Indian cuisine

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.

 

Mr Hallam’s tamarind chicken curry

tamarind chicken curry large

The curries I cook tend to fall into two categories – ones that you slow cook for hours and hours (which tend to use cheaper cuts of meat), and super quick ones that you cook just long enough for the meat to be done.

This curry falls into the second group, but whilst it’s quick to cook there are a truly staggering number of ingredients so it’s the shopping that takes a while. This did put me off at first but I assure you that it’s worth it, and once the spices are bought and stored snugly away in your spice rack you can conjure up this meal in just 20 minutes.

This recipe came from my friend Ben who was given it by his father who has become a granddad this week. I think this fragrant, luxurious curry is the perfect dish to celebrate the birth of a new baby.

Tamarind chicken curry

  • 4 chicken breasts chopped into pieces about 1 inch square

For the marinade

  • 4 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger, crushed
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of chilli powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds

To cook

  • 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
  • 8 curry leaves
  • ½ a teaspoon of nigella (onion) seeds
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • ½ teaspoon of fenugreek seeds (or powder)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved (or half a tin of chopped, tinned tomatoes)
  • A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 fresh green chillies, chopped (optional if you like a lot of heat)

Put all the marinade ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir well to blend everything together.

Add the chicken pieces to the mix and stir until they are well coated with the spice mixture.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and when hot add the curry leaves, nigella seeds, dried red chillies and fenugreek seeds and fry for about 30 seconds. Lower the heat to medium and add the chicken pieces along with the sauce.

If you are using tinned tomatoes then add them at this stage and simmer gently for about 12-15 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through.

If you are using fresh cherry tomatoes then add these once the chicken is done along with the coriander and green chillies.

Serve with rice (if you need a recipe for cooking rice then see my post ‘Nice Rice’.)

Chicken and rosewater biryani

rosewater chicken rice

I’ve never felt so hungry for the food on a cookery programme than when watching Rick Stein’s India. The curries and other dishes looked so delicious that I was desperate to eat my way around India on my next holiday. But then I saw Rick, sweating so profusely that it reminded me why I’ve not been there yet – it’s just too bloody hot.

I’ve had this recipe in my ‘to do’ folder ever since I saw it on the India programme but until recently every time I looked at it I got scared and found something else to cook – it just sounded far too complicated. So many ingredients, too many steps, and (like many BBC food recipes on the web) not quite enough detail (a bit like that bit in the Bake Off technical bake where Mary or Paul give some instructions but miss out bits to test the contestant’s intuition).

Sometimes though it is nice to try something a bit challenging and when it’s miserable outside it’s rather pleasant to spend a whole Saturday afternoon in the kitchen with the radio on and the children snapping at my heals trying to be helpful. This recipe did work out remarkably well and was worth all the nervousness and effort.

I’ve changed a couple of things, the main one being to bake the assembled dish in the oven rather than cooking it on the hob (I’d seen this in another recipe and liked the idea that the rice would go a bit crispy around the edges of the pan).

Rick Stein’s chicken and rosewater biryani (slightly altered by me)

Serves 2 heartily with left overs for the children

To marinade the chicken

  • 300g chicken legs, boned, skinned and cut into quarters (this is roughly two large chicken legs)
  • 125ml natural yogurt
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely crushed
  • 3 cm piece ginger, finely grated
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped, with seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

For the crisp fried onions

  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced

For the sauce

  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 cm piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 green cardamom pods, bruised with a rolling pin
  • 1 Indian bay leaves (I used a normal bayleaf)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the rice

  • 300g basmati rice, soaked in cold water for an hour
  • 1 teaspoon salt per 1 litre of cooking water

To assemble

  • 50g ghee
  • A pinch of saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm milk for 15 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater

To garnish

  • 10g cashew nuts and 10g shelled pistachios, dry-roasted in a hot pan until golden-brown

In a bowl combine all the marinade ingredients and the chicken. Mix until all the chicken is coated and then set aside to marinate for an hour.

For the crisp fried onions, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over a medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and fry for 10–15 minutes until deep golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Set aside.

Pour off all but about 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil from the frying pan, set to a medium heat and add the whole spices. Fry for about a minute and then add the chicken and its marinade. Bring to a simmer and stir in the tomatoes and salt. Simmer over a medium heat for 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is clinging to the chicken. Break some of the chicken pieces in half to form smaller pieces – if you can do this easily with the side of a wooden spoon then you know that the chicken is cooked through and tender. The final sauce should be quite dry. This chicken mixture is so delicious that I would happily just eat this as it is with some plain white rice or naan bread. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan to keep warm and set aside whilst you prepare the rice.

For the rice, drain the soaked rice and tip into a large pan of boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes, or until the rice is just tender but still firm. Drain well. Test that the rice is cooked by squeezing a grain between your fingers – it should be soft and break up at the edges, but stay firm in the middle.

Preheat your oven to 200oC fan.

Assemble straight away while the rice is still hot. There will be five layers: rice, chicken, rice, chicken, rice.

To assemble you will need a small oven proof pan with a lid. I used one 10cm deep with a 16cm diameter.

Make sure you have all the elements to hand – chicken, rice, onions, and that you have measured out the ghee and rosewater.

First pour about 1 ½ tablespoons of water and half of the ghee into the pan, then spoon in a third of the rice. Sprinkle over about a third of the saffron milk and rosewater, then spread with half of the chicken mixture and a third of the fried onions.

Add another third of the rice and repeat as above, using the rest of the chicken.

Top with the remaining rice and splash with the remaining saffron milk and rosewater. Drizzle the remaining ghee around the edges of the rice so that it drips down the inside of the pan and cover with a well-fitting lid (if you don’t have a lid you could use two layers of tin foil crimped around the pan to form a tight seal).

Put over a high heat on the hob to get the ghee hot and some steam going. Then put in the oven for 30 minutes. To serve, spoon out onto a large serving platter and scatter with the rest of the crisp onions and toasted cashews and pistachios.

Serve with a raita (which is a sauce made from chopped cucumber, natural yoghurt, mint and a seasoning of salt and pepper).

The assembled biryani before it enters the oven.

The assembled biryani before it enters the oven.