Wild Berry & Chocolate Crumble

Wild Berry & Chocolate Crumble

It’s been sleeting/snowing/hailing/raining and just generally quite foul weather in St Andrews for the last couple of weeks. And today is no different from the rest. It would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that this is our spring break – every other kid who hasn’t got essays or a dissertation to write is travelling or seeing family. Me? No. I am sat in my cold and lonely flat making a gluttonous crumble to satiate my melancholy, and contemplate going to the library.

Wild Berry & Chocolate Crumble

I first made this with my friend Laura last week for a small dinner party, and it went down a treat. So I’m making it again. It’s sweet, it’s delicious, it’s hideously indulgent, it’s more-ish, it’s warming, it’s everything that you could possibly want from a pudding on a cold grey day. The tarty fruits work a treat with the white and dark chocolate, and then I go heavy on the crumble. I hate fruit crumbles where the fruit is 80% of the pudding – gets my goat.

Wild Berry & Chocolate Crumble

I’m supposed to be on some sort of a vague health kick, as in less than four weeks I shall be running the Edinburgh “Rock n’Roll” Half Marathon with my friend Polly in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Polly and I are on Committee for ‘Under Canvas‘ an event we’re holding in St Andrews;  blending an eclectic mix of music, art and design under one roof, Under Canvas aims to bring a night of festival inspired revelry to St Andrews all with the aim of raising as much money as possible for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Officially endorsed by the Principal of the University, Louise Richardson, Under Canvas is working with some of the UK’s most exciting music talent to create an event like none other. It’s going to be 6 hours of music with 4 incredible acts all with aim of raising as much money as possible for a cause very close to the committee’s hearts.

Under Canvas

We’re aiming to raise £1000 through the Half Marathon alone – and a further several thousand pounds through the event. Our JustGiving page is here. Any donation is much appreciated  - if Polly and I raise at least £500, we’re going to run the Half Marathon coated in powder paint … Just like we did for a promotional event back in the autumn.

Paint Fight Profile

 

Anyways, I’m digressing. Back to pudding.

Ingredients  (Serves 12)

1kg frozen mixed berries (cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants and blueberries)

200g dark chocolate (roughly chopped)

200g white chocolate (roughly chopped)

300g flour

400g oats

250g butter (diced)

300g caster sugar

50g muscavado sugar

Wild Berry &

Recipe

1) Preheat the oven to 200 deg celsius.

2) Place the frozen fruit and roughly chopped chocolate into a large glass dish (approx. 20cm x 40cm).

3) In a bowl combine the flour, oats and diced butter and using your thumbs and forefingers rub the butter into the flour and oats until all the butter has been incorporated.

4) Add the sugars and combine well.

5) Pour this dry crumble mixture over the fruit and chocolate and lightly press down.

6) Whack in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

7) Best served with ice cream AND double cream, with a cup of tea and good chat.

Wild Berry & Chocolate Crumble

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cider & Honey Ham

Super sweet succulent ham.

Cider Gammon with a Honey & Mustard Glaze

I’ve decided, quite resolutely, that I like my meat tender. I want to be able to eat my meat with a spoon. Not because I’m lazy, just simply because meat which melts in your mouth is so much better than giving your jaw a workout. And so when I was told by the mother to cook a gammon joint that needed eating, I made it my mission to make this hunk of meat as tender as possible. You see guys, after a week back in Devon, my life’s perks are back to the simple things. Not the fun intoxicating vices of London, nor the drunken student revelry of St Andrews. Nope. In Devon it is joints of meat, baking cakes, dog walks on the beach, and going to spinning classes with sweaty, panting middle-aged women that gets me going. And because I know that this slower, westcountry pace of life will only last for another couple of days, I’m reveling in it.

Super Sweet Succulent PorkSo, tenderising your pork. I decided to marinade the gammon in cider and apple juice overnight, not only to allow the citric acid of the juice and cider to start tenderising the meat, but to also permeate the meat with the sweet applely flavour. Everyone knows that apple and pork are like a happy marriage, it’s like Kim K and Kanye. This marination followed by a long and slow cook will ensure that you end up with sweet tender meat. Finished with a honey and mustard glaze and some baked apples, this ham goes great with a salad or equally chips, roasties or mash. Or in a sandwich, or simply on its own… It’s delicious.

I’ve also cooked gammon in coke, which is equally amazing, but I think being the westcountry boy I am, I just prefer cider than coke.

Ingredients

2kg Gammon (mild cure)

1 litre apple juice

2 litre cider

4-5 bay leaves

2 onions, peeled and quartered

ground pepper

a few cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped

a few extra bay leaves

for the glaze

2 tbsp honey

2tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp dijon mustard

Cider Cooked HamRecipe     Cooking Time – 3hrs    Marinating Time 4-18hrs

1) The ham will take about three hours to cook, and at least several hours to marinade would be my advice. Rinse the gammon under cold water before placing in a heavy-based pan with the apple juice, cider, onion, bay leaves and a good grind of pepper. Unless your gammon is particularly salty I doubt it will need to be boiled in water before being put in the cider and juice.

2) Leave to marinate overnight, or at least for several hours.

3) Place on the hob and bring to a boil, turn down to a gentle simmer, place the lid on and allow to cook for 2 1/2hrs. Roughly an hour per kilogram is good if cooking the ham from room temperature, otherwise allow an extra 15mins. You would struggle to ‘overcook’ this ham.

4) Preheat the oven to 190 deg celsius/gas mark 5.

5) Remove the ham from the pan and trim off the skin and fat. Dispose of the cooking juices unless you wish to keep it as stock. Place the ham in an oven-proof dish, along with the apples and a few extra bay leaves.

Cider Gammon with a Honey & Mustard Glaze

6) Now to make the glaze. In a bowl mix the honey, sugar and mustard before pouring over the ham and ensuring the whole ham is covered. Place in the oven for approx. 30 mins, or until the glaze is golden and sticky and the apples are cooked. Keep an eye on it, as the glaze may burn if the oven is too hot.

7) Remove from the oven and serve as you wish! Ham ploughmans, a salad, or with roasties or chips and egg – whatever you fancy. My choice would be in a big floury bap with some of the apples and honey glaze. Yum.

Cider Gammon with a Honey & Mustard Glaze

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Virtuous Green Soup

Full of good, tasty, nourishing things.

Super Green SoupEveryone overindulges at this time of year. It’s a perennial feature of the Christmas holidays, an excuse to consume vast quantities of everything naughty (or delicious – it’s all very subjective). You drink too much, you eat too much, you nom your way through whole wheels of cheese and kilos of chocolate. And you use the excuse to yourself, your family and your friends that it is ‘ok’ because you’re ‘allowed’ to overindulge at this time of the year. As to quite how that works, and who exactly ‘allows’ you to be a gluttonous beast I don’t know. But if you find yourself saying ‘oh go on’ to encourage a friend to eat that extra mince pice smothered in brandy butter or clotted cream (or perhaps both), then I imagine you’re just trying to share the guilt of that growing gut of yours… Or maybe that’s just me, Will Land, the feeder and self-certified glutton. But this soup my friends is guilt-free. It falls into the ‘my body is my temple’ school of cookery, the detoxing, new year’s resolution school of fad dieting. And it’s verrrrryy tasty.

Super Green SoupFull of green vegetables and lemongrass, this soup is not only full of anti-oxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, and many other healthy things, but it is also very low in calories at just 75 calories a bowl. Yep. 75 calories.

The map upon which the soup is sat is not just a naff photography prop, but rather me figuring out just how on earth I’m going to hitch-hike all the way to Prague from St Andrews. You see, in 8 days time a friend and I, along with many other students from St Andrews shall be doing a charity hitch-hike all the way to Prague. This is to raise money for six student-nominated charities: Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres, RNLI, CHAS, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Families First and MacMillan Cancer Support. We have four days to get from Fife to the Czech Republic without spending any money – it’s going to be quite the challenge. If you would like to help us raise money for these incredibly worthy causes, then you can do so HERE. We’d be extremely grateful, and it would make the 2971 mile hitch-hike seem a whole lot more worthwhile!

Picture 8Back to the soup…

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 leek

200g spinach (fresh or frozen)

200g broccoli

200g peas

750ml  vegetable stock

heaped tsp lemongrass paste

150ml fat-free greek yoghurt

lime juice, sea salt and black pepper to taste

Recipe

1) First roughly chop up your leek and broccoli.

2) Place in a large heavy based pan (Le Creuset style) along with the peas, spinach, vegetable stock, and lemongrass paste.

3) Cook on a rolling boil for about 10 minutes until the broccoli is tender. Then using a blender, blitz the soup until it is smooth. It should turn a wonderful green and get lighter the more you whizz it. If the consistency is too much like baby food for your liking, then just add a splash of boiling water.

4) Allow to cool for a while before putting in a good dollop of the yoghurt. Taste and then season with the lime juice, salt and pepper. I go heavy on the seasoning. Serve with an extra dollop of the fat-free greek yoghurt and that’s it. Enjoy with a cup of green tea and feel virtuous.

Super Green Soup

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Wonderfully Fudgy Frosted Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Ecstasy? Perhaps. It’s certainly moist.

Frosted Fudge Cake

This weekend called for a family tea to celebrate my brother’s engagement to his girlfriend of four years. He proposed just before midnight on New Year’s Eve at a boathouse he’d rented in Cornwall to surprise her with a few days away – all sounds wonderfully romantic doesn’t it, and I’m very happy for them.  All I ask is for them to not make me an uncle yet.

The cake I made for this ‘meet the in-laws’ tea, is positively scrum-diddly-umptious. It comes from a book by Christine France called ‘Chocolate Ecstasy – 75 of the most dangerous recipes ever’. Not only is it extremely easy to make, but as my family were intent on reiterating to me, it is also incredibly ‘moist’, a word I still have  profound discrepancies with. When I once suggested ‘damp’ as an alternative word to moist, I only got murmurs of disapproval in return. But Nigella has a ‘Damp Almond and Orange Cake’ so why can’t I have a ‘Damp Fudge Cake’? Other than the mouldy, sodden-sock connotations, the word ‘damp’ seems fine.

This cake is rich, dense, sweet and silky, indeed as good a fudge cake as they come – but it also has a slight freshness from the use of greek yoghurt in both the sponge and the frosting. If anything, this means you can just eat far more of it before you feel sick. Hurrah. A pioneer in gluttony.

Moist n' Fudgy Cake

Serves 6-8 (normal people)

Ingredients

115g plain chocolate (broken into squares)

175g unsalted butter

200g light muscovado sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs beaten

150ml greek yoghurt

150g self-raising flour

For the buttercream

140g softened unsalted butter

280g icing sugar

few drops of vanilla extract

1-2tbsp milk

For the frosting

115g plain dark chocolate (broken into squares)

50g unsalted butter

350g icing sugar

90ml greek yoghurt

Slice of fudgy goodness anyone?The HOW

1) First up preheat the oven to 190 deg cel, Gas Mark 5. Grease two 8 inch sandwich tins and line the bottom of each with baking paper.

2) Melt the plain chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

3) In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with muscovado sugar until wonderfully light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract, then gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well with each addition.

4) Stir in the melted plain chocolate and the yoghurt, before folding in the flour with a metal spoon.

5) Divide the mixture between the prepared sandwich tins. Bake for 25-30 mins, or until the cakes are firm to the touch. Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

6) Now it is time to make the buttercream icing to sandwich the cakes together with. Beat the butter with half the icing sugar in a large bowl, if you have a Kitchenaid then use it and you’ll save yourself a lot of arm ache. Once the mixture is soft, lighter and well combined, add the remaining icing sugar with the vanilla extract and a tablespoon or so of milk. Beat until smooth, fluffy and creamy. (This may take a wee while, so using a Kitchenaid would help a lot).

7) Frosting making time. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the icing sugar and yoghurt. Mix with a rubber spatula until smooth, then beat until the frosting begins to cool and thicken slightly.

8) Use the buttercream to sandwich the cakes together, then spread the frosting over the top and sides of the cake.

9) Decorate as you wish, I used white chocolate shavings. Allow the frosting to set for an hour or two before serving and EATING. Great with a slosh of cream.

Frosted Chocolate Fudge Cake

All gone.

Tagged , , , , ,

Honey & Stilton Mushrooms

So maybe it would seem that some good things do come from watching bad daytime television. With little to do other than eat, drink, cook, read, walk Stamford (the dog) and watch tv, I have found myself aimlessly watching far too many cookery shows. And this is one of the few things which I thought I must try as soon as possible. It is Gino D’acampo’s recipe for the perfect canapé or christmas nibbles, and trust me when I say that it is melt-in-your-mouth yummy. There is something about Christmas time which naturally involves over-indulgence, but also general gluttonous grazing. Forever on the scrounge. Forever opening a new box of biscuits or chocolates, or in my case, trying to cook and eat the family out of house and home.

Honey & Stilton Mushrooms

These mushrooms also carry on with the whole sweet and salty combination which I played around with in my Salted Caramel Brownie recipe, and I love it. These are remarkably quick and easy to make and are the taste of Christmas (for today).

Ingredients (this is approx. measurements)

250g Chestnut Mushrooms

3 tablespoons clear honey (healthy teaspoon per mushroom)

80g Stilton (likewise, a nice heaped teaspoon per mushroom)

Ground Pepper

Handful of Walnut pieces

Chives and Parsley to garnish (generous pinch of each)

Honey & Stilton Mushrooms

Recipe

1) First up, preheat your oven to about 200 deg celsius.

2) Wipe your mushrooms clean and then using a sharp knife remove the stalks.

3) In each mushroom spoon or squeeze about a teaspoon of honey, grind a little black pepper and then crumble a heaped teaspoon of stilton.

4) Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the stilton has melted and the golden honey has started to bubble.

5) Remove from the oven and move to a plate or serving board – take care as they’ll be very hot. Place a piece of walnut on top of each mushroom and  finish off with some freshly chopped parsley and chives.

Honey & Stilton Mushrooms

Tagged , , , , ,

Salted Caramel Brownies

Everyone is talking about salted caramel, and with good reason. When sweet meets savoury wonderful things happen resulting in your pleasure centre being positively flooded by dopamine. Nigella Lawson, describes salted caramel as being the class A drug of the confectionary world, and that by no means suggests it is a bad thing. And this recipe for Salted Caramel Brownies is laden with all things good for you; salt, sugar, and fat. It’s Christmas kids, get over your health (until the New Year, when you can jump back on those fad diets).

Salted Caramel Brownies

These Salted Caramel Brownies are incredibly good, so much sweet chocolate fudgey goodness with salted caramel throughout. Often the caramel will sink to the bottom, this is because the brownie mix has to be light to stop it from becoming dry, this just means when you serve it up, it may be a good idea to place each slice on a piece of baking paper. I don’t have my own thermometer which is quite essential when making your own caramel, unless you’re willing to slow bake it in the oven, so I have always cheated by buying a jar of dulche de leche and adding a teaspoon of maldon sea salt. The result is finger-licking good. Do remember to add the sugar though, the other week I forgot (duh!) and the result was of course nowhere near as good.

Salted Caramel

Ingredients

150g all-purpose flour

teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

150g dark chocolate (60-70%) (roughly hacked up)

200g butter (cubed)

150g muscavado sugar

150g light brown soft sugar

5 eggs (beaten)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

400g Dulche de Leche

approx. 2 tsp of Maldon Sea Salt

Recipe

1) Preheat the oven to 180 deg celsius, and butter and line a glass dish (approx. 8 x 14 inches).

2) In a large bowl sift together the flour, salt and cocoa powder. Meanwhile in a bain-marie melt the butter and chocolate, using a wooden spoon to stir until fully melted.

3) Once the chocolate and butter has melted, gradually add the sugars and keep the bowl over the hot water. Stir, stir and stir until the sugar is fully incorporated.

4) Then begin to gradually add the beaten eggs, until it is all used up and the chocolate mixture is looking wonderfully glossy.

5) Slowly fold the flour in until it is all fully mixed in, before pouring into your lined dish. Pour, or dollop the salted caramel over the brownie mix, sprinkle with a little more sea salt and bake in the oven for approximately 35-40mins until the centre has risen and stopped wobbling when given a little shake.

6) Allow to cool completely before cutting up, dusting with some icing sugar, and serving. Tastes a treat with some warm Buttered Mulled Cider & Rum. 

Salted Caramel Brownies

Tagged , , , ,

Hot Buttered Mulled Cider & Rum

This is like Harry Potter’s Butterbeer, but better.

Hot Buttered Mulled Cider

It has been three long, hard and studious months since I last did a blog post. And quite frankly I feel guilty about it, I’ve been caught up in my own little bubble and neglected my wellseasonedwilly in every sense, but alas alack I am back. I have just finished the semester. 14 weeks ago I arrived after a year in Vienna and a summer in Asia and now, thank god, I am finally done for 2012. Academia doesn’t like me, and I don’t much like academia, but what I do like is the fact that I am sat here with a hot glass of buttered mulled cider and rum.

Life just got a little more festive and a whole lot more tasty.

Mulling in action

Over the last month I have had more than my fair share of mulled wine, and I do quite undeniably love it, but there isn’t anything quite like a glass of mulled cider. And butter makes it all the more good.  I can understand why people might have reservations about drinking butter – it hardly sounds all that pleasant, but it turns this drink into a silky smooth delight. Taste it and believe it. Maybe it’s because I’m a westcountry boy, but this is my festive tipple of choice.

Ingredients (Serves 8)

2 litres of cider

200ml dark rum

8 dessert spoons of clear honey

1 clementine

2 cinnamon sticks

peel of half a lemon

1 vanilla pod (split in half)

dozen or so cloves

80g unsalted butter

Spicez

Recipe

1) First up prepare all your spices, so take the peel of half a lemon, split a vanilla pod lengthwise in half, and slice a clementine in three and stud it with your cloves.

2) In a large pan pour the cider (the foamy froth may just go EVERYWHERE, so take care), the rum, and the honey. Place all the spices etc. in with the liquid and heat over a medium heat until it is simmering. Keep on a steady simmer for 5-8 minutes and then turn off and allow to cool slightly.

3) Once it has cooled slightly, but is still ‘hot’ chuck the butter in and stir until the butter has completely melted and you’re left with a honey yellow liquid. Then serve. So simple, so tasty, so festive.

To make more, you can just keep adding cider, rum and honey to the same pan with the same spices if you want, it also tastes great (if not better) when reheated, as it gets sweeter and all the more fragrant.

Hot buttered mulled cider and rum

Tagged , , , , , ,

Butternut Squash Couscous & Citrus Roast Chicken

POP. The boy is back in the Bubble. There were many reasons why I was looking forward to returning to St Andrews. The people, the place, the events, the STUDYING (yes, really) and the dinner parties. Yes, the dinner parties. Cringe I know. But there is no denying that the ‘nightlife’ in St Andrews is hardly like that of any other Uni. Hideously busy bars which close far too early, nowhere to dance that doesn’t feel like a bad school disco, house parties which vary from being like a game of sardines (11b), to a drug-fueled orgy or simply the awkwardly quiet party of someone with too few friends. But a good dinner party very rarely disappoints. I could wax lyrical as to why they are so great, but I won’t. Instead I’ll say that I threw my first dinner party the other day, and it was a success. In Vienna it was always the same formula of friends, booze, food and music which always ended up with the neighbours complaining and the Polizei bashing on our door for “dizturbing ze peace”. But in St Andrews there is no fearsome PoPo (as they’ve retreated to Cupar), so as long as you have good wine, better food, the best company and the right atmosphere you have all you need for a purrfect dinner.

If you’re feeding 9 or 10 people, you kind of want to keep the cost quite low, and this dinner was all very good value. One guest bought insalata caprese, another bought an amazing apple and wild berry crumble with ice cream, and everyone else bought loads of Red Red Wine and me and my homies did the  main of butternut squash, caramelised onion and feta couscous with citrus and garlic roast chicken legs with green salad and bread. The idea of marinating and cooking the chicken with lemons and oranges is not only for the caramelised juicy sweetness that you get from slow-roasting them, but also to make your meat über tender. Without getting all sciencey on you, the citric acid basically breaks down the microstructure of the protein which dramatically improves the tenderness of the meat blah blah blah and it makes for a far tastier chick.

Citrus and Garlic Roast Chicken Legs (serves 10)

  • 10 Large Chicken Legs (skin on, bone in)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • large pinch of sea salt
  • 2 large oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 6 fat bulbs of garlic
  • big handful of fresh parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper

Recipe

  1. *This bit can be done the morning before the dinner if you want.* Take your chicken legs and place them in a large baking dish. Pour the olive oil over the legs and sprinkle the sea salt over them as well and rub, or rather massage them well.
  2. Roughly cut up your lemons and oranges into about 1 inch cubes, don’t be too fastidious about it, but do try and remove as many seeds as you can. Squeeze the diced lemons and oranges all over the legs and scatter the pieces over the chicken.
  3. Peel and roughly chop up your fat bulbs of garlic and roughly hack-up your parsley too. Scatter this over the chicken.
  4. Grind some black pepper over all the chicken and then get your hands dirty, rubbing the salt, pepper, garlic, parsley and citrus all over the chicken. Wonderful. Wash your dirty dirty hands. Cover, place in the fridge and leave to marinate for at least an hour or so.
  5. About 2.5 hrs before you want to dine, remove the chicken from the fridge, uncover and place in an oven preheated to about 180deg or gas mark 5. After about two or two and a half hours, the chicken skin should be crispy and the meat about to fall off the bone. Perfect.

BEFORE…

AFTER…

Butternut Squash, Caramelised Onion and Feta Couscous (serves an army)

So for this, I made far too much for ten people, but then it is always nice to have leftovers… Unless you don’t like it in which case it can be kind of awkward if you feel obliged to eat it.  Anyhow, I shall just provide you with the quantities I cooked.

  • 1kg Couscous
  • 4.5 pints of chicken stock
  • 3 butternut squash
  • 7 red onions
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • several glugs of olive oil
  • 400g feta
  • handful of fresh mint
  • healthy pouring of extra virgin olive oil (50ml)
  • zest of one orange
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste (I used quite a lot…)

Recipe

  1. First of all make the couscous to the instructions on the pack. You are normally asked to use a ratio of 1:1.5, so one part couscous to one and a half parts stock. I found this was about 4.5 pints of stock to a kilo of couscous. Boil the stock in a very large pan, add the couscous, cover and leave for five minutes allowing it to swell up with all the stock. Stir, and remove from the pan to a very large serving dish in which it can cool.
  2. Peel and cube your squash into about 1 inch cubes. Place on a baking tray with a splash of olive oil, and put into an oven at about 200deg for roughly 40 mins. You want the squash to turn tender and a light golden brown. As it cooks toss it occasionally to stop any parts from burning. Once cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  3. Onion fun times. Peel and roughly chop the red onions. Place on a baking tray with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss around, level out and place in the oven. Half an hour at 200deg should suffice. You want the onions to be tender but not mushy and for the vinegar to have turned sticky and sweet. Again, once cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  4. Dice your feta and roughly (but quite finely) chop up your mint.
  5. Using a fork, fluff up the couscous and break up any clumps. Place all the cooked butternut squash, the cooked red onions, the feta, the mint and the orange zest in with the couscous. Pour over a healthy glug of the extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and a grind of black pepper. Toss together et voilá your couscous salad is complete.

Serve the coucous salad and chicken with a fresh green salad and some warm bread and then there you have it. Simple, cheap, very tasty dinnertime treats. Goes great with copious amounts of wine and tipsy friends.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Making Momos – Darjeeling

Darjeeling is perhaps the quintessential hill station of colonial India, sprawled over a high ridge and on a clear day with a view of four of the world’s highest peaks, this place is in stark contrast to much of India.  We headed here after leaving Nepal, and it was with welcome arms which we embraced the cool air and mountain mist. We flew in a tin can with Yeti Airlines  from Kathmandu to a teeny tiny airstrip in Bhadrapur where the arrivals terminal was little more than a cowshed. From here we had to take a 45 minute motorbike ride to the border, an experience made all the more awkward and exhilarating by our massive backpacks pulling us off the back of the bikes, and finally a 4hr taxi from the border all the way up, up, and up to Darjeeling.

 In Darjeeling, unlike in most of India, there is a distinct absence of cows, holy men, and beggars, and only the high mountain mist creeps through the steep and narrow streets with impunity. Darjeeling also retains the essence of the colonial era, as you wander the maze of steep winding roads, large Victorian colonial mansions, churches and town halls can be found dotted amongst the tea plantations of the green undulating hills. And school children wander the streets in their meticulously smart (and somewhat British) school uniforms. The fact that I had to wear a jumper and scarf as well made me all the happier too.

It was here in Darjeeling that my friend who has put up with me for the entirety of our travels bought me a Momo-making cookery lesson for my birthday. The lesson took place at the “Hot Stimulating Café”, Hooker Road, Darjeeling, a small café, little more substantial than a garden shed but with the charm, character and brilliance of  something quite wonderful and a name to match. The owner is chilled and friendly and has a love of Bob Marley, and his wife, Lilly, makes some mean Momos. For anyone unsure of quite what a Momo is, it is a type of steamed dumpling native to Tibet. They were our go-to snack while we were in Nepal and India, served with sweet chili sauce or Achar (a tomato chutney) they are so über tasty, and really quite healthy.

Recipe  (makes approx. 40 vegetable Momos which serves anywhere between one fat Yeti to a party of 8 for an appetiser.)

Ingredients

  • 500g wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • splash of warm water
  • 500g cabbage (1 average sized cabbage)
  • 2 onions
  • 1 carrot
  • 20g ginger
  • 50g soya bean oil (or sunflower oil)
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Method

  1. First up, combine the wheat flour, baking powder and a splash of the warm water. Using a hand combine with just enough water until it forms a dough, be careful to make sure the dough doesn’t get to wet. The dough needs to be fairly stiff so add a little extra flour if you think it is needed. Knead for a good 5 minutes, form into a ball and put to one side.
  2. Now for the veggies. Finely chop the cabbage and onions. The smaller the pieces the better and avoid getting too much of the hard white core of the cabbage in the mix, as it has a tendency to be quite bitter. Place in a large bowl.
  3. Peel the carrot and ginger and finely grate into the bowl with the cabbage and onion.
  4. Heat the oil in a skillet until very hot but not boiling and pour over the vegetables. Stir quickly so that the diced veg is covered in the oil and starts to soften slightly. Add the sea salt and stir well. Taste the veg and add more salt if you think it’s needed. Salty is good.
  5. Now take your dough, tear into about three pieces and roll it into long sausages. Pinch small balls of dough about 2cm in diameter. It is important that these wee dough balls are all the same size, so if some look a little bigger or a little smaller adjust them accordingly. Using a clean floured surface roll these little dough balls flat, and place on a floured surface or (like Lilly at Hooker Road) use newspaper. 
  6. Take the flat discs of dough and holding them in the palm of your hand, place a spoonful of the vegetable mix in the middle. 
  7. This is the tricky bit now (which is also the hardest to explain). There are three ways to fold your Momos but generally speaking the pasty shaped ones with the crimped edge are for vegetables Momos, the small rounded ones are for meat, and the vaguely fishy looking one is for fish. The easiest and most common is the vegetable, pasty-shaped one whereby one side gets crimped before pinching it together to join it with the other half. (Does that make sense?!). The end results are as below, the top-right shape is the standard vegetable Momo shape. The ones to the left are the meaty shaped ones, and the bottom are the fishy ones.
  8. Now for the steaming. Rub or spray your steamer with a little oil and places the Momos on to the steaming tray, making sure that they aren’t touching, else they’ll stick together and it will all get very unpleasant. You’ll no doubt have to do them in 2 or 3 batches.
  9. Steam for about ten minutes et voilá you have some beautifully Tibetan edibles. Serve with some sweet chili sauce or Achar (a tomato chutney made from tomatos, red chilli, salt, sugar and a little vinegar). Enjoy! 

 

Tagged ,

Nepal

20120809-192931.jpg
(Karma Samten Ling Monastery, Kathmandu)
I’m sat typing this on a bus, racing through the jungle from Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal back to Kathmandu. It’s hot, humid, sticky. The bus is rammed, and the journey bumpy. Outside of Africa, Nepal is the world’s poorest country after Afghanistan. The country lacks infrastructure. Daily blackouts, horrendous roads, poor sanitation. The country is dirty, nowhere more so than Kathmandu. Heavy smog sits over Kathmandu more days than not, and its rivers are swollen with litter. The country’s recent history has been turbulent. The new Maoist government is largely unpopular. Rabid dogs roam the streets and monkeys steal tourists’ cameras and food from unsuspecting passers-by. Rats are the size of small cats and gangs of homeless children beg as if straight from Slumdog Millionaire.
20120809-193502.jpg

(Kathmandu by night)
And yet against all logic, there is a certain peace to Nepal, despite the chaos, the traffic jams, the noise, the dirt, the endless honking of horns, it’s something of a sanctuary from the disciplined order of much of the west. Kathmandu is the antithesis of the comparatively sterile Vienna where I’ve been living for the last year. Everything here runs on Nepal time, 4hrs 15 minutes ahead of GMT summertime, and the year here is 2069. Furthermore the concept of time is not so much a definite which everyone follows, but rather a loose guide to be acknowledged as and when one wishes. The people are smiley, friendly, generous and hospitable and the country is genuinely beautiful. Leave Kathmandu and see the beauty of Nepal, the surrounding paddy fields, tea plantations, rolling mountains and fast flowing rivers. There’s something special about Nepal. I’ve yet to identify exactly what makes it so special, but it’s special all the same…
20120809-192153.jpg

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been volunteering with a fantastic charitable organisation called Volunteer Initiative Nepal. I’ve been living and working at a Buddhist Monastery teaching young monks English with a good friend from St Andrews. The experience has been rewarding, mutually beneficial (hopefully) and a real insight.
20120809-192356.jpg

The monks are young, cheeky, fun, curious and they never fail to put a smile on my face. The Guru can’t really speak English, so instead he smiles and laughs at everyone and everything. Occasionally at dinner as we ate dal bhat he would interject with a ‘dal bhat!’ followed by a hearty chuckle to himself. Clearly the sight of us nomming away on dal bhat was hilarious. Dal bhat for us was lunch and dinner, twice a day, every day. Vast amounts of sticky rice, simple dal, and a little bit of vegetable curry.
20120809-190736.jpg

Dal bhat is the staple in Nepal, and it’s surprising just how you grow to love it. Wherever you go around Nepal you’ll find dal bhat. The Nepalese love their dal bhat over all other food. We had dinner with some Nepalese friends and they refrained from eating too much as they wanted to have their mums’ dal bhat before they went to bed. Nothing beats mum’s dal bhat it would seem. Restaurants serve dal bhat in a slightly fancier fashion with a few curries, some salad, achari (a tomato chutney), and popadoms.
20120809-190923.jpg

Like with any country, some of the food is good, some is bad. Breakfast at the monastery definitely falls into the ‘bad’ category. Tibetan tea, which is basically weak, milky tea only with salt rather than sugar is definitely an acquired taste. Personally, I simply find it foul and to add insult to injury, this ‘tea’ is then served with a steamed dough ball. A big sticky piece of heavy bread that sticks to the roof of your mouth as you chew, and your gullet as you try to swallow it.
20120809-190421.jpg

Needless to say I didn’t often make breakfast. Breakfast was also at 6.30am, which only took place after morning worship at 4.30am, which was announced with the heavy crash of cymbals, the blowing of horns and the apocalyptic howling of dogs. And we thought a Buddhist monastery would be peaceful…
20120809-192006.jpg

The most peace we’ve found in Nepal was in Pokhara, an 8hr bumpy bus journey from Kathmandu, situated around a stunning lake and with the majestic Annapurna in the background. Pokhara is a real gem. Compared to Kathmandu it’s quiet, clean and relatively tranquil. In particular, the Pokhara Beach Club run by Steve and Preeti is a dream, it has a welcoming, chilled atmosphere, tasty food and a view to live for.
20120809-192616.jpg

I have so much more to write and share but the internet is painfully slow and this shall take a lifetime to upload as it is. In a few days time we leave Nepal for India, so I’ll update y’all in a couple of weeks.

Oh and before I forget, I’ve discovered Honey Lattés which are perhaps my new favourite drink. Just. So. Sweet.
Recipe
Standard Latté with honey at the bottom. Easy peasy. Maybe add some squirty cream for a naughty finish.

20120809-194147.jpg

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers

%d bloggers like this: