spices

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’.)

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).

Frugal cooking – Dhal with a sort of ‘naan’ bread

Dhal 2

This is one of the savoury dishes that I first learnt to cook (spaghetti bolognese being the obvious other). My home economics teacher was so surprised that I even knew what lentils were, let alone how to cook them, that she gave me a special achievement award at the end of term! That was the kind of school I went to – learning to spell was less important.

It was actually quite a challenge to write this recipe down because I cook it from instinct. I’ve listed the ingredients in terms of what is essential and what is optional, just in case you don’t have any of the later in your cupboard. This is because dhal is an excellent standby for when you’ve not had a chance to go shopping, or when you’re on a really tight budget, and I don’t want to put you off making it just because you don’t have one of the spices or some fresh coriander.

This is another recipe for my daughter Elizabeth who has been eating dhal with gusto since she was 4 months old.

Dhal

Serves 2 with leftovers for the children

Essential

  • 250g split red lentils
  • ½ litre of cold water
  • 2 dessert spoons of ghee (you can use less if you’re being good)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion finely chopped or sliced finely
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt (I use at least 1 teaspoon but then I love salt)

Optional

  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of ground coriander
  • ½ tin of tomatoes
  • A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Begin by cooking the lentils. I like to rinse them first (I find this reduces their wind inducing capacity). Put them in a medium size pan and top with cold water. Swirl the water around with your hands and then drain. Do this about 3 times or until the water is a lot less cloudy when you swirl. Add the ½ litre of cold water to the pan and bring to the boil.

Simmer on a low heat until the lentils are soft and have absorbed most of the water (this should take about 30 minutes), you don’t need to drain them. Add the tomatoes (if using) in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic with the salt and dry spices (turmeric, ground cumin and ground coriander).

Heat half the ghee in a frying pan until smoking hot. Add the onions and fry until well coloured. Then add the dry spices and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes stirring well. Finally, add the remaining ghee and when the mix is really hot add to the lentils. Stir until everything is well mixed and check the seasoning. Add most of the chopped coriander and then ladle into bowls.

Garnish with the remaining coriander and serve with a naan style flat bread (as below) or rice.

NOTE: You can cook the lentils in advance but it’s best not to add the hot spice and ghee mix until just before serving. This is because lentils have a strange quality that absorbs all flavour and dulls it down so you’ll just end up having to add more salt and spices later to get the taste back.

A naan style flat bread

I’ve tried several different recipes for naan and they have all come out tasting like a dry flat scone –just not right at all. Bizarrely the recipe below is the most naan-like even though it’s just a regular bread mix rolled flat and cooked in a dry frying pan. Because of the addition of yeast the texture is lovely and soft. You could brush them with ghee once cooked if you wanted a more authentic taste.

Makes 4

  • 275g strong white bread flour
  • 3g yeast
  • 5g salt
  • 175ml of tepid water (you may not need all this amount)

Mix together all the dry ingredients then add the water a little at a time until the mix comes together in a soft dough.

Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is nice and elastic. Cover and set aside to prove for at least an hour (although 2 is better).

Divide the dough into four portions and roll each out with a rolling pin to form a thin disc. You will need to flour your work surface and pin liberally to stop the dough from sticking.

Heat a frying pan until it is very hot and then cook the flat bread for about 4 minutes on each side until golden. Don’t worry if it catches a little and don’t add any oil to the pan. Once cooked keep warm under a tea towel while you continue the process with the remaining three portions.

NOTE: I find that using an old frying pan where the non-stick has come off works a treat for flat breads.