South Indian Fish Curry

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This is my version of a generic South Indian style Fish Curry using staple South Indian spices such as mustard seeds, red chilli, curry leaves and coconut. These along with the other ingredients are very easily available in supermarkets outside India. This dish is quick to prepare and is a lighter curry that can be enjoyed during the warm summer months when you need a curry fix. For my last attempt (pictured) I have used Hake Fish Steaks but any firm white fish will do. I have used Cod, and Monkfish before. See what you can get fresh on the day. If you have or can get your hands on to some tamarind paste, use a level tablespoon (tbsp) of that instead of the lemon juice but add that just before adding the fish.

Ingredients (serves 4)
Firm white fish about 800 gms to a kilo
Madras curry powder 2 tbsp
Onion 1 large made into a paste
Ginger and Garlic paste 1 tbsp
Tomato one medium chopped finely
Coconut cream – 2 tbsp
Oil = 2 tbsp
Juice of half a lemon
Curry leaves around 10
Red chilli 2 (depending on how hot you want it)
Mustard seeds one level tbsp
Salt for marination and for the gravy according to taste
Dessicated coconut (optional) 1 tbsp

Method
Marinade the fish with salt and and leave for about 30 mins. Heat oil in a pan and add the red chilli, mustard seeds and once they start to splutter add the onion paste. Stir over medium to high heat till it changes colour. Now add the curry leaves and the ginger garlic paste. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes till the raw smell disappears. Add the spices with a little water and stir well. Add the chopped tomato and stir for about 5 mins till the whole thing turns somewhat pulpy. Now add the coconut cream. Stir the mixture well. Check seasoning. Add a little water if required before adding the fish pieces so that they are just covered. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes (depending on the size and thickness of the fish) on a medium flame till the fish is done. Check Seasoning, add lemon juice. Top it with dessicated coconut (if using) and serve immediately with plain rice.

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Chicken Korma

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Korma or Quorma a dish influenced by the Persians and been perfected in the kitchens of the Mughal Emperors. It generally points to a dish of Meat, Game, Poultry or even Vegetables braised slowly with yoghurt or cream (or both) and a paste of nuts. The gravy is usually paler and subtly spiced compared to a lot of the other tomato based gravy that are so common in Indian cuisine. But unlike the way its marketed in the west it is not necessarily a mild (in some cases sweet tasting) dish.

In spite of the long (ish) list of ingredients, please do not be put off to give this a go as its fairly simple to prepare. I like using Chicken on the bone for more flavour and in this case it also holds on to its shape better to stand the slightly longer cooking process. At a compromise use thigh fillets. I also use shallots for its milder and sweeter taste but white onion is perfectly fine to use. The Black Cardamom is optional. It does add a certain smoky flavour to the dish that I personally like but if you do not have it or don’t want to buy it for one particular dish then that’s perfectly fine. The Poppy Seeds and the pumpkin seeds are essential. try and get the white poppy seeds. Use unsalted and unroasted cashew nuts. If using the salted one soak in warm water and drain before making the paste.

Ingredients
Chicken on the bone = 1 Kg
Shallots (or onions) = 400 gms
Ginger & Garlic paste  = 4 tsp
Full Fat Natural Yoghurt = 200 gms
Salt = to taste
Black Peppercorn = about 12
Bayleaf = one large
Cinnamon = an inch stick
Cloves = 4
Cardamom = 5
Black Cardamom (optional) = 1 or 2
Cumin powder = 2 tsp
Coriander powder = 2 tsp
Cashew nuts = about 20/25
Poppy seeds = 2 tsp (soaked in warm water for about 15 mins)
Melon Seeds (Charmagaj) or use Pumpkins seeds = 2 tbsp
Dessicated Coconut = 3 tbsp
Green Chiili = 2 medium
Garam Masala (optional)= 1/2 tsp
Ghee (Indian Clarified Butter) or Butter (optional) = about 3 tbsp
Oil = as required if not using Ghee or Butter (or use a mix of both)
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Method
Mix the Yoghurt with 3 tsp of ginger and garlic paste. If necessary wash and dry the chicken. put some salt and rub. Then apply the yoghurt mixture and mix well covering all areas. Leave for about 4/5 hours (at least allow for an hour but longer the better). Make a paste with the cashew nuts, coconut, green chillies, melon seeds or pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds and a bit of water to make a medium consistency paste. Slice onions. Heat the Ghee or oil in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat. When hot add the sliced onions. Fry till translucent but do not burn them. Add the remaining ginger and garlic paste and all of the whole spices and the bay leaf and stir for about 2 minutes. Now add the marinated chicken and the remaining marinate. stir this for about 10 minutes till all the mixture is well mixed. Add the cumin, and coriander powder. Now add the paste that you made earlier. Mix well. Add a tiny bit of water. Cover with a light lid and cook on a low to medium heat till the chicken is done. Check form time to time to make sure that the meat is not sticking to the bottom of the pan, adding a tiny bit of water if necessary to prevent that from happening. Check Seasoning and add a bit more salt if required. Just before taking it of the heat, sprinkle the garam masala (if using). Stir and Serve.

Kerala Style Beef Fry

imageKerala is a tiny state on the South Western end of India but when it comes to food it packs a big punch. It’s been on the Spice Map since about 3000 BC and is primarily known for growing top quality Peppercorns, Cloves, Cinnamon, Cardamoms among others. The spice trade bought in the traders from all over the world from the Greeks, Romans, Arabs (including the Syrians who were the first Christians in India), Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch to the British. (Vasco Da Gama landed here in 1498 which opened the door for the rest of the Europeans into India) and they all left some mark in some form or the other in the local architecture, cuisine, and culture.

With the coastline and the freshwater lakes , Kerala is also a big producer of Fish and Shellfish. There is a abundance of Coconut trees too. No wonder that most of these lovely produce make it to their local cuisine. The state also has a sizeable Muslim and Christian population and their influence on the local food cannot be ignored. One dish that we will be taking about today is the Kerala Style Beef Fry. I first had this dish in a small Restaurant in the Keralan Hill Station of Munnar in 2004 when we stopped there for two nights on our honeymoon tour around Kerala. I was taken back by the simplicity but a lasting taste of this dish. Sneha, A Mumbai based restaurant last week won an Chowzster Asia award for this Beef Dish (but you will not be able to eat it there as the sale and supply of Beef is since been banned in the whole state of Maharastra of which Mumbai is the Capital).

There are many variations of this dish and its mostly served as a snack accompanied by some flaky Malabar Parathas but can be served as a main course with Rice or Dosa or Appams. I have tried to simplify the dish as much as possible using ingredients available in the UK. The Cinnamon, Cloves and Cardamom can be substituted with 2tsp of Garam Masala but the taste will vary considerably. I also use Star Anise sometimes. If you have any in your kitchen Use one or two but reduce the Cinnamon, Clove and Cardamom. The following should provide 3 medium portions or 2 large portions. I have also used sliced fresh fennel. If you do that then use half a bulb of fennel and reduce the onion by half and do not use the fennel seeds.

Ingredients
Rump Steak – 500 gms (ask Butcher to tenderise the meat ie beat it thin with a meat hammer or do it yourself at home). Cut it into medium thin strips.
Shallots – 5 nos or one large white onion finely sliced
Ginger and Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp
Fennel Seeds – 1 tsp
Red Chilli – 1 medium (de seeded and halve if you prefer less heat)
C0rriander Seeds – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – half inch stick
Cloves – 3 pieces
Cardamom – 4 (peel the skin and use the seeds only)
Peppercorn – 2 tsp
Tomato Purée – 2 tbsp
Green Chilli – 4 de-seeded and slit lengthways (Keep the seeds in or add more if you like more heat)
Curry Leaves – about 10
Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – about 4 table spoons
Dessicated Coconut – 1 tbsp (soak in 2 tbsp water for about 5 mins before using)
Salt to taste

Method
Dry Roast the Fennel, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Peppercorn, Red Chilli, Star Anise (if using). Cool and Powder using a spice or coffee grinder or in a pestle and mortar. Marinate the meat with Salt, The spice mixture, ginger and Garlic paste and the tomato purée. Rub well and set aside for about 2 to 3 hours.
Heat Oil in a wok. Add the Mustard seeds and as soon as it stars to pop, add the sliced shallots or onions, fry for about 5 minutes on a medium high flame and add the curry leaves and green chillies. Fry for another 5 minutes. Now tip the marinated meat mixture and stir on a flame for about 10 minutes. Add a drop of water if necessary and cover and cook till done. Uncover and stir. Check seasoning and serve garnished with dessicated coconut. This dish is best served straight away with Paratha Breads or Rice. In the following picture I served it with Lemon Rice and Cabbage Thoran (recipes to follow).

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Kolkata Biriyani

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Amenia’s Chicken Biriyani

Biriyani is one of my most favourite dish. Its a dish made of layers of Rice and normally meat or Chicken flavoured with spices. The origin of this dish is said to be from Persia but after centuries of refinement this dish is now widely available across the Indian Subcontinent. Different regions cooks it differently, for example the Biriyani from Hyderabad region is cooked with the rice and raw meat together from scratch while most other parts cooks the meat separately and then mixes it with rice. Mumbai or Bombay Biriyani is very spice heavy while Kolkata ones are much lighter. Kerela specializes in Seafood Biriyani and so on. For me having grown up in Kolkata, I am partial to the Biriyani from there and love the sweet soft potato in it.

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Prithvi Cafe’s Bombay Veg Biriyani

Kolkata loves it’s Biriyani. Legend has it that the Kolkata biryani evolved from the Lucknow style, when Awadh’s last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled in 1856 in Calcutta. His chefs replaced some of the meat and added the potato to keep the cost of this royal dish down. The Calcutta Biriyani is much lighter on spices. It primarily uses nutmeg, cinnamon, mace along with cloves and cardamom in the yoghurt based marinade for the meat which is cooked separately from rice giving it a distinct flavour as compared to other styles of Biryani. A true Kolkata foodie will argue about the best Biriyani in town and many restaurants have had decades of reign on the top. Royal with its Kashmiri origin reigned supreme around the late 70’s and early 80’s. Then it was the turn of Amenia in the new market area. Currently Arsalan in the Park Circus Area is one of the most popular. Others such as Shiraz Golden Restaurant, Zeeshan, Amber and even Nizam’s (inventor of the Kathi roll ) etc are popular too. The current trend is that the big guns which were all standalone establishments are now expanding into other parts of the city and other parts of India and even beyond. (Shiraz has a branch in Dubai). It would be lovely to have one in UK.

Arselan's Mutton Biriyani
Arsalan’s Mutton Biriyani

During my recent short trip to Kolkata, I was fortunate to have tried the Mutton Biriyani from Arsalan and Amenia’s Chicken Biriyani. I have to say Arsalan’s Biriyani had a far superior depth of flavour and I really enjoyed it while Amenia’s Biriyani (my Mom’s favourite is of a more delicate and fragrant variety). During the same trip I also visited Mumbai where I tried the Veg Biriyani at the Prithvi Theatre Cafe. Biriyani is a rich and complex dish that is very difficult to replicate at home and in my opinion is best left to the experts. At home I have made many attempts to recreate as much of the flavours without most the guilt associated with this Calorie laden dish. There are good quality ready made Spice Mixtures available widely in Asian Supermarkets that produces good results. I will put up a recipe in another blog post.

One of My Home Creation
One of My Home Cooked Version

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Creamy Chicken Kebab (Chicken Malai Kabab)

20150127_182110Its incredibly easy to prepare Kebabs at home yet it seems that many people shy away from preparing them as perhaps they are not so sure about the marination or maybe they think that its a lot of hard work. They get cooked in BBQ’s (either shop bought or home marinated) but not considered much for general home cooking. Chicken Kebabs are very easy to prepare, are very healthy and are quick to cook. A bit of advance planning with the marination will ensure that you can have your dinner ready in less than 30 to 40 minutes, ideal for cooking when slightly short on time. Get the Meat marinated ahead and leave in the fridge overnight or for as less as 3 hours. If cooking after coming back from office or so try and leave it outside for a bit while you freshen up or get changed. The grilling itself takes about 10 to 20 minutes. Its best served with some light salad, pilau rice (Can be shop bought microwave version) or even a ready made tortila wrap. In India it gets served with Paratha Bread or Naan, usually a mint Chutney and some salad with onions.
Today’s recipe is for Chicken Malai Kebab (Creamy Chicken Kebab). Its my modern take on a Indian Classic. The end product is deliciously moist and the mild creamy nature is a big hit with the young fussy eaters too (if preparing for them perhaps omit or reduce the chilli, I use a separate marination without the chilli). I find that about 3 hours is enough for the marination but anything upwards of an hour should suffice. You could decide how healthy you want to make this dish (you could use light cream cheese or substitute half of it with sour cream or Greek yoghurt. But ). Some recipes call for two stage marination ie one first on with salt, pepper, ginger and garlic and after about 30 mins a second one wit the rest of the ingredients. I leave it up on you to decide how you want to do it depending on the time that you might have on your hand. While cooking keep an eye on it and try and not dry out the surface too much. Cut and check one inside to see if it has cooked. I use a George Foreman Gill and so it looks quicker and gives a lovely char grilled marks on the meat. In the following picture I have had to use red chilli as I did not have any green chilli at home at that time but green is much better in this recipe. (I have a shop bought Chilli Garlic Grinder that also includes fennel and I have used some of that in the marination but that is not necessary)
20150127_164300Ingredients : 
  • Chicken Breast  500 gms cut in medium chunks
  • Ground White Pepper half tsp (or black if you do not have white pepper)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cardamom Powder half tsp (use freshly ground if possible using the seeds inside a pod or if you do not have it use allspice instead, see below)
  • Ginger paste 2 tbsp
  • Garlic paste 1 tbsp
  • Green Chilli 2 nos or to taste
  • Corriander Leaves  a handful
  • Cumin Powder half tsp (if you do not have this you can use a readymade curry powder)
  • Garam Masala (use allspice as a substitute but do not add Cardamom powder) half tsp
  • Cream Cheese (eg Philladelphia) about 4 heaped tbsp
 Method :
Pat Dry the Chicken pieces and apply half the salt and the white pepper. Rub and leave it aside while you are preparing the rest. Make a paste of the ginger and garlic (if making your own) with the chilli, coriander leaves, rest of the salt, cream cheese cumin powder and the garam masala. Rub the chicken well with this mixture coating all the pieces well. Cover with a cling film and leave in the fridge. Soak the wooden skewers if you are using any.
Heat the Grill and skewer the marinated chicken using the soaked skewers without overcrowding them. (You could put them directly onto the George Foreman grill and cook without the skewers.) . Place on or under the grill and cook the chicken rotating regularly as necessary. Keep an eye on this as they cook very fast. the cream cheese will cause some lovely colouration on the Kebabs and take a piece out and cut in half to check whether its cooked through or not. If you overcook this it will dry up quickly (the outside should retain some moisture. You could also brush the Kebab couple of time while cooking using melted butter for a really yummy moist result (I did not follow this step on this occasion). Once you have checked if they are cooked take them off the grill and serve immediately. ENJOY
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