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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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Pie Oh My

Todays cookbook has definitely been one that fits into the category of neglected. It’s Pieminister by Tristan Hogg and Jon Simon, and when I bought it I knew, absolutely knew that I would from that day on bake pies every week and be like the perfect 50’s housewife: pinny on, oven gloves in hand holding a steaming hot pie that would cool on (where else?) the kitchen windowsill. I even imagined having a Homer like person in the family to wolf it all up before dinner. Oddly enough, this scenario never materialised and the cookbook went on the bookshelf to gather dust. I get these strange little fantasies in my head every now and then with a cookbook, but it soon passes and it becomes just another cookbook in my collection. This cookbook does have some pretty amazing looking recipes in it, all pies of course, ranging from sweet and savoury. Its divided into seasons, and the recipes have really creative and interesting names such as ‘Lucky Ducky Pies (duck confit pie), ‘Poussin Boots’ (chicken pie) and ‘The Hedonist Pie’ (chocolate pie) which make them seem even more appealing than pies already are. A lovely friend of mine from school days came round for dinner, so I decided to finally give Pieminister a go, despite the fact that the weather has been smashing and is not really traditional pie eating weather. But conventions were made to be broken, and if I’m ever going to break with convention then I can tell you it will only ever be with cooking. I chose Hunters Chicken pie which takes all the elements of the pub dish hunters chicken and chucks it into a pie. So you’ve got chicken in a creamy, mustardy sauce, onions slowly cooked into a BBQ relish, all topped with cheese and then encased in puff pastry. I love hunters chicken and can now say that I also love Hunters Chicken Pie! Its not as in your face as the pub dish, but much more subtle and the creamy sauce  combined with the melted cheese is a winner. And theres bacon in the sauce too, which can only help make this pie an absolute diamond. Plus, what can I say about piping hot puff pastry other than that it is magnificent with pretty much anything. (If you need more convincing on this subject, make ham and cheese empanadas and consider yourself convinced). I didn’t even consider making my own puff pasty from scratch, just buy it from the chilled section in the supermarket. Top chefs in top restaurants do this, so don’t be a martyr, and just do it the easy way. If you want to create thousands of layers of butter from scratch be my guest, but believe me no one is going to think its a good idea. Leave it to Jus-Rol.

It also got the thumbs up from V, who could barely contain her pleasure at this pie, so I consider this recipe a great success and will absolutely be using this cookbook again. Once the boyfriend comes back I’ll also be cooking this recipe once more: cheese, bacon, pastry, he’ll bloody love it! And you have V to thank for getting this picture on here, I was already chowing down when she yelled ‘Oh my god, you haven’t taken a picture for your blog, quick TAKE A PICTURE!’, it was quite the drama! Hence the fork shaped hole in the pastry, sorry!

I’ve now also had my new cookbooks delivered, which has given me plenty of reading material and ideas. The USA cookbook is filled to the brim with amazing authentic sounding recipes, it has 25 pages alone dedicated to pancakes, waffles and muffins so whats not to love? Only problem is picking what to cook out of these books as I want to cook them all! Supper Club is a beautiful book full of stunning pictures, and as well as recipes gives tips on how to set up an underground restaurant. This tempted me for all of about 5 seconds until I remembered I don’t really like strangers and can’t stand small talk (if all you can think to talk about with someone is the weather, just don’t bother talking at all, its less insulting), so setting up a mini restaurant in your home is really something you should only do if you will talk to anyone and don’t mind randoms snooping round your bathroom cupboard. And want to wait on people hand and foot. I don’t think so, even the boyfriend doesn’t get such treatment when I cook for him so why should total strangers? But the recipes are definitely worth giving a go. Have only flicked through The Book of Jewish Food but the food sounds so varied and delicious. Its not just cheesecakes, bagels and smoked salmon, let me tell you! It also includes a huge amount of history and culture of Jewish people and already I’m learning so much. I thought I knew plenty about the Jewish faith before this, but apparently idolising Larry David and watching Charlotte convert from Christianity to Judaism on Sex and the City isn’t educating me on the subject, so I’m happy to be enlightened.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Baking, Books, Chicken

 

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