Thursday 20 January 2011

paneer pakora

well, I had some gorgeous leeks in the box and I really wanted to melt them down with butter sloooooowly as my grandmother used to, and I had a little yoghurt which I fancied using to make naan breads, so I thought, why not do something with some paneer?
And lo and behold the paneer box had a recipe for a yummy looking paneer pakora on it, so I thought I'd try that.
However, the pakora recipe was very bland, and just a pancake type batter, which ISN'T pakora, so I improvised and devised my own.

I mixed gram flour, garam masala (my homemade blend), sesame seeds, cumin and salt in a dish, trickled in some water to bind, and stirred in a teaspoon of oil.

Then I cut up my paneer block into strips, cubes and chunks and then I first fried a few small cubes plain, and then I coated the rest in the batter and fried them in batchs in my karahi of oil. I find a karahi uses much less oil and heats up more quickly.

When they were done I removed them with a slotted spoon and drained them on absorbent kitchen paper, and they were really delicious and very more-ish!
This would definitely work with tofu for vegans.

Thursday 13 January 2011

creamy cumin chicken

My wonderful "godmother" MamaC shared a delicious sounding Waitrose recipe which she had loved, and I thought it'd be nice to try a recommended recipe. And it seemed straightforward enough. And I like ringing the changes regularly. And I start too many sentences with "and". So anyway, I dutifully bought the chicken as listed in the ingredients - and forgot to check what else was needed. When today rolled round, I looked at the rest of the stuff needed, and realised I don't much like smoked paprika, the kids don't eat mushrooms really, nor does Papa (even though his shift means he doesn't eat with us on Thursdays, he loves a little leftovers for his lunch) so I decided to switch a bit around and improvise.

So here's what happened:

OK, so first off, I started the rice to soak up the delicious sauce. I made my simple "party rice" - pulao rice cooked on hob - chopped onion fried in butter, little whole cumin, some frozen peas, cup of rice, teaspoon of sesame seeds (optional), teaspoon of Marigold, cup and half of hot water, (Quick Cup, yes) bring to boil, turn down low, simmer for 15 mins, switch off, DO NOT UNCOVER - re-set timer for another 5mins, then uncover and add a little salt if desired.

Inbetween times, I browned a pack of chicken mini fillets in a saute pan in some oil. Once they were nicely browned on all sides, I took them out to drain on kitchen paper and added a chopped onion and a crushed garlic clove and cooked that for 3 minutes til soft. I then added 2 teaspoons of ground cumin and a shake of coarsely ground black pepper(the recipe called for the smoked paprika here if you're interested), and once those were mixed in and coated, a teaspoon of sundried tomato paste (and I'm glad I did have that, as it does make a difference from ordinary tomato paste) and finally about 250ml chicken stock. Depending on the stock, you may want to add some seasoning now.
Now I returned the chicken to the pan, covered the pan and simmered for 15 minutes until the chicken was tender and cooked through.
Now the recipe asks for a pack of halved chestnut mushrooms, so I tipped in the rest of a tetra of cannelini beans instead, (had used some earlier in the week in a pasta sauce) and simmered the whole she-bang for another five minutes.
After this I switched off the heat and stirred in half a tub of organic creme fraiche I had instead of the 170ml carton of soured cream the recipe lists. (I had yoghurt on standby if it wasn't creamy enough, but it was gloriously creamy) and finally I sprinkled on a handful of fresh parsley.

Oh, the sauce was sour and creamy and unctuous and wonderful mixed with the lightly scented vaguely nutty perfectly separate-grained rice, and the chicken had absorbed so much flavour and was juicy and succulent, and most importantly, the kids LOVED it, and Littl'Un has a cold and hasn't much of an appetite, and yet she ate almost all of it.

Definitely yum, definitely one to do again! In the summer, I might add a really simple salad of leaves and a lemon dressing to mop up even more of that amazing sauce.
Thanks MamaC, we love the recipe - we'll call it our inspiration!

Thursday 6 January 2011

new year, new stuff

well, it's been a crazy Christmas and New Year, we planned less as we had so many leftovers.
I knew we'd have chicken as we do every year on Christmas Day, (I hate turkey, so we get organic, free range and spend money on the accompaniments) and Littl'Un did her Stone Age act with the chicken on the bone, and Big'Un went to town with her fave, the brussels.
Left over chicken got folded into a pasta dish with left over veg and similarly, the gammon we had on New Year's Eve is still going.
Ah, the gammon, now that was fun! I desperately wanted to try the cooking gammon in cola trick that was brought to my attention by Nigella, but is apparently common in parts of the US. But with my caffeine sensitive kiddies, I couldn't risk it without taking advice.
Well the consensus was that cooking doesn't "kill" caffeine, as it does alcohol, and I couldn't go for caffeine free coca-cola (tm) because that doesn't use sugar and the sugar is an important part of the process. Not to mention I won't even allow sweeteners in the house, let alone into my beloveds precious little bodies! Then a helpful Facebook friend reminded me that Whole Earth cola is sans caffeine, so then I scoured the shops for the magic stuff! Asda used to sell it, and I thought I might find it in Waitrose, but no, I finally tracked it down in the little health shop in Southgate where I used to go regularly when I lived 10 minutes away. I'm so pleased it's still hanging in there.
Well, I have to say the effort was worth it! I'd picked up a gorgeous free range smoked gammon in Sainsbury's after Christmas, half price, and Godpapa found the right recipe to follow, and we found it luscious and juicy and really really tasty.
Big'Un had 2 or 3 big slices, and Littl'Un has been chomping some most days since.
We had our usual picky party food for the New Years "party" - including the much advertised - and extremely overpriced - sweet sandwiches from M&S, but the true star was Godpapa's cola gammon.

We've barely had to cook since then, we've had gammon and spaghetti with garlic and sweetcorn today, and sandwiches, and ham & cheese salad plates. Definitely worth the money, even if we'd paid full price.
I will be doing that again!