Posts Tagged ‘Indian cooking’

Elsewhere In Food Blogs (Part 1)

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

At A Slice Of Cherry Pie, Julia Parsons has been enjoying creating with candelight with a warming goulash for a warming early November night, spiced with the gentle heat of smoked paprika, plus some meringues for pudding.  Then for a warm late November pudding, Julia made a delicious Orange and Stem Crumble, which is full of warming ginger (both as a spice and sweet stem ginger).

At Cannelle et Vanille, Aran Goyoaga made a colourful Creamy Potato and Celery Soup with  Purple Potato Crisps, where the purple coloured crisps have a frightening purple colour.  However, just look at the photos of amazing baking of cookies and meringues for Thanskgiving in mid November and Aran Pear, Apple and Fennel Salad with more Thanksgiving bakery.  I like the delicate nuttiness of the Pistachio Sandies and like baklava imagine that pistachio biscuits would work really well.

At Chocolate & Zucchini, we have a healthy sounding recipe for a Multigrain Starter Bread, which really helpfully refers back to Clothilde Dusoulier’s earlier recipe for Sourdough Starter Baguettes that is one of those great recipes that are so simple that it seems obvious and natural immediately you have read it.  Also, there is a reference to Bread cetera, the bread making blog by Steve B.  In Mid November, Clothilde posted a really healthy sounding Walnut And Date Cookie Recipe that sound wholesome.  While around Thanksgiving, there is a recipe for colourful Chunky Pumpkin Soup which sounds good; I must confess to generally not liking the sweetness and texture of pumpkin, however the addition of cumin and harissa may overcome that aversion for me.

Which neatly brings us on to Cooksister where Jeanne Horak-Druiff made a spicy Thai Spiced Roast Pumpkin Soup that might also satisfy my annual need for doing something useful and tasty with pumpkins, when you do not really like the texture or flavour of them in the first place.  I think I would chose to substitute the coconut milk for milk as I find that coconut milk can also be too sweet and would need to experiment with the type of Thai curry paste used, i.e. red, green or yellow Thai curry.  Then there is Jeanne simple (I like simple) Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seed recipe that uses up the seeds that usually we just scoop out and throw onto the compost heap.

I tend to go for recipes and like bloggers that move with the seasons, obviously trying to take into account where they live, but normally quiche or salad recipes at -5C does little to appeal to me.  However, David Lebovitz’s recipe for Brown Bread Ice Cream is an exception to that rule (that is the key thing about rules, especially your own, they can be broken at will), as I have always been intrigued as how to make bread ice cream and David mentioned Grape Nuts Ice Cream, for which there is a link to the Yankee Magazine.  Now that is something that will be made next summer when the mercury rise to a sensible number.  During Autumn this year, I faffed about trying to get an apple cake that really worked, something that would bring back memories of lazy Kaffee und Kuchen in München aeons ago when I did a German language course there in the mid 1980s.  As usual, David bakes a much better cake than me and his recipe for French Apple Cake will be tried next autumn, or perhaps even earlier as I want to try and make the Bavarian classic Zwetschgen Dachi.  Then I like the idea of the herby floral flavour of Baked Rosemary Apricot Bars.

Shuna Fish at eggbeater has been going through the trials and tribulations of being a chef and writes a heart felt Eminem style poem “for cooks only; an unapology” that expresses the pain in the soul that being a cook can cause, and I love the piece “Put some gratitude in your attitude” as I hate being treated like the dirt on the bottom of a shoe as if I should be grateful for the business and doing business with XYZ with almost never a thank you but many a moan or grumble over zip.  Both blogs have put some light into what for me was a very low and hard November that tested my will to continue with Steenbergs.

Helen Best-Shaw at Fuss Free Flavours baked some gorgeous Soul Cakes for All Soul’s Day and mentions Sting playing at Durham cathedral accompanied by my favourite Northumbrian Pipes, a concert which I am sorry to have missed.  Helen reviews the famous Meat Wagon run by Yianni in London and blogs that his burgers truly are delicious.  I like the Chocolate & Ginger Cake With Brandy Cream, but would perhaps just serve with cream or ice cream being a non drinker.

While from Australia at Lemonpi, we have an intriguing Three Milk Cake and Peanut Butter Parfait With Brownie Salt, which also sounds weird and wonderful.

Recipe For Lamb Biryani (Based On Madhur Jaffrey Recipe)

Monday, November 29th, 2010

It has been snowing since last Thursday and the long range forecast indicates that the weather will not get any better for the rest of the week; a gritter has just gone past our house in the snow.  Everywhere looks pretty and white, with that eery muffled peace from the snow and the fact that fewer cars and lorries are out braving the conditions.  Yorkshire had its coldest weekend since records began hitting -14C / 7 F just down the road on Saturday night (lucky I was in Northumberland where it was a balmy -9C / 16F near Corbridge).  It is not really what we need at this time of year as we have lots of orders to complete at work and the transport system goes to pot.  So my mind turns to food and meat biryani.

Biryanis are a delicate, lightly spiced dish that originated from Persia via the Moghul era in India, perhaps in this case (according to Madhur Jaffrey) from the 18th century courts.  I have based my biryani on the amazing recipe Kucchey Gosht Ki Biryani or Moghlai “Raw” Meat Biryani from Madhur Jaffrey’s bible of real curries “Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible” with a little help from Digvijaya Singh’s “Cooking Delights Of The Maharajas“.

Homemade Lamb Biryani

Homemade Lamb Biryani

This biryani is light, delicate and rich.  It reminds me of warm days travelling around India, with fountains playing merry music in the background and peacocks walking and squawking around decadent, decaying gardens.  It is perfectly accompanied by some chutneys and pickles and a light green salad.

For the meat:

600g / generous 1¼ lb lamb steaks
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
6 green cardamom pods
3 organic Fairtrade cloves
3cm / 1 inch cinnamon quill (roughly half a normal stick with the other half used later; also do not use cassia as that gives wrong flavour profile)
¼ tsp sea salt
1cm /½ inch fresh ginger, finely grated
500g / 1½ cup natural yoghurt (use Greek style as that seems to work the best)

For the biryani:

1tsp saffron threads, soaked in 4tbsp cold water
400 ml / 1¾ cups basmati rice
½ medium onion, finely chopped
3tbsp ghee or sunflower oil
8 dried apricots, chopped into quarters
3cm / 1 inch cinnamon quill
whole green cardamom pods, opened by crushing or with fingers
2 cloves
250ml / ½ pint / 1 cup full fat milk

Slice the meat into thin pasanda strips, i.e. 1cm x 3cm squares (½ inch x 1½ inch).  Grind the cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon in a pestle and mortar or a clean coffee grinder to as fine a powder as possible.  Put the yoghurt into a large bowl, to which you should add the dry spices and salt.  Next add the freshly grated ginger and garlic and mix well.  To this marinade, add the lamb pasandas and leave to marinade in a fridge for at least 3 hours, or ideally overnight.  It is a good thing to do on a Friday or Saturday night so you can enjoy a really delicate biryani on the next day.

Lamb Cut Into Pasandas

Lamb Cut Into Pasandas

Marinade The Lamb Pasandas

Marinade The Lamb Pasandas

Crush the saffron in a price of foil – fold foil over some saffron and then crush it with a rolling pin.  Place the crushed saffron in a cup and steep in cold water for about 4 hours.  Strain out the saffron threads with a tea strainer before using.

Let The Saffron Steep In Cold Water

Let The Saffron Steep In Cold Water

Wash the rice in several changes of water, drain and then leave to soak in water that covers it for 2 – 3 hours.  Drain before cooking.

In a frying pan, heat the ghee and fry the onions until golden brown.  When complete, lift out with slotted spoon and set aside on a plate to cool; leave ghee to cool for a few minutes before using in next step.  In a separate pan, add onion flavoured ghee and line the base of the pan with the meat and its marinade and sprinkle the fried onions and chopped apricots over this.

Fry The Onions In Ghee

Fry The Onions In Ghee

Put The Marinaded Lamb In A Casserole Pot And Sprinkle Over With Fried Onions And Chopped Apricot

Put The Marinaded Lamb In A Casserole Pot And Sprinkle Over With Fried Onions And Chopped Apricots

Put the oven on to 160C / 320F.

Cinnamon And Spice For Rice

Cinnamon And Spice For Rice

Pour 3 litres / 5¼ pints of water into a large pan.  Add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, then bring to the boil.  Add the drained rice and bring back to the boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, then drain.  Quickly spread half the rice over the meat, then sprinkle the saffron water over the rice.  Spread the remaining rice over the rice already in the dish.  Pour over the milk.

Now the key is to seal the casserole dish completely as all the liquid is now in the pot.  Cover the pan with a layer of foil and gently bring to the boil over a medium heat.  Immediately steam comes out the sides of the foil, take the pot off the heat, fold the foil over the edges and then put the pan lid on top of that.

Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 2 hours.  Just before serving, stir the rice and meat together but gently as it is all very soft by now.

Moghlai Lamb Biryani

Moghlai Lamb Biryani

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.

A Journey Back To True Korma Recipes (Part 2) – Banquet Style Korma

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Since my blog the other week, I have looked further into the concept and style of traditional korma recipes and have found them a fascinating social history and felt that a korma would be ideal for Diwali.  They seem to be a fusion recipe in the first place, so when Islam swept through Northern India and the Mughal Emperors became rulers of much of India with many smaller Princely States also being Islamic, they turned Westwards to Shiraz and the Royal Courts of Persia for inspiration in the arts and cuisine.  So korma morphed from a Persian style of food into an Indian cuisine, influenced by the nuances, tastes and flavours of the local culture and palates.

It is a showy style of food, which includes the more exclusive and so expensive spices and dried fruits and nuts.  We may not think of these as rich foods, but (at this time of year) think of Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mincemeat – they are heavily spiced and full of dried fruits and nuts, all of which were expensive and exclusive ingredients for a feast day.  So it felt just ideal to make this korma for Diwali, Axel’s Diwali Korma, followed by a party-style Tea Infused Indian Rice Pudding, which will follow in a later blog.

So I took two recipes that read well and gave me the feeling that they would be good, then I adjusted the seasonings from grams to teaspoons and lowered the salt level, coming up with my own version of a true Imperial korma recipe.  My version is very light on chilli heat as I cook for our family, but you can tweak and adjust the level of heat to whatever you wish, but remember this is not a hot curry but a spiced and rich meal, so better to have a small bowl with fresh chillis in it for everyone to increase the heat themselves to suit their tastes rather than change the balance of the spice blend.  The key is adding saffron water at the end to add more liquid to the largely dried out yoghurt as well as to give my korma a rich intensity.

Adapted from Korma Asafjahi from Nizam of Hyderabad and Korma Shirazi from”Cooking delights Of The Maharajas” by Digvijaya Singh.

500g /1 lb lamb, chopped into 2cm / ½ inch dice
70g / 2½ oz ghee, sunflower or vegetable oil
25g / 1 oz flaked almonds
25g / 1 oz dried apricots, chopped into raisin sized pieces
12g / ½ oz raisins, soaked in water
5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
½ medium onion, chopped finely
2cm/ ½ inch  fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp paprika
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp ground green cardamom
1½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1 green chilli, finely chopped and without seeds (optional, plus more if you want more heat)
Pinch of saffron, diluted in water*
300g / ½ lb thick yoghurt
4 eggs, hard boiled then cut into halves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.  Meaures out the spices and mix them together.

Korma Spices Measured Out

Korma Spices Measured Out

Onions, Ginger And Garlic

Onions, Ginger And Garlic

In a frying pan, heat half the ghee until hot, add the lamb pieces and fry quickly on a high heat until fully sealed.  Take off the heat and keep to the side.

Seal The Lamb By Frying In Ghee

Seal The Lamb By Frying In Ghee

In a separate casserole pot, heat the remaining ghee.  Fry the almonds and raisins separately to a golden colour and then set aside.  In the same ghee, fry the chopped onions, garlic and fresh ginger until golden brown, then add the spices and sugar and fry for 1 minute; add 2 tablespoons of water and cook until the water has dried up. 

Lightly Fried Almonds, Apricots and Raisins

Lightly Fried Almonds, Apricots and Raisins

Fry The Onions, Then Add The Spices And Fry Together

Fry The Onions, Then Add The Spices And Fry Together

Add the lamb to the onion-spice mix and stir.  Now add the yoghurt, stir well and cook until simmering, then place into oven for 1 hour, or (if cooking on hob) reduce the heat and cook for 1 hour, stirring occassionally to ensure the mix does not stick on the base of the pan.

Cook The Lamb In The Korma Sauce

Cook The Lamb In The Korma Sauce

When the meat is tender, add the almonds, apricots and raisins and stir quickly and cook for 1 minute at medium heat.  Finally, add the saffron infused water and coriander leaves, stir and cook for another 4 minutes on a low heat.

Lamb Korma

Lamb Korma

Imperial Style Korma Curry

Imperial Style Korma Curry

Serve immediately, decorated with the sliced eggs.  We ate ours with chana masala and homemade naan bread, which I am still experimenting with – this version was a bit heavy and thick, but was a much better recipe than the last which was way too yeasty.

* For an Imperial and more Arabian style flavour, infuse the saffron in 30ml of rose water.  Our kids do not like the flavour of rose water in their meat so we skip that added flavour.

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.

Food Blogs Round Up – August 2010

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

It is the height of European Summer so a number of the food blogs are in holiday mode.  In spite, or perhaps because of the summer, Julia Parsons at A Slice Of Cherry Pie has been making Tuscan Style Soup.

Aran of Cannelle et Vanille fame has been holidaying in her native Basque country in Northern Spain.  She has posted some gorgeous photographs of her family and of just over the border into France

At Chocolate and Zucchini, Clotilde Dusoulier has been baking sourdough bread; I am not a great bread baker, nor a big fan of bread itself, but I do like sourdough, so perhaps I should give this a go.  She has also baked an Apricot Blueberry Cobbler which is so classic American that it evokes a homely feeling of on the range, plus I like the idea of using orange flower water.  Cobblers are not something I have come across until I started reading food blogs, but will definitely get an outing sometime over this winter to check out whether these fruit puddings with a sort of biscuity dough will enter the family repertoire.  At Orangette this month, there is a great looking recipe for Berry Cobbler.

At Cooksister, Jeanne has been enjoying lots of exquisite looking restaurants in London and South Africa, plus quaffing wines at an exclusive wine tasting event in London town.  I liked the simplicity of the recipe for Pan-Fried Fish Fillets With Capers On Pesto Mash, as I imagine the capes nicely offset the fish tastes, and the slightly old fashioned charm of Gammon Steaks With Spicy Caramelized Pineapple and Crispy Duck Breasts In Wild Cherry Balsamic Reduction.

David Lebovitz has been enjoying the protests by the Communists in France for local food, while offering up a great recipe for that classic – Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Helen at Fuss Free Flavours has baked some amazing looking Brioche, fittingly while holidaying in France, as well as a healthy looking version of Coronation Chicken – much healthier than the full on version we tried from Xanthe Clay recipe earlier this month.

At Lemonpi, Y Lee has been spending her staycation baking cakes like this delicious looking Carrot Cake and some intriguing Skillet Cakes, i.e. cakes baked in a pan. At Mahanandi, I am nervously lusting after making the Red Chilli Pickle as it looks mindblowingly hot, as well as the wonderfully simple Semiya Upma which is an Indian vermicelli-based vegetable stir fry.  There is also an intriguing recipe for Badam Beerikaya, which is a vegetarian dish based around Chinese okra or beerikaya which can probably be done with any smallish gourd.

In mid August, we harvested our small offering of corn grown in the garden.  We ate them boiled lightly, then sprinkled with fleur de sel and drizzled with melted butter.  However, I wish I had noted the recipe for Sweet Corn Pancakes at Smitten Kitchen as that looks a luxurious take on a morning pancake; I love the idea of riching up the batter with buttermilk, which is not something I use although my mum loves her buttermilch.  And Deb’s Fresh Tomato Sauce is one of those labours of love of harvest time; homemade tomato sauce really does taste so much better than shop bought tomato pastes, although the time and effort to make them is a huge barrier to wanting to do it too often, as I have found as your yields are so tiny.  I have to confess to usually making my own tomato sauces and salsas etc using a tin of chopped tomatoes as the starting point as it is much less depressing on the effort front.  And all can be rounded off with a really satisfying American Blueberry Muffin – love them, but I still call them a bilberry here in England even though strictly they are a different plant, but closely related.

Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman Cooks has modern takes on classic recipes like Burgers, Raspberry Crisp, Fried Round Steak and homely Cinnamon Bread.  Plus the Mushroom Burgers that this superlady has been trying on the meat eating husband.

And finally, I am tempted by the recipe for Sweet Portuguese Bread at Wildyeast.  I would like to try it alongside the Brioche recipe at FussFreeFlavours, as I am intrigued by what the differences in flavour and texture will be.

June 2010 Food Blog Round Up

Monday, July 5th, 2010

At Chocolate & Zucchini, there is a delicious sounding recipe for sablés from Yves Camdeborde’s book Dimanche et Famille.  Clotilde Dusolier’s blog then sent me around various links on her site to several other biscuit recipes that sound fantastical, with amazing flavour combinations like Matcha Shortbread Cookies (which remind me I must do something about launching my green tea salt blend) and sablés croquants poivre et noisette (crisp hazelnut and pepper sablés), which has a wondrous flavour combination of pepper, rose water and hazelnuts that must be skirting fairly close to flavour and textural overload for the senses.  Finally, catching the end of the them of my update from last month, there is a recipe for a Rhubarb Tart With Lemon Verbena, combining another intriguing version of sweet pastry dough, plus my favourite early fruit – rhubarb – and then lemon verbena, which sounds great as a variant on lemon peel which is what I would usually use as the tart flavour for stewing the rhubarb.

At Cook Sister, there is a variation on the standard summer veg tarts that I have always cooked, called a Zucchini, Tomato Pesto Tart, which fits neatly alongside the French Tomato Tart that I found at David Lebovitz’s blog last month.  I will have a go and see if it will fit into my repertoire, even though I am not a fan of pesto, which I find tends to add an unnecessary hint of bitterness to food.  She also played with pesto for an Asparagus Salad With Pesto, which sounds an intriguing variation on the simple way we normally eat asparagus, sprinkled with a bit of salt and some butter.

At David Lebovitz’s blog, who seems to be suffering from the heat in Paris (my body temperature gauge falls apart when the temperature gets above 10oC, which is one of the reasons I failed to like living in London), he has a delicious and easy sounding Almond Cake recipe.  We like the words “easy” and phrase “hard to mess up”, but I’ll give that statement a run for its money.

Helen at Fuss Free Flavours is a women with my style of cooking, with a different way of preparing asparagus that I will definitely try next asparagus season.  A year, however, sounds a long wait for it, so I will try and rootle out some asparagus that’s still just about in season here in the north.  I think the mix of the slightly charred taste will go well with the bitter-sweet flavour of asparagus.  And she serves plain and simple with salt and butter; perfection.  And I love the idea of making your Elderflower Cordial on Midsummer Night like some sort of new age pagan ritual, plus it is basically free food that earths you to the soil.  And while never a fan of tofu, I am a fan of Ottolenghi so I will try the Black Pepper Tofu recipe although I might reduce the chile and increase the black pepper a bit as our kids will never survive that intensity of heat.

At just the food blog, there is a great and wholesome Cold Multigrain Salad that will make you a lifetime of food for lunches during the week.  And it has  next to no calories to boot.  It mixes three grains – pearl barley, wild rice and quinoa – and in the dressing melds together the umami kick of soy, with the uber sweetness of agave and cider with the heat from some chile flakes.  I reckon you could do a neat variation switching pearl barley for bulgur wheat.

Mahanandi’s recipe for Bean Sprout and Peppers makes great use of the bean sprouts that we have been growing over the last few weeks, and does something more exciting than chomping on them raw or in a salad.  I reckon that I would put a few different types of bean sprout into the mix, for example sprouted fenugreek seeds and chickpea seeds to give it more variation in texture.  And I love the colours and taste of aubergine (a.k.a. eggplant or brinjal) and the recipe for Brinjal Cilantro will get on the list for our next full on Indian meal as we are always struggling with inspiration for new flavours, rather than being unadventurous and sticking to the familiar.  When our tomatoes come out, I will have a crack at the simple Green Tomato Chutney recipe.

At Not Without Salt, there is a great Perfect Pizza At Home recipe, which is great fun family food.  I usually start by making the pizza dough and tomato base, then let the kids finish it off, so you get a random flavour, but one also that the children cannot complain about as it was their creation in first place!  I would be tempted to use a 50:50 mix of durum and bread flour rather than 100% all-purpose flour (plain flour in UK).  At Dana Treat, there’s a perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that’s worth noting as it was created with Ashley of Not Without Salt.

The theme for summer seems to be coming through as galettes and tarts, so at Smitten Kitchen there’s a gorgeous sounding Zucchini and Ricotta Galette plus some great links through to earlier galettes with the Wild Mushroom And Blue Silton one from 2006 winning a place in my dream for a new take on my classic summer tart recipes.  Her Lamb Chops With Pistachio Tapenade caught my hungry eyes and is tempting me to cook some up next weekend, yet I might be tempted to try a version with toasted pine nuts – maybe 50:50.

At The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I love the sound of Spinach With Garlic Chips as a variant on our stock in trades of Spinach With Nutmeg or Spinach With Toasted Cumin.  And The Best Coffee Cake Ever reminds me that I started trying to find the best coffee cake ever and stopped after one average attempt…laziness crept in and I must get back to it, although I was looking for a coffee flavoured cake not a cake for afternoon tea or coffee time, although the Mystery Mocha pud gets closer to the flavours I am after for my dream coffee cake.

Another great recipe from Ottolenghi was posted at The Wednesday Chef of a variation on potato salad – Potato Salad With Yoghurt And Horseradish.  Yotam Ottolenghi is certainly on message for recipes with everyone at the moment, and I love the idea of adding some tartness to potato salad which can get a bit samey.  We often use a mayonnaise-yoghurt-horseradish mix for smoked fish and crab salads and this sort of fits into that vein. 

As I wonder through [sic – I spelled this incorrectly first time round and I like the metaphor] the food blogosphere I am constantly surprised at the new ways of tweaking some of my old favourites in our kitchen, reinspiring me to recreate and revisit things like the summer vegetable tarts that I have make for years now, as well as to try and improve on the trusty old pastry recipes that I have made since my mum taught me how to bake oh-too-long-ago. 

But I am in awe at how beautiful everyone else’s creations look and how great their photography is, while my food looks like a dog’s dinner and the photos like some amateur hack from a one horse dorp (which I suppose I am).  We’ll get better at it, but I can never expect to reach the dizzy heights of the wonderful photos on blogs like Cannelle et Vanille, Mahanandi,  or The Pioneer Woman Cooks and The Wednesday Chef.

May 2010 Food Blog Round Up

Friday, June 4th, 2010

This month definitely has a seasonal theme of Spring to it.  Everyone has recipes for rhubarb, all of which are so much more inspiring than the classic Rhubarb Crumble that I blogged about this month and the rhubarb compote that we have been living on.  The Rhubarb Raspberry Betty from The Wednesday Chef will probably even get an outing in the next few days.

CookSister is a fusion blog from a South African living in London, so this month has seen her start series on restaurants and other things in South Africa to celebrate the upcoming South African FIFA World Cup 2010; something we’re all very excited about here in our household with every type of Panini card and sticker book being collected (yes Panini is not just a type of bread).  What caught my eye, though, was a recipe for Rhubarb, Strawberry and Ginger Tarts.  I love rhubarb and, being English, don’t see that it would be a fruit/vegetable devised by Terry Pratchett etc etc but will live with being laughed at.

David Liebovitz has two delicious looking recipes – one for tomatoes and the other an Ottlolenghi recipe.  I was drawn most to the colours and earthy tastes that I anticipate from the French Tomato Tart, which would be a great summer sun or picnic food, or round a long table at a family gathering and cool glasses of white wine.  The Ottolenghi recipe is Fried Beans With Sorrel and Sumac which is a great sounding recipe and uses delicious sumac; for those who might be struggling to find sumac or zaatar, Steenbergs sells both and the zaatar was rehashed recently with help from Yotam Ottolenghi.

Mahanandi is a beautiful blog full of Indian recipes that make your mouth water and inspire you to make delicious Indian cuisine, as well as some amazingly gorgeous garden and flower inspiration.  There is a fantastic set of photos of gardenias from Mahanandi’s American garden that are so pure and beautifully formed.  I love their recipe for Zucchini Zunka and will definitely trying to do this myself – I am always struggling to inspire the rest of the family to enjoy zucchini / courgettes here, and this will just be perfect.  I think I will, also, combine it with the healthy green colours of her Green Bean and Green Peas masala.

At Smitten Kitchen, I once again found a rhubarb recipe and this time loved the Rustic Rhubarb Tarts, which I will definitely file away in my mind as something to try this year/next year.  However, it’s the Carrot Salad With Harissa that I am going to do first; I love carrots as a vegetable and in carrot cake, but have always struggled with it sitting insipidly, shredded in a salad.  This recipe, with its bite and kick from harissa, might just lift the chore of eating a healthy salad to something acceptable.  And to round it all off, I am a sucker for cakes and baking so the Pecan Cornmeal Butter Cake will soon get an outing.

In New York, The Wednesday Chef has the exotic sounding recipe for a biscuit that’s made like bread with the long Greek name, Paximathakia Portokaliou, but I don’t think I will ever get around to making these.  And then it’s got to be her Rhubarb Raspberry Betty recipe that I think I’ll make this week when my parents come down from Northumberland; my father loves a good pudding and adores rhubarb.

New Indonesian Pepper Just Arrived at Steenbergs

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

I read a book last year called “The Scents of Eden” by Charles Corn – it’s a history of the spice trade.  It was great as the perspective was different from the histories that I had read in the past which always wrote them from the angle of European spice traders – including British, Dutch and Venice.  It’s written for an American audience and talks about the first American exploits into Indonesia and the history of Salem (other than it’s infamous one about Salem’s witch trials), plus the founding of Yale University with the proceeds of Elihu Yale’s generous gifts of East Indian exotic and books; none of which I knew much about except the odd snippets here and there.

As much of the spice trade had been carved up between Britain and the Netherlands, there were slim pickings for relatively new global traders like America.  As a result of this together with happenstance, most of the original spices for the American market came from Sumatra, with the result that the new and growing US developed a love for the intensely hot black and white peppercorns shipped in from the East Indies – now Indonesia.   It was in 1790 that Captain Jonathan Carnes sailed back his ship the Cadet after 2 years “lost at sea” and had found Sumatra.  So here we are experimenting with Indonesian flavours rather than the Indian style pepper that we usually deal with.

Steenbergs Lampung Black Pepper comes from a small region called Kota Bumi in Lampung Utara on the southern end of Sumatra in Indonesia. Here spice farmers still use the old farming practice of growing pepper vines on shade-growing trees. Glossy leaved pepper vines grow up the trunks of tropical shade trees providing protection from heat and harsh sunlight. On the forest floor, nitrogen-fixing legumes are planted in rings around the pepper vines, providing a constant source of nutrients and protecting valuable biodiversity such as beneficial insects that act as natural protection against diseases that affect these pepper vines.  While not certified organic, these spice farmers are having a damn good stab at earthy, natural farming.

The black pepper berries themselves are incredibly pungent when grown like this, developing intense heat like chilli pepper fruits.  The quality of this Lampung black pepper compared to the kit you get from high street stores is amazing – like the difference between home grown tomatoes and the junk you get from the supermarket. Steenbergs Lampung Black Pepper comes from only 1% of the total available pepper harvest in a shade-grown pepper field, with higher quality Steenbergs pepper berries specially selected and harvested at the peak of ripeness.

Steenbergs Lampung black pepper has a bold, pungent flavour – even stronger than Malabar black peppercorns like Steenbergs luxury black pepper berries.  Lampung black pepper starts warming with a classic aromatic, appetising flavour before I got a sudden numbing heat on the tongue that built in intensity around the mouth; the heat lingers a bit but leaves an appetising, mouth-watering taste for a good 5 minutes.  Steenbergs Lampung black pepper is versatile like all good pepper and great with red meat, poultry, grilled vegetables, marinades and dressings, soft cheese and even on strawberries!

Steenbergs Muntok White Pepper – a close relative of Lampung black pepper – is a normal vine pepper but one that has been grown exclusively for making white pepper.  This white pepper is grown in the hills behind the village of Muntok on the Indonesian island of Bangka.  The pepper growers wait until the pepper berries have matured a bit longer than those in Lampung so that they are mainly red and so give a fuller flavour and then start the harvesting.  The pepper farmers use traditional bamboo tripods to climb up the trees and then hand-pick pepper fruit spikes of red ripe pepper berries.  These fruit spikes – that are reminiscent of bunches of grapes – are packed into rice sacks and soaked in slow running streams that flow down from the mountains above.  Seven days later the outermost skin of the pepper has disintegrated and the peppercorns are piled together for a traditional trampling called Nari Mereca or the Pepper Dance which is a bit like the classic stamping on grapes to make wine – the technical name for this process is a rather bland decortication. The dancing separates the peppercorns from the fruit spike and after a final washing the berries are left to dry in the sun where they naturally will bleach to a creamy white. 

Muntok white pepper smells faintly foisty but nowhere near as badly as some white pepper which smells of dirty, sweaty football socks – yuck – and doesn’t have that warming aroma that you would expect from black peppercorns.  The white peppercorns are crunchy to bite on and quickly build to a numbing heat that makes your eyes water – I started coughing but god was it a great feeling – and the heat numbed the mouth and top of the throat.  Muntok white pepper is perfect with pork and veal, poultry, white fish and shellfish, rice and pasta, steamed vegetables, blue cheese and great in white and cheese sauces.

PS: I wouldn’t advise anyone to chew on the Muntok white pepper on its own as it really was numbing and hot, but the Lumpung black pepper would be fine – I only chew on these things because it’s what I do.