Good to be back here! It’s a long shift in my kitchen tonight as I prep for a private catering event later today. Christmas parties everywhere! The biriyani masala mix is well under way, wafting its aromas at this rather ungodly hour 😳
While I wait, having of course done all my chopping, I thought a bit of blogging wouldn’t go amiss given it has been a while…
Last week I cooked this flavoursome traditional dish which, as the name suggests, does not use archar (pickle) in the recipe at all! No, no no. The achari tanginess is created with my favourite good old Bengali ‘five spice’ mix. I still remember the flavour created by this incredible concoction of five seeds when my grandma made her delectable chicken curry during our rare visits to see her in Bangladesh.
So this is how it goes:
Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 40 mins Serves 4
1 medium chicken or 2 chicken breasts cut into curry pieces
Wash and drain the chicken well (although it’s best not to wash the chicken to prevent campylobacter cells from spreading – the most common cause of food poisoning; cooking the chicken thoroughly will remove this as well as other bacteria – read NHS article here).
Heat the oil gently and add the five spice mix. Wait until the seeds sizzle.
Add the onions and cook over a medium flame until golden brown (up to 10 minutes).
Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
Add the tomatoes, cover and cook until soft and pulpy.
Mash down the tomato mixture with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, cumin, chilli powder, salt and garam masala. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes dry. Stir well and allow to ‘bhuna’ (i.e. the oil should separate from the spices and float to the top).
Stir in the the chicken pieces ensuring they are well coated with the spice mixture. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium-high flame, ensuring the spices do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the water and bring to boil. Simmer for 2 mins, then drop in the green chillies, if using.
Cover and cook on a low flame until the chicken is thoroughly done.
Garnish with coriander leaves, if using, just before serving.
In keeping with our Bengali traditional, but much to my parents’ disapproval of my aversion to eating fish, it was often a case of “Eat your fish!” at the dining table. More so than the proverbial peas.
Ironically, as a Mother of two teens, I now find myself cooking fish in a variety of ways. The versatility of cooking with fish, whether it’s a fishermen’s pie, a curry, a grill or even a biriyani (!) makes it quite effortless to get those all-essential Omega-3’s into our daily diet in the most natural way.
Last night I chose to steam these basa fillets, but not quite the conventional way. I seasoned the fillets and simply arranged them in a single layer in my glazed ceramic tagine. I then placed the tagine on the stove over a heat diffuser to ensure even cooking.
The build up of steam in the pot creates condensation and the resulting droplets ensure the fish is left beautifully moist with all the flavours sealed into the fish. Simply lushalicious :p. So here’s how it goes…
Cooking Time: 20 mins
4 white fish fillets (such as cod, haddock or basa)
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of a quarter lemon
1 tsp crushed red chilies (or more if you dare!)
sprinkle of course black pepper
salt to taste
handful of chopped parsley
a lemon twist and sprig of fresh coriander to garnish each piece
How to cook
Mix all the ingredients well and season the fish. Set aside for 10 mins.
Gently heat a large wok, karahi or tagine placed in a heat diffuser (you can use a tava or frying pan for this purpose).
Arrange the fish onto the vessel a single layer and place a tight fitting lid (or the tagine lid if using a tagine).
Allow to cook over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
Remove each piece carefully and garnish with a twist of lemon and a sprig of coriander.
Serving Suggestion: Serve with seasoned, steamed new potatoes and beans or spinach. Or for a touch of Indian, serve with a portion of boiled rice topped with a tadka-free lentil curry as shown here 🙂
Last year, I took on the role as a school Cook where I thoroughly enjoyed feeding over 200 young children and members of staff. It was a brief but most fascinating experience; one which I would not have foresaken if I had been provided with a fully functional team….but that’s another story…
From Lasagne’s to Butter Chicken Curry, the responses from the children ranged from, “These are the best school dinners ever!” to “I hate curry, yuk!” Each day was a welcome challenge I still miss today.
I have always believed though that all things happen for a reason. Since the first day I started at the school, I had eyed up the Food Tech building at the site where I trained. And much to my satisfaction, this is the venue I have secured to hold this exclusive class where we will be preparing a two course Indian meal.
Date: Friday, 6th Feb 2015
Venue: Glyn School, The Kingsway, Ewell, KT17 1NB
There are only 8 places available so do head on to Eventbrite to book your place as early as possible!
Following a healthy diet doesn’t have to mean missing out on a good old bit of spice. You can always add some punch to the simplest of recipes by dry roasting some basic spices to bring out the flavours without the use of oil.
Here’s a very simple soup recipe which I threw together for my family one evening, based on the ‘Tadka Dal’ recipe I teach in class but minus the ‘tadka’. It makes a completely healthy meal in its own right, low in fat whilst high in fiber and protein.
Cooking Time: 30-40 mins
1 cup (240ml) split red lentils (masoor dal)
1 medium tomato, cubed
3 medium carrots, grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1″ piece fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dry ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
3 cups water
sprig of fresh coriander leaves for garnishing
How to cook
In a small frying pan or karahi, dry roast the cumin and chilli powder until the aromas are released (2-3 mins). Set aside.
In a larger vessel combine all the other ingredients, except the coriander leaves along with the water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30-40 mins, until the lentils and vegetables have softened.
Remove the pan from the heat and run a hand blender through the mixture until smooth.
Return the pan to the heat and add another 1/2 cup water if the soup appears too thick. Bring back to boil.
Lower the heat and stir in the roasted spices.
Simmer for 3-4 mins until the desired consistency is reached.
Garnish with coriander leaves just before serving.
Chicken Jalfrezi (or Jhal Frezi – ‘jhal’ meaning spicy in Bengali) is typically a ‘bhuna’ dish which means the sauce is thicker and drier than a usual curry. I often mention the word ‘bhuna’ during my classes as it is an essential state which needs to be achieved during the initial stages of cooking, where the ingredients are cooked in their own juices, in order to intensify the flavour of the final dish.
The focus on this recipe is therefore to produce this ‘bhuna’ sauce which can also be stored and used as a base for other curries. Nice 🙂 So you can see why this makes a great recipe for my upcoming demo at New Malden Farmers Market.
Cooking Time: 30-40 mins
For the chicken marinade (OR just use precooked chicken tikka to toss into the sauce when its ready)
2 medium chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 tsp turmeric
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 tsp roasted, ground cumin
For the curry sauce
4 tbsp oil
1/2 large onion, very finely chopped + another 1/2 finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 inch piece ginger, finely minced
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2-3 green chillies, sliced lengthwise & seeded
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp roasted, ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1-2 tsp salt or to taste
approx. 1/2 cup warm water
How to cook
Mix the ingredients for the marinade and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
Heat the oil over a medium flame and cook the onions until softened.
Add the garlic and ginger and continue to cook until the mixture is lightly browned.
Stir in the turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin and salt, adding a splash of water if needed. Fry for 2-3 mins until the oil has separated from the spices – this is known as the ‘bhuna’ stage.
Stir in the tomato puree and continue to cook for another 30 secs.
Add half the water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer for about 5-7 mins until the ‘bhuna’ state is achieved again.
Add the marinated chicken and cook on a high flame until the chicken pieces are sealed and evenly covered with the spiced sauce. (If using pre-cooked chicken skip this step.)
Stir in the onions, peppers and green chillies, then add the remaining water. Bring to boil; cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the gravy has thickened. (If using pre-cooked chicken, stir in the vegetables, then add the water. Cover and cook until tender. Add the chicken and cook uncovered until the gravy has thickened.
Sprinkle the garam masala and add the tomatoes. Cook uncovered for another 2-3 mins, just until the tomatoes have softened and then remove from the heat.