Gujerati Snacks

From Prashad's in Bradford, we had samosas, some kind of battered fried sandwich with a garlicky pureed veg filling, round dumplings filled with spiced mashed potato. Dhokla, patra, snacks. I made a lassi with fresh coriander, garlic, fresh green chilli and a pinch of salt. Fresh baby tomato, and a little raita sauce.

I also made a quick trashy hot chaat:

Fry:
1 tin new potatoes, drained and cut into small lumps
1 tin pinto beans, or chickpeas, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped

Sprinkle with powdered hing and fenugreek.
After about 5 minutes add half a tin of chopped tomatoes, cook til thickened.
Stir well and add 2 handfuls Bombay Mix or your favourite Indian crispy snack.
Heat through, take off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons natural yoghourt.
Put in serving dish and top with dollop of tamarind sauce.

Served with warm rotis.

With a selection of sweets to finish, I am absolutely podged.

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Best kedgeree ever

I never thought of kedgeree as a budget supper dish before, but the astonishing cheapness of smoked hoki the other day persuaded me otherwise.

  • Cooked white rice
  • Smoked fish (boneless skinless smoked hoki fillet)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Leftover peas from a roast dinner
  • Leftover kashmiri veggie curry (sweet and creamy with bananas – about half a takeaway portion)

I used a wok. Cut the fish into bite size pieces, and stir fried. Add the rice and peas, stir fry again until hot through. Add curry (or mild curry paste and sour cream if no spare leftover curry), some pepper, no salt as the fish and curry are salty enough. Stir in chopped hard boiled eggs. I would have put in a load of fresh chopped parsley, but John doesn't like it.

It was gorgeous. One fillet and three eggs made about four servings, and it was creamy, rich and very moreish. Didn't need any side dishes or extras, and you could stretch it easily with more rice and green veg.

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Smoothie, Lassi, Whatever

Forty years ago, one of our great treats was my Dad's homemade milk shake. Milk, ice-cream if we had it, and a splash out of one of those sticky bottles of brightly coloured syrup. Especially once we got a blender, and you could make it go all bubbly without having to whisk it by hand.

Thirty years ago, we had a popular hangover drink of natural yoghourt mixed with grapefruit juice, with a dash of Tabasco for the hardier souls. Then as we started hanging out at the corner caff end of the Indian restaurant market, we discovered lassi – diluted yoghourt drink, sometimes salt, sometimes sweet with palm sugar and fruit juices and purees. Mango, lime, orange. In time, lassi got more well known, and it's on most restaurant menus now. You can get it ready-mixed in some supermarkets, even. And the smoothie has reared its head, full of your five-a-day and active superfoods and general gubbins. Sugar, mostly. Some of them are just thick fruit juices, but some have the dairy component as well.

I made a Thing at home the other day – a ripe banana, some organic greek thick yoghourt, some oldish blueberries and some mango chunks out of the freezer. Whizz whizz, two half pint glasses full, really rich and heavy, bursting with fruity oopmh, cold from the mango. It would have made a quick meal, and was much much more than a drink.

You can go all the way from thin drink (juice, or squash at a pinch, cheap thin yoghourt, lots of ice and some lime and salt to sharpen it up) to something more like a fool, with purees and yoghourt and soft ice-cream. Waitrose has a recipe card for a mango lassi fool, which is mango puree mixed with yoghourt and whipped cream, lime juice, honey and cardamom, and decorated with strips of dried mango. Last time we were in Amsterdam I had a saffron yoghourt, a cross between a drink and a dessert, sweet and thick and darkly yellow.

I've never been sure about spices in Drink Things, they tend to turn gritty or taste raw. They certainly have their place in Indian spiced tea, where they've had a chance to infuse. Maybe I need to look at making home-made yoghourt again, adding cardamom pods and cinnamon and cloves and fennel to the warm milk at the start.

In the early days, we had to chop fresh mangoes or buy mango nectar, which was oversweet and overpriced. But Waitrose now kindly provide me with fresh peeled cubed mango, or the same thing frozen, which is cheaper. And if you look among the tinned fruit, there are plastic pots with tropical fruit mixes in juice, including one with mango slices. There are frozen blueberries, raspberries, papaya, all sorts. And you could freeze your own fruits from the pick-your-own for the winter, and reduce those icky food miles.

Summer will bring strawberries, and beneath the mango lassi fool card, I found one for stawberries baked in foil parcels on the barbie, with Pimms and sugar, served with clotted cream. Now, that would make a WARM smoothie to ease the chills on a late summer night …

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Spicy Crusted Lamb Shoulder

I have a kilo of lamb shouder, the blade half with the bone in. I'm marinating it and plan to cook it without added liquid, in foil, very long and very slow until it falls apart. The marinade at the moment consists of:

  • a small tub of organic greek yoghourt
  • grated peel of one unwaxed lemon
  • 2 teaspoons pureed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chiplotle chilli powder

Roasted together:

  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons whole brown small mustard seed

The lamb should be sweet itself, no need to add honey or anything like that. The yoghourt and the lemon will tenderise it even more. There's a bit of heat from the chilli and the mustard (although mustard does fade on cooking). Some genial warmth and more scent from the coriander and cumin. A little sharpness and aniseed from the fennel,.

I'm tempted to add some more mid-tone warmth, ginger for example. I shall think on that. I could just introduce that in a ginger and cinnamon biriani to go with it.

THE NEXT DAY: the yoghourt was so good and thick that it has made a crust on the meat, so I have put it as is into a low oven, Gas 2.5. It's had about an hour so far and I can smell the coriander.

IN THE END: about 5 hours in the oven. The crust was dark brown, spicy and crunchy, the meat underneath was rich, moist, tender, fell off the bone, and was gently scented. We've scoffed the lot, with a wet rice with orange, ginger and warm spices. (Recipe coming in a bit.)

The key is the quality of the yoghourt, the thick Greek stuff holds together as a paste, the ordinary thinner stuff would be a marinading liquid and would cook away.

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Wicked Chicken Korma

I made this on the fly for dinner the other night, and didn't write it down at the time, but it went something like this:

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • Butter and oil, or ghee
  • 4 small boneless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 2 handfuls raw shelled pistachios
  • 1 handful vanilla-soaked dried apricots (or organic apricots and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, or half a bean)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 small tin coconut milk
  • Chicken stock
  • Small tub creme fraiche
  • Ground almonds
  • 2 hard bananas
  • More butter
  • A tub of dry crispy fried onions

In a big heavy pan, melt the garlic, ginger and onion in the fat, slowly. Soften but not colour. Add the chicken, nuts, apricots, and spices. Stew gently and stir until the chicken is coated in the spices and cooked on the outside. Add the coconut milk and enough chicken stock to cover. Cover and simmer gently for up to a couple of hours, if you can, but at least half an hour. Take the lid off and mash the apricots into the sauce. Simmer again for at least another half an hour, longer if possible. Top up with water if necessary. When you're getting close to serving time, add the creme fraiche and stir in. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of ground almonds on the top and stir in well. This will thicken the sauce, let the first lot swell and do its work before adding more if you want thicker sauce. Watch it as the thicker it gets, the quicker it's likely to catch and scorch. While that's happening, chop the bananas into chunks and fry quickly in butter until golden.

Serve the chicken with the bananas on top, a sprinkling of fried onions, and some plain rice or naan bread to soak up the sauce. We had it with lamb stewed for hours in a low oven with tomatoes and hotter spices, and an aubergine and red pepper madras.

If you can't find the onions in your regular ethnic stores, try the IKEA food shop, or make your own by finely shredding shallots, frying in light hot oil until crisp, and draining well. Dry on paper towels. Or don't bother – a bit of crunch adds a nice texture but it isn't necessary.

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Momtaz

Last night I went to the Momtaz restaurant on Chesterfield Road, with Doug and Julia. It's practically at the end of our street, and I haven't been for years. Before this incarnation it was an Italian restaurant for a while, and a different Indian before that, which was probably the last time I've been in there. We've had fliers for their takeaway / delivery service, and I have wondered about trying them, but got no further than that. There is a surfeit of Indian restaurants and takeaways in our area, even a dedicated web-based delivery-only place, and you always tend to ignore the one right next door.

Well, not any more. It was completely empty, not unexpected for 8:30 on a Tuesday, especially with a match on at Bramall Lane. They have a wide-screen TV on the wall above the bar, which was playing mostly Asian music videos, not too loud. A joss-stick was burning on the bar, which I suppose is nicer than cigarette smoke but got a bit overpowering. The furniture is all decked out in a red and white livery, a bit too grubby for elegance but smarter than normal – showing willing, at least. The two wait-staff were attentive and cheerful – they told us later they'd just had a letter from the Good Food guide putting them Top, but Top for What and Where we don't yet know. I'm sure a certificate will materialise in the fullness of time.

The menu was yer bog standard, with some very rich Northern Indian additions. The terminology was bit unusual for round here, I ordered a starter called a Nababi Murgi Stick, and it turned out to be tandoori chicken on the bone – which I wouldn't normally have, still, my fault for experimenting. And not saying it wasn't good, because it was.

We started off with poppadums and pickles – no lime pickle, boo, but there was mango chutney (thin, no lumps), onion salad, and yellow yoghourt which was Very Sweet. Sweet was definitely the theme of the evening. Doug and I had Tiger beer, they've got Cobra in bottles too, nothing unusual.

Starters were the aforementioned Stick, which still had a lot of marinade/paste clinging to it, not just dried out red chicken. Julia had a puri, again it was called something else (which I forget), and Doug went for the sizzling Cox Bazaar Prawns, which were very very sizzly and had potato mixed in. Wolfed down in short order, we moved onto mains.

Lamb and aubergine for me, not too hot, lovely smoky taste from the aubergines. Julia had a chicken karhai "delight", which was their version of a korma, and came in a mini-copper-clad bucket. Incredibly creamy and sweet, with cardamom and shreds rather than lumps of chicken. Doug scored top, though, with the tandoori butter chicken – not only sweet and rich, you could smell the butter from across the table, but with added topping of aerosol whipped cream. Sides were a couple of garlic and coriander nan, which were smallish, but enough – crisp on the bottom and soft and puffy at the edges, and a keema rice which was well-flavoured but quite fatty from the minced meat.

We didn't investigate dessert, due to strawberries lurking at home. No idea on the total bill, as I was a Guest, but the menu said the Stick was about four quid, the lamb six, with a nan at two.

I picked up an up-to-date takeway menu, which says free delivery, 15% discount on collection and 10% on delivery. Think I'll add it to the favoured supplier list.

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Curried Fish with Pistachio

Tonight we tried a new DrGourmet recipe, Pistachio Crusted Grouper Braised in Curry . Grouper isn't easily available over here, but our fishmonger had caught it in Florida, and recommended if we were after something similar but not too ordinary, we could try barramundi. And very edible it was too. The basic recipe involves coating 2 x 4oz fillets of fish in 3/4 oz pistachio nuts, ground, and baking in a very hot oven (gas mark 9) in a sprayed pre-heated skillet, 8 – 10 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile you heat in the microwave:

 

1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp. salt
  fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp garam masala
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. fresh lime juice

and pour it over the fish and bake for about another 4 minutes.

I was quite concerned as I don't usually think curry spices do well unless dry-fried or heated in oil first. And the amount of acid looked a bit iffy. I left out the salt as I use bottled chicken stock concentrate which is salty anyway. When I took the fish out of the oven the sauce had dried away, and had to be resurrected with some additional hot water. I'd tipped the remainder of the pistachios from the fish-coating plate in with it, and it was definitely trying hard to be a korma. It was vaguely curry-tasting, but overall a bit bland – a lot of his curries are far too mild for British tastes. We'll definitely have it again, but I'll pick a more robust fish, monkfish would do well I think, or just a plain white fish block. The remainder of the nuts could be ground finer and heated with the sauce separately to thicken it more, and keep it softer. The fish coating would have been crunchier, which would have made more it more interesting in terms of texture. Extra heat, either from some fresh chilli in the sauce, extra curry powder, or some dried chilli flakes in the pistachio coating.

We had plain basmati rice with it, and some melon on the side because I couldn't be bothered to do a real fresh chutney or raita. It does need a fresh savoury crunch with it though, something with tomatoes and red onion maybe. And you could blitz a load of fresh coriander into the sauce to make a pesto-sort-of-thing. You've got plenty of calories to play with, the fish dish comes in at 204 per serving.

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