Spicy Indian-style dips

We love dips in our house. Whether they’re shop-bought or homemade, we always have a supply of dippy things in pots in our fridge – hummus, babaganoush, taramasalata, tzatsiki – perfect with a few breadsticks or carrot chunks for an impromptu snack when the children are peckish.

And we’re rather keen on our Indian food too. I reckon our girls developed a taste for Asian spices when they were in the womb. I craved curries during both pregnancies and in the final weeks, in particular, I consumed a vast quantity of particularly hot curries in a vain attempt to bring  on labour.

So when Warburtons recently got in touch to see if I’d like to test out some recipes created by TV chef Monisha Bharadwaj for a range of Indian-style dips to complement their new baked naan chips, I thought why the heck not?

As well as directing me to Monisha’s selections of recipes on Facebook, Warburtons kindly sent me some packets of their baked naan chips in ‘classic tikka’ and ‘fiery hot’ flavours to try with them.

I decided to test out two of the dip recipes. The two that appealed most were the manuka tamater ki chutney, made with tomatoes, raisins and spices, and a mint and sunflower seed chutney.

I found the mint and sunflower seed chutney a little too flavoursome, verging on pungent. So I mixed in some Greek yoghurt which calmed it down perfectly and made for a very tasty, creamy and refreshing dip. As well as mint, it contains lots of coriander, which I think always work so well together. The recipe also calls for a couple of chillies, but since I was trying this out on the kids I only used one so it wasn’t too hot for them.

The manuka tamater ki chutney was very good, although a tad on the sweet side. It features raisins, so I probably wouldn’t bother with the sugar as well next time. This was the dip the children liked best, although my husband and I preferred the mint and sunflower seed one.

While we rather liked the dips, I have to admit the baked naan chips weren’t really our cup of chai. Our eldest, Miss Mash didn’t think they were spicy enough but Miss Bangers, the four-year-old refused to eat them because they were too spicy. My husband and I could take them or leave them really. I also took a couple of packs into work to share with colleagues, and the response was similar – although during the course of a day they did all get eaten, so they can’t have been that bad!

Have you tried any of the Warburton dip recipes? If so, what did you think? And what do you reckon to the baked naan chips? How do you think they compare to their pitta chips?

Disclosure: I was provided with four complimentary packets of Warburton baked naan chips for the purposes of this review.

Destination New York for Burgers and Pickles

The six-week school holidays have started, and so has my family’s Around the World In Six Suppers adventure. Because this summer it looks like we’re not going to get away for a proper holiday, I’ve decided that the world will instead come to us in the form of six dishes from some of my favourite holiday destinations from bygone years. You’ll find the full itinerary for our culinary world tour here.

So our first stop is the Big Apple – New York!

I have only been to New York once and that was back when I was just 12-years-old. I’ve just realised that’s a quarter of a century ago. I really don’t feel old enough to be able to say that! The city made a big impression on me – I guess it probably does to everyone that visits – and I long to return one day. As a youngster discovering the thrills of the cinema, arriving in New York felt to me like walking onto a colossal movie set. I loved the size, the pace, the colour, the noise, the energy. I walked through the streets, trailing behind my mum, with eyes to the sky and jaw to the sidewalk.

As well as the sights, the shops, the people, the music, the galleries, the parks, the subway, the taxis – the other thing that left a big impression was the food. I can’t say it was the finest culinary experience of my life but as a child-almost-teen I was like a pig in muck. Fast food and soda and candies everywhere; everything bright and garish and so, so tempting. And yes, it’s probably a bit of a cliché, but the food I’ve picked to transport me back to New York is the ubiquitous and oh so American hamburger and fries.

Throughout my subsequent teens I enjoyed a love affair with all things Americana. I adored hanging out in Ed’s Diner in Leicester Square with my friends, where we’d sit for hours at the counter savouring our malted milkshakes and using up all our pocket-money in the mini jukeboxes. I listened to the soundtrack to American Graffiti endlessly. My favourite movies were Grease, Cry Baby, The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing and Back to the Future. And so, consequently, I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in my time.

I can’t lay any claim to these particular burgers being an authentic American recipe. In fact it’s hardly a recipe at all. It’s essentially meat shaped into a patty and fried. I like my burgers simple – good meat, cooked rare. I’m more than happy to dress them up with pickles and cheese, sauces and salad. But I don’t like to do too much to the burger itself.

Before we get to the burger though, here’s a very simple recipe for quick pickled cucumbers. In my eyes, a burger has to be served with pickles and these are perfect – not slimy like the ones you might get slopped onto your burger in a high street joint. Even my husband, who doesn’t normally eat pickles, admitted to liking these.

Quick pickled cucumbers

150ml cider vinegar
75ml water
1½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp white mustard seed
½ tsp black mustard seed
½ tsp dill seed
1 tsp peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ cucumber, sliced

In a saucepan, mix the cider vinegar with the water, salt, mustard seed, dill seed, peppercorns and garlic and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Put the cucumber slices into a sterilised glass jar and pour over the boiling vinegar mixture, making sure the cucumber is completely covered. If not, add some more water. Screw on the lid and place in the fridge for at least an hour. Job done. The pickles will keep for a couple of weeks.

And moving on to the main event…

Simple hamburgers

Makes four burgers

450g minced beef – not too lean and the best quality you can afford
salt and pepper
large knob of butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 slices of mature Cheddar cheese
4 ciabatta rolls
2 tomatoes, sliced
quick pickled cucumbers
tomato sauce
mustard
skinny oven chips – cooked according to packet instructions

In a large bowl, grind salt and pepper into the minced beef and mix well. Using your hands shape the meat into four large patties.

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan until the butter starts to foam a little. Add the burgers and fry until browned on the outside but still a little pink on the inside. For me this took around four minutes on each side, but it all depends on how fat you make your burgers. If in doubt, cut one open to check whether it’s cooked to your liking. When you’ve flipped your burgers the first time, lay a slice of cheese on each one so that it melts while the other side is cooking.

While the burgers are frying, slice open your ciabatta rolls and toast. Serve your burgers in the toasted rolls with slices of tomato, pickled cucumber and a squeeze of tomato sauce and that bright yellow mustard they love in the States, with a pile of skinny fries on the side.

Enjoy. Preferably with Green Onions playing in the background.

My family loved their hamburgers and we topped off our New York diner experience with a big fat slice of American-style baked cheesecake. Gorgeous.

Highs and lows in the Bangers & Mash kitchen – part 3

Talk about highs and lows this week – more like the sublime to the ridiculous!

I just can’t stop smiling!

I haven’t come down from the ceiling since Thursday when I discovered I am a finalist for a national blogging award. Don’t worry, I won’t go on about it again here. I’ve been doing enough of that already on this blog and on Twitter, so suffice to say I am really rather chuffed.

I’m not the only spod in the family though. Just a few days earlier my daughter Jessie received a Blue Peter badge for a poem she had sent in. She’s already working out how to achieve her next one. I was a huge Blue Peter fan when I was little, so as you can imagine I’m a very proud mum…

But back to the food. I’ll get the hideous low out of the way first.

We had good friends over to stay at the weekend, who have really encouraged me in my blogging antics. There was a lot of good humoured banter in the week running up to their visit about high expectations of the culinary delights in store.

So I thought I’d impress them with a retro feast of posh ham, eggs and chips. While the home-baked ham was very good, my homemade chips were an absolute disaster. They completely disintegrated on attempting to serve. Wrong kind of potato possibly, or was the oven too hot or too cool? Serves me right trying to make my own chips for the first time instead of doing what I usually do and cooking the shop-bought frozen variety. At the last minute I had to send the lads out to the local fish and chips shop in order to salvage the meal. Whoops.

Thankfully though the ham got a big thumbs up. I did Nigella Lawson’s ham in cola again – I last tried it at Christmas and absolutely fell in love with it. I know it sounds crazy but baking a ham in coca cola is fantastic and you end up with a beautifully moist, smokey, almost barbecue-flavoured piece of meat.

My next high point in the kitchen was a potato, cabbage and smoked bacon soup. I accept it doesn’t sound exactly like food porn but it was incredibly tasty and very satisfying.

Another highlight was my oregano and roast tomato pizza. I slow roast the tomatoes for about five hours in the bottom oven of the Aga, giving them an incredibly intense flavour and gorgeously sticky, slightly chewy texture. Simply sublime.


So now time for the detailed meal plans. Oh and if you do have any tips for homemade chips (in the oven rather than a deep fat fryer), I’m all ears!

Monday 30 April
Lunch: butternut squash soup
Dinner: pasta with wild garlic pesto

Tuesday 1 May
Lunch: cheese and chutney rolls
Dinner: sweet potatoes stuffed with cream cheese and spring onions

Wednesday 2 May
Lunch: pitta bread with hummus and salad
Dinner: fish pie

Thursday 3 May
Lunch: wraps with carrot, sultana and coriander salad
Dinner: potato, cabbage and smoked bacon soup

Friday 4 May
Lunch: Thai-style cauliflower soup (F)
Dinner: chilli con carne

Saturday 5 May
Lunch: bread and cheese
Dinner: cola ham, egg and chips followed by raspberry chocolate mousse

Sunday 6 May
Lunch: pub lunch
Dinner: bread and cheese

Monday 7  May
Lunch: pasta salad
Dinner: oregano and roast tomato pizza

Tuesday 8 May
Lunch: salad wraps
Dinner: wild garlic pesto and spaghetti

Wednesday 9 May
Lunch: pitta bread, hummus and salad
Dinner: cous cous, courgette and broad bean salad

Thursday 10 May
Lunch: ham and salad rolls
Dinner: bangers and mash bake (recipe to follow)

Friday 11 May
Lunch: grilled chicken and rice salad with artichoke hearts
Dinner: mushroom omelette

Saturday 12 May
Lunch: slow roast beef, roast potatoes and vegetables, followed by rhubarb crumble
Dinner: bread and cheese

Sunday 13 May
Lunch: warm bean and potato salad with leeks and smoked bacon
Dinner: bread and cheese

F = from freezer