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.

 

 

 


Fish Medley Chowder

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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.

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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.

 

 

 


Mediterranean Fish En Papillote

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I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest on Wandsworth Radio by the bubbly Emma Gordon aka Mrs Stylist. She also runs a great instagram feed brightening up each day with styling inspiration and pops of colour. As well as working as a stylist she also hosts the ‘Wandsworth Workday’ slot every Tuesday from 1-4pm. She wanted me to come and talk all things food and blogging with her and her audience.

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Before you ask, no I am not wearing an Ascot creation hat. I know it looks that way but really it’s the logo of the Wandsworth radio and my sunnies (it gets mighty bright in the studio) !!

During the course of the afternoon we covered a number of topics, but one thing that came up was how to cater for friends and family who really can’t handle spice. My answer was to go along the herb route by serving guests ‘en papillote’ style, which basically means ‘in parchment’.

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It is a fabulous, fuss free way to cook fish as you make individual parcels and then pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Within each parcel you have a complete meal in a little ‘present’ which guests can open up themselves on their plates. It’s super simple and other than compiling the parcels before guests arrive, you really don’t need to do too much, thus freeing you up to enjoy your guests company.

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You really don’t need that many ingredients. The only ones that I have not included in this shot are a small knob of butter and a splash of white wine.

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You can use whatever fish you like, but typically I use seabass, bream, cod, trout and salmon – just make sure it is MSC certified. You can also have the fish filleted or kept whole, both ways work equally well, although the latter requires more ‘work’ for your guests.

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When you wrap the fish you need to make sure that you keep an air space within it – so don’t wrap it too tightly. The smells when you open your parcel are wonderful and very reminiscent of the flavours of the mediterranean.

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The taste of the whole dish is sweet from the tomatoes and basil, salty from the olives, zingy from the lemons and the flesh of the fish just falls apart. It really is a whole meal in a parcel.

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Mediterranean Fish En Papillote

serves 1 (simply x by how many you are serving)

baking parchment

2 or 3 slices of a large potato, thinly slice lengthways

small knob of butter, optional

pinch salt

pinch black pepper

200g fish (white or pink filleted or unfilleted works well – this time I used cod)

2 or 3 thin slices of lemon

1 vine of cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp of pitted black Kalamata olives

5 fresh basil leaves

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp white wine

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade if you are using fan or 20 degrees higher if you are not.
  2. Place the thinly sliced potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes and then drain and dry completely. Place to one side.
  3. Tear off some baking parchment at least three times larger than the length of your fish.
  4. Place a couple of thinly sliced potatoes in the middle of baking parchment.
  5. Place a small knob of butter (optional) and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and then lay the fish on top.
  6. Next lay some thinly sliced lemons on top of the fish followed by the vine of cherry tomatoes.
  7. Place the olives over and around the fish.
  8. Add the fresh basil leaves and sprinkle a little more salt and pepper and add the white wine on top.
  9. To seal the fish ‘en papillote’ you simply need to bring up the top and bottom pieces of baking parchment and fold them over a couple of times, making sure that there is a nice air vacuum between the fish and the baking parchment. At either end fold over as if you are wrapping a present and then tuck each end underneath the fish.
  10. Place in the centre of the oven for 22 minutes, by which time the fish will be soft and flakey and the potatoes will be equally soft.
  11. Serve immediately. Place one ‘en papillote’ on each plate and allow your guests to unwrap their present.

Important Notes:

  • You do not need to add butter, you can simply add the white wine and extra virgin olive oil
  • Sometimes I omit the boiling first of the potatoes, but I think to be on the safe side it is best to boil the potatoes for 5 minutes first so that they soften at the same time as the fish.
  • You can also add thinly sliced red onions if you fancy.
  • Adding asparagus is also another great option
  • Thyme or lemon thyme also works well for this dish if you don’t have basil to hand

I would love to hear how you get on. What personal twists do you add to this dish?

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Kolkata Style Mustard Mackerel Curry

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Bengalis love fish in a big way.  Mention ilish/hilsa or rui and their eyes will light up. In Kolkata the use of mustard seeds, mustard oil and mustard paste is used in a lot of their cooking. For this dish I have used mackerel as it is easy to source in the UK, is super tasty and is packed full of omega 3 fatty acids – the type of fats that are good for our health. For those who have been following my blog for quite a few years will recognise this recipe as I realise I posted a very similar one with bream back in 2013. You can see it here.

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This dish is something that can be rustled up in no time at all – from start to finish is max 15 minutes and unlike many mackerel curries, the fish is not fried. My mother-in-law cooks it fairly frequently so it has naturally become one of my staple dishes too.

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There is no need for onion or garlic in this dish, the ingredients are very simple: turmeric, nigella seeds, fresh chillies, chilli powder, wholegrain and English mustard and fresh coriander/cilantro. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

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Kolkata Style Mustard Mackerel Curry

Serves 4

3 mackerel, cut into 4 pieces (you can keep the head if you wish, which would make 5 pieces)

4 tbsp oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

4 fresh chillies, slit at the top to release some seeds

3 heaped tsp of wholegrain mustard

2-3 heaped tsp English mustard

pinch of chilli powder

75ml water

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Heat the oil and when it is hot add the nigella seeds, turmeric, chilli powder followed by both mustard pastes and the fresh chilli. Move around the pan for up to a minute.
  2. Add approximately 25ml of water, salt and then add the fish. Be careful not to move them around too much as you do not want them to break and fall apart. Place a lid on the pan.
  3. After a few minutes cooking add a further 50ml water and gently turn the fish over and replace the lid on the pan.
  4. Cook for 12 minutes and then take off the heat.
  5. Before serving sprinkle fresh coriander leaves. If cooking ahead of time gently reheat the fish adding a little more water and then add the coriander leaves.

Serve with rice or Indian breads.

As a side note: this dish is fabulous to eat as leftovers the next day. I like to add a little more water, a heap of fresh spinach and a couple of tomatoes quartered. It tastes delicious.


Coconut, Coriander and Mint Cod and an exciting competition

IMG_9515Being an island nation we tend to be more conscious of our seas and the fish within them than perhaps landlocked countries. That said I have always wondered why, like the Japanese, we don’t eat more fish in our diet. Growing up my parents would always have fish on Friday, which was pretty typical of Christian families of their generation. Today however, I don’t wait for Friday to have fish and on average we probably eat seafood a couple of times a week.

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I try to be as innovative as possible (see here for my post on foraging for cockles)  in the way that I prepare and cook it. Grilled or baked fish with a squeeze of lemon or fish pie is all very delicious but there are so many other ways to cook seafood that I hope the recipe that I will show you today will encourage you to give it a try and that it will become part of your culinary repertoire.

Recently I was contacted by LOAF App, (short for ‘love of all food’),  to come up with an exciting recipe focusing on the theme of ‘fusion’ that will go onto the app and be part of a competition (more about that in a moment). For those of you who have not yet heard of LOAF, it is a fabulous new recipe app, that is free to download, that has a wide range of recipes from bloggers and chefs, in a standardised format that is easy to follow and replicate at home. You can even add your own recipes and share them with other users. (Write ups on the app here and here).

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LOAF is working in partnership with the MSC Fisheries Standard (Marine Stewardship Council) on an exciting campaign, which gets the public cooking whilst being more informed on which seafood we should be buying. As part of the competition I have focused on fish that has the MSC Fisheries Standard blue label (see photo above). My recipe is now live on the LOAF app site for you to cook at home. You then need to photograph your efforts of my recipe, put them up on the LOAF site and I will then judge the winner of who I think made my dish best. The winner will be awarded £75 worth of free food shopping from either Sainsburys (UK), Wholefoods (US) and Coles (Australia).

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85% of the worlds’ seafood are either at capacity or over fished. Buying seafood therefore that has the MSC blue label sticker on it is something that we all need consciously to do if we are to protect our oceans for future generations. The label tells the consumer that the seafood product you are buying is ‘certified sustainable seafood’. Fisheries are assessed to check if they are well-managed and sustainable. I urge you to look at the following Youtube video explaining the Fisheries Standard’s principles and scoring.

The standard has been developed in consultation with scientists, the fishing industry and conservation groups. Today we are all more conscious of food origin and therefore by buying MSC blue label food is a no brainer as it is fully traceable to a sustainable source. The MSC Fisheries Standard have also put together a product finder so that you can find sustainable fish and seafood wherever you are in the world. Take a look here to see how it works.

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So the recipe that I have come up with takes 15 minutes max to prepare and half of that is making the paste. It’s origin is from Kerala and I recently watched a similar recipe being made. I have been doing something similar for years, albeit without the coconut addition. It is steamed as opposed to baked, grilled or fried. If you want to be truly authentic you can source a banana leaf to wrap it in, failing that baking parchment works just fine. Rice would be perfect to accompany this dish. So what are you waiting for? Give it a try and post your photograph up on the LOAF app site. EASY.

Coconut, Coriander and Mint Cod 

Paste ingredients

2 large handful of fresh mint leaves, stems removed

1 large handful of fresh coriander leaves, stems can remain intact

1 tsp of fresh grated ginger

1 tsp of grated garlic

1 green chilli, finely chopped

50g either freshly grated coconut or desiccated coconut

 1 limes, juice only

salt, to taste

******

1kg cod loins (MSC blue label)

baking parchment

  1. Put all the paste ingredients together in a blender to make a fine paste. Add salt to taste at the end.
  2. Cut the baking parchment so that it wraps over the cod loin completely.
  3. Place the paste all over the top of the fish and lay it in the centre of the baking parchment.
  4. Carefully wrap the fish so that the ends are completely enclosed.
  5. Warm a frying pan (or Indian tawa if you have one) and when it is hot lay the cod parcel onto the pan. It will cook by the steam that will be created within the parcel. After 4 minutes turn the fish parcel over for another 4 minutes. If it looks as if it needs a little longer leave it for another minute and it should be ready.

Note: You can also use banana leaf instead of baking parchment. If using a banana leaf you need to hold the leaf carefully over a gas flame in a sweeping motion so that it softens. Do this on both sides and then cut it down to size so that the fish can be completely covered by the leaf.

You can bake the fish in the oven (180 degrees) for 15 minutes if you prefer but I suggest wrapping the fish in baking parchment papillote style – see here so that it does not dry out and steams itself whilst cooking.


Vietnamese Prawn, Mango, Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

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Don’t ever throw away coriander stalks as they are bursting with flavour and are perfect for making a delicious paste to go in all manner of curries. Today I wanted to show you one of my Vietnamese inspired prawn curries that combine lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander stalks, jaggery (palm sugar – or you can just use caster sugar), fresh mangoes and coconut milk.  To say it’s sublime would be an understatement. It is so downright delicious that you’ll be wanting to make it on repeat.

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I always seem to have frozen prawns in my freezer as, once thawed, they are hugely versatile to make all manner of curries or prawn cakes and generally speaking I find that most people like prawns. I had some fresh mangoes and lemongrass that were needing to be eaten so I thought that I would work the recipe around my three main ingredients – prawns, mangoes and lemongrass.

My hand blender is back in action (rejoice – how I missed it) so it took no time to whizz up a paste that tasted of the exotic Far East. By adding a little coconut milk allowed the paste to become smooth, whilst retaining its thickness.

My mother-in-law modelled the mangoes and I bought king prawns that had already been deveined and peeled to save time. So all in all from start to finish this is definitely a 15 minutes tops kind of meal, unless you are slow at peeling and cutting up your mangoes, which in that case might add on another 5 minutes or so.

If you love prawns you might also like Bengali Chingri Maach or perhaps Keralan Prawn and Kokum or my Prawn and Tamarind Curry or if you buy prawns with shells on don’t forget to keep the shells and heads so that you can make a heavenly Prawn Bisque

Happy Easter All.

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Vietnamese Prawn, Mango, Lemongrass and Coconut Curry

paste

40g coriander stalks

2 lemongrass stalks, outer layers removed and finely chopped

1 red chilli

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

1 tsp jaggery/palm sugar or caster sugar

a little coconut milk from a 400ml tin

*****

2 tbsp vegetable/coconut oil

15g shallots, finely sliced

1 tsp salt

700g king prawns, deveined and peeled

2 mangoes, cut into bite sized pieces

the remaining coconut mil from the 400ml tin

  1. Place all the paste ingredients into a hand blender and whizz them up to form a smooth paste. Adding a little of the coconut milk will loosen up the ingredients and help the paste to become smooth.
  2. In a deep pan or karahi add the oil and when it is hot add the shallots and salt. Move them around the pan for a couple of minutes, being careful not to let them burn.
  3. Now add the paste and simmer gently for 3-5 minutes before adding the rest of the coconut milk. Let the coconut milk heat up before adding the prawns.
  4. Move the prawns around the pan until they become pink. This will take no more than a few minutes. Simmer for an extra couple of minutes before adding the mango.

Serve with rice with some fresh lime on the side and a sprinkle of fresh coriander on the top.

If you like this recipe I am sure you will love my Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Coriander Curry


Keralan Prawn and Kokum Curry – Chemmeen Olarthiathu

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Hidden away in the calm and tranquil backwaters of Kerala you will find a homestay called ‘Philipkutty’s Farm’ that sits on 35 acres of a small island, which totals 750 acres. The island was reclaimed from the backwaters of Lake Vembanad in the 1950’s by the present inhabitant’s late husband’s grandfather.

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Today the farm is run by Anu (pictured above) and her mother-in-law, known as Aniamma, but it was Anu who warmly greeted us as we made our way from the opposite shore in a wooden canoe known locally as a ‘vallam’ (country boat), powered by a local using a wooden punt. After sipping on homemade cool ginger lemonade we were shown our cottage where we would be spending the next couple of nights.

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To say that it was charming was a massive understatement. I read in the visitors book that one lady had stayed for 5 weeks and had returned numerous times. I could see the attraction. It was without doubt the perfect place to unwind, write a book perhaps or simply just relax.

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Without modern day distractions such as television (there was only wifi in the main house) you felt positively cut off from the outside world. Bliss. It enabled you to sit and admire the views and watch the passing traffic, aka houseboats, drift by. My daughter’s fished with Anu’s daughter and managed to collect a number of fish, before always returning them to the waters. Mr B bravely swam in the backwaters themselves, much to all our amusement.

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The highlight of staying at Philipkutty’s Farm, however, is the food. Aniamma, Anu and their team of helpers prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for guests, which all congregate in a thatched pavilion close to the main house. As there are only a handful of cottages there tend to be no more than 12 or so guests. We all sat on one large table, swapped storied and filled our bellies with dish after memorable dish of food.  The cuisine was predominately Syrian Christian with a strong backwater influence. The vegetables and spices were grown on the farm and these were accompanied by a wide range of fish and meats. I was in heaven.

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I have a feeling that if I stayed for 5 weeks, like one guest, there would be a high chance that I would return home a little more ‘wholesome’ than when I arrived!

IMG_2912Each evening Anu and Aniamma would do a cookery demonstration of a couple of the dishes we were to eat that evening. So it was during these informal demonstrations that I learned a host of new recipes.

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This prawn and kokum curry – known as chemmeen (prawn) olarthiathu, was interesting as it included an ingredient I had not come across before. Kokum is a fruit bearing tree that is native to Western coastal regions of India and has many health benefits. The outer skin of the fruit is halved and dried, which in turn curls and becomes a dark purple black colour – apparently the darker the colour the better the kokum.
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Whilst they undoubtedly add a sweet and sour element to a dish (similar to tamarind) they also add a smokiness that is unlike anything that I have tried before. They never drown out the main taste of a dish, instead complementing it with their gentle souring notes.  As such they are used in a host of fish and prawn curries as well as dals and vegetable dishes. I realise that a trip to Kerala to source kokum maybe a little tricky for my readers so instead you can easily buy them online here or here. It stores easily for a year, I am told, in a sealed jar.

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I used prawns with tails on but you can use whatever prawns you wish.

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You’ll need red onion, shallots, ginger, garlic and fresh curry leaves. You can pick up fresh curry leaves from most Asian grocers. I tend to freeze mine and then dig them out of the freezer as and when I need to use them, which is most days.
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Above shows Aniamma adding the cherished kokum to her curry.

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I served mine with my Indian toor dal, which you can find here and some basmati rice.

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Kerala Prawn and Kokum Curry (Chemmeen Olarthiathu)

Serves 4-6

1-2 tbsp coconut oil

1 large or two small red onions, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 inch fresh ginger, roughly chopped

3 shallots, finely chopped

10 curry leaves

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp chilli powder

2 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped

500g prawns

4 pieces of kokum, pre soaked in 150ml boiling water for 20 minutes

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the coconut oil and then add the garlic, shallots, ginger and curry leaves.
  2. After a minute add the red onion, salt and chilli powder (if using).
  3. On a medium to low heat, add the turmeric and allow the ingredients to soften, which will take around 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the fresh tomatoes and stir into the other ingredients and allow to soften.
  5. Add the prawns and move around the pan so that they are coated in all the ingredients.
  6. After 3 minutes add the kokum and gently cook for a further 5 minutes.
  7. Add the fresh black pepper powder just before serving.

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Each morning at Philipkutty’s Farm the urns would have different arrangements of fresh flowers floating in them. So pretty and symmetrical.

 

Please note the comments below where one reader kindly informed me that the ‘kokum’ is in fact a close relative known as ‘kodampuli’ and the fruit show in my photos are in fact kodampuli.  Thank you so much indusinternationalkitchen.com  for highlighting this to me. You can read more about this fruit here

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Dreaming of Kerala – Squid Coconut Fry

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Kerala, often called ‘God’s own country’, is the perfect destination for the avid traveller who seeks adventure, beauty and tasty food. It encompasses so many different experiences and terrain in this sunshine state that no day is ever quite the same. Over the course of the last few weeks my family and I (and not other animals) spent time in Cochin, exploring their diverse places of worship as well admiring their famous Chinese fishing nets.

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The Western ghats, which provide the state, and much of the wider world, with tea, cardamom and coffee.

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The calming, slower pace of life in the emerald backwaters,

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and of course the palm fringed beaches of the coast and the gloriously warm Arabian sea.

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Along the way I met some wonderful people, both locals and fellow travellers, who all made our experience of Kerala very memorable. It was tough to say goodbye to the warm rays and friendly smiles and head back to a much colder London, which is now firming in the throes of winter.

During our travels I learned to cook a wealth of Keralan recipes from chefs and home cooks who welcomed us into their homes and kitchens. Meet some of them below. From left ‘Mummy’ from Philip Kutty’s Farm,  Sreeja  from Marari Beach Hotel and Moly from Cochin, who allowed me to shadow her for the day.

Prior to visiting the state I had a preconceived notion that a lot of the cuisine would be vegetarian, however this is not the case. In Kerala, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Jews (there are only 6 now left in Cochin) live harmoniously and respectfully amongst one another. As such we feasted on chicken, lamb, pork and beef as well as delicious fresh and seawater fish, shellfish and a host of vegetarian dishes. Coconut oil and coconut in many forms, is the heart of many Keralan dishes along with the irresistibly sour tamarind and kokum, the latter being new to me. “Kera” in Malayalam (the language of Kerala) means coconut. As Kerala is abundant with coconut plants, it naturally got the name Kerala. Yes, many of the dishes in Kerala have heat, but with the cooling qualities of  coconut, many had their chilli bite tempered.

Over the coming months I will intersperse my blog posts with temptingly delicious Keralan dishes that will hopefully encourage you to try cooking them at home.

First up is ‘Squid Coconut Fry’, which in all honesty takes 10 minutes and that includes the prepping and cooking. So look no excuses not to give this a whirl. It is so good you’ll be cooking it time and time again. IMG_2160

 Squid Coconut Fry

Serves 2 (or 4 if serving with other dishes)

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

2 dried red Kashmiri chillies, halved and seeds removed if you like it less hot

10 pieces of thinly sliced fresh coconut or dried coconut slices

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tsp ginger paste

1 fresh green chilli (2 if you like it hot)

10 curry leaves

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

300g squid tubes, chopped into thin rings

1/4 juice of a lemon

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 garam masala

  1. First get all the ingredients ready as the dish takes no time to cook and you will want to eat it immediately. This dish is not good to be reheated.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a pan. When it is hot add the mustard seeds and red chillies followed by the thin coconut slices. Keep the heat on a medium to low heat.
  3. After 20 seconds add the garlic, ginger, fresh green chilli and curry leaves.
  4. Move around the pan for a minute before adding the red onion and salt.
  5. Now add the chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and allow the flavours to come together in the pan. Allow the onion to soften for 3-5 minutes
  6. Add the squid and move around the pan. Cook for a further 3 minutes.
  7. Add the lemon, pepper and garam masala. Move the ingredients around the pan.

Serve immediately. All the wonderful flavours will have wrapped themselves around the squid culminating in the most appetising of dishes.

Quick and easy. I would serve with rice, a vegetable curry and a dal (see my recipe library).

 


Prawn Bisque

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For those of you who read my last post on ‘tamarind prawn curry‘ I mentioned not to throw away the discarded prawn heads and shells. By cooking a simple stock with the prawn heads and shells will create the most amazing tasting broth. Seriously it requires very little effort and you have yourself yet another culinary feast. It freezes well if you want to eat it at a future date.

The photo above sadly does not do justice to the delicious tasting bisque. Next time I use shelled prawns I will reshoot and hopefully have a more temptingly attractive photograph of the bisque. Just trust me when I say that it tastes darn good. Happy eating.

Prawn Bisque

serves 4 

All the prawn shells and heads from the prawns you used in the above curry

cover the prawns completely with boiling water

1 red onion,  chopped

1 garlic, chopped

4 bay leaves

5 black peppercorns

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

juice of quarter of a lemon

1 tbsp tomato puree

1.2 tsp sugar

salt to taste

1 tsp cornflour – 3 tsp cold water

  1. Place the prawns shell and heads in a deep pan and cover completely with boiling water.
  2. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, red onion and garlic to the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Using a hand blender blend the contents of the pan. This might sound unusual to blend the shells and heads, but trust me the flavour that comes from them is incredible.
  4. Place the contents of the pan through a fine sieve. Use the back of a spoon to push all the goodness through. What comes through should be a completely fine liquid. Discard the remaining shells that have not gone through the sieve. Overall it will make around 800g of liquid.
  5. In the same pan add the butter and when it is melted add the tomato puree, smoked paprika, lemon juice and sugar. Add the prawn broth liquid and stir gently. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
  6. In a small bowl add the cornflour and cold water to make a smooth paste and then add the broth to thicken slightly. Simmer gently for a further few minutes.
  7. Season further to taste and then serve. You could also easily freeze this once it has cooled ready to use on a separate occasion.

Prawn and Tamarind Curry

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Prawn curries are one of my favourite. Earlier this year another of my prawn recipes made its way into Delicious Magazine – see here – have you tried it yet? Decadent and spoiling, prawns are incredibly tasty, especially if they are of the king prawn variety. I am also a huge fan of tamarind, which has a very sweet and sour taste to it. So married together prawns and tamarind create a very satisfying meal.

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These beauties start off grey, but rest assured as soon as they are cooked in the oil they turn pink almost immediately. I leave the tails on, more for cosmetic reasons than for any other. The rest of the shell is removed, but not discarded (next week I will show you what to do with all those discarded shells and heads), and the black vein that runs along the prawns back is discarded completely.

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Other than peeling and deveining the prawns, this dish is incredibly quick to make and totally doable on a busy work week. Taking time to eat a delicious, comforting meal in the evening I think is so important. If you invest a little bit of time in preparation you really are rewarded with a memorable feast.

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Prawn and Tamarind Curry

serves 4

600g king prawns, peeled but keep the tails on, devein

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp tamarind paste

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1/s tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

2 tbsp vegetable oil

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 tsp salt

150 ml of boiling water

fresh coriander leaves to scatter when serving

  1. Peel, devein (make an incision down the back of the prawn to reveal a black vein, remove with a sharp knife and discard) and keep the tails on, scatter with the salt and then place to one side. Don’t forget to keep those shells and heads and I will show you how to make a magnificent prawn broth which turns into a prawn bisque next week!
  2. In a small bowl add the tamarind pulp, ground cumin and coriander, chilli powder and turmeric. Stir to form a smooth paste.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan on a medium low heat and then add the garlic and ginger. After a minute add the prawns and stir for a further minute so that they become a lovely pink colour.
  4. Add the tamarind paste and coat the prawns. Immediately add the boiling water and stir. Simmer gently for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately with either rice, puri or other Indian flat bread.

So simple and yet utterly delicious

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