Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Recipe For A Warming Winter’s Rabbit Casserole

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Rabbit used to be the chicken of England with everyone eating rabbits that live in copious amounts around the countryside.  I am not sure why chicken took over from rabbit in our nation’s hearts, but it might be as simple as the fact that it is easier to get the meat off an enlarged chicken breast than cutting the fiddly meat off the rabbit skeleton.  And there are still so many rabbits around that I do not know why we have never taken up this as the poor man’s food – free food from the countryside that also keeps their numbers down instead of factory farmed fowl.

Anyway, I like the light, gamey meat taste of rabbit, so on Saturday I prepared this wintry rabbit casserole for eating on Sunday; Sophie and I were out in our village for a party, so we did not want any particular hassle with the cooking on Sunday.  Thanks to Sally and Paul for the fantastic party and delicious curries.  This is the classic stewing sauce that I make for all game, meat and chicken, varying the amounts of each ingredient depending what is lurking in the vegetables area or in the fridge.  The key is the basic ingredients of onions, carrots, bay, salt and pepper, together with the stock plus a long slow cook to let all the flavours infuse together; everything else can be tweaked and changed.


2tbsp sunflower oil
1 desertspoon butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, halved and chopped finely (approx 1mm)
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped finely
8 mushrooms, cleaned and halved
200ml / 7 fl oz red wine (roughly a wine glass)
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
300ml / ½ pint chicken stock
1tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
600g  / 1¼ lb rabbit, cut into 3cm / 1 inch dices
5 rashers streaky bacon, cut into 3cm long strips
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.

Add 1 tbsp sunflower oil and the butter to a heavy bottomed casserole pot and heat to really hot.  Add the onions and cook until translucent and just starting to brown at the edges, which will take about 5 minutes over a medium heat.  Add the sliced celery, carrot and mushrooms, stir and lightly fry for about 3 minutes until translucent.

Mushrooms, Carrots And Celery

Mushrooms, Carrots And Celery

Lightly Fry The Vegetables

Lightly Fry The Vegetables

Add the red wine, then the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock, and bring to the boil.  Cook the stock for about 10 minutes on a full boil and with the lid off to allow it to reduce.

Meanwhile, fry the streaky bacon in 1tbsp of sunflower oil.  When browned add the bacon to the tomato stock.  Add the chopped and prepared rabbit to the streaky bacon oil and cook until sealed and lightly browned.  Add to the tomato and simmer for about 5 minutes with the lid off.

Fry The Rabbit Pieces

Fry The Rabbit Pieces

Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes at 180C / 350F, then reduce the heat to 160C / 320F and cook for another 45 minutes.

Axel's Rabbit Casserole

Axel's Rabbit Casserole

If possible cook this on the day before eating and leave overnight for the flavours to fully infuse, meld and develop.

Serve with mashed potato.

Recipe For Traditional Steamed Ginger Treacle Sponge Pudding

Monday, December 6th, 2010
Ginger is a wonderful spice, warming and earthy in flavour with a comforting aroma. For me, it is redolent with memories of warmth indoors with an open coal or wood fire while the outside is heavy with snow. It is also so versatile with the spice being warming and earthy and perfect for everything from curry through to ginger biscuits, while sweet crystallised ginger is lovely and sweet and ideal for ice creams through to puddings. I have bought in traditional crystrallised ginger sweets for this Christmas along with some chocolate gingers boxed up in retro wooden boxes. So with the weather brisk over the last week and heavy snows for this time of the year, my mind has wondered to traditional sponge puddings full of suet, treacle and, you got it, ginger.
I made this on Saturday evening, enjoying listening to the pop pop pop sound of the lid on pot as the pud steamed away for 2 hours while I listened to Radio 5 Live. There was a really frank and open phone in hosted by Alec McGivern on the failed English bid for the FIFA World Cup in 2018, but I must admit that I sympathise with Niall Quinn and his view that those who disclosed corruption at FIFA prior to the announcement of the winners of the FIFA World Cups should explain to those football fans in Newcastle and Sunderland why they did it and whether they really believe that they were right to push for disclosure in a way that could harm the “now failed” bid. They need, also, to explain to those in the North East who could have benefitted from any investment in local infrastructure and sport in the build up to a World Cup where that hope for jobs and change will now come from. There are times to talk and there are times to keep stum, and this surely was one of those times to wait for a better moment. I accept that there might have been no change in the result, but it still sticks in the craw.
Anyway back to the Steamed Ginger Sponge Pudding, this is a dark and rich sweet steamed pudding. It is moist and succulent with a satisfying heaviness, rather than a dry lightness that many modern puddings have. I think that hearty body comes from the suet, whereas many recipes now seem to exclude the suet and use self raising flour, breadcrumbs and butter to make more of a cake than a traditional buxom sweet.
Recipe For Steamed Ginger Treacle Sponge
3 tbsp golden syrup
1tbsp black treacle
1tbsp ground almonds
225g / 8 oz plain flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g / 3 oz suet
50g / 2 oz light muscovado sugar or soft brown sugar
2 tsp organic Fairtrade ginger powder
½ tsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon powder
¼ tsp sea salt
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
25g / 1 oz golden syrup
25g / 1 oz black treacle
75 ml / 2 ½ fl oz / ⅓ cup full fat milk
Prepare a 1 litre (2 pint) pudding basin by placing greasing lightly the whole basin with butter or sunflower oil.
Add the golden syrup and treacle to the bottom of pudding bowl. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the top of this.
Add Golden Syrup And Treacle To Pudding Basin

Add Golden Syrup And Treacle To Pudding Basin

Sieve the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the muscovado sugar, ginger, cinnamon and sea salt, and mix thoroughly. Make a well and add the egg, golden syrup, treacle and milk and stir the mixture together to thick consistency.
Mix The Ingredients Together

Mix The Ingredients Together

Pour the mixture into the prepared, greased pudding basin over the ground almonds.
There should be about 4cm / 1 inch space at the top of the basin for the sponge to rise into. Now cover the sponge mixture: cut a square of baking parchment and grease one side; place this over the top of the pudding basin; cut a larger piece of aluminium foil and place this over the top; tie the covering down with a piece of string wound around the basin twice and then knotted.
Prepare The Pudding For Steaming

Prepare The Pudding For Steaming

Steam in a pan with boiling water for 2 hours, topping up the pan as necessary to keep the level roughly consistent. If cooking earlier then reheating, reheat by steaming for 1 hour or nuking in the microwave for a few minutes.
Turn out onto a warmed plate and serve with custard.
Steamed Ginger Sponge Pudding

Steamed Ginger Sponge Pudding

Serve With Custard

Serve With Custard

Rich Hot Chocolate Recipe

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I have been trying to create a hot chocolate product at Steenbergs and as part of my research I came up with this really rich hot chocolate recipe.  This Hot Chocolate Recipe is something to relax with and enjoy at home, since Sophie calls it “a hug in a mug”.  It is, however, probably impossible to commercialise as any attempt to dumb it down will make the whole experience cheap and less luxurious.

Homemade Rich Hot Chocolate

Homemade Rich Hot Chocolate

Recipe For Rich Hot Chocolate Drink

575ml /1 pint / 2½ cups full fat milk
60ml / ¼ cup water
60g / 2 oz / ¾ cup good quality Fairtrade caster sugar (not your plain white stuff)
100g / 3½ oz dark Fairtrade chocolate (I use one bar of Divine chocolate)

In a bowl over boiling water, melt the chocolate bar, then switch off the heat but leave over the hot water.

Put the milk and water into a pan and bring to the boil.  Just as the first bubbles appear at the edges, take the pan off the heat.  Add the caster sugar and stir in until dissolved.

Add the chocolate and stir in; reheat the mixture until it just starts to bubble again. 

Take it off the heat, then whisk quickly with a hand whisk for about 1 minute.  Pour into 2 or 3 mugs, sit back and enjoy.

Recipe For Tea Infused Indian Rice Pudding

Saturday, November 6th, 2010
Indian Rice Pudding

Indian Rice Pudding

For pudding with my Imperial Korma, I made Indian Rice Pudding.  I love rice pudding and I love the Indian versions, especially Pal Payasam which is the traditional Keralan recipe; these use basmati rice which has a firmer mouth-feel than arborio rice, which is used for a typical English rice puds. 

In Kerala, you would flavour it with cashews as they are grown all over Kerala, including by my friends at Elements Homestead; however, the other day I did not have any cashews to hand so I used flaked almonds which worked really well (cashews are rarely in our storecupboard, but almonds always are).

As it is an Indian rice pudding, I wanted to add an extra flavour element to the rice pudding and decided to infuse the milk with tea and I actually used one of our chai teas, which I make using a Keralan black tea from the POABS Estates near Nelliyampathy together with Fairtrade spices that are indigenous to the region.  You do not need to use a chai tea (or tea at all for that matter), but I suggest you should use light and flowery teas rather than strong ones, so a Nilgiri Black Tea or a Fine Darjeeling would work well, but I do not think a malty Assam or Kenyan tea would be right as those flavours will come through too strongly.

Axel’s Tea Infused Indian Rice Pudding

½tsp green cardamom powder
2tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
2tbsp flaked almonds
2tbsp raisins
100g / 3½ oz basmati rice
600ml / 1 pint full fat milk
1tsp Indian tea (optional)
100g / 3½ oz light muscovado sugar

Heat the ghee/butter in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the almonds and raisins until the raisins have swollen up.  Remove from the hot oil and drain almonds and raisins on kitchen paper and keep to the side; keep the oil in the pan but off the heat.

In a milk pan, warm the milk to just below boiling point; you will see bubbles just appear at the edge of the milk just by the pan edge.  Take off the heat and add the tea to the milk, stir in and leave to infuse for 5 minutes, then strain out the tea leaves by pouring the milk through a sieve. 

Wash and drain the rice twice.  In the saucepan, reheat the ghee/butter and lightly fry the basmati rice for about 1 minute being careful not to let it stick or burn.  Add the tea-infused milk and stir into the rice; heat to just below boiling point, stirring all the time to stop it sticking on the base of the pan and so burning.

When the rice is nearly cooked with an al dente bite, add the sugar and stir it in until it has dissolved and the rice is throughly cooked.  Add the fried almonds, raisins and cardamom powder, stir right through and gently cook for about 2 minutes longer.

Serve hot, with cream or milk if you want.

Review Of Food Blogs For October 2010 (continued)

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Continuing from the first part of my review of blogs, at Not Without Salt Ashley has been making Homemade Honey Roasted Peanut Butter, which sounds so easy and is something I would never have thought of making, like making Homemade Nutella, which seem to be just timeless purchasing items.  How terrible and consumerist we have all become.  And her Pumpkin Rice Pudding recipe is perfect and will solve the pumpkin problem next autumn, plus also (as you will find out over next week) I have been going through a rice pudding phase myself and need to write up my efforts.

While at Orangette, Molly Wizenberg made a gorgeous sounding Rustic Plum Tart with a so simple pastry; I like plum tarts and cakes but only ever seem to buy them and never get round to making them myself, which seems strange, perhaps one day soon, perhaps?  And Gazpacho is another thing I have never made, so you never just never know.  The use of heirloom tomatoes and the bite of the sherry vinegar sound like a lovely combination – sweet and sour.

Ree at The Pioneer Woman Cooks has come up with an amazing twist on sweet potatoes, which I like to add into mash to give an extra dimension, but she has made a soulful pudding with them by making the sweet potato into a custard style filling and then covering them with a full on pecan crumble crust.  Now that’s different and I am truly intrigued by it.  I love the rich umami depth of Beef With Snow Peas which is a classic stir fried beef recipe that anyone can make at home; I like this sort of dish with some soy sauce infused with Birds Eye Chillis close to hand to dip the beef into.  Then there is Creamy Cheese Grits With Chili which are a real American piece of cuisine and are a great alternative to potatoes, like pap in South Africa or polenta in Italy, and what better to finish off with that Ree’s classic Skillet Cornbread recipe.  Well, there is one thing, she provides a link to an older recipe called Tres Leches Cake, which sounds a must – rich, moist and sweet…what more do you need in a home made cake.

While Luisa Weiss at The Wednesday Chef makes an intriguing sounding Soft Zucchini, Harissa, Feta and Olive recipe.  At Wild Yeast, Susan has been making soudough recipes with two catching my eye – Bread Crumb Sourdough and Soft Semolina Sourdough.

Review Of Food Blogs For October 2010

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

I cannot really believe that it is already November, the clocks have fallen back and I am preparing for Christmas, with the Christmas cake baked and Christmas pudding slated for this weekend.  So on a cold, windy, dark November morning, I looked back with joy at the tail end of autumnal style cooking and my favourite bloggers’ articles on the web.

At A Slice Of Cherry Pie, Julia Parsons has been cooking in Turin at the Slow Food Show, making sausages and a British pasta dish; all good reading and sounds like an amazing event.  And in a Halloween vein, there are recipes for Halloween biscuits and Roasted Winter Squash With Nutmeg.

At Cannelle et Vanille, where as always the photography is awesome, Aran Goyoaga has made some delicious Pumpkin, Quinoa And Hazelnut Gnocchi which sound amazing; I have never really liked gnocchi and I get tired of pumpkin soup at this time of year, so this seems to sort out two problems at once.  While earlier, the smells of the mouth-watering Pear, Hazelnut and Brown Butter Cakes just leap out of the screen and they look so dainty and perfect in the photography, shaped as they are in mini bundt circles.  I have also worked out why her blog looks so perfect, she is a food stylist and photographer, so I do not need to feel too down on my own inabilities in my blog, where everything seems made at home, so rough and ready, which actually is how it is.

Some time back, I experimented with recipes for the ideal Almond Cake and came up with something that seemed to pass muster, however Clotilde Dusoulier at Chocolate & Zucchini has come up with a great alternative, Quince Almond Cake, which I reckon you could also do with pears if you cannot find any quinces.  Clotilde has also posted an intriguing Savory Sesame Cookies recipe that has been adapted from a recipe by Clea at Clea Cuisine.

At Chubby Hubby, they have created a fusion slow-cooked Pot Au Feu that mixes French cuisine with Vietnamese pho.  It sounds like an ideal winter warmer as the nights draw in.

CookSister has been very active with lots of photography, restaurant reviews and some inspiring recipes.  I like the Individual Beef & Guinness Pies, where I might substitute a local stout or dark beer from a microbrewery around us like Monkey Wrench Ale from Daleside Brewery or Riggwelter from Black Sheep Brewery.  These would be accompanied nicely by the Runner Bean And Feta Gratin and with Creme Brulee for pudding.

David Lebovitz has been enjoying visiting markets again with the Arabian exoticism of the Sharjah Market in the United Arab Emirates.  But life will never be the same after the recipe for Chocolate Mousse cake which is a must for any cake-a-holic and chocoholic and has already entered our repertoire.  I love his post about Oatmeal Raisin Cookies as they sound lovely, as well as the truth behind David’s life about being a chef and that it is grunt work; I think TV has a lot to answer for as it makes everyone feel they can be the next superstar singer earning gazillions or Gordon Ramsay or Prime Minister, which is plain folly as most of us are really just going to have to work hard to scrape a living, pay our taxes and get by – that’s the plain and simple truth.  My father talks about “winers, diners and grinders” in the business world, where most are permanently left in the grinders (or grunts) camp, so for example a policeman friend of ours says that they are really just well paid muscle willing to do the stuff that no-one else will do.  But the piece de resistance for me is the Swiss Chard Tart where David has topped the normal pastry filled with chard with apples on the top layer and then enclosed this in even more pastry; this sounds a delicious combination with all those heady baking spices and different textures from raisins and pine nuts.

Helen at Fuss Free Flavours has been busy making Double Chocolate Madeleines which I need to make alongside the David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Mousse Cake mentioned earlier, and I like the idea of Healthier Chocolate Crispies, which I do not feel will catch on for kid’s parties but sounds a perfect excuse for adults to indulge in children’s foods – why should they have all the fun?  Chocolate seems to be the theme and Spiced Chocolate Stout Beef Casserole sounds amazing even after Chocolate Week, finishing off with the very adult Chocolate Stout Brownies to help the waistline.

A Journey Through Back To True Korma Recipes (Part 1)

Monday, October 25th, 2010

When I made the Chicken Tikka the other day, I also made a Lamb Korma.  The end result was nothing like the British Kormas that I had been used to, so I decided to investigate the concept of the korma further.  The first thing to say is that I liked to alternative korma style that I had stumbled on, and secondly that the British korma has little linkage back to the true korma.

What seems to have happened is a story of early British curries.  When the curry house started appearing in a wave in the 1960s – 1970s, the style of cuisine was rural Bangladesh and these early “Indian chefs” realised soon that their new clientele wanted inter alia a range of curries that included a hot curry, a medium one and a mild one.  These morphed into the Anglo-Indian vindaloo, chicken tikka and korma classics of modern British-style Indian food.  For us Brits, korma now means a mild, creamy meat dish, whereas the true korma originated out of the Islamic courts of the Moghuls and other Muslim rulers of India over the 10th to 16th centuries.  This korma from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is a rich banquet dish that is showy and uses lots of yoghurt together with expensive flavourings like cardamom, nutmeg, rose water, saffron and nuts like almonds and dried fruits.

My first trial was a variation on a simple korma, called Korma Narendra Shahi, which is slightly sweet and mild, with a pretty rose water flavour which some might not like, but is something I enjoy and is a key flavour of Arabian and Indian banquet-style-food; if the rose flavour is an issue just reduce the levels of rose water you use.  It is based on a recipe from one of my favourite little gems of Indian cooking “Cooking Delights Of The Maharajas” by Digvijaya Singh; this is a collection of recipes collected from the Royal kitchens of India by Mr Singh who really would be the Maharaja of Sailana, hence he was able to collect these recipes and continue his father’s quest to find some of the best recipes from his contemporaries’ households. 

The next korma recipe will be a mash-up between two of the really fine recipes in the same book, mixing up the Persian style Korma Shiraz with a recipe for Korma Asafjahi from the kitchens of the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1905 and will follow in my next blog…

Recipe for Korma Narendra Shahi

500g / 1lb lamb chopped into 2cm / 1 inch sized peices
2tbsp + 2tbsp ghee, sunflower oil or vegetable oil
500g / 1lb onions, half chopped finely and the other half sliced thinly into rounds
115g / 4oz plain yoghurt
¼tsp – 1tsp chilli powder (vary this to taste, but it is meant to be mild)
1tsp cumin seeds (or powder)
3 green cardamom pods, broken open
Pinch of turmeric
1 pinch of salt
A pinch of saffron diluted in warm water
30ml / 2tbsp rose water
1tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1tsp garam masala

Start by dry frying the cumin seeds, if you are beginning with whole ones. When nicely toasted, crush them in a pestle and mortar.  Make the saffron infusion by placing the saffron filaments in a mug or glass and pour over newly drawn water that has just been boiled and leave to infuse for 30 minutes then strain out the saffron.

Heat the ghee in a frying pan and add the onions and fry gently until translucent.  Add the chilli powder, cumin powder and salt and fry together for 1 minute, then add the yoghurt, stir well and cook for about 10 minutes at a gentle simmer with the lid on.

Korma Sauce With Light Creamy Look

Korma Sauce With Light Creamy Look

While you are frying the onions, start frying the lamb pieces in ghee in a separate frying pan.  Cook these quickly to brown and seal the edges.  When ready, which should be as the korma sauce is finishing its 10 minutes’ initial cook, add the lamb to the sauce, cover and cook at a medium heat for 1½ hours.  Lift these pieces of lamb out of the ghee with a fork or slotted spoon, i.e. leave the fat behind.

When the meat is tender, which should be after about 1½ hours, simmer with the lid off to let the liquid dry up almost completely.  Now add the remaining ingredients (saffron, rose water, coriander leaves and garam masala) and stir until warmed through.

Homemade Korma Narendra Shahi

Homemade Korma Narendra Shahi

Serve straight away, or even better leave a day and eat the next day when the flavours are much more subtle and have infused completely through.

Recipe For Chicken Tikka Masala

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

We had to rearrange our weekend as our daughter got chicken pox mid week, which meant her birthday party needed to be rearranged, childcare and cover at work needed to be sorted.  So with no baking to do for the weekend, I felt like making some of the Anglo-Indian curry classics  We start with the quintessential of fusion meals, Chicken Tikka Masala, which has become one of the icons of modern British food.

I like it in part because it tastes good, but also because it really is one of those evil meals that makes use of ingredients that I would never normally touch – Heinz tomato ketchup and Heinz tomato soup.  I know you can make a more authentic Indian sauce without these ingredients, but that misses the point about Chicken Tikka Masala, i.e. that it is tandoori chicken with a lightly spiced tomato-curry sauce using quick-to-hand ingredients; you can feel the panic of the chef who invented it – what do I do to make a tomato curry sauce? Oh I know tomato soup, tomato ketchup, tomato, cream and some spices with a dash of sourness from vinegar and see what happens.

So here is my version, which can be made hotter but this is designed to be child-friendly rather than adult-authentic, so if you want some heat added just add 2 – 4 green chillis to the tikka masala sauce and you should be okay.  Also, you could circumvent all the spices by using a tandoori masala for the chicken-yoghurt marinade and a tikka or Madras curry powder in the tikka sauce.

We also made lamb korma which I will write about soon.

Axel’s Chicken Tikka Masala

Stage 1: To marinade and roast the spiced chicken

1tsp organic paprika
½ tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted then ground in pestle & mortar
½ tsp nutmeg powder
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp yellow mustard powder
1tsp garam masala
4 green cardamom pods, opened so the flavour from the seeds comes out
1 green chilli (medium heat), deseeded and chopped
2tbsp lime juice
3tbsp plain yoghurt
500g / 1lb chicken breast, chopped into 2cm / 1 inch cubes

Spices For Tikka Marinade

Spices For Tikka Marinade

Firstly prepare the spices, dry roasting the cumin and deseeding the green chilli.  Add all these to a metal or glass mixing bowl.  Stir in the lime juice until you have a paste, then add the yoghurt and mix through all the flavours. 

Finally, with the best chicken you can find or are happy buying, chop this into cubes and then add to the spicy marinade and stir through throughly.  Cover with clingfilm and leave in fridge to infuse with the flavours.  I try and leave it overnight but a minimum of 3 hours is fine. 

Chicken Pieces Infusing With Spices In Yoghurt Marinade

Chicken Pieces Infusing With Spices In Yoghurt Marinade

As for chilli, you can increase or decrease those quantities to suit your desire for heat; as we have two children, they are not too enamoured of over hot food so I tend to keep the heat quotient down for them.

On the next day, while you are making the tikka masala sauce, roast these curry flavoured chicken pieces by placing them evenly on a baking tray and cooking in a 180C / 350F oven for 20 – 25 minutes until nicely browned.

Roasted Tikka Chicken Pieces

Roasted Tikka Chicken Pieces

Stage 2: Making the tikka masala sauce

2tbsp ghee or sunflower/vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 large onion (1½ medium onions), chopped finely
½ sweet pepper (red or green), chopped into small dices
1cm / ½ inch fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp medium curry powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
1tbsp white wine vinegar
4tbsp chopped tomatoes from a tin
1tbsp tomato ketchup, ideally Heinz as it should be slightly sweet
175ml  / ¾ cup tomato soup, once again ideally Heinz as the colour and sweetness is right
100ml / ½ cup single cream
½ tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped finely
½ tsp sea salt, or chaat masala

Spice Mix For Tikka Sauce

Spice Mix For Tikka Sauce

Start by preparing the spice mix that is needed for the sauce, i.e. the fresh ginger to coriander powder in the list.  When done, heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a frying pan.  Add the onions and garlic cloves and fry gently for 3 minutes until starting to get translucent, then add the chopped bell pepper and fry for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the spice mix to the onion-garlic-pepper and mix throughly and fry for about 1 minute. 

Gently Fry Onions, Garlic And Ginger In Ghee

Gently Fry Onions, Garlic And Ginger In Ghee

Now add all the liquid ingredients to the onion mix and stir completely – that is the white wine vinegar, chopped tinned tomatoes, tomato ketchup, Heinz tomato soup and single cream.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.  Then add in the garam masala, fresh coriander leaves and chaat masala/ salt.

Stage 3: Fusion Time – bringing it all together

As a final stage, add the roasted spicy chicken pieces to the tikka sauce.  Stir it together and let cook together for about 15 minutes.

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

Serve with rice and naan bread.

Tasting Exotic Meats From South Africa

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Earlier this year, we were contacted at Steenbergs Factory by someone asking us whether we had any sausage seasonings.  The answer to which is yes, however they then asked us whether we had anything that would go with kangaroo, which was not what we had been anticipating.  Anyway we sent them samples, but intrigued I investigated who they were and it transpired that Osgrow sold a range of exotic meats, having grown out of being an ostrich meat importer. 

I do not know whether readers remember the days when ostrich was all the rage and we were all being told that its meat was leaner and richer than beef etc, but then there were various financial scandals of the Ponzi scheme style and the industry disappeared into the ether.  Well, Osgrow seems to have started as the industry in the UK become dust and has created a neat little niche for itself.

It has taken some time for me to pluck up the courage to purchase, however we have done that now and received a well packed polystyrene container within 2 days of ordering online.  That is decent service and the meat was vacuumed packed and the container had one of those freezer cubes in it to keep the temperature down.  After much consultation en famille, we had gone for the Safara Grill Hamper for £47.75 (containing  2 x 125g wildebeest steaks,  2 x kudu steaks, 2 x eland steaks, 2 x springbok steaks and 2 x crocodile tournedos), plus 2 ostrich steaks (£6.99) and 2 more springbok steaks (£5.75).  A gripe I would have is that we ordered the extra springbok steaks as they were not stated as being in the Safari Grill, but on the upside we did not get the bison steaks (which I can get locally in Yorkshire) receiving wildebeest instead, so on balance we were satisfied, I suppose.

Kudu Steaks From Osgrow

Kudu Steaks From Osgrow

Frying Springbok Steaks

Frying Springbok Steaks

Tasting Crocodile Meat

Tasting Crocodile Meat

We tried the game over a few weeks in time and our tasting notes are as follows:

Crocodile: white flesh with a texture akin to shark or tuna.  Relatively flavourless and bland with a taste close to shark, a sort of very mild chicken taste with a slight hint of fish, which we guess is because of its water-based lifestyle.

Cooked Crocodile Steak From Osgrow

Cooked Crocodile Steak From Osgrow

Eland: this is a sweet type of venison, but I found it had an unpleasant almost sour-milk-like aftertaste, but Sophie quite liked it and preferred it to the springbok.

Kudu: this is a sweet, meaty type of venison without any overpowering meatiness.  The flesh has a relatively soft easy bite.  This is the family’s favourite with three out of four scoring it top.

Springbok: gamier flavour than the kudu and without any of its sweetness, but without the richness of a British venison.  Soft texture.

So of the venison and crocodile, kudu was the preferred choice.  However, I must admit that it did not taste as good as when I have eaten it in South Africa in the past; I do not know whether that is a case of the ambience and setting not being quite right or whether (as I suspect) that the meat is perhaps not as good as it could be.  I think that the venison from the UK tastes much better and is more authentic.

Finally, we taste tested the wildebeest and the ostrich steaks.  These were once again fried in a small amount of melted butter.  The wildebeest tasted of tough beef steak, which was really disappointing, whereas the ostrich steaks were really good – meaty, flavoursome and velvety in texture.

Overall, I would not buy the exotic game meats again as I did not think they were especially special and would recommend that you buy a British venison from a good producer like the Clutterbucks at Hornby Castle or from Holme Farmed Venison.  I would, however, buy ostrich again as those steaks were really good and would also work well in a casserole.

Perfecting A Carrot Cake Recipe

Thursday, October 14th, 2010
A Slice Of Carrot Cake

A Slice Of Carrot Cake

Jay kept on calling my “gingerbread” “carrot cake” over the last few weeks, so I took the hint and started trying to perfect a carrot cake recipe. 

The first few attempts did not go down with the kids as firstly they contained walnuts (“I always have hated walnuts” was the response, but in our household it is more of a case that if I can see it then I cannot/must not like it) and then I found them a bit too dry.  So walnuts removed and buttermilk added, I have come up with a carrot cake recipe that passes muster – moist and tasty.  You can always add the walnuts back in again should you so wish; I would suggest 115g / 4oz / 1 cup of chopped walnuts.

The kids got to the icing and topped it with a vast amount of sprinkles which they loved eating as much as the cake itself.  Overall, it is not a bad way to claim you have eaten one of your 5 -a-day.

For the cake:

175g / 6oz / ¾ cup unsalted butter
175g / 6oz / ¾ cup light muscovado sugar
3 egg yolks at room temperature and gently whisked
3 egg whites at room temperature
30ml / 2 tbsp sunflower oil or buttermilk 
175g / 6oz / 1½ cups organic self-raising flour
5ml /1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt, finely ground
¾ tsp organic cinnamon powder
½ tsp organic ground nutmeg
50g / 2oz / ½ cup ground almonds
225g / 8 oz / 1½ cups freshly grated carrot

For the icing:

175g / 6oz / ¾ cup mascarpone cheese, or cream cheese
40g / 1½oz / 3tbsp icing sugar
1tbsp lemon juice
Walnuts or sprinkles to decorate

Set the oven to 160C / 325F.  Line a large loaf tin with baking parchment (dimensions: 12 x 19cm; 4½ x 7½ inches).

Sieve the self-raising flour, salt, cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl.  Separate the egg yolks and whites; mix the egg yolks together gently with a fork or a whisk and set the egg whites aside. 

Cut the butter into small pieces and put into a mixing bowl, then add in the soft brown sugar.  Cream together the butter and soft brown sugar.  Add the egg yolks and the buttermilk or oil and whisk until thoroughly mixed in.

Put Butter And Sugar In Mixing Bowl

Put Butter And Sugar In Mixing Bowl

Cream The Butter And Sugar

Cream The Butter And Sugar

Add the self-raising flour together with the other dry ingredients and the ground almonds; mix it all up with a silicone spatula or hand whisk. 

Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then add this and the grated carrots to the cake batter and fold in fully.

Add The Whipped Egg Whites And Stir In

Add The Whipped Egg Whites And Stir In

Scoop the carrot cake batter into the prepared loaf tin. 

Scoop The Carrot Cake Batter Into The Loaf Tin

Scoop The Carrot Cake Batter Into The Loaf Tin

Put into the centre of the warmed oven and bake for about 70 minutes.  As the hour comes up, start checking the carrot cake by gently pressing the top in the centre to feel whether it feels springy and spongy rather than liquidy; when done a skewer should come out without any dampness on it.

Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then turn out of loaf tin, remove the baking paper and allow to cool on a wire rack. 

Baked Carrot Cake, Cooled And Ready For Icing

Baked Carrot Cake, Cooled And Ready For Icing

When cool, it is time to start preparing the mascarpone ice cream.  To make the cream cheese icing, put all the icing ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix together thoroughly.  Spread this over the top of the carrot cake and decorate with sprinkles or walnuts or other nuts for that matter.

Spread The Mascarpone Icing Over The Carrot Cake

Spread The Mascarpone Icing Over The Carrot Cake

Decorate Your Carrot Cake

Decorate Your Carrot Cake

Enjoy with tea or a coffee, or indulge yourself and enjoy as is and without the excuse of a beverage.