Mustard, Coconut and Colombo Spices Salmon Curry

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

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

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

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Mustard, Coconut and Colombo Spices Salmon Curry

Serves 4

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

2 green chillies, halved lengthways

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

15g of fresh ginger, cut into wafer thin batons

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 tsp ground turmeric

600g salmon fillets (5 pieces)

200ml boiling water

2 tsp Maille Noix de Coco et Spices Colombo

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp caster sugar

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

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

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

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

Serve with basmati rice.

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

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


Spiced Chickpea and Coriander Soup and Spinach Pakoras

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 I had some fresh spinach in the fridge what was beginning to turn so thought that making some spinach pakoras would be the perfect way to save them and accompany my homemade chickpea and coriander soup. I always have tinned chickpeas in my store cupboard as I find them so useful to throw into a number of dishes, be it a casserole, soup or salad. Similarly I had some fresh coriander that needed eating so decided to throw them into the soup as well to add a lovely balance.

 

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This whole meal takes a short time to prepare so is great to cook for a light lunch or a speedy supper when you have had a hard day at work. The soup does have a very satisfying kick, so if you prefer a less chilli buzz just reduce the amount of dried chillies you use. If you do use the same amount as me you’ll find that the yoghurt softens the chilli a little making the soup very satisfying and delicious.

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Pakoras – vegetables dipped in a spiced batter and then fried – are a hugely popular snack in the Indian sub-continent. Whilst perhaps not the most healthy out there they are extremely moorish and addictive.  In India you will find numerous street stalls selling them in little paper cones, similar to the one that I prepared for the photos above.  They are rather similar to my coriander fritters which I posted a couple of years ago on this blog – see here. Get creative and try making them with a mixture of vegetables. I’ll show you how to make different types in time. Watch this space.

 

Spinach Pakoras

Serves 4

75ml water

80g chickpea flour

1 pinch of baking powder

1 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 tsp salt

160g fresh spinach, roughly chopped

vegetable oil for deep frying

1. To make the batter mix the water, chickpea flour, baking powder, turmeric, chilli powder and salt together in a bowl. If the batter is still a little too thick simply add an extra drop of water.

2. Add the fresh spinach leaves to the bowl of batter and mix in thoroughly.

3. In a deep pan or karahi heat some vegetable oil. When it is hot – you can test by placing a pinch of flour into the oil and if it fizzes then it is ready, add a tablespoonful of the spinach batter. Depending on the size of your pan you can do a number at a time. Leave the pakora to cook for a minute before turning over for a further minute. They should have gently bronzed by this time.

4. Place on a plate with kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil. Eat whilst still hot.

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Spiced Chickpea and Coriander Soup

Serves 6

4 tsp coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

5 large dried red chilli

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

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4 tbsp olive oil

650g fresh tomatoes, boiled to remove the skins

50g fresh coriander

2x400g tins of chickpeas, drained and pureed using a hand blender

1 tsp turmeric powder

900ml water

6 tbsp yoghurt

juice of 1 lemon

salt to taste

1. Place the cumin and coriander seeds and dried red chilli in a warmed up frying pan and move around the pan for a minute to realise the flavours. Place into a spice grinder along with the desiccated coconut and whizz to form a powder.

2.  Having removed the skins of the fresh tomatoes (I find boiling them for a couple of minutes allows the skins to be easily removed) place them in a blender along with the chickpeas and fresh coriander.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large deep pan and when it is hot add the spiced powder along with the turmeric powder and stir around for 30 seconds before add the pureed chickpeas/tomatoes and coriander.

4. After a minute add the water and stir together well. Simmer on a medium heat for 15 minutes and then add the yoghurt, lemon juice and salt to taste.

Serve with the spinach pakoras on the side for a tasty vegetarian meal. I often tend to make chapatis as well to dip into the soup.


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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Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

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Have you ever been a little ambivalent about aubergine/eggplant? On the one hand loving their smooth, shiny plum coloured exterior but never really in raptures about the taste. Well my other half, Mr B, tended to fall into this category, so a while ago I set out to prove him wrong.

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After mutterings of ‘you know aubergine is my least favourite vegetable, I prefer greens’, he tasted one mouthful and that completely shut him up. Murmurs of approval were given between mouthfuls and a 9/10 score (yes we regularly mark our food – is that unusual?). RESULT. Surprisingly my eldest child also adored it, surprising as it does have a fair amount of chilli in it! If you don’t like chilli, but like spice, just reduce or take out the chilli in the recipe below.

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The combination of aubergine, peanuts and sesame seeds works ridiculously well together so much so that you will have to restrain yourself from wanting to guzzle up the whole dish. Combine that with a spiced onion and tomato sauce and you have yourself a winning dish.  So put your assumptions to one side for a moment and give this recipe a whirl and I can assure you you will be more than pleasantly surprised.  I couldn’t resist the bijou aubergines on sale at my local market but a regular sized aubergine will work equally well. Just slice the aubergine into chunky chip sized pieces, keeping the skin on of course.

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Indian Aubergine/Eggplant, Peanut and Tomato Curry

Adapted from Sanjay Thumma’s Eggplant Tomato Curry

450g baby aubergine/eggplant (normal size is fine too), sliced lengthways or chunky chip sized if using a regular aubergine

cooking oil, enough to deep fry the aubergine

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 dried red chillies

1 small green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

5 curry leaves (fresh or dried)

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp of garlic paste

1 tsp ginger paste

1 white onion, finely chopped

200g chopped fresh tomatoes

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

2 tbsp salted peanuts

1 tbsp sesame seeds

150ml water

1 tsp salt (to taste)

1. If using baby aubergine/eggplant slice lengthways removing the stalk. If using a regular sized aubergine slice into chunky chip sized, again removing the stalk. Once sliced, immediately place in a pan of boiling oil to sizzle away and bronze. This should take no longer than ten minutes.

2. Remove the aubergine with a straining spoon and place on some kitchen roll whilst you prepare the next steps.

3. In a new large pan add the olive oil and when hot add the mustard and cumin seeds. They will begin to pop immediately so move them gently around the pan for 15 seconds before adding the dried red chilli, fresh small green chilli (optional), curry leaves (fresh or dried), turmeric, garlic, ginger paste and onion. Continue to cook on a medium heat for around 7 minutes by which time the onion should have nicely softened, but not bronzed.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes, coriander, cumin and Kashmiri chilli powder and simmer for a further 5 minutes, by which time the tomatoes will have totally softened and blended into the sauce. Return the aubergines to the pan and fold gently into the sauce.

5. In a small pan dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds for a couple of minutes, making sure to constantly move them around the pan so that the heat is evenly distributed and they do not burn. They will begin to bronze at which point you need to remove them from the pan.

6. Using a spice grinder (definitely one of my most useful items I own in my kitchen) – this is the one I use – see here – grind the peanuts and sesame seeds together to form a paste.

7. Add the peanut sesame paste to the pan and stir into the curry, adding more water if necessary. As I used salted peanuts I only needed to add a little more salt. Simmer for a few minutes and serve. If cooking ahead and leaving to rest you will have to add a little more water when heating up.

Serve with rice or Indian bread and you have yourself a vegetarian – in fact vegan – treat. Try it and leave a comment below.

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Ivy Gourd Curry – also known as Gentleman’s Toes

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We all know that lady’s fingers is okra right? But gentleman’s toes? I had no idea there was a vegetable with such an unappealing name, I mean seriously who wants to eat a gentleman’s toe?

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My Bengali mother-in-law introduced them to me only recently and since then I have become hooked. They look similar, and taste not dissimilar in fact, to gherkins which we are huge eaters of in my household – seriously we get through jars of them, even my four year old has a weakness for them. Gentleman’s fingers is also more commonly known as ivy gourd or in Bengal they are known as kundri. Baby watermelon or little gourd are two other names by which they are known.

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Granted, you are unlikely to find them at the big supermarkets but head to any Indian subcontinent grocers and you’ll stumble across these fabulous little vegetables. I know for a fact that you can source them in Tooting and I imagine the same goes for Brick Lane, Southall, Hounslow etc. They are commonly eaten in India and are a great source of vitamin A and C. Eaten alongside a dal and you’ll have a very filling and tasty vegetarian supper.

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Ivy Gourd Curry

Serves 4

550g ivy gourds/kundri/gentleman’s fingers, halved lengthways

4 tbsp olive oil

1 green chilli, halved

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp chilli powder

 2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp salt (to taste)

2 tsp sugar (to taste)

2 tbsp water

1. Heat a large pan with the olive oil and when hot add the nigella seeds followed by the green chilli. After  20 seconds add the ivy gourds and stir into the oils and nigella seeds. Leave to cook on a low heat for 5 minutes.

2. Add all the other ingredients and give a good stir and then place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer, stirring a couple of times, for 20 minutes or until the ivy gourd is soft but not mushy!

So simple and yet ridiculously satisfying.

I hope you get to stumble across these little beauties before too long.


Indian Eggy Toast

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If you ever feel a little lethargic/hungover/sleepy (delete as appropriate), in the mornings, my Indian take on French toast will sharpen up your senses and give you that necessary skip in your step to take on the day ahead. Drinking coffee has never rocked my boat, although I do love the smell of freshly ground coffee and would so love to love drinking it, however, I find that a burst of chilli for breakfast – yes for breakfast – does awaken the endorphins rather well.

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I also thought that it may give you some ideas on what to feed the masses if you have a number of guests staying over for Christmas. We often decamp down to my parents for part of the Christmas break and as there is ten of us we all help with the share of the cooking. This recipe is so quick that by the time someone else has laid the table you have already made a pile of these delicious beauties ready for the taking. It’s quick to rustle up more should they be a hit so its a win win – stress free and super quick.

I have added two chillies below, but by all means add only one if you want a more subtle approach

Indian Eggy Toast

produces 6/7 toasts

2 tbsp of vegetable oil

sourdough bread, sliced

4 eggs

2 chillies, finely chopped (1 if you prefer it less hot)

a small handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 tomato, finely chopped

pinch of rock salt

optional: 1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated

1. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and then add the chilli, fresh coriander, tomato, rock salt and fresh ginger (if using).

2. Slice the sourdough bread and then soak the bread in the egg mixture on both sides.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and when it is hot place the soaked sourdough into the pan. Leave to bronze on one side for a couple of minutes before turning for a further couple of minutes on the other side.

4. Serve immediately with some Sriracha chilli sauce or my chipotle sauce if you have some already made up. Both work a treat.


Indian Toor Dal – one of my absolute favourites

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After the excesses of weekend feasting Monday nights in my household are vegetarian and usually include a dal of some sorts. This past weekend has been a whirl of celebration with my eldest daughter’s birthday sleepover followed by a large family lunch to celebrate, as well as squeezing in a celebration dinner in honour of our talented artist friend, Adele Henderson (you heard it hear first folks) who was displaying some of her charcoal paintings at the prestigious Mall Galleries in London.

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Like soups, which I am a huge fan of, dal is the ultimate homely and warming comfort food. There are hundreds of varieties from all over India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and each week I try and cook a different one from the week before. Some require soaking, and others you can cook straight away. This week I have used toor dal (similar looking but smaller in size to channa dal), which is one that does require soaking, preferably overnight. My usual routine is to soak the lentils on Sunday night and then to cook the dal on Monday morning. The whole cooking and preparation time takes no longer than 35 minutes so can easily be done prior to leaving the house, or returning later in the day.

This dal contains some wonderful flavours that work so well together. Asafoetida, or hing as it is also known, should be used with caution as it has a pungent smell, but adding a good pinch really adds a depth of flavour, which keeps you coming back for more. If you can use fresh curry leaves then use them, otherwise dried is fine. Fresh curry leaves are wonderfully fragrant and again really add great flavours to the dish. Then there is the sweet and sourness from the tamarind. I tend to opt for concentrate as it is easier to come by in regular grocery shops, however if you have some tamarind you can soak it and then strain it and add the tamarind pulp that is strained through the sieve.

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I tend to cook a generous amount of dal so that I can hopefully have some leftover to eat on Tuesday along with a fish curry; one less thing to prepare is always a bonus.

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Indian Toor Dal

400g toor dal

3 tbsp vegetable/sunflower oil

1 tsp of fenugreek/methi seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black mustard seeds

10 fresh curry leaves

2 inches fresh ginger, finely grated/chopped

a good pinch asafoetida/hing powder

2 small chillies, chopped into three

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 tsp chilli powder

2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp tamarind concentrate

100ml water

2 tsp salt

1. Soak the toor dal in a bowl of water for 20 minutes. Make sure the water is sufficiently above the level of the dal. You rinse it through after so the exact amount is irrelevant.

2. Once the 20 minutes are up rinse the dal through a sieve and place in a large pan and cover with boiling water. This time the water should only be a little bit above the dal.  Gently cook the dal so that it softens, this will take around 20 minutes. You may need to add more water if it gets soaked up whilst softening. It’s not an exact science so don’t worry too much on water amounts – sometimes I have it more ‘soupy’ in consistency than others. Remove the scum from the top of the pan, which occurs when  cooking the dal.  When it has softened, leave to rest whilst you finish off preparing the rest of the ingredients. To test it has softened squeeze a lentil between your thumb and forefinger. If it soft it is ready for the next stage, however, if the lentil remains hard you will need to boil it a little longer.

3. In a large karahi or frying pan heat up the oil and then add the fenugreek/methi, cumin and black mustard seeds. They will begin to pop so make sure you keep the heat low. Move them around the pan for 30 seconds before adding the curry leaves and give a good stir.

3. After three minutes cooking time add the chillies, fresh tomatoes and asafoetida/hing,  fresh ginger, chilli powder and turmeric and mix in well together.

4. Once the tomatoes have softened – this will take a few minutes, add the tamarind concentrate and water and stir.  You now want to deposit the pan with the toor dal into your karahi/frying pan with the other ingredients, or vice versa, depending on which pan is larger.  Stir in well together and add a little extra boiling water to clean the pan and then turn that water into the main pan.

5. Add the salt to taste and leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Serve with rice or Indian bread or simply on its own. I often like to squeeze in a little fresh lemon or lime as well.

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An Indian twist on ‘Greens’

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Growing up I am sure we’ve all encountered our parents encouraging us to ‘eat our greens’ and reluctantly forcing, the invariably boiled, greens into our mouths. I have nothing against greens, far from it, I think they are delicious, I just think that a little helping hand from a few Indian spices goes a long way to making a fairly bland dish into an elevated one that you actually want to eat! There was a great article in the Observer back in September 2013 by journalist Tim Lott (see here)  which discusses the issues parents have surrounding making their children eat greens or green vegetables in general. The crux of the matter is that if it doesn’t taste good they are simply not going to enjoy or want to eat it. Also if we use the health mantra on them constantly this in itself is going to be a turn off.  We seem to be caught up in our own worry of putting healthy things in their months, but if we perhaps stand back and relax they will too and a natural love of these healthy foods will develop.

You’ll see in my recipe that I have added fresh chilli to the dish. I find my eldest daughter likes chilli, but with my four year old I simply omit it as she isn’t quite ready for the chilli kick! Chillies range hugely in heat levels so start off with the very mild ones – they tend to be the large ones you buy in the supermarkets. The smaller the chilli the hotter they tend to be in general.

Whilst the dish I want to show you today is vegetarian I also find that greens and kale work wonderfully well with chorizo (or any pork product really) and butter beans. If you have a moment take a look at my caldo verde recipe – here, for inspiration. It’s hearty and straightforward and perfect for cold winter days.

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Indian Greens

Serves 4

1 bunch of greens, washed and finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 small green chillies, finely sliced

2 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil

2 tsp nigella seeds

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt (to taste)

1. After preparing the greens, garlic and chilli add the oil to a large pan. When the oil is hot add the nigella seeds and turmeric followed by the garlic and chilli. Reduce the heat and stir to avoid the garlic burning.

2. Add the greens and stir thoroughly so that they become totally covered in the other ingredients. Keep stirring for a few minutes and then place the lid on the pan. You may find that you need to add a little water at this stage.

3. Simmer gently and the greens will wilt and reduce in size. Add the salt to taste and more water if necessary. The dish will take no longer than 10 minutes to cook in total.

Simple, straightforward and totally satisfying.

I like to eat them with a dal or my Indian potato curry (blog post on this soon).


Chilli, Feta and Spring Onion Cornbread

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Cornbread is not commonly known about, or eaten for that matter, here in the UK and yet it is the most wonderfully moreish and perfect little bread that works so well with a soup or salad or as a savoury alternative to scones with jam and clotted cream at tea time – not that I eat scones and jam with clotted cream every tea time……only on special occasions!

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My eldest is often famished after a day at school followed by clubs so naturally likes to have a little snack before supper and this bread is a big hit – even with the chilli in. The bread allows you to be creative and put whatever little filling takes your fancy. I like to use feta as it has the perfect saltiness to go with the chilli and the spring onion adds an additional layer of flavour, which I love. Equally courgette and ricotta or caramelised onion and goats cheese would also work really well. Do you have a favourite combination? I would love to hear so please leave a message in the comments section below for us all to see.

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I use Greek yoghurt and milk in my cornbread but you can also use buttermilk, try them both out and see which you prefer. For this recipe I used one egg this time, but if I use small eggs then I often pop in two. As for chilli, jalapeno works well or you can use a milder/hotter one or even dried chilli flakes. Have a go, experiment and let me know what you think. It’s perfect with my Mexican tortilla soup.

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Chilli, Feta and Spring Onion Cornbread

Dry ingredients

160g fine cornmeal (polenta)

60g plain flour

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 red chilli (or 2 if you want that extra kick)

75g crumbled feta

1 spring onion, finely chopped

Wet ingredients

125ml Greek yoghurt

125ml milk

juice of half a lime

1 large egg (or 2 small eggs)

2 tbsp olive oil

1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees c.

2. Grease some baking parchment and place in your loaf tin. Mine is 24x14cm. By all means use a smaller tin – your loaf will just have more depth, which is good. Without baking parchment you may find your loaf is harder to remove from the tin after baking.

3. Mix all your dry ingredients together in one bowl.

4. Place all your wet ingredients together in another bowl/jug and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold in gently with a wooden spoon.

5. Pour into your tin and level off with a spatula. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, or until it is golden and firm to touch on the top.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for at least 5 minutes before taking the bread out of the tin and removing the baking parchment.

 Serve warm or toasted with Mexican tortilla soup


Vietnamese Pho Bo – Beef Noodle Soup and finding the perfect cooking course in Hoi An

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Vietnamese cuisine is to put it simply, ‘heavenly’. After my first bite of a Banh Mi, from Banh Min 11, back in London, not that long ago, I knew that it was going to be a culinary love affair. Since arriving in the motherland it has not disappointed. Each meal we have eaten has been a multitude of delicate, fragrant flavours – spices that sing to you and dance on your tongue.

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Herbs feature heavily in most dishes and add real fragrant lift. I was sufficiently enthused that I am going to attempt to grow some of them back in London – for example Vietnamese mint (which I should have no problems growing!), Vietnamese basil, saw tooth coriander, Vietnamese lemon balm, garlic chives. There is a great explanation of Vietnamese herbs here.

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I was keen to attend a cooking course in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hoi An and so set about researching a course that best suited my needs. I was given a few recommendations, however, I decided that a course run by the very affable Van, who runs ‘Green Bamboo Cooking School’ suited my needs perfectly.

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The course run by Van offered a detailed tour of the fresh food markets, where we picked up our ingredients; convivial fellow pupils; personal touches by Van who runs the course in her own home; unhurried tutoring over seven hours; a generous range of recipes manifesting itself in a memorable group lunch and a souvenir goodie bag to take home. Throw in door to door service as Van kindly ferried us to and from our hotels, and it is no surprise that Trip Advisor has over 210 positive comments for this class with no dissenters.

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I am pleased to say that course surpassed even my high expectations. Van was charming, spoke excellent English and a was a natural teacher. She also converted me to Vietnamese coffee – the condensed milk being the key.

My fellow students were a really lovely bunch of enthusiastic foodies – three Australians, two Norwegians and two Swiss and all of us had huge grins on our faces all day, clearly revelling in the fact that we had chosen such a perfect course. Here are few photos of the day. Scroll down.

I elected to cook the unofficial national dish of Vietnam – pho bo, beef noodle soup (pronounced ‘fur’). You can find pho stalls on most streets in Vietnam, but to cook it well is the tricky part. I was keen to understand how to cook it from scratch and to make that perfect pho broth. First stop was the market to buy the beef, which was as fresh as it gets as the cow had been slaughtered that very morning. We bought the beef fillet and 1kg of beef bones. Normally Van would have bought the spine, but there had been a run on spine bones that morning from a hotel restaurant, which had bought the lot. So instead we had a range of other beef bones and some shin to add to the flavour.

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Back at Van’s house the first trick I learnt was to gently char the skin of some ginger, shallots and garlic over a flame as this would give the broth a deep smokey flavour.

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It takes no more than a couple of minutes on each side.

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I then removed most of the skin of the ginger, using that back of a teaspoon and also the skin from the shallots and garlic, which is very easy at this stage as they virtually pop out.

After properly cleaning the beef bones, place them in a large pan of boiling water so as to get rid of any scum from the bones before cooking. Submerge them in boiling water for under a minute and then place them into a second large saucepan, which has also has boiling water in it. Discard the water from the first saucepan. You then need to add the charred ginger, garlic and shallots

Continue to add the following ingredients to the pan: 2 chillies, stick of cinnamon, 1 large white onion, 5 star anise, 5 Chinese apples. I had not come across Chinese apples before, but they tasted delicious. As they may be difficult to source for some people, dates work equally well. Add some sugar and salt and if you fancy, some beef stock as well (I decided to omit the beef stock, to see how it would taste in its natural state).

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Place a lid on the top and leave to boil away gently for a further 2 to 3 hours. Add more seasoning to taste and beef stock if necessary.

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Meanwhile, very finely slice the beef fillet and leave in the fridge until ready to use.

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Before serving have individual bowls of bean sprouts and fresh pho noodles/rice noodles, (the noodles you have submerged into boiling water for 30 seconds and drained) at the ready. In a large ladle add a little of the raw beef and submerge it into the pho broth so that the broth fills the ladle. Using a fork or chop sticks, move the beef around in the boiling stock in your ladle for 30 seconds (that magic number) so that it cooks through and ladle it over one of the bowls of noodles that you have prepared.

Add a generous amount of fresh herbs, including Asian basil, coriander, spring onions along with a quarter of a lime and chilli sauce to taste. You can also have a small bowl of soy sauce on the side, should you wish to add a little, as well as some sliced green papaya and fresh sliced chilli.

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I was delighted by the results and despite having eaten a ridiculous amount of the tastiest Vietnamese food, cooked by my fellow foodies, I managed to see off a bowl of my pho bo.

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Eight happy and well fed people were then deposited back to their hotels, along with a goodie bag provided by Van.

I hope that you too will try this tasty version of pho. Watch this space for more Vietnamese recipes over the coming months.

Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup)

Adapted from Van’s recipe, who runs Green Bamboo Cooking School

Serves at least 8

500g fresh pho noodles/rice noodles

300g beef fillet

1 kg beef bones – ideally spine bones or shin

5 litres boiling water

1 tbsp beef stock

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5 star anise

1 large stick of cinnamon

1 roasted fresh ginger

5 roasted shallots

1 large roasted bulb of garlic

5 dried Chinese apples/dates

1 whole white onion, peeled

2 red chillies, left whole or chopped in two

2 tsp salt and pepper

1 tbsp raw sugar

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50g fresh bean sprouts

50g fresh Asian basil

50g fresh coriander

50g spring onion, finely sliced

2 limes, cut into quarters

green papaya, finely sliced

chilli paste to taste

soy sauce, to taste (optional)

2 fresh chillies, sliced (optional)

1. Wash the beef bones under a tap and then place to one side. Meanwhile bring two large pans of water to the boil. In the first add the beef bones and submerge them for just under a minute and then transfer them to the second saucepan. Discard the water from the first saucepan.

2. Over a gas flame place the garlic, shallots and ginger on a metal grill directly above the flame, allowing them to char/roast. After a couple of minutes turn them over so that both sides are equally charred. Using the back of a teaspoon, peel off a little of the skin of the ginger.

3. Add them to the bones and boiling water, along with the onion, chillies, dried Chinese apples/dates, cinnamon stick and star anise. Add the salt, sugar, pepper and beef stock it you wish and place a lid on the pan and let  it boil gently for 2-3 hours.

4. Meanwhile, very finely slice the beef fillet and return it to the fridge.

5. Before serving, warm the noodles by placing them on a slotted spoon and submerging them in boling water for 30 seconds. Drain and place in individual bowls. Add the bean sprouts to each of the bowls.

6. In a large ladle add a little of the thinly sliced beef fillet and submerge into the pho broth so that the ladle is completely full and the beef is submerged. With a fork or chop sticks move the beef around in the ladle so that it ‘cooks’ through properly.  Pour over the noodles. Please note the pho broth needs to be boiling/bubbling away at this stage so that the beef fillet is cooked properly. 

7. Add the fresh herbs, lime, spring onions, green papaya and chilli paste/soy sauce/fresh chillies to taste.

8. Serve immediately and enjoy piping hot.