Sticky Orange Chicken

A bag of oranges laid on the kitchen floor. I juiced some and they were pretty sour; very juicy but tart! So I decided to make orange chicken the same way I would lemon chicken. The dish turned out really fantastic; the interplay of sticky sweet, tangy and spicy flavours coating the juicy pan-fried chicken made it a mouthwatering dish. In fact I think I now prefer this to lemon chicken, the depth of flavour from the orange juice and zest was simply delectable. Reduced with sugar, chopped garlic and bird’s eye chilies, it almost resembled chili jam. I coated the chicken with a salt and pepper cornflour mix before frying them as this creates a crispy outer layer which the orange sauce will adhere to nicely.

 

Sticky Orange Chicken 

Ingredients

4 chicken thigh fillets ( approximately 650 g)
60 g cornflour
2 tsp salt and pepper mix (click here for the salt and pepper mix)
1 cup oil, for frying

Juice from 3 navel oranges
Grated zest from all 3 oranges
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bird’s eye red chilies (chili padi), finely chopped
2 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp raw sugar (add 1/2 tbsp more if you like it really sweet)

Method

  1. Trim off the excess fat from the chicken.
  2. Add the salt and pepper mix to the cornflour; mix well. Heat the  oil in a 9-inch pan/skillet until hot (180oC); coat each chicken thigh fillet well with the flour and shake off excess before adding to the hot oil.
  3. Reduce to medium heat and fry the first side for 7 – 8 minutes. Turn the chicken fillets and cook the next side until golden brown; this might take less time than the first side
  4. Transfer chicken to a clean chopping board; wait for them to cool slightly before cutting into chunks in thirds or fourths.
  5. Discard most of the oil from the pan (you may reserve this for future use) but leave around 2 tablespoons of the pan drippings ( oil + residue from frying the chicken); reheat this, add the chopped garlic and chili and fry until fragrant. Add in the orange juice, zest, light soy sauce and stir in the sugar; bring to the boil then reduce to medium heat and cook, continuously stirring until the sauce is thick and sticky.
  6. Add the chopped chicken to the pan and coat evenly with sauce.
  7. Serve (goes well with steamed rice)

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Angku Kueh and introducing Baby J

After a 10 month hiatus from blogging, I am back and boy am I struggling for words. To summarise , I was expecting and whilst cooking didn’t exactly slow down during my pregnancy, I stuck to what’s familiar. Actually correction, I didn’t really want to experiment with new recipes as pregnancy hormones distorted my taste buds; even foods that I previously loved tasted off to me. Can you believe I couldn’t even stand chocolate for the first two trimesters?  And in the non-veg department, I had to force myself to eat red meat when my iron levels went down ( a far cry from the meat-lover I once was) plus ingesting anything dairy would be followed by severe nausea and you know where that ends up at or rather in :P But as amazingly strange and how quickly these aversions came about, as soon as baby J was born, my taste buds went back to what it used to be; I know this because Milo tasted wonderful again and it stayed in :P

Well, baby J is keeping me occupied, grounded and entertained these days and I love my little chubby munchkin to bits. With the awesome help of my mom for the first 2 months and now my in-laws, I can once again indulge in some cooking albeit simpler endevours as time will be spent mostly on baby J and also my other passion – crocheting, which I hope to turn into a small enterprise.

Baby J wearing the On Nom (from Cut the Rope) beanie I crocheted

So for baby J’s Full Moon celebration, usually observed by the Chinese when a baby turns one month old, I decided to make the traditional Angku Kueh, translated from hokkien to ‘red tortoise’ glutinous rice cakes. Tortoise because these sticky rice cakes are commonly moulded into a symbolic tortoise shape, which denotes longevity. Traditionally the announcement of a baby boy is symbolized by the giving of tortoise-shaped Angkus and peach-shaped kuehs for girls. These days however, the tortoise shaped moulds are more commonly sold and they come in both wooden and plastic forms. These tender, chewy Angkus are usually filled with a creamy, fragrant and sweet split pea/mung bean paste although you can also find variations such as ground peanuts, red bean and black sesame pastes or sweet shredded coconut fillings. My mother-in-law mentioned that in the past, the Angku skins were made purely from a dough of glutinous rice flour and water but some genius figured out that by adding mashed steam potatoes to the dough, you end up with a more tender skin which doesn’t harden so much when left overnight. I made the Angkus 2 days before baby J’s Full Moon celebration; they will harden slightly especially in cold weather AND definitely in the fridge so it’s just a quick task of re-steaming the Angkus for 3-5 minutes to make it soft and yummy again. To accompany my Angkus, I also dyed some hard-boiled eggs red for my guests; another auspicious symbol to welcome our precious baby boy :)

Angku
(adapted from Nonya Flavours: A Complete Guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine)
(My notes are in italics)

Filling

300 g split green beans (mung beans), washed and soaked overnight
2 pandan leaves, knotted
300 g caster sugar (I personally find this amount too sweet so I’ve reduced the sugar to 200 g for my Angkus)
4 tbsp oil (I use extra light olive oil, doesn’t make a difference as it a neutral-tasting cooking oil, you can use peanut oil if you wish)

Skin

1/8 tsp orange-red colouring (add more if you prefer a more vibrant skin)
300 ml water (I use warm water)
400 g glutinous rice flour
150 g orange sweet potato, peeled, steamed and mashed (steam for anywhere between 20-30 minutes until soft)
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp oil
1 banana leaf, cut into rectangles to fit the size of the Angku mould (I use frozen banana leaves; you can find them in asian grocery stores in Melbourne. Thaw and wash thoroughly before cutting)
1 tbsp oil for greasing

Method

  1. Steam the split green beans and pandan leaves over rapidly boiling water for 30 minutes, or until soft and mushy. Discard pandan leaves.
  2. Mash the steamed split green beans with a fork, potato masher or blend it in a food processor until smooth.
  3. Combine the mashed steamed beans, sugar and oil in a wok. Stir continuously over medium heat until beans and sugar becomes thick and binds together, and will not stick to the hands.
  4. Cool and shape the filling into balls to suit the size of the Angku mould. Keep covered with a damp towel. (I pack my Angkus with filling so my individual rolled up fillings are almost the same size as my dough balls)
  5. To make the skin, first add the colouring to the water, and mix all the ingredients together and knead, adding the water bit by bit, to get a smooth dough. This can be done in a mixer with a dough hook, or by hand. Divide into suitably sized balls to fit the size of the mould. (The dough should come together smoothly and must not be too soft; if it is, add a bit more glutinous rice flour. Keep dough covered with a damp tea towel to prevent them drying up and cracking)
  6. To assemble, flatten a piece of dough to 0.5 cm (1/4″) thickness. Put a ball of filling in the center and wrap skin over the filling to cover it completely. Roll lightly between the palms to smoothen the surface.
  7. Lightly dust Angku kueh mould with glutinous rice flour and press the filled ball of dough into the mould. Knock mould gently against the table to dislodge the Angku and turn it out.
  8. Place Angku on a lightly greased banana leaf. Steam over medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, opening the lid every 5 minutes to depressurise. (My wooden Angku Kueh mould is quite small so I steam mine for 7 minutes)
  9. Lightly brush the steamed Angku with oil. When cooled, trim the banana leaf neatly around the base of the Angku with a pair of scissors ( I usually omit this step)

Additional Notes:

  • It is important to lightly grease the Angkus with oil so they don’t stick together. Space them apart on the steaming plate as they will expand during steaming.
  • Freshly steamed Angkus are extremely sticky so it’s best to leave them to cool for about 15 minutes before handling and packing them away if not consumed straightaway. Once cooled, these greased Angkus can be stacked together in a container and kept outside under room temperature for 2-3 days. You may also freeze the Angkus for another occasion. Just thaw the Angkus slightly and re-steam over rapidly boiling water for 4-5 minutes.

The Angku Mould my mom bought me from Malaysia

Soaked split green beans/mung beans ready to be steamed and then mashed or blended

Cooking the green bean filling with oil and sugar (this photo was from my first attempt and I didn’t process the steamed green beans into a smooth paste so there were bits of split peas left which some say gives it  bit of texture/bite although I myself prefer it smooth)

filled and moulded Angkus, ready to be steamed

Yummy, sticky sweet Angkus. Notice how the colour deepens when the kuehs are cooked

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Fresh Pasta and Tagliatelle all'Amatriciana

 Fresh Tagliatelle all’Amatriciana with grated pecorino cheese

J & I have started a love affair with our new Marcato Atlas 150 pasta machine. Like two eager kids we attacked pasta making with excitement; taking ‘me, me, me’! turns at cranking out long strands of pasta. Gone are the days of rolling out noodle/pasta dough with a rolling pin and then painstakingly cutting up the dough that never seemed to be thin enough, into equal sized strands (which is quite backbreaking for me). Although there’s some waiting time involved, the results are worth it! The pasta tastes so fresh, silky and has a great bite to it! I have been obsessing about sugo all’Amatriciana this entire week so that’s my sauce of choice to accompany our fresh pasta. Traditionally, sugo all’Amatriciana is made up of “guanciale (dried pork cheek), pecorino cheese and tomato” but I’ve tasted a version many years ago which incorporated black olives and chilli flakes tossed through rigatoni pasta hence I’m partial to these additional ingredients; gotta jazz it up a little! I’ve used bacon here because I love that smoky flavour. It’s still a simple sauce but the flavours are beautiful especially with a splash of robust, grassy extra virgin olive oil and a generous sprinkling of pecorino cheese. Perfect for a weekend lunch!

I’m already concocting plans for our new toy; having thoughts about osso bucco ravioli, sweet potato pappardelle, Aunty Jane’s lasagne and even fresh filo pastry for baklava and börek. Bring it on - yeeeeehaaaaa!

Everday Quick Pasta Recipe
(adapted from Jamie Oliver: The Naked Chef)
serves 5-6

500 g strong pasta flour (Tipo ’00′) (’00′ flour is superior for fresh egg pastas but you may substitute with plain flour if ’00′ is unavailable)
5 fresh, large free-range eggs ( I used 60 g eggs at room-temperature)
semolina flour for dusting ( I just used the same flour for dusting)

Making the dough (use any of the 3 following methods)

Stage 1- By hand

Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork, break up the eggs slightly as you bring in the flour from the sides. As it begins to form a semi-soft dough, start using your hands. Work the dough hard for about 3 minutes or until smooth, silky and elastic. Wrap it in clingfilm and allow it to rest in the fridge for 60 minutes.

Stage 1 – In a mixer

Use a dough hook on the mixer. Add the flour to the eggs/yolks and mix at a medium speed for about 3 minutes or until it forms a tight dough. Take it out of the mixer and finish kneading by hand for about a minute or until smooth, silky and elastic. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for 60 minutes.

Stage 1 – In a food processor

Plonk it all in and turn it on. Within 30 seconds, it should look like chewy-looking breadcrumbs. Leave it just a little longer to allow it to start working the gluten. It should now start to come together into larger balls of dough. Take it all out ( the bowl should be clean) and work by hand for 2 minutes or until smooth, silky and elastic. Wrap in clingfilm and allow it to rest in the fridge for 60 minutes.

NOTES

  • The general rule of thumb for a basic pasta recipe is 1 egg per 100 g flour.
  •  If the mixture is too dry, you may add some water. Likewise, if it’s too soft, add some flour. A good mixture should never stick to your fingers.

Rolling the pasta into sheets

I followed the instructions that came with our Marcato Atlas 150 pasta machine:

  • Cut the rested dough into 4 portions and roll out the dough one piece at a time; keeping the remaining dough covered at all times (Oops! I forgot to cover mind, so the last piece dried out a little)
  • Set the machine regulator (knob) to position 1 (this is the thickest setting) so that the two smooth rollers are completely open.
  • Pass a piece of pasta dough through the machine, turning the handle; repeat this operation 5-6 times, folding the dough over and adding some flour to the middle if necessary.
  • When the dough has taken a regular shape, pass it through the rollers once only with the regulators set on number 2, then once again on number 3 continuing until you obtain the desired thickness (I stopped at number 5 which gave me a pasta thickness of approximately 2mm.  Number 9 is the finest setting at approximately 0.2mm)
  • With a knife, cut the dough crossways in pieces approximately 25 cm long.
  • Insert the handle in the hole for the tagliatelle/fettucine cutting rollers, turn it slowly and pass the dough through. (You might need a second person to help catch the cut pasta strands at the other end)
  • Place the pasta on a table-cloth and leave it to dry for at least an hour. (I  hung mine on a pasta drying hanger)

rolled pasta sheet ready to be cut into Tagliatelle strands

 Tagliatelle hanging on a pasta drying rack

Foodsze’s Tagliatelle with Sugo all’Amatriciana

Ingredients

200 g streaky bacon rashes (or pancetta), roughly chopped
2 large brown onions OR 3 small onions, sliced
170 g tomato paste
3 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons or 70 g pitted kalamata olives, halved
handful of Italian, flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light olive oil
380 ml water
2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
salt, to taste
1/2 – 1 teaspoons chilli flakes (or to your liking)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to dress the pasta (a full bodied, grassy &  fruity oil goes well with this)
Pecorino cheese, grated to serve
fresh tagliatelle ( or you can substitute with dry pasta if you wish but follow the cooking instructions listed on the back of the packet)

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to the boil ( I roughly dump in 1 - 2 tablespoons of rock salt into 6 litres boiling water)
  2. Whilst waiting for the water to boil, heat up the light olive oil in a separate pan; add the chopped bacon (or pancetta) and fry for about 1 1/2 minutes to render the fat or until fragrant; add in the sliced onions, reduce to medium heat and sweat them until softened (about 5 minutes); stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute; add in the chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes; gradually stir in the water, then the olives; put a lid on and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. Season with sugar, salt and chilli flakes to taste; turn off heat and stir through the finely chopped parsley.
  4. Add the tagliatelle to the boiling salted water and cook until al dente (to the bite). (I cooked my 2mm thick tagliatelle for about 2 minutes in two batches)
  5. Strain the pasta and toss through the sugo all’Amatriciana.
  6. Serve warm with a splash of robust extra virgin olive oil and a generous dose of grated pecorino (the cheese makes all the difference so don’t skimp on this  ;-) )

NOTE:

I used all the fresh pasta from the above recipe but if you prefer a saucier pasta, you can hold back a small portion of the uncooked tagliatelle, dust this with a bit of flour and keep this in an air-tight container or bag stored in the fridge. Use within 4 days.

Dig in!

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Lamb & Rosemary Pies

These days, I am extremely fickle when it comes to meal ideas. With massive cravings and nightly food-related dreams (I kid you not), I just could not decide on what to cook but in most cases, convenience and ingredients on hand dictate what I eventually end up cooking. So yesterday I thawed some frozen lamb and considered making an African dish I cooked a few years ago called Liboké de Viande (Meat in Banana-Leaf) but I ran out of peanuts and didn’t feel like having any rice to accompany the flavoursome dish . With fresh rosemary, carrots and onions on hand, I settled for classic lamb and rosemary pies; recipe sourced from Taste.com.au. As I did not have 600 grams of diced lamb, I substituted the variance with diced potatoes. I think there were some errors on the recipe with the quantity of puff pastry sheets required but as with most home-cooking, nothing’s set in stone so you adjust accordingly; in this case, I used 3 instead of 2 pastry sheets and there was a lot of pastry patchwork involved! This rough-and-tumble approach to the pastry produced a rustic looking pie. They were delicious with a simple salad on the side dressed in nothing but balsamic vinegar and very good extra virgin olive oil.

Lamb & Rosemary Pies
(adapted from recipe on Taste.com.auItems in italics are additional notes)
serves 4 ( I made 5 pies)  

Ingredients

3 sprigs rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
600g diced lamb leg, cut into 2cm pieces (or 400 g diced lamb + 200 g desiree potatoes, diced into 2 cm pieces)
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 carrot, peeled, diced
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups beef stock
cracked black pepper, to taste (not too much so it doesn’t overpower the lamb and rosemary flavours)
olive oil cooking spray
2 sheets frozen ready-rolled puff pastry, partially thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten
optional – nigella seeds to decorate

Method

  1. Remove leaves from 2 rosemary sprigs. Cut remaining sprig into 4. Set aside. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add lamb. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until browned. Remove to a plate.
  2. Add onion, garlic, carrot and rosemary leaves to pan. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until tender. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Combine tomato paste, wine and stock in a jug. Add to pan. Cook, stirring, until sauce
    comes to the boil. Return lamb (and add diced potatoes if using)  to pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until lamb is tender. (if mixture looks too thick, you can thin it down with a little more beef stock; taste and adjust seasoning and cracked black pepper accordingly). Set aside to cool. (Do not fill pastry cases with hot filling as the pastry will become soggy)
  3. Preheat oven to 200°C. Spray four 3/4-cup capacity Texas muffin holes with oil. Cut two 15cm rounds and two 9cm rounds from each pastry sheet. Use large rounds to line muffin holes. Fill with lamb mixture. Brush edges with water. Top with remaining pastry rounds. Press edges to seal. Brush tops with egg. Press in rosemary sprigs (and a sprinkling of nigella seeds if using). (you will need at least 3 puff pastry sheets; to prevent wastage, you can use the pastry offcuts to line the remaining 2-3 muffin holes; patch any holes or gaps to prevent the filling from leaking)
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around pie edges to loosen. Remove from pan. Serve.

Notes

  • To freeze: Allow to cool for 30 minutes. Place, in a single layer, in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 6 weeks.
  • To reheat: Thaw in the fridge for 12 hours. Place pies on a baking tray and heat in a 180°C oven for 15 minutes.

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Bourke Street Bakery's Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins

Oh M Gee! I am so excited! I can feel it- the morning sickness phase is starting to dissipate, oh but I have a nagging suspicion the ferocious appetite and cravings are settling in. The past four weeks have been an absolute *toot* *toot* nightmare!  My body has never been assailed with so many unfamiliar aches and pains and ‘praying to the porcelain altar’ three to four times a day is not exactly my idea of fun! Add in heartburn, indigestion and heightened senses which had me screwing up my nose at four brands of shampoo and handwash and a constant bitter taste in my mouth plus extreme fatigue, I HAD IT REAL BAD!

Despite all the groaning, I AM thrilled about becoming a mommy! J has been nothing short of amazing and supportive; all that running around to get a myriad of weird and wonderful foodstuff and being an absorbent shoulder to soak up tears that seem to just burst out from nowhere; raging hormones it seems :)

So far I have not craved for anything sweet; it’s been savoury all the way until today. My baking mojo has completely flown out the window since we got the good news, so to be able to bake today, albeit the humble muffin is a welcomed change from spending days on end kowtowing to er..said altar.. :P

I had chocolate and frozen raspberries so a quick flick through the pages of my Bourke Street Bakery cookbook and it was decided – Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins which are apparently their best selling muffins. “Warm from the oven when the chocolate is still soft these muffins are a real treat”

Needless to say, I attacked the warm muffins with great relish and if not wanting to run to the loo immediately is any indication, the beginning of the end of morning sickness is near <fingers crossed>

Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins
(from Bourke Street Bakery: The Ultimate Baking Companion)
(makes 12) ~I made 12 regular muffins and 6 jumbo muffins (it’s better in jumbo size)

Ingredients

400 g (14 oz/ 2 2/3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
300 g (10 1/2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
310 g (11 oz) unsalted butter
480 ml (16 3/4 fl oz) buttermilk
3 eggs
225 g (8 oz) dark chocolate (55% cocoa), roughly chopped
225 g (8 oz) raspberries, washed
55 g (2 oz/ 1/4 cup) raw (demerara) sugar
icing (confectioners’) sugar, for dusting

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190oC (375oF/Gas 5). Lightly grease two large 6-hole muffin tins and line with paper cases.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the sugar, mixing well to combine.
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the buttermilk. Using a whisk, stir in the eggs to combine. Pour over the dry ingredients and whisk to combine – don’t worry if there are still some lumps of flour at this stage. Use a large spoon to gently fold through the chocolate and raspberries.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin holes. Sprinkle the tops with the raw sugar. Reduce the oven temperature to 180oC (350oF/ Gas 4) and bake for 25-30 minutes. It may be necessary to drop the temperature about 10 minutes before the end of baking time if the muffins are starting to brown on top. To test if the muffins are done, push the top gently to feel that is is firm and turn one out of the tray and see that the bottom has coloured.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, before eating. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

 

 

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I'm back! with Spanish Churros

No I didn’t disappear to some exotic island but sometime after my last entry in May, I found myself hurled into a whirlwind of The Busy; family flew over for an impromptu visit, completing the final hurdle of Cert III Patisserie, birthday and wedding cake orders, and a new small business venture handmaking toys and how that sucked up all my cooking and blogging time. Procrastination soon grew into a permanent molehill; at least until recently when delicious crisp homemade spanish churros zapped me out of my two month foodsze amnesia! These are simple and quick to make; ingredients are minimal but stirring the stiff flour paste and then squeezing it out through a piping bag requires muscles! I had the paste in a disposable plastic piping bag at first and it split before I even got the first squeeze out, so make sure you use a sturdy polyester bag. Dust these deep-fried spanish doughnuts with icing sugar, sprinkle a touch of cinnamon or better still dip them in some luxurious melted chocolate and you’ve saved yourself a trip to San Churros :-D

SPANISH CHURROS
(adapted from The Cookie and Biscuit Bible)
Makes 8-10 14cm long churros

Ingredients

250 ml water
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt, plus extra for coating
175 g plain flour
1 egg (I used 2 x 60g eggs)
oil, for deep-frying
1/2 lime or lemon

Method

  1. Pour the measured water into a heavy pan, add the sugar and salt and bring to the boil over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, tip in the flour and beat until smooth (requires quite a bit of strength, the dough should come away from the sides of the pan. Leave to cool slightly for approximately 15 minutes before beating in the eggs)
  2. Beat in the egg(s) (one at a time)  until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Set aside.
  3. Heat 5 – 6 cm depth of oil with the lime or lemon in a deep-frying pan to 190oC or until a cube of bread browns in 30-60 seconds.
  4. Pour the batter into a large piping (pastry) bag with a fluted nozzle ( I used a 2 cm star-shaped nozzle). Pipe 7.5 cm strips (I made mine 14 cm long) of batter into the hot oil. (Use a small knife to dislodge the paste from the tip of the nozzle). Fry a few at a time for 3-4 minutes until golden. Remove, drain on kitchen paper and roll in granulated sugar.  ( Or you could simply dust with icing sugar, pinch of cinnamon or melt 200 g of good quality chocolate to serve with the churros)
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Lamb Kofta with Mint and Coriander Chutney on Wholemeal and Besan Roti

I LOVE spices!  Particularly those of the indian and middle eastern variety. You can liken my kitchen pantry to a spice bazaar. Having compiled a list (just so I could keep track of what’s in my pantry) I have:-

  • Amchur (mango powder)
  • Asafoetida (Hing)
  • Bay Leaves ( ok, they should be under herbs but I use the dried leaves for home-blended garam masala)
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Cardamon Pods (green and black)
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Chilli Powder
  • Cinnamon (bark, stick and ground)
  • Cloves
  • Coriander Seeds (whole and ground)
  • Cumin Seeds (whole and ground)
  • Curry Powders (assorted for meat, poultry and fish)
  • Dried Chillies
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Fenugreek Seeds
  • Five Spice
  • Garam Masala
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Nigella Seeds
  • Paprika
  • Saffron Threads
  • Star Anise
  • Turmeric

So, am I a consummate spice lover? You betcha!  With such an array of aromatics, even the simplest dish can be transformed into something magnificent. Take this Turmeric Chicken dish for instance; minimal ingredients and fuss-free cooking - perfect when you can’t be stuffed cooking an elaborate meal. I do love my meat but I can be a very happy vegetarian when there’s such an abundance of spices to liven up some of my favourite pulses (lentils and beans) and vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, okra, pumpkin, aloo (potatoes), cauliflowers and more!

Whenever I cook with spices, the meal is often a labour of love; I find it all very therapeautic, be it roasting the spices to release their intoxicating perfume and then bashing them into smithers, stewing or braising spice-rich curries, blending up an accompanying chutney or cooling raita with a few spices tossed through and there’s the making of rotis and parathas as well – so warming and comforting.

These lamb koftas are delicious; the flavours of warming spices and green chillies are balanced and yoghurt imparts a tang as well as a tenderising effect on the lamb mince. As winter approaches and my mint leaves are getting punier by the week, a mint and coriander chutney is in order; luckily my coriander patch is thriving robustly. The chutney complements the meaty koftas so well and to complete our meal, I improvised a wholemeal and besan (chickpea flour) roti.

wholemeal and besan (chickepea) flour roti/flat bread

roughly break the koftas to make wrapping easier

Lamb Kofta with Mint & Coriander Chutney
(adapted from ‘A Little Taste of India’)

1 small onion, roughly chopped
5 cm (2 inch) piece of ginger, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 green chillies, seeded and roughly chopped (I used 1 large green chilli)
15 g (1/2 cup) coriander (cilantro) leaves
2 tablespoons thick plain yoghurt (I used greek yoghurt)
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) minced lamb
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (I toasted cumin seeds and ground them to a powder)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander ( I toasted whole coriander seeds and ground them to a powder)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
2 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 – 4 tablespoons oil

  1. Blend the onion, ginger, garlic, chopped chilli and the coriander leaves together in a food processor until they form a paste. If you don’t have a food processor, use a mortar and pestle, or finely chop everything together with a knife. Add yoghurt to the paste and mix well.
  2. Put the lamb in a bowl, add the paste and mix by hand, kneading the ingredients into the meat until thoroughly combined. Add all the spices, and the salt and pepper, and mix again to distribute evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to allow the flavours to develop and also to make the mixture firmer and therefore easier to handle.
  3. Wet your hands and roll small handfuls (about a heaped tablespoon) of the mince mixture into small balls (wetting hands prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands). You should have about 30-40 meatballs (I rolled mine slightly larger)
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. When hot, but not smoking, add 10 meatballs in a single layer. Brown on all sides by gently shaking the pan for 2 – 3 minutes. Don’t be tempted to turn them over with a spoon or they may break up. Test a kofta by breaking it open. If it is cooked through, there should be no pink meat inside. If the meat is still pink, cook for another minute or two. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Mint and coriander chutney is the perfect accompaniment but other chutneys are also suitable.

Mint and Coriander Chutney
(adapted from ‘A Little Taste of India’)

30 g (1 1/2 cups) mint leaves
30 g (1 1/2 cups) coriander (cilantro) leaves
1 green chilli (small)
1 tablespoon tamarind puree
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons thick plain yoghurt ( greek yoghurt is perfect )

  1. Wash the mint and coriander leaves. Discard any tough stalks but keep the young soft ones for flavour.
  2. Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor, or chop everything finely and pound it together in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Taste the chutney and add more salt if necessary.

Note: If you want a creamier, milder chutney, stir in the yoghurt ( instead of blending it with the other ingredients)

Wholemeal and Besan (Chickpea) Flour Roti

140 g wholemeal flour
60 g plain flour
50 g besan (Chickpea) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons oil
125 ml lukewarm/tepid water

  1. Sift the flours, salt and chilli powder into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the oil and water and mix to form a soft pliable dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl; cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough into 4 – 5 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough ball evenly to a circle about 1 – 2 mm thick. Cover with a cloth to prevent dough from drying out.
  3. Heat a non-stick frying pan until hot, cook one roti at a time. Cook each side for 1 minute; turn and cook for a further 1 – 2 minutes (you can press lightly with a tea-towel. It will puff up slightly).  Cook until you see a smattering of brown patches on the roti.
  4. Remove the roti and keep warm, wrapped in aluminium foil while you cook the remaining rotis.
  5. Serve warm with a smear or ghee or butter.
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