Monthly Archives: June 2013

Temper temper its only a Karahi

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My nice new unseasoned Karahi

Cooking an onion or some chicken or any other of the plethora of ingredients that make up an indian dish  in a western home is probably a lot easier than preparing that same meal in the back streets of Mumbai, and even easier than in the village of a fishing village of Tamil Nadu or the more remote parts of the Indian Kush!

The western kitchen offers many pots and pans that fit nicely onto our state of the art cooking appliances and those pots and pans are designed for ease of use and practicality for the Western dishes and foods that we eat. I am however a believer in tradition and with Indian cooking I would say that one of the vital ingredients required to achieve the level of success you should aspire to is the right cooking pot. In Chinese cookery the Wok, in Africa the Potjie  and in India the Karahi, which may  be quite familiar as nowadays, a smaller version is used to serve Balti dishes in UK restaurants. Typically a heavy based steel pot that has two large ringlets traditionally used for suspending it over an open fire, and surprise surprise it fits just as nicely into the wok burner slot as the wok does…..

It however is not like your average saucepan in that a little work is required to get it fit for purpose, and is a close relative to the Chinese wok in that it is also made traditionally from steel or iron, and like the traditional wok requires some preparation before use.  The kitchen industry is now offering the non stick wok, God help us all can no one be bothered anymore…… the same does not apply to its Indian cousin at the moment, it comes in raw untreated steel, and only in raw untreated steel I hope!

So you get your Karahi home and now you must undertake a process known as seasoning, for it to work at its best. This is not rocket science but a little care and preparation is required to get the best results.

Firstly place the karahi on the heat, and heat to a fairly high temperature, until the entire surface is hot…..

On the first time you do this you will see some of the black surface peel away don’t be worried by this it is perfectly natural, as this is a protective layer added by the manufacturer and is meant to burn off during this tempering process……

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Seasoned well nearly

Now with a clean cloth wipe on a thin layer of oil turn up the heat and allow it to burn off, then allow the pan to cool.

Remember that sometimes less is more and it is important that you do not allow the oil to pool in the bottom of the Karahi, as a thick gel can form in the bottom of the pan, repeat this process about six times until you have built up half a dozen or so thin layers, just remember to burn off each layer before applying the next, so open the windows put the extractor fan on and burn it in!.

This takes time so don’t rush it and the end result will be a seasoned pan that is fit for purpose and ready to cook in with a rustic iron look and if that’s how yours looks you have tempered the pan correctly( See photo)

Now you have put all that effort into getting it like that you do need to take care of that finish especially when you are cleaning it and it should be remembered that soapy water is a big NO, NO here, this will remove your seasoning and mean that you will have a pan that can rust and will need seasoning again, if you do need to remove stuck on food you should scrub with a non metallic scrubber or Wok brush, always dry the karahi with paper towels, and finish off by “Burning” over a high flame which sterilise the pan until the next time you use it…

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Seasoned, rustic and ready to cook with.

A very well seasoned pan can of course build up a layer of carbon in the bottom and this is not something that you need worry about quite the opposite in fact as it shows a well used and cared for piece of cookware, and will also prevent it from going rusty….

finally if you don’t use it everyday a light rubbing over with  cooking oil before returning to the cupboard will keep the rust at bay and should you find some rust then simply scour the whole pan and re-season as above … easy really!

Hopefully all being well you will never have to do that… just follow the guidelines! above and all should be well, and you will have a cook-pot that will give you years of use getting better every time you use it…

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Fish & potatoes……Putting it inconveniently

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Ok I admit it… Yes I do have some weaknesses and sometimes convenience wins over pure gastronomic excellence that my kitchen is reputed to be famous for.  Fish fingers, sausages, burgers and the very occasional pizza too, can also be seen at those times when I or Mrs Demonology just can’t be bothered .  Yep I use convenience foods!

I have a busy life just like you, and sometimes I really can’t be bothered to peel onion and grate ginger; so give me convenience, with something that takes five minutes to eat and even less to prepare, meaning I am also not a stranger to the microwave meal when the going gets really tough.  Although I do draw a line under that one by saying that my microwave meals are, as a general rule, coming from the chiller cabinet and when I do grab an Indian dish at this level it’s always of the fresh variety, and generally of very good quality considering it is daag based!

I don’t make my own pasta either, and can’t stand the dried variety, so confessions over, I am no stranger to convenience food. Fresh pasta bought from the aforementioned chiller cabinet at the local supermarket, boiled for five minutes with a nice sauce microwaved for less than the pasta’s five minutes boil time, a shaving or two of parmesan and job done, convenience food!

I was raised through the fifties and sixties and through that period the introduction of convenience foods became the norm, with the very famous VESTA being a curry that you just needed to add water too – ah I can feel myself salivating at the thought – and in all honesty was probably one of the reasons that I developed a love for the taste textures and myriad delights that are curry.

I am not afraid to say that not all convenience foods are bad or unhealthy, as the years have rolled by and the pressures of modern life have come to the fore; the day of the woman being chained to the stove and cooking her man a meal on his return from a busy day at the coal face are pretty much over with the nuclear family very much the norm today ensuring a place for the “Convenience foods” appearing to be the menu of choice for a great many people.

That said, there are a great number of convenience foods that are simply there as a shortcut in life.  For instance, boil in the bag fish. Stick it into a pan of boiling water as the name suggests and Pow you have a “nice” piece of fish in a sauce, serve that with a pile of smooth buttered mash and a few garden peas and deliciousness awaits you, this is the comfort food of my youth. This plate of food I offer here is an homage to that; and the reasoning for all of the above inane ramblings in that this dish it is essentially fish and potatoes, but it is far from tricky to put together and it is also a long way from convenient, so sharpen your peeler, and dust off your measuring spoons its time to cook inconveniently!

This plate of food is a fusion of flavours from Hyderabad where the fish recipe originates and the potato dish  from Awadhi; uniting together to become the Indian cousin of the fish and potatoes I was rattling on about before, although varied slightly in that the cold water Mackerel, the fish of choice here that is found swimming round the coasts of this great island in its tens of thousands,  which however is not to be found in the Arabian sea or the Indian ocean so the fish I have used is local, and for those of you from pastures other than Northern Europe use any firm oily fish, so its all yours to enjoy as I have already!

This is a recipe for two to three persons, and I have laid it out so that it can be easily followed but as with all my recipes get yourself as prepared as you can before you light the stove!

To give it its Indian name…… for those of you that like to get your gums round that sort of thing

Shai Dum Ki machhali & Aloo Qorma

Preparing the Fish

500 gm Mackerel or similar oily firm fish

Marinade how to! 

1 tblsp fresh chopped Coriander

1 tblsp fresh chopped mint

4 green Chillies de-seeded and slit lengthways

1 tblsp. garlic pasteSAM_3044

1tblsp ginger paste

1 tsp ground turmericSAM_3045

Put all of the above in a blender or pestle and mortar and grind to a fine consistency, rub the marinade into the fish, cover and place in the fridge for an hour minimum and a couple of hours for the best results

Whilst the marinade is doing its thing, it’s time to make up the following paste in which to cook the fishSAM_3046

The Paste Thing!SAM_3049

1 tbsp. roasted and ground cumin

1 tbsp. desiccated coconut

3 tsp sesame seeds

3 tsp Poppy seeds

Place the cumin, coconut, sesame and poppy seeds into a blender or pestle and mortar and grind to a smooth paste use a little water if required ….cover and set aside until required

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The whats in the Aloo qorma (Potato Curry)

1 kg Potato peeled and quartered.. used Maris Piper, a nice fluffy potato when cooked.

1/4 tsp Ground Turmeric

1 tsp poppy seeds

1 inch fresh ginger Peeled

1tsp ground garlic

1tbsp Cashew Nuts

1tbsp desiccated coconut

4.5 fl oz .5 cup Ghee or Vegetable oil

2 green cardamom pods

2 inch Cinnamon stick

2 cloves

4 green Chillies

1 small tin chopped tomato

1/2 tsp Red chilli powder

8 fl oz 1 cup Natural plain Yoghurt

2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander

Juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes

After the fish has marinated, and before you are ready to cook the final dish, first boil the potatoes in a saucepan for about 15 minutes with the Turmeric, until just cooked bearing in mind that you will be finishing them off a little later….drain and set aside

Grind the poppy-seed, ginger, garlic, cashew nuts, and coconut in a pestle and mortar and set aside ready to bring the whole potato dish together whilst the fish is cooking

The final stage for the Fish

2 Onions finely chopped

300 ml fish or vegetable stock

1 tsp Turmeric

juice of 1 lemon

Take the two medium onions and some ghee or oil and fry the onions until light brown.  Add a tsp of turmeric and the spice paste and fry for a few minutes longer, drain off any excess oil, add the lemon juice, and vegetable stock bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about fifteen minutes until reduced,  then set aside until required…

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F Gas mark 7

Heat the remaining oil in a pan and add the fish and fry lightly for a few minutes

Place the fish carefully into a shallow dish and add the sauce. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the fish is cooked to your liking!

Now the fish is in the oven prepare the potato as followsSAM_3053

Heat the oil or ghee in a heavy base pan.

Add the whole spices and chillies and fry for a minute or two.

Add all the ground spices and fry for another minute or two

Add the chopped tomatoes and the boiled potato and cook for a further minute or two, season with salt.

Add the chilli powder and yoghurt, Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes more to heat the potato right through (ensure the potato is cooked)

Add the chopped coriander and remove the pan from the heat finally adding the lemon juice….

Serve with the fish and think of India on a warm summers evening, oh bliss……

Chole…… lets ChAAt about that

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SAM_3004On the streets Chole is the fast food of many, with it being served for breakfast in Lahore, and in the Punjab it is eaten as an anytime snack and referred to as Chaat, whilst in Gujarat it is a main meal and eaten with the delicious bathura!

So this is pretty much something you can eat anytime anywhere as it’s a simple, filling, and very tasty dish that is a basic for all Indian cooks, and as usual the secret is to get the spice balance right and pretty much everything else follows.

Whats in the chole

Here we go again buy some of the tinned chickpeas, and ensure you lay your hands on  as good quality pea as you can manage, the cheaper they are the longer you will need to cook them!

Alternatively buy the dried variety and spend several hours cooking them out, if that’s your choice bless you, however you will need whatever option you choose

1 and half cup chickpeas enough to feed about two persons……

2 medium sized onions chopped

Small tin of chopped Tomatoes

1 inch fresh Ginger peeled & finely chopped

½ tsp Garam Masala

1 tsp Chilli powder

1 tsp Amchur powder/dry mango powder

2  Green chillies chopped

1 tbsp. Ghee or oil

300ml of vegetable stock/water

salt

Punjabi chole masala

4-5 black cardamoms

1 inch cinnamon

5-6 peppercorns

3 cloves

1 bay leaf

1 and half tsp cumin seeds

1 and half tsp coriander seeds

1 and half tsp fennel seeds

2 red chillies

The first thing you need to do here is dry roast all of the above for a few minutes until they turn golden brown, keep them on the move and take care not to burn them, once they are a nice golden brown remove from the heat allow to cool, consign t the pestle and Mortar and grind to a fine powder.
In the pan that you roasted off the spices melt the ghee and fry the onions for a few minutes until they become translucent.
Add the ginger and green Chillies, and fry for a few minutes more.
Mix in the Chole masala and stir well ensuring the spices are well mixed in, if it looks like it is sticking add a little of the vegetable stock just to loosen things a little once mixed in and cooked in for a couple of minutes
add the tinned tomatoes, and a little salt to taste.
Now is the time to add the Amchur, Chilli and Garam Masala powders stir well……
Now all you need to do is cook until the Chickpeas are as soft and fluffy , or as crunchy as you like them that’s down to you.
 Add as much veg stock as this take and then serve with a Naan, rice, or Bathura whatever is your preference