Roast Chicken in a Spicy Yoghurt Marinade

When you think of serving up a spicy Indian chicken the first thing that comes to mind is tandoori chicken. But most places serving tandoori chicken apart from the spices they use, tend to incorporate some sort of food colouring that leaves your fingers tinted a strange reddish-pink even as you tear off a nice chunk. In my opinion Indian spices really don’t need additives. Varied in terms of levels of heat, taste, texture and colour, Indian spices can well do without food colouring to make any dish using them look appetising.

Besides what do you do if you don’t have a tandoor? I don’t have one, and I suppose neither do many people living in apartment buildings. In fact even an open barbecue or wood-fired grill is a no-no for most city dwellers, and we can’t always call in for take out.

So here’s a simple oven-roasted chicken with Indian spices. Marinaded in lime juice, yoghurt, fresh roasted and powdered cumin and coriander seeds, kashmiri chilli powder, a coarse ground regular hot red chilli powder (you could substitute with sweet and hot paprika), ginger and garlic powder, a pinch of nutmeg and clove powder, turmeric powder, salt to taste, chopped fresh mint and a touch of olive oil instead of butter (since I’m watching my weight), this is an on-the-go, quick marinade which can be whipped up in no time. You don’t even need to roast an entire chicken like I did. Thaw your piece/s of chicken overnight, then whip up the marinade in 10 minutes tops, lightly salt the chicken and add a 1/2 teaspoon of lime, let it sit for 10 minutes, pat it dry, coat the chicken with the marinade, cover it with cling film and stick it back into the fridge (not the freezer).

When you get back from work, get the chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature while the oven pre-heats, and either bake it covered in foil or roast it open in the oven. You can even marinade boneless cubes of chicken, skewer them onto metal skewers with an assortment of bell-peppers, onions and tomatoes and roast them in the oven or on the barbecue till done.

Roasting chicken always makes me think of family and sitting down at the table with so much food we’d be spoiled for choice. My parents weren’t the indulgent sorts though. Rather strict in the way they raised us, we had to say grace and sit at table while we ate (none of that TV dinner stuff), making wholesome conversation, and finishing off what was on our plates, taking it in turn to clear, unless of course you were a habitual malingerer, which meant you had perennial table-clearing privileges until you saw the folly of your ways and made amends. Raised in god-fearing Catholic homes my parents brought us up by the book, with the occasional paddle and cane, but they made sure we were well fed and well schooled, not just academically but in the niceties of life. ‘The well-brought-up versus the dragged-up’ as my mum would say, referring to some of the more free spirited kids who lived down the road, who roamed around with slippered feet and crumpled clothes. She made sure despite raising three of us almost single-handedly (my dad was in the merchant navy) that our clothes were ironed to military crispness and our ears were washed, that our homework was done on time and that we brought home a good report card or we would have hell to pay. She also made sure we ate a balanced diet which most definitely included a selection of veggies at every meal and different meats and fish. But what I really looked forward to was the roast chicken she made. In-charge of the stuffing, I had to do it in the order she laid down, no different, chopping to exact proportions and in a sequence she had mastered. Rather difficult for a rebellious Scorpio child who was itching to break-free and do her own thing. The marinade too was one she had perfected, honey glazed with a few additions that made it her own. But the stuffing was something else, packed with cubes of fried bread and potatoes with fried chicken livers, crispy bacon bits, green peas, carrots, raisins and an assortment of nuts, then liberally laced with whiskey. It took the stuffing to as close to culinary heaven as you could get.

But I’m not venturing down that road. That one’s reserved for Christmas at my parent’s home and the stuffed turkey or chicken which is the mainstay of the meal.

So this is my simple Indian style roast chicken, marinaded with yoghurt and a host of spices.

Encase the chicken in foil and slow roast it for 45 minutes to an hour at 250 degrees C until the chicken is tender, Then unwrap the chicken from the foil and drain out the marinade, adding it to any reserve marinade and roast the chicken uncovered on a wire rack placed over the baking tray, until crisp on the outside for another 30 – 40 minutes, taking care to turn it around occasionally. Keep basting the chicken from time to time with the reserve marinade and juices. This will ensure that the chicken stays moist even as the skin crisps up.

Meanwhile heat up the reserve marinade and juices from the chicken and add a couple of tablespoons of honey… well more than a couple (4 – 5 more like it).

Serve the chicken garnished with lime, onion rings, slices of tomato and sprigs of fresh mint leaves.

Spoon some of that reduced sauce over the chicken and pour yourself a glass of Merlot or Shiraz, my wines of choice with this dish.

Have yourself a fabulous weekend.

Rustic Hand-rolled Country Duck Egg Tagliatelle with a Bolognese Sauce

The thing about heart-warming food is just that… it’s about food from the the heart. Soul food, it remind you of home, elevates you when you’re down in the dumps and makes you feel better when you’ve got the sniffles. It helps you get over heartbreak, or the disappointment about the promotion that never came through. Heart warming food can mean a lot to most people, unfortunately in my experience it’s usually food that’s a tad heavy. Heavy soups or stews and big bowls of steaming pasta with rich sauces usually does it for me. Which means I can’t enjoy it come the Indian summer with its blistering heat, which incidentally is just around the corner. So while the weather’s still fair I thought I should experiment with something I’ve been dying to make for the past few months. Only I was way too busy at the time and it got shelved, but not forgotten.

Duck eggs bring back memories of my grandparent’s home with their backyard full of chickens and ducks. I think they had geese too on occasion, but I was terrified of them, their large beaks a-honking and legs that flew through the air and straight at you. I didn’t quite mind the chickens though I stayed away from the hens, and I loved eggs. I’m an egg-freak, but duck eggs weren’t my particular favourites, even though I was quite fond of the ducks who did their own thing and left you to your own. I acquired a taste for duck eggs much later, particularly when they were in an omelet or a frittata with loads of veggies or herbs. You still won’t catch me eating them boiled.

So my mum grew up with her own ducks and hens and had fresh warm eggs every morning, while we unfortunate city dwellers of the next generation are compelled to buy them off supermarket shelves, with labels suffixed with words that read ‘Regular’, ‘Country’, ‘Brown’ and more recently, ‘Power’ and ‘Enriched’…. with what I wonder… Uranium?

I guess I shouldn’t ask if I don’t want to know.

So Duck Eggs are an acquired taste, with a flavour distinctly stronger from that of chicken eggs. In addition they also contain more fat and far more cholesterol than the regular chicken egg, but conversely they also contain loads of protein. So it’s not all bad news except for those who need to watch their cholesterol levels. Besides have you seen a duck egg yolk… a deep yellow orange and large, you’ll be tempted to at least try one out.

So the label on the box at the supermarket said ‘Country Duck Eggs’ and I’ve been inspired by Cheryl, the Pasta Princess who keeps enticing me with lovely photos and recipes of all the colourful pasta she comes up with, but virtual/visual treats just aren’t enough once the taste-buds go wild. So I had to get down into the trenches, roll up my sleeves and get to work. Thanks for the inspiration Pasta Princess 🙂 This one’s for you.

This is also dedicated to my grandparents on both sides (long deceased and missed) and to simple country living and loads of good eating. So in true form I shunned the pasta machine preferring to go completely rustic on this one. Kneading, rolling, and cutting the pasta by hand. And this is it. Duck Egg Tagliatelle served with what else but a meaty Bolognese Sauce (my version made with minced beef (200gms), bacon (3 rashers), chicken stock (1 cup – beef stock is better if you’ve got it), lovely ripe tomatoes (3 large or 4 medium), loads of garlic, aubergines (2 – small), green olives (4 – 5), red wine (1 cup), a splash of balsamic, cumin powder (I love cumin :-)), paprika, and a whole lotta herbs (oregano, basil. a bay leaf and parsley). Not forgetting the cheese (I used Pecorino). So that’s one heavy, heady, meaty sauce, the sort that sticks to your pasta and bones. Stuff that grandma would say was “good for you child”.

Making the pasta isn’t all that difficult, though it does call for some muscle. You’ve got to put your body into it.

I cooked up just enough for one or two if you’re like me and prefer many many small meals through the day.

This is all you’ll need for the pasta –

3/4 cup flour (more for dusting, rolling etc…. a whole lot more actually)

1 duck egg

pinch of salt

1/2 tablespoon of olive oil

2 tablespoons water

First things first – Wash/clean your work surface and hands thoroughly. Then dump the flour onto the cleaned and dry work surface, make a well in the centre and break your egg into it. It’s always better to break the egg into a bowl and then ease it into the well especially with duck eggs because the shells are hard to crack and you don’t want bits of shell in your pasta.

Add the water, olive oil and salt to the egg and whip it up a bit before slowly bringing the flour in to the centre of the well. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour at a time until the flour and egg are well combined into a dough.

Now comes the muscle… the part where you fold and press, then fold and press down again, and again… and again, for the next 4 to 5 minutes till the dough isn’t quite so springy and pliable any more.

Finally cover with cling film and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

After the dough has rested, unwrap and pat it down into a circle of your work surface.

Sprinkle a little flour and taking your rolling pin made an indentation band in the middle of the dough and roll out one side and then the other.

Keep rotating the dough, or rather it does it on its own as you continue to roll. The springiness of the dough reducing as you roll it thinner and thinner until the sheet is about a millimetre or less, and has almost lost its elasticity.

Fold the sheet about an inch or so and keep repeating till the entire circle of dough has been folded.

Take a sharp knife and cut strips about a centimetre thick.

Work quickly at this stage opening up the ribbons of pasta nd leaving them to dry for 3 – 4 minutes (I draped them over a lightly floured plate) as you bring the pot of water to a boil.

Add in a tablespoon of salt and drop the pasta into the boiliing water. Your pasta should be done in 3 minutes or so, as it will rise quickly to the surface. Lift the pasta out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil before spooning on that delicious Bolognese. Finish with fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Grandma must be smiling, that’s for sure 🙂

Have a great weekend.

Corn, Ricotta and Fenugreek Samosas with a Peanut, Mint and Coriander Chutney

Why isn’t it the weekend yet?

We all love weekends, don’t we? Except possibly…. and quite understandably so, harried mothers of quadruplets with ADHD or workaholics for whom the work week never ends anyway. For me, weekends usually mean that I can sit and watch a bunch of films on my laptop because the TV stations air crap, and who watches the news on weekends. Frankly I stopped watching the news a while back, even on weekdays. ‘Breaking News’ is only so for the first 15 minutes, after 2 hours it sort of moves into the ‘Stale News’ segment. Someone should educate our news channels about that… yeah, imagine the running bar saying, ‘Stale News… we broke it an hour ago, but we’ve got nothing else to run with. Sorry.’

I love weekends anyway. Perhaps this weekend I’ll watch ‘The Help’ yet again, though I’m really not so much of a chocolate pie person ;-). Thank heavens! And I’ll rest my back which I put out trying to dismantle a three-door cupboard. Almost done with the cupboard, but had to stop because after taking off the doors and the drawers and the drawer rails and lugging all of it about, my poor back yelled ENOUGH. So that was that.

But weekends also mean good food and cooking and/or baking and I can’t wait anymore for the food fiesta to start. So here’s my lead up to the weekend… Samosas.

Like every Indian worth her or his salt, I’m a sucker for a good samosa. Meat filled or vegetarian, there are so many different fillings you can put into them. They are truly the most versatile snack especially when eaten with a nice chutney. But then I caught a glimpse or my burgeoning hips and almost decided not to make them, when the penny dropped.

I could bake ’em instead of using the dreaded deep fryer.

So these are my delicious little baked triangles of corn, ricotta and fenugreek (aka Methi) served with a peanut, mint and coriander chutney (sort of like an Indian pesto without the olive oil).

I’ll admit I slacked up a bit here, because I didn’t make the pastry dough, and I won’t blame it on the bad back. Al-right, who am I kidding, I shall… there! The bad back meant using samosa wrappers that you’ll find in the freezer section of most supermarkets. So that cut out a huge chunk of the work on these because all you’ve got to do is boil the corn till just done (al dente for corn) and drain it before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

Here’s a list of the ingredients –

I cup corn kernels

2 cups fenugreek (methi) leaves

3/4 cup ricotta

1/2 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds

1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds

1/2 red onion (minced)

2 green chillies

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil (for the filling) + 1 tablespoon (with 2 tablespoons melted butter) for brushing the samosas

Samosa wrappers (as required)

2 tablespoons flour and little water to make a paste to seal the samosas

Sauté the onion with the chillies and cumin in the olive oil, and add in the washed and drained fenugreek leaves. Use a salad spinner if you like to get all that water out of the leaves before you put them into the pan. Cover and cook for a minute till the leaves wilt, then add the pre-boiled corn, and the salt. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes, then remove the lid and cook till all the water in the pan (if any) has evaporated. Leave the veggie mix aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile get started on your chutney, for which you’ll need –

1/2 cup peanuts toasted and skinned

1/2 cup mint leaves

1/4 cup coriander

juice of 1/2 lime

1 green chilli

4 – 5 large pods of garlic ( I had really teensy weensy ones so I used about 10)

1/2″ piece of ginger

3 – 4 tablespoons of water (more if you want it thinner)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Pulse the ingredients in a food processor until you get the consistency you desire, adjusting the water content accordingly. Add an additional squeeze of lime juice over the chutney once done, mix and transfer into a bowl. Cover with cling wrap until required.

Back to the samosas –

You’ll need to thaw the pack of samosa wrappers completely and separate them. Meanwhile add the ricotta and sunflower seeds to the cooled corn and fenugreek and mix well. Take one wrapper and fold over one end to make a triangle, and fold that end again so that you get a cone pocket. Spoon in your filling being careful not to overfill. Then fold over so the pocket shuts and fold again. Finally for the last fold over you may need to put in some sort of edible adhesive like an egg wash or flour mixed with water which works really well for these. And voilà, your samosa is almost ready to be baked.

But wait, before you get all excited you’ve still got a whole lot of filling and the samosa wrappers to go through. So back to work.

(Some of the photos here are a bit blurred. I thought about leaving them out, but then they chronicle the process. So here they are, I suppose it was difficult multi-tasking or was it the darn painkillers…hmmmm???)

Clear at last! I suppose the painkiller wore off

And then there was a plateful…

Brush these beauties with a mix of butter and olive oil, and bake them in a pre-heated oven at 220° C for about 15 – 20 minutes or till they are nice and golden brown.

You may need to turn them once to ensure that you get even browning on both sides, but keep an eye on these babies coz you dont want them burning.

Get that chutney out, plate up, and what are you waiting for? … Dig in!

The doctor did say that I was supposed to eat with those painkillers. So, here’s my plateful.

All mine!...errr... Doctor's orders.

Oh n before I forget… have a great pre-weekend!

That’s the sun from my window this evening.

Now isn’t nature a beaut?… Damn! It’s them meds talkin’ again.

Supremely Cheesy Garlic Chive Crackers and the Buddha who lost his head

My Buddha lost his head the other day. 

He’s been with me for well over a decade my little stone Buddha. Surviving treks and trips across the country, being carted around in haversacks dumped on dirty railway platforms and in the cargo hold of planes, and through weeks of silent meditation… not to mention a Labrador named Shanti who hid him deep within the recesses of her ripped-apart bed one day when she wanted to vent at being left alone at home for too long. I honestly expected him to emerge on her walk the next morning thinking of how she would get him out of her system. We’re talking stone here… But silly me, because it was Shanti who had the last bark and a change of heart and led me to where she had sequestered him. It was all so funny, I cracked up, hugged her and I swear I could hear her give a little doggie-giggle in glee when I turned my head away. So yeah my Buddha’s been a constant companion over the last decade.

And then quite unexpectedly he loses his head.

Incidentally I’m all for venting. I believe it to be good for digestion, though I fully subscribe to the Buddhist notion of it being devoid of any trace of anger… crazy, huh? So now you think I’m nuts, or on something. Seriously people, I haven’t even tried weed, let alone other more potent stuff and now that I’m stepping into the mid 40s I doubt I’m going to start. Though I understand that menopause can get you to do really crazy things.

But getting back on track I suppose you’re wondering if it’s even possible to vent without anger. After all, isn’t the purpose of venting just that, to express anger towards…???  Someone. But it isn’t… and I’m not talking some cockamamie bs here. Anger is self-destructive. Corrosive, it eats away at our insides burning holes in our bodies, minds and souls if you believe in them, while the person whom you thought your anger was directed at walks away without a care in the world. Stick n stones…

But that doesn’t mean that you ignore a situation gone bad, address it by all means but with a measure of calm. It is truly okay when we’re overrun to look for avenues to express the feelings that arise within us but with the least possible damage to ourselves. While some may choose to pray or meditate and by observing their anger watch it dissipate, others may walk or run till their legs ache and sheer exhaustion distracts them from their previous state of being. I also believe that you won’t quite qualify for the loony bin if you choose to look up at the sky and just scream or better still make sure no one’s watching you do it unless it’s your best friend who knows what a nut-job you are anyway. Venting can be quite therapeutic when it’s directed at no one in particular.

Which of course brings me to comfort food and crackers. I absolutely love crackers and I’ve never baked them. Silly, huh??? And its not just any old cracker I’m talking about here. I’ve been craving cheesy crackers. It was this huge bunch of garlic chives that I saw at the supermarket and promptly picked up on which I squarely lay the blame. But having never baked crackers before I was a bit worried about proportions and then I came across this recipe for Cornmeal and Chive Crackers from Pitchfork diaries and adapted it, omitting the cornmeal component entirely and using two different kinds of cheese, a sharp aged yellow Cheddar and Gouda. The result was a flaky and delicately crisp, but oh so cheesy cracker with the flavour of the garlic chives coming through all the way. I added white and black sesame seeds for a bit of nuttiness and that extra crunch.

Here are the ingredients –

¾ cup all purpose flour (extra while kneading and for dusting as required)

3 tablespoons butter – melted (microwave for 15 seconds)

3 tablespoons each – Sharp Cheddar and Gouda Cheese

4 tablespoons garlic chives – chopped

Pinch of salt (you can omit this as I discovered later)

½ teaspoon black pepper (crushed) 

1 tablespoon each – lightly toasted (cooled) white and black sesame seeds

Start by microwaving the butter so it begins to melt, then add the cheese and stir to incorporate. Once the cheese is all mixed in, stir in the chives and mix well. Sift the flour onto the butter-cheese-chive mix, add the pepper (you can omit the salt) and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the dough. Knead till all the ingredients are well assimilated to a soft dough.

Divide the dough into three balls. Cut out two strips of parchment paper and after dusting one of them with flour, place one of the dough balls onto the parchment and press down to flatten. Sprinkle the dough with flour and cover with the second sheet of parchment. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thin as you can possibly roll it.

Make sure that you roll the dough out from the centre to the edges since you want even thickness throughout.

Lift the top parchment off carefully and cut into shapes using cookie cutters or a steel ruler and pizza cutter like I did and prick the rectangles with a fork or a skewer to prevent them from puffing up while baking. Repeat the process for the rest of the dough balls.

Lift the rectangles carefully off the parchment paper onto a parchment lined baking tray with a spatula and bake them in a 180° C preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes or till they turn a light golden brown.

Cool the crackers on the baking trays itself once you take them out of the oven, before transferring them onto a cooling rack. I had some with ricotta… Cheese all the way! And they’re great on their own, especially with a hot cup of tea. 

I even had some at dinner with curried black-eyed beans, and they were delicious.

And I had some for dessert the next day with a lychee ice-cream.

Well, to get back to the Buddha I must say that I was a bit disheartened when he went over the edge and lost his head, but I managed to glue it back on, and he looks none the worse for wear.

And yes a dear friend ordered me another from Amazon which is en route 🙂

Enjoy your Sunday and have a great new week!

 

 

Good ol’ Caramel Rum n Raisin Cupcakes and a couple of Kites

I’m not huge on frostings. Seriously. Most times when I’m faced with a cupcake laden with frosting, I tend to have a pile of frosting sitting on the side of my plate. And believe me it does take some dexterity to get that frosting off without losing the top of your precious cupcake lying beneath. 

So, there it is, I’ve said it. I like a cupcake without frosting and don’t you tell me to eat a muffin instead. For starters, there’s a huge difference between the two, though with many a patisserie churning out cakey muffins, the true more bready muffin with its pat of butter is finding its identity merging with that of its sweeter, cakey cousin. I love muffins by the way, but today is about cupcakes, though the batter was so moist I ended up adding a little more flour than my recipe originally called for. I thought I’d have to re-christen it a muff-cake, but that bordered on x-ratedly weird, so I ditched the idea. What’s a touch of extra flour when the result is this boozy, decadent, moist and heavenly cake in a couple o’ bites.

It all started with this pair of kites outside my window and their quest to build a nest. Now how difficult do you think building a nest would be for a couple of kites, given that they are pretty much the largest birds in these skies.

The Home-maker... twig in beak

The home-maker...twig in beak

Massively difficult as I found out. Though at the end of the day, or the week more like it, the kites did prevail. It kind of made me think of a pregnant Mary doing the round of inns in Bethlehem with Joseph, and having the door slammed in her face. Only this time around it was the crows who played dirty. What’s it about crows playing spoilsport to a pregnant kite. Predator like they dive-bombed the poor kite who valiantly tried to hold her ground at first, then hopped about from branch to branch desperately holding on to an all too large twig she had carried up into the tree, before dropping it and screeching for help.

And it arrived. Her mate, careening in at top speed into the murder of crows, seven of them, at times even nine, scattering them about, before the nasty critters regrouped (apologies to all you crow lovers out there) and turned on him, chasing him off, pursuing him from tree to tree, pecking at his tail feathers.

we're watchin' you... with our little black beady eyes

I’m not merely talking the common house crow here, but also the more vicious jungle variety, larger, black and sharper beaked, almost raven-like. Two hours every morning, and then they were gone, off to gloat about their little victory over the kites who after the crows departed each day would go into high gear, building twig upon twig, but to no avail. The next day would find the crows back at their vicious game, the mess of twigs dismantled, the dive-bombing back on point. But the doughty kites persisted, and the crows finally gave up. I’d like to believe that they were just messing around and realised they’d gone too far. Whatever it was, it meant that the nest was up, twigs, cloth, cotton and whatever else the kites could muster. I caught a glimpse of what I thought was an egg yesterday, there must be, because mama kite sits in the nest all day, while her mate dutifully tends to her, bringing tasty tidbits and sitting on the branch of the adjoining tree screeching out what I can only assume to be the kite equivalent of “any time now” to every passing avian who would care to know.

And then I was meeting a friend for dinner and two good things in one day called for a treat. Rum n Raisin’s always a winner… but with a twist. Or squeeze as it turned out, (a good couple of squeezes in fact) of Hershey’s caramel syrup (and no… Hershey’s isn’t paying me a dime. Though if any one from Hershey’s reads this post I have a list on the ready, and I would be grateful if they obliged :-))

I ended up using a little more flour than I normally use for this recipe, close to 1 1/3 cups (because the caramel syrup and rum made the batter a bit more runny than I expected) to my cup of butter (softened) and powdered sugar (+ 2 tablespoons of the sugar). Creamed the butter n sugar before adding in two eggs, a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and the flour which I sifted with a level teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of baking soda. I used dark raisins (aka black raisins… about 3/4 of a cup and some currants (1/4 cup) that had been steeping for a couple of months in rum. Oh yeah! Adding in 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoonful of granulated sugar just to take it a notch higher.

Ummm…

Don’t forget to add in a couple of tablespoons of the rum the raisins have been steeping in as well.

And then…

Now, I could have made caramel from scratch, but then I figured I’d let Hershey’s owe me one 😉 So about 4 large tablespoons of caramel syrup. And that was it, incorporate everything well, none of that measured muffin folding technique required here.

deliciously decadent!

I allowed the batter to sit for 10 minutes before filling up the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way. Then baked them in a pre-heated oven at 200° C for 15 – 18 minutes.

Let the cupcakes cool completely before biting into an explosion of flavours. Rum… raisin… caramel… and yeah… ‘Don’t Eat n Drive!’

Portabella n Colby Buns with Birdseye Chillies

It’s been way too long since my last post, and even longer since I baked, so naturally I was raring to go and recover lost ground. Besides there”s only that much commercially produced bread a girl can eat before her stomach begins to talk back, and I wasn’t going to wait for that to happen. But special occasions call for special treats and my bakers brain went into high-gear… hmmmm… what could I do that I hadn’t done before.

Using fresh ingredients is always a priority so I was thrilled when I saw this pack of little Portabellas sitting on the shelf in the grocery section of the supermarket.

That did it, I knew I had a recipe brewing in there somewhere. And then I spotted Colby Cheese. Now Colby is sort of like Cheddar, just more elastic and with a more neutral taste. Kind of like a mild Cheddar on a Trampoline. Perfect for pairing with my Portabellas, since I wanted those little beauties to shine through, with the cheese providing an accent, just that subtle bit of flavouring and mild richness to the bread that I finally decided on baking.

Birds-eye chillies completed the trinity and that was it. A recipe was born…

So back to the Portabellas, and do remember to wipe them clean of any grit with a wet towel, then pat them dry and slice’ em as thin as you can.

The reason… you don’t want any extra moisture retention. Mushrooms have a way with moisture, so you want to slice ’em as thin as you can and fry them on high heat with a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil with a teaspoonful of butter. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt, so that any water hiding in those babies leaches out and catches the heat. Sizzle….. sssss…

But wait… before you add in the mushrooms to the oil n butter, fry the de-seeded and sliced birds-eye chillies. I used 4 chillies, but you can reduce the quantity if you like it milder.

WARNING: Wash, Re-wash and re-re-wash your hands after you handle the chillies. I washed my hands twice but then ended up touching my chin, and woah! So yeah, scrub your hands well, very, very well after handling those little critters. They’re tiny, but they’re dynamite.

Fry the mushrooms on high, stirring constantly, before sprinkling on the salt and a teaspoonful of freshly milled pepper. I used a melange of peppercorns; pink, green, white and black…

Once the mushrooms are fried and browned, take ’em off the flame and keep them aside to cool. Meanwhile activate the yeast, about 10 -11gms of fresh yeast in 1/2 cup of tepid water, with a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar just to get things moving. In a separate bowl, sift 2 cups of flour and add it to the activated yeast, with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Knead the flour to a dough, then add in the mushrooms and cheese. You may need to add another 1/4 cup of flour and knead for about 10 minutes to a lovely soft dough.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over the dough. Then cover with cling wrap and leave to prove for about 2 hours till the dough more than doubles in size.

Once the dough has risen, knock it back and turn it out onto a floured surface for a second quick knead before rolling it out into a log.

Because I wanted larger buns I portioned the log into just 7 pieces and shaped them into rounds. Covered them with muslin and left them to prove for another 45 – 50 minutes, brushing them with eggwash, dusting them with paprika and grating some extra Colby on top just before baking.Bake them in a 230° C preheated oven for 20 minutes. (Btw… I sprayed the inside of the oven a couple of times with water while the buns were baking for that crunchy crusty top I love. But that’s a matter of choice.)

Transfer the buns onto a wire rack to cool completely. Or better still, do what I did. Slice into one while it’s still warm, slather on some butter and enjoy. before dispatching the buns straight to YeastSpotting.

It has been a while.