Feta wrapped in vine leaves from the Moro Cookbook

I have posted recipes from “Moro The Cookbook” by Sam and Sam Clarke before. After Ottolenghi’s “Jerusalem”, this is one of my favourite collection of recipes from the Middle East. As the name “Moro” suggests, the recipes in this cookbook are a Spanish-Islamic fusion dating back to the Moors who came from Morocco and ruled the Iberian peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Andorra, parts of Southern France and Gibraltar) for nearly 700 years.

Given I am a vegetarian, I have probably not used this book to its full capacity but the vegetarian recipes such as Aubergine and red pepper salad with caramelised butter, Carrot and cumin salad with coriander and fatayer that I have tried so far have been spectacular. This recipe is another one of Sam & Sam’s vegetarian gems – the sweet tartness of the orange, the salty-oiliness of the olives and the crispy-gooey-saltiness of the grilled feta are a match made in heaven.

Do give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

Feta, orange salad and bread

Feta, orange salad and bread

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Sanjeev Kapoor’s Garam Masala – the king of spice mixes

Garam is the Hindi word for “hot” and Masala stands for “spice”. Despite that, Garam masala is not hot like chilli is but is a warming, beautifully aromatic mixture of spices such as cumin, cardamom and nutmeg.

“Curry powder” is a common thing one finds in the Western supermarket but one you wouldn’t find in an Indian grocery shop. Masalas on the other hand are a lot more familiar to the Indian ear and let me assure you that each of them is a unique blend of spices and is used to flavour only certain dishes. Of these, garam masala, is in my opinion the king of all masalas as it is really versatile and can bring life to the most boring of vegetables. You can cook it into a dal or sprinkle it on top of one, you can use it to flavour savoury lassi or the mashed potato filling that goes into a samosa , and to add flavour to the bean mixture that goes into vegetarian nachos – it’s uses are endless.  Someone’s even written a page about the many avatars of garam masala.

I have given you the garam masala recipe from the book “How to Cook Indian” by my favourite chef Sanjeev Kapoor. I would highly recommend this book as would I it’s sister book “Mastering the Art of Indian Cuisine”. The garam masala recipe itself is really simple once you’ve assembled the raw ingredients. Being quite a strong flavouring, you only need to use a tiny amout to flavour any dish and so it lasts a fair while in a cool dry place in your pantry.

Hope you try making it and come up with new ways of using it!

Garam Masala

Garam Masala

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Bisi bele bhath or Hot vegetable and lentil rice

Bisi (pronounced : be+see) bele (pronounced : bay+lay) bhath (pronounced : bath) is an old stalwart in the Bangalorean/Kannada kitchen. Simply put, it is a one pot dish consisting of rice, yellow lentils (split pigeon peas or toor dal), assorted vegetables and optional dollops of ghee/butter. It is one of those dishes that will always be dear to my heart and my taste buds and I’m very glad my husband loves it too. My version has red-skinned peanuts in it which my mum would absolutely shun but hey, it’s MY version.

The last time I made this dish was while I was on holiday and was busy playing with my then recently acquired Nokia D200. The result was a somewhat burnt spice mix (shhh), lots of not-so-great pictures (that caused the burning) but a delicious bisi bele bhath for a rather late lunch / early dinner. I have given you the recipe for the spice mix as well as the dish itself. Hope you will give it a go!

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side – It tastes better than in looks, I promise

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Tempering/Seasoning de-constructed – Part I

The word “tempering” brings to most minds the technique used for the toughening of steel or glass. For the food oriented mind, perhaps the tempering of chocolate or its slow heating and cooling comes to mind. To a mind that spent half its life in South India however, the word “tempering” means yummy food is on its way to one’s belly.

The Kannada word for “tempering” is “vogranne” and the Hindi word is “vagaar”. The similarity I can draw to other well known forms of tempering is that it requires heat. This technique of tempering comes to most South Indian cooks as second nature as does the stocking of tempering ingredients. Having grown up seeing my mum and grandma cook, and having cooked for many years myself, I don’t even have to think of what to add for tempering – it just comes naturally.

It was only recently that I realised that perhaps, it isn’t natural or intuitive to those who are did not grow up like I did. One of the main triggers was my partner going “You keep saying it’s simple but I’ve just counted 8 ingredients that you’ve rattled of. Do you really think it is that simple for me ?” And then, we were at a pub with a bunch of friends and I was having a conversation about Indian food and while describing the process of tempering, I realised how right my partner was. Especially as I realised that the person I was talking to had an expression on his face that read “Oh my God” – poor bugger!

Thus, I make this attempt to “de-construct” this mysterious tempering business. This first attempt is more applicable to South Indian food and I hope to follow it up in the future with a North Indian tempering blog at some point. I have provided the Kannada (my native language) and Hindi names for each ingredient in case your local shop imports them. In addition, there is a long list of pronunciations at the end of this blog and the part II blog to help you when you go shopping for the ingredients below. Finally, I’ve broken this blog into two parts mainly to make it less of a drag to read. Hope you find it informative !

 

Spices used in tempering

Spices commonly used in South India for tempering

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Tempering/Seasoning de-constructed – Part II

In this part of the blog, I will complete my description of tempering ingredients. I will talk about dried red chillies, dried curry leaves, asafoetida, turmeric,  red chilli powder and their use in tempering. The key thing about tempering is that it is never a single ingredient but a combination of the ingredients in the picture below used to add extra flavour to any dish you make.

Spices used in tempering

Spices used in tempering

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A delicious Christmas lunch: Thanks to all my fellow-bloggers!

We are a bit unconventional when it comes to most things and Christmas lunches are no exception. While most households in England and around the world are busy dealing with a turkey, I spend my time looking up recipes from around the world that I can incorporate into our “Internationally-inspired Christmas lunch”. Last year we had an Italian Starter (Tomato and Mozarella salad), an Indian main (Malai kofta) and a French dessert (Chocolate and raspberry moelleux).

This year, I decided to incorporate something from the Southern hemisphere and this turned out to be the dessert –  passionfruit mousse. Over the summer, I got to try a twice-baked goat’s cheese soufflé and the melt-in-the-mouth taste that I experienced was amazing so I decided that would be my challenge for Christmas this year and this turned out to be the blue-cheese souffle main. Finally, I was keen on trying to make something from South-east Asia and settled on the Malaysian steam bun. I have very fond memories of the steam bun as my once neighbour, who was Malaysian, would bring them over to us straight out of the steamer. As the filling in these buns tend to be meat, I used a curry puff filling recipe to make it vegetarian. All three dishes turned out really well – not to mention my Christmas cake.

Most of my recipes (except the Christmas cake) came from my fellow-bloggers and this blog is a tribute/thank you to them for sharing their wonderful recipes. Our Christmas wouldn’t have been as tasty without them. Merry Christmas and keep blogging!

 

Our Christmas menu

Our Christmas menu

 
Recipes used:

In this section, I have listed links to the recipes I used for our Christmas lunch along with a picture of  the end product. Any changes to the recipes are also listed. Hope you like them and will try them out yourselves. We had an amazing time polishing off this food.

Click on the links below to get to the details of the recipe and more delicious pictures.

 

1. Starter: Baozi or Pau – Malaysian steam bun

2. Main: Twice-baked blue cheese soufflé with a creamy tomato sauce and apple, walnut, rocket salad 

3. Dessert: Mousse de Maracuya or Passionfruit mousse (from Ecuador)

 

Christmas-lunch

 

Quick and dirty saffron pulao

I’ve been travelling for work and pleasure and hence my absence from the blog. I will post a couple of recipes to make up for my absence. The first of these was inspired by the Spanish saffron I got my hands on during one of my recent trips. Beautiful, long strands of saffron that impart a mild, yellow colour to rice and a wonderful and unique flavour too. For those of you who are unfamiliar with saffron, it is the most expensive spice in the world. Each saffron plant has upto 4 flowers and each flower has 3 strands of saffron and each strand has to be hand-picked from a flower. So when you go to the supermarket and see that 1gram of saffron costs 7 GBP, try not to balk.

Growing up, I almost never saw saffron until the time dad went to the Middle east for work and came back with some saffron. Mum used it mostly in desserts but it is also commonly used in flavouring and colouring savoury rice dishes. This pulao is no Spanish paella (pronounced pa-aye-ya) but there is taste in its simplicity. Also, it goes very well with a lot of curries – be they mild or potent. I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of the final product as we were really hungry and ate it pretty quickly. Hope you try this easy recipe and like it!

Strands of saffron on a bey leaf

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