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.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Harissa spiced eggs on cheesy English muffins

My boss Dora is one of the best cooks I've come across. Till we moved to our professional kitchen a year back, I had the privilege of enjoying some of her cooking during lunch breaks and it was my first foray into the world of French food. Not only are her creations delicious, the fact that she used to whip them up in no time was something that amazed me. Be it a simple puff pastry pizza, or her signature vegetable lasagna- the taste was consistent all throughout, not to mention the copious amounts of mint tea we used to drink during brainstorming sessions.

I mentally wrote down her quick recipes and of course threw so many doubts her way as well. She is the one who made me experiment with aubergines for the first time, and enjoy fish in various forms (Ro secretly thanks her for my tolerance to mackerel now). Dora's Tunisian routes (which is her strong point, even when it comes to macaron flavours) made the dishes even more interesting. She introduced me to harissa, ras-el-hanout, brik pastry and so many other ingredients and dishes that were then new to me.
This recipe or rather creation is truly Dora's. When we were short of time she would whip this up in a matter of minutes and i would devour it without batting an eyelid. I have watched her do it so many times, but even now it just doesn't taste as unique as hers. I remember making it at home the first time and it was an instant hit with Ro. I have then made it at several brunch sessions and everyone s absolutely enjoyed it.

Over time i changed the procedure and ingredients a bit, but it still is hands down one of the best recipes I've learnt from Dora. I have also used the authentic home made harissa paste she gave me, which is as authentic as it can get.. Once you taste the real thing, you will not want to try any of the store bought versions.
On a different note, i think i have cracked my lighting issue. It's still a bit harsh, but i have narrowed down my light source and that is half of the issue sorted there. Now i just have to play around with diffusing and stuff to get it right. Talking about photography, this recipe goes straight to the #happyeggtastemakers challenge this month, which is to cook something using the happy eggs co and photograph it using food stylist and instagrammer Marte Marie Forsberg's top 5 tips for creating the best looking food. I hope i have done justice to the image, seriously, it tasted fab.

This harissa spiced baked eggs are so easy to make, you have to try it out. You can do so many different versions of it, and it would just not go wrong. Thank you Dora, for all those cooking lessons which you unknowingly instilled in me. I really do miss it :)

Serves 2
English muffins- 2, sliced in half to get 4
Cheddar cheese slices- 4

Spring onion greens- 2 tsp (to garnish)

Olive oil- 1 tbsp
Shallot- 1 large, finely chopped
Bell pepper- 1, finely chopped
Garlic- 1/2 tbsp, finely chopped
Harissa paste- 2 generous tsp
Tomato- 2 small, finely chopped
Double cream- 1/4 cup
Salt and pepper- to taste
Eggs- 4
Preheat oven to 175C and line a baking tray with foil paper.
Place the muffins, cut side up and top with the cheddar cheese slices
Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet and saute the shallot, bell pepper and garlic till soft, around 3 minutes on medium high heat.
Make a paste with the harissa and some water and add to the pan.
Stir till it loosens and coats the vegetables.
Add the tomato slices and cook till they turn mushy, after which you pour in the double cream and mix it all together
Season with salt.
Separate the mix in a few places and break the eggs into them.
Break the yolk and stir it gently into the mix. This is purely optional, you can of course leave the yolk intact
Bake for 10 minutes, or till the eggs are cooked. 
Around 5 minutes into the baking time, put in the tray with the muffins.
Once done- the eggs cooked and the cheese on the muffins melted, take them out of the oven, wait for a few minutes for the bubbling to settle.
Slice the baked eggs into four and place on the cheesy muffins.
Garnish with spring onions and serve warm.

Notes: You can use bread slices, ciabatta, crumpets (these are the best) and any break of choice as the base
Add prawns, shredded chicken, minced meat etc to the mix before topping with the egg

With thanks to the happy egg co for the voucher

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Palak paneer (spinach and paneer)

IMG_5900 (1)
Its been a bit quiet around here hasnt it? Well, I finally decided to unpack my props after about a month of moving into the new place and when that got sorted, I had trouble with the whole lighting situation. I had to find ways and means of utilising what little light came from the one window in my living room. From a house with floor to ceiling windows, this came as a complete downer. I cribbed about it to Ro and he said a good photographer would figure out how to manipulate light whatsoever. Challenge accepted was my reply!

The fact that we have terrible weather now hasnt helped either. I mean seriously.. enough with the whole rain, wind and single digit temperatures. We had 1 week of brill weather where everyone rejoiced and thought summer arrived early, only to be fooled by this ridiculous cold spell soon after. So its back to boots and shawls for a lil more longer i suppose.

Anyways, after a few hasty trials with the camer, I finally called it quits. This was the outcome of the final few trials and although I'm not happy with it at all, i thought i should feed the blog with this rather satisfactory preparation of palak paneer. Its been ages since ive cooked with panner and its the first time ive tried palak paneer at home. I cant remember the last time i tasted palak paneer and so even though it didnt taste exceptionally good, i cherished it to no end. It was delicious with hot chapatis.

Recipe adapted from here (serves 2 to 3)
Paneer- 225 gms, cut into cubes

Baby spinach- 200 gms
Garlic- 3 small pods, roughly chopped
Ginger- 1/2 inch, peeled and roughly chopped
Green chillies- 2 small, chopped

Ghee oil- 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Bay leaf- 1 small
Onion- 1/3rd cup
Garlic- 4 small pods, peeled and finely chopped
Tomato- 1 small, finely chopped
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder- 1 tsp
Coriander powder- 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida- a pinch
Water- 1/2 cup
Garam masala- 1/4 tsp
Kasoori methi- 1 tsp
Double cream- 2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Soak the paneer cubes in some warm water if its hard..especially if its store bought. This would soften it pretty much. Drain before using.
Cook the spinach in a microwave, for about 3 minutes, covered. Blanching is ideal, but i was too lazy to do that.
Purée the wilted spinach with garlic, ginger and green chillies and keep aside.

In a kadai, heat the ghee and add the cumin seeds and bay leaf.
Once they splutter, add the onions and cook on medium heat till golden brown.
Throw in the garlic and saute for a minute or two. Dont brown it.
Add the tomato and cook till the oil slightly separates at which point you put in the spices- turmeric, chilli, coriander and asafoetida- and cook till the raw smell disappears.
Pour in the spinach purée, mix it all together and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes along with 1/2 cup water.
One the sauce starts simmering, add the paneer cubes and salt and continue to cook for a few more minutes. The paneer should be coated well with the palak masala.
Sprinkle the garam masala and kasoori methi and mix it all in
Finally stir in the double cream, close with a lid.
You can pour a tsp of cream on top of the palak paneer when ready to serve.