Monday, July 23, 2012

Spiced chicken with yoghurt in a parcel

Another recipe adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy. I doubled the quantities of cumin and coriander, and increased the cooking time.

Serves 4

2tsp cumin seeds
2tsp coriander seeds
2tsp paprika
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, placed in a mortar with salt and crushed
1 1/2tsp fresh ginger, grated
3tbsp Greek-style yoghurt
2tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
8 chicken pieces (thighs and/or drumsticks), skinned

Toast the cumin and coriander over a gentle heat in a small saucepan. Grind them in a mortar. Mix them with all the other ingredients (apart from the chicken) into a paste.

Choose an oven dish large enough to hold the chicken pieces in a single layer. Place in it, overlapping the sides equally, a piece of foil of at least double the size; lay the chicken pieces in it, and smear them all over with the spiced paste. Fold over the foil, and leave for a few hours or longer, refrigerated if necessary.

Bake the dish - still with the chicken enclosed in the foil - at gas mark 4/180C for 90 minutes, turning the chicken pieces once.

As I’ve noted before of a Madhur Jaffrey dish involving yoghurt, the yoghurt splits. No matter: you can spoon the spicy curds over the chicken, and the rest of the sauce around it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jerk chicken

Following recipes, I find, is usually a matter of deciding whether I have the ingredients in the house, whether I can do without the ones I’m missing, and whether I can substitute ingredients I do have for ones the writer recommends. I am too mean to buy items such as allspice berries especially for one dish, because I reckon that the packet may go to waste before I need them again.

Another consideration when adapting Felicity Cloake’s ‘Perfect’ jerk chicken from the Guardian is what high heat does to sugar. The chicken illustrated in the piece is blackened. (I know: the pieces illustrated above look pretty dark; but the photograph has exaggerated the colour.) Soy sauce by itself tends to caramelise, and can burn; sugar will ensure that you get chicken with a burned exterior, particularly if you cook it on the barbecue.

Like many of the recipes involving chillis on this blog, this serves one – the other members of my family would not enjoy it. But the quantities in the marinade may of course be adjusted upwards.

1 spring onion, cut into pieces
2 scotch bonnet chillis, pith (which, rather than the seeds, is the hottest part) removed
1 clove of garlic, cut into pieces

1tsp fresh ginger
1/4tsp allspice
Sprinkling of cinnamon
A couple of gratings of nutmeg
Ground black pepper (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
1tsp soy sauce
1dstsp white wine vinegar (or lemon or lime juice)
1dstsp sunflower oil
2 chicken thighs

Put the spring onion, chillis, garlic, and ginger into an electric vegetable mill. (A food processor is likely to be too large for this modest quantity.) Whizz. You don’t need to create a slush, but can have a mixture in which little pieces of the vegetables are distinct. Stir in the other ingredients, apart from the chicken.

Put the chicken into a bowl or oven dish, and spread the jerk marinade all over it, including under the skin. Leave “for at least six hours”, Cloake says; I left mine for three.

It’s certainly not worth starting a barbecue for one person. I prefer to bake/roast chicken rather than to grill it, liking it tender. So in order to avoid charring the skin, I cooked it covered with foil for an hour at gas mark 4/180C, before uncovering it.

Of course, when I uncovered the dish, I found that my chicken thighs were swimming in liquid. Not to worry: I poured this sauce into a small pan, returned the chicken to the oven, and boiled the sauce until it had a syrupy consistency. Then I spread this syrup on to the chicken, and cooked it, uncovered, for a further 15 minutes, until the marinade had caramelised slightly.

You can never be certain, until you eat them, how hot chillis will be. These were just right. Their zingy heat, combined with the spicy, sour sweetness of the other ingredients, was delicious.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Dhal 2

Many recipes for curries suggest you make the sauce with water, and sometimes quite a lot of it, rather than stock. I have always been a little dubious about this, and have even sinned against authenticity by using a stock cube – or rather half of a cube – in order to add a body of savoury flavour. But perhaps water allows the spices to express themselves with a little more freshness. It certainly did in this dhal, which I made just for myself. You could, of course, adjust the quantities as appropriate.

100g red lentils
1tsp turmeric
1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1tbsp creamed coconut
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
5 cardamom pods
5 black peppercorns
Sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2tsp ginger, minced

Wash and rinse the lentils. Put them in a small saucepan with water to cover, the turmeric, cayenne, and coconut. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered. Check them frequently: they absorb water readily, and may need more. The aim is to achieve the consistence of thick soup once they are soft, after about 20 minutes. Uncover the pan if the consistency is too runny.

Meanwhile, put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, and black pepper into a small saucepan on a gentle heat. Cook until they give off a toasty aroma. Grind the spices in a mortar.

Warm a tbsp or two of sunflower oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, throw in the onions and garlic, and fry until the onions are soft, yellow, and sweet. Add more oil if they threaten to catch. Add the ground spices, and fry for about five minutes longer, again ensuring that they don’t catch. Add the garlic, and cook for a further minute.

Tip the lentils into the spiced onions, add salt to taste, and simmer for a minute longer. Finish the dish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, if you like.