Friday, 30 April 2021

Aubergine Dip

A while ago I came across a recipe for an aubergine dip being shown on television  by Raymond Blanc. Credit should go to him for this, I merely tweaked it a little.

Initially I imagined it was going to be much along the lines of the well known Baba ghanoush, or Mutable but it took a couple of interesting turns.

I decided to try it and although I usually stick to an original recipe quite strictly, initially at least, I found I really did not want to discard the liquid drained from the cooked aubergines. I utilised it and this is the recipe I share with you today.

For this recipe you will need:

2 large aubergines
200ml double cream 
A tablespoon of olive oil
1 fat clove of garlic finely minced or grated
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
Salt and pepper to taste 

Begin by charring the aubergines on an open gas flame, a barbecue or if you have to,under a hot grill. Turn the aubergines as they become burnt. They obviously shouldn’t catch fire at any stage, what you’re looking for is for the outer skin to become charred and blackened. 
Transfer the aubergines to an oven proof baking tray and pop into a medium oven 180C, for half an hour.
Toast the spice seeds and grind either in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.

When the aubergines have had half an hour in the oven they should look very sorry for themselves, clearly having given up the will to live......

Allow to cool, then with surgical precision (see notes),  remove the charred skin and place the flesh in a sieve over a bowl. You’ll find this takes a little patience, but being able to extract large pieces of tender pale aubergine flesh is somewhat rewarding. Try to avoid pieces of skin joining the cooked flesh but seriously, don’t worry if the odd speck gets through, I guess it’s a form of charcoal and as such won’t harm you. Lightly chop up the  aubergine flesh so facilitate the draining of the juice. It’s important to do this simply with a knife and not a food processor because you don’t want a purée. Leave to drain for a few hours.

Now this is where I broke away from the original recipe. Raymond Blanc discards the liquid that, over a period of half a day, accumulates in the bowl. I found I couldn’t so after cautiously tasting it and finding it to have a rich, smoky savoury flavour, I decided to add it to the finished dish.

Place the oil in a small saucepan and gently fry the finely minced  or grated garlic, on a low flame for no more than a minute before adding the ground spices and the liquid drained from the cooked aubergine. Reduce this down from roughly 300ml to little more than a tablespoon of thickened liquid.

Add the aubergine pulp and continue to cook for a few minutes to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Add the cream and again cook over a low heat for a few minutes until you have a thick, creamy purée.
Season to taste. 

I make no apology for the fact that this is a far more labour intensive recipe than Baba ghanoush, but I promise, once you’ve tasted it, you will certainly not mind the extra effort required. 
Anyone who enjoyed dissecting frogs in school biology, I must say I was not one of them, will enjoy removing the charred skin from the aubergine, you can play forensic pathologist while you’re doing it and if you are really giddy, you can dictate a commentary into a recording device, “The victim appears to have suffered extensive third degree burns.........”
If like me, you lack the ability to have the patience which most sensible adults have, you can speed up the draining process by placing a saucer over the aubergine with a small weight on top to press the flesh (a term I believe means something entirely different in political circles)

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Candied Peel


Along with the polarising affect sprouts have on people at Christmas, candied peel also causes folk to fall into one of two camps, like it or loathe it. I have some sympathy for those who have formed there opinion based on nothing more than experiencing the pre-cut product that is most commonly used. Even buying the larger pieces of candied peel, when you can find them will deliver a much better experience, but as in so many cases eating the peel you candy yourself is infinitely more enjoyable. 

I regularly candy the peel of the large navel oranges we get in the UK early in the year, but my friend Chas Nicholson, well known for his regular article 'Dining in', in the Tannat Chronicle, introduced me to the idea of candied pomello skin. I couldn’t believe I had never thought of it. In many ways it makes more sense to candy pomello skin than any other, after all, pomellos, now readily available, have such a thick skin and you end up throwing it all away and are left with flesh that is little bigger than a grapefruit. 

The following method works well for all citrus peel.


For this recipe you will need;

The skin of 1 pomello

1 kilo of sugar combined with 2 litres of water to make a syrup

Copious amounts of water to blanch the peel.


Begin by peeling the pomello. I carefully remove it in 4 pieces then cut each piece into 2 forming 8 petal like pieces. Place the peel in the largest saucepan you have with lots of water and bring to a boil. You'll find the pith causes the pieces to be incredibly buoyant, far more than orange or lemon peel. Simmer for 4 or 5 minutes then drain the peel and repeat the process. You need to achieve a waterlogged state for the peel before moving onto the next step. I found I needed to move more stubborn pieces about a bit to ensure they all became saturated.

Weigh out a kilo of granulated sugar and stir into 2 litres of water. Place the syrup into the saucepan and stir while bringing to the boil. Add the drained peel and gently simmer for 2 or 3 hours, moving the pieces from time to time so each piece gets to be at the bottom of the pan. Drain well on a cooling rack before placing in a dehydrator or a domestic oven set on the lowest heat, to dry out. 

When completely dry, store in a lidded jar. It will keep for 3 months or more but is best used within the the first month.


It may seem like a lot of fuss, but believe me, it's not particularly labour intensive and the end product is very special. I sometimes cut my candied peel into fine strips before dipping them in chocolate, along with small packets of the peel itself, they make excellent gifts at Christmas time when candied peel is more often used.

This method works well for all citrus peel but don't ever skimp on the initial blanching, at least 2 or 3 times is ideal.

The large amount of syrup used is because of the size of the peel, the syrup can be saved in a bottle and stored in the fridge to use a second time. 

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Amchoor chutney


For my 70th birthday (some time ago now) my daughter treated us to a glorious trip around Rajasthan in November and December of last year. We were so lucky to make it before the pandemic. I learned a great deal to add to my knowledge of cooking Indian food. 

In Udaipur, a lovely woman called Sashi, shared with us her recipe for amchoor chutney. Now in India, chutney refers to a great many cold sauce like accompaniments to dishes such as dosa and vada, it in no way resembles the preserve that we in the West tend to enjoy with cheese or cold meats. 

Sashi was asking us about our lives back in the U.K. and assumed, on learning that I was a widower, that my daughter lived with me and looked after my every need. We explained that whereas I live in Norfolk, my daughter lives and works in London..... “but you go home each weekend” she suggested, when my daughter told our host that she usually pops up once a month, this poor woman was quietly horrified and realised she didn’t know what then to ask so that she could make sense of it all....... we got on with cooking....

For this recipe you will need;

2 tablespoons of Amchoor powder

3 medjool dates

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 teaspoon of Garam masala 

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chilli powder

1 teaspoon of Marigold bouillon powder or 1/2 teaspoon of salt 

500ml of water 


Begin by placing all the ingredients in a blender and blending well until the dates have succumbed and are no longer visible as small pieces. 

Transfer everything to a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the mixture thickens and comes to a gentle boil. Stir and cook for a few minutes then allow to cool. 

This sauce is ideal served cold, as a dip for papadum, onion bhaji, vada or even crisps if you find the lockdown has caused you to lose the will to live. 


Of course I shamelessly interfered with Sashi’s recipe as soon as I came back to Norfolk. In the original, sugar was used and I decided to replace it with dates, I might even try pomegranate molasses next time. When using sugar, then use cumin powder rather than whole cumin seeds and you can omit the use of the blender. 

This sauce keeps well for a week in the fridge. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Ginger & Pear Pudding


Sometimes a recipe just jumps out of the few things you’ve had around you in the kitchen for the last day or two. 

I baked sourdough croissants at the weekend, the few remaining ones have waited patiently whilst slightly drying out. Sylvia kindly brought some pears some time ago. I considered a bread & butter pudding that incorporated pear when suddenly stem ginger popped into my head. I always have a jar or two of stem ginger in syrup, one of the most useful store cupboard ingredients and one that keeps for ages. 

For this recipe you will need; 

3 or 4 day old croissants 

4 eggs

2 peeled pears

300ml of double cream

300ml of milk

220gm of stem ginger in syrup (drained & chopped) see note 

100gm of caster sugar 

Butter for greasing the ovenproof container  

A pinch of salt. 


Begin by cutting up the croissants into 6 to 8 pieces and placing into a buttered, ovenproof container. A lasagna dish is perfect. Slice up the pears and sprinkle amongst the croissant pieces, then sprinkle over the chopped ginger. 

Whisk together the eggs, milk and cream along with the pinch of salt. Pour over the croissants, pear and ginger and place in a low to moderate oven, 160C for an hour, when the custard mixture should be perfectly set. 

This is delicious served warm with a little pouring cream.



The amount of ginger I have used in this recipe makes it a ginger lover’s pudding, ginger is very much a major player and it get my vote but there is nothing to stop you reducing the amount or even leaving it out, but why would you. 

Amaretto Madeira Cake

During Lockdown, this has been my go to cake recipe. Easily digested, delicious with a cup of Russian Caravan tea and although it's the perfect cake to offer to visitors, it's nice enough to enjoy when common sense keeps visitors away from my door. I would say when loved ones cannot visit, then this cake is necessary snackage. 

For this recipe you will need;

250gm of unsalted butter
240gm of caster sugar
4 medium size eggs
200gm Self Raising flour
100gm of ground almonds
50ml of Amaretto liquor
a pinch of salt


Begin by creaming together the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate. Finally add the flour, ground almonds, amaretto and salt and mix just well enough to fully incorporate. 
Transfer the cake batter to a lined 2 pound loaf tin and bake in a moderate oven (180C) for 55 minutes to an hour, a cocktail stick should come out clean when pushed into the centre. Allow to cool in the tin. 

Ovens vary, so if you find the top of the cake is browning a little too quickly or too much, simply slip a small sheet of kitchen foil over the top to protect it for the last 15 minutes.