Monday, May 28, 2007

An Indian meal to stay home for:

This post is not a rant about the state of curry restaurants in this Country. I will not mention how many times I have tried the same meal at different curry houses to find out that they all taste the same. And I refuse to enter into a debate about which city has the best curry. Instead - I'll just tell you how I make my curry at home - where it's worth the work, fresher than ever, and better than any curry I've ever eaten out.

With the knowledge of Madhur Jaffrey, the support of Jamie Oliver and the tuition of Padmaja I managed to knock up a pretty good meal. It's just amazing how fresh ingredients that are full of flavour can manage to turn a dish around.

This is how I did it:

Onion Bonjis

I don't call them bhajis, because, although they are bhajis as I (an uneducated Westerner) know it, bhajis are really more like Indian-style tempura vegetables. These onion cakes do have a proper Indian name but I can't for the life of me remember what the name is. So we've named them Bonjis!

4 onions, sliced
3/4 cup white flour
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
Sunflower oil for frying

This part can be done in advance:

Place the onions in a large bowl and measure all of the dry ingredients over them. Mix through with your hands and while doing so squeeze the onions so that they release their juices. The onion juice will combine with the flour to form a sticky batter around the onion slices. Heat the oil in a frying until sizzling. Drop handful sizes of batter into the oil to make small cakes. Fry on each side for about 5 minutes. Once complete remove to a paper towel or metal rack to drain.

Before serving:

Reheat the oil to sizzling. Re fry the cakes until golden brown and heated through - about 2 minutes each side. Leave to drain for another 2 minutes but then serve immediately with raita.

Easy Raita

1/2 cup natural yoghurt
Handful of chopped coriander
Juice of half a lime

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chicken Curry
inspired by Madhur Jaffrey's Chicken Tikka Masala and Jamie Oliver's fragrant rub

Sunflower oil
5 or so cardamom pods
Half a cinnamon stick (about 5 cm)
2 onions, finely chopped
1 knob of finely grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 teaspoons of Fragrant Rub
4 tablespoons natural yoghurt
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 red chili pepper, finely chopped (to taste)
500 grams well looked after chicken, cubed
150ml water
Handful of coriander, finely chopped

Brown of the chicken in some sunflower oil. Remove from heat and set aside. Heat some oil in a fry pan until sizzling and very hot. Add the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Stir quickly then add the onions. Continue stirring until the onions begin to brown slightly. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for one minute. Mix the fragrant rub through. Next, stir through the yoghurt, a tablespoon at a time, until it is absorbed by the spices. Add the tomato, tomato puree and chili pepper and cook for a good minute or so while still stirring. Pour in the water, bring to a simmer and cover. Simmer gently with the heat on low for ten minutes. Season to taste. Return the heat to high and stir the chicken through coating with the sauce. When ready to serve, stir through the chopped coriander.

Fragrant Rub

1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 clove
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 cardmom pods
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast all of the ingredients in a dry pack on a medium heat until fragrant. Tip into a food processor and ground until fine.

Sag Aloo or Cumin Potatoes with Spinach

450g unpeeled potatoes
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 knob of ginger, finely grated
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
1 handful of baby spinach leaves
Black pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, then drain and leave to cool. Peel and cut them into 2 cm cubes. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. When it is very hot fry off the cumin seeds for 10 seconds. Add in the potatoes, ginger salt, cumin, cayenne and pepper. Stir fry the potatoes for 10 minutes, roughing them up slightly to create crispy edges. At the very end, stir through the spinach leaves and coriander and serve immediately.

Cardamom Rice

Dan is a guru with rice. This is his rice. When it comes to rice, he looks after it every time.

250ml basmati rice
500ml water
5 cardamom pods to taste
Handful of coriander, coarsely chopped

Boil the water. When on a rolling boil, add the rice, bring it back to the boil, stir once then cover. Lower heat to medium-low, then leave for 12 minutes without removing lid. Remove from heat and leave to sit for another 12 minutes, again, without removing the lid. When ready to serve, take out the cardamom pods and split to remove the seeds. Stir the seeds through the rice while fluffing it up with a fork. Stir through the coriander and serve immediately! Enjoy!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Individual Scape and Chard Pies

Of all the chard pies I've made over the year, I've never actually posted about them. I guess that's because for the most part it makes up one of our fall back meals - like spag bol, or stir fry. So to me it's not all that interesting although oh so yummy!

Since my acquisition of Scapes recently, I've been trying to think of ways to use them. One of the most popular scape recipes seems to be pesto which I hope to try out this weekend. But for the mean time, I decided to try it out as a replacement for garlic in the chard pie. The end result was an earthier, more delicate flavour to the mix - which is a welcome change to an otherwise mundane-ish meal (although I really, really like chard pie in general - it's just you get used to it, if you know what I mean). Below I've detailed the filling only - I've used a standard shortcrust pastry which I not ready to share with anyone just yet.

Scape & Chard Pie Filling

350g chard
250g ricotta
4 slices of thick bacon
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 stems of scapes with bulbs

Wash the chard thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Chiffonade the chard by layering each leaf on top of the other and roll up like a cigar. Slice into 1 inch strips starting from the leafy end and working to the stem. Separate the stem from the leaves.

Roast the pine nuts until golden brown. Leave to cool. Chop the scapes into 5 millimetre slices. Chop the flower finely and keep separate from the stem. In a saucepan heat a touch of oil with the scape stem. Dice the bacon and brown in the pan with the scapes. Fry until crispy. Add the chard stems and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chard leaves and keep the mixture moving until the leaves are wilted. Add the chopped scape flower.

Transfer to a sieve and press out all the juices ensuring that it is as dry as possible, otherwise the pie may become soggy. Place the chard into a bowl and stir in the ricotta until well mixed through. Add the pine nuts and stir though. Season to taste.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Strawberry Vodka Meringue Cake

Dear Daydream delicious...,

Please accept my sincerest apologies for the length of time I've been away from you. I offer, in way of an excuse, the incompetancies of British Telecom, who went out of their way to cancel our broadband connection and not show up on no less than 2 occasions. I know I should have found another way to be with you, my dear one, but to be honest the offerings I had for posts would have paled in comparison and would not have been worthy.

Please accept this strawberry meringue cake laced with vodka (I know how you like vodka) as a gesture of good will. I made one for you, dear Daydream delicious..., and the other as a house warming gift to my new kitchen. I can't wait for you to meet! You will get along so well and really, really enjoy working together. So much so, I think we should all meet up at least once a week from here on in!

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Much love, Bonnie

Strawberry Vodka Meringue Cake

1 punnet of strawberries
125mL vodka (to taste)
3 tablespoons demarerra sugar
3 egg whites
1 cup of castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon white vinegar
50g ground almonds
Whipped cream

Hull the strawberries and slice in half. In a bowl mix the strawberries with the demarerra sugar and vodka. Cover and leave in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 160° Celsius. Prepare two 23cm cake tins by lining the base with grease proof paper and oiling the sides with sunflower or rapeseed oil. Whisk the egg whites until they begin to froth. Start to add the castor sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. The egg whites should be forming stiff peaks by this time. With the last tablespoon of sugar add the cornflour. Fold in the vanilla and vinegar until combined. Finally, fold in the ground almonds.

Divide the meringue between both cake tins and bake for 45 minutes. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then remove onto a wire rack to cool completely. Assemble the cake by placing half of the strawberries on the bottom layer, cover with cream and place the remaining strawberries on the cream. Top with the other cake. Serve with the remaining syrup drizzled over the cake.

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