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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Hola Amics, King Prawn Laksa and Mallorca?

WP_20150605_18_07_47_ProA last-minute decision to go and find some sun, this time last week we were starting our final evening on the stunning island of Mallorca (Majorca). I have never booked a holiday two days before departure but needs must, and what a fantastic time we had.

On the day before we departed from home, a package arrived from those lovely people at Steenbergs, upon opening up the cardboard box it was an opportunity to be part of their taste panel.

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Two different Tea samples, a mix for Nasi Goreng and a bottle of Lemon Oil, Organic of course and all were nestling in the vibrant orange paper, with feedback cards to let them know how each product tasted.

Unfortunately testing was going to be delayed as the plane was awaiting, but the next post will be my attempt at Nasi Goreng, with maybe a few twists along the way. I am working on some ideas on how to use some of the Lemon Oil, watch this space.

WP_20150605_18_36_19_ProThis particular dish, Prawn Laksa is derived from one by Ching He Huang, the recipe on the BBC website does have a couple of mistakes in it, namely it lists both Water and Chicken Stock in the ingredients but says to use water. I opted to forget the water and use some of the home-made Chicken Stock I prepared recently for an Indian inspired dish. Having checked on Chings’ website under the ‘free member’ section, the recipe is subtly different, but does not mention the water!

File 06-06-2015 15 01 29Quickly back to Mallorca, we stayed in a delightful hotel in Alcudia, north of the island. It was an all-inclusive style and I have to say the food was some of the best I have had. There was a WHOLE Suckling Pig one evening, I did not have my camera to capture the evidence but it went down a treat.

Anyhow, back to the Laksa, which takes a few stages to complete the 1st being the spice paste.

Take a couple of small Onions, 3 Cloves of Garlic, 2 Lemons Grass stalks (the proper fresh ones from Chinese supermarkets), 1 piece of fresh Turmeric (if you can get it, it makes a difference), a couple of inches of Galangal, 1 tsp Coriander Powder and the same of Cumin, 1 tbls Shrimp Paste, a few Birds Eye Chilli’s (I used three), and whizz in a processor with 50 ml of Coconut Milk into a smooth paste.

The end result is in the white tin to the left of the picture above,  in the smaller tin are 4 King Prawns, marinading in a couple of spoon full’s of the mixture, which are then coated in CornFlour and fried until crispy for a tasty, crispy garnish.

WP_20150605_19_19_00_ProThe Laksa paste needs frying in a little oil, it will start to darken slightly, I cooked mine for about 5-6 minutes to release the flavours, cook out the spices and evaporate some of the water. It smelt amazing.

WP_20150605_19_30_13_ProAfter the mix is cooked out, add a few Kaffir Lime leaves, the remaining Coconut Milk (about 250 mls), and Chicken Stock about 1 pint, a couple of tbls of Fish sauce and 1 tbls Palm Sugar,  simmer vigorously for about 20 – 25 minutes. I also added two more finely shredded Birds Eye Chilli’s after tasting, to increase the potency slightly!! I also added some grated Lime zest, about 1/2 a  Limes worth.

You are looking for a consistency YOU are happy with, not too runny but not too thick as you will be adding more ingredients to finish the dish off at the end.

WP_20150605_19_45_07_ProWhilst the broth is simmering you can prep the garnishes, pick some Coriander leaves, finely shred some Red Chilli (nice colour contrast) and slice some Spring Onion on the angle. You will also need some Lime Wedges which are used as a condiment. The Prawns, and Noodles (fresh please), only take two minutes or so to cook, the marinating prawns can be coated in Corn Flour and deep fried before draining on kitchen paper.

WP_20150605_20_00_55_ProWe are onto the final straight, add the Prawns, and cook your noodles according to the instructions, mine were fresh and just needed a kettle of boiling water to be poured over them, left for a minute or so and thoroughly drained, When the Prawns are cooked, add the noodles and stir through for 30 secs to 1 minute maximum to coat.

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Serve how you wish, I used a simple bowl with the Laksa spooned in, and then added the Chilli, Spring Onion, Coriander and the Lime Wedge. The crispy Prawns were hung on the side, next time I cook this dish I will do a few more this way as they were stunningly delicious!!

Wowzer, ’nuff said it’s gorgeous, tasty, vibrant, spicy and downright amazeballs.

Even more important, the governor through the same, words like Wow, Mmmmmm (not a word I know but hey), it’s a blinding dish and well worth the effort.

The next post, hopefully very soon will be my interpretation of Nasi Goreng, I have had a few ideas buzzing in my head on how I might do things so…..

………………………..Until next time………………..l8ers

Quick & Dirty, because I had too – North West Carolina Pork Shoulder My Way

WP_20140803_19_03_14_ProMy Wife (of 25 years this August), had to go into hospital recently for a minor operation, just before last weekend in fact. My weekends are typically spent watching, reading relaxing and cooking in between playing with my 8 year old and trips out. I had been ordered by the Romanian nurse that that weekend had to be spent making sure the boss did nothing whilst recovering, so no time in the kitchen was to be!

On the Saturday evening we decided to have Roast Chicken on Sunday, but forgot to take it out the freezer! DOH. Sunday morning came and after some inspiration from Sunday Bruch care of Rebecca Seal, we headed off to Waitrose as my mind started to construct a dish, this had to be a speedy one as I was not allowed to leave the Boss for too Long.

WP_20140803_20_04_03_ProAs I wander around, I am mentally constructing a dish, getting inspiration from ingredients such as  North West Carolina Pork Shoulder (only needed to be shoved in the oven as it was already marinated etc.). Chicory, Coleslaw, Chilli Bacon Jam! Wait a minute Chilli Bacon Jam, never had that before so in the basket it went.

All the ingredients are in the above two pictures (White Sweet Onions have just appeared on the shelves as have Heirloom Tomatoes which you will need), the result was absolutely awesome, even though it was merely a construction job. The Coleslaw had added ingredients, Lime Zest and Juice, and some chopped Coriander and additional Black Pepper. The Chicory was partnered with a Dressing, 3 Parts Oil (Rapeseed) 1 part Vinegar (2 1/3d’s Moscatel to 1 1/3d Aged Balsamic). a Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard, Maldon Sea Salt and Pepper and well mixed and chilled.

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Dress the Chicory at the very last minute, I bought some Italian Flat Breads, they are much nicer than wraps, enriched with Olive Oil and a bit more robust. Place some leaves of Dressed Chicory as a bed for the next ingredients. The Carolina Pork only needs 30 minutes in the Oven, which gives you plenty of time to quickly prepare everything, this is a really quick dish to make.

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Next, spread a thin layer of the Bacon Chilli Jam alongside the Chicory, and add some thinly sliced White Onion and Tomato on top of the Chicory as above.

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Finally, add the pork, then layer some of the Zesty Lime Coleslaw and finish with a decent drizzle of Sriracha sauce which is available in supermarkets or online at Ottolenghi’s.

I had achieved a couple of objectives, spending as much time with the boss as possible, but also creating another tasty meal, but really quickly. The Chicory with Dijon Mustard Dressing was awesome, and could be a meal In its own right as part of an unusual Tapas, it was really delish..

So if you loved one has to go into hospital, you can still create really tasty food in no time at all.

Until next time.   L8ers…………..

Pakistan meets Japan in the Middle East!

I am just about to book this years cooking vacation, my original plans have had to be suspended due to local challenges and I will be heading off to Gramont, in Gascony in early June for a weeks course and some r&r. The bad news is a clash with FBC2014, the international food bloggers convention which is taking place in London at the same time!

I was driving up to the fave farm shop to buy some meat recently, and my mind was thinking of what to cook over the weekend. With the rubbish weather we have been having, and the boss being full of cold for several weeks something tasty and wholesome had to be on the cards.

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The wholesome is a blend of three grains Quinoa, Maftoul, a Palestinian Cous Cous, and Freekeh; two of these grains are regarded as super foods so this has to be good for you! The protein is a half (or whole) shoulder of lamb that is marinaded for at least 8 hours in a mixture of Yoghurt, Coriander, Chilli’s,  Mint, AnardanaSumac, All Spice and Garlic, and then slow cooked for about 4 hours until tender.

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This recipe uses a considerable amount of fresh Coriander and Mint so if you have a oriental supermarket near you, its probably best to buy from them,  I got a massive bunch of Coriander for 70p, the supermarket equivalent would have been at least a fiver!

The following ingredients are needed to create this dish, ideally start the day before you cook to allow the meat to soak up all the marinade flavours.

Marinade

  1. 500g  Natural Organic Yoghurt
  2. 1 Big Bunch fresh Coriander
  3. 1 Big Bunch fresh Mint
  4. 4 cloves Garlic
  5. 1 Red Chilli
  6. 1 Green Chilli
  7. 1 Tsp Anardana
  8. 1 Tsp Sumac
  9. 1 Tsp All Spice

This mixture is an adaption of Sindhi Lamb Biryani, a dish I learnt to cook on the Pakistani cookery course I attended last year and the Pakistan element of the title above, with some subtle Middle Eastern influence. Place it all in a food processor or blender and whizz till smooth and blended it should look like this.

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Take your half/shoulder of lamb and pierce with a sharp thin knife to enable the marinade to penetrate into the meat, pour some of the marinade into a suitable bowl, put the lamb in and pour the rest over the top making sure its well coated. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight. Its worth turning the meat over every few hours just to make sure the marinade is doing its stuff.

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This is how mine looked before the final marinade was added to cover the exposed lamb shoulder.

For the next step you will need the following;

Pakistan Meets Japan In the Middle East

  1. 1 Red Onion finely sliced
  2. Vegetable Stock
  3. 2 cloves Garlic, crushed
  4. 2 Star Anise
  5. 1 Tbls Coriander seed
  6. 8 Green Cardamon (crushed)
  7. 1 Black Cardamon
  8. 2 Tsp Pomegranate Molasses
  9. 100g Maftoul
  10. 100g Freekeh
  11. 75g Quinoa

When the lamb is marinated, place in a roasting dish and cover with tin foil, stick in an oven set to 130 deg (fan) 150 deg (convection) and cook for 4 hours till meltingly tender. An hour before the lamb is finished cooking you can start to prepare the rest of the ingredients. Check the cooking instructions on each of the grains, the Maftoul can either be boiled or steamed, the other grains are usually boiled until just tender.

I cooked the Maftoul (9 minutes) in Vegetable stock and 2 Tsp Pomegranate Molasses, the Freekeh (40 minutes) in Vegetable stock and Quinoa (20 mins and 10 to rest) in plain water.

The Onion and hard spices need frying until tender, adding the garlic towards the end so it does not burn, it should look like the picture below at this stage. The Onion/Spices are gentle mixed with the grains when both are cooked removing the Cardamon and Star Anise to prevent tooth issues!

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To complete the dish and introduce the Japanese element,a modified Ponzu dressing is used that has had some Rapeseed oil and Grape Molasses added, and used in conjunction with some thinly sliced red onion.

The Finishing Touch

  1. 1/2 Red Onion, fried until brown and crispy
  2. 1/2 Red Onion finely sliced
  3. 3 Tbls Rice Wine Vinegar
  4. 2 1/2 Tbls Mirin
  5. 2 Tbls Yuzu
  6. 3 Tbls Soy Sauce
  7. 2 Tsp Grape Molasses
  8. 1 Pomegranate (seeded)
  9. 25 g Toasted Almonds and/or Pistachios to finish

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This recipe developed over several hours, and tasting each stage to make sure the balance was right. The final touches need you to mix the Rice Wine Vinegar, Mirin, Soy Sauce (to taste) and Grape Molasses. One 1/2 of the finely chopped Onion is added to the mixture and set aside in the fridge for an hour or so. The other 1/2 of the Onion is fried until crispy and stirred into the final dish. You will notice in the heading picture some Feta cheese, I forgot to add it at the end, DOH.

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So here you have it, a nutritious and tasty meal that is full of goodness and a flavor punch to match. Just finish off with the Nuts and Pomegranate. It takes a bit of effort but as the boss said, scrummerlicious.

This dish was influenced by Bethany Kehdy, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sumayya Jamil who continue to inspire my food direction. Spices from Otolenghi’s and Steenbergs, and the meat from Vicars Games @ Casey Fields Farm Shop.

Go on, have a go, its worth it.

L8ers…..