Category Archives: Indian cooking

Burmese spiced fish, Conwy Feast and writers block

Writers block is a terrible thing. I want to write. I have lots to say and many stories to write-up of events I’ve attended and people I’ve spoken to in recent weeks. But as soon as it comes to sitting down and transferring my thoughts to paper its like the shutters come down in my head and the words wont flow. This is the reason for my recent silence. Writing, even food writing, needs a bit of mental space and freedom so my thoughts can roam and explore ideas. If I feel stressed, upset, preoccupied with problems or constrained my thoughts are otherwise engaged….no mental space, no writing. Its frustrating. So rather than spend weeks on a full essay, here are some pictures from my Conwy Feast demo and the recipe for the Burmese inspired spiced fish I cooked at the Feast.

Bear with me…I will be back with a vengeance soon….once some of the chaos going on in my life has subsided.

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Burmese spiced fish with coconut milk (to serve 2 people): Takes 20 mins to cook

The prominent flavours that you find in Burmese dishes are heavily influenced by the countries that border it. With Thailand on one side and Bangladesh on the other, both Asian and Indian flavours fuse to create a distinctive and colourful cuisine. This is a favourite dish that I’ve cooked for years and although of course I’ve added to or tinkered with the original ingredients it remains true to the original recipe I found in an old cookbook. These days I often use Thai / sweet basil to enhance the Asian flavours, while of course the vivid yellow colouring created by the turmeric is specifically Indian in origin.

2 thick white fish fillets (monkfish, cod or haddock)

Sunflower oil

1 small onion

1 clove of garlic

Half a thumb sized piece of ginger

Teaspoon turmeric

A small red chilli (home-grown)

Salt to taste

Half a can coconut milk

A small handful of Thai sweet basil (home-grown)

1 juicy lime

Finely chop the onion. Mince garlic, ginger and chilli (seeds removed).

Heat 2 tablespoons sunflower oil in a pan until hot. Add onions and fry quickly over the heat moving continuously for about 5 to 10 minutes, it doesn’t matter if they brown a little. Add garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric and stir for one minute. Move the onion and garlic mixture to the side of the pan and add the fish fillets skin side down. Fry for 5 minutes or so until the skin starts to turn a golden crispy brown. While its cooking coat the top of the fish with the onion and garlic mixture.  Turn the fish briefly and add the coconut milk and salt to taste. Allow to bubble for about 10 to 15 minutes without covering. Check seasoning and then finish with the juice of a lime and a sprinkling of Thai basi. Serve with plain white rice and perhaps a minty cucumber and tomato salad.

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This fragrant plateful was divided up and between all the avid tasters at the demo!

Photographs courtesy of Kate Withstandley …photographer and art blogger at Exploring Art in the City

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Filed under Asian cookery, Food festival, home cooking, in the press, Indian cooking, local produce, Recipes, Seafood recipes, sustainable fish

An Indian supper and recipe for Cardamom, orange and cinnamon custard tart

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Its been a while since we’ve held a supper club. For one reason or another I had to cancel those scheduled for October through to January (some due to low numbers but also due to weddings, festivals and pop-up events going on). I suppose in a way a change is as good as a rest. We needed a little break. It’s hard running a supper club in a family home and when at Christmas we transformed our living room back to normal the kids breathed a sigh of relief at having their ‘home back’.

It also gave us the opportunity to have a look at feedback from earlier guests. We’ve changed and experimented quite a bit since 2009, starting out with single tables, increasing our capacity to accommodate a dozen, moving to a more communal and interactive approach with one large table, increasing prices and taking on extra staff.

Comments such as …“the food is divine” are thankfully unanimous and overall we’ve had few criticisms. One thing people do say is that

“there is just too much food….I would prefer to pay less and have a smaller amount to eat”

or “I would come, but dates don’t coincide and the cost makes it prohibitive”

Clearly prices became an issue as well as unpredictable dates and the amount of food being served. So after our little break we relaunched; with a pared down menu of 3 courses plus coffee, a lower price of £25 a head, a smaller group of people and a regular last Saturday of the month slot. Clearly this has paid off. Our first supper of the year drew a full house, and we came back relaxed, calm and raring to go.

What better way to ward off the February blues than a sumptuous Indian supper. It was a particularly cold day beginning with a fine white covering of snow on the ground. I stoked up the wood burning stove and worried as flakes continued to flutter through the air throughout the day, mostly fine, but turning to swirling flurries as the day wore on and the time grew closer for our guests to arrive.

I heard my ten-year old shout from the lounge upstairs “are you looking for supper club cos it’s here” and six out of breath people (two worryingly clutching asthma inhalers and two in skyscraper heals) stumbled into the house.  Usually on my emails I tell people to beware of the uphill walk to my house…this time I’d forgotten, I presumed everyone knew where I was by now, clearly not!

It turned out that one of the women whose ankles I almost wrecked was Welsh up and coming pop-singer Sarah Wynn who has supported the likes of Emma Bunton, Liberty X, Blazin Squad and Bill Wyman.  The crowd also included street food vendors Providero who brought me a lovely present of some of their coffee (we had it for breakfast the next morning and it was truly delicious!).

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My menu

Spring onion and coriander bhajis

Vegetarian samosas

Yogurt, mint and cucumber raitha, tamarind and mint chutney, sweet and sour tomato relish and onion, coriander and lime salad

Parsi lamb curry

White bean and curry leaf with coconut

Maharashtran rice

Orange and cinnamon tart with a crisp cardamom base

Almond/pistachio ice cream

blackberry and rose coulis

Coffee / chai and cardamom chilli chocolate truffles

With seasonal local produce on the low side I did the best I could. U used parsley and mint from a friends polytunnel, onions from a local farm. Welsh butter (Calon Wen), yogurt (Rachel’s Dairy) and cream in my dessert and of course Welsh lamb for the curry.

I tinkered with a Anjum Anand recipe for Maharashtran rice as it went so well with the Parsi curry. I’m afraid I I’m sworn to secrecy over the Parsi curry recipe. The recipe came from Shazneen a band manager and festival organiser in India, she spent six months in the UK working with the Green Man festival team (which is how we became friends) and before heading back home came to stay in Wales for a week. The curry is a traditional dish made according to her mothers special recipe. She graciously cooked curry for us all then shared the recipe telling me there was NO WAY I was allowed to blog it. Don’t worry Shaz, your secret is safe with me!

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crispy vegetable samosa

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spring onion and herb bhajis with the mint and cucumber raitha

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sweet and sour tomato relish, onion, coriander and lime, yogurt with mint and cucumber and tamarind and mint

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Vegetarian option: Maharashtran rice, white bean and curry leaf with coconut and a red onion, coriander and lime salad

As for dessert, I’d intended to make a rhubarb and rose tart, with a cardamom pastry but clearly February is too early for even forced rhubarb in Wales so I made a last-minute change, which became a fab accidental recipe hit.

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Pastry flecked with cardamom

Orange and cinnamon tart with a crisp cardamom base:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180 degrees C

To make a 12-inch tart case you will need:-

250g organic plain flour, Shipton Mill is the best

50g icing sugar, sifted

125 g Calon Wen butter

zest of a small lemon

8 cardamom pods crushed and the seeds ground well in a pestle and mortar

1 large free-range egg, beaten

small drop of milk

Sieve the flour into a bowl and cut the cubes of butter into it. Sieve the icing sugar over the top then rub the butter into the flour and sugar until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Add the lemon zest and cardamom seeds.Add the egg and a small splash of milk and gently work it all together until you have a ball of dough. Don’t over handle it, simply flour it lightly and wrap it in clingfilm. Put into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.Roll out to fit into a loose bottomed tart tin. Cover with a piece of baking paper and fill the tart case with baking beans. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the case from the oven and take out the baking paper and beans before returning to the oven for another 10 minutes so the base can firm up; it needs to set properly, just beginning to turn light brown so that the filling does not soak in.
For the custard filling:
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 pint single cream
4oz caster sugar
rind and juice of 1 orange
quarter of a teaspoon cinnamonPut the single cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan to heat over a lowish gas. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, cornflour and caster sugar. Add the orange rind and juice and cinnamon. as the cream comes up to the boil remove from the heat and pour over the egg mixture whisking continuously. Return the mixture to a clean pan and heat gently stirring all the time until it begins to thicken slightly.

Rest the tart tin on a baking tray (just in case it leaks) and pour the mixture into the case. Return to the oven where it needs to bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is puffy and slightly risen in the centre and beginning to turn a lovely golden brown.

Serve with fresh fruit, a coulis and some ice cream

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Roaring fire in the inglenook, table set for dinner…that’s our supper club 🙂

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Filed under baking, cakes & Baking, home cooking, Indian cooking, living room restaurant, Recipes, secret supper, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

I’m back! Plus some new dates

I feel as if I’ve been away forever. After a brief holiday (a lovely family trip around Ireland) I spent one day at home before heading off to Global Feast in London.

I spent the week planning, preparing and cooking at what was a hugely rewarding event. I loved it. Met lots of amazing people including other supper club hosts from around the country and generally enjoyed a bit of city life and the buzz around the Olympics.

After this whirlwind I returned home for two days before disappearing once again, this time to Crickhowell and The Green Man festival. This was the most intensive period of cooking of the summer. Up at six thirty every day and not finishing until nine at night. I, plus one helper, prepared, cooked and served four meals a day to the hungry crew and production team for a grand total of fifteen and a half days. In between I got to enjoy the festival plus a few extra days camping before it began.

Now I’m back! Its taking a while to recover so sadly I am cancelling Saturday’s planned supper club. We will restart a bit later in the month. With hindsight I think I was a little over ambitious believing I would have it in me to plan and shop so soon after my return, but I am looking forward to the Autumn and all the exciting jobs and supper clubs I have coming up. I’m already booked to run a couple of school based mentoring sessions and two private dinners, but there is plenty of room for open events. Planned dates so far are….

Sunday 16th September – Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens: Harvest at Moelyci: Preserving the Harvest

I will be running two sessions (morning and afternoon) on jam and chutney making. This will include my own personal tips on how to get the best from the fruit and vegetables we collect, plus practical sessions where I will teach you how to make two of my best-selling preserves. There will be recipes and sheets for you to take home.

These sessions will be fun and interactive and are free but registration is essential. Please register here

Our first two supper clubs will be on….

Friday 28th September – Supper Club – Open to all

Saturday 29th September – Supper Club – Singles night

Possibly we will stick with the Indian Summer theme….a fusion of spices, dishes, incorporating Indian flavours with a Western twist…but this has yet to be confirmed.

Look forward to seeing you soon xx

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Filed under British food, cookery courses, Food festival, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, Indian cooking, living room restaurant, local produce, preserving, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

Mattar paneer: recipe

It’s funny how many variations there are of this simple indian vegetarian favourite, a mixture of fried paneer cheese, peas and tomatoes with spices. I found three totally different recipes just in the books I received at Christmas! It all gets a bit confusing when you are wondering which to try or what might work best.

I’ve made mattar paneer for years and the first recipe (and still my favourite) I ever used was designer Jocasta Innes’s version published in The Sunday Times Complete Cook Book edited by Arabella Boxer. Published in 1983 it was one of the first recipe books I was ever given ( at the tender age of 17) and it remains often used and a firm favourite (although I do sometimes tinker with the recipes and add or substitute things) as you can see by the picture of my slightly grubby and well-thumbed original.

As I made this the other night I also had Niamh Shields version in Comfort & Spice open at the same time…just to compare her Muttar Paneer recipe with my favourite.

One thing I liked about Shields instructions for making paneer cheese was her ability to make it sound very simple, which it really is.  Innes’s recipe tells you to start making it two days in advance, but you don’t have to and over time I realised this, having experimented with the process myself. Shields obviously discovered the same as she tells her readers, it can all be done in an hour.

The rest of Jocasta Innes’s recipe has stayed with me, although I have modified the process a little. It was a favourite when I was vegetarian and has become a family favourite now.

Jocasta Innes...back in the 80's...designer and bohemian, author of lots of cooking on a budget books

For the paneer:

2 and a half litres full cream milk (it must be full cream don’t try it with low-fat), juice of one lemon.

A large piece of clean muslin

Although Innes also added a small tub of natural yogurt this isn’t totally necessary, it worked just as well with just the lemon juice.

Put the milk in a large pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. It doesn’t take long for the curds to separate from the whey. Put a colander over a large bowl and line it with the muslin then pour in the curds and whey. Save the whey as you will need some of it later on. The muslin can then be tied up around the curds and then tied around a kitchen tap to continue draining. Leave to drain in this way for about half to three-quarters of an hour. Then fold the muslin around the cheese, put back in the colander and put a plate on top with something heavy. Press flat for half an hour. When you unwrap you will be left with a perfect pat of cheese.

For the mattar:

2 red or white onions finely chopped, 2 large cloves of garlic, a thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 green chilli finely chopped, a tin of chopped tomatoes, 250g frozen peas (or fresh if they are in season) , vegetable oil, pinch of sugar.

In a pestle and mortar (or spice grinder) grind the coriander, cumin and a pinch of sea salt. Add roughly chopped garlic and ginger and chilli and pulverize until you have a think paste, add turmeric and mix that in with a small tea-cup of the reserved whey. You should have a think paste/base to the sauce.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and add the chopped onion. Fry gently until soft but not brown. Add spice paste and cook for a  minute or two to release the aroma of the spices stirring so it doesn’t stick. Add another tea-cup of whey and the tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil. We like plenty of sauce so if it looks as though it may become too dry add another cup of whey.

Simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes then add the peas, a pinch of sugar and another cup of why if needed. Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. At this point you can take off the heat until the cheese is ready.

Heat vegetable oil in a heavy pan and when sizzling add the cubes of paneer cheese. Fry until golden brown turning with a slotted spoon. You may need to do this in two batches.

Once cooked add to the mattar mixture and return to the heat. Again if it looks dry add another cup full of whey. Stir and simmer for another 10 minutes so that the cheese (which is naturally quite bland) absorbs some of the spice flavours in the dish. Check the seasoning and serve.

Both Jocasta and Niamh serve their dish with a simple salad. I usually throw together some cucumber, tomato, red onion and peppers ( dressed with some lemon, ginger and garlic) and warm some indian bread or if you prefer you can cook some basmati rice with turmeric, saffron, some lemon and a spoonful of ghee or butter. Enjoy!

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Filed under family budget cooking, home cooking, Indian cooking, recipe books, Recipes, Uncategorized