Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Keema Sag

This is minced lamb and lentil thing I made in a hurry last night. It was actually quite nice:

Fry one chopped onion until soft.
Add in 200g of minced lamb and stir.
Add 100g of red lentils, stir again to coat and then add splash of water.
Stir in a teaspoon each of ajwain and cumin, two of turmeric and two of a medium curry powder[1].
Add one clove, five birdseye chillies (or more) a bay leaf and some cinnamon bark.
Finally add in a tin of tomatoes, a shake of fish sauce and 100g of frozen spinach, then cook for 30-40 minutes.

[1] I've started making up batches of "emergency curry powder" for these sorts of dishes. Something like four parts coriander, two parts cumin, one part each of fennel, mustard, turmeric, chilli and fenugreek.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Chilli and Lime Wilted Spinach

Just a quick write up of this one as it was made up on the spot but went down well:

Fried half a small red onion, some garlic, finely chopped chilli and some mashed chickpea. Made into a sauce with the juice of one lime and a generous splash of fish sauce, and wilted a bag of spinach in it for a few minutes.

Not exactly a dish in itself -- a bit too pungent for that -- but a sort of pickle/condiment/sambal which brought some freshness to an other wise very yellow and brown (but tasty) curry selection.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Chicken Wing Curry

I used to be a confirmed chicken-breast-aholic. I considered the breast to be the finest of the meat and everything else to be a fiddle. It's a long time since my revelation that slow cooked thighs are far, far tastier and in fact these days when I buy a whole chicken and divide it up myself it's usually the breast that ends up leaving me thinking, "Well what should I do to use that up?"

But wings are a step too far, with very little meat and lots of fiddly bones. At least that's what I thought until a couple of days ago when the shop was out of virtually every kind of organic chicken and all I could get was a pack of four wings for £1.50. I could a vaguely sri-lankan style curry with them over about two hours and the results we delicious. Yes, I had to spend a couple of minutes fishing the little bones out before serving but there was the end a surprising amount of meat and lovely rich depth that you get from cooking meat with the bones.

Chicken Wing Curry - Serves 2-4 (with rice and a dahl)
1 red onion
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1/2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
300ml coconut milk
1/2 tbsp sri lankan dark curry powder
1 kaffir lime leaf, shredded
4 chicken wings
oil for frying onions

Chop and fry a red onion in oil.
Add the nam pla, mustard and nigella seeds and cook for a few minutes.
Stir in the chicken wings and cook until sealed and slightly brown on each side.
Add the curry powder, coconut milk and kaffir lime.
Simmer, stirring occasionally for two hours or so.
Pick over the sauce, lifting out the bones from the wings and shredding the chicken.

The final result was surprisingly meaty and had a dark colour and depth of flavour. We served it with a similar quantity of dahl and a good helping of rice and it fed us for a somewhat greedy lunch for two, followed by two more restrained lunches the next day.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Coconut and Lime Dahl

Last night I had a hankering for dahl makhani but few of the ingredients. Instead I ended up cooking something that had the characteristics I craved but used the ingredients I had. I give you "Coconut and Lime Dahl".

Warning: The quantities are a rough guide as this was very much instinctive cooking.

1 small tin kidney beans (dried would be fine if cooked and boiled sufficiently in advance)
1 half cup (I use the term loosely) red lentils (masoor dahl)
1 half cup white lentils (urad dahl)
1/2 bulb of garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tablespoon of sri lankan black curry powder
1 lime
Two hot chillies (I used supermarket favourites Dutch Chillies).
440ml coconut milk
1 kafir lime leaf, shredded
3 cardamom pods, bashed
1/2 tablespoon of garam masala

Bring the pulses to the boil for ten minutes then skim off the foam

Add the sri lankan curry powder, garlic, lime leaves, chilli and cardamom and pour in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer for twenty minutes.

Slice the lime, squeeze it and throw the segments in, then simmer for a further twenty minutes.

Add the garam masala, stir and serve.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Sour Potato Curry

This is something I knocked up last night to go with salmon tikka. It was supposed to be reminscent of an aloo chat but it's unlikely to be authentic. Noted down here because it was quite successful.

Peel and dice half some waxy potatoes. They're the main bulk of the dish so use them as a guide to portions. I used about half a kilogram in this recipe.

Cover the potatoes in water, bring to the boil, then simmer for five or ten minutes.

Fry an onion and some garlic until soft, throw in the potatoes and stir roughly. Add a desert spoon or so of chat masala, half a diced cucumber, two or three chopped tomatoes, the juice of one lemon and a couple of teaspoons of tomato puree made up with 250ml of water.

Stir again, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bad Egg

Never, no matter how much of a hurry you're in, crack an egg into a pan of food directly. Always, always crack it into a bowl first in case it's bad. Ho-hum.

My brother wanted a wok for his birthday -- a proper steel one, not a non-stick easy work. So I've bought him one and spent some time this afternoon scrubbing, then seasoning it. To finish up I cooked dinner in it. Noodles, pork, prawns, water chestnuts, garlic, ginger, chilli, five spice, spring onions, rice wine, bad egg, in the bin.

The wok worked beautifully and the cooking of the dish helped settle the surface I'm sure. I just wish we'd been able to eat the results too.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Lebanese Recipe Experiences

Project "follow the recipe" is hitting some bumps in the road.

To recap, project FTR is an attempt to break my habits and teach me new styles of cooking.

Well I've been following some lebanese recipes this week and the results have been a bit disappointing.

Firstly I cooked a fried, spiced fish dish. It was quite good and the technique for cooking the fish was certainly new to me, but what made it a good dish was that I marinated half of fish in coriander, lemon juice and garlic for three hours. That fish was delicious. The other was a bit nothingy.

And that's how it all continues really. The lamb and bulgar burger was bland and the spices were, I think, ill-considered ("1 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp cinnamon") and it needed salt, or umami of some sort. Tonight's megadarra (rice and lentils and caramelised onion) was also a bit disappointing. Again the spices were the weak point for me, but in this case I felt that they overpowered the lentils and yet they overpowered them in a one-dimensional way, without complexity and subtlety they tasted like a kazoo.

So what conclusions can I try to draw?

Firstly, I've only consulted one recipe book this week. I suspect there's a hint of "leave out the salt it's unhealthy" to it and frankly I'm a bit of a spice fanatic so the fact that something's got coriander and allspice in is hardly new and exciting. So I'll try another lebanese recipe book.

Perhaps my taste buds aren't used to this sort of food or cooking, but I don't think that's really it. I've had lebanese food and loved it and spent hours thinking about the flavours and trying to work out what they are. And take the Cambodian Pork recipe I followed a couple of weeks ago. That was very simple and the spices were not complex. But they were right for the dish.

Or perhaps it's that I'm not good at following recipes and the little instinctive adjustments and interpretations that good recipe followers make are just absent from my cooking. Maybe.

Embarrassingly for the FTR approach, the best thing we've had this week was a salad of bulgar, home made feta, left over lamb burgers, tomatoes and home made tzatziki (I'm sure there's a lebanese name for it), and that was an off-the-hoof thing.

Project FTR will go on. Even this week I've learned some new things. But after a flying start with the Cambodian Pork it's been a bit of a disappointing week. I think I might treat myself to an evening's cooking without recipe sometime soon. I fancy trying that fried fish thing again with a slightly different spice blend...