Saturday, October 29, 2011

Coconut chicken curry

This is a one-pot meal, to be served in bowls and eaten with a spoon. What surprised me was that the potatoes took a while to soften - I had thought that the coconut milk would tenderise them, but perhaps I acidified the liquid with the other ingredients. (If you want crunchy potatoes, try cooking them in tomato sauce.) Nevertheless, I think that new potatoes, which hold their shape, are the kind to go for here.

Serves 2, generously.


1tsp cumin seeds
1/2tsp mustard seeds
6 cardamom pods
1tsp turmeric
1/6tsp asafoetida
1/4tsp dried ginger, or (better) fresh
Cayenne pepper to taste

Sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tin coconut milk
150ml chicken stock (I confess I used half a cube and 150ml water)
2 sweet peppers, deseeded and cut into fork-sized pieces
8 new potatoes, cut into fork-sized pieces
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1 large chicken supreme, cut into fork-sized pieces
3 spring onions, chopped
Chillis, chopped
1tbsp lime juice

Warm the cumin and mustard seeds in a saucepan over a gentle heat, until toasted. Grind them, with the cardamom, in a mortar.

In a large saucepan or casserole, warm about 2 tbsps of sunflower oil over a gentle heat, throw in the garlic, and then the onion. Cook gently, stirring, and adding a bit more oil if it threatens to catch. When the onion is soft, tip in the cumin, mustard seeds and cardamom, and cook gently, again stirring, for about three minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk and stock. Add the peppers, potatoes, and chickpeas, as well as the remaining spices. Bring to a simmer, and add salt cautiously (the chick peas will have been canned in salty water, and the stock cube, if you used one, is salty too). Cover, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the chicken and spring onions, and simmer for a further 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through.

Turn off the heat. Stir through the chillis (as many as you like), and the lime juice. Coriander would be nice, too.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Aubergines in the pan

I find frying cubes of aubergines unsatisfactory. As everyone who has cooked them knows, aubergines absorb a great deal of oil; then they stick to the pan. It is not an efficient way of softening them. My usual method - in this recipe, for example - is to toss them in oil and to bake them.

However, it occured to me the other day that I could cook them in a pan if the pan offered a moist environment, such as that created by softened onions. The pan in the picture contains two red onions, softened in olive oil with some garlic. I threw in the aubergines, tossed them in the oily onions, and covered the pan, cooking them over a low flame. I stirred them from time to time. In 15 to 20 minutes they were soft, and with a more melting texture than you get when you bake them.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Lentil stew with morcilla

Morcilla is a Spanish black pudding. The stuff I bought came in balls tied with string.
Puy lentils take longer to cook than is stated on the packets and in most recipes, in my experience. Soaking speeds the process of tenderising them. It also ensures that they absorb less liquid while cooking: you can barely cover them, and be reasonably confident that they will soften. If your water is hard, you may get better results if you use filtered water.

Serves two.

Olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
150g Puy lentils, soaked for two hours or longer
Chicken stock
150g morcilla
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Warm about 2tbsps of olive oil in a heavy pan, throw in the garlic, let it sizzle gently for a minute, and throw in the onion. Cook over a low heat until the onion starts to soften - five to 10 minutes. If the onion threatens to catch, add more oil.

Drain and rinse the lentils. Tip them into the pan, and pour in just enough stock to cover. Bring to a simmer, put a lid on the pan, and simmer gently until the lentils soften. It may take 20 to 30 minutes. Add more stock if the top layer of lentils becomes exposed.

Once the lentils are soft or nearly there, you may want to uncover the pan and turn up the heat slightly, to get a less soupy consistency. You'll need to stir the lentils regularly, because they'll catch as the liquid evaporates and the stew thickens.

Add salt to taste. (But I must admit that I've never properly tested the theory that salt added at an earlier stage compromises the texture of lentils, as it does dried beans.)

Cut the morcilla into fork-sized pieces, submerge them in the lentils, and give them five minutes to warm through. Stir in the chopped parsley. The stew would benefit from plenty of pepper; I stirred harissa into mine.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Flipping an omelette

My usual method for preparing a slow-cooked omelette such as a frittata is to put it on the lowest flame on the hob until the underside is set, and to finish it under the grill. But recently I was at a party for which someone had prepared the most delicious tortilla; and he told me - as if anyone who performed the task differently was guilty of a bizarre solecism - that he always flipped the tortilla, with the help of a plate. So I tried it with the above frittata, consisting simply of eggs and Gruyere.

You place the plate over the pan, and flip pan and plate rapidly. The omelette is slippery at this stage, and can slide off the plate altogether. It is runny too: runny egg remains on the plate when you return the omelette to the pan, and has to be scraped off, back over the omelette.

Is this omelette more tender than the grilled version? It will be if you tend to grill it too fiercely. Otherwise, I'm not sure.