How to Make Sri Lankan/ Southern Indian Sambar

So how have you been getting on with making ‘hoppers/appam’ at home? Has anyone been brave enough to give them a whirl? I would love to hear how you got on. You do need a special pan mind you, but they are easy to source on the web – I think this is the one that I bought. Perfect christmas gift for anyone with a keen interest in cooking? If you do give them a go PLEASE can you post it up on Instagram and tag me @chilliandmint and #chilliandminthoppers. Thank you.

As promised todays post is all about the sambar. Sambar is very similar to a dal, the main difference is that it is more of a lentil based vegetable stew, whereas dals tend to be more of a lentil soup with maybe one of two vegetables incorporated within it. Sambar often has a tamarind broth as its base note, which can also be found in dal – for example toor dal – but not exclusively. It is eaten in both Southern Indian and Sri Lanka and once you have made the spice blend you can keep making it in a relatively short space of time. I hosted a Sri Lankan lunch recently where I basically fed my pals a typical Sri Lankan breakfast…but I gave it to them for lunch (they weren’t to know). Egg hoppers, sambar, pol sambol (similar to a dry coconut chutney) and an onion relish. I think it was a hit.

When you make sambar you can use any vegetable that needs using up. Unless you live near an Asian grocers you are unlikely to come across ‘drumstick’ which is fairly typical to see in a sambar. Don’t worry, just pop in marrow, courgette, pumpkin, squash, green beans – anything that needs using up will work a treat.

Sambar Powder

50g chana dal (split husked Bengal gram)

50g urid dal (split husked black gram)

30g coriander seeds

2 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

10 dry red chillies

12 fresh curry leaves

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp asafoetida/hing powder

1 tbsp desiccated coconut (or fresh of course!)

  1. Heat a dry frying pan over a low heat and dry roast both dals until they turn bronze slightly – a couple of minutes max. Place in a bowl to one side.
  2. Using the same pan add the coriander, cumin, fenugreek, black peppercorns and dried chillies and move them around the pan for 30 seconds. A wonderful aroma will be released.
  3. Add the fresh curry leaves, asafoetida, turmeric and desiccated coconut and mix it all around the pan for another 20 seconds and then place in the bowl with the dals.
  4. Let it all cool and then whizz it up in a spice grinder. I have this one and it works a treat.
  5. Store in an airtight container and use as and when you need it.

 

Sambar

You can make it with a range of different lentils but I find that red lentils work really well as they take the least amount of time to cook.

200g red split lentils, washed under cold water for a couple of rinses

water to cover the lentils about an inch above (you can always add more if it dries out)

2 green chillies, sliced lengthways and seeds kept in

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

******

250ml tamarind water (use a walnut size piece of tamarind – see notes below)

2 tbsp oil (rapeseed/vegetable)

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

7 fresh curry leaves

2 dried chillies (split in two)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

80g of pumpkin/squash, cut into 1 cm pieces

80g carrots, cut into 1 cm pieces

80g aubergine/green/runner beans, cut into 1 cm pieces

1 large drum stick, washed and part of the outer green skin removed, chopped into 1 inch pieces, optional

250ml tamarind water (use a walnut size piece of tamarind – see notes below)

1 tbsp sambar powder

salt to taste

  1. In a deep pan add the lentils, chillies and turmeric powder and cover with water. Simmer gently, removing any scum that may form, for 10-15 minutes, by which time the lentils will have completely softened. Do not drain, instead leave to one side whilst you work through the following steps.
  2. Take a generous walnut size piece of tamarind and place in a bowl and add boiling water to cover it. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes then strain. Using the back of a spoon push through any of the tamarind pulp. Discard the stones. Place the liquid in a measuring jug and leave to one side.
  3. In a large frying pan/skillet heat the oil and then add the mustard seeds and allow them to gently pop before adding the cumin seeds, curry leaves and dried chillies. Move around the pan for 10 seconds and then add the onion and garlic. Leave to soften, stirring occasionally for around 7 minutes.
  4. Add all the vegetable pieces (they should all be around the same size, other than the drumstick) and mix in with the spices and onions.
  5. Add the sambar powder, salt and tamarind water and bring to the boil.
  6. Lower the heat and place a lid on the pan and allow the vegetables to soften completely – this will take  around 12 minutes. Check that they have softened completely before adding the lentils.
  7. Add the lentils and stir in well to the spices and vegetables. Add more salt if necessary and allow to simmer further for another 5 minutes.

It makes a wonderful ‘soup/stew’ as the days get shorter and the weather colder. If you are living in a warmer climate then sambar is equally good for you all year around.

Have a good week folks.

 

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How to make Egg Hoppers/Appam

How do you breakfast? On the go, sitting down at your kitchen table or perhaps at your office? With good intentions we try at least to have a ‘proper’ breakfast as a family before we  go our separate ways. My eldest daughter catches a coach to school and is out the house like a whirlwind by 7.20am and my youngest needs to at school by 8am and invariably I drive/scoot with her. As we approach Autumn and the darkness intrudes further into our mornings, I think it is important to fill your belly with some satisfying food before embarking on the challenges of the day ahead.

I always try to think of something new and exciting to feed my crew for breakfast and we often talk about it the night before. I thought it might be interesting and helpful if I create a ‘breakfast’ section under my recipe library and over the coming months I will put new ideas up here on my blog. I would love to hear what you think.

First up are my hoppers (Sri Lankan term) or appam (Keralan term). They are a typical breakfast in Sri Lankan and south India and are often eaten with a sambar or dal and a chutney. They have a coconut flavour and are made of rice flour. You do need to invest in a hoppers pan – something like this would be perfect, but my family are such fans of them that the investment made sense. I went and stayed with pals in the Cotswolds this summer and made a batch (15) for lunch one day for everyone to have with meat and vegetable curries and dal. All the kids – ranging from 4 to 14 gave them a thumbs up and for most it was the first time they had tried them.  I’m sure if you give them a try you (and your kids) will be pleasantly surprised. If you are going to make them for breakfast before school/work I would advise activating the yeast (the first part in the instructions below) before you jump in the shower. Then when you are out you can then add it to the rice flour and coconut milk, whisk and then leave to rest whilst you get changed. It’s a multi-tasking kind of breakfast. Equally it is great to have at lunch or supper, so don’t feel limited to cooking these at breakfast time.

Next week I am going to post a sambar recipe for you (which you will be able to prepare in advance) but today I simply ate them with a bowl of my marrow dal (see below) – but any of my dals would work equally well accompanying the hopper/appam.

 

Hoppers/Appam

Makes around 7-8

4g dried yeast

1 tsp white/brown sugar

35ml lukewarm water (warm to the touch but not hot!)

200g rice flour

1x400ml tin of coconut milk

pinch of salt

  1. First you need to place the yeast, sugar and water into a bowl and give a good stir. Leave the mixture for 15-20 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl add the rice flour, coconut milk and salt and once the yeast mixture has frothed and therefore activated add it to the mixture and whisk so that the batter is smooth and thick.
  3. Leave to rest at room temperature for half an hour.
  4. Warm your pan and put one ladle full of the mixture into the pan. Slowly swirl the mixture around the edge of the pan so that the mixture has reached almost up to the top of the pan. I usually swirl it around a couple of times so that all the sides are coated. Place the pan on a low heat (the reason my edges look a little bronzed is that I had the heat too high ;o) and place the lid on top of the pan.
  5. If you are going to make an egg hopper crack an egg into the centre of the pan and place the lid on top. Leave for around 3-4 minutes so that the sides are a little crispy and the egg is cooked sufficiently but is still soft in the centre. If you would rather not have an egg simply place the lid on the pan and leave for 3-3.5 mins
  6. If you are using a non-stick pan the hopper will easily slide onto a plate and serve immediately with sambar/dal and some chutney.

Dal ideas to accompany the hoppers

Bengali Dal recipe

Sri Lankan Dal recipe

Red Onion Dal recipe

Toor Dal recipe  

Marrow Dal recipe


Good Together – Drink and Feast with Mr Lyan and Friends

It felt like only the other day that Ryan Chetiyawardana aka Mr Lyan launched his first book – ‘Good Things to Drink’, which included lots of inventive beverages to tempt even the most strict teetotaller. Out on October 1st his latest book ‘Good Together – Drinks & Feast with Mr Lyan and Friends’, published by Frances Lincoln, will be launched.  I was lucky enough to be sent an advance copy so have been leafing through this delicious tome with wondrous photographs by the talented Kim Lightbody.

Photo credit © Kim Lightbody

Mr Lyan  knows his cocktails and is the man behind the award-winning London bar ‘Dandelyan’ as well as ‘Super Lyan’ (previously White Lyan). His cocktails are inventive and often have the wow factor so it’s no wonder he has been named UK Bartender of the year twice.

This book has combined food and drink to help you prepare for all types of social gatherings. He has roped in a number of his chef pals to come up with a wide range of captivating recipes and alongside those recipes are straightforward and exciting cocktails by Mr L, that you will want to try out at home. To give you a flavour of some of the chapters here are a few (along with the chefs who came up with the menu plan).

‘An Indian Extravaganza’ recipes created by Karan Gokani from Sri Lankan hotspot ‘Hoppers’

‘Pasta and Wine’ by Tim Siadatan from ‘Trullo’ and ‘Padella’

‘Eastern Banquet’ by Lisa Lov, ‘Tigermom’

‘Thanksgiving Dinner’ by Tien Ho, ‘Whole Foods’

‘The Country Table’ by James Lowe from ‘Lyle’s’

Sounds good hey!

Photo credit © Kim Lightbody

This book will appeal to those who like to experiment and perhaps go out of the comfort zone when it comes to cuisine. Unfussy eaters will love it, those who are a bit more picky will falter  – ‘lamb heart bulgur’, ‘oysters and onions’ (this is a soup), ‘pigs’ ear salad with chilli oil and sesame’! That said it has some absolute home run sounding dishes – ‘red curry of braised pork cheeks with boiled peanuts and confit potatoes’ – er YUM, ‘hot and sour tamarind broth with bitter greens and cockles’ – yup I’ll have me some of them, ‘salad of poached chicken and wild mushrooms’ – heavenly sounding, tuna with ajo blanco – mmmmm.

The cocktails  also look utterly tempting and even have some lovely non-alcoholic sounding ones such as the ‘sorrel cooler’ and the ‘oolong soda’. I love the sound of the ‘honey and burnt honey punch’, which includes  mandarins, clover or wildflower honey, clover tea, mead and so on.

Photo credit © Kim Lightbody

So for this post I decided to try out a couple of recipes from the ‘watching the game’ section. ‘Fried chicken with radishes and bloody Mary butter’ caught my eye – I was curious on this ‘crowd pleasing recipe’ and to eat along side I opted for the ‘pot-roast cauliflower with cultured butter and maldive fish’. It sounded different and have never roasted a cauliflower whole before so I was eager to see how it turned out.

So my honest feedback is that the fried chicken was good – pretty straightforward – and would appeal to most people. The bloody Mary butter I found to be disappointing and in my humble opinion does not go with the chicken. I used whipping cream, as instructed, and even added more tabasco for extra kick, but however you cut it the cream did not marry well with the chicken in this instance. Instead I would recommend either making a sriracha mayo blend or making my chipotles en adobe . Personally I think that would complement the chicken better, but that’s just my opinion.

The cauliflower with cultured butter and Maldive fish was a great idea. I added anchovies instead of Maldive fish – as it’s what I had to hand. I cooked to the exact timings but the cauliflower was still a little uncooked in the centre so I put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes to help roast it a little further. So be aware you may well need to do the same – I guess it depends on your oven and cooking pot. I love cauliflower and am always looking at new and interesting ways to cook it and I think this one ticked that box.

So it was a thumbs up, other than the butter, and there are a number of other recipes that are calling out to me, not forgetting the cocktails which I will try over the Autumn as they do look rather wonderful.

You can order a copy here or pick up a copy from all good bookshops. It is published by Frances Lincoln and retails at £20.

 

Fried Chicken with Radishes and Bloody Mary Butter

serves 4-6

1.5 kg organic chicken legs

vegetable oil

1 handful of radishes, to serve

*****

For the buttermilk brine

500ml buttermilk

2tsp smoked paprika

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

1 fresh parsley sprig (stalks and all)

1 thyme sprig (stalk only, use the leaves in the coating)

salt and pepper

*****

For the coating flour

200g plain flour

3g fresh thyme leaves

3g celery salt

2g cracked black pepper

10g onion powder

*****

For the Bloody Mary butter

300ml whipping or double (heavy) cream

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp Tabasco

1 tsp tomato paste

salt and pepper

 

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the ‘butter milk brine’ together and cover all over the chicken. Marinate for 12 hours sealed, in the fridge
  2. Mix the ‘coating flour’ ingredients together and place in a shallow bowl.
  3. Remove the chicken pieces from the fridge and place on the flour so that are coated completely. Set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
  5. Heat the oil in a shallow pan over a medium heat and in batches of two seal the chicken pieces so that they are golden on both sides. Place on a plate whilst you finish doing the rest.
  6. Place into an ovenproof dish and finish off in the oven for a further 25 minutes (in the book he says 15 but I wanted to be sure they were cooked through completely).
  7. To make the ‘bloody Mary butter’ add all the ingredients and mix with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Serve the fried chicken with the radishes and the whipped butter (or some sriracha butter or my chipotle)

 

************

Pot-Roast Cauliflower with Cultured Butter and Maldive Fish/Anchoives

75g salted butter (raw or cultured)

1 medium cauliflower

30ml (2 tbsp) raw cider vinegar

15g dried Maldive fish/anchoives

3g (1.5tsp) yellow mustard seeds

salt and pepper

parsley, chopped to garnish

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Heat an ovenproof pan (with a lid) on the hob on medium heat.
  3. Add the butter, then the cauliflower, florets down and cook for 5-7 minutes so that when you turn it over it has bronzed slightly.
  4. Turn it over and add the vinegar, Maldive fish/anchovies, mustard seeds and seasoning and cover.
  5. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes so that it is soften on the inside. Leave it for a little longer if this is not the case.
  6. Remove from the oven and place on a serving dish and cover with the juices from the pan and chopped parsley.

Eat with the fried chicken.

 

Whilst I was kindly sent an advanced copy of this book all the opinions and views are my own.

 

 

 

 

 


Ten Reasons to Visit Joshua Tree, California

On a recent road trip around California my family and I stayed in Joshua Tree for four days and three magical nights. My sister and her beau had gone the previously year and had raved about the place so I decided to follow their lead and include it in our trip this year. There is a lot going for this little town, so I thought I would break it down into ten reasons to tempt you to visit.

1. The main reason to visit Joshua Tree is to actually see the National Park itself, which is breathtaking in its stark beauty. The park includes not one but two deserts: the higher Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado Desert. Each have ecosystems whose characteristics are determined by their elevation.

Picking up my dose of Vitamin D – breathtaking views of the San Andreas Fault, Mount San Jacinto, Mount San Gorgonio, and the Salton Sea.

The landscape is otherworldly and would not surprise me if other planets have similar terrain. You get that feeling that perhaps Mars is not that different!! The famous Joshua trees (first photo) litter the horizons in every direction, but the park offers so much more in as far as wild life and cacti.  Go and seek out ‘Cholla Cactus Garden’ (pictured below), which is pretty cool. These beauties have super sharp needles so wear covered shoes and watch where you are walking. There is a clear short loop through the garden to follow.

There is also a plethora of wildlife which have adapted and learned to survive in this desert landscape. You may come across scorpions, black-tailed jackrabbits, rattle snakes, as well as non-venomous varieties, tarantula, coyotes, bighorn sheep, lizards, kangaroo rats (these were pretty cool)and lynx.

2. The nights sky is pretty epic in Joshua Tree due to very little light pollution. Every evening we would head out and sit in the jacuzzi – yes there was a jacuzzi in the airbnb we were staying in (more of that later), and watch the shooting stars and satellites zooming overhead. Sadly the iPhone isn’t advanced enough to have a beautiful photo of the milky way and stars so I can’t include a photo here. Does anyone know an app that perhaps allows you to take photos of the sky at night? Leave a comment below if you do please.

3. Airbnb offers some wonderful places to stay across the world. We stayed in the stunning Joshua Tree House (Casita). With over 117k followers I kind of knew that this place would be something special. Firstly the location is magical – about 15 minutes from the park entrance and about 10 minutes from the town of Joshua Tree itself. To reach it you drive off road down a sandy track. It’s right next door to Joshua Tree Hacienda, but both places offer privacy. Walking through the front gate you are treated to a stunning desert garden which overlooks a great expanse of desert stretching towards the town of Joshua Tree. The Casita, which has a dusky pink exterior, has been lovingly styled by Sara and Rich who have oodles of creative flair and taste.

The furniture, vintage books, lighting, swing (in the living room) the wood burner, the guitar you can use – all add to the charm of the place. Everything has been thought through and has a meaningful place. It’s also an instagramers dream.

4. If you are travelling with children, they can become ‘Junior Park Rangers’. You pick up a booklet from the tourist office at one of the gates and they need to look for things in the park and answer questions. When they have completed the booklet they return it to the tourist office where a park ranger will ‘test’ them on their knowledge of the park and what they have seen. All being well they will become Junior Park Rangers and receive a badge and little hat.  It’s fun for them to get involved and learn more about the park and wildlife in this way.

5. If you like hiking then Joshua Tree National Park offers many trails to follow. There are a few rules though that you need to pay heed to as the desert and sun does not offer those who get lost much comfort for survival. Our favourite trail, which was only 1 mile in length – but perfect considering the heat, was ‘Hidden Valley’. There are a lot longer trails, which could be good when the weather cools off in the autumn or early spring. We were also pretty cautious about going on longer hikes as a couple had gone missing on one of the trials two weeks before we had arrived and, as I write this post they have now been missing for over a month, which is pretty horrific.

It is worth following the pointers below before you set off on any hikes.

– Obvious I know but make sure your tank of petrol is full – you would not want to break down here if you have taken the car off the main roads through the park and gone done more of a track to reach some of the longer trails.

-Carry loads of water with you and in the car.

-Stick to the trails as the place is very disorientating and it could be  easy to get lost. There are lots of old gold mines in the park, and whilst most of them are covered over apparently there are some that are not.

-Take maps and a phone

-Wear sunscreen, a hat and light clothing

-Tell people where you are going

-Wear good walking shoes/trainers/boots.

6. Go and have a sound bath at the Integratron in Landers (which is near to Joshua Tree). Whilst the timings did not work out for us, my sister loved the whole experience on her trip and highly recommends. The structure was designed and built in the 1950’s by George Van Tassel (ufologist and contactee). He claimed the Integratron was capable of ‘rejuvenation, anti-gravity and time travel’. He apparently built it following instructions provided by visitors from the planet Venus. The sound bath 60 minute experience allows ‘deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and introspection’.

To book your sound bath click here.  

7. Want to live out your cowboy fantasies? A short drive from Joshua Tree is Pioneer Town, which is definitely worth scoping out. The place is a real life Old Western set created in the 1940’s that actors actually lived in whilst films were being shot – films like ‘The Cisco Kid’. The place is pretty cool and many  of the places on the ‘high street’ you can actually go into and there are locals selling all manner of things – including saddles and pottery.

8. Whilst you are in Pioneer Town head to Pappi & Harriet’s. This BBQ restaurant and music venue is pretty legendary, with big names singers occasionally making an appearance, including Paul McCartney in December 2016. They also have ‘open mic’ for those budding vocalists out there. The venue is great and definitely my kind of venue fitting less than 300 people in all. Intimate and cosy in one. Click here to see who is playing in the coming months.

9. Love vintage clothing and eclectic antiques? Then Joshua Tree and neighbouring Yucca Valley are definitely worth exploring for picking up that unique outfit for Coachella or Burning Man festivals or that special piece for your home. Most of the boutiques are based on or near by Twentynine Palms Highway. You can’t miss the brightly coloured exterior of ‘The End’ which is packed to the brim with brightly coloured vintage and contemporary clothes. Also worth checking out is the ‘Hoof & Horn’, ‘Funky and Darn Near New’, Ricochet Joshua Tree, 62 Vintage Marketplace and Pioneer Crossing and Antiques.

10. Under an hour away is beautiful Palm Springs. If you think Joshua Tree is hot then wait until you get to Palm Springs. In August it is SO hot that even restaurants with tables on the pavement are spraying diners with cooling water spray. This place sizzles but is also achingly hip. If you love midcentury modern design then you will be in heaven. We only stopped briefly (note to self to stay a few days in the future) but managed to soak up the vibes of the stylishly sophisticated, The Parker.

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Courgette, Cheddar and Thyme Soda Bread

If you have a vegetable garden (sadly I do not) it is highly probable that you are being swamped by courgettes (zucchini) and marrows at the moment. Both at my dear friend’s house in the Cotswold, where I have been enjoying some time recently, and my parents’ home in Sussex, where I have also been staying – it’s the summer holidays after all – they are both drowning in these wonderful vegetables. As such I thought that it would be useful to come up with a couple of ways in which you can incorporate these ingredients into your diet.

For those who have been reading (casting an eye ;o) over my blog for sometime you will know how much I adore dal in all it’s varied forms. Marrow or courgette works really well in dal so I can highly recommend you give this one a whirl (click on link – photo of it below).

I made it for a friend the other day who was completely surprised by how tasty it was and asked me to send her the recipe. So if you are reading this Rose, this is for you.

Soda bread is a really easy and quick to make as it does not require yeast or proving, so within an hour you have a freshly baked loaf – what’s not to love?

Courgette Cheddar and Thyme Soda Bread

400g self raising/wholemeal spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 large courgette or 2 small/medium

50g giant rolled oats

70g cheddar cheese, grated

handful of fresh thyme, leaves only (chives or rosemary also work well)

284ml buttermilk

1 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

 

  1. Preheat an oven to 200 degrees (180 degrees if using a fan oven)
  2. Sieve the flour and add the baking powder into a large bowl.
  3. Place a large tea towel under a course grater and then grate the courgette. Fold the edges of the tea towel and squeeze so that all the liquid is released from the courgette. Then place into the flour.
  4. Add all the other ingredients except the egg. Save back a handful of grated cheese to use for the topping.
  5. Use a wooden spoon to begin with to bind the ingredients together and then use your hands to create a dough ball. If it remains too sticky add a little more flour to help bind it. Do not over handle the dough so that it remains light.
  6. Place it onto baking paper, lightly brush the dough with the beaten egg and add the remaining cheese on top. Using a knife make a cross in the top of the bread.
  7. Place into the oven for 35-40 minutes so that it is nicely bronzed. Remove from the oven and place on a rack.
  8. It is great to eat warm with some butter, which will melt into the bread. Equally I love to dunk it into soup.

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Bang Bang Chicken Salad – the perfect family summer salad

If you are after an easy chicken salad that is adored by the whole family, takes minimum fuss to throw together and is packed on flavour and texture, then look no further. Chinese inspired ‘Bang Bang chicken’ has it all and is perfect when the weather is hot and you want something light. My whole family absolutely love it.

I am a huge fan of Pip & Nut peanut, almond and cashew butters – have you tried them? I found their ‘crunchy maple peanut butter’ worked so well with the recipe. (I am not paid to say this ;o) You can find them in most supermarkets now as well as health food shops such as Holland & Barrett.

Don’t stress if you can’t get hold of any – regular crunchy peanut butter will also work well.

The only ingredient that I can imagine may receive a ‘sigh’  or ‘where can I find them’ is Sichuan peppercorns. They are now super easy to find online and I have provided a link below. They are definitely one of my store cupboard favourites as the taste is just heavenly, to put it mildly. If you really can’t be bothered with tracking them down then just use regular black peppercorns this time.

 

 

Bang Bang Chicken

Part 1

450g skinless chicken breasts, chopped in two

500ml chicken stock (fresh or Knorr chicken stock pot works well)

2 star anise

1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns

1 tsp salt

25g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

 

*********

Part 2

1 large carrot, peeled and thickly grated

1 cucumber, sliced lengthways and then chopped into small bite size chunks

1 large handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

2 limes

********

Part 3

130g crunchy peanut butter – I think the best is ‘Pip & Nut and they do one which is ‘crunchy maple peanut butter’ which I like to use here

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

1 tbsp maple syrup

 

Optional

1 fresh red chilli, finely diced

 

 

  1. Place all the ingredients in ‘part 1’ into a pan and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, so that the chicken is cooked.
  2. Slice and dice all the ingredients, apart from the lime, in ‘part 2’ and place in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze 1 lime onto the salad ingredients.
  3. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the pan and place to one side. Keep the cooking stock, but strain it and place in a small jug.
  4. Using a fork shred the chicken and then place into the large mixing bowl with the ingredients from ‘part 2’.
  5. Place all the ingredients in ‘part 3’ together and then add an additional 100ml of the cooking stock from the chicken. Gradually add to the the sauce so that it is less thick and more the consistency of cream.
  6. Add half the sauce to the mixing bowl and gently mix the ingredients together.
  7. Plate up and then add an extra spoonful of sauce over each serving as desired.
  8. Top with chilli, for those who like chilli, and place a lime quarter on each plate for added zing.

 

Freeze the rest of the stock for use another time as it tastes so good. 


Zhug – Yemeni Hot Sauce – perfect for a BBQ or Sandwich Filler

Chutneys, sauces, pickles and sambals you name it and I’ll probably love it. They really lift a meal whether you are eating modern British, Mexican, Indian, Levant or even having a simple sandwich for lunch. So when a pal mentioned whether I had heard of zhug, my response was yes, heard but not knowingly tried. He swore it was his go-to condiment, especially for BBQ, and sent me his favourite recipe for it.

The name ‘Zhug’ sounds rather cool you have to admit. Pass the zhug, if you please! Yes it definitely has a certain ring to it. It’s a Middle Eastern hot sauce originating from Yemen and then adopted by the Israelis  when the Yemenite Jews fled to Israel. It has now become a staple condiment in Israeli cuisine and I can certainly see why.

When I looked through the ingredients it was not too dissimilar to chimichurri, chermoula or even salsa verde. There are many varieties using both green and red chillies, but I opted for the green variety today. Cumin, cardamom and caraway seeds are used and these are combined with both fresh coriander and parsley. It’s zingy, hot and fresh all at once and would work equally well with meats, fish or cheese. It takes minutes to prepare and can easily be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or two.

So do you have a go-to favourite condiment? My favourite – other than Zhug –  is my Chipotle – see here.

Zhug – Yemeni Hot Sauce

adapted from Aglaia Kreme book ‘Mediterranean Hot and Spicy’

6 green birds eye chillies, seeds kept in (or removed if you prefer it less hot)

8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 tsp freshly ground caraway seeds

1tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

1/2 tsp freshly ground green cardamom

50g fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

50g fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves only

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

juice of 1 small lemon

100ml extra virgin olive oil

 

  1. Place the black pepper, caraway, cumin and cardamom seeds in a spice/coffee grinder to create a smooth powder.
  2. Then place all the ingredients into a blender and blender until smooth, adding the extra virgin olive oil a little at a time to loosen up the sauce.
  3. Store in a sterilised jar and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Great in sandwiches, with falafel wraps, BBQ meats and fish, over couscous – basically most things savoury.


Sri Lankan Egg Curry and ‘Sri Lanka The Cookbook’

Recently, when I was in Sri Lanka, I was having a look at the local cookery books and, similar to the ones I had seen in Kerala, they seemed a bit dated, 70’s style.

 

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

Don’t get me wrong the recipes are probably wonderful, but today we are quite spoilt with such beautiful cookery books being published here in the UK that the bar has been raised long ago on what makes a great looking cookery book. So you can image how thrilled I was to arrive home to find Prakash Sivanathan and Niranjala Ellawala’s beautiful cookbook ‘Sri Lanka The Cookbook’ waiting for me – photo above. 

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

Firstly I adore the tactile, almost hessian feeling cover and opening up the book I was equally as impressed. The photographs, of which there are many, where well shot by Kim Lightbody – matt and crisp with great props and importantly, tasty looking recipes. Photographs are so important and sometimes I have high hopes when opening a cook book for the first time and my heart sinks a little as the photographs just don’t do justice to the book. I’m no pro by any means but I am quite particular on what I think looks good to the reader.

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

The book starts with an introduction giving a concise overview of Sri Lanka’s chequered past, it’s people and cuisine. As a side note: if you want to learn more about Sri Lanka I highly recommend these two books that I read on my recent trip. Love them both equally.

It then gives a short note about the authors themselves and their background – interestingly Niranjala is  Sinhalese from the south, growing up in the the hill country in Ratnapura and Balangoda and Prakash a Tamil from the Jaffna peninsula in the north – and then moving to London for university. Following their studies they set up ‘Elephant Walk’ restaurant in London in 2004. In 2006 it won the coveted ‘Cobra Good Curry Guide Award’ for the best Sri Lankan Restaurant in the UK.  The restaurant closed however in 2013 and the couple continue to work with food through their Coconut Kitchens cookery school.

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

The next sections are dedicated to a glossary of ingredients and how to make a range Sri Lankan curry powders, before tempting readers with a host of Sri Lankan favourites: idli, appa (hoppers), sambols and many meat, fish and vegetable kari (curries). Some of the ingredients they use are exciting as I don’t often cook with them – such as plantain, snake gourd, breadfruit. Thankfully I live near an Asian area so sourcing all these ingredients is straightforward. For the home cook who loves to try new things – this is the book for you. That said there are many ingredients which don’t require so much sourcing for ingredients – such as the prawn and coconut curry or spicy baked chicken. Come the Autumn I am definitely going to be trying the ‘wild boar curry’. There are a few pages dedicated to sweet recipes – love cake, semolina pudding, banana fritters, but it is the mains, sambols and other savoury delights, which really capture my attention.

Photograph by © Kim Lightbody and book published by Frances Lincoln

It is published by Francis Lincoln and is available to buy at all good bookshops or online. This is definitely a keeper for me and I hope those of you who want to try to widen your Sri Lankan repertoire will consider getting hold of a copy. It’s a book you want to linger over and to go back to time and time again.

I thought the ‘Mutate Kulambu’ or ‘Egg Curry’ looked a lovely recipe to share with you all. It is straightforward and is great for a vegetarian lunch or supper.

 

It talks about adding a tablespoon of Thool (curry powder), but since I bought some back with my from Sri Lanka I have not followed their recipe for curry powder but thought it might be useful to include it for you if you would like to replicate this recipe here at home. Their are 2 methods and I have shown you method ‘A’.

Roasted Tamil Curry Powder: Thool

250g coriander seeds

50g cumin seeds

75g fennel seeds

20g fenugreek seeds

250g dried red chillies

20 fresh curry leaves

1 tsp ground turmeric

50g black peppercorns

 

  1. Dry roast the coriander seeds in a frying pan until they are golden brown. Keep the pan moving the pan so that the spices do not burn. Remove from the pan and place to one side.
  2. In separate batches dry roast the cumin seeds, followed by the fennel and fenugreek seeds. Set aside.
  3. Dry roast the dried red chillies for 20 seconds or so allowing them to darken in colour. Set aside.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and when it is hot add the turmeric and toss for a few seconds so that it is lightly roasted.
  5. Place all the ingredients, including the black peppercorns into a spice grinder – I love my Krups – and grind to form a fine powder.

Place in an airtight container. They say it will last up to 2 months but I keep mine for much longer to be honest.

Muttai Kulambu: Egg Curry

serves 4

4 hard boiled eggs

2 tbsp oil

half tsp mustard seeds

half medium onion, finely chopped

6 fresh curry leaves

6 garlic cloves, cut into quarters

2 green chillies chopped

half tsp fenugreek seeds

quater tsp cumin seeds

quarter tsp ground turmeric

200ml coconut milk

400ml water

1 tbsp Thool – Sri Lankan curry powder

quarter tsp salt

 

  1. After boiling the eggs for 9 minutes (if medium size and 12 minutes if large eggs), shell them and cut them in half lengthways and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium, lidded saucepan over a low heat. Add the mustard seeds and once they begin to pop – which will be a few seconds later – add the onion and curry leaves and stir for a few seconds. Add the garlic, chillies, fenugreek and cumin seeds and cook until the onions are soft and turning golden.
  3. Add the turmeric and stir. Add the coconut milk, water, curry powder and salt and mix well. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and half cover allowing the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Gently slide in the halved eggs and half cover with the lid again and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Taste for salt and remove from the heat and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chilled Delicately Spiced Watermelon Soup

It’s a sweltering 31 degrees today here in London, hotter than LA, Dallas and Bahamas and New York. I’m not complaining, although if I’m honest I wish we had a sea breeze keeping us cool, wouldn’t that be just perfect.  Thankfully I picked up a giant watermelon over the weekend (my pal took half as it was SO gigantic) so have been eating it in all manner of guises ever since.

As well as being so visually stunning watermelon is perfect for hot weather, due to its largely watery, cooling consistency. I wanted to make a savoury chilled soup that was delicately spiced and balanced sweet and savoury, not just sweet. I think I have managed it so would love you to try my recipe. Eat it as you would a chilled gazpacho, although the flavour of this is very different from anything you have probably tried before. It has sweet tones of course but has savoury notes coming from the fresh curry leaves, tomatoes, cumin seeds and hing/asafoetida. I’d love to hear what you think so please leave a message below in the comments box.

 

Chilled Spiced Watermelon Soup 

Serves 4

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

pinch of hing/asafoetida

10 fresh curry leaves

1 small birds eye green chilli, roughly chopped and deseeded

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1.4kg fresh watermelon, deseeded and chopped into small pieces

3 medium sized tomatoes

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

pinch of hing/asafoetida

10 fresh curry leaves

salt to taste

 

  1. First prepare all your ingredients and make sure they are chopped and ready to use.
  2. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds, the hing/asafoetida and the fresh curry leaves and move around the pan for 20 seconds, allowing the flavours to be released.
  3. Now add the garlic and after a couple of minutes add the ginger and tomatoes.
  4. Finally add the watermelon and a little salt. Allow to simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes.
  5. Using a hand blender blend the ingredients of the pan so the liquid is smooth.
  6. Using a colander strain all the liquid so that a lighter consistency liquid is released and any tomato skins, seeds etc are caught in the colander. Taste and season further with salt as necessary.
  7. Allow to cool and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  8. It will last for a couple of days in the fridge no problem.

 

As an idea you could add a feta crumb of fresh mint flakes on the top of each serving, but I preferred to eat it as is this time.

 

 


Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns and A Visit to the Swedish Embassy

Yesterday morning I trotted off to the Swedish embassy, with my Swedish pal, for breakfast……as you do. I was invited to learn more about Swedish food and the distributers here in the UK – take a look at ScandiKitchen. It’s the kind of invitation that you just can’t turn down.

The embassy is a stones throw (perhaps a David and Goliath stones throw if I am being honest) from Oxford street. With the blue flags with yellow crosses flying in the wind outside we bounded in to meet Mr Ambassador himself.

 

The breakfast spread was breathtaking with so much choice and variety of delicious looking and tasting Swedish foods. A wide range of smoked salmon, fresh salmon, herrings pickled in all manner of things, soft cheeses, hard cheeses, eggs, pate, breads, biscuits as well as porridges, yogurts, waffles, jams. It was definitely ‘kid in a candy store moment’.

The drinks accompany breakfast used all manner of tasty berries – apparently in Sweden alone there are over 25 varieties of edible berries. I sampled lingonberry drink, rosehip, Swedish berry smoothie, Swedish style drinking yoghurt, blueberry soup.

Hidden by one of the windows were the pastries and my eye was immediately drawn to the ubiquitous Swedish cinnamon buns. I have been meaning to make some recently so thought it would be a perfect match with this blog post to make some and include the recipe so you too can make yourself at home. Whilst they are perfect eaten warm, straight out of the oven, you can also freeze them. Once defrosted just place them in a warm oven for a few minutes to heat through.

Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns

Makes around 20

To make the dough

750g plain all purpose flour

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

2 tsp ground cardamom

350ml milk

120g unsalted butter

14g easy bake yeast

sprinkling on top of each bun of pearl sugar *

1 egg, beaten

 

for the filling

110g soft unsalted butter

90g light brown sugar

2 tbsp cinnamon powder

 

  1. First you need to make the dough. In a large bowl sieve the flour and then add the caster sugar, cardamom powder and salt.
  2. In a pan gently heat the butter and when it is melted add the milk, keeping on a very low heat (you want it luke warm and not hot), and fresh yeast and stir so that the yeast is well mixed. Take off the heat and make a whole in the centre of the flour and add the wet ingredients. Gently stir with a wooden spoon.
  3. Once the dough has come together use your hands to bind it firmly so that it is soft and does not stick to your hands as much. Take out of the bowl and place on a cold, clean work surface with a sprinkling of flour and knead for around 8 minutes. The dough will become very pliable and if it is still a little sticky just add a little flour until you can comfortably knead it.
  4. Transfer it to a lightly greased mixing bowl and cover with clingfilm and a tea towel. Leave in a warm, dark place for an hour so that it can double in size.
  5. Meanwhile make the filling by combing all the ingredients above together to make a smooth paste.
  6. I tend to make these in two batches as you need to properly spread out your buns or else they will merge into each other.
  7. Using half the dough (cover the remaining dough and leave in a warm dark place) roll it out into a rectangle to a few mm in thickness. Place half the filling on the dough and using the longer side of the dough gently roll. Make incisions through the dough using a serrated knife so that you end up with around 10 buns. Place on baking paper in an oven tray with the cut side of the bun facing upwards or in individual cake holders. Brush each bun with the beaten egg and scatter each bun with the pearl sugar. Leave to one side whilst your oven heats up.
  8. Preheat the oven to 220°C/450°F and when it has reached this heat reduce it to 190˚C/350˚F and place the buns in the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare your next batch using up the remainder of the filling and repeat.
  9. Eat straight away warm, or you can store in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for a couple of months. If freeze, thaw thoroughly and then heat up in a warm oven for a few minutes before eating.

*you could also use demerara sugar or chopped walnuts or pecan.