Friday, April 26, 2013

Currying Favour

Have to admit that role-playing, talking to myself, taking myself in hand - really seems to work. Yesterday did a lot more sorting of my larder, then moved into the bedroom to sort out my wardrobes, under-bed drawers etc.   I've even begun writing down everything I eat as then less likely to eat too much (it's amazing how much more I ate yesterday than I thought I had - but still managed to lose 1 lb!).

This morning did a bit of a U-turn with my blog.  Normally, come in here after eating breakfast, and then read my emails (these include your comments), reply to any that needs it, then switch to the other half of my comp. and write my blog.  Today, first put a load of washing in the machine, had my breakfast, took my pills, then came in here to read (and reply to) emails, then moved back into the kitchen as the washing was about to go into spin mode, and more often than not the contents are not balanced properly and the machine than rattles and almost has walk about, so I have to just about sit on it to hold it in place.  While waiting for the spin to start began to slicing and dicing carrots ready to cook for the samosa filling (together with diced potatoes, onions, peas, and added spices.  Put the diced carrots in a pan and covered them with boiling water (otherwise they would discolour) then will cook these once I've done my blog.

So - now I'm back in here again, my 'chat' today being inspired by a couple of tubs of curry powder I'd bought from Tesco, one hot, one medium.  Actually I've loads of jars of individual spices, many of them at least 3 years old, some still unopened.  Trouble is I just can't be bothered to make a curry from scratch - although I have done as the good, ready-made curry, sauces taste a load better than anything I can do. 

However, there are times when I wish to add just 'curry powder' to a meal I'm making (kedgeree for example), and I'll also be needing this powder to flavour the samosa contents (frying the powder with the onions).  So - whilst waiting for the spinner to stop, took a read of the ingredients on the side of the tubs of curry powders to see if different spices were mentioned.  And they were!

What I discovered was interesting in that with both the hot and medium curry powder, they contained the same spices, but in different amounts.  The actual percentage of each was not shown, but as these list of ingredients always show them in order, the most first, then the second, the last being the smallest amount, it is easy enough then to 'have a bit of a play' and make up our own 'curry powder'.  Something that I'll be doing with my 'old' spices before I open and use these new ones.  The b/b . date on the tubs bought yesterday is March 2015, so that gives me a couple of years before the flavour begins to deteriorate. 

The tubs were £1.10 each, but fairly good size, holding 80g, and this would perhaps be a better way to buy curry powder, especially when individual spices are not used often, because buying them separately would cost a great deal more, and once opened they should be used within 6 months (or is it weeks?) as the flavour fades rapidly.   
Anyone with spices that have lost their strength could mix them together and use as 'cat deterrant' in the garden, shaking the powder over places that neighbour's cats seem to prefer.

In one of my books, it mentioned that 15 spices could be used in a good curry, and probably why I bought as many as I did.  Then, when I bought a book of Indian curries, discovered that - with some - only a few spices are used.   This is not so with the Tesco curry powder, the 'Medium' actually did have 15 different ingredients, the 'Hot' had 13.  It was all to do with the amount of spices used with each that apparently will made a difference to the 'heat' of a curry made.

For those of you who might have a load of spices that you are not sure what to do with or how to use, here is the list of ingredients from both curry powders, in order as on the pack.  You will see how similar they are, but note also in which order they come because this can make a difference as to the 'heat. With both, coriander seed comes first, cumin second, then the order of the rest can vary.

Medium curry powder contains;
Coriander seed, cumin seed, onion, salt, chilli powder, fenugreek, garlic powder, ginger, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, clove, bay leaf, cardamom.

Hot curry powder contains:
Coriander seed, cumin seed, ginger, salt, fenugreek seed, garlic powder, chilli powder, cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, bay leaf, cardamom seed, caraway seed (the latter being a spice not included in the above 'medium mixture').

Wish now I'd bought the 'mild' curry powder (just for research purposes), but bet your bottom dollar it contains most of the above ingredients, but the milder ones first, and the hottest at the end of the list.

Having seen the above I'm inclined not to bother to measure too accurately, just mix the lot together to make my own 'garam masala', and use a little or a lot when it is used according to how mild or hot I wish my curries to be.  Have to admit, not the correct way, but at least it will use up my spices (even these I cannot bear to throw out).
The very best way with spices is to buy them whole and grind only when needed, as the whole spices keep their flavour for very much longer.

As ever, thanks to those who sent in comments and queries.  Yes, Cheesepare, I too thought the 'Flat Rib Broth' was made using the 'Beef Rib Trim' (but off the bone that I buy from D.R.). I see from the D.R. catalogue that they do sell the 'flat ribs' with the meat still attached, and - as with all meats - cooked on/with the bone this does give a better flavour. 
Although it seems several weeks now since I gave the recipes to the lady who was printing them out for the Foodbank, I have had no comeback at all and can only assume that they were not suitable.  So until I hear one way or the other (I might not even hear at all) will not pass on any recipes as they probably were not suitable.  Well, I did try!

Kathryn, your mention of free washing powder has taken my thoughts back to those days when we used to be able to get a lot of 'freebies'.  Some were free samples of products (often posted through the letterbox), others were 'gifts' that were given with what we bought (a plastic daffodil with a pack of washing powder), or those that could be sent for when labels were collected.   Just for collecting labels from Nescafe 'instant' coffee, I was - over the years - able to amass quite a collection of Nescafe 'freebies', a complete coffee set (coffee pot and 6 mugs), tea-towels and other things.  Not sure whether it was collecting vouchers in boxes of tea-bags, but was able to get a 'free' set of stainless steel basins (with plastic lids), a lovely tray, sets of storage jars, aprons.... and even from the milkman (if we bought a tub of cream) a cream jug and 6 drinking glasses. 
Not forgetting the Green Shield stamps that most grocers gave at the check-out counter.  Must have filled several books with these, and now cannot remember what we free gifts we chose in return, but all good quality.

What do we get these days? Not a lot.  Occasionally I do get a 'free sample' included with my Tesco order, and once or twice something like a 'much improved' tea-bag has come through the letter-box with a money-saving voucher attached.  Unfortunately all vouchers are of little use to me as these are not taken when ordering on-line.
Some many years ago we could collect all money-off vouchers, and as long a the store sold the products, we didn't have to buy them to get the money-off, this taken off the bill, or given back in cash.  I'd spend quite a bit of time cutting vouchers out of magazines, newspapers and even asking friends/neighbours for theirs if the didn't want them.  Saved me ££££s!
 Later this was changed to having to buy the product the voucher was intended for, and not much use if we normally didn't purchase it.

Sorry you are feeling a bit 'demotivated' Kathryn.  There have been many times in the past when I've felt the same, as if my life was not going anywhere.  Then, suddenly and very unexpectedly, something happens to inspire me to 'do something interesting'.  My culinary 'media work' began like that, and since then there have been several more 'highs and lows'.  After a very low patch, suddenly decided to write a blog, so that's been well worth doing.  After we moved here went through several months/years of feeling low again with nothing new on the horizon, but recently the Foodbank has given me a new interest, possibly only short-term, but now it could be the 'Clandestine Cake Club' will be my new kid on the block. 
Don't underestimate your skills Kathryn, as long as you know how to use a needle (hand or sewing machine) you would be able to compete in the next '....Sewing Bee'.  Some of the competitors in the first series really didn't seem to know what they were doing, and you sound as though you do have some experience. It's taking part that is the fun bit, who cares about winning? 
So give yourself that 'good talking to', and grab any opportunity (like the above) to widen your horizons.

A lot has been written about food colourings Noor, one of the yellow ones being responsible for causing hyper-activity in children I believe.  Many people won't use the red food colouring called 'cochineal' as the colour comes from ground up dried insects, but that's never bothered me as it is far more 'natural' than any of the synthetic colours.
Beetroot juice makes a really good red colouring when making cakes.  Not as scarlet as most food colours, more on the deep 'plum' colour, but this would be 'pink' when smaller amounts of the juice is used.
Certainly when colouring pasta, to get 'green', spinach juice is used. And for black pasta, then 'squid ink' would be the colouring.  There are no black olives grown, the colour of these comes from squid ink.  Orange zest would give a good colouring (as well as flavour), and marigold petals and the much more expensive saffron will give a yellow colouring.

You mentioned chapatis Noor, I do have whole wheat flour, and could make these easily, but to make enough for 40 - 50 people they would take time on the day, so wondering if these could be made in advance and then either kept in the fridge (or freezer) to be warmed up in the oven at the venue.   I've seen packets of chapatis for sale at the supermarket, at a very high price for just four, so obviously sensible to make my own (for just pennies).

Although curries can be made in advance (and in fact the flavour improves with keeping), samosas and dahl also, on the day will need to reheat the curries,  fry the samosas, poppadums, bhajis, cook the rice, prepare the vegetarian side dishes, also make/assemble the desserts, the less I need to do on the day the better.  So should I go for making naan bread that could be done in advance to be reheated, or the easier chapatis (but only if these can be prepared in advance).  Anyone had any experience of pre-making/re-heating these?   All hints and tips for an Indian meal appreciated.

It may seem that I've over-egged the pudding so to speak, as with the above meal there will also be dishes of Raita, lime pickle, mango chutney, and 'other things', all displayed on a table to 'help yourself'.  But the more that can be put onto a plate, the less room for the more expensive meat curries, that with the rice wouldn't look much on their own with just (say) a poppadum and a dollop of Raita on top, but with everything else, a little curry then looks a lot.  It's all to do with 'costing'.

Am planning on serving a choice of three curries (some people may wish for a helping of more than one, but let's hope not, they can always come back to try another, if there is any left!).  Am doing a Beef Madras as the hottest, a Lamb Rogan Josh as 'medium', and a Butter Chicken as the mildest of the three.  Even not not sure whether to make Lamb Koftas (meat balls), flavoured with the Rogan Josh spices, then fried, to be re-heated in the R.Josh sauce.   Or whether to buy 'stewing lamb' and cook this, with onions, in the sauce.  An easier way but more expensive than using minced lamb in the Koftas.  Again, all to do with cost as will have to kee[ within the club's budget (if I knew what that was - I asked a couple of weeks ago and so far have had no comeback).

Just one recipe today - obviously a curry, but one that I'm considering as including with the 'help-yourself' part of the meal (we will be using several hotplates to keep the foods-that-need-it warm).
Although this amount would serve 4 as a main meal, when it comes to 'buffet' servings, this should be enough to feed at least 12-16 (maybe more as only 1 tblsp per head would end up on the plate of 'mixed curries, rice and sides').
Spinach and Chickpea Curry: serves 4
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp grated or chopped root ginger
1 tblsp sunflower oil
2 tblsp mild curry paste
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
half a pint (300ml) water
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained
1 lb (450g) spinach, stalks removed
handful coriander leaves
Put the onion, garlic, and ginger into a processor and whizz until finely chopped (to almost a paste).
Heat the oil in a pan over high heat, then add the onion mixture and food for 4 minutes until golden (keep stirring), then add the curry paste and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, water and chickpeas, then bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. 
Meanwhile, chop the spinach leaves adding these to the pan when the 15 minutes is up, and cook until the spinach has just wilted.  Stir in the coriander and serve (with Indian bread of your choice).

What I'd probably do with the above is make the basic curry earlier in the day, then reheat at the venue, adding the prepared spinach, then it will as 'fresh' as can be.

Time waits for no man, so as I have a busy day today (it takes time to make samosas from start to freezing), will now take myself off into the kitchen, keep talking to myself to make sure I keep on track, and then at least will know that some preparation has been done.  Also want to make a trial batch of the 'kulfi' (Indian ice-cream) that appears to freeze successfully without the need of any further beating.  Will let you know the results (hopefully tomorrow).

We keep having showers, but still plenty of sunshine although the weather has turned colder again. I saw that London was 21C earlier this week, far hotter than it has been here.  The wind at the moment is coming from the north (north pole by the look of the weather map.  So will still need to keep the heating on I suppose.

One final mention before I sign off.  Yesterday had a warm feeling about Tesco when I realised how 'thoughtful' they had been packing frozen food in blue bags, chilled food in green bags etc.  Then read in the paper how someone had bought a joint of lamb from Tesco labelled 'British', then - after removing the wrappings - discovered the meat had 'New Zealand' stamped on it (more than once).  It just seems that all the supermarkets these days seem to try to 'con' us into buying something at a higher price because we believe it to be what it really isn't.
I personally, don't care whether it is N.Z or UK lamb that I buy as more inclined to go for the cheapest in price, and when you consider how expensive it must be to ship/fly meat from N.Z (or any meat from any part of the globe), then why is British meat always the most expensive?   It's nothing to do with transport costs as imported meat also has to be taken to all parts of the UK.

Hope you all have a good day, and this coming weekend at least stays dry enough to venture into the garden and start sowing/planting. Hope to meet up again for a chat tomorrow.  TTFN.