The food world, particularly those of us who love spices are all a twitter on hearing the news that Indian cook and actress Madhur Jaffrey has just written another cook book. This one is especially for those who feel that Indian food takes a long time and a ton of ingredients to make. It is entitled Curry Easy and is published by Ebury Press.Madhur taught classes at Ballymaloe Cookery School several times during the 1980s and 1990s and we all loved her food. She has built up a devoted following all over the world. Her carefully chosen and finely tuned recipes have introduced several generations to spices and her meticulously tested recipes have given all of us the confidence to experiment. From my own part, Madhur’s cooking classes were the beginning of a love affair with India and Indian food which has endured for several decades.
It may seem intimidating at first but you will soon be able to judge how much to use and what combinations work best. It’s good advice to start by using one spice at a time, say cumin or coriander, you will soon be able to judge the strength of the spice and then you can start to combine and add other spices to compliment the original one or two. Madhur Jaffrey’s essential spices are cumin, fennel, mustard seeds, turmeric, chillies, coriander, fenugreek, which Madhur Jaffrey says “smells like India in a jar” and asafoetida “which is essential for the deep flavour that comes with Indian food”
Here are a few of my favourite spicy recipes for you to experiment with.
2 lb (900g) boneless lamb (leg or shoulder is perfect)
4 ozs (110g) almonds
16 fl ozs (475ml) light cream
1 tablespoon pounded fresh green ginger
2 oz (50g) ghee or clarified butter
4 onions – sliced in rings
4 cloves of garlic – crushed
2 teaspoons coriander seed
2 teaspoons black pepper corns
1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, start with whole green cardamom pods if possible
8 whole cloves
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons sugar
some freshly squeezed lime juice
segments of lime
Trim the meat of the majority of the fat. Blanch, peel and chop up the almonds (they should be the texture of nibbed almonds). Put into a small saucepan with the cream and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile peel the ginger thinly with a vegetable peeler, pound into a paste in a pestle and mortar, or chop finely with a knife, or grate finely on a slivery grater.
Cut the meat into 4 cm (1 1/2in) cubes and mix it with the ginger and a sprinkling of salt.
Melt the butter and cook the onion rings and crushed garlic over a gentle for 5 minutes. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and measure 1 teaspoon. Discard the pods.
Grind the fresh spices, coriander, pepper, cardamom and cloves in a clean spice or coffee grinder. Add the spices to the onions and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove the onions and then add the meat to the saucepan. Stir over a high heat until the meat browns. Return the onion and spices to the pot. Add the nut milk, turmeric and sugar. Stir well. Cover and simmer gently on top of the stove or better still in a low oven 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3, until the meat is cooked (1 hour approx.)
Finish by adding a few drops of lemon or lime juice to taste.
Serve with plain boiled rice, lime segments and other curry accompaniments which might include – bowls of chopped mango, Tomato chutney, Mint chutney, Raita, sliced bananas, chopped apples and poppodums.
A hot chilli sauce is also good and of course some Indian breads, Naan, Paratha …..
Serves 4-6 people
1 teaspoon salt
300g (10 1/2ozs) basmati rice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or 25g (1oz) butter
2 tablespoons chopped coriander (or mint)
Bring a big saucepan of water to the boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the rice, stir, and let boil for 5 minutes – by this stage, the grains should be three-quarters cooked. Strain through a sieve, and place the rice in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil or butter, and season to taste. Leave in a low oven, 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1, for 10-15 minutes, by which time it should be lovely and fluffy. If you want to prepare it half an hour in advance, put it into an oven at 110ºC/225°F/Gas Mark 1/4. Sprinkle with lots of fresh coriander and serve.
2 x 400ml tins of coconut milk
600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock
400ml (14fl oz) natural yoghurt
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes
6 parsnips, peeled, cores removed and flesh cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes
700g (11/2lb) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes
4 onions, peeled and cut into eighths
150g spinach (any large stalks removed before weighing), chopped
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp chana masala
50g (2oz) root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
12 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 red chillis, deseeded
200g (7oz) onions, peeled and quartered
50ml (2fl oz) vegetable oil
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp salt
Large bunch of coriander, chopped
100g (31/2oz) cashew nuts, toasted and chopped
200ml (7fl oz) natural yoghurt or crème fraîche
Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas mark 3.
First make the paste. Place a small frying pan on a medium heat and add the coriander, cumin and chana masala. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 1 minute or until they start to pop, then crush.
3 Place the ginger, garlic, chilli, onions and vegetable oil in a food processor and whiz for 2–3 minutes or until smooth. Pour this mixture into a large saucepan or casserole dish and stir in the freshly ground spices, along with the turmeric, sugar and salt, then place on a medium–low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has reduced slightly.
Remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture into a large bowl. Pour the coconut milk and stock into the remaining half in the saucepan or casserole dish, stirring to combine.
Stir the yoghurt into the spice paste in the bowl, then add the root vegetables and onions and stir in the mixture to thoroughly coat. Tip into 1–2 roasting tins or baking trays and cook in the oven for about 1 hour or until lightly browned.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and add to the saucepan or casserole dish. Place on a medium heat for a few minutes to warm through, and then stir in the spinach and spoon into bowls with a sprinkling of fresh coriander, a scattering of the toasted nuts and a spoonful of yoghurt or crème fraîche.
16 fl ozs (450ml) coconut milk (preferably fresh) or 400ml (1 x 14oz) can coconut milk (brand: Chaokoh)
1 1/2 fl ozs (40ml) coconut oil
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
2 green chillies, split lengthwise
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1 oz (25g) dry tamarind and 2 fl. ozs (50ml) hot water
salt to taste
1/2 fl oz (12ml) coconut oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seed
1 tablespoon fresh curry leaves
Rice and poppodums
Heat 12ml (1 ½ fl oz) coconut oil in a sauté pan. Add the shallots, ginger and green chillies. Stir and sauté for about 5 minutes or until they start to turn brown.
Add the turmeric, sugar, chilli powder and coriander. Stir and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and the tamarind water. Season with salt and add the fish. Cover and poach the fish over a medium heat until just cooked – monkfish will take 5-6 minutes.
Heat 1/2 fl oz coconut oil in small saucepan, when the oil is smoking hot, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds finish crackling, pour the tempering over the curry.
If possible leave the curry overnight in a cool place.
To serve, bring to boil in the same pot and serve with rice and poppodums.
Soak the tamarind for 30 mins to 1 hour in 50ml (2fl oz) hot water in a small non-metallic bowl. (The water should cover the tamarind.) Strain through a sieve, discard the pulp – the strained liquid is your tamarind water.
Damsons are in season now and still grow wild in Ireland in ditches along farm boundaries; they usually ripen towards the end of September so find out where you can gather them to make into damson sauce – delicious with duck breast or wild duck.
450g (1lb) damsons or blood plums
225g (8oz) sugar
2.5cm (1in) piece cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons red currant jelly
110ml (4fl oz) port
the Slow Food magazine has just gone online – its packed with articles on food and food issues and is well worth a browse., there are so few Irish apple growers left so let’s support the valiant growers who remain. Seek out Keanes of Crinnaghtaun Fruit Farm in Cappoquin (058) 54258, Con Tras Apple Farm (052) 7441459 and Philip Little – Little Apple Company, Piltown, Co Kilkenny (051) 567872.