Posts Tagged ‘Fairtrade spices’

Spices, spices everywhere

Friday, May 13th, 2011

We had a visit recently from Helen Best-Shaw of FussFreeFlavours, who is a lovely lady – other bloggers welcome.  She asked many interesting questions and one of them got me thinking and that was why are we so interested in spices.  It certainly is not the money as I think we are successfully proving that there are no fortunes to be made in spices anymore.

But what it is, I think, is the sheer complexity of them.  Spices, herbs and salts are the essence of cuisine that takes food away from being the source of the raw materials of life into cooking, i.e. something that is human, cultural, social and learned rather than just a bunch of proteins, carbohydrates and fats etc.

Spices, herbs and salt have the key things that make food truly great and tickle the senses:

  1. Aroma – smell
  2. Flavour – taste
  3. Heat – temperature
  4. Colour – sight
  5. Texture – touch
  6. Context – knowledge

For me, context is one of the key things that our spices can give you.  They create a story of where the cuisine has come from – Britain, Thailand, Japan or India, for example – and a sense of our life story and what we have learnt through our travels and experiences, from other people (whether in cookbooks, websites, from mum or the TV) and through experimentation. They offer a leitmotif to our world.  Context tells us whether they are organic or not, whether the people who grew them have been fairly treated or exploited, creating a depth and connection back to farmers who have toiled to bring us these gems of flavour.

When I blend a spice, all these things get wrapped up into the experience.  For example, today I made some ras al-hanut.  It takes an age to weigh out all the ingredients and then mix them up, all of which we do all by hand.  I use a unique recipe that includes 22 ingredients and took about 3 weeks and many years to perfect.  It harks back to when we started Steenbergs in 2004, so has context for me as I remember really struggling with the blend, but it also has context as it is based on the Moroccan blend – ras el hanout  - which is the master blend of the spice merchants in traditional bazaars across North Africa and into the Levant.  It connects Steenbergs back to other spice merchants and we have been indulgent, like you should, as this is not a blend to scrape and pinch like an accountant for bits of profit here and there, it is a thing of character and blend of excellence designed to show off our prowess and balances the flavours, aromas and colours of a stupidly wide selection of spices from a ridiculously wide geographic range of countries.

So we have - galangal from Vietnam; cassia and cubeb pepper from Indonesia; ginger and turmeric from India; cardamom from Sri Lanka; orris root from Italy; paprika and saffron from Spain; black cardamom from Pakistan; dill seed from Turkey; roses from Iran; bay, caraway and fennel from Turkey; and allspice from Guatemala – all of which are blended by hand in rural North Yorkshire.  We can travel the world with our flavours and ingredients.  Then there are the chromatics of the smells, flavours and colours that are carefully balanced to sing together in harmony and create something that has a bottomless depth of gorgeous sensation that is deliciously exotic – much better than each individually and full of pure intensity.  For a little flair, we add some texture by including whole dill seeds and deep purple rose petals that add an extra dimension to a blend of powders.  Then there are the colours from the exuberant deep purple of the damask roses, the mute yellow of turmeric, the blacks and browns of black cardamom, cassia, galangal, cubebs, the greens of cardamom and bay and the reds of paprika and saffron.  All these heats and flavours and colours meld seamlessly into a flavour bomb of depth and intensity that I just love to blend up.

Or we can enjoy something perhaps more mundane like our garam masala, where you can enjoy the flavour mix as well as its context.  The recipe is based on a Punjabi recipe that has been tweaked here in North Yorkshire, then has the context of being organic and Fairtrade, so you get kit that tastes fantastic, is good for the environment and has great social welfare attributes.

And it is not just about blends of spices and herbs, but we also go that extra mile for customers, searching out variety within individual spices.  There is a vast range of peppers, from the basic black peppercorns and white peppercorns through to speciality black pepper like the TGSEB we get from friends in Northern Kerala, the Wayanad Social Service Society and the more unusual peppers like cubeb pepper, long pepper and Madagascan wild pepper.  Or you could try some of the ersatz peppers, such as grains of paradise (Melagueta pepper), allspice (Jamaican pepper), Moor pepper or our vast range of chillies, that includes the mega-hot Naga Jolokia.

But I am particularly proud of Steenbergs vanilla.  As a standard, we have delicious, fragrant, succulent and sensual Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar.  It is organic and Fairtrade, and we use these for the base of our organic Fairtrade vanilla extract as well.  Then there is variety with vanilla from Congo that has tobacco notes to it, from Tahiti that is more floral and succulent than that of Madagascar.  I just love the vanilla.  Then there is the context of these that are grown with so much patience and effort by lovely rural communities in Northern Madagascar, for example around Mananara.

For me, what becomes more amazing as time goes by is the sense of community effort that goes into these small gems that are spices and herbs.  I am not really meaning the work that we do at Steenbergs, but rather the culture, the social structures, the economies and the people that go into growing that extra special vanilla or that amazing peppercorn.  It is they that are the true heroes and heroines and we should salute them by indulging ourselves to enjoy what they have spent time and effort creating, yet they have so little.  That for me is what I mean by context and that community effort gives Steenbergs that little bit more to it than just a rigid focus on the mechanics and standards of quality and value as demanded by those faceless high street and big brand corporations.

Matcha Tea Cupcakes – Green, Healthy and Tasty Recipe

Monday, March 21st, 2011

The terrible events in Japan lay bare to us all how much we are still at the mercy of the elements, rather than completely in control of our earth.

Steenbergs Matcha Tea And Cocoa Powder

Steenbergs Matcha Tea And Cocoa Powder

So I decided to revisit my recent post on matcha tea and create these Matcha Tea Cupcakes ideal for charity events to raise money for the tsunami victims.  They are really delicious combination of matcha and cocoa, with with the cupcake tasting just of chocolate cake and the very mild seaweedy taste of the matcha in the icing complements the classic sweetness of the chocolate.  As an aside, this is great way to get some of the benefits of matcha without needing to drink a cup of slightly bitter matcha tea

Matcha Cupcakes

Matcha Cupcakes

Recipe for Matcha Tea Cupcakes

1 tsp (rounded) organic matcha tea
120ml / ½ cup milk
100g / ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp organic plain flour
1¼ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp Fairtrade cocoa powder
Pinch of sea salt
150g / 1 scant cup Fairtrade caster sugar
1 large free range egg
1 tsp Steenbergs organic Fairtrade vanilla extract
50g / 3½ tsp unsalted butter 

For the topping:

80g / 5 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp (level) organic matcha tea, sieved
2 tbsp fromage frais
250g / 2 cups Faitrade icing sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.

2.  Pour the milk into a milk pan, then sieve the matcha tea into the milk.  Whisk the mixture with a matcha whisk or a fork.  Then carefully heat the milk until hot to touch but not starting to simmer.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Infuse Milk With Green Matcha Tea

Infuse Milk With Green Matcha Tea

3.  Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl.  Add the sea salt and then tip in the caster sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients together.

Put All The Dry Ingredients Into Mixing Bowl

Put All The Dry Ingredients Into Mixing Bowl

4.  Put the egg and vanilla extract into the dry ingredients and mix up a bit with a fork.  Chop the unsalted butter into small cubes and add to the mixture.  Mix thoroughly with an electric whisk or in a blender.  When creamed together, add the matcha milk mix and throughly mix.

Mix In The Matcha Milk

Mix In The Matcha Milk

5.  Spoon the mixture into paper cupcakes until about three-quarters up.

Pour In Mixture Three Quarters Up Cupcake

Pour In Mixture Three Quarters Up Cupcake

6.  Place in oven and cook for about 25 minutes, or until spongy to the touch.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

7.  To make the matcha icing, simply mix all the ingredients together and put a dessertspoon of the matcha frosting onto each cupcake.

Mix Together The Ingredients For Matcha Frosting

Mix Together The Ingredients For Matcha Frosting

8.  Enjoy the taste straight away.

Review Of December 2010 Food Blogs (Part 2)

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

At Mahanandi, Indira shared some innovative menu ideas for the Christmas Season, or holiday season as it is called in America – see Menu 1 and Menu 2.  Maison Cupcake was cupcake decorating in a Masterclass in Islington’s The Make Lounge with Mich Turner and I love the recipe for Sweet And Savoury Spiced Nuts at Not Without Salt as they remind me of delicious toasted almonds that I used to get all warm and wrapped in cones of paper from street vendors in Munich.  Also at Not Without Salt in December Ashley posted a Quick Puff Pastry recipe that makes me feel so inadequate as I do not have light enough hands for something as delicate as that, while the post on Homemade Truffles reminds me of promises made to myself and not fulfilled – there is always this year, I suppose.

Orangette posted a neat recipe for Whole Wheat Sablés With Cacoa Nibs.  Sablés are another thing that I really should make and maybe I will during 2011.  At Smitten Kitchen, Deb has been active baking loads of cookies, mostly baking with a Christmas theme like Roasted Chestnut Cookies, Iced Oatmeal Cookies and the most amazing Spiced Gingerbread Cookies that have been so beautifully created.  Savoury wise, Deb made classic Garlic Butter Roasted Mushrooms.

At The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I like Ree Drummond’s recipes for Mulligatawny Soup and Spinach Soup With Gruyere.  Then Ree gets into that Christmas spirit with Lia’s Dark Chocolate Truffles, including several photos of how to make a delicate chocolate butterfly from dark chocolate.  Then there are some offbeat ideas for the Christmas period including recipes for Meatballs With Peppers And Pineapple and Steak Au Poivre, but then in America they get the turkey over at Thanksgiving. 

At The Wednesday Chef, Luisa Weiss makes panforte which is one of those delicacies that I love, enjoying the familar chewy texture and nutty tastes, but perhaps I would settle for candied orange peel rather than quince.  I must admit that it is not something that I ever considered making, but maybe that is another good intention that I can put on my ever expanding list of things I would love to make, but never quite manage to get round to.  And at Wild Yeast, there is a recipe for Candied Lemon Peel which can easily be tweaked for orange, so now I have all the tools to make candied peel in 2011. 

Promises, promises…

Recipe For Traditional Steamed Ginger Treacle Sponge Pudding

Monday, December 6th, 2010
Ginger is a wonderful spice, warming and earthy in flavour with a comforting aroma. For me, it is redolent with memories of warmth indoors with an open coal or wood fire while the outside is heavy with snow. It is also so versatile with the spice being warming and earthy and perfect for everything from curry through to ginger biscuits, while sweet crystallised ginger is lovely and sweet and ideal for ice creams through to puddings. I have bought in traditional crystrallised ginger sweets for this Christmas along with some chocolate gingers boxed up in retro wooden boxes. So with the weather brisk over the last week and heavy snows for this time of the year, my mind has wondered to traditional sponge puddings full of suet, treacle and, you got it, ginger.
I made this on Saturday evening, enjoying listening to the pop pop pop sound of the lid on pot as the pud steamed away for 2 hours while I listened to Radio 5 Live. There was a really frank and open phone in hosted by Alec McGivern on the failed English bid for the FIFA World Cup in 2018, but I must admit that I sympathise with Niall Quinn and his view that those who disclosed corruption at FIFA prior to the announcement of the winners of the FIFA World Cups should explain to those football fans in Newcastle and Sunderland why they did it and whether they really believe that they were right to push for disclosure in a way that could harm the “now failed” bid. They need, also, to explain to those in the North East who could have benefitted from any investment in local infrastructure and sport in the build up to a World Cup where that hope for jobs and change will now come from. There are times to talk and there are times to keep stum, and this surely was one of those times to wait for a better moment. I accept that there might have been no change in the result, but it still sticks in the craw.
Anyway back to the Steamed Ginger Sponge Pudding, this is a dark and rich sweet steamed pudding. It is moist and succulent with a satisfying heaviness, rather than a dry lightness that many modern puddings have. I think that hearty body comes from the suet, whereas many recipes now seem to exclude the suet and use self raising flour, breadcrumbs and butter to make more of a cake than a traditional buxom sweet.
Recipe For Steamed Ginger Treacle Sponge
3 tbsp golden syrup
1tbsp black treacle
1tbsp ground almonds
225g / 8 oz plain flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g / 3 oz suet
50g / 2 oz light muscovado sugar or soft brown sugar
2 tsp organic Fairtrade ginger powder
½ tsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon powder
¼ tsp sea salt
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
25g / 1 oz golden syrup
25g / 1 oz black treacle
75 ml / 2 ½ fl oz / ⅓ cup full fat milk
Prepare a 1 litre (2 pint) pudding basin by placing greasing lightly the whole basin with butter or sunflower oil.
Add the golden syrup and treacle to the bottom of pudding bowl. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the top of this.
Add Golden Syrup And Treacle To Pudding Basin

Add Golden Syrup And Treacle To Pudding Basin

Sieve the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the muscovado sugar, ginger, cinnamon and sea salt, and mix thoroughly. Make a well and add the egg, golden syrup, treacle and milk and stir the mixture together to thick consistency.
Mix The Ingredients Together

Mix The Ingredients Together

Pour the mixture into the prepared, greased pudding basin over the ground almonds.
There should be about 4cm / 1 inch space at the top of the basin for the sponge to rise into. Now cover the sponge mixture: cut a square of baking parchment and grease one side; place this over the top of the pudding basin; cut a larger piece of aluminium foil and place this over the top; tie the covering down with a piece of string wound around the basin twice and then knotted.
Prepare The Pudding For Steaming

Prepare The Pudding For Steaming

Steam in a pan with boiling water for 2 hours, topping up the pan as necessary to keep the level roughly consistent. If cooking earlier then reheating, reheat by steaming for 1 hour or nuking in the microwave for a few minutes.
Turn out onto a warmed plate and serve with custard.
Steamed Ginger Sponge Pudding

Steamed Ginger Sponge Pudding

Serve With Custard

Serve With Custard

Rich Hot Chocolate Recipe

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I have been trying to create a hot chocolate product at Steenbergs and as part of my research I came up with this really rich hot chocolate recipe.  This Hot Chocolate Recipe is something to relax with and enjoy at home, since Sophie calls it “a hug in a mug”.  It is, however, probably impossible to commercialise as any attempt to dumb it down will make the whole experience cheap and less luxurious.

Homemade Rich Hot Chocolate

Homemade Rich Hot Chocolate

Recipe For Rich Hot Chocolate Drink

575ml /1 pint / 2½ cups full fat milk
60ml / ¼ cup water
60g / 2 oz / ¾ cup good quality Fairtrade caster sugar (not your plain white stuff)
100g / 3½ oz dark Fairtrade chocolate (I use one bar of Divine chocolate)

In a bowl over boiling water, melt the chocolate bar, then switch off the heat but leave over the hot water.

Put the milk and water into a pan and bring to the boil.  Just as the first bubbles appear at the edges, take the pan off the heat.  Add the caster sugar and stir in until dissolved.

Add the chocolate and stir in; reheat the mixture until it just starts to bubble again. 

Take it off the heat, then whisk quickly with a hand whisk for about 1 minute.  Pour into 2 or 3 mugs, sit back and enjoy.

Traditional Mincemeat Recipe

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

I am winning with Christmas food preparations this year, which seems unbelievable considering how little time I seem to have to do anything at the moment;. I am running about one week behind last year.  However, as a man who cooks, I do actually find baking strangely therapeutic and calming at the weekend.  I think it gives me some peace and quiet, allowing my thoughts to settle themselves down after a hectic week at Steenbergs, and this week has been one of those business nightmare weeks.

So Christmas cake was baked 2 weekends ago, Christmas pudding last weekend and this weekend I have made a new batch of mincemeat.  I always make a mammoth sized Christmas cake and extra Christmas puds, giving one to my parents and another to some great friends of ours, both of whom deserve just a little something for their help during the year.  As for the mincemeat, I have usually made one that does not include any sugar as I feel the dried fruit, apple and juices are usually sweet enough, however after some gentle prompting last year, I thought I would try a more traditional version and add some sugar, which is what I did this morning. 

Basically, it is my normal mincemeat recipe with the addition of 250g / 8oz dark molasses sugar from Billingtons crumbled into it and a reduced amount of apple as it seems to ferment a little over time.  Still simple and easy, so my old recipe is now called the “No Added Sugar Mincemeat Recipe” and this will become our “Traditional Mincemeat” recipe.  It really is worth the effort making this as it is really just a case of chucking some ingredients together and leaving to develop flavour over the short time to Christmas.

Ingredients 

175g/ 6oz raisins (Organic and/or Fairtrade if possible)
175g/ 6oz sultanas (Organic and/or Fairtrade if possible)
250g/ 8oz currants (Organic and/or Fairtrade if possible)
85g/ 3oz chopped mixed peel
85g/ 3oz flaked almonds, toasted
125g/ 4oz eating apples (Cox’s are good), cored and chopped but not peeled
125g/ 4oz shredded suet (I  use Community Wholefood’s vegetarian suet, but Atora also do one)
250g / 8oz dark muscovado sugar  (Organic and/or Fairtrade if possible)
1tsp organic Fairtrade nutmeg powder
½ tsp allspice powder
½ rounded tsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon powder
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange (or 50:50 orange and lemon)
75ml/ 1/8 pint “good” whisky or brandy (I use Bruichladdich from Islay)

1.  If possible, use organic ingredients and/or Fairtrade ingredients, as they are good for the environment and the communities that grow the crops.

2.  Simply mix all the ingredients together and seal in a large tub, or ideally a bucket with a lid.

Ingredients For Mincemeat Weighed Out

Ingredients For Mincemeat Weighed Out

Mix The Dark Muscovado Sugar Into The Fruit And Nuts

Mix The Dark Muscovado Sugar Into The Fruit And Nuts

Traditional Mincemeat All Mixed Up

Traditional Mincemeat All Mixed Up

3.  Stir it once or twice in the maturation period – at the end of November and maybe mid December.  Pot it up into a couple of good sized Kilner-style jars on or about the 20th December.

4.  It lasts for a good 2 – 3 years, so don’t worry if you haven’t used it all in one Christmas period.  It is good to use in baked apples or to make a quick mincemeat tart for pudding anytime in the year.

Recipe For Tea Infused Indian Rice Pudding

Saturday, November 6th, 2010
Indian Rice Pudding

Indian Rice Pudding

For pudding with my Imperial Korma, I made Indian Rice Pudding.  I love rice pudding and I love the Indian versions, especially Pal Payasam which is the traditional Keralan recipe; these use basmati rice which has a firmer mouth-feel than arborio rice, which is used for a typical English rice puds. 

In Kerala, you would flavour it with cashews as they are grown all over Kerala, including by my friends at Elements Homestead; however, the other day I did not have any cashews to hand so I used flaked almonds which worked really well (cashews are rarely in our storecupboard, but almonds always are).

As it is an Indian rice pudding, I wanted to add an extra flavour element to the rice pudding and decided to infuse the milk with tea and I actually used one of our chai teas, which I make using a Keralan black tea from the POABS Estates near Nelliyampathy together with Fairtrade spices that are indigenous to the region.  You do not need to use a chai tea (or tea at all for that matter), but I suggest you should use light and flowery teas rather than strong ones, so a Nilgiri Black Tea or a Fine Darjeeling would work well, but I do not think a malty Assam or Kenyan tea would be right as those flavours will come through too strongly.

Axel’s Tea Infused Indian Rice Pudding

½tsp green cardamom powder
2tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
2tbsp flaked almonds
2tbsp raisins
100g / 3½ oz basmati rice
600ml / 1 pint full fat milk
1tsp Indian tea (optional)
100g / 3½ oz light muscovado sugar

Heat the ghee/butter in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the almonds and raisins until the raisins have swollen up.  Remove from the hot oil and drain almonds and raisins on kitchen paper and keep to the side; keep the oil in the pan but off the heat.

In a milk pan, warm the milk to just below boiling point; you will see bubbles just appear at the edge of the milk just by the pan edge.  Take off the heat and add the tea to the milk, stir in and leave to infuse for 5 minutes, then strain out the tea leaves by pouring the milk through a sieve. 

Wash and drain the rice twice.  In the saucepan, reheat the ghee/butter and lightly fry the basmati rice for about 1 minute being careful not to let it stick or burn.  Add the tea-infused milk and stir into the rice; heat to just below boiling point, stirring all the time to stop it sticking on the base of the pan and so burning.

When the rice is nearly cooked with an al dente bite, add the sugar and stir it in until it has dissolved and the rice is throughly cooked.  Add the fried almonds, raisins and cardamom powder, stir right through and gently cook for about 2 minutes longer.

Serve hot, with cream or milk if you want.

A Journey Back To True Korma Recipes (Part 2) – Banquet Style Korma

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Since my blog the other week, I have looked further into the concept and style of traditional korma recipes and have found them a fascinating social history and felt that a korma would be ideal for Diwali.  They seem to be a fusion recipe in the first place, so when Islam swept through Northern India and the Mughal Emperors became rulers of much of India with many smaller Princely States also being Islamic, they turned Westwards to Shiraz and the Royal Courts of Persia for inspiration in the arts and cuisine.  So korma morphed from a Persian style of food into an Indian cuisine, influenced by the nuances, tastes and flavours of the local culture and palates.

It is a showy style of food, which includes the more exclusive and so expensive spices and dried fruits and nuts.  We may not think of these as rich foods, but (at this time of year) think of Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mincemeat - they are heavily spiced and full of dried fruits and nuts, all of which were expensive and exclusive ingredients for a feast day.  So it felt just ideal to make this korma for Diwali, Axel’s Diwali Korma, followed by a party-style Tea Infused Indian Rice Pudding, which will follow in a later blog.

So I took two recipes that read well and gave me the feeling that they would be good, then I adjusted the seasonings from grams to teaspoons and lowered the salt level, coming up with my own version of a true Imperial korma recipe.  My version is very light on chilli heat as I cook for our family, but you can tweak and adjust the level of heat to whatever you wish, but remember this is not a hot curry but a spiced and rich meal, so better to have a small bowl with fresh chillis in it for everyone to increase the heat themselves to suit their tastes rather than change the balance of the spice blend.  The key is adding saffron water at the end to add more liquid to the largely dried out yoghurt as well as to give my korma a rich intensity.

Adapted from Korma Asafjahi from Nizam of Hyderabad and Korma Shirazi from”Cooking delights Of The Maharajas” by Digvijaya Singh.

500g /1 lb lamb, chopped into 2cm / ½ inch dice
70g / 2½ oz ghee, sunflower or vegetable oil
25g / 1 oz flaked almonds
25g / 1 oz dried apricots, chopped into raisin sized pieces
12g / ½ oz raisins, soaked in water
5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
½ medium onion, chopped finely
2cm/ ½ inch  fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp paprika
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp ground green cardamom
1½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1 green chilli, finely chopped and without seeds (optional, plus more if you want more heat)
Pinch of saffron, diluted in water*
300g / ½ lb thick yoghurt
4 eggs, hard boiled then cut into halves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.  Meaures out the spices and mix them together.

Korma Spices Measured Out

Korma Spices Measured Out

Onions, Ginger And Garlic

Onions, Ginger And Garlic

In a frying pan, heat half the ghee until hot, add the lamb pieces and fry quickly on a high heat until fully sealed.  Take off the heat and keep to the side.

Seal The Lamb By Frying In Ghee

Seal The Lamb By Frying In Ghee

In a separate casserole pot, heat the remaining ghee.  Fry the almonds and raisins separately to a golden colour and then set aside.  In the same ghee, fry the chopped onions, garlic and fresh ginger until golden brown, then add the spices and sugar and fry for 1 minute; add 2 tablespoons of water and cook until the water has dried up. 

Lightly Fried Almonds, Apricots and Raisins

Lightly Fried Almonds, Apricots and Raisins

Fry The Onions, Then Add The Spices And Fry Together

Fry The Onions, Then Add The Spices And Fry Together

Add the lamb to the onion-spice mix and stir.  Now add the yoghurt, stir well and cook until simmering, then place into oven for 1 hour, or (if cooking on hob) reduce the heat and cook for 1 hour, stirring occassionally to ensure the mix does not stick on the base of the pan.

Cook The Lamb In The Korma Sauce

Cook The Lamb In The Korma Sauce

When the meat is tender, add the almonds, apricots and raisins and stir quickly and cook for 1 minute at medium heat.  Finally, add the saffron infused water and coriander leaves, stir and cook for another 4 minutes on a low heat.

Lamb Korma

Lamb Korma

Imperial Style Korma Curry

Imperial Style Korma Curry

Serve immediately, decorated with the sliced eggs.  We ate ours with chana masala and homemade naan bread, which I am still experimenting with – this version was a bit heavy and thick, but was a much better recipe than the last which was way too yeasty.

* For an Imperial and more Arabian style flavour, infuse the saffron in 30ml of rose water.  Our kids do not like the flavour of rose water in their meat so we skip that added flavour.

A Journey Through Back To True Korma Recipes (Part 1)

Monday, October 25th, 2010

When I made the Chicken Tikka the other day, I also made a Lamb Korma.  The end result was nothing like the British Kormas that I had been used to, so I decided to investigate the concept of the korma further.  The first thing to say is that I liked to alternative korma style that I had stumbled on, and secondly that the British korma has little linkage back to the true korma.

What seems to have happened is a story of early British curries.  When the curry house started appearing in a wave in the 1960s – 1970s, the style of cuisine was rural Bangladesh and these early “Indian chefs” realised soon that their new clientele wanted inter alia a range of curries that included a hot curry, a medium one and a mild one.  These morphed into the Anglo-Indian vindaloo, chicken tikka and korma classics of modern British-style Indian food.  For us Brits, korma now means a mild, creamy meat dish, whereas the true korma originated out of the Islamic courts of the Moghuls and other Muslim rulers of India over the 10th to 16th centuries.  This korma from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is a rich banquet dish that is showy and uses lots of yoghurt together with expensive flavourings like cardamom, nutmeg, rose water, saffron and nuts like almonds and dried fruits.

My first trial was a variation on a simple korma, called Korma Narendra Shahi, which is slightly sweet and mild, with a pretty rose water flavour which some might not like, but is something I enjoy and is a key flavour of Arabian and Indian banquet-style-food; if the rose flavour is an issue just reduce the levels of rose water you use.  It is based on a recipe from one of my favourite little gems of Indian cooking “Cooking Delights Of The Maharajas” by Digvijaya Singh; this is a collection of recipes collected from the Royal kitchens of India by Mr Singh who really would be the Maharaja of Sailana, hence he was able to collect these recipes and continue his father’s quest to find some of the best recipes from his contemporaries’ households. 

The next korma recipe will be a mash-up between two of the really fine recipes in the same book, mixing up the Persian style Korma Shiraz with a recipe for Korma Asafjahi from the kitchens of the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1905 and will follow in my next blog…

Recipe for Korma Narendra Shahi

500g / 1lb lamb chopped into 2cm / 1 inch sized peices
2tbsp + 2tbsp ghee, sunflower oil or vegetable oil
500g / 1lb onions, half chopped finely and the other half sliced thinly into rounds
115g / 4oz plain yoghurt
¼tsp – 1tsp chilli powder (vary this to taste, but it is meant to be mild)
1tsp cumin seeds (or powder)
3 green cardamom pods, broken open
Pinch of turmeric
1 pinch of salt
A pinch of saffron diluted in warm water
30ml / 2tbsp rose water
1tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1tsp garam masala

Start by dry frying the cumin seeds, if you are beginning with whole ones. When nicely toasted, crush them in a pestle and mortar.  Make the saffron infusion by placing the saffron filaments in a mug or glass and pour over newly drawn water that has just been boiled and leave to infuse for 30 minutes then strain out the saffron.

Heat the ghee in a frying pan and add the onions and fry gently until translucent.  Add the chilli powder, cumin powder and salt and fry together for 1 minute, then add the yoghurt, stir well and cook for about 10 minutes at a gentle simmer with the lid on.

Korma Sauce With Light Creamy Look

Korma Sauce With Light Creamy Look

While you are frying the onions, start frying the lamb pieces in ghee in a separate frying pan.  Cook these quickly to brown and seal the edges.  When ready, which should be as the korma sauce is finishing its 10 minutes’ initial cook, add the lamb to the sauce, cover and cook at a medium heat for 1½ hours.  Lift these pieces of lamb out of the ghee with a fork or slotted spoon, i.e. leave the fat behind.

When the meat is tender, which should be after about 1½ hours, simmer with the lid off to let the liquid dry up almost completely.  Now add the remaining ingredients (saffron, rose water, coriander leaves and garam masala) and stir until warmed through.

Homemade Korma Narendra Shahi

Homemade Korma Narendra Shahi

Serve straight away, or even better leave a day and eat the next day when the flavours are much more subtle and have infused completely through.

Recipe For Chicken Tikka Masala

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

We had to rearrange our weekend as our daughter got chicken pox mid week, which meant her birthday party needed to be rearranged, childcare and cover at work needed to be sorted.  So with no baking to do for the weekend, I felt like making some of the Anglo-Indian curry classics  We start with the quintessential of fusion meals, Chicken Tikka Masala, which has become one of the icons of modern British food.

I like it in part because it tastes good, but also because it really is one of those evil meals that makes use of ingredients that I would never normally touch – Heinz tomato ketchup and Heinz tomato soup.  I know you can make a more authentic Indian sauce without these ingredients, but that misses the point about Chicken Tikka Masala, i.e. that it is tandoori chicken with a lightly spiced tomato-curry sauce using quick-to-hand ingredients; you can feel the panic of the chef who invented it – what do I do to make a tomato curry sauce? Oh I know tomato soup, tomato ketchup, tomato, cream and some spices with a dash of sourness from vinegar and see what happens.

So here is my version, which can be made hotter but this is designed to be child-friendly rather than adult-authentic, so if you want some heat added just add 2 – 4 green chillis to the tikka masala sauce and you should be okay.  Also, you could circumvent all the spices by using a tandoori masala for the chicken-yoghurt marinade and a tikka or Madras curry powder in the tikka sauce.

We also made lamb korma which I will write about soon.

Axel’s Chicken Tikka Masala

Stage 1: To marinade and roast the spiced chicken

1tsp organic paprika
½ tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted then ground in pestle & mortar
½ tsp nutmeg powder
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp yellow mustard powder
1tsp garam masala
4 green cardamom pods, opened so the flavour from the seeds comes out
1 green chilli (medium heat), deseeded and chopped
2tbsp lime juice
3tbsp plain yoghurt
500g / 1lb chicken breast, chopped into 2cm / 1 inch cubes

Spices For Tikka Marinade

Spices For Tikka Marinade

Firstly prepare the spices, dry roasting the cumin and deseeding the green chilli.  Add all these to a metal or glass mixing bowl.  Stir in the lime juice until you have a paste, then add the yoghurt and mix through all the flavours. 

Finally, with the best chicken you can find or are happy buying, chop this into cubes and then add to the spicy marinade and stir through throughly.  Cover with clingfilm and leave in fridge to infuse with the flavours.  I try and leave it overnight but a minimum of 3 hours is fine. 

Chicken Pieces Infusing With Spices In Yoghurt Marinade

Chicken Pieces Infusing With Spices In Yoghurt Marinade

As for chilli, you can increase or decrease those quantities to suit your desire for heat; as we have two children, they are not too enamoured of over hot food so I tend to keep the heat quotient down for them.

On the next day, while you are making the tikka masala sauce, roast these curry flavoured chicken pieces by placing them evenly on a baking tray and cooking in a 180C / 350F oven for 20 – 25 minutes until nicely browned.

Roasted Tikka Chicken Pieces

Roasted Tikka Chicken Pieces

Stage 2: Making the tikka masala sauce

2tbsp ghee or sunflower/vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 large onion (1½ medium onions), chopped finely
½ sweet pepper (red or green), chopped into small dices
1cm / ½ inch fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp medium curry powder
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
1tbsp white wine vinegar
4tbsp chopped tomatoes from a tin
1tbsp tomato ketchup, ideally Heinz as it should be slightly sweet
175ml  / ¾ cup tomato soup, once again ideally Heinz as the colour and sweetness is right
100ml / ½ cup single cream
½ tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped finely
½ tsp sea salt, or chaat masala

Spice Mix For Tikka Sauce

Spice Mix For Tikka Sauce

Start by preparing the spice mix that is needed for the sauce, i.e. the fresh ginger to coriander powder in the list.  When done, heat the ghee or vegetable oil in a frying pan.  Add the onions and garlic cloves and fry gently for 3 minutes until starting to get translucent, then add the chopped bell pepper and fry for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Add the spice mix to the onion-garlic-pepper and mix throughly and fry for about 1 minute. 

Gently Fry Onions, Garlic And Ginger In Ghee

Gently Fry Onions, Garlic And Ginger In Ghee

Now add all the liquid ingredients to the onion mix and stir completely - that is the white wine vinegar, chopped tinned tomatoes, tomato ketchup, Heinz tomato soup and single cream.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.  Then add in the garam masala, fresh coriander leaves and chaat masala/ salt.

Stage 3: Fusion Time – bringing it all together

As a final stage, add the roasted spicy chicken pieces to the tikka sauce.  Stir it together and let cook together for about 15 minutes.

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala

Serve with rice and naan bread.