This is a really great saag aloo (spinach + potato curry) recipe. There’s almost no chopping involved and the ingredients are almost entirely cupboard/freezer staples. It’s also great for people that avoid garlic or onion since the asafœtida contributes a similar flavour. Goes great with jeera rice.
When recipes are my own, I try to include United States customary cup measurements (236mL) and metric measurements. Weight to volume conversion can be a little tricky. Traditional Oven and The Calculator Site have useful converters for a variety of ingredients.
Looking through Nan-nan’s recipe books, the first thing that caught my eye was a recipe for cupcakes from her sister June, see below. I’ve preserved her notes and phrasing as much as possible but have adjusted certain elements to be more usable.
I’m an OK baker but more of a pies-and-cookies person. Every cake I’ve ever made seems a little meh. These were not meh, 10/10.
From June, Merle’s favorite. Good with baked icing or white fudge icing. Makes 12.
Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
In a large bowl, cream together ½ c (113 g) softened unsalted butter, 1 c (200 g) sugar, ½ t salt, and 1 t vanilla extract until very fluffy and light. Next, beat in 4 egg yolks until thick and light in color. In another bowl, sift together 2 c (230 g) all purpose flour and 2 t baking powder. In small, alternating amounts, add the flour mixture and ⅔ c (158 ml) milk to the butter mixture. Beat after each addition, until smooth.
Pour the batter in to a lined cupcake tin, filling each cup ⅔ of the way. Bake in a moderate oven, about 350F (175C), 25 to 30 minutes. Turn the tin once halfway through if you find one side is browning more than the other.
Note that the cupcake recipe originally calls for Spry, a vegetable shortening. I’ve substituted butter here since that’s what I’ve got.
The original recipe also specified 2 c of sifted flour, with an additional note that specified Gold Medal or Swans Down flour. Gold Medal is usually plain / all purpose flour, and Swans Down only produces cake flour AFAIK. This made determining the metric measurement kind of ambiguous, 2 c sifted all purpose flour is significantly different than cake flour. The measurement below worked well ultimately, but I’d like to try cake flour eventually so will need to keep this in mind.
She originally said it makes 18, but I found that it is much closer to 12 in a 12-cup cupcake tin with cups that measured 2″ (4.25 cm) in diameter across the base. The flour debacle might have caused the difference.
The cupcakes supposedly go well with “baked icing”, something I had never come across before. I tried it with baked frosting and failed *spectacularly*. I can see that it could be great though, kind of like a molasses-y meringue on top, so I’ll try again and note here if successful.
My cousin kindly let me borrow my paternal grandmother’s cookbooks for the next few months until we meet again in August. One is a comb-bound cookbook assembled by the community of Worthington, OH. The other is more of a diary where she recorded her favourite recipes. I had NO idea that these books existed. I had always been told she didn’t keep track of her recipes, so this is pretty exciting.
It’s going to take a while to go through the cookbooks, so I took some rough photos of all of the spreads in case I don’t get through it all by the time I return them. It’s classic late 20th-century Midwestern fare. Most of the pages are dedicated to sweets of all sorts, and there are a fair few recipes that call for Velveeta cheese, Jello, or Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. I’ll probably steer clear of the gelatine “salads” and sadly have to avoid the cheesiest of things, but I’m up for everything else!
I’ll share some of Nan-nan’s recipes in future notes as I try them.
We made some vermicelli (rice noodles) for dinner the other day and came across a recipe for seviyan kheer on the packet. I’d never heard of it. Since we had leftover noodles and wanted something sweet, I gave it a try following this seviyan kheer recipe on vegrecipesofindia.com. Differences: I omitted the almonds and rose petals, used oat milk, and fried the leftover, chopped-up cooked noodles instead of broken raw noodles. It was really tasty! A lot like rice pudding, but better IMO.
We made falafel wraps for lunch today using this falafel recipe from BBC Good Food. It was a decent, simple recipe that I’d be happy to use again with a few caveats:
- The title says “spicy” but there is no heat in it… might actually be good to add some cayenne next time
- Use the softest canned chickpeas you can find; East End brand is the softest I’ve found in London (and super cheap)
- Use all of the parsley, stems and all, and chop it super fine
- Chop the onion very fine, and cook the onion and garlic in olive oil instead of veg oil
- Add a good pinch of salt (it says “seasoning to taste” but it’s kind of easy to miss that)
- Half a beaten egg is plenty, any more and it would be way too wet
- Use two large-ish spoons to ease decently-sized dollops in to the pan since the mixture is too wet to shape in to patties
We had it with pickled red onions (red onions + red wine vinegar + sugar + salt), shredded lettuce, diced cucumber, yogurt, this hummus, and some leftover chili sauce from the best Turkish place in Leyton.
Maybe not quite up to the standard of the guys on Ridley Road Market, but pretty good! To get closer to theirs, we’d need a spicier chili sauce and more tangy pickles.
These blondies are sort of inspired by horchata. I wanted something that was dense and fudge-y, that could be cut small and still be a satisfying treat. A friend said they taste a lot like the gooey centre of a stroopwafel, which is pretty accurate. To get these closer to horchata it might be good to use a lighter sugar, and maybe use pepitas instead of pecans in the topping.
Preheat the oven to 175C (350F) and line a 20×20cm (8×8″) tray with parchment paper.
In a small pot, gently heat 250 g (1¼ c) light brown sugar, 113 g (½ c, 1 stick) butter, and a pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter) until the sugar is just dissolved. Let cool about 10 minutes.
While the sugar mixture is cooling, in a large bowl blend 95 g (¾ c) plain flour, 45 g (¼ c + 1 T) rice flour, and 2 t cinnamon.
Once the sugar mix has cooled, beat in 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, blending just until incorporated.
Pour in to the prepared tin, then make the topping. In a small bowl, combine a small handful of pecans, crushed in to crumbs, a pinch of flakey sea salt, and a few tablespoons of Demerara sugar. Sprinkle the topping over the batter to cover.
Bake about 30 minutes at 175C (350F) until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. Let cool mostly in the tin, then transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Cut in to roughly 2.5cm (1″) squares. Good with vanilla ice cream.
When I couldn’t sleep last night and was a little hungry, I watched a video of Samin Nosrat making a confit tuna sandwich. Terrible idea, it took forever to get to sleep after that, but the sandwich looked really excellent. It’s kind of a Niçoise salad on great bread. I made a “poor woman’s” version of that sandwich today for lunch, and it was fantastic.
Fancy-ish tuna sandwich
Based on Samin Nosrat’s confit tuna sandwich. Serves 2.
Thinly slice 1 red onion. Place the onion in a small bowl with a good pinch of sugar and a good pinch of salt. Cover about two-thirds of the way with white wine vinegar, then add a bit of cold water so that they’re just barely submerged. Stir and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine 1 small garlic clove, finely minced, and about 2 T mayonnaise. Set aside.
Drain 1 can of skipjack tuna chunks in olive oil in to a medium bowl, reserving the olive oil in another bowl. Whisk a small amount of salt in to the olive oil and set aside.
Finely chop a small handful of pitted green olives and a small handful of brined capers. Place in the bowl with the tuna.
Slice about ¼ cucumber in roughly 3mm rounds (you want about 4-5 cucumber pieces per sandwich; feel free to peel it a bit before slicing) and place in the bowl with the tuna.
Add about 2 T mayonnaise to the tuna mixture and combine by hand. Add some of the onion vinegar or more mayo if needed.
Slice a crusty baguette in to appropriate sandwich-sized portions and then slice the portions in half. Coat the bottom bread half with the garlicky mayo and lightly coat the top half with the seasoned olive oil. Top with the tuna mixture, then a decent amount of pickled onions.
I have *no doubt* that the proper confit tuna version is better and totally worthwhile, but it’s not something that I can really make based on my local resources and the timing of my day-to-day life. This version is pretty heavily simplified, but it gets the most critical flavours and textures in there. There were leftovers of a few of the ingredients, particularly the onion, so I’ll probably make more of these sandwiches again later this week.
These are about 8 cm (3 ½ “) in diameter. They come out pretty flat and very slightly chewy, with crispy edges and top.
After a rotten week health-wise, it was really nice to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving yesterday with a few friends. The image here is one of Grandma Piper’s very many post-party notes, a sort of debrief she wrote to herself about what she made and what she might change next time. This particular page seems to be her neighbourhood holiday open house plan from early December 1971 for around 110 guests (guest list is on reverse). I expect she found these notes super useful, particularly since she seemed to keep every single one of them.
Here’s what I made this year, documented for a similar purpose.
It’s impossible to watch GBBO without wanting something sweet… Cocoa powder brownies fill the void. Baking takes a bit of time (25 min), but the prep is very quick since there’s no fiddly chocolate melting. These lie in the fudge-y end of the brownie spectrum, very dark and dense. In fact, I’ve made this in a cake format before since it’s almost like flourless chocolate cake. Bake in a round tin and spoon fresh whipped cream and berries over the top. Finally, this takes substitutions pretty well. I’ve made these vegan and gluten free before (coconut oil not butter, blitzed and gelled chia seeds not eggs, GF flour). Comes out great, though they’re a bit gooier and have to cook a little longer.
Simple cocoa brownies
Preheat the oven to 160C (320F) and line a 20 cm (8″) square tin. In a pot large enough to hold the rest of the ingredients, melt 150 g (1 1/3 c) butter. In a small bowl, combine 250 g (1 1/4 c) sugar and 90 g (heaping 3/4 c) cocoa powder. Beat this in to the butter. Once the mix is sufficiently cool, beat in 2 eggs and a tiny splash of vanilla extract or orange flower water (optional). The mixture will come together firmly, it will be almost taffy-esque. Gently stir in 64 g (1/2 c) flour just until combined. Pour in to the lined square tin, spread it in to the corners, and bake 25 minutes. The top should be glossy when done, possibly with a few cracks. Let it cool in the tin on a rack until nearly set but still warm.
Edit 23 May 2019
Just came across Prof. Maxwell’s recipe for Churchill Brownies on his faculty page! They’re cocoa powder-based as well, so will need to give his a try. His recipe seems to make the same quantity but with (much) less butter, less cocoa powder, and more sugar. I imagine his are more traditionally brownie-esque as opposed to the nearly cake-like texture of the recipe above, we’ll see!