Kerulan Fish Curry prompts a return to the blog

Quick, quick, quick! Least I forget, let’s get this recipe down.

Since we last spoke: I finally have a new kitchen, work has gone mad and I have been watching Rick Stein’s wonderful odyssey around India…..

The curries have naturally looked mouth-wateringly good but the one that really caught my eye was the very last one he prepared. Having stayed for weeks in the Kerala region of India, the fish curry Rick produced as a farewell supper finally drove me to action.

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I know this doesn’t exactly look spectacular, but believe me it’s one of the most delicious fish curries I have tried and after having a quick surf around on the net which yields some suggestions but only of the ‘lets get out a tin of coconut milk’ variety which as far as I can tell is not the way forward.

So you will need (serves 2-3): 1 Banana Shallot (or similar (chopped)), 1 inch of fresh Ginger (finely chopped), 1 tsp Mustard Seeds, 2 tbsp Groundnut Oil, 1 Green Chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped, a couple of Kaffir Lime or Curry Leaves, 1 tsp of ground Cumin, 1 tsp Turmeric, 1 generous tbsp Tamarind Paste, 1 tin chopped Tomatoes, 4 heaped tbsp desiccated Coconut soaked for 10 minutes in boiling water, 250g firm White Fish such as Vietnamese River Cobbler, juice of half a Lime, tbsp each of fresh mint and coriander, a few Cherry Tomatoes halved, half a Yellow Pepper finely sliced.

Quite a list if ingredients and I think there should be fenugreek instead of mustard seeds, but this is an anglicised version of this dish, however tomato gravy based which seems to be the key.

So heat the oil in a large heavy based frying pan or wok, and add the mustard seeds and lime/curry leaves, stir round until the mustard seeds start to pop and then add the onion, ginger, chilli and cumin and stir around gently until the onion is transparent and all the ingredients appear well blended. Then add the tomatoes, turmeric, tamarind paste and coconut and the soaking liquor and enough hot water to give a decent looking sauce (i.e. not dry and catching). Also add the pepper and cherry tomatoes and allow to simmer gently whilst you put some rice on….

After 5 minutes or so add the fish, roughly cut into strips, and the coriander and mint and stir frequently adding more water if necessary for 5 minutes or so and the fish is cooked through, add the lime juice, stir through and serve immediately on rice, or with naan. Delicious.

Congratulations William and Catherine04 01 11 151

Tempted by a Tomatillo? Only if they are Curried.

Tomatillo? What’s that I here you cry… Well the official answer is the Mexican relative of a cape gooseberry and here are some examples:

Now I know they look under ripe and not very tempting, but after a couple of weeks of experimenting due to their arrival in our veg box, I think I might have the measure of them.

We started off trying them raw in a salad, always a good place to start I think. They are fairly hard and quite sour so whilst that was fine, we moved on to incorporating them in a guacamole style salsa to go with a chilli.

Now that worked really well: into a bowl combine some chopped avocado and equal quantities of chopped tomato and tomatillo. Mash together a little and add some chopped coriander and a little salt and pepper. The sourness of the tomatillos removes the need for lime juice.

Then last night I thought they might work well in a curry and so made my version of Cornish Chicken Curry. Cornish Chicken Curry!! What can be Cornish about Mexican fruits or Indian Curry. Ah well, Cornish Chicken Curry is by definition a dish of ‘using up stuff’ and what do we all have half a jar of in the fridge? A jar of curry paste, along with a few bits and pieces of veg which are looking long past their sell by date and the omnipresent store cupboard staple, a tin of tomatoes.

So this version of the curry went something like this (for 4): fry off a couple of smallish thinly sliced onions in a slug of oil for 5 minutes or so until soft and then add 2 cloves of chopped garlic, a sliced green chilli and 1 cm or 2 of grated fresh ginger. Stir all that around for 2 or 3 minutes, add some diced chicken (around 400-500g) and stir frequently until the chicken has coloured on all sides and then add a couple of tablespoons of curry paste, the tomato based ones work best like Balti or Rogan Josh. Add a diced pepper, 5 or 6 chopped tomatillos and any other veg you fancy, a tin of tomatoes and a cup of water, allow to come to the boil and simmer until the chicken and veg are cooked through. Season if required and serve with rice. The tomatillos again give a lovely sharp tang to the dish and do retain their form like peppers, a real winner.

Chicken curry essentially all looks the same so I haven’t taken a picture of that, but here’s the salad we tried: baby beetroot, potato, smoked salmon, samphire, dill and goat’s cheese. The tomatillos were superfluous frankly but the rest was nice enough. Top with a sprinkling of toasted flaked almonds.

What to do with a Pumpkin

Two for the price of one this week. Pumpkin season is upon us and apart from making lanterns, or perhaps as well as, a few recipes using up the flesh appear to be in order.

Pumpkins themselves do have a fairly bland flavour so the best tactic is to spice it up. Here are a couple of recipes to such an end.

Thai Red Vegetable Curry

This is heavily based on a Nigella recipe: Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry in her book Nigella Bites.

You will need (serves 4): 400ml tin Coconut Milk (full or half fat), 1 heaped tbsp Red Curry paste, 300ml Vegetable Stock, 2 tbsp Fish Sauce, 1 tbsp Sugar, 1 heaped tsp Lemongrass paste, 2 Lime Leaves (if you can get them, dried will do), ½ tsp Turmeric, 350-400g Pumpkin, chunked, 300g waxy Potatoes, chunked a little smaller than the pumpkin, 1 Red Pepper, thickly sliced, a couple of handfuls of Spinach, shredded Swiss Chard or trimmed Green Beans, juice of ½ Lime, Coriander leaves to serve.

You should be able to buy the Thai ingredients in Tesco or Sainsburys; Barts make the lemongrass paste and Blue Dragon the fish sauce. Lime leaves will be with the spices or specialist ingredients of larger supermarkets.

So, open the tin of coconut milk, don’t shake the tin before opening, and scope out the coconut cream which collects at the top reserving the coconut water. Plop this in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over a moderate heat and add the curry paste, stir that around for a minute or two and then add most of the coconut water, the stock, fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass paste, lime leaves, turmeric, pumpkin, potatoes and peppers and simmer until the pumpkin and potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Then add the greens and cook for another 5 minutes or so and finally add the lime juice. Serve on rice or with naan bread and sprinkle with the coriander.

You can add prawns with the greens if you want and cook until piping hot. This has that lovely sweet, hot tang to it. Yummy.

Easy Peasy Carrot and Pumpkin Curried Soup

This is quicker to make than say the title.

You will need: a small Leek, finely sliced, a splash of Sunflower Oil and an even smaller splash of Garlic Oil, 2 tsp Ginger, grated, 300g sliced Carrots, 300g Pumpkin,chunked, 1 litre Vegetable Stock, 1 tbsp medium Curry Powder, ½ lemon, juiced, Coriander leaves (optional)

In a large saucepan, gently fry the leek in the oils and after a minute or two add the ginger, stir that around and then add the pumpkin and carrot and sweat over a low heat with the lid on for 10 minutes or so. Stir in the curry powder and then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or so until the veggies are tender. Blend. Season if required (but I doubt it) and add the lemon juice. Delish.

Now, I will tell you how to make the little pumpkin cakes above next time, I am still trying to refine a pumpkin cupcake as the Hummingbird one is frankly a disaster. Those above are plain cake with orange flavour butter icing, but more of that next week…….

Ratatouille Style Prawn Curry

Well by now I was definitely banking on warm days, asparagus in the veg box and an opportunity to embark on a few salad recipes. What is going on with the weather? Particularly, as just two hours away by plane, Spain is experiencing some of the hottest temperatures for May on record. However, as I didn’t have the oven on today, I was considering a quick blast of central heating. (I didn’t succumb in the end – promise). So what are we eating instead with the seasonal veg shifting towards salads, courgettes and peppers, that sort of thing. I could have made a ratatouille, but you know what, it didn’t really seem ‘warming’ enough.

Curry. I think that will do it. As I have mentioned before I don’t really worry too much about authenticity with curries. I like a sharp, hot kick, usually mid-week which precludes too much genuine, subcontinental finessing. I appreciate that I should try harder and explore the cuisine with a little more diligence, but when the chilli/spicy craving strikes there simply isn’t the time. I do think though that with a good jar of curry paste and a plan, it is possible to make simple curries with distinctive punch.

Aubergines are excellent curried, one of the most delicious curry dishes I ever tried was curried baby aubergines. Spicy and creamy with some bite to the skins….Heavenly. So it wasn’t too much of a leap to get to this, serves 2:

2/3 Spring Onions, sliced, 1 cm Ginger, finely chopped, 1 clove of Garlic, crushed, 1 Courgette, roughly chopped, ½ Aubergine, roughly chopped, ½ Green or Red Pepper, sliced, 1 tin of Chopped Tomatoes, 2 tbsp Rogan Gosh Curry paste, 250g Frozen Raw Prawns, a good handful of roughly chopped Spinach (optional), Salt, Pepper, Oil and a squeeze of Lemon Juice.

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of oil and add the spring onions and ginger, stir round for a couple of minutes and add the garlic, give it another minute and then add the courgette, pepper and aubergine. Stir round and allow to sweat gently for 10 minutes or so. Stir from time to time and add a little more oil if necessary (the aubergine can really soak it up). Add the tomatoes and the curry paste and about ½ a tins worth of water from the kettle, stir to combine and allow to simmer for 15 minutes minimum, or longer if you wish, whilst you cook some rice. Keep an eye on the sauce, stir occasionally and add a little more water if required. About 5 minutes from the end of the rice cooking time tip in the frozen prawns and the spinach if using and turn the heat up slightly to bring the sauce back to a simmer. Stir frequently at this point, add some seasoning and lemon juice. Once the rice is cooked, the prawns have turned pink and the spinach is wilted, serve sauce on rice in the usual manner.

Spring fresh curry, just what we need it seems.

Sorry I don’t have an image of the final dish, but it looks like tomato sauce on rice; not particularly enlightening!

Biryani for Beginners

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It is still the Easter School Holidays. The kids are at home and so there isn’t much time for a finely honed blog post.

I thought I might try the quick post function.

I cannot profess to be an authority when it comes to making curry. Friends and family seem to own books on the subject with words in the title like ‘Bible’. The only curry recipe book I have at home features in the picture above and is called ‘Let’s eat Indian at home’! For ages I thought it was more snappily entitled ‘Let eat Indian tonight!’ It’s in a series; one could be eating Italian, Mexican or Chinese instead. I can’t say I even follow the recipes that closely, just absorbing a feel for what ingredients and spices are necessary to distinguish my saags from my bhunas. I don’t seem to have the time for the full recipes either so usually invent and as usual that is what happened last night.

My Biryani worked out very well though, I knew what I was aiming for in principle but in the end I don’t think this is authentic in any way as I went entirely off-piste in construction. Like with all these things it is a bit of a effort, a 2-stage process, but surprisingly quick as well. This serves 4.

So there are 2 parts to this, a tomato and spinach sauce and the biryani. I will list the ingredients out as we go along but the biryani can optionally include 30g each of soaked sultanas and toasted flaked almonds. Therefore, if using, before you even get to the tomato sauce you need to soak the sultanas in a bowl of boiling water.

Stage One – The Tomato Sauce

¼ medium Onion, chopped, 1 tbsp flavourless Oil, crushed clove of Garlic, good pinch Chilli flakes, ½ tsp ground Ginger, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, pinch of Asafoetida, 1 red pepper, sliced, 1 tin of Tomatoes, chopped, or ½ tin of Passata, a handful of Spinach leaves, roughly chopped, 1 tsp chopped Mint, salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion, fry over a moderate heat until transparent and tinged brown round the edges, add the garlic, stir round for 30 seconds or so, add all the spices and stir again for another 30 seconds. Add the pepper, coat with the oil and spices and then add the tomatoes or passata, season, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally whist you make the biyani. If using passata you may need to slacken the sauce with recently boiled water from the kettle to prevent it from drying out.

Stage Two – The Biryani

350g Basmati rice, 800ml just boiled water, some left over roast lamb or chicken if you wish, chopped, ¾ Onion, sliced, 2 tbsp flavourless Oil, crushed clove of Garlic, 1 tsp finely chopped Ginger or ½ tsp of ground, pinch of Chilli flakes to taste, 1 tsp ground Coriander, 2 tsp Cumin, 1 tsp Turmeric, pinch of Garam Masala, 4 or 5 Mushrooms, sliced, juice of 1 Lemon, good handful of frozen Peas, salt and pepper, optionally 30g each of flaked Almonds, toasted and the soaked Sultanas, fresh Coriander to serve if you have it.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 165°C. In something like a Le Creuset casserole, heat the oil and fry the onion again gently until tinged brown round the edges, then add the garlic, ginger and spices except the Garam Masala and fry again for a minute or so, add the meat, if using, and mushrooms and coat in the spices. Then add the rice and again coat in the spices and cook for a minute stirring continuously. Add 600ml of the boiled water, stir again to combine and once the liquid is bubbling, season, cover and pop into the oven for 15 minutes. Whilst that is cooking, toast the flaked almonds in a frying pan without oil over a moderate heat, shaking the pan frequently. This only takes a minute or so then remove from the heat and set aside. Drain the sultanas and set aside too.

Once the 15 minutes is up take the casserole out of the oven, stir the rice mixture which should look pretty much cooked, add the peas, lemon juice, Garam Masala and remaining 200ml of recently boiled water, stir through and return, covered, to the oven for 5 more minutes.

Add the mint and spinach to the tomato sauce and stir through until the spinach is wilted. Check the seasoning.

Once the 5 minutes is up, remove biryani from oven, fork through and add the almonds and sultanas if using. Sprinkle with fresh coriander.

Serve a bed of the biryani with a garnish of tomato sauce on top.

The kids coped fairly well with this, obviously you can tailor the chilli heat to suit and leave out almonds and sultanas to give a more child-friendly spicy rice dish which would be enjoyable on its own. Ours really liked the rice; the tomato/spinach sauce – not so much!

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