Coconut Chilli Launch

Last month, I had the pleasure of being invited to an exclusive pop-up event which was being held by Navina Bartlett (aka Founder and Boss Lady) of the startup food business, Coconut Chilli. They provide South Indian curry pots which are made with fresh ingredients and then chilled. They even do an office delivery service – so it’s well worth checking out for future lunchtime needs!

The night was held at the very idyllic location, Spoke and Stringer, which was a perfect venue for it’s easy going and friendly atmosphere, with a dash of Bristolian style and urban interior. It’s the kind of place you’d escape the city from, tucked away from the noise and holding great views of boats, sun and sky…

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Navina happily chatting with all the diners throughout the night

The food  was right in line with what I needed that night – an array of many dishes full of colour, texture and most importantly, flavour.

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Aloo Tikki – potato and pea croquettes served with a tangy tamarind chutney

This was one tasty dish to have started with. Instantly comforting with a lightly spiced potato, with a sour note from tamarind and fresh burst of flavour from coriander chutney. I love yogurt and raw onions on these typical comforting Indian dishes as they are able to balance out any heat and bring an element of zing and crunch. I think I ate this within 10 seconds!

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Boneless Chicken Shashlick – morsels of marinated chicken

This cute portion of tender, very well flavoured pieces of chicken over onions and peppers and topped with coriander went very well with my little Chase Distillery cocktail there. This second dish gave me the impression that there was a lot of emphasis on fresh, flavoursome ingredients, and I was very much looking forward to even more…

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Marinated Paneer and Pepper Tandoori Skewers

Why yes, that is another drink next to the dish.

I think I could eat paneer in literally anything… I don’t know if it’s because Mum never made it (as she didn’t like it for some odd reason that I’ll never understand), so it was always a treat when I did eat it.

So I was very happy with this dish, clearly. The soft paneer that took flavours well with cooked vegetables – and then a random olive – all in all pretty much making you wish there was more. But remember, they were small dishes so you can’t complain! Ok, waiting patiently for the next one…

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Duck Kofta – superbly spiced & tender minced duck

I love duck for always being a rich, strong flavoured meat, but I’ve never had it with Indian spices. These were very light and gently eased out flavours of what I believe was cardamom and star anise. So it was great to try something different as someone who eats Indian food most days.

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Seasonal Vegetable Filo Parcels with Cashews and Raisins

These filo parcels were very interesting. Taking me back to some home cooking with sweetness in savoury dishes like lentil kachori for instance, and it working so well. The crunchy pastry with a soft filling but cashews and raisins making up for something to get your teeth into, this was another dish that was different, but also, it gave me some sense of roots as it reminded me of some home snacks.

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Tender Morsels of Fried Fish coated in Amritsari Spiced Batter

Here’s one of the great Indian battered fish snacks you can get in places like Bristol Sweet Mart, based in Easton. It’s anything you’d expect of a battered fish and I was pleased that the fish was nice and soft and the batter full of spices and from what I could get was black pepper and cumin.

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Coorgi Biriyani with Cucumber, Mint & Pomegranate Raita

Just when you think it’s the end of the night as the small dishes were done, but yet, you know you still feel a bit hungry and want more – the biriyani comes out.

Oh what a biriyani it was. I’m a huge fan of this instantly well known rice dish that’s probably in most Indian restaurants. But this was not one that you’d find in a typical curry house or whatnot, this was like the homemade stuff I eat at home. Fragrantly spiced, coated in oils and spices I imagine seeped out of the chicken juices (which has to leave a clean glaze on your lips, otherwise you’re not eating it right) with more tender chicken and of course, the cashew nuts on top helping each mouthful feel taken care of and satisfied. Yeah, this was great.

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Carrot and Almond Halva served with Local Chew Moos Bourbon Vanilla Ice-cream

Ok, just the description tells you this was good and I should mention that the halva was warm and with the ice-cream, you can’t really go wrong can you? Although halva isn’t always the first dessert I’d choose to make or eat out, but this was a very welcoming way to end this meal.

All in all, I was very happy with the versatile dishes that were presented, the vibrant flavours, a chance to try some new things and even having moments of being taken back to Mum’s home cooking…

I will definitely be ordering a curry pot and shall look forward to sharing my thoughts on the next blog post.

If you want to try out the curry pots yourself, go to Coconut Chilli’s website and check out the full range, which are now available to buy online.

Please note: I was invited to this launch and did not pay for my meal. However, this did not impact my opinions or enthusiasm about the food, and neither did they see this review before it went up.

 

 

 

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Fresh take on Biriyani

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Meera Sodha’s new cookbook, Fresh India, has become a prized possession in my kitchen.

This book is a real go to for any vegetarian that loves Indian food. Or if you’re like me, not a vegetarian but loves to find new ways of eating vegetables, it has more than plenty to offer. It’s also full of  handy tips, beautiful illustrations and recipes for vibrant dishes.

Meera is from Lincolnshire and being so close to my home town, Leicester, I love that she had so many similar experiences with family and food. But the difference is, I grew up in one of the main parts of the UK with a huge Indian community – where we had access to all kinds of Indian vegetables and all the spices and cooking materials needed in any Indian kitchen, right on our doorstep. So much so, that Indian families across the UK do a lot of their shopping in Leicester.

But for Meera, her family made the most of seasonal English vegetables, and has created some fascinating dishes with them. I’ve already made quite a few things from the book and am full of excitement each time, because they’re authentically made with fresh spices and techniques but, some of them are completely different to anything I grew up eating.

A few examples would be dishes like: leek, pea and mint samosas, rainbow chard saag aloo and this dish which I’d like to share in today’s blog post; Grand Vegetable Biriyani – which is made with sweet potatoes, beetroot and paneer.

I love love love biriyani! My Mum makes vegetable biriyani all the time and this usually has peas, carrots and cauliflower in it. So when I saw that Meera’s biriyani included my favourite root veg and my most loved ingredient, paneer, I had to make it.

In the recipe it states to use puff pastry as the lid for the biriyani to cook under, but I did the good ol’ lid on top of a strong casserole dish and placed chapati dough around the edges to carefully seal it. See the recipe below for this incredible dish that can be served just on its own…

Serves 6 as a main course

400g basmati rice

400g sweet potatoes

400g raw beetroot

500g ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained

225g hard paneer, cut into 2cm cubes

rapeseed oil

salt

1 1/4 tsp chilli powder

1 1/4 rsp ground cumin

2 tsp garam masala

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 large onions, finely sliced

(for the puff pastry lid): 1 egg, 300g ready-rolled puff pastry, 1 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp nigella seeds

(for the chapatti dough to seal the edges of a lid): a small cup of chapatti flour, hot water

For the coconut and coriander sauce:

1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk

100g fresh coriander

6 cloves garlic

1 green finger chilli

3cm ginger, peeled

3/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp lemon juice

 

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas 6 and line 3 baking trays with foil. Wash the rice in a few changes of cold water, then leave to soak.

Next, wash the sweet potatoes and beetroot (no need to peel), cut into wedges, then throw on the separate trays. On the final tray, add the tomatoes,then the chickpeas and paneer.

Put 6tbsp of oil into a small bowl, with 1 1/3 tsp salt, the chilli powder, cumin, garam masala and lemon juice. Mix well and spoon over the vegetables but adding more to the paneer tray. Coat everything properly then place in the oven – with the paneer on the top shelf – and bake for 40mins, checking and stirring after 20mins.

Place 3tbsp oil into your casserole dish over medium heat, when hot, add the onions and cook till browned and caramelise. Take out and place aside. When the onions are cooking, stick all the coconut and coriander sauce bits in a blender and blitz till smooth. Pour in a frying pan, place over medium heat and cook for 10mins. Check the salt and take off the heat.

Drain the rice, place in a saucepan (or rice cooker) and cover with plenty of cold water and bring to boil. Lower the heat to a fast simmer and cook for 10mins or till the rice is tender. Drain well, place aside with a tea towel on top.

If using the puff pastry lid: beat the egg with a bit of salt and cut a square to fit over the biriyani dish. Or make the chapatti dough and make into a long snake like shape.

Layer the biriyani: the aim is to end with the caramelised onions on top. So start with half of the paneer mix at the bottom of the biriyani dish, follow with a quarter of the rice, quarter of the onions, then add half of the coconut sauce, half of the beetroot and sweet potatoes, then further quarter of the rice and onions. Repeat.

For the puff pastry lid: place the square of pastry to fit over the casserole dish and working quickly, place on top of the dish and seal it tightly on the edges. Brush the top liberally with the egg and sprinkle with the seeds.

For the chapatti dough: place a lid on the biriyani, and seal the edges with the dough.

Place in the over for 25mins. Take out and cut away the pastry or dough and serve big spoonfuls so everyone gets a layer of each part of the dish. Serve with raita or salad.

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You won’t be disappointed with this dish, or this book if you haven’t already bought it…

Turtle Bay: Cheltenham Road, Bristol

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The other night I had the pleasure of eating at the new Turtle Bay on Cheltenham Road in Bristol, who have been open for about a month now. I was invited to the launch party too and if you’ve been to Turtle Bay before, you’ll have an idea on how great the vibe is likely to be at such an event. Lots of great cocktails, friendly staff (that were also on the dance floor and boogying whilst serving – which I loved!), with awesome music being played by bands such as Troy Ellis and Laid Blak.

My experience at dinner was not too different. The atmosphere was buzzing and lively, and the food, well I already expected tantalising, fresh and varied dishes, and that’s what I most definitely received!

I attended with my blogger friend – Gingeybites – who has also made (the right!) move to Bristol from the Midlands, along with her partner and then Greg. Here is what we had and what I thought about the meal overall…

For starters we got through their chilli squid (I’ve had this at other branches and always love it), along with jerk pit prawns and hot hot pepper roti. I believe I had the best starter though 😉 it was the Bridgetown Doubles (bottom pic) and it was immediately both fresh and comforting, allowing me to enjoy a real mix of flavours and textures in one dish.

It reminded me of the Indian prawn puri in a way, except imagine all the comfort of an Indian puri but topped with spicy chickpeas, cucumber chutney and coconut..! Those vibrant colours, some sweetness with a crunch then a bam (!) all over a thick roti. I could’ve easily had twice as much and called it the main dish!

Dave's main

Jerk chicken with rice and peas

Alex's main

The BBQ pork belly

 

 

Goat curry

My goat curry

For mains, there were many tempting choices but we had a mix of curry pork cheeks, jerk chicken and BBQ pork belly, which all sound good right? Well, they all pretty much were, especially the jerk chicken – really tasty and juicy with the right amount of spicing, without being too overloaded with heat. 

After thinking about it all day and knowing I was going to anyway, I went for the goat curry. The thought amongst our table was that if we pick a couple of dishes that are known to be authentically Carribean, it’s a great way of telling you the quality of the place overall. And it was what I’d expect from any goat curry: rich sauce, soft meat, a good amount of spicing, and this was served with dumplings plus rice and peas. Dumplings I’ve had before back in Leicester, but those were too greasy and filling after just a bite, whereas these were more light, not so greasy and easily eaten alongside the goat curry – soaking up the sauce and juices nicely, which isn’t a bad thing at all now is it!

 

Even though I was really full (dumplings in both starters and mains, come on!), I still had to go for dessert…. But unfortunately this time, mine wasn’t my favourite.  I went for the spiced chocolate pot: a set chocolate cream with coconut shavings and coconut ice cream.  When it arrived, it wasn’t what I was expecting – which was a warm, (room temperature at least) chocolate dish that can be easily spooned up and eaten like a rich creamy mousse and the ice cream to slowly melt in the duration of eating it. Unfortunately it was a bit too set for me and I was trying to carve out bites in chunks. The ice cream however was incredible – Proper coconut-y and creamy and just delicious. I say the dessert winner of the night was Greg’s… the Caymanas rum cake, which was what it says in the description on the menu: a golden warm mellow cake with rum caramel and vanilla ice cream – just wow. I wanted to steal this but he wouldn’t allow it. In his words ‘it was incredible and tasted freshly made, nice amount of rum that slowly built up whilst you ate it but not being overpowering in any way.’ I look forward to returning knowing I can finish with this one!

Finally I can’t forget to mention our great waiter for the night, Blaise. He provided great service, really fun and chilled out guy who was simply happy to serve – which made us feel at ease and happy to have some banter too.

So if you’re looking for a night with mates in a vibrant atmosphere, with some pretty good cocktails and variety of great dishes, this Turtle Bay shouldn’t disappoint at all. Check it out in its new location on Cheltenham Road and enjoy!

 

Spiced and tangy chickpea stew

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I’m a huge fan of batch cooking and since I have a long commute to work during the weekdays (an hour each way), batch cooking is an essential part of my weekend routine.

Today, I want to share this chickpea stew – taken from the fabulous book, and my go to at the moment, Maunika Gowardhan’s Indian Kitchen – with a few added ingredients from me.

Like all stew dishes, this is very easy to prepare – by throwing in a bunch of ingredients and allowing it to do its thing – with minimum supervision. It’s also perfect for a wonderfully spiced, yet slightly tangy and wholesome dish that can be turned into many different meals.

The fact that it has protein from the chickpeas but is light, yet filling, I’ve made it more than a few times to pop into containers and straight into the freezer, taking one out here and there to have after work with very little effort to put together something quickly and tastes fantastic.

See the recipe for this chickpea stew below, where the additional ingredients I added have (optional) stated next to them.

Ingredients

500g canned chickpeas, drained

2tbsp vegetable oil

1 ½ tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds (optional)

¼ tsp asafoetida

1 onion (about 100g), finely chopped

8-10 fresh curry leaves (I used dried)

200g tomatoes, finely chopped (I used tinned)

½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder or mild paprika

1 tsp ground coriander (optional)

1 tsp ground cumin (optional)

2 tsp tamarind paste

2 tsp sugar

½ tsp garam masala

Grounded sesame seeds (optional)

Lemon juice to taste

Salt to taste

Chopped fresh coriander

 

Method

Put the chickpeas in a large pan with enough water to cover and boil over a low heat for 20 minutes, or till soft when pressed between your fingers.

Place a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the mustard and (if using) cumin seeds, asafoetida and allow the seeds to splutter. Add the onion and fry for about 7 minutes till softened, then lower the heat and add the curry leaves, frying for 20 seconds. Add the tomatoes, cooking and stirring for 2-3 minutes.

When the chickpeas are ready, drain them but reserve 300ml of the cooking liquid. Add the chickpeas to the onion mix, then stir in the ground spices (except the garam masala), tamarind and sugar.

Stir well then add the chickpeas and allow the raw spices to cook out. Add the reserved cooking liquid and mix well. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, ensuring that the sauce is thick and gravy like. Add the grounded sesame seeds (if using), to make the sauce thicker, or mash some chickpeas with the back of a spoon to create the thick gravy.

Turn off the heat and the garam masala, lemon juice and salt to taste. Garnish with coriander.

See below some ideas on what to serve the stew with…

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Served with dhal, rice, chapatti and poppadum for a full blown Indian meal

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As Maunika suggests in the book, served with potato cakes (which you can have spices and coriander in) and yogurt, with my addition of nigella seeds

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When there’s only a bit left – the pauper’s way – with some hearty sliced bread and butter 🙂

I can’t rant on enough about this dish, so I’d love for you to give it a go and tell me what you think – especially if you do add the additional ingredients that I used to make it a bit more to my taste. 🙂

Stop buying granola – just make it yourself…

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I love breakfast and try to not skip it in the weekdays… and the way I do this, is by taking it with me to work so I can settle down (after a good 20mins walk) at my desk with a hot drink, something to eat and get energised for the day. It’s cheaper than grabbing something on the way, unless it’s for a Friday treat (!), but this granola is great because it’s versatile – working well with both yogurt or milk. It’s also easy to put together and it tastes delicious – plus it gives you opportunities to change it around a bit depending on what mood you’re in or have lying around the house!

Since seeing Nigella Lawson’s ‘Andy’s Fairfield Granola’ (from the book, Feast) and Sophie Dahl’s ‘Tawny Granola’ (from the book, Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights), I’ve basically adapted both of these recipes to suit what I fancy and have lying around the house – mostly different seeds and dried fruits to spices.

Nigella’s version is probably more indulgent with the use of 3 kinds of sweetness plus sunflower oil, then Sophie’s version is lighter with the use of vanilla extract and desiccated coconut instead of sugar… But I like to have something in between – where it’s healthy but still indulgent…

Now there are no measurements with this – I don’t see the point! Just mix together what you have of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients till it lightly coats the dry mix. See below.

Ingredients:

Porridge oats – I tend to stick in what’s likely to be a couple of cups full – giving you a vision there 🙂

Seeds: (in this image) pumpkin seeds, linseeds – a good handful each

Dried coconut flakes – only a small handful for texture

Ground ginger and cinnamon – a good sprinkling of each, but more of the cinnamon

Dried cranberries – again, a good handful as I love them!

Coconut oil – a good dollop

Honey – as much as needed to help combine

Method:

Simply mix all of the dry ingredients, except for the dried cranberries, and dollop some coconut oil and honey over it. Mix together till combined but if it’s too dry, add a bit more coconut oil and honey.

Place this mix on a baking tray and place in a preheated oven on 180c and roast for about 20 minutes – till golden brown, stirring it every 5 minutes or so.

Take out the oven and add the dried cranberries, then let it cool down. Tub it up, take it to work or take bits of it each day for a mix of breakfasts or even for your mid morning and afternoon snack!

Once you do this yourself and see how easy it is, you’ll get used to playing around with it and never bother buying ready made again!

Bulrush, Bristol

‘Best food I’ve eaten since moving here…’
Was a sentence used by Greg when we had the most delightful afternoon eating at the new restaurant on the scene, Bulrush.
It was a surprise birthday meal for me and I couldn’t have been more happy with Greg’s choice. Well, I mentioned wanting to go here when they opened last year but still, that list of places to eat is long! I’ve so many nice things to say about Bulrush that I may as well jump in now and say, ‘You must go dine here, like now..!’
We went for the taster menu and the variety of each dish, the friendly service, and the hell of an 80’s themed tunes in the back made it an awesome experience!Snack nori
Let’s begin with the little snack bought to us before it all began: crackers with a topping of all sorts – we didn’t expect this so can’t quite remember the toppings – but they were so tasty. Cracker bases that didn’t crumble one bit when taking a bite – they actually kept their shape and the flavours balanced out perfectly. The black one was with nori and literally tasted like sushi to me! So fresh, clean, full of flavour, so unexpected!
All dishes on the tasting menu are not in this post, just the main ones that I personally wanted to rave about. With their ever changing seasonal dishes, they’ll change by the time you go and check it out anyway – which you’re gonna do soon after seeing the pictures and reading about them, I hope!

Oyster w frozen rubarb

Oyster with sea buckthorn granite
The oysters were incredible – we were warned ‘not to get a brain freeze’ – which was hilarious, but quite true. So cold, but the texture was so meaty, smooth and leaving a taste of the sea – making us feel like we were at the coast eating this caught right then and there. What a great start overall.
artichoke soup
Soup of the day with Bulrush bread
Artichoke soup with rhubarb oil – which was almost jam like and reminded me of Scandinavian combos – but working so well with a sweetness alongside a smooth, rich soup.
 asparagus
Wye Valley asparagus, elderflower hollandaise, walnut
Well, how can you not like this one. The asparagus so tender yet firm and slightly smokey, with a creamy hollandaise that wasn’t too heavy because of the elderflower infused vinegar. It felt so comforting but light. Apparently it’s many people’s favourite dish and I can understand why!
It was at this point Greg had to stop eating and looked over to say, ‘Arushi, slow down with the eating and just relax, enjoy it!’ I looked up and realised I was far gone into my world, feeling very happy but a bit too engrossed – but it was so damn tasty! Ok, I thought to myself, better relax and take my time to enjoy the experience…
 Mackrel
Pickled herring, horseradish, hay-smoked beets, dill
A dish with a Scandinavian nod – and it all worked so well with this combo. I imagine it’s not hard for this to go badly together as it’s a classic: fish, horseradish, beetroot and dill. But there was a bit of flax seed brittle added, which was the first time I tried it and I really liked it. I can say that again, it’s a dish that was fresh, light, yet tasty and full of flavour.
 lamb
Salt marsh lamb, seaweed faggot, wild garlic, ricotta, chicory
If the asparagus was comforting yet light, this lamb dish was comforting and just indulgent – basically, ain’t nothing light about it! But man, it was incredible. Lamb so tender, faggot so rich, ricotta smooth, chicory that was slightly charred (and was a great surprise to Greg with it being a vegetable that stood out so much), the  wild garlic sauce just completing it well and being so flavoursome, but not over powering. A lot on the place but everything with it’s distinct flavours, coming together perfectly.
 rubarb dessert
Pine yogurt, poached rhubarb, honeycomb, bee pollen
Yes! Needed this after such a rich lamb dish, the slight sourness cleansing the palate. The bee pollen was so out there with it’s flavour even though they were so tiny! Apparently a superfood as mentioned by our host –  so I was happy with that balance of something healthy for the day! 😉
 choc dessert
Chocolate delice, parsnip sponge, parsnip puree, yogurt sorbet
Well, what a birthday treat to end with! How can I say anything bad about a dessert that was this incredibly chocolate-y, dark, smooth, rich with a side of a very random parsnip puree – which had a sweetness that worked so well, and a light yogurt sorbet that helped bring it all together without clumping up in your mouth! So good. I want it again, now. me again
A happy me
I loved the staff for their friendly, very informal, knowledgeable and welcoming atmosphere they created. I felt at ease when being able to simply have a chat with them about the food, asking questions if needed and being asked after each dish about our thoughts, and genuinely having enthusiasm about the dishes themselves.
 As you can see, even though I’m a bit full up and way too relaxed, I was very content. I hope to return again.

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…!