Semolina Bread (Breadmaker Version)

This is a fragrant, close-textured loaf with a good crust that's a bit out of the ordinary. It's just right for soaking up sauces or soups or serving with dips but it can also make a very decent, unusual breakfast bread. It's based on a North African bread but I won't deny that it's a long way from any genuine article.

As ever, I'm happy to let machines do the heavy lifting and I use a breadmaker to prepare the dough. You can make the dough in a more hands-on way if you have the time, but the machine makes the preparation blissfully quick and easy.
On this occasion I made some bulgur balls in aubergine and tomato sauce (or Patlicanli Eksi Asi) to eat with the bread. The recipe comes from my learned, online friend Ozlem Warren and you can find it in her lovely Turkish Table book or online here. Believe me, it's truly delicious. Yes, I know that a North African inspired bread doesn't really belong alongside a dish from southern Turkey but I have never claim…

Passoã Babas

So you've bought a bottle of Passoã to make some porn star martinis at home (it's the most popular cocktail in the UK, apparently) but now what do you do with the rest of the bottle? Well you could make a variation on the classic rum baba. At least, that's what I did.

The classic baba is made with an enriched yeast dough soaked in a rum syrup and for many years I thought that everyone made them that way. Eventually a kindly French person took me aside and let me into a secret: a lot of babas are made using baking powder. It's a very quick and easy way to produce babas and I enjoy them just as much as the traditional version. 
I used canelé moulds to make the babas simply because I like the shape but small savarin moulds are more usual. I put enough mixture into the mould to make sure that it bulges from the top when cooked. You could be a little more restrained if you like. 

If you want to make something closer to a classic baba using this recipe, then omit the vanilla, p…

Boysenberry Liqueur

For some reason hybrid berries such as tayberries, loganberries and boysenberries don't seem to be too popular amongst gardeners in this country. I bought a single boysenberry plant about 7 years ago and I get a heavy crop of berries every year in return for very little effort. And when I see a decent crop of berries then I usually think liqueur. 

Every autumn I make a bottle or so of foraged blackberry liqueur (crème de mûre) and I've used that same process to make a crème de mûre de boysen. I know that you can simply steep fruit in vodka and sugar and that can be very pleasing but when liqueurs made that way are added to kirs and cocktails they just don't taste right to me. I suppose that's what happens after many years of drinking French crème de mûre and crème de cassis. So I stick to this traditional French method. You don't have to use boysenberries, it will work with other similar berries such as cultivated blackberries or tayberries.
This liqueur is very welc…

Goat Rogan Josh (The Inauthentic Slow Cooker Version)

The mention of goat meat will cause many people of my acquaintance to run screaming from the room. I'm not really sure why this is. Goat is a very tasty, lean meat that's well suited to long, gentle cooking, especially in a slow cooker. The first goat dish I bumped into many, many years ago was a Jamaican goat curry and I'm still tempted to make a version of that dish whenever I find good goat meat. But this time I decided to do something a little different after I read that “traditional” rogan josh is often made with goat.
This isn't an authentic or traditional rogan josh. My recipe is really a mishmash of the nicest rogan josh dishes that I've eaten in England combined with elements of other slow-cooked curries. The origins of the true, traditional rogan josh seem to be disputed but I favour the idea that the name derives from ratan jot (alkanet root) which was originally used to give the dish a distinct red colour. 
Goat meat tends to be very lean but for this d…

Gram Flour - Oven Socca and Onion Bhajis

It's been easier to buy less common ingredients than basic cupboard essentials during the recent strange days. Flour has been the most difficult item to find in my tiny corner of the world. Fortunately, I could find gram flour and I used it to make onion bhajis and socca and, because I like a simple life, I always make very straightforward versions of those treats in the oven. 
It might be useful at this point if I try to be quite clear for once in my life: when I say gram flour, I'm talking about chickpea flour. In the UK most chickpea flour seems to be sold as gram flour, unless it's ‘farina di ceci’ imported from Italy. There is technically a difference between gram and farina di ceci but for these simple recipes that shouldn't really matter. It's also possible that you might find chickpea flour called ‘besan’. Once again there is technically a difference between besan and gram flour but the same product is often labelled with both names in this country so let…

Breadmaker Grape Bread

This might seem a strange recipe for these difficult times when flour, yeast and fruit can be so hard to find but I recently bought a veg and fruit box from a restaurant supplier without knowing the contents. Oddly it contained quite a lot of grapes and this is the most comforting grape recipe that I know. Personally, I'd say it was worth using some of that precious flour and yeast.

It isn't exactly an authentic, traditional recipe like the breads you might find from Italy or the south of France, especially given my usual desire to let machines do most of the work (in this case, the breadmaker). Still, who cares? It tastes lovely and the breadmaker does its best to reduce the level of faff. Of course, you don't have to use a machine, the dough can be made quite easily in a more conventional way.

This is a particularly excellent breakfast bread for lazy mornings. But it's not only a jentacular morsel of joy, it's also lovely with cheese or paté and ideal for taking …

Pea and Apple Soup

For obvious reasons I'm thinking about simple, comforting food at the moment and this soup fits the bill for me. But I also find myself looking back to better times and, for various happy reasons, I've ventured westward to Devon a number of times in the last decade. While in that fine county I ate an abundance of excellent food. In fact, I enjoyed some of the very best meals I've ever eaten and, believe me, I've eaten a LOT of fine meals in my life.
This recipe, though, dates back to much earlier visits. I first bumped into this soup somewhere in Devon (I can't remember exactly where) back in the 1980s. To be honest, this probably isn't quite as rich as the original. I suspect that there were a copious few dollops of fine Devon butter and cream involved back in those more indulgent times.

The good news is that this recipe might just be possible with what you have in your cupboards, fruit bowl and freezer. It works very well when made with frozen peas and any typ…