I love halloumi. I love the saltiness, the squeakiness and the oh-my-god-it’s-just-so-fucking-delicious-ness of it. In the fridge languished half a block that needed to be used up and instead of stuffing it in the portobella mushrooms that are also languishing in the fridge needing to be used up, I decided to batter the halloumi, like they do in my local chippy.
I’ve made Yorkshire Puddings and battered tofu before, but I’ve never made a chip shop type batter. I whisked up the flour, milk and baking powder and seasoned it with salt and pepper but I felt it was missing something. The Meat Eater said it wasn’t and said that was how batter is made so I took his word for it, even though he couldn’t tell me how he knew how to make batter. He also assured me that it’s supposed to be the texture of wallpaper paste.
This battered halloumi was so, so good. It was even better than the chip shop’s. The halloumi had softened and lost its squeak and weirdly developed the texture of fish.
I don’t have a deep fat fryer, so I used the Tefal wok-type pan I use for almost everything. I’ve had it over ten years and I still think it’s brilliant and you can buy one here. (This post isn’t sponsored by Tefal, I just wanted to tell you how much I love my wok.)
Had my 16-year-old-self known that one Sunday morning in the future, she’d find herself in a Kent country kitchen making a chocolate cake, she’d have probably partaken in a bit of self-harming. But, it looks as though middle-age has caught up with me, as making a chocolate cake last Sunday morning was exactly what I was doing.
You’ll remember this isn’t my first foray into cake-baking, as I made a Union Jack sponge cake last summer which, thanks to a liberal covering of cream and fruit, looked a lot better than it did when it first came out of the oven.
So why did I want to make another cake? It was The Meat Eater’s birthday, that’s why. I thought I had a box of Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix but on unearthing all the Betty Crocker bits from the box they’re currently residing in on the dining room floor (the new kitchen looks fab but it’s a bit lacking on the storage front so the dining room’s getting some goodies from Ikea next week and we might be able to see the floor again then), I found I didn’t have any chocolate cake mix, only carrot cake mix. While I don’t have anything against carrot cake, it didn’t seem very birthday-ish, so I decided to get all domestic and make a chocolate cake from scratch.
As it was Easter Sunday and all the local supermarkets were shut (Kent has weird 80s stylee opening hours, unlike London where you can go shopping on Christmas Day if you want to), this meant I had to make do with whatever I had available in the house. I found this recipe, which looked simple enough and although I didn’t have the exact ingredients (looking at it now, the only ingredient that’s the same as the original recipe is the self-raising flour, ha), I reckoned I could substitute well enough to avoid any disasters and I had two tubs of Betty Crocker icing and four packets of Jelly Tots to cover the cake with to make it look better anyway.
This chocolate cake may not be the lightest and fluffiest cake in the world but it got a rating of ‘Yum’ from The Meat Eater, so that’s good enough for me.
Mix the Flora and sugar together by hand or in a mixer until creamy and lighter in colour
Sieve the cacao powder and flour into a bowl and crack one of the eggs into a cup or ramekin
With the mixer still going, add the egg and a third of the flour mixture into the sugar and butter, add the second egg and third of the flour and add the last two eggs and flour mixture in to the butter and sugar
Put even amounts of the mixture into the tins and spread using a knife. Put into the oven and bake for 25 minutes until springy to touch. Take out of the oven and leave them in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely
Sandwich together the cakes with the Betty Crocker Vanilla Buttercream Icing
Cover the top and sides of the cake with the Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Icing
I know, this doesn’t really look like ciabatta. Ciabatta should have a holier texture (that’s ‘holier’ as in ‘full of holes’, not some religious thing) than that and this just looks like your average loaf of bread. The crust, however, does have a ciabatta texture and the bread on the whole is a perfectly decent and light loaf which went beautifully toasted with my soup for lunch today.
The recipe I used is similar to this one at Frogeatstown except I added two large, chopped, sundried tomatoes out of a jar (I would have used more but I only had two left) after a couple of minutes into the cycle on the bread machine. I’m wondering now if maybe the oil from the sundried tomatoes is the reason for the un-ciabatta-like texture? It could also be because I’m not particularly accurate when it comes to measuring so my volumes were probably a bit off. Breadmakers out there – if you know about these things, please leave me a comment!
Bread machine sundried tomato ciabatta
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tsp white sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
3 ¼ cups strong white flour
1 ½ tsp fast acting yeast
2 large sundried tomatoes out of a jar, chopped
Place all ingredients except the sundried tomatoes into your bread machine in the order specified in your instruction manual.
Choose the dough program and press ‘start’.
Add the sundried tomatoes after a few minutes.
After the dough program has finished, turn the dough out on to an oiled baking sheet and bake in the oven at 220C/200 fan/gas mark 7 for about 20 minutes.
175g green lentils
1 big bunch of spinach
225g sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 2.5cm pieces
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1½ tsp garam masala
1½ tsp curry powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
½ tsp salt
40g toasted breadcrumbs
25g plain flour
Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5.
Boil the lentils in 750ml water. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer lentils to a large mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher.
Meanwhile, place the spinach in a saucepan and sprinkle over a little water and heat until wilted.
Steam the sweet potato for 8 to 10 minutes until tender. Add the potato to the lentils and mash thoroughly.
In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp of the oil. Add the onion, garam masala, curry powder and cayenne and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the spinach and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, tossing to combine.
Mix the spinach-onion mixture into the lentil mixture. Stir in the eggs, coriander and salt. Fold in the breadcrumbs and flour. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 8 burgers.
In an ovenproof frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil. When hot, add the burgers and cook until browned on each side, 6 to 10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through.
Buy Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger at Amazon.
I did one of those quizzes on Facebook last night. This quiz was ‘What ridiculous food day is your birthday?’ My friend Helen got some weirdy meat thing so I wasn’t feeling too hopeful I’d get anything decent but I was happy when ‘date nut bread’ popped up for my birthday as I thought that sounded suitably vegetarian.
Helen said ‘you should make it’ and I agreed, so today I scouted around the internet looking at a few recipes, then came across one for which I already had all the ingredients. Sorted.
Apparently, the flavour improves after standing for 24 hours but I can’t imagine how it could be any nicer – it’s absolutely blinking delicious. I’m going on a 45 mile charity bike ride tomorrow, and the date nut bread will be coming with me to keep me going (if there’s any left by then).
I’m going to post below how I made it, as I somewhat deviated from the original recipe, as I didn’t have a sieve, so I just stirred the ingredients and hoped I’d got the floury lumps out; I didn’t add the egg and sugar to the dates, alternatively with the sifted ingredients, as I didn’t know what they meant by ‘alternatively’ (yes, I know what ‘alternatively’ means, I just didn’t know what they meant here); I didn’t dredge the nuts in flour, and I forgot to add any salt at all. Also, it said to let it rise, but mine didn’t rise at all, so you could probably skip that bit – unless there’s some scientific explanation to do with the baking powder that means it should sit for a while.
If you want to follow the proper instructions, you can see the original recipe at Food.com.
Date Nut Bread
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped (I used soft dates)
1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp butter (I used Flora)
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup nuts, chopped (I used cashews)
Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl, cover and let cool.
Grease a loaf pan.
Beat sugar and egg together and add to the dates.
Add the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly.
Pour into prepared pan and let rise for 20 minutes.