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When a Bhaji is a Pakora..or is that a Bhakora

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As your average western white boy, the language of Indian cuisine can only be described as confusing even at the best of times. What is true is that there appear to be very few firm rules, and any rules such as they are exist in a purely regional variation not to be confused with dialect, more about interpretation.

Let me explain, walk into any indian restaurant and you will find the ubiquitous Onion Bhajee on the menu often presented as something that is about the same size as a tennis ball and is usually made from finely grated onion dipped in a  batter, with a few spices, deep fried and simply delicious, usually  served as a starter which sort of begs the question.

So what is an Onion Pakora then?

Well from what I can see they are exactly the same but not formed into a ball shape but certainly onion in batter…..

To try and clarify this I spoke to an indian chef friend of mine and his teaching and wisdom is as follows.

Firstly that a Bhaji is any vegetable cut into small pieces and dipped into Gram (chickpea) flour and then deep-fried, and not forgetting that there is no spicing whatsoever in a bhaji…..Which sorta bears no comparison to the “Onion Bhaji of the restaurant, apart from the fact its onion….

Bhaji’s are also usually eaten with sambar or chutneys depending on what you prefer.

He went on to say that Pakora on the other hand is a much wider description and can include protein rather than just vegetable, meat, fish and shellfish, alongside vegetable, are all acceptable; as a general rule the Pakora also includes spices, chilli, turmeric, salt, pepper etc are all common, added to gram flour and a little water and sometimes an egg to create a thick  batter that is usually refrigeratated before use, and then mixed with the main ingredients, formed into a ball and then fried….. So there you have it an Onion Bhaji is therefore really a Pakora as they contain Turmeric, salt, pepper, chlli, etc

confused…. yeah so am I

Well to clarify a little as I understand it, in England  anything pretty much fried in Gram flour can be called what you want to call it Pakora or Bhaji, neither is incorrect or wrong!

Anyone out there with greater knowledge feel free to correct me…But at the risk of starting something new I am proud to present my attempt at being right I herewith present the  BHAKORA, in that it contains elements of the Pakora and bhaji bought together as one.

I am staying fairly traditional on the batter front using gram flour, but for the filling I have gone sorta fusion so onion and sweet potato as one of the main ingredients, and for the other, the truly delicious cheese Bhakora for which I used the same batter, but rolled them into a nice mouthful sized, just short of a golf ball diameter and fried them in my deep fat fryer at 180 degrees which seemed to do the cooking perfectly, not too fast and not too slow….

So Pakora Bhaji or Bhakora whatever you choose to call them I care not, just enjoy these little bundles of deliciousness

Onion & sweet potato “Bhakora”:)

Onion and sweet potato1 medium white onion

half of one sweet potato

Both grated and mixed roughly together or if you prefer some protein, 250 gms of Mature for that extra cheesy kick I used Canadian Cheddar grated  for

Cheese Bhakora

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The Batter

Whatever filling you choose to use for your Pakora, Bhaji, or Bhakora the batter is the key element get this right and pretty much everything else follows, feel free to adjust the seasoning and spicing on this recipe to suit your own taste just remember to stay loyal to the flour quantities and to mix it to a thick consistency. That is achieved by adding a little water at a time and mixing by hand though the lumpy stage and then the smooth stage that is perhaps just that little thicker that wallpaper paste:)…… now there’s an analogy. Also consider that vegetables like onion contain a lot of water which will further thin your batter so don’t worry if you think the batter is too thick when you add the veg it will thin further still…….so no worries there then

250 gms : Gram Flour

50 gms: Plain Flour

.5 tsp: baking Powder

1 Large green chilli Very Finely Chopped

1 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Garam Masala

1 tsp salt

Enough water to make a thick batter

1tsp Salt

If your going for the cheese  Ball variety wet your hands before you roll them , as it makes it a bit easier…… that said enjoy !

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My Kofta period… a Load of balls really

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SAM_3366 Like artists, all chefs and cooks I believe have phases and periods in that at certain times they like to cook certain things. It is a way to learn and develop ideas and disciplines that assist in the greater understanding of the food we eat. Currently I am very interested in balls of whatever flesh in sauce, I have over the last couple of months done some lamb Koftas in a Green sauce(click), and most recently some chicken koftas (Click) in what could best be described as a masala sauce . Today I’m going for the Fish Koftas, or to be titled correctly as Machhalli Ke kofte, and like all kofta they only really come into their own if accompanied by a beautiful spicey  and unctuous sauce.

This is a fantastic dish for that Saturday supper.(click) You can pretty much use whatever fish you like or can get hold of but here in England Colley or Cod are two good suggestions I’ve also added some white crab meat  in for good measure for that extra texture , mainly because I like crab and that the crab will bring an additional sweetness to the dish.  Again I promise you a delicious dish that will light the table up as something that is that little bit different.

There are a complex list of ingredients , don’t be too afraid they are all pretty standard ingredients that you should be able to pick up in any good indian supermarket, and they are all ingredients that you will use again so don’t be scared get in there its a lovely dish that will make your taste buds Zing!

There’s enough here to feed two hungry people

Machhalli Ke kofte

What’s in them

240ml whole milk

2 cardamom pods the green lightly crushed

1 black cardamom

.25 tsp turmeric ground

.25tsp cumin ground

500 gm white fish

3 tbsp. white crab meat

1 large potato cooked and diced whatever is good for mashing in your corner of the world

2 tsp desiccated coconut

6 shallots

1 tsp roughly chopped ginger

1 large green chilli deseeded and very finely chopped

2-3 tbsp. chopped coriander

1 tsp roasted cumin seeds crushed

1tbsp gram flour

fresh ground black pepper

1 egg beaten

veg oil to deep fry!

The how to make them bit…

The first thing you need to do is gently poach the fish by placing the cardamom pods, turmeric and ground cumin in a saucepan with the milk and bring to the boil. Place the fish in the milk and allow to poach on a low heat for three minutes. Then Drain and discard the liquid and spices , place the fish in a bowl to cool and set aside, add 1 large tablespoon of the crab when cooled.

Blend the Shallots, ginger, green chilli, and garlic to a smooth paste in a processor with a tbsp. of water, then add this to the fish bringing it all together with the potato and coconut and finally the beaten egg and enough of the flour to bring the koftas together into  balls that are holding together in their own right. Use your hands for this part not a blender as your hands will bring the right texture to the Koftas  so knead all of the ingredients together and form into balls of fishy delight that are no bigger than a ping pong ball. If the mixture is overly sticky, moisten your hands a little with some water. Place the kofta’s  in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes to cool before frying.

You can choose to fry them off before you make the sauce or after the choice is yours; I chose to fry first and warm through in the sauce later as I wanted the Koftas to pick up some of the essence of the sauce.SAM_3364

Now is the time to fry you can deep fry or shallow it matters not just use  a medium heat and cook until they are a nice golden brown .  That’s Job done for the koftas you now need a lovely unctious sauce to go with them and that is for sure what follows….

The saucieness

1 large tbsp. Ghee or  veg oil

10 curry leaves

1 tsp Cumin seeds

3 cardamom

1 tsp brown mustard seed

2 medium red onions sliced

3 green Chillies de-seeded and rough chopped

4 plump Garlic cloves rough chopped

0.5 tsp Cumin Powder

0.5 tsp Coriander Powder

1 Tsp Garam masala

0.5 tsp Turmeric powder

Small tin chopped Tomatos( 200gm ish)

2 tsp Tamarind pulp

1 tbsp. white crab meat

1 Heaped teaspoon Jaggery/ or brown Sugar

200ml fish stock

200ml Coconut milk

A drizzle of yoghurt to finish

Salt to taste

Heat the oil in your chosen pan and add the brown mustard seed, Cumin seeds, cardamom, curry leaves, and fry until the mustard seeds are popping and a spluttering then add the onions and fry until they are a lovely dark golden brown this takes time at least ten minutes and in some cases more so be patient stirring often and don’t allow the onions to burn that patience should extend until the onions reach the browning level you desire  you can then add the ginger and the garlic, and never before as once you add the ginger and garlic all browning of the onions will cease. While you are waiting for the onions to reach that wonderful golden brown take all the spice powders that’s the Cumin ,Coriander, Garam masala and turmeric powders and add a little water to mix them to a fine paste and add them to the onions and when you do, keep stirring vigorously to stop them catching on the bottom of the pan, add a little water or stock f that happens, and that should loosen them off.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook on a low to medium heat for about 5 minutes, you can also add the tamarind and the jiggery; stirring from time to time before adding as much fish stock as to make a gravy slightly thinner than you would serve at…. This is down to you because it is at this  point you add the fish balls, and they will absorb the sauce they are in; then add  the last of the crab meat for the final couple of minutes of cooking just to heat the Kofta through and reduce the sauce down to how you like your sauces to be.SAM_3365

I’m serving this with some Red onion and Sweet potato Pakoras (recipe to follow) and of course Naan as is my want serve rice if you prefer…..

Sali Murgi….Chicken & Apricot!

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 SAM_3289I am reliably informed that this is a traditional Parsi dish, and is a recipe for those special occasions that make life a pleasure. I do also have to admit that it had me when I saw the ingredients list there was never a single moment that was going to pass without me having a go. Sorry but I am like that with any  curry dish that contains fruit, that chilli juicy sweetness that fruit brings is for me very special indeed; and is a feature of many Arab influenced dishes with this particular example featuring Apricots!

It’s my mums fault dating from the 60’s when I was growing up, my mum used to make what she called curry, using a curry powder, God bless her. At the time the curry powder that was available commercially was the product of post war colonialism mixed with the idea that real indian flavours were far too much for the soft British Palate. The truth was that curry powders of that time were not very good, but they were just good enough over the years for us Brits to fall in love with, and completely adopt the cuisine of India.  My mums recipe  included some raisins or currants which up until the time I first tasted them in curry I believed belonged in cake. Her curry was in reality a stew with some madras mild curry powder with some raisins or currants thrown in to add that extra Indianess, and the reality of the day was probably that even if she had wanted to use turmeric and coriander she would not have been able to get it, even if she could have worked out what it was.

I am now a little older, and not much wiser but from that moment I was hooked on curries which included the sweet and sometimes the sour of fruits, see my recipe for Pineapple & Vegetable Curry(click) which I love with the saltiness of Gammon.

Fruit is not a rare thing in curry and there are many recipes that feature a few lumps of banana or even pomegranet although one does have to say they are usually the product of someone’s imagination, this dish however has a fine pedigree and is one that you can trust as a genuine dish and worthy of the name and traditions it carries.

The whats in IT bit

For the chicken

200gm dried apricots

2 large fresh tomatoes

4 tbsp. Ghee/ Oil

2x2cm Cinamon sticks

2 onions finely sliced

6 garlic cloves crushed

2inch Ginger

0.5kg chicken breast

juice of 1 lime or lemon

3tbsp Chopped Coriander

For the Masala

4 Dried Red Chillies

1.5 tsp whole cumin seeds

1tsp whole coriander seeds

1inch cinnamon stick broken into pieces

For the potato straws

2 large potatoes peeled and cut into fine juliennes

salt

.25 tsp turmeric

vegetable oil to fry

.25 tsp chilli powder

1tsp finely chopped coriander

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The how to!

First things first, soak the apricots in 250ml of warm water. After about three hours blitz half of them in a processor or blender with about 15oml of the soaking water to a a fine puree……/

set the remainder aside for later use….

Also soak the juliennes potatoes with two tsp of salt to leech out the starch this will help them become nice and crispy when you get round to frying them.

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Next take all the masala ingredients and grind them together in a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder if the pestle and mortar is too much work for you

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Add the ghee or the oil to your karahi or heavy based pan and heat until hot add the cinnamon sticks and allow to sizzle for a few minutes.

Add the onions, the garlic and ginger and cook until the onions turn that lovely golden brown, then add the masala and sauté until the oil begins to separate out

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Be aware though that the mixture can stick and as always all you need yo do is add a dash of water and stir stir stir using your wooden soon to scrape the sticky bits off…..

continue to cook for a few minutes more then add the tomatoes

Now you can add the chicken cut into nice bite sized chunks and also add  the pureed apricot and sauté for about five minutes

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 Add the remaining apricots and the water they are soaking in bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender  and cooked through.

stir in the coriander and adjust the seasoning…….

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Drain the potatoes and put on some kitchen roll and pat as dry as you can get them, cut them into very thin strips, remember you want to deep fry these to a crispy finish so thin is good.

mix them with the turmeric.

Heat the oil for deep frying to the point where the potato straws will fry to crispy golden brown in a matter of moments,  fry them off in small batches sprinkle with the chilli powder and the chopped coriander

serve the Sali murgi and sprinkle the fries over the top…….. serve with some lime and mango chutneySAM_3288

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Murg Pyaz Dopiaza… Onion double cooked with chicken

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SAM_3114If you going to draw any parallels here it is Dopiaza, as that essentially means twice or double cooked and that is exactly what you are doing to the onions, that said I have also dipped into Vindaloo  with the addition of some vinegar, and also added a tablespoon of Tamarind paste for that final edge.

As in some of my previous recipes I again am using shallots and tinned tomatoes to bring some texture, but no nuts in this one. The chilli content is fresh green de-seeded of course, rather than the dried red Kashmiri variety, as I feel this gives a fresher less peppery taste to the end result.

I am currently experimenting with the onion that basic for a great many of the dishes of India, insomuch as how they affect texture flavour and of course colour, so expect to see a few recipes heavily influenced by the onion boiled fried and raw….with this particular dish relying on a double cooked onion paste resulting in a fantastic recipe that will not disappoint!

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2 medium Red Onions Rough Chopped

4 tbsp. yoghurt

1 tbsp ghee/oil

The first step here is a fried onion paste, this is no big thing just rough chop your nice red onions and fry them in the Ghee or oil, until they ar golden brown; then tip em’ out on to some nice absorbant kitchen paper  leave to cool, then finally  blitz em in a blender  with the 3 tbsps. of yoghurt to a smooth paste … job done, pat yourself on the back you have made some  Tala Pisa Pyaz. cover and set aside in a cool place until required

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All good curry is about preparation and that’s not something that is achieved without a little time so get everything together before you light the stove, doing that makes it a certainty that what arrives at the table hits the spot and lights the soul. I also recommend that you mix the powders together with a little water to make a paste as this stops the  spices from sticking

The What you need from here for two or Three Persons

6 shallots rough chopped

1 tbsp. Ghee/Oil

1tsp whole coriander seeds

1tsp whole Mustard seeds brown

3 green Cardamom

8 curry leaves

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4 cloves Garlic choppedSAM_3113

1.5 ” Ginger finely chopped

3 green chilli’s de-seeded and chopped

1 tsp garam masala

Half tsp Asaefotida

1 tsp chilli powder

1tsp ground cumin

1 tsp coriander

Tala Pisa Pyaz (onion Paste Prepared earlier)

250 ml chicken stock

.5KG  chicken breast

Small tin tomatoes

2 tbsp. Vinegar

Salt to taste

1 tbsp jiggery(brown Sugar)

1 tbsp Tamarind Paste

The  how and the when!

Melt the ghee/oil in a heavy based pan or karahi and add the whole spices Cardamom Mustard and coriander seeds and cook until the mustard seeds begin to pop

 Then add the curry leaves and cook for a minute or two to allow the flavours out into the ghee.

Add the shallots and cook until they become opaque

 Add the garlic Chilli and Ginger and fry for a couple more minutes.

This is a good point to add the powder spices;( as I said before it’s always a good idea to mix the powder spices with a little water before adding to the pan, this will assist in keeping them from sticking).

That said remember to stir stir stir and stir like you mean it, this will stop those spices from sticking and burning, and if it looks like they are add another tablespoon of water.

After a minute or two you can now add the fried onion paste(Tala Pisa Pyaz) and continue to cook this for a couple of minutes…….

Add the meat and continue to cook the chicken until it loses all of its pink qualities and is white.

Add the tinned tomatoes, and tamarind paste, and cook on for a few minutes longer before adding as much of the chicken stock as you need to just cover the chicken and now add the Vinegar.

Cook for ten minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the gravy has reduced to the consistency that you enjoy or add more stock for a thinner consistency if required

Taste and season with salt and the Jaggery, and finally serve adding a nice drizzle of yoghurt just to finish off.

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…

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……

Sema Baghaar…. Pulse & Pea Curry

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 SAM_3001 When I started this blog I made a very sweeping statement that I would not use any “tinned” foods, followers  will by now know that I have failed in this aspiration in that I will always use Tinned tomatoes when I need a sauce enhancer,ganesh and always where a deep tomato flavour is required…….

This little recipe is another such example where a tin is to be considered mightier than the fresh variety. Here comes that word convenience, tinned pulses are convenient and come in a multitude of varieties all well cooked and in tip top condition and lets face it, undercooked pulses are no fun. However if you prefer to pre-boil and cook off all your beans and pulses don’t let me stand in your way and you can re-join the recipe after the hour or two you have invested in getting them just right…..moving swiftly on a tinned pulse is good to go here if a little more expensive so select whatever pulses work for you and open the tins rinse em off and put em aside… job done convenience sometimes rocks.

The curry base however is from the ground up, and as a base curry is brilliant with a multitude of other options for its use, fish, chicken, lamb, goat whatever it is just a fantastic base curry and one that will make your taste buds do the loop the loop in appreciation. The base being the point where you have the sauce finished, and are about to decide what you are putting into it, in this case the pulses, but lets face it pulses and beans are not always the most tastey of things and therefore for this dish to work you do need  some very robust favours. This curry base features lots of garlic onion, ginger, and some sweetness too; all these flavours are bought to the dish using a Bahaar which at its most simple is a cooking technique used in Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian cuisine, in which cooking oil, or ideally Ghee is heated and whole spices and sometimes other ingredients such as minced ginger root, garlic, and sugar are fried briefly to liberate essential oils from cells and thus enhance their flavors, before being poured, together with the oil, into the dish. In this case there is a powder spice element too just for that extra edge, so dive into this as it is something very special on the taste front and really not too fiddly if as always you are prepared before you start

The What’s in IT

1 lb of beans (2 cups)

the secret here is to use what beans you can get, and pretty much anything goes what follows is some ideas on what you COULD use ………these days supermarkets supply some top quality cooked pulses and these will do just as well as the dried varieties. However if you can be bothered then wash and soak the beans overnight and cook as you should…..

That said any combination of the following cooked is what you will need in the end to add to the sauce

Large lima beans, small white beans, red kidney beans, baby lima beans, great northern beans, speckled lima beans, black beans, green baby lima beans, whole green peas, yellow split peas, lentils, green split peas, small red beans, navy beans, blackeye peas, butter beans

1tbsp garden Peas

1 tbsp Sweetcorn

2 tsp Tamarind pulp

4 green Chillies de-seeded and rough chopped

6 plump Garlic cloves rough choppedSAM_2999

1.5 inch ginger finely chopped

1 tsp Cumin seeds

50ml (2 Fl oz ) veg oil

2 large Onions Finely Chopped

1tsp Mustard seeds

0.5 tsp Cumin Powder

0.5 tsp Coriander Powder

1 tsp Red Chilli powder

1 Tsp Garam masala

.5 tsp asafoetida

0.5 tsp Turmeric powder

Small tin chopped Tomatoes( 200gm ish)

1 Heaped teaspoon Jaggery/ or brown Sugar

300ml Vegetable stock

10 curry leaves

A drizzle of yoghurt to finish

Salt to taste

The How to

Take a tablespoon of the vegetable stock and add it slowly  to the ground spices and mix to a firm paste, don’t make this too thin as you are adding this to the Bahaar!

Start off by heating the oil in a flat based saucepan or karia add  the onions and fry for about five minutes then add half the Jaggery/brown sugar and continue cooking until the onion is a dark golden brown, this is critical to the sauce and will ensure that the colour is right, the Jaggery or sugar will help to caramelise the onion, and add a sweetness to the sauce, that will balance the heat of the chillies, you can add a tablespoon of stock if it looks like the onions are sticking.

Continue to cook and stir for another couple of minutes now is the time to add the spice paste that you made earlier and cook for a few minutes before adding  the tinned tomatoes stir well and bring back to the boil and allow to simmer while you prepare the Baghaar….

How to prepare a Baghaar

Heat the Ghee in a small saucepan on a high heat and add the cumin coriander and mustard seeds once they start to splutter remove from the heat for a moment and add the curry leaves garlic and ginger and green chillies and immediately return to the heat cook for a minute or two, on a medium heat add the rest of the Jaggery /brown sugar and stir well…… Not that tricky really now… add the Baghaar to the Tomato and onion mix and stir well together

Once the Baghaar  and onion mixes are united together this is the time to introduce the pulses, and as much of the Vegetable stock as you feel like to cook out the pulses , and thicken up the sauce to how you like it….

Add the tamarind pulp, garden peas, and the sweet corn….. SAM_3000stir well and turn the heat down and allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Taste and season with salt, then……. serve with Naans chapati or tandoori chicken if you want some meat but whatever way you go its a delicious dish vegetarian or otherwise!