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Posts Tagged ‘Indian cooking’

Granted. I’ve been absent for a long time – family life combined with running your own business can do that to your social networking life – but I’m ready to get back to food blogging. It’s something I really enjoy doing and have missed. I only hope that I can find the time and energy to do it again.

I might have been away from my blog but I haven’t been far from food. It’s just that my approach to food has adapted to suit the limited time available for cooking and, naturally, to my little boy’s developing tastes.

_EP_8202-01For a while, when LC was little, I struggled to cope with not having time in the kitchen after work (cooking had always been my creative outlet and the way I relaxed) but we’re now over some very difficult hurdles and there’s a little more time on an evening to cook. I’m working through recipes in the cookbooks that gathered on my shelves over the last two years and were subsequently neglected as well as rediscovering old favourites. Books like Persiana, Made in India, New Indian, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, Comptoir Libanais, the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook and, more recently, Indian Kitchen: Secrets of Indian home cooking have reignited my passion for cooking and, importantly for me, my desire to experiment and create ‘new’ dishes.

I’ve had a little ‘me’ time when I’ve been able to hone some skills and learn new ones. I’ve been on a baking course with Hart’s Bakery and almost perfected my sourdough, I joined Wai Yee Hong and Bishopston Supper Club for the first ever #dumplingfest and learned how to make samosas with a new foodie friend, Arushi.

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Seeing LC enjoy food and want to spend time with me in the kitchen has really helped. I feel immensely proud when he names fruit and vegetables, can recognise ingredients in a cooked dish or sniffs the air and tells me he can smell that I’m cooking curry! I also felt slightly embarrassed when nursery staff reported how, as they told the children they were going to bake cakes, he jumped it to explain to them all how to make one and listed the ingredients needed.

He wants to help with everything from growing vegetables in the garden to shopping, stirring, whisking and even sweeping up. He’s been a great excuse to make time in the kitchen to do things I’ve never done or haven’t done for a long time; make pasta, stale bread gnocchi, oatcakes, meringues, jellies and cakes. He’s eager to learn, soaks up everything I teach him and demonstrates what he’s learnt in his play kitchen where he makes paella, risotto, pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage sandwiches and a bloody good cup of tea!

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And what about eating out? We still do that, just not as frequently. We have sneaky days off with LC in nursery so we can have breakfast or lunch out, or sometimes both! We eat out at lunchtime with LC and occasionally we indulge in a night out, with the help of the amazing people in our lives who offer to babysit.

The Bristol food scene continues to thrive. The variety and quality of food available is outstanding. We’ve had incredible steaks at The Ox, the most amazing chicken wraps from Matina in St Nick’s market, Sunday lunches with a difference at the Kensington Arms, Yurt Lush and Bishopston Supper Club, tapas to die for at Bravas and Pata Negra, the best brunches at RosemarinoBaker & Co and Souk Kitchen, consistently good food at out local, The Victoria Park, stunning fish and chips at Salt and Malt, spice fixes from the Jamaican Diner, authentic Indian cooking from Romy’s Kitchen, a complete surprise tasting menu at the Lido and fantastic salt beef from Aron’s Jewish Delicatessen.

_EP_3760_1Further afield we’ve tucked in at the Hardwick and eaten the best pea and ham soup we’ve ever tasted at the Hind’s Head. Even further afield we were wowed by the food and hospitality in Copenhagen. Aaman’s open sandwiches, DOP hotdogs and Papiroen street food market were highlights of our trip. Sadly there was no visit to Noma!

So, I’ve discovered that there is still room for food in our lives…it’s just that we’re on a diet!

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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 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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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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With two TV series and now three Indian cookery books under her belt, Anjum Anand is surely doing for this generation what Madhur did for the home cooks and curry lovers of the 80’s – making Indian food accessible and adding some spice back into our culinary lives.

Where the first two books covered curry house favourites and many Indian dishes with a British twist, I Love Curry showcases traditional dishes from regions throughout the subcontinent as well as Anjum’s own light and healthy creations.

Anjum explains what makes a curry’s flavour unique to its region, shares the secrets of making great curries, helps us understand how to bring spices together and demonstrates how to create an authentic Indian menu no matter what your cooking ability.

The recipes are well written, the ingredients lists manageable and each dish is accompanied by a short introduction – highlighting Anjum’s own favourites, describing the region from which the dish originates, offering hints and tips on making the dish your own or providing an overview of how the dish tastes, what to serve it with and how quick or easy it is to make.

The photography really brings the book to life and what is fantastic is that there is a photograph for almost every dish. Cookery book publishers take note – we like and need plenty of photographs!

I Love Curry is a very well-conceived book and one I will be turning to time and time again for quick work night dinners and weekend feasts with family and friends.

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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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