Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Butter Chicken

I've always wondered what the fuss was all about. Butter Chicken seems to be a firm favourite among many, but I never got the itch to try it until today! No time like the present..

I'm not sure if it was the howling winds trashing the yard, or the fact that at midday I had to find my Ugg boots to fight off an attack of the chills, but spicy curry was just the ticket. I did a bit of research and decided that although I could fry off the chicken, then add ingredients in to make a sauce, I think that the more traditional(?) method of using 'leftover' tandoori chicken in this curry sounds more to my liking. Granted I don't have a Tandoor oven, but that has never stopped me making Tandoori dishes before!

So a two-step it is!

I love Indian food, and have pretty much every required spice for a more complicated recipe, but I also have a full jar of quality Tandoori paste in the fridge, and it already has most of those spices in. So I am going to take a short cut for the first step.

The second step calls for Kasuri Methi or dried fenugreek leaves. I have fenugreek seeds, but alas no leaves. Apparently celery leaves are a suitable substitute, BINGO! Once again the photography skills need work. Practise, practise...Yum, yum.

Butter Chicken

You will need:
750g chicken pieces (I used 2 breast fillets, halved and 2 drumsticks)

For the marinade:
4 tbsp tandoori paste
4 tbsp natural full fat Greek yogurt
2 tsp lime juice

For the sauce:
700g round tomatoes, skinned and pulped, see note.
2 tsp finely chopped celery leaves
60g chilled butter, in small cubes
1/2 tsp hot curry powder
salt, to taste
2 tbsp cream

Start by preparing the marinade. Mix all the ingredients together. You can skin the chicken, which is more traditional, but I like to leave it on. Score the meat on bones, to allow the marinade to penetrate. Mix the marinade and chicken together, and leave to sit for at least one hour, more is better.

Roast chicken under a hot grill, or in a hot oven until done. Don't overdo it, or the meat will be dry. Gently heat extra marinade in a large simmer pan, and add the cooked chicken. Keep warm.

Cook the tomato pulp in a frying pan over medium heat until the liquid has mostly evaporated, about 7 minutes. Add the chilled diced butter. Once the butter is melted, cook for only one minute more. Add the celery leaves, hot curry powder, and salt, to taste. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the cream, and stir to combine.

Pour the sauce over the chicken, stir gently to combine, then eat!

Tonight we had Butter Chicken with Naan, Aloo Gobi, Rosella Relish, Steamed Rice, and Mint Raita. I ate way too much again! Smokily delicious was the comment from DB. So a hit, must try that again!

Note: Round (not roma) tomatoes are generally better suited to Indian cuisine. The sauce needs tomato pulp, so I guess you could save yourself some work, and just use a plain passata, but you may need to add a few drops of vinegar to adjust for the sweetness. But, just the other day, I discovered a fun way to reduce a tomato to pulp, with just a little effort. So, cut the tomato in half, and use a box grater, over a bowl, to pulp the flesh. Watch fingers! Hang onto the skin, it goes to the chooks! Repeat with remaining tomato halves. Well it's fun for the first five minutes anyway, and by then you're committed.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Pork Chops a la Scrumptious

It was late when we got home tonight, so I wasn't all that keen on being uber-fancy (it's a tech term! lol). After a vote on whether to have chops or sausages, the chops found their way into the microwave for a brief warm-ifying. Now what? I have a bag of yummy mushies begging to be ate, and now I have to come up with a non-mushie meal seeing as we chose pork chops! I should have nuked the sausages............Then it dawned that some soul must have matched mushies and pork chops before, and I could just search the net, find a recipe and copy them. :) I had always considered pork to be a more fruit friendly type meat, and hadn't considered it's potential with earthy flavours like mushrooms. Why not? I don't know really, but it is certainly a blessing that I tried it tonight. Incredible.

Many thanks to Delia. Such a wonderful collection of recipes on her site, check it out next time you are looking for a recipe, she probably has one! Tonight's meal was a version of the following:

I had about 8 large button mushrooms, and one (almost dead, aka dried) Swiss field mushroom. Also, some thickened cream that was sitting patiently in the fridge. Two pork chops, and a ceramic bowl substitute for the alfoil boat. Voila! Yum. Try it, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lamb and Silverbeet Curry

I was trying to think up a way to get some excellent mileage out of this week's vege box, and was contemplating making another Spanakopita with my bunch of silverbeet. However there had been a request for curry tonight, and requests (good ones) should invariably honoured, right. It occurred to me that lamb and silverbeet are great friends, in most every cuisine. So the search for a recipe began....and ended promptly, when I found this:

I sat reading this recipe stunned, and practically drooling. So that's what I made. Sort of. I had to make a few adjustments to utilise the ingredients I have at home. Like; Silverbeet instead of spinach, fresh curry leaves off my plant, fresh galangal out of the garden because I didn't have ginger on hand, crushed garlic instead of cloves, harissa paste in place of chillis just 'cos I wanted to use some up, etc. :)

I thought I would record my own recipe here, for future reference, but either recipe would send any hungry mouth/belly into a state of bliss. There are a few repetitious steps to this recipe that require you to add the same spices more than once, but I did it anyway, why not? It's a bit like an asian curry method, and an indian compliment of ingredients. So very wonderful, and the whole house smelt divine.

Lamb and Silverbeet Curry

You will need:

2 tsp crushed garlic
1 2cm piece galangal, peeled, grated
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 tbsp harrisa paste
1.5kg lamb leg roast, I had a hip/leg joint
2 onions chopped roughly
oil to saute, plus more for later on
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
3 tsp tomato paste + 1 cup water, mixed together
1 beef stock cube, crumbled into above mix
a pinch fenugreek powder
2 curry leaves, crumbled
2 tsp coriander powder
salt, to taste
a pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
reserved lamb stock, fat removed
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 bunch silverbeet, washed thoroughly, stalks removed, roughly chopped
2 onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
a pinch fennel seeds
a pinch cumin seeds

Make a paste with garlic, galangal, ginger powder, and harrisa paste. Set aside. Pressure cook lamb roast with 1 cup of water, for 30-40 minutes, until falling off bone. Remove from bone, and chop roughly into 2 cm-ish cubes, ie keep it chunky.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium high heat, and fry onions stirring to coat. Add tumeric and coriander seeds. Fry until onion is becoming translucent. Add tomato paste and water mixture. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to hold at a simmer. Add fenugreek, curry leaves, and 2tsp coriander powder. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add salt to taste. Add saffron, simmer until colour is released about 2 minutes. Add cumin and coriander powders. Simmer until oil starts separating. Add reserved, skimmed lamb stock. Stir a few times and bring back to the simmer. Add final cumin and coriander powders, and garam masala. Simmer for 5 mins, until thickened slightly. Add silverbeet, and push under the curry gravy gently to submerge. Cook until wilted, but still vibrant green.

Meanwhile fry remaining sliced onions in a little fry pan until golden, remove from pan, set aside, reserve any oil. Add lamb to curry, stir gently and heat through. Reheat oil in small frypan, adding a little more oil if necessary. Lightly fry the mustard, fennel, and cumin seeds until golden and fragrant, the mustard seeds will start popping like popcorn. Add to lamb curry with fried onions. Stir gently to distribute. Serve. Best with fresh steamed rice, a hearty ale, and a good friend or three. :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lamb Shanks A La Northern Africa!

I bought a great little cook book about 6 years ago called HOME FOOD. I have since bought at least 4 more copies for gifts to friends, and have lent it out for months at a time. Everyone who opens it finds at least one new favourite recipe. One of my favourites is Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas. That name is misleading in that it has many more interesting ingredients than that. Cinnamon sticks, green olives, and harissa paste being the most unusual combination I had run into in a while. How could that work I thought at first, but I was brave, and gave it a whirl. One mouthful and I was hooked. Now I make it almost every time Lamb Shanks find their way home with me. They used to be a budget cut at 50 cents each when I first started cooking them, now look at the price! Ohh well, worth it for the flavour.

Harissa hails from Northern Africa, and the combination of Lamb and Chickpeas is common in Moroccan dishes. I am sure it is usually served with cous cous, rice, or some other grain, but it works especially well with creamy mash. That's what we are doing this evening.

I have never actually found harissa paste in any of the usual places. The closest I have ever got was a paprika paste intended for Hungarian cuisine. Most likely I haven't really tried hard enough. :) I normally just use a half quantity of chilli paste, but today I thought it would be a great opportunity to make some harissa of my own. I looked at a few (dozen) recipes for harissa paste, came up with the following recipe, including items that I already had. Surely not very authentic, but close by my reckoning.

Harissa Paste

You will need:

12-16 chillis, grilled, I used half birds eyes, half long reds
1/2 capsicum, grilled, skin removed (I only had green, but red would be better)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 onion, finely diced
1 tsp garam masala (I used a spice mix that I had made the night before it was pretty much equal parts: cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel, cumin, all spice, coriander seeds, black pepper.)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tomato, skinned and chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp chilli sauce (ABC brand)
2 tbsp water

I started by grilling the chillis and capsicum, and then peeling the capsicum, and chopping it roughly. Then fried the cumin and caraway seeds over medium heat in the olive oil until fragrant. Add the onion and cooked until it was softened, then added the garam masala, and paprika. Stirred that a bit until fragrant, then added the garlic, tomato, chillis and capsicum. Dropped the heat down to low, and cooked covered until the moisture started coming out of the vegetables, stirring frequently. Then I added the vinegar, tomato paste, chilli sauce and water, brought it to a simmer, and cooked uncovered for 20 minutes until thick and saucy. Then I processed until smooth. Voila, harissa paste! It needs to be stored in the fridge, under a layer of oil.

So now to the main event. As I said a firm favourite around here, and shockingly simple really.

Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas

You will need:
1 tbsp olive oil
4 lamb shanks
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic
1/2 tbsp harissa paste (be gentle, you can add more later, to taste)
1/2 cinnamon stick (I've made it with ground cinnamon before, but usually only 1/4 tsp)
1 beef stock cube, crumbled
pepper, to taste
1 400g can crushed tomatoes
1 300g can chickpeas (you can used dried then rehydrated chickpeas if you like)
50g-100g green olives (best to use Sicilian olives with seeds in)
1/4 tsp lemon rind, finely grated
1 tbsp mint, finely chopped

Heat olive oil and brown lamb shanks over medium heat. Get a good overall browning happening, it is important to the end product. Add onion and garlic, and stir around. Cook until onion is slightly softened. Add harissa, cinnamon stick, stock cube and pepper. Stir to distribute, then add tomatoes, and enough water to almost cover the shanks. Cover, bring to the boil, and lower heat to a simmer, cook for 50 minutes.

Add chickpeas, olives and lemon rind to pot, and stir gently to distribute. Season with salt to taste, and continue cooking lid slightly ajar for 30 minutes. The lamb should be meltingly tender by this stage. If not, continue cooking checking regularly until it is! Remove any oil from the top of the sauce, and then stir in the mint. Serve over your preferred carb.

So with a scoop of tasty 'old' potato mash, and a radicchio, green bean, and apple salad, that's Tuesday night done. Now to think of some other likely ways to finish off the harissa......

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pumpkin Scones and Rosella Jam

I went to the markets the other day and nearly shrieked with joy when I saw rosellas for sale. The flower, not the bird, mind you. Why get so excited I hear you ask? Well if you have ever had Rosella Jam you would understand. So as soon as I got home I jumped in the computer chair and started hunting down recipes. I only had 1.2kg or so of the little blossoms, so I stuck to a modest 3 recipes. lol. Really I could have just picked one, but who knows when I will be able to buy them again? Well truth be told, if I can convince DB to get his green thumb out, I should be harvesting my own next year. We'll see.

So I made Rosella Cordial, Rosella Jam, and Rosella Relish. It only took me the whole afternoon, so I had plenty of time to make dinner. Just a little sumthin' sumthin' I whipped up. Actually it was Duck with Cherry and Rosella Sauce, Leek and Sweet Potato Mash, Crispy Fried Sweet Potato Chips, Pork Spring Roll and Green Beans. :) It's not very well presented, but was very well received.

This morning I wanted to have something perfect to eat with my jam. What is more perfect than Flo's Pumpkin Scones? Very few things stand up to Pumpkin Scones with Rosella Jam, and Whipped Cream. It is a little slice of heaven.

I got my jam recipe from:

And the scones from:

And breakfast was served. Simply delicious.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spanakopita..........or 'Spinach' Pie

My vege box this week had the biggest bunch of silverbeet (swiss chard) in it and I was so excited to find it there. I get a random selection of goodies each week, so its a big surprise when I open it. And I have heaps of fun thinking about what I will make! Silverbeet can be one of those vegetables that earn a poorly reputation from mistreatment in the kitchen. Tastes pretty average just boiled and plonked on a plate. But there are ways to make it shine, and Spanakopita is certainly one of them.

I have a recipe for this dish thanks to my Uncle Lucky. He is a wonderful chef. His recipe which I really only remember as a list of ingredients yields a delicious pie, and can handle a fair bit of adjustments according to what you have available. I made this today and had only a little feta to add. I made up for this by including extra ricotta, and salt. I have written this recipe according to what I did yesterday. It's great warm from the oven, as well as cold from the fridge.


You will need:
1 bunch silverbeet, washed, trimmed from stalks, and roughly chopped
1 box frozen spinach
1 tsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 small leeks, sliced
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tbsp uncooked rice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp dried oregano
500g ricotta
80g feta, crumbled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt or so, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/2 packet filo pastry
2 tbsp butter, extra
2 tbsp olive oil, extra

Start by steaming the silverbeet until wilted, I just plonked it in a saucepan over medium heat, and kept an eye on it stirring occasionally, until it was done. Add the frozen spinach and stirring occasionally, heat through. Once everything is cooked, set aside until cool, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. If you forget to do this you will end up with very soggy pie. In a fry pan over medium heat cook leeks and onion in the butter and oil until soften and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add rice and fry until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in cooled, squeezed spinach and silverbeet, breaking it up a bit. Next stir in nutmeg, dill, oregano, ricotta, and crumbled feta. Mix well. Add lightly beaten eggs, and stir to combine. That's the filling done. It can really go in any kind of pastry. Filo, Puff, Short Crust, Bread dough, etc. It's up to you.

I chose filo this time. It can be a little tricky to handle as it is really thin and tears easily, also you have to be careful that it doesn't dry out, keeping the unused portion under a damp tea towel.
So you need to layer the sheets of pastry, brushing with the combine extra butter and oil, between each layer. Build up 4-6 layers for the base, place in the prepared filling, then make another 4-6 layer blanket of pastry and cover the top. Fold the edges over the top of the pie, sealing the edges with the butter oil mixture, and then finally brush the top.

Bake in a moderate oven for 40-60 minutes, until golden and slightly puffed up in the middle. Cover with foil if it browns too fast. I have a confession. My oven is broken. It has no handle to open, is missing the front glass panel (ie it only has one panel instead of two), has only two settings on and off (no temperature control, it gets to around 150 Celsius, but is fan-forced so that's approximately moderate heat), and heat comes from the grill at the top, which is luckily dispersed around the oven by the fan, and a large flat tray I put at the top of the oven. But I can't get rid of it yet, because it still works, in it own fashion. I tell you this, because I know that my instructions for cooking times are very vague. That's because I am guessing a little about how long it will take in your oven, if you decide to make this recipe. So I apologise in advance if they are a little off. :)

Thanks to Lucky for the recipe, and you for reading! Hope you make and enjoy this delicious pie.

We had it tonight with pork sausages, bakery rolls, cabbage and bacon baked risoni, and green salad. Oh and good old tomato sauce. YUM

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rice Pikelets....or Pancakes if that's your thing!

This is what I had for Breakfast yesterday. A Homemade Cheeseburger. Not entirely sure if that's considered a breakfast food, but it was after 10.30am.

Today, however, I made something a little more breakfast style, with a twist that was new for me. Rice Pikelets. Made with left over rice, from dinner last night which was actually leftovers.......... To be perfectly honest I kept just enough rice aside last night so that I would have unadulterated rice for cooking these moist little morsels. I think that the end result might not have been so palatable otherwise, hmmm.

This recipe, which I have tweaked just a little, came from a website called Hillbilly Housewife. Of course pikelets are a one or two mouthful version of the sit-down pancake. And if you are looking for the original recipe, it's listed as Rice Pancakes. It's a really great site, and I have cooked many things from the hundreds of recipes listed there. Apparently rice in pikelets or pancakes is not that unusual a thing to do, but it the first time I have done it so wish me luck.

Rice Pikelets

You will need:
3/4 cup cooked rice, cooled
1 cup plain flour
1 cup plain yoghurt
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-2 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda, optional
1/4 tsp vinegar, optional
butter or oil, to pan fry

Firstly you have to mash the rice up a bit with a fork, don't go too crazy, just break the grains up a bit. Next add flour, yoghurt egg and baking powder. Sift the flour if you want, don't if you don't want. Whisk everything together, and add as much water as you need to get the batter to a usable consistency. Add a little more flour if you over did it a bit. Let the batter sit on the bench for a few minutes, like 5-20 minutes or so. Now if you like your pikelets quite fluffy, you can include the optional extras. It is a little bit like a primary school science experiment. Add the bicarb, stir it in then add the vinegar, stir it around, and watch the bubbles appear! Magic. Not entirely necessary as the sourness of the yoghurt and the baking soda achieve a similar result, only less spectacular. But it is fun, something that is always welcome early in the morning, and it does add a little extra fluff to the end product.

Now to the cooking part. Heat a non stick pan over medium heat, coat the pan lightly with butter or oil, and cook pikelets a few at a time. Turn just as the bubbles start to appear, don't wait too long or they overcook and go gluey.

So the taste test.

Kmindde ofm mtastme like crmumpets!

It is an interesting texture, as I said kind of like a crumpet. Not really like what you would expect from a run-of-the-mill pikelet, but tasty and wholesome all the same.

I ate them with apricot jam, then butter and apricot jam, then butter and blackberry jam, then blackberry jam and peanut butter. And they were all good. Give them a try if you are feeling brave. ;0)