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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blog on Hold

Hello to all the readers out there. Just letting you know that I will be taking a temporary hiatus until 2013. The end of the year fast approaches bringing with it all the hustle and bustle of Christmas and New Year. In the meantime I am going be extra busy with our new home which we shall be moving in to this weekend. I cannot wait to start cooking up a storm and taking pics for the blog in our new kitchen. Here you see a pic of the cook top in its most pristine condition. After tomorrow it will never be the same.
See you in the new year!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lamb Rogan Josh

Some may regard Rogan Josh as the epitome of Indian Lamb curries.  You would be hard bent not to find it as a regular offering at your local Indian takeaway or restaurant menu.  It is the Butter Chicken of lamb dishes, for the Western world anyway!  Obviously due to its popularity, the dish has gone through countless iterations and ingredients can vary slightly, depending on who you speak to. The origins of the dish are notably from Persia and it was introduced to the Mogul kings in the Kashmir region of India.  Persian influenced dishes are favourably sweeter that the usual hot curries conjured up in the sub-continent's many kitchens.  Unlike many other dishes that get their sweetness from dried fruits and ultimately - the addition of sugar, Rogan Josh lends its sweet notes from the aromatic spices in its list of ingredients.  The name of the dish translates loosely to describe something "cooked in oil under intense heat".  I feel this is actually more of a misnomer than an explanation, as I am pretty sure most Indian curries are cooked in oil and under heat.  Nevertheless, the name has stuck and is firmly imprinted onto palates worldwide, none more so than an old colleague of mine who practically kept the local Indian takeaway in business by his frequent ordering of this dish repeatedly.  I promised him about a year ago I would get him a good recipe for Rogan Josh, so I hope it's not to late and he still reads my blog.  Here is my version of Rogan Josh or better named Sweet and Spicy Lamb - Nah! Doesn't have the same ring to it!   
1.2kg x Lamb, with bone, cut into rough chunks
1 tsp x Green Cardamom
2 pods x Black Cardamom
1 tsp x Black Peppercorns
1 tsp x Fennel Seeds
1 tsp x Cinnamon powder
3 whole x Dried Kashmiri Chillies (substitute 2 tsp x paprika)
2 tbsp x Ghee 
2 x Bay Leaves
2 pods x Black Cardamom
1 stick x Cinnamon
4 x Onions, finely chopped
4 cloves x Garlic, crushed
1 inch piece x Ginger, grated
2 tsp x Garam Masala
2 tsp x Sweet Paprika
1 tbsp x Salt
1 cup x Natural Yoghurt, extra half cup if required
1 cup x Water
1 bunch, Coriander leaves
Combine the seeds of the green and black cardamom with the peppercorns, fennel seed, cinnamon, and dry chillies in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
Grind to a fine powder and rub over the lamb pieces, allow to stand for at least an hour

In a wide frypan or wok heat the ghee then add the bay leaf, cardamom and cinnamon, fry for 30 seconds
Add the onions and fry, stirring frequently, until they are dark and caramelised - do not burn!

Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another 2 minutes then add the paprika and salt
If the mixture starts to dry add a little water to retain a little moisture as you fry
Place the lamb into the wok, folding the curry mixture through it 
Pour in the yoghurt a little at a time, incorporating it gradually

Add a little water if required to just cover the lamb, stir to combine then bring to the boil

This is now the time to transfer the lamb and spices to a heavy pot to slow cook it in

Turn heat down and simmer covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the bottom catching

In the final 5 minutes of cooking add the coriander leaves and stir through.
Serve with piping hot naan bread or a bed of basmati rice. 

"As mentioned before there are a probably hundred ways to make Rogan Josh and who's to know the correct one - possibly a native!  This recipe follows the traditional spice and yoghurt ingredients typical of Persian cuisine.  Some variations include tomatoes and tomato paste which gives the dish a different taste again due to the acidity.  I have also come across a recipe which does not use onions and this impacts the overall sweetness."   

Monday, November 12, 2012

Prawn & Saag - an old favourite

I never say no to a prawn dish and when it comes to this curry or 'bhaji', it is another one of those special dishes from my childhood that I remember well.  Saag  pronounced "sarg" is the collective name of a number of green leaves that are wilted through curry dishes like this one.  The most common and familiar is probably spinach but there is vast array of others like mustard leaf and pumpkin leaf too.  Asian green grocers stock many of these varieties which they sell predominantly to their community since they know exactly how to use the different 'saags' in various dishes.  Lal Saag is the leaves of the Amaranth plant - hence the colour - and it is very hard to come by in Australian markets.  Lucky for me, my mother-in-law has been growing a patch of  the red stuff for some time and I frequently get to feast on this delicious dish during harvest time.  Other times of the year this recipe works just as well with regular English spinach although it is not as sweet.  There are minimal spices here as much is relying on the marriage of fresh juicy prawns and the natural sweetness of the saag. 
500g x Prawns, fresh cleaned and shelled
1 tsp x Turmeric powder, plus 1 tsp extra
Salt to taste
500g x Lal Saag or your choice of dark leafy greens
2 tbsp x Mustard Oil, substitute for a fruity olive oil
1 tsp x Mustard seed
1 x Onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves x Garlic, crushed
1 x Chilli, seeds removed and sliced finely
Sprinkle the turmeric evenly over the prawns and add a pinch of salt
Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok and toss in the prawns
Lightly cook for about 3 minutes then remove prawns from heat and reserve
In the same wok add the other tablespoon of oil and allow to heat on medium
Add the mustard seeds and stir until they begin to crackle and pop
Follow with the onion, cooking for about 5 minutes
Now add the extra turmeric, garlic and saag folding through to combine
Place a lid on the wok and allow leaves to wilt for about 4-5 minutes
Now return prawns to the wok stir well to combine for 1-2 minutes
Add the fresh chilli and serve hot on a bed of steamed basmati rice.
"This is a very simple version of this dish but it does not discount from its delicious taste.  Check out one of my earlier posts called Silverbeet & Prawn for a more elaborate version that involves a lot more steps but the result is well worth it."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Baba Ganoush - Spiced Eggplant Dip

Here I go with yet another dip recipe, but I can't seem to go past this one as it was a definite highlight of the last cheese and dip platter I had going at supper not long ago. And by supper I mean the meal you have, well after dinner time, when you are supposed to be sleeping, but find yourself craving something moreish (we've all been there!).  With summer approaching here and the days getting longer, it calls for less time in the kitchen and more time outdoors.  Home-made dips are the best for when you want something flavoursome, and you want it quick.  Whip a dip up in no time and tear up some flatbreads, slice some crusty sourdough or just open a cheeky pack of crackers to enjoy.  Many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants start their meal banquets with dips as an entree - and I hate when they only give you a teency-weency bit of dip - especially if it's good. My home-made dips allow for abundance so you needn't miss out. Check out a previous post Four Dips worth Double Dipping.
1 large Eggplant, use a small knife to slice a few vertical lines to allow for heat to escape (otherwise it will explode in the oven)
2 tbsp x Olive Oil
2-3 tbsp x Tahini
2 cloves x Garlic, crushed
2 tbsp x Lemon juice
1 tsp x Cumin powder
Salt to taste

Olives for garnish (optional)
Turn on the grill section of your oven (or broiler depending on where ya from!)

Put the eggplant in a heatproof dish and place under the grill for about 30-40 minutes or until the inner flesh collapses, 
Be sure to turn every 10 minutes to ensure it cooks evenly
You may want to blacken the skin over a gas flame but this is optional (I reccommend it for the exceptional smoky flavour it develops)
Wrap the eggplant in cling wrap and allow to cool for about 20 minutes
When cool enough to handle remove the skin and mash up the flesh
Place all ingredients into a food processor with the eggplant and pulse to combine

Adjust seasoning to taste - add extra salt, lemon or olive oil if desired
Serve with your choice of bread and enjoy with some olives on the side

Baba Ganoush will keep for up to a week in a sealed container at the back of the fridge
"I love the mellow depth of flavour that comes from smoking the eggplant - the dip takes on a sweetness unlike no other, and the lemon and cumin compliment it perfectly."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kari Ayam - Indonesian Chicken Curry

Yet another Indonesian chicken dish to post about and this time it is a wet curry from the region which is just heavenly with a bowl of steamed rice. I have been meaning to post this one since last year. Kari Ayam is just as easy to prepare as Chicken Rendang and almost has the same ingredients. Fresh turmeric really adds the appeal to the dish and not to mention, the colour.  Once again, I have adapted it for one pot - one blender, cooking to make it easy. Now I know that traditionally, the joy in preparing an Indonesian or Malaysian dish begins with a lot of grinding of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, and I am not one to dispute that. But when you are pressed for time but still want to eat quality worldly cuisines then the food processor becomes your best friend. As long as your ingredients are fresh, then this always beats opening up a bottle of a preservative-laden, taste-lacking excuse for a curry sauce, instead.
1.5kg x Chicken pieces
500g x Small Potatoes, peeled and halved
1 quill x Cinnamon
2 tbsp x Cooking Oil, extra for frying the paste
4-5 x Red Chillies, remove the seeds if you want it milder
2 x Onions, quartered
4 cloves x Garlic
5 x Candlenuts
1 inch piece x Fresh Turmeric, sliced (1 tsp x powder to substitute)
1 inch piece x Ginger, sliced
2 inch piece x Galangal, sliced
2 stalks x Lemongrass, white parts bruised
2 tsp x Cumin powder
2 tsp x Coriander powder
1 tsp x Fennel seeds, roasted then ground
1 tsp x Nutmeg powder
5 x Cloves
1 tbsp x Balachan (Shrimp paste), dry roasted
1 tsp x Salt, more to taste
4 tbsp x Sugar

2 x 400ml cans of Coconut Milk 
Reserve chicken, potatoes and cinnamon aside
Place all other ingredients in blender or food processor, with just half of the coconut milk and blitz to a smooth liquid
Heat a heavy pot on high with a 2 tbsp of oil

Add the paste mixture to the pot and fry for about 3 minute
Add the chicken, potatoes and cinnamon, bring to the boil
Pour in the remaining half of coconut milk, bring to the boil again
Lower heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes
Remove lid turn heat up and reduce sauce slightly to desired consistency 
Check seasoning adding extra salt or sugar if required
Serve piping hot with steamed rice - very very comforting!