Kerala Coconut & Pineapple Sauce

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Roasted coconut gives this sauce a deep richness, fresh pineapple a sweetness and tamarind a sourness which combined with spices create a complex sauce with layers of flavour. Fish can be lightly poached in it, nuts can be added for a vegan dish or little cubes of paneer for a vegetarian version.

I’ve cooked some big chunks of salmon in the sauce this time, but any meaty fish works well as do prawns.
The tamarind that comes in a block, which you can buy online if it’s not available in your local shops, has far more flavour than the ready made tamarind sauces. You just break off a chunk and pour a little boiling water over it. Once it softens you can mash it removing any seeds and then add it to your dish. The block keeps for months in an airtight container in the fridge.

For 4 portions

1 onion – finely sliced

2 tablespoons olive or peanut oil

40 grams fresh coconut – finely grated and toasted slowly in a thick bottomed pan until lightly browned.

Tamarind – piece 2 cm square soaked in 2 tablespoons boiling water or 2 tablespoons tamarind sauce.

Fresh ginger – piece 2cm square

4 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1/2 fresh red chilli – finely chopped / 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder

100 ml chopped tomatoes / passata

2 x 1 cm thick slices fresh pineapple – core removed and cut into small cubes

salt

400 grams salmon – cut into large chunks

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion sliced slowly stirring from time to time until slightly caramelised. This will take 10 to 15 minutes.

Put the ginger, garlic, coconut, tomato and tamarind in a small food processor and blend to a paste.

Add this paste to the caramelised onions together with the turmeric, coriander and chilli. Add the pineapple and 100 ml water.

Bring to a simmer and cook slowly, covered for 15 minutes.

Add salt to the sauce as needed. The sauce can be made in advance up to this point and will benefit from having time for the flavours to develop and meld.

If using fish, add the chunks to the hot sauce and cook for only about 5 minutes until the fish is just done.

If using nuts or paneer, likewise add them to the hot sauce and let them heat through.

I served my dish with plain boiled basmati rice and Carrots and Peas with Fresh Green Coriander.


Steamed Broccoli & Cabbage with Whole Spices

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Although the vegetables in this dish are cooked, you stop the cooking while they still have some crunch, so it’s like a warm spicy salad, which is just as good when left to go cold.

For 2 portions

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon kalonji/onion seeds

peanut or olive oil

1/2 onion – sliced

4 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1/2 fresh green chilli – finely chopped

1/4 red pepper – cut into small squares

1/4 cabbage – finely sliced

Small head of broccoli – broken into florets

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a shallow pan and when hot add the whole cumin, coriander and kalonji. Fry until they start to pop and release their flavour.

Add the onion, garlic, red pepper and chilli. Fry for five minutes.

Add the cabbage and broccoli. Stir well to coat with the onions and spices.

Season with the garam masala, salt and pepper.

Cover and continue cooking until the cabbage has wilted. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by about half a centimetre.

Cover and continue cooking, stirring from time to time, for around ten minutes until the vegetables are cooked but still with some bite.

Mushroom Samosas

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I’m not a fan of deep frying, preferring to bake these these Samosas or parcels in the oven. I know that this is not authentic for a samosa, but whatever you want to call them the crispy pastry with a lightly spiced mushroom filling is delicious.

For 8 samosas

1/2 onion – sliced

1 clove garlic – finely chopped

olive oil or butter for frying

300 grams oyster mushrooms

seeds of 8 cardamom pods – ground

salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

juice of 1/2 small lime

8 sheets filo pastry

oil or melted butter for brushing on to the pastry

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the sliced onions and chopped garlic. Fry gently until translucent.

Rip the mushrooms into strips and add to the frying pan.

Season with the cardamom, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook slowly, stirring from time to time, until the mushrooms are cooked. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Lay out a sheet of pastry and brush with oil or butter. Fold the top third lengthways over and brush this with fat. Fold the bottom third over and brush with fat. Turn the whole piece over so that the unbrushed third is uppermost.

Add a spoonful or two of the mushroom mix as below and fold the pastry first diagonally and then vertically until the filling is within a neat parcel.

Place all the parcels on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes in a medium hot oven. 130 C in a fan oven, so around 140 C in a conventional oven.

I served mine with Steamed Broccoli and Cabbage with Whole Spices – recipe to follow – and a Tomato and Coriander Salad.

Creole Style Sweet Potato Soup

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This recipe came about with wanting to use up half a can of coconut cream and half a sweet potato that were lurking in the fridge, the resulting soup is so delicious that I have been making it ever since.

For 4 portions

750 ml light stock – either vegetable or chicken

500 grams sweet potato – peeled and cut into small cubes

80 ml coconut cream

1 teaspoon smoked picante paprika/pimenton

1/2 teaspoon coarsly ground black pepper

Juice of 1/2 a small lime

sea salt

Fresh coriander leaves – roughly chopped

Put the sweet potato, a little salt and the stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about ten minutes until the potato is cooked and soft.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Take the pan off the heat and purée the soup with a hand blender until smooth.

Reheat the soup. Check the seasoning adding more salt if necessary.

Serve the soup sprinkled with fresh coriander.

Seaweed Salad & Rice Noodles with Mushrooms

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Of course mixed seaweed is not a foodstuff that one comes across easily, but if you are, like me, culinary curious and happen across a market stall selling various salted and dried seaweeds the mixed salad is a good one to buy to see if you like it. My sister and I bought 250 grams and I forget how much we paid, it seemed pricey at the time, but that amount makes about 16 portions. The seaweed expandes to more than twice the size when you soak it. Of course it makes a perfect salad to accompany fish.

For 2 portions

60 grams dried seaweed salad – soaked overnight in plenty of cold water

Cucumber – peeled and cut into julienne

6 radishes – sliced

few sprigs of fresh purple basil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

juice of half a lime

Drain the water from the seaweed and rinse the seaweed in more water. Drain and add to the salad bowl together with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.

RICE NOODLES WITH MUSHROOMS

For 2 portions

50 grams rice noodles – soak for at least an hour in cold water

1 clove garlic

2 cm square piece of fresh ginger – finely chopped

1 tablespoon peanut oil

6 shiitake mushrooms – sliced

6 oyster mushrooms – sliced

1 tablespoon mushroom sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce – Nam Pla

Drain the noodles from their soaking water, put back into the container and pour boiling water over them.

In a wok, fry the ginger and garlic in the peanut oil for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms. Fry for a few minutes to cook the mushrooms.

Drain the noodles and add to the mushrooms. Mix well then season with the mushroom and fish sauce and mix again.
Vegans may want to omit the fish sauce, in which case add some salt to the dish.

If you are serving the noodles with the Sea Bass in Coconut Sauce, then you can add a spoon or two of the sauce to the noodles to moisten them.

Malaysian Steamed Fish

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Sea bass cooked in coconut milk flavoured with ginger, garlic, chilli and tamarind. To accompany the fish I made Rice Noodle with Mushrooms and a Seaweed Salad, I’ll post those recipes to follow.

For 2

2 seabass

peanut oil for frying

4 cloves of garlic – peeled and sliced

piece of fresh ginger – cut into little julienne

1 green and 1 red birds eye chilli – the green finely chopped and the red sliced

1 stick lemon grass – white core only – finely sliced

1/2 onion – sliced

50 ml thin tamarind sauce / tamarind paste in 50 ml boiling water

100 ml coconut milk

1 tablespoon fish sauce Nam Pla

1 tablespoon Ketjap Manis / soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar

fresh coriander

Heat the oil in a large shallow pan or wok into which the fish can fit.

Add the ginger and fry for a few minutes until starting to brown.

Add the onion, garlic, chilli and lemon grass. Fry for five to ten minutes to soften.

Now add all the liquids, stir well to blend and bring to a simmer.

Add the fish, cover and turn the heat down. Leave to cook for seven minutes.

Turn the fish over, cook this side for seven minutes.

Serve the fish with the sauce spooned over and garnished with red chilli slices and fresh coriander.

Spicy Mixed Lentils & Vegetables

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A delicious way to prepare lentils, mixing them with a mixture of sweet sautéed vegetables spiced with garam masala and chilli then topped with a garnish of sweet caramelised onions and crispy ginger.

For 4 portions

50 grams green lentils

50 grams mung beans

50 grams small white lentils

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon asafoetida

4 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 fresh chilli – finely chopped

2 carrots

stick celery

1/4 red pepper

1/2 medium courgette

olive oil for frying

1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala

Piece of fresh ginger – peeled and cut into fine strips

1 large onion – peeled and cut into thin rings

Pinch of white sugar

Soak the three types of lentils in advance, either in cold water overnight if you remember, or pour boiling water over them a couple of hours before you plan to cook them and let them steep. I find that the soaking helps soften the centre of the pulses so that they then cook more evenly.

Drain the lentils from their soaking liquid and put in a pan with enough water to reach about a centimetre over them.

Add the coriander seeds, asafoetida and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until the lentils are cooked.

Next prepare the garnishes. Heat a couple of tablespoons oil in a small frying pan and add the ginger. Cook until slightly browned and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Sprinkle a light dusting of sugar on to the onion rings, then slowly fry them in the same pan, adding more oil if needed. The sugar helps the onions caramelise.

Keep frying the onions on a low heat until browned and caramelised. This will take some time, at least 20 minutes, stir them round from time to time.

Now to the vegetables. Cut all the vegetables into small cubes.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and chilli. Fry for a few minutes.

Add the vegetables and stir in. Fry gently for ten minutes stirring from time to time.

Add the garam masala and season with salt. Mix in well and continue frying until the vegetables are cooked and lightly browned.

The lentils should have absorbed nearly all their cooking liquor, if not drain some off leaving the lentils a bit moist.

Add the lentils to the vegetables and stir well to mix. Cook for a couple of minutes for the flavours to infuse.

Serve topped with the caramelised onion rings and crispy ginger.

Broccoli with Garlic

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A very simple recipe, broccoli braised with lots of garlic and ginger and then flavoured with either oyster or mushroom sauce.

As you can see in the photo, a good variation is to add a few mushrooms to the dish. I used oyster mushrooms.

For four portions

1 large head broccoli – cut into florets

Few mushrooms – either oyster or shiitake – sliced – optional

whole head of garlic – peeled and sliced

Piece of ginger as big as your thumb – peeled and finely chopped

peanut or olive oil for frying

1 tablespoon oyster or mushroom sauce

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a wok and add the ginger and garlic.

Stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the broccoli and mushrooms if using, and stir fry for a few minutes until it becomes a lovely bright green.

Add the oyster or mushroom sauce and a tablespoon of water. Stir in well the coat the vegetables.

Cook for a few more minutes until the broccoli is just cooked but still has some bite.

Malaysian Turmeric Chicken Curry

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This is one of those dishes with few ingredients where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, in other words, the depth of flavour achieved with the ingredients is wonderfully surprisingly rich. The sauce is just lots of onion and garlic, slowly fried with the chicken to make a slightly sweet rich moistness which contrasts perfectly with the spiciness of the chilli.

A good chicken is essential for making this successfully. You want a big free range one. You can get the butcher to chop up the whole chicken and cook it all in the curry, but I only use the legs and the plump bits of the wings, saving the more tender breast for another dish.

For 4 servings

legs and wings of a large free range chicken – cut into large pieces leaving the skin on

olive or peanut oil for frying

6 sweet onions

2 bulbs garlic

salt

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2 teaspoons smoked pimenton picante/ paprika

1 or 2 fresh chillis – finely chopped – it’s hard to be precise about chillis as there are so many different types and strengths, you want the curry to be pretty spicy

freshly ground black pepper

Juice of a fresh lemon

Peel the onions, cut in half and slice them

Peel the garlics – a tip, if you soakthe garlic cloves in water for half an hour the skins become soft and are much easier to peel

crush the garlics in a pestle and mortar with 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil in a shallow thick based pan. Add half the onions and all the garlic.

Fry gently for about ten to fifteen minutes until slightly browned.

Add the chicken pieces and cook for ten minutes each side to seal.

Add the turmeric, pimenton and chilli. Stir in well to mix.

Continue cooking the dish slowly uncovered, turn the heat to the lowest possible. Turn the chicken from time to time and stir the onions.

Every half hour add a third of the remaining onions to the pan to continue to moisten the curry, and mix in well.

Half an hour after the last of the onions go in, add the lemon juice and check the seasoning adding freshly ground black pepper and salt as needed.

Leave to cook for another half hour when the curry will be done. Your total cooking time is 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Serve with plain basmati rice and a vegetable dish like broccoli in garlic sauce, the recipe for which I will post tomorrow.

Thai Pomelo Salad

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My grapefruit tree seems to have got itself extremely confused about the seasons this year, so surprised me with five fruits ripe in August. The usual season for ripe fruit is late December to March or April. So to celebrate this unexpected bounty I remembered this spicy salad that I had in Thailand many years ago.

As with most salads a little variation can be made without losing the essentials of what makes the salad successful. For this one the essentials are, of course the grapefruit, peanuts, fresh coriander, coconut slivers and the dressing. I’ve used as well on this occasion some alfalfa sprouts and watercress.

For two portions

1 grapefruit – either pink or yellow fleshed

30 grams dry roasted peanuts

piece fresh coconut roughly 4 x 4 cm – peeled and sliced into slivers

small bunch of fresh coriander leaves

small bunch of watercress leaves

alfalfa or other small sprouting seeds – fenugreek are very tasty

For the dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon Nam Pla fish sauce

1 tablespoon agave syrup / honey

1 finely chopped green Thai chilli

Cut the grapefruit in half and then cut away the skin and pith. Cut in half and then into thin slices.

Put into your salad bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients.

Mix the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad. Mix well.

I served my salad with a Prawn Green Curry, steamed broccoli and black rice.