Happy New Year and Toor Dal with Fresh Coconut and White Poppy Seeds

Happy New Year and a warm welcome to my new (and old of course!) followers who have recently signed up to this blog.

January is a funny old month. The revelries from Christmas and the New Year are well and truly over and we all look forward to making a fresh start in the new year. With goals, aims, hopes and plans whirling away in our heads, it’s like shedding a skin and growing a new one. Veganuary has gained a lot of momentum over the last few years, with increasing numbers introducing more vegan recipes into their diets and some even making the transition to become fully vegan. Whilst I have no plans to ‘do’ veganuary, I naturally eat a number of vegan meals throughout the year without even really thinking about it. Indian food is heavily focused on vegetables with the large majority in India having a vegetarian diet. On this blog I have a number of recipes which would work really well if you want to bring more vegetarian or vegan meals into your culinary repertoire. Here are just a few.

Upma (a savoury breakfast semolina eaten in India)

Dale Bora (a delicious street snack from Kolkata)

Indian sprout and carrot curry

Beetroot curry

Cauliflower with dried fenugreek/methi

Black pepper tofu

Aubergine, peanut and tomato curry

Indian corn on the cob

Butternut, lemongrass, coconut and spinach curry

For my first recipe for 2020 however I thought I would show you a new dal recipe, which just happens to be vegan. I have loads on my blog – just pop the word ‘dal’ in the search box on the right when you go to my blog. Dals all taste so different that I could make a different one each day of the week and they would be completely unique.

This one uses the toor dal, which is also known as ‘pigeon pea’. It looks similar to the chana dal, which is a split chickpea. You don’t need to soak it but it does take around 50 minutes to soften sufficiently if you are using the stove top. When it is gently boiling away you will need to remove, with a spoon, the scum that will form whilst cooking. You may also need to add more water if it looks to become too dry. I never measure out the water and instead go more from sight and add a little more here and there when required.

Excuse the rather dark muted photos of the dal – I cooked it in the afternoon and when I was ready to photograph the light had gone so had to use the lights from my kitchen which give it a pretty awful glow. Anyway you get the gist. I ate it along with a butternut squash curry I made and a cabbage curry mopped up with some homemade luchi – which are also known as poori. Most delicious and all coincidentally vegan.

 Toor Dal with Poppy Seeds and Fresh Coconut

250g toor dal, washed through a couple of times with cold water

900ml water

2 tbsp rapeseed/sunflower oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

30g grated fresh coconut (or desiccated)

a small handful of fresh coriander

100ml water

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

2 tsp white poppy seeds

10 fresh curry leaves (you can freeze them – much better than dried which have lost their taste)

1 heaped tsp ginger-garlic paste

1 tomato, finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1/2 fresh lemon, juice only

salt to taste

  1. First rinse the toor dal and then place it in a pan and cover completely with water. Start by adding 900ml water and you can add more later once the water has soaked up. It will take around 50 minutes to soften. Scum will form on the top so just remove this with a spoon and discard. You know the dal has softened when you can easily pinch one toor dal between your thumb and forefinger. Continue to add a little more water if it has all been soaked up.
  2. Meanwhile in a frying pan, add a tablespoon of oil and gently fry the onion and the fresh coconut so that they begin to lightly bronze. Remove from the pan and then blitz in a blender with some fresh coriander and then leave to one side.
  3. Using the same pan add the rest of the oil and add the cumin, mustard and poppy seeds. They will begin to sizzle almost immediately. Be careful of the spluttering.
  4. Add the fresh curry leaves and the ginger-garlic paste – fresh or store bought. Move around the pan and then add the tomato and fresh chilli.
  5. Return the blitzed onion-coconut-fresh coriander to the pan and stir so that all the ingredients are nicely mixed together.
  6. Now add the turmeric, coriander, Kashmiri chilli powder, lemon juice and salt.
  7. Once the dal has softened turn the contents of the frying pan into the dal and mix together. Check the salt levels.
  8. Leave to simmer for a few more minutes, then you are ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 


Indian Sprout and Carrot Curry – perfect for this time of year

This recipe I posted way back in 2012 (yes my blog has been running for that long!), but unless you scroll my recipe library you are unlikely to know it is even there. Quite frankly, it’s fab and will win over even the non-sprout lover amongst us. Seriously. Basically, by adding a touch of spice, it elevates the humble sprout. We are beginning to see them in the shops so I urge you to give this recipe a whirl when you are next mulling over what to cook. Give it to your family, flat mates, friends and don’t tell them what it is and I can bet you they will love it and ask for more. Mention the word ‘sprout’ however and then they may not even give the dish a chance.

My mother-in-law originally taught me this many years ago and now it’s a firm favourite in my Indian culinary repertoire.  If you cook it alongside a dal it makes a perfect vegan meal. I suggest my go to ‘Bengali Red Split Lentil Dal’ would be the perfect accompaniment. Both dishes can be prepared and cooked within 30 mins and  are very affordable, healthy and tasty. It’s a win win win.

Indian Sprout and Carrot Curry

Serves 4

325g sprouts, finely sliced

300g carrots, grated

1 green chilli, finely sliced (optional)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 level tsp turmeric

1 tsp nigella seeds (kalo jeera)

1 tsp salt

100ml water

1. Finely slice the sprouts, grate the carrots and, if using, finely chop the chilli. I tend to leave the seeds in, but to make it less spicy just remove the seeds.

2. Heat a pan with oil and add the nigella seeds. After 10 seconds add the chilli and turmeric and stir in together for a further 10 seconds.

3. Add the sprouts and carrots and stir well with the other ingredients. Continue to stir continuously on a medium heat so that the carrots and sprouts soften and do not burn. Use a wooden spoon to press down on the ingredients as you gently stir.

4. After a few minutes of stirring add 50ml of water and stir into the curry. You may find that you do not need to use the remaining 50ml of water if the sprouts and carrots are sufficiently softened. Add the salt to taste. Continue stirring for a further 5-7 minutes and the dish will be done.

Nigella seeds (above)


Green Jackfruit Curry

 

Back in December, when I was in Kolkata, I was at a family gathering and was given a curry that tasted absolutely delicious. Deep in conversation I ate the curry, pausing after a few mouthfuls to ask what ‘meat’ it was as I couldn’t quite work it out and thought perhaps it was pork. The answer was ‘green jack fruit’. Somewhat surprised but delighted that such a fruit could taste so ‘meat-like’ in structure. It was substantial, filling and utterly delicious. In the photo below it is the curry bottom right.

Fast forward a few months and I’m down in Tooting taking some clients on a spice tour before heading back to my house to teach some Indian recipes. One of my shopkeeper friends – Rohit – delighted us all by giving us a plate of his delicious jackfruit curry that he had just made – it tasted divine and prompted one of my clients to immediately buy a fresh green jackfruit to take home to replicate the curry. I love enthusiastic foodies.

I returned a few days later to continue the conversation of his curry and how he made it exactly and to buy one myself so I can share it here with you. This is Rohit’s recipe and it works a treat. They are in season now (in India and Africa) so if you see one when you are next in your local Asian grocers be brave and pick one up and try making this recipe. Please note the yellow jackfruit is sweet and not used in savoury curries – you want to buy the green jackfruit.

An important point to note:

  1. Once you cut into the jackfruit – cut into rounds and then use a serrated knife to cut away the tough outer skin – it is VERY sticky. Place a little oil on your hand that will touch the jackfruit to prevent the stickiness from covering your hand.

 

If you are keen to join me on a spice tour of Tooting followed by an Indian cooking class at my house- send me an email chilliandmint@gmail.com for details.

 

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Jack Fruit Curry

kindly given to me by Rohit – my friendly Asian grocer in Tooting

2 tbsp vegetable oil (you can use mustard too)

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 dried red chilli, broken in two

5 fresh garlic, roughly chopped

2 inches of fresh ginger, skin removed and finely grated, chopped also fine

1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing

2 fresh green chillies, finely sliced

2 or 3 large white onions, finely chopped

salt, to taste

1tsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1x 400g tin of tomatoes OR 3 or 4 large tomatoes diced

200ml water

1 small green jackfruit, cut into rounds and then skin removed and then cut into 2 inch pieces

1 tsp garam masala

 

  1. First cut and peel the jackfruit and then cut into 2 inch pieces and place in a pan of boiling water so that it covers the jackfruit completely. Allow to boil for 20 minutes so that the jackfruit softens. It will never be soft, like potato for example, but when you place a sharp knife into one piece it will go in easily. Drain and keep to one side.
  2. In a different pan, heat the oil and when it is hot add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and dried red chilli. Move around the pan for 20 seconds and then add the chopped garlic and ginger and move around the pan for a minute.
  3. Now add the asafoetida/hing and fresh green chillies. Stir.
  4. Add the chopped white onion and some salt (to speed up the cooking time for the onion)and move around the pan, mixing all the ingredients together. Allow the onions to pick up some colour – lightly bronzed. This will take 10-12 minutes.
  5. Add the coriander, cumin and turmeric powders and stir once again.
  6. Add the tomatoes and mix together before adding the cooked green jackfruit. Stir gently into the sauce and add the water. Add the garam masala and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Checking the salt and add more if necessary.

Serve with spiced rice or Indian naan or flat breads.

Do YOU have any spectacular green jack fruit curries that you would like to share? Please do so in the comments box below.


Speedy Indian Salmon Curry

Exhausted after a long day, with little energy or inclination to cook a complex dish that involves lots of marinating and blending? We’ve all been there right? Well this curry works a treat and literally takes 15 minutes to prepare and cook.  It’s a staple dish in my household and is always guaranteed to raise spirits and a smile. I’ve been cooking it for 20 years so felt it would be a good one to share with you all. I have used salmon but you can equally use trout or any firm fish in fact.

I find I use all the spices quite regularly so am guaranteed to have them in the house. My fridge also always has fresh ginger and curry leaves, which are either kept in my fridge of freezer (so I don’t get caught out). Same goes for fresh chillies.

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy this dish is and yet tastes really moreish. I often get asked do I eat the curry leaves and the answer is ‘yes’. I love the taste of them, but you can leave them to one side if you don’t fancy it. They will have already worked their magic flavouring the dish.

I often accompany it with some of my Bengali dal, which is my ultimate comfort food. A plain white or brown rice works well with this dish.

I would love to see how you get on so don’t forget to tag and link me on instagram if you make it @chilliandmint #chilliandmint.

 

Speedy Indian Salmon Curry

Serves 4

700g filleted salmon, cut into manageable portions (skin on or off as you prefer)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 small tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

2 fresh chilli, chopped in half (more if you like it hot)

half tsp chilli powder (optional)

2 inches  fresh ginger, peeled and grated

approx 10 fresh curry leaves

2 large tomatoes, finely diced

150ml water

1 tsp salt

handful of fresh coriander

1. Cut the salmon pieces into manageable sized portions and put to one side.

2. Warm the oil and when it is hot add the onions and fry on a medium heat for 6 minutes or until they begin to brown. At this point add the nigella seeds, fresh chilli, turmeric, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, grated ginger, curry leaves and salt and stir for 20 seconds.

3. Add the tomatoes and 100ml of water and mix all the ingredients together.

4. Gently place the salmon pieces, with the skin facing upwards (if skin is still on), into the sauce and let it simmer on a medium/low heat for 5 minutes. Place a lid on the pan.

5. Then using a spoon turn the salmon pieces over and add a further 50ml of water if necessary. It will only need a couple of minutes. If you prefer a thicker sauce add less water and vice versa. Its really not an exact science and more down to personal taste.

Serve with roughly chopped fresh coriander.


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.

 

 

 

 


Gul and Sepoy, Spitalfields

Have you been to Gunpowder or Madame D’s (which I reviewed for Binge) yet? No I hear you cry. Then ladies and gents, seriously, you have got to get your skates on and head over to Spitalfields in East London and give them both a try. They’ve both received the highly acclaimed accolade of ‘bib gourmand’ (bg’s are given to restaurants which offer both excellent food and good value for money, but do not have to offer the same level of service and pomp that those winning a star would have to).

Gunpowder focuses on home style Indian food, whilst Madame D’s focus is Himalayan, or rather ‘Hakka Chinese’, food. However the really exciting news and the purpose of this post, is that the husband and wife team, Harneet and Devina Baweja, along with Gunpowder head chef, Nirmal Save, have just launched their third restaurant in under two years. Impressive hey! Gul and Sepoy is a stones throw away from their other two restaurants based on Commercial Street, just along from Som Saa.

I went with an open mind and an empty belly, but secretly I was thinking, can they have nailed a third fabulous restaurant? The answer came after my first mouthful, an absolute high five, whoop whoop, YES. I spent the meal grinning ear to ear on the combinations of flavours and dishes that were presented to us. We went for the tasting menu – £25 per person, to be shared. The menu concentrates on cuisine from both south west Indian and north west India. The ‘gul’ part is inspired by the King of Punjab’s most famous courtesan and her love of cooking. This food focuses on rich, sumptuous dishes. The ‘sepoy’ (which means soldier) menu draws from the more rustic, coastal style cooking of the south west.

It was the bream and the ‘royal guchi (morels) pulao that defeated my companion and I. We had to save a little room after all for some ‘wild berries and lavender kheer’ to sweeten our palates.  The staff kindly wrapped our leftovers into doggie bags that we could take home.

The restaurant is stylish and yet understated, with an eye catching navy exterior, gold writing type face (important details that I notice) and plum door with lots of foliage. It looks inviting and sets the tone perfectly. As you enter there is a large oak bar, offering some temptingly delicious sounding cocktails as well as a wider-ranging wine list than the other two restaurants. Upstairs, which I didn’t venture, apparently has ‘marble feasting tables providing a touch of luxury and a nod to north India’s ancient royal palaces’. It’s priced slightly more expensive than Gunpowder and Madame D, but not eye-wateringly. I went for a mid-week lunch and it was fairly quiet, but I imagine evenings will be busier and it won’t be long until lunchtimes will follow suit. It’s perfect for a lunch or dinner to be enjoyed at leisure and not hurried. The neighbouring table of 8 gentleman were clearly having a leisured client lunch, so it works for pleasure or work.

The final piece of good news I want to share with you is that in spring 2018 they will be launching their fourth restaurant south of the river at the new development ‘One Tower Bridge’. ‘Gunpowder Market Market’, will focus on Harneet and Devina Baweja’s heritage by serving up homestyle Calcutta cuisine. I know a fair amount about Calcutta cuisine, (my other half is originally from Calcutta) so I am very excited to see what they come up with. Apparently there will also be a bakery, which will turn into a wine bar in evening. I’ll report back once their new venture launches.

In the mean time go seek out their latest venture, Gul and Sepoy. All three restaurants rock and you won’t be disappointed. If you can’t take chilli then perhaps steer clear of Madame D, but it’s not crazy scotch bonnet hot, more like you know your alive kind of hot, if you know what I mean.

 

Gul and Sepoy 

65 Commercial Street, London, E1 6BD

Lunch: Tuesday -Saturday: 12.oo-2.45pm

Dinner: Monday -Saturday: 5.30-10.30pm

+44 207 247 1407

 

 

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Gobi Aloo Kasoori Methi – Cauliflower with Potato and Dried Fenugreek Leaves

Cauliflower, in my view, is massively underrated. In the past it was perhaps thought of as a little bland, but when you boil anything I guess it could be described as bland. Growing up we had cauliflower cheese – which don’t get me wrong, is delicious – but beyond that people really didn’t tend to do much with it.  That has all changed though in the last couple of years, with dishes such as cauliflower rice, cauliflower base for pizza, roasted cauliflower, burnt cauliflower – you name it, people are getting creative with this humble ingredient. In Indian cuisine  it is hugely versatile and used in all manner of dishes.

Throw a little spice into the mix and you have yourself a very tasty little number. I thought I would show you one of my favourite cauliflower recipes that works well either on its own or as part of a larger Indian feast. Dried methi, or fenugreek as it is also known, is fairly easy to come by these days. Certainly the large supermarkets stock it, but I like to get it from one of my local Asian grocers. You can order online  – herfrom Asian Dukan. Easy.

Methi has a wonderful aroma, that works so well with the cauliflower. Only scatter the dried leaves over the cauliflower at the very end of cooking and gently fold the leaves into the dish. I cook this dish with the trinity of Indian spices: turmeric, cumin and coriander, but my mother-in-law likes to keep it super simple and literally just add, oil, dried chilli, salt and dried methi. It is also delicious this way, but try my slightly more elaborate way first.

Gobi Aloo Kasoori Methi – Cauliflower with Potato and Dried Fenugreek Leaves

serves 4-6 along with another dish or two.

2 medium potatoes, cubed into 2-2.5cm

3-4 tbsp rapeseed/vegetable oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 small dried red chillies

1 cauliflower, outer leaves removed and cut into small florets

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp salt, to taste

sprinkling of water

2 tbsp of Kasoori Methi

 

  1. Peel the potatoes and then once diced place them in a pan of boiling water and boil for around 8 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Strain and place to one side.
  2. In a large wide pan (ideally with a lid), add 1 tablespoon of oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the dried chillies.
  3. Add the boiled cubed potatoes and cover with the cumin seeds.
  4. Place the cauliflower florets into the pan and move around so that they are also beginning to coat themselves in the cumin seeds. You will need to add a little more oil at this stage to help the cauliflower cook and soften. Add the oil at stages instead of all at once.
  5. Add the turmeric, cumin and coriander powders along with the salt and fold into the cauliflower.
  6. Keep the cauliflower gently moving around the pan at intervals. Sprinkle a little water to help soften the cauliflower and place a lid on the pan.
  7. Every few minutes move the contents of the pan around.
  8. Continue to cook gently, on a low heat for a further 10-15 minutes so that the cauliflower has softened.
  9. Finally add the fenugreek leaves – kasoori methi and gently fold into the cauliflower. Take off the heat and serve.

An alternative and even simpler way to cook this dish is to replace cumin seeds with methi (fenugreek) seeds, do not add any spice and then the kasoori methi. Obviously the dish is not as yellow in colour but still tastes really delicious. You can also omit the potatoes if you wish. 


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.


Homemade Naan Bread, The Black Forest and The Knights Templar

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Soft pillowy naan bread dunked into a bowl of dal has got to be THE ultimate comfort food. As those who have been reading my blog for sometime will know, whenever I return from holiday the first thing I cook is some dal. It’s quick, easy and you can determine the amount of fresh chilli that you put in it. There are so many dals you can make, but I often opt for  – red split lentil dal. You can add whatever vegetable you have to hand – tomatoes, peas, carrots – but I would advise not adding more than 2 max.img_4536-3

I had spent a week in the glorious Black Forest in the south west corner of Germany. Wifi is hit and miss – hence the lack of a blog post last week, apologies – so it allows you to unwind properly and relax in this beautiful part of the country. img_4524-3

 

The top of the hills were covered in snow, but down in the valleys the pastures were green, which gave us the option of walks in the meadows and through the forests or skiing at higher altitudes.

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We were blessed with clear blue skies and warming winter sun. A stunning combination.

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Whilst our days were spent out and about in the fresh air, our evenings were spent sitting by the roaring fires eating the local produce of venison, wild boar, cheese, breads, wine, an interesting salad leaf that can only be found in the Black Forest around February (name escapes me, but it was a cross between rocket and watercress) and Black Forest gateaux – naturally.

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We drove from London, staying over for a couple of nights in Strasbourg on the way, admiring it’s impressive cathedral and quaint streets. In many ways in reminded me of Bruges or nearby Colmar – definitely worth a detour if you haven’t been.

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Strasbourg is easy to explore on foot and has a number of museums and art galleries in close proximity. A boat trip on the waterways is also a must and helps you get your bearings.

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To break up our homeward journey we stayed in Laon, in the region of Picardy. If medieval history is of interest to you then this place is an absolute must. We stayed in one of the old canon’s houses (there were  84 canons at one time living in Laon – it was the largest chapter in France in the 12th and 13th centuries) up in the attic with a view of the cathedral. Our airbnb host was a charming and well travelled French man who was keen to show us his eleventh century frescos and ruins in his cellar. The cellar stretched under the whole of his house and when we had seen what we thought was the extent of it, he revealed another doorway with steps leading further down to another level. We proceeded to explore this level and then found further steps leading to another level. It was a cavern within a cavern within a cavern.  It was without doubt the most incredibly historical cellar we have ever been in and an archaeologist/historians dream. Over the ages new floors were simply added – we could make out the old stables on one level. Apparently there are many passageways linking up the canon’s houses surrounding the cathedral. I imagine many of them are filled in or perhaps not yet discovered by their occupants living many metres above.

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The Knights Templar spent much time both in Laon and the surrounding area. They built this magnificent church (above) modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1140. Unfortunately we only managed to spend a few minutes here before we were ushered out as it was closing time, so the museum that stands beside it will have to wait for a future visit.

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The Cathedral itself is worth a visit and in fact it was what initially drew us to this hill top city a couple of years ago, as we could see it’s towers from miles away. Laon is only 80 miles north east of Paris and only a couple of hours from Calais so  it’s a good place to stopover before catching the Euro tunnel home.

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Anyway enough of my travels and back to the matter at hand….naan bread. Believe it or not they are really easy to cook yourself. Making the dough is pretty straight forward and then you need to let it rest, in a warm part of your house, for 1-2 hours to let it increase in size.

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Then it is simply a case of rolling out the naan into small, thin, oval shapes. You can add nigella (black onion seeds) or sesame seeds on the top or keep them plain. Sometimes I like to add a couple of teaspoons of garlic paste to make garlic naan. You can be as inventive as you like in all honesty.

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I tend to cook mine in a frying pan – do not add any oil – but you can also cook them under the grill if you prefer, but be watchful as they bronze quickly.

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It takes no more than a minute or so to cook them and then I add some melted butter on top. Equally if you prefer you can add some melted ghee or even milk.

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My girls (and husband) love them both with a meal or an after school snack. Serve them warm and eat straight away. A wonderful treat and perfect for chilly February weather.

 

Homemade Naan Bread

makes around 9-10 naan bread

400g plain flour

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

5g dried yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg beaten

100g full fat plain yoghurt

100ml warm full fat milk

1 tbsp butter, melted

 optional: nigella/sesame seeds/fresh coriander as a topping

If you want to make garlic naan add a couple of tsp of garlic paste at the beginning and mix into the dough.

  1. In a large mixing bowl add the flour and then make a hole in the centre and pour in the oil, dried yeast, salt, sugar, baking powder and beaten egg.
  2. Mix gently using your hands and once it has become quite crumbly add the yoghurt and then continue to mix together.
  3. Now gradually add in the warm milk until all the mixture comes together.
  4. Remove from the bowl and place a little plain flour on a cold surface.
  5. Kneed the dough for 5 minutes until it become soft and pliable.
  6. Return to the bowl and cover with cling film and leave in a warm room for over an hour so that it can increase in size.
  7. When it is ready, split the dough into even balls and begin to roll them out thinly in oval shapes.  You may need a sprinkling of extra flour at this stage to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Pierce gently with a fork. If adding nigella/sesame seeds lay a few on the top and gently roll them into the top of the naan.
  8. Heat a non-stick frying pan. When it is properly hot add a naan bread and leave for around 20 seconds before turning over and leaving for a further 20 seconds. Turn once more for a few more seconds – or longer if it is not bronzing sufficiently.
  9. Remove from the pan and add a little melted butter to the top. Keep under a warm tea towel whilst you work on the remaining naan. As the naan’s I make are quite small I can often manage two in a pan at a time.

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