Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Spinach Curry

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Increasingly more and more people are balancing their diet with vegetarian food and cutting out meat completely on some days of the week #meatfreemondays. Whilst I do eat meat and fish I am consciously eating less meat and more fish and vegetables. A balanced diet is important and I do enjoy eating meat but I am in the camp that it is unnecessary to eat it everyday.

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My recipe here ‘Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Spinach Curry’ will hopefully convert even the meat lovers amongst you. It is packed with so much goodness and tastes really good, with a lovely chilli kick reverberating through the dish. For those who claim they can’t cook, seriously try this one. It is very easy to make and you can cook it in under 30 minutes. The hardest part is peeling the butternut squash. *Inventors* out there I would love you to come up with a device that makes it quick and easy to peel any type of squash or pumpkin. I use my regular peeler and knife and whilst it does not take long I know it can be done faster.

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This recipe shouts SPRING to me, although that maybe because I put daffodils in the photo shoot. The bright yellow orange hue coming from the butternut squash and turmeric sings to me and makes it wonderfully appetising to look at and eat. I also love the burst of green from the spinach, fresh herbs and lime.

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I have used fresh ginger paste and garlic paste, as I always have pots to hand in the fridge and for speed they are wonderfully helpful, but by all means use fresh ginger and garlic and then simply finely grate them so they become more paste like.

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The sweetcorn adds a lovely crunch and texture to the dish alongside the soft butternut squash and spinach. I have added kaffir lime leaves as I often have some in my fridge/freezer. They freeze well and you can pick them up at the big supermarkets.

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I don’t bother to take out the kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass when serving. I quite like the rustic, throw it together look. I also find the dish is a great pick me up if you are feeling a little under the weather. The ginger, turmeric, garlic, spinach and chilli really flood the body with so much goodness that a sense of wellbeing hits you almost immediately.

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I would love you to give it a try and please let me know how you get on. Butternut squash (uncooked) last for weeks so I always have one ready to use.

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Butternut Squash, Lemongrass, Coconut and Spinach Curry

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp ground nut oil

3 banana shallots (or 2 medium onions), finely sliced

1 tsp salt

2 lemongrass, outer leaves taken off and both ends and then bashed gently with a rolling pin

1 heaped tsp of ginger paste

1 heaped tsp of garlic paste

2 small red chillies, thinly sliced

3 kaffir lime leaves (optional)

1 tsp ground turmeric

200g chopped fresh tomatoes

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3cm cubes

500 ml of vegetable stock

1x 400ml can of coconut milk (I find Pride is nice and creamy)

1 tbsp Thai fish sauce

1 fresh corn on the cob, corn sliced off the cob

200g fresh spinach

handful of fresh coriander, to serve (optional)

handful of fresh mint, to serve (optional)

1/4 fresh lime per portion

1.  Finely slice the banana shallots and then heat the oil in a large deep pan. When it is hot add the shallots and turn the heat down. Add the salt and stir into the shallots. Allow the shallots to soften, which will take a few minutes.

2. Add the garlic and ginger paste and stir into the shallots. Then add the chillies, lemongrass, ground turmeric and kaffir lime leaves. After a further minute add the fresh tomato and stir once again. Add the butternut squash and stir into all the other ingredients.

3. Add the stock, Thai fish sauce and the coconut milk and simmer gently for around 20 minutes, by which time the butternut squash will have nicely softened. If it needs a couple more minutes to soften adequately, carefully monitor as you do not want to over cook as mushy butternut squash is not so appealing. Add the sweetcorn 5 minutes before you wish to serve as it will take no time to cook.

4. Turn off the heat and add the fresh spinach and gently submerge in the sauce, which will wilt it perfectly.

5. Serve hot in bowls either with some jasmine rice or noodles. Add fresh coriander, mint and lime to suit individual tastes.

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If you click on the comments button below you will also see the option to like. I know it’s a little hidden away but have a look and don’t forget to click the *LIKE* button and if you are feeling extra brave do leave a comment as I love to hear from readers.


Fried Indian Spiced Aubergines

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After the excessive eating around Easter time, which always happens when my family gets together for a few days, it was time to detox a little and by that I mean eat vegetable-only lunch and suppers. If you are a vegetarian, eating and cooking Indian food holds so many delicious possibilities, in fact it would be really easy to be a vegetarian in India as all the vegetable dishes taste so good and in many cases better than their meat and fish counterparts. Anyway after a few days of worthiness we did cook one dish, or perhaps I should call it a snack, that was perhaps a little less healthy – as they are fried – but are very addictive.

 

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They are incredibly moorish and the perfect accompaniment when eating rice/chapati and dal. The trick is to eat them within a couple of minutes of being cooked as they are not as tasty once they become cold. When eating Indian food with my family at home I tend to eat with my right hand – why? – well I find the food actually tastes better, although be careful not to over eat as it is easy to eat more this way ;o). Eating a thicker dal (not the overly soupy kind) and chapati with these fried spiced aubergines is one of lives pleasures. Have a go and you’ll know what I mean. They may not be pretty but they do taste rather good.

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To cook these little beauties follow these simple instructions:

 

Fried Indian Spiced Aubergines

4-6 people depending on the size of your aubergine

1 aubergine

100g chickpea/gram flour

100ml water

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp poppy seeds/sesame seeds

2 tbsp vegetable oil

 

1. To make the batter mix the flour and water together. You want to get the right consistency – not too watery and not too thick so add a little more water/flour as you see fit.

2. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, poppy seeds/sesame seeds and salt and mix into the batter.

3. Slice the aubergine into thin circles – approximately 1cm in diameter. If they are too thick they will not cook through properly.

4. Place the aubergine slices into the batter, a few at a time.

5. Add the vegetable oil to the frying pan on a medium heat. When it is hot add a few of the aubergine slices. Fry on both sides for around 3 minutes per side.

6. Once bronzed place carefully on some kitchen roll and serve immediately with more salt as required.

 

 

 

 


Mustard, Coconut and Colombo Spices Salmon Curry

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

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

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

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Mustard, Coconut and Colombo Spices Salmon Curry

Serves 4

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

2 green chillies, halved lengthways

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

15g of fresh ginger, cut into wafer thin batons

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 tsp ground turmeric

600g salmon fillets (5 pieces)

200ml boiling water

2 tsp Maille Noix de Coco et Spices Colombo

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp caster sugar

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

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

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

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

Serve with basmati rice.

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

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


Ivy Gourd Curry – also known as Gentleman’s Toes

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

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

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

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Ivy Gourd Curry

Serves 4

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

4 tbsp olive oil

1 green chilli, halved

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp chilli powder

 2 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp salt (to taste)

2 tsp sugar (to taste)

2 tbsp water

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

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

So simple and yet ridiculously satisfying.

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


Aloo Chat – Potato Curry

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Back in my university days I often used to make myself aloo chat when I had the munchies. It was so quick, cheap and easy that it made a perfect snack to nourish my hunger. I would place it in a bowl with a dollop of natural set yogurt on the side and then dip the potato cubes into the natural yoghurt. Happy memories.

To this day I continue to cook it and often serve it up with a dal for a vegetarian supper, or as a complimentary dish if I am cooking a larger Indian banquet with a meat and/or fish curry. At this time of year when the cold sets in this bowl of carbs is highly appealing and is easy to feed to the whole family. As I only chop the chillies in two I find that it does not make the dish too chilli, unless of course you actually munch on the chilli – which I always leave for the adults to do.

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On the subject of munching chillies, if you are feeling a little under the weather I really recommend eating a cooked chilli either in a dish like this or one of my dal dishes (see under Recipe Library). Packed full of vitamin c, they give the immune system a good burst and can bring you back to the land of the living if you are feeling under the weather. Just remember if you ever find the chilli too hot, don’t drink a glass of water as that will spread the heat across the tongue, milk and yoghurt however are able to numb it as they contains a protein called ‘casein’, which breaks the bond between the the pain receptors in your tongue and capsaicin, which is an oil found in chilli – the seeds are always the hottest part so you can remove these if you prefer less of a kick.

Aloo Chat – Potato Curry

Serves 4

600g sweet potatoes, roughly 1 inch cubes

600g white potatoes, roughly 1 inch cubes

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 green chillies, chopped in two

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 heaped tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp rock salt

Optional: fresh coriander to serve and/or a dollop of natural set yoghurt

1. Place the cubed potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 13 minutes. You want them to begin to be soft, but not completely soft that they just fall apart!

2. Strain the potatoes. In a large pan heat the oil and add the cumin seeds, chillies and turmeric powder. Let the sizzle for 30 seconds before adding the potatoes and coating them in the seeds and powder.

3. Cook the potatoes on a medium low heat for a further 7 minutes, turning carefully a couple of times. Add the salt, stir one last time and then serve. If you find the potatoes are still a little hard, add a little water and place the lid on the pan and they will soften after a couple of minutes.

an alternative way to cook this is to omit the first step and let them fry in the oil with the cumin seeds, turmeric powder and fresh chilli, immediately. Once they begin to bronze add a little water and let them soften. At university I  tended to opt for this version, but now I find that parboiling them first ensures that they soften to how I want them. 

If you like this potato recipe you may also like to try my ‘Curried Potatoes’ another time.


An Indian twist on ‘Greens’

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

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

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

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Indian Greens

Serves 4

1 bunch of greens, washed and finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced

2 small green chillies, finely sliced

2 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil

2 tsp nigella seeds

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt (to taste)

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

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

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

Simple, straightforward and totally satisfying.

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


Cha Ca La Vong – Vietnamese Fish with Turmeric, Ginger and Dill

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The melodic sounding ‘Cha Ca La Vong’ is one of Hanoi’s famous dishes consisting of white fish (often Vietnamese Snakehead fish) along with fresh turmeric, galangal, ginger, the pungent smelling Vietnamese shrimp paste, spring onions, rice noodles and a generous helping of fresh dill, coriander and mint and a scattering of peanuts.

My version is all of the above except no galangal (unless I happen to chance upon it), turmeric powder instead of fresh turmeric and no Vietnamese shrimp paste. I also find cod or tilapia work best for me, but basically you can use any thick white fish that has been filleted and does not have a propensity to fall apart.

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The flavour combinations work so well and I find it refreshing to give dill centre stage once in a while as I tend to find that it only ever gets partnered with salmon, trout and creme fraiche. The textures also really compliment each other, from the soft and yet delicately fried fish, to the crunchy nuts, the fresh flavoursome herbs and the filling noodles.  I like to accompany the dish with my sweet and sour nuoc cham dipping sauce – see here (at the bottom of the post).

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It’s one of those dishes which is perfect for guests to get stuck in and help themselves.  Part of the fun of it is to create the dish yourself, choosing the amounts of herbs that suit your requirements. I also find that when guests help themselves there is far less wastage as people, on the whole, tend to take what they are going to eat.  Both my daughters adore the dish and for my youngest I tend to make up a separate nuoc cham dipping sauce without fresh chilli.

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Cha Ca La Vong – Vietnamese Fish with Turmeric, Ginger and Dill

Serves 4

600g cod or tilapia, cut into 2 inch chunks

1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated (equally you could use ginger paste)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (or as above)

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp plain flour

3/4 tbsp of vegetable oil

6 spring onions, thinly cut on the diagonal

bunch of fresh dill

bunch of fresh coriander

bunch of fresh mint

1 generous handful of unsalted peanuts, slightly crushed

300g rice noodles

1. Place the fish chunks, turmeric, ginger, garlic, flour, sugar and fish sauce in a bowl and gently mix in together so that the fish is completely coated in the turmeric. Cover and leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

2. Cook the rice noodles according to the packet (normally I boil them for 4 mins) and drain. Run cold water through them and place to one side. When ready to serve pour boiling water through it once, drain and place in a serving bowl.

4. In a different bowl place the fresh coriander and mint and in another place the peanuts.

5. Prepare the nuoc cham dipping sauce. For four people you will need to make two batches of this – see here.

6. In a frying pan add the oil and when it is hot add the fish in batches along with any remaining ginger and garlic from the marinade. Leave for a 2-3 minutes so they begin to crisp before turning over for another couple of minutes. Place the fish on kitchen roll whilst you are cooking the remaining fish chunks.

7. Once the fish has crisped up sufficiently add the dill and the spring onions for up to a minute before placing in a large serving bowl.

8. Allow guests to serve themselves, showing them how to layer up the dish by first placing the noodles in a bowl, followed by the fish, spring onions and dill, mint and coriander, peanuts and then a little nuoc cham dipping sauce over the top.


Panch Phoron – Bengali Five Spice and Red Split Lentil Dal

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From top right going clockwise: fenugreek, nigella, fennel, black mustard, cumin seeds

We’ve all heard, and no doubt use, Chinese Five Spice, but the Indian equivalent, Panch Phoron, for some reason is not given as much PR and voice in the West and yet across Bengal, it is a spice mix that is commonly used in every home and very much cherished.

When I launched my blog way back in 2011 one of the first recipes that I posted was my absolute comfort food – red split lentil dal. I cook it often as it is ridiculously easy and provides me with a quick-fix nourishing meal. You can choose whatever vegetable, if any, you need to use up, giving the dal a different twist every time you prepare it. A key seasoning to the dal, which imparts the unmistakable flavour, is panch phoron and whilst I am able to source it from a local Indian supermarket, I know that for some people getting their hands on this magic ingredient could be harder.

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So I wanted to show you how to make your own panch poron. Panch in Bengali is five and phoron is spices and these five spices are: nigella seeds (other wise known as black onion seeds, Kalonji or kalo jeera), fennel seeds (mouri or saunf), fenugreek seeds (methi), black (brown or yellow) mustard seeds (rai) and cumin seeds (jeera). The aromatic spices working together provide a  considerable depth of flavour to any dish and especially to dal.

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Unlike most spice mixes these are not ground to a powder but are cooked whole, either dry roasted in pan or placed in a little oil until they begin to pop and release their flavours – this is known as tempering. There are significant health benefits from eating the spices. In short: cumin aids digestion, fennel contains vitamin a, e and c as well as anti-oxidants, fenugreek aids metabolism, mustard seeds contains omega 3 fatty acids as well as being a good source of selenium and magnesium, nigella seeds balance the hormonal system and have healing qualities.

They store for months in an air tight container so if you make up a batch that should last you for some time as you only need a teaspoon or two every time you use it in a dish.

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There are a couple of lentils that do not require soaking over night and take a very short time to cook. Masoor dal or red split lentils, as they are more commonly known, are a staple in my store cupboard. From cleaning thoroughly to cooking, the dal takes no longer than 20 minutes to prepare – and that’s being generous – on average it’s a 15 minute meal to prepare and cook. Oooh Jamie Oliver would be so proud!

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Red split lentils are also very reasonable to buy so all in all this dish is healthy, speedy and economically friendly. A win win surely!

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I eat this dish all year round and like to change the consistency from a more runny, soupy dish to a thicker dal that may be eaten the Indian way, with your hands, accompanied by some rice or naan.  When the months turn colder I tend to gravitate more and more towards dals and soups to warm me up so this really is the perfect autumn meal to give me that inner glow.

Panch Phoron – Bengali Five Spice

Makes enough to last you for months

3 tbsp cumin seeds

3 tbsp fennel seeds

3 tbsp fenugreek seeds

3 tbsp mustard seeds (I tend to use black, but brown/yellow is also fine)

3 tbsp nigella seeds (black onion seeds)

1. In a bowl mix all the seeds together thoroughly and place in an air tight container.

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Red Split Lentil Dal

Serves 2

200g red split lentils (masoor dal)

500ml of water, add more if you would like it a thinner consistency

1 tbsp oil (mustard,vegetable or sun flower oil)

1.5 tsp panch phoron

2 fresh chilli (red or green), chopped in half

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

5 cherry tomatoes (or carrots, courgette, marrow, peas etc)

optional

fresh coriander, to serve

lemon wedge, to serve

1. Boil the kettle and meanwhile rinse the red split lentils under the tap so as to fully clean them. Then place the boiling water in the pan with the lentils. Boil for about 10 minutes on a low heat, the lentils will become less orange in colour during the boiling.  If you are going to add a carrot you need to add it to the lentils at this stage so that they are soft in time. Please note you may need to add more water if the water is completely soaked up by the lentils.

2. In a frying pan warm the oil and when it is hot add the panch phoron, fresh chilli and turmeric. Once the panch phoron begins to pop and release the flavours – this will be around 15 seconds, give it a quick stir and then add a ladleful of the watery dal into the frying pan and mix the ingredients together.

3. Now place the contents of the frying pan back into the main pot with the red split lentil and stir.

4. Add the quartered tomatoes (or peas, courgette, marrow, spinach) at this stage and simmer gently for a few minutes.  Add salt to taste.  If you want it more soupy, add more water and if you want it thicker, let it simmer for longer.


Zereshk Polow – Iranian Chicken with Barberries and Rice

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

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

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

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

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

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Zereshk Polow (Iranian Chicken with Barberries and Rice

3 large handfuls of basmati rice

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

500g chicken breasts/thighs, cut into substantial pieces

4 tbsp butter

1 tsp turmeric

50g dried barberries

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp milk

1 pinch of saffron

3 tbsp plain yoghurt

pinch of rock salt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pork and Onion Curry – Dopiaza

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I haven’t posted an Indian recipe for quite some time so thought it would be refreshing to post one for you. With all this deliciously hot weather we have been blessed with recently in the UK, cooking a pork curry is probably the last thing on your mind, instead opting for fish/salad type foods right? When the weather cools slightly then come back to this one as it is guaranteed to become a firm family favourite.

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If you’re a bit of a curry novice in the kitchen then this curry is a perfect one to start your life long love affair with cooking Indian food.   It require a lot of onions – that’s the Dopiaza bit (it actually means twice cooked onions) – and all the other ingredients are always in my store cupboard. If you are not very keen on things hot and spicy this also works well as it is very mild requiring only one teaspoon of chilli powder.

Enjoy the sun and hope this curry finds it’s way into your belly very soon!

Pork and Onion Curry (Dopiaza)

4-6 people

900g onions (slice half thinly and chop the other half)

butter/ghee/vegetable oil 2 tbsp

2 tbsp lemon juice

 roughly 1.1kg/2.8lb boneless pork, cubed

2 tsp turmeric

2tsp ground coriander

1 tsp fenugreek

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp salt

 handful of fresh coriander – to serve

1. Heat the butter/ghee in a deep pan and add the chopped onions (remember to keep back the sliced onions) and the lemon juice and cook gently for 15 minutes on a low heat until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan and place to one side.

2. Using the same pan add the pork and increase the heat slightly so that the pork is browned on all sides. 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 sliced onions, coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, chilli powder and salt and fry for around 10 minutes. Re add the browned pork and add a little cold water and gently cook covered on a low heat for 50 minutes. You may need to add a little more water if it begins to look to dry.

4. Re add the fried onion and cook for another 15 minutes continuing to stir.

5. Serve with rice or chapati and some fresh coriander.