Winter is a time when our body craves for richer and spicier food. The excesses of the festive period gives way to the intention of clean eating and everyone jumping on to the healthy bandwagon in January. Healthy eating does not have to be difficult to prepare and plan. It is also possible to add in flavours from the use of light spicing and aromatic herbs that gives you a more satisfying feel and impression of having a fuller meal. I have been looking at simplifying some of the dinner recipes at home recently and have also incorporated more vegetarian dishes as well as Fish, Turkey and Chicken in our diet. I had posted a recipe for a tasty Turkey and Chorizo Burger not so long ago. I have been revisiting some of the childhood dishes that I enjoyed while growing up in India like Chicken Stew and Khichuri ( Indian risotto with rice and mung beans). I plan to include some of this recipes soon. However I did experiment with the Chicken Stew recently and came up with this Chicken in a Miso Broth with Vegetables and Rice Noodles. Miso is a traditional Japanese fermented paste made from soya and rice or wheat or rye. It imparts a rich and deep savoury note to a dish whether you are making just a plain and simple miso soup or you could use the paste as a marinate. You can buy the Miso in a paste form many oriental supermarkets. For my recipe for more simplicity I have used the The Classic Siro Miso Soup packets which are easily found in our British supermarkets.
Ingredients (for 4 portions)
8 medium Chicken Drumsticks (skin taken off)
2 Packets of single serving Miso Soup
2/3 stalks of celery sliced
1 medium onion sliced
1 big clove of garlic sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh vegetables such as diced carrots and sweetcorn or frozen diced mixed vegetables
Rice Noodles 200 gms (allow 50 gms per portion)
Heat a medium pan and add a teaspoon of oil. Add the Celery and the onion and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the Garlic and fry for another few minutes. Add the chicken and fry gently. Add about 500 ml of hot water and bring to a gentle simmer. Skim off any excess fat or the foamy mess if they gather on top. Add the vegetables and simmer for another 10 minutes before adding the paste from the Miso soup. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes till the chicken is almost done. Now take the chicken off the liquid and leave on a clean chopping board. Add the rice noodles into the broth adding more hot water if required. Stir gently and bring to a boil. Boil for a bout 5 minutes or according to the Rice Noodles packet instruction. De bone the chicken and a tear into small pieces. Add them back to the broth and add the Garnish part of the miso soup. Adjust seasoning. Garnish with sliced chillies and spring onions and serve hot.
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
For a quick midweek dinner using store cupboard items this dish is fairly easy to put together and very satisfying too. I have used Tinned Plum Tomato but you could use tinned Chopped Tomato too. I have also added capers to this dish as I had some lying in my fridge but if you don’t have it then do not worry. I have used Spaghetti here but you could make it with with whatever pasta you have lying around. I would have loved to have been able to finish this dish with a good sprinkling of Parsley but on this occasion I had none left. So if you do have some add them just before serving. You could also add chopped olives if you prefer and have some lying around. (ps. the sprinkling that you see in this picture is a shop bought Chilli Garlic Mix that also includes fennel. Its quite nice and I add this to a lot of my food).
Ingredients (the sauce should make for 4 to 5 portions)
Spaghetti – about 75 to 100 gms per portion
Tinned Plum Tomato – one tin
Tin of Tuna – 2 of 185 gms tins (use no drain or spring water ones if possible)
Garlic Cloves – 4 medium Chopped
Shallots – 2 small (or a small onion) very finely chopped
Dried Red Chilli – one medium chopped
Capers – around 15
Salt and Pepper
Handful of Chopped Parsley
Juice of a quarter lemon
Heat oil in a Heavy Bottom Pan. Add the Chopped Garlic and Chilli. Fry for about 30 seconds and add the Chopped Shallots or onions. Fry for a couple of minutes on medium flame. Then add the Capers and the Tomatoes. Add a little salt and stir with the flame turned medium to high. When it starts to bubble reduce the heat and simmer gently with a lid on for about 20 mins stirring from time to time. Now prepare the Pasta as per packet instructions which should take around 10 minutes of boiling. When Pasta is almost done add the drained tuna to the sauce and stir. Check for seasoning and take it off the the heat. Squeeze in the Lemon Juice. Drain the pasta well and mix it with the sauce. Divide into bowls and Sprinkle with the chopped Parsley and serve with a Salad or some Garlic Bread
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.
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.
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.
Bolognaise is one of the most common form of an Italian Meat Sauce that’s popular the world over. However there are no standardised recipe and presumably every family have their own version largely influenced by which part of Italy they come from. When I came to UK first I got introduced to this very tomato rich sauce with mince meat and often had mushrooms thrown in. Most of the generic ones that I had tried used to repeat on me and I found them very acidic. That put me off initially and then I would not order it from a menu based on my prior experiences and the same went for Lasagne. But I liked the concept. It was much later that I started researching it and got drawn back into it so much so that I wanted to create a version that agreed with me. In 2007 Heston Blumenthal had a show on Television that got my attention. It also revolutionised the way I perceived Bolognaise Sauce. He used milk like they use in certain parts of Italy that I previously did not knew could be done. So I simplified the process to suit me and came up with my own version. You can also read about different techniques on The Guardian’s website here or follow a close version of the original recipe here on Kok Robins’s blog.
I am not claiming any authenticity here but this is a recipe that I have come up using easily available products that tastes good and is not overly complicated. This is also a healthier version where I have cut out some of the initial oil, used lean mince and have not used any cream or butter at the end. It does take a bit of time but its the time that makes this sauce in my opinion. The amount of each each ingredient varies as I do not have any fixed amounts yet so most of them are approximation.
Olive Oil 50 ml
Garlic 3 large cloves chopped
Red Chilli 1 medium chopped
Onion 1 large diced
Celary 3 stalks diced
Carrots 2 medium diced
White Wine 100 ml
Milk 250 ml approx
Lean Mince Beef 450 gms
Good quality seasoned Sausages 8 (slightly course mix is preferable)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Tomato Puree 1 to 2 tbsp
Worcester Sauce 1 tablespoon
Fish Sauce 1 tablespoon ( I have also used Anchovy paste instead )
Staranise 2 whole
Thyme 2 tsp dry or one fresh sprig (I have also used mixed dry Italian herbs instead)
Heat oil in a heavy bottom casserole dish. Add the chopped garlic and chopped chilli and stir. After a minute add diced onion, carrots, and celery. Sprinkle some salt and sweat it over low to medium heat with the cover on for about 20 mins stirring often. Turn up the heat and add the white wine. Fry for a bit longer but without browning the vegetables till the wine is absorbed. Now add the mince meat and the sausage meat. Fry and break up the chunks as you go along. Now add the Worcester Sauce, fish sauce, and salt and pepper.
Add the Bayleaf, thyme and star anise. Stir for a about 10 minutes and then add just enough milk to cover the mixture. Now bring to a boil and simmer on a very very low flame for about one hour stirring occasionally. Now add the tomato puree. Add any vegetables if you want like mix veg or peas if you wish at this stage. Stir and simmer on low flame for a further 30 minutes. Check for seasoning and serve with a good quality pasta with grated Italian dry cheese on top.
We also use the same sauce to make lasagne at home using shop bought lasagne sheet (also green lasagne sheets), home made bechamel sauce and little cheese on top.
Update N8vember 2018: I have recently found Aldi selling a 5percent fat Beef and Pork mince in a 750 gsm pack and have used it instead.
There is something nice about the smell of roasted peppers. Pepper roasted in the Oven with a bit of Olive Oil will stay in a fridge for up to 10 days or more (ours are usually gone by two days). We mostly use them to make a simple creamy Sauce. You can also have the slices in a salad, pizza toppings, sandwich filler. The sauce is a good way to get more veg into fussy children too as they will love sweet creamy taste. If you make the sauce slightly thicker then you can also use it as a dip or a spread. We usually make ours slightly thicker and store in a closed container for a few days. We dilute it and use it for a quick pasta sauce. We also often add diced Chicken or prawns to make it into a more substantial meal.
We use red peppers where possible and also the yellow peppers but have found out that the green one do not work for this recipe. Usually find that two red peppers and one yellow pepper is enough for about 4 portions give or take. Put the peppers in a roasting tin. Cover with olive oil and roast in an 200 degree C oven for about 30 to 40 mins turning 2 to 3 times till the skin gets gently charred. If uou have a barbeque then you could roast the peppers on it. Take out into a bowl and cover with a foil and let cool. Roast the garlic cloves in the same pan for about 10 to 15 mins stirring few times without burning them. Meanwhile fry some sliced shallots or small white onions in olive oil till soft and translucent. Use a coverd pan over a low heat stirring frequently. This could take some time. When the onions are done let it cool. While that’s cooling peel the charred skin of the peppers and cut and take the stalk and seeds off. Add everything together and blitz in a food processor adding about 4 tablespoon of soft cream cheese and 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Don’t overdo this as a bit of texture is preferable.
Serve mixed with freshly cooked pasta (usuing a bit of the drained pasta cooking water to loosen the mixture. We love ours as it is or with the addition of chicken or prawns) or store in a closed container to use as a dip or spread.
I spent 6 months in Goa during my Hotel Management Course and had the pleasure of trying some lovely local dishes. Of all the Goan dishes the Vindaloo is perhaps the most popular the world over. However the ones cooked in the UK curry houses are far from the original. Here it seems to be popular as one of the hottest curry on the menu. However the dish is a Indianised version of the Portuguese dish “carne de vinha d’alhos,” a dish of meat, usually pork marinated in wine and garlic. The wine was substituted by vinegar and red chillies and a few other spices, ginger , garlic and sugar were added. Locally it’s also known as vindalho or vindallo. Essentially the spices are ground in vinegar and the meat is marinated in it before cooking. The end result is a delightful hot and sour curry with a slight hint of sweetness. I have heard stories in Goa that during family feasts this was cooked in a earthen pot and then reheated over 7 days before being finally laid in the banquet table. Not sure how true it is and if people these days have that kind of time. However one thing is for sure, this dish is a million miles apart from the curry house offerings. Another good thing is if you are making your own spice paste (easier than you think) you can control the amount of chillies that goes in it.
I used diced pork fillet and found that with a 5 hour marination the meat was falling into pieces with a gentle touch after about 40 mins of cooking but this will vary. Using Belly Pork or meat with slightly more fat will add to the final flavour of the dish. Dry roasting the spices brings out the best flavour and is defiantly worth the extra effort and time. I also prefer mine with potatoes but this is a matter of personal choice.
Port Fillet – 500 gms and diced into medium chunks
Onion – 2 medium, sliced
Ginger – a thumb sized piece, peeled
Garlic – 4 cloves, peeled
Fennel Seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin – 1 tsp
Corriander – 2 tsp
Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
Black Peppercorn – 1 tsp
Red Chilli – 2 medium size (adjust according to taste)
Cinnamon – a 2.5 inch long stick
Cloves – 4 nos
Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp
Vinegar – 4 tbsp (white or malt)
Oil – 4tbsp
Salt To taste
Fresh Curry Leaves – 5 nos (optional)
Dry Roast all the spices except turmeric powder in a hot pan. Transfer onto a cool plate and leave aside. Make a paste with all the roasted spices, turmeric powder, salt, 3 tbsp of the Vinegar, Ginger and Garlic. Marinate the meat in this mixture and leave covered in a fridge for about 5 hours. 30 minutes prior to cooking take it out and allow to come to room temperature.
Add oil in a heavy bottomed pan and when hot add curry leaves if using. Stir for a minute and add the sliced onions. Fry on a medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes till slightly translucent. Now turn the heat up high and add all the meat and its marinating juices. Stir for about 10 minutes. Season with more salt if necessary. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of the vinegar and a drop of water if required. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for about 30 – 40 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure that its not sticking to the bottom and if necessary add little water to prevent it from sticking. Check meat and take off heat when done (this will depend on the cut of meat and marination but my fillet pieces with 5 hours of marination took 40 mins). It should be very soft to touch with the juices sticking to it. Serve with steamed rice or bread of your choice. This dish can be prepared in advance and reheated when required enhancing the taste even more. I have added potatoes to mine but its a personal choice.