Thursday, 27 August 2015

Mutton Yakhni pulao

It's been a busy summer, not in a relaxing, I'm-not-doing-anything sort of summer, but a working summer with Chaiparty gaining full on momentum. We did our 4th themed supper club last Sunday and must say we have slowly gotten the hang of cooking and hosting without too much wastage, mismanagement, and goof ups. Of course there is still loads more to learn, but we are really thrilled at how we have pulled through so far. Do check out our Facebook Chaiparty page for pictures and updates.

We also went off to Spain for a week and stayed in the quaintest, rural-est of places and I loved it. Of course the insect bites and the unbearable heat meant half of the time was spent in the pool or at the beach, but it was a good break and we had a blast.
Cooking wise, not a lot of experimenting has been happening, but I'm still cooking! This yakhni pulao was the after effect of a week long no-cooking scenario and after being sick of eating out, i decided to get into the kitchen and cook, and no less a rich pulao. I have tried this with beef and thought it was somehow much more flavourful then. It wasn't bad this time, very flavourful and such, but i remember the beef being a favourite at that time. Its a recipe that is supposed to be slow cooked, but me being me, decided to cook the mutton in a pressure cooker and then continue with the rest of the process. That cant have been the reason why the beef prep was better, because i did that the same way- in the pressure cooker.

Anyways, this is definitely one of those indulgent pulao's, but one definitely worth trying.

Recipe adapted from here (serves 4)
Mutton- 500 gms
Yoghurt- 1 tbsp
Cardamom- 5
Cloves- 5
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Coriander seeds- 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon- 2 ,1 inch sticks
Bay leaf- 1
Black peppercorns- 1 tsp
Onion- 1, roughly chopped
Ginger- 1 tbsp, crushed
Garlic- 6 cloves, crushed
Salt- to taste

Ghee- 1 tbsp
Onions- 1 medium, thinly sliced
Basmati rice- 2 cups, washed and soaked in water for about half an hour
Water- as needed to make 
Into a pressure cooker add the mutton and all the ingredients listed up to salt and marinate for about an hour or so. 
Add 3 1/2 cups of water to the marinated meat and pressure cook for about 20 minutes, or till the meat is completely cooked. 
Remove the mutton pieces from the mix using a slotted spoon. It doesn't matter if the onions have disintegrated and the garlic and ginger sticks to it. Don't bother removing them, it only adds to the flavour.
Drain the stock using a sieve and discard the spices. You should have around 3 cups of stock. Add quarter cup water to the stock to make it 3 3/4 and keep aside.

Pour the ghee into a heavy bottomed pan and add the onions.
Fry on medium heat till they turn brown, around 15 to 20 minutes. They don't need to be crisp, just caramelised.
Into that add the meat (along with the onions, ginger garlic and whatever is clinging to it) and the drained rice and saute for a minute or so. Don't over do this, or else the rice would break.
Reduce heat to low and add the stock to the rice and meat and give a good stir. Check for salt and add more if needed.
Close the pan with a tight fitting lid, covering all sides with a wet cloth if you think steam would escape.
Cook for around 15 to 20 minutes, resisting the urge to open the lid.
Once the time is up, turn off the heat and leave the rice to rest for about 10 minutes without taking off the lid.
Fluff the rice, garnish wtith some fried onions and serve with raita and poppadom.
Notes: You know your rice cooking times, usually its around 15 minutes for me, but 20 is safe.
My ratio of rice to meat was not that right, I'd probably use 1 1/2 cups of rice next time.
Of course if you want to do it the right way, slow cook the meat till tender, in a heavy bottomed pan. Keep checking in between to see that water levels are not too low and that the meat is not getting over cooked.
If you don't want the onions disintegrating, keep it whole with and x slit at the base. Same with the spices if you dont want to keep biting into them tie them all together in a muslin cloth and use

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Trip to Suffolk Part 2- Blythburgh Free Range Pork

Day two started off pretty early with a hearty breakfast at the hotel, and off we went to Blythburgh farm where Jimmy and Alastair Butler met us. We piled onto a dusty farm tractor of sorts and they drove us through their farm, stopping by in between to talk us through the whole process of free range pig rearing. Jimmy and Alistair are clearly very passionate about what they do at Blythburgh - to produce great tasting pork- and works a great deal to prove how the pigs are reared makes a huge difference to how they taste.
IMG_6805 IMG_6797 
We got a chance to see and carry some new born piglets, the most adorable ones, and spent a significant amount of time watching the pigs in their comfort zone. They explained how they are born outside and spend their entire lives outdoor in the fresh air, with freedom to roam around, resulting in the pigs growing at a slower rate. This in turn assures that the free range pork is more flavourful and succulent, which you dont get with the mass produced pork.

That said, the farm also has large and airy tented barns (as seen in the 1st image) with loads of bedding straw for the pigs when they need the shelter
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We then went on to St Margarets farm where Gerard King from craft butcher Salter & King was waiting for us to do a pork butchery demo. This was most certainly a very interesting sessions with the very charming Gerard carving his way through a carcass,  showing us different cuts of meat and explaining how to cook them. He gave us some very interesting recipes, the rolled pork belly stuffed with chorizo is still fresh in my mind and i cant wait to get hold of some good pork to try it out. His shop is in Aldeburgh and he sources all his meat from free range, organic or small scale farmers who are passionate about what they do.

We all then sat down to a glorious lunch put together by Pauline Butler where we got to taste delicious pulled pork among other dishes and more Suffolk cheese, cider and other produce. The pork produced by Blythburgh is vastly appreciated for its good quality and is popular among both celebrity chefs and home cooks alike.

It was a lovely 2 day trip full of learning and inspiration and i cant stress how Polly and Lucy of Food Safari did a fabulous job making us feel at ease and arranging this press trip. Of course if it wasnt for the fun bunch of food enthusiasts and bloggers, this wouldnt have been half as fun :)

With thanks to Food Safari for inviting me on this press trip.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Trip to Suffolk- Part 1 and a recipe for Indian spiced focaccia

Last month I went on a press trip to the beautiful Suffolk countryside along with a few other bloggers and it was 2 days packed with activities and a lot of fun. Polly and Lucy of Food Safari put together a fabulous itinerary keeping all of us on our toes and feeding us (also literally) with loads of info on Suffolk and of course some delicious local produce.

We visited two of Suffolk's most successful food business- Hillfarm Oils the first UK producers of cold pressed rapeseed oil and Blythburgh Free Range Pork, one of only a handful of truly free range pig farms in the country who produce pork for many leading butchers and restaurants. I have so much to write about each of them so I split the trip into 2 parts. Part 1 on Hillfarm Oils and 2 on Blythburgh Pork.
Me and a few others got to Denham by train from London and Sam Fairs of Hillfarm Oils took us to the farm, where we met the rest of the group including Sam's wife Claire, and Lucy and Polly. It was a beautiful sunny day and we got ready armed with our cameras and note pads to grab as much information possible. After a short coffee break Sam took us around the farm, explaining everything about rapeseed oil, stressing that it is the most healthiest and versatile cooking oil you can now buy in the market.
He explained all about the farming, the rotation of crops, harvesting, issues he faces and so on, all the while depicting the passion and dedication he had. Moving on to the main shed which is powered by solar panels, we were taken through the process of how the seeds are cleaned and separated and then pressed, filtered and packed, which was quite interesting. After sitting down to a gorgeous lunch of locally sourced produce, which were generously sponsored by the brands and thoroughly enjoyed by all of us, we went on to checking out some of the farm equipment or as Sam calls it his toys.
We all climbed on top of the harvester which to me looked like a mini plane that ran a bit of a complicated mechanism, but no doubts whatsoever on how good a job it does. The most interesting part of the day for me was the session with David of The Cake Shop Bakery where he explained about baking with rapeseed oil and its benefits. We also got to sample some of the breads he made using rapeseed oil and omg it was some of the best I've ever tasted. The focaccia was simply out of this world and so was the root cake which I am hoping to give a go sometime. The day ended on a fun note with a blind taste-testing of different oils and then a lovely dinner at the The Crown Hotel in Framlingham with the Food Safari team, Sam and Claire and Alistair of Blythburgh Pork. 
We were given goody bags with Hillfarm rapeseed oil and Hillfarm Mayonnaise, made with rapeseed which I've been generously using in salads and spreads and even in cooking. I have started using rapeseed for most of my cooking and i must say, although it took a little bit of getting used to, i now use it quite regularly. This Indian spiced focaccia was made using Hillfarm rapeseed oil and it was absolutely flavourful and delicious. Its my go to recipe for a basic focaccia and quite versatile in the sense it can be flavoured with whatever you have in hand. There is only one rising cycle which works to my advantage because the urge to bake bread comes without notice :)

Indian spiced focaccia (adapted from here, serves 4 as starter)
Bread flour- 2.5 cups
Instant yeast- 1 tsp
Sugar- 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1 tsp
Dry red chillies- 2
Dried Fenugreek leaves- 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp (lightly toasted)
Hillfarm Rapeseed oil- 3 tbsp + enough to coat the pan and to drizzle on top
Warm water- Around 1 1/3 cups
Garlic- 3 to 4 pods, finely chopped
Garam masala salt- to sprinkle
Gently crush together the red chillies, fenugreek leaves and cumin in a pestle and mortar. It doesnt have to be powdered.
Mix it into the flour along with the yeast, salt and sugar and rub in the rapeseed oil with your hands till you get a somewhat crumbly mix.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the luke warm water and using a wooden spoon bring it all together.
Either using the dough hook of your mixer or on a clean surface, knead the dough till it no longer sticks and is pliable, around 5 to 6 minutes on medium speed and around 10 minutes if using hands. If you feel it needs more flour, add it only spoon by spoon.
I like my focaccia thick, so I use my square 20cm pan.
Pour enough rapeseed oil to coat the base of the pan (generously) and transfer the dough into the pan.
Using your hands gently coax it to take the shape of the pan, pushing into the corners, and making sure its as even as possible.
Cover loosely with cling film and leave aside to proof for an hour or 2.
When ready to bake pre heat oven to 200C
Make small indentations all over the dough with your finger around an inch apart and generously pour over some rapeseed oil to cover the entire surface and the holes.
Sprinkle the garlic on top followed by a bit of the garam masala salt and bake in the middle shelf of your oven for about 30 minutes. 
Once done remove from the oven, drizzle some more olive oil and salt and have warm.

Notes: You can use normal rock salt in place of garam masala salt
Make sure the garlic you sprinkle on top is coated in oil ir else it would start to burn
The focaccia stays perfectly fine in an air tight container for about 3 to 4 days and longer if refrigerated.
This is a mildly spicy focaccia, avoid the chillies if you cant handle the heat.

With thanks to Food Safari for inviting me to Suffolk and Hillfarm Oils for a great day out

Monday, 27 July 2015

Pea, mint and feta dip & a Bloody Martini

I have been busy, very busy, but good busy. Those of you on my Facebook page would already know that Chaiparty has pretty much taken over our lives. Read all about it here. Its a lot of work, but absolutely rewarding at the same time. We are also doing themed lunches in the next coming months and cant wait to get started on the next big chaiparty in September. We also just got back from a holiday in Spain, which was eventful to say the least and I have also been busy attending a lot of fun food events around London, not to mention thoroughly enjoying summer, or what's left of it.
PicMonkey Collmmage
A couple of weeks back I was invited to the Putting on the Ritz event where we were treated to some gorgeous cocktails and dips, all paired with the new Ritz thins. Ritz teamed up with supper club expert Alice Levine and the very popular mixologist Richard Woods (of Duck & Waffle) to come up with a series of tips, recipes and ideas to Ritz-Up socialising this summer. It was held at a stunning penthouse apartment in East London with amazing views over the city. 
PicMkonkey Collage
The 4 new flavours of oven-baked potato crisps from Ritz- Cream Cheese & Onion, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Sweet Red Chilli and Sea Salt & Black Pepper- are delicious. They were paired with equally delicious dips, with the pea, mint and feta and the smoked paprika topping my list. Of course, the glamour side was intact with 4 very unique cocktails that were paired with the crisps. The weather was great, the company was good and we all had a nice time 'Putting on the Ritz.'

I had to make the pea, mint and feta dip at home, especially after bragging about it to the husband. It turned out great and was wiped clean in a matter of hours while watching a movie. Of the cocktails that were served on the day, the Mates Martini, a (very) complicated version of the Bloody Mary was my favourite. Trust the cocktail expert Richard Woods to make things easy ;). Since i like complicated i decided to make it at home. It took me 2 days and a lot of patience to make the drink, but it was totally worth it. Yes, I do go out of my way for that perfect cocktail. I am however trying to figure out an easy way to do this mix, because you know, the urge to have a bloody Mary doesn't quite last for 2 days.

Pea, mint and feta dip (Recipe adapted from Alice Levine who prepared this dip at Ritz event)
Frozen peas- 250 gms, thawed
Feta- 50 gms, crumbled
Fresh mint- 3 tbsp, roughly chopped
Garlic- 1 clove, chopped
Green chilli- 1/2 of a small one, chopped (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil- 2tbsp
Lemon juice- 1 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Pepper- to taste
Blend together all the ingredients in a food processor and season to taste.
Add a splash of water if you would prefer it a bit loose.
Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle some olive oil on top, garnish with some mint leaves and serve as a dip with the Ritz Sea Salt and Vinegar.

Bloody Martini (Makes a little more than 2 drinks. Recipe adapted from Richard Woods who prepared the drink at the Ritz event)
Vodka- 100ml
Basil- 15gms
Bloody Marry Consommé- 100ml (recipe below)
Ice cubes- 4

Bloody Marry Consommé
Ground black pepper- 2 gms
Sea salt- 1.5 gms
celery salt- 1 gm
Tabasco original- 5 dashes
Tabasco green- 8 dashes
Lemon juice- 1/2 tbsp
Worcestershire sauce- 8 dashes
Tomato juice- 300ml

Infuse the vodka with the basil leaves for about 24hrs. Make sure you don't infuse it longer or else it would turn bitter.
Strain and use as required.

The consommé also needs to be made a day before.
Into a freezer safe container with lid, pour in the tomato juice and all the other ingredients and stir well.
Leave to infuse for about an hour and then put on the lid and place in the freezer.
The following morning, remove the frozen tomato mix from freezer and do a drip thaw, which essentially means you create a filter through which the block thaws naturally.
I used a muslin cloth and my sieve to do this.
This takes an entire day so patience is much advised.
You can make this in bulk, and it will keep for 7 days in the fridge.
To make the Martini, chill the martini glasses prior to serving.
Stir together the vodka and consommé along with the ice cubes until well chilled.
Strain into chilled glass, garnish with a floating basil leaf and serve.

With thanks to Ritz UK for inviting me to the event and for all the delicious crisps.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Curried prawn puffs

When mallu's talk about puffs, there's always a nostalgic story attached to it- would have had it for tea after school, would be from a favourite bakery in the neighbourhood, was lovingly made by mom etc. I, have none of those memories!

I was not really fond of those bakery snacks except for a few and given a choice I used to prefer cupcakes, cookies and the like, which i think my mum also preferred making, not to mention she was great at it. So our tea time snacks were really innovative cakes, sandwiches, bakes, milkshakes etc etc. On those rare occasions my mum used to get vada or ethakka appam, I used to create such a fuss. Fast forward to about 20 years later and here I am in a foreign country craving the dry egg puffs we used to get at this bakery called Jayaram bakery in Trivandrum.

Karma is a bitch.
So anyways, I couldn't just hop over to a bakery here and ask for egg puffs which meant i had to make it and make i did, plenty of times. I've since experimented with chicken, beef and prawn puffs and of the 4 the prawn being my favourite is making its way through to the blog after ages. It tastes good, is perfect with tea and freezes well. Sold!

Recipe has been adapted from Shabs, whose prawn filling is one I've tried lots of times and its so versatile and can be used as a filling for anything and everything and also tastes great with rice and rotis. I prefer making them with the tiny prawns as i feel they taste glorious.

Makes 8
Prawn (the small variety)- 200 gms
Kashmiri chilli powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Salt- to taste

Coconut oil- 2 tbsp
Onions- 2, finely chopped
Garlic- 5 cloves
Ginger- 1 tbsp, roughly chopped
Green chilli- 2
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Fennel powder- 1/2 tsp
Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp
Garam masala- 1/4 tsp
Coriander leaves- 1/4 cup
Grated coconut- 1/4 cup
Salt- to taste

Ready rolled puff pastry- 1 sheet
Egg- 1 small, for egg wash
Marinate the prawn with the chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt and keep aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients

Heat oil in a pan and sauté the onions till they become soft and translucent.
Grind together the garlic, ginger and green chilli and add to the onion. Saute for a further 5 minutes on medium heat, or till the raw smell disappears.
Add the salt, turmeric, fennel and pepper powders and saute for a couple more minutes before adding the marinated prawns along with the garam masala, coriander leaves and grated coconut, and mix it all together.
Remember, prawn cooks really fast, so make sure you don't keep it on for too long.
Once the prawns are cooked and the flavours have all been infused, take it off the heat and leave aside to cool.

Pre heat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper
Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle sheet.
Cut into half and divide the pastry into 8.
Take a tbsp of the prawn filling and place into the centre of each cut pastry sheet.
Wet the edges with water lightly and seal the pastry properly.
Place on the baking tray and do an egg wash and bake for about 15 minutes or till the pastry has become golden brown.
Remove from oven and leave aside to cool for a couple of minutes before digging in.
Notes: I have made the same using 1/4 cup thick coconut milk instead of the grated coconut and must say the coconut milk won with regard to taste. The grated coconut however lends a bite.
My oven gets really hot so it was done in about 13 minutes and as you can see i ended up browning them a bit too much.
Use shredded chicken for a chicken version.
They freeze really well, do it before the egg wash (clearly!). and then dont even thaw, just do the egg wash and bake. Of course it will need to be in the oven longer.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Mutton rogan josh

I have one mutton recipe on the blog. One!!!
That clearly depicts my aversion to lamb, mutton and goat. And i still don't know the difference between the three.

There is a huge Asda near work and on one of those days I was so tired to go back home and cook (it happens a lot btw!), i walked in there to see if i can pick up some marinated meat to grill or something, and i chanced upon their butcher section that housed a whole lot of marinated meat and fish and also a pack of mutton mix, among other interesting stuff. I was in two minds about the mutton, but I was so bored with the usual chicken, beef and pork, that I thought I should do this for the husband, if not for anything else.
So I went home armed with a pack of mutton and a head full of ideas on what to do with it. Of course it never made to the table that day but it did the next day as a spicy mutton pepper fry. It was delicious and it surprised me- that i actually enjoyed it. So that was the beginning of my affair with mutton and i learnt that i can handle mutton but not lamb. I've made plenty of dishes with the mutton mix hence and its a pity i don't get it anywhere other than in big Asda's.

This rogan josh (translation- red/hot oil and as you can see from the pictures, there is an oil layer on top) turned out so darn good, i had to take some pictures, even if hastily, because i do plan on making it again. I thought it was a dish hard to make, after seeing the list of ingredients, but its not and it needs very little preparation. No onions, no tomatoes, so sauteeing till golden brown etc, just charring the meat and then slow cooking it together till done. Of course, the slow cooking takes time, and that makes a difference, but we have the pressure cooker for those days you don't have the luxury of slow cooking.

This recipe, after reading the comments, came across as quite authentic and I'm so glad i tried it, its fab. Do give it a shot and let me know what you think.

Recipe adapted from here (Serves 3)
Mutton- 500 gms, cut onto medium size pieces

Ground cinnamon- 1/4 tsp
Ground cardamom- 1/2 tsp
Ground cloves- 1/4 tsp
Ground peppercorns- 1/4 tsp
Ground fennel seeds- 1/4 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder- 1/4 tsp

Oil- 1/4 cup
Cinnamon- 1/2 inch stick
Cardamom- 5 pods
Cloves- 4
Peppercorns- 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds- 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida- 1/2 tsp
Dried ginger powder- 3/4th tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder- 3/4th tbsp
Yoghurt- 1 cup
Salt- to taste
Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade and rub on to the meat. Keep aside for half an hour or so.

Heat oil in a deep, heavy bottomed pan and throw in the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and fennel seeds.
To that add the marinated meat and cook on medium heat, stirring continuously, till brown.
Stir in the asafoetida, dried ginger powder, Kashmiri chilli powder and salt and mix it all in with the meat.
Reduce the heat to low and add the yoghurt, mixing it well to coat the meat.
Cover the pan and cook till the meat is tender and the oil separates on the surface. 
I cooked it for 1 hour and it was perfect. You will need to keep stirring and adding some water on and off, to prevent the sauce from sticking to the base of the pan. 
Serve hot with rice or rotis.
Notes: Of course, if you are not a fan of slow cooking then add everything as mentioned, in a pressure cooker, and cook the meat for about 4 whistles on medium heat. I bet it wouldn't taste as gorgeous as the slow cooked one though :)
You can use goat meat as well, but I'm not sure how lamb would turn out for this recipe. Worth giving it a shot.
Replace the mutton with beef for a beef rogan josh.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Sponsored video: Unrush Your World with Yeni Raki

It was last week that a bunch of us were discussing about doing something fun on a friends birthday and Dabbous in Fitzrovia came up. This friend mentioned she was doing her birthday dinner at Dabbous, a restaurant she had been itching to check out and finally got a table sorted after months of waiting. That was indeed a good birthday gift, we chimed.

Truth be told, that's the first time i heard about Dabbous. It made me read up on Ollie Dabbous, and the Michelin star restaurant that serves some mean Modern European grub. After all this info, we couldnt not check it out, and so we decided to do a few cocktails at the bar before the dinner reservation. The bar was gorgeous, the cocktails innovative and an experience that was cherished.
And as if on cue, I get the opportunity to write about Ollie Dabbous and Yeni Raki here :)

Yeni Raki is an aniseed flavoured spirit native to Turkey, and the campaign 'Unrush Your World' is all about the spirit of slow, highlighting the importance of taking the time to enjoy food. In partnership with Ollie Dabbous, the drink aims to encourage consumers to enjoy the drink with good food and get to know the spirits traditional slow dining culture outside of Turkey. 

Take a look at this very artistic video where the chef explains his approach to food, while he prepares a fabulous dish for the Raki table- clearly depicting the fact that food isn't meant to be rushed and eating isn't meant to be hurried. I warn you though, watching the video when you are hungry is not a good idea!

But you have your chance to enjoy this experience as well. Yeni Raki is hosting a series of slow-dining sessions where top restaurants across the UK capital create bespoke menus of food paired with this anise flavoured drink, to encourage Londoners to unrush their world. So keep a look out, and in the mean time, be satisfied with this delicious video.

For upcoming events and updates follow Yeni Raki on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

This is a sponsored post for Yeni Raki.