Refried Bean & Cheese Tamales


beans4 10/03/2019

Tamales are a traditional Mexican streetfood. They are made from a corn-based masa dough, filled with anything from pulled meats to vegetables and cheese, wrapped up and steamed in corn husks.

The following recipe however, is anything but authentic. It is more a student-friendly version that doesn’t require the sourcing of specific ingredients and equipment that you will only use for one recipe then gather dust on the shelf for a couple of years. You can adapt the recipe to your tastes/dietary requirements and it is so straight forward and cheap but best of all, these tamales do not skimp on flavour.

I used fine semolina to make my dough as masa is a bit tricky to obtain in Dorset as are corn husks so I used greaseproof paper which worked a treat. In keeping with my vegetarian lent challenge, I also used margarine instead of lard for the dough and made refried beans with added veggies and cheese for the filling. Folded together and steamed, the spices blend together in a warming dumpling-like parcel of flavours and textures. I recommend a good strong stock and decent seasoning for depth of flavour too.

beans beans1

beans2 beans3

Serves 4 as a small meal


  • 70g/2½oz lard (or margarine)
  • 225g/8oz masa flour (or fine semolina)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp each smoked paprika, oregano
  • 150ml/5fl oz warm stock
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 100g mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 50g/2oz Cheddar, grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. To make the tamales, beat the lard in a bowl with a wooden spoon to soften, then add the masa, baking powder, smoked paprika, oregano and salt and continue to beat. Slowly add the warm stock, beating to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a clean surface and knead for a couple of minutes, until soft. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
  2. To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion, garlic, pepper, mushroom, cumin seeds and paprika for 10 minutes, add the tomato puree, kidney beans and a splash of stock and cook for a further 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the coriander and then mash the beans roughly with a potato masher.
  3. To assemble the tamales, place a tablespoon of dough on a square of greaseproof paper and use your hands to flatten it into a rectangle shape. Place a spoonful of the beans in the middle and sprinkle with the Cheddar then fold over the sides and the ends to form a parcel and press down to seal. Wrap with the greaseproof paper, tie with string then repeat until you run out of dough.
  4. Place the tamales in a steamer and cook for about an hour. Remove the tamales and carefully unwrap. Serve with salsa on the side.

Harcha – Moroccan Pan-Fried Semolina Bread


harcha2 18/03/2018

Harcha is one of the most delicious Moroccan snacks that I came across thanks to my beautiful Moroccan friend, Sarah, who never turns up to a get-together empty handed. So when she arrived for a coffee with a giant harcha fresh from the pan, we wasted no time devouring it with multiple toppings and/or fillings. Harcha is a semolina bread that you can make in any size and fill with savoury fillings such as cheese or sweet such as honey.


  • 1 1/2 cups (250 grams) semolina
  • 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 7 tablespoons (100 grams) butter
  • 1/2 cup (100 ml) milk (or as needed)


Preparing the Dough:

  1. Place the semolina in a bowl, add the sugar, baking powder and the salt. Mix well. You need semolina for this recipe so do not try to substitute it.
  2. Melt the butter in the microwave or a saucepan then add the butter to the semolina and mix with a spoon. When it gets hard with the spoon, mix with your hands, Moroccan style!
  3. Add the milk and mix until you get a smooth dough. Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Shaping the Harcha:

  1. Turn on the heat to medium and heat up a heavy cast iron pan!
  2. Back to the dough… you will notice that it is drier as the semolina has absorbed the milk. If it’s too dry, add a little more milk.
  3. To get perfect shapes, use a cookie cutter to make medium sized Harcha. You can make a large one, or mini-ones – whatever you like. The discs should be ¼” thick or a bit thicker. When shaping the disks use parchment paper, so it’s easy to transfer them to the pan.

Cooking the Harcha:

  1. Reduce the heat to low – very important otherwise the harcha will burn from outside and not cook from inside – transfer the harcha to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes on each side. You will see that the surface gets a beautiful golden brown colour and that the discs start to dry. If you try to push on them, they will feel dry. Flip and cook the other side.
  2. Let the harcha cool a bit and cut it in half with a sharp knife. If the harcha is still too hot and the knife not sharp, it will crumble.
  3. Fill with cheese, jam, honey, or anything you like!

Bakewell Bars


IMG_20141126_203734[1] 26/11/2014

A classic combination of light almond sponge and buttery shortbread sandwiched together with a layer of raspberry jam.

You could try any jam you like or even different curds. I’ve had good results with chunky homemade blackberry & apple jam and lemon curd is really tasty too.


For the base:

  • 3oz butter, softened
  • 1oz caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 6oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 7oz raspberry jam

For the topping:

  • 3 ½oz butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 3oz semolina
  • 3 ½oz caster sugar
  • Flaked almonds, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line an 8×8 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper and grease with butter.
  2. First, make the biscuit base. Cream the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mix is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, mix well then sift in the flour and mix to form a dough.
  3. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to the same size as the base of the tin then press it into prepared tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes then remove and allow to cool.
  4. Spread the jam on the cooled base and place in the fridge while you make the topping.
  5. Place the melted butter in a bowl, add the beaten eggs and almond essence and mix well. Stir in the ground almonds, semolina and caster sugar.
  6. Take the tin from the fridge and spread the almond dough over the jam being careful not to mess up the jam. Place the almond dough in blobs then join them up with the back of a metal spoon to make this easier.
  7. Sprinkle the top with flaked almonds and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden and set in the centre. Allow to cool in the tin then cut into bars.

IMG_20141126_203658[1]    IMG_20141126_203619[1]

Sprinkle with icing sugar or brush with apricot jam to glaze for nice presentation or apply to face for a nice taste. Your choice.