Friday, June 08, 2007

Cookbooks - are they worth it?

...chatting about curries:
To the 'fiddly bits'. These are the additions to a curry which I my husband loves to add to his serving. The following are presented in little bowls: dessicated coconut; raisins or sultanas; flaked almonds; mango chutney and lime pickle (although these can be left in their jars), sliced tomatoes (for colour mainly), and in larger bowls, some raita, halved hardboiled eggs (one egg per person). and sliced banana (banana goes with chicken, omit this for other types of curry). Then I make up some onion bhajis as another side dish and finally serve hot naan bread (bought readymade) or some chapatis or poppodums. If I have made a number of samosas (using filo pastry) which I have stored in the freezer, a few of these could also be deep fried and added to the selection. I haven't even mentioned making a batch of Dhal (spiced lentils) as there is only so much I wish to do in the shortest possible time.
Not as difficult as it may sound. Curries are made earlier in the day (or even the previous day as they improve on reheating). Most of the side dishes can be made up, covered and then are ready to put on the table for people to help themselves. Poppadums can be bought ready-made or cooked at home. The naan bread can be heated in the oven or grilled, the batter for the bhajis can be made an hour in advance.

Onion Bhajis: to serve four
thinly slice 2 large oniions and break up into rings or pieces. Make a batter from:
10 oz (300g) Gram flour (also called Besan or Chickpea flour)
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
pinch salt
(optional - 1 tsp baking powder)
Make a thick batter with the ingredients, then add the onions. Stir until well coated.
Heat about 1" oil in a thick frying pan and when hot (drop little batter into the pan and when it immediately rises up and bubbles at the edges the heat is right), using a fork, lift out bundles of the onions and drop into the fat. Do a few at a time turning when the underside is deep golden. They will be uneven in shape which is how they should be. When cooked on both sides and really crispy, drain on kitchen paper . Serve hot or at room temperature.
Tiny cauliflower sprigs and mushrooms can also be coated in the batter and fried .

Put about a quarter of a pint of Greek (or ordinary) yogurt into a bowl. If necessary thin it down slightly with a little milk. Add a bare teaspoon of icing sugar (or caster sugar), and stir in finely diced cucumber which has been deseeded (from roughly a 2" chunk), then add a dessp. finely chopped fresh mint. You can also, if you wish, include some finely chopped spring onions.

Dhal -Spiced lentils
8 oz (225g) red lentils
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small onion, finely chopped and fried
1 tsp black mustard seeds
good pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
Put the lentils into a pan and cover with double the amount of water. Bring to the boil and simmer until cooked (about 20 minutes). If necessary drain the lentils but they need to be fairly slack. Put to one side.
In a frying pan add a little oil and the mustard seeds, heat until the seeds pop then add a lttle water, the onion, sugar, salt and spices. Stir and fry until the onion is transparent then slowly pour in the lentils. Stir until heated through pile into a dish and serve hot.

By adding the side dishes, plus the rice, naan, bhajis and dhal, and by including plenty of onions and carrots to a curry, you can make a small amount of meat go a long way and end up with virtually a feast.