Home Grown Tomatillos


Do you have a best friend you call your wife?

You don’t?

Well, you are missing out, chums.

 

My wife, Miss M, bought me some fun seeds a while back – a packet of tomatillos and a packet of cucamelons. Tragically, the cucamelons didn’t make it (I blame the Scottish weather) but apparently the tomatillos were an unstoppable force! I say ‘apparently’ because I am appalling at gardening – I have the black thumb of doom when it comes to plants. It’s just not my thing. Father Rock Salt, on the other hand, is a gardener extraordinaire, so I asked him to help me with growing these.

 

Tomatillos on Plant

 

Look at them go! They grow in wee paper lanterns that can start to split open as the fruit gets ripe. Isn’t nature cool?

 

Tomatillos Close Up

 

 

Tomatillo Close Up

 

Once you peel the husk away, the fruit needs to be washed since it has a coating of sticky sap, particularly around where the stem connects to the plant.

 

Tomatillos Peeled

 

They look most like under-ripe tomatoes, but in fact they’re more closely related to gooseberries (or so Wikipedia says). They have a sharp, tart taste, and are chock full of tiny little seeds.

 

Tomatillo Sliced

 

Tomatillos aren’t common here, so I had no experience of preparing them. That’s what the internet’s for, right? The most common thing to do with them is to make salsa verde, and that’s more or less what I did. I didn’t follow a particular recipe (unsurprisingly), but here’s a rough idea of what it looked like:

 

  • clove of garlic
  • half a red onion
  • half a red pepper
  • half a yellow pepper
  • one bowlful of tomatillos (a bowl the size of the one in the photo above)
  • juice of half a lime
  • pinch of cumin
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • salt and pepper

I cooked everything up in a pot until the tomatillos were soft and a little yellow, then I pureed it. Really, that’s all there was to it.

 

Note: When I say something like that, you can always tell that I haven’t taken any photos, and that I’m not totally convinced I can remember how I made whatever thing I’m talking about. 

 

I also roasted up some chicken strips, which were seasoned with lime zest and juice, garlic, cumin and cinnamon (as well as the standard salt and pepper) and thrown in the oven. Another time I might cook the chicken in the salsa, but I was winging it. The flavours in the chicken were great, especially the hint of warm cinnamon. I also rattled up some guacamole, and heated flour tortillas. Dinner was served.

 

Tomatillo Sasa Verde

 

 

Tomatillo Salsa Fajita

 

The salsa was beautifully thick once I’d whizzed it up, ideal for wrapping up in a tortilla. I threw the other half of the peppers and onion into the dish, raw, for a nice contrasting texture. I also finished with some spring onion, for added bite. We could have used some extra components – a bit of salad, refried beans, corn on the cob, maybe a pot of rice – but nobody went hungry. We also didn’t have any leftover sauce in the dish, it was all scraped up and spooned onto our fajitas. I took that as a sign of approval.

 

The tomatillos were a great gift, and I hope Father Rock Salt feels suitably compensated for growing them for me, since we shared the end result for Sunday dinner. Thanks all round to my collaborators in seed-buying and plant-growing – I’ll stick to the cooking.


Malaysian-Inspired Noodles with Lingham’s Chili Sauce


I was sent a bottle of Lingham’s chili sauce, in return for a blog post. As it happens, I was already a fan of Lingham’s, and I was more than happy to restock my cupboard in exchange for posting a recipe featuring the product. Lingham’s is the good stuff. Get the chili, garlic and ginger one if you can find it, it’s off the chain. This is a terrible disclaimer. Sorry about that. 

 

Alright, I’m already a Lingham’s fan. I didn’t have to be converted, and this wasn’t my first time tasting their chili sauce. However, there was plenty I didn’t know about the history of this particular chili sauce. The most surprising thing is that it was made in Malaysia – I hadn’t given *too* much thought to its origins, so finding out a bit of the history of the sauce, which dates back to 1908, was really interesting.

 

Lingham's Bottle

 

More interesting, though, was what I was going to do to showcase the sauce. Sure, I could do what I’ve always done and dip (read: drown) some dumplings in it, but I felt like I should branch out. I don’t have much experience with Malaysian food, so I turned to the blog Rasa Malaysia for inspiration. Before long, I had settled on a recipe I wanted to try, though of course I adapted it a little…

Malaysian-Inspired Noodles for two, based on the recipe from Rasa Malaysia for Mee Goreng.

For the sauce:

  • 4 tbsp Lingham’s chili sauce
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

For the noodles:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 generous teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 stick lemongrass
  • 1 red chili, sliced (and seeded, if you like)
  • 1 large chicken breast
  • baby pak choi, tenderstem broccoli, mange tout and baby sweetcorn, or your own favourite stir fry veg
  • 2 blocks dried noodles
  • spring onion for garnish

 

First, prepare the sauce. Mix everything in a small bowl until combined, and check the taste. You can add more chili sauce or more sugar to taste. It might seem quite salty, but that’s OK – it’ll be covering a lot of ground later.

 

Lingham's Mee Goreng Sauce

 

Prepare everything for the wok. Cut the chicken into small cubes, and slice or dice the veg into bite-sized pieces. Chop the garlic and ginger finely, and slice the chili into rings. Peel the tough outer layer from the lemongrass and cut into a few pieces.

 

Put the kettle on to boil, for your noodles.

 

Heat the oil in the wok, and add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chili. Toss them in the oil until the garlic begins to brown and everything is fragrant, then add the chicken and vegetables.

 

Put the noodles over a high heat to boil.

 

Cook the chicken and veg for three minutes, until the noodles are done. Drain the noodles and add them to the wok. Mix well.

 

Stir Fry Noodles

 

Once suitably mixed, pour in all the sauce. Mix again until all the noodles are coated, and cook for a further five minutes, or until everything is cooked through (especially the chicken).

 

Serve, garnished with chopped spring onions and additional chili sauce, as required. Watch out for lemongrass bits.

 

Finished Lingham's Noodles

 

Lingham’s is a tangy, vinegar-based sauce with a medium kick. This recipe calls for a lot of it, and while it’s spicy I still found room to add a little more. It doesn’t have the searing heat of other sauces, like sriracha, so it’s ideal for a dipping sauce or a garnish. This was the first time I’ve cooked with it, and it’s a great addition to a stir fry. I also happen to know it’s great with eggs –  a nice coriander omelette perched on top of this bowl of noodles would be a great addition. However you use it, don’t forget: you have to do the Lingham’s Shake, side to side, to mix it all up perfectly before you pop the cap.

 

Isn’t that a better way to say ‘shake well before opening?’. I think so.

 

 


Sainsbury’s Golden Multiseed Bread Mix


This post was made possible by Sainsbury’s, who sent me a pack of their Golden Multiseed Bread Mix to try. The opinions in the post are, as ever, mine, and the review is honest.

 

They say you should always start with a positive. I do have lots of positive things to say about this product, but I think it’s important to come right out and be honest up front.

I don’t use a lot of bread mixes.

There, I said it.

I feel like they don’t really reduce the amount of work you do, and you may as well go ahead and make a loaf from absolute scratch. However, I will concede that with a seeded loaf, it’s nice not to be weighing and measuring . With this particular mix, the colour of the loaf is really striking, and took a balance of different flours to achieve that but also retain the lovely, soft, good-for-sandwiches texture. So, in those senses, the bread mix does some work for you, and leaves you with only the basics to contend with.

 

 

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The packet comes with instructions, of course, but I felt they could use a little tweaking. So, here is the recipe (copied from the Sainsbury’s website) with my annotations:

 

You will need:

  • 500g Sainsbury’s TTD Golden Multiseed Bread Mix,
  • 320ml Water – Use caution here: I needed less than this. More later.
  • 25g Butter/15ml Olive Oil – I used olive oil

 

To bake by hand:

  • Rub the bread mix with the butter or oil in a bowl with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add the water to form a soft dough

 

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This part is like making scones, though the fat to flour ratio is much lower than in a scone recipe. I think the idea of adding butter or oil is to add moisture, and to enhance the flavour of the finished bread. 

I only added around 270ml water – definitely take heed of the word ‘gradually’ in the instruction. Add a little at a time. 

My dough was soft but also a bit sticky. In making lots of bread I’ve learned that more moisture means a stickier dough, but also means a lighter finished loaf. 

 

  • Knead well on a floured surface for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, then place it back in the bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film. Leave the dough in a warm place for one hour to rise and double in size.

 

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Having wet hands makes it easier to handle the dough without it sticking so much. Oiling your work surface means the dough won’t stick as much, and you won’t dry out the dough by adding extra flour.

I kneaded the dough for a full ten minutes, and it definitely required the full time to be ready. It never got to be completely smooth but it was very stretchy, and formed a taut skin when I shaped it into a ball.

I didn’t have any clingfilm, and simply oiled the bowl, put the dough in, then covered with tea towels. 

 

  • Knead well again on a floured surface for a few minutes, place in a greased 2lb loaf tin. Cover with lightly oiled cling film. Leave the dough in a warm place for half an hour to rise again and increase in size. Preheated oven 230oC/450oF/Gas mark 8

 

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I didn’t exactly follow the directions here – I thought that ‘knead well’ was kind of an unfocused instruction, in terms of then getting your well-kneaded (well-kned…?) dough into the right shape for the loaf pan. I tipped the dough onto the surface, then pressed all the air out with my knuckles and palms, until I had a flat rectangle. I then folded the rectangle to fit my loaf pan, pressed gently but firmly so that I didn’t have any pockets of air trapped in the middle, and put into the tin.

Again, I covered with tea towels instead of cling film, and there was no problem with the dough sticking to them. 

I left it to rise for about an hour, since I got caught up doing something else. It suffered no ill effects from this extended rise.

I love the colour of the bread – it almost looks baked already!

 

  • Remove cling film and bake in the top of the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

 

DSCF8412

 

This was the colour of my loaf after 20 minutes, and it was perfectly baked inside. 230C is a very high temperature to bake something, uncovered, for half an hour. I was concerned that the crust would taste burnt, but my worries were needless. It tasted great. Keep an eye, and a nose, on the baking bread. It is cooked when it is browned on top, and (once you take it out the tin…) sounds hollow when tapped.

 

Thus ends my tale of bread mix baking – it was a success! Something else that I found interesting was that the loaf lasted a week, sitting in a tupperware at room temperature. Freshly baked bread is usually more prone to drying out than shop-bought, but this loaf kept really well. It also sliced beautifully, which is something I have struggled with in home baked bread, and had a soft crust that was spot on for sandwiches.

 

 

What I’m saying is, this bread mix made a gosh-darned fine loaf.

 

DSCF8421

 

Will I change permanently to bread mixes? No.

 

Would I recommend this one? Yes.

 

You do still have to put in almost as much work, but if you’re a little nervous of bread baking, or you’re not sure about dealing with yeast, this is a great place to start. You get practise in kneading, and you get the satisfaction of seeing your bread dough rise, which I think is still my favourite kitchen magic of all. Also, this bread mix contains no preservatives, colourings, emulsifiers or any of that carry on. In fact, its ingredient list is shorter than your average shop-bought loaf.

 

Plus, just look at that crumb:

 

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