Homemade Borlotti Baked Beans

My six year old neighbour Martin is coming over for lunch today. A few months ago Martin popped in to say hi and I had just taken my homemade baked beans out of the oven. Martin was astounded to find out that baked beans don’t just come out of a can. He was even more intrigued when I showed him the actual raw beans. “They are like nuts”, he said. I gave Martin a small taste of the freshly cooked beans and he loved them. Since then whenever I see him he talks about the baked beans,so I thought it only appropriate that I should make a batch for lunch.

Whilst they take time to make, due to having to soak the beans, then twice cook them, the results are so much better than using beans out of a can and the cooking process gives you the opportunity to use herbs and spices to your taste in the sauce.

I use Borlotti beans for this recipe, but you can also use white beans or cannellini beans. Cooking the beans with a ham hock adds a smoky sweetness, but is not essential.

Prep time: 8 hours soaking + 10 minutes  Cooking time: 3-4 hours

Ingredients

Soaking:
2 cups dried Borlotti beans
water to cover

Boiling
soaked Borlotti beans
water to cover
1 small ham hock
1 onion studded with 4-6 cloves

Baking
1 onion finely diced
3 cloves garlic finely diced
Shredded ham from hock
2 bay leaves
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tbspns tomato paste
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves stripped from stalks
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tabLespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tspoon salt (or to taste)
2 tspns crushed black pepper

Method
Soak beans overnight or for at least 8 hours covered in plenty of cold water
Drain beans and place in large soup or casserole pot
Cover with water, at least 10cm above beans
Add ham hock and onion studded with cloves
Bring to a boil then cook on a slow bubbling boil for 1-1.5hours or until beans are just tender (length of time depends on freshness of beans so check to see if they are cooked earlier or need longer. Mine cooked really quickly this time so broke up a bit, but were still fine in end dish)
Beans should be tender but still holding their shape, a few might break up
Remove ham hock and shred meat, removing skin and gelatinous bits
Drain in a colander and set aside

image
Boiled and drained Borlotti beans

Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius
In a large casserole pot that has a tight fitting lid, heat oil, then add onions and cook slowly until transparent
Add garlic and shredded ham bits and cook until garlic looks golden
Add beans, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, tomato paste, worcestshire sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and and thyme and bring to a boil
Cover with lid, then carefully place in oven
Check after half an hour and remove lid if it is looking too watery
Bake in oven for 2-2.5 hours until sauce has thickened

image
Boiled and drained Borlotti beans

Serve on toast for breakfast, lunch or dinner – delicious with avocado slices and a squeeze of lemon

Durban-style mince and pea Samosas with spring roll pastry

These crispy mince and pea pastry triangles are very different to the more commonly found “Indian” version which has a thick crusty pastry. I am not sure what the origin of this style of pastry is other than this is how they are made by the Indian community in Durban, South Africa and this is how I grew up eating them.

Back then in South Africa with larger households often with dedicated cooks,hours were spent making the crispy pastry from scratch and creating these delicious appetisers for special events or just afternoon tea. When we moved to Australia my mum, Tilly, found the ideal replacement pastry to be spring roll pastry initially found in Chinese and Asian specialty shops but now readily available in mainstream supermarkets.

Fillings can vary between fish, potato and peas, chicken mince curry…but my favouite remains the lamb mince and peas.

All my friends loved coming over to Tilly’s for her freshly made samosas and she has actually been called upon for lessons by some samosa addicts! Here’s the recipe with some hopefully helpful photos to help with the fiddliest part which is folding the triangles.

Prep Time: 1.5-2hours Cooking time: 15 minutes
Ingredients

Filling:
400g lean lamb or beef mince
1 cup frozen peas
1 onion very finely diced
1.5 tsp ginger and garlic pounded into paste
1 tspn turmeric
1 tspn garam masala
1/2 tspn cummin powder
3/4 tspn chilli powder
1/2 tomato finely diced
Handful of coriander very finely chopped
1 piece cinnamon bark
1 tspn cummin seeds
Handful of fresh curry leaves
1.5 tbspn vegetable oil
1/2 cup water

Pastry
1 pack spring roll pastry in square sheets
Pastry “glue: 2 tspns flour mixed with 3tspns water to make a thick flour glue in a seperate bowl.

Method
Heat oil in a large saucepan, add cinnamon bark, cummin seeds and curry leaves and fry briefly until fragrant and curry leaves have spotte “spitting”
Add onions and fry until translucent
Add ginger and garlic, turmeric, garam masala, cummin powder, chilli powder and mix through onions and warm through
Add mince to brown and mix thoroughly with onions and spices, breaking up all lumps of mince using the back of a fork.
When mince is totally separated and browned, add tomato, salt and coriander.

Break up all lumps with the back of a fork as you mix through onion spice mixture, over medium heat.
Break up all lumps with the back of a fork as you mix through onion spice mixture, over medium heat.

Add water and Simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly for 35 minutes until mince is cooked and has absorbed the flavour of the spices…you are aiming quite a dry mixture with no “sauce” so limit the amount of water you add.

Add tomato, coriander and water to mince mixture and simmer for 35 minutes.
Add tomato, coriander and water to mince mixture and simmer for 35 minutes.

Add frozen peas and allow to defrost and par-cook for 3-4 minutes
Remove from heat and allow to cool totally,for at least an hour before using
At the same time remove spring roll pastry from freezer and bring to room temperature leaving sealed in packet

Allow lamb and pea filling to totally cool
Allow lamb and pea filling to totally cool

Making the pastry triangles

Make your pastry glue, remove the pastry from the packaging and place between slightly damp tea towels to the side of your board or preparation space
Take one sheet of pastry and cut into 3 equal strips

Cut spring roll pastry sheets into 3 equal strips
Cut spring roll pastry sheets into 3 equal strips

Place a teaspoon full of mixture within 4-5cm from the top edge, turn the top edge of the pastry turning the right corner over to the left edge, over the filling to create a triangular pocket where the newly created right corner is completely “closed so the filling can’t fall out.

Turn the right hand edge to the left edge, over the top of 1 tspn of filling, enclosing filling, pushing it all in if needed and creating a triangular pocket. Make sure your right corner here is enclosed ...no hole for filling to escape from!
Turn the right hand edge to the left edge, over the top of 1 tspn of filling, enclosing filling, pushing it all in if needed and creating a triangular pocket. Make sure your right corner here is enclosed …no hole for filling to escape from!

This is the most important step to get right because you will then easily be able to turn the triangle over and over until you get to the end and can seal up the pastry with your glue.

Different stages of
Different stages of “turning” the pastry with filling to get to end of the strip, use glue along the way as required.

If you do find gaps or pastry overlaps along the way, use your glue to seal up the edges to craete a fully enclosed triangle. Spring roll pastry is quite “hardy” so don’t be afraid of it and as they say practice makes perfect so if might take a few attempts before you get the hang of it. Makes 24-36 small samosas.

Ready for fridge or freezer, fry before serving
Ready for fridge or freezer, fry before serving

You can freeze the samosas or Refrigerate for an hour or so to allow glue to seal before shallow frying in vegetable oil over medium heat until golden brown on each side. If frying directly from frozen, then you will want to lowe the heat slightly to allow the filling to defrost and heat through. One golden brown, place on kitchen paper towel to absorb oil. They really need to be served hot and crispy for best enjoyment. Delicious dipped in plain yoghurt or spicy chilli sauce for extra bite!

Durban-style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry
Durban-style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry

Best Chicken Rice at Loy Kee, Singapore

After extensive research into where to get the best chicken rice in Singapore, we settled on Loy Kee in Balestier Road. Established in 1953, Loy Kee has been dishing up the famed Hainan chicken rice for more than sixty years to loyal fans. A bonus is that Loy Kee opens at 9.30am so it’s perfect for a late breakfast or brunch.

Best chicken rice served up in restaurant surrounds at Loy Kee
Best chicken rice served up in restaurant surrounds at Loy Kee

It is also a great option if you don’t feel like eating at a Hawker’s Centre with table service, menus and atmospheric surrounds.
The menu features special sets with bok Choy, beautiful satiny chicken broth, 3 delicious sauces – ginger, light chilli and soy, the chicken rice itself and either poached or roast chicken. We chose to try both versions of chicken to taste the contrast and loved both.

Poached chicken special set with delicious sauces and bok choy
Poached chicken special set with delicious sauces and bok choy

The poached chicken was the most silky and tender I have ever eaten and the chicken rice was perfectly cooked and flavoured with chickeny goodness. The roast chicken was also delicious but slightly drier than the poached version, with a layer of crispy roasted chicken skin adding texture.

Roasted Hainanese chicken with crispy skin adding rexture and flavour
Roasted Hainanese chicken with crispy skin adding rexture and flavour

Accompanied with a big cup of chinese tea, this was one of the best meals we had on our quick but fun trip to Singapore. I was very motivated by this eating experience so check out my recipe for my Singapore style poached chicken and chicken rice.

Carrot cake and more at Zion Rd Hawker Centre, Singapore

We had heard about carrot cake from our son Nick who is currently living in Singapore. This is not carrot cake as we know it but a pancake made with diced daikon radish, flour, scallions/spring onion cooked in plain, sweet or savoury style and can be made into an omelette when fried with eggs.

Intrigued by this description we went to the Zion Road Hawker Centre which claims one of the best carrot cake stalls. Situated alongside the river at the end of Zion Road, in River Valley, this food centre is a smaller, spotlessly clean traditional eating venue with about 25 stalls. On Saturday morning when we visited the centre was filled with locals enjoying early lunch.

As with most hawker centres, each stall has a speciality which it is usually renowned amongst locals for. We headed directly to the Lau Goh carrot cake stall, quickly followed by the stall for Chicken Rice and Bak Kut Teh(pork rib broth). Friendly stall holders helped us with our orders and soon we were tucking in to lunch.

The Carrot Cake which is more like a radish scramble was a mixture of “white” without kecap manis, “dark” which has the sweetness of kecap manis and some scrambled with egg. Somehow the various textures and flavours combine to produce a delicious outcome which is worthy of it’s reputation.

Carrot cake Singapore style - radish, onion, flour steamed then fried and scrambled with eggs.
Carrot cake Singapore style – radish, onion, flour steamed then fried and scrambled with eggs.

I was surprised to see the chicken rice served with the sweet, salty kecap manis and slightly chilli sauce poured over the top of the sliced poached chicken and rice, garnished with spring onions and cucumber. The sauce had been absorbed by the rice and chicken and to my taste the flavours of each of the elements in this famous dish were not as distinct. Having said that the combined version was tasty and still ticked all the comfort food boxes. The clear, chicken broth accompanying heightened the flavours of the dish whilst also acting like a palate cleanser.

Zion Road Hawker Chicken rice with kecap manis sauce and spring onions
Zion Road Hawker Chicken rice with kecap manis sauce and spring onions

The Bak Kut Teh is another famous Singapore/Malay soup with each country boasting distinct versions. It is a slow cooked pork rib broth served with sides of rice, kecap manis with fresh chilli and green tea. This version had a mixture of herbs, whole cloves of garlic in their skins, and a seaweed textured green fern in it. Spicy with white peppercorns and with a hint of star anise with tender pork falling off the bone, this Bak Kut Teh was fresh and fulfilling. For added flavour we burst open the super soft garlic and mixed it through the broth!

Bak Kut Teh - Singapore  Pork rib soup with garlic and herbs
Bak Kut Teh – Singapore
Pork rib soup with garlic and herbs

All in all our visit to this authentic, local Hawker centre was fun, delicious and very, very cheap. Hanging out with local residents having their Saturday lunch in relatively peaceful surrounds was also a nice way to get an insight into the lives of real Singaporeans.

Easy Spicy Sweet Corn Fritters with onion

These easy and quick to make sweet corn fritters have a spicy twist through the addition of “Slap Your Mamma” New Orleans Spice mix and slow fried onions for an extra touch of sweetness. Served with bacon and rocket and herbs for brunch/breakfast or good for a lunchbox snack, these fritters also pair well with avocado and sour cream.
Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 6 minutes
Ingredients
1 small can (310g) sweet corn kernels
1 egg beaten
1/2 onion sliced finely and slowly fried until slightly caramelised
1/2 cup wholemeal or plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Slap Your Mama or other spice mix to your taste

Spicy sweet corn fritters frying
Spicy sweet corn fritters frying

Method
Slice 1/2 an onion and slow fry until translucent and slightly caramelised
Whizz 3/4 of the sweet corn in a small food processor to form a creamy paste
Transfer sweet corn paste to mixing bowl, add remaining corn kernels, egg, spice mix, onions and flour and mix well
Mixture should be firm but moist, add more flour as required if too runny
Heat frying pan over medium heat, spray lightly with olive oil,add dollops of sweet corn, flattening slightly to form a circular or oval shape.
Fry over medium-high heat to golden brown on one side, then flip fritters to cook through and brown on the other side.
Serve with bacon, rocket and other accompaniments.
Makes 6 medium size fritters