Posts Tagged ‘spice’

Recipe For Nurnberger Christmas Cookies – German Lebkuchen

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Following on from the spekulatius blog, we have been having fun trying to make German lebkuchen cookies.

There really is something Christmassy about the spices used in these Christmas biscuits – it’s that glorious mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and that extra richness from the cloves.  Everything about Christmas smells seems to revolve around cloves whether it is the Christmas cake, lebkuchen cookies or making your pomander.  And cloves are such a tricky spice that can completely overpower many spice blends, but seem to conjur up the right flavour for this festive period.

After a few goes at this recipe, this is where we have gotten to this year, but just like for the spekulaas I need to invest in some festive cookie shapes for next year.  Also, I think it would work well with a light chocolate glaze as an alternative to the icing sugar glaze.

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Lebkuchen Cookies

Lebkuchen Recipe

Working On The Lebkuchen Recipe

Working On The Lebkuchen Recipe

The ingredients bit:

250g / 9oz / 1¾ cups plus 1tbsp organic plain flour
85g / 3oz / ¾ cup ground almonds
2½tsp Steenbergs lebkuchen spice mix*
1tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175ml / ¾ cup clear honey (or golden syrup)
85g / 3oz softened unsalted butter
½tbsp lemon juice (this is lemon from ½ lemon)
½ lemon, finely grated zest (or combine to 1 lemon zested)
½ orange, finely grated zest
Some flaked or half blanched almonds (optional)

For the icing:

100g / 4oz / 1 cup icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
1 egg white, beaten

The recipe part:

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Warm the honey and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter melts, then pour these into the flour mixture.  Add the lemon juice and lemon & orange zest.  Mix well with a hand held whisk until the dough is throughly combined.  Cover and leave to cool overnight, or for at least 2 hours. to let the flavours meld together and work that festive magic.

Heat oven to 180C/ 350F / Gas Mark 4.

Roll the lebkuchen dough in your hands into around 25 balls, each 3cm wide (1 inch wide), then flatten each one slightly into a disc.  Into the centre of the discs, place an almond flake. 

Divide the lebkuchen mixture between 3 baking trays lined with baking parchment, or ideally with an edible baking paper, with a decent amount of room for them to expand into.

Bake for 13 – 15 mins, or until when touched lightly no imprint remains, then cool on a wire rack.  While still warm, glaze the lebkuchen with the icing glaze, made as below.

Brush The Lebkuchen With Glazing Icing

Brush The Lebkuchen With Glazing Icing

While the cookies are baking, make your glazing icing: mix together the icing sugar and egg white to form a smooth, runny icing.

Brush the top of each biscuit with the glazing icing.  Leave to dry out.  I then glazed the top of the icing to give the lebkuchen a shinier lustre, but this is optional.

For the glaze, I took 100g (½ cup) caster sugar and 50ml (¼ cup) of water, melting these in a pan.  Then, I boiled the mix to 90C/200F, when I added 15g (1 tablespoon) of icing sugar.  This glaze was then bushed over the icing.  Granted that it is extra fussy, but then it is Christmas.

You should ideally, allow these Christmas cookies to mellow.  To do this, you should store the lebkuchen in an airtight container for a day or two to allow the flavours to mellow and the cookies to become softer.  To improve the flavours, you could include a few pieces of sliced orange or lemon, but make sure that they are not touching the lebkuchen as this will make them soggy and change the fruit every day to stop them going stale or mouldy.

* To make your own lebkuchen spice mix: ¼tsp ground cloves, ½tsp allspice powder, ½tsp nutmeg powder, 1¼tsp cinnamon

Recipe For Speculaas Biscuits – A Dutch Christmas Treat

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

One of my favourite Christmas cookies are spekulatius biscuits, or speculaas as they are called in the Netherlands.  I remember we always used to get a special parcel from Lebkuchen Schmidt in Nürmberg from my Granny.  In amongst all the beautiful tins and lebkuchen would be a few packs of their spekulatius cookies.  I loved their different shapes.

Then yesterday, our children had friends around before the School Christmas Disco, so to give them something creative to do between the pronouncements of “we’re bored – when is the party”, I made some spiced cookie dough using our Steenbergs koekkruidden spice mix and left the kids to cut out shapes.  Here are the recipes we tried; they are remarkably simple to make and the spice mix brings on those classic clove heavy aromas of the festive season.

Speculaas recipe – version 1

A Few Speculaas On A Plate

A Few Speculaas On A Plate

Ingredients

200g / 7oz self-raising flour
100g / 3½ oz light brown caster sugar
100g / 3½ oz softened butter
2-3 tbsp full milk
3tsp koekkruiden spices*
½ tsp baking powder
Zest of half an orange

For the top:

1 egg white, beaten
3tsp light brown caster sugar
2tbsp flaked almonds 

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Grease a baking tray.

Mix together all the ingredients in a mixer or blender until throughly mixed together.  Shape the dough into a ball and cover the dough ball with clingfilm and set aside for 1 hour in a cool place.

Flour a work surface and press the dough into an even, flat layer.  Using a cutter, cut shapes from the dough and place on the greased baking tray.

Brush with the egg white, then sprinkle with light brown caster sugar and flaked almonds on top of each speculaas biscuit.

Bake for 14-18 minutes and the biscuits are turning a slightly darker shade of brown. Remove from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Speculaas Recipe – Version 2

This recipe for St Nicholas Spiced Shortbread is based on a recipe from Elisabeth Luard’s excellent book – “European Festival Food”.  In it, Elisabeth Luard writes “Speculaas moulds themselves are made of wood – traditionally beech, pear, or walnut – shallow and relief-carved on the same principle as those used for Scottish shortbread.  They are usually 6 – 12 ins/15 – 30cm long and feature the Bishop himself, his donkey, or his servant Black Peter.  Smaller ones might be evergreen leaves and Christmas wreaths or little figures of children.”  We had none of these so just used normal cookie cutters, but I might invest in something for next year as these are really easy to make.

Round Christmas Cookies

Round Christmas Cookies - Speculaas

Ingredients

250g / 8½ oz self raising flour
125g / 4½ oz light brown caster sugar
3tsp koekkruiden spice mix*
50g / 1¾ oz ground almonds
100g / 3½ oz softened butter
1 egg, lightly whisked
1tbsp full milk

For the top:

1 egg white, beaten
3tsp light brown caster sugar
Flaked almonds
 (I bashed them a bit in a mortar and pestle to make them a better shape)

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Grease a baking tray.

Mix together all the ingredients in a mixer or blender until throughly mixed together.  I used the “K” blade on the Kenwood Mixer.  Shape the dough into a ball and cover the dough ball with clingfilm and set aside for 1 hour in a cool place.

Flour a work surface and press the dough into an even, flat layer.  Using a cutter, cut shapes from the dough and place on the greased baking tray.

Brush with the egg white, then sprinkle with light brown caster sugar and flaked almonds on top of each speculaas biscuit.

Bake for 14 – 18 minutes and the cookies are turning a slightly darker shade of brown. Remove from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

* To make your own koekkruidden spice mix: ½tsp ground cloves, ½tsp allspice powder, 1tsp cardamom powder, 1tsp cinnamon

North Yorkshire Beef Stew

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
Yesterday, I had a cracking headache, so decided that a warm kitchen and some homely fare was what was needed.  I went out early to the Newby Hall Farm Shop and chose some decent looking braising steak that had a good colour, together with a lovely amount of marbling.  Then, I bought some cream, some shallots and some pears.  Back home, I put the radio on to listen to the football and cook.  It was a good listen as Newcastle drew with Manchester United – sometimes the luck falls the right way.

As for what to do with the beef, I decided to start with the idea of beouf à la bourguignonne, however our kids do not like onions, or at least they do not like to see the onions that they are given.  So a true beef bourguignon was not on the cards as these need some baby onions plus we need to dilute the winey flavours a little by adding some cream – that certainly does not make it less rich, but it does take some of the boozey notes out of the stew.

For those wondering about the pears, I stewed them in Madeira on the lines of my Pears In Rooibos, Vanilla And Saffron Recipe.

North Yorkshire Beef Stew

1.5kg / 3lb Braising steak, cut into 2cm cubes (the key is a decent amount of marbling on well-hung beef)
5 Slices streaky bacon, cut into 1cm cubes
25g /1 dessert spoon Unsalted butter
2tbsp Olive oil
250g / 8 oz / 5 large shallots, finely chopped
2 Garlic cloves, finely sliced
250g / 8 oz Button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
4tbsp + 1tbsp Olive oil
5 Sprigs of thyme
2 Bay leaves
1 Handful of “proper” fresh parsley, finely chopped (not the flat leaved stuff)
10 Red peppercorns
1 bottle / 750ml Red wine
200ml / 7 fl oz Madeira
Salt & black pepper, to taste
200ml / 7 fl oz cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160C/ 300F.

Ina a heavy bottomed frying pan, melt the unsalted butter and olive oil together.  When hot, add one-third of the steak and brown off, turning when a side has become sealed.  When the steak is sealed, transfer with a slotted spoon or fork to an ovenproof plate and keep warm in the oven.  Continue to brown off the steak pieces until all have been sealed. 

While you are browning the braising steak, prepare the stock.  In a heavy bottomed casserole, add the 4tbps of olive oil and heat up.  Over a medium heat, sweat the escallions (shallots) and garlic until translucent.  When cooked remove with a slotted spoon and place on an ovenproof dish and keep warm in the oven. 

Add a little extra olive oil if needed and heat up the oil, then tip in the button mushrooms and sauté in the olive oil.  Fry until lightly browned.

Take the cooked shallots and garlic and return these to the casserole, mixing into the browned mushrooms.  Add the red wine, Madeira, herbs, salt and spices.  Place a lid on the pot and heat up to simmering point.

Transfer the sealed braising steak to the casserole pot and heat the stock until simmering.  Take the casserole off the hob and transfer to the oven.  Cook for 3 hours.  At the end of the oven cook, remove from the oven and stir in the cream; this is optional as real boeuf bourguignon does not contain cream, but I like it.

North Yorkshire Beef Stew

North Yorkshire Beef Stew

Chocolate Ambassador

Friday, November 4th, 2011

At my father’s 75th birthday bash at the weekend, our children could not get enough of the Prinz Regenten Torte nor the Chocolate Ambassador.  Chocolate Ambassador turned out to be a rich chocolate mousse with raisins and biscuit within it.  As we were to have some friends around, I though I would have a go at mimicking it, but with a couple of tweaks that Jay thought about at the weekend – adding crunched up Crunchies or Maltesers.

Chocolate Ambassador

Chocolate Ambassador

North Yorkshire Chocolate Ambassador

255g/ 9oz dark chocolate
120g / ½ pint / ¼ cup full milk
1 pinch of Fairtrade cinnamon powder
2 large egg yolks
50g / 1¾ oz Crunchie, crunched up (or cinder or honeycomb toffee pieces)
6 large egg whites
65g/ 2oz / 3tbsp caster sugar
50g / 1¾ oz Maltesers, crunched up (or malted honeycomb pieces)

Break up the dark chocolate into smallish pieces and place into a small heatproof bowl, then melt these dark chocolate pieces over boiling water.  When melted, set aside to cool.

Put the milk and cinnamon powder into a small milk pan and heat until bubbles start to form at the edges.  Take off the heat and add to the melted dark chocolate, mixing in with a rubber spatula.

Make sure that the chocolate mixture is warm rather than hot, then add the egg yolks, stirring with the rubber spatula until just mixed in.  Mix in the crunched Crunchie pieces.

Place the egg whites in a separate mixing bowl, then with a hand held electric whisk mix up until the egg whites form stiff peaks.  Then slowly add the caster sugar and mix until all the caster sugar is mixed in.  The egg whites should still form stiff peaks and have a glossy finish.

Add half the egg whites to the milk-chocolate and fold in.  When just folded in, add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently until just mixed in.

Place in the fridge for at least an hour to let the mousse set.

Just before serving, crunch up the Maltesers and sprinkle evenly over the top.

How To Prepare The Meat For Your Burger

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

But the key to the recipe is the meat. You should not just get the nearest pack of mince that you can find, but should go to a proper butcher and get the mince made for you using the right types of meat.  The best beef for a burger comes from the top, so you are looking for neck, chuck & blade (in the US, this is chuck), rump (in the US, this is sirloin), silverside and topside (in the US, this is top round, i.e. from the top of the hind leg rather than towards the base); for UK cuts, you can see the attached website or in the US.  Each cut has different characteristics and pricing, but they are all great for burgers.   If you are going to buy your meat from the supermarket or preminced, try and get minced steak rather than minced beef, and organic or free range beef over factory farmed, so you are more likely to get a better quality cut and more ageing.  However, good mince and braising steak often comes straight from chuck so you could just go straight for these, then mince the braising steak yourself, but check with your butcher if you can. 

What you are looking for is a beef from the top of the cattle with a good level of marbling of 15% – 20% of the total meat.  A good level of marbling (the little veins of fat running through the beef) is vital as it melts as you cook, helping the beef to baste itself while cooking, so keeping the beef succulent and flavoursome.  Then you are looking for muscles that are worked and so have good flavour as in the hind leg or neck, rather than the soft, but less flavoursome cuts from the ribcage area, which are forerib and sirloin in the UK and rib and short loin in the US, however on the other side you do not want the overly tough meat from the lower round or brisket.  Then you are after an aged beef as this overcomes any possible issues from extra collagen from being worked hard.

As for breeds, the best beef comes from hardy Border and Scottish breeds, like the Aberdeen Angus and Galloway lines or Blue Grey, which is a Whitebred Shorthorn crossed with a Galloway.  Then for global beef afficionadoes there is Wagyu beef from the Japanese Wagyu cattle, which has intense marbling.  One thing I feel is that the best beef comes from hardy cattle that have been farmed in tough conditions where the beef has been grown properly rather than becoming flaccid and dull from easy living.

Heston Blumenthal goes into some detail and consideration of the types of beef to use in the perfect burger.  He uses a mix of chuck, aged short rib and brisket in a ratio of 1:2:1, with a 6 hour presalting of the chuck before grinding.  Personally, I think this is too complex, but agree that a mix of chuck and short rib (or rib eye) or rump, using 21+ day aged beef if you can get it, is a great idea, but you must still look for the right fat:meat ratio, i.e. marbling.  The idea of presalting the beef at this stage is interesting, but does not actually make any difference as I always suggest that you season the minced beef for at least an hour before you grill the burgers, so you draw the moisture out at that stage.  Some blog views on his burger can be found at http://www.mrmenu.net/discus/messages/18/61023.html and http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2008/05/the-blumenburger-the-most-laborintensive-hamburger-in-the-world.html.

Cutting through all this, I go for a 1:1 ratio of chuck steak to either ribeye steak or rump steak, with the picanha cut being a great rump cut to use.

Chuck Steak (left) And Rib Eye Steak (right)

Chuck Steak (left) And Rib Eye Steak (right)

No 8 Stainless Steel Hand Mincer

No 8 Stainless Steel Hand Mincer

The next thing to consider is the grind size for the beef.  The best way is to get your butcher to do this as they have the right equipment and good hygiene.  You should ask for the beef to be minced through a medium (4.5mm; 3/16 inch) setting, not finer like industrial pre-ground mince.  At home, I grind the meat once with the 4.5mm blade then again either with the same blade or a 6mm blade, as I find the double mince creates a smoother and less tough beef.  If you are going to do this at home, you must ensure that all the equipment is really, really clean and should scald the blades in boiling water to kill all the bacteria or use food grade cleaners and rinse off afterwards thoroughly; then refrigerate the equipment for 30 minutes to help to prevent the meat from sticking to it.  Once again, I would recommend Weschenfelder for a manual mincer and would plump for either the No 8 or No 10 stainless steel mincers on their site.  Heston Blumenthal suggests that you grind the meat then align the strands in parallel, but this is not worth the effort and also means that the burger has much less bindability and can easily fall apart.  The key is the quality of the meat, not in being overtly particular to align the strands of minced beef this way, i.e. don’t bother as it is a pain in the butt.

Mincing Beef Steak At Home

Mincing Beef Steak At Home

Maldon Sea Salt

Maldon Sea Salt

Having minced the meat, you should season it right through.  To do this, grind the salt to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle as you want this to be all the way through the beef.  You must use a sea salt for this and not an industrial salt.  For this, I would suggest either our fleur de sel, or be more British about it and use one of the wonderful crystal salts from Anglesey, Cornwall or Maldon.  The salt draws out some of the moisture in the beef creating a greater succulence and binding the beef together more, while subtly enhancing the umami tones within great beef.  Next get some coarsely ground good quality black peppercorns, which you can either do with your grinder on a coarse setting or buy a cracked black pepper (called crushed black pepper in the US and butcher’s cut in Germany).  This brings the characteristic warm, piperine flavour that wonderfully offsets the richness of the beef.  I think that you want bursts of flavour in this case rather than an even heat throughout, which would come from a ground pepper, essentially the opposite flavouring style to the sea salt.  I think our Steenbergs TGSEB from Kerala is the best pepper you could want, so that is what I use.  Finally, I add a small amount of fried grated onion, which is really my own personal preference – it is only a small amount and complements the meat nicely with a hint of sweetness.  For really good beef, you can, and I often do, drop this and rely on the salt and pepper, but I do like a little bit of fried onion in the burger mix, but this is optional.

Put the minced beef into a stainless steel bowl.  Having prepared the fine ground sea salt, the coarse ground black pepper and the grated onion, you should sprinkle these then mix through the ground beef as well as you can.  Use your hands here, making sure they are scrupulously clean.  Then cover the stainless steel bowl with a clingfilm and leave in refrigerator for at least one hour.

To make the patties, you should either shape them with clean hands or use a burger press like the ones I suggested from Weschenfelder or Scobies in East Kilbride.  If doing them by hand, shape them to 10-12cm (4 – 5 inches) in diameter and 4cm high (1½ inches), which is roughly palm-sized and about two fingers thick.  Place these burgers into the fridge until you are ready to fry or grill them.

Shaping The Ground Beef In A Burger Press

Shaping The Ground Beef In A Burger Press

Having explained the basics for making a burger and some of the kit to use, I will review some possible sources for where you can get great meat for making your burger at home, both through the supermarkets, local to the North East, some online speciality stores and a few other great places that are worth tracking down if you have the time and money to reach for greatness.  From there, we will go to ideas for sauces, burger buns and so on.

My Take On The Modern British Balti – A Recipe For Balti Masala

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

On Thursday, I was at home sorting out some domestic chores with some builders and my mind wandered to food and more specifically curry.  I craved a great balti, so I whipped one up, together with some dhal.

The balti is now a modern classic curry that came out of traditional curries from Northern Pakistan and was nurtured and loved within the Birmingham restaurant scene.  It is an inexpensive and simple way of making a curry once you know how.  Also, it fits well into the stir-fry & wok scene, so while not strictly fusion food it does cross-over nicely between the Chinese cooking styles and curry culture up here in the North. 

I love it because of its sheer flexibility – effectively you make up a sauce that is chocka with vegetables and add your meat to this. 

And of course while here we have made the masala mixes from scratch you can buy a balti masala curry mix or make your own and store it and seriously cut back the amount of thinking time to create a balanced meal.  We tend to eat ours with dhal – in fact we are always eating dhal and pureed pulses with everything – and mop it all up with naan bread. 

Stage 1: the smooth Balti tomato sauce

2tbsp butter, or ghee
1 medium onion (125g / 4½oz), roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2tsp freshly grated ginger
½tsp cumin seeds
½tsp coriander seeds
¼tsp fennel seeds
½ – 1tsp chilli powder (you could replace this for a fresh green chilli, deseeded)
½tsp Fairtrade turmeric
125g / 4½oz chopped tomatoes

The first stage is to make the balti tomato sauce.  In a heavy bottomed pan, dry roast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds for about 2 minutes, then take out of the pan and put on a cool plate.

Smooth Balti Tomato Sauce

Smooth Balti Tomato Sauce

Now add the butter (or ghee for a richer balti) to a heavy bottomed pan and heat to sizzling hot.  Add then stir fry the onion and garlic until translucent which will take about 4 – 5 minutes.  Add the fresh ginger and stir once.  Add the toasted spices and the spice powder and stir these in, turning for about half a minute, making sure it does not stick to the pan.  Finally add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Blitz the sauce either with a hand held blender or take out and pulse in a Magimix until smooth.  Return to the pan and keep on a very low heat with the lid on.

Stage 2: the Balti stir fry

3tbsp sunflower oil
500g / 1lb 2oz chicken breast, cut into 2cm x 2cm cubes
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped into 1cm x 1cm pieces
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into 1cm x 1cm pieces
1 – 2 green chillis, deseeded, halved and thinly sliced (we have 1 chilli to keep heat lower)
100g / 4oz spring onions (or 150g / 5oz normal onions)
200g / 7oz button mushrooms, chopped in half
½tsp cumin powder
1tsp paprika
¼tsp fenugreek powder
1tsp turmeric
¼tsp cinnamon powder
¼tsp cardamom powder
2tbsp chopped tomatoes
1tsp Steenbergs garam masala
100ml / 3½ fl oz / ½ cup water
Handful chopped fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oven to 100C / 212F.  Add half of the sunflower oil to a wok and heat until smoking hot.  Stir fry the chicken cubes in batches until sealed.  Put the cooked chicken pieces into the warmed oven.  When complete, clean the wok.  While frying the chicken, measure out and mix the ground spices together. 

Stir Fry The Chopped Vegetables

Stir Fry The Chopped Vegetables

Add the remainder of the sunflower oil to the wok and heat until hot and smoking.  Add the red and green peppers, green chilli and button mushrooms and stir fry for 4 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly, making sure it does not burn and is fried well.  Tip in the mixed spices and stir through twice, then add the smooth Balti tomato sauce and mix in, plus the tablespoons of chopped tomatoes.  Heat until simmering, then add the water and reheat to a simmer, mixing all together.  Cook on a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the cooked chicken pieces and mix together.  Add the garam masala.  Cook for a further 10 minutes.  About 2 minutes before the end add the chopped fresh coriander and stir through.

Axel's Balti Served Outside

Axel's Balti Served Outside

Serve hot with naan, plus we like dhal with it.

Recipe For Vegan Tofu And Coconut Curry

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Continuing with our vegetarian fest after a successful week during National Vegetarian Week, I was craving a spicy curry that the kids would enjoy but would also be vegetarian – they are beginning to want some meat, but are just about hanging in there.  I came up with this quick and simple recipe for Tofu & Coconut Milk Curry, which we ate with plain boiled rice and red lentil dhal, plus poppadoms.  It is versatile so you can change the tofu for other vegetarian ingredients like Quorn or, if you are a pescatarian, white fish like cod or coley.

Axel’s Vegan Tofu & Coconut Curry

1 medium onion, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1cm / ½ inch cube of fresh ginger, grated finely
1 mild green chilli, sliced lengthways (optional)
2 tbsp organic sunflower oil
1tsp organic  vegetable curry powder, or other mild/medium curry powder
¼tsp organic Fairtrade turmeric powder
10 curry leaves, or bay leaf
400ml coconut milk
4 cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
1tbsp organic white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1tbsp organic lemon juice
1tsp organic garam masala
1tbsp organic sunflower oil
300g tofu, drained then chopped into 1cm / ½ inch cubes
1tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

Firstly, we prepare the tofu, by draining it, then placing it between two plates or wooden boards with a weight placed on top to remove the excess water.  This is worth doing as it removes extra water and gives a firmer texture for later.  After 1 hour, pour off excess water and chop into 1cm (½ inch) cubes.

Chop The Tofu Into 1cm Cubes

Chop The Tofu Into 1cm Cubes

Next, we make the coconut milk curry sauce.  Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy bottomed pan.  Add the onion, garlic and grated ginger and sauté on a low heat until translucent – this should take about 5 minutes, but make sure they do not crisp and brown at the edges.

Add the green chilli (if you are after some extra heat, but this is not necessary), curry powder, turmeric and curry leaves and stir in.  Fry gently for 1 minute.  Add the coconut milk and stir in.  Bring to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer.  Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, lemon juice and garam masala, stir and simmer for another 1-2 minutes. then take off the heat.

Add the sunflower oil to a wok, or frying pan.  Heat until really hot, then add the tofu pieces and turn down the heat.  Fry until golden brown, turning over as they fry to make sure all edges get a nice crispy texture.

Stir Fry The Tofu Cubes

Stir Fry The Tofu Cubes

Until The Tofu Is A Golden Brown Colour

Until The Tofu Is A Golden Brown Colour

Add to the curry sauce and reheat to a boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes until thoroughly cooked through.  Add the chopped coriander leaves about 1 minute before the end.  Serve with plain boiled rice and dhal.

Vegan Tofu And Coconut Milk Curry

Vegan Tofu And Coconut Milk Curry

Recipe For Axel’s Vegan Mung Bean And Tofu Soup

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

This week is National Vegetarian Week and we have been enjoying new and wonderful vegetarian recipes including Sally’s new recipes for Moroccan Vegetable Stew and Vegetable Fajitas that we have added to the main Steenbergs website. 

Vegetable Curry Powder

Vegetable Curry Powder

Meanwhile, I have developed an organic vegan mung bean soup.  It is really versatile as you can reduce the water used and make it into a dhal with a thicker consistency, then eat with boiled rice for a healthy and balanced vegan main course.  The inspiration for this has morphed significantly from a recipe in an old Madhur Jaffrey cookbook that I find lurking on our bookshelves, Far Eastern Cookery, and hails from the Philippines, Mongo Guisado.  The original is a seafood soup using meat stock, but this version adds some extra flavours and uses tofu and vegetable stock.

Axel’s Mung Bean & Tofu Soup

185g / 6½oz organic mung beans
900ml /1½pts organic vegetable bouillon
3tbsp organic sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1tsp freshly grated ginger
115g / 4oz tofu
Freshly ground organic black pepper, to taste
½ tsp Steenbergs organic vegetable curry powder

Soak The Mung Beans In Water Overnight

Soak The Mung Beans In Water Overnight

Begin by placing the dry mung beans in a bowl, then check through them picking out any that look black or off.  Cover them in water with 2cm (1 inch) of excess water and leave overnight, or do in the morning for the evening.  When ready, place the soaked mung beans in a colander or sieve, drain then run fresh water over them to wash off any dirt.

Put the mung beans in a pan and cover with water some 2cm (1 inch) in excess and bring the water to the boil.  Boil at a roiling boil for about 2 minutes, then take off the heat, skim off any scum then cover with a lid and leave to soak for 1 hour.  Drain and wash with running water as before.

Return to the pan, then cover with the vegetable stock, either homemade or you can use purchased vegetable bouillon powder adding about 1 tablespoon to the 900 ml (1½pts) of freshly drawn water.   Bring to the boil, cover with lid and simmer for 1 – 1½ hours until tender.  Blend with a hand blender or in a food processor until coarsely blended – you can blend it really smooth if you wish, but I prefer a coarser texture.  Return to a low heat or put into a warmed oven at 90C/200F.

Using A Handblender Mush Up The Mung Beans

Using A Handblender Mush Up The Mung Beans

Heat a wok then add the organic sunflower oil until it starts just to smoke when you should turn down the heat.  Add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger and stir fry until translucent.  Add the vegetable curry powder and stir into the mix.

Add the tofu pieces and stir fry for 3 minutes until cooked through.  Season with some freshly ground black pepper, but do not add salt as there is already plenty in the vegetable stock.

Stir Fry The Onions, Garlic, Ginger And Tofu

Stir Fry The Onions, Garlic, Ginger And Tofu

Mix the tofu stir fry into the mung bean dhal and serve. 

Mung Bean & Tofu Soup

Mung Bean & Tofu Soup

We like to eat ours either relatively runny as a soup with bread or thicker as a main course with boiled rice.  To make the thicker consistency, either boil the mung beans for longer to reduce the liquid content or start with 800ml/1¼ pints of stock, but watch over the mung beans to ensure they do not dry through before they get mushy; if they do get dry, top up with a little extra water.

Recipe For Traditional Style Rogan Josh

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

As part of my ongoing attempts to create Indian recipes that have some bearing on genuineness, I have been fiddling around with rogan josh ideas.  Rogan josh is a signature dish for British curry houses, but was originally a North Indian meat dish that harks back to the exotic meals of the Moghul Courts when luxury was about food that was lavish, plentiful and took time.  Time still remains one of the key ingredients of cooking, especially as we rush around trying to whip something up fast and furious to feed the kids quickly, rustling up whatever we can from a paucity of ingredients in the cupboard and fridge, that always means you are missing something, whether the saffron or the yoghurt.

In this version, I have not ended up with a recipe that is particularly red in colour as I have not used tomatoes or any colouring, save for some token beetroot powder which does not really keep its colour under the heat of your cooking.  If you want to redden the sauce, you can change the water for chopped tomatoes, but I feel that tinned tomatoes are used a little too readily and I have had enough of them at the moment.  Also, the original rogan joshes of the Moghul Era would not have had tomatoes available to them, even though by later times they  could have done.

So here you have it, my version of a traditional rogan josh from India to North Yorkshire and the web.  It tastes better if you give it a day to infuse, so prepare the day before and then leave overnight before reheating.  Another key feature is to get some lamb bones into the sauce as they impart extra depth of character to the curry.

Axel’s Rogan Josh

Thinking About Rogan Josh

Thinking About Rogan Josh

For the meat:

750g / 1¾ lb lamb (I mixed 500g of lamb chopped into 2-3cm dices with 250g lamb breast with bones)
2tbsp sunflower oil
1 pinch asafoetida
200g / ½lb yoghurt
3cm fresh ginger, peeled then grated
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1½tbsp sunflower oil

For the masala:

½tsp chilli (for extra heat you could double or triple this to your heat requirement)
½tsp paprika
1tsp coriander seeds/powder
½tsp black peppercorns, or ground black pepper
¼tsp cloves/ cloves powder
½tsp cardamom powder
2tsp beetroot powder
1tsp sea salt
6½cm cinnamon quill
2 black cardamom pods
1 bay leaf

For the stock:

1 pinch saffron, soaked in 4tbsp cold water for 30 minutes
500ml / 1 pint water

Heat the first amount of sunflower oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan then add the lamb and pinch of asafoetida, then cook until lightly browned and sealed all over.  Set aside.

In a heavy bottomed pot, add next amount of sunflower oil and fry the onions, garlic and ginger until translucent.

While the onions-garlic-ginger are frying, we need to prepare the spices for the rogan josh masala.  Heat a small frying pan to dry fry some of the spices.  When hot, add the coriander seeds, black peppercorns and cloves and dry roast for about 2 minutes; however, watch over them and ensure that they do not burn.  Remove them from the heat and grind in a mortar with a pestle or a coffee grinder.  Add the other ground spices, the black cardamom pods, cinnamon quills and bay leaf.  You can simplify the mix by using ground spices and just mix them all together.

Masala For Rogan Josh

Spices For Rogan Josh

When the onion-garlic-ginger is translucent, turn down the heat and add the spice masala and throughly mix through, cooking gently for 1 minute.  Stir throughout as it can stick to the pot and then start to burn.

Add the yoghurt and mix thoroughly.  Place the top on the pan and heat up until just steaming, then remove lid.  Add the meat, then cover with just enough water to go over all the meat.  Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, place the lid on the pot and simmer for at least 1 hour.

Remove the lid, then add the saffron infused water and cook through thoroughly.

Axel's Rogan Josh Curry

Axel's Rogan Josh

Ready to serve with rice and dhal, however I like to cook this on the night before then reheat the next day  – this gives a much richer, deeper flavour and lets all the spices really meld together.

Tips: you can replace the water with chopped tomatoes to give a redder colour, but sometimes I have just had too much tomato and quite enjoy giving it a miss in this version of rogan josh.  For posh nosh, remove the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and black cardamom pods so no-one complains about chewing on one, but I quite like leaving them in for some extra authenticity and show everyone that you made this from scratch and not out of a jar.

Context…Social Dividends And Choosing Charities For Steenbergs Web-shop

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

So following on from my last blog, we see Steenbergs’ brand as being entangled with our range, the quality of our products and the context of these products.  Where the spices, teas and blend ideas come from tells us about different cultures around the world and how people interact with their environment, both as nature and as the human world.  Spices grown rurally in India, for example, are part of a history that stretches back into deep human history but then links back to villages and urban environments in a quickly expanding and modernising economy like India.  We must understand and smile at the strangeness of this paradox of old, rural and traditional farming mixed with modern industrial processing of spices and teas, together with the fact that they are shipped from Cochin in normal shipping containers on big containerships and not quaint sailing boats – the old and the modern, the rural and the industrial all get mixed up together in the environment of Steenbergs’ spices and teas.

This social aspect of how our retail products that we pack in North Yorkshire for sale in urban and rural shops across the UK and elsewhere, connects to internet customers almost everywhere, and links back to the Wynad region of Kerala in India or the Uva Highlands in Sri Lanka or Mananara in Northern Madagascar is hugely important to Sophie and me.  And while paying a premium of around one-third for our spices, herbs and teas generates profits that enables people to earn a living wage and reinvest into their businesses and communities, we are not sure that this is enough.  After all Steenbergs is at its heart a social enterprise and while we have very limited resources, so we cannot make much of a difference through our financial capacity, we can reach out wider to the community of people who buy our products.  We feel we must try as if we don’t make even a few small steps then the journey is never started.

We tried this once before with Peace Tea and Green Tea but it did not work because the products were not successful enough, so we would like to retry to generate a social dividend from sales at Steenbergs and believe that the best way to do this is via paying out a fixed amount from each web shop sale via www.steenbergs.co.uk to relevant charities.  We are fixing this at 20p for each web sale and will not make any adjustments to costings for this, i.e. it is a straight cost to Steenbergs and not our customers, which we will backdate to the start of 2011 – if we had done this for 2010 it would have been well over £1,000.

At the outset, as we have only really just firmed up the idea after our own flood, we are thinking of two charities – Practical Action or Water Aid.  However, in the future we would like to consider other more homegrown and smaller charities or projects, particularly those run locally and that foster genuine development like microcredit schemes rather than those that create aid dependency and those without any political or religious agenda – with smaller charities, we can make more of a difference whereas for mega-charities our donations will be just a drop in their ocean of income .  We also would like the charities to be active where we are linked with for our purchasing, so enhancing this context for Steenbergs products.  For example, from our quick scout around, we like ideas such as the Asha Trust, Grameen Bank and the Women’s Bank in Sri Lanka and Zahana in Madagascar.  But in the end, we want to hear from you what charities we could support as every year we are looking to our customers and supporters to choose one to benefit from this social dividend.

With this co-operative spirit in mind, we want people to tell us which of Practical Action or Water Aid we should all support this year and ask that you email your choice to charity@steenbergs.co.uk or tell us via Twitter or Facebook, where we will also explain the choices in a little less depth.  Every year we will hold a similar collective decision, so you can help us choose possible organisations and then make a choice openly and together.

In outline, here is something about the 2 possible charities this year or you can go to their websites for more gen.

Practical Action grew out of an idea from the economist E. F. Schumacher in the 1970s that people in poverty needed technology that met their context rather than grandiose schemes coming out of the developed world.  The founders termed this Intermediate Technology and technology as being “physical infrastructure, machinery and equipment, knowledge and skills and the capacity to organise and use all of these.”  They work closely with communities and at their scale and relative to their power, knowledge and available resource and using sensible, practical ideas like treadle pumps for irrigation, zeer pots for refrigeration and nanotechnology ideas such as filters to remove contaminants and pesticides from water.  These small steps enable communities to lift themselves out of their poverty and then hopefully move out of dependency to build their own wealth.  Practical Action works in (amongst other places) India and Sri Lanka, our major two countries for supplies of spices and teas, including Biofoods and Greenfield in Sri Lanka.  There is lots more information at their website at http://practicalaction.org/.

Water Aid on the other hand focuses as its name suggests on water and sanitation, seeking to improve communities lives by removing the scourge of contaminated water and poor sanitation which are major causes of premature death amongst infants and vulnerable adults throughout the world.  Water Aid’s vision is to transform “lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities.”  They use sustainable technologies like rainwater harvesting, spring protection and hand dug wells, together with dry pit latrines and ventilated improved pit latrines.  Water Aid is active in many countries including India and Madagascar, where we get our fantastic Fairtrade vanilla from in Mananara.  Their web site is a great source of information and awe inspiring – www.wateraid.org/uk

Please take some time to think it all through, then come back to us for your choice and let’s try and make a difference, however small that may be.  Email Steenbergs at charities@steenbergs.co.uk or call Sophie or Axel at 01765 640 088 and tell us your thoughts.