Saturday, October 26, 2013

Chicken with vindaloo spices

Vindaloo implies garlic and vinegar rather than the hottest dish in the restaurant. But it may be hot too.

This is another recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy, a lovely, tempting book. Even here, though, you have to accept that the recipes will not always work precisely as described. I’ve included my comments below. Serves 4.

4tbsp olive or rapeseed oil (I used sunflower)
1/2tsp brown mustard seeds
1/4tsp fenugreek seeds
1tsp black peppercorns
15-20 fresh curry leaves or 10 fresh basil leaves, torn (I used dried curry leaves, which I’m not convinced taste of anything at all)
8 chicken thighs
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
250ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 1/4tsp salt
1 1/2tsp ground cumin
1tbsp ground coriander (I used cumin and coriander seeds, which I toasted and then ground in a mortar)
Cayenne pepper to taste
1tbsp sweet red paprika

Put the oil in a large saute pan or wide frying pan – wide enough to hold the chicken in a single layer (it will need to be at least 28cms). Set over a medium heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as they pop, put in the fenugreek seeds and peppercorns. A few seconds later, put in the curry leaves, chicken, and all the remaining ingredients. Stir and bring to the boil (though you may find that the vinegar froths up immediately, before settling down).

Cover, lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. (I put my dish in the oven for an hour – I like my chicken tender.)

Remove the cover, turn the heat to high and cook, stirring and turning, until all the liquid evaporates and the chicken browns on all sides.

The previous paragraph suggests that you're frying the chicken at the end. I found, however, that the evaporation process left me with a sticky sauce, which would have burned if I’d continued to cook it too vigorously. No matter: the dish was delicious.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cannellini beans and ham hock

I chaired a panel discussion at the Chorleywood cookery festival with Jojo Tulloh (The Modern Peasant) and Ms Cupcake (a.k.a. Melissa Morgan, author of The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town). I’m sure I’ll get round to the making a vegan cake soon, but I’ve gone first for a rustic dish from Jojo’s book.

Here, slightly adapted, is her recipe (for 6), followed by a few comments about my experiences in cooking it.

200g dried cannellini beans
1 smoked ham hock
1 small onion or 2 small shallots, unpeeled
1 head garlic, unpeeled
Sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil
Handful flat-leaf parsley, freshly chopped

Soak the beans in cold water overnight. Soak the ham hock too. Drain them when you are ready to start cooking.

Pre-heat the oven, if using, to gas mark 2/150C.

Put the beans into an ovenproof, heavy casserole. Add the onion, garlic and ham hock and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for two hours, either on the hob or (having brought the pan to a simmer first) in the oven.

Remove the ham hock and set aside to cool slightly. Remove the onion and garlic, and use a wide chopping knife to squeeze out the purée-like flesh from the skins. Grind the pulp in a mortar to a smooth paste, then add a little liquid from the casserole to create a creamy sauce, which you can return to the pan.

Cut off the skin from the hock and remove the meat, discarding fat and gristle.

Return the meat to the casserole and mix it in. Season to taste (you may not need much, or any, salt.) Your ideal is a mixture of creamy beans flecked with tender pink ham; if you have more ham than you need, reserve the extra for a hash or other recipe. Warm the stew, zigzag over a little olive oil, and scatter over the parsley.

As you may be able to see from the picture, I did not submerge my ham: to do so, I would have needed a good many litres of water, much of which I would have had to discard at the end. I used enough water to submerge the beans by about 2cms; even so, I had to boil the beans vigorously once I had removed the ham in order to thicken the stew.

The woman at the butcher told me that the ham hock was unsmoked, and did not need soaking. She misled me on both counts. It was pretty salty. I have suggested in the past that the notion that beans will not soften in salted water is a myth, and that instead they tend to become mealy rather than creamy; but my beans took a long time to soften.

I followed Jojo’s quantities, but used all the ham. The dish served 3.