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


Culinary delights and inspiration over the Christmas period

IMG_0690

So my fridge – my relatively new fridge in fact (still under guarantee phew) – decides to die a dramatic death on 22nd December. Great timing. I mean it could have died in November or in the summer but no it decides to die just as I want to start cracking on with preparations for Christmas.

I will not let my fridge dampen my spirits however. On the bright side I have a freezer and a cold coal cellar so I am going to rise to the occasion and go back in time when freezers did not exist. I now have all the contents of my fridge in storage boxes with ice bags surrounding them. Some jars are in the garden in boxes in the rabbit hutch. Our rabbits passed away recently…..that’s another story….so there is room in the hutch away from prying urban foxes.

So I thought you might need some last minute inspiration of things to cook with turkey leftovers, meals after christmas and before new year and canapés etc. So first up is turkey, ham and leek pie. Very straightforward and a great way to use up the turkey and ham.

IMG_0901

On boxing day or 27th I will be cooking my crispy skin cod with white beans, padron peppers, spinach, dill and aioli. You can use monkfish or hake instead, whichever you decide it’s a lovely dish to serve after the filling fare of Christmas day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This wintery warm lentil and goats cheese salad with a fresh basil dressing will also be making an appearance. Slow cooked tomatoes are a favourite in my household and we are all rather fond of goats cheese. I also like the fact that is vegetarian, filling and incredibly tasty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Perhaps you have friends or family coming over for a glass of bubbles or mulled wine. Both these canapés are very straightforward and don’t take too much time to prepare. The pastry for the parmesan caraway biscuits can be made in advance and kept in the fridge. When you are ready to cook them you simply slice them thinly, lay them out on a tray and place them in the oven for around 10 minutes, or until they are lightly bronzed. Let them cool slightly and then they are ready to be devoured.

IMG_6479

The rosemary spiced walnuts are wonderful to snack on and are not too filling before the main event. We love them and I am sure you will too.

Whilst we are all very fortunate to have the love of family and friends around us at Christmas a great way to give a little back is reserving a place for a homeless person at one of the crisis shelters. £22.32 reserves a place for one person but also allows them to have:

 – a health check with a doctor, dentist and optician

 – shower, freshen up and clean clothes

– three nutritious meals including christmas dinner

-an introduction to Crisis’ year-round services for training and support for the future.

You can find out more and how to donate here. I think it is a wonderful charity and one that I support each year.

So that’s it from me for 2016. I wish you all a very merry christmas and a happy new year and I hope to be able to inspire you with some exciting recipes in 2017. Thank you for your continued support and readership, it means a lot to me.

Torie xx

 

 


The Art of Parsi Cooking and Chicken Badami

img_3864

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be invited to the book launch of Niloufer Mavalvala’s new cookbook ‘The Art of Parsi Cooking’. To be honest, whilst I had clearly heard of parsi cooking, I was not very familiar with the minutiae of the cuisine. Her book focuses on ‘reviving an ancient cuisine’ which she has done by compiling a range of family loved recipes.

img_3867

Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Niloufer now resides in Canada and has done so for the past 15 years.  Her book gives a wonderful overview on the history of the Parsi people and their cuisine that they adapted to their local environs. Originally from Persia, Parsis were followers of the Prophet Zarathushtra. Between the 8th and 10th centuries, many fled Persia and headed for India, landing on the shores of Gujarat, where many of them settled. Interestingly the ‘Pars’ from Parsis means Iran. In many respects the cuisine is an amalgamation of Persian and Indian and does have a very distinct flavours. Niloufer talks about ingredients such as ‘saffron, jaggery, cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric’ are all key ingredients in Parsi cooking along side the trinity of garlic, ginger and chillies.

img_3865

I love to read cookery books were the recipes have been passed down generations, it’s as if we privy to the inner circles culinary magic. For years I have been after a good korma recipe that holds it’s weight amount curries. I have found them too creamy and often too bland. Niloufer has a wonderful recipe called ‘ Chicken Badami – Almond and Yoghurt Curry’ which will knock your socks off. If you want it less chilli hot then I recommend reducing or taking out the fresh chillies, but for me I like to have a bit of bite within the curry. The Parsi version of this recipe omits excess oil and instead uses ground almonds and yoghurt. It’s very straightforward and whilst mine is not as red in colour as Niloufer’s in the book, it tastes truly wonderful.

img_3866

Over the christmas period, many of us are with friends and family over the christmas week. Whilst I love all the traditional food, after about day 3 I crave spice and I think this might be a great one to feed your loved ones. I’ve adapted the recipe slightly as Niloufer uses cups for measurements and most recipes in the UK are in grams and I have added a few more tomatoes, despite mine still not being as red in colour as hers. Otherwise I have remained close to her recipe.

Her book is original, refreshing and lovingly compiled and would make a great gift for those seeking out Parsi recipes. It is fairly compact in size with no more than 40 recipes, but that is more than enough to provide interest and intrigue in the cuisine.  You can order it online here. It is published by Austin Macauley Publishers . Next up for me is masala na khekra – pan fried crabs with spices.

Chicken Badami

adapted from The Art of Parsi Cooking by Niloufer Mavalvala

Serves 6

2 tbsp oil

1 dried bay leaf

1 tsp of freshly grated garlic (paste)

1 tsp of freshly ground ginger (paste)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

10-12 chicken pieces, on the bone and skinned (I find thighs and legs work well)

3 medium sized tomatoes

4 green chillies

230 ml water

245g natural yoghurt with a pinch of salt and sugar

60g ground almonds

1/2 tsp garam masala

  1. Remove the skin from the chicken pieces and place to one side.
  2. In a large deep pan add the oil, on a low heat,  and when it is hot add the bay leaf, ginger, garlic, salt, red chilli, cumin, coriander and turmeric powders and move around the pan and then add the chicken pieces. Continue to move around the pan at intervals so that the spices do not burn.
  3. In a blender add the tomatoes, green chillies and blend to form a smooth paste before adding a little water.
  4. Once the chicken has changed colour add the tomato, chilli paste along with the water and bring to the boil. Cover and cook on a medium heat for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to cook for a further 20 minutes, by which time the chicken will have cooked through and the gravy will have thickened up and reduced. Niloufer recommends cooking until there is about 1 cup of gravy remaining or thereabouts.
  6. Let it cool completely.
  7. In a bowl mix the natural yoghurt with a pinch of salt and sugar as well as the ground almonds.
  8. Once the chicken has cooled add the natural yoghurt mixture.
  9. Gently reheat, sprinkle with garam masala powder and then serve. Serve naan alongside.

Book Review: Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea by Sebastian Pole

singasong

Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea by Sebastian Pole, photography by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

For those who are interested in wellbeing and the power of herbs (which I most certainly am) then the recently launched ‘Cleanse Nurture Restore with Herbal Tea’ by Sebastian Pole – founder of Pukka tea – will be a book that you will most definitely want to get your hands on. It’s also the prefect gift for those who have everything and you are at a complete loss on what to give them.

cleanse_nurture_restore

Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea by Sebastian Pole, photography by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

There is so much interesting information within its pages that you need to take time to drink it all in. In fact drinking one of their elixir might just be the perfect accompaniment. Pole talks about how in the past we would “live at the mercy of nature, the care and protection of our loved ones would be high up our to-do list. We would be dependent on the shamans, healers and wise women for talismans and incantations as well as herbal brews and poultices to help heal all manner of ills. And we would have to understand the natural world around us so that we could stay healthy”.

mintdigestive_image-c-kim-lightbody

Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea by Sebastian Pole, photography by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

I think in the Western world today many of us have lost the interest and inclination to discover  the magical qualities of herbs and spices.  We are beginning to hear more and more about the health benefits of turmeric for example, but turmeric is one of thousands of herbs and spices that can help relieve pain and ailments.

cupoflove

Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea by Sebastian Pole, photography by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

I am always interested in reading about tribes in the Amazon rainforest staying fit and healthy by utilising the numerous herbs around them in the forest. We are definitely missing a trick not listening more closely to these so call ‘primitive’ tribes. In many respects they are far far more knowledgable about medicines – well herbal medicine at least – and staying well, than many of us who rely purely on antibiotics so sort us out. One wonders perhaps who is in fact the primitive ones!

goldenmilkbliss

Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea by Sebastian Pole, photography by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

Pole’s book is split into many chapters to help guide us through the world of herbs and their individual qualities. There are chapters titled: The language of herbs, The doctrine of signatures, The perfect blend, The art of making herbal tea, Helpful herbal terms. Later on in the book the chapters focus more on mood and wellbeing hence: Ailments & Elixirs, Cleanse & Detox (great one to focus on in January folks!!), Nourish & Digest, Energise & Rejuvenate, Peace & Harmony, Joy & Happiness, Defend & Protect and so forth. A further chapter talks about ‘ayurveda’ and ‘where do herbs come from’, as well as a useful chapter on ‘suppliers & practitioners’. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable read, which will motivate even the most reluctant herbal tea drinker. Some drinks are hot whilst other ‘teas’ are cold. I opted for a cold one in fact to have at the beginning of my day.

sweetdreams_image-c-kim-lightbody

Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Tea by Sebastian Pole, photography by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln (£20)

I decided to try out the ‘Nourishing almond saffron elixir’ – it is described as ‘Heaven in a glass. Golden, silken and sweet, it builds your brain and brawn’. Other than the soaking of the almonds overnight it takes minutes to prepare. I think ‘heaven in a glass’ might be pushing it just a touch, but it did taste rather good indeed and I will be making it again for sure. In fact I am keen to try ‘Elderberry & Echinacea winter warmer’ next as I can feel a chill in the air.

img_3729-2

Nourshing Almond Saffron Elixir

serves 1

10 almonds, soaked overnight

5 saffron strands

2 cardamom pods, seeds only

150ml water

honey to taste

  1. Soak the almonds overnight and in the morning remove the skins – back of teaspoon works well doing this (similar to how you would remove skin from fresh ginger).
  2. Put all the ingredients, aside from the honey into your blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Add honey to taste.

In the book, Pole goes into detail about the qualities of each of the ingredients listed so you will know what wonderful benefits it is giving your body.

img_3730-2

You can order your order our own copy here

Disclaimer: From time to time chilliandmint.com receives new cookbooks that are about to/have just launch. It is only those that she would actually recommend that make it onto the blog itself.  All opinions are her own.