Reaching the final of Masterchef 2007 was a rollercoaster of emotion, with huge highs and lows, but I loved every minute and learnt a huge amount. I owe a great deal to John and Gregg who had faith in my ability when I did not believe in myself. Since competing on the programme my life has changed considerably. I now write cookery columns for two magazines, give cookery demonstrations and am just working on my 13th cook book - unlucky number for some but not for me!!! I love all forms of country cooking, using seasonal and locally sourced produce. This blog is to enable me to share with you a few of my recipes and baking ideas. Enjoy Hannah xxxx

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Happy Halloween everyone! I have been busy baking this morning for our Halloween party this evening! Joshua, Rosie, Lili and Zara are all coming for tea and some Halloween treats! This is a lime coconut and vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and a positively luminous orange fondant icing. The marshmallow teacakes are simply decorated with some chocolate fudge icing and some Halloween sweets! Just two pumpkins to carve, some chocolate cupcakes and cinnamon bats still to do - it's going to be a busy day!

Cinnamon Bats

170g/6oz plain flour (use 00 flour if you have it)

115g/4oz butter

60g/2oz caster sugar

1tsp ground cinnamon

100g/3 ½ oz ready to roll icing

Black food colouring

100g/3 ½ oz icing sugar

Sieve the flour and add the cinnamon. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips and add the sugar. The mixture should form a soft dough. If it is too dry add a small amount of milk or a little extra butter. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. Roll out to ½ cm thickness and cut out bats using a cutter. If you do not have a bat cutter, cut out a bat template from card and use this to cut out your cookies tracing round the template with a sharp knife. Bake in a moderate oven (180 C/Gas Mark 4/350F/Aga roasting oven below the cold shelf) for approx 12 - 15 minutes. I usually turn the tray of cookies round half way through so that they are all the same golden colour. Place on a rack to cool.

When the cookies are cooled, mix most of the icing sugar with some of the black food colouring and a little water to make a thick icing. Retain a small spoonful of the icing sugar and mix with water to make white icing for the eyes. Place the black icing into a piping bag with a small circular holed nozzle and do the same with the white icing in another piping bag. Add some black food colouring to the ready to roll icing and kneed to obtain a solid black colour (you may need a little icing sugar for dusting if it is sticky). Roll out the icing using a rolling pin to approximately ½ cm thickness and cut out bat shapes using the same cutter or template. Pipe a small amount of icing around the outline of the cookie and carefully place an “icing” bat on top. Press down gently so that the icing sticks to the cookie. Decorate the bats wings with the black icing and pipe white dots for the eyes and dot with black icing pupils. Sprinkle over edible glitter for a touch of magic!

Well my nine new girls arrived safely last night and are settling in to their new surroundings. They came from Leicester and judging by the panic amongst them when they heard the pheasants and the peacocks this morning, they are clearly city girls! Hopefully it won't be too long before they feel at home. They are already very tame and will let you stroke them - something my old hens would never let me do without protesting! I am in the process of naming them - suggestions gratefully received - the black and white one is magpie as she pecks at anything gold (and is the tamest and consequently my favourite). And this little one is called Cerys after Masterchef David's daughter (it is her adopt-a-hen from afar) - she will be a blue egg layer!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Well the day has finally arrived when our new hen pen is finished and fox proofed. My red and white coup (painted by yours truly) is ready and I am going to collect our new hens after work! It is not an ideal time of year for getting new hens but having used 49 eggs last weekend I really need them. I have managed to find some that are hopefully laying so in a day or two, I should have fresh eggs again! All very exciting and I really hope that these new hens will be as friendly as our last ones.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Here is this weekend's baking project - a wedding cake for Sue and David who got married yesterday! The large cake and flowers were transported for an hour on my lap in the car to get to the wedding - I was so worried that it wasn't going to get there in one piece but luckily it did!
It is definitely the largest lemon drizzle cake I have ever made!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Last night we celebrated the joint birthdays of Sacha (my hubbie) and our friend from the village Peter, who share the same birthday. By strange coincidence Peter's wife Susan and I have birthdays which are 4 days apart. Do you ever get the feeling that you are destined to be friends with people?

These are the delicious cakes that Susan baked for the boys - coconut and orange and honey, coffee and walnut bundt cakes. They looked so lovely and autumnal with the leaves and hips that Susan had picked to decorate the table and tasted heavenly!

I am also pleased to report that the cupcakes yesterday raised over £360 for charity - almost £3 a cake - which was hugely generous!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

There are some weeks when I seem to be baking 24/7 (other than when I am at my desk working) and this week is just one of those weeks! This is not a complaint as I love baking! Here are the 125 cupcakes I made last night which are being sold for Children in Need at Barclaycard today. Today is my husband's birthday - Happy Birthday Sacha - and he has asked for 80 brownies to take to work tomorrow (him being at home today due to a perfectly timed train strike falling on his birthday) and on Friday I am making a wedding cake! By Saturday I will have used 49 eggs and 98oz of flour, sugar and butter!
Today's offerings (from left to right) are spiced chocolate marmalade cupcakes, double chocolate chip cupcakes, cherry and vanilla cupcakes and lemon meringue cupcakes! I like the look of the cherry ones best, although the chocolate marmalade cake batter tasted the best! Sadly they have all gone to be sold so we will never know how they tasted!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

My latest "claim to fame" is that our cottage was the inspiration behind the design of this mobile home! It made the Look East news last night and I sat watching it excitedly with my mum and grandma! Our neighbours, Emma and Lucy, are sisters who run a dating agency for people who love the countryside (muddymatches) and yesterday they left the village on a two month tour of Great Britain running events around the country but also learning lots of countryside skills such as thatching and falconry on the way. It will be such an adventure - although having looked inside, the living space is pretty small for two people! It is beautifully decorated with gingham though! So what are your unusual claims to fame?

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Freddie of GreatBigVegChallenge has now moved on to Pumpkins. Here is last years Pumpkin Harvest from my mum's allotment in the boot of my car! The crop this year is rather sorry in comparison given all the flooding. These were used as invitations for our Halloween party, with a large paper green leaf and green raffia tied to each stalk containing the invitation and saying "Please carve me and bring me to the party". I have to confess that other than for decorating, I am not a huge fan of pumpkin (although I do love butternut squash - I think it is the sweetness that makes the difference) so Freddie has my sympathies this week. Perhaps this means I should be joining in with his challenge!! My offering is therefore a sweet one which masks the flavour of pumpkin completely (perhaps I am not playing by the rules here!) Hope you like them Freddie!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Preparation time 30 minutes, plus baking and cooling

115g/4oz caster sugar

115g/4oz margarine or butter

2 eggs

115g/4oz self raising flour

2 heaped tbsp Greek yogurt

100g/3 ½ oz tinned pumpkin puree

1 tsp ground allspice

30g/1oz shelled pistachio nuts

30g/1oz raisins

60g/2oz cream cheese

300g/10 ½ oz icing sugar

70g/2 ½ oz softened butter

2 tbsp milk

Red, yellow and green food colourings

Ready to roll icing to make the pumpkins

Cream the margarine and the sugar until light and fluffy and then add the eggs one at a time. Mix in the yogurt and pumpkin puree. Blitz the raisins and pistachios in a food processor until they are finely chopped and add to the cake mix with the flour and ground allspice, stirring gently. Place cupcake cases in a muffin tin and place a spoonful of the cake mixture in each case. Place a small spoon of cream cheese into each cake case and then cover with remaining cake batter. Bake in a moderate oven (Aga roasting oven below the cold shelf/190C/375F/Gas Mark 5) for approximately 20 minutes until the cakes spring back when you press the tops. Whilst the cakes are cooling, mix the icing sugar, softened butter, milk and a few drops of green food colouring to make the grass for the pumpkin patch cupcakes. Pipe grass using a grass nozzle, or if you do not have one, create the same effect using a fork. Make pumpkins by colouring ready to roll icing orange and green. Make small spheres of the orange icing and flatten at the top and bottom with your fingers. Using a sharp knife make cuts around the side to form indents in the pumpkin. Make leaves to decorate the top and place one pumpkin on each cupcake.

David of BooktheCook, Alanna of Kitchen Parade Veggieventure and Amanda at FigsOlivesWine are also helping Freddie with recipes so pop by and have a look at their delicious offerings.

Monday, 22 October 2007

I just wanted to share my latest needlework project which I finished yesterday - hurrah! Until 4 weeks ago it was only just over half done so I am really proud of how much I have been able to stitch since then! What a relief to have finished it and to have added all the hundreds of beads and crystals - click on the photos for a close up. I know that my stitching buddies Susan, Julia and Jenny will be proud of me for finally getting it finished!

Friday, 19 October 2007

These cold mornings are bringing a lot of wildlife into our garden - perhaps they are always there and I just never look closely enough but it seems as if every bird in the village has moved in today - there are wrens, blackbirds, tits, robins and thrushes all eating the peanuts outside my office window. These lovely red legged partridges were on our drive yesterday when my Dad arrived for lunch - the collective name is a covey of partridges - you learn something new every day!

Thursday, 18 October 2007

After much deliberation I decided that it was not too early for mulled wine and we had our first glass on Tuesday evening. It was so lovely and the kitchen smelt like Christmas. There are hundreds of recipes for mulled wine, all equally delicious! We normally spend some time in Copenhagen before Christmas and I love their Glogg with yummy soaked raisins and almonds at the bottom of the mulled wine which you eat with a spoon and the Christmas market in Hamburg serves delicious Gluhwein mit Schuss (an extra shot of snaps) - very potent!
I make my mulled with with 2 bottles of red wine, 1 carton of orange juice (no bits), 2 lemons and 2 oranges sliced, a large slug of brandy (as much as you can spare!) 2 heaped tablespoons of sugar and three cinnamon sticks and approx 15 cloves (or a mulled wine spice bag from the supermarket - I always have a few in just in case). Simmer gently and taste - you may need to add more sugar if it is not sweet enough or more orange juice if it is too alcoholic! Perfect for a bonfire party which is not far off!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

You would think, having made 150 cupcakes and fondant fancies on Sunday, I would not have been making any more for a while but yesterday we had a traumatic incident (well traumatic for Josh who is three!) Josh came to visit to show me his new fantastic all in one "I can jump and splash in puddles" outfit which he had put to good use on the way down to our cottage. I gave Joshua a pumpkin bucket to use to collect his sweets in on Halloween and also a Lemon Meringue Cupcake that was left over from the lunch which he put in his bucket and then splashed some more. There was then a very sad cry of "My cupcake is wet" - the rain was falling so heavily that about an inch of water had collected in the bottom. Alas this was the last cupcake and there was nothing for it but to promise another bunch of cupcakes to replace the soggy one to prevent any tears! So another 12 cupcakes were baked and I am beginning to wonder whether there is a record for the most number of cupcakes ever made in a domestic kitchen? Can a girl ever bake too many cupcakes I wonder?

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Well it has been a busy few days as yesterday I catered lunch for 70 people in our village - in addition to doing a full days work! I must be mad!
Anyway in need of a bit of energy this morning and armed with some windfalls from the orchard, I decided to bake a cake to have with a much needed cup of tea. A large slice of warm apple cake with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and I was finally feeling ready to face the day!

Apple and Cinnamon Yogurt Cake
Preparation time 25 minutes, baking 1 hour
3 dessert apples, peeled cored and thinly sliced
125grams muscavado sugar
juice of half a lemon
125grams caster sugar
200grams margarine
3 large eggs
200grams self raising flour
2 tsp cinnamon powder
200ml Greek honey yogurt

Line an 8inch spring form pan with greaseproof paper and grease well. As soon as you have sliced the apples place them in a bowl with one tbsp of the muscavado and the juice of half a lemon, tossing them to make sure they are all coated. Lay the apples in circles on the bottom of the tin, overlapping them so that you can't see any of the tin base. Cream the remaining muscavado, caster sugar and margarine until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and then fold in the flour, cinnamon and yogurt. Pour the cake batter on top of the apples and bake Gas Mark 4/180C/Aga Roasting oven below a cold shelf for an hour until the cake feels firm and a knife comes out clean with no batter. If the cake is starting to brown too much towards the end, cover it lightly with silver foil.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Being an avid cake bake I am always on the look out for cake decorations and during a late night shopping trip with my mum yesterday I found the most perfect Christmas cake decorations - these cute marshmallow gingerbread men! I have 5 and can't wait for Christmas to arrive so I can bake a cake to sit them on! The question is, will we be able to bear eating them?

I just love Christmas - it is my favourite time of year. Last year with filming non stop until 18th December I really missed the run up to Christmas - all my Christmas shopping was done in one afternoon on Oxford Street when we had a few hours off from filming. So this year I am going to enjoy it twice as much! In fact, with my first Christmas purchases yesterday - perhaps the run up has already started. Is it too early for mulled wine I wonder?! Hope you all have a lovely weekend

Thursday, 11 October 2007

There must be something about our fence this week that is attracting birds - first the woodpecker (who I have sadly not seen since) and now this glorious pheasant. Before we lived in the countryside I had no idea of how beautiful they were - this one has touches of leopard spots and tiger stripes in its feathers. We are lucky enough to have some rare white pheasant in our village although I do not get to see them very often! As it is the shooting season I feed the pheasants in my garden to try and persuade them to stay here where it is safe!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

This months CK is out and I have two articles in it! This is my favourite of the recipes - Damson Ripple Ice Cream! It was very yummy - I know this as there is none left in the freezer!

Damson Ripple Ice Cream

Preparation time 20 minutes plus cooking and freezing

This is a delicious autumnal version of raspberry ripple ice cream. The damson swirls through the ice cream are tangy and a lovely purple colour. All the ingredients for the ice cream need to be really cold before freezing so it is best to make the damson compote the day before if you have time.
400grams/14oz damsons
100ml water
100grams/3.5oz caster sugar
2 large eggs
227gram tub of clotted cream
150 grams caster sugar
200ml full fat milk
286ml double cream

To make the damson compote, simmer the damsons and water in a saucepan for approximately 20 minutes until the fruit is soft. Pass the fruit through a sieve to remove the stones and return the pulped fruit to the pan. Add the 100grams of caster sugar and simmer for a further 10 minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the compote is thick. Set aside to cool.

When the damson compote is cooled, make the ice cream base. Whisk the eggs for 2 minutes with a hand blender or mixer until light and frothy. Whisk in the 150grams of caster sugar a tablespoon at a time until completely blended. Pour in the cream, clotted cream and milk and whisk to blend. Pour into an ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions until set. Once the ice cream has set, gently pour in the damson compote and stir lightly to achieve a ripple effect. Store in the freezer in a sealed container for up to one month. Serve with fresh autumn berries and chocolate sauce if you wish.

Lovely Joanna at joannasfood.blogspot.com has nominated me for a Nice Matters Award - "for bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration and are a positive influence on our blogging world". Now I'm not quite sure that I really qualify for any of the above but I am deeply flattered - thank you so much Joanna and your award was very well deserved too. Do pop by Joanna's site as she has some lovely recipes - and lots of lovely cakes which are low fat but look delicious!

It is my great honour to now present this award on - I have been told it has to be 7 people so here goes....in no particular order!
Julia at Asliceofcherrypie - who has wonderful recipes and hosts blogging cook offs which I know must take up a lot of her time but which give blog readers a lot of pleasure to see
Steven at Theurbanfoodie as I am so pleased that he has started blogging again - pop over to see his delicious recipes and all the wonderful things that has been up to! He recently dedicated a yummy quince recipe to me recently so thanks for that Steven
David at Bookthecook - who manages to post scrumptious British recipes almost every day - I don't know how you do it - intertwined with stories of him teaching his lovely daughter Cerys to cook - inspirational!
Freddie and Charlotte at Greatbigvegchallenge - as reading about their wonderful project just makes me smile - pop over to see their recent "Pea Party!"
Celia at Purplepoddedpeas - whose blog I visit when I need to see nice pictures of Hares and Rabbits - she is an amazing artist
Vida who has recently started blogging and I want to encourage her to keep going - she has three wonderful daughters and posts pictures of her yummy cooking
And my final award, goes to all of you not mentioned above but who regularly post on my blog and who I class as true blog friends!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Saturday afternoon saw Steven and I judging Junior Masterchef at Kimbolton School. I think we both went expecting to be cooked fairly simple things that were reminiscent of our school cookery days, scotch eggs, sausage pie, pizza. How wrong we were! The children cooked under timed conditions in front of us for two hours with a budget of £8 to cook two courses. None of them were flustered or stressed in the slightest and it made Steven and I wonder what we had been fussing about on the programme. They were also responsible for creating the menu cards, table setting and flower decorations. The food was so good and far better than we would ever have imagined from 11 - 17 year olds. We were served sushi, deep fried crispy noodles and banana fritters for one menu and oatmeal mackerel with beetroot relish followed by pecan shortbread stacks for another. Some of the dishes served would not have been out of place in a restaurant. Fish was gutted and open filleted in front of us, lamb wracks French trimmed and we were even served confit potatoes! Needless to say the judging was very difficult and we ended up awarding joint first place as we couldn't agree! It gave us such a good insight into what must have gone on behind the scenes on Masterchef during judging. We had only known the children two hours and yet felt dreadful for those who had not won when we announced the results. It was such a lovely way to spend an afternoon and we felt very honoured to have had such fantastic food cooked for us! Clearly a large amount of credit has to be given to their teacher Clare, who has taught them very well!

Monday, 8 October 2007

It is a long time since I have posted a recipe for Freddie of the Great Big Veg Challenge
and Freddie is in need of our help as this week he has arrived at his nightmare vegetable - PEAS! As a sign of solidarity Amanda of FigsOliveWine and David of BooktheCook and I have all posted pea recipes today to try and tempt Freddie into making peas his friend. Now I have to say that I love peas - they are so sweet and tasty - and are a brilliant standby. A bag of frozen peas can be made into a quick soup or risotto if someone drops in unexpectedly. However the aim of today's recipe is to disguise the peas as much as possible so that Freddie can't taste them! Hope you like it Freddie!

Pea and Ginger Soup
Serves 4, cooking time 30 minutes

300grams frozen peas
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large courgettes, chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely sliced
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2tsp tumeric
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper
100ml milk or cream
grated cheese and toasted raisin bread to serve

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion with a large pinch of salt and cook for approximately 5/6 minutes, until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garam masala and tumeric and cook for a further 3 minutes. If the ginger starts to stick add a spoonful of water. Add the peas, carrots and courgettes to the pan with the chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes until the carrots are soft. Blitz with a hand blender until smooth and add the milk or cream. Return to the heat for a few minutes, season with salt and pepper, then serve with grated cheese and toasted fruit bread.

Friday, 5 October 2007

It is not often that I see our green woodpecker, rarer still that my camera is anywhere nearby - by pure coincidence I was just taking a photo of a new recipe when I spied him out of the window sitting on our fence and managed to take a picture before he flew away! It must be my lucky day!
The moon plays an important role in Bali and Full Moon is celebrated on a large scale. I don't know whether it was just because we were somewhere exotic but the moon certainly seemed to shine brighter over the Lombok Straight on Full Moon than it does here in our garden! Being an auspicious time, everyone holds ceremonies on or around Full Moon. I was lucky enough to be invited by Sugita to a ceremony in his village for the coming of age of some of his relatives. Being the only tourist there, I felt very honoured to have been invited and was made to feel very welcome by everyone, even if I did stick out like a sore thumb!

Anyway, full moon brings me on to Terang Bulan - or Moon Cake - so called because you make it in a frying pan and it is round! They were delicious! We bought them from a street seller at the night market and liked them so much that we bought another 3 and took them back to the hotel with us and I managed to persuade Penny to give me the recipe! They are a sort of pancakey waffle and would be lovely for a weekend brunch. The recipe uses peanuts as the topping but you could substitute coconut or any other nut that you have to hand.

Terang Bulan (makes 15)
500g strong plain flour
150g caster sugar
1/2tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2tsp dried yeast
600ml coconut milk
chopped peanuts
white sugar and cinnamon powder to sprinkle
Butter for frying

Mix all the batter ingredients together and leave to prove in a warm place until the mixture has doubled in size. Melt the butter in a small frying pan and cook the pancakes a ladleful at a time. As soon as you see bubbles in the pancake in the pan, sprinkle over the nuts, sugar and cinnamon and continue to cook until the batter is set. You do not turn these cakes over as you would a normal pancake. Cut in half and place one half on top of the other and cut into wedges so that you have a nutty filling layer in the middle of the pancake. Eat warm! We loved these - did I mention that already!!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

An Trip to the Morning Market at Klungkung

This is the recipe for one of our favourite dishes from the holiday - "Be Celeng Base Manis" - pork in sweet soy sauce. We had it 4 times during our stay and as I liked it so much Penny added the recipe into our cookery course. This recipe serves 4.

2 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
4 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
2 sticks lemongrass, bashed with a knife handle to release the flavours
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
4 tbsp bumbu (see recipe posted on Monday)
2 tbsp palm sugar or muscavado sugar if you do not have palm sugar
800g pork shoulder diced into small cubes
4tbsp sweet soy sauce (Kecap Manis)
2tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1 litre chicken stock
6 large red chillies, seeds removed and finely sliced (use fewer chillies if you do not want it to be too hot)
Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan or wok. Add the bumbu, shallots, lemon grass and garlic and saute for 2 minutes until lightly coloured. Add the pork and ginger and continue to saute for 5 minutes more. Add the two soy sauces, sugar and some black pepper and cook for 2 - 3 minutes further until the sugar has dissolved. Pour in half the chicken stock and add the chillies and leave to simmer for 1 hour, adding more stock as the liquid reduces and evaporates. You may not need all the stock. When cooked there should be very little sauce and the meat should be shiny and dark brown. Serve with rice.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

We have just celebrated Harvest in our village and Monday night saw our Harvest Supper and Auction of Produce - with marrows, pumpkins and apple pies being auctioned off to raise money for the village church! It still surprises me how much people will pay for a marrow in a charity auction!
Derek did a wonderful job as auctioneer and everyone left with a box or two of veggies and fruit!

Supper was a simple casserole and jacket potatoes. Preparing casserole for 80 people was a daunting task and I will certainly not be peeling another carrot for a while - it took me hours! I thought that I would post the recipe, just in case you ever need to mass cater for a simple event!

Beef in Red Wine (Serves 80 - 90 people)
Preparation time 3 hours, cooking time 3 hours (or longer if you have it)
7.5 kilos stewing beef
plain flour, salt and pepper for dusting the beef
300ml vegetable oil
2 kilos bacon, fat removed and chopped
3 kilos red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 kilos leeks, roughly chopped and thoroughly washed
7 kilos carrots, peeled and chopped
5 kilos parsnips, peeled and chopped
3 kilos mushrooms, roughly chopped
9 tins chopped tomatoes
6 litres of cheap red wine
6 litres of beef stock
3 large tubes tomato puree
3 kilos frozen peas
Dust the beef with the flour and seasoning and brown in small batches to seal, adding a small amount of oil to the pan with each batch of meat. This took approximately 1 1/2 hours. Set aside. Fry the bacon in batches and set aside. Whilst the meat and bacon are browning, add the chopped onions to a large saucepan with 4 tbsp of the oil and stir until soften. Add the leeks and cook down for a further 10 minutes.
Take three large pans (and I mean large - my jam pan was the smallest!). Divide the onion and leek mixture, meat and bacon between the three pans. Divide the carrots, parsnips and mushrooms between the three pans and add two litres of wine and two litres of beef stock to each pan together with 3 tins of tomatoes and 1 tube of tomato puree. Top up with a little boiling water if the vegetables are not covered. Bring the pans to the boil and then cover and simmer over a gentle heat for 3 hours until the vegetables are cooked and the meat is tender. Season to taste. 20 minutes before serving add the frozen peas so that they keep their colour. Each pot will feed approximately 25 - 30 people.

Monday, 1 October 2007

As you would imagine, chillies play a large role in Balinese cooking. There are three types available on the island, cabe, a large green chilli which is quite hot, the Lombok red chilli (which is the mildest) and the local small fiery chillies - tabia krinyi - similar to birds eye chillies, but hotter! We were told to approach them with caution. On a visit to a temple, bowls full of the tabia krinyi were being prepared - I can't begin to imagine how hot the food would have been! You can tell how hot a chilli is by looking at it - the thinner the skin and the more seeds, the hotter it is. We were also told that the best way to test how hot the chilli is is to rub the sliced chilli on your wrist and see how long it takes to heat up (not something I would recommend).

All this is by way of introduction to the Balinese base spice mix - Bumbu - which is used in most local dishes and uses two types of chilli.

Balinese Bumbu
4 large red chillies, deseeded and sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
12 small red shallots, peeled
2 red bird eye chillies, deseeded
4 almonds or 2 Brazil nuts (or 2 candlenuts if you can find them)
a good grate of nutmeg
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 inch piece of galangal, peeled
2 inch piece of fresh turmeric (or 2 tsp powdered turmeric)
2 tsp tamarind puree
2 tsp palm sugar (you can substitute muscovado but palm sugar is seriously yummy and I think slightly addictive! I bought 4 kilos home with me!)
1 tsp roasted shrimp paste
3 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
2 sticks lemon grass (crushed slightly with the handle of a knife to release the flavours)
300ml water

I should add that this recipe originally contained Kencur root (part of the ginger family and similar to galangal) but I have been told that this is not available outside Bali as it does not transport well and also Salem leaf which is added with the lemon grass at the end of the recipe. We debated on our course whether you could substitute a bay leaf but all agreed that this would not be right. We also thought (probably much to the horror of any locals) that the salem leaf did not have much scent so would not really be missed if omitted.

Add all the ingredients (save for the oil, lemon grass and water) to a large pestle and mortar and pound to a fine paste. The Balinese do this using an ulekan - a large lump of lava rock carved into a bowl with a second smaller stone that you hold in your hand and rock backwards and forwards. There is an art to using it properly which takes practice - practice that I will sadly never get as my luggage allowance didn't allow for large lumps of lava rock!

When you have a fine paste, add the oil to a small saucepan and heat the paste gently for a few minutes. Add the lemon grass and the water and simmer the Bumbu until the water has evaporated and you have a thick paste again. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove the lemon grass stick.

This quantity will make enough for one or two dishes. You may wish to double up the recipe and make extra for freezing. You can keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks under oil (vegetable not olive oil) as you would pesto or freeze it in ice cube trays (where it will keep for a good two months).

This paste is really versatile and can be used as the base for any curry dish. If you want it hotter, leave the chilli seeds in! The hotel swirled this spice paste through their bread rolls before baking them to give a delicious curry chilli bread - something I will definitely be making. This paste will be used in the recipes I will be posting this week.