat the oven to 125°C

The method is fairly simple but a little bit time consuming – I was worried about the temperature getting too high so this probably took a bit longer than it needed to (1 hour, stirring every ten minutes). I took quite a few pictures so you can see the colour change – It took a while to get going but once it did it step changed quite quickly.

Step one: Break the chocolate into pieces in a baking tray and place in the oven.

Step two: Every ten minutes, remove to stir. I may clump together a bit but you can loosen it again easily by stirring when you take it out. Again for the first few stirs mine looked pretty similar apart from the clumping when it came out, stick with it…

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Step three: When you have the desired colour, add salt and stir. I did two lots of the salt shown below – taste as you go.

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Step four: When you are happy with the flavour, pour into a jar and leave to cool. Reheat when ready to serve, or whenever you think of an excuse.

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The Best Guacamole – Courtesy of the Hairy Bikers

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Guacamole is a massive favourite of mine – with tortilla chips, with chilli, on ryvita, on its own… you get the picture.  The problem is finding the right one.  The Hairy Bikers’ “real guacamole” recipe is the best I have found.  I use a little less onion and a touch more lime but apart from that follow it almost to the letter.  Pics below, you can view the original recipe here.  S

Recipe (makes three bowls):

6 avocados
8 chillies (half red half green)
1 red onion
1 large bunch of coriander
4 medium sized tomatoes
2 limes

Method:

Step one: Pulse the onion and chillies gently in a food processor (or chop very finely by hand).  Add into a bowl with the chopped avocado and tomatoes

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Step two: Mix together with a pestle, adding the lime juice and coriander to loosen.  Set aside with the avocado stone in the bowl to prevent from browning.

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Roasted Tomato Salsa

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In general I am in no way a dip snob, but salsa is one of the few that I don’t like the taste of pre made.  I find it overly sweet and    it never seems to taste of the things that you can see are in it.  There are a lot of recipes to choose from (I rule out anything involving removing tomato skins on principle) and having tried a few, the one technique that I thought made a difference was roasting the vegetables first.  I made this one in a bit of a hurry but roasting the vegetables slowly and for longer would bring the flavours out even more.  Serve with tortilla chips or inside corn tortillas as a sauce.  S

Recipe (makes 900ml):

1.5kg cherry tomatoes (halved)
6 green chillies
8 cloves of garlic
Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Step one: Place the ingredients in a baking dish (I put mine in one, doing again I would spread across two).  Bake for two hours (I baked at 190 for 40 minutes – It tasted fine but the slower cooked version I did last time was better)

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Step two: Remove from the oven and blend in a food processor.  Set aside until ready to serve.

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Picked Red Onion

Super easy, but still a new one on me – Place the onion (I used three large red ones, thinly sliced) in a bowl with 1 cup of red wine vinegar, 2 tsp of sugar and a pinch of salt.  Because of the quantity I split into two bowls so only one shown below. Leave to soak for around an hour and drain before serving. S

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Chilli & Beer Braised Pulled Pork

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The first attempt at this tasted good, but was definitely not “pulled”.  This time around I cooked it at a lower temperature and for longer, used a bit less cumin and let it rest for far longer before serving.  I served this with tortillas, sour cream, salsa and  guacamole, but this would be just as good on its own with a green salad (this was my master plan for the next day but we got through the entire thing…)  S

Recipe (serves 12):

5kg bone in pork shoulder
12 green chillies
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 lime
3 white onions
6 garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
4 tsp oregano
4 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp cumin
1 tsp all spice
700ml dark beer (I used Sierra Nevada)

Method:

Step one: Pulse 12 green chillies with 4 tbsp brown sugar (go gently so it doesn’t produce too much liquid)

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Step two: Stir in the juice of one lime and rub on all sides of the pork.  Cover and set aside for an hour or two

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Step three: Around nine hours before you plan to eat, place the pork in the oven at 125°C (it cooks for seven hours)

Step four: While the pork is in, heat vegetable oil, onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves, oregano, ground coriander, cumin and all spice and cook until the onion has softened.  Add the beer and bring up to the boil.

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Step five: Remove the pork from the oven and transfer into the dish with the beer mixture.  Return to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time

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Step six: After around seven hours, remove the pork (careful taking it out as it falls away from the bone very easily).  Cover with tin foil and set aside until ready to serve.  It only takes around ten minutes to pull apart the whole thing.  Spoon some of the sauce in the dish over the top and/or place in a small jug at the table.

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Sweetcorn Fritters with Avocado & Lime

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Always happy to find new “carriers” for all things avocado, corn fritters were a great find – There are lots of recipes about but most of them seem quite flour heavy – I cut back on some of the flour and added more corn, mixing some of it in a blender and leaving the other half whole to keep the texture.  Fry up in advance and store in an airtight container until ready to use, add the topping just as you are ready to serve.  S

Recipe (makes around 30):

150g plain flour
3 eggs
750g sweetcorn
7 red chillies (4 for the cakes, 3 for the topping)
2 avocados
40g coriander (25g in the corn cakes, 15g for the topping)
3 limes

Method:

Step one: In a food processor whizz half the sweetcorn with 25g coriander

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Step two: Add four red chillies (no seeds), 3 eggs and whizz again, adding in the flour

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Step three: Stir in the other half of your sweetcorn

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Step four: Using a very lightly oiled pan, fry into fritters (each one was around the size of a large crisp).  Turn using a palette knife and when cooked set aside on a kitchen towel.  Once cool, store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

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Step five: For the topping, mix the avocado with 3 red chillies (chopped, no seeds – i used the blender), the rest of the coriander and the juice of three limes (add salt and pepper to taste).  Set aside leaving an avocado stone in to stop the mix from browning.

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Cinco de Mayo Supper

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A few months ago we had a bunch of university friends over for a margarita Mexican night.  The food was all sharing plates and easy to prep in advance, so when I clicked that our family get together was the same weekend as Cinco de Mayo it was the perfect excuse for a re-run.  The first time around I didn’t cook the pork low or long enough which meant that while it was nice, it wasn’t “pulled”, and the main was just the tortillas so I added a corn salad to lighten things up a little.  Since doing this the first time I discovered the magic of caramelised salted white chocolate, which made an appearance with the churros (yum).  My friend Ana sent me some playlist suggestions and I actually still had the maracas from her wedding in Colombia to use as a centrepiece on the table (which were amusingly also put to good use later on).  Served with Corona, rose and of course, margaritas.  S

Menu:

Corn Fritters with Avocado & Lime
Pulled Pork Tortillas
Picked Red Onion
Tomato Salsa
Guacamole
Corn, Tomato & Feta Salad
Baked Churros with Caramelised Salted White Chocolate

Everything can be made a day in advance (probably including the pork, I put it in at lunchtime so it was out still resting when people arrived, but it doesn’t take long to shred).  Everything just needs to come out of the fridge about an hour before people arrive to get it to room temperature (I left a stone in all of the avocado mixes to stop it browning).  If making the churros in advance, make them up to the baking stage and add the sugar coating on the day.  The sauce just needs to be gently re-heated when you are ready to use it.

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Avocado & Yoghurt Dip


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I tried the Ottolenghi group’s latest restaurant Nopi with my friend Carly a few weeks ago – among our (many) delicious sharing plates was a really amazing avocado and yoghurt dip with vegetable crudités. Unfortunately this Ottolenghi recipe doesn’t seem to have made it to google, so my attempt below, super speedy if you have a food processor, and great with crisps or vegetables.

Ingredients (Makes two small pots, serves eight):

2 avocados, peeled with stones removed (keep the stones)
200g greek yoghurt
Juice of half a lime
1 green chilli (optional)
Pinch of salt
Mixed seeds

Method:

Place all of the above (apart from the seeds) in a blender. Keep in a pot with an avocado stone to stop the avocado browning. When ready to serve remove the avocado stones and top with mixed seeds. Serve with crisps or raw vegetables.

Rough Puff Pastry

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There are some recipes where it really is better not to know what is in them – Probably naïve on my part but when I first made puff pastry I was astounded by the volume of butter involved. While making your own is in no way, shape, or form a low calorie or healthy equivalent, you do at least skip some of the nasties added to some of the pre-made brands. The only difficult thing I find about making your own is controlling the temperature of the dough (you want it to stay nice and cold and my kitchen gets warm quite quickly), but if you keep an eye on that the pastry is very easy to do, and freezes well too. Step by step below – This particular one was destined for my chicken bacon and leek pie (recipe here). S

Ingredients (makes around 600g):

250g unsalted butter
250g plain flour
10g salt
125g ice cold water

Method:

Step one: Cut the block of butter into cubes and return to the fridge

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Step two: Place the butter, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse 10-15 times until just combined

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Step three: Gradually add the iced water and continue to pulse until just combined – You should still see chunk of butter in the mixture and it will feel slightly sticky.

Step four: Remove from the processor and, on a lightly floured surface, gently shape into a rectangular block. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour

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Step six: Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll (in one direction only) until around three times the original length.

Step seven: The double turn/book fold – Fold both ends into the middle to meet, then fold in half again

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Step eight: Rotate the dough 90 degrees, roll again and repeat the double turn as above. Take care not to over work the pasty, you should still be able to see chunk of butter as below when it has been rolled. Wrap in cling film and return to the fridge for at least half an hour.
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Step nine: Remove from the fridge and press down with a rolling pin until c. 2cm thick. At this stage I cut my pasty into sections (so for a pie I cut the dough into two, then work with the base and top separately so the dough stays very cold). When you cut the pastry you should be able to see the individual folds in the dough as below. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. Cook in a very hot preheated oven (200°C) – if your pastry isn’t cold enough and/or your oven isn’t hot enough this can cause the pastry to “melt” instead of cooking (another reason can be if your dough was too wet, which shouldn’t be the case on the ratios above).

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Chicken, Leek & Bacon Pie

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This recipe was originally discovered by my mum in the Daily Mail (oh yes…) around ten years ago and has been a firm favourite of mine ever since. I haven’t changed it too much to be honest – I use more thyme than the original recipe, use the reserved water from boiling the chicken as my stock for later, and have added mushrooms into the mix. The recipe below serves four to six people (the photos show a filling in larger quantity as I made 1.5x the quantity to freeze the spare filling for a smaller pie another time). The pie is quite rich so you don’t need lot with it, and the filling has enough liquid in it to act as the sauce. Seems the DM is good for more than the Femail and Showbiz sections after all… S

Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs
20g thyme
25g butter
1 large onion, diced
2 leeks, chopped
150g button mushrooms
120g bacon lardons or pancetta (or streaky bacon is fine)
1tbsp flour
300ml chicken stock
175ml double cream
300g puff pastry (recipe here)
1 egg yolk

Method:

Preheat the oven to 190°C

Step one: Place the chicken thighs in a large pan with the thyme, cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, skim the surface and simmer for 45 minutes.

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Step two: Remove the chicken thighs and leave to cool. Pour the liquid contents of the pan into a jug and set aside (remove the whole stalks of thyme from the jug)

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Step three: Using the same pan, melt the butter and fry off the onion on a low heat

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Step four: Add the leek, lardons and mushrooms and cook until softened, keep the heat low so the filling doesn’t take on too much colour

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Step five: Add a tablespoon of flour and cook fur a further 1-2 minutes

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Step six: Add cream and chicken stock, cook until thickened (you want to keep enough liquid in the mixture so the inside of the pie still has enough sauce when cooked in the oven).

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Step seven: Remove the skin from your cooled chicken thighs, and pull the meat away from the bone, adding to the pan

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Step eight: Remove the filling from the heat and set aside. Take a lightly buttered and floured dish and line with pastry (my rough puff recipe here), add the filling and top with puff pastry. Keep in the fridge until ready to bake. When ready, brush with egg yolk and bake for 30-40 minutes.

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