tumeric

A little bit of comfort – golden turmeric milk

tumeric-milk-2

“Be good to yourself”.

This is what my yoga teacher says and it usually goes in one ear and out the other.

But this month I’m taking her advice, jumping on the bandwagon and trying to embrace the Danish concept of hygge. This involves attempting to create a general vibe of relaxation and wellbeing i.e. lighting lots of candles, cuddling up under warm blankets, drinking warm drinks…eating stews. I’m relaxing my punishing exercise regime (which sometimes enters the realms of self harm), letting some dust build up, and trying to ignore my ‘to do’ list.

I am also NOT having a dry January.

This recipe for warm, spiced milk, slightly sweetened with honey encapsulates the feeling that I’m trying to achieve. Although you may argue that hot chocolate laced with brandy would be better.

Waterstones was packed with books about hygge over Christmas and so it’s not surprising that I received one as a present. I really enjoyed reading it because it was entirely readable and intellectually unchallenging – which in itself is very hygge (have I annoyed you with my italics yet?).  My honest view though is that we already have a perfectly good English version of this concept – it’s just that our word for it is ‘cosy’. An open fire, a cup of tea, a good book – who doesn’t love that!

This is a very good article on the matter but it is not short so you will need a good attention span and at least 15 minutes spare to read it (The hygge conspiracy).

Golden turmeric milk (Anna Jones writing for The Guardian)

Makes 2 cups

  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 400ml of unsweetened milk (regular dairy, oat, coconut, almond)
  • ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of runny honey

Bash the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar and put them into a small saucepan with the milk, turmeric and cinnamon. Heat gently until almost boiling.

Strain into mugs and stir in the honey once it has cooled a little.

NOTE: I’m cooking meatballs in gravy tonight from a Tom Kerridge recipe. I’m hoping that this will supply further comfort and feelings of wellbeing. If they’re good I’ll post the recipe here next week. I’m just trying to decide whether to have them with mashed potatoes (the obvious accompaniment) or chips (what I really want!).

 

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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

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.

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.

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.