Monthly Archives: December 2012

A life without …is a shorter one

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There are three very vital ingredients to an awful lot of curries that if they were not to be included the dish could not be called curry, the first is the humble onion that vegetable that is for me at the very heart of all that is curry. That vital and humble vegetable beloved throughout the world and more importantly an inclusive part of a huge number of nations diet and foods; so many nations can’t have got it wrong, in that they all agree that the onion has been considered very simply a core taste in a lot of the worlds foods and dishes and to some a cure-all for much that ails us. Scientists today though are not quite so sweeping, as to call it a cure-all, and will generally agree that onions may have power to prevent and treat certain illnesses but how many and exactly what diseases is a matter for much debate as they have yet to discover the exact substances that have these amazing healing powers, and onions to this day continue to be the subject of much research.

Charlie brooks Im a celeb eating a raw onion

Charlie Brooks I’m a celeb eating a raw onion

Chomping your way through a raw onion, is not for the faint hearted although the pickled variety does make that task a little easier, and in doing so onion in whatever form will certainly help reduce Cholesterol levels, however may reduce your popularity amongst those nearest and dearest to you; on the other hand the science suggests, and I am no scientist that it is a fact that onion  increases levels of Lipoproteins HDLs,which in essence are the special molecules that help carry away cholesterol from body tissue and artery walls, further still there are plenty of claims for the humble onion from prevention of blood clots through to the prevention of coronary heart disease, thrombosis and a wide range of other conditions that includes strokes and even cancer, but whatever the truths of the matter are onion is definitely something that should be included in your diet…..That said I also read that they can cause Migraines in some individuals but you’re not going to find that out unless you eat them are you!

According to Ayurveda, India’s classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories – sattvic, rajasic and tamasic – foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other alliaceous, being those plants with a strong odour of which shallots and leeks also feature plants are classified as rajasic and tamasic, which means that they increase passion and ignorance. Onion is also regarded as an aphrodisiac and like garlic is avoided in the diet for just this reason it heats the passion, and like garlic is a no-no in the devout and are considered as unfit to offer to a deity!
I have touched briefly on Garlic above and this too is in the same family as the humble onion and as such has a very mixed record on its good and bad points, although in the western world it is very much regarded as a miracle food and herbalists and neuropaths’ would recommend garlic as a cure or help for dozens of ailments from asthma through to arthritis, and as such there is now medical evidence to confirm garlics’ healing properties are confirmed as an antiviral and antibacterial agent.

A little of what does you good

A little of what does you good

Again eating garlic raw is not for the faint hearted, certainly don’t do it if your planning on kissing anyone or even getting close for a nice chat garlic is never and I say it again never nice on the breath and worse still you as the giver of your garlic halitosis have absolutely no idea how your breath smells, on the other hand bad breath aside;  it is proved to help reduce nasal congestion, as well as relieving other symptoms of the common cold. Garlic like onion can also inhibit blood clotting  and can increase the rate that blood clots are broken down. There are many people out there today walking around who are taking garlic in capsule form every day as an aid to their heart conditions
Finally that other vital ingredient Ginger, is renowned for its abilities to aid digestion, and is notable for relieving travel and morning sickness, and is used to protect against respiratory and digestive infections. Ginger is also great at reducing flatulence and griping pains, not to mention also some use in reducing toothache and relief for the common cold. A poor cousin to the onion family but something that does for sure add to your health and well being so to sum it all up Curry or more importantly some of its vital ingredients and ginger is certainly one of those, is good for you.
For me that is just brilliant news in a world that keeps telling me that most of what I eat is so so bad for me and possibly injurious to my health, something I love to eat isn’t, and if for only that reason Curry rocks!

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A labour of Love….Nimboo Ka Achar (Lime Pickle)

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One of the great pleasures of indian food for me is that explosive combination of Chilli and sweet and this to some extent is found when fruits such as Pineapple and banana are bought into the recipe. The alternative way is to introduce those flavours as chutneys and pickles. My absolute favourite being the following Lime Pickle an acquired taste I suggest but once you get there, there’s no going back and where pickles and chutney’s are concerned there are few better than the blindingly good lime pickle.

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Make no mistake this is a labour of love and in the western world not something your average cook would wish to even attempt. The following recipe is the fiddley version but in India there is a shortened version to this recipe whereby you just bung the ingredients into a big pot with a little jaggery and put it on a nice warm windowsill for 15 days , fermenting and bubbling away and kapow you have lime pickle….unfortunately though at a guess in England with our rather vague weather getting the desired end result may be more than a little trying!

Now let’s be honest who really has the time the patience or the desire to really make Lime Pickle this way… Not me for sure I prefer to go to the local Indian supermarket and buy a Jar…. However knowing the real traditional way to produce something is never harmful so here goes…..

Ingredients
1 KG/2.25 lbs Limes quartered+ Juice of half a lime
125g/4.5oz Salt
30 cloves Garlic
40g/1.5oz chilli powder

For the tempering
100ml Veg Oil
30g/1.25oz cumin seeds
2tbl mustard Seeds
Pinch asafoetida

Method

Mix the Limes Lime juice, Salt, Garlic & Chilli powder into a heat proof bowl and Steam together for about ten minutes, if you don’t have a steamer place the bowl on an upturned saucer and fill the pan with water to just below the base of the bowl with the limes in then cover the pan lose and bring to the boil, keep an eye on things and add more water from a boiling kettle if required.

What you’re trying to achieve here is to soften the limes

Once this is achieved remove from the heat cover the bowl with a muslin or clean cotton cloth and leave in a warm place for at least two days……

Heat the oil for the tempering in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the cumin and mustard seeds and stir fry for about a minute, or until it starts to splutter. Add the Asafoetida and mix well.

Pour the mixture over the limes and mix well again. Cover with a muslin and leave for a further two days on a windowsill  where it can remain warm and get lots of sunlight, the mixture should then be ready to bottle into sterilised jars

Notes on Sterilizing Jars

To sterilize a jar and lids it first must me washed in hot soapy water, then rinsed well, with very hot water to pre warm the glass before placing the jars open side up on to a baking tray and transferring to a preheated oven 120C/250F and leave for at least 30 minutes.

Alternatively you can boil for 15 minutes an a pan for 15 minutes

Ghee….”My Protector”

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The trouble with the human condition is that we all need to eat,and therein lies the problem the “things” we put into our bodies does have an affect on the way it runs and performs, maybe  those effects are not immediately evident, but over time if you eat too much saturated fat for example  clogged arteries will undoubtedly result, along with a certain increase in body weight, and loss of body image when you stand in front of the mirror naked examining the perfection that is you!

The Body Beautiful

The Body Beautiful

Fat is something that your body needs and not just because it tastes good, it has a place in a balanced diet and your body will thank you for its inclusion, but sometimes less is more and in the case of fats handle with care, as fats can be as addictive as heroin!

So how does that relate to your average curry?

Starting at the beginning of a great majority of curries, the frying oil for the spices and onions is more often than not Ghee, that goldent yellow soft oily subtance that is sometimes not quite liquid and not quite solid  used for cooking , a wonderous clarified butter that brings taste and a silky texture that I suggest nothing else can bring, but make no mistake it is FAT!Every Indian cook needs it ...Ghee!

It is everywhere in Indian cookery and you cannot do indian food without it….so is it good for you.??..hmmm now theres a good question….

The research tells me that there is 8 mg of cholesterol per teaspoonful, and that Ghee is comprised entirely of fats, and that can’t be good for you can it?

Surely that has got to be a no-no and very bad for you, it’s butter at the end of the day, and we all know that in its raw form it is full of nasty fats and cholesterol, however Ghee is not the raw form of butter, it is refined, and has been used in India and  Pakistan and throughout Asia for donkeys years!

It should always be remembered that the spiritual is the essence of life, and underpins all of the things that make up the Indian Subcontinenet Ghee  does not escape this spirituality, of this you must be certain. It is the product of the cow and as such in Hindu culture sacred; further it is used in the sacred medicines of Ayurvedic  and as such  is considered assāttvik or sattva-guṇi (in the “mode of goodness”), and is the basis for many Ayurvedic treatments.  Putting the medicinal aside……. whoa just hold on there a moment, even with the cholesterol danger “mode of goodness” suggests causes some very positive effects in that some fat is good for you, and conversely some is bad, but to cut a long story short, a spoonfull of ghee poses no danger to cardiac health is what  Indian scientists have  discovered, and  that ghee could well help protect you from Cancer, how good is that then?

Spread on my toast and everything then…. I dont think so, the evidence suggests moderate amounts could certainly assist you on the protection front, note the word moderate again, similar to that recent suggestion that a glass of Red wine every day could well have some benefits, but a bottle everyday may not.

I can’t say that I am one hundred percent convinced by the arguement or the evidence but I do know that it tastes good and if a scientist tells me that it is a protecting factor too against a very nasty illness, who the hell am I to argue. Better still the idea has been underpinned  since ancient times by tradition and Ayervedic medicines and practices, accepted and preferred by millions ahead of traditional western medicine as beneficial for certain conditions;  I for one will continue to use it whilst bearing in mind that very old saying  “Everything in moderation”

Kori Tamatar …Savoury Chicken with Tomato

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As the years have gone by I have become more and more vegetarian in my outlook towards what I like to eat, although I have never managed and I probably never will cross the border and leave my carnivore behind ; you see I Like Chicken, Sausages Bacon and fish, pretty much everything else well I am not that bothered…..

Chicken oh chicken that bird that is common wherever you go and is eaten by almost the entire Kori Tamatar4global population with the possible exception of those from the arctic regions of the planet, almost everywhere else you find Chicken

Chicken is one of those meats that relies on what surrounds it and I suppose without the skin or a decent marinade is very bland and that for sure is one of the reasons that it is such a fine partner to the word curry!

The following recipe is one where it shares the limelight with the humble tomato, in a dish that is delicious saucy and medium in heat with the tomatoes creating that symphony of flavours that are all held together in the medium heat of Green Chillie!

Ingredients

Kori Tamatar1

Basic ingredients ready to go

125 gm/4 oz Ghee

6 Black cardamom Pods

2.5 cm/1 inch Cinnamon

4 cloves

4 medium Onions Sliced

3 cloves Garlic(In a blender with a teaspoon ow water Blend to a paste to make 1 tsp of a nice smooth paste)

1 inch Fresh Ginger (In a blender with a teaspoon ow water Blend to a paste to make 1 tsp of a nice smooth paste)

1tsp Chilli Powder

.25 tsp ground Turmeric

1 tsp ground Coriander

.5 tsp ground Cumin roasted

3 chicken breasts Skinned and cut into bite sized chunks

125 ml/8floz Chicken stock or water

3 medium Tomatoes

1 tsp Tamarind Pulp

6 curry leaves

4 green Chillies de-seeded and chopped

Salt to taste.

Method

Heat the Ghee in a large heavy based pan over a medium heat, add the cardamom pods, cinnamon, and cloves and stir fry for a minute or two, until the cardamoms swell.

Kori Tamatar2

Adding the Toms

Add the Onions and stir fry for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown. Now stir in the Garlic and Ginger Pastes, chilli powder Turmeric, Coriander, and cumin, and continue stir frying for about another minute or so!

Now you can add the Chicken and fry that for around 8 to 10 minutesantil the chicken is nicely browned and no lomnger looks raw. Then add the Tomatoes and contimue to cook for about another 30 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked. Do not allow the dish to dry out by adding a little chicken stock to keep things nice and moistadding up to the 125ml if required.

The end result should be that the tomatoes are pureed and the oil should rise to the surface. At this point t is safe to add the green chillies and to season with Salt, now cover and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook out the chillies then serve with your favourite rice or veg dish and finish off with a peshwari Naan!

Finally don’t forget to remove the whole spices from the dish before you serve, as sucking on a whole black cadamom does little for the palate, and the same can be said for a clove too, so pick em out, or expect your dinner partners to scowl a little.

Mine did !

Shahi Tukra Sweet Morsels for the Prince

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shahi-tukdaA life without sweet things, is no life at all, and when puddings are the order of the day, my experience is less than vast where the puds of India come to mind. One of my great favourites in British cuisine however is Bread and Butter Pudding, that milk and dried fruit hot sweet that comes usually after a large Sunday Roast of Beef and Yorkshire puds.

Shahi Tukra my research tells me comes from Pakistan, and the translation  Morsels for the Prince, which I love as an idea that this dish emanates from a royal palace at some point. That said today my sources tell me this dish can be found all over India and Pakistan and is a special treat for Eid and festivals. Wherever it comes from and whatever the ingredients are as it is a much varied dish as you are free to choose which dried fruits and nuts you include, so feel free to sprinkle and adorn the recipe with the nuts and fruits that you enjoy!

Putting all that aside when you do get to eat this dish you will understand that it could very easily be confused with the Traditional Bread & Butter Pudding of my mums traditional British cookbook, without the glorious scents and aromas of rosewater and cardamom……

Ingredients

35g / 1¼oz (¼ cup) raisins
pinch of saffron threads
2 tablespoons rosewater
2 teaspoons ghee or vegetable oil
4 slices white bread
2 tablespoons condensed milk
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kewra water or rosewater
½ teaspoon lime juiceSAM_2505
250ml / 8fl oz (1 cup) milk
¼ teaspoon ground green cardamom
1 teaspoon blanched almonds, silvered
1 teaspoon unsalted pistachio nuts, blanched and silvered
4 edible silver leaves, to decorate (optional)

Method

Soak the raisins in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes, to rehydrate them, drain them and set them aside, also place the Saffron in a small bowl and soak in the two tablespoons of rosewater until required.

Next heat the ghee in a flat heavy based pan a frying pan is ideal and fry off the bread pieces that should be cut into diagonal quarters and de-crusted. Fry the until they are an even rich golden brown all over, press them well with a fish slice to get as much ghee out of them as possible, being bread their inclination is to soak up whatever they can,before placing them on some kitchen towel to drain.SAM_2512

With  the condensed milk in a bowl place in 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the single teaspoon of rosewater and mix well together, with the remaining sugar add this to a cup or two of water, in a small saucepan and warm until all of the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and reduce to a one string consistency syrup( See Gulab Jamun recipe), then add in the Lime Juice!

SAM_2515Now place the fried bread slices back into the cleaned frying pan and add the Milk, warm it gently then add the sugar Syrup, and cook over a low heat for at least 10 minutes, or until the milk has thickened and begun to change colour, you will need to stir but be very gentle as the bread will be soaking up the milky sweet mixture, and the slices will be inclined to break, you will also need to turn the slices, take care again you have come so far. You can now add the fruits nuts and Saffron, and a sprinling of the cardamon before finally spreading the condensed milk mixture onto the slices apply it evenly over both sides of the bread pieces, a thin coat is all you will need as this is already a very sweet dish. Now is the time to remove from the pan and serve utilising the Silver to add that extra touch of luxury to a fantastic sweet dish that will be loved by all with a sweet tooth, and that includes your mother!

Gulab Jamun the hard whey?

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Unfortunately when you come into the land of puds and sweets generally speaking very little is simple. The west creates pastries and creamy delights for that final dish to complete or end any special meal or banquet; India is no different,  equally as complex, equally as satisfying and equally as sweet. We  human beings just love our sweet things.

It should be remembered that if you visit the majority of indian take-aways, or restaurants that the extent of the sweet menu is farcical, never going much beyond  a bit of Gulab Jamun or Khoya Bonbons in Syrup as the translation goes those most delightful of sweet tasting sugar syrup soaked balls, delicious for sure,but packet made of that you can be certain of in the restaurants. For restaurants the genuine recipe for this dish contains two ingredients most cooks would shrink away from, and for the most part can’t be purchased at the corner store, or supermarket, and restaurants neither have the time market or inclination to make properly, so packet made is what you get and thats not to say that the packet version isnt delicious but….

That said we are not most cooks are we…No of course we are not I hear you say.

So make these tricky things we will….

First of these tricky things is Khoya, a milk reduction that is also found in many other sweet dishes Pinni for example, a quick translation is Bon Bons, and a fair description as in reality it is a sweet ball of sugar, flour, dried fruits, and khoya. You can also find Khoya in a many other dishes that require that concentrated milk taste,and there is a Khoya pudding that is delicious on its own but more of that some other time.

There is only one ingredient in Khoya and that is  whole Milk

2 litres will make 400 gm or 14oz

First of all put the milk into a large heavy based pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low and stir every 5 minutes, the object here is to reduce the quantity prety much the same as you would do with any sauce, in this instance reducing by half. You will need to stir constantly and remove the dried layer of milk that sticks to the side of the pan. Carrying on with tkhoyahis reduction until your milk has reached the consistency of  mashed potato. Once you have achieved this you can transfer to another pan and allow to cool…job done in about 90 minutes for the quantity suggested above. It will store in this condition in the fridge for at least a couple of days.

You can also store for a lot longer of you dry it another process that takes a little time but is worth the effort.

Place the paste into a cheesecloth or muslin bag , place it in the sink and weigh it down and leave it for at least an hour, the object being to get as much of the liquid out as you can, the resulting solid can be stored in the refrigerator, and can be grated or crumbled.

The next of the two vital ingredients for the traditional Gulab Jamun is Chhena

There’s one more ingredient here that you will need, besides milk in this recipe

160ml white Vinegar

2 litres milk

This is another milk process but one that relies on the curdling power of the white vinegar and again will require constant attention, with at least an hour of your time, and again your full attention as all good cooking should do!

Again you need to put the milk into a heavy saucepan and bring it to the boil, then immediately remove it from the heat and add the vinegar making sure that you spread the vinegar over the whole surface of the hot milk in a steady stream, and then stir for about three or four minutes, the end result of this should be a curdled milk or whey as it should really ber called.

This should be poured into a muslin bag or into a  cloth placed in a strainer or colander in a sink to allow the liquids to drain away leaving the whey behind.chhena

This achieved you should then start to prod and squeeze the bag until the milky whey starts to Ooze out.

Now comes the fun part whilst the whey is still warm spread it out on to a flat surface and begin to knead it, almost as if it was a bread dough using the palm of your hand and continue to do so until you have mashed out all the granules and it is as smooth as it will go. That’s essentially it.

All you need do now is allow it to cool, wrap it in foil and store in the refrigerator, but use it quick as its only any good for about 24 hours.

Mission accomplished

Well almost. the rest is easy……

So now is the time to make those Gulab Jamun that you have always promised yourself and trust me on this they are far superior to the mix that you can buy!

This recipe is the real McCoy and worth every second of the time it takes, rest assured the results will speak for themselves

 Ingredients

Pinch of Saffron Threads

1 teaspoon Rosewater

300g/11 oz Khoya (See above)

50g/1.75 oz Chenna (see above)

4 Tbsp All purpose plain flour

1tsp Baking Powder

1tbsp Ghee

6 tsp cardamon seedsgulab_jamun_0

12 unsalted Pistachio Nuts

1kg/2.25 lbs Sugar

0.75 tsp Lime Juice

Enough clean oil to Deep fat Fry!

Method

First thing soak the Saffron in a finger sized bowl and soak in the Rosewater until required.

Crumble the Khoya and the Chhena to remove any lumps into a large bowl , add the flour, baking powder and 1 tbsp of Ghee and mix roughly   make a soft dough, you will now need to knead this dough for no less than 5 minutes on a flat surface, you can lightly flour the surface to reduce sticking, or you can use a little ghee or oil to achieve the same result.

Oil your hands and start pinching off and rolling the dough into balls of about 1 inch in diameter.

Heat your deep fat fryer to around 170 degrees and deep fry for about 3 to 4 minutes or until they are a golden brown remove from the fryer and allow to cool and drain on some kitchen roll.

The great pleasure of this sweet is the Syrup that the Gulabs should be soaked in; and as such the recipe that follows for this is traditional but don’t be shy or scared to use any sweet flavouring that takes your fancy, or flavouring that appeals, Vanilla works just as well as Rosewater

However the start of  a good syrup is achieved by filling a heavy based pan with water and adding all the sugar, yes all of it, you don’t need teeth for these pudding delights!

Heating the water gently to start whilst stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved. Now increase the heat and bring to the boil, continue to boil and remove the scum that floats to the surface with a slotted spoon, until the syrup reaches a one thread consistency, this should be done with extreme caution as this syrup is very hot indeed, but to test allow some to cool slightly on a spoon befor touching and then  take some syrup between your thumb and forefinger and draw your fingers apart, the syrup will then form fine threads, the number of the threads indicates the correct consistency, but please be carefull we do not want any burns here!

Once this is achieved add the Rosewater and infused Saffron to the syrup, stir and then transfer the golden fried Gulab balls to the syrup, and leave for at least 30 minutes for the gulabs to soak up the syrup before serving. It is worth noting that the Gulabs will continue to soak up syrup for many hours and in my opinion are best left for a couple of hours for best results, however some people prefer them completely deliciously gooey. My suggestion is make a batch stick em into soak and eat them over a period of twenty-four hours to find your ideal soak time…..or is that just a bit too greedy for ya?