The more I cook, perhaps the older I get (or is it tireder), the fewer ingredients I want to use in a dish. And the simpler the food I'm making, the more delicious it seems to be.This week it's been a case of taking a vegetable and using that as the starting point for a meal. A little more thinking has had to be applied rather than thoughtlessly going with the usual starchy suspects you reach for on a rapidly darkening Tuesday evening.As if dealing with the sad acceptance that we don't live in an endless Swallows and Amazons summer wasn't enough, now we have to start eating properly again. No more cream teas and cake for the evening meal. Out has gone the pasta, rice and potatoes that form so many daily meals, and in, the sad acceptance that we are no longer inhabiting our 20 year old bodies.But it need not be dull as we slip headlong into turnip season. We are still heavy with aubergines, broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes and sweetcorn among other things. The salads are fading, but my appetite is growing. And as we lose nearly two hours of daylight over September's delicate and gentle colour change, we can start to get bolder and deeper with flavours.This recipe is based on the gloriously named Pushpesh Pant's 'curried aubergine in coconut sauce', which he says is from India's 'coastal region'. So just a small area then. I've added saffron, almond flakes, green chillies and coriander to mine to pep things up a little.Rich and exciting, it's texture is indecently silky, as if Liberty's had opened a dodgy Soho alleyway silk scarf shop. We had it twice this week, the juices mopped up with spiced chickpea flatbreads. I've still got one more aubergine in the fridge from the veg box, so we haven't seen the last of this in our house.Ingredients1 medium-sized aubergine1tsp asafoetida1tsp chilli powder1/2tsp turmeric powder200-240ml coconut milkA sprinkle of flaked almondsA pinch of saffronA small green chilli, sliced thinlyCoriander leaves to garnishSalt and pepper to seasonGroundnut, rapeseed or vegetable oil to fry. And plenty of itMethodMix the spices together in a little dish or ramekin with enough water to make a fairly thick paste.Trim and slice the aubergine into discs roughly 1/2cm thickHeat the oil in a large sauté pan and fry the aubergine in a couple of batches until golden on each side, having seasoned with a generous hand. Set each batch aside on a plate until you have finished.Add the spice paste to the pan and fry for a second or two, stirring well so it breaks up a little. Add the coconut milk and mix well until the spices dissolve into it, giving it a golden amber colour and releasing its aromas.Gently add the aubergines back to the pan and simmer for a few minutes until heated through. Don't cook them for too long or they will collapse.Sprinkle with the green chilli, nuts, saffron and coriander, give a good twist of pepper and serve hot.
I'm writing this lying on the floor in the middle of a cheese coma. The sudden trauma of morning, getting the children ready for school and repeating 'brush your teeth' over and again until you become insensible is not a good way to start the day, even though one of them somehow and somewhy got dressed by itself this morning. I'm still suspicious of her motives, but she got telly with breakfast as a reward, and it hurried her brother along to join in, so I didn't question her.I've been meaning to make this dish for a couple of months, ever since we went to Chai Naasto in Beckenham where I had a tin pot full of it. Today seemed like the perfect time and just reward to compensate for the reality of the morning which was not, as I hoped, to have been gently woken from a peaceful and deep sleep by a string quartet and to have my valet bring me bed tea.This is fairly quick and very simple to make, but the noises that came from me as I took the first bite are best kept private. It's an indecent snack, and certainly an indecent breakfast. A good extra drizzle of chilli sauce over the cheese is welcome, and use the remaining half an onion, finely sliced with some chillies and coriander to serve as a little salad on the side to cut through the richness.Ingredients for four to six people as a snack500g cubed paneer. You can easily make your own, but buying it is even easier than that.For the sauce:3 cloves garlic, chopped1tbsp ginger purée1/2 a medium red onion, choppedA few green chillies, sliced2tbsp chilli sauce (I used Linghams)1tsp tomato purée1tbsp water1tsp ground Szechaun pepperFor the batter:2tbsp flour1tbsp cornflour1tbsp chilli powder1/2tsp cumin powder1/2tsp turmeric powder1tsp Garlic puréeWaterSalt and pepperRapeseed or peanut oil to frySliced spring onions, green chillies, a sprinkle of chaat masala and Coriander leaves to serve.Make the sauce by gently sautéing the garlic in a little oil then adding the onions, ginger, pepper and chillies. Cook for about three minutes then stir in the chilli sauce, tomato purée and water. Cook for another minute or two, and keep warm in the pan.Make the batter by mixing together the flours, spices, seasoning, garlic and enough water to a cream-like thickness. Leave it to rest for about 20 minutes while you wonder off and try to work out why the children have left mud all up the hallway wall.Toss the paneer cubes through the batter and deep-fry them in hot oil until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.Toss through the chilli sauce and serve with a sprinkle of chillies, spring onions and coriander.
There is a Roald Dahl short story whereby a wronged wife clonks her husband on the head with a frozen lamb leg and renders him dead.While I am no way advocating such action (there are many ways one can use a lamb leg), there is something about this particular joint of meat that lends itself to physical action. This recipe allows you to release all that anger, passion and pent up desire to be a mustachioed Turkish masseur that you didn't know you had.A slow-roast leg of lamb is a real pleasure, whether it be studded with rosemary, garlic and anchovy or covered in harissa. I love lamb curry in all it's guises, so here I've turned it into a Sunday roast which really should get the tastebuds going. If you're going to serve it for lunch, you'd better get up early though, but at least with the prep done the day before, you can go straight back to bed with the papers and let it do its thing.Ingredients1 lamb leg. Ask the lamb first1 large bunch of coriander1 clove of garlic1 small onion1 thumb of ginger3 hot green chillies, fewer if you can't stand the heat1tbsp ground cumin (as opposed to tree cumin)1tbsp ground corianderSalt and pepper to seasonMethodChop the ingredients a little first so you don't break your food processor when you blitz them all to a paste. Sometimes I find the coriander roots wrap themselves around the blade like a particularly nasty episode from the Boston strangler.Take your lamb leg and a sharp pointy knife then stab it all over with a questionable enthusiasm.Rub the coriander paste all over the leg, again with an enthusiasm that is perhaps best kept secret and let it marinade for a couple of hours, preferably overnight in the fridge.Heat the oven to 220c and put the lamb, on a roasting tray, inside.Cook for half an hour then turn the heat down to 120c and cook for about five hours. By this time, the lamb should be meltingly soft, falling from the bone and filling the kitchen with indecent aromas.If you don't polish the whole thing off there and then, it makes the best sandwiches the next day, warmed through with the juices oozing into the bread.
Potato has to be one of life's great comfort foods. And while I rail about the result versus the time and planning taken to bake a jacket potato to golden crunchy skin and a fluffy inside, there's no denying that slathered in butter, salt, pepper and melting Cheddar cheese, there's not much to rival it in the crawling under the duvet of food stakes.There are so many things you can do with the potato as we know, but here, because it's such a great absorber of flavour -think of the roast potatoes sucking up the juices from the meat at the end of Sunday lunch- I've used it in a curry. This goes a little beyond the quick spinach and potato saag aloo in that the spice mix is a lot more involved, it's a little saucier and the addition of tomatoes gives it a tangy and sweet richness.It's a dish I happily have on its own, but equally will go fantastically well as a side dish for a slow-roast spicy marinated lamb dish if you want a more exciting Sunday. It also makes a great dosa filling, and the chilli in this will certainly make for a more exciting breakfast. Perhaps a little too exciting, but it will certainly wake you up. And possibly ruin the day if you feed it to the children instead of egg on toast or porridge.Make the spice mix in advance and keep it in an airtight jar, then it's a matter of moments to put the dish together and leave it to simmer away for about 25 minutes to cook and thicken.IngredientsFor the spice mix:I used a combination of the following in fairly equal quantities, but you can adjust if you prefer it to have more or less heat, more aniseedy flavour and so on.SaltChilli powderGround turmericBlack mustard seedMango powderCardamonClovesFenugreek seedCuminCoriander seedFennel seedNigella seedCitric acidGarlic powderBlack pepperFor the curry:1kg Maris Piper potatoes, cut into smallish chunks150g cherry tomatoes4tbsp spice mixA few handfuls of spinachFresh coriander and sliced green chilli to serveMethodBlitz the ingredients for the spice mix into a powder. After you've blitzed it all, add some whole coriander, cumin, fennel and nigella seeds which give the finished dish an extra element of flavour.Put the potatoes, four tablespoons of spice mix and tomatoes in a large saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes are soft and the water has reduced by about half.Mash some of the potato into the liquid to thicken it and add the spinach.Stir well until the spinach has wilted, check the seasoning, add some coriander leaves and green chilli and serve. Easy.
I always get excited when I stumble across new ingredients. I'll try anything as long as it's not a joke or a dare. Or fugu. Or a still beating snake heart. Or a Ginster's pasty.The food that really captures my imagination and makes my appetite dance around with anticipation is Indian. The spices, the variety, the flavours, the smells, the occasional cartoon version of me with steam coming out of my ears all get me going.If I go too long without some form of Indian food, my curry levels drop and I need treatment. That just doesn't happen with any other cuisine for me. As much as I love rich, subtle and elegantly robust French food and the beautiful simplicity of Italian food, it's just not the same level of wonder.I made one of my regular, but too infrequent trips to Tooting last week to seek inspiration and hopefully a green chilli pakora or two from Ambala if I timed it right. (They're at their best straight from the fryer, before they've had time to sit around and lose their enthusiasm). I didn't time it right, they didn't open for another hour. Instead, I managed a spicy container of chickpea chaat failing dismally at pretending I was walking through the street-food markets of Mumbai on a cold January London morning.My favourite shop since the much missed Dadu's mysteriously closed down is now V&B, not too far down the traffic-filled road. As I was loading the trolley with things I had no idea about, and vegetables I photographed the names of to Google when I got home, I found a packet of 'Punjabi wadi'. The word wadi looked similar to 'vadi' to me -you'll be impressed at my deduction there- which are one of my favourite snacks, so in they went. (There is a recipe here). These dried lentil dumplings turned out to be a popular Punjabi ingredient, which should come as no surprise to the sharper among you.The packet instructions suggested cooking them in a tomato based sauce and that's exactly what I did. I followed the instructions and even looked up on the internet what they are supposed to look and taste like and what texture they are supposed to be. I got everything right. I'll not be making them again.These are from an extensively vegetarian cuisine, but I'd rather have ande ki sabji, the tomato and egg dish, or chana masala. They are equally quick to make, and you're quite likely to already have the ingredients in the cupboard. If you're vegan though, these may be a winner. The sauce was delicious, the accompaniments and flavours all tasty. I just couldn't get along with the texture. Almost meaty, quite substantial, but a little reminiscent of compacted damp cardboard. Perhaps my mind can be changed if ever I'm in Amristar, but it won't be my life's mission.You can buy these online if you want to try them, but if I've not filled you with excitement and ambition, use the sauce base for an aaloo egg curry. I'd recommend trying the radish pods (mogri) if you can get hold of them, they were simple, tasty and fun. And I bought the sarson ka saag ready-made. It's a dish I love, but can be tricky to get the right leaves.Ingredients for two100g Punjabi wadi1tsp cumin seeds1tsp black mustard seeds1/2 thumb of grated ginger1/2tsp ground turmeric1tsp chilli powder250g chopped tomatoes1tbsp palm sugar/jaggery250ml waterRapeseed oilA few green chilliesSaltFor the mogri masalaA couple of handfuls of mogri1/2tsp mustard seedsSmall pinch asafoetida1 green chilli1tsp ground corianderRapeseed oilSaltFor the sarson ka sagBuy a tinMethodMake the tomato sauce by heating the oil in a heavy saucepan then adding the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the remaining spices, cook for thirty seconds on a low heat then add the ginger and wadi then cook for a further minute.Add the tomatoes and water and simmer away for ten minutes. Slice the green chillies and throw in the pan toward the end of cooking.Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan for the mogri and add the oil and mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the remaining ingredients and toss around the pan for a couple of minutes until they've cooked a little but are still crunchy.Warm the sarson ka saag and serve everything together.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. And while this is not pudding and I have nothing to prove, the only way you're going to understand how delicious this dish is, is by making and eating it. I urge you to do this as soon as you can.Read More