I Love India – A Day With The Delightful and Very Talented Anjum Anand, At Bertinets’ Cookery School

Cookery Books can be a fantastic source of inspiration and simultaneously just as frustrating, when the dish you have spent ages preparing turns out really disappointing, and in some cases inedible! I LOVE cookery books, especially where the content takes you on a journey with the author through a period of life, or travels through an unfamiliar land of exotic and tingling flavours.

When a I received a call the other week, “Hey hun, there is a nice looking Indian Cookery Book called ‘I Love India‘, by someone called Anjum Anand, do you want me to get it for you?”, my immediate response was “Yes Please”. I knew of Anjum, I had one of her earlier cookery books, and had seen some of her television series so I felt sure it was going to be good, this was to be her eighth book and as they say, practise makes perfect ;-).

I don’t know why I ended up looking at my regular Cookery School’s web page later that day, Richard Bertinet In Bath but there it was before me, “A Day with Anjum Anand, I Love India”.

Minutes later the course was booked and would be taking place a couple of weeks after my annual cookery trip to France, talk about overloaded with cooking!!!I’m very familiar with the setup at Richard’s School, this would be my six course, having spent days with the likes of Mark Hix, Dhruv Baker, José Pizzaro and Omar Allibhoy as well as the master Bread Maker himself Richard, you are always guaranteed high quality chefs, a relaxed atmosphere, great support from the team of lovely ladies that organise and clean (esp. newby Charlotte), and teaming up with like minded enthusiasts all ages, and from all walks of life who want to learn new skills. After the usual Tea, Coffee and Toast (Richards Bread is just fab) with home made conserves we were introduced to the menu we were going to prepare, in 2 groups of 4 people. Anjum explained that we were going to be all hands-on, no demonstrations as she would be working with us, explaining the necessary techniques on the way which sounded just perfect, and just ask questions if you are not sure.

The starter was to be ‘Goan’ Prawn & Coconut Cakes with Tangy Coriander Chutney, for main course we would prepare ‘Kutch’ Chicken Biryani with a Spinach and Dill Raita and Four Seed Tomato Spiced Okra, dessert being Chilled Mango, Coconut and Pearl Pudding.

Goa /ˈɡ.ə/ is a state in India within the coastal region known as the Konkan in Western India. It is bounded by Maharashtra to the north and Karnataka to the east and south, with the Arabian Sea forming its Western coast. It is India’s smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Goa has highest GDP per capita among all Indian states………………….

Kutch, is a region in the extreme west of the western Indian state of Gujarat, can be traced back to prehistorical times. There are several sites related to Indus valley civilisation in the region and it is mentioned in Hindu mythology. In historical times, Kutch is mentioned in Greek writings during the time of Alexander The Great.

Biryani is an Urdu word derived from the Persian language, which was used as an official language in different parts of medieval India, by various Islamic dynasties. One theory is that it originates from “birinj”, the Persian word for rice. Another theory is that it derives from “biryan” or “beriyan” (to fry or roast).

So take what looks like a simple description of food and start to interpret the description, next minute you are in a time warp back to 5th Century India and ancient dynasties that evolved over time, as did their cuisine, taking influence from food 4000 years ago, food is not boring if you take a little time to get under the skin of its origins! Click on the various links in the text above to explore for yourself.So we started to prepare the Goan Prawns and accompanying Chutney, this is where being with the author of the book really helps, as it’s very difficult to explain texture, smell and flavour in a book, preparing it with the cook in the room and you start to pick up all the important hints and tips to get the best out of the recipe. This was a case in point with the texture required for the Prawn Cakes which needed blending, but not to extinction!!!! The correct balance of ‘glue’ to texture would provide the desired effect and so we took a step by step approach so we could see what was required.There is only one book (that I am aware of), that takes this issue full on and that’s Marcus Wareings’ “How to Cook The Perfect”, which goes a good way towards addressing the challenge of subtle technique, and is highly recommended.

So how big do you need to make these savoury Goan delights, well that would depend on whether making for an hors d’oeuvre, starter or main course, if you cannot get Panko breadcrumbs are white breadcrumbs ok, the questions kept coming, all relevant and important to the person asking them, and useful for the rest of the budding cooks.As we carried on with our preparation more questions followed, the subjective issue of herb quantities for the Chutney, to join the Goan Prawn Cakes we were making a Tangy Coriander Chutney, the ‘Tang’ provided by Lemon, with some texture from Pistachios, with Mint and Garlic to add to the flavoursome accompaniment. The consensus was that at the end of the day, everyones palate is different and adjust to what YOU like but we all agreed testing the Chutney without having some Goan Cake at the same time was the only way to ensure the flavour profile was appropriate. Shock, Horror, OMG, its delicious, we made that!!

There was happiness and surprises as we progressed to the more complicated dishes. Food from this continent is more familiar to me having had the pleasure of spending a day with Dhruv Baker, but also a couple of days with a cook from Pakistan, Sumayya Usmani where I had learned to cook a Biryani amongst other dishes of the region. But there is more than one Biryani!I love Biryani but here in the U.K. we have a little problem, I am yet to have eaten a Biryani in a restaurant or takeaway, nope, definitely not a proper Biryani, not one that even comes close. Today we MADE A BIRYANI, a proper one, from the Kutch region of India, a result.Kutch district (also spelled as Kachchh) is a district of Gujarat state in western India. Covering an area of 45,674 km², it is the largest district of India. The population of Kutch is 2,092,371. And THEY know how to make a proper Biryani.

It’s a complex dish with several stages like making a marinade, frying some dry spices, making crispy onions (not burn’t) from scratch (you can cheat, but won’t have the fragrant oil left over!), preparing the rice etc. It was great fun as we all did our bit to contribute towards the final dish.Anjum is an absolutely lovely lady, patient calm, full of enthusiasm and abound with knowledge about the food and region, her life story is really interesting and forms the start of her book I love India where the recipes for the cookery session came from. She was really happy to answer all the questions we threw at her, at times it must have seemed like a ‘barrage’ during a 17th century attack on a ‘Fortified Castle’, relentless!!

We had prepped the Goan Prawn cakes and were leaving the breadcrumbs to the last minute, the Coriander Chutney was done, Crispy Onions done,  I was on Rice duty and that was good to go too, the morning was rushing by and we needed a break.Those that have been to Richard’s School will know about the late morning break, those of you that don’t, pick a course, book it and find out for yourself as it’s part of the experience, ’nuff said.

After refreshments we carried on finishing the various dishes, the Biryani needed layering, Rice, then the Chicken that we had pre-cooked in the marinade, then more Rice. During the morning each of us had learned so many techniques, like how to tell when Garlic is properly cooked, how to make the perfect Rice, seasoning, these are the things that are so difficult to explain in a book as they involve smell, taste and texture.So what about dessert. Charlotte, one of the lovely ‘BackStage Girls’ as they are know who clean, make tea, prepare as necessary mentioned ‘Frogspawn’ a couple of times!!!

Pearl Pudding was the description in the recipe notes we were given, ah, Tapioca ‘Pearls’, aka Frogspawn for those that remember from their school days. We were given another idea which I am not going to mention, book some time with Anjum to find out more. We prepped Mango cubes, made a Mango and Coconut Cream heavy ‘soup’, with the consistency of Double Cream, boiled the ‘Frogspawn’ and soon everything was done and we were sitting down to a very enjoyable lunch.The Goan Prawn Cakes and Tangy Coriander Chutney were outstanding, really tasty and the Tang of the Chutney went very well indeed. I reckon (only a personal opinion), this could be served with the addition of a Kachumber, a salad of Onion, Tomato and Cucumber (with a Tamarind Dressing), which would be a perfect match and make a lovely lunch or light supper.It was so nice to be eating a proper Biryani again, light, fragrant with textures and pings of flavour from the addition of Currants and Almonds fried in Ghee, and the Fried Onions I had prepared earlier. It was bl@@dy tasty as they would say in Australia!

As I was travelling to the venue in Bath, I was searching YouTube for any Videos of Anjum and came across a hilarious live recording from an Australian breakfast show a few months back, 3 women who seemed to be clueless about Semolina and the difference between YoGhuurt (not a typo, they make it sound like that), and Milk, it was really funny. Anjum was getting it from every direction and still managed to do a great job. We discussed the experience in the morning which was really enlightening, thanks Anjum.

Time for Dessert,  And an apology!We were all so busy commenting on the starter and main, asking Anjum so many questions and having a great foodie conversation I forgot to take a picture of the dessert. We could not get ‘proper’ Mango’s and those we had didn’t have the best flavour, although the result actually tasted Ok.

There was no consensus on the Tapioca pearls, I was a bit contentious and suggested using Maftoul or Moghrabieh  from the Middle East, larger sphericals and used for savoury dishes I reckon they would work really well, so something I am going to try in the future as an experiment.

So another days cooking at Bertinet’s with the lovely Anjum Anand, a brilliant day as usual, learnt loads, cooked lots, ate a bit too it was great fun and I cannot wait until next time. If you see one of Anjum’s course I would highly recommend them. Usual rules apply, I paid full price for this course and all views are my own. I have not been coerced in any way.

 

……………………………….Until Next Time…………..L8ers…………………………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Korma, I DIDN’T like Korma, until I found page 146!

20160816_161230-1I love food, or should I say I love food that has character, flavour and maybe a story behind it, as it makes things much more interesting. The area of Southern Asia covers a huge expanse, and includes the likes of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, and its resulting rich and diverse culture and cuisine. There is a mountain of history that defines these distinct areas and that has developed over the years and influenced some of the food that we have become familiar with, including Biryani and ‘Korma’.

20160816_162837-1Onions seem to form the basis of many dishes that come from the region of Southern Asia and the Korma is no different. Now, I really hate Korma or should I say Chicken Korma, I suspect because of the dishes I have tasted are either from a take-away (once), or one someone close to me has made (I suspect from a Jar, Shhh) again once, I did not like either of them!

I discovered on page 146 in Diana Henrys’ ‘A Bird in the Hand’ book an interesting ‘Royal Korma’ recipe, the book has recently taken a spot nestled amongst Yotam Ottolenghi, Sabrina Ghayour, Maria Elia, Sam Clarke and various other chefs who inspire me to cook.

I am not going to provide ingredient details so buy the book as i did, i am just going to describe some of the processes and my results, so you can get an idea of how the Korma might be cooked. The book is a very worthy investment and contains loads of inspirational food to cook based on Chicken.

20160816_172856_001-1Back to the Onions as there are two different ways they need to be dealt with, sliced and given a liberal salting, and chopping finely. Above you can see above a considerable amount of onions sitting in the colander, once salted and left for at least 30 minutes, the amount of water that gets extracted is quite significant in the picture below. The Onions need to be fried (use a deep fat frier on about 160 degree’s) until golden brown, then drained very well and blitzed with some water to create an Onion Puree. The salting process helps remove much of the water but be careful as there will be a lot of spitting when you put the Onions into the Oil.

20160816_183143-1Once completed the aroma is slightly sweet, pungent and just yum, you can see my effort above. I suspect many of the Korma’s in restaurants and in jars have sugar added to provide the sweetness, this recipe has no added sugar (I have just checked two well known sauce brands on the internet and yes, they both have quite a lot of added sugar)!

20160816_183949The other core elements that make this dish ‘sing’ include Black and Green Cardamom, Ground White Pepper, Kashmiri Chilli, Cloves, Cinnamon and Ground Coriander Seeds. To add to the this, a puree of both Almonds and Cashew Nuts are needed along with Saffron, (I used Afghanistan Saffron which comes from a village co-operative encouraged to stop growing drugs, that’s got to be good). The majority of my spices come from Steenbergs in Yorkshire, sorry for keep mentioning them but their products are just brilliant and well worth investing in.

20160816_201121-1I had a ‘debate’ with my partner of 27 of so years on the Chicken cut, and I stood my ground (typical obstinate bloke I her you say). I had a pack of Chicken Thighs which would be perfect, but I was battling against Breast Meat which my partner wanted to go with.

I needed to skin, de-bone and clean up the Thighs which I did, and the final results in both our opinions was well worth it. If you remember at the beginning there were two types of Onion, the 1st stage of cooking needs the finely chopped Onion to be sweated and browned before adding the other ingredients as per the order in the book.

20160816_203617-1I will admit to cheating a bit with the Rice, and used a couple of packets of the ‘quick cook’ variety but with some added ingredients. Golden Raisins which had been steeped in Earl Grey Tea for a least an hour, some cloves, a little broken Cinnamon stick, a few crushed Green Cardamon pods and a light sprinkling of the Saffron Water, finally some chopped Coriander and a few flaked Almonds, the whole lot goes in the Microwave for 2-3 mins (yes a Microwave)!

Before you serve TASTE TASTE TASTE, the dish needs a decent ‘whack’ of  Salt at the end, it lifts the dish so much. When I 1st tasted it, it was between ‘bland’ and ‘Ok”, tasting, adding a little salt and tasting, more Salt and it just went ‘WOWSER!!

20160816_205342-1So, the Korma hating critic was gobsmacked, this was bl@@dy amazing with deep flavours, a slight nuttiness but not too much, sweet but not sweet (the Onion puree I guess), this was just sublime. The Kashmiri and Ginger (I didn’t mention the Ginger so you do need the book to recreate this 🙂 providing some heat long with the White Pepper.

Thank-you Diana Henry for the chance to cook what is probably much more authentic than what you would get in Restaurants, as the dish takes some time and patience to prepare. You could do some of the processes the day before, such as the Onion Puree, I am not sure about the Nut Mixture.

If you want to try and cook a Korma, and you don’t (didn’t) like Korma like me, buy the book and give this one a go, you will be pleasantly surprised. This is being added to my Love it list of dishes for repeating again in the future.

……………..Until Next Time…………………L8ers…………..

 

La Cuisine Bertinet with Dhruv Baker (MasterChef 2010 Winner)

P1030441It has been a while since my last post, a combination of busy and tired has eaten up much of my spare time so it was really exciting to be joining a class at Richard Bertinets’ Cookery School in Bath, and spending a few hours with Dhruv Baker, who won Masterchef in 2010.  The course was booked some time ago, just after I had suffered a seizure and woke up in an Ambulance so I though transport was going to be a problem, but in the end it was very easy and after an hour on the train and a short Taxi, there I was.

P1030434I usually arrive on cooking courses as the only ‘bloke’, which can be both enjoyable and frustrating (I really wish more men would have a go at cooking), this time there were 4 of us, equally balanced by 4 lovely ladies. As we arrived we were provided with Richards’ famous Bread, freshly toasted, with Butter and Jam, and Tea and Coffee and we started to introduce ourselves and get to know each other. Dhruv and Richards’ team of helpers were finalising the preparation and we were good to go.

P1030435The menu we were going to prepare was really interesting, Sweet Chilli Squid with Samphire, Chennai Spiced Poussin, Cumin & Chilli Potatoes with Curry Leaf and Coconut Cavalo Nero. As we looked through the menu Dhruv went about explaining the dishes and the order we would use to create each one. The Spiced Butter for the Poussin was going to take the longest so we set about toasting coconut and spices which would be ground into a paste (by hand) later on.

P1030436We were given many words of wisdom and encouragement by Dhruv, one of the participants said he could not cook (his wife also present agreed!), but comments like ‘T.V. Chefs like to make things look more complicated’ helped relax everyone as we all settled down to preparing each of the dishes. I won’t go though the detail of each dish, just book a course yourself and learn from a master and have some fun at the same time.

P1030442At the beginning of the day we were grouped together in ‘teams’, I was lucky enough to join Claire and Jin, who both had been on previous courses (Claire had been on 16), as we prepared each part of the recipe we laughed and joked as if we had known each other for years. It’s amazing how when individuals are thrown together with a common interest it seems to break down barriers in seconds. The other ‘students’ were from Belgium and there was a real friendship developing (call it a competitive bond if you will), this turned out to raise even more laughter towards the end of the day.

P1030440Because of time, there were a couple of ‘hiccups’ which in reality did not cause issue. The Spice Paste is made of hot ingredients, Tomatoes, Red Onions etc. and we could have done with a bit more time to let it cool, add cold Butter and…………It Melts! We ended up stuffing the Poussin with a semi Liquid mix but it worked fine in the end. We served up the starter as the Poussin roasted in the oven, the Sweet Chilli Squid with Samphire was a delight, tender, delicate and the slight saltiness of the Samphire negated the need for seasoning, amazing.File 26-10-2015, 11 35 01Mid morning we had a quick break, Tea and Coffee and some delicious Almond Croissants, and the owner turned up to greet us, Richard Bertinet. Richard started the school about 9 years ago, and takes some of the Bread making courses as well as  inviting guest Chef’s to come a teach their specialist skills. Richards Bread is VERY good, and if you are lucky enough to live West of Windsor, you maybe able to find some in your local Waitrose, I get mine in Newbury if I fancy a treat.File 26-10-2015, 11 34 07We prepared all the dishes to the point where we could eat the starter whilst the main was cooking, finish off the Vegetables then serve the main etc. In between copious amounts of Red and White Wine flowed, the generosity and spirit was certainly in abundance, and I was glad it was a train home, and not the car!!

The potato dish seemed to cause a bit of competition, one of our Belgian colleagues was a bit heavy with the Chilli, and the double doors at the back of the school had to be opened to let the ‘hot’ steam out. We then realised during tasting that that team had also forgotten to season, and not quite par boiled long enough. It seems Team Claire, Jules and Jin had won the ‘best potato dish’ competition. Yay.P1030446The Poussin were smelling delicious as they rested whilst we finished of the Vegetables and put the desert on to cook. Ah yes, forgot to mention the Chocolate Brownie with Cassia Custard,and hints of Cardamom!P1030448All the dishes were very clever, you can find several of them in Dhruvs’ Book Spice: Layers Of Flavour I am very proud to have a signed copy. Dhruv carefully explained the reason behind each component, acidity, saltness, sweetness, etc. and the smells and aroma’s circulating the kitchen were amazing.P1030450It was One of our Belgian friends birthday so as the Chocolate Brownies were served complete with candles we all sang Happy Birthday. Richard treated us to some more ‘specials’ as we ate our fill, Prunes Steeped in Rum, perfect served in Coffee or just eaten on their own, and the ‘old’ bottle of Vanilla Vodka, which was so full of Vanilla pods there was not much room for Vodka!File 26-10-2015, 11 35 24So after quite a few hours cooking, much laughter, a few glasses of Wine we had accomplished what one of our Belgians friends had not seemed possible, knocked up a pretty decent (I would probably say cooked a high quality!) 3 course dinner delicately spiced, packed full of flavour and learnt quite a few more cookery skills. Using Lemon as a ‘condiment’ featured quite a lot and worked REALLY well, even on the Potatoes which was quite a suprise.

Richards Cookery School website can be found HERE and Dhruvs’ Gastro Pub The Jolly Gardeners HERE,

Just to be clear, I paid full price for this course and have received no incentives etc. in order to write this review, its my own experience and one that I will not forget, a truly wonderful time. There is no doubt I will be returning to Richards School in the future to learn new skills and share a great time with new friends.

Till Next Time………………..l8ers……………………

 

Earl Grey is Not Just For Drinking – My Take on Kashmiri Pilaff, Mums Masala King Prawn Curry And Kachumber

File 29-07-2015 11 32 40Its been a while since the last posting mostly due to some health challenges which are being sorted, as a result of having to put work on pause, much time has been spent looking at cookery books, watching cooking on T.V. digging for some inspiration to get into the kitchen, and generally ‘chilling’ out (Doctors orders!). My last post was a review of ‘Steenbergs’ Nasi Goreng mix, which had been sent to me as part of a tasting panel and very good it was too. Since then I have also had the opportunity to try their Organic Lemon Oil, in a home made Chilli, you can see the rest of the ingredients below. Apologies for the picture quality in this post btw, its proof that my beloved Nokia Lumia 1020 takes better pictures than an iPhone 6 in kitchen conditions, (unless I am doing something wrong that is)! 
File 29-07-2015 12 37 11The Chilli was the usual mix of Mince Beef, Tomatoes and a trusty can of those well known Beans but the magic was in the mix of spices above. Five (yes 5) different types of Chilli, both whole (thanks to the South Devon Chilli Farm), dried, care of Steenbergs and The Spicery (who also do Piment d’Espelette, a very special French Basque Pepper) which is quite challenging to get hold of. I might post the recipe one day but its really easy and very tasty so maybe have a go yourself using the ingredients above and just add slowly and keep tasting. The three whole chillies were Ancho Mulato, Chipotle Morita and Pasilla, soaked in hot water for about 20 minutes, I removed the seeds and chopped them up before adding to the Chilli.

File 29-07-2015 11 33 37Anyhow, back to the Curry and Pilaff, this is where the idea came to try another of the tasting panel samples from Steenbergs, the Fairtrade Organic Earl Grey Tea. I decided to steep the Golden Raisins (Part of the Rice Pilaff), in the Tea, about 1/2 an hour did it becoming soft, juicy and fragrant. The following ingredients will be needed for the Kashmiri Pilaff and was inspired by a similar recipe in Anjum Anands ‘New Indian’ cookbook.

  • 2 Pouches Ready Cooked Rice (I used Basmati, this recipe is really quick!)
  • 1/4 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 5-7 c.m. Length of Cinnamon Bark
  • 4 Cloves
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Handful Ready Fried Onions (Or 1 Onion, chopped and fried until Brown and Crispy)
  • 15-20 Grams Almond Flakes
  • 15-20 Grams Pistachio Nuts, Lightly Crushed in a Pestle & Mortar
  • 10 – 15 Grams Golden Raisins
  • 1 Large Cup of Earl Grey Tea (Steenbergs Organic is very good and Drinks well too)
  • 4 Green Cardamon Pods
  • 1 Pinch Afghan Saffron (Steenbergs do this and it supports and excellent cause, click Saffron to find out more)
  • 2 Tbls Hot Milk (The Saffron Steeps in this for 10 minutes to extract flavour and colour)

File 29-07-2015 11 35 09The whole meal takes no more than 30 minutes to prepare, including the ‘Kachumber’ salad side dish. The spices need frying to release their flavours so pop all the spices into a pan with a small amount of Ghee and cook over a medium heat until you can smell the aromas filling the kitchen, about 5 minutes. Next add the handful of crispy fried onion and cook gently for another couple of minutes just to warm through.

File 29-07-2015 11 34 52In a separate pan you can prepare the Prawn Curry, which is really easy and takes no time at all thanks to Mum’s Masala. The sauce base needs cooking for 5 minutes before adding the Prawns (or other protein), and then cooking for a further 5 minutes, then adding some water as per the instruction on the bottle and continuing until the protein is cooked, it’s as easy as that. I did my usual trick of adding some extra Kashmiri Chilli as I like my food slightly more spicy.

File 29-07-2015 11 33 53I mentioned ‘Kachumber Salad’ was to be included with this particular meal, a very simple dish mine was a Jack Hawkins Tomato thinly sliced, 1/4 of a Cucumber, de-seeded and thinly sliced, 1 small Red Onion thinly sliced, 3/4 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds, dry roasted in a frying pan, a glug of Rice Wine Vinegar, about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of Kashmiri Chilli powder, 1/4 teasppon of Chilli Flakes and some chopped Coriander leaves, that’t it.

File 29-07-2015 11 35 26The kitchen should now be smelling very aromatic indeed, the spices nicely cooked, the Onion adding a sweetness and crispy texture to the Pilaff, the next stage is too add the Rice. For speed I chose a couple of packets of pre-cooked Basmati Rice which are easily available and take no time at all to prepare, in this case all we need to do is squeeze each pouch to separate the grains and tip the Rice into the pan, mixing thoroughly with the spices and Ghee.

File 29-07-2015 11 36 03Almost done now, the rest of the ingredients can be added, the Saffron Milk, Nuts and Earl Grey Tea steeped Golden Raisins (remember to drain the Raisins 1st, you don’t want to add the Tea into the Rice!!).

File 29-07-2015 12 20 00So it seems the Saffron is quite significant, which I found out whilst doing my usual research for this post. This saffron comes from a women’s association in Afghanistan which is promoting growing  saffron as a viable alternative to opium growing. Now that’s really cool, but there is another twist in this story which only became clear when I looked at a map of the region. Kashmir is the north western region of South Asia and borders Afghanistan so geographically related, not something I had realised when I started this tasty dish.

1024px-Kashmir_region_2004So there you have it, once you have added the rest of the ingredients you only need a couple more minutes and everything is good to go. Again apologies for the pictures, I will be going back to the trusty Nokia in future as the results are some much better,

File 29-07-2015 11 36 25The Kasmiri Pilaff was delicious, had good texture and the Earl Grey steeped Raisins were amazing adding a slightly fruity shot of flavour with a citrus note. The Curry was as good as before and the Kachumber salad provided some contrast and a cooling element. In fact the mixing of hot and cold temperatures and sweet and spicy food works extremely well, as I have found out before with an Ottolenghi inspired dish that I did last year.

So thanks to Anjum (and Rick Stein for the Kachumber), have a go, it’s delish.

Until next time……………………………………………L8ers…………………………………………………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the Saffron is quite significant, which I found out whilst doing my usual research for this post. This saffron comes from a women’s association in Afghanistan which is promoting growing  saffron as a viable alternative to opium growing. Now that’s cool, but there is another twist in this story which only became clear when I looked at a map of the region.Kashmir is the north western region of South Asia and borders Afghanistan

Desi, Native, Traditional Yardbird (Chicken, Murgh) – Confused, read on?

WP_20150516_15_43_02_ProYou would think making a Chicken Curry would be simple, Nah……..

I had planned to make some Paratha’s to go with a Desi Murgh I was going to attempt, hence the flour in the picture above, it never happened but I promise to re-visit Paratha’s another day.

The week was rather busy, I meet a new bunch of people I am supporting in my day job and ended up in a fantastic Greek restaurant in Weston-Super-Mare called Demetris, the ‘Sheftalia’ was delicious and the ‘Stifado’ was that good, I got several pats on the back for finding such an amazing restaurant with 5 minutes notice.

The following day I was at a RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) home with some other team mates, doing a days charity work helping get the garden in pristine condition, a really worthy graft albeit left with aches and pains in places I did not know existed.

WP_20150516_15_55_53_ProBack to the kitchen and Desi Murgh, a traditional dish from Southern India. According to the research I did whilst preparing this beauty it used to be a dish for a special occasion, as large scale chicken production did not exist and Chicken was expensive. The reference to ‘Yardbird’ in the title, is that in the Deep Southern states of America, a Yardbird was another name for Chicken, but elsewhere it was a term for a prisoner!!

I have been fortunate enough to attend two 1 day cookery courses with the Lovely Sumayya Usmani of My Tamarind Kitchen, she is currently writing her first cookery book which is due to be published later this year. I learnt to cook Onions the proper way on this course, which you need to do for this dish.

WP_20150516_16_30_55_ProThe recipe is easily available via google, mine came from a book from Indian Chef Vivek Singh, its purely a co-incidence that he is appearing on Sunday Brunch as I am writing this post, he is one of the UK’s best in Indian cuisine!!

The Onions take about 30-40 minutes to cook, its not a five minute job. The trick is to use your eyes, and cook until you see the Oil separate and then add a little water and carry on cooking, stirring to make sure the Onion does not burn on the base of the pan.

WP_20150516_16_49_01_ProYou need to hold your nerve with this process, it seems as if you are cooking the Onion to within an inch of its life, I used two large Onions and by the time the cooking process has finished and you have essentially cooked all the moisture out of the Onions, there is not that much left.

WP_20150516_16_55_46_ProOnce you have passed the ‘Deep Brown’ stage, set aside to cool down and then blitz in a food processor or use a ‘Stick Blender’. You will have a delicious deep sweet base for the Desi Murgh, and many other Indian dishes as this technique is used a lot.

WP_20150516_17_09_42_ProDuring the Onion cooking stage take your Garlic and Ginger and make a paste, I used about 5 Garlic Cloves and 1 1/2 Inches of fresh Ginger, delicious.

This needs cooking out, see above, before adding the Onion Mixture and cooking for 5- 6 Minutes making sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

WP_20150516_17_13_41_ProThe kitchen will start to fill with amazing aromas by now, adding the rest of the spices like Coriander, Cumin, Turmeric, Black Smokey Cardamon, Kashmiri Chilli, cooking each one out to remove the powdery taste. A Bay leaf finishes this stage of the cooking.

WP_20150516_17_19_49_Pro Next, Tomatoes are added cooking the sauce base until the Oil splits from the rest of the mixture. I did not have fresh so used a tin of chopped tomatoes which were in the cupboard. Finally add some Yoghurt as per the recipe.

WP_20150516_19_14_00_ProChicken is the protein in this delicious dish, slow cooking for about 45 minutes use whatever you have to hand, Thighs, Breast (cut into chunks) or Legs its up to you. I put mine on the oven on about 150 degrees with the lid on. Make sure the Chicken is cooked if you are using larger cuts with the bone in.

WP_20150516_19_24_22_ProAt the end, add some fresh Coriander and cook on the hob for a further 10 minutes until the Oil splits out again.

I served the Desi Murgh with some Basmati rice that had been flavoured with Clove, Cinnamon, Green Cardamon, roasted Coriander Seeds, I guess it was Pilau Rice without the colouring, a ‘flourish’ of fresh Coriander was also added, I love the stuff!!

It takes a while to prepare this Desi Murgh but the results are delicious, if you like your food a bit hotter, add extra Chilli Powder as the dish is mild and fragrant. Its supposed to be quite a ‘wet’ curry so some Indian bread would go well, I was too tired after a busy week so fried some Popadoms instead!

…………………….Until Next time L8ers………………

A Rockin’ Indian Sauce Base – Mums Masala, You Gotta Try It!

WP_20150314_18_17_53_ProThis post is a bit unusual, you will notice 1 jar of cooking sauce and only one spice (and that was only because I could only get a ‘medium’ and I do like my food spicy)! My usual posts included loads of ingredients and lengthy cooking processes, here is a simple and seriously tasty dish you can produce in no time at all.

I work in an interesting and dynamic industry, and one that from time to time, forces people to change direction and do something different, or move to a similar company and carry on (that’s me).

I was really delighted to hear a friend for over 10 years, had taken the plunge and decided to set up his own company, making a range of Indian sauce bases. To be clear from the outset, I purchased this sauce in a retail store with no discount (well 2 actually), and have not been paid, or asked to favour. I don’t write bad reviews (a recent case of a lady in France that ended up in court with big fines is an example of why you have to be careful), If I don’t like something I move on to the next….and ignore. If its get to print, it good; simple as that.

For me, the impressive is that the sauce is already stocked in Morrisons, has a stamp of approval from Heart U.K. and a Global Ambassador in Sally Bee, who regularly features on daytime T.V.

So here’s what i did.

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Luckily, I had planned a trip to my local Oriental Supermarket See Woo to get some ingredients for a mothers day special I was cooking, Weeping Tiger Salad, I also grabbed a bag of Tiger Prawns, which was to be the protein in my quick curry. Just around the corner there is a Morrisons so a chance to pickup a jar of Mums Masala sauce base, something I have been keen to try since hearing of my friends new venture.

Wanting to add a bit of texture to the dish, a Green Pepper was chopped and a fried with some Onion before adding the sauce. you DON’T have to add these ingredients, but it just that way I do things!

WP_20150314_19_46_37_ProThe mixture was gently fried for 2 -3 minutes, just to take the harshness away before adding the jar of Mums Masala sauce base.

WP_20150314_19_48_32_ProSo, lets get to the point. I DON’T use jars of cooking sauces (until now that is!), the proliferation of brands that fill the supermarkets shelves leave a lot to be desired. I have tried numerous over the years and they are; Bland, Too Salty, Too Sweet, Stuffed with Saturated Fats, Too much Tomato, Full of stuff I don’t recognise as a food, disgusting, horrible.

Rant over, this is the reason I started my blog in the 1st place, to try and encourage people to cook, I am not a professional, but cooking from scratch is a relaxing break from my daytime, ‘Generation Y’ world of Tech…… This was going to stretch me a bit as its all a bit ‘simple’.

So whats in the jar; Onion, Diced Tomatoes, Rapeseed Oil, Ginger Puree, Water, Red Chilli Puree, Garlic Puree, Garam Masala (Ground Coriander, Ground Cumin, Ground Cassia, Ground Black Pepper, Ground Star Aniseed, Ground Ginger, Ground Green Cardamom, Ground Pimento, Ground Black Cardamom, Ground Cloves, Ground Bay Leaf, Ground Nutmeg), Turmeric Powder, Salt, Tomato Paste, Cumin Seeds, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Acidity Regulator: Acetic Acid, Cornflour, Dried Fenugreek Leaf.

If you are wondering, Acetic Acid is the pure name for Vinegar, and an Acidity Regulator is used to ensure Bacteria does not grow. I recognise ALL the ingredients in Mum’s Masala so that is 1 BIG tick in the box. If you compare the ingredients to other sauces there are some subtle nuances, the use of the word ‘Puree’ instead of powder, real ingredients!!!!!WP_20150314_20_03_14_Pro

So, after 5 minutes of cooking I added the bag of Tiger Prawns, and gave the mixture a thorough stir to coat all the Prawns, then following the instructions on the jar, added just under half a jar of water, to slacken the mix. I also added 1 Teaspoon of Kashmiri Chilli Powder, which is why the dish changed colour to a deeper red. The ONLY reason I did this is I like a spicy curry and could only get a medium version of the sauce base.

As this was to be a quick meal, I had got a couple of Coconut Rice Pouches, some Geeta’s Mango Chutney (which is really good), some ready made Poppadoms, and knocked up a quick Onion Salad.

WP_20150314_19_08_44_ProI have a thing about Onion Salad, and feel another minor rant coming. On the occasions where an Indian Takeaway is used, there is never enough Tomato, or Fresh Coriander in the Onion Salad. Mine is packed with both, alongside some subtle cucumber and a sprinkling of Cumin.

WP_20150314_20_19_59_ProSo, to my good friend Narinder, the brains behind Mum’s Masala you really challenged me when I found out about your sauces. I was really sceptical, and wasn’t sure what my fussy palate would think. I was also worried that if I didn’t like it, things might be ermmmmmmm awkward….

But hey, you have NAILED IT buddy, bloody well done.

The Boss is equally as fussy as me, sometimes I think more so. In fact, when I said what I was going to do, she questioned my utter madness based on both our previous experiences and disappointment with jars of ready made sauces and did take some persuading before going along with my plan.

Its a VERY GOOD sauce base, simple to use (great when you don’t have hours to prepare a meal), its VERY healthy and if you don’t believe me, just read the article below.

grocer

 

I am going to develop some recipes using the sauce as a staring point so watch out for future postings, and in the meantime, hunt out your local Morrisons and get a Jar or two of Mums Masala for yourself, you will be eating quick, tasty AND healthy in no time at all.