Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Stay at home takeaway

There are many TV shows broadcast and articles published on just how easy it is to make take away food at home. Often they focus on how much better they are for you and how much money you can save by throwing together a few simple ingredients. For me they are often missing the very indulgent and full fat point of the take away, but then I am not one of those people that relies on the menu drawer to decide what to have for tea tonight.
All that being said, I do enjoy cooking a quick curry every now and then. It doesn't have the same expectant thrill of the door bell ringing to a helmeted man with a white carrier bag of steaming rice but it is a quick and tasty meal that delivers rich flavours, creamy textures and delicious sauces.
This time I decided to cook a few chicken breasts on my griddle pan to add some flavour to the meat rather than fry it up with the sauce. It added a depth of flavour that I am not sure I have achieved with a home made curry before.
I wanted to keep it quick so used a few table spoons of Tikka paste fried into some softened onions and then added about half a tin of coconut milk and let it cook together for about 20minutes before adding the griddled chicken.
This time though I tried a new recipe that I had from Riverfood Organics riverfood for that all to tasty treat of an onion Bhaji.

The recipe is designed to serve 4 and needs the following ingredients:

100g chickpea (gram) flour or plain flour (I used plain and it was fine)
1/2 tsp baking powder
¼-1/2 tsp cayenne/chili powder, to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp garam masala or curry powder
½ tsp salt or to taste
1 large onion or 3 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
handful chopped coriander leaves
cold water to mix
vegetable oil for deep frying

They are so easy to make too.

Combine the flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl. Add the onion and coriander and mix well. Add just enough cold water to bring the mix into a thick batter. Heat the oil to 190C or until a piece of bread sizzles when dropped in. Take spoonfuls of the batter and very carefully drop into the oil. Cook for 6-10 minutes or until golden brown. The bhaji can also be shallow fried but may need longer cooking and will have to be turned halfway. In either case, drain the cooked bhaji on kitchen paper.

I was so impressed with the result, and without sounding like one of the aforementioned TV shows, they really did taste exactly like they were from the takeaway.

Treat yourself to a curry for tea tonight.

Monday, 12 April 2010

If only they didn't take so long.....

I am reasonably patient when it comes to cooking, I often enjoy the process as much as I enjoy the eating, but when it comes to caramelising onions I have to say patience is not my strong point.
I know you can buy them in a jar, I know you can add sugar or syrup to help them along but there is a satisfaction to getting the job done in the most traditional way and I had loads of onions that needed using. Firstly you need loads to get any kind of volume once they are cooked and then they take for ever to soften down and release all their natural, delicious sweetness. The finished product is well worth the wait, providing that you don't rush them, give up to soon or cook them to high and end up burning them but you could make an entire banquet in the time they take.
There is a tried and tested recipe that hails from the kitchen of my mum, although I think she adapted the idea from a restaurant menu some years ago, that has become a staple of summer eating and entertaining for us both. The Caramelised Onion and Feta Cheese Tart is always a winner, great with salad and a baked potato for a tasty meal, brilliant to cut into portions for easy lunch box filling and perfect for larger scale entertaining and buffet style meals.
I always use the standard 2 x times flour to fat method for the pastry and cold water as needed but I have also made it with bought short crust when time is short and it doesn't suffer too much for it.
It usually takes 4 to 6 onions, caramelised laboriously on a low heat with for a long, long time until they are beautiful golden and sticky. These are then spread across the pastry case when it is ready to cook. I bake blind for about 20 minutes first, but I know some people risk a soggy bottom...
Depending on how cheesy you want to make it the next job is to simply chop up a packet of feta cheese in to bite size chunks and sprinkle on top of the onions.
Beat 3 eggs into 300 ml of milk and pour over the top and bake at about 180 for 25 - 30 mins.
You can add herbs into the egg mixture if you want to add some colour and another flavour, it works well with parsley, oregano and chives but is good without too.
The sticky sweetness of the onions with the extreme saltiness of the creamy feta gives your palette a real treat, I hope you agree.
Enjoy it for your tea tonight.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Hot Cross Buns

I do love a hot cross bun, but why do we only eat them at Easter. With some festive foods I can understand leaving them for one occasion a year, who wants to cook a turkey more often than that? But the little pillows of fragrant fruited bread, fresh from the oven, smothered in butter are such a delicious treat I can't understand why we don't eat more of them.
I think most supermarkets stock them, or a variation of them throughout the year, but I only realy have them in mind in March and April, a habit I must change.
This year I have made my own, not unique to myself I am sure, but a first for me. I have a childhood memory of hot cross bun dough rising in a bowl in the airing cupboard and then being brought to the table fresh from the oven on Easter Sunday. I remember the chewy cross having a slight sweetness and texture that you just don't get from the shop bought kind. All this is something I wanted to recreate this Easter, although I don't have an airing cupboard.
After much perusing I settled on the Nigella recipe from Feast. It is a great book that I have gone back to time and time again, so decided to put my hot cross buns in Nigella's hands.
They really are great, you need the time to let them rise and for all the little stages, but it is well worth it.
If I were to do them again, which I might well do before Christmas, I might ignore the suggestion to make them smaller and have 12 instead of the 16. I think you miss out on the doughy texture when they are smaller, but appreciate the cute idea.
I can highly recommend making your own, if only to fill the house with the most beautiful smell of freshly baked, lightly spiced bread.