Monday, October 31, 2011

Foolproof fudge

Happy Halloween!

Whilst I understand some people's reservations about Halloween (I must admit I've been fairly aghast by the inches of shelf space devoted to this somewhat dubious occasion), I do like to see kids having fun. As such, I enter into the spirit of things and carve pumpkins and stock up on goodies to offer the trick or treaters that make their way to our door. It is just seven 'o clock and already the supplies are looking a little depleated - we've had a steady stream of witches, ghosts, gouls, grim reapers and skelletons since dark descended.

First to go were the little bags of homemade fudge I made at the weekend. I've never had a great deal of success with fudge-making for some reason, but this time I've cracked it. It is a slightly cheaty recipe using condensed milk but I don't care as it tastes just as fudge should - sweet and creamy with that wonderful slightly granular texture. I'm particularly pleased that I finally decided to part with some cash and invest in a sugar thermometer (grand total £4.99). This meant I could relax and judge the moment to take my fudge of the heat by watching the thermometer rather than dropping bits into ice-cold water (...though works well too).

I'm a bit boring in that I like my fudge fairly plain - vanilla is best for me. But this recipe is easily spruced up with various additions - crystalised ginger is a winner, rum-soaked raisins another or walnuts and a dash or two of maple syrup go down well too. Chocolate chips, dried fruits or coffee are other ideas which may appeal.

Foolproof fudge
Adapted from this recipe on the Carnation Condensed Milk website
Makes approx. 60 squares


1 397g tin of condensed milk
150ml semi-skimmed milk
450g light muscovado sugar (or any pale brown sugar)
115g unsalted butter
1.5 tsp vanilla extract

1. Grease and line an 8 or 9 inch square tin.

2. Tip all ingredients into a large heavy-based non-stick saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has disolved.

3. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring all the time, until the mixture has reached 'soft-ball' stage. This is when the mixture reaches 116C or when the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped into a bowl of ice-cold water.

4. At this stage, remove the pan from the heat and beat for around ten minutes until the mixture has become thick (but pourable/scrapable) and grainy.

5. Pour and scrape into the prepared tin and leave for an hour or so to set before cutting into squares.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bengali yoghurt fish - Anjum Anand

Just back from a fabulous fortnight holiday in Madeira - perfect weather, lots of relaxing and far too much food. Madeira is perhaps not the greatest of foodie destinations but we ate very well whilst there and enjoyed the wonderfully fresh produce available to us.

More on Madeira at a later date, but for now I want to talk curries. My husband is a huge curry fan and, I have to say, that I'm pretty keen too. This was not always so. As a youngster I shunned anything with the remotest kick and steered well clear of all spicy food. It wasn't something we ate at home and it took some time before I changed my ways and started to experiment. It was some years before I began to understand that curry does not necessarily equal hot! The curries we enjoy eating at home are never 'hot'. They have outstanding flavour from the many different spices involved and sometimes a little heat from chilli, but rarely do we break a sweat.

I have a personal love of Thai curries and I can never resist a really good Thai green curry, ubiquitous though it may be. It was a staple of my university days and a dish I suspect I will always cook. I also tend to lean towards mild, creamy curries enriched with coconut milk or yoghurt. But this isn't to say that they are always unhealthy. When cooking curries, we try to choose lighter, less-fattening ingredients and add lots of vegetables.

Last Christmas, in order to be a little more 'authentic' in our curry-making, I bought my husband a lovely book by Anjum Anand. 'I love curry' is a modern mouthwatering collection of curries and accompaniments. Every dish is photographed and Anjum includes a nice introduction for each recipe explaining how each recipe evolved. Best of all, her recipes tend to the lighter side. They are not swimming in oil or ghee and are the majority of recipes are fragrant and delicately spiced though she had some more punchy powerful curries too. She also explains the different stages involved in creating an authentic curry and how to balance the final dish (how to add heat, 'tame the flame', add sweetness or acidity etc...).

We tend to cook mainly meat or vegetable-based curries but recently we tried our hand at one of the many fish-based curries. I used to live with someone with Indian roots who made the most fabulous fish curry (a family recipe handed down over the years) - somewhere she gave me the recipe and I must find it to re-create it. In the meantime though, this did very nicely. The flavours were delicate and aromatic and it made a lovely mid-week dish.

Here is the recipe, with a few tweaks (mainly using slightly less oil and our preferred amounts of chilli - Anjum always gives a choice so you can alter a recipe to taste.

Bengali yoghurt fish
Recipe adapted from 'I love curry' by Anjum Anand (p83)

Serves 4 but easily halved


3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion
10g peeled weight of fresh ginger
2 plump garlic cloves
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 green whole green chillis, stalks removed
2 small tomatoes
2 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt (we used low-fat variety)
600g firm white fish fillets (we used cod)
Handful fresh coriander

1. Finely chop the onion, grate the ginger and garlic to a paste. Blend the tomatoes to a puree in a blender and set aside.

2. First, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan or casserole. Add the onion and cook until soft and golden. Add garlic and ginger pastes and cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Stir in the spices and whole green chillis and season with a little salt. Pour in the pureed tomatoes and 150ml water and cook until liquid has evaporated and sauce starts to take on a rich, dark red colour, stirring all the time. Stir in the yoghurt until well blended.

3. Pour in a further 200ml of water and bring to a gentle boil - simmer and stir for around 5 minutes until the sauce has the consistency of single cream. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt or chilli powder.

4. Chop the fish into fairly large chunks and add to the sauce - shake until the fish is coated. Cover the pan and cook gently for around 3-5 minutes (depending on thickness of fish) until the fillets are cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with rice.

I thoroughly recommend other recipes in this book and can't wait to try others. Next on the list are a tamarind duck curry, a hearty meatball and pea curry and aubergine in a creamy peanut sauce. The tarka dhal is one of the best I've tasted  and there are great ideas for accompaniments, chutneys and starters