Goan Pork Curry for Sunday Supper

On Sundays we tend to have our ‘main’ meal now in the early evening, where we can all sit down and break bread together. We eat very little meat in the week these days, but on Sunday we like to indulge and have a roast or perhaps a curry. This evening we will be having a Goan pork curry, which is deliciously spiced – not chilli hot as my youngest daughter is 9 years old. It’s a great one you can make advance, either the day before or in the morning of the day you are making it.

I’ll be accompanying it with some plain basmati rice and my beetroot curry.

Do you have a main family meal on Sundays? Do you go for the traditional English roast or something more exotic?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

Goan Pork Curry

Serves 4

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp peppercorns

1 tsp cardamom seeds, remove seeds from the pod

4cm stick of cinnamon bark

2 tsp black mustard seeds

2 dried red chillies (4 if you want more chilli heat)

1tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp cardamom seeds, remove seeds from the pod

2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 whole head of garlic, all cloves peeled

2 white onions, peeled and chopped

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp white wine vinegar

4 tbsp of vegetable oil

750g of boneless pork, cut into bite sized cubes

1 tsp light brown sugar

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp of turmeric

250ml water

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1.  Dice the pork into bite sized mouthfuls and set aside in a bowl.

2. Heat a frying pan and add the cumin seeds, red chillies, peppercorns, cinnamon bark, black mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Move around the pan so that the aromas are released but they do not burn. This will take under 1 minute. Place them into a small bowl to cool. Add the cardamom seeds to the bowl.

3. After a few minutes, place them into a spice grinder to create a masala. Return the powdered masala into the small bowl.

4. In the same frying pan, fry the onions until they begin to bronze. This will take around 10 minutes.

5. Whilst the onions are bronzing, peel the garlic and the fresh ginger (use the back of a teaspoon to do this – it is really easy this way), and grate the fresh ginger. Place in a hand blender, add a splash of water and blend to form a smooth paste. Place in a small bowl and place to one side.

6. Once the onions have bronzed transfer them to the same hand blender and blend until smooth. Add the vinegar to make the consistency smooth. The reason for putting vinegar in this recipe is to help soften the pork when cooking.

7. In the same frying pan, heat half the oil and gently fry the pork cubes so that they too begin to bronze. Remove with a slotted spoon.

8. In a new deeper pan, add  the remaining oil and add the ginger-garlic paste you have created. Add the turmeric and coriander powder and then return the pork to the pan along with the onion puree and masala blend. Fold all the spices into the pork. Add the water and cook on a low heat for 45-55 mins, stirring intermittently.

I like to serve this with a simple plain basmati rice and a vegetable curry as a side dish.

 


Baigan Bharta – Spiced Smokey Aubergine/Eggplant 

How’s everyone getting on? Not having the January blues I hope. It’s a bit cold and dreary back here in London and snow is  forecast, but I hope that this post will lift your heart and spirits and that you’ll see the world in colour once again. I thought you would be intrigued to see beautiful Jodhpur below. We recently spent a few days in this magnificent city, wandering the streets and soaking up the electric atmosphere.

I’ve been trying out some of the lovely recipes that I sampled in India in the comfort of my warm cosy kitchen this week. I’ll be sharing lots of them with you here on the blog over the coming weeks. Today I wanted to show you a wonderful aubergine dish – or eggplant as it is known to my US followers. It is similar to my baba ganoush, but with an Indian twist due to the spices.

Before I show you the recipe however, I wanted a moment to talk about chillies. I often get asked which chillies I use in my Indian cooking. When it comes to fresh green chillies I opt for the ones that are small and thin – but not the Thai birds eye, which are far hotter. The chillies I buy are slightly largely and longer, but still thin compared to the more bulbous ones.

In Kolkata I visited so many wonderful markets but the one above – Bow Bazaar – which is more of a wholesale fresh produce market, had a magnificent array of fresh produce. These chillies are similar to the ones I buy here in the UK.

So back to the recipe for this week. Please do give it a go and share the results on your social media outlets with the #chilliandmint and link me @chilliandmint.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

 

Baigan Bharta – Spiced Smokey Aubergine/Eggplant 

serves 4-6 (served with some other dishes)

2 large aubergines

2 tbsp oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced or chopped

1-2 fresh green chilli, finely sliced

1 tsp salt, to taste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp coriander powder

4 medium sized tomatoes, cubed

 

  1. First you need to place the aubergines over a flame. If you have a gas hob then this works really well. If you do not you can place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the flesh softens, although it won’t have the same smokiness as over an open flame. If you are smoking it over a flame/gas hob it will take around 8 minutes, but you need to use tongs to turn it over so that it is ‘burnt’. Once it is soft and the sides have shrivelled remove from the plan and place on a plate to cool.
  2. Remove the charred skin from the aubergine and run under water to remove any excess skin. Place in a bowl and mash using a fork or potato masher.
  3. In a non-stick pan add the oil on a medium/low heat and add the cumin seeds. Allow them to fizzle in the pan for 15 seconds or so before adding the red onion, fresh chilli, garlic and ginger. Move around the pan to soften for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the spice powders and salt and move around the pan.
  5. Add the tomatoes and aubergine and move around the pan for a further 3-5 minutes.
  6. Serve warm – you can add some fresh coriander on top or eat it as is.

You can serve this at room temperature, but personally I love it hot with a paratha or chapati.

 


Simple Egg Curry

Oh boy it’s hot in the UK (whole of Europe in fact). I am literally melting.  It’s giving me good practice however, for when I go to the Dead Sea in a few weeks and temperatures there are in the 40’s. I seem to be downing gallons of my delicately spiced watermelon gazpacho – and fresh cold salads, but cold food aside, I do love to eat hot food too and my egg curry is the perfect simple dish to make for an evening meal. I have a couple of other egg curries on my blog – a Bengali egg curry – very similar to this one but with less spices, and a Sri Lankan egg curry. I adore egg and probably eat one most days, either for breakfast or lunch. This is a nice alternative paired with some rice or flat bread.

Whilst I was staying with friends in the countryside last week I cooked them an Indian vegetarian supper and the egg curry went down a treat. I accompanied it with marrow dal, Sri Lankan beetroot curry and a potato and cabbage curry – something similar to this.

Right I’m off for an iced coffee. Stay cool folks, factor up and wear a large hat.

 

 

Indian Egg Curry

9 boiled eggs, shells removed

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 white onion, blended into a puree

1 tbsp garlic ginger paste

4 large tomatoes, blended into a puree (or you can use pasata/blended tinned tomatoes)

2 bay leaves

4 cloves

1 piece of cinnamon bark

3 green cardamom

1/2 (half) tsp turmeric powder

1/2 garam masala

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

50ml water

1 tsp salt, to taste

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

 

  1. Using a hand blender, first blend the onion into a smooth puree and then place in a bowl. Repeat with the tomatoes placing in a separate bowl.
  2. In a pan, add a little oil, and gently bronze the hard boiled eggs then place to one side. Be careful that the oil does not spit. Keep on a low heat.
  3. In the pan that the eggs were in add a little more oil if needed and bronze the onion puree. This takes about 10 minutes. Move it around the pan from time to time so that it does not burn.
  4. Once the onion has bronzed, make a little space, add a little more oil and add the garlic ginger paste. Move around the pan and then add the cloves, green cardamom, bay leaves, turmeric powder and cinnamon bark.
  5. Add the puree tomato and some of the water to create more of a sauce and allow to simmer away for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the garam masala and Kashmiri powder and more water if needed – I like to have a more saucy sauce.
  7. Add the salt and taste to check the balance is right.
  8. Gently add in the eggs and cover in the sauce. Simmer for a further couple of minutes.
  9. To serve add some fresh coriander.

 

You can make this in advance and keep it in the fridge. When ready to eat,  take out of the fridge and bring to room temperature and then gently heat in a pan. I have made it with 9 eggs so that we can have leftovers for another day. The quantities for everything else stays the same.

 


Cod, Potato and Spinach Curry

 

 

With the weather being pretty amazing here at the moment in the UK I like to cook quick speedy meals that are packed full of flavour and are not too laborious to make. I had a kilo of cod in my freezer, which I defrosted, so thought that a fish curry was called for, eaten in the garden. Bliss.

I love a good fish curry and have lots on my blog that I would recommend (not biased or anything!): Mild Indian cod currySri Lankan tuna curry, speedy salmon curry (excuse the dodgy photos on this one – it’s when I first started my blog), Bengali mustard fish curry.

The one I want to show you today takes 15 mins max – in fact most fish curries take no time at all. I used cod, but you could use any firm fish – pollock, salmon, trout, bhetki, tuna, monkfish. My cod was filleted and then I simply removed the skin and then cut it into slightly larger than bite size pieces. It will be in a red gravy and this is not because of tomatoes – there are none in it – instead from the paprika and Kashmiri chilli powder, the latter is not spicy hot, instead adds great colour to a dish. Do not be put off.

 

Cod, Potato and Spinach Curry

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tbsp garam masala powder

1 heaped tsp turmeric powder

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 inches of ginger, skin removed and finely grated

4 fresh green chillies, sliced in half length ways (add less if you prefer less heat)

1 tbsp plain flour

1 tsp salt, to taste

1 heaped tsp paprika

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp mango/amchur powder

1 tsp sesame seeds

1 large potato, chopped into 1 inch cubes

250ml water

1 kg cod, filleted, skinned and cut into large bite size pieces

2 large handfuls of fresh spinach

1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar

 

  1. Use a large, wide, deep pan ideally. Heat the oil and when hot add the cumin seeds. They will sizzle almost immediately. After 10 seconds add the onion and move around the pan for a further couple of minutes before adding the coriander powder, turmeric and garam masala powder. Turn the heat down to prevent any of the spices burning. Move around the pan and then add the garlic and ginger.
  2. After about a minute or two add the flour, which will gently thicken the curry, and move around the pan. Add the paprika and Kashmiri chilli powder and then add the cubed potato.
  3. After a further minute add some water so that it covers the potato. Add the fish and coat in the masala. Add a little more water, to cover the fish and place a lid on the pan and cover for 5 minutes.
  4. Gently move the fish, without breaking it up, around the pan and add the mango powder, sugar and sesame seeds. Return the lid on the pan and simmer away for a further 3 minutes.
  5. Add the fresh spinach and continue to cook for a further 3 minutes or until the potato has softened. Add more water if you prefer a more saucy curry. Check on the taste and add more salt/sugar if necessary.
  6. Keep the lid on the pan to keep in the heat before serving. It works well with rice or Indian breads.

 

 

 

 


Thai Jungle Curry and Review of “Mae’s Ancient Thai Food” by Carole Mason and Ning Najpinij

I bought a new exciting cookbook recently all about Thai heritage cooking called “Mae’s Ancient Thai Food” by Carole Mason and Ning Najpint. Bold, bright and bursting with a wonderful range of recipes that you actually want to cook straight away.  The book is an ode to Ning’s mother – Kobkaew – who sadly passed away, but was a known figure in the culinary world both in Thailand, and more globally. Her recipes and articles appeared in a number of magazines including: Vogue USA, Australian Gourmet, Tatler, as well as David Thompson’s books, “Thai Food” and “Thai Street Food”. It seemed a fitting tribute therefore for Carole, her protege and friend, and daughter – Ning, to create a beautiful cookbook dedicated to Kobkaew – known affectionately as ‘Mae’ (mother) to both her daughter and her beloved students.

Thai cooking does require a little forward thinking to get the fresh ingredients. One ingredient that is as ubiquitous in Thailand and Thai cooking as onions are to British fare, is coriander root. The bad news folks is that hard to track down, although not impossible in the UK.  Carole is trying to spread the word that this needs to change so that second and third generation Thais living in the UK, and those who are passionate about Thai cooking, don’t lose touch and knowledge of heritage Thai cuisine. She has even placed “we love coriander root” on the front of the book itself to signal its importance in Thai cooking. If larger supermarkets could start stocking it, and we all start using it, her campaign will be achieved. In the meantime if you can’t track it down  you could use a good handful of coriander stalks and leaves to create the colour and then add a teaspoon of coriander root powder, which is easier to source in the UK.

Other than the obvious ingredients, who will have to go to an Oriental supermarket to source some things or go online to the suppliers that Carole outlines in her book. She clearly explains techniques and explanation of the various Thai ingredients you may not be familiar with. The chapters are then split into: curries,  soups (including hangover cures), salads, seafood, dips, nibbles and canapés, vegetables, noodles and stir frys and desserts.

Jumping out at me is: Muu Parlow – Pork and Egg Soup, Gaeng Som – Prawn and Papaya curry, Gaenglean – Good Old Fashioned Soup, Nahm Prik Pao – Thai Chilli Jam (HELLO yes please), Yam Plate Too – Mackerel Salad, I could go on as they all sound so good.

 

So what type of person would this book suit?

Personally, I think anyone who loves cooking and trying out new recipes and does not flinch at the thought of sourcing a few ingredients will LOVE it. Those who want their meal on a plate with minimum effort and the thought of searching for a particular ingredient causes them to break out in a sweat, then perhaps this isn’t for them. I only own one other Thai cookbook so for me this book was screaming out at me to be bought. Oh yes, and you need to like chilli as chilli is definitely a cornerstone in Thai cooking.

Publishing a cookbook is never easy, especially when you self-publish, which is the route that Carole and Ning went down. It is an incredible achievement but now comes the equally hard work of spreading the word. So folks feel free to retweeted and forwarded this post (or photo on instagram) as much as possible. Blogging is an amazing community of wonderful folk,  so lets help ‘Mae’s Ancient Thai Food’ gets the notice it deserves. I bought the book myself and all my views are my own (as they always are) in case you are wondering.

So are you intrigued by what I cooked? ……

I went for “Gaeng Pah – Jungle Curry”. Packed full of flavour and zing, but no coconut milk. Now I will be honest that I did change some of the ingredients because if you can’t get hold of a particular ingredient then replace it with something similar, its not worth getting too stressed about.

So these are the changes I made:

I converted everything from cups to grams, cause that’s how I roll.

coriander root – I replaced with coriander stalks and a few leaves and coriander root powder

small green apple aubergine – I used one courgette, peeled in striped and cut at angles

snake beans – I used regular beans and also added sugar snaps (cause I love my green veg)

holy basil – I could not source it so used Thai basil

I added 1 tsp of caster sugar – you could also add palm sugar. Carole does not add either.

The recipe was a triumph and I think I went back for thirds. It feeds around 4 people.

First I made some fresh chicken stock – which is super straightforward:

Fresh Chicken Stock

4 chicken wings on the bone

10 white peppercorns

3 garlic cloves,

half an onion, peeled

a lump of ginger

if you live in a country that you can get hold of coriander root or Chinese celery pop them in

bay leaf

  1. Simply cover the wings with water and an extra 3 inches of water on top and bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins.
  2. Strain the stock and remove the flesh from the chicken wings and keep for another time. I also keep the garlic too. Discard the rest.
  3. Either use of freeze the stock.

 

Gaeng Pah – Jungle Curry

Serves 4

Jungle Curry Paste

10 small green Thai chillies

a pinch of salt

1 coriander root OR a handful of coriander root and leaves and 1 tsp of coriander root powder

2 whole lemongrass, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely sliced

1 tbsp galangal, sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tsp coriander seeds dry roasted and ground

10 white peppercorns

1 tsp of shrimp paste

  1. To save time, although not authentic (sorry Carole) I popped all the ingredients into my little mini blender, added a couple of tablespoons of water and blended together. If you have time however using a pestle and mortar will give you a better, more authentic paste. Carole has laid out the steps to do this properly – in short – hardest ingredients first one at a time until they make a paste before moving onto the next. Add the dried ingredients last and the shrimp paste. Pound until smooth.

Other Ingredients

1 batch of jungle curry paste (as above)

3 tbsp of vegetable/rapeseed oil

300g chicken sliced diagonally (I used thigh, but use breast if you prefer or you could use white fish)

1 tbsp fish sauce

750ml chicken stock (or fish stock if you are going down the fish route)

1 courgette, peeled to create stripes and cut into diagonally strips

100g green beans, cut in half

100g sugar snap peas

1x227g tin of bamboo shoots (drained weight 140g)

1 tbsp grachai, peeled and shredded (I had never used this but my local Thai grocer had it so was able to use it. Finger shape and size but with a similar skin to ginger or turmeric.

5 young green peppercorn strips, washed and left whole

5 kaffir lime leaves, de-veined and torn

 

a handful of thai basil leaves, washed and stalked removed

1 lime, quartered to serve

2 red chillies, cut into fine strips to decorate to serve

 

  1. First make the paste above.
  2. Next heat the oil in a pan and add the curry paste, stirring gently to let the aromas develop.
  3. Add the chicken (or fish) and stir into the paste.
  4. Heat the stock and add it to the pan and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the courgettes, beans, sugar snaps, bamboo shoots and after a couple of minutes add the grachai, green peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil.
  6. Taste and add more fish sauce. I added a little caster sugar, but you may find you don’t need to.
  7. Serve with a quarter of fresh lime per serving and some fresh red chilli strips.

I ate mine with a bowl of rice.

You can buy Carole and Ning’s book  here or if you are based in London it is now stocked at the heavenly bookshop “Books For Cooks” in Notting Hill.

 

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Sri Lanka’s Tea Gardens, the Coast and Beetroot Curry

This is quite a long post so boil yourself some water and make yourself a cup of tea. Sitting comfortably……..then let’s begin.

No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without a stay in the tea gardens. The cooling climate, the rich green tea plantations and the slower pace of life is very appealing, especially after spending time in the hot dry lands of the cultural triangle. I loved the experience of staying in them when I visited Kerala so made sure they were included in our Sri Lanka itinerary. Many travellers head to Nuwara Eliya often referred by the Sri Lankan tourist industry as ‘Little England’, a nod to the British summer time retreat in the 1800, but instead we opted to stay in a few valleys away, near to a small town called Hatton. There is a train station in Hatton and if I were to revist I would take the slow steam train from Kandy to Hatton to admire the scenery and avoid the hairpin bends, which make even the most hardened traveller feel car sick. Tickets need to be bought in advance so think about this as an option even if you have a driver.

We stayed a night in Mandira Dickoya and a night in Mandira Strathdon both old colonial ‘planters’ cottages who managed the tea estates. Mandira Strathdon is best for those travelling with a family as there are adjoining rooms. On arrival you are transported to another era where the pace of life was slow and charmed.  The food at these boutique hotels is homely and authentic – check out these delicious bowls of curry that we had for supper.

Breakfast involved a freshly squeezed juice and some beautifully presented fruit – papaya with fresh lime being my favourite.

This was followed by buffalo milk curd and coconut treacle – I*N*C*R*E*D*I*B*L*E. Don’t be fooled into thinking it looks plain and tasteless. You’ll become addicted I promise you.

This was then invariable followed by the ubiquities rice hoppers with dal, chilli and pickle, sometimes with an egg in the middle. Tasty and certainly very filling.

 

 

 

In order to walk off breakfast, a guide showed us around the neighbourhood and the numerous tea plantations so that we could learn more about the tea, flora, fauna and general wildlife. Can I recommend that if you do this you wear long trousers and socks that pull up. My husband decided to take a stroll in shorts and ended up with the inevitable leeches, which caused his ankle to bleed for the proceeding three hours.

 

We met with some of the tea-pluckers, many of whom are the older women. The fear is that by the next generation there will be no one left to actually pick the leaves as the younger generation are not wanting to take on such hard labour. The tea plantations will revert to the forests that they once were before the arrival of the British, Dutch and Portuguese. To give you an idea of a ‘day-in-a-life’ of a tea plucker we learn’t that they rise before 6.30am and report to the factory where they are allocated an area to pluck tea leaves. They must pluck 18kg a day to get paid. For their labours they will receive the equivalant of £7 a day. As part of the job they will receive lodgings until their retirement.

A derelict tea factory stood alongside a hindu temple and tea pluckers cottages were painted in vibrant colours,  some with beautiful flower garlands adorning the porch area.

There was even the most beautiful Christian church that was still well maintained and cared for, with graves from British planters who called this corner of the world home; the views from the church were magnificent.

We visited Norwood tea factory and got to see the full cycle of a tea leaf, leaving with an enhanced respect for both the tea pluckers and the process involved to create the tea that is drunk the world over. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. 

On our return to our lodgings we chanced upon a rather fascinating festival where crowds of people had gathered. As the traffic was brought to a standstill we decided to get out on foot to take a closer look. From afar we could see young men tied to large bamboo poles that were leavered up into the air and then attached to small lorries. There was a lot of colour and noise and it looked intriguing if not a little surreal. The mind boggled as to what on earth they were actually doing. On closer inspection what appeared to be a rather jolly occasion looked, to the Western spectator (there was only us), to be dreadfully painful.

We discovered that the young men were actually tied up to the poles with small cleaver hooks going through their skin. Bizarrely it was our youngest daughter who first spotted this, who inquired whether we thought it would hurt. Bewildered and fascinated in equally measure, back at our hotel I discovered that the festival was called – Thirunaal, which coincides with the full moon around the 13/14th April and practiced by Tamil Hindus. I discovered that Sri Lanka is not the only country which practices such extreme religious devotion, it is also hugely popular in Indonesia and am sure it also takes place in India as well. The belief is that ones devotion to the hindu gods will free the body from pain incurred from the hooks. Being part of this festival the young men fulfil their vows to hindu gods.

Throughout the night, drums were heard and the festival continued as the full moon shone. It was certainly interesting to stumble upon, but felt a world away from Western civilisation.

The following day we headed for the coast, using the super highway from Columbo to Galle – 100km which takes no time at all owing to the fact that it was tolled and hence no one used it other than tourists, not even the sacred cows! As much as I love the hill stations and mountains I adore being near the sea – smelling the salty air, the sound of the waves and the palm trees gently blowing in the wind. We stayed in a small boutique hotel called Apa Villa, which is owned by Hans Hoefer – the photographer, designer and founder of Insight Guides.

It overlooks the sea, but due to the reef it is impossible to swim safely here. We didn’t mind as we had a beautiful pool to do some laps.

It was whilst staying here that we spent half a day with the kitchen staff at Hans’s other residence Apa Villa Illuketia a few kilometres inland, and which you can also stay in. This was the estate that Hans originally bought before buying his property on the coast. It has plenty of old world charm and we spent a peaceful morning with the staff, before sitting down to the lunch that we had watched being prepared.

Galle is definitely worth a visit, which was 15-20 minutes up the road from Apa Villas. This Dutch built fort town is walkable, absolutely charming and filled with fascinating shops, museum and churches.

It feels very European – well Dutch to be precise – once you get within the city walls.

We loved this great retro poster shop and thought this poster was rather apt.

We couldn’t resist a London priced cocktail at the Aman Galle Hotel occupying an elegant, 17th-century Colonial-style building to watch the world go by.

The beetroot recipe below was one that I was taught during the morning at Illuketia and works as a great accompanying dish with other fish/meat/vegetable curries or a simple dal.

Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry

2 tbsp rapeseed/coconut oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

10 fresh curry leaves

1 pandan leaf, cut into 4 strips

1 small/medium tomato, roughly chopped

1/4 tsp Sri Lankan chilli powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp turmeric

2 medium sized beetroot, peeled and chopped into batons

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

25ml water

200ml coconut milk

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add onion, garlic, curry leaves, pandan leaf and tomato and allow to soften for a 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chilli powder, salt, garam masala and turmeric and stir into the other ingredients.
  3. After a further five minutes add the beetroot and, to help soften it, add the water and coconut milk. Simmer gently for around 20 minutes so that the beetroot has softened and the liquid reduced slightly.
  4. You are now ready to serve.

 

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Arriving: Sri Lanka and Tuna Curry

I feel as if I have seen and eaten A LOT since I last wrote a post. For those who follow me on instagram  you’ll know that I’ve been galavanting around Sri Lanka with my family trying to experience as much as humanly possible in 12 days. Sitting on a beach for two weeks, just isn’t our thing.  We packed in a lot and as such feel as if we have been away for a lot longer. I have so much to tell that I thought I would break it down in a series of mini posts, to make it more interesting and accompany each post with a recipe that I was taught so you get a bit of travel tips and a recipe combined. Well that’s the plan – I hope you like it. First up – if you are planning or are just interested in Sri Lanka or just love history and travel then I really recommend you pick up a copy of both of these books. They are absolutely excellent and very well written.

 

After a long flight there is nothing better than arriving and acclimatising to your destination as quickly as possible. Horathapola Estate helped us to just that and I would return in a heartbeat.

It’s a good hours drive from the Colombo airport, in the countryside on a glorious old estate with plenty of charm and elegance. Arriving we were greeted by these two smiling gentlemen with fresh coconuts juice – the perfect drink in the midday sun.

 

Photo credit: Horathapolo Estate Instagram feed (check it out as it captures the estate beautifully)

The place is small and intimate – 5 bedrooms, so you are not going to find coach loads of tourists arriving here. Phew. They put us in the beautiful family lodge, which was a two bedroom cottage with two large bathrooms and four poster beds with, importantly, mosquito nets to keep the blighters at bay.

It has a beautiful pool to relax in, that you can even share with the odd passing holy cow – that was definitely a first. The wildlife wandering by and the sounds coming from the trees was enchanting – it almost has something mystical about the place.

Keen to explore the estate we were whisked off……well maybe not whisked but a slow plod, on a bullock cart around the grounds. This was the mode of transport for all Sri Lankans before the motor car, tuk tuk and train arrived. We were shown flora, fauna and wildlife – of particular interest was this:

The cashew nut. One single seed (or nut as we know it) comes from each fruit. We learnt that surrounding the seed is an acid that is an irritant to the skin – similar to the toxins found in poison ivy – and that long gloves need to be worn when opening up the seed. By properly roasting the cashew – outside as the smoke contains droplets that can seriously irritate the lungs – destroys the toxin. This laborous process, combined with the fact that only one seeds comes from a fruit, may explain why cashew nuts are so expensive. Indeed cashew nut curry in Sri Lanka is only really served at special occasions, such as weddings.

Staying at this beautiful estate was the perfect introduction to life in Sri Lanka. We immediately felt at home and eager to embrace our new surroundings. Eating a bowl of rasam (one of my absolutely favourite soups) – a deliciously fragrant and black pepper Sri Lankan soup, tasted heavenly after 10 hours on a plane.

In fact I could have eaten bowls of it, but restrained myself as supper was only a few hours away. The food at Horathapola Estate was Sri Lankan food at it’s best. When travelling I much prefer to eat food from that specific country, rather than Western food, which I can frankly eat anytime when I am home in London. I visited the kitchen and met the chefs and the food was all freshly made for the guests. I could not fault it – it wasn’t uber fancy, but to be honest I’m not really into that kind of food – and would definitely love to return in the future and stay for a little longer next time.

The first recipe I wanted to share with you today is a Sri Lankan tuna curry. I was taught the recipe by chefs I met later in my travels, and thought it was a great way to incorporate tuna into a curry. There are a couple of ingredients that you maybe unfamiliar with. The first is pandan leaves, also known as rampa. They have long green blade like leaves and add a distinct and aromatic flavour to a curry or even a dessert.  They are widely used in cooking in South Asia and I picked up mine from my local Sri Lankan grocers. You can easily find them on the internet – Amazon even sells them fresh, and Thai grocers will also stock them. You can freeze them, so a packet will last you for some time.

The other ingredient that you may not have come across is Sri Lankan roasted curry powder, which is deeply aromatic with a reddish hue. The spices are dry roasted before being blended together to create a powder. You can buy online or make your own, it really is pretty straightforward.

Sri Lankan Tuna Curry

Serves 4 (accompanied with some vegetable curries)

400g cubed tuna (bite sized)

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp Sri Lankan roasted curry powder

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

100ml cold water

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 lemongrass, cut in half

1 fresh green chilli sliced

1 pandan leaf, broken into 4

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped

6 tbsp thin coconut milk

1/2 tsp salt or to taste

 

  1. In a bowl add the cubed tuna, red chilli powder, black pepper and roasted curry powder and then add about 100ml of cold water. Mix together and set aside.
  2. In a pan add a little vegetable oil and when it is hot, but on a low to medium heat,  add the red onion, lemongrass, pandan leaves, garlic and allow to cook in the pan for a few minutes. Stir from time to time to stop the onions sticking to the base of the pan.
  3. Add the tomatoes and allow to soften before adding the tuna and spicy liquid that you had set aside.
  4. Add 2 tbsp of coconut milk – ideally the thinner milk, as opposed to the thicker cream. Gently turn the tuna at intervals, careful not to break it up. It is a firm fish so it should hold together well. Add a further 2 tbsp of coconut milk.
  5. Add the salt to taste and finally add a further 2 tbsp of coconut milk. Simmer gently. If you feel it is too spicy add a little more coconut milk.
  6. The tuna will be cooked within 10-15 minutes and place to one side, until ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hot Spiced Tomatoes with Spinach

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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?

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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.

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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.


Maharashtrian Stuffed Aubergines with Cashew, Coconut and Tamarind

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I’ve been having quite a number of requests recently for aubergine recipes. At my local Indian grocers they have the full range from the small round ones, which I used for this recipe, to the small finger looking ones, to the more regular sized ones that you find in your general supermarket.

As far as recipes go I have quite a few already on the blog so do check them out:

miso aubergines

fried indian aubergines

aubergine, pork and rice noodle salad

moussaka

red Thai tofu, aubergine and egg curry

Indian aubergine peanut and tomato curry

baba ganoush (one of my favourites)

soba noodles with tofu, aubergine and mango

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The one that I wanted to show you today is very similar to the Indian aubergine, peanut and tomato curry, however it uses small oval shaped aubergines that are easy to find at Indian grocers. It also uses cashew nuts, desiccated coconut and tamarind and does not include onion. This recipe is a traditional Maharashtrian dish often prepared over religious festivals. As diwali – the hindu festival of light – is fast approaching this coming Sunday 30th October I thought it was apt to show you how to make it.

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Do not be put off by the length of ingredients as it really is pretty easy to make.

Maharashtrian Stuffed Aubergines with Cashew, Coconut and Tamarind

serves 6-8 if serving with a couple of other dishes (reduce the amount of aubergines if serving a smaller number)

12-14 small oval aubergines – slit (but not all the way through) crossways

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 Kashmiri chilli powder

10 fresh curry leaves

pinch of asafoetida

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 tsp salt

150ml water

Paste

70g cashew nuts

2 tbsp white sesame seeds

3 tbsp desiccated coconut

2 tbsp coriander seeds

30g fresh coriander – leaves and stalks

1 tsp salt

1 tsp tamarind paste

1 tbsp jaggery/brown sugar

 

  1. First make cross incisions in all of the aubergines being careful not to cut all the way through. Place in a bowl of cold water with pinch of salt added.
  2. Next make the paste. First dry roast the cashew nuts and when they begin to brown very slightly add the sesame seeds and keep them moving around the pan for about 20 seconds before adding the coconut and stirring for a further 20 seconds. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before adding to your spice grinder along with the coriander seeds.
  3. As my spice grinder cannot take liquid I then move to my mini blender where I then add the fresh coriander, salt, tamarind paste, jaggery and a splash of water to loosen it slightly – although it is important it remains a paste as opposed to a runny liquid.
  4. You then want to stuff each of the aubergines with the paste and place to one side. If you have any paste left over this will go into the pan so also leave to one side
  5. Heat a deep pan and add the vegetable oil. When it is hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, followed by the asafoetida, curry leaves, Kashmiri chilli powder and turmeric powder. Move around the pan for 15 seconds before adding any leftover paste and the diced tomatoes. Keep on a gently heat for a couple of minutes before adding the aubergines.
  6. Add around 150ml of water – you can add more later if it becomes too thick and keep on a gentle simmer for 25 minutes with the lid on. Turn the aubergines over at intervals.
  7. Taste the sauce and add more water if too thick. Add more salt or jaggery if need be.
  8. Serve with a scattering of freshly cut coriander.

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Kolkata Style Mustard Mackerel Curry

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

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

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

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Kolkata Style Mustard Mackerel Curry

Serves 4

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

4 tbsp oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

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

3 heaped tsp of wholegrain mustard

2-3 heaped tsp English or Dijon mustard

pinch of chilli powder – optional

75ml water

1/4 tsp salt

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

Serve with rice or Indian breads.

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