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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Bengali Tomato Chutney

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Chutneys are an integral part of Bengali food culture. Traditionally they are made to be of slightly thin consistency compared with the chutneys in the west and are usually consumed on the same day unlike the west where we tend to store them for longer.  In summer months a sweet tangy chutney would be prepared usually of raw mango, or tamarind, or pineapple etc and served at the end of lunch meal. Its said to aid digestion and also help in cooling the body. During a multi course feast the chutney would come after the main course and before desserts to act as a sort of palate cleanser similar to what some sorbets supposed to do. In Bengal Chutneys are popularly made from raw mango, tamarind, pineapple, tomato et. They also add dried dates and Aamsotto (mango fruit leather). This tomato chutney  takes me back to my childhood days when my grandmother used to make it. I have made it slightly drier so that it will stay in the fridge for about 5 days if necessary. It’s an easy and quick recipe but the Panch Phoran (bengali five spice mix consisting of Black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek, kalonji seeds) is a must (you can make your own but it’s far easier to buy ready mixed and then you need only one. It is available in good Asian markets and in an increasing amount of our regular supermarkets too (Waitrose sells them). This is great on its own but you could add some dried fruits to it like apricots, dates or if you can get your hands into it, another Bengali delicacy the aamsotto (fruit leather made from mango) also known as a am papad in other parts of India.

Ingredients
A can of Chopped good quality tomato
2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar according to your taste
2 cloves of garlic
A small cube of ginger
1 tsp of bengali five spice mix (Panch Phoran)
One small dried red Chilli (without seeds if you prefer mild)
Pinch of salt
2 tsp of oil
Optional extra 2 tbsp chopped mango fruit leather or 5/6 apricots or dates chopped.

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Method
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the spice mixture. As soon as they start to pop, add the ginger and garlic and the chilli. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato. Add the pinch of salt and the sugar. Cook on a medium to low heat for about 20 minutes stirring often. We are looking for a stage where the mixture sort of sticks together and it’s not runny. Now add the dry fruit if using and stir for another 5 to 10 mins. Take off from the cooker and let it cool down completely. Store in a clean jar or a container in the fridge and use as required. Do not forget to lick the spatula and the spoon.

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Aamsotto cut into cubes (Mango Fruit lather)

 

Pasta with Tuna in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

20141103_211604For 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
Olive Oil
Handful of Chopped Parsley
Juice of a quarter lemon

Method
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

Tomato Soup

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Tomorrow we leave for a two and a half week holiday to India. We spent the day yesterday and today trying to finish up all the fruits, vegetables and other perishables at home. This morning I discovered a few fresh tomatoes and immediately thought of making a simple soup. Winter is a time when we all enjoy a hot bowl of soup. In our home the hand blender is one of the most used kitchen gadget. We often make a soup with whatever vegetables we have at home and also we make a lentil soup using red lentils (recipe to follow later). These all are fairly easy and quick to make. Tomato soup is nutritious and a great way to get some veg into your little ones too. I usually add carrots and celery to mine. If you have any fresh fennel lying around then add a bit of that too. Try and use the best quality tomato you can get hold of as that’s the key ingredient here. I have used canned chopped tomato in the past and they give good results too. Just use a whole 440 gm or thereabout can of good quality chopped tomato. I often add a bit of cream or a spoon of cream cheese or crème fraîche at the end. You can also use fresh or powdered stock for a deeper flavour but if its good quality tomato then I prefer to let the tomato do the talking.

Ingredients
Tomatoes 4 medium sized chopped
Carrot one small cut into dices
Celery one medium stick cut into slices
Onion one small sliced ( I used shallots here)
Garlic 3 cloves chopped
Bayleaf one
Thyme a fresh sprig or a tsp dried
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil about 2 tbsp
Double Cream 4 tbsp or 2 tbsp cream cheese (optional)

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Method
Heat a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the garlic and after a quick stir add the onion. Fry for a few minutes and add the carrots and celery. Fry covered on a low heat stirring often for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato and salt and put the heat up to medium and stir till the juices from the tomato starts to come out and the mixture starts to turn into a pulp (around 10 mins). Now add about 300 ml hot water and bring to a boil. Add the Bayleaf and thyme. Lower the heat and simmer for abound 15 minutes. Take off the heat and blend using a hand blender. Add cream or cream cheese if using. Dilute if necessary. Bring to a gentle simmer. Season the soup and serve immediately with some crusty bread. ENJOY!!
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Pepperonata Sauce

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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.
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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.
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