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

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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 an 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 become 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 a 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 seams 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 cafes (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 paintings, sculptures 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

Serves 4-6

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.


Chicken, Ginger and Spring Onion Gyoza/Jiaozi/Pop Sticker

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Mention the worked ‘gyoza’ in my household and you will hear yelps of delight – and that’s not just from the children. These moreish savoury dumplings are incredibly addictive and are a great little starter or snack, although you can off course have them as a main meal along with some steamed greens with soy and garlic perhaps.

Japan and China both have their version of the dumpling, although these dumplings first originated from China and were then adopted by the Japanese. The Chinese dumplings are known as jiaozi if they are boiled or steamed and guo tie if they are fried, in Japan – gyoza and the US – pot sticker.

The Chinese variety have slightly thicker wrappers and have a far wider combination of fillings than their Japanese counterparts. They are often steamed, whereas the Japanese gyoza are fried for a few minutes and then steamed for a further few minutes. The fillings I typically use for the vegetarian are tofu and shiitake mushrooms, or the meat variety filled with pork, chicken or duck or the seafood version, which tends to be prawn. Whatever takes your fancy these little dainties will be forever cherished by those who sample them.

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Now the question is to lovingly prepare your own wrappers or to buy some from your local Asian grocers or online. Basically it will come down to time on your part. Making your own takes a little time, but its the perfect activity to do with a mate who comes over for coffee – just rope them in they’ll love the experience or even with the kids. Shop bought is pretty cheap, as you can see for the price sticker I left on above, and are likely to be more uniform in thickness, but I’ll leave it to you to decide which suits your lifestyle.

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For those who wish to make their own it is SO simple. Seriously you only need a couple of ingredients and then a bit of kneading.

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Homemade Gyoza Wrappers

Makes around 20

210g plain flour, seived

125ml warm water

 pinch of salt

1. Stir the salt into the warm water until it completely dissolves.

2. Place the sieved flour into a large bowl and add the warm water. Using a wooden spoon mix the flour and water together and then use your hands to create a ball.

3. Kneed the dough on a cold surface for around 10 minutes, when it will be soft and springy to touch. Sprinkle more flour onto the dough if it is getting too sticky.

4. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins.

5. Take small balls of the dough – about the size of apricot – and flatten it with your hand. Gently roll the dough into a round shape, turning it after every roll. Using a round cookie cutter (or the bottom of a saucer) cut out a round circle and cover gently with flour and place in a pile.

6. Continue until the dough has been used up. You should make around 20 dough wrappers with the proportions above. Whilst you prepare the filling place a damp cloth over the wrappers so they do not dry out.

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So now you have the wrappers ready to go you need to prepare the filling. Whether you want to use chicken, pork mince, prawn, duck or shiitake mushrooms and tofu the rest of the ingredients remain the same.

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Whilst using Chinese cabbage is the most authentic, use whatever green cabbage you have in your fridge. Place two large leaves in a pan of boiling water for 1 minute and then drain and pat completely dry with kitchen paper. You then want to slice and cut them up as small as you can. You can blitz everything in a blender but I tend to often take the slightly slower version of cutting by hand. Today I used chicken and as I tend to find minced chicken hard to source so I bought boneless chicken thighs and cut up them up into small pieces. I also added spring onions, chopped garlic, finely grated ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper and hey presto you have your filling. You can get creative and add any other ingredient you think might work – how about carrot, fresh chilli, five spice.

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Wrapping the dumplings is rather satisfying and you will begin to get into a rhyme with them. Don’t overfill the gyoza, instead putting a teaspoonful in the centre and then, using your finger tip, wet the low half rim of the circle. You then want to fold over the gyoza in half and then begin to pleat from left to right, making sure the filling is securely inside the parcel. It is definitely a case of the more you do the better you become. My 8 year old is a complete natural and can do multiple pleats across the top. You only pleat one side of the gyoza s0 do not turn over and attempt to do more on the other side.

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The above photo shows half of the gyoza pleated. I finished doing this row, but did not turn it over to attempt to do the other side. To pleat you simply use your thumb and forefinger to make small pleats going over the last. Make sure you press the top together so that it is firmly stuck together – you don’t want them opening up in the pan.

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So you can see some are neater than others above. They will still taste delicious even if you haven’t got the perfect symmetrical pleating!

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Dumpling Filling

to fill around 20 dumplings

2 large leaves from a green cabbage/Chinese leaf cabbage

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

20g ginger, peeled and finely grated

3 spring onions, finely sliced into small pieces

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp mirin rice wine

275g boneless chicken thighs/or chicken mince (or duck, pork mince, tofu and shiitake mushrooms)

100 ml water

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Dumpling Dipping Sauce

3 tsp rice vinegar

6 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp chilli oil (optional)

1 tsp sesame seeds

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1. Finely chop all of the ingredients and then bind together using your hands.

2. Place a heaped teaspoon of the ingredients onto one of the wrappers in the centre.

3. Wet the rim of the lower half of the wrapper using your finger.

4. Fold the wrapper in two and then pleat from left to right across the top, making sure to firmly seal the top of the wrappers.

5. Bend the wrapper slightly so that it is in a crescent moon shape and so it can stand up unaided. Place to one side whilst you prepare the rest.

6. Using a large nonstick pan add a tablespoon of sesame oil and when hot add the dumplings so that they are standing up and not sticking to one another. Fry them for 3 minutes, by which time they will have bronzed underneath. If they have not bronzed sufficiently leave them to fry for a little longer.

7. Add 100ml of water to the pan and place a lid on the top. Leave to steam for a further 3-4 minutes so that the water has completely dissolved.

8. Mix the ingredients of the dipping sauce together and then place to one side in a little bowl.

9. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

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Boneless Southern Indian Chicken Curry

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I am guessing that most households will eat chicken at some point in an average week and whilst I do cook a number of chicken curries on the bone, it is always good to have some boneless chicken curries up your sleeve that you can whip together relatively quickly on a given evening. Cooking meat on the bone allows the meat to be more tender and succulent, but that said I know that having bones in a meal can really put some eaters off. So I hope this curry will be a happy compromise in that it is tasty, quick and bone free, therefore perhaps appealing to a wider audience.

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Whilst it does contain coconut milk the tomatoes balance out the sweetness to the extent the coconut doesn’t dominate this dish, instead giving it a subtle creaminess. I also find that adding just two chillies allows my eldest child, who is 8 yrs old, to really enjoy eating it as she does not find it too spicy. So if you find yourself wondering what to do with some chicken breasts in the fridge over the course of next week give this south Indian curry a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Boneless Southern Indian Chicken Curry

Serves 4

650g chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite sized morsels

1 level tsp of turmeric powder

1/2 tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 red onion, chopped

2 inches of ginger, peeled and finely grated

4 garlic cloves peeled and finely grated

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curry paste

2 green chillies, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 inch of ginger, peeled and chopped

1/2 tsp of black peppercorns

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tbsp water

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5 tomatoes, peeled, skinned and chopped (put in boiling water for 3 mins then peel easily)

 2 limes, juice

250 ml coconut milk

salt to taste

fresh coriander leaves to serve

1. First marinate the chicken breasts at room temperature for up to an hour. Mix thoroughly with the turmeric and Kashmiri chilli powder and cover.

2. Prepare the chopping and grating of the onion, garlic and ginger for both the paste and the sauce and place to one side.

3. Place all the curry paste ingredients in a blender and blend into a smooth paste. Add a little more water if it needs help reaching a smooth quality. Place to one side.

3. Heat up a large pan with the oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds. They will begin to pop within about 20 seconds  – move them around the pan to release the fragrance and then add the onion and stir into the oil and seeds. Cook the onions for 5 minutes, by which time they will begin to soften before adding the garlic and ginger. Cook for a further minute before adding the curry paste and stiring thoroughly. Let simmer away for a further couple of minutes.

4. Add the chicken and stir into the sauce so that it is coated and begins to cook. After 8-10 minutes the chicken should have turned white, with no pink bits remaining, and will begin to bronze in places.

5. Add the softened tomatoes (you can remove the pips but I tend to use it all up, bar the skin!), lime juice and coconut milk and simmer for a further 20 minutes to allow the flavours to work together and for the chicken to be thoroughly cooked through. Season to taste.

If the sauce needs to be juicier then simply add a little water. If it is too juice then cook with the lid off for a little longer.

Serve with fragrant rice or some Indian flat bread.

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Tlayudas – Mexican Open Pizza and Homemade Guacamole

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Homemade guacamole packs a punch well above the bought stuff.  I know this my trade mark line (yawn yawn!), but it really is a breeze to make and is so tasty you’ll be wishing you had bought more avocados. As well as being a moreish dip – I kid you not, if I leave the room with a bowl of guacamole and tortilla chips, when I return the contents of the bowl will be clean – it’s also the perfect filler for the Mexican pizza Tlayudas, pronounced something along the lines of (clae-yoo-das).

These pizzas can be made with Middle Eastern flat breads/pittas a supply of which I always have in my freezer. It’s simply a case of piling on all the ingredients, with the flat breads sitting directly on a frying pan and then folding them over slightly to give the appearance of an thick taco. You can fill the flat breads with whatever takes your fancy, however I find that guacamole; shredded, poached chicken; mozzarella; pecorino; spiced sun blushed tomatoes; spinach; tarragon and rocket really hits the spot.

Be warned eating this is not a tidy pastime. However, you can get seriously involved and at one with your food.

Let me know if you give them a whirl and leave a comment below.

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Homemade Guacamole

adapted from Thomasina Miers’s book Mexican Food Made Simple

Serves 4

1/2 a red onion, finely chopped

2 serrano green chillies (1 if you prefer it less spicy), finely chopped

3 large ripe avocados, stoned and skin removed

1-2 limes, juice

pinch of rock salt

handful  of freshly coriander, chopped

black pepper

1. After finely chopping the red onion and chillies (I tend to leave the seeds in to give it that extra kick) place them in a bowl and  mash them together a little before adding the avocado. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar I find a good sized bowl and an end of a rolling pin work really well.

2. Add the juice of one lime and stir well into the guacamole, along with the salt, pepper and the chopped coriander.

3. Taste and add the juice of a further lime if needed – down to personal choice. I love it limey so tend to add two.

4. Give a good stir and spoon into a serving bowl/dish.  Place in the fridge whilst you are preparing the ingredients for the Tlayudas. Do not prepare too far in advance as the avocado will begin to discolour.

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Tlayudas, Mexican Open Pizza

adapted from Thomasina Miers’s book Mexican Food Made Simple

Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, poached and shredded

1 large bag of spinach

1 tsp of butter

4 large Middle Eastern flat breads

a bowl of homemade guacamole, see above

2 large mozzarella balls, torn into smaller pieces

16 slow baked tomatoes with chilli 

2 handfuls of rocket

1 handful of fresh tarragon

rock salt and pepper

pecorino or cheddar cheese for grating

1. Poach the chicken (in boiling water for up to 20 mins) and then shred it using a fork.  Place to one side.

2. Place a saucepan on low heat and add the butter. Once it has melted add the washed spinach and cook for a minute until the spinach just wilts. Remove from the pan and strain the spinach, pressing down firmly with a spoon so that the water is removed as far as possible. Place to one side.

3. Heat up a large frying pan and when it is hot add a flat bread and press down gently. Sprinkle a drop of water and turn the flat bread over. Now you need to work quickly. Spoon on a generous helping of guacamole followed by the chicken, mozzarella, slow baked tomatoes in chilli, spinach, rocket, salt, pepper and some grated pecorino/cheddar.

4. The flat bread will begin to crisp up quickly and the mozzarella begin to melt, so carefully begin to fold the flat bread over. With a spatula lift the pizza onto a plate and serve immediately.

5. Repeat until everyone is served.

Dive in and enjoy. Don’t forget the napkins.


Vietnamese Chicken Rissoles with Shallots, Lemongrass and Garlic

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Vietnamese chicken rissoles, or patties if you prefer, are the perfect simple lunch/supper to prepare for all the family. Little Z, who is four, is always a bit unsure about eating chicken, however, disguising chicken as rissoles seems to really work as they are softer and therefore easier to eat than regular chicken pieces. Other than the dipping sauce, there is no chilli in the rissoles, so they really are family friendly.

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When preparing the rissoles you really want to make sure that the lemongrass and garlic is well chopped up. I chopped them with a knife to begin with before putting them into my spice grinder for a finer texture. The chicken and the shallots also need to be chopped up before whizzing them in a food processor.

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Once the all the ingredients have been combined place some oil into the palms of your hands which will allow you to easily shape your rissoles without them sticking to your hands. Roll them into a ball before flattening them slightly to give a pattie appearance. Cooking time is really short. After heating oil in a pan place five patties in your frying pan and leave them for 3 to 4 minutes before turning them over for a further 3 to 4 minutes. Make sure that the heat is consistent and they do not burn.

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I like to eat them with a fresh salad of tomatoes, red onions and coriander with splashes of nuoc cham sauce over the top, although my daughters prefer theirs with white rice noodles and splashes of light soy sauce. Any leftovers can be stored easily in the fridge and then enjoyed the following day in a baguette with shredded carrots, cucumber and fresh cucumber – similar to the Vietnamese sandwich – Bahn Mi. More on these glorious sandwiches another time.

Chicken Rissoles with Shallots, Lemongrass and Garlic

Makes 15 rissoles (yes myself and a little someone ate two before the photos above)

adapted from the recipe I learnt earlier this year from Van at her fabulous Green Bamboo Cooking School in Hoi An

500g boneless chicken breasts, chopped and then blended

4 lemongrass sticks, finely chopped/blended

4 garlic cloves, chopped/blended

3 banana shallots (if you only have regular shallots that is also fine)

2 eggs

pinch of five spice powder

pince of cayenne powder

2 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp caster sugar

salt and pepper

oil for frying

1. Finely chop the lemongrass and garlic, initially by hand and then in a spice grinder/blender./mortar and pestle. You want the lemongrass especially to be as fine as possible.

2. After roughly chopping the chicken and shallots place them in a blender until a chicken paste forms. Add the finely chopped lemongrass and garlic and pulse once again. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Add the eggs, flour, spices and all the other ingredients. Mix well with your hands.

4. Place a little oil in the palm of your hands and then roll some of the chicken paste into your hands to create a ball and then gently press down to create the flattened rissole.

5. Heat a large frying pan with oil and when it is hot gently lower the rissoles into the pan. I usually do mine in batches of 5. Leave the rissoles to cook well on one side (3 to 4 minutes should be sufficient) before turning over and cooking for a further 3 to 4 minutes.

6. When they have browned, place the rissoles onto some kitchen paper to cool.

7. Serve with nuoc cham dipping sauce and a fresh salad

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce

juice of 1 lime

2 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped

fresh chilli, finely chopped (optional/to taste)

1. Initially mix the lime juice with the sugar thoroughly before adding the rest of the ingredients. Continue to mix together. This sauce can be made ahead of time and can store easily.


Zereshk Polow – Iranian Chicken with Barberries and Rice

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Fairly recently I picked up a bag of dried barberries (also known as Zereshk or Pipperages) in one of my local Middle Eastern food stores. I do tend to like fruits in savoury dishes, this is customary in Middle Eastern cooking and so I had an inkling that I would probably love them. I posted a photo of my new purchase on twitter and one of my followers,  Sophia – who writes the blog ‘Real Simple Food’ – sweetly tweeted back saying how she enjoyed eating a savoury dish called ‘Zereshk Polow’ growing up, which used barberries.

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I did a bit of digging around on the internet and came up with a number of recipes for the dish. It immediately appealed to me as it incorporated chicken, rice, saffron, turmeric, yoghurt, milk, rice, onions – what’s not to like?

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Since my discovery of the dish I have cooked it a number of times, simplifying it from some of the more detailed ones on the web and those that are rich in butter and egg. The dish originates from Iran although I discovered that barberries are not as exotic as we are led to believe as they once grew in abundance all over Europe, US and Asia. Over time they were eradicated as they were responsible for creating a fungus that caused damage to wheat crops. There were a wide variety of barberries growing in sixteenth century Britain and one of the most loved was called ‘Nutmeg Barberry’, which would typically be served as a garnish for fish such as pike. English kitchens would also use the fruit to make jellies, jams and even ice cream – now there’s an idea!

The barberries themselves are bursting with a citric, tart flavour, not dissimilar to little lime explosions. Their crimson colour adds a jewel like quality to the dish, not unlike pomegranate seeds in their appearance, and this complements the turmeric and saffron in an explosion of colour. It looks inviting don’t you think? As they are dried, they store really easily. When cooking all you need to do is give them a thorough wash and then pop them in the frying pan for around 30 seconds, continuing to move them around the hot pan so that they puff up slightly.

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The final part of the cooking  requires some layering of ingredients before placing in the oven for 30 minutes. See photos below.

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Zereshk Polow (Iranian Chicken with Barberries and Rice

3 large handfuls of basmati rice

3 small red onions (totally 125g weighed), finely sliced

500g chicken breasts/thighs, cut into substantial pieces

4 tbsp butter

1 tsp turmeric

50g dried barberries

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp milk

1 pinch of saffron

3 tbsp plain yoghurt

pinch of rock salt

1. Wash the rice thoroughly in cold water and place into a pan and pour in enough boiling water so that the water is roughly a thumb nail higher than the rice. (I tend to find this calculation works for me!) Cook on a low heat until the rice has absorbed the water and the rice has softened.  Remove from the pan and place in a bowl.

2. Soak the barberries in cold water for 10 minutes. In a pan melt a tablespoon of butter then add the strained barberries followed by the sugar. Move the barberries around the pan so that they begin to puff up. They burn really easily so keep them moving for max 30 seconds and then place to one side.

3. In a small bowl add the milk and saffron, stir and allow to rest. Once the liquid has taken on a yellow hue add the yoghurt and mix thoroughly into the milk and saffron.

4. In a large pan add two tablespoons of butter and gently fry the onions so that they bronze slightly. Gently place the onions into a bowl to rest.

5. Place the chicken in a bowl with the turmeric and mix in throughly. Add another spoonful of butter to the same pan that the onions were in and gently brown the chicken on both sides. Then add 150ml cold water to the pan and allow the chicken to gently simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.  Remove the chicken and place in a bowl to one side and place the liquid with all the extra bits from the bottom of the pan into another bowl.

6. Now for the layering:  In the same pan that you have cooked the onions and chicken – I find my Le Creuset casserole pot works superbly –  add the final tablespoonful of butter and make sure that it fully coats the bottom and the lower sides. Add a layer of rice so that it completely covers the bottom of the pot then place the chicken pieces on top. Next add another layer of rice mixed with the barberries. Then add the onions on the top followed by the yoghurt saffron milk and finally the juicy liquid that you have kept to one side.  Scatter a pinch or two of rock salt over the top.

7. Place in a preheated oven at 150 degrees centigrade  (300F) for 30 minutes with the lid on, allowing the flavours to blend together.

8. Serve straight from the pot when it is still deliciously hot.


Miso Chicken, Slow Baked Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach Salad

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Here in the UK we are enjoying a flashback to the summer of 1976, apparently. I was only one at the time so have no recollection of the ‘great summer’ but we are now into weeks, not days, of glorious warm sunshine with temperatures climbing up to 33 degrees in west London. When the weather is hot I love to get creative with my salads and try out different flavour and ingredient combinations. This one I created awhile ago when a friend, who has certain culinary likes and dislikes was coming over to supper. I started with the miso chicken and spinach and then built from there, digging out interesting ingredients from my fridge and pantry along the way. The overall mix of flavours works really well to the extent that I have now cooked this salad multiple times and thought you would appreciate having it too. It’s great for a picnic, lunch or supper, is hugely versatile and if you keep the chilli oil marinade to one side for guests to help themselves, then the whole family can enjoy the dish.

Miso Chicken Slow Baked Tomatoes and Fresh Spinach Salad

Serves 4-6

 For the Chicken Marinade

500g chicken breasts

3 garlic cloves, grated

1 inch ginger, peeled and grated

2 tbsp sweet white miso paste

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp light soy sauce

*******

parchment paper

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

250g puy lentils

1 avocado, chopped

6 slow baked tomatoes marinated with chilli

chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes (see above)

250g fresh spinach

1. First you need to flatten the chicken breasts as they will cook under the grill more evenly and quicker if they are thinner. Place a large strip of parchment paper underneath the chicken breasts and another similar sized piece on top. Then using a rolling pin gently hit the chicken pieces which will begin to flatten. Check to see how they are looking and if they need to be a little flatter continue to hit them with the rolling pin. If you overly bash them they will begin to break apart so flatten them to the extent that they still keep in tact.

2. Place the flattened chicken breasts into a freezer bag and then add the grated ginger, garlic, sweet white miso paste, soy sauce and sesame oil. Using your hands massage the ingredients thoroughly into the chicken pieces. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer if you can.

3. Heat up a small frying pan and when it is hot add the pine nuts being careful not to burn them as they toast quickly. Keep them moving around the pan and after a minute they should have toasted nicely.  Place to one side.

4. Heat your grill (you could also use a griddle pan or BBQ!) to 200 degrees centigrade and place the marinated chicken directly onto your oven rack. Place some baking parchment/foil underneath to catch all the bits than fall through the rack – these will also taste great in the salad.  The breasts will need around 6 minutes each side. If they look a little undercooked leave them for a minute or two more and vice versa.

5. In a large mixing bowl add the spinach, chopped/sliced avocado, puy lentils – for speed I often use the Merchant Gourmet brand – see here, pine nuts and slow baked tomatoes marinated in chilli. Whilst you can of course slow bake your own and marinate them in chilli oil (which I will get around to doing so at some point – will make a great blog post) I opt for the Sacla brand – see here. Chop the tomatoes up slightly and then gently mix all the above ingredients together.

6. Once the chicken has cooled slightly slice into stripes and mix gently into the salad along with the bits that had fallen through the rack. Add a little of the chilli oil from the slow baked tomatoes and place extra in a small pouring jug.

7. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and allow guests to serve themselves. I find it is best eaten at room temperature.

It is surprisingly filling and leftovers the next day taste equally good, so just refrigerate if you have some left over.

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Chicken, Mango and Avocado Salad

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Grey days deserve brightening up and there is no better way to lift ones mood, than to indulge in a rather bright and summery looking salad….. in winter. I recently had this salad at a cheery little deli/restaurant on the Kings Road (they have two branches now at differing ends of the Kings Road) called Megan’s, where the staff are attentive and cheerful and there is a constant flow of customers coming in to have breakfast, lunch or to indulge in tea and cake, either to-go or to linger for a while in the warm haven of the restaurant. There is a positive buzz, not least because the food is fresh and inviting and made on the premises. It’s casual, unstuffy eating where you queue in line at the salad and hot bar and take your pick.

What initially attracted me to the chicken, mango and avocado salad was the colour – the bold yellow balancing beautifully with the reddish pink of the radish and the green from the salad leaves and coriander. The blend of flavours and textures complimented each other so well and I like the fact that the chicken had been delicately romancing with the dressing.

I took a mental note of what was in the salad and swore to conjure up a similar one in my home and then to share with you all when I had got it right. Of course it works brilliantly in the summer months, but I think a splash of colour and a healthy salad in the winter is fabulously refreshing. You can choose to have your grilled chicken warm or at room temperature, both work equally well so it is up to your personal preference.

What recipes do you cook when you need to brighten up your day?

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Chicken, Mango and Avocado Salad

serves 4

Romaine lettuce, chopped

300g chicken breasts

1 avocado

1 mango

bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

approximately 6 radishes, sliced

salt and pepper

dressing

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp whole grain mustard

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1. Preheat the grill to 180 degrees and cook the chicken for around 20 minutes, turning half way through.

2. Slice, cut and chop the remaining salad ingredients and place in a large bowl.

3. Mix the dressing ingredients together and place to one side.

4. When the chicken is cooked, slice the chicken breasts into strips of edible bites and place into the large bowl.

5. Add a little of the dressing and then gently toss together with all the salad ingredients.

6. Place in a serving platter for guests to serve themselves, with a small jug with the remaining dressing on the side.


Cold Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Chicken

The past week or so has been very memorable here in the UK. The Olympics kicked off to an outstanding opening ceremony last friday, which made me laugh and marvel in equal measure. Ok, I’m biased, but I thought that it’s quirky, eccentric nature pretty much summed up us Brits. No amount of money spent on an opening ceremony, past or future, can trump the fact that Her Majesty gamely played herself with Mr Bond as part of the ceremony itself. How cool and even the non royalists out there must have had a sneeky smile on their faces. As for Mr Bean – what a great touch to include him as part of the ceremony; he was definitely one of the highlights.  It was fun, original and gamely humorous and had all of us glued to the TV screen for over three hours, wondering what Danny Boyle was going to bring out of the hat next. I think it is safe to say he is a ‘slam dunk’ for a knighthood in the coming months.

Since the Games begun I have been glued to the TV watching the swimming in particular. Mike Phelps gaining his 19th Olympic medal making him the greatest winner the Olympics has ever seen -truly remarkable. Also the spectacular performance of China’s Ye Shiwen, who, at 16 years of age, wins gold in the women’s individual medley.  It’s addictive viewing watching the world’s best athletes compete in such a wide variety of sports.  I’m going to see the men’s beach volleyball soon, which should be fun and a little surreal to watch in central London.

We’ve had some good sunny days recently, which always inspire me to cook fragrant Asian dishes that are not too heavy. This recipe I stumbled across really recently and it caught my attention as it was served cold and could almost be classed as an Asian noodle salad, of sorts. I’ve cooked it a few times already and I have to admit it’s really good. My number one fan (Big A – who is 6) gave it a definite 10/10.  It was originally posted in the New York Times, however, I found it on the hugely popular food bloggers site ‘Smitten Kitchen‘. As with all great recipes, Deb Perelman – from Smitten Kitchen, adapted hers from the original and I changed hers a little bit further. For example,  I omitted chilli, as I was feeding it to Big A, Little Z and my father who all don’t eat chilli. That said if I were feeding it to just adults (or chilli loving adults) I would definitely add the chilli (hence it has remained on the list of ingredients), I added only one large cucumber, added baby sweetcorn, slightly more rice noodles.

For the really observant amongst you, you will have noticed that I completely forgot to scatter the crushed roasted peanuts over the dish for all the photos. When I sat down and started eating the meal I remembered but clearly too late for the shots for this blog post !

Cold Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Chicken

Sourced from Smitten Kitchen, original recipe from David Tanis whose recipe appeared in The New York Times

Serves 6

Dipping Sauce

6 tbsp Asian fish sauce

6 tbsp brown sugar

12 tbsp lime juice

2 garlic cloves, crushed

small thai red or green chilli,  to taste but optional

Peanut Dressing

3 tbsp Asian fish sauce

3 tbsp rice vinegar

9 tbsp lime juice

3 tbsp of light soy sauce

1 1/2 (one and a half) inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

6 tbsp natual unsalted peanut butter (if you can’t find this just use regular)

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

pinch of cayenne

Chicken and Noodle Salad

3 tbsp toasted sesame oil

500g boneless skinless chicken thighs

250g dried rice noodles

1 large cucmber, cut in 1/4 inch half moons

2 carrots, cut in thin julienne

handful of baby sweetcorn, halved

handful of fresh mint and coriander (you could also add Thai basil)

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

handful of roasted peanuts, crushed

lime wedges to serve

1. Begin by making the ‘dipping sauce’. On a low heat, place all the ingredients into a pan and gently stir until the sugar has been properly dissolved – this will only take a few minutes. Place in a small serving bowl and allow to cool.

2. Next you need to make the ‘peanut dressing’. Place all the ingredients into a small food processor and puree all the ingredients so that you are left with a thick creamy sauce. Pour into a serving bowl.

3. In separate large bowl pour approximately half of the dipping sauce and a third of the peanut dressing and stir together. Add the chicken to the mixture and coat thoroughly using your hands. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes.

4. Once the chicken is marinated gently heat up a griddle pan and add a little toasted sesame oil and brown the chicken thoroughly on both sides, which will take a few minutes per side. I cook my in batches so that I can be sure that the chicken in properly cooked through. As an alternative you could grill the chicken for 20-25 minutes.

5. When the chicken is cooked, chop into bite sized pieces.

6. To serve there are a few alternatives that you can do –

option 1: Place everything on a large serving platter with the noodles, chicken, vegetables, dressing and marianade all separated out and then your guests/family can help themselves.

or

option 2: Divide the cooked noodles into individual bowls or plates. In a small bowl toss the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of dipping sauce. Place the vegetables and chicken onto each bowl/plate. Place a further 2 teaspoons of dipping sauce and dressing to each helping. Add the herbs, peanuts and spring onions to each bowl and serve.

Note: As an alternative to baby sweetcorn you could add fresh peppers which work equally well.