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...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

New Blog and Inaugural Cambodian Black Pepper Pork

My intention for the main Scatterpult blog is that it would be a place for putting random things that might sprout into blogs of there own. Well, my food obsession is definitely showing through and I'm finding those posts that don't end up in Scatterpult Dairy are still food related, so I'm making a food blog.

Earlier today I made some pakoras and this evening, after tending to the current batch of cheeses, I've broken the habit of a lifetime and followed a recipe for "Cambodian Black Pepper Pork" to the letter.

I'm someone who cooks very much by instinct. Don't get me wrong -- I love recipe books, but usually they're not the sort of recipe books a purist would like. I like big colourful pictures, descriptions of ingredients and cultural links but usually couldn't care less if the recipe itself doesn't work. I absorb the ideas and over time they filter into my approach to cooking along with things I've tasted, seen or just imagined.

The problem with this is that I'm getting into a rut. I can, for example, cook a variety of Indian and Thai style curries, stir fries and so on but attempts I make at Vietnamese influence taste, well... like Indian or Thai or Indonesian with a bit of Vietnamese influence. So I'm making a conscious effort to follow recipes for a bit rather than just glance at them and then interpret them. From the smells coming from the kitchen right now I'm cautiously optimistic.

The recipe I'm following tonight[1] is actually very simple: diced pork (300g) simmered for an hour and a half in a mix of soy sauce (1 tbsp), fish sauce (1.5 tbsp), pork stock (1 pint), grated ginger (20g), garlic (two cloves) and copious quantities of black pepper (1/2 tbsp). I wouldn't have thought to use both soy and fish sauce, and I probably wouldn't have used that much pepper without any other spices. But the real point of this is that it's a first step. Today the challenge was not to deviate from the instructions. Next time I might pick something where the instructions are more complex.

[1] From Vietnamese Food & Cooking by Ghillie Ba┼čan, Anness Publishing