Spices and herbs…

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The dish I’m going to share today is a middle eastern inspired koftas with spiced tomatoes, yogurt, topped with pine nuts and coriander.

But first, I need to express just how much spices and herbs play a part in my cooking and how I’ve come to find that I could not live without them… The fact that I cook at home a lot (I get twitchy if I haven’t cooked for more than a few days..!) gives me the opportunity to explore in the kitchen; whether if it’s using recipes from books / the ones my parents have given me, or needing something quick and easy that I’ll happily throw anything I have together.

Spices and herbs, for any cook, is a saviour and I’m coming to the point in wanting to learn more about how it works, why it works and even the benefits of them – since the best thing about these ingredients, is that they’re fresh and completely natural! It must’ve been astounding throughout history for those who kept discovering them… Can you imagine? Stumbling upon that cardamom when simply opening the cask and finding these tiny seeds that taste wondrous or that mustard seed, which is one of the most astounding spices for having such flavour and being SO teeny!

So with that thought, I hope to find some new discoveries and learning more to bring to this blog down the line… But for now, find below my take on this koftas in spiced tomatoes, yogurt and pine nuts with coriander.

1Serves 4-6

750g minced lamb

salt and pepper

1 medium onion, chopped finely

1tp minced garlic

1tsp garam masala

bunch of flat leaf parsley/coriander, finely chopped

1tsp and an extra pinch sumac

500g natural yogurt

2tbsp butter or extra virgin olive oil

2-3tbps pine nuts

For the tomato sauce:

2tbsps extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4tsp crushed dried red chilli

750g tomatoes, peeled and chopped

salt and pepper

1-2tsps sugar

Make the tomatoes first by heating the oil, frying the onion till soft, add the garlic, chilli and stir. Place in the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and sugar, then simmer on medium heat for 10mins.

For the koftas, season the mince and add the onions, garlic, garam masala and parsley then work into it with your hands. Create the kofta shapes, place on a baking sheet and cook under a grill on high for 10mins, or till cooked and a gorgeous colour on the outside.

Heat the butter or oil and cook the pine nuts till golden and add the sumac. When the butter sizzles, sprinkle over the yogurt.

Arrange your dish with the tomatoes, yogurt, koftas, then more pine nuts and sprinkle over the pinch of sumac and parsley/coriander. Enjoy with any kind of bread or as it is…!

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Fish biryani

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I’m not sure how often Indian families make biryanis, but I made one for the first time since moving to Bristol nearly a year ago… Wow, sounds like absolutely ages when I say it!

But since moving, I’ve had the freedom to use spices however I like, without either of my parents saying, ‘No no, it’s not meant to taste like that!’ I love it when they say that sometimes though, because they’re such good cooks and really love their food. But exploring and discovering new dishes as much as possible is really important to me. Although, I do stick with their methods when cooking our home dishes, because those meals need to taste like home… but with Indian food being SO massively diverse that I don’t think I’ll ever get my head around everything Indian cuisine has to offer, I need to keep cooking and trying out new things!

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And this was a new discovery. Admittedly using a recipe from my ‘Indian Bible’ at the moment – ‘India Cookbook’ by Pushpesh Pant – it’s never occurred to me to place fish in a biryani dish. Yes there’s kedgeree with rice and fish combined, which I make here and there, but biryani, it’s usually chicken or vegetables in the versions back home!

But let me tell you, a simple white fish (I used cod here) with some rice and a few spices, is just something to dwell over when it’s finished, because it was soooo tasty. Fairly healthy too as I didn’t add a lot of ghee into it, but there are fried onions making it rich and less healthy… Oh well. There was also a bit of yogurt used to thicken the sauce and overall, it’s a great summery dish with the tang of tomatoes and freshness of coriander on top. I’ll definitely make this one again.

So, here’s the recipe from the book, but with some adjustments from me too. 🙂

Serves 5-6

5o0g firm white fish, cut into chunks

4tsp ground turmeric

250ml lime juice

125g ghee – I used less than this throughout, just use your eye if you want to do the same

1kg basmati rice, rinsed and drained

2tbsp raisins (I didn’t use any this time)

2tbsp cashew nuts

3 onions sliced (I used fried onions instead)

2tsp chilli powder

1tsp ground coriander

2 cinnamon sticks, 1inch long

4-6 cloves

2 tomatoes, chopped

250ml plain yogurt, whisked

Salt

Put the fish in a large shallow dish and rub on 2tsp turmeric and the lime juice, then cover and set aside in the fridge for 45mins.

Heat 1tbsp of ghee in a large, heavy based frying pan over medium heat and add the rice, fry for about 10mins, then season with salt and add 1tsp turmeric and 1litre hot water. Stir gently and bring to boil, reduce the heat and cover to cook for 15mins, or until the water is absorbed.

Heat 4tbsps ghee in another frying pan and add the raisins and cashew nuts for 1min – (this is where I used toasted cashew nuts and no raisins, so no need for this much ghee…). Remove and add the onions and cook for 5-7mins until golden brown – (this is where I used ready to use fried onions).

Reduce the heat and add the chilli powder, coriander, remaining turmeric, 4tsp water and the whole spices and fry for about 2mins, stirring constantly. Add the fish and season with salt, then lightly fry for about 5mins. Pour in 250ml water, bring to boil and add the tomatoes.

Reduce the heat to low, add the yogurt and simmer for about 5mins to thicken the sauce. Brush a heavy-based pan (the one with the rice but remove the rice first when it’s cooked) with a little ghee and spread a layer of fish over the base, then add a layer of rice and then a layer of raisins and cashew nuts. Repeat the process, until all the fish and rice is used up, ending with the raisins and cashew nuts on top. Cover the pan and place on a griddle and cook over very low heat for about 5mins. Alternatively, cook over very low heat.

 

Curry for Change

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If anyone hasn’t heard of Curry for Change, then I really recommend you go onto their website and read more about the work they do

They encourage people to either attend a restaurant or supperclub, otherwise putting on an intimate dinner party at home to raise money for Find Your Feet – who support families in Asia and Africa that suffer from hunger. It is an absolutely fantastic idea and I knew instantly that I wanted to take part.

You simply sign up through Curry for Change’s website and they send out a pack with everything you need to hold a party at home; from postcards with information for your guests to even a bag of spices from Natco! Natco themselves are matching every single donation sent for Find Your Feet.

For my dinner part at home, I had a few close friends pop over and the menu consisted of:

Home made lamb samosas

Crispy chickpeas

Butter paneer

Spicy baked chicken

Cumin rice

Home made naan breads

Raita

Mango lassi

Cardamom and chocolate lava cakes

Drinks: Cobra, Kingfisher, Prosecco and wine

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I tell you what, this was so much fun for me to go ahead and just create all of this whilst my great friends helped raise a great sum for the charity… We also got to finish by setting up outside with the Prosecco and having a drink whilst watching the fireworks from the Bristol Balloon Fiesta – lucky for this sight from our flat.

I really recommend more people getting involved and if it helps to know, chefs from Vivek Singh to Cyrus Todiwala also help raise money for this charity through their own restaurants!

If anyone gets involved or wants to ask any questions, then do get in touch! 🙂