Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Victoria Sponge with Fresh Strawberries

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Ah, good old Queen Victoria and her penchant for a bit of sponge cake with her afternoon tea! There is nothing quite as classically British, quite as light and summery, quite as ridiculously easy to make than this delicious combination of butter sponge, jam and cream.

My version below also consists of a layer of sliced fresh strawberries- trust me, it makes all the difference and makes an already good thing great.

Victoria Sponge with Fresh Strawberries
Makes one 8" round cake

Dump all into a bowl and whisk briefly with an electric mixer until well combined:
175g (1 1/2 sticks or 12 tbsp) butter, softened
175g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
175g (1 1/2 cup) self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs

Divide the batter equally into two 8" round sandwich pans (lined with greaseproof paper to ease removal). Bake at 160C/ 320 F fan-assisted (or 180C/ 350 F without) for about 20 mins or until golden yellow and springy to touch.

Allow to cool in tin for about 10 mins, then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Spread one layer with about 3 tbsp strawberry jam. Slice a large handful of strawberries and layer over the top.

Whip 300ml double cream until thickened and spread over the strawberries.

Place the second sponge layer on top and dust with icing sugar. Serve immediately.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Eggs in Purgatory (Uova in Purgatorio)

I first discovered this fabulous Southern Italian dish a few years ago when leafing through our copy of The Sopranos Family Cookbook, which Arivind (being a huge fan of the hit TV show) spotted in a bargain bin at a second hand book store and was compelled to buy. Since then it has become a staple in our Frequently Cooked list- essentially eggs poached in a "purgatorial" rich red tomato sauce, this classic Neapolitan concoction not only tastes good, costs nothing and takes virtually no time or effort, but packs a nutritious punch too! Perfect for those days when you haven't stocked up your cupboard but still want a quick comforting brunch.

Adapt as you wish by adding dried chillies, red pepper flakes or even olives. Non-vegetarians, I highly recommend throwing in a handful of chopped bacon at the start- it's not the done thing but I've discovered it really elevates the flavour to a whole new level.


Eggs in Purgatory (Uova in Purgatorio)
Serves 2-3 (depending on how many eggs each person wants)

Heat a bit of olive oil in a deep pan. Throw in and toss over medium heat briefly until fragrant:
1 clove garlic, smashed
A few fresh basil leaves, torn (or if you don't have it, a sprinkling of dried mixed herbs)
Optional: A handful of chopped bacon, or crushed dried chillies, red pepper flakes, olives, onions...

Pour in roughly 400ml of tomato passata/puree (or however much you need to cover the base of the pan)-
I think canned chopped tomatoes are too watery, but if you only have that just use it
and add 1 tbsp tomato puree. Bring to a simmer.

Season the tomatoes well with salt, then gently break in 6 eggs.

Sprinkle with dried herbs, freshly ground black pepper and
grated parmesan/whatever cheese you feel like.

Cover and simmer over low heat for about 8-10 mins until egg whites are firm but yolk is still runny.

Serve with buttered toast or crusty bread.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Wat Tan Hor/Kong Foo Chow (Cantonese Fried Flat Noodles in Egg Gravy)

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Ahhh, hello my old sweet friend. *warm fuzzy feeling in my belly*

Whilst some weirdo types like Arivind just don't get my adoration of this comforting childhood favourite and insist the only "right" way to cook any noodle is dry ala char kuay teow, I believe some days nothing hits the spot quite like a huge pile of wok-fried hor fun peppered with delicious chunks of seafood and meat, smothered in a piping hot thick egg gravy. This classic hawker concoction goes by many names: wat tan hor (its most common moniker in Kuala Lumpur, translating to mean "smooth egg fried noodles"), kong foo chow (literally "Cantonese-fried"), char hor fun (as it is known in Penang where bewilderingly, sometimes eggs aren't added (!!) ) and if you use a mix of broad and thin rice noodles, yin yong hor (a reference I guess to the Yin and Yang of the two varieties). The Thai dish of Ratna is also similar, though again egg is absent and seasonings/toppings vary slightly. Whatever you choose to call it, it's good.

As with all fried hawker noodle dishes, use a large wok over high heat where possible and slice up all your ingredients before starting to cook so they can be tossed in quickly. The secret to getting the gravy right is to add the eggs at the very last minute before serving- by all means change it up to be thicker/thinner/eggier/egg-less if you see fit.

Wat Tan Hor/Kong Foo Chow (Cantonese Fried Flat Noodles in Egg Gravy)
*Makes 2 small portions

Fry together over high heat in a bit of oil until charred:
About 350g fresh hor fun/kuay teow (soak in hot water first to separate if clumped together, then drain thoroughly. If using dried noodles, use less as it expands and boil until white and soft before use)
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (more if it looks too light)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Dish up onto two deep plates/shallow bowls and set aside.
  • Making the Gravy:
Fry 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped until golden.
Add and fry briefly:
8-10 slices of pork/chicken (or beef if you like)
6-8 raw king prawns, peeled and deveined
6-8 slices of fishcake
6-8 slices of squid
Lower heat and add:
1½- 2 cups water (depending on how much gravy you want) *If you have good chicken stock around use that but I would avoid artificial chicken stock cubes/powder, tastes awful!
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
Bit of sugar
Dash of white pepper
Dash of salt

Bring to a boil, then add 2 tsp cornstarch diluted in ¼ cup water (for thickening).
Simmer for a few mins until thickened. Slice 1 bunch of choy sum (flowering Chinese cabbage) or greens of your choice into 2” lengths and throw in.
Turn heat off and break in 2 eggs, stirring quickly to scramble. Have a quick taste and add more seasoning if required. Dish the gravy over the prepared hor fun and serve immediately (alongside a small dish of sliced pickled green chillies in light soy sauce if you're lucky enough to have it).
Get in with chopsticks and a Chinese spoon. Shovel into mouth.