Garam Masala

14 01 2011

 Most Indian recipes that you will come across will list  garam masala as being one of the key ingredients but what  is it?

 Well contrary to what some people think garam masala isn’t actually a spice in and of itself, instead it is a blend of several different spices that together make up the basis of  wide variety of dishes. Most families in India will have their own particular blend that they use and often these carry on unchanged for several generations.

It is getting easier and easier to get hold of garam masala in supermarkets and some of them are pretty good, however a lot of them are really bland and stale tasting as such I prefer to make up my own blend. Not only do I end up with a superior product but I can tweak things to my personal tastes.

The recipe I have included below is really just a stepping stone, it will give you a really good garam masala to start off with but it is your own tweaks that will make it great.

Ingredients:

2 bay leaves

2tbsp coriander seeds

1tbsp cumin seeds

Seeds from 10 green cardamom pods

2tsp black mustard seeds

2tsp fenugreek

1tsp fennel seeds

2tsp black peppercorns

1tsp cloves

1tsp ground nutmeg

3” cinnamon stick

Method:

Heat a small dry pan over a  high heat, once the pan is hot toast the spices for 2 – 3 minutes or until they are several shades darker than at the start, you may wish to cover the pan when the mustard seeds are popping and be careful not to let the spices burn.

Using a mortar and pestle or in an electric spice/coffee grinder grind the toasted spices to a powder and transfer the powder to a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

If kept covered and hilled your garam masala should last for about 2 months.

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Devilled Eggs

25 11 2010

Love it or hate  it the festive season is fast approaching.

One of the biggest headaches in the run up to Christmas and New Year (I refuse to say “The Holidays”) is what foods to serve guests, particularly if you are hosting a party.

Big heavy sit down dinners are all very well and good on Christmas day itself but for more laid back occasions it is often nicer to serve a selection of delicious finger foods – not to mention easier! As such over the coming days I am going to be publishing a selection of my favourite recipes for easy and delicious party food that everyone is going to love.

Devilled Eggs are surprisingly simple to make and cost very little money, not only that you don’t need cutlery to eat them and your vegetarian guests can enjoy them too (vegans not so much)

To make 24 servings you will need the following:

12 medium or large eggs

4 tbsp mayonnaise

4tbsp dijon mustard

1 spring onion

2 tsp cayenne pepper

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Paprika

Some chives

Method:

First you need to hard boil your eggs,  when boiling eggs make sure that you take the eggs out of the fridge in advance and let them reach room temperature before adding them to the water.

Once the eggs are hard boiled and cool enough to handle you need to peel off the shell and cut the eggs in half lengthways.

Using a teaspoon remove the egg yolks and place to one side in a bowl.

Add the mayonnaise and dijon mustard to the egg yolks and mix until you have reached a smooth creamy consistency.

Very finely chop you spring onion and mix into your egg yolk mixture along with the cayenne pepper ensuring that it is well distributed throughout your mixture.

Season your mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

At this point you need to add your mixture to the egg whites; to do this you can either use a piping bag or you can fill them with a spoon.

To stop your eggs from sliding around on the plate you can place them on some fresh crisp lettuce leaves.

Using a sugar sifter sprinkle over a little of the paprika and finely chop some chives and scatter over as a garnish





Homemade Harissa Paste

18 11 2010

Harissa is a hot and spicy paste from North Africa, the key ingredient in it is red chillies and it’s use is prevalent in Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian cuisine.

Harissa is hot I won’t deny it but don’t let that put you off, there is more than just heat! There is a lovely rich fruitiness from the tomatoes and indeed from the chillies themselves and the kick of spice just transports you a million miles away from a wet and windy November afternoon.

I know that some recipes will disagree with me on this but the chillies that you use really should be dried, in my opinion this gives the best flavour to the sauce.

Depending on how hot you want the harissa you can vary which type of chillies are used and can remove the pith and seeds if you wish, personally I use a mix of dried habanero and scoth bonnets  and leave all seeds and pith intact.

To make your own harissa you will need:

250g tomatoes

100g Dried Chillies – I use a mix of habanero and scotch bonnet

1 onion

4 cloves of garlic

1tbsp cumin seeds

1tbsp coriander seeds

1tbsp mustard seeds

1/2tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2tbsp vinegar

olive oil

Add the chillies and the spices to a food processor and blitz until the chillies have started to break down

At this point add the garlic cloves and the onion and blitz until these are combined

You can now add the tomatoes and the 2 tbsp of vinegar and continue to blitz.

Once everything has reached a paste consistency you can add in the salt and pepper adjusting to taste.

Pour everything into a saucepan and bring to the boil, leave to cool completely and then pop into jars. Add enough olive oil into each jar to completely cover the harissa





Winter Vegetable and Bacon soup

16 11 2010

With the weather getting colder and the nights drawing in sometimes I just want to eat something warm and filling.

This winter vegetable and bacon soup ticks both of these boxes and like all soups is cheap and easy to make.

If you make more than you need immediately you can portion it into ziplock bags and it will happily keep in the freezer until you need it.

You will need:

1 large potato

250g swede/turnip

1/2 tbsp thyme

bunch of parsley

4 carrots

4 parsnips

2 sticks of celery

2 leeks

2/3 bay leaves

1 large onion

2 cloves of garlic

200g pancetta

1/2 litre chicken or vegetable stock

salt and pepper to season

olive oil or butter

Chop the onions, garlic and celery and sweat with a little olive oil or butter for approximately 15 minutes until they have softened.

At this point add in the remainder of the vegetables having first peeled, cleaned and chopped them into manageable pieces, continue to cook for another 7-10 minutes

Now add in the chicken or vegetable stock along with the thyme, a good pinch of salt and pepper and the parsley which needs to just be roughly chopped and the bay leaves.

Turn down the heat and simmer for about 25-30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and pour everything else into a food processor and blend until you have a nice smooth puree.

Pour the puree back into the pan and thin with a little more stock if it seems too thick, add more seasoning to taste and warm through.

Fry your pancetta until crisp and drain of any excess oil, add to the soup and serve immediately in warm bowls.

If you wish to make a vegetarian version omit the bacon and ensure that you use vegetable stock.





Carbonara Sauce

15 11 2010

When Saturday evening rolled round it became quite evident that the grocery shopping hadn’t been done yet and that the cupboards were quite bare.

No one in their right mind wants to go shopping at 7pm on a Saturday evening and so I had a quick sort through to see what could be knocked together. Luckily for us we had just enough staple items left for me to make a personal favourite; pasta with carbonara sauce.

Carbonara sauce is very easy and cheap to make and yet still you see people loading up their supermarket trolleys with over-priced jars of gloop.

I realise that in Italy cream is rarely added to the sauce however I prefer it this way, if you want to you can leave it out just as easily.

To make your own carbonara sauce you will need the following.

2 shallots

1 clove of garlic

2 eggs

250ml of single cream

100g parmesan cheese

200g pancetta

black pepper

sea salt

Pasta of your choice – Spaghetti or Tagliatelle work best

Dice the shallots as finely as you can and grate the clove of garlic, add the shallots and garlic to a frying pan along with a small amount of olive oil and sweat until they have started to soften.

Add the pancetta to the pan and fry until it has just started to crisp.

Whislt the pancetta is cooking beat together the two eggs and stir in the cream

Once the pancetta has crisped add the cream and egg mixture to the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer

At this point add your pasta to a pan of boiling water to cook

Grate the parmesan cheese into the sauce and ensure that it is well mixed in.

Add salt to taste – not much if any should be needed due to the pancetta and the cheese. Grind plenty of black pepper into the sauce and make sure it is incorporated well.

Once the pasta is just about cooked drain it and add it to the pan with the sauce making sure that all of the pasta is well coated.

Serve immediately.

If you want to add a touch of colour to the dish I sometimes like to add a small courgette cut into a small dice, this adds a different colour and texture to the dish without affecting the flavour.








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