Archive for August, 2011

Cooking for my friends is my way of saying I love them (see my first post) and this week I was able to cook  my home friends a dish which had become a signature dish whilst at uni.

butter chicken

First stolen from one of my Dad’s plethora of Indian cookbooks and since adapted to suit budget student needs and my personal taste, it became my go-to dish when I was asked to provide visiting musicians a yummy curry. The prepare in advance nature means it is also the perfect dish for entertaining, not to mention the one pot wonder of it meaning less washing up and the ability to multiply the quantities endlessly with just a bit of simple maths (aided by my phone calculator…)

Serves 5-6 with a vegetable side dish, 4 alone

  • 2cm  ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic  chopped
  • 100g flaked almonds or ground if you don’t have a hand blender
  • 1 to 3/4 pot of Greek yoghurt (low fat if you’re feeling virtuous)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 stick cinammon
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • salt to taste (about 1 1/4 tsp)
  • 500g/6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion fine chopped
  • 6tbsp chopped fresh coriander
If you have a hand whizzer put the yoghurt, ginger, garlic and almonds into a tall pot (I used to use a jug) and blend until combined. If not, finely chop the garlic and ginger and use ground almonds. Combine all the ingredients apart from the onion and butter in a dish. Chop the chicken and stir into the mixture. Marinade in the fridge for a minimum of two hours, but preferably overnight. Preheat the oven to 170C and fry the onions in the butter until browned in an oven dish. The dish should  be shallow and wide, but anything will do. Add the chicken and marinade and stir to combine with the onions. Pop it in the oven for 1 and 1/2 to 2hrs, I normally go for 2 and turn it down if it looks like its going too brown/drying up, or cover it with foil. About 30 mins before it’s finished you can check if you put enough salt in. Remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes before serving with a sprinkling of coriander, if you remembered to keep some aside…
chickpea and spinach vegetable side dish

This is vaguely based on a spicy aubergine recipe (which, by the way is THE most perfect way to eat aubergines ever ever ever) and was something I knocked up the other night with store cupboard ingredients to make the meal a bit less of a meat-fest. It was a hit and I was requested to write it down for posterity. As far as the seeds go, I tend to throw in whatever I can find in the spice cupboard, so don’t worry if you only have some of these or use others such as white mustard or cumin.

  • 1 tsp kalonji seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped or minced
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3-4 blocks frozen spinach or 300g fresh spinach
  • 1 tin chick peas
  • 2 tbsp vegetable/sunflower oil
  • Cup of water
Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan and put in all the whole seeds. Wait until they start to pop then add the garlic. Once the garlic as browned add everything else in no particular order, apart from the water, which you should add gradually as the sauce begins to dry up. Cook until the spinach has melted/wilted and then simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until everyone has arrived to eat!
 perfect rice for curry
I know everyone has their own way of doing rice and there are all sorts of tricks out there but this is my key to perfect fluffy fragrant rice using that new-fangled invention, the microwave oven. I have been forced by quantity to cook rice on a hob (for which I would employ a similar method using a heavy pan/oven dish on very low temperatures) but it was very much done under protest. As far as quantities go this worked well in a house full of hungry students, and I  blinking love rice, but others have been known to be strangely underwhelmed by its fluffy joys, in which case, follow the rule of 1:2 rice to water, but maybe reduce it by a third…
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice per person
  • 1 cup recently boiled water per person
  • 1 clove (per 4 people)
  • 2 cardamon pods (per 4 people)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon (per 4 people)
  • 1 tsp salt (per 4 people)
put it all in a microwave bowl, cover with cling film and pierce to stop it exploding. Heat on full power in the microwave for 10-15mins, or until all the water is gone. Stand for 2 minutes and fluff with a fork, removing the whole spices and serve.

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This blog was never supposed to be one which reviewed restaurants, mainly due to my non-existent income, and the fact I simply don’t eat out that much at all (these reasons may be related), but having had a couple of foodie adventures I’ve decided to document them here.

This also bides me time whilst I negotiate father-daughter kitchen rotas alongside juggling my shiny new internship, a part-time job and learning to drive.


A few weeks ago was my Mum’s birthday, so with my parents footing the bill I gladly obliged to accompany them to lunch. We eventually settled on going to the Crooked Billet after an attempt to get to another pub for lunch, getting lost, finding out they weren’t serving food any more and so on

A tiny little pub without a bar The Crooked Billet does boast two rusting cars in the field behind, a table of  home-made honey jars and a sign on it’s door offering to swap local produce for lunch and amazing food, which although not cheap was generous and offered a good lunch set menu (starter and main for £20).

After taking forever to decide between all the options I went veggie to start, with a lentil salad, followed by rabbit braised in white wine with artichokes,white beans, wild garlic dumplings and spring carrots.

The lentil salad was very good. I was expecting a salad with some lentils and I have to admit when I was presented with a bowl of mostly lentils with herbs and beans I was  worried that it would be a bit of  mission to get through. I needn’t have feared though: it was delightfully crispy, with sweet beans and just the right amount of dressing and herbs to making it a pleasure to eat. I was also rather smug when the gigantic main courses arrived that I had chosen something a bit lighter. The rabbit was tender and well cooked, not a meat to be eaten by those with a thing about bones, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The artichokes were something a bit different and complimented the sauce well, and the dumplings were tasty and added variety to the texture.

Their wine list is extensive,but being no expert I followed my general rule of thumb which is to go for red Italian wines. They didn’t appear to have very much on draught, but I suppose not having a bar would cause that kind of problem

As for everyone else’s meal, my Mum felt her lamb kofta was a bit too salty; having tried my Dad’s mussels I thought the thai-green style broth worked really well. For mains, they had slow roast beef and a layered aubergine, courgette and cheese gratin, both delicious. There was however little room for anything else as we are not known as a family for leaving food on our plates. Thankfully our sweet-teeth were satisfied by the little chunks of home made fudge they bought out with the tea. Unfortunately (for him) my Dad went to the loo when they arrived so his share diminished slightly. All in all a massive thumbs up, and the next time I can find someone to drive me there/once I pass my test I hope to make another visit.

In other food related news I went to WOMAD festival last weekend. I won’t go on about how absolutely amazinglybrialliantlyawesomelyfantastic it was, I’ll just say everyone should go. This year I finally managed to make it to the “taste the world” stage in which performers showcased their national food.

I went and saw Ripton Lindsay and Umoja talk about and cook Jamaican food on the last day. He was clearly very passionate about Jamaican culture and was keen to show people there was more to Jamaican food than jerk chicken. As well as giving lessons on the uses of ackee fruit (detergent, antiseptic and vegetable if you were wondering) and the differences between yams we also had some demonstrations of traditional dances and some singing whilst his saltfish and yam stew was simmering. We even got to try some, and it was yummy, it had (white) yam, green bananas, cod, dumplings, coconut milk, ginger and noodle seasoning in it.  No chillies though, apparently they were accidentally used by someone else. Although I missed the beginning which set out the finer details of what the ingredients actually were I fully intend to try and re-create it…soon.

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