Thoughtful birthday present

A good friend from my days in high school and his wife got me one of the most thoughtful presents for my birthday this year.   They got me a two hour cooking lesson at L’atelier des Chefs (http://www.atelierdeschefs.co.uk) to master a Thai menu which consisted of:

  • Lamb massaman curry
  • Coconut and chilli prawns with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.
  •  Jasmine rice
  • Lemongrass and ginger creme brulee

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There was one other person attending and we split the tasks of prepping and cooking.  We did lamb 2 ways – one was seared cubes cooked slowly in the curry and the other was cooked medium rare on the hob.  The session was guided by a well experienced chef who’s past assignments have included 1/2/3 Michelin star restaurants and five star hotels.  The sweet chilli dipping sauce was an eye opener and will definitely feature on our next dinner party menu.   The twist on crème brulee using Thai flavours has me inspired to play around with a few other flavours.  Best part of the afternoon was getting to play with the blow torch for the first time on the creme brulee (hint to Anna – we need one of these in the kitchen!)  I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and it has reinforced my passion for the culinary arts all the more.

Rathi & Ramesh thank you for your generous and thoughtful gift – I guess you know what we are having for dinner the next time you are over here.

Arachuvita onion & murangai kai sambhar

One of the dishes that is synonymous with South Indian cooking is sambhar, a thick dahl and vegetable based gravy dish normally eaten with rice and often served as an accompaniment with  idlis & dosais (rice & urad dhal batter steamed dumplings and pancakes).  The key to any good sambhar is the spice powder which varies from household to household and we sometimes feel the recipes are guarded secrets passed on by word of mouth from one generation to the next.  One can find sambhar powder in most Asian grocery store which is a suitable substitute (our family recipe can be shared for a small fee  :-)).

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What do I need to make it?

  • 2 murangai kai (called moringa in English or more colloquially known as drumsticks in India) cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 10-12 small sambhar onions (available in Asian grocery stores – alternatively use baby onions)
  • Extract of a small ball of tamarind (alternatively ½ tsp of tamarind paste)
  • Handful fresh curry leaves
  • ½ cup of pressure cooked tuar dahl
  • 3 whole red chillies
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp channa dahl
  • Pinch of asafoetida
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ cup fresh grated coconut
  • Handful of fresh coriander for garnish
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4-6

How do I make it?

Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat and roast the coriander seeds, channa dahl and dried red chillies for a few minutes till the seeds change colour.   Once cooled, grind to a paste with fresh coconut and a pinch of asafoetida – use a little water.   Keep this aside.   In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil followed by the mustard seeds.   Once the seeds start to splutter add the curry leaves and vegetables.   Saute over medium heat for a couple of minutes and then add the extract of tamarind water, sambhar powder and a bit of salt.  Pour in 500 ml of water and cook over medium heat till the raw smell of the powder disappears and the vegetables are cooked.  Add the cooked dahl and paste and simmer for 5-10 minutes.   Adjust the seasoning, garnish with fresh coriander and switch off heat.  Serve hot with plain boiled rice.

Warm butter bean salad

We normally make our bean salads using tinned beans but have now taken a conscious decision to us dried beans moving forward.  Although they are more time consuming to prepare we feel happy knowing what we are cooking and think  it is probably a healthier option.

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What do I need to make it?

 

  • 1 cup dried butter beans soaked overnight and pressure cooked
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 big green chilli sliced
  • 1 plum tomato de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • Handful fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

How much will I make?

3-4 side portions

How do I make it?

Pressure cook the butter beans and drain any remaining liquid.   Heat a saucepan with butter and olive oil.   Saute the garlic over medium heat for a minute before adding the onions and green chilli.   Continue cooking over medium heat till the onions are translucent – add the cooked butter beans, sprinkle the sumac and salt and pepper and switch of the heat.   Dress with lemon juice – add chopped tomatoes and fresh parsley and give it a good mix.   Serve warm or at room temperature.

Indo-Chinese vegetable hot and sour soup

For all lovers of Indo-Chinese cooking an all time favourite has to be a vegetable hot and sour soup served with sliced green chilli in vinegar.   This is our version of a classic.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 small carrot finely chopped
  • 5 baby corns sliced thinly
  • Handful of mangetout thinly sliced
  • Handful of shredded cabbage
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • Half a green pepper finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 mushroom or vegetable stock cubes
  • 50 gms of silken tofu chopped into small cubes
  • 2 teaspoon corn flour
  • Handful of fresh coriander chopped for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp Tamari soya sauce (gluten free)
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp spiced black rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

How much will I make?

2 large hearty bowls

How do I make it?

Heat a pan with the oil in it.   Saute the minced garlic and ginger for thirty seconds before adding the chopped onions, green peppers and green chillies.   Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes (do not brown) and then add the remaining vegetables keeping the tofu aside.   Sprinkle the white pepper powder and add the stock cubes with a litre of water.   Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.   Add the soya sauce and vinegar and adjust the seasoning if necessary.   Dissolve the corn flour in a little bit of water and add to the soup.   Allow the soup to thicken a bit before switching off the heat.   To serve, place some of the tofu in a bowl – pour the hot soup over it and garnish with fresh chopped coriander.

 

Stuffed portabello mushrooms

We normally cook portabello mushrooms on the barbecue in the summer as a vegetarian alternative.   We love mushrooms and could not pass up the offer on some large portabello mushrooms on a recent shopping trip.   We also had some gluten free bread in the fridge and used the crusty end pieces to make a tasty bread crumb stuffing.   We can’t wait for the summer to try this dish on the barbecue.

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What do I need to make it?

 

  • 3 large portabello mushrooms (skin peeled)
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

How much will I make?

3 mushrooms

How do I make it?

Roughly chop the garlic, onion and parsley and place in a mixer with the crusty bread slices.    Blend to a coarse mixture and season with salt and pepper.   Place a couple of heaped tablespoons of the stuffing on top of the mushrooms, drizzle a little olive oil and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes or till done.  Enjoy hot.

Moroccan flavoured corn cous cous upma

With the kids on half term break a couple of weeks back we have not managed to post any recipes.   The weather also appears to have turned for the better after a couple of months of incessant rain – thus allowing us to begin cleaning our backyard and prepare it for some vegetables and herbs.   We posted a recipe for a gluten free alternative to semolina upma using corn cous cous – we made it again and this time decided to add a teaspoon of Ras al-Hanout powder, a teaspoon of harissa paste and a preserved lemon which was coarsely chopped (added after the onions were sauteed and cooked for a couple of minutes to ensure the raw smell of the spice mix disappears).   The flavours worked beautifully and the addition of the preserved lemons added a new dimension to the upma.   We are now inspired to experiment with other ethnic flavours to make our upma more interesting.

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Related links:

Corn cous cous upma

Potato, cauliflower and peas subji

Potatoes work really well with aubergines and they are an equal delight with cauliflower and peas.   This is a fairly simple recipe which we pulled together and experimented a bit with a dry Gujurati dahl masala powder to season the dish.   If the powder is not readily available then substitute with 1 tsp coriander power, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp red chili powder and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 6 medium potatoes – peeled and quartered
  • Half a head of a small cauliflower – cut into florets
  • 1 cup of fresh peas
  • 1 tsp pan puran (Bengali mix of mustard, cumin, nigella, fenugreek and fennel seeds).  This should be available in most Asian grocery stores – we have also seen it in the Waitrose spice section)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger minced
  • 2 tsp Gujurati dahl masala powder (bought from an Asian grocer)
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Par boil the vegetables and keep aside.   Heat a large pan with ghee and once hot add the pan puran.    Saute for 30 seconds before adding the ginger and garlic.   Continue sauteing over a medium heat till the ginger and garlic start to brown before adding the chopped onions.  Cook for 5-8 minutes and once onions start to turn colour, sprinkle the dahl masala, stir and add the par boiled vegetables.   Adjust the seasoning and cook for another 10 minutes till done.   Serve with Indian bread of choice or rice pilau.