Sunday, 23 January 2011

Tandoori murghi - tandoori-style chicken

I like my gadgets, I confess. My cupboards are packed with blowtorches, blenders, juicers and all kinds of random crap I will probably use once a year. But not even I have a tandoori oven in my kitchen. Thankfully this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey takes this into consideration and she uses chicken pieces rather than the whole bird in a very hot domestic oven.

Apart form the appetisers this was probably the easiest of all the meals I made on NYE 2010. It needs to marinade so make sure you allow enough time for that but once the marinade is complete you simply pop the dish into an extremely hot oven for 25 minutes and then serve. The chicken was moist, fragrant and bursting with taste. Not to mention a visual delight, with it's deep red colouring and lovely charred pockets from the heat. I'll definitely make this again, possibly with a plate of home-made fries for an Asian take on the traditional chicken and chips combo.

Tandoori style chicken

  • 1 kg chicken pieces (I bought a chicken and butchered it into breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 400ml natural yoghurt
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2cm piece fresh ginger
  • 1/2 hot green chili, sliced
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tblsp yellow food colouring
  • 1 tblsp red food colouring
  1. Cut slits into the chicken deep enough to reach the bone. On the breast cut half way through the flesh then arrange the pieces on a large dish or platter.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and 3/4 of the lemon juice and lightly rub all over the chicken pieces making sure to get inside the cuts and cover both sides. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  3. In a processor or blender combine the yoghurt, onion, garlic, ginger, chili and garam masala and then strain through a fine sieve into a bowl or jug.
  4. Mix the colouring in a much smaller bowl then brush over each of the chicken pieces until they are completely red. Mix any remaining lemon juice or colouring in with the chicken pieces and the marinade, making sure the chicken is completely covered by the sauce. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.  The longer the better (I gave mine 40 hours but 24 hours would be perfect)
  5. When you are ready to bake the chicken preheat the oven to the highest temperature. Remove the chicken pieces shaking off as much of the marinade as possible and arrange in a large shallow baking dish. Bake for 20 -25 mins - test the chicken with a fork to make sure it is completely cooked. If not bake until ready.

So there we have it. A complete Indian feast to celebrate the end of 2010, a year in which I made the leap into changing my life forever. Writing the meal up makes me realise once again how much I took on, although I fear it may be a perfectly normal family gathering for most Indian households! I hope it reads well and inspires you to try it. Happy New Year everyone.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Rogan josh

As all the dishes at my NYE Curry Night were being served together, Indian style, I wanted to make sure we had a nice choice of vegetable dishes and meat dishes. I spent quite a long time pondering the meat courses and finally settled on a lamb rogan josh and a dry tandoori style chicken (both from Indian Cookery: Madhur Jaffrey) in order to give varied texture. The other advantage of this is that I could prepare the rogan josh a day ahead of time and the chicken would marinade for approximately 40 hours before being baked just as my guests arrived.

Over the next three days as the recipes for this dinner are posted you will see that I chose a large menu for this dinner. For a smaller party or less festive affair I would be just as happy picking two or three of these dishes and giving myself much less work to do. The ingredient list for this curry looks intimidating but it's a doddle to make. Once you have the spices in stock they'll last a long time so you won't need to do a mental shopping list again. I happened to have the coriander and cumin as seeds which I ground myself. Replace with bought ground spices if you prefer.

Lamb rogan josh
  • 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, coarsly chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 250ml water
  • 5 tblsp vegetable oil 
  • 900g lamb (bones shoulder is perfect for this) cut into pieces of 2.5cms
  • 10 whole cardamom pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 10 whole peppercorns
  • 2.5cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 tblsp natural yoghurt
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blend together the ginger and garlic with enough water (1 or 2 tblsp) to make a paste
  2. Brown the meat in the oil in a wide, heavy pan over a medium heat. Once the meat is brown remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. 
  3. Add the cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon to the same pan and oil and stir over the heat until the cloves start to swell and the aroma of the spices is released. Add the diced onion and stir for 5 mins or until the onions start to colour, now add the ginger-garlic paste, stir once and add coriander, cumin, cayenne and salt. Stir and fry for up a to a minute.
  4. Then add the meat and any of the released meat juices.Stir for a further minute or so before adding 1 tblsp yoghurt. Stir until this is blended in and then add the remaining yoghurt, 1 spoon at a time in the same way. Once all the yoghurt is incorporated stir over the medium heat for a further 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the water and bring the contents of the pot to the boil. Use a wooden spoon to scrape any of the browned spices or meat juices stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan and simmer for 1 hour or until the meat is tender. Every 10 mins stir the meat. Once the meat is tender remove the lid and simmer on a medium heat until the liquid has thickened to a thick reddish-brown sauce. Skim off any fat if required.

This curry can be made in advance and reheated when required. Just before serving stir in the garam masala, a sprinkly of freshly ground black pepper and shopped coriander leaves.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Masaledar basmati - spiced basmati rice

As I was already making a vast array of meat and vegetable curries, a dal, appetisers and bread for my NYE Curry Feast I wanted to make sure the rice was as simple as possible. Not purely because I didn't think our palates needed any more stimulation but also because time-wise things were starting to get a wee bit fraught. Unlike many of the other dishes the rice really did need cooking fresh and this recipe is easy, simple and possibly the tastiest rice I've ever eaten. I first tasted it at my brother's house (with a phenomenal curry goat)  as he's a Jaffrey devotee as well so I was delighted to find it in my trusty copy of Indian Cookery. Incidentally I inherited/nicked this 18 year old book off my mother-in-law and really must remember to tell her how useful it has been.

Top: Saag aloo. Bottom: Spiced basmati rice

Spiced Basmati

  • 400g basmati rice
  • 2 tblsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 fresh hot green chili, finely sliced - with seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt (depending on how salty the stock is)
  • 500ml good chicken stock
  1. Put the rice in a bowl and wash in several changes of water. Drain and then cover with 1.25l of fresh water and leave to soak for 1 hour. Then pour the rice over a sieve and leave to stand, draining for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion until they start to brown and then add the rice, chili, garlic, garam masala and salt. Stir gently for 3-4 minutes until all the rice grains are translucent with the oil then add the chicken stock and bring the rice to the boil.
  3. Cover the pan with a heavy lid, line the top of the pan with tin foil to make sure the steam cannot escape if necessary (I sit a cast iron pestle over the lid handle for added weight), and turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting - use a heat diffuser if you have one. Cook for 20-25 mins. The rice is ready when the grains are soft. Don't worry if you have a thin layer of rice stuck to the bottom of the pan as it will wash off after soaking in hot water for 10 mins.
A nice garnish for this dish is chopped fresh coriander or thin slices of fried onions.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Chana dal

No Indian feast is complete without a dal and as Mr Hungry has a special weakness for it I wanted to perfect the dish once and for all. In the past I confess to being a little flummoxed by Indian food. I was more than happy following a recipe (as with all these dishes) but not so hot on creating a dish from the contents of my fridge and my imagination. Dal caught me out every time by being deceptively easy. My attempts were always too bland, too spicy or just too meh to mention.

The consistency of dal (I am assured) is entirely down to personal preference, so this one I made the day before and left overnight to thicken and soak all the liquid into the yellow split peas. The result was perfectly to our tastes and there was a satisfying amount leftover for the first couple of days of the year when I avoided the stove. Once again the recipe is courtesy of Ms Jaffrey and this time I followed it to the letter, in order to either avoid previous mistakes or at least have someone else to blame.

Left: Spicy green beans. Right: Chana dal

Chana dal

  • 225g chana dal or split peas
  • 1.15 l water
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 thin slices of unpeeled ginger
  • 3/4 -1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 3 tblsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Handful of chopped coriander leaves
  1. In a heavy pan boil the dal/split peas with the water. Remove any surface scum with a large flat spoon. Add the turmeric and ginger, cover but leave the lid slighlty ajar, and simmer on a low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until the dal is tender. During the last 1/2 hour stir every 5 minutes or so to prevent sticking. Take of the heat, add the salt and the garam masala and mix in.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the cumin seeds. After 10 seconds add the garlic and fry until golden brown. Add the chili powder to the pan, immediately move from the heat and stir into the dal. 
  3. Garnish with fresh coriander
This can be made the day before serving if required.

Friday, 14 January 2011

India India - appetisers

New Year's Eve 2010 saw a small soirée at Casa Hungry so as ever I had to show off. Six or seven courses would be too much for our post-Christmas tummies so I thought the best way to shine would to be to create multiple Indian dishes and serve everything together. That way I get to frolic in the kitchen and no-one spends the evening immobile on the couch.

A photo depicting typical Indian bread. Not *necessarily* in this blog post.
The book I wanted more than any other this Christmas was INDIA Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant. It's received mixed reviews on Amazon but it looks so comprehensive and beautifully designed that I had to have it and judge for myself. I eagerly added it to my ever increasing Wish List and waited in anticipation. Then I had the genius idea of buying it for my brother and his wife. Sadly something on the dumb-ass Amazon system removed it from my Wish List and sent it to them instead. Obviously Mr Hungry had left his present buying until the very last minute and thought somebody had already bought me the book I'd been banging on about for a month, so he left it off my Christmas purchases. Faced with my sad face he then ordered it immediately for my birthday and this may be the first time I've ever been grateful that I arrived in the world a mere eight days after Christmas. Sadly of course this meant that I didn't use the book to plan my Curry Feast and instead put myself in the capable hands of Madhur Jaffrey. All the recipes for this meal (apart from the pakora) come from the very excellent  Indian Cookery. I may have tweaked them here and there but Ms Jaffrey deserves all the credit. The woman is a genius.

I have seven recipes to write up in total. Rather than have you all fall asleep before you reach the end of the longest post in the world I will stagger them over four days. Everything was delicious and despite spending two days in the kitchen I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Sadly I appear to have been too frantic on the evening to take pictures of these appetisers so you'll have to be content with some naan bread and a photo of a rather festive chef instead.

Spicy cashews
  • 500ml vegetable oil 
  • 300g raw cashew nuts
  • 1/4 tsp finely ground salt
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and when hot deep fry the nuts until they are golden brown
  2. Remove from the oil and place in a sieve lined with kitchen roll to soak any excess fat
  3. While still warm toss in a large bowl with the salt, spices and pepper and leave to cool.
Cucumber and Mint Raita
  • 500ml natural yoghurt
  • 15cm cucumber, grated
  • 2 tblsp mint, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp roasted, ground cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Dry fry the cumin seeds until they start to give off their aroma then grind in a pestle and mortar
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, cover and keep cool until ready to serve.
  • 280g chickpea flour, sifted
  • 350g onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 tsp minced green chill
  • 1.2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp asafetida (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200ml water (approx)
  • 500ml vegetable oil for deep frying
  1. In a large bowl mix all the non liquid ingredients together.
  2. Gradually add the water until the mix combines to form a thick batter that falls from your fingers in clumps.
  3. Heat the oil in a saucepan until medium hot (approx 180 degrees) and use a spoon to drop clumps of batter into the oil. Try to make the pakora roughly 3 cm in diameter.
  4. Fry 5 or 6 at a time until golden brown. When you think they are ready remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Cut one open to check it is cooked through. If not return to the fat until ready. This batter will make 15 -20 pakora.
Top Tip: Always make your quiff so tall that it can be seen above your crown. 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Golden balls

Leftovers are a special treat for me. Since I stopped earning money and had to spend more time being concerned about food bills I get an enormous boost from knowing that I'm not wasting anything. I can turn a chicken into four or five meals. I throw any drab looking veg into a blender to turn it into soup and my freezer is constantly full of random, half-filled, unmarked bags of ragu, chilli, risotto or dal. The best leftover of all is arancini, a Sicilian dish traditionally made with ragu and rice. The rice is a risotto base thus lending itself perfectly as a leftover prize. If my risotto dish is full of mushrooms or chicken I have been known to pick them out in order to make sure my leftovers are perfectly smooth for the next day's arancini treat.

An arancino (sing, masc). Every day's a school day.
Sadly I didn't manage to get a photo of the mushroom risotto I used for this recipe but I've listed the ingredients. You could just as easily use chicken, squash or plain cheese risotto for this. The simpler the  better. The ragu was leftover from the beef and venison cannelloni in the previous post. Sometimes I add peas or leftover mozzarella chunks, although I confess that of all the things that accumulate unwanted in my fridge, mozzarella is not one of them. Alternatively make a vegetarian version by using a vegetable and tomato sauce, thickened with peas and mozzarella chunks. I always use a homemade chicken stock for this recipe but you can substitute a vegetarian stock or high quality bouillon if you prefer.

I hope you enjoy these as much as us. We tend to eat them as part of a platter with shredded chicken, cheese, taramasalata and fresh bread but they also work well with a leafy salad as a starter or main dish.

Mushroom Risotto

  • 250g mixed mushrooms (I use a mix of field, chestnut and porcini if I can get them), chopped
  • Reserve a handful of mushrooms and finely slice them
  • 1 healthy slug of brandy
  • 70g butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 400g risotto rice (I prefer vialone nano but carnaroli and arborio are more widely available)
  • 150ml dry white or sparkling wine
  • 2l of good quality stock 
  • 1 sprig rosemary finely chopped
  • S&P to taste
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 70g of butter chopped and placed in freezer for 1 hour
  • 150g grated parmesan
  1. In a small pan fry the sliced reserved mushrooms with a knob of butter. When soft add the brandy and flambé until the alcohol burns off. Reserve the mushrooms for later.
  2. Heat your stock in a saucepan until simmering on a slow and steady heat. Make sure you have a ladle or scoop handy (you could just use a cup).
  3. Over a low heat sauté the onions in the butter in a wide bottomed pan until translucent, add the chopped mushrooms and stir in for approximately 5 mins until the mushrooms have started to glisten and cook but haven't yet started to soften too much. 
  4. Add the garlic and the rice and stir to completey coat the contents with the butter. Keep stirring to prevent sticking until the rice takes on a translucent effect, then add the wine and stir the contents until the liquid has completely absorbed. Add S&P to taste
  5. Now start to add the stock 1 ladle (or cup) at a time. Stir continuously until the rice has absorbed the liquid and when you feel the rice start to catch, add another ladle full of stock. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked al dente. Don't be tempted to add too much stock in one go or the rice may cook before the stock has absorbed and the risotto will be too sloppy.
  6. Add the reserved brandy mushrooms, the frozen, diced butter, parmesan and nutmeg and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon. This mantecatura acts to bind all the ingredients together. The beating breaks the edges of the rice up and with the butter you get a lovely creamy texture to the end dish. Garnish with a small amount of rosemary - too much will be overbearing.
Make sure you reserve at least 1 full bowl for leftovers. This will then make approximately 6-8 arancini.

  • 1 portion of ragu
  • 1 bowl leftover risotto
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g flour for coating
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 500ml vegetable oil
  1. Form a small ball of cold risotto in your palm and make a well in the centre of it. The well needs to be deep enough to hold a tblsp of ragu but not so deep that the walls of the arancini break.
  2. Place 1 tblsp of ragu in the well, add anything else you wish at this stage - cubes of mozzarella, cooked peas etc. Then close your hand up around the rice and seal the edges of the rice together. Roll the rice between your two palms to make a perfect ball.
  3. Dip the ball into beaten egg, then coat with flour, then dip back in egg. Finally coat with bread crumbs and set aside until the rest are finished. 
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep saucepan to 170 degrees. If the oil is too hot the balls will burn before the middle is cooked. If you don't have a thermometer you can check the temp by dropping a cube of stale bread in the oil. The oil should gentle bubble around the bread but take a while to colour. If it is too hot turn the heat down and do the test again before adding the arancini.
  5. Don't fry too many at a time ( I normally do two), then when golden brown place on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil and serve.


Monday, 10 January 2011

Family traditions - The parkin pig

My Grandma used to make a parkin biscuit that we devoured as children. A cross between a butter biscuit and a ginger biscuit, perfect with coffee, warm and cold milk or a humble cup of tea. The dough contains no egg, so it lasts for an age in the fridge, which is useful since the recipe makes about 60 biscuits. If you live in a child-free house like us this quantity of biscuits can be quite challenging, even for the dedicated glutton. So I split the batch into thirds and make them as and when I want them.

Parkin Pigs
As long as I can remember my Grandma only ever had a pig cutter. We'd travel the 35-40 mins between South Leeds and East Yorkshire and the first thing we'd have when we got there was a cup of tea and a parkin pig. Or seven. When I asked her for the recipe over Christmas I then failed to find a pig cutter anywhere and had to settle on a T-Rex - heralding the dawn of a new tradition: the parkin dinosaur! But low and behold on my birthday a small package arrived and nestled in between bits of cotton wool padding there was my very own pig cutter. Thanks Grandma.

My experience making these as an adult is very similar to tasting them as a child: no two batches ever taste the same. Sometimes you might add slightly more syrup (or in my case half treacle, half syrup) giving the biscuit a chewy, toffee crunch. More flour or sugar gives a harder crunch perfect for dunking. But ultimately it's the cooking time that's the key. Please don't rely on the timer. Stand there, in front of the oven and wait. Check after 4 or 5 minutes and then be ready with your oven gloves the moment they reach perfection. If the biscuits have been sat on the side for 10 mins waiting for the oven then the dough will be warmer and the cooking time will alter accordingly. Your first batch may be entirely different in consistency to your second batch even though they are cut from the same dough. I've halved the quantities for this recipe and depending on how thinly you roll the dough and the size of your cutter you should realistically get about 30 biscuits.

  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g butter or lard
  • 1/2 tblsp golden syrup
  • 1/2 tblsp treacle
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tblsp hot water
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl (or bowl mixer with k-beater) combine the sifted flour, sugar, ginger, salt and baking powder together then add the butter or fat and mix into dry ingredients like crumble
  3. Add the syrup and treacle and stir with a large spoon (or the dough hook of a bowl mixer). Place the treacle and syrup spoon in a cup with the hot water and bicarb of soda and leave for 2 mins until the water cleans the spoon. Then add the water to the bowl and continue to mix until a dough (similar in consistency to a bread or pasta dough) is formed. Add the water incrementally to make sure it doesn't get too wet. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
  4. Roll dough onto a floured surface until it is approximately 5mm thick and use your cutter of choice to make the shapes. Place the shapes onto a greased oven sheet and bake for 5-6 mins, until golden brown. The biscuits will still feel soft but will harden almost instantly as you transfer them to a cooling rack.

Run little piggy, run for your life!