Tag Archives: baking

Salted Caramel Tart with a Lankan twist

I’ve just returned from a very last minute week in Sri Lanka – aka the motherland. My dad’s family were the patrons of a temple in their home village (Kondavil in Jaffna) and the temple has recently been refurbished (in all of the colours) so my dad wanted to go for a pilgrimage. Now, I haven’t been to his (or mum’s) home towns since the mid-80s (you know, war) so I volunteered to go along with him. I know, I’m a saint, it was such a chore heading over to 31c, sunshine, beaches etc etc…

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It was a hugely emotional trip for many reasons – not least because of my current generally emotional state (see previous post). But rather than go into that, instead, I’m going to sing the praises of my new favourite ingredient that I brought home – palmyra jaggery.

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So as you probably know, jaggery is unrefined sugar made from plants with a considerable amount of sucrose – usually sugar cane. But palmyra jaggery is made from the sap of the palmyra tree which grows in abundance in Jaffna. Mum had asked me to bring some home and being a sucker for packaging, when I saw it, I decided to get some for myself too (see pic below – it’s in a case made from palmyra fronds). And what with it being mother’s day yesterday (in the UK, don’t panic, rest of world) I thought it’d be nice to make her something with it because she inspired me to buy it. In terms of flavour, the palmyra jaggery has a really rich deep taste, almost coffee like. Or cinder toffee.

And then I thought, god, this would make an amazing salted caramel which naturally took me to thinking about the lovely popcorn cheesecake recipe by Rosie Birkett. But given I’ve made that about 680 times in the last twelve months (because it’s AMAZING, go on, try it), I thought I’d try something different.

I found a recipe on Great British Chefs which I modified a little because life’s too short to weight out grams of eggs (and I wanted to incorporate the jaggery, obviously). But the original recipe is here if you fancy making it (it also gives you a great option for what to do with seven left over egg whites. Mine have just gone in the freezer). Also this is possibly the tastiest sweet pastry recipe I’ve ever tried – but don’t do what I did and trim it before you bake as it’ll collapse on itself and you’ll have to try and fix it in the oven with a spoon. Hence the slightly wonky base.

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Salted Caramel Tart with Palmyra jaggery – serves 10-12 (or 8, if you’re hungry buggers) 

For the pastry base:
NB this makes enough for two tarts but can be frozen so you’ve got the best pastry on hand all the time – honestly, it’s delicious.  

  • 400g plain flour
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 130g ground almonds
  • 4g salt
  • 240g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 eggs, beaten

For the filling:

  • 140g caster sugar
  • 500ml of double cream
  • 100g palmyra jaggery (or any jaggery or dark muscovado)
  • 7 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt

Method

Prepare the pastry first – this probably needs to chill for a minimum 5 hours so you don’t end up with a fat bottomed pie.

Sift together all the dry ingredients and then add the cold butter. Using your fingers, rub the ingredients together till it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then pour in the beaten egg and stir till the mix comes together. If it’s a little wet, add a tablespoon of flour at a time, till it comes together and away from the sides of the bowl. tip onto a clean surface and knead briefly then pat into a flatish disk, wrap in clingfilm and put it into the fridge.

For the caramel filling, melt the caster sugar over a low heat. You may need to swirl the pan to help things along but try not to stir it too much – it may seize. Once the sugar has melted, add the double cream and stir to bring together. Then add the salt, remove from the heat and set to one side to chill.

Meanwhile, grate the jaggery into a large bowl and beat in the egg yolks. Pour over the warm double cream mix whilst continually beating. Then add the pinch of salt. Using a fine meshed sieve, pour the mix through into a clean bowl and leave to cool. Once the mix is cool (30-40 mins), skim off any bubbles from the top of the surface, cover and put into the fridge.

You can do all of this up to three days in advance.

When you’re ready to prepare your tart, remove the pastry (well, half of it) and caramel mix from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 150c and prepare a pie tin (I did mine in a 20cm springform cake tin as I couldn’t find a pie tin – worked just as well…) Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin and roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx 5mm and then line the tin, taking care not to rip the pastry (if you do, simply patch it up with any excess). Make sure you’ve got enough to hang over the edges of the tin – this is where mine collapsed and created a wonky base.

Put it back in the fridge for 20 mins to firm up again, then line the base with greaseproof paper and baking beans, pop onto a baking sheet and put into the oven.

Once the sides are golden, remove the baking beans/paper and put back into the oven for the base to cook and colour (approx 5-10 mins). Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10-15 mins. Meanwhile, reduce the heat to 100c.

Once the base is cooked, pour the salted caramel filling into the tart case and put the whole thing back into the oven. The tart is cooked when the filling barely wobbles when you shake the tin. It will take at least one hour depending on how accurate your oven is, but check it after 40 mins, and then every 15 mins after that.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Serve with a drizzle of cream or a random selection of macarons, praline and ice cream if you want to be all Great British Cheffy. Or just eat as is.

 

What to do when you can’t do anything… 

You know those terrible memes on facebook “change your status for an hour to prove how much you care about x symptom / illness”? I feel like those are speaking directly to me at the moment. And it’s weird, I’m mostly a positive person with a healthy level of cynicism (general levels of written snark not withstanding)  and don’t find that I need a meme to speak to me but recently those ones about mental health “change your status, check on a friend blah blah blah” have hit a nerve because 2017 hasn’t been the glittering sparkly joy filled year I wanted it to be. And I’ve learned that even if you think you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s still further you can go. So I’ve been struggling with just shaking it off and smiling through it of late. But anyway. I’m not here to depress you with tales of mental anguish and woe. If you want to hear those, do give me a call, they’re best told though tears and snot. The one thing that’s made me feel better about myself over the last few months has been baking. Which is often the case, but with more time on my hands, I’m trying out recipes that previously terrified me. Like puff pastry. 

I love pastry in all its many forms. I love croissants, I love pies, I love pasties, I love it all. But I bloody hate making puff pastry and I really haven’t found a shop bought variety I like. So I stick to things that work with short crust pastry (pies) and have never attempted my own puff. Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time dreaming of Dominique Ansel. Not the man himself, but specifically the DKA. Now a DKA is a kouign amman which is basically (my research told me) sweetened enriched puff. So I thought to myself one cold morning, when I wanted a sweet treat but didn’t want to leave the warm house, why not give them a go? So I did. And sure, there’s no uniformity in the shape and size of them, and they’re obviously not as delicious as the DKA but not bad for a first attempt and has now inspired me to try out making pain au chocolat. 

Similarly, I have been avoiding bundt tins since the great spiced cranberry cake sticking to the tin debacle, but I’ve recently turned out two good bundt cakes, so I’m hoping my fear of them has passed.

 I think whilst I wait for this bout of sad to pass, I’m going to spend some time in my kitchen, confronting fears that can be overcome by practice and hope that those other fears, the ones that keep you up at night and keep you feeling small and insignificant, will in turn be something that will too be overcome. And in the meantime, when I’m back at my desk, I’ll share a few of my top tips for overcoming kitchen based fears.

An addendum on International Women’s Day – thank you to those wonderful women who have been checking up on me and trying to keep me from completely falling apart over the last few weeks. We’d be nowhere without other women, they build us up when the world tries to break us down. 

What to do with leftover chocolate (which isn’t often a problem….)

I’m aware that it’s only October and I’ve got my ‘life begins at’ birthday in a fortnight (which I’m totally fine with, perhaps because I’m pretty sure this can’t be happening and I’m really only 25) but I decided a couple of weeks ago to start clearing out the kitchen so I can make space for the amount of food we end up buying in the run up to Christmas. And, let’s be honest, I say food, I mean those big tubs of Quality Street and Celebrations. And despite Christmas being months away, those gigantic tubs of chocolatey goodness have started appearing in supermarkets and whilst I hate the early arrival of Christmas by retailers, I freaking love me some chocolate.

During my cupboard clearout I discovered a not insignificant amount of Easter chocolate that I’d hidden after Easter to try and stop myself from exploding. I also found a box of Ferrero Rocher varieties and as I have mentioned before, my least favourite chocolate pairing is nuts and chocolate which probably explains why that’s leftover.

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Now, I love a Lindt bunny (or sheep or chick) as much as the next chocoholic but I also love a Lindt gnome or Father Christmas. So I figured I’d use up the leftover chocolate in what I like to now refer to as Chocolate Saturday. Catchy, eh? And so creative.

The three things I decided to make were: salted chocolate mousse, Ferrero Rocher cupcakes and an orange and chocolate chip loaf cake. The mousse was the easiest of the lot – 30g of chocolate and one egg per person (I made enough for four, so 120g chocolate, 4 eggs). Melt the chocolate in a bain marie and then remove from the heat. Separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Whisk the egg yolks into the melted chocolate and then beat in a third of the eggs whites – when this is all combined, fold in the rest of the whites. If you’re using dark chocolate and you’ve got a sweet tooth, whisk a tablespoon full of sugar per egg into the whites – I was using Lindt bunnies and they’re plenty sweet enough. Put into bowls and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or until set. Sprinkle a tiny amount of sea salt onto it before serving for that crunchy goodness.

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The Ferrero Rocher cupcakes simply involved shoving a Ferrero Rocher into each cupcake case and then covering with cake batter (actually, put a little bit of batter in the bottom first, to stop the chocolate from catching as it cooks). My last post had a cupcake recipe so I just used that. I iced using a buttercream (because of the slight disaster we had with icing the other ones) which I’m sure you all already have, and then I shoved another Ferrero Rocher on top. Apparently they’re lovely – I wouldn’t know, don’t like chocolate and nuts. I may have mentioned this before.

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My final recipe is the one I’m sharing here: Chocolate chip and Orange Loaf.

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I love orange and chocolate together, it’s possibly one of my favourite things (note to self: don’t forget the Terry’s Chocolate Oranges for Christmas) so this loaf ticks all the right boxes. I have to apologise to anyone more comfortable with metric (like me), it’s in US measurements, but that’s because I think the Yanks make loaf cakes much better than the Brits.

  • Zest of one large orange
  • Juice of one orange, topped up with boiling water to make 1 cup
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used a smashed up Lindt bunny, you can use whatever you’ve got – I’d imagine dark chocolate will give it much more of a Jaffa Cake flavour)

Put the orange peel into a bowl and cover with the juice/boiling water – allow to stand for at least 10 minutes. Pre-heat oven to gas mark 4 and grease and line a 900ml loaf tin

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, bicarb, baking powder, salt) in a bowl and whisk together the egg, butter and orange juice mix in another.

Beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined and then fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 45-55 mins until a skewer inserted into it comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then allow to cool fully on a wire rack. I served mine with the salted chocolate mousse and some strawberries but I think it’d make a perfect breakfast loaf, with a nice cup of Earl Grey, so that’s what I’m going to go eat RIGHT NOW. Bye.

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes (for the best 6 year old ever)

It was my beautiful nephew’s birthday last week – he turned six. He’s always been utterly awesome, very funny, a bit cheeky, loves trains, planes and automobiles. In fact, when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he said an iPhone6 or a Lamborghini. I did not get him either of those things, heck if I could afford a new car, I’d be getting one for me not for him. However, I did amuse myself by buying him a wind up car from Tiger and scribbling out its name and writing in Lamborghini. I am a comedy genius.

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Anyway, as per Rixy’s birthday where I made all the red velvet cupcakes in the world, my sister asked if I could make some cupcakes for his birthday. When I asked Praveen what type of cupcakes he wanted, he said chocolate brownies and chocolate chips and chocolate chocolate. So I made carrot cakes. Not really. Obviously. My sister had ordered some Star Wars themed cake toppers so we put those on top.

I had the day off on Friday and my dear friend Clare came over to help me make cupcakes. To be fair, she came round on the promise of wine, but we also managed to make 24 cupcakes and decorate them, before we got too tipsy. And then we got really drunk and found ourselves talking to strangers with lovely dogs in the street and doing jigsaws and all sorts (admittedly, very suburban middle aged all sorts but still, fun was had)

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Here’s the recipe. We screwed up the icing a little by putting in the cream whilst the chocolate was still hot so if you’re using this recipe, let the chocolate cool a bit. Or cook the chocolate and the cream together, I think that may be the best option.

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Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes (this recipe makes 14, I reckon…) 

  • 200g butter
  • 200g light muscovado
  • 200g 70% chocolate
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 100g chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 4 and line a muffin tin with cases.

Melt together the sugar, chocolate and butter, once smooth and glossy, set aside to cool. Beat together the eggs, salt and vanilla extract.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Once the chocolate mix has cooled, beat in the eggs and then pour the mix over the flour, stirring constantly. Once all the flour is incorporated, add the milk chocolate chips and beat in.

Spoon into the muffin cases until 3/4 full and then place into the oven for 20-25 minutes. Test with a skewer, and by bounce – don’t forget, the chocolate chips will be melty so don’t overcook your cakes if your skewer doesn’t come out clean.

Leave aside to cool whilst you make your icing.

Melt 200g plain chocolate (70%) with 100ml double cream using a bain marie. Once all melted, take off the heat and add 50g sifted icing sugar. Beat till it’s all incorporated, then spread over the top of each cupcake.

Put on your toppers and serve. Delicious.

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Clare was very proud of her ROYGBIV cupcake case placement, so I had to share at least one photo of them empty.







Fig and Peach Crumble

Terribly sorry, I took no photos of this dessert after it had been made because I had had wine. But there’s a great photo of a cheese wedding cake to make up for it. 

A couple of things I’ve mentioned before: I love Autumn for its abundant produce and I have a terrible tendency of not eating fresh fruit and then shoving it in the freezer so I can smoothie-ise it or throwing it out. And with the latter, my middle class guilt makes me feel terrible for doing that so I’m trying really hard to not over buy fresh fruit so I can actually enjoy it at its finest.

Sometimes however, I let fruit go a little close to the point of no return but now it’s Autumn, I can turn that fruit into fruity crumbles and who doesn’t like a crumble? With lots and lots of custard poured on top. YUM.

So, I bought some figs because my sister in law had an amazing cheese wedding cake at her wedding a couple of weeks ago and we brought home a chunk o’cheese from the cake but soon forgot about that dinner option. And then, last weekend, we had Marcel’s uncle stay from Wisconsin and ended up hosting two dinner parties in his honour so I decided to get all the fruit in the fridge and turn it into a crumble for pudding.

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All the fruit in the fridge was figs and peaches, FYI. And turns out, figs and peaches go quite well together, possibly a little bit sweet so I reduced the sugar from a normal crumble and it came out deliciously. And I kinda wish I had some right now to shove in my belly. But I don’t. So that’s sad. But here’s the recipe anyway.

Fig and Peach crumble

  • 8 small ripe figs, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 6 slightly underripe peaches, peeled, stoned and cut into chunks
  • 2 x tbsp demarara sugar
  • 1/2  tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2  tsp all spice
  • Juice and zest of one lime

Put all the ingredients into a bowl, mix well and cover. Leave aside for a couple of hours so that the fruit softens a little and takes on the spiced flavours. You can use whatever spices you like, this is what I had in the cupboard.

Before you make the crumble topping, preheat the oven to gas mark 4/160C

I know everyone has their own favourites for crumble topping but i like mine buttery and slightly spiced so this is it!

  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 1 x tsp ginger
  • 1 x tsp finely chopped preserved ginger
  • 115g butter, chopped into cubes (this should be fridge cold)
  • Pinch of salt

Sift flour, salt and ginger into a bowl, add the sugar and butter and rub together till you have fine breadcrumb like texture. Stir in the preserved ginger for added chewy flavour bursts.

Place the fruit and any juices into the base of a baking tin and sprinkle the crumble topping over it. I like to leave the sides a little bare so that the juices from the fruit bubble up over the sides but you can do your own thing.

Put it into the oven, bake for 40-50 minutes, till the crumble takes on a brown ish colour and then remove. So that you don’t burn your mouths, leave it to cool for 5 mins before serving and then serve with lashings of custard.

Enjoy!

Spiced Plum Cake

Autumn is without a doubt my favourite season. I love the colours of nature and I love the clothes and the fact that I can buy new boots (check out my Instagram to see my latest purchases if you’re into that sort of thing!) and most of all, I love the fact that it’s actually pleasant to be in the kitchen without worrying that the combined heat of summer + oven + hob is going to make you keel over. And I also love autumn produce – stoned fruits like plums and greengages are perfect at the end of summer, apples are coming in to season, there’s rhubarb a plenty and it’s generally a great time to get creative with baking.

Which brings me perfectly on to today’s recipe – a spiced plum cake. Now when most Brits hear plum cake, we think of some sort of heavy festive dessert but this is not that. I’m talking about a cake with a fresh fruit base. I reckon you could swap out the fruit for anything that’s in season – peaches or apples for example, but don’t think berries would work as the batter is quite wet and the cooking time is relatively long so you may end up with a mushy base and no one wants a mushy base. You’ll see in this that there’s a row of greengages in the middle – I didn’t have quite enough plums to fill the base so added these in, but actually like the colour difference and the additional tartness this added to the overall cake. However, you can just use plums on their own. 


Spiced Plum Cake

For the base:

  • 500g plums, halved and stoned
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • Butter

For the cake:

  • 175g butter
  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 140g golden syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 7g powdered ginger
  • 5g cinnamon
  • 5 g all spice
  • Pinch of salt

Grease and line a 9″ square baking tin and preheat the oven to 140C or gas mark 4. Spread a good layer of butter onto the greaseproof paper and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top of that and then place the plums on it so they look nice (this will be the top of your cake). Leave to one side.

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Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a pan and melt together over a low heat, stirring continuously. This should only take a couple of minutes. Leave to cool to one side for about 15 minutes – you don’t want the eggs to cook when they’re added in. In the meantime, weigh out the dry ingredients and beat together the eggs and milk.

Once the butter mix has cooled, pour in the milk and eggs, stirring till it’s all incorporated. Then sift in the flour with the other dry ingredients and fold together till it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter over the plums and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean. Note, the base will be a little caramelly because of the butter and sugar and plums, so don’t worry if the tip of the skewer looks a little bit undercooked – it won’t be.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10-15 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Put something under the wire rack, you may lose a little caramel topping on to your work surface and it’s a bitch to clean off.

We had it with custard (shop bought, sorry) but would be equally lovely with creme fraiche or something else creamy.

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Fish Tacos, Red Velvet Cupcakes and Star Wars

I’ve just come out of my family birthday fortnight – my mum’s birthday (28th May), my niece’s (30th May) and my husband’s (4th June) and whilst they’re not that demanding or needy (apart from my niece, but she’s 11 so it’s allowed. When she’s 13, I’ll be having words), it always feels like a very busy time of year.

This year, the wino and I went to Secret Cinema presents Empire Strikes Back. In costume. If you’re a fan of the Star Wars franchise (I’m not) or if you like a bit of immersive, interactive theatre (I do), then go to it. I can’t say too much for fear of being caught by the Stormtroopers but it’s worth every penny of the £75 for a ticket (I know, it’s expensive, but it’s worth it). You get given a character hence the ridiculous outfits (although I think I may well wear boilersuits every day for all eternity).

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But this post isn’t about Star Wars, it’s about birthdays. This year, for my mum’s birthday, we took her to afternoon tea at the Laura Ashley Hotel in Elstree. Wasn’t quite sure what to expect, other than cakes and sandwiches – and I’ve got to be honest, these were a little disappointing – nothing that interesting and some stuff that was just a little bit bland. But the grounds at the hotel were stunning – including this awesome human sized chessboard that my niece and nephew loved.

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Rix, at that tea, decided she wanted red velvet cupcakes for the second of her two birthday parties, so I spent most of the Saturday baking 48 of them. I know, it’s a well known recipe and I won’t pretend mine is any better than any other, but they do take beautiful photos. And buttermilk in any recipe is amongst my favourite things ever.

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But what I am going to share is my recipe for fish tacos. I love me a taco. Or a burrito. Or a wrap. Or anything that involves food wrapped in bread. I’m a woman of simple tastes. So on red velvet Saturday, I decided that I’d make fish tacos for dinner. If you’re in the US, these are probably quite regular things you can find in any restaurant (of Mexican ilk) but you don’t really find them here. So after a bit of googling and a bit of cupboard staring and realising we didn’t have a lot of stuff, I made my own version -and darned delicious they were too. So here it is, Fish Tacos a la basic storecupboard and garden herbs.

Fish tacos (makes enough for two) 

  • 500g firm white fish
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • A twist of ground black pepper
  • A table spoon of fresh oregano leaves
  • Three cloves of garlic

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. Lightly toast the spices in a small frying pan till the aromas are released, then move them to a pestle and mortar. Add the salt, pepper and grind till it forms a sandy texture. Add in the peeled garlic cloves and oregano and grind again, finish with a drizzle of olive oil, then rub into the fish (skin still on) and leave to marinade whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients

  • 2 x peppers (we used red and orange) sliced
  • A head of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Cucumber
  • Spring onions
  • Half a head of iceberg lettuce
  • 6 x tortilla wraps

Cut the garlic head in half and throw into a roasting pan with the peppers, a twist of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover with foil and roast for 20 mins until the peppers are soft.  Meanwhile, chop all the other vegetables into strips (cucumber), circles (spring onions) and shreds (lettuce). We (Marcel) weirdly sliced the spring onions into strips, which made them impossible to eat.

Our dressing was a combination of buttermilk and sriracha (chilli sauce) and a little bit of salt.

About 10 mins before the peppers are due to come out of the oven, make the fish – simply fry it or griddle it (or BBQ it if weather allows), skin side down first then flip over for the last minute of cooking time (should only take 5-6 mins total). Flake the fish into a bowl, off the skin to serve. Heat your tortilla breads according to the instructions (we did ours in the oven but that uses a lot of foil so I’ll leave it up to you) and plate. To serve, simply put the salad toppings into one big dish, fish in another, breads on a plate and then make up your wraps at the table.

Lovely light simple supper. Will be making again when the BBQ is out.

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