Thursday, 18 April 2013

Pataks? Huh! Easy and from scratch: Tandoori chicken with vegetable curry and tomato pilau rice

Last Saturday morning I indulged in one of my favourite pastimes - catching up with cookery TV in my pajamas. I have to admit though, it never fails to take long for me to throw on some real clothes and head off to the butchers and greengrocers opposite our flat. This time I was inspired by two Indian chefs - Anjum Amand and Jimmy Seervai. Anjum you can see on various TV series in the UK, but Jimmy is slightly less well-known - he came fourth in Masterchef Australia in 2010. Well, me and George identify with people who don't win Masterchef... 

Anyway, I don't know about you but I'm always suspicious of TV chefs who seem to make everything look SO EASY - you know full well that 10 minutes into cooking, your beautifully organised spice shelf with all the labels turned the right way round will look like two mice have been boxing in a sandpit, and you will be so wracked by sneezes you will spend more time in the bathroom splashing water over your eyes than in the kitchen. And after battling with the flour bomb you've created to make your own parathas, do you really think you're going to be walking out in your perfect spotless white apron whilst flicking your hair sensually over your shoulders to deliver your fragrant and beautifully arranged food to your guests? Forget it!

However, inspired I was... and actually, it really wasn't that difficult - in fact, I am determined to carry on and do this again rather than resorting to ready-made curry pastes, because it tastes so much fresher and you can really taste the differences between the various dishes, unlike a lot of cheap curry house takeaways. Although I still haven't quite been able to make my favourite lamb korai like they do at Monaf's. Ah well...

Tandoori chicken, vegetable curry and tomato pilau rice

Next time we're buying Kashmiri chili powder to make the chicken go red. Yum.
For the tandoori chicken...
I used a whole chicken, quartered, which would feed four people, but I have to admit I'd rather use four chicken legs than the breast. However, cooking the breast on the crown still make the meat nice an juicy.

In a large bowl mix together half a pot of natural plain yoghurt, 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, half the juice of a satsuma (ok, you're supposed to use lime but I had satsumas!), and 1 teaspoon each of chopped garlic, chopped ginger or ginger paste, and garam masala. Finish with 1 tablespoon of red chili powder - Kashmiri if you have it because it makes everything go that lovely red colour that's associated with tandoori. Lots of curry houses use red food colouring instead, but I'd rather not.

Add the chicken and make sure it's all mixed in and covered in the marinade, and leave. Technically you're supposed to do this overnight - but mine was left for 6 hours and it was still lovely.

When you're ready to eat, take the chicken out and bake in the oven for 40 minutes at around 180 degrees. 

For the vegetable curry...
I spotted some lovely small and sweet turnips in my greengrocers, so I used these rather than potatoes, but you can use pretty much any hard root vegetable here - squash, swede, potato, etc. I also used borlotti beans to bulk it out because that's what was in the cupboard, but you could use chickpeas which are slightly more authentic!

1. Heat some groundnut or sunflower oil in a thick-bottomed pan and add a tablespoon each of mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds (and panch phoran if you have it but it's hard to get hold of and I've recently run out). Also add a whole dried chili and a bay leaf. 
2. When the mustard seeds start popping, turn down to a medium heat and add a chopped onion and a chopped garlic clove. 
3. When the onions have softened, add a teaspoon each of turmeric, coriander powder, cumin, ginger paste, sugar and salt. 
4. Add half a glass of water (so that the onions are just about covered) and cook for two minutes.
5. Throw in two chopped turnips or veg of your choice (about half a chopped squash or three baking potatoes), add another glass of water, and cover.
6. After around 20 minutes the veg should have almost cooked through. Stir in half a chopped aubergine, two chopped tomatoes and a tin of beans (anything but the baked variety...) or chickpeas. 
7. Cover again for 10 minutes, giving it a good stir half way through. 
8. Add a teaspoon of garam masala and some chopped fresh coriander to finish off.

For the tomato pilau rice...

1. Heat some groundnut or sunflower oil in a pan and add a cardomom pod, a small piece of cinnamon stick, a couple of cloves and a teaspoon of mustard seeds. 
2. When the mustard seeds pop, add a chopped onion, 3 chopped cloves of garlic and a birds eye chili (whole).
3. When the onions have softened, add a teaspoon of garam masala, 1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric and 2 chopped tomatoes.
4. Stir until the tomatoes are soft (about 2 mins) and then add your basmati rice - around 250g. Add salt and enough water to cover the rice plus an inch on top, turn the heat down really really low, put on a lid and leave for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked. 
5. If you're feeling posh, rescue the whole chili, cloves and cardomom pod out of the rice... or just warn people not to eat 'em.

Serve and eat by the window, looking out at people struggling home through the wind and rain with soggy takeaway bags, and feel smug. 

Friday, 5 April 2013

George is famous (for a week, anyway): Dodgy pheasant, and seafood chowder

We (this is George and I) were very excited to be joined by lots of friends for the inaugural viewing of yours truly on Masterchef last night. Ok, so we don't last very long, but we are proud anyway!

We tried to steal the apron but apparently BBC budgets won't allow it. Grrr.

We'd also like to give a few excuses for our early exit. Ok, so we know this is probably just bad losing but we're going to do it anyway...

a) We had a stinking cold and couldn't breathe.
b) A dry pheasant with tortilla wasn't our greatest move, we agree. However, we would also like to point out that we wanted to do something that wasn't meat, potatoes and sauce. And failed. Ah well.
c) Our Irish other half shouted profanities at the TV when John Torode was making his 'soda bread'. Our Irish friends say that it sounded more like wheaten bread to them. So there. Egg in soda bread... Humph.

Sulk over - enjoy the show, and just to show that we are nice really, we are now TEAM LARKIN all the way!