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Bandakka (Okra) Curry

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Okra is a very divisive vegetable. I feel you either love the slimy texture or you don’t. I’m a fan. Always have been. So when I saw some fresh, green okra at our local Saturday farmer’s market I grabbed a handful straight away.

It was only when I got home that I thought about Mr Firehouse. You see, he is a hater of all things slimy. So the okra sat unloved, in my fridge, for nearly a week before I decided to tackle it.

During last years trip to Sri Lanka we had stayed at a new beach side resort. One of my favourite things about Asian hotels are the buffets! Love! This one was no different. They served all kinds of impressive Western fare; cold cuts and salads in tiny shot glasses. However, my  eyes and plate never strayed far from the big traditional earthenware pots that had real, homestyle, Sri Lankan food. Breadfruit curry glistening with black curry powder, Kalu Pork curry with tender, spicy pork and the okra curry teeming with dried chillis. I served myself all of the above and was surprised to find that the okra wasn’t its usual slimy self. It tasted the same and had the soft almost gelatinous texture, but the sliminess that offends most people was strangely absent. On closer inspection and a quick chat to the chefs the secret was revealed, the okra was deep fried prior to cooking!

This is exactly what I did to tackle my stash of okra. The extra step made this dish much more Mr Firehouse friendly and I must say, I enjoyed the change too! If you’re not fussed about the okra’s slimy tendencies, just skip the deep frying part.

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Ingredients

  •  200-250 g okra (about 1/2 a pound) sliced on an angle
  • oil for deep frying
  • 1/2 red onion sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 3-4 dried red chillis
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish flakes
  • 1/2tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. vegetable curry powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream

Preparation

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In a small frypan heat the oil for deep frying and deep fry the okra in batches until they have a little colour. Drain well

In a medium saucepan or pot place a little oil and add the onion and garlic. Fry until the onions and garlic and soft and aromatic.

To the same pot add all of the dried spices and fry for 2-3 minutes until the spices are lightly toasted.

Finally add the fried okra and mix thoroughly coating all the okra in the lovely toasted spices.

Once the okra is well coated add the coconut cream and a little water to cover the okra.

Let the curry simmer for 5 minutes until it thickens. Add salt to taste and serve warm with plenty of fluffy white rice.

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Filed under Sri Lankan Food, Vegetarian Curries

Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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The Aussie blogger, Not Quite Nigella once commented that most people have a celebrity cook or chef who’s recipes never work for them. She remarked that Karen Martini’s recipe always flopped for her. For me, that cook was always Martha Stewart. Living in Australia I thought her recipes would be foolproof, her shows were staged in a test kitchen after all. However I experienced flop after flop. Having moved here I suspect it was the conversions I had to do, or couldn’t do as the case may be. Now that Martha and I live in the same country the results of her recipes are infinitely more promising. This is a recipe based on a recipe of hers. I use it when normal butter cream won’t do, or I’ve made creme brulee and I have lots of egg whites left over. I find this icing not too sweet but rich and delicious all the same.
Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1  cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes.     

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Instructions

Put egg whites, sugar, and salt into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. My kitchen aid has a metal bowl so I just use that. Remember you don’t want the water touching the bottom of the bowl. Whisk the mixture for about four minutes or until warmed through.

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Beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. At this point reduce the speed. 
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Add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition, the meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added. Sometimes it can look curdled, like the mixture has separated. This is normal too, just keep going.  You want a smooth glossy finish to the buttercream, so beat for about 5 minutes. 
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Buttercream can be refrigerated airtight for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature, and beat before using.
Spread onto a cake or cupcakes and enjoy! 
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Cranberry Orange Loaf with a Crumble Topping

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Here’s something ironic. I write a food recipe blog and I have trouble following recipes. I’m forever substituting, deleting, thinking I know better and generally being a know-it-all. Mr Firehouse is always commenting on this fact. Recently he spied me working in the kitchen, pen and paper in hand. He wanted to know what I was writing and I commented that I was writing down accurate measurements for a recipe, to blog about later. He was genuinely shocked. You see, I think he thought that my inability to follow a recipe was innate, something I couldn’t control. But often-times it’s not. Partly it’s my curiosity. Will it taste better with brown sugar instead of white? Will it cook faster if I parboil? And partly it’s a kind of experience. I know that the flavours of one recipe might be perfect, but I prefer not to follow the cooking instructions, because I’ve done it before, my way, and it’s worked. Sometimes, like for this particular loaf, it’s seasonality. I loved the idea of a yoghurty, moist, citrusy cake but blueberries are not in season and rather than use the frozen (and often just as good ones) I thought of trying a classic American fall combination of cranberry and orange.  The recipe for the cake comes from Donna Hay and was shared with me by my good friend and fellow baker Jill, all the way from Australia. I added the crumble topping for extra texture and also because as you now know, I can’t leave well enough alone.


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Ingredients 

  • 150g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup caster/superfinesugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp. finely grated orange  zest
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups self-raising/self-rising flour, sifted
  • 150 g fresh cranberries

Crumble topping

  • 2 tbsp. cold butter chopped
  • 2 tbsp. of brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. of flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 160C /325F. Place the butter, sugar, eggs,yoghurt, orange zest and vanilla in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the flour and whisk until well combined.

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Fold through the cranberries and spoon into a lightly greased loaf tin lined with non-stick baking paper.

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In a separate bowl place all of the crumble ingredients and using just the tips of your fingers rub them all together until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.

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Sprinkle over the loaf  and bake for 1 hour–1 hour 10 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

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Allow the loaf to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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Filed under Cake, Sweet Treats