cream

Mad about Curry

There's something that's been agitating me for a while. Why is all Indian food referred to as 'curry?' The original Tamil word is kari, meaning spiced sauce. This generic reference doesn't actually mean anything. Indian flavours are complex and intricate, and to refer to everything as 'curry' simply devalues a cuisine that is inextricably linked with such a rich and vast culture.

'I'm going out for a curry' is a phrase unheard of in the Indian subcontinent. This was a phrase conceived by the British colonialists to refer to a generic sauce-based, homogenised, spicy Indian dish. The swathe of blanket kormas, baltis and tikka masalas with a choice of any meat, chicken or vegetable, swimming in oil, is irritatingly inauthentic. Indian cooking should manifest its regional diversity. Recipes are often not documented and handed down from generation to generation just by word of mouth, for fear of plagiarism. This is one of the reasons that Indian food, despite its culinary refinements, is not as well chronicled as French food for example.

The Mughals from Afghanistan settled in Northern India bringing an array of spices, fruits and nuts and combined these with yoghurt and cream, thus concocting 'Mughlai' cuisine. Punjab with its fertile land, ideal for the production of wheat, is known as the 'Granary of India.' Punjabis are well known for their love of food and the Punjab is acclaimed for its tandoori cooking. The Persians came and settled in the southern half of India and these 'Parsees' as they are known, introduced their 'Dhansak' style, which integrated lentils and spices into their mutton or chicken dishes. The Western part of India, mainly Mumbai and Goa with its Portuguese influence due to four hundred years of Portuguese colonialism, has outstanding seafood dishes using coconut milk and tamarind. Gujarat in the west is predominantly vegetarian. Many Gujarati dishes are often simultaneously salty, spicy and sweet. Rice and lentils are the staples of South India, as well as fiery vegetable dishes using coconut, mustard and curry leaves to embellish their food. Bengal in the East is where fish is abundant and therefore widely eaten alongside rice. Bengalis are renowned for their 'Mishti,' or sweetmeats. These various regional distinctions are only the tip of the iceberg of our profound culinary heritage.   

The popularity of Indian food is undeniable. The 'national dish' in the UK is curry and the Indian restaurant industry in Britain is worth almost £4 billion. The food of India recreated abroad has become a melting pot of Indian culture. Furthermore, it's impossible to represent intricate regional nuances. So the umbrella term 'curry' has actually done wonders for the profile of Indian cuisine and curry is now ubiquitous having become a worldwide phenomenon. 

On a more personal note, all celebratory, significant moments in my life, whether they be birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, have always been accompanied by exquisite food and feasting. We are a family who eat together everyday; the sights, sounds and aromas are all a requisite and integral part of my family's ethos. From my Punjabi kitchen I would like to share with you a real crowd pleaser. Dare I call it a 'curry'? I have to relinquish my own aversion and start embracing the word, so I'm going to take the plunge and invite you to experience my Prawn Curry. With its North Indian influences, the spicing is subtle, but as always, every recipe is open to personal interpretation. The sizeable, juicy prawns are cooked in a rich, creamy, tomato based sauce with a final flurry of some added citrus notes. All that remains for me to say is Curry on Eating!

Perfect Prawn Curry

Serves 6

  • 1 kg King Prawns, raw, peeled & deveined
  • 2 large Onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Sunflower Oil
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 5 cm piece Ginger, peeled
  • 6 large cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 1 green Chilli
  • 1 tin chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Puree
  • 3 Plum Tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp Coriander powder
  • 200 ml Double Cream 
  • 3 Spring Onions, finely chopped
  • 1 Lime

Method

  • In a herb mill, grind the ginger, garlic and chilli to form a paste.
  • Take the prawns out of the fridge and set aside.
  • In a large pan heat the sunflower oil and add the onions, the bay leaves and the ginger, garlic and chilli paste.
  • Fry this on a moderate heat until the onions are a toasted brown colour, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes, the tomato puree and the fresh tomatoes and stir in. 
  • Lower the heat slightly and cook until the tomato sauce becomes a darker red and the oil starts to emerge from the edge of the pan. Make sure you regularly stir this to prevent it from sticking.
  • Stir in the salt, garam masala and coriander powder.
  • In a small bowl place the chopped spring onions with the juice of the lime and set aside.
  • Add the prawns into the tomato sauce. They should cook quite quickly and will change from grey to pink in about 5-10 minutes.
  • Keep stirring and once all the prawns are pink, add the double cream and stir in.
  • Stir in the lime infused spring onions and serve.
  • Serve with hot basmati rice, or roti or parantha.

Tips

  • I use raw, peeled and deveined king prawns. Use fresh or frozen raw king prawns.
  • If you use frozen prawns, make sure that they are defrosted and drain out any excess water in the bag. You can slowly defrost them overnight in the fridge.
  • If you use cooked prawns, they will be tough and chewy in the curry, so use raw prawns.


Berry Delightful

Baking cakes is therapeutic. There's even a theory that baking helps with depression. It certainly lifts your mood to be able to use very simple ingredients and create such glorious concoctions. A great sense of self satisfaction takes over. The whole nation is gripped with the cake revolution. Our very own Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood have made baking very 'cool.' So not only do we feel worthy doing it, but we are being trendy in the process. The Women's Institute owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Great British Bake Off. In fact, it's such an addictive amateur baking talent show, that it doesn't matter if you bake or not, you can't help but get drawn in. We can't wait to tune in for the next episode to witness the journey from tears over treacle tarts to satisfaction in strudel mastery. Our cake obsession seems to have been exacerbated by this show and if you didn't before, you probably now suffer from a cupcake OCD! 

There's always been a calling for cake and whether it be times of joy, or times of adversity, cake is always there for us. There's a certain comfort that we derive from baking and despite this previously being reserved for the occasional afternoon tea, cricket tea or Granny's Sunday cake, we are a now an anytime baking nation with astounding skills. There's an abundance of baking clubs, local bake-offs and charity fundraisers hosting coffee and cake mornings. There is this tenacious feel good factor and it's all about the cake. So with all that in mind, delight in my quaint summer berry layer cake with lavender petals. There's no 'soggy bottom' here Mr Hollywood. On your marks, get set, bake!  

Summer Berry Layer Cake with Lavender Petals

Serves 8-10

  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 125g Butter
  • 150ml Single Cream
  • 175g Plain Flour
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 200ml Double Cream
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Caster Sugar
  • 800g Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries)
  • 2 Sprigs Lavender Petals

Method

  • Using 25g of the butter, grease two 22cm shallow cake tins and line with baking parchment.
  • Whisk the eggs with the caster sugar in a bowl, until the mixture is thick and creamy and the whisk leaves a trail.
  • Put the remaining butter with the cream into a pan and bring to the boil.
  • Allow to cool for a couple of minutes and stir into the egg and sugar mixture.
  • Sieve the flour and baking powder and fold it carefully into the egg and sugar mixture making sure that their are no lumps.
  • Divide the mixture between the two cake tins.
  • Bake in the oven (170º celsius fan assisted or equivalent) for 15 minutes or until they are cooked and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake tins from the oven.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then remove the cakes from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack.
  • While the cakes are cooling, whip the double cream with the vanilla sugar until it is lightly whipped.
  • Prepare and clean the fruit and hull the strawberries.
  • Once cooled, place one cake onto a cake serving plate, or a cake stand.
  • Place half of the whipped cream onto the cake and arrange half of the fruit on top.
  • Put the second cake on top and then place the remaining cream on top. Arrange the fruit and finally sprinkle over the petals from the two sprigs of lavender.

Tips

  • I make the vanilla sugar by placing a vanilla pod into a container of caster sugar. 

  • Instead of whipping the cream with vanilla sugar, it can also be whipped up with a tablespoon of lavender sugar.

  • If you don't have any lavender petals you can omit them, or sprinkle over dried rose petals.

  • Don't overdo it with the lavender, as it will start to taste rather soapy.   



Queen of Dals

My memories of homemade hot buttery black lentils cooked in a delicious, mildly spicy sauce tantalises my tastebuds to this day. There was nothing more comforting than to come home from school to the warmth of my mother and the aroma of dal and roti. My favourite of all the dals was by far and still is the Punjabi iconic 'Maa ki Dal,' or now more commonly known as 'Dal Makhani.' The whole black urad lentils are cooked with rajma (red kidney beans) and spices for hours over a low fire and just before serving, the dal is tempered with some butter and spice, and a splash of cream is the finale. Once the cream is added, this lentil has its status elevated from humble to regal and now has the grand title of 'Dal Maharani,' the Queen of Dals. This was a staple in our Punjabi home and is ubiquitous at any lavish dinner party or wedding. It's a luxurious, rich, robust meat substitute for all the vegetarians. 

Dal Makhani as we know it today was put onto a pedestal by the famous Delhi restaurant Moti Mahal. They were looking for a vegetarian equivalent to their famous creation, 'Chicken Makhani.' They added their eminent makhani sauce, which included tomatoes and cream, to the lentils and there the modern day 'Dal Makhani' was born. The most celebrated place to eat this, is at Bukhara in New Delhi. 'Dal Bukhara' is cooked from the finest urad lentils, sourced from only the best; mineral water is used to cook the dal and the chefs cook it on a low flame overnight, with the cooking continuing for a further 18 hours. Rest assured it isn't necessary to cook it for that long in order to create the creamy, silky, moreish dal. I urge you to cook and savour this quintessential lentil recipe. You'll be back for seconds!

Dal Makhani

Serves 6

  • 225g Whole Black Urad Dal
  • 115g Rajma (Red Kidney Beans)
  • 1 Large Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Sunflower Oil
  • 7 cm Piece of Ginger Root, peeled
  • 3 Large cloves Garlic
  • 1 Green Chilli
  • 1 dessertspoon Tomato Puree
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 100 ml Double Cream
  • 1 tbsp Coriander, finely chopped (optional)

Method

  • Soak the dal and rajma together in a large pan overnight, making sure that water is filled to the top of the pan.
  • The following day drain the lentils and rajma in a colander and wash well under cold running water.
  • Put the lentils and rajma into a pressure cooker and add a full kettle of boiled water. The heat on your hob should be maximum at this point. Put the lid onto the pressure cooker and after the build up of the pressure, reduce the heat to a moderate level and cook for a further 20 minutes. (Each pressure cooker is different and it is important to follow manufacturer's instructions. If you don't have a pressure cooker, boil the dal and rajma in a pan until it is soft when you squeeze a kidney bean between your thumb and forefinger. Just ensure that the water remains topped up whilst boiling).
  • Take off the heat and allow the pressure to dissipate.
  • Take the lid off the pressure cooker and add enough boiled water to cover the dal. Stir in the salt, garam masala, coriander powder. At this point it should resemble a thick stew. Add a little more boiled water if necessary and cook on a very low heat.
  • In a separate frying pan add the sunflower oil, heat on a moderate flame and add the onions.
  • In a herb mill grind the ginger, garlic and chilli together and add to the frying onions.
  • Once the onion mixture is golden brown, add the tomato puree and stir in. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes and then add into the simmering pot of dal.
  • Cook the dal for approximately an hour, stirring regularly. 
  • Add some boiled water if the dal is looking too thick and gloopy. Whilst cooking slowly the water does continue to evaporate slowly, so its fine to add a little water to loosen it.
  • It should resemble a thick stew once cooked.
  • Before serving add the cream and stir in, saving a little to embellish the dal in the serving bowl.
  • Sprinkle chopped coriander on top if you wish, but this is optional.
  • Serve with hot rotis, naans or basmati rice.

Tips

  • I often cook double the quantity and freeze half of it into tupperware containers. When I want to use it, I just defrost, warm it up in the pan and loosen with some boiled water, as the dal becomes quite thick when it cools down. Fry an onion in a little butter and add to the dal as it is warming up.
  • I only add the cream if I'm serving it to guests, or its a special occasion.
  • To make coriander powder, I just buy the coriander seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder. The flavour is far more intense than the shop bought version.
  • I suggest that the dal simmers for about an hour. This is an approximation. You can do it for 30 minutes if you don't have the time or 2 hours if you do. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes!