Recipe: Easy Punjabi Chicken Curry and Mixed Vegetable Dhal

img_20161011_201808

I love spicy food. And when I say spicy, I don’t just mean chilli heat that burns your tongue off. I mean food that is really rich in spices, with flavours that have tantalising layers and aromatic depths.

So, admittedly, it’s quite tragic that I fell in love with Japan where flavours are clean, simple and precise – with an emphasis on minimalism to bring out the essence of the original ingredient.

This has its place, but sometimes I just want a really tasty curry. Even better if it’s one I can make in under an hour… Continue reading

Summer cocktails and canapés at Hixter (recipes included!)

Ballantine’s Cobbler (Photo: Victoria Ferran)

Summer is a wonderfully fleeting thing in the UK. So if you haven’t already adopted carpe diem as your life motto, you probably should – at least for this season.

Now is the one and only time it’s a good idea to throw an outdoor party in the UK (anyone had frostbite on Guy Fawkes Night?). And there are a couple of things that summer parties need – aside from pretty dresses and some kind of floral decoration. These essentials are obviously cocktails and canapés. Continue reading

Recipe: Butternut Squash & Feta Tagliatelle

Butternut squash and feta tagliatelle served with steamed spinach

Butternut squash and feta tagliatelle served with steamed spinach

I don’t often blog recipes because I rarely take the time to cook something spectacular, and when I do, I’m rarely satisfied with the outcome. I never live up to my own incredibly high standards but I’m working on it. Slowly.

This, however, is an exception: this dish is really quite special and friends have been begging me to blog the recipe for ages. It’s an adaptation of a dish that my mother cooked a few years back, but no-one in the family was an enamoured with it as me.

You see, whilst I wasn’t a fussy eater as a child, I had one big dislike. Potatoes. Ugh, how I hated potatoes. And before you think “Ah, but come on, all kids love crisps. All kids love chips.” You are wrong. I HATED chips. Continue reading

Recipe: Lamb Tagine

Lamb tagine

When I need a recipe, I call my mum who runs her memory through her extensive cookery book collection and self-invented recipes to provide something that might come to my rescue. As it happened, my father had recently bought her The Hairy Bikers’ The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight. My father is one of those remarkably unromantic people, who either completely fails to buy gifts or buys something that he secretly wants himself. Hairy Bikers’ diet food certainly appealed to him as he’s been a bit weight conscious since having a heart attack.

Fortunately though, the book also appealed to my mother, despite her initial reservations. She has raved about every recipe she has made – and trust me, it takes a lot to please my parents. So it must be good.

My mum recommended that I try a lamb tagine recipe. I was a little concerned because I sometimes find the sweetness of tagines overwhelming , and this recipe contained sweet potatoes, apricots, cinnamon and honey! However, the sweetness was very mild and the overall flavour was rich and delicious. This is one to try. And it’s from a book to buy! (I just tried a traditional chicken stew recipe from it this week and it was amazing!)

Lamb Tagine (from The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Serves 5

750g lean lamb leg meat (or steaks)
2 tsp grnd cumin
2 tsp grnd coriander
1/2 tsp grnd cinnamon
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 med onions, halved and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
400g can of chopped tomatoes
500ml cold water
3 tbsp runny honey
400g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 lamb stock cube
1 med sweet potato (about 250g)
75g no-soak apricots, halved
flaked sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh flat-leaf parsley and finely grated lemon zest, to serve (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/ Fan 160 degrees / Gas 4.  Trim the lamb of any hard fat and cut into rough 3 cm chunks.  Season all over with salt and pepper.  Mix the cumin, coriander, cinnamon and chilli powder in a small bowl.
  2. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or saucepan.  Add the lamb, onions and garlic and stir-fry over a high heat for 1 minute until lightly coloured.   Sprinkle with the spices and cook for 1-2 minutes more, tossing constantly.   Take the pan off the hear as soon as the spices begin to give off a strong aroma.
  3. Tip the tomatoes into the casserole dish and add the water, honey and chickpeas.  Crumble the stock cube over the top and stir well.   Bring to a simmer on the hob, stirring a couple of times, then cover the dish with a lid and put it in the preheated oven.  Cook for 1 hour.
  4. Just before the lamb is due to come out of the oven, peel the sweet potato and cut it into rough 2.5 cm chunks.   Carefully remove the casserole from the oven and stir in the sweet potato and apricots.  Put the lid back on and return the casserole to the oven.   Cook for another 45-60 minutes or until the lamb is very tender.
  5. Serve the tagine sprinkled with some roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley tossed with a little very finely grated lemon zest if you like.  The zest adds a little extra spark of flavour.

457 calories per portion … guess it depends on your portion size though 😉 

Adaptations:

I don’t have an oven so I cooked the tagine by slowly simmering it on the hob and it was absolutely fine.
I found the spice too mild so I would up all the quantities, particularly the chilli powder.

Make it pretty and then om nom nom it! :-)

Make it pretty and then om nom nom it! 🙂

 

Recipe: Very Cheap & Easy Tarka Dhal

Tarka Dhal

Tarka Dhal

I absolutely love this recipe for several reasons. Firstly, not only is it really, really delicious, but it’s so ridiculously cheap that I feel justified eating out for dinner if I’ve had this for lunch (I was obviously never meant to live life as a student). Also, forget vegetarian – this dish is vegan! So super-healthy and a step towards eating a more sustainable diet. I eat so much meat after all… Finally, the dhal takes only 40 minutes to cook, most of which time you just have to keep an eye on a boiling pot. One-pot meal = one-pot to wash up.

All in all, this recipe is a gem.

I’ll give the recipe from the original book and my alterations in brackets.

Tarka Dhal

Taken from: Kris Dhillon – The New Curry Secret

Serves 4 (as a side) or 2 (as a main)
Cooking time: 35 – 40 mins

Ingredients

4 heaped tbsp split red lentils
425ml water (I find 375 is adequate. Add with caution – you can always add more)
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tomato, chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped (I used ‘lazy chillies’ in a jar – I add 1 tsp but this is very mild. Experiment to find your level)
1 level tsp salt (I don’t add this at all. Season to your taste)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander (I use 2 tsp coriander paste – I think this also adds adequate salt)

Any vegetable you feel like adding. My mother recommends cauliflower. I add petit pois.

Method

  1. Rinse the lentils thoroughly and place in pan with all ingredients, except the salt, garam masala, coriander and any extra vegetables. Be cautious with the water. Any extra veg thrown in later will add moisture.
  2. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover the pan and simmer for a further 20 minutes, stirring two or three times.  10 – 15 minutes before the end, throw in any extra veg.
  3. Stir in garam masala and half the coriander. Season to taste.

Enjoy, whilst feeling smugly healthy and thrifty.

It's dinner time!

It’s dinner time!

Recipe: Pork & Sweet Potato Casserole w/ Tomato and Mozzarrella Appetiser Plate

Pork and Sweet Potato Casserole

Pork and Sweet Potato Casserole

I was throwing a dinner party for Cambridge chums (yah yah) and needed to make a bit more effort than usual. To be fair to myself, cooking is difficult when you only have two electric hobs. It limits your options. A student budget also limits your options. I knew my friends weren’t expecting a feast, but I couldn’t bear the embarrassment of being a food blogger who fails at cooking. The pressure was on; I had to impress.

Little did I know that  my evening was to be marked by my mother.

My mother – hero and villain.

She kindly suggested a recipe from Waitrose.com that had gone down a treat at home. Pork and sweet potato casserole. It had the right amount of sweetness, and depth from smoked paprika, which was balanced with sour cream and wonderfully finished with parsley.

It was a winner. My cooking skills didn’t desert me, and a delicious dish was born. My guests proclaimed it the best dish they’d eaten all week. I was so proud.

We had good conversation and wine. We were tucking into our plates with gusto when my phone dinged. A text message.

I’d like to pretend that I’m incredibly popular, but the fact is that I don’t get texts all that often. I believe in functional texting; I only use my phone in order to organise something.

The text was from my sister and read something like:

“Mum says you should look at my Facebook now xx”

Now, Mum knew I was having a dinner party. What could be so interesting or so important? I went on Facebook to see this:

Specimen: one labradoodle in a nappy

Specimen: one labradoodle in a nappy

That’s our dog Tiptoe, who, in my absence from home, had reached adolescence. She was in season. AND SHE WAS WEARING A NAPPY.

My guests looked quizzically at me.

“Um, well, that’s my dog having a period. Let’s go back to dinner, shall we?”

Like I said. My mother – hero and villain.

Pork and Sweet Potato Casserole

Recipe from waitrose.com

Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 1 1/4 hours

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
500g Diced Pork Leg
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
150 ml dry white wine
400g can chopped tomatoes
170 ml pot Soured Cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a large casserole and fry the pork until brown.
  2. Add the onion and fry for 2 mins, then add the garlic, and fry both until softened.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes, cumin, paprika, oregano and seasoning.  Stir for 1-2 mins.
  4. Pour in the wine then add the tomatoes to the pan with 100 ml cold water.
  5. Bring to the boil and then cover the pan and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened.
  6. Stir in the soured cream and scatter with the chopped parsley.
  7. Serve with steamed rice and a large green salad or steamed cabbage (personally, I found sweetheart cabbage went well).
Tomato and Mozzarella Appetiser Plate

Tomato and Mozzarella Appetiser Plate

Tomato and Mozzarella Appetiser Plate

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

Prep time: 10 mins

Serves 4

3 large tomatoes, sliced
2 balls of mozzarella, sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 pinch dried oregano
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 tablespoons olive oil

Method

  1. Arrange tomatoes on the plate.
  2. Arrange the mozzarella on top.
  3. Mix herbs and oil together.
  4. Dress the plate and serve!

Butternut Squash Creamy Sage Mash

Sage pork chop with butternut squash creamy sage mash

Sage pork chop with butternut squash creamy sage mash

Well, what happens when you have a load of sage leaves left over from cooking a butternut squash carbonara?

That’s easy – you make more butternut squash!

Here is a recipe I found from Allegra McEvedy on BBC Food website. I’ve adapted the quantities for what worked best for me.

Serves 1 – 2
Cooking time 25 – 30 mins

Ingredients:

450g butternut squash, cubed
6 sage leaves, finely chopped
2.5 tbsp reduced fat crème fresh
1.5 tsp chilli flakes
~20g parmesan, coarsely grated
~1/2 tbsp butter
salt and black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Melt butter in a large, wide pan. When the butter begins to foam, add the sage and fry for one minute.
  2. Add the cubes of butternut squash and the chilli flakes. Cover and cook until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally.

    Squash cooking nicely...

    Squash cooking nicely…

  3. Lightly mash the squash with a fork, add the crème fresh and parmesan and mix together. Season well and serve.

I used the remaining sage leaves to season a pork chop. A yummy dinner indeed!