APPLE PIE

The magic of a perfect apple pie lies in the cooking down of the apples – so many apple pies or crumbles disappoint. On the one hand you have the undercooked: lumps of crunchy apple floating around in a too-watery, insipid juice. On the other there is the overcooked: sloppy apple purée that even a rapacious toothless babe would decline. Apples need proper attention. Here, the first half is cooked down into until very soft before the second half is added and cooked just until tender. This method ensures a thick filling, but one with texture.

INGREDIENTS - SERVES 8-10

 Nassima Rothacker

Nassima Rothacker

For the pastry

  • 400g plain flour plus extra for dusting

  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 6–8 tablespoons cold water

  • 1 egg, beaten, for glazing

For the filling

  • 6 Granny Smith apples

  • 6 Braeburn apples

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 170g light brown muscovado sugar

  • 75g unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon calvados or brandy

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

For the pastry, put the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl and toss together. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add the water, a tablespoonful at a time, until the mixture comes together into a smooth dough. (It’s much easier to just throw the dry ingredients into a food processor, blend in the butter then slowly add the water until the pastry clumps together.)

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface andknead briefly by hand(no more than 30 seconds – just until smooth) then flatten into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the filling. Peel and core the apples then chop them into roughly 1cm chunks and put into a bowl with the lemon juice.

Heat a large sauté or saucepan over a high heat and add the sugar, butter and half of the apple chunks. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a quick simmer and cook for 25 minutes or so, until when you gently squeeze a chunk of apple it is soft and spongy. Keep an eye on the pan and give it a stir every so often. Once the apples have cooked down add the remaining apples, bring back to the boil, then reduce to a quick simmer again and cook until they are spongy; the first lot of apples will have turned mushy by now. Stir in the calvados and vanilla, and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.

Roll out three-quarters of the pastry and use it to line a 23cmpie dish, trimming off the excess pastry. Pile the filling into the pastry case. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out 10 strips about 3cm wide and long enough toform a lattice over the top ofthe pie. Arrange the strips over the pie and trim off the excess pastry. Glaze the pastry with beaten egg and bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

MUSHROOM AND ARTICHOKE LASAGNE

When I was last in New York, I was lucky enough to get a table at I Sodi, a small Italian restaurant in West Village serving awesome cocktails and rustic Tuscan fare. There I had the most delicious vegetarian lasagne I have ever tasted (I exaggerate not). Layer upon layer of al dente pasta with an oozing cheese and artichoke sauce, spiked gently with fresh nutmeg. I couldn’t pluck up the courage to ask for the recipe, so I’ve tried to work it out for myself, and this isn’t too far off. 

Nutmeg is such a haunting spice; it’s a ghostly reminder of the white sauces and rice puddings from my childhood. I can’t recommend enough that you use fresh nutmeg and finely grate it yourself; the ready-ground nutmeg seems to have such a mouth-numbing, almost ferric, flavour. Fresh is best. 

 NASSIMA ROTHACKER

NASSIMA ROTHACKER

INGREDIENTS - SERVES 6–8 

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped 
  • 500g chestnut mushrooms, very finely chopped (I use a food processor) 
  • 500g fresh lasagne sheets 

For the sauce

  • 125g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing 
  • 125g plain flour  
  • 1 litre milk 
  • 500ml vegetable stock 
  • 200g (drained weight) artichoke hearts from a jar, finely chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons finely chopped rosemary 
  • 1½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt flakes (or ½ teaspoon table salt) 
  • 1½ teaspoons coarse black pepper (or ½ teaspoon fine) 
  • 350g Gruyère cheese, plus a little extra for the top, finely grated 
  • 2 tablespoons vodka (or white wine) 

Heat a large frying pan over a high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot add the onions and mushrooms with a pinch of salt and pepper, and fry, stirring very frequently, for a good 5 minutes, until softened and fairly dry – the aim here is to try to remove as much moisture from the onions and mushrooms, and cooking them at a high heat will do that quickly, if they are stirred – otherwise they’ll burn. Remove from the heat. 

For the sauce put the butter into a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and allow it to melt, stirring occasionally. As soon as the butter has melted, add the flour and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until everything comes together into a very thick paste. Allow this paste to cook for a minute just until it turns a touch darker, then slowly add the milk, beating frequently after each drop. The mixture will seem to get even thicker at first, but this is normal – don’t panic.

As the milk is absorbed, you can start to add the stock in the same way. By this point, I find it useful to switch to a whisk to ensure the sauce is very well mixed. Allow the sauce to bubble for a minute or two. Add the chopped artichokes, rosemary, nutmeg, salt, pepper, cheese and vodka. Reduce the heat to low and stir, for 3 or 4 minutes. The sauce should be as thick as double cream and as smooth as possible. Remove from the heat and set aside until needed. 

Stir the cooked mushrooms and onion into the sauce. 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Grease a 20cm square cake tin (not loose bottom) with butter, then line the base with lasagne sheets, trimming them to size if necessary. Pour over just enough of the sauce to cover the pasta then repeat the layers until all the sauce and pasta is used, but do make sure that the last layer is sauce and not pasta. Sprinkle over a little extra Gruyère and bake for 50–60 minutes,or until the sauce is bubbling and the top is very deeply bronzed, perhaps crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. 

 

TAGLIATELLE WITH MUSHROOMS, BRANDY AND PEPPERCORNS

If it is almost instant gratification you need, this dish is ideal: once the pasta is cooked and ready, it’s really a matter of minutes before you have something immensely satisfying. If brandy isn’t something you keep in stock, you could try with whisky, but a dry white wine would do the trick. 

When it comes to the peppercorns, please try and stick to the recipe as best you can: green peppercorns are black peppercorns that haven’t been through the drying and maturing process, but their flavour is more vegetal than warming. I use dried here, which are slightly weaker. If you can’t find the green ones, 2 teaspoons of coarsely ground black pepper would be a reasonable alternative, but, please, never ever use pink peppercorns for this – unless you want a mouth so numb that you feel you’ve visited a backstreet dentist. 

 NASSIMA ROTHACKER

NASSIMA ROTHACKER

INGREDIENTS - SERVES 2

  • 250g dried tagliatelle
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 30g unsalted butter 
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced 
  • 1 tablespoon dried green peppercorns 
  • 100ml brandy 
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 150ml double cream 
  • Fine sea salt flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper  

METHOD

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, but make sure you do so in very salty water. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving 50ml or so of the cooking water, and have the pasta handy. 

For the sauce, heat a medium frying pan over a high heat and, once hot, add the oil and butter, along with the onion, mushrooms and peppercorns. Cook, stirring and tossing the pan constantly, for a few minutes until the mushrooms wilt down and the onion is just slightly softened and coloured. Add the brandy and allow it to bubble and evaporate almost entirely – if it sets on fire that’s fine, just watch your eyebrows. Add the chicken stock and allow that to bubble and almost entirely evaporate. Add the cream, allowing it to bubble for a minute, and then turn off the heat and season to taste. Add the pasta to the frying pan and stir to coat well – if the sauce is a little thick, let it down with the reserved pasta water. Serve immediately. 

INDIAN SHEPHERD'S PIE WITH SAG ALOO

The only worry with a book on comfort food is that most families already have their own recipes for the favourites. How can I offer something reassuring and familiar, but with enough of a twist to entice you to make it? Shepherd’s pie is one of those recipes, but rather than give you the regular version we know and love, I’m making it with spice. This is something else. 

 Nassima Rothacker

Nassima Rothacker

INGREDIENTS - SERVES 4-6

  • 50g unsalted butter 
  • 4 cloves 
  • 2½ teaspoons cumin seeds 
  • ½ cinnamon stick 
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 black peppercorns  
  • 2 onions, very finely chopped 
  • 1 carrot, very finely chopped 
  • 40g fresh ginger, finely grated                              
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée 
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 x 250g sachets cooked Puy lentils
  • 250g lamb mince  
  • 250g frozen garden peas, defrosted  
  • Fine sea salt

For the sag aloo top

  • 1kg red-skin potatoes, cut into 2.5cm cubes 
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil 
  • 50g unsalted butter 
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds 
  • 200ml water 
  • 200g baby leaf spinach 

METHOD

Heat a large sauté pan or shallow casserole over a high heat and, once hot, add the butter, cloves, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and peppercorns. Fry, stirring frequently, until the bay leaves start to crackle and there is a strong spice aroma. Add the onions and carrot and continue to fry, tossing the pan every so often, for five minutes, just until the vegetables are hot – there’s really no need to cook them until they soften, provided you chopped them finely enough. 

Mix in the ginger, garlic and tomato purée and fry for a further minute, just until the garlic smells strongly. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, and cook until the liquid has reduced by a third. Add the remaining ingredients and a pinch of salt, and put into a roasting dish. Don’t bother to wash the pan out – use it for the topping. 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. 

For the sag aloo top, put the potatoes into a large saucepan, cover them with cold water and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, boil for 10 minutes, then drain. Put the oil and butter into the sautépan and set over a high heat. Once the butter melts add the spices and fry until the mustard seeds start to pop. Add the potatoes and water – the water will sizzle and evaporate quickly. Stir the potatoes in the spiced liquid, then add the spinach, turn off the heat, and allow the spinach to wilt in the residual heat for a few minutes. 

Pile the sag aloo on top of the lamb and lentil filling. Bake for 30—40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling. If the potatoes start to burn before the filling is ready, cover the dish with foil. 

This recipe has been taken from my book, Comfort: Food to soothe the soul. If you'd like a copy, order it here

CHERRY AND AMARETTI CRUMBLE CAKE

This is my version of the classic cherry and almond cake. The crumble topping adds another almond dimension in the form of crunchy amaretti and flaked nuts. This is best served with a dollop of tangy crème fraîche. 

 Nassima Rothacker 

Nassima Rothacker 

INGREDIENTS - SERVES 8-10 

For the cake 

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened 
  • 175g light brown muscovado sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 100g soured cream 
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt   

For the cherry layer 

  • 250g (drained weight) cherries soaked in kirsch  

For the crumble 

  • 150g self-raising flour 
  • 100g cold butter, cubed 
  • 75g light brown muscovado sugar 
  • 75g amaretti biscuits, crushed
  • 40g flaked almonds   

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4. Grease a 23cm round, loose-bottom cake tin, and line the base with baking paper.

For the cake, cream the butter, sugar, almond extract and lemon zest until lighter in texture and paler in colour. Add the eggs and soured cream and beat until smooth – don’t worry if it curdles – then add the flour and salt and fold together until you have a smooth batter. Scrape the batter into the cake tin and level off. 

For the crumble, rub together the flour and butter until you have a breadcrumb consistency, then toss through the sugar, biscuits and almonds. 

Scatter the cherries over the cake batter, as evenly as possible, and top with the crumble topping mixture. 

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 35–40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean (apart from the red juice of the cherries). Leave to cool completely, then transfer from the tin to a cake stand or plate to serve. 

THE LIGHTEST FLUFFIEST SCONES

Whenever I leave the country for a holiday, I always reflect on my favourite British food. And that's a topic I'm constantly asked about as a food writer, particularly: 'what is your favourite cake?'. Well, a favourite cake I may not have (though a carrot cake would be a contender) but I do have a favourite bake, and that is the scone.

While ordinarily considered a fairly speedy bake, a true batch of scones, fit for the finest of afternoon teas, requires a little more time. This isn't time you need to spend doing or making; this is merely time to allow the dough to rest, as you would a bread dough (scones are a type of quick bread, after all). The resting is vital for two main reasons. The first is aeration; a scone is a chemically aerated product. The mix of acid (cream of tartar) and alkaline (bicarbonate of soda) in the baking powder react when mixed with liquid (in this case, buttermilk and creme fraiche). That reaction fills the dough with carbon dioxide, which when heated, expands, forcing the scones to rise. Allowing the dough to rest for half an hour or so, maximises this injection of air. 

The second main reason is the relaxation of the gluten. Naturally when you work flour with liquids you break down the proteins glutenin and gliadian, which in turn, when confused, lost and alone, grasp onto one another desperately. The result is gluten, and that makes a product a little tougher. As with pastry and pasta dough, resting the dough ensures the gluten is relaxed and a little more supple, giving a much softer scone. 

JW_ComfortFood_D5_Scones__022.jpg

INGREDIENTS - MAKES 8-10

  • 150ml buttermilk 
  • 150g full-fat crème fraîche 
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or cider vinegar 
  • 450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 15g baking powder 
  • 80g caster sugar 
  • Pinch of fine sea salt 
  • 80g unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing  
  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten with a pinch of salt 

METHOD

Half an hour or so before you start, put the buttermilk, crème fraîche and lemon juice into a jug and mix together. The mixture is intended to curdle, so don’t throw it out. Leave to come to room temperature. 

Put the flour into a mixing bowl with the baking powder, caster sugar and salt. Add the butter and rub together until the butter is evenly dispersed in the dry ingredients and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the wet ingredients into the bowl and start to mix – either with hand or wooden spoon – until the mixture comes together into a scraggy mass. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and knead very briefly – no more than a minute or so – until the dough is smooth. The dough will be firm enough to hold its shape, but it will be tender and yielding to a poke. Put the dough onto a greased tray and cover with clingfilm. Leave to rest for 30 minutes. 

Flour the worktop lightly and tip the dough onto it. Pat the dough down, with a floured hand, just until about 2cm thick – I don’t bother with a rolling pin because the tendency is to over-roll it. Cut out using a 6cm(ish) cookie cutter. Set the scones on a greased tray, cover with clingfilm again, and leave to rest for a further 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 8. 

Once the scones have rested flip them over so their flat bottoms become perfectly flat tops. If you put the scones fairly close together, with enough room in between each to allow for swelling, the scones will steam as they bake, keeping them softer. Glaze just the tops of the scones with the egg yolk, then bake for 12–15 minutes, until the tops are deeply golden and the bases are just gently browned. The scones will feel very soft, but they will firm up a little as they cool. Slide them onto a cooling rack and allow to cool, just until you can slather one liberally in cream and jam, to eat without burning your mouth. 

ONION SOUP WITH AN EPOISSES AND CARAWAY CRUST

There are many different ways of making a French onion soup: some recipes involve wine, some cognac, while others use both. I’m supposing that most regions of France, if not most families, will have their own method and ingredients list. Epoisses is a cheese from Burgundy and I haven’t seen it used for the characteristically lavish crust, but for me it’s a no-brainer: the cheese is soft and pungent, accompanying the sweet onions perfectly. Here I’ve rounded out the Epoisses with some Comté. Caraway is something I eat regularly with Epoisses – if not caraway bread then I just scatter the seeds over spoonfuls of the cheese.

I find the sweetness of pink onions – Roscoff or Rosanna – makes for the best soup, but if they prove a little trickier to come by, just use half red and half brown.

 NASSIMA ROTHACKER

NASSIMA ROTHACKER

INGREDIENTS - Serves 2 - 4

For the croutons

  • 1 x French baguette, torn into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon garlic oil (or olive oil, if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds  
  • 150g Epoisses cheese, chilled
  • 100g Comté cheese, coarsely grated

For the soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 500g pink onions, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour 
  • 175ml dry white wine
  • 1 litre beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon onion chutney (optional, but damn good)
  • Fine sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.

For the croutons, place the torn baguette onto a baking sheet and toss together with the oil and caraway seeds. Bake for 5–10 minutes, or until dry and crispy.

For the soup, heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan or casserole over a high heat. When the butter melts, add the onions and cook for 10 minutes or so, until they are starting to colour around the edges. Once they are gently browned, reduce the heat to low and cook slowly for anything up to 40 minutes. The onions should caramelise deeply, and smell strong and sweet.

When the onions are caramelised, add the flour and stir to coat the onions. Increase the heat to high, wait a minute for the pan to get hot, then pour in the wine and let it bubble and evaporate almost entirely. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, partially covered. Stir in the chutney, if using, and salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the grill.

Divide the soup between serving bowls – make sure they’re heatproof – then scatter over the croutons. Slice the Epoisses into fairly thin slices (do so quickly before it starts to melt) and lay them on top of the croutons. Scatter over the Comté, and grill until the cheese has melted and burned a little at the edges. 

RHUBARB AND GINGER LAMB CHOPS WITH POTATOES AND BEETROOT

I can’t remember where the inspiration for this recipe came from. I think it was Diana Henry, who, as far as I can recall, posted an Instagram picture from Iceland with a lamb leg cooked in rhubarb jam. Wherever the idea started, I’m sincerely grateful. The mixture of rhubarb and ginger is both tart and warming, which, when married with the earthy beetroot and starchy potato, is just fab.

 NASSIMA ROTHACKER

NASSIMA ROTHACKER

INGREDIENTS - Serves 2

  • 500g new potatoes, cut into 2cm dice
  • 1 purple beetroot, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
  • 1 golden beetroot, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 lamb chops
  • 3 tablespoons rhubarb and ginger jam
  • Sea salt flakes and coarsely ground black pepper

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200C fan/gas mark 7.

Put the potatoes, beetroot and bay leaves into a large roasting dish and toss with the oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile rub the lamb chops with the jam, covering the chops completely.

After the vegetables have roasted for 30 minutes, place the lamb chops on top and roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, cover it loosely and allow the meat to rest (still on top of everything is fine), for 5 minutes before serving. 

 

APPLE CIDER CRULLERS

These aren’t at all dissimilar to the Spanish doughnut treat, churros. In fact, they’re pretty much the same thing, only shaped in rings rather than fat, spikey sausages. The pastry itself is just a choux pastry, which isn’t at all difficult; although it mistakenly has the reputation of being tricky to make. It isn’t. To amp up the flavour I use a dry cider in place of water, which gives the pastry that apple undertone. 

 (C) NASSIMA ROTHACKER

(C) NASSIMA ROTHACKER

INGREDIENTS - Makes about 12

For the choux pastry

  • 125ml dry apple cider
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt 
  • 50g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 85g strong white bread flour 
  • 2 large eggs

For the glaze

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider
  • Cinnamon, to dust

Equipment

  • Piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle
  • 12 x 8cm squares of baking paper
  • Deep-fat fryer with clean, unscented vegetable oil

METHOD

For the choux pastry put the water, salt and butter into a small saucepan and set over a low heat just until the butter melts, then increase the heat to high. Once the water starts to boil, remove from the heat and quickly stir in the flour – you must do this vigorously and quickly to form a very thick, smooth dough. Put the pan back on the heat, stirring to dry out and smooth the dough – about a minute. Put the dough into a mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add, a drop at a time, to the cooled dough, beating very well after each addition until each addition of egg is completely incorporated. You may not need all of the egg; once the mixture is smooth and falls reluctantly from the spatula to form a V-shape, it’s ready. Put the choux into the piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle.

Pipe the pastry into 7cm diameter rings on the squares of baking paper.

Preheat the fryer to 175°C. Place the pieces of baking paper, cruller-side-down, into the oil, then remove the baking paper with kitchen tongs. Fry for a minute or two per side until golden brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set onto kitchen paper to blot off the excess oil.

For the icing, sift the icing sugar then whisk in enough cider to make a thick icing. Dip the crullers into the icing, and then dust with cinnamon and serve. 

CHORIZO, JALAPENO AND BLACK BEAN CROQUETTES

I suppose the title here is all wrong. Being flavoured with the piquant nip of chorizo and manchego, I’m guessing they should take their Spanish name: croquetas. But I can’t part with the school-dinner version. I remember the yelps of joy as we entered the dinner hall to see ‘potato croquettes’ scribbled hurriedly onto the blackboard; the bright orange cylinders of spud were adored by all. In my heart these will always be croquettes. 

 (c) Nassima Rothacker

(c) Nassima Rothacker

INGREDIENTS - Makes about 20

For the filling

  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 35g plain flour 
  • 350ml whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 200g Manchego cheese, coarsely grated
  • 50ml double cream
  • 200g chorizo picante, very finely chopped
  • 100g (drained weight) black beans from a can
  • 75g (drained weight) jalapeños from a jar, roughly chopped

To finish

  • 75g plain flour 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125g breadcrumbs
  • Sunflower oil, for frying

To serve

  • Garlic mayonnaise
  • Lemon wedges  

Method

Start by making the sauce. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat until the butter melts, then stir in the flour using a wooden spoon to make a very thick paste. Allow the paste to cook for a minute until browned slightly. Slowly add the milk, beating constantly – I switch to a whisk when half of the milk is incorporated to ensure there are no lumps. This will be very thick, like porridge without the oats. Reduce the heat to low and cook stirring for a minute or so, to ensure the starchy taste of the flour is cooked off.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the tomato purée, mustard, cheese, cream, chorizo, beans and jalapenos. Pour the mixture onto a plate, cover with clingfilm, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours until very stiff – if you have the time and patience, overnight is better.

To assemble, prepare a little production line: put the flour onto a plate, beat the eggs into a bowl, and put the breadcrumbs onto another plate. Scoop tablespoonfuls of the chilled filling and shape into chunky pellets – I dip my hands in a little flour to stop the croquettes sticking and roll them into short, fat cylinders. Dust the croquettes in flour, dip them in the egg, then coat them in breadcrumbs. Place the coated croquettes on a plate or tray ready for frying.

Heat 2cm of oil in a large sauté pan or casserole and allow it to get hot. Fry the croquettes for a minute or so per side until bronzed and crispy – don’t overcrowd the pan or the croquettes will never become golden enough; fry in batches.

Transfer the fried croquettes onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to blot off any excess oil, and serve.

Deep-frying option

Although the method above works fine, I do prefer to deep-fry the croquettes to retain their shape. Heat a deep-fat fryer to 170°C. Once hot, add the croquettes, in batches, fry until golden then blot on kitchen paper to remove excess oil before serving.  

Make in advance

The croquettes can be made completely and frozen before cooking. Place them, well spaced, on a baking sheet and freeze. Once solid, put into an airtight container or freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to three months. The croquettes can be deep-fried from frozen, but will take a little longer at a slightly lower temperature. 

VEGAN TARKA DHAL

Dhal is a doubly comforting dish: it has that reassuring sloppiness of mushy peas or mashed potatoes, yet still packs a fulfilling punch with its slightly muted spiciness. That flavour is thanks to the tarka – a blend of spices is cooked separately in oil then added to the cooked lentils. If you can get fresh curry leaves for this recipe, it will be so much better. They’re stronger and impart their unique flavour – for me their flavour is more of a feeling: something in between a pop and a click in the mouth. 

 (C) Nassima Rothacker

(C) Nassima Rothacker

INGREDIENTS - SERVES 2

  • 160g red split lentils
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 500ml vegetable stock or water

FOR THE TARKA

  • 50g coconut oil 
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 curry leaves (fresh are best, but dried will do)
  • 1 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 30g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 large plum tomato, roughly chopped
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander, to garnish
  • Rotis or chapatis, to serve

METHOD

Put the lentils into a sieve and run under cold water until the water draining from the lentils runs clear. Add the lentils to a pan with the turmeric and stock (or water) and bring to the boil. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to a brisk simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are very tender. Turn off the heat and leave the lentils for a good 15 minutes to plump up even more.

For the tarka, put the coconut oil into a frying pan over a high heat. As soon the oil shimmers add the mustard, cumin and nigella seeds, along with the bay leaf and curry leaves. Fry for a few minutes, until the spices smell strongly aromatic and the mustard seeds stop popping (it's wise to cover the pan with a lid as they pop), then add the chillies and onion. Reduce the heat to medium and fry, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and just lightly golden – about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and tomato and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the tomato breaks down and, once the oil has risen to the surface, the tarka is ready.

Break the lentils down – I use a potato masher – then add the tarka. Return to the heat to warm through, season to taste, and serve with the chopped coriander and the bread.  

If you've enjoyed this recipe, then you'll love the book it's taken from. Comfort: Food to soothe the soul is available to purchase here