Coriander

Yotam Ottolenghi’s puy lentils

puylentilstahini

I celebrated the end of a vegetarian Lent with scampi and chicken bites at Scarborough’s wonderful Clock Café. This is my favourite cafe in the world, it’s fabulously old school with a menu that probably hasn’t changed in 40 years.

The next day I ate battered fish with chips at Whitby’s Quayside restaurant and was very happy.

The week before all that, when I was still being a vegetarian, I finally managed to make an Ottolenghi recipe work. I’m a big fan of red lentil dhal, which is a staple of mine, but this was the first time I’d attempted to cook with puy lentils which I’ve been told are tricky.

It was very tasty (even though I forgot the tiny sliced onion which I’d painstakingly prepared) but this is not surprising considering the amount of butter and oil involved. The cold hardboiled egg garnish really worked well with the hot lentils.

I have one more vegetarian recipe to tell you about next week. Bet you can’t wait.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s puy lentils

Serves 2

  • 200g of puy lentils
  • 30g of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 3 medium tomatoes, skinned and cut into 1cm squares (I used a third of a tin of tinned tomatoes, chopped)
  • 25g of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini paste
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ a small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered

Bring a pan of water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook according to the pack instructions until completely cooked, drain and set aside. Yotam suggested that this would take 15-20 minutes. My packet suggested cooking for 60 minutes but I found they were done after half an hour. If you can squash a lentil easily between your fingers then they are done.

Put the butter and oil in a frying pan and place on a medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and cumin, and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, 20g of coriander and the cooked lentils and cook for a couple of minutes stirring all the time.

Then add the tahini, lemon juice, 70ml of water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes more, stirring all the time until hot and thickened. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher, so that some are broken up.

If at any time it looks too thick then you can add a little more water.

Serve on a platter with the sliced onion, the rest of the coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and the hard boiled eggs on the side.

Serve with homemade flat bread (or bought naan or pitta if you can’t be bothered).

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

mushroom and spinachh korma.jpg

Believe me this tastes better than it looks.

I’m rather enjoying being a temporary vegetarian and am not really missing meat and fish at all. I did waver slightly when my son was pushing the battered fish from his takeaway around his plate – my ‘just’ chips hadn’t really hit the spot and I was tempted to eat it all up for him. There was also a stab of jealousy over my husband’s sausages, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. I can just about put up with veggie sausages but vegetarian gravy just doesn’t compare with the meat version.

The hardest thing is eating out. Vegetarians get a rough deal here unless they dine at specifically vegetarian restaurants which is tricky to do when you are mainly friends with meat eaters.

All too often restaurants offer very limited options for vegetarians and the lack of originality is astounding. If you don’t like goats cheese (like me) then you’re pretty much stuffed – goat’s cheese tart being an almost permanent fixture on menus. You must like risotto or you’re in serious trouble. Soup is also popular as restaurants try to kill two birds with one stone by making the obligatory soup option also the vegetarian one. My sister (who lives in a family of vegetarians) jokes about the ubiquitous and bland ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’. She will not eat anywhere unless she can order a bowl of chips if the vegetarian option fails her.

I bought some mushrooms for dinner in the week without a plan. A google recipe search placed the before mentioned ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’ in pole position and I nearly made it for a laugh. But then my head was turned by this Nigel Slater korma from his fabulous ‘Real Food’ book.

It doesn’t sound very exciting (probably the fault of the word ‘korma’) and I wasn’t expecting much (except a disappointed, meat deprived husband). But  it was actually very delicious. The addition of roasted hazelnuts and sultanas is genius  (so do not be tempted to leave these out). Ben ate it very, very happily.

This is not a difficult dish to make once you have prepped and lined up all the ingredients (there are quite a few and they are all important, I’m learning this about vegetarian cookery – vegetables need a lot more help to make them taste ‘special’).

Unfortunately my permanently(?) vegetarian daughter does not like mushrooms. Eating out with her is going to be a nightmare!

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite and how much rice you serve with it)

  • 50g of butter (I used ghee)
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and finely sliced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 15 cardamom pods, husks removed and seeds crushed
  • ½ a teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ a teaspoon of chilli powder (I used flakes)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 650g of assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I only had 500g which were a mixture of chestnut and some dried Chinese mushrooms which I found in the back of the cupboard and rehydrated in water first)
  • 50g of hazelnuts, toasted and shelled (I toasted mine in a 180oC oven for 10 minutes and then removed the shells by rolling between some kitchen roll)
  • 350g of leaf spinach (I used 6 cubes of frozen spinach as this was all I had)
  • 50g of sultanas (Nigel uses ‘golden’ ones but then he would)
  • 150g of thick natural yoghurt
  • 150g of crème fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt

Melt the butter (or ghee) in a deep pan (over a medium heat) and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for about 5 minutes until golden (turn the heat down if the butter starts to burn).

Then add the spices and bay leaves and cooked for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.

Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes until they soften.

Then add 225ml of water and the hazelnuts (I also added my frozen spinach here which I hadn’t bothered to defrost first and used slightly less water – because of the excess in the frozen spinach). Bring the water to a boil turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes with a lid on.

If you are using fresh spinach, wash the leaves and cook them (still wet) in a saucepan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes with a lid on (they will cook in their own steam). Drain, squeeze out the water and add to the mushrooms after they have finished simmering for 15 minutes.

Then add the sultanas and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and add in the yoghurt and crème fraiche. Heat gently but don’t boil or the mixture will curdle.

Finally stir in the chopped coriander and season well with salt (I needed two large pinches).

I served the curry with rice but it would be amazing with homemade naan.

 

Beef tagine

beeftagine2

I’m a bit late to the game on the ras el hanout front. This ingredient has always seemed a bit too ‘Yotam Ottolenghi’ for me (meaning that it can’t be found easily in suburban Nottingham). But Tesco now stock it in their own brand spice range – a sure sign that it has entered the realms of commonplace.

Anyway, my sister gave me a little bag of it to try recently and so I set about finding a recipe.

Ras el hanout is a North African spice mix which translates as ‘head of the shop’ – as in the best spices the shop keeper has to offer. I have no idea exactly what was in my little unmarked bag, but according to Wikipedia, cardamom, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dried ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn and paprika are all commonly used.

I’m not sure why this recipe (a bastardised version of one of Jamie Oliver’s*) uses additional cinnamon, cumin, paprika and ginger if the ras el hanout is likely to include these already. Purists would probably insist of making up their own spice mix from scratch in any case, as with garam masala, curry powder, jerk seasoning, five spice and the like.

All I can say is that the final dish was delicious and very easy (if time consuming) to make.

When I was frying off the beef my son asked me if I was making mince pies. I can see why he said this because the cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in the spice mix does make it smell very Christmassy. I’m being a complete Grinch about Christmas at the moment so this is probably about as festive as my recipes on this blog will get this year.

*the original recipe can’t be trusted in any case. The comments section on Jamie’s website bought my attention to the fact that he uses teaspoons of spices in the TV series but tablespoons on the web.

Beef tangine

Serves 4-6

  • 1kg lean stewing steak cut into large (approx. 2.5 cm sq) chunks

For the marinade

  • 1 tablespoon of ras el hanout
  • 2 teaspoons of ground or whole cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

To cook

  • A little oil
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • A knorr vegetable stock pot (or equivalent vegetable stock cube)
  • 1 ½ cans of water
  • 100g of dried apricots cut into quarters

To serve

  • Toasted flaked almonds
  • A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Couscous (recipe here)

Place the beef in a bowl with all the marinade ingredients and mix them in with a wooden spoon or massage them in with your hands. Cover and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

When you are ready to cook, heat a little oil in a frying pan over a high heat and brown the meat all over. It is worth taking the time to make sure you get a really good dark brown colour on both sides as this helps with the final flavour. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches depending on the size of your frying pan.

Fry off the onion in the same pan until brown.

Place the beef and onion in a lidded casserole dish along with the can of tomatoes, apricots, chickpeas and stock pot/cube. Cover with 1 and a half tins of water (using the tin from either the tomatoes or chickpeas to measure). Bring the mixture to the boil on the hob and then cover.

Place in an oven preheated to 180oC for 1 hour.

Then reduce the temperature to 150oc and cook for a further 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Make sure to check the pot at regular intervals (about every 30 mins) to give it a little stir and add a little extra water if the sauce is becoming too dry.

Just before serving mix in a good handful of chopped, fresh coriander.

Serve over a steaming bowl of cous cous or rice and garnish with more coriander and lightly toasted flaked almonds.


PS. If, unlike me, you are feeling the yuletide spirit then you may like to try one of my Christmas recipes from previous years.

Bread sauce
Easy chocolate biscuits (decorated for Christmas)
Homemade mincemeat
Christmas fudge
Mincemeat filo cigars and no nonsense mincemeat tart
Christmas pudding
Prawn cocktail

Brisket Madras with red lentil dosa

madras brisket with dosa

I’m extremely lucky to have some brilliant butchers close by and my favourite* has just had a refit. They’ve moved their butcher’s block into the centre of the shop which is a stroke of genius from a business point of view. Last week I didn’t go in meaning to buy a giant piece of brisket but when I saw it beautifully rolled on the slab next to a sharp knife and a smiley butcher ready to cut it to any size I wanted, I just couldn’t resist.

I then got home and tried to work out what on earth to do with it. In the end I remembered a delicious beef Madras curry that my husband had once cooked for a dinner party and decided to use those flavours with the brisket. It worked really well and my whole family, especially the children, loved it.

To go with the curried brisket I dug out an ancient recipe for red lentil dosa from my file of cut outs. I’ve had it so long that I could only just make out the faded type. Dosa are a type of Indian pancake made from fermented rice and lentils. They don’t contain any flour and so are perfect for anyone with a gluten or wheat allergy.

*Coates Traditional Butchers, Bramcote Lane, Wollaton

Brisket Madras

  • About 2kg of unrolled beef brisket

Spice paste

  • 20g of ginger, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 25g of ground coriander
  • 6 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • ½ a teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (or more if you like it hot)
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar

Sauce

  • 1/2 a tablespoon of ghee or butter
  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A knorr beef stock pot (or similar stock)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • Water to cover

Trim the excess fat from the piece of beef brisket and cut the string to unroll it if you’ve bought it rolled from the butchers.

Place all the ingredients for the spice paste into a small bowl and mix until smooth. Spread the spice paste all over the brisket, cover and leave to marinade in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 140oC fan.

Take a heavy casserole dish with a lid, add the ghee/butter and heat to a medium high heat. Sear the brisket for a couple of minutes on each side. Throw in the sauce ingredients, add enough water to cover the meat and bring the liquid in the pan to the boil. Cover with a disc of baking paper (touching the surface of the meat and liquid) put the lid on and cook in the oven for 5-6 hours until the meat is tender.

Remove the pan from the oven, but leave it covered with the meat inside for a good 30 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan and shred, removing any big lumps of fat. Add the beef back to the pan and give it a good stir to coat with the curry sauce.

You can serve the brisket warm or cold.

NOTE: This does make an enormous amount and fed our family of four generously for 4 meals. The first night we had it wrapped in a red lentil dosa (see recipe below). There were two meals with rice and we also ate it in home-made baguettes (my husband’s idea – a bit weird but delicious).

Red Lentil Dosas

Makes 8-12 dosa (I made 8 that were 22cm wide but if you use a smaller pan you will obviously make more)

  • 300g of rice
  • 100g of red lentils
  • 500ml of warm water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 4 tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander
  • Oil for frying

Place the rice, lentils and water in a bowl and leave to soak for 8 hours.

Pour the whole mixture into a food processor and blend until you have a smooth batter. Pour into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to ferment for 24 hours at room temperature.

When you are ready to cook, stir the salt, turmeric and coriander into the batter.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium high heat and smear with a little oil. Add a ladle full of batter and smear around with the back of a spoon to fill the pan. Cook on one side for a couple of minutes until set. Drizzle a little more oil around the edges, then flip over and cook on the other side for about one minute.

Keep the cooked dosa warm in a low oven, wrapped in a damp tea towel whilst you cook the others. Serve warm.

NOTE: These are lovely filled with the curried brisket (recipe above) but they also go well with others curries and make a nice alternative to rice.

dosa cooking

Frying the dosa

Brisket

brisket

I love beef brisket. Not only is it economical and full of flavour but it’s also very forgiving. You just have to cook it nice and slow for at least 4 hours and it always turns out fine (unlike topside where there’s always a risk that it will be overdone and tough or underdone and the kids won’t eat it).

For years I’ve been cooking brisket in the same old nice (but boring) way.

  • season and sear meat
  • chuck in onion/carrot/garlic/herbs
  • cover with red wine and beef stock
  • cook on low for a whole afternoon

But then along came the lovely John Whaite who changed my outlook on this humble cut of meat. His ‘Anglo-Vietnamese shredded beef brisket’ is brisket with pizzazz. The technique is similar to mine, but with the addition of a few new exciting flavours you get a lighter, sunnier kind of dish – one that you serve with flat breads and spicy coleslaw rather than Yorkshire puddings and potatoes. There is obviously a place for both but it’s good to have another option, especially in the hotter spring/summer months when a traditional roast doesn’t really suit.

John Whaite’s Anglo-Vietnamese shredded beef brisket (from the Telegraph online)

  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5kg unrolled beef brisket (my joint was actually only 850g but I still used the quantities below and it was delicious, my butcher only sells it rolled but I just cut the string and unrolled it)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped into 8 pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and gently crushed
  • The peel from 1 clementine (I used orange peel because that’s all I had)
  • 3 star anise flowers
  • 8 green cardamon pods, bruised
  • 300ml of red wine (I used cheap rioja)
  • 250ml of beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce (I used 1 tablespoon because 1 teaspoon seemed like child’s play)
  • A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 140oC fan.

Rub salt and pepper on the entire surface of the meat and sear it in a heavy casserole dish with a lid over a medium-high heat for a minute on each side.

Throw in the other ingredients and bring the liquid in the pan to a boil. Cover with a disc of baking paper, touching the surface of the meat and liquid. Put the lid on and cook in the oven for 4-4 ½ hours, until the meat is tender.

Remove the pan from the oven, but leave it covered with the meat inside for a good 30 minutes.

Remove the beef from the pan and shred, removing any big lumps of fat. Then pass the cooking liquor through a sieve before returning to the pan along with the shredded beef. Scatter with freshly chopped coriander before serving.

I served mine in a tortilla wrap (bought I’m afraid) with an Asian flavoured coleslaw (basically red cabbage, onion and carrot with leftover gyoza dipping sauce chucked over the top).

Lamb and apricot tagine with couscous

Nigel Slater tagine without nigel

Over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with tagines. First I tried Lindsay Bareham’s lamb and apricot tagine. It looked beautiful and was quick to cook but tasted a bit insipid which was bizarre considering all the ingredients involved. I then tried a Nigel Slater recipe with the same name and I knew I’d found a winner. His version was slow cooked and absolutely packed with flavour.

Nigel Slater is a brilliant food writer but in my view he should never have been put on television. Is it just me who wants to drag him to the hairdressers? He’s also a little bit creepy. Like Nigel this dish is not a looker but don’t let that put you off because it tastes amazing.

It’s a bit tricky to source but don’t be tempted to miss out the preserved lemon – it cuts through the sweetness of the fruit and really lifts the whole dish.

Nigel Slater’s lamb and apricot tagine

Serves 4 generously

  • 1kg lamb shoulder, diced (to roughly 3 cm square) with as much fat trimmed off as possible
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of hot paprika (I couldn’t find this and so I used cayenne pepper instead)
  • 3 onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 60g sultanas
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron
  • 750ml of chicken stock
  • 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 350g apricots (I used just 250g because this is the size of the bag and this was plenty, I also roughly halved them)
  • A preserved lemon (I used ¼ of a jar of preserved lemon paste which they sell in the ingredients section of Tesco)
  • A large handful of coriander leaves
  • A small handful of mint leaves
  • Some oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

In a bowl toss the diced lamb in half the ground spices, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least four hours, although overnight is best.

Set your oven to 160oC fan.

First brown the lamb in batches in a frying pan with a little oil until it is nicely browned on all sides and set aside.

Then, in a heavy-based casserole dish with a lid, cook the onion, garlic and the remaining ground spices in a little oil over a medium heat until soft and slightly coloured.

Add the sultanas, honey, saffron, stock, tomatoes, apricots and meat to the pan. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and cook in the preheated oven for 2 ½ hours.

If using a preserved lemon, cut it in half and discard the interior pulp. Finely chop the skin and stir in to the tagine. Alternatively, add the preserved lemon paste and give it a good stir.

I found that after 2 ½ hours the sauce was beautifully thick and did not need reducing. If yours does look a little thin then Nigel suggests removing the meat with a draining spoon and boiling the sauce over a high heat until it thickens up, before returning the meat to the pan.

Just before serving add the coriander and mint.

Serve on a bed of couscous (see below). It is also nice with rice.

Couscous

For 2-4

  • 200g couscous
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 450ml of hot chicken stock
  • The juice of half a lemon

Make up the stock and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add the saffron and the juice of half a lemon, then the couscous in a stream. Give it a quick stir, cover with cling film and leave for 15 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Before serving fluff up the couscous with a fork.

Super quick prawn curry

prawn curry 2
When we go for a curry my favourite dish is prawn puri and (being very stuck in my ways) this is what I always order. As a special treat my husband recreated the dish for me at home, cobbling together several recipes he found on the internet. He did such a great job that I kept the recipes and whilst I don’t bother with the puris (deep frying them is a bit of a faff) I love the prawn curry filling so much that I’m happy to have it with just rice.

This is super quick and ideal for a mid-week dinner when you don’t have much time. You can make it in less than 15 minutes – which is the time it takes to cook the rice. If you keep a bag of frozen prawns in the freezer then it makes a great standby.

Prawn curry

Serves 2

  • About 15 large prawns (cooked or raw), if you’re using frozen prawns then defrost them first
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of ghee, or oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes, depending on how hot you like it, or you can use fresh chillies
  • ½ tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of malt vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of single cream
  • A tablespoon of chopped coriander (or thereabouts)

First dust the prawns in turmeric and set aside.

Fry the onions in ghee or oil over a medium heat until softened and golden brown (about 3-4 minutes).

Add the crushed garlic, ginger, garam masala, ground coriander, cumin and chilli and fry for one minute.

Then add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens slightly (if it thickens too much then you just need to add a little water). Add a good pinch of salt at this stage.

Stir in the prawns, cover the pan with a lid and cook until the prawns are cooked through. This will only be a couple of minutes if you are using cooked prawns and a little longer 3-4 minutes if you’re using raw ones.

Finally, add the malt vinegar and cream and stir.

Serve with rice and garnished with fresh coriander.

NOTE: If you need a recipe for cooking rice see my previous post ‘Nice Rice’ and follow the instructions for cooking rice to accompany Indian food.

Kedgeree

kedgeree
In my early 20s kedgeree was my signature dish and  I thrust it upon anyone who came to dinner – friends, family, work colleagues, potential boyfriends. This sums up my ‘devil may care’ attitude in those days – it didn’t cross my mind that people may NOT like it, of course they would, after all I liked it.

These days I am a more thoughtful and conservative host and even though I think it’s delicious I would be terrified of serving kedgeree to guests. What if they hate smoked fish (many people do), what about all that dairy (I have several friends that either avoid dairy or don’t like creamy things) and then there are all those evil carbs. That said I still love it and luckily so do my children and my husband.

Whilst traditionally a breakfast or brunch dish we rarely eat kedgeree at that time. I prefer it as a special dinner treat because admittedly it’s not the healthiest dish in the world (all those lovely hard boiled eggs and cream). There are hundreds of variations of this dish but in my version the fish is kept separate and served over the top of the rice. This serves two purposes, firstly, it keeps the flavours fresh and vivid and stops the fish from getting all mushed up, secondly, it avoids arguments as everyone gets a fair portion of the best bits.

My Kedgeree

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite, for two this is a big portion)

For the rice (make up the amount below but you will only need two thirds of the cooked rice for this recipe. Save the rest for frying up another day – it’s great with an omelette on top. I’ve tried to reduce the quantities but for some reason this method of cooking the rice doesn’t work for such a small amount.)

  • ¼ litre basmati rice
  • ½ litre water
  • ½ Knorr chicken stock pot (or other stock)
  • 3 cardamom pods bruised
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon medium curry powder
  • a little oil, butter or ghee

Frying the rice

  • ½ onion
  • 10 medium closed cup mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic

For the fish

  • 300g smoked haddock
  • 100ml single cream
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • A little black pepper

To garnish

  • 2 hardboiled eggs
  • A good handful of chopped coriander
  • A squeeze of ½ a lemon

First, cook the rice. Put a small dollop of butter/ghee or a dash of oil into a small saucepan and put it on a low heat on the hob. Using a measuring jug measure out ¼ litre of rice then pour the into the saucepan, add the curry powder, turmeric and cardamom pods and give it all a good stir.

Boil the kettle and make up the stock using ½ Knorr stock pot (or other stock) and ½ litre of water.

Tip the stock into the saucepan, raise the heat and bring to the boil. Then put on a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes. Do not be tempted to open the lid during the cooking.

After 15 minutes fluff up the rice with a fork and leave aside to cool with the lid off (if you leave the lid on the rice will continue to cook and will go stodgy).

For the fish, first skin the fish with a sharp knife and remove any bones. Place in a small saucepan (you may need to cut the fish up if it doesn’t fit easily) and tip in the cream. Sprinkle over the turmeric and bring the cream to the boil. Put on a lid, turn the heat down and cook for about 5 minutes until the fish is just cooked through. With a fork break the fish into large flakes while still in the pan and spoon the creamy sauce over the fish until it is well covered. Replace the lid to keep warm while you fry the rice.

Fry the onions, garlic and mushrooms in a frying pan over a medium heat until the water has come out of the mushrooms and boiled dry. Tip in two thirds of your cooked rice and fry until the rice is heated through. Don’t move it about the pan too often or it will become stodgy. It adds to the flavour if some bits catch slightly and go golden brown. Season well with salt and pepper to your personal taste and then add half the chopped coriander and stir.

To serve put a nice big pile of rice in a bowl, spoon over the fish and cream and garnish with the hard boiled eggs cut into quarters. Sprinkle over the rest of the coriander and squeeze some lemon juice over the top of each bowl.

Note: These days smoked haddock is quite expensive, so for a more economical dish you can use a small piece of hot smoked salmon or even smoked mackerel. Cook the rice in the same way but instead of cooking the fish in cream just flake it up and add it to the rice at the end and stir.

Lamb kofta

kofta version 2

I’ve eaten kofta or kofte in Greek restaurants, in Indian restaurants, in the home of my Lebanese friend and as Qofte in Albania. There seem to be so many versions of this dish around the world but considering that the word just means balls of ground meat with spices this is perhaps not surprising.

This is my tried and tested spice mix for lamb kofta and it has become a favourite at summer barbeques and mezze style dinner parties. I’m not sure in which corner of the globe these kofta sit best and this goes in their favour and makes them very versatile. Serve with cous cous and raita for a Moroccan twist, or rolled inside flat breads with tzatziki and hummus for a more Greek style affair. They are also good with rice as in the photo above.

Kofta are best cooked on a charcoal barbeque but as that’s just not possible at this wet and windy time of year it is fine to grill them as long as you preheat your grill to its hottest setting. It’s definitely worth buying decent quality lean lamb mince and you could use beef if you prefer.

PS. Sorry for the disturbing photo – I don’t think I’m going to win any guardian food photography awards with this one.

Lamb kofta

Makes 18 sausage sized koftas

  • 750g minced lamb
  • 1 small onion
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • A handful of fresh coriander

½ teaspoon of:

  • Ground cumin
  • Grated nutmeg
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried mint
  • Cardamom, husks removed and crushed with a pestle and mortar
  • Black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

In a large bowl combine the lamb mince with all the spices in the list above and mix well with your hands. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge.

Leave for the flavours to mingle for at least an hour. I tend to do this part in the morning ready for dinner in the evening.

Shape into sausages. It helps if your hands are slightly wet.

kofta raw

These are best cooked on the BBQ but are also good grilled under a high heat for about 10 minutes. Turn the kofta regularly so that they colour well on all sides.

Serve with either rice (see my post Nice Rice), or flat breads (see my post Frugal cooking – Dhal with a sort of ‘naan’ bread).

Thai marinated steak

thai steak and rice

I’ve been eating lots of very basic food in January – baked potatoes with cheese, home-made wedges with a fried egg on top, dhal (as in my last post) – that sort of thing. There’s not been much meat involved which is fine but I can’t keep it up for any extended period and it’s not long before I crave a giant juicy steak.

This is a perfect recipe for a spicy, meaty, Friday-night feast. I wouldn’t use cuts like sirloin or rib-eye (which in my view are best simply cooked with no sauce or marinade to hide their delicate flavour), but it works tremendously well with rump steak which is cheaper and a little less flavoursome. Do still try to buy decent rump steak from your butcher if you can, or the best that the supermarket has to offer.

Served with salad I wondered whether this recipe might be good if you’re cutting out carbohydrates, only then I realised that the dressing has 2 teaspoons of sugar in it (which of course is the most evil carb of all, or so I’ve been reminded almost every-day this year). Perhaps though you could use some sugar substitute which I’m sure they sell in Holland and Barrett.

This dish also works well as a dinner party starter. Steak is really difficult to cook for a larger group (unless you have multiple griddle pans) but with this recipe one large steak, cut thinly, can stretch to serve up to 8 people as a starter or as one of a number of dishes in a banquet.

Thai marinated steak over rice or salad

Serves 2 as a main course or 4-8 as a sharing starter

  • A large piece of best rump steak (enough for two as a main course)

Marinade

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • A small bunch of coriander stalks
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 fresh red chilli, or 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar

Combine the marinade ingredients in a mini chopper or food processor and blend well. You can also do this in a pestle and mortar. Spread the mixture over the steak and leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours.

When you are ready to cook the steak, remove as much of the marinade from the steak as you can while you heat a griddle or frying pan over a high heat. You will not need to add any additional oil if you are using a griddle but if you are using a frying pan then add a tablespoon of oil to the pan before adding the steak.

Cook the steak for about 3-4 minutes on either side. Keep the heat really high and don’t move the steak around the pan during cooking and turn just once.

Remove the steak from the pan, cover with foil and leave to rest while you make the dressing.

Mix all the dressing ingredients together and stir well.

With rice

If you are serving with rice then cut the steak up into thin strips, place over the cooked rice (to cook see my post Nice Rice) and spoon over the dressing. Add some chopped coriander (and extra chilli if you like) to garnish.

With salad
Make a salad using one small soft leaf lettuce, ½ a cucumber (chopped into small chunks), a handful of cherry tomatoes (halved) and 4 spring onions (chopped). Slice the steak thinly and place over the prepared salad. Spoon over the dressing and add some chopped coriander (and extra chilli if you like) to garnish.