We tend to go through different little food fads in our house. A while ago it was home made pizzas, then it was a gazillion iterations of coconut based curries, and now we’re addicted to empanadas. Think of empanadas as delicious little spiced Cornish pasties. You’ll find them all over Latin America and Spain, stuffed with all sorts of delicious fillings. I tend to fill mine with a dry-ish version of my normal chilli mixture. If you want to go all technical and make proper Chilean empanadas de pino, you’ll need to add raisins, chopped boiled eggs and olives, which, as you can imagine is a stretch too far for the fussier ones in my family, so I stick to a spicy minced beef filling. The dough for these deliciously simple empanadas is fab: really easy to work with and really forgiving – no resting necessary.
As a family, we’ve always used this blog as a bit of a recipe resource. If the boys are making brownies or a pasta bake, they’ll look up the recipe on here, and I love that they’ll always have that connection with home. With Charlie just about to go off to university (we’re going to Universal for Halloween Horror Nights – yay! – then he goes practically as soon as we get back – boo) I thought it would be nice to share a few of our family favourite recipes so that he (and any other student looking for decent, great-value recipes for sharing) would be able to recreate them when he’s away from home. I’m starting with this easy, step by step lasagne al forno. If I’m taking my time and making a lasagne at home, I’ll make the sauce with red wine, carrots, celery and tomatoes (hit me up for the recipe, I’ve got a fab one), but there’s no shame in using a jar of tomato sauce, especially not when you’re in a hurry (or on a budget – a 500g jar of Tesco Bolognese pasta sauce is about 75p – also, look out for any that are on offer and stockpile them in a cupboard at home). Likewise with the cheese: Parmesan is lovely, but cheddar is cheaper.
Now that autumn’s here I’ll be very happy to move back towards comfort foods: soups, stews, pies.. all the things I missed all summer! I love a bit of experimentation in the kitchen and have been fiddling with this doughnut recipe. We love doughnuts, and I’ve made them before, but the deep frying is a pain and I’m a bit dangerous with hot oil, so I wanted to make some that you could fry in less oil, just in a frying pan. Now don’t get me wrong, these aren’t diet doughnuts or anything, you’ll still need a good 1/2 inch of oil in the pan, but it’s a lot better than dragging out your deep fat fryer or having bubbling saucepans of oil on the stove. Plus there’s no yeast, no kneading, no rising, and they still taste amazing.
You will need:
A medium frying pan with about 1/2″ of oil in the bottom. I use rapeseed. I measured, and for my 10″ pan I used about 500ml.
50g butter, melted
50g caster sugar
Squeeze of lemon
160g plain flour
A pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
Sugar, for coating
So firstly, get the oil heating up in the frying pan. Do it just on a medium heat so it heats slowly and safely. It needs to be about 180 degrees C so a thermometer will help here. I use a jam thermometer.
Measure out the butter and melt it in a jug in the microwave or in a saucepan. Add in the caster sugar, milk and lemon juice. It all curdles and looks hideous, but don’t worry. Don’t omit the lemon juice, it’s important.
Now, measure out all the dry ingredients and pour the wet into the dry, stirring briefly until you’ve got a soft dough. You might not need all the liquid. You need it just firm enough so that you can form them into small balls with your hands.
So when the oil is up to temperature, start forming the doughnuts into small balls (I used a smallish dessertspoonful per doughnut). Remember, you want them fluffy and light inside, so handle them really gently – just enough for form them into a ball – then straight (carefully) into the oil. When the undersides are golden brown, flip them over with some tongs and cook the other side. Lift them out and drain them briefly on some kitchen paper, then toss them while still warm in the sugar.
Serve them straight away while they’re still warm. Next thing I’m going to invest in is a cooking syringe so that I can put jam in the middle, but we just dunked them in the jam. Still fabulous.
Oh, and they won’t keep, but then I don’t think that will ever be a problem.
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