Rabbit Chana Masala Curry

IMG_0152Ingredients:

  • 1 rabbit, skinned, jointed, fried and meat taken off the bone.
  • 1 tin of chick peas
  • 1 large onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumb size price of ginger
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 3 cardamon pods
  • 2 tsps ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp mango powder (amchor)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 tblsps natural yoghurt
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • Salt

Method:
Fry the mustard seeds and cardamon for a few mins until mustard seeds are popping
Fry the onion.
Make a paste from the ginger, garlic and fresh coriander and add to the frying onion
Add the rest of the powdered spices and salt and fry for a few mins
Add the yoghurt, tomatoes and tomato purée
Add the rabbit and chick peas and simmer for 30-45 mins
Served here with corn tortillas garnished with more fresh coriander

IMG_0150

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Chicken Curry with Beetroot and Tamarind

Chicken Curry with Tamarind and Beetroot

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium onions (approx 200g)
  • 8 cloves garlic (approx 30g)
  • Thumb size piece of ginger (approx 30g)
  • 5 Chicken drumsticks (approx 500g)
  • Cubed fresh Beetroot (approx 250g)
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 3 one inch pieces cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 3 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
  • 3 red Kashmiri chillies or 2 green chillies
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 400 ml chicken stock
  • Fresh coriander to garnish

Method:
Fry the whole spices (cardamon, cinnamon and fenugreek) for a couple of minutes in hot oil until they release their aromas.
Add the onion, ginger and garlic and fry until soft (low-medium heat).
Add the rest of the spices and chillies and fry for about a minute (being careful they don’t stick).
Add the chicken and fry in the spices for a few minutes.
Add the chicken stock and the beetroot and tamarind, and simmer partially covered on low for minimum 45 mins until sauce has reached desired consistency .
Garnish with fresh coriander and serve.

Chicken Curry with Beetroot and Tamarind

A Controversial Kleftico (and it’s illegitimate offspring)

Controversial Kleftico, cooked with Oxtail...

It was a cold and stormy Winter’s night..… OK, it wasn’t. It was actually  an annoyingly rainy and depressingly premature Autumn morning. I was going out to a gig for pretty much the whole day. Luckily though, I’d cunningly foreseen the situation of getting home hungry, wet and weary that evening, so I’d taken the Oxtail that I had in the freezer out to thaw, the night before. My initial intent was to make a curry in the slow cooker, leaving it to cook all day while I was out. However, while flicking through some food photos from my Facebook food group “Foodbook Photos” I came across the Kleftico I made a while ago from a very simple authentic family recipe given to me by a Greek friend. Since it involved rather less preparation than the curry, I settled on the idea of trying to make the Kleftico with the oxtail.

Now I’m aware that proper Kleftico is a lamb dish, and also that there are many variation’s on the recipe, so maybe what I was about to make couldn’t really be called Kleftico (indeed, I had a couple of people on Twitter saying as much), and also that it is made in a conventional oven rather than a slow cooker.
So what I should really call my dish maybe is Greek style oxtail casserole…..? Whatever…!! But it was very nice.

Here’s what I did:

Firstly I set out my oxtail in preparation. It was already chopped into handy chunks:

 

The Oxtail

 

I then sliced up a couple of large onions:

 

Slice the onions

 

And halved some sweet vine ripened tomatoes:

 

Tomatoes

 

I then browned the oxtail off in a frying pan, since it would be going into the slow cooker instead of an oven:

 

Brown the oxtail

 

Next I selected a handful of choice bay leaves:

 

Bay leaves

 

I then layered the onions and the oxtail in the slowcooker:

 

Layer the onions in the pot, and put the oxtail on top

 

To make the cooking liquid I dissolved a tablespoon of tomato puree and some salt in some hot water:

 

Cooking liquid

 

Then arranged the bayleaves and tomatoes in with the oxtail, and poured the liquid into the pot:

 

Arrange everything in the pot

 

Lid went on and I went out for the day:

 

Lid on, me out

 

When I came back, approximately 8 hours later everything seemed to have cooked down nicely:

 

After 8 hours

 

I then gently stirred it, being careful not to break up the oxtail, but making sure to mix the onions up from the bottom:

 

Stirring gently

 

Lid then went back on for another hour or so, then it would be ready for serving.
Before serving it however, I carefully spooned some of the loose fat away that had settled on the top, so it wouldn’t be so rich:

 

Skim off some fat

 

I then squeezed in plenty of lemon juice:

 

Squeeze in plenty of lemon

 

..and served out simply with some mash potato:

 

Serve with mash

 

The flavour was rich, beefy and warming, with that very particular piquancy that you get when mixing tomatoes with lemon (which I also think you get in Madras curries).

Now for the offspring: I had a lot of the stocky cooking liquid left and also quite a lot of meat. So the next day I separated the meat from the bones, and made an oxtail and beetroot curry, simmered in a little of the stock, and served it with with a dhal and vegetable sambar curry and a peas and mushroom saffron pullao.
The leftover meat was rich and gelatinous and was fairly fantastic with the beetroot:

 

Beef and beetroot curry, with a dhal and vegetable sambar curry and a peas and mushroom saffron pullao.

 

…and finally, the next day, I still had quite a lot of stock leftover, so I used it to make a Chilli Con Carne made with smoked chipotle paste, dried homegrown red chillies and Tabasco and served it with corn tortillas. It was quite spectacular, and was easily the best Chilli I’ve ever made…. all down to the rich stock I’m convinced.

 

Chilli made with the last of the oxtail stock, smoked chipotle paste, dried homegrown red chillies and tobasco. Served with corn tortillas.

 

…and the moral of this story is, always buy oxtail, and never listen to pedants 🙂

A bit of holiday cooking (and reading)

Roasted perch and tomatoes served with bread

I do like to read.

So when the opportunity came up to visit my parents, brother, sister, brother in law and niece and nephew at a nice villa in the South of France (Languedoc) the other week I jumped at the chance.
The idea was that while not contributing to the holiday per se, I would cook for everyone, thus saving money overall on the inevitable meals out and takeaways which would have otherwise drained the financial resources.

The problem with reading for me is that, doing what I do, there are really no set hours for work and relaxation as such.
This last year and a half or so, I seem to have been touring rather a lot (Us3, Jim Mullen, Marlena Shaw, Mica Paris, Boy George – each different band presents a different dynamic as to convenient reading opportunities) and although, as you can imagine, there is sometimes a lot of sitting around, I tend not to get through too many books on the road, the main inhibiting factors being (not necessarily in this order):

  • Alcohol – although a couple of drinks sometimes enhance my enjoyment of a book, one too many and I can’t remember what I’ve read when sobered up.
  • Travel –  I can’t read in a car or a minibus, and although it is possible to read on the tourbus, there’s too often distracting activity like DVD watching, animated conversation or the aforementioned  alcohol in commencement at any one time.
  • Noise – A lot of sitting around can occur in soundchecks, but have you ever tried to read with a bass drum or tom tom being played repetitively at high volume through a large PA for the purposes of equalization?
  • Cabin fever – I tend to find it difficult to read for prolonged periods when confined to a small space like a hotel room.
  • Unsettlement – At airports waiting for the gate number to appear, one is always looking up at the screen in the waiting lounge, thus providing an unwelcome break in concentration.
  • Unsocial flight times – A fair amount of flights that we take are often very early in the morning, so while reading on the plane is an option, I’m more likely to want to sleep if possible.

And when at home I equate reading with not doing something constructive (not quite true I know), so I’m much more likely to get to work in the studio or at the piano.
I can get really into reading first thing in the morning (a couple of years ago I got through quite a few Iris Murdoch books just this way), but it does tend blunt my concentration for a couple of hours afterwards, as well as taking up half the day so I rarely do this anymore.

SO when the opportunity came up to go on the holiday, the first thing I did was get the books I wanted to read. Last year I did the same thing, but took the wrong book (I took Crime and Punishment – and while I enjoyed reading the book as a whole, I remember being aware that it didn’t necessarily equate to my idea of relaxing by the pool with a beer)

I took 3 books with me this time:

  • To Kill A Mockingbird – we read this at school I’m sure, but like a lot of things at school, I didn’t invest much attention or effort to it. Reading it again was a much more enjoyable experience.
  • The Life of Pi – couldn’t put this down. Very imaginative, humorous, informative, entertaining, and also lots of references to South Indian food – which is always a good thing.
  • The Poisonwood Bible – Am halfway through this at the moment. Thoroughly engrossing characterizations and fascinating historical perspective.

I also did a lot of cooking. The ingredients and produce available at even the most humble French supermarkets always has me fascinated and brimming with ideas (however, since most of the people I was cooking for were not nearly as wildly liberal or adventurous in taste as myself, I was unable to realize many of these ideas).

But I endeavored to make some nice grub anyhow.

Here’s what I cooked:

Sausage and cheese frittata

When I arrived on the Sunday, we discovered all the supermarkets were closed, so I had to rustle something up from what was in the villa already, and what we could acquire from a local service station shop. There was a box of 6 eggs in the villa along with some herbs, and olive oil, and not much else. The service station sold packs of luncheon meat style sausage, and some nice looking Cantal Juene cheese, which is a young cow’s milk cheese, firm in texture and fruity in flavour. I sliced and fried the sausage, drained the fat from the pan, put the sausage meat in once again and added the beaten eggs with some herbs and black pepper. My intention was to then add the grated cheese on top and brown under the grill to cook the top of the eggs and cheese. But… we then discovered that the grill would only operate with the oven door closed, and I didn’t want to commit the frying pan to this unrelenting heat, so I heated up the oven, then opened it and let the top of the frittata firm up in the residual heat. Not ideal, but did the job OK…. the result being a slightly guey cheese underside to the omelette, which was not at all unpleasant, though a bit messy to cut up…

The next day, we got to the supermarket and stocked up on supplies.

Chicken casserole cooked in white wine with green peppers, olives and bay

The meal that night was a simple but very tasty rustic chicken casserole cooked in white wine and stock, with sliced green peppers, olives, onions, garlic, bay and herbs. It was served with mash potatoes and steamed green beans:

Chicken casserole served with mash and beans

…and accompanied by bread with oil and balsemic vinegar (a constant companion to food that week):

Bread and oil with balsemic

The next morning I made another frittata, this time with sausage and sliced courgettes.
I put the courgettes on the bottom of the pan and the sausages on top, so it appeared like this in the pan:

Sausage and courgette frittata in the pan...

…and took on this lovely appearance when upended onto a plate:

Sausage and courgette frittata

Now before I go any further, I must admit that I did totally steal the idea for an upended courgette frittata from the wonderful blog “Lou Loves Food”  … which is packed with amazing photos and absorbing writing, and I can highly recommend it…. so thanks Lou.. 😉

That evening I decided on making some Indian food ….. yes I’m aware that may not be the most obvious option in the South of France, but my mind was made up as soon as I saw the beautiful mutton on offer in the supermarket. Mutton is a meat less than commonly available in the UK, and it rewards slow patient cooking with the most succulent and flavoursome dishes.

I bought some chopped shoulder (on the bone) pieces to make a curry with tomato and aubergine, and some ribs to make what is known as a “Bone Pepperwater”. This is a meat variation on the standard pepperwater (rasam) which is a soup consistency dish made with tomatoes, lemon, tamarind and spices.

The only problem with all this is that I was somewhat limited in the choice of spices available in the supermarket. I managed to get fresh garlic and ginger, and eventually found a premixed curry powder (not something I normally like to use) which seemed to have a good balance of coriander, cumin, tumeric, mustard and fenugreek in it.

The aubergine in the curry was cooked separately with onions, ginger and garlic (a trick I recently picked up off my mother) and added during the last 1/2 hour, which helps to preserve not only it’s texture, but flavour as well. The curry itself simmered slowly for 5 hours.

Mutton curry with aubergine and tomatoes

The bone pepperwater was made with some fresh vegetables (carrots and courgetttes), plenty of lemon and also some paprika, which I found in the villa. The mutton ribs do add the most amazing stocky earthy flavour to this dish, it must be said.

Mutton "Bone Pepperwater"

After the curry, I thought it would be a good idea to cook fish the next day both from a time and simplicity point of view.
The fish counter at the “Intermarche” was of course vastly superior to my local supermarket.
I eventually settled for some lovely fresh perch fillets, which I roasted on a bed of cherry tomatoes with balsamic  vinegar, bay and salt.
I gave the tomatoes a start of about 15-20 mins in an 180degC oven, then simply popped the perch fillets on top, cooked for a further 10 mins and it was done:

Perch fillets roasted on a bed of cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and bay..

There was not much need to serve this with anything else but that perennial king of juice mopper-uppers: fresh french bread:

Roasted perch and tomatoes served with bread

The next day was to be barbecue day. However, here I failed in my duty as a blogger and recorder of events since due to the distractions of reading, swimming, table tennis and drinking, I didn’t start the fire in time and so even though I made lots of food, the only picture I managed to take before it went dark was of some balsamic chilli prawns. (I have an iPhone so am unfortunately at the mercy of the light).
Just for the record though, I did also make salmon and courgette kebabs, aubergine and red pepper kebabs, 2 types of sausages and chicken in a Mexican marinade.

Prawns in a balsamic and chilli marinade

One advantage of being in the centre of wine producing country was that there was an abundance of vineyards with completely quaffable red wine on tap at an amazing price. (€1-€1.50 a litre).
Had I the time or opportunity I would have loved to avail myself of some of the delicious looking lambs hearts in the supermarket and braise them in red wine for hours until tender… This meal unfortunately would not have been very popular with the others:

Red wine on tap.....

The final day of cooking was also the least intensive since there was a lot of packing, cleaning of the villa etc to be done before vacating, I opted to cook a simple sausage pasta with a tomato and red wine sauce. Despite appearing fairly ordinary, it was most enjoyable, due to the high quality of the sausagemeat:

Sausage and tomato pasta.....

All in all an enjoyable chance to read, cook, swim and relax…… now, back to the piano I think….

Gourmet Gorman cooks Prawn Dhansak

A delicious and easy Prawn Dhansak cooked with prawns, lentils, lemon, yoghurt, chilli and spices…

Tom yum soup.

Tom yum soup

So i got home yesterday (same studio, same session as day before) at the earlier time of 4.30pm. For me this is a funny time to get home. It’s to early to start relaxing for the evening, but a bit to late to start doing any work of any kind. (besides, my brain was a bit fried again from piano keyboard/computer screen staring).
The weather also added to the confusion. It appeared warm, pleasant and sunny, but was actually to chilly to go and sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, and to windy to consider a barbeque.

I could, of course have watched the World Cup, but unfortunately I’d been listening to the radio in the car and heard the tournament’s most tedious game yet (Ivory Coast v Portugal) grind to a start, so didn’t really fancy that.

So I sat at the computer for a bit and perused some food blogs.
I’d more or less decided that our dinner for the evening was going to be Italian of some kind, when I took a glance at the fantastic Tamarind and Thyme blog, and was immediately craving Asian food of the noodle soup variety.

A quick visit to the supermarket ensued and this is what I threw together:

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 10 raw king prawns (shell on but head removed)
  • 2 portions dried egg noodles
  • 2 pints of chicken stock
  • 4 chestnut mushrooms
  • a few florets of broccoli
  • 1 carrot
  • 4 birdseye chillis (or to taste)
  • 2 stalks lemon grass
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tblsp Thai fish sauce
  • 3 tsps tom yum paste
  • 2 handfuls beansprouts
  • 2 spring onions and some fresh coriander to garnish

Method:

Slice the chicken thighs thinly and place into the pan of simmering stock.

Add the garlic, chillis, tamarind paste, tom yum paste, lemon grass (bruised), Kaffir lime leaves, sugar and fish sauce.

Leave to simmer for 10-15 mins. Meanwhile chop the mushrooms, carrots and broccoli to the desired size.

Add them to the soup. Simmer for another 5 mins.

Boil the noodles in water for 4-5 mins (or according to instructions) and drain.

Add the prawns and lime juice to the soup, and wait till the prawns turn pink.

Arrange the noodles in the soup bowls, with the beansprouts, then ladle on the hot soup.

Serve, garnished with chopped spring onion and fresh coriander.

Served out


A quick salmon and vegetable pullao after a day in the studio…

Salmon and vegetable pullao

Was feeling rather drained when I got in last night after a whole day in a recording studio staring at a keyboard and a computer screen.
It was one of those “shall I or shan’t I” moments when the call of the chinese takeaway round the corner seems to sound magnified…

However, having just got home from a gig in Moscow the day before, I’d missed the start of the World Cup (soccer for you Americans). I must admit, I’m one of those occasional football (soccer) spectators who only really gets interested when the World Cup is on, so when I switched on the radio and heard Paraguay score against the defending champions Italy, I decided to crack open a cold beer and cook whatever the fridge presented me with while listening to the match.

I’m glad I did… here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless salmon fillets
  • 1 small tin of anchovies
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tblsp natural yoghurt
  • 3-4 chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 small tin of sweetcorn
  • 1/2 courgette (zucchini)
  • 1/2 dessert spoon cider vinegar
  • Basmati rice enough for 2 people
  • boiling water (twice in volume to the rice)
  • 1 knob of butter
  • spring onion to garnish

Method:

Chop the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli and have them ready.

Heat some oil in the pan and gently mash the anchovies in there.

When they’ve dissolved (but not fried up) add the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli and fry till soft.

Add the tumeric, mustard powder, garam masala and black pepper and fry for a couple of minutes.

Chop and add the carrot, mushrooms, and courgette, and throw in the sweetcorn… fry down for a few minutes to soften.

Stir in the yogurt.

Stir in the rice.

Add the vinegar.

Add the salmon, chopped into chunks.

Add the boiling water, cover and simmer for 10 mins until the rice is done and the water absorbed.

Remove from the heat, chop and add the knob of butter. Cover for a couple of mins to let the butter melt in.

Serve, garnished with the chopped spring onion.