Half Scottish, Half Japanese. Tempura Mars bar?

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I began writing this blog in October 2010 as a new father documenting food in his family. Before I knew it, I was in the final of MasterChef 2012. Now cooking is no longer just a hobby.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Chocolate and hazelnut buns

This week on Masterchef the contestants faced a vegetarian test. I wasn't sure whether to be amused or uncomfortable when Yotam Ottolenghi told James (the carpenter from Milton Keynes) that he "looked like a carnivore". James responded awkardly "That's alright, you look like a rabbit."

Torode and Wallace couldn't decide who should join Kennedy in leaving the competition. In my view, Tom, Sara and James all failed to shine, but the judges overlooked the fact that James glaringly defeated the object by producing "the only dessert". I wouldn't have minded if he'd been inventive enough to produce a dessert using naturally sweet vegetables such as carrots or sweetcorn.

I have now abstained from meat for over a week and although I haven't missed it too much I have found it challenging to cook without it. I have found that Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines lend themselves to a vegetarian diet. You can enliven vegetables, pulses or tofu with strong flavours such as cumin, chilli, coriander and ginger. Moreover, meze style dishes and curries are less exposed to the absence of animal protein than the 'meat and two veg' format. Here are some of the things I have been cooking this week:

Cauliflower fritters with chilli and coriander yoghurt
Thai red curry with aubergine, mushrooms and green beans
Asian chick pea salad with peppers, soy sauce and sesame dressing
Butter bean and cauliflower jalfrezi
Sweet potato and cauliflower coconut curry
Chick pea and spinach curry
Lentil moussaka

I tried a vegetarian Japanese restaurant near Kings Cross for lunch on Tuesday but I wasn't compelled. I enjoy pickled vegetables, steamed greens, braised carrots, sesame dressed seaweed as side dishes or condiments, but a bento box needs some grilled fish or meat!

My biggest temptation this week was sausages. The prospect of home baked white bread, pork and leek sausages, rocket and chilli jam was very tempting. To assuage my temptation, I made Chocolate and Hazelnut buns (this doesn't count as packaged chocolate, which I have also given up for Lent).

Thanks to Matt for pointing me in the direction of Dan Lepard's sour cream white bread - I shall try it this weekend. Here is the recipe for Chocolate and Hazelnut buns.

For the dough:
350g strong white flour
10g dry yeast (a generous teaspoon)
5g salt (half a teaspoon)
20g sugar
50g melted butter
1 beaten egg
150ml warm milk

For the filling:
100g of chopped hazelnuts
75g sugar
25 g cocoa

1. Mix all the dough ingredients together and knead by hand or food processor for 5 minutes.
2. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave for 2 hours.
3. Go for a run or read the papers while the dough is rising.
4. Preheat the oven to 180 Celcius, prepare the chocolate hazelnut filling and make the buns.

5. Blend the hazelnuts, cocoa and sugar together in a food processor for a 30-60 seconds.

6. Roll the dough out to somewhere between an A4 and A3 sheet of paper (1-2cm thick).
7. Spread about 25g-50g softened butter over the dough to absorb the filling.
8. Sprinkle the chocolate filling over the butter.
Sprinkle the chocolate filling over the butter.

9. Roll the dough from the long side.
10. Cut the rolled dough log at about 4cm intervals.
11. Grease a baking tin, or line with silicone lining.
12. Put the rolls next to each other - so that they have soft sides when you break them apart.
Cut the rolled dough log at about 4cm intervals.

13. Bake for 25 minutes, until they are golden brown.
14. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling tray.

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