Many moons ago I went to a cooking demonstration by Ray McVinnie in which he was asked if one could substitute low-fat coconut milk in a recipe he was making. He looked up over the wok, raised an eyebrow and said, ‘but why would anyone want to do that?’ When the questioner murmured that ‘some people’ liked to watch their weight, Ray looked her in the eye and said, ‘just eat less’. It was a slightly uncomfortable moment.

Easy Chocolate Pani Popo Recipe And Photo Credit: The Kitchenmaid/Lucy Corry

Anyway, I thought of that this morning while I was checking my email and eating some extremely high-fat, high-sugar chocolate pani popo. After signing up to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop emails (it was for work, honest!) I often find myself accidentally reading her helpful tips on how to become an altogether better, thinner, more detoxed, less stressed, version of myself. These usually involve signing up to some costly therapy, buying lots of expensive trinkets or working out like a maniac as suggested by her guru Tracy Anderson.

Today, as sticky-sweet coconut caramel dripped off the fluffy chocolate-studded bun, I’d never felt less in need of Gwyneth’s advice. She might think it’s time for a spring break detox a la Tracy, I say it’s time for more pani popo. Who’s with me?

Samoan Pani Popo Recipe And Photo Credit: The Kitchenmaid/Lucy Corry

Chocolate Pani Popo
I created these buns – my own version of a Samoan classic – for the March edition of We Should Cocoa, the chocolate blogging challenge dreamed up by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog. This month, guest host Laura of I’d Much Rather Bake Than… has chosen coconut as the special ingredient. It’s also a fitting entry for the March edition of Sweet New Zealand (hosted this month by Frances of Bake Club).
Don’t be put off by the lengthy instructions, these are easy to make.

For the buns:
350ml coconut milk – not the low fat sort
500g high grade flour
40g butter, cold
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 Tbsp brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
1 1/2tsp salt
100g chocolate, chopped into little bits

For the sauce:
300ml coconut milk
1 cup sugar

Put the 350ml measure of coconut milk in a small pot and bring to the boil, then let cool to blood heat while you get everything else organised.
Put the flour into a large bowl and grate in the butter. Stir through briskly until the butter is mixed through (this is easier than rubbing it in).
Add the yeast, sugar and salt and mix well, then pour in the warm coconut milk and stir until it forms a soft dough. Cover the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
Rub a little oil on the bench and tip the dough out on to it. Fold the dough in on itself, one corner at a time until you have worked around the whole piece. Cover with the upturned bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Repeat this twice more, then return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a teatowel and let it rise until doubled (about an hour).
When the dough is risen and puffy, tip the dough out onto the bench and knock back, then roll out into a rectangle about 1cm thick.
Scatter the chopped chocolate over it, then roll up like a swiss roll. Cut into 1.5cm slices and put these into a deep baking dish (about 30 x 30 cm, or thereabouts). Cover with plastic and leave overnight in the fridge.
In the morning, take the buns out of the fridge and let them rise for about an hour, until starting to look puffy. Heat the oven to 180C.
While you’re waiting, put the 300ml coconut milk in a small saucepan and add the sugar. Heat, stirring, until it just begins to bubble. Pour this mixture over the buns and put the dish into the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the buns are a deep golden colour, surrounded by a sticky caramel.
Let them sit for 10-15 minutes before eating to make sure they have soaked up lots of the lovely syrup.
Makes at least 16 decent-sized buns.
These are best eaten the day they are made, though you can put any leftovers in the fridge and reheat them the next day. But in my experience, leftovers are not an issue.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Do you remember mousetraps from when you were a kid? I couldn’t wait to make them when the Small Girl was smaller, mainly so I could eat them myself. There’s something about salty, savoury Marmite that goes so well with slightly scorched bread and cheese. But I’ve found something that goes even better – a mega-umami hit of miso. I know it sounds unlikely, but one bite and you’ll be hooked. The only thing that makes it better is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top. Trust me, it’s a winner.

Miso And Lemon Mousetraps Photo And Recipe Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Miso and lemon mousetraps
The beauty of these mouth-watering morsels is that you can make a whole trayful to serve with drinks when  you are unexpectedly pressed into hostess service, or you can make a whole trayful and call it dinner on those nights when all you want to do is collapse on the sofa. You can use any kind of bread you like – baguette, a coarse-textured country loaf or even a cheeky gluten-free number, but nothing too wholegrain-y. Keep the slices about 1/2 a cm thick for best results and only toast one side so you get the soft/crunchy texture thing happening. I’ve kept quantities vague, but keep to the suggested ratio of miso to butter. Don’t forget the lemon, either. Any leftover miso-butter mixture can be kept in a covered container in the fridge.

sliced bread, as above
1/2 cup white miso
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
50-100g tasty cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 juicy lemon

Preheat the grill and line a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Lie the slices of bread on top, then put under the grill until golden. Don’t do what I do and wander off, unless you have an unlimited supply of bread to replace the charcoal that those forgotten slices will become. Take the tray out of the oven and turn the slices over, so the toasted side is facing down.
Put the miso and butter in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Generously spread the non-toasted side of the bread with this mixture, then scatter some grated cheese on top. Return the tray to the grill and toast until the cheese is crispy and the edges of the bread are darkening.
Let cool briefly before serving with a squeeze of lemon on top.  These are best eaten the day they are made.

The thing about having a food blog is that people always think you are having something exciting for dinner. People often ask me what I’m planning to eat and until very recently I would admit that I had no idea because my beloved was in charge of dinner. Sure, I was mostly in charge of shopping and thinking ahead, but he did the leg work on the nights I was working. It was great.

Things have changed and now I’m home first and it’s not the cushy number I thought it was. Among other things it means – oh no! – that I’m now in charge of dinner all the time.

If you have a similar role at your place, here are five fast family dinner ideas to make your after-work life more balanced. Don’t forget to pour yourself a G&T when you get in, you deserve it.

Chicken Salad And Crunchy Noodles Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

1. Chicken and crunchy noodle salad
This was our favourite fast dinner this summer. The noodles – I pretend to myself that they aren’t deep-fried – turn a salad and some protein into something exciting and fun. You can do it with any kind of protein you like – I do it most often with chicken thighs or pork schnitzel, but fish or even pan-fried tofu are good too.
To make this when you get home from work, marinate about 600g sliced chicken thighs in a splash of soy sauce, a spoonful of marmalade or apricot jam, a clove or two of smashed garlic and a teaspoon of sesame oil (if you are really organised you can do this before you go to work). Turn the oven on to 180C and line a small baking tray with foil, then baking paper. The foil keeps the tray clean (less washing-up) and the baking paper stops the chicken sticking to the foil. I favour using the oven, rather than the stove-top, because it offers more hands-free time. However, if your oven is slow to heat up, or you get home very late, then by all means shelve my oven-cooking instructions below for your own stovetop methods.
So – stick the chicken in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked. Meanwhile, assemble a collection of salad fixings (leaves, shredded seasonal vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, whatever) on a large platter. Toss through a little vinaigrette. When the chicken is cooked, scatter it on top, then sprinkle over the crunchy noodles. Serves four.

2. Rhi’s sausages: This is an idea that the lovely Rhi left in a comment once. Throw some roughly chopped good sausages, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic, rosemary and onions into a roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 200C for 30 minutes, then toss in some chunks of oil-drizzled baguette and bake for another 10 minutes until the bread is golden and crusty. You can extend or shrink this to suit however many mouths you have to feed – though be warned, they will all eat more of it than you think.

3. Homemade fish and chips:  Turn the oven to 200C. Scrub some potatoes and cut into thin wedges. Put in a plastic bag with a couple of tablespoons of oil and smoosh about until the wedges are coated. Tip onto a lined baking tray, sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Bake for 35 minutes, shaking occasionally. Meanwhile, line a small baking tray with foil. Lay some fresh fish fillets on top, then drizzle over some olive oil, a bit of lemon juice and grind over some salt and pepper. Switch the oven to grill and put the fish in to cook for about five minutes (leave the potatoes in the bottom of the oven, they will be fine). Serve with steamed beans, cherry tomatoes and lots of lemon wedges.

4. Bacon and egg pie: This easy bacon and egg pie takes five minutes to make and – if you use really good bought pastry, like this one – it feels like a real treat. If you’re really lucky, there will be some leftover for lunchboxes the next day.

Fish And Flatbreads Or Wraps Photo Credit Lucy Corry

5. Fish ‘n flats: Not to be confused with style for harried mothers website Fox in Flats, fish ‘n flats is another insta-dinner. Grill or fry fish as above (I prefer oven grilling, as it saves on smell and washing a frying pan; my beloved says frying gives you more crunchy bits, which is also true). Serve with flatbreads (homemade or bought), hummus (ditto), crunchy salad stuff. In my experience small children will eat all sorts of things if they can wrap them up in a flatbread.


What do you eat on busy days?

About 20 years ago, when I had just moved into my first flat, my flatmate Geoff specialised in what he called ‘egg windows’ – a fried slice of bread with an egg in the middle of it.

Geoff’s dad, an army major, had showed him how to make them when he was a kid and Geoff was a total pro. Then an architecture student, he cut the ‘window’ out of the bread with exacting precision, and he had the timing down pat. Alas, that was probably the apex of his cooking skills. His other memorable culinary moment was the time he came home drunk, put a tray of oven chips on to cook and fell asleep on the sofa. We were saved by the neighbours calling the fire brigade, but the chips were not so lucky.

I’d forgotten all about Geoff, egg windows and the fire until I saw Maya Adam show how to make what she called ‘Egg in a hole’ as part of the Child Nutrition MOOC run by Stanford University. Here was the egg window, transformed into a fast, nutritious breakfast for a child. It was genius. But even more genius is my fried egg crumpet – a fast, nutritious(ish) and utterly delicious anytime meal for everyone. Here’s how to do it.

Egg In A Hole Using Crumpets

Fried egg crumpets
One of these might do for breakfast, but I think you need two for lunch. The holey nature of the crumpet means it soaks up a) butter and b) egg, so there are lots of textural contrasts – soft, silky egg and crunchy crumpet edges. Add something green on the side and you might even be able to call it dinner.

You need:
An equal number of crumpets and eggs – let’s say two per person
A good knob of butter and a splash of olive oil to stop the butter from burning
A heavy frying pan with a lid
A round cookie cutter or small glass (about five cm in diameter)
Salt and pepper
Sriracha sauce or some other spicy condiment
Grated Parmesan, optional

Cut the middle out of the crumpets with the cookie cutter or glass. You can eat the middle bit as a cook’s perk now, or toast it to eat later, or (sacrilege!) throw it away.
Melt the butter and oil in the heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Put the crumpets in, holey side down, and cook for a couple of minutes, until golden. Flip over and let the smooth side cook for a minute.
Carefully crack an egg into the hole of each crumpet. Don’t worry if some spills over the sides, this is no big deal. Put a lid on the pan and cook, covered, for about three minutes, until the egg white is set and the outer edges are getting nice and crunchy. Carefully flip over to cook the other side until it is just set to ensure a runny yolk (obviously cook it for longer if you prefer egg yolks to be firm).
Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt, pepper and grated cheese, if using. Dollop on the spicy sauce and enjoy!

 

Do excuse my absence but I’ve had a big week. I’ll spare you the details, but it has involved a lot of late nights, early mornings and much busy-ness in between. Because I like making things hard for myself, I decided it was also a good time to conduct a little cronut experiment.

This isn’t as mad as it sounds, you know. Have you read those studies that link poor sleep to the blue light emitted from iPads and other screens? Nigella Lawson once told a reporter she wore special glasses in bed while reading on her iPad (Charles got upset if she kept the light on to read a normal book – and history has shown the consequences of upsetting him). I think a little late-night kitchen activity is far more soothing – though I probably looked a bit deranged, making creme patissiere at midnight on a Monday night while listening to a documentary about Dr Zhivago.

Anyway – cronuts. Everyone knows about the croissant-doughnut hybrid by now, attributed to pastry chef Dominique Ansel. Here’s a primer if you’ve been busy doing other things. My relentless, selfless quest to perfect Little & Friday’s famous doughnuts has made me quite confident in the arts of deep-frying, so I figured cronuts couldn’t be that much harder. And you know what? I was right.

Easy Homemade Cronuts

Lucy’s Five Tips For Making Cronuts At Home
Have faith. All you are doing is making some dough in the food processor, letting it rest, rolling it out and then cutting shapes that you will then deep-fry before squirting full of creme patissiere (thickened custard). I wouldn’t advise doing the deep-frying bit with small children or pets underfoot, but the rest is not hard. Really.

1. Use Edd Kimber’s 20-minute croissant dough recipe. It’s really, really easy – the initial stage (making the dough in a food processor) takes about 10 minutes. The dough chills in the fridge for a few hours, then you roll it out and fold it a few times before resting it overnight. I actually rested it for 36 hours and there was no harm done.

2. The night before you want to serve the cronuts, make the creme patissiere. Beat three eggs yolks, 1/4 cup caster sugar and just under 1/4 cup cornflour until pale and thick. Bring 500ml of full cream milk, 1/4 cup caster sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla paste in a saucepan to the boil, then remove from the heat. Pour half of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking frantically. Put the saucepan (with the rest of the milk in it) back on the heat, then when it starts to bubble, pour in the egg mixture. Keep stirring and removed it from the heat as soon as it starts to bubble and plop like a mud pool. Pour it into a clean bowl, press some clingfilm onto the surface. Let cool, then refrigerate.

3. In the morning, take the rested croissant dough out of the fridge. Let it adjust to room temperature for 10 minutes or so, then roll out to 1cm thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut shapes – I used a 5cm fluted cutter, but you can make them any size you like. The offcuts can be deepfried too and they are a handy pick-me-up for the cronut maker who has had five hours’ sleep. Let the incipient cronuts prove for 20-30 minutes until they have doubled in thickness.

4. Deep frying 101: Use a deep saucepan, a neutral oil with a high smoke point, and be careful. If you don’t have a thermometer, use the wooden spoon handle trick: dip the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil – if it bubbles up immediately, it’s hot enough. Fry the cronuts in batches – about four a time is enough – for about two minutes a side. Remove them from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and let drain on some kitchen paper.

5. When you’ve finished frying and the cronuts are cool, take the pastry cream out of the fridge. Beat well, then squirt it into the cronuts (use the pointy nozzle attached to a disposable piping bag). Some cronuts are then rolled in caster sugar and glace icing, but I think a light dusting of icing sugar is more than enough. The light, lovely layers of the dough are the star here, why burden them with more sugar?

Have you made cronuts? Do you have any further tips?

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’m off to Dunedin for the Guild of Food Writers Conference. Hurrah!