Posts Tagged ‘curry’

Already being the proud owner of around 15 ‘curry’ cookbooks, including Reza Mahammad’s first book (Rice, Spice and All Things Nice), you might ask why I would have the need or be interested in yet another.

The answer is quite simply because this isn’t like the others. Reza has genuinely found an interesting and new angle; East meets West in Reza’s Indian Spice, challenging the palate and mind of a British audience hooked on well-known Indian (and British-style Indian) dishes.

Born in England, sent to boarding school in India to learn about his heritage, lived in France and well-travelled, Reza’s cooking influences are unmistakable.

He admits that he loves all kinds of foods from around the world but can’t live a day without spice. The result is (I hate to use the word since it often has negative connotations but it is the only way to describe it) fusion food. Thai, Persian, French, Italian, British dishes and cooking techniques are combined with a little Indian spice to enhance the finished dishes. It’s modern, vibrant and stylish.

Whilst a lot of different spices are used throughout the book and there is no spice glossary, the majority of the dishes use readily available spices and are easy to recreate. Others are more involved and best left for when you have some time to experiment or want to show off.

Each dish has a suggestion of what to serve with it, with a page reference so you can easily find it in the book, important I think when dealing with unfamiliar foods. Does it go with rice or bread? Do I need a salad or a vegetable side dish? Should I have a chutney with it? These are questions which are so often forgotten by professionals and about which many home cooks worry.

It was refreshing to see a variety of ideas for accompaniments; side dishes which are unusual, colourful and healthy. We particularly enjoyed the beansprout salad with chargrilled asparagus and coconut which we ate with the kachumber and spicy stuffed potatoes (a recipe from the ‘Slow burners’ section which took a while to prepare and a lot longer to cook in the oven than the recipe stated but which was most definitely worth the wait).

I was inspired by other ‘Perfect partners’ from the book as well as his western influences combined with eastern flavours to create a twist on the classic Sunday roast. I served my slow roast pork belly (which sat on a rack of onion, garlic, peppercorns and curry leaves to create a flavoursome and lightly spiced gravy) with Reza’s French beans with sesame seeds, gingered carrots with maple syrup and roast potatoes with chilli and chaat masala. If you thought it wasn’t possible for roast potatoes to be any better than they are already, I urge you to try Reza’s roast potatoes. They are incredible!

If you’re serious about cooking with spices, looking for recipes with a difference and photographs to drool over then let yourself be drawn into Reza’s exquisite and exotic world. I’m sure you’ll finish your meal smiling.


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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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When I entered the Cinnamon Club competition to win two tickets to their New Year’s Eve celebration I didn’t for one minute think I’d win. I came up with my Cinnamon Club poem on the spur of the moment, in a random flash of creativity. I was truly shocked to receive an email on 29 December congratulating me on my win!

It was very unfortunate that I wasn’t able to take advantage of the prize myself. I arranged instead for my soon to be parents-in-law to go on my behalf with strict instructions to have fun and report back! They certainly enjoyed their evening and reported back in abundance. I received a blow-by-blow account, have a copy of the menu, photographs and the complimentary truffles!

Entertainment was laid on in the form of a live jazz band and an illusionist. I have to admit to being sceptical when I heard that there was an illusionist but am still in awe of the story of the rabbit trick – just how does a rabbit in a clenched fist turn into 10 bunnies when the hand is opened again?!

Food highlights of the evening were the canapes (chargrilled monkfish with chilli and lemongrass, chilli chicken sausage with masala mash, chickpea and yoghurt gnocchi with coriander chutney), the Kerala style lobster soup, the side dish of black lentils and the pistachio and cardamon kulfi.

The food was good, beautiful and well presented, delicately and expertly spiced but not sublime.  The wine list could break the bank and there is quite a high service charge to pay. Even still, I look forward to a time when I can experience the grandeur of the Cinnamon Club myself.

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In a moment of creative inspiration (and genius?!) I wrote this entry for the Cinnamon Club New Year’s Eve Party competition!

There is a guy named Jed

Who plenty of curry has been fed

His fiancée has a curry addiction

He’s sure there could be a worse affliction

So just let’s her get on in the kitchen.

He likes it when she makes dhal

But draws the line at phall

Some have come to think she’s crazy

It doesn’t bother him, she makes a mean jalfrezi

So he’ll just eat til his mind is hazy.

He knows of the Cinnamon Club

Where great food is at the hub

If only he could give her the night off

Somewhere with a nice wine or cocktail to quaff

And a most excellent curry to scoff!

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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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One of the joys of working from home is being able to tuck into leftovers from the night before without worrying about stinking out the office or causing workmates to drool whilst watching you demolish a tasty lunchtime treat when all they had to feast on was salad leaves or a dull sandwich! Today was one such day where I was pleased to be wfh.

So, I mentioned yesterday that the pork vindaloo was good but didn’t quite pack the flavour punch I was expecting, but cooking for an army as I usually do meant there were leftovers to be had this lunchtime.

I am pleased to report that a night sitting in the fridge did my vindaloo the world of good. It came out tasting an altogether different dish. So there we go folks, do try Anjum’s recipe at home but make it the day before you want to eat it!

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Pork Vindaloo with Rice and Green BeansWe’ll be away from home this weekend so I ended my home-cooking week as I started it – with a curry from Anjum Anand’s I Love Curry. I chose the pork vindaloo, a hot Goan curry I enjoy cooking and eating at home but always steer clear of in a curry house!

An authentic vindaloo calls for plenty of hot Kashmiri chillies but the chilli does not overpower the other spices or the flavour of the pork. It’s a well balanced curry with a light sauce which truly hits the spot when you need a chilli fix.

Anjum’s recipe contains a lot more fragrant spices such as coriander, cardamon, cinnamon and ginger and requires a different preparation method to the recipe I normally use so I was intrigued to see how the dishes would differ. The result was, of course, delicious but the flavour was not as well rounded as my normal recipe – I have a feeling that this is one which will taste much better the next day when the flavours have really had time to develop. It’s a good job I made too much and can have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

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