Monday, 27 June 2011

Indian Lime Chutney

I thought I loved curries best during the winter months - with frozen breath floating over icy pavements, the need to rush home for something hot and spicy, rich and filling seemed to provoke a lot of curry cooking. Then spring came and I became quite sure that I loved curries best during the spring months - mild days with cold evenings, lighter nights but still a need for food that warms your bones from the inside out. But now it is summer, and despite a dearth of hot, hazy summer nights, the urge to linger over spicy food on a warm clammy evening is definitely with me.

Like cooking a Mexican menu, Indian meals in particular benefit from a plethora of side dishes: parathas; nan; scented rice; dhal; raita; poppadoms; and the ubiquitous chutney.

Lately I have become completely addicted to the hot and sour flavours of Indian Lime pickle. It introduces a sharp note to a mild creamy curry, adds a tangy heat dabbed into a paratha with spiced mackeral or adds balance simply served on the side of barbecued chicken or fish.

Many versions abound the internet, most taking weeks to age before they can be eaten (I do have one such version sitting maturing in a cupboard but I was too impatient to stop there so needed to find a flavourful but far more speedy version.) This is based on a chutney recipe but has no sugar to sweeten the end result leaving the most perfectly sour and spicy condiment.

Indian Lime Pickle

300 g of chillies (green or red or mixed)
1 kg limes
200 g grated fresh ginger
1 large bulb fresh garlic, peeled
5 or 6 curry leaves, shredded
900ml white vinegar
2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp mustard seed
1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
500ml rapeseed (or veg)  oil
5 Tbsp rapeseed (or veg) oil

Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a large frying pan until hot.
Sauté the limes turning them over and over until their skins are a golden brown.
Cut the limes into about 6 thick slices and then half the slices.
Add 2 Tbsp of oil to a blender with the chillis, peeled garlic, grated ginger and curry leaves. Blend to a paste
Heat the remaining oil in a pan until hot. Add mustard and fenugreek and warm till the seeds are toasted and start to pop.
Add the chilli paste, stir and cook gently for 15 minutes.
Add the turmeric, lime and vinegar and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Cook for a further 10 minutes...  to reduce and thicken
Put the pickle into sterilised jars then cover with any remaining liquid. Seal and leave for a couple of weeks, if you can bear to - if not open immediately and serve.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Maple Syrup Granola

Ooh home-made breakfast cereal... I feel a little goddess-like, even though I went about it the speedy cheat's way. Granola recipes usually contain such a huge list of ingredients that I am put off even trying them. So, to circumvent a little of the shopping and organisation, I bought a nice high-end muesli to use as a base and then added a big bunch of whatever I had in my cupboards and oh my goodness, it is amazing. We have been eating it by the handful in place of popcorn, over vanilla yogurt as an after school snack and
covered in milk as, well, breakfast cereal.

This is a list of what I had in my cupboard but I think you can feel free to throw in any combination of dried fruit, nuts, cereals and seeds without any problems. Be careful with your oven temperature as any fruit mixed into your muesli may burn in the heat so keep it low and check it often. It should keep for a few weeks in an airtight container but in my house, there is no chance of it lasting nearly so long.

Maple Syrup Granola
200g rolled oats
300g luxury museli (I used a tropical mix)
50g wheatbran
200g mixed seeds (whatever you have - I used a mix of sesame, linseed, pumpkin, sunflower)
200g mixed nuts (whatever you have - I used hazelnuts and almonds)
2tsp ground ginger
2tsp ground cinnamon
4tbsp honey
4tbsp maple syrup
100g brown sugar
100g raisins, sultanas or dried cranberries

Mix everything together except the raisins in a very large mixing bowl. It is easiest to use your hands but you will end up very sticky!
Scatter across a large baking sheet and bake at around 130C for 20-40 minutes. Keep checking to make sure the fruit does not burn or go crispy and turn the granola over about half way through the cooking time.
When golden and aromatic, remove from the oven and allow to cool, add the raisins or other soft fruit then decant into an airtight jar or container.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Blueberry & Apple Crumble Muffins

You've gotta love America - their ability to take two lovely meals and throw them together willy nilly and create a whole new food opportunity in our day.... I love to eat brunch; the only meal where you are actively encouraged to eat bacon and eggs, cakes and muffins and cocktails and champagne all at one meal.

This is definitely a breakfast muffin, more than a cake&coffee muffin with its mix of sharp green apples and blueberries. The recipe was adapted from my favourite cookbook ever - Ottolenghi.

Scanning a table of treats, and piling on a mixture of fresh fruit, spinach & pancetta strata (recipe to follow soon), and grilled tomatoes and (hoorah) finding coffee cake, blueberry muffins and nutty bran breakfast muffins alongside is just the best way to start your day. ideally served with a glass of bucks fizz.

Blueberry & Apple Crumble Muffins
540g plain flour
4tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
350g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
140g melted butter
380ml milk
2 apples, peeled & diced
200g blueberries

for the crumble topping
150g plain flour
50g caster sugar
100g butter

Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 3 and line a muffin tin with paper cases.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate, salt and sugar.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter and milk, then stir in the fruit.
Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and mix lightly together, do not over mix or the batter becomes heavy.
Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the batter into each paper case until quite full.
Cover with lots of crumble topping, enough to form a small mound over the cake batter.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Seafood curry with coconut, lime and curry leaves

Too long a break from food writing has left me with a backlog of recipes as long as a Nigella Lawson cookbook, all needing photographed and written up. So many of my experiments this year have been influenced by a visit to Thailand earlier this year, and I am loving getting to grips with a vast array of complex curry flavours and spices.

Another spring curry, chilli-hot and lime-sour, warming against the incredibly changable weather but light and healthy. The spices are freshly ground, and richly aromatic, the sauce is incredibly moreish and the end result tastes authentic and makes your kitchen smell like a Thai street market (in a good way).

This is based on another Skye Gyngell recipe, and what sounds like a lengthy list of ingredients can actually be found in many corner shops these days, (even our wee local village store) and takes no more time to prepare than an average stir fry. Anyone you feed this to will be bowled over by the flavour: this is probably the most beautiful curry I have ever made.

Seafood Curry with Coconut, Lime and Curry Leaves

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
large bunch of coriander, stems chopped and leaves reserved
3 garlic cloves, crushed with a pinch of salt
2 red chillies, chopped (seeds kept)
10 fresh curry leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves
juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp palm sugar
2 x 340g tinned plum tomatoes
800g large prawns
400ml tin coconut milk

In a heavy based saucepan, melt the butter then add the onions.
Cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes.
In a separate small frying pan, dry roast the mustard, fennel and coriander seeds gently till they become aromatic. Check to make sure that you do not over roast otherwise this will give the curry a bitter taste. Remove from heat, and while still warm, grind to a rough powder in a mortar and pestle.
Add the spices to the onions along with most of the chopped coriander, garlic, chillies and curry leaves.
Tear the kaffir lime leaves into pieces and add to the pan.
Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar, stir and turn up the heat a little. Add the tomatoes and cook for around 15 minutes.
Taste the sauce, add more lime, sugar or fish sauce if needed to adjust to taste. To finish, stir in the coconut milk and then add the prawns. Bring to the boil, cook for 3-4 minutes until the prawns are pink. Sprinkle with reserved coriander and serve with flatbreads or over rice.