Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Gujerati-style cabbage with carrots and Mushroom and potatoes with garlic & ginger

I’ve had Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking book - an offshoot from a BBC series in the early 80’s - seemingly forever.  I used to cook from it growing up  - in fact it is the first book I properly remember cooking from - and was always amazed at the lengthy lists of ingredients. I remember feeling Madhur was educating me in the method of Indian cooking: why onions & garlic are seemingly “overcooked”, the merits of frying whole spices and so on.

I don’t remember if the book was a gift from my mum when I moved out all those years ago or if I simply nicked it figuring I’d use it more but regardless it is well used and loved, and certainly looks it, I don't think there's one clean page.

The following are two very good vegetable dishes adapted from this book: the cabbage & carrots in particular, a revelation.

By the way, this is essentially the same book I believe but my copy (or at least the copy I took with me when I moved away from home many many years ago) looks like this.

Gujerati-style Cabbage & Carrots
Serves 2 with rice and 1 other dish     

175g cabbage
175g carrots
½ fresh hot green chili

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
pinch asafoetida
1½ tsp black mustard seed
1 whole hot dried red chili
½  tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1½ tsp lemon juice

Core the cabbage (this is about a quarter of a medium cabbage) and shred finely. Peel and coarsely grate the carrots. Cut the green chili into thin, long strips. 

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium-high flame and when hot, put in the asafoetida.  A second later, put in the mustard seeds and as soon as they begin to pop (not long) put in the dried red chili which should turn dark red in a few seconds.

Now put in the cabbage, carrots and green chili. Turn the heat down to medium and stir around for half a minute or so before adding the salt, sugar and chopped coriander.

Stir and cook for another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just done and retain some of their crispness. Add the lemon juice, stirring to mix before serving.

In this second recipe I used probably about half as many mushrooms as I had much less than I thought, and twice as many tomatoes as I can’t read!  More mushrooms would definitely be a good idea but in all honesty the tomatoes seemed about right.  A spot of spinach would probably work quite well here too. Also, I didn’t parboil and peel the potatoes before frying lightly as the recipe suggested which again suits me as I tend to like a bit of skin on my spud.

Potatoes & Mushrooms cooked with Ginger & Garlic
Serves 2 with rice and 1 other dish

140g potatoes, chopped into 1 inch pieces
100g mushrooms, cut into pieces the same size as the potatoes
¾" piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 larges cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1½ tbsp plus 115ml water
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp turmeric
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
½ tsp whole cumin seeds
2 whole cardamom pods
140g tomatoes, finely chopped - I used about 275g and didn’t bother peeling them
½ tsp ground cumin seeds
¼ tsp ground coriander seeds
⅛ tsp cayenne
⅛ tsp garam masala
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

Put the ginger and garlic into a spice grinder or similar along with 1½ tbsp of water. Blend until you have a fine puree.

Put the diced potatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with approx about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon turmeric over them. Toss to mix and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy, wide pan over a medium flame. When it is hot, put in the potatoes, and stir and fry until they are lightly browned on all sides. Then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Put the whole cumin seeds and cardamom pods into the same pan and stir for 3-4 seconds before adding the tomatoes, the ginger-garlic puree, and the ground cumin and coriander. Stir and fry until it all becomes thick and the oil separates.

Add the rest of the turmeric and the cayenne. Stir once or twice then add 115ml of water, the potatoes, mushrooms and salt. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cover, turning the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove the cover and turn heat up slightly then keep gently stirring until you have a thick sauce. Stir in the garam masala and taste for salt. Serve garnished with the coriander.

Note - you can remove the whole cardamom pods before you serve in case you forget they are in whilst eating.

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Monday, 25 July 2011

Gang keo goung... aka green prawn curry with fresh dill

Actually the title's not strictly accurate as I ran out of green curry paste and so it is half red and half green.. the recipe below though just refers to green. As may be apparent I often choose to cook based on what I may have left over from other dishes I’ve cooked - this is a case in point with the “leftover” being dill - which is, I found out some time ago in one of my favourite books, Curry, also called Laotian coriander.

This is a really easy recipe, and with the aid of store cupboard & freezer essentials (well my storecupboard & freezer!) all you may need to get in is the dill to make it. I’ve adapted this recipe from the aforementioned book - really effort should be made to make the “kore” or Laotian curry paste from scratch but I couldn't get my hands on any coriander root, so went ahead with the published suggestion of shop bought Thai curry paste. I've also added a green chilli to give a bit more warmth to the sauce and mushrooms, which I'm sure are far from authentic but I like the combination of mushrooms and prawns and had some so threw them in.

Laotian Prawn Curry with Fresh Dill
Serves 2

1 ½ tbsp groundnut (or vegetable) oil
2 ½ tbsp Thai curry paste
1 ½ tsp shrimp paste
1 ½ tsp palm sugar (or failing that golden granulated sugar or similar)
250 ml coconut milk (thick is best but I only had light unfortunately)
250 ml chicken or veg stock
3 kaffir lime leaves, bruised (these can be found frozen in Oriental supermarkets and can be stored in your freezer)
1 tbsp fish sauce (or to taste, you may want to start with 1 tsp and go from there)
1 large (or equivalent) waxy potato, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces
10-12 raw king or tiger prawns (I use Waitrose frozen king prawns and defrost them before use)
3 medium / large chestnut mushrooms, chopped (to be same size as potatoes)
1 green birdseye chilli
1 small bunch dill 

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat, add the curry paste and stir-fry for a couple of minutes until it is golden and fragrant. Add the shrimp paste, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, and the sugar continuing to stir-fry for another minute.

Reduce the heat to low and add the coconut milk, stock, lime leaves, chilli (leave this whole, it's to add gentle warmth and flavour rather than heat), fish sauce and potatoes. Three-quarters cover the pot and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, stir well and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes then add the prawns, stir well and cook for another 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the prawns, but until they are pink.

Serve hot with rice (sticky rice to be more authentic), garnished generously with the dill fronds.

Postscript: while cooking this I noticed a distinct lack of cats so had a quick look around. I'd been wondering why I kept finding strange dips in my clematis pot and bits of compost around it.. it seems someone likes to make themselves a bed:

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Friday, 22 July 2011

Review: Heston's Waitrose Steak Pie and Malt Salt

So the cupboards are a little bare which made it time to delve into the freezer. A while ago I bought one of the “Heston does Waitrose” pies (okay, it’s the “Heston from Waitrose” range but same same), specifically the Steak, Ale & Kombu Pie

Despite being waaay behind everyone else who has probably reviewed the whole range (it came out last November after all) I thought I may as well do a little write-up and at the same time also review another recent purchase, Malt Salt.

I should point out that there is little I like more than buying strange ingredients and condiments so when I first read about this stuff last year I wanted to give it a go. I bought some Velveeta “cheese” at the same time, having read about it so frequently on US food blogs & forums I had to get some. Suffice to say that so far I’ve been too scared to do anything with it, an oblong block of processed cheese wrapped in foil and stored in a cardboard box just seems so, well, wrong. Old Bay Seasoning from the same order will be tried out later in the week however. If it’s good enough for Nigella it’s good enough for me.

So onto the pie. I bought this on offer, I think it was £2.49 at the time. So first thing’s first - I think that’s not bad for a quality ingredient pie. Full whack of £3.49 however may become a little prohibitive when talking in numbers for all but a very occasional “I can’t be bothered to do much cooking” mid-week treat.

Despite the filling appearing to be a slightly odd colour initially, it is in fact rather good: buttery shortcrust pastry filled with a rich steak and ale sauce topped with crisp puff pastry.  I like the fact that there are two pastries: the shortcrust shell being crisp yet giving and the puff lid just as I like it with the exterior being light and flaky and the interior moist and rich.  The pie is well seasoned too with that umami richness that clearly the kombu was used for, and the filling generous.  

I sautéed some Charlotte potatoes to go with the pie and with which of course to try out my “Malt Salt”.  This is basically vinegar flavoured salt invented by an American company to stop fish & chips being “as cold and soggy as a Seattle winter”.  I actually like soggy chips: by which I mean I like perfectly cooked, crispy chip-shop chips made soggy by the copious amounts of vinegar I add.  If the paper stays intact on a cone of chips, then I clearly haven’t doused them with enough vinegar.  As I said, I like buying strange ingredients and condiments, even if those things make no sense when combined with my preferences.  Sautéed potatoes on the other hand - different matter.  Now those I don’t like soggy.

Surprisingly the stuff works, you do indeed get the sinus clearing blast of chip shop malt vinegar (OK so I probably used too much but what can I say, I like the taste of vinegar) but the potato stayed crispy.  Now I rarely have fried potato but when I do, I will probably sprinkle some of this on it.  What I won’t be ordering is the same companies “Bacon Salt” because while bacon is good (I have a bacon jam recipe to post!) I don’t believe that “Everything should taste like bacon”.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Lamb & Rice Stuffed Tomatoes

I had some lamb leftover after last night's dinner but wasn't sure what to do with it and for some reason I didn't really fancy pasta (and that never usually happens). On the way back work wandering around the supermarket I came across some beefsteak tomatoes - now these aren't something I would usually buy as they're generally fairly tasteless but these looked red, ripe and juicy and just right for filling with some herby meat & rice.

Tomatoes stuffed with lamb, rice and herbs
Serves 2

2 beef tomatoes
small pinch sugar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g minced lamb
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp tomato purée
25g long grain rice
50ml chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1½ tsp chopped mint

Heat oven to 180C (I think that's about 160C for fan and Gas Mark 4).

Slice the tops off the tomatoes and put to one side. Scoop out the pulp from the tomatoes carefully with a teaspoon, making sure you don’t break the skin. Leave a shell of about ½ cm thick.

Finely chop the pulp (discarding any overly fibrous bits) and put in a bowl to one side along with any juices.

Sprinkle the insides of the tomatoes with a little sugar (this will take away the acidity), then place them on a baking tray.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onion, then gently cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a further 5 until both are soft and translucent (don’t let them colour - a small sprinkle of salt can help).

Add the lamb & cinnamon turn up the heat, then fry until the meat is browned. Add the tomato purée and tomato pulp with the juices, the rice and the stock. Season generously.

Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 mins or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Take off the heat then cool for a few minutes before stirring in the herbs.

Stuff the tomatoes with the meat & lamb mixture then pop their lids on and drizzle over the remaining olive oil.

Put 3 tbsp water into the tray, then bake for 35 mins.
Serve hot or cold with salad and, if you like, crusty bread.

Edit: A nice variation would be a little cubed feta mixed in with the lamb / rice mixture, substituting the dill for some fresh oregano.
Also, I had one of these the next day at room temperature with some salad: resting a day definitely made them a lot more flavourful so I would recommend cooking ahead if at all possible (although they're still very good if you can't).

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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Spicy Lamb Mince & Crushed Broad Beans

This is adapted from a recipe in the Telegraph that I saw online recently - that version didn’t use potato but I thought the beans probably needed bulking out and as it turned out I think I was right.  Floury potatoes such as Maris Piper could, I guess, be used instead so that it has more of a fluffy mash consistency but I think the waxiness of the Charlottes goes well with the slightly waxy texture of the beans.  Further additions I made included a dash of wine and a little harissa as well as using less oil as I didn’t think the amounts in the original recipe were necessary.

This could also of course be cooked outside of broad bean season by defrosted some frozen beans and then treating the same as fresh.

Crushed broad beans & Charlotte potatoes with spiced minced lamb
Serves 2

potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
800g broad beans still in their pods
½ tbsp olive oil
picked leaves from 1 small sprig of mint, chopped
sea salt & freshly ground white pepper
1tsp olive oil
200g minced lamb
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
½ small glass white wine
½ tsp rose harissa
salt & freshly ground pepper
leaves from 2 sprigs of dill

Put the potatoes onto boil in salted water and cook until tender.

Pod the beans and cook in boiling water with a pinch of salt for two minutes. Drain and run under cold water to “shock” (halt the cooking process). Pinch out the beans from their pale green outer jackets discarding the skins (or eat them as you go along if you're me).

Mash the potatoes with two-thirds of the beans, the chopped mint, ½ tbsp of olive oil and then season to taste with salt and a little white pepper.

Set to one side to keep warm, as well as the remaining beans in a separate container.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan, then add the lamb. Cook quite gently for about five minutes, breaking up the clusters of mince with a wooden spoon or fork. After about 5 minutes turn the heat up a little for a further five minutes. 

Once the mince is golden, add the spices and garlic and continue to fry, until it is all beginning to crisp and is fragrant, ensuring that the spices don’t get burnt.

Add most of the dill leaves and stir around for a minute before adding the wine and harissa. Let the wine bubble away until reduced right down (a minute or so). Season to taste.

Divide the potato bean mixture between two plates and flatten down slightly in a vaguely circular shape before spooning over the lamb. Scatter the remaining set-aside beans over the lot with the remaining fronds of dill.

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A (long) Postcard From Sardinia

I've just returned from a short (well a week but it was too short and hard to leave) holiday in Alghero on the Northwest coast of Sardinia with my best friend Naomi. We had chosen a number of sightseeing type places to visit but in the end that all went out the window as we got truly into the laid back and relaxed vibe and spent our days reading on the beach, followed by evening aperitivo, fantastic meals, leisurely passeggiata, a digestif or two then bed.  Bliss.

A favourite apertif - Aperol Spritz

Gnochetti Sardi

Culurgiones - Sardinian ravioli

Delicious mixed antipasti with pane carasau

The runny cheese was outstanding

More culurgiones

We visitied an agriturismo one evening to sample a huge 15 course of typically Algherese cuisine, the highlight of which was the roast suckling pig.. oh if only we'd taken it easy with the antipasti and primi..

Delicious salami, cotto & prosciutto

Various cheeses and roasted aubergine

Fregola - a Sardinian pasta

Is that culurgiones I spy?

The suckling pig - yum. There was a lamb dish as well but I forgot to take a pic

Typical dolci

Calamari fritti

Spaghetti all'algherese

 Another evening called for another 15 course blowout - this time of the fish and seafood variety in a fantastic little restaurant in Alghero's centro storico.  Excellent evening made all the more special by the friendly and frankly madcap staff and locals.

Various seafood antipasti - alici, mussels, octopus, fish in different preparations

Mixed seafood and vongole pastas

Taglioni with peas in squid ink




Gorgeous crema catalana tart


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