Friday, 31 July 2015

Make peshwari naan at home

Home made peshwari naan on the big green egg

Home made peshwari naan
Home made peshwari naan
Home made peshwari naan on the big green egg
Home made peshwari naan on the big green egg
This is the best naan recipe I've come across so far, it's pretty foolproof. To make it into a Peshwari naan, that is with a sweetened coconut/almond/raisin interior, something I always order with a takeaway Indian, is a no brainer. I made these on my Big Green Egg BBQ but you could also make them on the stovetop. The Big Green Egg is in some ways like a tandoori oven, being oval and ceramic, but I grilled my naan rather than pressing them to the sides.

Peshwari Naan bread recipe:

To make 6 to 8 naan:

325g strong bread flour
A pinch of bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 a tablespoon of salt
A pinch of sugar
1 beaten egg
150ml natural whole milk yoghurt
Milk to bind
Ghee to coat
Nigella seeds
Poppy seeds

For the Peshwari interior:
100g desiccated coconut
100g ground almonds
A big handful of plump sultanas or raisins
Mix together with a couple of tsps of yoghurt. 

Some coriander leaves to garnish

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the rest of the dry ingredients. Add the egg and the yoghurt, kneading the mixture in a bowl. Finally bind together with some whole milk until you have a flexible dough mixture.
Before leaving the dough to rest, coat the dough ball with ghee. Leave, covered in cling film, for an hour.
Then taking a palm's worth of dough, make a round ball then flatten it with the palm of your hand.
Press a tablespoon of the peshwari mix into the centre of the dough circle then bring up the sides and gather them over the peshwari mix. Scatter some flour onto a clean surface and roll out the ball into an oblong or tear drop shape.
Pierce the naan all along it's surface with a fork.
Then mix some ghee with some milk onto your fingers and smear it all over the top of the naan. This will make it moist and soft and enable the seeds to stick.
Sprinkle the Nigella and Poppy (white is more authentic) over the top of the naan.
Place the naan on the flat cast iron grid for the Big Green Egg or a flat wide cast iron frying pan.
It takes around 5 to 7 minutes to cook. You will see it puff up and bubble. 
To keep the naan moist, add a little more ghee to the naan. 
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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Recipe: white chocolate cherry rum blondies

White Chocolate Cherry Rum Blondies
This weekend I was sent an enormous box of giant juicy Kordia cherries by Adventures in Fruit. Saturday, Sunday and Monday I ate a kilo a day by myself: I had purple stained fingers and lips but I just couldn't stop. It got to the point that I wouldn't have enough cherries left over to create a recipe.
Cherries were introduced to Britain ever since Henry VIII tasted them in Flanders but the genus (related to plums) originally came from Anatolia/Central Turkey where cherries are so common that they juice them. Unfortunately, they tend to be very expensive in the UK and the season is short. These Kordia cherries are particularly sweet with shiny dark burgundy skins. It is almost a shame to cook them when they taste so brilliant eaten raw. Kordia cherries are British and grown at an award winning farm in Kent called Mansfields. The cherries are currently available at food branches of Marks and Spencer.
In Russia (and I did this for my Russian supper club a few years ago) they often pair a sour cherry sauce with white fish such as sturgeon. Cherries, sometimes dried and salted, are widely used in Persian cuisine.
I generally include at least one cherry recipe in my cookbooks, sometimes with a combination of sweet and sour cherries. One of my favourite recipes in MsMarmitelover's Secret Tea Party is the sour cherry baked alaska/artic roll plus a cherry brandy concoction. I also include another blondie recipe in the book, which was so successful with tasters that I've decided to develop a white chocolate cherry blondie with a hint of rum. Think of a black forest gateau after it has snowed.
Blondies are brownies' fun, slightly lower-class sister.  I'm not a chocolate snob - I adore white chocolate, which isn't really chocolate at all but some kind of chocolate lard. Anyway, you'll LOVE this recipe. You can leave the stems on if you like, I did both, but make sure you pit the cherries using a cherry pitter or a sharp knife, you don't want dentistry bills.
Kordia Cherries

White Chocolate Cherry Rum Blondies recipe

Level: Easy
Takes 30 minutes to prepare and 40 minutes to bake.
Makes 12

20 cm square pan or brownie pan.

120g of soft room temperature butter (salted or unsalted), cubed
250g soft brown sugar
2 capfuls of rum
1 large egg, beaten
125g plain white flour
1 tsp of vanilla salt (or 1/2 tsp of vanilla paste and 1/2 tsp of salt)
200g of good quality white chocolate, chopped up roughly
200g of Kordia cherries, stoned, cut into quarters, some can be left whole with the stems left on. 

Butter and flour the tin. In a stand mixer or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the rum, beat again. Add the egg, beat again. Then tip in the flour and thoroughly mix. Add the vanilla salt then the white chocolate. Prepare the cherries by using a pitter or cutting them in half and prising out the stone.
Preheat the oven to 180ºc.
Pour the mixture into the pan, patting it so that it is spread evenly. Then push in the cherries at intervals into the blondie mixture. If using some whole pitted cherries, leave the stalks sticking out. The cherries will slightly poke above the mixture, but don't worry the mix will rise during baking.
The reason I'm adding the cherries last minute is that they are so juicy that they stain the batter. If you don't mind purple blondies you can put them in the mixing bowl/stand mixer with the rest of the ingredients! But I think the blondies are more attractive when the cherries are added afterwards.
Put the pan in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. You want them quite squidgy so don't overbake but the mixture will firm up once it cools.
Cut into squares and serve!

Rum Sugar recipe

150g of soft brown sugar (or more, make the quantity you want)
50ml of rum (or more, if you like it stronger)

Rather than adding rum to the recipe you can infuse the sugar with rum or any alcohol. Spread the sugar (preferably brown) on to a baking try covered with parchment paper or a silpat and sprinkle it with rum. Bake on a low heat (not over 150c) for half an hour. Then remove from the oven and let it cool. Use the parchment paper or silpat to funnel the alcohol flavoured sugar into a jar. Keeps indefinitely.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Anarchy and Natural Wine in the South of France

Wine pvnx/collectif anonyme, Port Vendres, France. Natural wine makers
Regular and longtime readers of this blog will know that I've always been attracted to political activism, particularly in the anarchist vein. Anarchism is often misunderstood: it is used as an analogy for chaos, disorganisation, everybody just doing what they feel like doing. It's just the opposite. Anarchists tend to do things by consensus, after discussion, everything is decided upon via votes of the majority. Anarchism, such as I've lived it, is incredibly organised: I lived in a temporary anarchist community in Stirling during the anti-G8 protests. They set up an entire 'city' with recycling, water, different community kitchens, compost toilets, entertainment and meetings every morning for thousands of people.
There are some anarchist communities in France that I visited when I lived there in 2005/6: the Longo Mai commune in Haute Provence where members are paid a weekly allowance, they grow their own food, have a radio station, to mention just a few of their activities. My daughter made friends with some of the children there. We spent Christmas at an abandoned mining town La Vieille Valette near Alès, a place that looks as if it were designed by the writer of Gormenghast; carved stone buildings with stained glass windows snailing a trail up the mountainside, a communal kitchen around a wood burning stove upon which hummed an everlasting coffee pot and where I enjoyed the best honey and home-made bread I've ever eaten, collected and made by the inhabitants. I spent a few days translating documents for a city commune in Toulouse with animated discussions and great food. I regularly visited Les Tanneries in Dijon, which has its own film library and tech savvy guys who can code, I remember watching them write fluently in sci-fi computer languages.
Anarchists are self-sufficient. If ISIS drops an atomic bomb on our decadent western civilisation, these are the people we will learn from if everything goes to shit. I suppose I'm also attracted to that kind of community because a one woman, one child team doesn't feel like quite enough family in a world of nuclear units.

Anarchists and Food

It's self-evident that hippies loved food, growing things, eating organically, introducing other influences such as Asian and South American ingredients into their diets. Hippies taught India and Nepal how to cook for travellers. The tea shops in Kathmandu with giant foot-high cakes attest to that. But it is less well known that punk anarchists love good food and, being interested in the DIY attitude to life, will take the time to find out how something is made from scratch.
All this preamble is by way of introducing you to an interesting group of winemakers - Collectif Anonyme - that I originally met at RAW wine fair, organised by Natural wine pioneer Isabelle Legeron, in London earlier this summer. There was this one really hunky tall tanned guy with cool tats and even cooler wine. He mentioned that he was part of a cooperative in the South of France, I said I was driving around there this summer, so he invited me to stop by. Deal!

"We are an anonymous collective but each of our wines are very personal" says Kris, the Australian 30 something who has been working in the wine industry for several years 'chasing the vendange' around France. He doesn't come from a wine background, not even in Australia but was invited to Banyuls with his then girlfriend Julia for the harvest and got hooked.
"Why Banyuls?" I asked.
"The land is affordable. Plus it has the best wine because of a great combination of beaches and mountains. One parcel costs between 15, 000 euros and 25,000 euros. This is our third year and we are finally breaking even. 2011 was our first year, we sold our grapes to the local cooperative. In 2012 when we made our first own wine, and we were still working part-time to finance this. Our parcels of land are based on the metayage system, which are medieval tithes, dating from Roman times, still going in France." A 'metayage' means you give 1/7th of the crop to the owner. A fermage means you give 1/5th of the profit to the owner.
Wine pvnx/collectif anonyme, Port Vendres, France. Natural wine makers

The cooperative Collectif Anonyme

There are four members currently: Kris, his present girlfriend Haida from Germany; Jackie, a British mother who has recently joined and his ex-girlfriend Julia from Germany. They are all aged between their late twenties and early forties. At the moment they take a salary of 500 euros a month and live in caravans on site.
"That's what I've always wanted" says Kris "to live among the vines". 
The work is hard, back breaking even, everything has to be done by hand. The vineyards around Banyuls are all on steep terraces, with a 45% gradient on average, so machinery is out of the question. The terroir contains shale which gives minerology to the wines. The soil is acidic however and they've spent the last three years converting to organic. "Traditionally vegetables were grown on good land and wines on crap land." Wines grow better in poor soil. They have chosen to grow wines on north facing slopes; long term, they feel this is a better choice taking climate change into account.
"Has it been difficult to start your own business in France?" I ask.
 "No it's been great. The government have helped us with a grant 'l'aide d'installation' for the under 40s. We also got a subvention from the European Union." enthuses Kris. "and we are covered by French law as a social enterprise"
The collectif anonyme wine is now certified organic, Banyuls sur mer, France


As a non-hierarchical cooperative, they don't believe in the cult of the personality, which is why they are anonymous and do not allow their faces to be photographed.

Low Tech and Hand Made

Much of their equipment was bought at Le Bon Coin, a French version of Gumtree. They age their wine in hand-me-down oak barrels that have had four or five wines in before. They don't use carbonic maceration, preferring 'whole grape' (with stems) fermentation which is less tannic and more elegant. Their wines are full bodied and high in alcohol, 14 to 15% "but you could drink a whole bottle of our wine and not feel drunk. We like to keep everything low tech. We press wines with our feet, the old way."
"We only use a tiny amount of sulphite, a 2g tablet  so in total our wines have between 7 and 11 mg of sulphites as compared to normal wine which has up to 180mg. Even organic wines are allowed up to 130mg of sulphite."
Each of their parcels grow a different grape: Carignan, Grenache noir, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris. All of their wines are suitable for vegans.
Melting wax to seal wine bottles, Wine pvnx/collectif anonyme, Port Vendres, France. Natural wine makers

Goals for the future

Wine Pvnx would like to expand into magnums and sell natural wine by the glass. Wine ages better in a magnum. Along with their natural low-tech approach they use cork, sustainably grown in Portugal and seal the bottles with wax by hand; Kris believes this is best with alcoholic maceration, they want to encourage a little bit of oxygenation. Every year is unique: they clean everything down each year. And every year they grow bigger: they produced 6,000 bottles in the first year, between 4 and 5,000 bottles in the second year; 9,000 bottles in the 3rd year (2014) and this year, 2015, they plan to produce between 14 and 15,000 bottles. All of their wines cost 18 euros a bottle and the sweet wines, more like a classic Banyuls sweet wine, costs 24 euros. They sell to France, Germany, Denmark, Austria and Belgium. Ultimately they would like more partnerships with restaurants, their wines match well with food.

Wines for the techno/rave generation

I tasted their whole range while gathered around a barrel outside their cave, eating an impromptu cheese and bread dinner. I was frankly so pissed (despite Kris claiming the wines aren't very alcoholic) that by the end that I couldn't even drive and had to sleep in the car, much to my daughters cold seething disgust. We had a massive row in the morning because of my drunken snoring and the mosquitos. I slept blissfully through the whole thing. You can tell this is not a lifestyle blog eh? Do you think Deliciously Ella ever sleeps in the car, too shit-faced to prop up her perfect body and do a doe-eyed selfie? Anyway I'm not a spitter outter and I'm also a cheap date so I think I'd pledged ever-lasting love to each and every member of Wine Pvnx during the course of the tasting. I was literally slobbering over them. Needless to say I really liked their wines. They are heavy, powerful, big wines that in some ways remind me of my childhood trips to France. They possess an elegant rusticity that is right up my street.
The range of Natural wines from Wine pvnx/collectif anonyme, Port Vendres, France. Natural wine makers
As most of these wines were made in small quantities only a few are available to buy on their site. Kris describes them as wines for the rave/techno generation. Many of the names and label artwork are inspired by music.
Iles dans le ciel. 2013: Grenache noir, grenache gris, bit of Carignan. Sweet, tannic.
CA Rouge: 2014. Only 220 bottles made. 15%. Carignan, grenache noir.
Big Rock Candy Mountain 2014 16% alcohol. Sweet, deep red in the style of the local Banyuls wine. Macerated in french oak barrels. Grenache noir, grenache gris.
Monstrum 2013 This is naturally sweet with no added alcohol. 16% alcohol. Hand-pressed.

Available soon:
Beau Oui comme Bowie. 2015 Syrah and a little bit of Grenache Noir.
Xtrmntr 2015:
1 +1+3 2015.
Wine pvnx/collectif anonyme, Port Vendres, France. Natural wine makers