Coconut and Lemongrass Prawns

I’ve just returned from a relaxing week in Wales, where the sun shone in all it’s glory and we spent the days exploring the coast line, swimming in the sea, eating tasty food and just generally relaxing. It was so good to have a change of scene after lockdown.

Returning to London I rather fancied eating prawns so set about making a curry – not an Indian one this time but more of a Burmese inspired dish with lemongrass, coconut and lime. I had recently been sent a most delicious pot of Maya’s Nørrebro Chilli Sauce. The name and back story immediately caught my attention. I’m loving the chilli on the viking helmet!

Maya was born and raised in Denmark in an area of Copenhagen called…you guessed it…… Nørrebro, to India parents. The chilli sauce is nod to her Indian origin with the design and aesthetics being very much Danish in style. The sauce tastes absolutely delicious and has no preservatives, salt or sugar and could be used in a number of ways. I’ve eaten it at breakfast with my wilted spinach and tomatoes, with scrambled eggs, avocado toast, but today I thought it would really work well in a prawn curry.

It tasted so delicious I thought I would share the recipe for you all to try. Maya has recently launched her business so I know would love some support, especially in these rather challenging times for anyone in the food business. You can order your jar here.

 

When you buy your prawns make sure to buy them with the shells on so that you can also make my prawn bisque with the shells. It takes around 10 minutes to remove the shells, although I like to keep the tails on – for aesthetic reasons mainly, if I’m honest. Pop the turmeric powder and a little salt over the prawns whilst you prep the other ingredients.

I added 2 tbsp of Maya’s chilli sauce, but start with one and then add the other a little later to see if the heat works for you. This is not meant to be a super hot blow-your-head-off curry, but one that the whole family can eat and enjoy that is full of delicious flavours.

Coconut and Lemongrass Prawns

Serves 4

900g prawns, remove shell but keep tails on and devein. Keep the shells to make this

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp vegetable oil

***

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 heaped tbsp fresh ginger, grated

3 garlic cloves, grated

2 lemongrass, ends and outer skin removed and cut into 3 pieces each

1 tbsp Maya’s Nørrebro Chilli Sauce

1 tsp salt

400ml coconut milk

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar

2 medium sized tomatoes, blended

1 more tbsp Maya’s Nørrebro Chilli Sauce, optional

1 lime, juice only

 

  1. In a bowl add the prawns, turmeric powder and salt and mix well. Leave for 10 mins
  2. In a frying pan heat the oil and add half the prawns so that they bronze. A couple of minutes on each side will be sufficient. Remove and leave on a plate whilst you gently fry the remaining prawns.
  3. In a slightly deeper pan than a frying pan, heat the oil and when it is hot add the red onion. Leave to lightly bronze which will take around 6-8 minutes.
  4. Add the grated ginger and garlic and lemongrass and mix well.
  5. After a couple of minutes add the coconut milk, jaggery/brown sugar and fish sauce. If there is any turmeric water from the bowl the prawns were in add this too.
  6. Add Maya’s Nørrebro chilli sauce and stir well. Leave to simmer whilst you blend the tomatoes in a chopper.
  7. Add the tomatoes and stir. Simmer for a further few minutes before adding the prawns. Keep the heat low and cover.
  8. Taste test the sauce and add one more tbsp of Maya’s Nørrebro chilli sauce if required. I did and it tasted heavenly.
  9. From the time the prawns are in the sauce they will only need 5 minutes before they are cooked.

Serve with some steamed rice and I finely chopped some savoy cabbage and added it to a pan with oil and fresh garlic which had softened. I then add a couple of tbsp of soy sauce and allow the cabbage to soften.

I was kindly gifted a pot of Maya’s Chilli Sauce, but all my view and opinions are my own.

 

 


Pork and Onion Curry, known as Dopiaza


If you are new to curry making and want a really simple one to kick start your curry affair then this pork dopiaza is a dream. Seriously it is SO good. Believe it or not it only has 4 spices – yup you heard correctly 4 – so there is no excuses that you don’t have all the ingredients. The only slightly trickier one is fenugreek seeds but all large supermarkets will stock this so look out for it in the spices section when you next go shopping or ordering online.  You can also make it with chicken and I reckon it would also be rather delicious with jackfruit (which has the same texture as pork – or pulled pork) if you want to go down the vegetarian route.

So you are probably wondering what dopiaza actually means? In short “two onions” or at least onions cooked in two stages during the cooking. The recipe comes from Persia and the time of the Mughals and is very popular in Indian and Pakistan. If you are on instagram then I have done a short IGTV showing you how to cook it exactly. Take a look. I have not added any tomatoes. The rich red colour comes from the Kashmiri chilli powder – which gives curries a wonderful deep red colour without too much heat – so perfect for the family.  I like to serve it with fluffy rice and some dal.

Pork and Onion Curry (Dopiaza)

serves 4

400g onions (slice half thinly and chop the other half)

2 tbsp ghee/vegetable oil

650g boneless pork shoulder, cubed into bite sized portions

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp turmeric powder

2tsp ground coriander powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp salt, to taste

a little water to loosen whilst cooking

1/2 lemon, juice only

 handful of fresh coriander – to serve

1. Heat the oil/ghee in a deep pan and add the chopped onions (remember to keep back the sliced onions) and cook gently for 7-10 minutes on a low heat until bronzed, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan and place in a bowl to one side.

2. Using the same pan add the pork and increase the heat slightly so that the pork is lightly browned on all sides – but not cooked through. This should take around 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and place to one side.

3. Continuing with the same pan (you may want to add a little more butter/ghee/oil) add the fenugreek seeds and allow them to crackle for 20 seconds before adding the sliced onions, coriander, turmeric, Kashmiri chilli powders and salt. Fry for around 10 minutes.

4. Return the lightly browned pork and add a little cold water and the juice of half a lemon and gently cook covered on a low heat for 45-50 minutes. Stir it at intervals. I rather like it when it catches a little bit at the bottom and you get really charred bits on the pork. You may need to add a little more water a couple of times during cooking if it begins to look too dry or over chars.

5. After 30 minutes return the fried onion and cook for another 15 minutes continuing to stir at intervals.

It is perfect with fluffy rice or some Indian flat bread.

 

 


Cooking a Sri Lankan Curry For Critical NHS

Hi everyone,

Hope you are all keeping well and remaining upbeat in these uncertain times. This week I am doing a collaboration with the effervescent British-Sri Lankan interior designer and boutique hotel and villa owner of Kalukanda House in Sri Lanka, Dee Gibson. She also happens to be a fellow south west Londoner like myself.

Photo credit: Kalukanda House

Dee has worked super hard over the past few years bringing her expertise in design to create Kalukanda House from scratch. The original building had to be pulled down as it was structurally unsound. You can read all about the incredible transformation here.

The finished result is beautifully designed and a real oasis of tranquility and peace. It is fully staffed and can be rented exclusively or on a more boutique hotel set up.

Photo Credit: Kalukanda House

Dee contacted me earlier this week to see if I would come up with an exciting recipe for Kalukanda House and one that we can encourage readers to cook and in return donate a money to ‘support front line critical care staff’  – Critical NHS

By supporting the critical care frontline staff at St Georges and other London hospitals over the next few weeks and months, will in turn support the local shops and restaurants in doing so. They have decided to set up a PayPal pool where you can send donations, which you can see here here.

My recipe will be going on Dee’s blog, as well as her social media feeds – instagram @kalukandahouse as well as Youtube (Kalukanda House) so we would LOVE it if you are able to cook it and share it on your feeds. Any donation – however small – will be of immense help.

So the recipe I want to share with you is twofold. Firstly it is a home-made Sri Lankan roasted curry powder. If you don’t have all the spices, please do not stress and simply use the ones that you have. You can even use a bought one or a curry powder  you have at home that needs using up!

If you do make my one however (which I hope you will) you do need to grind it up either with a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder -I use this one. You then have a delicious curry powder that you can use on many occasions going forward – just remember to store it in a sealed jar.

The main event however, is my vegan Sri Lankan butternut squash curry. It is super easy and I hope you have most of the ingredients already in your store cupboards. If you are on instagram I’ve done short films of me cooking both recipes on my IGTV so have a look.

Best of luck and please tag me #chilliandmint and #kalukandahouse if you make it and are on instagram. Otherwise please write in the comments box below and I will get back to you. Let’s try and raise some money together for Critical NHS.

 

 

Sri Lankan Roasted Curry Powder

makes a small pot

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp uncooked basmati rice

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds

5 cloves

5 green cardamom, opened

10 fresh/frozen or dried curry leaves

 

I haven’t added any dried chillies but you can add a couple if you wish to make this a ‘hotter’ curry powder.

If you don’t have any of the spices above, leave them out and you have created your own new version of a Sri Lankan curry powder.

  1. Warm a frying pan and then add all the spices, rice and curry leaves.
  2. Keep on a low heat and move around the pan so that they do not burn. Wonderful aromas will be released.
  3. After 5 minutes the spices, rice and curry leaves will be nicely bronzed so transfer to a bowl to cool and remove the green husks of the cardamom pods and discard.
  4. Then either pound in a pestle and mortar or use a spice grinder to grinder to form a smooth powder.
  5. Store in a sealed jar for a couple of months.

The curry powder works well with all meat curries, as well as vegetarian/vegan curries too.

 

 

 

Sri Lankan Butternut Squash Curry

serves 4-6

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

10 curry leaves (if you have them)

1 red onion, sliced into half moons

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1.5 inches of fresh ginger, finely diced

1 tsp salt

900g butternut squash, cubed

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 heaped tsp Sri Lankan roasted curry powder

1x400ml tin of coconut milk

300ml water

a couple of 2 inch pandan leaves, optional

 

  1. Heat a deep pan and add the coconut oil. If you don’t have coconut oil, you can use vegetable or groundnut oil.
  2. Add the mustard, fennels seeds and curry leaves if you have them. Allow them to sizzle in the pan for 30 seconds, before adding the onions.
  3. Now add the garlic and ginger and stir into the spices and add the salt to help soften the onion. Move around the pan for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the butternut squash followed by the turmeric, Kashmiri chilli powder and Sri Lankan roasted curry powder and mix well.
  5.  Add the coconut milk, saving a little of the creamier part for later, add the water as well.  IF you have them add the pandan leaves, but absolutely not essential if you don’t have them to hand.
  6. Stir and then cover for 15-20 minutes, checking intermittently and giving a good stir.
  7. Add the remaining coconut milk. Check the seasoning and using a sharp knife check to see if the butternut squash is soft.

Serve with a scattering of fresh coriander leaves and some lemon or lime wedges. Serve alongside basmati rice, chapati or paratha.

If you want to add more heat to this curry you can add fresh or dried chillies when you add the mustard and fennel seeds to begin with.

 


Butter Chicken

After quite a number of requests, I bring you my butter chicken recipe this week. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser, liked by all ages, owing to its creamy tomato flavour. As the name suggest it contains butter – quite a lot if I’m honest – and cream, so perhaps this is one that you cook once in a while as opposed to each week. It’s delicately spiced as opposed to spicy so by default appeals to most palates. It is the one curry that using the breast meat works well. Typically I would always suggest using chicken thigh or the whole chicken cut into pieces by your butcher, but for butter chicken breast meat is perfect.

Whilst it is super straightforward to make there are a few stages to consider. You need to marinate the meat – minimum an hour or even overnight if you are really organised. After this you then char the chicken in a pan (grill also works well). Using the same pan you lightly bronze the onion and blitz that into a smooth paste. Next step is to create a buttery, creamy tomato sauce before adding the onion and meat and allowing it to simmer and infuse together. It can be cooked in advance so is certainly a good one if you are entertaining. I think you are going to like it. If you are on instagram and you make please tag me @chilliandmint #chilliandmint

Have a good week everyone.

Butter Chicken

Serves 6 (if serving with other dishes)

750g chicken breast or thigh (boneless), cut into bite sized pieces

marinade

3 tbsp full fat natural yoghurt

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala powder

1 tsp coriander powder

juice from half a lemon

1 tsp salt

 

onion puree

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter

2 tbsp oil

2 white onions, roughly chopped

 

creamy tomato sauce

75g salted butter

400g passata (or fresh tomatoes)

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar

1 tsp salt

pinch freshly ground black pepper

150ml double cream

1 tbsp dried methi/fenugreek leaves

 

  1. First you need to marinate the chicken. Mix all the marinade together and then cover tightly with cling film/foil and place in the fridge for an hour – to overnight.
  2. Once you have marinated the chicken sufficiently heat the ghee/butter in a frying pan.  Add the pieces of chicken so that they sealed and charred on both sides. This takes about 3-4 minutes on each side. They won’t be completely cooked at this stage so don’t try and nibble a piece quite yet! You will need to char the chicken in batches so that it does not overcrowd the pan. You do not want to steam it so don’t overcrowd the chicken or put a lid on the pan.
  3. Once all the chicken pieces have been charred, place in a bowl and keep to one side.
  4. In the same pan add the ghee and gently fry the onion so that it begins to bronze – this will take around 6 minutes. Remove from the pan, with all the charred scrapings from the bottom and blitz into a smooth paste using a small blender.
  5. In a deep pan/karahi, add the butter. When it is melted add the spices followed by the passata, black pepper, salt and jaggery/sugar. (If you are using fresh tomatoes, cook for 5 minutes in the pan and then blitz these too into a smooth paste and then return to the pan to follow the next steps.) Allow to simmer on a gentle heat for 7 minutes, by which time the sauce will have thickened sufficiently.
  6. Add the double cream, onion puree, chicken and dried fenugreek. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes on a low heat. Taste test and add more salt (and butter if you fancy) if needed.

To serve add a pinch more dried fenugreek and a drizzle of double cream. Equally fresh coriander on top would work well to serve.

It is delicious eaten with naan or rice. Accompanying dishes that would work well would be my chana dal and I will be eating mine with my tindora/ivy gourd curry.

 

 

 

 

 


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

********

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.

 


Baingan 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.

 

Baingan 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 levered 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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