Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Competition: Win Camellia Panjabii's "50 Great Curries of India"

If you have read my blog, you will know that Camellia Panjabii's "50 Great Curries of India" is one of my favourite recipe books as it contains 50 authentic Indian curry recipes that are so amazing that my best friend and I call it "The Bible".

I have one copy to give away to one of my readers. If you would like to win, simply fill in the Rafflecopter below. Good luck! 

The reason I cook

I was going to put a vegetable chow mein recipe with this post, but as I started writing, it hit me like a thunder bolt that this post is the reason for my passion of cooking. Serendipity! Now for the post: Well where to start with Chinese cooking? All I can say is that I love it and you will find it hard to find a Chinese recipe or meal that I don't like. I always remember my first taste of Chinese food, which was from our local Chinese chip shop. It was a roast pork chow mein. I was only young, but it left such an impression that I can still taste it now. After that every time we went for Chinese I choose that. Even now if I order a chow mein, I always go for the roast pork.

Over the years I have branched out a bit from just trying that particular dish and for me the dishes have just kept on getting better. The funny thing about Chinese food and the effect it had on me is that I think it's actually the reason I enjoy cooking so much. When I was 16, I brought my mum a Chinese cook book for Christmas. I found it so fascinating that I decided to cook my mum a Chinese feast. It was a five course meal from a book called "The Taste Of China" by Frederic Lebain and Jean Paul Paireault. You can still get it second hand on Amazon for 1 pence. Looking back on it, I'm not quite sure what I was thinking of. I was going to attempt to buy, prepare and cook a 5 course meal from a book that was quite in depth, when the closest I had come to cooking was being shown how to peel carrots by my granddad.

I have just literally stopped to tell my girlfriend about it and I'm laughing as to how ridiculous the idea was. Nevertheless, I went ahead with it. The first thing I had to do was pick the menu. I can't actually remember what I choose, except for the exotic fruit salad and spring rolls. So menu done: time to buy the food. Being only 16 with a limited knowledge of food, I really did underestimate the task ahead of me as I under budgeted for this meal and in the end I think I spent £60 on the food. I did struggle to get all the ingredients as this was 1996 and specialist foods weren't readily available as they are today. I have to say that I can't remember where I got the money for this, I think that maybe my mum contributed to it.

So with all my ingredients and the kitchen ready, I was feeling confident. I was really looking forward to cooking this meal as this was all new to me. I started the feast in the late afternoon. First of all, I had no clue about non stick pans and woks and used a fork. Yes, work ruined before I had even got started, but being young and clueless I carried on. For all the dishes I gave my all and in return so did my mum: She ate everything I put in front of her and said how nice it tasted. They meals actually did taste nice, even though they didn't look anything like the pictures in the book. I finished cooking around 9 o'clock and I think that I must have used every utensil, pot and pan in the kitchen. It looked like a bomb had hit it, but I didn't care. I had completed a 5 course meal and was feeling quite good about myself. Even spending the next 2 hours cleaning the kitchen didn't bother me.

Looking back at the evening. I'm sure that that experience is the reason I ended up as a line cook at TGI Fridays, which is another rant I definitely have to go on as I have some great stories from my time there, but back to the point that the evening is definitely the reason I love all aspects of cooking. Thank you Chinese food!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Just Mad's Tandoori Lamb Recipe

I don't know what to say about this meal: I have prepared, cooked and demolished it and I'm lost for words as to how good the finished product was. As you know, I'm very passionate about my curries and I have been cooking Indian recipes on and off for at least 3 years. I have never had a meal turn out like this, especially considering that it was my own recipe. Everything worked: from the tenderness and moistness of the lamb to the subtle mix of the marinade and the slight kick of the chilli. Everything went right: you could even taste a smidgen of the lime that was added at the start. I have to say that this was the perfect Indian meal and I don't think I can top it. I don't say this about many of my meals, but anyone that follows me must have ago at this recipe, as it's a waste if I just kept it for myself. I am posting this recipe exactly how I cooked it. If you follow my blog, then you will know that this is in two parts. For those of you that don't know then the marinade part of this recipe is in my previous post. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did.
This meal will serve 2 people, if not 3.

What you need:
780g of the marinated lamb

What to do:
If you are using a Tandoori pot, then you will need to soak it in cold water for at least 20 minutes. Add the marinated lamb to the tandoori pot, put into the oven and turn the oven up to 230c fan/425f/gas 8, now set the timer for an hour. After an hour take the lid off the tandoori pot and cook for a further 20 minutes. Now the lamb is ready. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with a rice of your choice . I have a few different ways to prepare rice, which I will post over the next few months. For this particular dish, I used a simple coriander rice.
As you can see, once you are done with the hard part of marinating the lamb, this meal becomes very simple indeed. I just hope that my boast at the start of this recipe lives up to your expectations and that you get just as much enjoyment out of this meal as my girlfriend and I did.

Happy Cooking and Enjoy!

Friday, 24 February 2012

Just Mad's Own Tandoori Oven Pot Marinade For Curries

Right then, if you have been following my blog then you might have read my post about curries and how passionate I am about them. You can also gather that from the ramble I went on.
Anyway, let's get to the point: Basically for the six months before Christmas, I always start the hinting game. And one of the hints I gave this year was an ice cream maker. Like clockwork my girlfriend went to work by giving the task to my sister. I would be apologetic about hinting, but getting a present that is nice but not practical can be a bit of a let down - plus you know you are always going to get a few surprises at Christmas if your other half is like mine.
The funny thing is that I didn't get the ice cream maker as my sisters fiance had other ideas- and what an idea it was! In a million years I would have never guessed what he got me. It was a pot, not just any pot, but a Tandoori cooking pot. I couldn't believe it, what a legend! I have to say that with my increasing thirst for cooking ideas at the moment, the present couldn't have been any better.
The pot instructions on how to use the tandoori came with a recipe that I thought was only right to use first. It was nice, but left me wanting, so I goggled tandoori recipes and to be honest there weren't that many recipes out there. So I decided to use my amateur experience and have a go myself. The date today is 23/02/2012, and I'm posting this recipe without having cooked it yet as the lamb is still marinating in the fridge. So anticipation is high as to see how the marinated lamb turns out. Anyway here's the recipe for the marinade. BTW with this recipe you will have almost half of the spice mix left for any kind of curry you may want to try and you will also have half the marinade left which you can freeze for a curry in the future.

What you need for the lamb:
780g lamb, diced into 2inc cubes
juice of 1 lime
tsp of salt.

For the marinade:
1 small onion chopped
2 shallots chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
a large nob of ginger grated
4 red chillies finely chopped
large bunch of coriander
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp roasted coriander seeds
2 tbsp roasted cumin seeds
12 roasted cardamon pods
10 roasted cloves
1 tsp turmeric
4 tbsp yogurt
4 tbsp oil

What to do:
First thing you need to do is chop the lamb and put into a mixing bowl. Add the lime and salt, mix and cover, I would leave it for 20 minutes. In the meantime you want to gently roast the coriander seeds until they start to smoke and they give off a nice aroma, then do the same with the cumin, cardamon pods and cloves. Then grind in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder. You will notice that you have quite a fair amount of spice mix which you won't need. The extra will make a nice spice mix for a future curry. Now you need to chop the onions and shallots, then finely chop the garlic, grate the ginger, finely chop the red chillies and roughly chop the fresh coriander.
Right, this is the part where you need a food processor. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, chillies, fresh coriander and a pinch of salt. Then add 1 and a half tbsp of the spice mix and a tsp of turmeric to the blender. Add 4 tbsp of yogurt and switch on the blender and mix. Gradually add 4 tbsp of oil. I used groundnut oil. Blend the mix till almost paste like.
Now your marinade is ready. Take half the mix and really rub the mix into the lamb chunks, making sure that you coat the whole of the lamb, then cover and put into the fridge. You can put the other half of the mix into the freezer so you can use it for another curry. There you go, my take on a tandoori lamb marinade. Hope you like.

Happy Cooking and Enjoy.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Simple Tuna Pasta

Another post so soon after a long absence? Yes, it is true! I think I'm going to put the one to two hours of Amy's sleep nap to good use. So this time I am going to talk you through a simple tuna pasta. I know what you are saying: "A salad at this time of the year - 'tis an outrage", but my girlfriend loves this dish and requested it. In her defence, I'm partial to this meal myself and I have to say that with summer fast approaching and pockets being a bit skint, this meal has it all. It's cheap, healthy and tasty.
My family have been using this recipe for as long as I can remember and I know that it's a firm favorite in my sister's family household too. Also when the whole family gathered at Christmas it was always my task of doing my part and making the pasta salad for the buffet. The bowl was always empty at the end of the day, which I will say, always put a smile on my face.
The recipe I'm going to post will feed 3-4 people, but if you double up on all the ingredients then this dish is a great party piece for BBQ's and special events like birthdays and as mentioned Christmas.
There are two ways to prepare this recipe. One way is to use raw ingredients, which is my preferred way. The other way is to gently fry the veg part of the recipe in oil till soft. To be fair either way is just as good as the other, I just prefer the crunch of the veg, especially the red onion, as I am a big raw onion fan - you will see this over the coming months. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this recipe.

What you need:
750g penne pasta/any pasta will do for this recipe
1 red onion
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 tin of sweetcorn
1 tin of tuna in sunflower oil
salad cream, this is up to you, as little or as much as you want. You can even use mayonnaise if you would like.
salt and pepper

What to do:
First of all you need to bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. I would cook the pasta to the instructions as you do not want to over cook it. Whilst this is going on, chop the red onion, red pepper, green pepper and add to a large mixing bowl and add a little bit of salt. Then add the sweetcorn and tuna sunflower oil included. The pasta should be ready by now, drain well then add to the veg, pour the salad cream - again, it's up to you how much you use. I used a Tesco own brand salad cream last time and it was a lot cheaper and tasted just as good the more expansive brand. There it is, it's that simple. I'm sure that once you try this recipe you will definitely go back for more.

Happy Cooking and Enjoy!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Sea bass with sizzled ginger, chilli and spring onions

Hello hobby chefs. 

Today I'm going to post a fish recipe - to be more precise it's a "Sea bass with sizzled ginger, chilli and spring onions" recipe. And I'm not joking when I say that this was probably the best best meal I have ever tasted, if not the best meal I have ever cooked. I don't get much chance to do fish recipes as my girlfriend doesn't like fish, but I thought I would treat myself as I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website and it just looked so tasty.

I also have to say that good it looked and good it tasted. It turned out so nice that even my girlfriend begrudgingly tried it. She just looked at me and smiled as if to say "Yeah, that's delicious, but don't expect me to admit it". Not only did it taste amazing but with roughly 10 minutes prep time and 10 minutes cooking time, it was also the easiest and quickest recipe I have tried so far. This meal is definitely going to make regular appearance on our weekly shopping list. If you read this blog please try this recipe as I cannot advocate it enough. Thank very much to the BBC Good Food website for introducing me to this recipe. To anyone who tries this recipe I hope you enjoy this meal as much my girlfriend and I did. Let me know what you think!

What you need (serves 6):
6x sea bass fish fillets about 140g/5oz, skin and and scaled
3 tbsp spoons ground nut oil
large nob of ginger cut into matchsticks
3 cloves of garlic Finley sliced
3 fat, fresh red chillis de-seeded and finely sliced
a bunch of spring onoins shredded
1tbsp soy sauce

What to do:
Season the fish with slat and pepper. Then slash the skin three times. Heat a heavy based frying pan and add 1 tbsp of oil. When hot fry the fish skin side down for 5 minutes or until the skin is crisp and golden, then turn the fish over and cooked for about a 30 seconds to a minute, then remove and put to the side and keep warm. You will need to fry the fish in two batches.
Now heat the remaining oil, then fry the ginger, garlic and chilli for about 2 minutes. Take off the heat and add the spring onions. Splash the soy sauce over the fish and spoon over the contents of the pan and serve.

Happy cooking and enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

German style New Years Eve.

In 2010, my girlfriend and I went to Germany to visit her family over Christmas and the New Year. It was the first time they were going to meet me, I was very nervous, but also really looking forward to seeing how German cooking differed from English. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised as to how much I enjoyed all the dishes I tried, from the locally caught fish in a pub that was on the docks, to the everyday meals that her family prepared, but - the one meal and evening that I enjoyed the most was New Years Eve. In the past my New Years Eve mainly contained a fair amount of alcohol and a dance floor, but this was going to be a bit more civilized. Not to say there wasn't alcohol, but we were going to all sit round the dining table for my first meeting with a raclette.

Considering that I was in a different country with people I barely knew, it was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have experienced. For those of you that don't know what a raclette is, it's basically an indoor BBQ, where you have a stone and grill cooking pad on top and 8 trays underneath for grilling cheese to melt over your food. We had turkey, chicken and pork, then vegetables like red and yellow peppers, baby corn, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, with tinned pineapple, pickled onions, gherkins and stuffed red peppers and a variety of cheeses. I have to say that the evening for me almost had it all - even down to the German tradition of the mustard filled doughnut, which I had the pleasure of eating, but according to their philosophy I was going to have a lucky year: Which was true as our first child was born with no complications.

Anyway enough babble about this and time to get to the point, which is that for Christmas one of the pressies we received from my girlfriend's grandparents was a raclette. Which I have to say was pretty cool. I instantly started thinking of when I was going to be able to use it for the first time? I had an idea straight away. My best friend and his girlfriend had been trying for a baby after a miscarriage and had just found out that they were expecting another baby. So I knew they were weren't going to have a mad night out on the town and thought they might appreciate of a nice relaxed evening with a bit of food, which they did. So me and my girlfriend went to work.

What we used:
650g of a good quality steak
3 good quality pork chops

To be honest, there are so many different types of salads, vegetables, dips and different types of cheeses and all types of pickled and Jared goods to go with the raclette that you are spoiled for choice, you just can't go wrong as there is something for everyone. And the one thing I found the best was the fact that it was very relaxed and sociable. Which made for a great new years eve for us.
I know this is not much of a recipe but it's my blog and my rules, lol and I just wanted to share this with you.