Terrific Tarka Dal – A Recipe

In the 1990s, we used to live in India and I developed a real taste for all sorts of lentil and pulse based dishes, and I still like them today. My ‘go to’ favourite has to be tarka dal because it’s relatively quick and easy and you can throw in whatever vegetables you have in the fridge. It’s definitely one of those meals that’s useful at the end of the week when you want to use things up. A slightly soft courgette or a bendy carrot languishing in the vegetable rack undergoes a complete transformation once immersed in a spicy lentil base.

This recipe is a real feast for the eyes as the colours jump out at you. Red peppers, courgettes, aubergines, onions and spinach – this is what ‘eating a rainbow’ is all about. Even better, this recipe is fat-free and therefore ideal for anyone on a diet. For Slimming World members, it’s all *free food* based around protein (lentils) and speed food (the vegetables).

Purists may say that my version of tarka dal isn’t truly authentic and they may be right. However, it’s a recipe I’ve adapted to suit my taste – not too ‘chilli’ hot but with lots of flavour. I think it tastes amazing and with any recipe, isn’t that what matters?

Recipe serves 4 – 6 people.

Ingredients

350g split, dried red lentils, washed and drained

2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 onion, sliced

4 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

I medium courgette, aubergine, red pepper – all cut into bite-sized chunks

FryLight low calorie cooking spray

150g fresh spinach leaves

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsps black mustard seeds

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsps ground coriander

1 tsp jalapeno red chilli flakes – add more if you like your dal with more heat

Method

Spray a large non-stick pan with Frylight and add the garlic, onions, courgette, aubergine and red pepper and cook on a relatively high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Put pan to one side.

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In another large pan, add the lentils, turmeric and ginger to 1 ½ litres of water and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Skim off any froth as it appears. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every so often.

Add the cooked vegetables to the lentil mixture along with the fresh spinach and stir together. Simmer for 10 more minutes to ensure everything is cooked through and the spinach has wilted.

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While the lentil mix is cooking, take a small non-stick frying pan, spray with FryLight and allow to heat up. Once the pan is hot, add the cumin seeds and the black mustard seeds. After a short while on a high heat, they’ll start to pop and splutter in the pan. At that point, add the garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander and jalapeno flakes and stir for about a minute.

Add the spices into the lentil and vegetable mixture and stir them in. Add salt and pepper to taste and the dish is ready to eat.

 

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“Flexible” Thai Red Curry – a recipe

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to curries. Too much heat and my face turns an unflattering shade of purple and my nose starts to run uncontrollably. Not a good look especially on a lady of certain years!  So that means I’m usually limited to mild curries although since I’ve been losing weight I’ve intentionally stayed away from them because a lot contain coconut milk which is delicious but lethal in the calorie and fat department.

I fancied something other than a roast for our Sunday meal this weekend and finding a small jar of Thai red curry paste in the cupboard (not past its sell-by date, I hasten to add), I was inspired to create a “flexible” curry.

What is this, I hear you ask? Well, in my house there are some foods I like and other foods my husband prefers so sometimes, although we always eat together, there may be different things on our plates. After 31 years of marriage, we compromise, and it works for us with minimal food wastage.

Basically, a flexible curry is one that you can easily adapt during the cooking process. In this case, a vegetable curry becomes a prawn curry, or a chicken curry depending what you have to hand. I’m sure this is probably how a lot of restaurants do it but for me, it was the first time I’d really thought about it and it’s a really practical idea, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd and you don’t know their food preferences. I realised recently that a lot of my dishes are quite flexible – I seem to do it automatically these days.

I should mention that a lot of Thai red curry pastes contain fish or shrimp extracts (the Bart Spices paste I used did) and therefore you need to check before using them if you are cooking for vegetarians.

The good thing about the recipe below is that there aren’t many ingredients, it’s simple to make and it tastes great with just a little touch of heat to liven it up.

You’ll see that I added a very small amount of sweetener to my curry but this is optional. I find that it takes the edge off the spices (I told you I was a wimp) but you may prefer to leave it out.

I used FryLight in my recipe as it’s a Slimming World member’s saviour when frying food but if you are not particularly diet conscious, feel free to use some oil instead if you prefer.

Note for Slimming World members: this recipe could feed 4 people or 2 very hungry people! Count 1/2 a Syn each for four people and 1 Syn each for two.

Ingredients

FryLight or other low calorie cooking spray

1 large or 2 small red onions, finely sliced

1 large clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

2 level tablespoons Thai red curry paste of your choice

100g baby sweetcorn, cut in half lengthways

100g mangetout

1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into batons

2 pak choi, roughly chopped

400mls vegetable stock

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon sweetener (optional)

Method

Spray a large non-stick frying pan or wok with a thin coating of FryLight and place over a medium heat.

Add the garlic and onion and gently stir-fry for 3 – 4 minutes until softened.

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Stir in the Thai red curry paste and stir for a minute.

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Add the baby sweetcorn and stir it around until its coated in the sauce.

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Slowly add the stock and soy sauce, bring to a simmer and cook for a minute then stir in the mange tout, red pepper and the pak choi.

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To make this dish “flexible”, at this point you could stir in some cooked prawns, chicken or any other meat of your choice. You could also add tofu but don’t stir too vigorously or it will disintegrate.

Bring back to a simmer, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are just cooked (and the meat or tofu has heated through). The vegetables should still have a bit of bite.

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Serve with rice and a refreshing salad if you wish. I added cooked prawns to my portion just before serving as you can see.

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Let me know if you make this recipe – I’d love to know what you thought of it.

 

 

 

 

 

Guilt Free ‘Cream’ Cheese

Having lost over 5 stone with Slimming World in less than a year, I’ve changed my eating habits drastically and feel so much better for it. It has been a challenge to overcome the cravings I frequently used to have for butter, cream, chocolate, cakes, anything with salted caramel in it and salt and vinegar crisps (to name but a few things) but I’ve done it. What helped me to lose weight was creating healthier versions of certain dishes that I used to love even though they weren’t always good for me. I now spend a lot of time in the kitchen working on new recipes and ensuring they taste as good as the ‘full fat’ versions but are much better for you.

One thing I used to like quite a lot was rich, creamy (and calorie laden) garlic and herb soft cheese. And I ate quite substantial portions of it as I didn’t seem to have a full button. So, in order to have an occasional indulgent cheese fest, I needed to come up with a recipe that would satisfy my cheese-y tooth while adhering to the Slimming World guidelines.

So, here is my recipe for a FAT FREE (yup, you read that correctly) creamy tasting garlic and herb cheese that is good spread on bread, bagels and buns or dolloped on a jacket potato or chilli dish. The possibilities are endless. I’ve used chives but you could use any herbs you like. I like the cheese made with fresh garlic but when I don’t have any I use garlic granules. The small amount of sweetener counters the slightly sour taste of the quark but you can leave it out if you wish.

While you can play around with the added ingredients, the key thing in this recipe is that you have to strain the cheese for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge. This is what changes the consistency and fools you into thinking that a thicker cheese must mean a creamy cheese. Yes, it’s thicker but you can eat copious amounts of it with a clear conscience because it’s FAT FREE!

Ingredients

250g fat free quark (usually at the end of a supermarket cheese aisle)

1 ½ tablespoons of fresh or dried chives. If fresh, snip them into small pieces

½ teaspoon granulated sweetener

¼ teaspoon of garlic powder or 1 small/medium fresh garlic clove, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

 

You’ll need a nut milk bag (Amazon or health food shop purchase) or a jam straining bag.

 

Method

Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix together with a spoon.

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You should end up with a fairly sloppy textured mixture, like this:

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Take a nut milk bag (pictured) or jam straining bag, and spoon the mixture into it.

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You then need to suspend the filled bag over a bowl to catch the liquid that comes out of the cheese. I have to improvise with a silicone spatula (see photo) but I think that’s a sign of a creative cook!

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Place the bowl and the suspended cheese filled bag in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

You can see how much liquid comes out of the cheese in this photo.

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Once strained, tip the now firm cheese into a small bowl. If not eating immediately, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge.

Eat and enjoy!

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For any Slimming World members reading this, as this creamy cheese is actually fat free quark it is a FREE FOOD and not a Healthy Extra A choice like many other cheeses. How brilliant is that?

 

 

 

Scarlett & Mustard product reviews with recipes

I was asked by ‘My Foodie Heaven’ to try out and review some products made by Scarlett & Mustard. I’d already heard of the company and had seen some of their products with their quirky labelling in the shops so I was keen to see what they were like.

I received a parcel containing the delightfully named ‘Rudolph’s Left Overs Curry Sauce’, an English rapeseed oil flavoured with truffle (oil, not chocolates!) and a blackcurrant and star anise curd.

When I’m asked to review any food product, rather than just sticking my finger in the jar, tasting it and rating it out of ten, where possible I try to create a recipe that will really bring out the flavour. At the moment, we’re in the middle of moving from Surrey to Norfolk and so it’s slightly chaotic in our house . However, we still need to eat but as my kitchen facilities are now rather basic, any food I prepare has to be quick and easy.

With that in mind, I came up with two recipes using the Left Overs Curry Sauce and the truffle rapeseed oil and decided to test the blackcurrant and star anise curd out as part of a traditional afternoon tea.

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‘Rudolph’s Left Overs Curry Sauce’ is an oil free dressing full of fruity, tangy flavours and it will, quite simply, transform your left overs from one meal into a tasty dish for another. You don’t have to limit yourself to using it for left overs though: I used it to make a light ‘coronation’ style sauce to have with chicken which was delicious. By mixing Greek yoghurt with Rudolph’s in a 2:1 ratio, I had a simple sauce which was far superior to the heavy ‘coronation chicken’ dish I recall from the 1970s (which was basically curry powder mixed with mayonnaise). What I liked about Rudolph’s is that you could actually taste the fruit in it (mango chutney, apricots and sultanas) and the heat from the ginger and curry powder was subtle.

Coronation chicken S and M

 

Scarlett & Mustard also recommend Rudolph’s with roasts (including your Christmas bird if you plan to have one), on rice and peas, on potatoes and even on salads. What you do with it is only limited by your imagination. I’m sorry the photo of my chicken dish isn’t brilliant – my ‘staging’ props for my photos have been packed away but you get the idea.

 

For the English truffle rapeseed oil, I thought a potato recipe would be in order as it would be blending two wonderfully earthy flavours together. Readers of this blog will be aware from previous posts that I love the versatility of the humble spud and for this recipe I turned once again to Maris Pipers but you could use any floury potato for this dish.

 

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Truffled Crushed Potatoes

Ingredients – for 2 servings

300g Maris Piper potatoes

150mls semi skimmed milk (or use soya milk for vegan option)

I twig of fresh rosemary

1 tbsp Scarlett & Mustard English Rapeseed Truffle Oil

3 tbsp single cream (or use vegan cream)

 

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into chunks and put in a large saucepan with the milk and add a little water to cover. Season with a little salt if required. Once boiling, allow to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until tender. Add the rosemary twig about 5 minutes before the end so it infuses the cooking liquid.
  2. Drain the potatoes leaving a little of the cooking liquid but throw away the rosemary.
  3. Using a potato masher, gently crush the potatoes to break them up. You aren’t looking for mashed potatoes so go carefully!
  4. Add the truffle oil and the cream to the potatoes and turn them gently to coat.
  5. Tip the potatoes into an ovenproof dish and place under a hot grill for a few minutes to brown the top.
  6. If you’ve made the potatoes to eat later, you can reheat them in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes at 180 C / 200 C fan or gas mark 6 until the top goes golden.
  7. Eat and enjoy.

I’m afraid there isn’t a photo of this dish as it was demolished as soon as it came out of the oven!

 

Finally, for the blackcurrant and star anise curd, I used it to fill Viennese whirls and I also sampled it on a scone with butter. I was apprehensive about how the star anise would affect the flavour of the blackcurrant but I have to say that it’s an inspired combination. The blackcurrant is not over-sweet or sugary and the star anise gives it a real warmth without overshadowing the fruity flavour.

 

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I used my friend Kevin’s recipe for the Viennese whirls – you can find it on his blog www.thecraftylarder.co.uk – and dipped them in white chocolate and sprinkles. Bit of a girly moment!

 

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I can confirm that based on my tasting of the products I was sent, Scarlett & Mustard are purveyors of excellent foodie items and I recommend you look out for them in your local shops. They’d make ideal Christmas presents and would look particularly stylish in an elegant hamper.

 

All Scarlett & Mustard products can be found on their website: www.scarlettandmustard.co.uk

 

 

Disclaimer: I was sent a package of Scarlett & Mustard goods to review and I was not paid. My review reflects my honest opinion of the items I was given.

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Luis Troyano’s recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Star Bread

JS42944408As most of you reading this will know, Luis Troyano took part in the 2014 series of the Great British Bake Off and was in the final along with Nancy Birtwhistle (who won) and Richard Burr. Luis is now a published author – his book is called “Bake it Great” – and he will be appearing at the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show in London, which this year runs from 13th – 15th November. The nice people at the Bakes and Cakes Show have kindly given me two FREE TICKETS that followers of my blog can win (more about that later).

In order to tempt you even further, they also gave me one of Luis’s delicious recipes from his book to share with you. So please read on to see how you can ‘bake it great’ like Luis and enjoy a delicious bread made with – * drools * – chocolate hazelnut spread.

Chocolate Hazelnut Star Bread (in Luis’s own words)

This is a stunning, delicious chocolate and hazelnut tear and share loaf. If you don’t have a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread handy, you could use jam or marmalade. You can even make a savoury version with a pesto and feta cheese filling. In fact, you can fill it with anything you like as long as it’s not too wet. It looks complicated but is actually very easy to do. I would usually make the dough and prove it overnight in the fridge for improved flavour, before finishing the loaf the next day. But you can make it all in one day if you prefer.

Makes 1 star bread

Time required: 60 minutes preparation and two proves

Baking time: 20–25 minutes

Optimum oven position and setting: centre and no fan, with a baking stone

Essential equipment:

A kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook

A baking sheet; mine is aluminium and measures 38 x 32cm.

Non-stick baking parchment

A large bag to put the baking sheet into for proving

Ingredients:

135ml boiling water

135ml whole milk

500g strong white bread flour

14g instant yeast

1 tsp fine salt

2 medium eggs

100g soft unsalted butter

rapeseed oil, for greasing

2 tbsp smooth apricot jam

For the filling:

200g chocolate hazelnut spread

finely grated zest of 1 orange

75g chopped roasted hazelnuts

Method:

Add the boiling water to the milk to give you a warm liquid. Place the flour, yeast, salt and eggs in the bowl of a kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook. When adding the yeast and salt, place them at opposite sides of the bowl. Add two-thirds of the liquid and begin to mix it all together. Add more liquid gradually until all the dry ingredients are picked up and you have a soft dough. You may not need all of the liquid.

Mix for about 8 minutes. You will work through the wet stage and eventually end up with a smooth, soft, silky dough. With the mixer still on, gradually add the butter in thumb-size pieces until it is all incorporated and the dough is smooth and shiny.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover it with cling film or a shower cap and leave it on one side until doubled in size. Depending on your room temperature, this can take 1 hour, but it’ll be fine for 2 hours.

Find the largest round plate you have that will fit completely on your baking sheet.

When the dough has proved, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface (I use rice flour). Fold the dough over on itself several times to knock the air out of it. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Roll out one half of the dough on a piece of non-stick baking parchment into a circle just a little larger than your plate. Place the plate on the dough and trim around it with a knife.

To make the filling, place the chocolate spread in a heatproof bowl. Warm it gently in a microwave to make it runny. Using a palette knife, spread it evenly over the dough, leaving about 1cm bare all around the edge. Sprinkle over the orange zest and 50g of the chopped hazelnuts. (You could also sprinkle any other finely chopped nuts or dried fruit of your choice.)

Roll out the other half of the dough on a lightly floured surface and trim to the same size circle. Carefully place it over the chocolate-covered dough and press to seal around the edges.Luis Troyano - Folding star bread photo

Get a small bowl with a diameter of about 12cm and make a light imprint in the centre of the dough circle. Using a sharp knife, cut 16 equally spaced slices up to the circle imprint. The easy way to do that is to cut four evenly spaced, then another four in between those and so on. Gently lift each slice, spin over twice and lay back down. This will give you the amazing pattern. Twisting in one direction only will give you the pattern depicted in the photograph on page 110. Twisting each alternate section in opposite directions will give you the pattern depicted on page 111.

Slide the whole thing onto the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet inside a large bag to prove. Make sure the bag doesn’t touch the dough. Prove again for about an hour until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C/ 390°F/gas 7. Place your rack just below the centre of the oven. Bake the bread for about 20–25 minutes until golden.

Warm the apricot jam and brush it over the hot bread to glaze it. Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts in the centre circle of the loaf – use a pastry cutter to sprinkle into and get a perfect circle of nuts. Eat warm or cold.

Luis Troyano - star bread finished photo

Luis Troyano’s new book Bake it Great – Pavilion is out now. Recipe image credit to Clare Winfield. Luis will be cooking live on stage at BBC Good Food Shows this Autumn.

  • HOW YOU COULD WIN FREE TICKETS *

If you want the chance to win TWO FREE TICKETS to the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cake Show in London, you’ll need to FOLLOW my blog and my Twitter account @TheLittlePK and then you’ll be entered into a draw. I’ll announce the winner on Sunday 1st November 2015 via Twitter. The tickets can only be posted to a UK address – the winner will need to provide me with this (it won’t be shared with anyone else).

Good Luck!

Tracy

Warming & Fragrant Autumn Squash Soup

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I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself this week having had minor surgery (on an ingrowing toenail if you must know) and a rotten cold so I was in desperate need of cheering up. Whenever I’m ill – which fortunately isn’t too often – my thoughts turn to comfort food. I definitely crave soup when I’m under the weather and this recipe has become my favourite. It doesn’t take too long to prepare and the kitchen smells wonderful when it’s bubbling away.

So instead of wallowing in self pity – which was not impressing the husband or the dog – I made soup which is actually so robust that it makes an excellent lunch served with a chunk of crusty bread to mop up the bowl with at the end.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons coconut oil

I medium white onion, peeled & finely diced

I large clove of garlic, peeled & crushed

½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes

4 kaffir lime leaves, crushed into very small pieces

1 heaped tablespoon unsweetened desiccated coconut

1 small to medium butternut squash (or 1 small pumpkin), peeled, seeds removed & chopped into 2cm cubes

1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

800mls water

1 vegetable stock cube (I used Knorr vegetable stock pot)

2 big handfuls of fresh spinach, washed and drained

Salt & pepper to taste

Method

  1. Over a medium heat, melt the coconut oil in a solid bottomed pan and add the chopped onion and crushed garlic. Allow to cook, occasionally stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent but not browned.
  2. Add the dried red chilli flakes, the crushed kaffir lime leaves and the desiccated coconut and stir to combine. Add the chopped butternut squash or pumpkin cubes and stir everything for one minute.
  3. Add the tin of coconut milk and the water plus the stock cube and stir. Allow the soup to bubble gently uncovered for 12 – 15 minutes until the squash is just tender when pricked with a knife.
  4. Add the washed spinach to the pan and stir for about a minute until it has wilted.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls, eat and enjoy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Fabulous Flat Bread

My Twitter based Sunday Baking Club set a #GetBready theme last weekend which tied in nicely with the previous episode of The Great British Bake Off. I knew I wouldn’t have time to make an amazing 3D showstopper out of different types of dough but I still wanted to take part. I make bread 2 or 3 times a week for my husband so I felt I should be a little more adventurous for SBC.

What I came up with exceeded my expectations. I thought a flat bread would be a good idea: fairly quick and not complicated. Plus I’d get to use the griddle / hotplate accessory which came with my RangeMaster cooker 3 years ago. Ahem. Yes, well, I’d put it in a safe place and forgot it was there……

I rummaged in my cupboards to see what I could use to fill the flat breads, as I thought keeping them plain was a little unadventurous. I found: unsweetened desiccated coconut, some ‘mild’ red jalapeño flakes and some kaffir lime leaves. I thought they’d go well together and with a little heat from the chilli flakes, they would have a bit of a flavour kick.

Anyway, I toddled off to my little pink kitchen (sorry, I couldn’t resist that) and a little over an hour later I had my extremely tasty flat breads, ready to eat. They are simple to make and for that reason, I’ve decided to share my recipe with you. I hope you enjoy them.

 

Flatbread

 

Coconut, chilli & kaffir lime leaf flat breads

A really good flavour combination which results in a soft flat bread that’s ideal for soaking up curry sauce or as an accompaniment to a steaming bowl of soup. They are also good as a light lunch with some dips.

Makes 4 good sized flatbreads

For the dough

200g strong white flour

4g of instant yeast (packets are usually 7g)

½ tablespoon caster sugar

½ teaspoon of salt (I like pink Himalayan salt)

1 tablespoon of light vegetable oil

For the filling

½ tablespoon light vegetable oil flavoured oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

½ – 1 teaspoon red jalapeno flakes depending how much heat you like (I used Bart spices)

50g desiccated, unsweetened coconut

5 good sized dried kaffir lime leaves, crushed into small pieces

1 Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl, then stir to combine. Add the oil, then add 125 – 150 mls of tepid water. Bring together to form a soft dough. Place onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and stretchy. Or you can let a stand mixer and a dough hook do the work for you – also knead for 10 minutes.

2 Put the dough in a bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it has roughly doubled in size.

3 Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until golden and softened. Add the garlic, chilli flakes and the crushed kaffir lime leaves then continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the coconut and stir to coat in the onion and chilli. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

4 Once the dough has risen, knock it back to remove any air, then divide it into 4 equal pieces. On a floured surface, roll each piece into a circle. Place one quarter of the filling in the centre of each circle, gather up the sides and squish the edges together to seal the filling in. Flip them over so the squished edge is underneath. Re-roll the dough until each piece is about 15cm in diameter or you can make oval shaped flat breads if you like. They need to be as flat as possible as they will uff a little when they are cooked. Set aside.

5 Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, add a small drop of vegetable oil or coconut oil. Swirl the oil around the hot pan and tip out any excess. Fry the flatbreads for 2-3 minutes on each side, until large air bubbles appear, and the bread is a little charred in places and cooked through. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

 

EAT AND ENJOY!