I’ve been watching way too much Food Network UK recently and the one show I constantly drool over is Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I love the old school joints that are featured. There’s many a night I’ve wasted in the past reading about barbecue and meat and three and Coney dogs and stacks of pancakes and everything about this show brings it all to life. Of course, it also brings on some massive cravings, like the waffles I needed one recent weekend.  Rather than pair them with something savoury, I wanted sweet waffles and sweet waffles I would have.

Cheap punnets of blueberries at the supermarket also had me remembering a sleepover at a friend’s when I was much younger and still in Canada. We had pancakes for breakfast with her family and her father brought out a little pitcher of homemade blueberry syrup. The recipes online for blueberry syrup are just that – a thick sweet liquid made from cooking blueberries with sugar and water. But those online are strained while that I remember still had plenty of blueberries in it; this would have to be rectified. It was decided – a punnet of blueberries came home with me and I was going to have homemade blueberry syrup with my waffles that Sunday morning.

Waffle with Blueberry Syrup and Yoghurt

Blueberry Syrup for Waffles or Pancakes
serves 2 (on top of waffles and pancakes!)

200g blueberries
3 tbsps sugar
120 ml water

Dump all the ingredients into a small pot and place over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and when the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer together, mashing the blueberries a bit, until thickened. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Serve warm over waffles or pancakes. I plopped a dollop of Greek yoghurt on top but it doesn’t really need it. If you like your syrup sweeter, by all means, add more sugar but I like it just like this.

The word rojak in Malay or Indonesian means mixture and perfectly describes this jumble of a salad from those countries in South East Asia.

Rojak

I’m familiar with a couple types of rojak: there’s the Indian rojak or pasembur that’s topped with a peanutty sauce and then there’s the Penang rojak (or Chinese or fruit rojak are also similar) with its fermented prawn paste dressing. There’s a whole range of Indonesian rojaks too that I know nothing about. I prefer the strong prawn paste version myself and its contrast to the fresh fruits and vegetables and nutty roasted peanuts. I’ll be honest with you – its funky flavour may be an acquired taste and as I grew up with it, I love it. It’s strong yes, but it’s complex and punchy too.

Rojak Dressing and Peanuts and Sesame Seeds

Salad Ingredients

I had a jar of hae ko (that’s the Hokkien name for the fermented prawn paste that in Malay is petis udang – you can buy it in some Asian shops in Chinatown) in the fridge and it being Mothers Day reminded me also that I had scribbled down her recipe for the dressing. Her recipe was very agak agak (a Malay term meaning to estimate – here’s a great essay about Nyonya recipes and how they are very agak agak!) but I put together this recipe based on what I remembered and what tasted good to me – I like it with some chilli kick (tinker to your taste) and sweet but not too sweet. The dressing is both strong and sticky and I like to keep it as thick as possible as it thins with the juices from the fruits, especially the pineapple.

With Rojak Sauce

For my rojak that day, I used cucumber, fresh pineapple, green apple, and a fresh Chinese doughnut (youtiao) from Chinatown; my favourite ingredient is really jicama (or yam bean) but decent specimens are difficult to find in London. The dressing is usually tossed together with the salad ingredients but I also like to serve it as a dip with the vegetables on the side – it’s perfect for lazy days when you don’t want to wash up a salad bowl!

Rojak

Rojak
serves 2-4.

For the dressing
3 heaping tbsps prawn paste (hae koe)
1 scant tbsp dark caramel soy sauce (Yuen Chun or Cheong Chan are brands I’ve found and used in London)
0.5 tbsps chilli paste/sambal (or more or less to taste)
0.5 tsp belacan powder
3-4 tbsps sugar (to taste)
1 tsp tamarind paste
1.5 tbsp hot water

Chinese doughnut
pineapple
green apple
cucumber
Other ingredients that would work are rose apples, blanched beansprouts, jicama (yam bean) and deep fried tofu puffs.

freshly crushed roasted peanuts
freshly toasted sesame seeds

Dilute the tamarind paste with the hot water. Mix together with the rest of the dressing ingredients and stir well to combine. Leave to sit for about 10 minutes before stirring again (the sugar seems to dissolve better). It should be quite thick. This amount of dressing is enough to dress a salad for 4 people. You don’t need to use it all up now though – it keeps very well in the fridge for up to a week.

Cut the salad ingredients into bite sized chunks and place in a large bowl – the amounts of each should be based on what you like and the size of your stomach. Drizzle over the dressing and scatter over the crushed peanuts and sesame seeds. Toss all together and place on a plate. Top with more peanuts and sesame seeds and serve.

If I had a French patisserie near where I lived, I probably wouldn’t be bothering with this post! When I need a quick dessert, I hope that I’ve got some nice ready-made puff pastry and some suitable fruit in the fridge and knock together this tart. It goes under a variety of names and “rustic fruit tart” seems to be the most popular. Of course, a homemade pastry is best but when you’re pushed for time (read: desperate for a sweet), ready-made has to do; I was pleased with the all-butter puff pastry I found at Waitrose.

Blueberry Tart

First, roll out some all-butter puff pastry (I rolled out approximately a third of a 375g block) into about a 3mm thick sheet – shape isn’t important but aim for semi-roundness! Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then gather together your fruit. Blueberries, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums are all suitable for a pie like this. Of course, chop up the fruit to cook faster! I mixed blueberries with about 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and a 1 teaspoon of cornflour/cornstarch and then piled the lot in the middle of the pastry sheet. Fold the edges of the pastry sheet over the fruit, brush the exposed pastry with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle the top with some more caster sugar.

Bake it in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius – a tart this size needs baking for about 30 minutes. The pastry should be golden brown and the fruit cooked through and their juices bubbling. Serve – this serves between 2 to 4 people. A bit of creme fraiche or ice cream would be lovely with a slice!

It doesn’t take much to set me off thinking about a particular dish or recipe and this time, it was this photo. A cobbler! With blueberries! I’m there!

Peaches and Blueberries

If you live in London, you’ll know that to purchase enough blueberries for a proper blueberry pie is to bankrupt yourself. What’s more affordable is to mix a small pack of blueberries with some complementary fruit – and that’s one of the reasons why I found myself drawn to this peach and blueberry cobbler.

After Baking

In the original recipe, Nigel Slater replaces the double cream with soured cream but as I only had the former in my fridge, I switched back! The resultant cobbler was delicious – all soft peaches, blueberry juice, and warm, tender yet crumbly biscuit topping. The original recipe, with sour cream, can be found at the Observer website. Oh, and I probably don’t need to tell you this but it’s best eaten straight out of the oven.

Cobbler

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler
adapted from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries
serves 4

2 large ripe peaches
150g blueberries
1 heaping tablespoon sugar
1 scant tablespoon flour

Topping:
100g flour
55g butter
1 tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt
1 1/3 tsps baking powder
about 80mL double cream
extra sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 200 Celsius.

Slice the peaches, mix with the blueberries, the 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp flour, and arrange in an ovenproof dish.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder for the cobbler topping, and then rub in the cold butter. Not sure what I mean? Use your fingers to press the butter between your fingers, mixing the bits into the flour as you go along. When the mixture has the consistency of rough oatmeal or large breadcrumbs, stop. Stir the double cream in, a little at a time, until you get a soft dough. Take little lumps of the dough and flatten them, dust on both sides with sugar, and place on top of the fruit in the baking dish, covering them in a relatively even layer.

Bake for about 25 minutes. The top should be golden brown and the liquids from the fruit all bubbly hot. Serve. (I reckon some vanilla ice cream wouldn’t be amiss with this.)

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