Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Chapatis Don't Have to Be Round To Taste Good

Not good Indian wife standard but never mind.
Last night I had a hot date at my friend Sophie's house. When I go to her house, we talk, lots, drink, lots, and eventually eat. Lots. It starts off with her cooking and eventually I somehow find myself prodding and poking whatever she's cooking. Thankfully she is incredibly laid back and doesn't mind, (I can't stand it when people interfere with my cooking) and a good time is had by all. Last night she made vegetable curry, I think she was worried about the lack of meat, but as I can't remember my last vegetarian supper, I was happy to go without meat. Just this once. When she announced proudly that she was making chapatis I was very impressed, and even more impressed with the results. They were very simple and quick to make, and I would never ever buy them now I know how to make them. This is how she did it...

Makes about 7 chapatis (depending on how big/small you make them). In a bowl, mix 200g flour with a glug of vegetable oil and enough water to bind it together as a dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. If it's sticking to your hands add more flour, if breaking up, add a splash of water, just use your common sense. When ready to cook, break off a little ball, roll out into a round shape (or completely not round if you can't manage it) and about 2mm thick. Dry fry (that's DRY FRY Sophie!) in a non-stick frying pan and marvel as it blisters and puffs up almost instantly. Flip over and do the other side. If you get black burnt spots very quickly, then turn the heat down, alternatively, if nothing happens after 30 seconds you need to turn it up. Proceed to stuff your face with vegetable curry scooped up in your lovely chapatis.

A friend from the Punjab once told me that a good Indian wife must be able to make perfectly round chapatis. We would make rubbish Indian wives in that case, but we had a lovely dinner, which is more important.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Zesty chicken thighs to make your BBQ swoon

Gas is for cissies
Oh, ok, so we skipped spring and went straight to summer. I have no problem with this at all, except for that moment of panic when I forgot what clothes I normally wear in hot weather (it's been sooo long!). I will ignore the fact that the rain is returning next week and pretend this is it for the next couple of months. Divine. I would put money on the fact that I'm not the only sun-lover planning BBQ based treats for what is set to be a magic weekend of sun. Therefore it was only right to share one of my favourite recipes for chicken on the barbie. I hope you like it as much as I do. Boneless chicken thighs are pretty much made for a charcoal grill. Don't be talking to me about gas ones, where is the fun in flicking a switch when you can play with coal, fire lighters and paraffin to your heart's content? However trying to pry the liquid paraffin from The Boyfriend's hands (for the sake of safety, for us, and surrounding trees) can be challenging. I served this with barbecued asparagus and some steamed courgette ribbons tossed with a bit of crumbled feta and a simple dressing of lemon juice and olive oil.

As this is a marinade it's all a bit loose in quantities, but the following recipe is enough for about 12 boneless chicken thighs. Add the following to a dish big enough to fit your chicken thighs in one layer: 6 chopped garlic cloves, either a load of dried chilli flakes or chopped red chillis, the grated zest and juice of four limes, a tbsp of  freshly crushed coriander seeds, a tbsp paprika (any type but smoked really), lots of salt and pepper and a decent glug of olive oil to loosen it up. Mix well, add the chook, coat it really well in the marinade for at least a couple of hours, and then cook on the barbie. The skin gets beautifully crispy and the dark thigh meat stays gorgeously moist, shun those chicken breasts immediately. When cooking, make sure you keep turning the meat though, otherwise you end up with crunchy carbon which is just gross. Of course you could do this with bone-in thighs or drummers or whole legs, but they are super easy to eat boneless.

And when you have a pair of tongs in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, easy to eat is preferable.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Pea Falafels (Hen Food)

Get 'em while they're hot
What do you feed 14 hungry girls on a hen do (this isn't a joke, it was an actual conundrum that the maid of honour, Becki, and I had to solve)? We needed a bunch of canapes to accompany prosecco and drinking games before a big clucky night out in Brighton and these pea falafels hit the spot. I actually lugged my whizzer to Brighton specially, I was that dedicated to the canape. These are great as they are easy, healthy, very cheap and people seem to blimmin love them. And they are bright green which is always fun.

Quantities can be whatever you want, to make about 25 falafels I think I used 500g peas, just to give you an idea. Boil your frozen peas for 2 minutes and drain. Gently fry a chopped onion with some chopped garlic  in olive oil until soft but don't brown it too much. Put the peas in a whizzer along with the onions and garlic, a heaped teaspoon of toasted cumin seeds (just dry fry them in the onion pan, before the onions), an egg, a chopped fresh red chillie (gives pretty red flecks) a small bunch of roughly chopped coriander, and lots of seasoning. As my whizzer is a little one, I had to do it in two batches which was fine. You will have a wet-ish lurid green mush. Put this mush into  a bowl, add a heaped tbsp toasted sesame seeds and a big handful of breadcrumbs and mix well. If it still seems too wet simply add more bread crumbs. Now get a large non-stick frying pan hot with a splash of olive oil and place golf ball sized balls of the mush in the pan. Very gently (and it helps if you have a glamorous assistant here, thanks Eavan) squash them with the back of a spoon of spatula so they are little patties. Fry on each side until browned, and set aside on kitchen roll. When you want to eat them, simply warm on a baking tray in the oven and serve with a dip of a tbsp of harissa swirled in natural yoghurt.

Sit back and watch 14 hens ruin their freshly manicured nails.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Seafood Stew (with a side of garlic breath)

This will make you happy but smelly
Due to the tiny proportions of my kitchen at home, I always grab the chance to cook in other, more normal sized ones. I love cooking in my parents' kitchen, all that space makes a little cook very excited. I went over to my friend Sophie's house a while ago and was luxuriating in all the space her kitchen had to offer, it was a perfect partnership, she poured the wine, I cooked and we both chatted. I cooked this seafood stew, mainly because I wanted to eat it, but also because the boyfriend isn't a fan of the tentacles and bi-valves of the ocean. Sad but true. So when he's not about I nearly always cook some kind of seafood and aubergines and courgettes. Got to get my fix when I can.

Feeds 2. In a deep frying pan or small casserole dish, gently fry a couple of chopped garlic cloves with a diced fennel bulb in a splash of olive oil (fennel + seafood = happiness) until softened, then add the chopped stalks of a bunch of basil along with a teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds and either chopped fresh, or dried chili. Stir and cook gently for a further 2 mins or so. Add a small glass of white wine and a tin of chopped tomatoes, stir and cook for a few minutes. Now add your seafood, I used some squid cut into rings, some monk fish and couple of prawns (also use mussels, any firm-ish white fish, scallops, anything really). Just plop it on top of the stew, season, cover and leave to cook for as long as it takes for your goodies to cook (no more than ten minutes, more like five). While that's happening, toast a couple of slices of ciabatta for each person, and rub with the cut-side of a halved garlic clove. Serve the stew with the garlic ciabatta, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, chopped basil and a massive blob of garlic mayo (pulverise a couple of peeled cloves of garlic with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar, and add a little lemon zest, stir in a few tbsp of mayo, lovely).

You will smell  of garlic but you will also be very happy. Eat with a girlfriend then return home to The Boyfriend who avoids you all night, not only because you stink of garlic but because you've been scoffing things with tentacles.