Book Review: Mountain Berries and Desert Spice and Spiced Apple Samosas

 

I am probably the first to admit that I often overlook desserts and sweet things. In the case of cookbooks I also tend to find that the obligatory sweet recipes are placed in the back, often as an afterthought and the centre stage is given to the savoury dishes.

Coming out this April, however, is a beautifully evocative book that focuses exclusively on sweet inspirations from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea, written by food writer and cookery teacher, Sumayya Usmani, author of ‘Summers Under the Tamarind Tree’ – I wrote all about her first book here. It’s actually rather refreshing to have a book solely dedicated to all manner of sweet delights from Sumayya’s homeland, Pakistan.

 

Photography © Joanna Yee – Mountain Berries and Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani is published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto group

She interweaves stories of her childhood and memories with beautiful photographs of the region and recipes that really tempt you to try making for yourself at home. It’s the type of book that I like to pour over and read all the stories as well as the recipes. She demystifies how to make all manner of sweet delights – family recipes from the foothills of the Hundu Kush mountains in the north – where berries and fruits grow in abundance, via the fertile Punjab, where rice and grain based desserts are prevalent to the Arabian sea in the south, where saffron and cardamon laced sweet recipes are a favourite.

 

 

The chapters themselves are equally evocative and capture the essence of the book wonderfully:

Chilli mangoes and ocean breeze

Festive spice and roses

Sugar almonds and buffalo milk

Kite, kingdoms and cardamon samosas

Through mulberry valleys

A saffron blaze

and so they go on….

Many of the recipes look inviting from ‘Sohan saffron honey caramels with rose water, pistachio and almonds to Bakar khani – sweet puff pastry biscuits, Mulberry and cherry fruit leather, Nan-e nokhochi – chickpea flour shortbread with cloves. Rose water, rose petals, saffron threads and pistachio are used on many occasions in the recipes so it may well be worth stocking up on these. When mangoes are in season I can’t wait to try the ‘mango, thyme and pink salt with rose water clotted cream’ – I like the sweet and salty aspect to this dish.

I opted for the ‘spiced apple samosas’ for todays post. The pastry was really easy and quick to make and I covered it with a damp cloth whilst I made the filling for the samosas.

The trick is to not over fill the samosas. Keep close to the instructions and you won’t go wrong. I sprinkled them with a little more cinnamon powder and icing sugar before eating. I had extra filling leftover so made another batch of pastry. The perfect afternoon snack with a cup of tea or chai.

 

Spiced Apple Samosas

makes 6-8

for the pastry

150g plain all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 tbsp fine semolina

water, as needed

vegetable oil for deep frying

For the filling

6 Royal Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces

100g super fine golden caster sugar

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground

pinch of mace

  1. To make the pastry combine the flour, salt and semolina in a bowl. Add water slowly so that the dough is formed.
  2. Knead the dough until it is soft and then cover with a damp towel.
  3. In a saucepan add the apples, sugar and spices and cook on a low heat until they soften – about 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
  4. Roll the dough out so that it is 1/4 inch thick and using a pastry cutter – I tried with both 2 and 3 inch diameter cutters – larger is slightly easier. Cut out around 6-8 circles.
  5. Place 1 tsp of filling for each samosa and fold over to create a half moon shape. Using a fork, press down firmly to seal completely.
  6. Heat the oil and when it is hot (check by dropping in a crumb to see if it fizzles) drop in a couple of the samosas. Deep-fry for 2 minutes on each side – or less if your oil is hotter. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.

Sumayya suggests serving with whipped cream with a teaspoon of rose water and dried rose petals. 

You can pre-order Mountain Berries and Desert Spice here

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gobi Aloo Kasoori Methi – Cauliflower with Potato and Dried Fenugreek Leaves

Cauliflower, in my view, is massively underrated. In the past it was perhaps thought of as a little bland, but when you boil anything I guess it could be described as bland. Growing up we had cauliflower cheese – which don’t get me wrong, is delicious – but beyond that people really didn’t tend to do much with it.  That has all changed though in the last couple of years, with dishes such as cauliflower rice, cauliflower base for pizza, roasted cauliflower, burnt cauliflower – you name it, people are getting creative with this humble ingredient. In Indian cuisine  it is hugely versatile and used in all manner of dishes.

Throw a little spice into the mix and you have yourself a very tasty little number. I thought I would show you one of my favourite cauliflower recipes that works well either on its own or as part of a larger Indian feast. Dried methi, or fenugreek as it is also known, is fairly easy to come by these days. Certainly the large supermarkets stock it, but I like to get it from one of my local Asian grocers. You can order online  – herfrom Asian Dukan. Easy.

Methi has a wonderful aroma, that works so well with the cauliflower. Only scatter the dried leaves over the cauliflower at the very end of cooking and gently fold the leaves into the dish. I cook this dish with the trinity of Indian spices: turmeric, cumin and coriander, but my mother-in-law likes to keep it super simple and literally just add, oil, dried chilli, salt and dried methi. It is also delicious this way, but try my slightly more elaborate way first.

Gobi Aloo Kasoori Methi – Cauliflower with Potato and Dried Fenugreek Leaves

serves 4-6 along with another dish or two.

2 medium potatoes, cubed into 2-2.5cm

3-4 tbsp rapeseed/vegetable oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 small dried red chillies

1 cauliflower, outer leaves removed and cut into small florets

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp salt, to taste

sprinkling of water

2 tbsp of Kasoori Methi

 

  1. Peel the potatoes and then once diced place them in a pan of boiling water and boil for around 8 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Strain and place to one side.
  2. In a large wide pan (ideally with a lid), add 1 tablespoon of oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the dried chillies.
  3. Add the boiled cubed potatoes and cover with the cumin seeds.
  4. Place the cauliflower florets into the pan and move around so that they are also beginning to coat themselves in the cumin seeds. You will need to add a little more oil at this stage to help the cauliflower cook and soften. Add the oil at stages instead of all at once.
  5. Add the turmeric, cumin and coriander powders along with the salt and fold into the cauliflower.
  6. Keep the cauliflower gently moving around the pan at intervals. Sprinkle a little water to help soften the cauliflower and place a lid on the pan.
  7. Every few minutes move the contents of the pan around.
  8. Continue to cook gently, on a low heat for a further 10-15 minutes so that the cauliflower has softened.
  9. Finally add the fenugreek leaves – kasoori methi and gently fold into the cauliflower. Take off the heat and serve.

 

An alternative and even simpler way to cook this dish is to replace cumin seeds with methi (fenugreek) seeds, do not add any spice and then the kasoori methi. Obviously the dish is not as yellow in colour but still tastes really delicious. You can also omit the potatoes if you wish. 


Marinated Gravadlax, Pickled Cucumber and a Honey Mustard Dressing

 

Growing up smoked salmon, or gravadlax, used to be a real treat, something that you would have very occasionally – at Christmas perhaps on Christmas morning or over Easter.  Somehow though over the years its become  rather ubiquitous and in some cases rather bland. Go to any sandwich store or deli and you’ll find it sitting there next to the cheese and pickle sarnies. The glamour and decadence seems to have gone.

I can help you change all that with a few simple steps. Marinated gravadlax is not only super easy (I know I tend to say that rather a lot but I sincerely mean it!) but it also tastes ridiculously good. You’ll also get tons of brownie points if you bring it out when guests are over.

I loosely followed Simon Hopkinson’s recipe – you can see it here and the video here. Rather confusingly it says that it only takes overnight to prepare and then in the body of the method it says 48 hours. Confusing. I researched other recipes and all the others were for 24 hours so I followed suit. As I did not finish it all in one sitting I returned the remaining portion of salmon back into the fridge with the marinade to see if the taste changed with another night in the fridge. I did not find any difference so I think I will continue with 24 hours.

So here is my step-by-step method.

Home Cured Gravadlax 

500g of fresh salmon fillet, skin on, bones removed (I bought this one)

85g caster sugar

70g sea salt

2 tbsp gin

2 tsp of fresh ground white pepper (next time I will try it with black or pink to see how it turns out)

80g fresh dill

  1. First make up the paste. Mix the sugar, salt, gin, pepper and dill in a blender or pestle and mortar.
  2. Take the salmon out of it’s packaging – do not throw this away as it is perfect size to marinate the gravadlax in over night.
  3. Distribute the  paste evenly on the bottom of the packaging tray and then once you have laid the salmon in – flesh side down – place the rest of the paste on top. Press down firmly.
  4. Cover with cling film and leave for 24 hours – turning a couple of times if you can.

Pickled Cucumber

1 whole cucumber, thinly sliced on a mandolin (I have this one)

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 caster sugar

1 sea salt

a little freshly ground white pepper (again pink or black could be good here)

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and leave to macerate in the fridge for an hour.
  2. A fair amount of liquid will have formed so discard this and place the cucumber back in the fridge until ready to use.

Honey Mustard Dill Dressing

2 tbsp of yellow Dijon mustard

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tbsp of runny honey

squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

20g fresh dill, finely chopped

salt, to taste

pepper, taste

extra virgin olive oil

  1. Mix all the ingredients together, aside for the extra virgin olive oil. Gradually pour this into the dressing stirring as you do so. It will thicken, much like hollandaise.  Taste and add more salt/honey/lemon juice as your taste buds require.

 

I served all of the above on a bilini – mustard dressing then a little cucumber and then a thin slice of gravadlax. Equally you could present the gravadlax as a starter and slice it into strips at the table (or before) and keep the cucumber as a salad and the dressing for guests to serve themselves. A slice of rye on the side would be perfect.

I’m planning to do beetroot next and then start experimenting with flavours – juniper, orange zest, mint.

It will change the way you look at gravadlax going forward.

 

 

 


Hot Spiced Tomatoes with Spinach

img_4614

Cooking at the end of the day when you are tired and exhausted can be a bit of a chore. I always have loads of tomatoes in my fridge – probably my favourite ingredient of all time – so am often coming up with inventive ways to use them – Indian style tomato chutney anyone?

img_4606

This recipe uses them as the star ingredient and as I always like to eat greens, a handful of fresh spinach  complements the dish perfectly. If you have some fresh fish, place it in the oven for 10 minutes (you may need a little longer if you have a large fish/portion) then you can quickly whip this tomato side dish to accompany the fish. Easy and no fuss.

img_4611

It’s also great to use alongside more on an Indian feast if you are feeding a crowd. It adds zing and heat in equal measure.

Hot Spiced Tomatoes with Spinach

Serves 4 (accompanied with another dish or two)

2 tbsp rapeseed/vegetable oil

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

450g large tomatoes (works out to be about 6), quartered

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (less if you like it less hot)

1 tbsp jaggery (or sugar if you don’t have jaggery see note below)

1 tsp salt

100ml water

1 handful of fresh spinach

  1. Gently heat the oil and when it is hot place the cumin and mustard seeds into the pan. They will sizzle immediately. Keep the heat low. After 10 seconds add the quartered tomatoes and move around the pan so that the spices cover them.
  2. Add the spices, salt and jaggery and then after 20 seconds add the water. Keep on a low heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the fresh spinach and take off the heat. The spinach will wilt from the heat of the tomatoes. Do not overcook the tomatoes as you want them to have soften but still to have held their shape as much as possible.

Serve with freshly cooked fish or chicken or as part of a large Indian feast.

Jaggery – also known as palm sugar – check out the health benefits of using jaggery instead of sugar here.


Homemade Naan Bread, The Black Forest and The Knights Templar

img_4575-2

Soft pillowy naan bread dunked into a bowl of dal has got to be THE ultimate comfort food. As those who have been reading my blog for sometime will know, whenever I return from holiday the first thing I cook is some dal. It’s quick, easy and you can determine the amount of fresh chilli that you put in it. There are so many dals you can make, but I often opt for  – red split lentil dal. You can add whatever vegetable you have to hand – tomatoes, peas, carrots – but I would advise not adding more than 2 max.img_4536-3

I had spent a week in the glorious Black Forest in the south west corner of Germany. Wifi is hit and miss – hence the lack of a blog post last week, apologies – so it allows you to unwind properly and relax in this beautiful part of the country. img_4524-3

 

The top of the hills were covered in snow, but down in the valleys the pastures were green, which gave us the option of walks in the meadows and through the forests or skiing at higher altitudes.

img_4525-3

We were blessed with clear blue skies and warming winter sun. A stunning combination.

img_4541-3

Whilst our days were spent out and about in the fresh air, our evenings were spent sitting by the roaring fires eating the local produce of venison, wild boar, cheese, breads, wine, an interesting salad leaf that can only be found in the Black Forest around February (name escapes me, but it was a cross between rocket and watercress) and Black Forest gateaux – naturally.

img_4540-3

 

We drove from London, staying over for a couple of nights in Strasbourg on the way, admiring it’s impressive cathedral and quaint streets. In many ways in reminded me of Bruges or nearby Colmar – definitely worth a detour if you haven’t been.

img_4367-3

 

Strasbourg is easy to explore on foot and has a number of museums and art galleries in close proximity. A boat trip on the waterways is also a must and helps you get your bearings.

img_4362-3

 

 

To break up our homeward journey we stayed in Laon, in the region of Picardy. If medieval history is of interest to you then this place is an absolute must. We stayed in one of the old canon’s houses (there were  84 canons at one time living in Laon – it was the largest chapter in France in the 12th and 13th centuries) up in the attic with a view of the cathedral. Our airbnb host was a charming and well travelled French man who was keen to show us his eleventh century frescos and ruins in his cellar. The cellar stretched under the whole of his house and when we had seen what we thought was the extent of it, he revealed another doorway with steps leading further down to another level. We proceeded to explore this level and then found further steps leading to another level. It was a cavern within a cavern within a cavern.  It was without doubt the most incredibly historical cellar we have ever been in and an archaeologist/historians dream. Over the ages new floors were simply added – we could make out the old stables on one level. Apparently there are many passageways linking up the canon’s houses surrounding the cathedral. I imagine many of them are filled in or perhaps not yet discovered by their occupants living many metres above.

img_4542-3

The Knights Templar spent much time both in Laon and the surrounding area. They built this magnificent church (above) modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1140. Unfortunately we only managed to spend a few minutes here before we were ushered out as it was closing time, so the museum that stands beside it will have to wait for a future visit.

img_4546-3

The Cathedral itself is worth a visit and in fact it was what initially drew us to this hill top city a couple of years ago, as we could see it’s towers from miles away. Laon is only 80 miles north east of Paris and only a couple of hours from Calais so  it’s a good place to stopover before catching the Euro tunnel home.

img_4564

Anyway enough of my travels and back to the matter at hand….naan bread. Believe it or not they are really easy to cook yourself. Making the dough is pretty straight forward and then you need to let it rest, in a warm part of your house, for 1-2 hours to let it increase in size.

img_4568-2

Then it is simply a case of rolling out the naan into small, thin, oval shapes. You can add nigella (black onion seeds) or sesame seeds on the top or keep them plain. Sometimes I like to add a couple of teaspoons of garlic paste to make garlic naan. You can be as inventive as you like in all honesty.

img_4569-2

I tend to cook mine in a frying pan – do not add any oil – but you can also cook them under the grill if you prefer, but be watchful as they bronze quickly.

img_4570-2

It takes no more than a minute or so to cook them and then I add some melted butter on top. Equally if you prefer you can add some melted ghee or even milk.

img_4573-2

My girls (and husband) love them both with a meal or an after school snack. Serve them warm and eat straight away. A wonderful treat and perfect for chilly February weather.

 

Homemade Naan Bread

makes around 9-10 naan bread

400g plain flour

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

5g dried yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg beaten

100g full fat plain yoghurt

100ml warm full fat milk

1 tbsp butter, melted

 optional: nigella/sesame seeds/fresh coriander as a topping

If you want to make garlic naan add a couple of tsp of garlic paste at the beginning and mix into the dough.

  1. In a large mixing bowl add the flour and then make a hole in the centre and pour in the oil, dried yeast, salt, sugar, baking powder and beaten egg.
  2. Mix gently using your hands and once it has become quite crumbly add the yoghurt and then continue to mix together.
  3. Now gradually add in the warm milk until all the mixture comes together.
  4. Remove from the bowl and place a little plain flour on a cold surface.
  5. Kneed the dough for 5 minutes until it become soft and pliable.
  6. Return to the bowl and cover with cling film and leave in a warm room for over an hour so that it can increase in size.
  7. When it is ready, split the dough into even balls and begin to roll them out thinly in oval shapes.  You may need a sprinkling of extra flour at this stage to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Pierce gently with a fork. If adding nigella/sesame seeds lay a few on the top and gently roll them into the top of the naan.
  8. Heat a non-stick frying pan. When it is properly hot add a naan bread and leave for around 20 seconds before turning over and leaving for a further 20 seconds. Turn once more for a few more seconds – or longer if it is not bronzing sufficiently.
  9. Remove from the pan and add a little melted butter to the top. Keep under a warm tea towel whilst you work on the remaining naan. As the naan’s I make are quite small I can often manage two in a pan at a time.

img_4572-2

 


Roasted Zaatar Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Quinoa Salad

img_4342-3

Whether you work in an office, from home, or not at all, having an enjoyable lunch gives the body both sustenance and also a boost to be productive for the rest of the day. Before the birth of my second daughter I worked for twelve years in the City (London’s financial district). Lunch times, whilst often eaten at my desk, were without doubt a highlight. Not that the work that I was doing was dull, far from it, but more that it was a nice interlude, even if it was for a very short period. Typically I would aim to seek out that latest lunch time hot spot, which seemed to sprout up in the city by the week, but occasionally I would bring in something from home. Curry’s were a no-no as the smell was too ‘in your face’ for an open plan office, so something a little more subtle needed to be created.

img_4338-3

Transporting food needs to be easy and fuss free. Whilst bowls of Vietnamese pho are wonderful, transporting liquid like that is certainly never going to fly if you travelling by London transport. Imaginative salads on the other hand do work well. Adding a dressing must be done when you are about to eat, otherwise everything gets a little limp and moist.

img_4341-3

This salad is versatile in that it can be transported for an office lunch at your desk or at home, eating on your own or in the company of a friend. I love everything about beetroot – from the vibrancy of the flesh, to the sweetness of the taste and the fact that they are fairly easy to source here in the UK. This salad requires very few ingredients – beetroot, zaatar, smooth lemony soft goats cheese, fresh mint, dry roasted pine nuts , preserved lemons and a little olive oil.

img_4346-3

For those who are unfamiliar with zaatar, it is the Arabic word for a wild thyme spice mix that is used in Levant cooking. Traditionally zaatar is made from a wild herb (with the same name), very similar to the thyme you find in the UK, that can be found in Lebanon.  However many of the zaatar blends that you can buy or make yourself are a mix of fresh oregano, marjoram and British thyme. My Lebanese friend has it for breakfast sprinkled on some pitta bread with some olive oil. It is very easy to get hold of either at specialist Middle Eastern shops or the large supermarkets here in the UK.

img_4347-3

The flavours and textures coming from all these ingredients complement each other well. Roasting beetroot takes a little time – just shy of an hour, but will last refrigerated for up to a week so you can make a batch and use them as required over the week.

Roasted Zaatar Beetroot, Goats Cheese and Quinoa Salad 

serves 2 portions

2 medium sized fresh beetroot

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2-3 tsp zaatar

120g quinoa

360ml cold water

40-60g soft goats cheese

handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped

20g pine nuts

2 slices of preserved lemons (or one small whole lemons)

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat an oven to 180 degrees fan.
  2. Remove the stems close to the base of the beetroot.
  3. Wash thoroughly and then rub the beetroot in the olive oil and cover with the half the quantity of zaatar above.
  4. Place in their own individual foil parcel and then roast in the oven for up to an hour. Check at intervals to see that they are softening. If they look a little dry add a tsp of water to the parcel.
  5. Place cold water into a pan with the quinoa and gently cook for 20 minutes, by which time the water will have been absorbed and the quinoa will be soft and ready to eat. Allow to cool.
  6. Heat a pan and when it is hot add the pine nuts and move around the pan for a couple of minutes, by which time they will have bronzed slightly. Place to one side.
  7. Once the beetroots have cooked allow to cool and then chop into rough cubes.
  8. Chop the preserved lemons into even smaller cubes than the beetroot.
  9. In a large mixing bowl, add the quinoa, pine nuts, fresh mint, beetroot cubes, lemon cubes and the remaining zaatar and mix gently.
  10. Finally break the goats cheese up with your hands and combine and then serve/store in a container to take to the office.

img_4344-3


Black Pepper Aniseed Chicken and Being on Editors’ Picks

img_4234

There has been a wonderful flurry of activity behind the scenes on my blog in the last 48 hours. My phone began to ping – indicating a new ‘follower’ and ‘buzz’ when a new like happened. They were happening more regularly than usual to the extent I began to wonder what on earth was going on. After a little digging around I realised that my blog had been selected as one of the ‘Editors’ Picks’ – The best of WordPress, selected by Editors at Automatic. I am beyond ecstatic as I have watched in awe over the years at the fascinating, motivating and uplifting blogs that are selected across a wide selection of genres.

So welcome to all the new followers of my blog. I hope you get the chance to have a good virtual wander around. I have so many recipes in my ‘recipe library’ that I hope to appeal to a wide audience. The common thread with all of them is that they will have herbs or spices working their magic within them. I am passionate about them and adore dishes from across the globe. When I come across a new ingredient I am the first to give it a whirl and see for myself if it is something that I can incorporate in my cooking going forward. In the last year I tried (and loved) kokum, (or as one sweet reader corrected me  kodampuli)  – see here  which has a tangy, distinct flavour, as well as sea urchin which I have been meaning to try for years – it was as delicious as I had envisaged.

img_4244

To get you started how about having a look and trying one of my Sunday go-to dishes Bengali red split lentil dal or perhaps you are more of a meat eater then try one of my fav Mexican dishes – Mexican chilli beef with butternut squash.  Keeping on the theme of butternut squash how about this vegetarian curry using the squash as the star ingredient – butternut squash, lemongrass, coconut and spinach curry . If you have more of a sweet tooth then this one is rather good and even made it’s way into the Telegraph newspaper in the UK – chocolate, chilli and cinnamon fondants with cardamom chantilly cream. If you can’t find what you are looking for just send me an email or leave a comment and I will try and point you in the right direction or will come up with a recipe for you in a future post.

Today however I wanted to share a south Indian chicken recipe with you that actually originates from Chettinadu. As Bengal is famous for cooking with mustard, so Chettinadu is renown for using black pepper to heat their dishes. This dish is one with great heat and packs a punch. If you are feeling a bit low with a cold then I can assure you this dish will more than perk you up again. You need to make your own masala, which takes minutes, and is so worth it, and then the actually cooking of the dish is completed within 40-45 minutes max. I have another Chettinadu dish on my blog (which requires more ingredients than this dish), which you may also want to check out if this recipe turns out to be a hit for you. Let me know how you get on in the comments box below.

 Black Pepper and Aniseed Chicken

2 tbsp oil

1 cinnamon stick

3 green cardamom pods, opened

2 white onions, roughly chopped

3 tsp garlic-ginger paste

2 fresh tomatoes, chopped

1kg chicken pieces on the bone (I find skinless thigh works well)

200ml water

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

Masala

2 tsp aniseed *

2 tsp cumin seeds

3 tsp black peppercorns

2 tsp coriander seeds

3 dried Kashmiri chillies

*if you don’t have aniseed you can use fennel seeds instead

  1. First heat a frying pan. When it is hot add the masala ingredients and move them around the pan for about 30 seconds to release their aromas. Place to one side then grind to a powder – I like to use my Krups one.
  2. In a different deep pan add the oil and when it is hot add cinnamon stick and cardamom pods followed by the onion and keep on a medium to low heat to allow the onion to bronze which will take around 8-10 minutes.
  3. Once the onion has bronzed sufficiently add the garlic-ginger paste and move around the pan for a couple of minutes before adding all of the ground masala.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer gently to allow them to soften.
  5. Add the chicken pieces and coat in the sauce. Add 100ml of water and place a lid on the pan.  Keep on a low heat and simmer for 40 minutes. You will need to add a further 100ml whilst cooking to give it more of a sauce (if you prefer it drier then omit this part). In the final 10 minutes remove the lid and allow the sauce to thicken.
  6. Serve alongside rice or perhaps some Indian flat bread.

Miso Chilli Vegetable Noodle Broth – A Winning Winter Warmer

img_4128

 

Earlier this week in London it was snowing – well trying to snow – unfortunately we only a brief flurry, but with the cold winds outside I felt an urge to have some broth, packed full of vegetables and a chilli kick, to warm me up from the inside out. I also wanted to use ingredients I had to hand in the house that needed eating up.

The result was a cracker of a meal. I had not planned to make it into a blog post but a number of you requested the details of the recipe after I posted the photo above on my instagram page.

It was filling, warming and slurptastic. I urge you to give it a whirl. It took minutes to prepare so was no hassle at all to throw together. So here is how to make a similar broth.

Miso Chilli Vegetable Noodle Broth

Feeds 1 (or two if you are less greedy) multiply up as required

1 tbsp olive oil

5 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1/2 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced

3  chestnut mushrooms, coarsely chopped

4 cubes of frozen spinach (fresh is obviously fine as well, but add this later)

2 heaped tsp of hikari light miso paste

1/4 tsp garlic chilli

a handful of fresh green beens, chopped

boiling water to cover

1 egg, boiled

2 medium tomatoes, quartered

1 portion of udon noodles

2 tsp of fried red onions (optional)

the miso paste, garlic chilli paste and fried red onions I buy from Korea Foods it is so worth going to stock up on Asian condiments, noodles, produce etc.

  1. Heat the oil in a deep pan and then and add the sliced garlic, fresh ginger and mushrooms. Move them around the pan for a minute making sure they do not burn. Keep the heat low to medium.
  2. Add the frozen spinach followed by the miso paste and chilli garlic. Continue to move around the pan for 20 seconds and then cover with boiling water.
  3. Boil an egg to your liking – I like my egg hard so I leave it to cook for almost 10 minutes then run it under cold water to prevent it cooking in its residual heat.
  4. Add the quartered tomatoes and the udon noodles and let them cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Serve the broth and noodles into a deep bowl and scatter with fried red onions and half the boiled egg and place on top.

Slurp away and a warm inner glow will be released within you. This is happy food at its absolute best.

Try it, share it and and take a photo and link it to #chilliandminthappybroth

Can’t wait to see how you all get on. Use up whatever veg you need finishing in your fridge – I used green beans and mushrooms as this is what I needed to finish up and they worked really well.

img_4135

 

 

 


Fish Medley Chowder

img_4105

Pick up a paper or food magazine and the big topic for January always tends to be how to detox and various diets to go on to help shift the excesses of the Christmas season. We all start with good intentions but as the weeks of January roll into February the new exercise class or diet doesn’t seem to hold the same appeal in quite the same way.

img_4104

I tend to follow the old adage ‘everything in moderation’ and in January and February I do try to eat less meat, eat a lot of vegetables – especially greens, have a few vegetarian days per week and eat lots of fish. Exercise is important all year around and whilst I have been a little slack on this of late, other than great long walks over the Christmas hols most days, I will gradually get into it again once my daughters go back to school.

As I am still without a fridge  – the process of replacing my old (10 month old) one with AEG is painful to say the least, I have had to be well organised when it comes to feeding the troops. Thankfully my freezer – which is separate to the fridge – is working well and has been keeping us going with frozen fish.

For todays blog post I am going to share my fish medley chowder which is healthy, filling and a one pot meal to feed the family. They all love it and give it a big thumbs up.  I picked up a fresh fish mix – which is perfect for fish pie – in waitrose, which included Atlantic cod, smoked haddock and Atlantic salmon. It’s been sitting in the freezer ready for when I need to thaw it and cook. The fish was already cut to size so there really was minimum effort on my part. Give it a whirl. It is hassle free and whilst it is effectively a soup is substantial enough to be a whole meal.

Happy New Year to you all. I hope to put up lots of inspiring recipes over the course of this year for you all. Here is to happy, healthy eating.

Fish Medley Chowder

1 good slice of butter

1 leek

1 onion

small bunch of fresh thyme kept whole

2 bay leaves

1 large potato/2 medium size, cut into bite sized cubes

salt and pepper to taste

800ml milk

1 vegetable/fish stock cube

100ml boiling water

sweetcorn from one corn on the cob (frozen sweetcorn is also fine)

500g cubed smoked haddock, salmon, cod

handful of fresh flat leaf parsley

  1. Place the butter in the pan – I find my Le Creuset casserole pan works well – and when it is melted add the leeks, onions, thyme and bay leaves.
  2. After 4 minutes or so the leeks and onions will have softened and become more transparent. Add the cubed potato and a little salt and pepper to the pan.
  3. After a further couple of minutes add 500ml of milk along with the vegetable/fish stock cube and the boiling water.
  4. Cut the sweetcorn off the cob and add to the pan – frozen is fine, in which case throw in a couple of handfuls.
  5. Allow to simmer gently on a low heat for 10 minutes or until the potato has softened. Add the extra milk gradually over this time.
  6. Add the fish cubes to the pan. Do not move around the pan too much as you do not want them to break. Simmer gently for 8-10 minutes by which time the fish will be nicely cooked. Taste and season further if necessary.
  7. Remove the bay leaves and fresh thyme bunch from the pan before serving.
  8. Serve in deep bowls with fresh parsley scattered on top.

 

 

 


Warming red onion dal after a bracing New Year’s Day walk

img_4035

It’s new year’s day and after a wet and overcast walk through Richmond Park, along the Thames to Ham House followed by a mulled wine pit stop at the New Inn in Ham, we made it back to the car as day was turning to night, just in time before the gates to the park closed.

img_4037

Wet, windswept and with ruddy cheeks we made it home to hot piping bowls of dal that I had made in advance and then gently reheated. It is the queen of comfort food. Nourishing, warming, simple, restorative and importantly an utter joy to eat. It’s the type of food that gives you a great big hug and an inner body glow. There are so many varieties of dal, it can never get boring to eat or make. In India it is eaten every day in some form or rather. I’m a convert and I hope you will become one too once you give some of my dals a go. This one gives red onion centre stage (although I realise it does not show it in the photos I took, trust me they are in there!) and you can reduce the number of chillies depending on your preference. I find that by chopping them in two you can then make sure they do not go into the bowls of children or those who are less keen on eating a chilli. Either way give it a whirl to warm your soul after a windswept walk. Happy New Year to you all, may 2017 be a great one.

Red Onion Dal

Serves 4

230g yellow mung dal

1 tbsp oil/ghee

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 red onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 green chillies, chopped in half

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

salt to taste

serve

squeeze of lemon

  1. In a deep pan add the dal and then cover it with cold water. Using one of your hands rub the dal through your fingers and move it around your pan. Pour the water out of the pan and repeat the process a couple of times.
  2. Finally cover the dal once again with cold water so that it is about an inch above the dal. Place on a low heat and keep the lid off the pan. You will need to keep adding more water as the dal cooks as it will get soaked up. It is not an exact science so just put a little in at a time so that it does not become too watery.
  3. Remove the scum that will form at the top of the dal and discard.
  4. Gently cook the dal for around 45 minutes, by which time it will have nicely softened.
  5. After the dal has been cooking for about 30 minutes place some oil in a frying pan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and allow them to begin to splutter before adding the red onion slices – I find slicing them with a mandolin works best.
  6. Move around the pan and allow the red onion to soften slightly before adding the garlic and chilli and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Add the turmeric powder and then add a couple of spoonfuls of the dal to the pan. Move the dal around the frying pan before returning the contents of the frying pan into the pan with the dal.
  8. Give a good stir and add salt to taste. If you are going to eat the dal later in the day, gently reheat it and add a little more water to loosen it up.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon.

img_4036