Keralan Chicken Stew

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Recently my family and I spent the day with a local Keralan family in Cochin: Lt. Col. Mathens, Moly and Philip. The intention was to spend the day with them cooking and eating so you can imagine how excited I was about this. After a good hours drive from our hotel we arrived at their house, still in Cochin but away from the old centre.

Before the cooking began we were given a guided tour of their garden, which grew all manner of spices, vegetables and fruit. They had planted this magnificent oasis themselves when they had bought the property some years before. It had been shrub land, but with such fertile soil, sunny weather and good rains in the monsoon, the vegetable garden had thrived beyond belief. There was no reason to go to the market to buy fresh produce as they had such a bounty waiting for them in the garden.

How many of the above can you recognise? Let me know in the comments box below.

We were showed at least thirty different vegetables, fruit and spices and to see them growing in their natural habitat was hugely memorable – although looking back through my photographs I cannot be certain about a couple of the plants. A return trip is necessary perhaps to further my education? Any excuse really!

After our garden tour we made our way to the kitchen where Moly explained the different dishes we would be cooking and the others she had prepared earlier that would accompany our feast.

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One of the dishes she showed us was her Keralan chicken stew. A couple of things that stood out with the way that she actually prepared the stew.

Firstly it was cooked on the bone, like all authentic curries should. Secondly she add the coconut milk in two stages. To begin with she added the thin coconut milk and at the very end she added the thicker, creamer coconut. The third point was that she added the thin coconut milk when some of the chicken was still pink. She did not measure anything as such, so I frantically took notes as to the approximate amount she was adding into her stew.

It does have a chilli kick to it with pepper, cardamom and clove notes resonating through the dish. By all means reduce the amount of chillies to suit your palate. I added a teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli powder, but this is not necessary and looking back in my notes I don’t believe Moly added it so for the recipe below I have omitted it although when I was testing the recipe I did add it, hence the photos have a red/orange hue to the dish. Yours will not have this in quite the same way if you follow the recipe below.

She did not measure out the coconut milk, but as it generously covered the chicken I think she must have used the equivalent of two tins of coconut milk or thereabouts. I find some brands of coconut milk have a thick creamy coconut milk at the top and a more water milk at the bottom. If you can try and get hold of these types of coconut milk.

Keralan Chicken Stew

serves 6

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 red onions , finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely diced

7 Kashmiri chillies

2 potatoes cubed

1 whole chicken (approx 1.2kg) skinned and chopped into 10-12 pieces

1tsp cardamom seeds

4 little pieces of cinnamon bark

1 1/2tsp fresh ground black pepper

10 cloves

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ginger powder

400ml tin of coconut milk

160ml tin of coconut cream

  1. In a deep pan – I find my Le creuset casserole works well – add the coconut oil. When it is hot add the mustard seeds and move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the onion, garlic and dried chillies. Leave to cook in the pan for 3 minutes. Keep on a medium low heat.
  2. Now add the cubed potatoes and stir into the other ingredients and allow to cook away for a further 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken and stir before placing the lid on the pan for 5 minutes. Some of the chicken will have whitened but do not be alarmed if some of the chicken is still a little pink at this stage.
  4. Add the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon bark, ginger powder and black pepper.
  5. Add the coconut milk and the salt. Put the lid back on the pan and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring at intervals.
  6. Test to see that the potato is soft and the chicken is cooked. Add more salt if necessary.
  7. At the very end turn the heat down very low and add the coconut cream and stir into the stew. It is important that you do not let it boil as the coconut cream will split.

Serve with rice, luchi, chapati or the traditional Keralan appam.

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Coconut Chutney (and a top tip at removing a coconut shell)

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Have you ever had trouble getting into a coconut or rather removing the outer shell so that the sweet flesh within is easy to tuck into? If you have then you are going to love the following tip.

All you need to do is the following:

  1. Place the coconut in the freezer for 30-45 mins.
  2. Remove from the freezer and then use a rolling pin to bang down on the coconut whilst holding it in your other hand. The outer shell will break away.
  3. Easy hey!

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Drinking the coconut milk is a whole lot easier this way I find.

So on to the coconut chutney.

Once you have the naked coconut you then need to peel it – the outer skin comes away so easily. Then it is simply a matter of grating the coconut.

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Using a whole coconut does produce a lot of coconut chutney, but I find it lasts for up to a week in the fridge no problem. A dollop on the side of some spiced semolina – upma, from my previous post, works wonders or equally it would be great with any south Indian curry. In southern India they eat coconut chutney as part of breakfast, lunch or supper so if you take a similar attitude it will be used up pretty fast!

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Coconut Chutney

1 coconut

2 tbsp chana dal, roasted

2 fresh green chillies

*****

tempering

2 tbsp vegetable/coconut oil

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

pinch of asafoetida/hing

2 dried red chillies

7 curry leaves

1 tsp salt

  1. Remove the shell from the coconut by placing it in a freezer for 30 minutes and then banging down on it carefully with a rolling pin.
  2. Remove the skin from the coconut using a potato peeler and then grate the coconut.
  3. In a frying pan dry roast the chana dal so they begin to bronze slightly. Let them cool and then use a spice grinder to grind them up.
  4. Place in a smaller blender along with the grated coconut and fresh green chillies. You will need to add a little water to loosen it up (the amount of water added depends on how thick you like your chutney! I tend to use 300ml). Blend to form a smooth paste. Add a little salt to taste.
  5. In a frying pan heat the oil and when it is hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, the dried chillies, curry leaves and hing. Move around the pan for 20 seconds before pouring over the coconut chutney.
  6. Stir into the chutney and serve.

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Simple Chicken Curry – when your spice cupboard is bare

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If you are starting out cooking curries or if you are running low on spices, then this is the curry for you as it only requires chilli powder – I tend to opt for the Kashmiri chilli powder for it’s deep red colour and its subtle heat. It also includes onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and chillies, which are pretty much fridge staples for me and I’m guessing you too! So it is ridiculously straightforward to make with minimum fuss.

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I like to use boneless and skinless chicken thighs for this curry, but breast meat is fine too – it’s really up to you. Like with most curries it can be cooked well in advance and then slowly reheated adding a little water if necessary. You can reduce the amount of fresh chillies if you want it less hot, but I find adding two fresh green chillies is fine for my 9 year old – I would cook a separate curry however for my 5 year old.

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Simple Chicken Curry

Serves 4

9 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 red onions, roughly chopped

2 inch piece of ginger, skin removed and roughly chopped

2 fresh chillies, roughly chopped

4 medium sized tomatoes roughly chopped

1 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder

2tbsp water

*****

2 tsp groundnut oil

800g boneless and skinless chicken thigh, chopped into bite sized pieces

1 tsp salt

coriander to garnish (optional)

1. Using a blender add the garlic, onions, chillies, tomatoes, ginger and chilli powder. Depending on how juicy your tomatoes are you may need to add a little water to make the paste smooth.

2. Heat the groundnut oil in a pan and add the chicken. Move it around the pan for a couple of minutes so that it whitens. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place to one side.

3. Using the same pan add the paste and gently fry for 45 minutes so that it thickens and allows the flavours to come through.

4. Return the chicken to the pan and add the salt. Simmer gently for a further 7 minutes, coating the chicken in the spiced tomato sauce.

5. Serve with a coriander garnish with either rice or flat bread.

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Spiced Pilau Rice

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As winter is officially here and the nights are drawing in so our diet begins to crave more hearty filling food. Stew and warming curries get given centre stage during the winter months, well at least they do in my household. I realise that I have never posted a pilau rice dish, which would be a great accompaniment with a wide range of curries. Plain basmati rice is all very well but if you delicately spice it and accompany it with some nuts or fruit, it just adds a lovely new fragrant dimension to the meal and really only takes a couple of extra minutes to prepare.

I find my spiced pilau rice is really versatile as it works equally well with Middle Eastern dishes as well as Indian curries.

 

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The three C’s are wonderful spices: cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick and give a warming aroma to any dish. I also have a particular weakness for cardamom in sweet dishes, but that’s for another post. Star anise not only looks inviting but also has a delicate aniseed smell and taste and is used a lot in Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. The queen of spices is saffron – one of the most expensive so it is used sparingly, hence only a pinch used in this dish. If you do not have saffron you could use a generous pinch of ground turmeric instead, which will give a yellow hue.

 

 

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I used blanched almonds this time, but depending on what is in my cupboard I may use cashew nuts or even unsalted peanuts. If you are serving a more Middle Eastern dish then pistachio nuts would also work really well.

Let me know how you get on. Send me a photo of your dish and accompanying curry to my twitter account and I will retweet it to all my followers. Is there any particular pilau rice that you make at home? How does if differ to my spiced pilau?

 

 

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Spiced Pilau Rice

serves 4

1/2 tbsp ghee/butter

7cm cinnamon stick, broken in two

2 star anise

4 cardamom pods, slightly opened

3 cloves

190g basmati rice (Approx one handful per person)

350ml cold water

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp hot milk

1 large pinch of saffron (or ground turmeric)

1 tsbp rose water

2 tbsp blanched almonds or cashew nuts

1. First rinse the rice a couple of times with cold water so that the water runs clear and not cloudy. Drain and set aside. If you have time then soak the rice in cold water for 10 minutes then drain.

2. Heat the milk and then place the saffron in the milk. Give a good stir. Leave to soak whilst you prepare the rice.

3. In a pan heat the ghee or butter and when it is melted add the star anise, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick. Let them sizzle away for half a minute, before adding the drained rice and salt and stirring together. Add the cold water. As a rule I always make sure that the water is about 1/3 of your smallest finger above the rice. Stir and then let the rice come to the boil which will take a couple of minutes.

4. Once it has come to the boil, turn the heat down and place the lid on the pan. Let the rice gently cook and steam away for 8 minutes. By this time small holes will have appeared in the top of the rice. Turn the heat off and leave the lid on the rice so that it can steam for a further 10 minutes.

5. In a small frying pan dry roast the blanched almonds or cashew nuts for a couple of minutes so that they begin to bronze.

6. Place the saffron milk and rose water over the rice and then gently fluff it up with a fork.

7. Scatter over a platter with the nuts over the top.

Serve with any Indian dal, vegetable, meat or fish curry. It also works really well with Middle Eastern meat or fish dishes.

 

 

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Spicy Black Eye Bean Curry

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This is my final recipe for June supporting the ‘Curry for Change‘ – Find Your Feet campaign. I hope you have enjoyed my journey through the hamper of goodies kindly supplied to me by Natco Foods as part of the ‘Blogger’s Challenge‘. I have enjoyed experimenting with some ingredients that were new to me and as a consequence will be incorporating them as part of my diet going forward.

Out of the four recipes I posted I’m curious as to which YOU liked the look of most. Was it the Indian Powa Fuel, or my Lotus Seed/Phool Makhana Curry, my Dried Ginger and Lentil Spiced Chicken Balti or the one that I have posted today? Don’t be shy now…be brave and leave a little comment below.

I hope that I may have encouraged you to host a curry evening of your own to support the wonderful charity Find Your Feet – see details on the Curry for Change site. If you do I would love to hear how it went.

Over the next few weeks I will be tempting you with some refreshing, fragrant and tasty summer salads that you can pull together for a BBQ, summer picnic or a leisured lunch at home.

Now I must return to watching Wimbledon. The summer season has begun.

Spiced Black Eye Bean Curry

250g black eye beans

275g/3 medium sized red onion, roughly chopped

250g/3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 tsp garlic paste

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

3 bay leaves

1 3inch stick of cinnamon

4 cloves

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp mango powder (also known as amchoor powder)

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

salt to taste

500ml of cold water

1. Soak the black eye beans in a bowl of cold water overnight. Rinse them the following day and place in a saucepan along with boiling water to cover them. Simmer on a medium heat for around 30 minutes, or until the black eye beans have softened. Drain and place to one side.

2. In a blender add the onions and blend to a smooth paste. You may need to add a little water to help it become more paste like in consistency. Remove from the blender and place in a bowl to one side.

3. Rinse the blender and then add the tomatoes and blend so that a smooth paste forms. Remove from the blender and place in a bowl to one side.

4. In a deep pan or karahi add the vegetable oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves. Stir them around the pan for 30 seconds.

5. Add the onion paste and a little salt to the pan and lower the heat so that the onion cooks through and begins to bronze slightly. This will take around 10 minutes.

6. Add the garlic paste, followed by the turmeric powder, coriander powder, mango powder, Kashmiri chilli powder and garam masala. Stir in thoroughly to the onion, garlic paste. Cook for a further 3 minutes.

7. Now add the tomato paste along with 50 ml water and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes.

8. Place the black eye beans into the curry and cover them in the sauce along with up to 450 ml of water, depending on how thick you like your sauce to be.

9. Simmer for a further 5 minutes and add more salt if necessary and serve.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of natural yogurt on the side. I like to make homemade chapatis to go alongside this curry. I realise I need to post a recipe on how to make them so watch this space….they are ridiculously easy and great fun for all the family to make.


Lotus Seed/Phool Makhana Curry

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Continuing on the theme of providing an Indian dish for you each week, through the month of June, as part of Curry for Change, I hereby introduce a curry that I imagine many of you have never come across before – Lotus Seeds – otherwise known in India, as Phool Makhana. When Natco foods sent me a huge box of goodies for me to create a dish as part of a competition for food bloggers, (more about this click here from last weeks post), a large packet of phool makhana – popped lotus seeds – definitely stood out. They look very similar to popcorn or little cotton balls.

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In all honesty I had not eaten or even seen lotus seeds before, which was even more of a reason to experiment and give them a try. I discovered that they are greatly valued for their nutritional (powerful antioxidants) and healing properties, especially in Chinese medicine. In India, the state of Bihar produces the most amount of lotus seeds, largely owing to it’s climate and geography. They are  grown in stagnant water of wetlands, ponds and lakes and are completely organic. The seeds themselves can be eaten raw, fried or toasted – I opted for the latter as I was putting them in a curry.

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This curry is a winner for anyone wanting to avoid meat. It’s quick and easy to execute and kind on your waste line. It’s also rather tasty! We try to have meat free mondays, so this curry will definitely be making more appearances going forward. Have a look out for the seeds when you next visit your local Asian grocers.

Oh and if are wondering how I got on with the bloggers curry competition….you are going to have to wait an extra week as I don’t want to spill the beans before it’s official….(clue: it wasn’t me but will reveal more soon ;o)

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Lotus Seed/Phool Makhana Curry 

Serves 4 (or 6 if serving with other dishes)

60g lotus seeds/phool makhana

1 tsp olive oil

50g cashew nuts, soaked in 100ml of warm water

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

2 large tomatoes, finely chopped

2 tsp ginger and garlic paste

1 tsp Kasmiri chilli powder (less if you prefer it less hot)

1/2 tsp tumeric powder

1 tsp garam masala

2 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp salt

70g frozen peas

2 tsp dried fenugreek/methi leaves

200ml water

1. Place the olive oil in a non-stick saucepan and gently fry, stirring continuously, the lotus seeds for 5 minutes to allow them to bronze slightly and crisp up.

2. Place in a bowl and leave to one side.

3. In the same non-stick pan gently fry the onion for 5 minutes to allow to soften and become translucent. Add the garlic ginger paste and stir into the onions. After a minute, add the tomatoes and stir into the other ingredients.

4. Now add the Kashmiri chilli powered, turmeric, coriander powder, garam masala and salt. Stir well and leave to simmer for 3 minutes.

5. Transfer the contents of the pan into a blender and then return to the blender once you have a smooth sauce. Continue to simmer for a couple of minutes.

6. Place the cashew nuts, and the water they are soaking in, into a blender to form a paste. I find that my spice grinder works well at blending the nuts smoothly (do not add the water to the spice grinder!) and then stir into the water after they have been ground up. Add to the main pan and simmer for a minute.

7. Add the dried fenugreek/methi leaves and the peas and stir into the smooth sauce along with 200ml of water and simmer.

8. After 5 minutes add the lotus seed and stir thoroughly into the sauce. Simmer for a further couple of minutes then serve.

9. Serve with some chopped fresh coriander and a wedge of lemon.

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Dried Ginger and Lentil Spiced Chicken Balti and the Curry For Change Campaign

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For the month of June folks, I’m going to share recipes that include some of the ingredients that were kindly sent to me by Natco foods as part of the ‘Curry for Change campaign’ competition. As part of the competition, food bloggers had to use at least 3 ingredients to come up with an original curry that would be easy to replicate at home by YOU.  Check out the varied array of goodies they sent me. My mind was working in overdrive to come up with a curry that would appeal from a taste and ease perspective.

I’m curious as to what you would have created using some of the ingredients below…..leave a comment for us all to see.

IMG_8956 But first let me take a few steps back to explain what ‘Curry for Change Campaign’ is all about and how you too can get involved.

In short, the campaign is about raising awareness of families who suffer from hunger across the world and how by cooking or eating a curry can help support a wonderful charity called ‘Find Your Feet’. The charity helps rural communities in Asia and Africa by giving them the knowledge and skills to become self sufficient and feed their families and communities. Rather than just offering handouts the charity gives the communities knowledge, understanding and education that allows them to bring themselves out of poverty and hunger. You can read more about the charity – here.

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You are probably wondering how eating or cooking a curry is going to actually help these communities?

Well a number of well-known Indian restaurants across the capital, in June, have thrown themselves into the campaign by creating a number of special dishes to help raise money for the cause. For those of you who are keen cooks, however, you can sign up for a Curry for Change event pack http://www.curryforchange.org.uk  for you to host a spicy night in with friends. All your friends need to do is to donate what they would spend on a typical Indian take-out. The pack includes spices from Natco Foods, cooking tips and recipes from the campaign ambassadors. On top of that you will also have my recipes over the month to give you more ideas on what to cook as well as my extensive list of recipes in my recipe library.

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So what are you waiting for? Do leave comments below and let us know how you get on. Spread the word on this exciting campaign. I’ll be giving you details of who won the competition in my next post ;o)….so watch this space.

Dried Ginger and Lentil Spiced Chicken Balti

5 tbsp vegetable oil

10g dried ginger

1 tbsp shredded coconut

500g chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

1 tsp turmeric

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 tsp garlic paste

2 tsp salt

1x 4 inch piece of cassia bark, broken in two

2 green chillies, stalk removed but kept whole

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

6 large tomatoes (900g), finely chopped

400g boiling water

100g yellow split peas

*******

to make the Tarka

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 dried red chillies

10 fresh curry leaves (or dried if you can’t get hold of fresh)

Ingredients in bold were part of the Natco hamper sent to me.

1) Heat a large deep pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. When it is hot add the dried ginger and move around the pan for under a minute. Remove the ginger and place in a spice grinder/blender along with the shredded coconut.

2) In a bowl add the chicken pieces, turmeric powder, the ground dried ginger and shredded coconut as well as one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Stir well so that all the chicken pieces are coated. Leave to rest whilst you prepare the rest of the dish.

3)  In the same large deep pan that you heated the dried ginger, add 3 further tablespoons of vegetable oil. When it is hot add the onion and gently fry it until it begins to brown in colour. Add the garlic paste, salt, Kashmiri chilli powder and cassia bark and stir for a few minutes.

4) Add the spiced chicken pieces to the pan and stir into all the other ingredients. Place a lid on the pan and allow the chicken to whiten and begin to bronze in places. Stir at intervals. This will take around 10 minutes.

5) Add the chopped tomatoes and the boiling water, which will allow the yellow split peas to cook easily. Continue to cook the curry on a medium heat for 20 minutes with the lid on. Then remove the lid and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

6) In a separate small pan heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds, dried red chilli and curry leaves –  this will be the tarka. The cumin seeds will begin to sizzle almost immediately. Move the ingredients around the pan for one minute and then pour into the main pan when ready to serve.

Serve with either plain rice, naan, paratha or puri.

Note: If you prefer less of a sauce keep the lid off the pan for a little longer, which will allow the sauce to thicken and reduce.

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New York Wanderings and a Traditional Bengali Chicken Curry

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I’ve been doing a spot of travelling since my last blog post, hence the slight delay. Mr B and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary with a long weekend in New York. It’s been a decade since I last visited so was really eager to catch up with friends and immerse myself in a city that has the most wonderful, infectious energy and of course, never sleeps.

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We parked ourselves in The Standard, East Village with it’s fabulous vistas spanning the whole of Manhattan with it’s floor to ceiling windows; I never tired of the view from our bedroom.

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The hotel totally lived up to our (high) expectations and the staff made a real effort to make our stay extra special. Would I return? Most definitely.

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Sunrise on our first morning from our room

We walked and walked and walked for hours on end, exploring the little streets in the Villages and Soho with it’s stunning wrought ironwork on the sides of the buildings.

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To give us bursts of energy we would refuel with fresh juices from the juice trailers parked in the streets. With around 80 different juice combinations to choose from it was hard to decide which one to pick. At around $4 a pop they are great value and ridiculously healthy – a win win.

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They cleanse the body and totally refresh the tired wanderer. Competitively priced and they would do so well here in London – a great business idea for a budding entrepreneur!!

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The stunning High Line with the old tracks visible

The High Line really impressed us – a great example of urban regeneration. It’s a stunning elevated greenway mile that used to be the New York central rail road spur, known as the West Side Line. It spans the meat packing district all the way up to Chelsea and is cleverly designed with shrubs, plants and trees interspersed with benches and seating areas around and on top of the old tracks. I particularly loved the raised seating, similar to an amphitheatre that looks over one of the roads with a huge glass window.

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Clever designs and architecture throughout the High Line

Instead of watching a movie you sit and watch the traffic buzz beneath you. Later in the day when I was passing underneath it in a taxi it almost looked like advertising poster, and then I saw the people moving around. A clever effect and a fun way to be creative with the old rail road.

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Walkways along the High Line 

The peace and serenity that the High Line offers is a welcome respite from the manic life that goes on down below. If you are planning a trip my recommendation would be to go early as it definitely becomes crowded as the run rises higher in the sky.

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Me sitting on the attractive wooden seating on the High Line

Friends beckoned us over to Brooklyn, a place I definitely want to explore further on my next visit, to an area that is gentrifying and that has become rather hip – called Dumbo. Looking across at Manhattan from the Brooklyn side of New York, gave a new perspective to this sprawling city. The sun was shining and the crowds were out and if the ice cream queue at The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory had anything to go by the area of Dumbo has becoming hugely popular.

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Looking back at Manhattan from Dumbo in Brooklyn

A couple other must-see destinations for foodies is the Italian food emporium of Eataly, which is just by the famous Flatiron building, which in itself is piece of interesting architecture worth seeing.

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 The famous Flatiron building

It’s only a matter of time before we’ll see an Eataly in London, having already got branches outside the US in Dubai, Japan, Istanbul and Italy itself.  The shop is bursting at the seems with delicious Italian produce, and yet it has a calm serenity that makes wandering around it very pleasant indeed. There are bars and a couple of cafe’s (the one on the roof is perfect for sunny summer days and has a huge selection of beers) and it’s quite acceptable to browse around the store with a glass of wine in your hand. All very civilised if you ask me.

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The other food mecca worth seeking out is Chelsea Market, not far from the High Line, so perhaps the perfect pit stop after a High Line stroll. It’s a stunning food court with a great atmosphere and an incredible choice of eateries, bars and cafes.

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strolling through Chelsea Market – loving the exposed bricks

Aside from eating, walking and socialising we managed to squeeze in a little culture with a visit to the ‘The Frick Collection’ . Based in the Upper East Side it gave us a great excuse to explore the neighbourhood and central park. The collection itself is fascinating and housed in the mansion of the wealthy industrialist Henry Frick, one of America’s greatest art collectors who died in 1919. His house contains many masterpieces of painting, sculpture and decorative art that the public are freely allowed to view and admire. He bequeathed the house and all it’s contents to the public upon his death. It’s a relatively small collection so won’t take too long to amble around so is easy to fit into a quick stop in New York. Go visit.

New York is jammed full of incredible restaurants. A list of some of those we visited is listed below:

The Dutch – happening bar with tasty American food and an exciting wine list. Based in Soho.

Lafayette – sister restaurant to The Dutch (we did not realise this at the time). Larger in size to The Dutch and a little more formal. More French style menu.

Atrium – This Dumbo restaurant is buzzy with a delicious brunch/lunch menu. Mr B found the pulled pork bun too small for his liking – I on the other hand found the size spot on. Interesting foliage structure upon the main wall.

Spice Market – based in the Meatpacking District across the road from Soho House. Old kid on the block but still going strong. Large restaurant so not intimate and filled with locals, but seriously tasty Asian food.

Noho Star – Neighbourhood cafe in East Village. Highly recommend the spicy Mexican Huevos Rancheros. Deeeelish.

Cafe Standard – Within the Standard Hotel East Village, this hip eatery is always buzzing and has a great menu with delicious juices.

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Back in London we craved spicy Indian food so rustled up one of our favourite chicken curries. We tend to cook it on the bone (seriously it tastes much better this way), but if the thought of cooking and eating off the bone doesn’t appeal simply cook the curry with breast and boneless chicken thighs instead.

Eating nourishing, homely food also really helps with jetlag ;0)

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Traditional Bengali Chicken Curry

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 chicken, cut into 10/12 pieces and skin removed

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

4 cloves

5 cardamom pods, split open

1 pieces of cinnamon bark, split into three

2 tsp salt

8 garlic cloves, kept whole

2 tsp of fresh ginger paste

4 medium potatoes, chopped in two

2 or 3 large carrots, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 tbsp natural yoghurt

2 tbsp of tinned chopped tomatoes

1. In a large deep pan heat up the oil. Place the onion in the oil and gently fry until the onion becomes translucent and soft. This should take around 5 minutes.

2. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and allow them to whiten completely. Turn them at intervals so that all sides of the chicken pieces are white. This will take around 10 minutes.

3. Once whitened add all the spices and salt followed by the potatoes, garlic cloves, carrots, tomatoes and yoghurt. Stir in well so that the chicken and vegetables are completely coated in the spices.

4. On a medium heat allow the curry to cook through, stirring at intervals. No extra water is needed as the chicken pieces release plenty of water during cooking.

5. After 40 minutes the curry should be completely cooked. Using a knife make sure the carrots and potatoes are soft. If they remain hard, stir into the sauce and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve with rice or Indian bread. As it is on the bone it is easier to eat the traditional Indian way – with your right hand -but I’ll leave that for you to decide.


Red Thai Tofu, Aubergine and Egg Curry

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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been cooking loads of Indian food – recipe testing mainly. I  had been sent a fabulous hamper from Natco foods as part of the Curry4Change competition that I’m taking part in –  details on this will follow in June as YOU too can get involved.

I am now craving food from a different region and a rather delicious vegetarian Thai dish caught my attention recently, cooked by John Torode as part of one of the invention tests in the 2014 Masterchef series. I find the series completely addictive and a pleasure to watch. The invention test in particular is always rather exciting as it really demonstrates how much flair and knowledge of cooking the contestant really has. Basically the contestants get two boxes to chose from, one savoury and the other sweet – no prizes for guessing which I would always choose! After electing a box they have to create a dish using some of the ingredients within the box as well as a few staple ingredients that they are all given. Before the contestants dive in John has a go at choosing one of the boxes (away from the contestants), typically he too always chooses the savoury box. This time he created a red Thai aubergine, tofu, egg curry, which I thought looked delicious, spicy and relatively light – a dish that was beckoning me to cook.

Here is my version of the dish inspired from the John Tororde’s creation. I have a feeling that John may have included red peppers in his paste but I opted to not put them in – I leave it to you to decide.

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Red Thai Tofu, Aubergine and Egg Curry

The proportions below will allow you to cook this dish a few times – freeze the paste left over.

To make the paste

5cm fresh galangal

5cm fresh ginger

3 cloves of garlic

13 small shallots (half that if they are larger in size)

3 small piece kaffir lime peel

4 large dried red chilli, soak for 10 mins in warm water to soften

2 fresh small red chillies

2 lemongrass sticks

1 tsp shrimp paste

1. If you have a gas hob, simply place all the ingredients, aside for the shrimp paste, on a rack and place over the flame so that the ingredients char slightly. This will give the paste a lovely smokey flavour. I did exactly the same thing when I was in Vietnam and made Pho – see here.

2. If you do not have a gas hob, simply place them into a pan (do not add oil) and let them heat and char this way.

3. Once the ingredients have charred and cooled, place into a blender and add the shrimp paste. Blend until you can get it as smooth as you can.

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To make the curry itself

Serves 4

5 tbsp vegetable oil

800g firm tofu, cut into 3 cm cubes

4 tsp homemade curry paste

300g aubergine – if using baby aubergines cut into quarters, otherwise cut into 7x2cm matchsticks

400ml creamy coconut milk (1 tin)

4 eggs

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

3 pak choi

100ml water

1/2 lime, juice only

1. Firstly make sure the tofu is completely dry as it will then fry a lot better. I usually take the tofu out its packet a couple of hours before using and then place on kitchen roll so that it soaks up all the excess water.

2. Using a non-stick pan place a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pan and when it is hot carefully add the tofu cubes. Fry on a low heat so that the tofu bronzes delicately. This should not take much more than 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile on a low heat, in a wok or karahi, add a couple more tablespoons of vegetable oil and add the thai paste. Stir around in the oil and add the aubergine and coat in the paste. You may find you need to add another tablespoon of oil at this stage as the aubergines do need quite a bit to cook.

4. As the aubergines begin to soften add the creamy coconut milk and the eggs in their shells. They will become hard boiled from cooking gently in the coconut milk.

5. Add the caste sugar and salt to taste.

6. Add the lime juice and then five minutes before serving add the pak choi and a little extra water. Remove the shells from the eggs and cut in half.

7. Serve in a bowl with a small bowl of rice on the side. John added roasted sesame seeds in his, which is a nice touch.

NB: My local Thai grocers said that they do not use fresh chillies in their red thai paste, but I decided to add a couple of help with the heat and colour.

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PS: I realise I’ve been cooking rather a lot of  dishes that include aubergine/eggplant lately. I do apologise if you can’t stand the vegetable. I don’t actively come up with recipes that include it but realise this is the third recipe that includes aubergines that I’ve cooked in the last month or so.  I promise there will be no aubergines for a while as you are probably being polite and are actually really sick of them ;o).


Mustard, Coconut and Colombo Spices Salmon Curry

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A couple of weeks ago I was approached on behalf of Maison Maille the purveyor of fine mustards, oils and vinegars, who have been in existence since 1747 and who have recently opened their first London store at 2 Piccadilly Arcadeto be part of the ‘Maille Culinary Challenge‘. It’s open for food blogger and food reviewers and as such I thought I would throw myself into the challenge and create a dish using one of their products in a recipe that I have devised especially for them and which I hope my readers will try and make.

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The recipes entered will be judged on four main criteria: creativity, originality, taste and visual appeal. I hope the curry I have created ticks all the boxes and in addition is easy for others to attempt to make at home. There is nothing more frustrating when you see a fabulous recipe but to create it involves so many steps and ingredients that it actually puts you off.  I want my recipes to be user friendly and to actually encourage people to cook and try new flavours and tastes. There is a whole flavour universe out there waiting to be sampled so be courageous and follow the simple steps below to try this recipe.

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Using mustards, in fish curries in particular, is very common in Bengal where my husband originates from and so I thought that would be a good starting point when coming up with a recipe. I was immediately attracted to the mustard that had coconut and Colombo spices as I thought that they would work really well in a curry. Unlike some coconut curries, which are very creamy, this curry is far more delicate and light and perfect for spring time. I was also conscious not to suppress the wonderful flavours of the mustard, so chose a range of ingredients that I believe complement the mustard perfectly. I hope you agree. Do leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Let’s see what the judges say. Fingers crossed!

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Mustard, Coconut and Colombo Spices Salmon Curry

Serves 4

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

2 green chillies, halved lengthways

10 fresh curry leaves (or dried if you cannot find fresh)

15g of fresh ginger, cut into wafer thin batons

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 tsp ground turmeric

600g salmon fillets (5 pieces)

200ml boiling water

2 tsp Maille Noix de Coco et Spices Colombo

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp caster sugar

1. Gently heat a wide deep pan or karahi with 3 tbsp of vegetable oil. When it is hot add the nigella seeds and move them around the pan and then immediately add the fresh chilli, curry leaves and turmeric. Stir together and then add the ginger and spring onions. Toss in the pan for a minute.

2. Add the salmon fillets – skin side down – and leave them to gently bronze for a further minute. Do not keep touching them as you do not want them to break up.

3. Mix the Maille Noix de Coco et Spices Colombo with 200ml of boiling water and stir thoroughly. Add to the pan so that the salmon fillets are virtually covered.

4. Add the salt and caster sugar and stir gently into the sauce. Spoon some of the liquid onto the salmon and then place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Continue to spoon the liquid onto the salmon fillets a couple of times during the ten minutes. (Depending on the thickness of your salmon the fillets should be cooked by ten minutes. If, when gently cutting into the fillet, it looks a little pink leave for a further couple more minutes with the lid on the pan).

Serve with basmati rice.

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If you are not going to be in London town anytime soon you can order from Maille online HERE if you are based in the UK or France. A few products are on the US site which you can find HERE with more to be added next year.

Thank you to Maille for kindly providing me with the mustard for this post and also the ‘sweet apricot and curry mustard’, which I hope to use in a new recipe soon.