Ten Easy Chicken Recipes for the Whole Family

Hi Everybody, I hope you are all fairing up ok and making the best of the situation we all face.  I plan to hunker down with a many good books, give huggles to loved ones and catch up on those box sets – I plan to watch Game of Thrones – I know, I know I am very late to that party and yes if you are reading this dear brother and sister-in-law, I do plan to start Clarissa by Samuel Richardson that you gave me for Christmas (it’s probably the thickest novel I have ever seen) – has anyone read it?

The sun is shining and spring is definitely in the air – I managed to cut the grass today (that’s as exciting as it gets round here at the moment) which has given our postage size garden that summer feel – we may well be spending a lot of time in it in the coming weeks. As we are all being told to slow down and not really go out we have to keep ourselves busy and our minds occupied. Video calls with multiple pals on each call, seem de rigour with our evenings literally scheduled back to back with calls to friends around the globe – checking in and keeping us all feeling upbeat. It’s important to keep in touch with family, friends and neighbours as much as we can and a call – especially a video call – is a great way to do this.

When it comes to food, a number of you were requesting some easy family chicken recipes that you can cook over the coming weeks. I’ve had in mind ones that don’t have too many ingredients, that you can cook and the whole family can enjoy together.

First up is the one that I cooked live on IGTV with my mini mini me at the helm of my camera (hence the low angle shots and the humming in the background – all very sweet), is ‘Smoked Paprika Chicken, Cannellini beans and Rainbow Chard’.

From start to finish it takes 20 minutes max and it goes a long way. You can eat it as is, or cook some rice (I made some red camargue and wild rice, which worked really well. ) or couscous on the side, or pop some cubed potato into it if you fancy.  Take a look at the ingredients:

I actually ended up only using one tin of cannelloni beans but you can add two if you are feeding more than 4 people to bulk out the meal.

Smoked Paprika Chicken, Cannellini beans and Rainbow Chard

serves 4

2 tbsp oil (I used my shallot confit and a little rapeseed, but olive oil works just fine too)

1 white onion, finely diced

2 bay leaves

thyme leaves, 5 stems (or any herb you have that needs using up)

3 garlic cloves

4 chicken thighs, skin on

2 chicken breast, cubed

2 tsp smoked paprika (you can use sweet/hot paprika)

salt to taste

pepper to taste

3 large tomatoes, diced

1 tbsp tomato puree

4/5 stem and leaves of rainbow chard, diced (you can use spinach, kale, cavolo nero instead)

 

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and then add the onion and a little salt to speed up the cooking of the onions.
  2. Add the bay and thyme (or herb of your choosing)
  3. When the onion begins to soften add the chicken thighs – skin side down – and the chicken breasts and add some pepper.
  4. Add the garlic. Allow the chicken thigh skin to begin to bronze and then turn over.
  5. Add the paprika, tomatoes and tomato puree. Add a little water to loosen the ingredients.
  6. Place a lid on the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring intermittently.
  7. Taste test and then add more seasoning as required.
  8. Add the rainbow chard/greens and simmer for a few more minutes, until wilted and soft and then serve.

 

Remember if you don’t have chard, use kale, spinach, cavolo nero or even peas.

 

Another crowd pleaser and one of my fav chicken dishes (that isn’t Indian) is my Spanish Baked Chicken recipe. I cannot tell you how BLINKING delicious this one is.

You can find the recipe HERE.

Next up is my Keralan Chicken Stew. Ok I am hoping you have some spices, if you don’t, then you’ll have to sadly pass on this one. I was taught it by a lovely lady in Kerala called Moly, who I spent the day with a number of years ago.

It does have Kashmiri chillies in it, but these are not hot in the slightest and the dish is nicely spiced as opposed to spicy and my girls love it.

OK, next up is one of my childhood memory dishes – Japanese Katsu Curry.

You can read WHY a Japanese dish featured so highly in my childhood by clicking HERE for the recipe.

If you are looking for a beginners curry then the one above ticks the box. It requires very few ingredients and will appeal to a palate that is not accustomed to spices.

You can find the recipe HERE.

My traditional Bengali chicken curry, above, is loved by my children and I hope yours will love it too. If you have a whole chicken cut the chicken into 10 and remove the skin and cook it on the bone – it tastes so good this way. If you are nervous about cooking like this then it is fine to cook it using simply thighs, breast – boned or unboned. It’s a one pot dish, although I often make some rice to go alongside it.

Now for this next chicken dish you can replace the barberries for cranberries, raisins or sultanas – don’t worry if you don’t have barberries – I know it’s not what most people have lurking in their pantry. This dish is called “Zereshk Polow” and it is basically the Iranian version of an Indian Biryani. Again if you don’t have saffron use a pinch of turmeric.

You can find the recipe HERE

As you know I love my broths so thought perhaps this one might be a good one to consider. Just tone down the chillies you add if you are giving it to children or you can take them out altogether.  You can find the recipe HERE.

Finally I am going to leave you with a couple of recipes I found on the web that look super easy and don’t require many ingredients.

Creamy Herb Chicken and you can find it HERE

Sticky Chinese Chicken Traybake HERE 

Let me know if you cook any of the above, would love to hear how they were received. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves, be safe and I’ll be back soon with another post.

 

 

 

 

 


Eating in Sri Lankan ‘Paradise’

For those who love spice, and more specifically Sri Lankan food, a trip to newcomer Paradise on Rupert Street is definitely worth a visit. It is the brainchild of Dom Fernando, whose inspiration comes from his native Sri Lanka. There are five chefs in the kitchen (which is hidden away from view) all with Sri Lankan heritage  – with head chef Charith Priyadarshana leading the brigade.

I visited at lunchtime recently and secured a perch at the bar. You can only book a table for 4 diners or more – walk-ins are given a place at the bar counter or window. Apparently on busy evenings you can expect to wait up to an hour – there are only 30 covers – so choose your timing wisely. Lunch times seem perhaps a better gamble for a first visit if you are not fond of waiting.

Before I get on to the food, let me just speak about the overall look and feel of the restaurant. The attention to detail is so on point. Of particular note: I loved the herringbone style floor tiles (see in photo above) which were made in Bali I am told; the fact there are hooks to hang things under the bar (so obvious but so many places fail to do this); the industrial style brushed concrete grey walls and black steel light fittings; the dark brown water glasses, which are made from their recycled beer bottles then cleverly cut and smoothed off to make glasses; the hand wash and hand cream in the bathrooms smell divine and are made in Sri Lanka.

Whilst we are talking bathrooms, I also liked the fact that a small trug of plants was sitting on a shelf under the hand dryer allowing ones wet hands to gently provide drips of water to the plants underneath. In short, A LOT of care and attention has gone on the aesthetics and mood of the place, which has not gone unnoticed. In an increasingly competitive market the ambiance works hand in hand with the whole dining experience. I was not surprised to hear that East London designer, Dan Preston (who was commissioned to do Smoking Goat, Kiln and Brat) was behind the stylish interiors.

Now onto the food. Firstly the menu is short – big tick – nothing worse that a menu that is too long. It also lists all the places it buys its meat, fish and eggs, which as a diner, I find really helpful as increasingly we all want to know the provenance of the produce we are eating. The menu itself is broken up into ‘short eats’, ‘hoppers & breads’, ‘sambols & rice’, ‘veg & plant’, ‘land’, ‘sea’ and ‘dessert’. There are between 3 and 6 choices in each section – the largest choice being under the ‘veg & plant’.

We kicked off the proceedings with the ‘short eats’ and opted for the mutton shoulder rolls with fermented chilli, crab patty empanadas with lunumiris mayo (Sri Lanka version of Sriracha) and sea-salt fried whitebait, black garlic mayo. The standout was the mutton shoulder roll. The whitebait was tasty, but I felt was not particularly ‘Sri Lankan’ – I would have liked to have had a delicate spice rub on them perhaps, instead of just seasalt!

The hoppers were both excellent – I liked the originality of the turmeric and fennel seed hopper, but the classic egg hopper also got a definite thumbs up. I accompanied both with the mango and chilli chutney. In the ‘veg & plant’ section I opted for the dahl and was pleased to see the pandan leaf and curry leaves making an appearance giving it a genuinely authentic taste. I will definitely try more of the veg next time as the charred pineapple salad with green chillies and the southern cashew curry with Maldive fish definitely sounded appealing.

This was all followed by the Jaffna spiced lamb chops and the roasted baby squid curry with cardamom and coconut. The former was a little fatty and I personally would want more heat to the rub. The squid however was a delight and highlight sitting in a creamy coconut infused sauce with hints of cardamom. Definitely slurp worthy!

Being rather full at this point we weren’t able to squeeze in ‘dessert’ but the buffalo milk ice cream with cashew and butterscotch brittle, the lime and coconut sorbet, basil and chilli oil and the Wattalapam gelato, salted cinnamon meringue, stem ginger caramel all sounded heavenly – especially that buffalo milk ice cream. Next time.

The menu, I am told, changes every 8 weeks. I’ll be back before then though to work my way through the menu – especially the veg and plants as I feel I didn’t give them much air time this time round. Always good to have an excuse to go back.

 

Mains: £7-13.50

Short Eats/Hoppers/Rice/Sambols: £2-5.50

Paradise | 61 Rupert Street, Soho, London W1D 7PW

All views are my own and this is NOT an ad

 

 


Walking and Eating in Bologna

Our five days in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy went something like this – explore, culture, lunch, walk, culture, relax, supper, sleep, on repeat. It was wonderful. The days were bright and sunny and I could almost smell summer…..almost. We covered a distance, on foot, of 10 miles a day, which meant we could completely enjoy the food without any guilt of being a little bit piggy. We used Bologna as our base and then did day trips to Modena, Parma and Verona – all under an hours train ride away.

I chose a fabulous Airbnb in the old part of the city, which is where you will find the oldest university in the world. It had a wonderful little roof terrance with vistas across the whole of the city.

A stones throw from the apartment is the University Library of Bologna, which was founded by Luigi Ferdinando Marsili, a noble of Bologna, in 1712 as an Institute of Sciences. He endowed it with his own scientific collections, 900 oriental manuscripts and 120 manuscripts relating to his work. It was later enlarged in 1755 by Pope Benedict XIV with 25,000 printed volumes and 450 manuscripts. In the same year a copy of every printed work was ordered and the following year the library opened to the public. We were given a free private tour by a very enthusiastic undergraduate who was able to tell us all about the history of the beautiful library. I think they get few visitors so you will be treated royally if you visit.

Within 10 minutes of the apartment is a ‘quadrilateral’ of ancient narrow streets east of Piazza Maggiore, which is bursting with meat, cheese and produce sellers. It’s the type of place that makes your heart beat faster with excitement and your stomach begin to moan with hunger, even if you’ve just had breakfast!

Amongst these streets you will find a covered market – ‘Mercato di Mezzo’, where you can eat and drink local produce. It’s open every day and stays open until midnight.

This area is as close as you will come to experiencing Bologna street food, so is definitely worth seeking out. We had lunch there on more than one occasion.

We particularly loved Salumeria Simoni – I recommend ordering a charcuterie of delicious hams, salami and cheese washed down with a glass of chianti.

What better way to walk off lunch than by walking along the Portico di San Luca, which is one of the longest covered walkways in the world, numbering 666 arches and gaining 215 meters. It was built between 1674-1793 and is 3.8 km long connecting Porta Saragozza to the Santuario di Madonna di San Luca.

The portico walkway starts off nice and flat, which eases you in, but when you reach Meloncello Arch it begins to steepen. I won’t spoil the surprise, but lets just say the locals don’t need to join a gym if they complete this walk a couple of times a week. There are 15 chapels along its path so you can chapel crawl if you are so inclined. The view from the top is pretty spectacular and the light breeze was most refreshing.

After making it back into town we rewarded ourselves with a gelato – I opted for my favourite flavour ‘bacio’. Ridiculously good.

Refreshed and eager to see more of what Bologna has to offer consider climbing one of the medieval towers in town to get the best vistas of the city from the centre of the city. Bologna used to have hundreds of towers – a sign of its prosperity, today however only twenty are still standing. The most famous are ‘Le due Torri’ – the ‘Two Towers’ Torre Degli Asinelli and the Torre della Garisenda. For five euros you can climb the highest one, the Asinelli Tower.

It’s not for the fainthearted or unfit but the trek up is so worth it for the beautiful views.

On the hill in the far distance you can see Santuario di Madonna di San Luca. Thats a pretty good hike there and back before dinner. You’ve got to work up an appetite after all right?

Before heading out for supper you may want to have an aperitivo at Le Stanze. The location itself is worthy of a drink don’t you think?

We ate in a number of lovely places in Bologna. One of our favourites was definitely Cesari on Via De Carbonesi, 8. It is a family run restaurant with a relaxed and informal vibe with a good mix of locals and tourists. The food was excellent and as we were there out of season and arrived promptly after opening, we didn’t need a reservation. I would suggest however, that you book ahead if you can. What we often tend to do in a new city is scope out a place for dinner in the day and then make the reservation, but it’s up to you.

For pizza, Trattoria Belle Arti was perfect. In fact, their pasta dishes are also worthy of a mention. Whilst it may not win prizes for decor, it became our local as our apartment was virtually next door. They serve all the traditional dishes too – their brodo (tortellini in stock broth) was excellent as was there pasta bolognese and carbonara. It’s relaxed and informal and was always busy.

For super low key – sawdust on the floor kind of place (almost, but not really) is the Osteria Dell’Orsa. It’s basic, has all the obvious local dishes, communal wooden tables and is probably a good place to go if you are a small group or not wanting to splash out too much.

My sources also recommend the following for memorable meals:

Trattoria di Via Serra.

and

Osteria Bottega

After all this eating don’t forget to visit all the beautiful churches and Duomo and the fascinating 17th century anatomical theatre carved from spruce.


Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad

 

If you are after a salad that is healthy, zingy, super tasty, fresh AND will feed a crowd, then my Vietnamese chicken and cabbage salad with a nuoc cham dressing works a treat.

Much of the salad can be prepped in advance and it is far easier to prepare than you would think if you have a magi-mix as it can do all the slicing (other than the chicken) easily and efficiently.

The three herbs that I like to use to give it a delicious freshness is mint, coriander and Thai basil (you can easily pick this up in large supermarkets these days). The addition of peanuts and fried shallots (you can have these ready made too to save time) really adds to the textures and flavours.

 

Vietnamese Chicken Salad 

Serves 8-10

1/2 white cabbage, finely chopped

1/2 red cabbage, finely chopped

7 carrots, peeled and finely grated (you can do this in the magi-mix too on the grater setting)

6 chicken breasts, skin removed

3 large handfuls of coriander, finely chopped

2 handfuls of fresh mint, finely chopped

2 handfuls of fresh Thai basil, finely chopped

2 handfuls of unsalted peanuts

2 handfuls of crispy fried shallots (to save time buy these already made)

 

Nuoc Cham Dressing

3 tbsp  fish sauce

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1-2 limes, freshly squeezed

1 heaped tbsp caster sugar

1/2 red chilli, finely chopped (keep seeds in if you want more heat)

 

  1. If you have a magi-mix place your attachment, which has the thinnest slicer, and slice the red cabbage and white cabbage. If you do not, then you need to do this by hand.
  2. Next change the attachment to the grater and grate the carrots. If you do not have this you can do this with a regular grater.
  3. Place the chicken breasts whole into a deep pan and cover with water and bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts and allow to cool and then use two forks to shred finely. Place to one side in bowl.
  4. Next finely chop the coriander, mint and Thai basil.
  5. Heat a frying pan and when it is hot add the peanuts and allow to bronze slightly – this will take around 3 -4 minutes. Keep moving around the pan so that they don’t burn. Once lightly bronzed remove and place to one side.
  6. If you are preparing the shallots from scratch – instead of bought fried shallots – simply finely slice them and then shallow fry them in sunflower or vegetable oil until bronzed. Remove from the pan and place on kitchen paper.
  7. Next you want to make the ‘nuoc cham dressing’. The trick is to add all the ingredients to a pan and warm up so that the sugar has completely dissolved. It is important to taste test so that you have a good balance of salty, sweet, zingy and sweet. If it is too salty from the fish sauce add a little more caster sugar. If you find it too chilli hot, strain the dressing and therefore remove the chillies.
  8. You can prepare all of this a day in advance and keep in the fridge (minus the shallots, which can be kept in a sealed jar). IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO ADD THE DRESSING UNTIL JUST BEFORE SERVING.
  9. When you are ready to serve add a little of the dressing to the chicken and mix in to soften and flavour the chicken.
  10. Next use a mixing bowl and add a little of every ingredient and a little of the dressing and mix well before repeating the process. Make sure you keep back some of the shallots to scatter on the top along with a little of all the herbs.
  11. Serve on a large platter so guests/family can help themselves. It also looks rather lovely presented in this way.
  12. Best eaten at room temperature.

Any leftovers will keep in the fridge easily for a few days. If you want to feed more then use the whole cabbage, add a few extra chicken breasts, add an extra handful of herbs and double up on the dressing.

 

 

 

 


Butter Chicken

After quite a number of requests, I bring you my butter chicken recipe this week. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser, liked by all ages, owing to its creamy tomato flavour. As the name suggest it contains butter – quite a lot if I’m honest – and cream, so perhaps this is one that you cook once in a while as opposed to each week. It’s delicately spiced as opposed to spicy so by default appeals to most palates. It is the one curry that using the breast meat works well. Typically I would always suggest using chicken thigh or the whole chicken cut into pieces by your butcher, but for butter chicken breast meat is perfect.

Whilst it is super straightforward to make there are a few stages to consider. You need to marinate the meat – minimum an hour or even overnight if you are really organised. After this you then char the chicken in a pan (grill also works well). Using the same pan you lightly bronze the onion and blitz that into a smooth paste. Next step is to create a buttery, creamy tomato sauce before adding the onion and meat and allowing it to simmer and infuse together. It can be cooked in advance so is certainly a good one if you are entertaining. I think you are going to like it. If you are on instagram and you make please tag me @chilliandmint #chilliandmint

Have a good week everyone.

Butter Chicken

Serves 6 (if serving with other dishes)

750g chicken breast or thigh (boneless), cut into bite sized pieces

marinade

3 tbsp full fat natural yoghurt

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala powder

1 tsp coriander powder

juice from half a lemon

1 tsp salt

 

onion puree

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter

2 tbsp oil

2 white onions, roughly chopped

 

creamy tomato sauce

75g salted butter

400g passata (or fresh tomatoes)

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar

1 tsp salt

pinch freshly ground black pepper

150ml double cream

1 tbsp dried methi/fenugreek leaves

 

  1. First you need to marinate the chicken. Mix all the marinade together and then cover tightly with cling film/foil and place in the fridge for an hour – to overnight.
  2. Once you have marinated the chicken sufficiently heat the ghee/butter in a frying pan.  Add the pieces of chicken so that they sealed and charred on both sides. This takes about 3-4 minutes on each side. They won’t be completely cooked at this stage so don’t try and nibble a piece quite yet! You will need to char the chicken in batches so that it does not overcrowd the pan. You do not want to steam it so don’t overcrowd the chicken or put a lid on the pan.
  3. Once all the chicken pieces have been charred, place in a bowl and keep to one side.
  4. In the same pan add the ghee and gently fry the onion so that it begins to bronze – this will take around 6 minutes. Remove from the pan, with all the charred scrapings from the bottom and blitz into a smooth paste using a small blender.
  5. In a deep pan/karahi, add the butter. When it is melted add the spices followed by the passata, black pepper, salt and jaggery/sugar. (If you are using fresh tomatoes, cook for 5 minutes in the pan and then blitz these too into a smooth paste and then return to the pan to follow the next steps.) Allow to simmer on a gentle heat for 7 minutes, by which time the sauce will have thickened sufficiently.
  6. Add the double cream, onion puree, chicken and dried fenugreek. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes on a low heat. Taste test and add more salt (and butter if you fancy) if needed.

To serve add a pinch more dried fenugreek and a drizzle of double cream. Equally fresh coriander on top would work well to serve.

It is delicious eaten with naan or rice. Accompanying dishes that would work well would be my chana dal and I will be eating mine with my tindora/ivy gourd curry.

 

 

 

 

 


Nigel Slater’s Beef and Okra Soup for Stormzy

A recipe in the Guardian caught my eye recently and I made a note to myself to try making it in the New Year. Nigel Slater – who quite frankly is a culinary genius, came up with a dish ‘beef okra soup recipe for Stormzy’.  Now beef is a meat I rarely eat if I’m honest. Large slabs of any meat – particularly steak – don’t really float my boat, but if the meat is slow cooked and falling off the bone, with spices, then that is exciting. The recipe ingredients sung to me: ginger, garlic, plum tomatoes, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick, okra, Scotch bonnet chillies. It sounded the perfect meal to make you feel alive and well in the cold bleak month of January. Don’t you agree?

 

It’s very straightforward but does take time, so if you have things to do in the house one morning then it is the perfect dish to cook. Nigel states that “the dish is even better if refrigerated overnight and reheated the following day”, so would be perfect for feeding a crowd as you can do all the preparations and cooking a day in advance. I’m too excited to dig in so shall be having it for my supper, I can hardly wait.

I’ve made a few changes to the recipe but you can find the original recipe here.

Nigel Slater’s Beef and Okra Soup for Stormzy

serves 6

1.6kg beef short ribs (get your butcher to cut the ribs into short lengths)

3 large onions, roughly chopped

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

60g ginger, skin removed sliced and then cut again into thin batons

1.6kg plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthways

3 tbsp beef dripping/oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

12 black peppercorns

6 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1-2 scotch bonnet, seeds removed (unless you want it super hot) and finely diced (wear gloves)

3 bay leaves

1 litre hot beef stock

350g okra, sliced lengthways

salt and pepper

 

  1. Heat your oven to 220 degrees centigrade/gas mark 9 and place the ribs in a casserole pan in the oven for 20 mins.
  2. After 20 mins remove from the oven and add the dripping or oil and then add the garlic and onions and return to the oven for 15 minutes, lowering it to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.
  3. Remove from the oven again and this time stir in the ginger, spices, chillies, bay leaves and half of the halved tomatoes (reserve the rest for later).
  4. Return to the oven for 40 minutes and then remove from the oven and pour in the hot stock, cover and return to the oven for an hour.
  5. After the hour place the casserole pot onto the hob and add the okra and remaining tomatoes. Season well with salt and pepper and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, by which time the okra will have softened.
  6. Before serving cut the beef from the bones and place in a deep bowl and ladle in the broth and vegetables.


Happy New Year and Toor Dal with Fresh Coconut and White Poppy Seeds

Happy New Year and a warm welcome to my new (and old of course!) followers who have recently signed up to this blog.

January is a funny old month. The revelries from Christmas and the New Year are well and truly over and we all look forward to making a fresh start in the new year. With goals, aims, hopes and plans whirling away in our heads, it’s like shedding a skin and growing a new one. Veganuary has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years, with increasing numbers introducing more vegan recipes into their diets and some even making the transition to become fully vegan. Whilst I have no plans to ‘do’ veganuary, I naturally eat a number of vegan meals throughout the year without even really thinking about it. Indian food is heavily focused on vegetables with the large majority in India having a vegetarian diet. On this blog I have a number of recipes which would work really well if you want to bring more vegetarian or vegan meals into your culinary repertoire. Here are just a few.

Upma (a savoury breakfast semolina eaten in India)

Dale Bora (a delicious street snack from Kolkata)

Indian sprout and carrot curry

Beetroot curry

Cauliflower with dried fenugreek/methi

Black pepper tofu

Aubergine, peanut and tomato curry

Indian corn on the cob

Butternut, lemongrass, coconut and spinach curry

For my first recipe for 2020 however I thought I would show you a new dal recipe, which just happens to be vegan. I have loads on my blog – just pop the word ‘dal’ in the search box on the right when you go to my blog. Dals all taste so different that I could make a different one each day of the week and they would be completely unique.

This one uses the toor dal, which is also known as ‘pigeon pea’. It looks similar to the chana dal, which is a split chickpea. You don’t need to soak it but it does take around 50 minutes to soften sufficiently if you are using the stove top. When it is gently boiling away you will need to remove, with a spoon, the scum that will form whilst cooking. You may also need to add more water if it looks to become too dry. I never measure out the water and instead go more from sight and add a little more here and there when required.

Excuse the rather dark muted photos of the dal – I cooked it in the afternoon and when I was ready to photograph the light had gone so had to use the lights from my kitchen which give it a pretty awful glow. Anyway you get the gist. I ate it along with a butternut squash curry I made and a cabbage curry mopped up with some homemade luchi – which are also known as poori. Most delicious and all coincidentally vegan.

 Toor Dal with Poppy Seeds and Fresh Coconut

250g toor dal, washed through a couple of times with cold water

900ml water

2 tbsp rapeseed/sunflower oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

30g grated fresh coconut (or desiccated)

a small handful of fresh coriander

100ml water

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 tsp white poppy seeds

10 fresh curry leaves (you can freeze them – much better than dried which have lost their taste)

1 heaped tsp ginger-garlic paste

1 tomato, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 fresh lemon, juice only

salt to taste

  1. First rinse the toor dal and then place it in a pan and cover completely with water. Start by adding 900ml water and you can add more later once the water has soaked up. It will take around 50 minutes to soften. Scum will form on the top so just remove this with a spoon and discard. You know the dal has softened when you can easily pinch one toor dal between your thumb and forefinger. Continue to add a little more water if it has all been soaked up.
  2. Meanwhile in a frying pan, add a tablespoon of oil and gently fry the onion and the fresh coconut so that they begin to lightly bronze. Remove from the pan and then blitz in a blender with some fresh coriander and then leave to one side.
  3. Using the same pan add the rest of the oil and add the cumin, mustard and poppy seeds. They will begin to sizzle almost immediately. Be careful of the spluttering.
  4. Add the fresh curry leaves and the ginger-garlic paste – fresh or store bought. Move around the pan and then add the tomato and fresh chilli.
  5. Return the blitzed onion-coconut-fresh coriander to the pan and stir so that all the ingredients are nicely mixed together.
  6. Now add the turmeric, coriander, Kashmiri chilli powder, lemon juice and salt.
  7. Once the dal has softened turn the contents of the frying pan into the dal and mix together. Check the salt levels.
  8. Leave to simmer for a few more minutes, then you are ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 


Fennel and Preserved Lemon Soup

As those who have been following this blog for a while will know, I absolutely ADORE soups. I’m happy to eat them all year round for breakfast (yes, in Vietnam you eat pho – which is their version of a soup/broth – for breakfast), lunch or supper. I am always trying to think of new pairings that might work well and since I had some fennel in my fridge that needed to be eaten I thought I would use that as the star ingredient and built up a few other ingredients around them.

I always have preserved lemons in my fridge so I decided to use them along with a leek. My other go to ingredient, which completely elevates dishes and which I do go on about a lot on my instatories, is my garlic confit. Seriously it takes very little effort to make a batch, stores in the fridge for ages, and really adds huge flavour to a host of dishes. In fact, it would make a great Christmas gift for any foodie friends or family. It shows thought and I bet the receiver would love you forever (although I am sure they already do ;o) anyway I digress.

The other ingredients are vegetable stock – I literally just used a stock cube, water, pepper and salt. I decided to top each soup with a parmesan crips and some of the fennel fronds to add a bit of umami to the dish (coming from the parmesan). If you are on instagram go to my stories and you can watch me cooking the dish on my instastories.

I think this soup would be a good one over the Christmas season if you are cooking for large groups. We always have a starter at each meal when the whole family gets together, so I will be definitely adding this one to my repertoire over Christmas.

 

Fennel and Preserved Lemon Soup

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp garlic confit including around 5 garlic cloves from the confit

2 fennel, finely chopped (fronds removed and placed to one side)

1 leek, finely sliced

1-2 preserved lemons, finely chopped

1.2 litres water

1 vegetable stock cube

salt and pepper

 

Parmasan Crisps

will make 6

50g parmesan, finely grated

freshly ground black pepper

 

 

  1. Finely cut the fennel, removing the fronds and placing them to one side – you can use these later when serving the soup.
  2. Finely cut the leeks.
  3. Heat a large deep pan an add the garlic confit – oil and a few of the garlic cloves. This is what will really give the soup flavour and depth. Move around the pan and then add the fennel, leeks and a little salt and allow them to sweat and soften for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add the preserved lemon. Add one to begin with, you can easily add one more later if you want it more lemony.
  5. Add the vegetable stock and boiling water and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  6. Using a hand blender, blend the soup so that it is completely smooth. You many need to add more water if you want it less thick in consistency. Taste test and then add a little more salt and freshly ground pepper. Also check on how lemony the soup is. If you would like it more so, add one more preserved lemon. It’s really down to personal preference so taste test and see what you think. Personally I like to add two.
  7. To make the parmesan crisps, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  8. Finely grate the parmesan and then place them in round piles and flatten to approx 2 inches in diameter on the greaseproof paper. Space them out as they will spread slightly. Add a little freshly ground black pepper on top.
  9. Heat in the oven for 6-8 minutes, so that they begin to lightly bronze, then remove and allow to cool.
  10. When serving the soup place a couple of ladles in each bowl and then add a parmesan crisp, some fennel fronds and sound freshly ground pepper.

Delicious. I hope you agree.

 


Honey and Smoked Paprika Spatchcock Partridges on a Rocket Pesto

Recently I was watching ‘Masterchef the Professionals’ and chef Monica Geletti set the challenge of spatchcocking a quail and making a rocket pesto (series 12, episode 4 if you want to take a look). She made it look ridiculously easy, but of course being under pressure of being on TV for the first time the chefs didn’t find it quite as easy as she made it look. It did however, give me the idea of replicating said dish at home as we had some partridges sitting in my freezer, and whilst a little bigger than quail, will require the same method of cooking albeit for a few minutes longer.

She set the challenge at 15 minutes to do the whole thing – prep and cook the quail and make the pesto. It took me a little longer, but not too much – largely owing to the fact I was cooking for three and not one. The result was absolutely delicious and I think spatchcocking game birds is definitely the way forward. Excuse the poor quality photos – I cooked it in the evening when it was dark outside, so taking photos in those conditions is never going to give you the perfect shot – but you get the idea.

 

Spatchcock Honey and Smoked Paprika Partridge with a Rocket Pesto

3 partridges/quail

2 tbsp runny honey

2 tsp smoked paprika powder

1 garlic cloves

70g pine nuts

110g fresh rocket

good glugs of extra virgin olive oil (around 150ml)

approx 50g parmesan cheese, freshly grated

 

 

 

  1. First prepare the game bird (quail, partridge etc) by cutting up the backbone and remove the innards from it.
  2. Turn it over and then press down hard so that it lays flat.
  3. Now you want to make a rub. You could mix honey with smoked paprika – which I did, or you could use sumac, garam masala, cumin, curry powder – lots of options.
  4. Once you have covered the bird with the rub, heat a griddle pan and when it is hot place the bird down firmly into the pan, breast side first – you want to sear the outside so that it creates the charred lines across it. This will take a few minutes.
  5. Then turn it over and after a further minute, remove the bird and place on a plate whilst you continue to sear the remaining birds. Once they have all been seared place back into the griddle pan or a roasting dish and cook in an oven preheated to 80 degrees fan – for 7-10 minutes (around 7-8 for a quail, and 10 for a partridge which is a little bigger). To check that they are cooked simply give then a gently prod with your finger. When they are done the flesh will feel firm.
  6. Whilst it is cooking, lightly toast off the pine nuts in a frying pan (do NOT add any oil) so that the oils are released naturally.
  7. Place the garlic into a pestle a mortar and pound it until smooth and then add the rocket, followed by the pine nuts. You can do all of this in a mini blender but I think it is nice to have a little bit of texture, hence preparing it in a pestle and mortar.
  8. Add a little of the oil and some parmesan. You need to taste and see if you need more of any of the ingredients as it is very much down to personal taste. Season as required.
  9. Once the partridge has cooked sufficiently, remove from the oven and cut in half lengthways.
  10. To plate up, place a bit of the rocket pesto in the centre of the plate and smear into a round circle, wider than the bird.
  11. Then place the halved bird on top of the pesto, leaning one half at angles onto the other.
  12. I also accompanied with a few roast potatoes and some kale, which I had lightly cooked in some oil and some chilli flakes.

To follow I skipped pudding and instead opted for a cheeseboard with some fresh fruit. All in all a deliciously decadent meal and yet very easy to prepare.


Indian Sprout and Carrot Curry – perfect for this time of year

This recipe I posted way back in 2012 (yes my blog has been running for that long!), but unless you scroll my recipe library you are unlikely to know it is even there. Quite frankly, it’s fab and will win over even the non-sprout lover amongst us. Seriously. Basically, by adding a touch of spice, it elevates the humble sprout. We are beginning to see them in the shops so I urge you to give this recipe a whirl when you are next mulling over what to cook. Give it to your family, flat mates, friends and don’t tell them what it is and I can bet you they will love it and ask for more. Mention the word ‘sprout’ however and then they may not even give the dish a chance.

My mother-in-law originally taught me this many years ago and now it’s a firm favourite in my Indian culinary repertoire.  If you cook it alongside a dal it makes a perfect vegan meal. I suggest my go to ‘Bengali Red Split Lentil Dal’ would be the perfect accompaniment. Both dishes can be prepared and cooked within 30 mins and  are very affordable, healthy and tasty. It’s a win win win.

Indian Sprout and Carrot Curry

Serves 4

325g sprouts, finely sliced

300g carrots, grated

1 green chilli, finely sliced (optional)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 level tsp turmeric

1 tsp nigella seeds (kalo jeera)

1 tsp salt

100ml water

1. Finely slice the sprouts, grate the carrots and, if using, finely chop the chilli. I tend to leave the seeds in, but to make it less spicy just remove the seeds.

2. Heat a pan with oil and add the nigella seeds. After 10 seconds add the chilli and turmeric and stir in together for a further 10 seconds.

3. Add the sprouts and carrots and stir well with the other ingredients. Continue to stir continuously on a medium heat so that the carrots and sprouts soften and do not burn. Use a wooden spoon to press down on the ingredients as you gently stir.

4. After a few minutes of stirring add 50ml of water and stir into the curry. You may find that you do not need to use the remaining 50ml of water if the sprouts and carrots are sufficiently softened. Add the salt to taste. Continue stirring for a further 5-7 minutes and the dish will be done.

Nigella seeds (above)