Saturday 17 February 2007

Thai Red Chicken and Bamboo Shoot Curry... slightly improvised

I didn't have all the ingredients necessary for this, so a little improvisation was necessary. I could have just used one of the few Thai Red Curry pastes available in Sainsbury's, but that seemed like cheating, and after reading that people in Thailand will probably make a different Curry Paste every day, I thought that maybe a little variance over the recipes I had read would at least make it authentically mine, if not authentically Thai.

The main missing ingredients were the Fermented Shrimp Paste, Kaffir Lime and Palm Sugar, plus one or two recipes talked about putting Sweet Basil in there, but I couldn't even find any Fresh Basil, let alone Fresh Sweet Basil, so that was also left out. It was still very tasty, and nice and hot (good for the metabolism apparently), and with leftover Curry Paste in case my sister fancies cooking it again in the next month, although I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Once again, photography was courtesy of my sister's excellent camera, although, as she was too busy fighting with her computer, I took the photos, so they're not quite the same quality than had she taken them for me.

Recipe for the Red Curry Paste

  • About 45 Dried Red Chillies, seeds and all
  • 2 sticks of Lemon Grass, chopped fine
  • 8 cloves of Garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon Galanga
  • 1 tablespoon of Fish Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • Quarter teaspoon of Ground Turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Coriander Stalks, chopped fine (should be roots, but a couple of recipes mentioned that you could get away with the white part of the stalks, so in they went).
  • 1 tablespoon Coriander Seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds, toasted
  • 5 White Pepper Corns, toasted and crushed
  • Zest of a Lime (preferably a Kaffir Lime)

Put all the above ingredients into a blender, and blend to a paste. If too dry, add a little water. Looking at the quantity made, I'd say you could probably get 2 curries out of this, or a pretty large one. Ideally, there should have been 1-2 teaspoons of Fermented Shrimp Paste in this, but again, I didn't have any.

Recipe for the Curry (served 2)

  • 375g Chicken Breast, cubed
  • 2 heaped tablespoons Red Curry Paste
  • 1 can of Coconut Milk
  • 1 small can Bamboo Shoots
  • 1 Red Pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar (should have been Palm Sugar)
  • Zest of a Lime

Put a little oil in a large pan and fry the Curry Paste for about a minute, then add half the Coconut Milk and bring to the boil, mixing the Paste into it. Some oil will probably form on the top which you can skim off and discard. Then add the Chicken and cook for about 5 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients and the rest of the Coconut. Continue to cook on a high simmer until everything is cooked and the sauce has reduced to your liking. Served with Thai Jasmin Rice.

I definitely need to spend some time getting more of the correct ingredients before trying this again, but it was still a pretty good success (there were no leftovers, other than the spare Curry Paste, enough to make the same meal again). Also, if you have the Curry Paste prepared beforehand, it's fairly quick to make.

Sesame Fish Balls

As I already had all that groundnut oil from deep-frying the Potato and Pea Pasties I decided to try out this tasty looking fish ball recipe. It was very cheap to make as I just used odd shaped Pollock fillets as it's all getting blended anyway. Really quick to make too.

My sister reckoned they would taste even better with some sweet chilli sauce, but we didn't have any, and by then I was busy with the Thai Red Curry and so didn't get around to making any. Definitely a tasty snack, hot or cold, but should be eaten the same night as otherwise they're likely to go soft, although they taste fine the next day, they're nothing like as nice.

Recipe for the Sesame Fish Balls

  • 250g White Fish Fillets
  • 2 cups Breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Plain Yoghurt
  • 1 clove of Garlic, crushed
  • 1 small Red Onion
  • 2 tablespoons of Fresh Coriander, finely chopped
  • Half to 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • Half to 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
  • 2 Large Eggs, white and yolk separated
  • Quarter cup Sesame Seeds

Cook the fish, either by steaming or microwaving. Then throw into a blender and blend until finely chopped, but not a paste. Then in a bowl, mix the fish, 1 and a half cups of the Breadcrumbs, and all the other ingredients except the Egg Whites and Sesame Seeds. Once thoroughly mixed, with wet hands, form into small balls. You should get about 20-24 from this size batch.

Lightly whisky the Egg Whites in one bowl, mix together the rest of the Breadcrumbs and Sesame Seeds in another bowl, the coat each Fish Ball in first the egg white, then the Breadcrumb and Sesame Seed mix so that they are well coated. You should then deep fry them in hot oil for about a minute or two, until they're golden brown.

Thursday 15 February 2007

Welsh Cakes, and it's not even St David's Day

Since yesterday, Joseph has been nagging about making Welsh Cakes, but yesterday's fare took too long to start thinking about that. So, I made a deal that if we made them today, he would have to eat the fish ball things I was planning for later that day in return. Seemed like a good exchange to me. Also, it meant that I had a little helper to rub the flour and butter together so that I could carry on with working while Joseph got it to a breadcrumb texture.

Not having all the correct equipment to make these stove cakes was not a great problem. We used an empty wine bottle as a rolling bin (as was used yesterday for the pastie dough), glass to cut them out, and a big cast iron pan to cook them in, and so, presentation isn't perhaps their strong point, but they still came out better than the Welsh Rugby Team did against Scotland last weekend. Also, Sally was still at work, so I had to struggle with the photography myself.

Recipe for Welsh Cakes
  • 220g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g Butter
  • 75g Granulated Sugar (should probably have been caster sugar, but this was what I could find)
  • Handful of Sultanas
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 teaspoon of Mixed Spice

First, you need to rub the Butter into the Flour using your fingertips until it is the texture of breadcrumbs. Next add the Sugar, Sultanas and Mixed Spice and mix them altogether. Then add the egg and form into a slightly sticky dough. You can add a little milk if it is too dry, but I never need it.

Now just roll out the dough so that it's about 5mm thick and cut into circles of about 10cm in diameter. The pan should not be too hot and only lightly greased with a little butter before cooking the cakes. They should take a few minutes each side then can be served right away, the fresher the better.

Chicken Korma and Red Lentil Dahl

Two firsts for me. Making something with lentils and making something with coconut milk. But I knew my nephew liked dahl - even though when he saw me opening the lentils, he said "errgh, I don't like lentils", then correcting himself when he realised they were the main ingredient - so I thought that I should probably make the curry a little milder than I would normally go for. Whenever I've had real korma, it's never been that sweet and often sickly dish you tend to find at Indian restaurants in the UK, and often quite spicy, but I kept the amount of chilli down, so that Joseph would probably eat it without complaint. As it was, the Pea and Potato Pasties were more spicy than the curry, and he ate more of them than anything else.

Photography was once again supplied by my sister, although when she got around to capturing the main course, her thoughts were definitely drifting to eating it before it got cold than, than taking a huge number of photos, so there were considerably less of the curry shots to choose from.

Recipe to Marinate the Chicken

  • 600g Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 4-5 tablespoons Natural Yoghurt
  • 5cm piece of Root Ginger, finely grated

In a bowl, mix the Chicken pieces in the Yoghurt and grated Ginger, cover, then keep in the fridge for 3-4 hours (or even overnight).

Recipe for the Curry Paste

  • 2-3 Red Chillies, seeded
  • 1 Medium Onion, chopped roughly
  • 4 cloves of Garlic, chopped roughly

Throw all the ingredients into the blender and blend to a fine paste, adding a little water if too dry. Keep to one side for the meantime.

I would probably use some hotter green chillies if I weren't making it with my nephew in mind.

Recipe for the Korma Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced finely
  • 1 tablespoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • Half teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Half teaspoon Salt
  • Half cup of Hot Water
  • 1 can of Coconut Milk
  • 2 tablespoons Almonds, chopped
  • Handful Fresh Coriander, chopped
  • Juice of half a Lemon

Put some vegetable oil in large, heavy pan and fry the Onion until golden and then remove from the pan and put to one side. Add some more oil, then when hot, add the spices and stir around for about a minute. Then add the chicken pieces and marinade, stir into the spices and cook for about 10 minutes. Next add the paste, stir in and cook for about another 10 minutes.

Now pour in the Hot Water which should help de-glaze the pan a little, and then add the Coconut Milk and stir the ingredients together along with the fried onions and salt. Bring the pan to a simmer, cover and leave to cook for about another 40 minutes until the sauce has reduced to a thick gravy.

Put the Almonds into a blender and whizz about for a few seconds so they're finely chopped, but not a paste, a bit like large breadcrumbs. Stir these into the curry along with the Fresh Coriander and lemon juice, you're ready to serve.

The Korma came out lovely, but the rice, for the first time in my life, all stuck together. Maybe it's because I didn't have my nice caste iron pan to make it in. Would've been perfect if we were making sushi. Also, I'm not sure I was happy with the Dahl as it was a bit dark and a bit bland, although Sally said she thought it was OK and no complaints from Joseph. I didn't have my notebook with me that contained Sandra's recipe, which I had intended to try out, so I had to improvise using a few I found on the web. Once I've had another crack at this one, I'll publish the recipe.

Wednesday 14 February 2007

Waiter, there's something in my ... Spicy Potato and Pea Pasties

There's something about the "who's eaten all the pies" expression which somehow puts me off making and eating pies. Plus the total lack of space or equipment to properly make a pie. However, for a few days this week, I'm looking after my nephew at my sister's place, and she's got a much bigger kitchen, gas hobs and more pots and pans. Plus she likes having food on the table when she returns from work. Still, she's not a big pie eater either, so I figured I'd have to do some mini pasties or something along those lines, so that the quantity of pasty didn't seem so great. These deep-fried, potato and pea pasties seemed to fit the bill, and made a good starter, but would also make excellent finger food.

There is also the added bonus that my sister has two cameras that are better than mine, and is a professional photographer, so I could utilise not just her kitchen, but her photographic skills, even if she's more accustomed to portraits than food photography. Even without using her tripod, she takes a much better photo than I do, so well worth getting her to completely take over the photo duties (hence the number of pictures as I'm lucky to get a couple which I like when I'm doing the photos).

Sandra, the original source of my Lamb Meatball Curry, has lent me a book of easy curry recipes, and one which caught my attention was one for Potato and Pea Pasties (well, they call them Potato and Pea Pastries, but they look like pasties to me, even if they are deep-fried). The recipe looked simple enough, although, once again, wasn't made totally to the letter.

Recipe for the Pastry
  • 1.5 cups Plain Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • A quarter cup Water
Sift the flour into a bowl, then make a well in the middle and add the oil and water, mixing, then kneading to make a firm but slightly elastic and smooth dough. You may need a little extra oil or water, but add early in the process, and only very small quantities. Cover the dough and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour.

Recipe for the Filling
  • 1-1.5 Baking Potatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 cup Peas or Petis Pois
  • 2 tablespoons Currants
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • Half teaspoon Hot Chili Powder or Cayenne Pepper
  • Half teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • Juice of half a Lemon
  • 1 tablespoon Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce (omit if cooking for vegetarians)
  • Groundnut Oil for deep frying

Boil the cubed Potato until softening, then drain, put in a bowl and mix with the Peas, Currants, Cumin, Chili Powder, Cinnamon and Fresh Coriander. Then add the Lemon Juice and Light Soy Sauce and stir in so as not to bread any ingredients up, but ensure that all the spices have evenly covered the other ingredients.

It's probably best to divide the dough into two before rolling it out on a well floured surface. The dough should be quite elastic without breaking so that you can get it just over a millimetre thick. Then use a circular pastry cutter, or other round implement (a bowl with the assistance of a knife in my case) to cut circular pieces of about 10cm in diameter. Spoon about a heaped tablespoon of the filling in the centre of each round, and fold in half, using a fork to seal the edges. You should be able to make about 20 or so from the above ingredients.

Next, they need to be deep-fried in batches in the hot oil, turning occasionally, until they turn golden brown. Then transfer to some kitchen towel to drain off the excess oil.

They tasted good hot and cold. Slightly spicy, but with the slight tang of the citrus from the lemon juice. My nephew loved them and probably ate more than he did of the rest of the dinner. My sister will be taking the leftovers in her packed lunch tomorrow.

Friday 9 February 2007

Chilli Con Carne (Cure for Cold Symptoms)

It's been really cold this week, even a little snow yesterday (no way was it the worst in 10 years, at least, not in London), and I've developed a nasty cold. So as a result, something nice and spicy to clear up the sinuses was required. Chili was one of the first things I learnt to cook on an Aga, at the time, utilising a recipe from the "Good Housekeeping" Aga Cookbook (well, the previous edition, anyway). Back then, I didn't tend to mess around much with recipes as I didn't really have the confidence to experiment with slight variations. But, since then, having to cook it in various people's houses with different cooking resources and ingredients available, I have developed my recipe a little more. The most important thing for this one was that it was hot, but not so that it was inedible, but also to include an idea or two from my good friend, Brett's, recipe. I lived with Brett for a few years, and his cooking was always great, so well worth stealing ideas from.

Recipe for Chilli Con Carne (serves 4)

  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 454g/1lb Lean Minced Beef
  • 1 Large Onion, chopped
  • 1 Small Red Onion, chopped
  • 2 Ribs of Celery
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
  • 3 Hot Chillies (Red, Green or both)
  • 1 Green Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Yellow Pepper, chopped (optional, but added for a little more colour)
  • 2 tablespoons Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 2 Beef Stock Cubes
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons Concentrated Tomato Puree
  • 1 tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 cup of Water
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • A piece or two of Cassia Bark
  • 1-2 tins Kidney Beans (depending on how many beans you like in it)
  • 2 chunks of Lindt 70% Cocoa (or higher) Chocolate
Heat the oil in a heavy pan and saute the Onion, Chilli, Celery, Garlic and Pepper until they are nicely softened (10 minutes or so), then add the Beef, and cook until browned all over. Next, add the dried spices, although maybe leave out the Cayenne Pepper so that you can add to taste slightly later on in the cooking process. Mix well, then add the Tomato Puree, Chopped Tomatoes and Worcestershire Sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the Cassia Bark and Bay Leaves, then cover and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

At this point, you should taste it and decide whether you want to add more Cayenne Pepper, Hot Chilli Powder or Cumin. Personally, I find the stock cubes can add enough salt, but add more at this point if there is not enough for you.

Simmer for a further 30 minutes, then remove the Cassia Bark and Bay Leaves and add the kidney beans. These days, I try and have 2 tins of Kidney Beans to hand when cooking Chilli, although not everyone likes to have lots of them, but I tend to judge whether the second tin is needed based on what it looks like once I've added the first. At this point, you should stir in the Chocolate until it is melted and mixed in, and then simmer for a further 30 minutes.

During cooking, add some of the water if it is drying out too much or if it begins to stick to the bottom on the pan.

I always tend to serve the Chilli with Basmati Rice on the day I make it, but I'm usually hoping that there is enough leftovers to have on a Jacket Potato the following day.
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