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Lamb Dhansak In Its Rice Anorak

If the title of todays bloggage means nought to you, then may I point you in the direction of the sublimely bizarre Mighty Boosh DVD box sets and hopefully all will become clear. Perhaps, either that or you’ll come away from the experience more confused than ever, who can say, it’s that kind of show? In essence though, I just pinched one of their lines as it perfectly suited what I’ve cooked the week, which obviously was a lamb dhansak. It’s always infuriated me that I’ve never managed to cook a decent Indian curry, heaven knows I’ve tried but they always end up watery, or tasteless, or tasting purely of tinned tomatoes. I know a homemade curry is never going to taste anything like a curry from the local Indian takeaway, but all I ask is that it tastes nice. Well reader, on Saturday I finally made some progress. Get out the champers and party poppers. I’ve tried curries from so many different cookbooks, all have failed, so it came as quite a surprise to me that the recipe that finally worked was from a recipe book for pies. Yes that’s right, not a curry book but a pie book. It’s like up is down and down is up. The reason for there being a curry in Pieminister is that you make the curry one day and dish up some as a regular curry with rice, and then the next day pop the remaining curry into pie, bake and serve. Genius. The recipe is called The Guru, I’m not sure why but recycling the curry into a pie seemed like a great idea to me. Plus the flavour in a curry intensifies when left for a day and reheated so in theory the pie should taste even better than your dinner the night before.
First things first, this recipe yields an absolute truckload of food so if you’re feeding a lot of people this is the dish to go for. We had enough for 2 servings of curry, 4 slices of pie and at least 2 servings for the freezer, but we have big appetites so less greedy people could probably stretch it further. It’s also packed full of healthy ingredients, but don’t let this put you off! Aside from the lamb, you’ve got chickpeas, lentils, onions, sweet potato, tomatoes, spinach and loads of spices so plenty of super foods which add flavour and texture, as well as added smugness which comes with the knowledge that actually the curry is really quite good for you. Pieminister also taught me that the way to avoid the tinned tomato taste is to use a jar of passata instead of the usual tinned stuff. There’s no metallic taste and its thicker so the curry ends up far less watery, two perils that until now I’d never been able to avoid. Such an obvious substitution to make but one I’d ever thought of and I urge you to give it a go too if you’re just as hopeless as me at Indian curries. In the end, the dhansak tasted pretty good. Nothing amazing, but pretty good nonetheless. It even looked like a proper curry, and had a decent amount of spice in it. Even The Boyfriend thought it was pretty good and he is my toughest critic. In the pie though, it was less impressive. I say that, but the curry was still tasty and definitely had developed more of a kick overnight. It was the pastry that let it down, that bloody shortcrust pastry. I’m just not a fan, it’s bland and dull and adds nothing to the dish, I should have just had the dhansak with rice again. The Boyfriend went so far as to say that shortcrust makes him feel sick, so it’s fair to say I won’t be making shortcrust pastry in my kitchen again. Puff pastry is the way forward. To accompany the pie I made Bombay roasted new potatoes from Jamie’s Britain which thankfully got the thumbs up, and some petit pois peas which always taste good.

Feeling adventurous last night I also decided to whip up a dessert, vanilla soufflé with a raspberry coulis (what normal people call a sauce, however the recipe did come from my Masterchef cookbook so one can expect a little bit of pretension). Putting it in the oven I was convinced that the soufflé would be a disaster as the two components of the pud would not gel together in my mixing bowl, but I was wrong in my conviction as they rose splendidly and came out just as I wanted them to. The soufflés tasted perfectly of vanilla, which is reassuring considering vanilla pods aren’t cheap, and the smell of the milk infusing with the vanilla was amazing. Vanilla is easily my favourite smell of all time, it’s gorgeous. It was light, fluffy and reminded me of a just cooked pancake, albeit with a strong dose of vanilla instead of the traditional sugar and lemon. The coulis was also very good, sharp but sweet and added some punchiness to the soft, fluffy soufflé. My only beef with soufflés is that while they taste lovely, it’s like eating air and doesn’t give me something to sink my teeth into and therefore leaves me feeling somewhat deflated, much like a failed soufflé. In my eyes, the perfect desserts are either fudgey, gooey, chocolatey concoctions, fruity pies or crumbles with lashings of custard, or a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. With this up against it, it’s no wonder the soufflé didn’t entirely hit the spot, tasty though it was.

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Foodie Memories

Not much cooking going on in Neglected Cookbooks kitchen this week I’m afraid, I’ve gotten lazy in the run up to The Boyfriend returning home. I have far too much left over food in the fridge / freezer so I’m ploughing through that before I start to fill it up once he’s flown away to distant lands again. So, like a Friends compilation episode where they look back at funny/poignant clips from the year (you know the ones, you always feel a little disappointed when its these episodes and not Ross’s fake tan disaster or Rachel and Ross hiring a ‘manny’), here’s me reflecting on my favourite foodie moments. Sorry.

The One Where I Eat So Much I Am Nearly Sick: This pretty much happens whenever I visit my Aunty down in TOWIE land. She always cooks way too much for guests, but fortunately she is a great cook so it’s easy to help polish the lot off. When younger my brother actually was sick after a BBQ at hers, all down to gluttony, my favourite of all the sins. A weekend at hers will then result in avoiding the scales and repenting at the gym for weeks, but you know what? Its definitely worth it. Her homemade curry is amazing, I keep meaning to steal the recipe from her but no luck so far. Her favourite saying in the kitchen? ‘Its soooo easy”, and she’s right. Keep it simple and keep it tasty. And always serve with a chilled glass of wine.

The One Where We Ate Ice Cream On The Seine: Life doesn’t really get much better than eating pistachio ice cream with The Boyfriend on a sunny day, while floating on the Seine’s boat taxi between the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. It was definitely the best long weekend I’ve had, and the pistachio ice cream was divine. Not a lot of food stood out on that trip, we were a lot younger and just drifted around the city, popping into random places for food, but the pistachio ice cream stands out. The only other memorable meal from then was finding an Indian restaurant in the middle of a residential area where no tourist had clearly ever been before. They hunted around for the English menu for a good while, dusted it off and while the food was great (and very different from English curries) that uncomfortable feeling of being the only English people in a room full of snobby Parisians glaring at us was the pervading memory of that meal. Good times.

The One Where We Discovered Cheesecake Heaven: Have I mentioned my obsessive, compulsive love for The Cheesecake Factory here before? I’m fairly certain it might have come up at some point or another. When me and The Boyfriend first discovered the sheer amazingness of their Banana Cream Cheesecake, we’d been at Universal Studios in Florida and found a cafe there that served their cheesecakes. Needing a snack to keep us going until dinner (we’d done a lot of walking, alright?), we made the stupid mistake of sharing a slice. How we didn’t break up right then and there while passionately arguing over who should have the last bite, I’ll never know. Since then, we’ve had a love affair with the place and any visit to the States HAS to include a trip to the nearest Cheesecake Factory. Its another long distance relationship I’m happy to be in. I’ve never had a better cheesecake than the Banana Cream one, ever. It really is a thing of beauty. If I know anyone going to America, the first thing I say is “you have to go to the Cheesecake Factory”, and if you don’t then you have made a grave error of judgement. Moral of the story: Never share cheesecake.

The One Where Its Sunny And The BBQ Must Come Out: When still living at home with my dad and stepmum, it became very clear to me over the summer that the slightest hint of sunny weather would mean that the BBQ gets rolled out and its burgers ago-go. I’m not complaining, I love BBQ’s and sitting outside with a good book and a glass of wine while someone else does all the cooking is fine by me (when it comes to BBQ’s, I’m more of a spectator than a cook). Even the cat would become less antisocial and mingle with the inferior humans, hovering behind the BBQ for some dropped pork chop and begging at the table. Happy faces all round!

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Food, Lunch, Puddings

 

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Tandoori Chicken

I bloody love Indian food, but it is to my utmost dismay that I cannot for the life of me cook it. Many a curry recipe has been tried and tested, but yet I cannot master the art of Indian curries. I know, how can I possibly show my face in civilised, culinary company again? Anyway, my self esteem couldn’t take any more failed curries so I decided to try a new Indian dish, that of Tandoori chicken, from Simon Hopkinson’s book ‘The Good Cook’. I saw the cookery show he did last year and loved it, so naturally I did what any cookbook nut would do and bought the accompanying book. Man was I disappointed. While the lovely meals shown on TV were all there , the rest of the recipes seemed dull, uninspiring and definitely not my cup of tea. That Simon, he’s nothing but a big tease, putting all the goods out on show first thing, and nothing to back it up later on. But he does have a cracking recipe for tandoori chicken, so it’s not all bad. Obviously not having a tandoori oven means its impossible to replicate the authentic taste you’d get in a restaurant, but making it at home means you can’t also have a dhansak, keema rice, Bombay potatoes and popadoms on the side. So it’s much more bikini friendly! It’s very simple, you just marinate some chicken legs in yoghurt and tandoori spices (I used a pot that I brought from Borough Market aeons ago), leave them in the fridge overnight and then chuck them in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Easy! Also, if like me you have a well stocked freezer and cupboards then this recipe is very economical, all I had missing was the yoghurt. Very handy in the week before payday let me tell you. Anyway, the chicken skin is crisp and bright red, the meat nice and juicy thanks to the marinating. I served it with pitta bread (a bit unconventional I know, Indian meat and Greek bread, but like I said, it’s the week before payday and there were no naan breads in my freezer) and some mango chutney and it was very tasty indeed. Chuck some salad on the side and you’ve got a perfect easy meal after a long day at work. Just don’t buy The Good Cook, if you’re anything like me at all, you will be sorely let down. Sorry Simon, I’m out.

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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Books, Chicken, Cooking, Food, Indian

 

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