Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Going Going Goan

One of the first things I wanted to learn to make was prawn curry. Prawn curry has been my favourite food since I was 5 years old. I eat it when I'm sick, I eat it before going out of town, I eat it when I come back home after a long holiday – prawn curry is my go to food. I wanted to learn how to make it, and who better to teach me than my mum! It was really a collaborative effort between her and my cook, with both of them trying very hard not to laugh when I asked them questions they deemed ‘stupid’.  

We started slow, first a vegetable curry, then a chicken curry and finally moved up to the big one – the prawn curry! The first few times I made this curry, I felt like I needed two extra sets of arms to be able to do everything in its correct order. I was hot and flustered and could not do anything without some help. I had to check if the quantity of spices I was putting in was ok, if I had cleaned the prawns right, if I had squeezed the lemon correctly – everything!  I still feel like that when I make it, but it’s getting easier slowly. My mission is to make this curry three times in a row without having the mixer explode onions or tomato all over me. Fingers crossed!

The way we cook it at home is absolutely from scratch. No pre prepared curry masala, no canned coconut milk – everything is made. It would definitely be easier making it with a packet of masala (I would feel a lot less like I needed 8 arms), but I'm not too sure how it would taste he he.

Amy's Goan Prawn Curry

For the masala
12 dried Kashmiri chilies
6 mid sized onions - rough chopped
7 mid sized tomatoes - rough chopped
2 teaspoons jeera or cumin powder
3 teaspoons dhanya or coriander powder
1 teaspoon rai or mustard powder
3 bits elaichi or cardamom pods

1 fresh coconut - rough chopped
1 can coconut milk (not desiccated, natural)

1 kg prawns (shelled)
2 teaspoons salt
2 large lemons (juiced)

Curry patta

Preprep (or do at the very beginning)
Clean prawns and marinate with 2 teaspoons salt and lemon juice. (If you’re like me, you will order the prawns pre cleaned or beg someone at home to help you clean them. Don't feel guilty about it, or use rubber gloves to clean them if you do)

Step 1
Make the Masala

Chop the onions roughly and sauté them in 2 teaspoons oil with 1 teaspoon garlic paste and 1 teaspoon ginger paste. They should go translucent which will take you 7 to 8 minutes.

Wash your chilies and make sure you behead (destalk) them. Roughly chop up the tomatoes and add to the mixer

Add the jeera, dhanya, rai and elaichi to the mixer along with a cup of water.
Blend thoroughly until you have a thick paste.

Step 2
Push the mixture through a strainer so that the liquid strains into a bowl.
Add some water to the remnants of pulp and repeat a few times. Make sure you press down properly to get all possible liquid out. Use the back of a rounded spoon or your hands – you can always wash after.

The reason you are doing this is to extract as much masala from the mixture as possible, without the ‘icky’ bits like chili seeds and tomato pips. This masala forms the base of your curry so it is important that it is mixed thoroughly – there’s no such thing as over mixing here – and strained properly.

(The other reason you are doing this is, as my cook says, 'if you're cooking in your saasu's house, you don't want her to think you are wasteful'. Imagine me hearing this when I was 19 years old and almost falling off the kitchen counter laughing and hysterical.)

Step 3
Blend/ put onions into a mixer with a little water until absolutely fine. Add to masala you have collected and start to boil. (Please check that the top of your mixer is fixed correctly. The last time I made this curry onion exploded everywhere and even reached the ceiling!)

Leave the masala to boil and get on with your other work. (By this time, I have usually washed the bowl of the mixer twice already and am getting fed up.)

Step 4
Crack coconut open using a pestle (we in India call is a khalbatta). Cut the coconut flesh into bits and add to the bowl of your mixer along with 1 cup water.

Grind well, till you get a slushy paste.

Strain the liquid and collect the ‘thick water’ in a separate bowl. (Check on your curry, it should be bubbling merrily by now.)

Add more water to the remnants of the coconut milk and repeat (this is the same thing we did with the curry masala)

Add this thin coconut water to the boiling curry. (Be careful with how much you add, if you don't like a very watery curry do not add all of it.)

If you’re using the can of milk, just add it to the curry slowly, making sure it doesn't become too thin.

Step 5
Sautee 2 stalks of curry leaves in 1 teaspoon of oil and then add to your curry. (You can do this in advance and keep the leaves covered so they retain the odor. Make sure the oil is very hot before adding the leaves, you just want to blister them.)

At this point, if the curry is slightly thickish and not smooth, use an immersion blender to smooth it out.

Step 6
Add the pre marinated prawns to your curry and allow it to boil for 5 minutes.

Step 7
Add thick coconut milk. The curry should be bright orange (or some shade of orange by now). Though the milk is thick, it will dilute the curry here.

Step 8
Add 5 to 6 green chilies sliced vertically to curry.

Step 9
Add salt and lemon to taste.

Step 10
Leave the curry to boil for another 15 minutes and take it off the stove.

There you have it – yummy, fresh, made from scratch Goan curry. Serve it with rice (add butter to the rice to make it sinful) or hard bread (brun pao is amazing) or just with a spoon.

This is best accompanied with Kachoobar (finely chopped onion, tomato, green chili, kothmir and lemon) and fried papad. 

You definitely need company to eat this, you can't curry on by yourself! 


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Ba Na Na

'Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.'  
- Jim Davis
Hmm… maybe not zucchini bread just yet, but I am a sucker for anything banana. Fritters, milkshakes, mashed with sugar or baked into cake. I love banana bread. Toast it and slather it with butter and you have me hooked!

I tried making banana bread in the bread machine and the result was a loaf of bread that smelt like banana and was slightly sweet. There was no overwhelming banana-y taste when I bit into it. Acceptably, but a bit disappointing after a few bites.

I accidentally found the perfect recipe on Nigella Lawson’s website. I love her – almost everything I make off her site tastes exactly the way it should and LOOKS like the pictures she puts up! This is a modification of her recipe – I’ve cut out the alcohol and the other fruit and concentrated on just banana. Resultant bread is YUM.

Banana Bread 

(Adapted from Nigella - my comments in italics)

Attempt 1 - nummy
What you will need

175 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon salt
125 grams butter, melted (most recipes call for unsalted butter, but here in India that is extremely hard to come by. I use regular Amul, and no one complains)
150 grams sugar (I like using brown sugar, the loaf goes darker and tastes better)
2 large eggs (make sure the eggs are room temperature)
4 very ripe bananas mashed (I try stopping at 300g which is the suggested quantity, but I never can. My philosophy here is the more the merrier – I’ve gone up to 6 medium sized bananas once!)
60 grams chopped walnuts (rather than just chop them up, put them into a mortar and smash them up till they’re fine. They add a fantastic taste and texture to the bread. You don't have to add them in though)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Step 1
Butter and flour a loaf tin (standard size) and set it aside. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

Step 2
Mix the flour, baking powder and soda bicarb together. (You can also use the same quantity of self-raising flour – 175 grams- and skip the baking powder and soda.)

Step 3
Mix the butter and sugar together and beat until they are blended.

Step 4
Add the eggs in one at a time, followed by the bananas.

Step 5
Add vanilla extract. (If you are using walnuts, stir them in now)

Step 6
Add flour a third at a time and stir properly. (You can either use a wooden spoon to make the mixture or use a hand/ stand mixer to combine the ingredients. I see no difference in using either method.)

Step 7
Scrape mixture into a loaf tin and make sure the batter is evenly spread. Place it in the middle of the oven. It will take anywhere between 1 hour to an hour and a quarter to bake. (If your oven temperature fluctuates, start checking the bread at 50 minutes. You will know it's done when you insert a toothpick or knife into the bread and it comes out almost clean.)

Step 8
Turn out onto a wire rack to cool after 10 minutes. Eat warm or cold.

I love cutting thick slices of this bread and eating it hot. And cold. And anything. 

oh happy days

Monday, 13 August 2012

Such a Tart

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”
― David Mamet, Boston Marriage
For the last year, I have been obsessed with lemon tarts. I’ve tried four or five different recipes for them, and while I did finish each and every one, this is one of two favorites (I'll wait a while before posting the other). It’s a little bit time consuming but it’s wonderfully tart and crisp and luscious by the time you get around to eating it. Living in India, we don't get lemons as much as we do lime - the first time I made this tart I substituted lime juice for lemon juice in the exact quantity. Not a good idea, my cheeks squeaked for hours after! It's a wise idea to use two thirds of the quantity needed if you’re using little green or yellow limes as opposed to big juicy lemons ( *ahem some sort of strange juicy lemon joke just crossed my mind*).

Down Under Lemon Tart

(This recipe has been adapted and of course as always my comments are in parentheses.)

For the crust
2 1/2 cups flour (I call this maida)
200 grams butter (the butter should be cut into cubes & must be cold)
3/4 cup icing sugar (pass this through a fine sieve, don't want lumps in the crust)
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
4 eggs
¾ cup castor sugar
2 tablespoons minced lemon zest (or 1 and a half tablespoons minced lime zest)
¾ cup fresh lemon juice (or ½ cup fresh lime juice)
½ cup cream (Amul, Parsi Dairy etc will do fine – just make sure its cold)

Step 1
Mix the flour, butter and icing sugar (sieved) together in a bowl with either a hand mixer or in a food processor. (Until someone buys me a kitchenaid mixer  I will continue to use my trusty stand mixer) The mixture will look like breadcrumbs.

Step 2
Add the egg yolk as well as one tablespoon water and mix. You may need to add another tablespoon of water (I did) to this. (I found that at this stage the dough began to climb up the paddles of my mixer and stick. It was easier and much simpler for me to take the dough out of the bowl and knead it by hand for a few minutes – it shouldn't take more than two or three max.)

Separate the dough into 2, flatten it and wrap in cling film. Put it in the fridge for 20 minutes. (I tried putting it in the freezer because it was so hot – big big mistake! It froze rock solid and took ages and ages to thaw)

Step 3
Flour your kitchen counter well and roll out your dough. It helps if you roll it out into a rough circle; it’s much easier to put into the pan. The dough shouldn't be too thin because it will break when you lift it, but be careful about it being too thick as well. (If you know how to roll a chapatti – I don't! – it needs to be that thickness. In English, maybe 3 to 4 mm)

Step 4
Gently lift the dough up and place it in a 9-inch tart pan. (It’s always preferable to use a pan with a removable bottom, but since I don't have one and have no idea where to get them, I use a pretty glass dish instead.) Lightly press the dough down into the pan and up the sides – patch cracks with extra dough, you don't have to be too neat, we’re covering it up with yummy lemony goodness soon.

Here, my recipe says to chill the crust in the freezer for 20 minutes, which you could do if you had a dish that was not glass. If you chill a glass dish and then put it into a hot oven it will shatter. The choice is yours, though freezing it again does make it slighty more crisp.

Step 5
Preheat the over to 175 degrees Celcius. Line the pastry with foil or baking paper (cut into a rough circle of course) and add some raw rice to it  (you could use dal too, I nearly fell off my chair laughing when my mum mentioned she used to do that). Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and rice, and continue baking until pastry is a light golden color. The whole process will take 20 minutes.

Step 6
Onto the filling! In a mixing bowl, mix together eggs, castor sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cream. Be careful not to over beat.

Pour the mixture through a strainer to get rid of the pips and chunky bits of zest. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, and carefully pour the lemon mixture into the baked pastry crust.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tart is nearly set. (My recipe says that the filling will be runny in the center, and will set when cool. However my tart bubbled and blistered in those 20 minutes and took on this wonderful bright yellow sheen.) 

Cool and serve.

I love this tart, it's just sublime!

My pretty lemon tart, next to a picture of what its supposed to look like. Pretty close!