Sweet Saffron Rice

This versatile and vibrant rice will complement so many entrees.

1 1/3 cups basmati rice
1 cup superfine sugar
1 pinch saffron threads
1 1/4 cups water
2 cloves
4 cardamom pods
2/3 cup golden raisins (optional)

Cook the rice following the package directions or your usual method.

Put the sugar, saffron and water in a small saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Without stirring further, bring to a boil and bubble until the syrup reduces and thickens. Add the cloves and cardamom pods, then take off the heat and allow to infuse for 15 minutes.

Stir the raisins (if using) into the cooked rice then toss in the syrup before serving.

Serves 8-10

Pasta with Anchovy Sauce

Called Bigoli con Salsa in Italian, this savory sauce is perfect with any type of pasta, but works especially well with long, robust pasta such as bucatini.

2 large onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
12 anchovy fillets in olive oil, finely chopped
1 tbs. butter
tiniest pinch ground cloves
1 tbs. water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 lb. bigoli, bucatini, perciatelli or linguini
1 cup freshly chopped parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook over a low heat for abut 10 minutes, or until you have a golden mush. Add the brown sugar and let the mixture cook another minute. Add the anchovies and stir until they begin to melt, then stir in the butter and cloves followed by the water. Gradually add the milk. When it has all come together, remove the pan from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in an abundant amount of salted water according to the package directions. Remove 1/2 cup of the water and drain.

Tip the pasta into the sauce and add enough of the reserved water to make a sauce. Sprinkle in most of the parsley, then spoon into bowls and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

Serves 8

Pink Picante Shrimp

If you don’t have pink peppercorns or can’t find them, simply use white one.

1 tbs. pink peppercorns, plus more to crush to decorate
1 tbs. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cardamom seeds, or seeds from 8 pods
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 egg whites
1 1/2 lb. raw, peeled and cleaned shrimp
2 tbs. vegetable oil

Crush the peppercorns, salt, cardamom seeds and paprika in a mortar and pestle until you have a nubbly mixture. Or you can grind them in a spice grinder.

Hand-whisk the egg whites until they are foamy, but not stiff. Dip the shrimp in the egg whites, then toss them with the peppercorn mixture.

Heat the oil a large pan and stir-fry the shrimp for 5-7 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove to a dish and sprinkle with more crushed peppercorns to serve.

 

Serves 6-8

Split Pea Soup and Frankfurter Soup

You can use either green or yellow split peas in this hearty and warming soup.

1 onion
1 carrot
1 stick celery
1 clove garlic
2-3 tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. ground mace
2 1/4 cups split peas
5-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
8 hot dogs

Peel the onion, carrot and garlic, then cut into rough chunks along with the celery. Put everything in a food processor and blitz to finely chop.

Pour the oil into a large saucepan and add the veggies. Cook them for 5-10 minutes, or until soft but not colored. Stir in the mace. Tip in the split peas and stir in the oil for a few minutes before adding 5 cups of the stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour. Add more stock if the soup seems too thick.

Cook the frankfurters on a griddle, cut them into pieces and add to the soup.

Serves 6

Fruit Tea Loaf

The loaf is easy to make and is perfect with a cuppa or toasted and spread with butter for breakfast.

1 cup hot black tea
2 1/4 cups mixed dried fruit
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch cloves
1 egg

Stir together the tea, dried fruit and brown sugar in a large bowl. Cover and leave to macerate overnight.

Heat the oven to 325°F. Grease a standard loaf tin and line it with a strip of parchment paper.

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cloves together, then stir into the fruit mixture. Add the egg, then scrape into the tin. Bake for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Pilaf for a Curry Banquet

Fragrant and festive, this rice will go with any curry entree. The best thing is that it will keep warm for up to an hour after it cooks, so no last-minute stress!

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbs. vegetable oil
2 cloves
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 3 pieces
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. nigella seeds
2 1/2 cups basmati rice
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Cook the onions over a medium-low heat in the oil in a deep saucepan that has a lid along with the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds and nigella seeds. When the onion is slightly brown and softened, after about 10 minutes, stir in the rice.

Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pot with a clean dish towel and clamp the lid back on. Leave it for at least 10 minutes, or up to an hour. Fork the rice through when you are ready to serve and sprinkle the almonds on the top.

Serves 8-10

Snow-Flecked Brownies

The are luscious and meltingly-squidgy squares of heaven.

3 sticks plus 2 tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
6 eggs
2 cups caster sugar
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan and line with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and the semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate in a large pan over a low heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with the sugar, then add the vanilla extract. Stir this into the semi-cooled chocolate, followed by the flour and salt. Fold in the white chocolate and spread in the pan.

Bake for 25 minutes. They will be ready when the sides pull away and the middle remains dark and gooey. Leave to cool in the pan, then cut into squares. Dust with confectioner’s sugar to serve.

Potato and Onion Hash

This is written to serve 1, but it can easily be increased. The cayenne pepper is the key.

1 small onion, halved and sliced into half moons
1 tbs. olive oil
2 cups all-purpose potatoes, skin-on and cut into 1/2″ dice
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 egg

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onion, then cook over a medium heat with a sprinkle of salt until softened. Tip in the potatoes and cayenne pepper, turn the heat down and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring now and then, until the potatoes are tender and beginning to caramelize.

Turn the heat up and push the hash to one side. Crack the egg into the empty half and fry to your liking. Serve the egg over the hash.

Serves 1

Rhubarb Crumble

Either custard or vanilla ice cream is a must with the luscious pudding.

2 lbs. pink rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (approximately 7 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tbs. butter
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1 tbs. cornstarch
For the crumble topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
8 tbs. butter, cold and diced
3 tbs. caster sugar
3 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Heat the oven to 375°F and put in a baking sheet to catch any drips that may occur while baking.

Toss the rhubarb into a pan with the sugar, butter, vanilla and cornstarch. Heat for 5 minutes or until the butter has melted and everything is oozed together. Tip this into a pie plate approximately 8 1/2″ in diameter and set aside.

To make the crumble, combine the flour, baking powder and butter in a large bowl. Using the pads of you fingers, run this together until it resembles rough oatmeal. Stir in the sugars and vanilla extract, then sprinkle over the rhubarb, taking care to cover the fruit right to the edges.

Place on the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is browned and the fruit is bubbly.

Serves 10

Soft White Dinner Rolls

These are heaven slathered with salted butter!

3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. instant yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbs. caster sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 heaped tsp. butter

For the topping:
1 beaten egg
1 tbs. milk pinch salt
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. sesame seeds

Combine the 3 1/2 cups flour with the yeast, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Put the milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat until the milk is warm and the butter has begun to melt.

Pour the milk/butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a fork or wooden spoon to make a rough dough, adding more flour if the dough is too wet. Dump onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and silky. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.

Punch the air out of the dough and place on a floured work surface. Pull out walnut-sized pieces and form them into small balls. Place them on a greased or lined baking sheet about 1/4″ apart. You should get about 30 balls. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise again in a warm place until they have puffed up.

Heat the oven to 425°F. Mix the egg with the salt and brush the dough balls, then sprinkle with the seeds. Bake the rolls for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove them to a cooling rack or serve immediately.