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Posts Tagged ‘Atul Kochhar’

When Jed finally proposed whilst we were on holiday in Stockholm last year (he doesn’t like to rush into things but after 13 years decided I probably was the one!), my thoughts immediately turned not, as I imagine most girls would, to my dress, shoes or hair, but to food!

Good food and sharing a meal with family and friends is a big part of our life. If there was one thing that had to be just so, it was the food for our wedding breakfast. Not only did it need to be the right food, cooked well, but it also needed to be served in the right way, family-style.

For some time I knew that if we were to ever get married it wouldn’t be a traditional wedding breakfast that we’d be feasting on, it’d be curry. All I had to do was find a) somewhere which would allow us to bring in our own caterers and b) a caterer that would cook our food of choice to a high standard. Sounds simple enough!

Folly FarmWe found and secured the right venue soon enough. The Folly Farm Centre is set within a 250 acre nature reserve managed by the Avon Wildlife Trust. It’s a beautiful venue which is yours for a full weekend, with several function rooms at your disposal, views across to Chew Valley lake, grounds, orchards and woodland to wonder in, its own kitchen garden, a professional kitchen, a choice of caterers on tap or the ability to bring in your own and plenty of accommodation for you and your guests to stay in.

Finding a caterer wasn’t quite so easy! The frustration seemed endless: a complete lack of response or quick to respond initially and then you’d never hear from them again, inability to cater for so many people, far too expensive for our budget, only willing to cook set menus, only provide a buffet service, willing to provide the food but nothing else. The hurdles kept on appearing.

That was until I stumbled upon a relatively new catering company in Bristol called Whisk!. Mike was more than happy to take on my challenge. Looking back now, I feel sorry for Mike who, after saying yes he could help, was then bombarded with detail, suggestions and requests. But even that didn’t put him off! In fact, he came back with a bespoke menu which encompassed my wishes and which clearly showed that he’d thought about his client and the brief. The menu even included a dish from my favourite Indian chef, reminiscent of family meals as a child at our local Nepalese restaurant.

Next came the tasting session. I was filled with excitement at the prospect of Mike coming to our house (yes, he came to us!), cooking items of the meal in my kitchen, serving it to us for dinner and chatting through our ideas and comments. The food we tasted was stunning and there was no question at that point that we’d found the right caterer.

Fast forwarding through the to-ing and fro-ing over practicalities and the order of proceedings, the big day arrived. Keeping me out of the kitchen was always going to be a tall order, friends had even joked that they wouldn’t be surprised to have seen me in my frock getting stuck in! Thankfully I had the photographer on hand to capture the best bits for me and hair and make-up to focus on.

Following the ceremony, we gathered in the courtyard where our guests were treated to a selection of canapés with their Prosecco. Hopefully a hint at what was to follow. The vegetable samosas, spicy lamb skewers and onion bhajis didn’t hang around long – the chefs battled to keep up with the greedy hoards and so many of our guests commented that the bhajis were among the best they’ve eaten!

Poppadoms and home-made chutneys were on the tables as our guests sat down for the main event. Platters of Indian breads and large bowls of pilau rice, Kashmiri lamb curry (an Atul Kochhar recipe), achari paneer (achari being one of our favourite types of curry), tarka dhal (my father-in-law and I always fight over who’s going to finish the last bit) and saag bhaji were then brought to us for everyone to help themselves to.

We had toyed with various ideas for dessert but in the end, as my mother-in-law had spent so much time and done such a great job making the cakes, decided to serve them with coffee, tea and chai. A good decision as I don’t think they would have been enjoyed as much had we left it until later to serve them.

I’d been nervous in the preceding weeks about whether the food would be as good as it was when we did our tasting but I needn’t have worried. It was all delicious and there has hardly a scrap left!

Not only had Whisk! done us proud with our meal but they had also catered for a couple of guests with very special dietary requirements to the same high standard everyone else received. The catering staff were brilliant; very friendly, smiling, attentive and highly professional. Explaining what all the dishes were as they brought them to the tables was a lovely touch. Satiated and satisfied we left them to clear up so we could get on with the party!

There’s no doubting that choosing a ‘self-catering’ venue and our own caterer was extra work and a little stressful at times but it was more than worth it for the result which was everything we had wanted. Not only a day but also a meal to remember.

Thanks to Matthew Lincoln Photography for the photos.

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We had friends staying with us for the weekend and I kicked off their visit with a curry – any excuse to cook one!

I decided to make one of my favourites from Atul Kochhar’s book Simple Indian – achari murg, which he translates as Rajasthani pickled chicken curry. It is so-called because it contains pickling (achari) spices common to Northern India. 

It’s a rare find on a curry house menu, although you can get it at the Jubo Raj on Cotham Hill, which I highly recommend you do if you don’t fancy trying it yourself at home.

I didn’t follow Atul’s recipe to the letter. Having made the dish several times before, there were elements I wanted to tweak and make my own. After all, I firmly believe a recipe is there for inspiration and guidance and not something you need to religiously follow. It got me thinking though, how would chef feel about me changing a recipe he’s worked hard to perfect and at what point does the recipe become my own? Am I within my rights to post a recipe for my own version of the dish here on my blog without causing offense or breaching any laws?

Perhaps I’ll just start by telling you what I changed and why so if you get your hands on the recipe you can decide what you’d like to do!

  • I use chicken thighs with the bone in – partly because I can’t be bothered to bone them and partly because I love the extra flavour they impart when cooking
  • I like to use dried red chillies instead of fresh ones as I think they provide a much deeper flavour and warmth which works well in this dish
  • I add a little cornflour to the yoghurt before adding it to the curry since I have found that the yoghurt I buy from the supermarket can split when added to the hot sauce and the cornflour helps to stabilise it
  • I think that a mixture of lemon and lime juice rather than lemon juice alone enhances the flavour of the dish
  • For extra tanginess I love to add a teaspoon of lime pickle to the sauce (I use Patak’s although I really ought to make my own sometime!)

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Wow, mention the word curry and cookery book fans come running from all corners! We had our biggest attendance on Tuesday night at Cookery Book Supper Club when we hosted our Atul Kochhar Simple Indian evening and it was certainly spicy! 

To get the feast started, we had aloo tikki (North Indian pan-fried potato cakes) with a fresh coriander chutney and a grilled tomato chutney. The lamb with green chillies, a southern Indian curry with a kick, came next, accompanied by pulao rice, naan and a cauliflower and potato curry. What a treat for the tastebuds. 

Simple Indian is an excellent book, the chutneys are a revelation and the dishes are exceptionally tasty. These are traditional Indian dishes packed with flavour, really quite healthy and we imagine authentic. 

The introduction in the book explains the appeal of Indian food – the diversity of flavours, textures and colours as a result of the varied regions, religions and cultural influences on the subcontinent. Atul describes how to achieve flavour in different ways by using whole or ground spice, by roasting, frying or by using spice as a seasoning. 

As the name of the book would suggest, the recipes on the whole are relatively simple to cook and the ingredient lists not too extensive. I have tried most of the dishes from the book with only one failure – the naan bread. Unfortunately, my failure was replicated on the night by Angie who also couldn’t get the naan right. Perhaps Atul will reveal the secret of success at some point?! 

If we were to be picky, we’d have to say that there just aren’t enough photographs in the book. As well as inspiring you to get cooking, a photograph goes a long way in providing guidance when cooking a dish, especially when many of the dishes are new to people.

Tried, tested and recommended you cook tonight:

  • coconut fish curry
  • Deccan fish curry
  • tandoori salmon
  • spicy chicken with spinach
  • peppery chicken curry
  • home-style chicken curry
  • achari chicken
  • lamb biryani
  • Chettiar aubergine
  • cauliflower, carrots and peas
  • stir-fried spinach
  • mushrooms with coriander leaves
  • paratha

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