Slow cooker Carapulcra

Slow Cooker Carapulcra

Slow cooker Carapulcra

You might have seen the #livepeasant hashtag on Twitter recently celebrating the traditional cooking of the world using British beef or lamb and wondered if it was only British dishes involved.

I really hope it isn’t after the nice people at Simply Beef and Lamb asked me to take part and I immediately started plotting this Peruvian inspired beef and potato stew in the slow cooker instead.

Usually made using traditional South American freeze dried potatoes to thicken the gravy and a mixture of pork and beef, I decided to try a new idea I’ve had for thickening slow cooker gravies using regular potatoes recently instead.

These chuña blanco are one of the first examples of using cold temperatures to preserve foods and harnessed the sub zero climate of the high Andes to create dried potatoes that last for years. I can buy them in Brixton and the flavour is not unlike potato jerky.

It goes well with the other main flavours of this stew which is peanuts and chilli. Peruvians use a mix called aji which is as varied as hot sauces are but always contains garlic, chilli peppers and coriander. The most popular kind in carapulcra is aji amarillo but I was fresh out of that I’m afraid so I’ve insulted a load of Peruvians and adapted the recipe to what I had instead.

I created a thick rich gravy by grating one of the potatoes into the stew and allowing it to break down along with the peanut butter in the sauce and create a rich velvety gravy full of flavour and spice.

Inauthentic my version might be but it was simple, warming and so tasty everyone wanted seconds. What more could you want from peasant food?

Slow Cooker Carapulcra (serves 4)

  • 500g braising steak (mine was blade steak)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 300ml red wine (or dark beer)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 generous teaspoon Bovril
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 750g potatoes, peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh coriander to serve
  • roasted peanuts to serve

If you can the night before, put the braising steak in a bowl along with the onions and garlic and the powdered spices and mix well. Leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.

If you aren’t used to using a slow cooker, let me give you some good news. You don’t need to seal meat or pre cook onions before using them. That dates back to the oldest versions and I find that generally browning the meat beforehand over cooks it and leads to that strange woolly texture you get in slow cooker stews.

This method means you can prep stuff the night before and put it all in the slow cooker crock next day without faffing. Even chilled meat isn’t a problem temperature wise, but don’t chill it in the crock as that can damage the crock and slow cooking down.

This recipe prepares nicely the night before. Simply warm the red wine in a pan and melt the peanut butter and Bovril into it to make a thick paste and set aside or use immediately.

Peel all the potatoes and cut all about 150g of them into 3-4cm chunks. Grate the remaining amount. Put them into the slow cooker crock along with the marinaded meat and the red wine mix.

Add the non ground spices, season well with salt and pepper and add the hot sauce. If you like a bit of extra kick you could add a chilli pepper too. I’m a fan of the frozen chilli paste for the slow cooker actually.

Check the liquid levels. It should be about two thirds the depth of the meat and potatoes. Add another 100ml of water if not. Slow cookers need less liquid that oven cooked stews as they don’t allow water to evaporate so don’t add too much or things will be flavourless.

Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook the whole thing on low for 8-9 hours. The grated potato will collapse into the liquid and make a thick gravy and the spices will fill it with flavour.

I served mine just as it was (I forgot the coriander for serving) with some roasted peanuts on top. African shops and sections of supermarkets often sell peanuts roasted without being salted and they are perfect here for a little crunch.

I loved this stew and would make it again. It’ll easily adapt to the oven if you prefer, using extra beef stock and I think it’ll be really popular with kids if you adapt the chilli to their palates or even (whisper) leave it out…


macaroni pudding

Macaroni Pudding

macaroni pudding

I had such fun last week doing the Rennie Challenge and reading about 1950s food that I ended up doing another recipe to go with it. I was sure I remembered seeing tins of Ambrosia macaroni pudding when I was a kid, along with sago and rice pudding.

However I haven’t seen it for years so was starting to think I must have imagined it when I saw a recipe for macaroni pudding in one of the post war cookbooks I looked at recently.

It might sound strange to us now, but it’s basically a sweet pasta dish. Instead of bechamel sauce as in a macaroni cheese, you cook macaroni with eggs and milk and sugar like an old fashioned milk pudding.

My instinctive love of milk puddings such as good old tapioca swayed me over the fear that if they don’t sell it anymore it might not be that nice and I decided to make one. After all, I’m pretty bloody sure they don’t sell tinned macaroni cheese anymore either.

I found several recipes for making the pudding and decided to bring them up to date for the modern era in both flavour and cooking time. Mrs Beeton suggested boiling the macaroni for 45 minutes and then baking it for another 30. I’m not sure if anyone told her macaroni wasn’t actually alive.

I’d been discussing butterscotch pudding on Twitter recently which put me in the mind to make my own butterscotch sauce for this and drizzle it over it at the end, but the recipe I followed went hideously wrong so I went with the dulce de leche I had in the fridge instead.

Don’t be tempted not to cook the macaroni at all before cooking assuming it’ll work like a pasta bake and save the tiny hassle of a saucepan of water. The world will repay your laziness with a burned dish of carbohydrate you have to chisel clean. Trust me here. I learned the hard way.

Dulce de Leche Macaroni Pudding (serves 4 to 6)

  • 250g dried macaroni
  • 1 x 410g tin evaporated milk
  • 100ml milk
  • 75 g dulce de leche
  • 15 g butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

Boil the macaroni in a pan of water for about 7 minutes. Drain and run some cold water over it to stop it sticking.

Put the evaporated and fresh milk in the pan you just used to cook the pasta and gently bring to the boil, adding the dulce de leche and butter so they both melt. Add the salt and the vanilla extract and take off the heat.

Add the cooked macaroni and mix well, allowing it to cool for 5 minutes and then beat in the two eggs and pour the whole mixture in an ovenproof dish. Bake in the oven at 150℃ for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes sprinkle the two tablespoons of sugar over the top and turn the oven up to 200℃ for 15 minutes to give the top a lovely golden caramelly finish.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then serve warm. I was convinced I’d find sweet pasta strange when I went to eat it and I didn’t at all. I loved the texture of the macaroni with the chewy sugary edges and the sweet custard.

It was perfect on a cold evening after dinner


devilled sardines

1950s Devilled Sardines and Tomato Charlotte

devilled sardinesAs the entire world is now aware, I’ve got some food issues that make me feel very unwell at times. At home this is usually treated by undoing my top button and drinking cup after cup of peppermint tea.

But that doesn’t work in public so well and I rely on a variety of indigestion remedies so when Rennie got in touch with me about doing a blogger promotion I thought they knew about my habit of keeping boxes of them in each handbag and were going to give me a year’s supply!

Turns out they wanted to celebrate 70 years of soothing upset stomaches by cooking food from each of those decades and would I care to do something 50s based? Luckily the 50s pre-date garlic coming to the UK so I was in on this one.

Rummaging in my cookbook collection I found two pamphlets from the Ministry of Food from the post war rationing era and since rationing of butter and meat didn’t end until between 1952 and 1954 decided they might inspire.

I wanted to make a main meal so was delighted when two dishes caught my eye: devilled sardines and a tomato charlotte. I’ve only really heard of devilled things in relation to kidneys and they’ve never really appealed so this was my moment to branch out.

Fresh (or tinned) sardines were basted in a mix of sugar, mustard and vinegar and poached lightly while the tomato charlotte used stale bread and fresh tomatoes to make an easy economical side dish. The theory was great but would the food be as awful as people always say about the 50s?

Tomato Charlotte (serves 2)

  • 4 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or thyme
  • 2 slices stale bread, cubed
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 15g cold butter, cubed

I’ve given this recipe first as it can do its thing while you get the sardines ready. Slice the tomatoes about the thickness of a pound coin and drizzle with the olive oil (which isn’t at all 50s as you could only buy it in the chemists then) and season well with salt, pepper and the dried herbs. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.

Grease an ovenproof dish and layer with some sliced tomatoes. Put a layer of cubed stale bread on top. Add another layer of tomatoes. Repeat until the dish is full. Pour any liquid from the tomatoes over it all.

Mix the breadcrumbs (mine were panko but I suspect a 50s housewife made her own) with the cold butter and pile on top of the dish til the top layer of tomatoes are hidden. Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 180℃ oven.

Devilled Sardines (serves 2)

  • 8 fresh sardines, filleted or 2 tins in spring water
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 75ml water

I am lucky enough to have a fishmonger so I asked for my sardines to be filleted, but if you can only get whole cleaned ones, make sure to scrape the scales off, brush inside and out with the devilled mix and simply cook for 5 minutes longer.

Don’t panic at the amount of mustard specified here. It isn’t a typo honestly. Mix the dry ingredients with the vinegar to make a paste and brush it over the flesh side of the sardine fillets and roll them starting at the tail end.

Place each fillet in a saute pan which has a lid and brush the skin with any remaining mixture. Add the water to the pan and put the lid on and cook for 5-6 minutes on a medium heat.

If using tinned sardines, brush each side with the devilling mixture and grill for 2-3 minutes until the fish is hot and slightly crisping round the edges.

Serve the sardines with the tomato charlotte and some boiled potatoes. Mine were tossed with crushed capers, butter and a bit of lemon juice which is a bit edgier than the average 50s dinner table probably but nothing they hadn’t heard of at least.

Then I got stuck in and hoped for the best. And needn’t have worried because both dishes were absolutely delicious. The sardines had much more going on than just mustard and the charlotte turned some fairly meh tomatoes into something so good I ate enough for two people.

Ironically despite pigging out, I didn’t need any of my packets of Rennie at all…

vintage fish cookbook*This post has been supported by Rennie, but all thoughts are my own.

fodmap granola

Fodmap Friendly Granola

fodmap granolaThe places that those pesky fodmaps can hide is never ending. If there is isn’t wheat in one thing, there’s lactose in another and honey in the next. Ironically the ‘healthier’ the food is, the more likely it is that a fodmap trigger will leap out at you.

I don’t really eat cereal, but I do love granola. Two things force me to make my own: the cost of the decent ones and the fact they all seem to sneak inulin in there for fibre. Inulin is the stuff that makes Jerusalem artichokes so difficult to digest for most people and it’s a super charged neon light flashing fodmap.

Discovering there was such a thing as oatgerm recently made me realise I could tweak my basic granola recipe to something all fodmappers can eat if I switch the honey for golden syrup. Before everyone gets up in arms about sugar in their breakfast cereal, let me remind you that honey is just middle class sugar. In fact it’s got a higher fructose load than the high fructose corn syrup we are taught to fear but it’s allowed to be put into things as ‘no added sugar’. Ahem.

Fodmap Friendly Granola (makes about 850g)

  • 100g jumbo oats
  • 150g porridge oats
  • 30g oatgerm
  • 30g sesame seeds
  • 30g pumpkin seeds
  • 30g sunflower seeds
  • 100g Brazil nuts, halved
  • 50g pecans
  • 100g flaked coconut (not desiccated)
  • 125g vegetable oil (or coconut oil if you like)
  • 125ml golden syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

This is so easy to make and this is a good base recipe that you can tweak to your own preferences. If you want higher protein levels, add some amaranth or if higher fibre is your thing, add chia seeds. If you can tolerate dried fruit, add about 100g as the granola cools. If like me, you like your granola more like a snack than breakfast, add some chocolate chips when it’s cooled.

Put the golden syrup and the oil in a small saucepan and heat until melted together. Take off the heat and add in the salt and the vanilla extract.

Put all the dried ingredients in a large bowl and pour the syrup and oil mix over it all and mix well. It will look like the liquid has soaked in and it will be too dry. Don’t panic. It will be the perfect amount to give a burnished golden look to the granola.

Beat the egg white slightly in a small bowl and add to the dried ingredients. This helps them to cluster together to give that luxurious feeling the posh granolas have and separates it further from its raw cousin muesli. It doesn’t make any difference to the storage of the granola because the egg is cooked.

Put the granola mix into two deep non stick roasting tins, making sure you can move the granola around in them. Cook in a preheated oven at 160℃ for about 25 minutes or until as golden as you like it. It will still be very slightly soft as it crisps up as it cools.

Give the granola a stir round before it cools or it will harden into a massive clump that you will have to chisel off the tray later. I made this mistake the first time and the mice in my kitchen are still enjoying the spoils of it exploding everywhere when I tried to lever it out of the tray.

Once cooled, stir any additions in and then store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. It would also be rather excellent in small cellophane or foil bags as Christmas gifts. Just leave the egg white out if you’re going vegan.

It will seem like you spent a lot of money to make a small amount of granola, but remember the ingredients make at least five or six batches for the price of two boxes of branded stuff. Plus you can eat it dry in front of the telly over Christmas and look much fancier than if you ate cereal from the packet…


sea salt caramels 2

Easy Salted Caramels

sea salt caramels 2

As my blogging career goes on, I grow fonder and fonder of making things with sugar and better and better at it. I always know we’re at the crossover time from autumn to Christmas when I get the urge to boil sugar. There was rather good bacon toffee and hot buttered rum caramels and there was less successful fudge, but this year I wanted something equally sweet and impressive but much simpler to make as gifts.

I found it when I was making brigadeiros for the Brixton Blog. These are a Brazilian party favourite made from cooked condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter and then rolled into a ball and coated in hundreds and thousands. They are all chewy fudgeyness and crunch at once and I have no idea why they aren’t better known outside Brazil.

But that seemed too simple for me. I needed to give the recipes a little poke and twist to make it fit me and my love of condensed milk. I decided to omit the cocoa powder and add sea salt to the condensed milk instead for a lighter creamier, more grown up feel.

And then I remembered I had some popping candy I impulse purchased in Waitrose one day I was killing time in there. I would roll my creations in popping candy and make them pure big kid fun in one easy step. It also looks awesome with the colour of the caramelised condensed milk.

These are a great way to make homemade sweets in under an hour (most of which is cooling time) and for mere pennies if you’re looking for eyecatching gifts over the next few weeks. They’ll keep for about 3 days once rolled in the popping candy or up to 5 if you use that glimmer sugar for baking decoration instead.

Easy Salted Caramels (makes about 25)

  • 1 x 397g tin of condensed milk
  • 25g salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 25g popping candy

This is so easy and quick to make. Put the entire can of condensed milk into a heavy saucepan along with the butter and sea salt. Heat on a medium heat, stirring constantly. Do not take your eye off it or stop for a second or it will burn.

Enjoy the calming rhythm of stirring and cook the condensed milk this way for about 8 minutes or until it thickens up and looks stiff and leaves a void on the base of the pan when you drag a spatula through it.

Take off the heat immediately and add the vanilla extract, beating it through well. Pour the mixture out onto a lightly greased plate, smoothing it out so it isn’t too thick and leave it to cool for about 45 minutes.

Then using a teaspoon, scoop up a spoonful of the cooled caramel and roll it into a ball. Dredge it through the popping candy and place in a petit four case. Repeat until you have about 25 caramels.

Kids will love the rolling and dredging so feel free to use as much imagination for the coating as you fancy. This is the time to hit up the baking aisle and see what you can find.  You could also try varying the flavours in the caramels and using chopped nuts or desiccated coconut to roll them.

They are unashamedly simple and sweet and utterly delicious, like really good white chocolate. It took more willpower than I thought I had to give mine away…

sea salt caramel