Vindaloo one

One of the first Indian dishes I ever cooked was a Madhur Jaffrey vindaloo in her Indian Cookery. Some years later I discovered, in her Flavours of India, an entirely different approach to the same dish. Both are divine.

Flavours of India is a book that visits the kitchens of ‘ordinary’ household cooks in India. This vindaloo is attributed to Jude Sequeira.

Note: preparations for this dish start 48 hours before it’s to be eaten.

Ingredients

  • 1kg boneless pork cut into 2″ cubes
  • 1.5 teasp salt
  • 6 tblsps red wine vinegar
  • 4-10 dried hot red chillies
  • 1 tblsp bright red paprika
  • 1/2 teasp cumin seeds
  • 3″ cinnamon stick broken up into smaller pieces
  • 10-15 cloves
  • 1/2 teasp black peppercorns
  • 5-6 cardamom pods
  • 10-12 garlic cloves peeled
  • 1″ piece of ginger peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teasp tumeric
  • 3 tblsp vegetable oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 3 medium sized onions (250g) peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 fresh hot green chillies sliced lengthways in half
  • 1 teasp sugar

Method

The day before cooking, sprinkle the pork with 1 teasp of the salt. Add 3 tblsp vinegar, rub in well and set aside for 2-3 hours.

Make the spice paste: combine the whole spices and grind in a spice grinder. Add the ground spices. Put the garlic and ginger in a blender with 2 tblsp of the vinegar. Blend, add the dry spices and blend to mix.

Rub half of the paste into the pork, cover and refrigerate the pork overnight. Also cover and refrigerate the remaining paste.

Next day.

  • Heat the oil in a wide, preferably non-stick pan over medium-high heat.
  • When hot, put in the 3-4 garlic cloves. Stir and fry until they begin to pick up a little colour.
  • Put in the onions and continue to fry until browned.
  • Now add the tomatoes and 3 of the green chillies. Stir for a minute.
  • Add the remaining spice paste, the sugar and the remaining 1 tblsp vinegar. Stir and fry until the paste begins to brown a little.
  • Now add the marinated meat and all the spice paste clinging to it. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until the pork begins to exude its own liquid.
  • Add 300 ml/1 1/4 cups water and the remaining salt and bring to a boil.
  • Cover, turn heat to low and simmer gently until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened somewhat, about 40 minutes.
  • If necessary, raise the heat to reduce the sauce to a medium consistency towards the end. Add the remaining 3 green chillies and stir once.

Serve with rice. I cook this the day before eating, as it is so much better left to sit.

Comments: I use pork neck for this, it’s a wonderful cut for long cooking times. I suspect that I’ve most recently bought red wine vinegar that isn’t acidic enough for this dish – I’m inclined to favour rough as guts for vindaloo. We shall see. I will be using fresh red chillies, not green, as that’s what’s in the fridge. I will use tinned tomatoes. I imagine a standard tin would equal two large tomatoes. I ignore the 40 minute cooking suggestion, you’ll know when it’s done to your taste.

This is for Saturday night. Counting down, 46 hours to go.

 

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Carrot soup

I’m not going to give this the hard sell. Frankly, the only reason I eat cooked carrots at all is so that I can tick the ‘adult’ box on the internet. Don’t try that at home, children under the age of fifty.

But let’s say you are trying for a more orange coloured skin and you’re sick of all the ways you’ve been eating too much carrot. You could try this.

Ingredients for 4 serves or so as a meal

  • 6 carrots peeled and diced
  • 1 potato peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion peeled and chopped
  • one inch cube fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • one clove garlic peeled and finely chopped
  • butter or, even better ghee if you have it to hand
  • 1 tblesp cumin seeds
  • 2 teasp ground dhanna jeera mix* coriander-cumin mix, 60% coriander 40% cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • tabasco
  • water

plain yoghurt for serving
toast for serving and table butter

*theoretically, mixing these and leaving to sit changes the taste compared with simply grinding and mixing on the day. I have some sitting in the cupboard, so in it went.

Method

  • In a pot fry the onions in the butter, gently, until softened somewhat.
  • Add the ginger and garlic and keep stirring for a minute or so. DON’T burn!
  • Add dry spices and be on high alert for signs of burning activity.
  • Add the diced vegetables, mix, add perhaps a litre of water. Bring to boil and simmer until vegetables are soft.
  • Take off the heat and puree.
  • Back on the heat season with the salt and pepper and tabasco.
  • Add water to make it the preferred thickness. I like these soups to be thinner than most people. I don’t want them to be sludge.

Needless to say, you could change this many ways. For a start, if you love carrot more than I do you might leave out the potato. Fresh chili instead of tabasco, though I thought that the tabasco added a little depth. I was wondering about adding a dash of soy or worcestershire, but didn’t. Maybe with the leftovers. A lot of Indian spices would have done. Mustard seeds at the end? Perhaps with fried onions? Fresh coriander and lemon. Coconut milk?

Having tried it with and without yoghurt, we voted for the latter. Expectation: that the leftovers are bound to be better when they are wheeled out for lunch tomorrow.

Verdict? Definitely worth a guernsey in the ‘how are we going to cook the damn things today?’ list.

Pistachio and prune pilaf

or…what my friend missed. Yesterday, having invited a friend around for lunch, I served up mince and lumpy mash. A sort of deconstructed shepherd’s pie? Not really. It was Indian, not the savoury mince Australians make. I wanted a different taste from the kheemas I usually make, so I cooked the (beef) mince with garlic, ginger, onion, Julie Sahni’s master curry powder, which I make often, chopped tomatoes, and at the end before serving, asparagus (instead of peas), chopped coriander and lemon juice. How bad could that turn out?

It was okay, but I wonder what I could have done to make it more than that? I mean, apart from serving it with a yoghurt and cucumber raita on the side, plus kasundi made by an Adelaide friend, and starring on the day, lumpy mash. I suck at mash.

Today we revisited the mysterious Indian mince dish but it was given a step up by the rice we had with it. Not that the rice was perfect, it definitely needs a little more than it got today. Nonetheless, for a start:

Ingredients

  • 450 ml basmati, washed and soaked for 30 minutes, then drained
  • 600 ml water
  • half a teaspoon tumeric
  • salt
  • several onions halved and finely sliced
  • half a cup of pistachios – salted because that’s what I had, shelled and chopped
  • half a dozen prunes pitted and chopped
  • grapeseed oil – I’d run out of ghee, which would have been better

Method

  • Put the basmati in a pot with the water, tumeric and salt to taste. I was easy on the salt on account of the pistachios being salted, but I should have been less cautious. Bring to boil, stirring a few times, cover and reduce to a simmer.
  • While the rice is cooking, in a non-stick pan fry the onions to a rich brown colour. By the time that’s happened, the rice will be dry on top. Quickly put the onions onto the top of the rice and let sit, covered, whilst
  • fry the prunes and pistachios in whatever bit of oil is left in the frying pan and then add them to the top of the rice.
  • When you are sure that the rice is cooked through, gently fold the onions, prunes and pistachios through the rice, let it sit for a bit longer before serving.

My next attempt at this will be better. Obviously, more in the tradition of a pilaf, stock would be better than salt. I’d run out of ghee, with its rich taste. Grapeseed oil shares the capacity for being used at high heat, but is neutral in taste. While the rice was cooking I should have added more whole spices, along the lines of Jaffrey’s yellow rice. Whole cumin seeds at the end, sizzled in oil/ghee would also have been a good addition too.

I wonder too if adding finely chopped onion to the rice from the start, as well as the fried sliced onion might be a plan. Garlic? For the first time in my life as a person who cooks, I’ve run out of garlic. Unbelievable.

Matar paneer: paneer and peas in a fragrant tomato-based sauce

This is my go-to recipe for what to do with the paneer you made in the previous post. Although I have the matching book by Julie Sahni on vegetarian food, this is from her Classic Indian Cooking. She introduces it with a lecture about the paneer:

The flavour and texture of the paneer are of prime importance here. The cheese should be sweet and fresh-smelling; it should feel firm to the touch but not hard; it should be moist but not wet; and finally, its texture should be close and compact, not porous. (If the paneer is dry and too solid, the cheese pieces will taste hard and rubbery, and the sauce will not penetrate the paneer, leaving it with a bland taste. If the paneer is too wet and loose-textured, it will not hold its shape, but will fall apart while it is being fried.)

We like this dish, but I’m undecided as to whether my paneer stands up to these exacting requirements.

Ingredients for six people

  • one portion of paneer (already made)
  • 12 tablespoons of ghee or vegetable oil
  • 375g finely chopped onion
  • 1 teasp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
  • 2 teasps ground coriander
  • 1 teasp turmeric
  • 1/2 teasp each red and black pepper (I only use black)
  • 1 teasp paprika
  • 375g tinned chopped tomatoes with their juice
  • 300g shelled fresh peas (or frozen)
  • 2 teasps salt
  • 2 teasps garam masala
  • 4 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

Method

  • slice the paneer into bite-sized cubes and leave to dry for half an hour on grease-proof paper (a plate would do fine)
  • heat 3 tblesps of the ghee in a heavy based frying pan, medium heat. Sahni says preferably non-stick, but I don’t have one to hand and do fine without, but my pan is definitely heavy based. You want to do the cheese some at a time, don’t crowd the pan, turn them gently so that they get browned on all sides if possible. She suggests about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl/plate and do the next lot and then – I find – the last lot. It does all splatter a bit, I have a couple of burns on my arm at the moment. Other people will probably manage to avoid that 🙂
  • Add the rest of the ghee to the pan, and increase heat to high. Add the onions and stir all the time until light brown – you really don’t want a burnt taste, which is why you have to be diligent about the stirring.
  • Add the garlic and ginger, fry a couple more minutes.
  • Add all the spices. Stir quickly to mix thoroughly and add the tomatoes. Cook until it thickens and the fat begins to separate from the sauce, which will be about 10 minutes.
  • Add a cup of water, bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a high simmer and cover, leave for 20 minutes, stir now and again. Sahni cools and purees the sauce at this point. I don’t see the need, particularly as she calls for it to still have texture.
  • Now add the peas, paneer, salt and half a cup of water. Bring to boil, reduce to a good simmer again, cook covered until peas are done, this will take longer if the peas were fresh.
  • Let dish rest off the heat for an hour and then reheat thoroughly. Before serving, stir in garam masala and chopped coriander leaves.

I’m very happy to make more of this sauce and freeze it, with a view to being ready for the adding peas, paneer etc when you want this dish.

When you’ve run out of paneer and still have sauce left, try adding hard boiled eggs.

I was wondering, given that it seems in general best to avoid frying things, if it’s okay to do this recipe with paneer which hasn’t been fried first. Looking around, I see lots of people do and lots of people don’t. I note one recipe which says to soak the paneer in water AFTER it’s been fried, while  you are cooking the sauce. I think I’m going to try the non-fried version and if it all holds together, I’ll stick to that. And report back, of course.

Making paneer

I get into habits of making paneer and then, for no good reason, it’ll get benched, maybe for years. Lately it’s back in the arena. I use Julie Sahni’s general advice. There is a lot of fuss on some sites about milk being boiled to a particular point and gadgets for measuring that and so on. I don’t find it necessary, but I have no idea if being fussier would make better paneer.

Ingredients

  • 4 litres of full cream milk
  • for a starter lemon juice (but you can use yoghurt, or vinegar)
  • muslin or similar – not sure how to avoid this

Method

  • Line a colander with the muslin so it overhangs the edges or thereabouts.
  • Bring the milk to the boil, stirring to stop it burning – well, that never works for me, there’s always a stuck on bottom at the end. When it is gently at the boil, add the starter. Apparently lemon juice gives a milder impact than the others suggested. Stir GENTLY, the curds will be forming as you do that. In fact, since I have an electric stove, I turn it off when I’m adding the lemon since it’s a quick procedure from there.
  • Tip into the colander.
  • Rinse thoroughly, this will cool down the curds.
  • Squeeze them in the muslin which you pick up by its ends.
  • Pack it into a flat shape (still in the muslin), put it on a chopping board and weigh it down with a saucepan of water.
  • After an hour or so, put it in the fridge.

It’s now firm and ready for next step. Which is for the next post.

By the way, if you want cottage cheese, I think that you simply bypass the process of firming this, so it stays soft the way cottage cheese is. Then you could do Western things with it, I expect.

So, you’ve made your paneer, now what to do with it. Frankly, I find it hard not to eat it all on the spot, it  has a fresh, sweet taste that you aren’t going to get from a commercial packet. But in practice you’ve invited vegetarians to dinner and the paneer has been purposed.  Recipe for that tomorrow.

 

 

 

Stir-fry rice, Indian style

I often make this ‘everyday’ basmati rice and have leftovers. We did this with it tonight.

Ingredients

  • leftover everyday basmati rice (or similar)
  • best quality freshly seeded and chopped tomato – I used about 15 cherry tomatoes for 2 serves
  • chopped mint and flat leaf parsley
  • chopped pistachios

Method

Gently stir-fry rice in a non-stick pan – no ghee/oil is needed as the rice was cooked in this in the first instance. Add other ingredients, continue stirring until all are heated through.

Serve with….

On the side

We had plain yoghurt to which was added coarsely grated and squeezed (to get rid of some of the liquid) cucumber, a finely chopped clover of garlic, salt, pepper and ground roasted cumin.

Note

  • The rice dish is vegetarian, but it could happily have some chicken mixed into it.
  • And obviously variation of herbs and nuts is possible too.

Fabulous and a few minutes to make, given the rice is already done.

The kheema you should start with….

Kheema

I guess there are just about a gadzillion versions of kheema. This is the version of the basic staple recipe that I prefer of the various ones I’ve tried. Leave out the peas, add spinach instead, or smoky pureed eggplant (see another chapter for making this), or….

Ingredients

  • 450g minced lamb (or beef)
  • 4 tblesp ghee/oil
  • 200g onions sliced coarsely
  • 4 large cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 2” piece ginger chopped finely
  • 1 teasp ground cumin
  • 2 teasp ground coriander
  • half teasp tumeric
  • 1 teasp chilli powder
  • tin of tomatoes plus juice, chopped
  • peas
  • fresh coriander, chopped

Method

Over medium high heat, heat the ghee and then fry onions, stirring constantly until a deep brown. Turn heat very low, add ginger and garlic, fry for a minute or so before adding all the ground spices, stir for another minute or so, DON’T BURN THE SPICES!!!

Turn heat back up, add the meat and stir to brown, being vigilant to break it all up, no big lumps please.

Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil, cover and then turn down to a vigorous simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, check now and then to make sure it isn’t drying out too quickly. At the end, it should be dry, with the oil seeping out. Add the peas a few minutes before serving and lastly, the fresh coriander. You may, for the last few minutes of cooking, turn the heat up high and stirfry to make sure it is a nice brown colour. In my opinion, if you’ve started out the right way, you won’t have to do that.

Serve with rice.

See another post for turning this into samosas.

(I’ve used Sameen Rushdie’s recipe for this post)