Archive | August, 2013

Masala Popcorn

30 Aug

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Masala popcorn 

 
1991 Porbander, Gujarat, India 
 
The walls of the cinema hall were stained deep red with pan (stuffed  betel leafs that apparently freshen then breath) spittle.  Gross.  I sat there wondering why they seemed to find joy in squirting from the mouth and how they got away with it.  Gobfuls of red juices we ejected casually onto the walls and remained there, forever.  
I was feeling put off already and angrily bewildered as to why my dad held such fond memories of this cinema. He seemed so excited when he decided to cure my boredom by bringing me to the cinema of his youth.  Maybe he used to blow  those wolf whistles too as a teenager, like the ones ringing in my ears from behind me. How to escape?
Dad sensed my bubbling frustration…I was a pre teen with strong views and spitting was plain disgusting. Anyway,  he took me to find treats…I spotted malt biscuits, melting chocolate, nuts and masala popcorn packed un generously into small food bags.  Masala popcorn. No way! It tasted like every child’s favourite potato curry on popcorn. Winner. Smiles returned.
 
2001 Leicester
 
My brother and I were both away at university and when we visited my folks we would let the oldies go to bed whilst we watched  channel four game shows or American comedies.  We’d join in the judging whilst watching ‘your face or mine’ back to back for hours.  Intermittently, we’d catch up on each others lives.  Gorging at 2am was obviously necessary.  Sometimes it would be indulgent spaghetti dishes, slathered with loads of cheese. Always, there would be popcorn, because my brother is somewhat fond of the stuff. To be honest, it seemed like he just needed to multi task; banter, telly, munch.   For me, I needed variety in popcorn…I like a kick.
 
2007 Friday night, london
 
The exhilarating Friday feeling; the hair pins came off and hair was unleashed.  My face was stripped of glasses and contact lenses came in.  I never socialised in glasses, it was the rule.  Trousers were swapped for skirts or dresses and the pumps flew into the hallway and the heels we finally on.  I felt liberated.
Friday nights were about impromptu meet-ups in london, discovering new restaurants, lots of giggles and late nights.  I’d return home surprisingly peckish. I couldn’t just go to sleep, I needed to unwind, catch up on the Bollywood soap masala action with popcorn in skirted lap, heel tucked under bum. 
 
2013 Friday night London
 
Too tired to talk. Baby asleep after teething related moaning and much cajoling and cuddling. Exhausted. Time for a movie? No. Ok, tv and popcorn? Make it masala popcorn.
 
Recipe 
 
40g popped popcorn 
20g butter 
A splash of oil 
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander power
Salt to taste 
1/4tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric powder 
1/4 Tsp black pepper 
Chilli powder to taste 
 
Method 
 
1. Melt the butter and add the oil 
2. Stir in the spices and seasoning and stir for less than a minute. Don’t let them brown.
3. Stir in the popcorn and coat thoroughly in the sunny coloured mixture
 
Serving suggestion 
 
Masala popcorn looks lovely in white containers or in paper cones. 
 
 
 
 
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Tandoori Halloumi with Salad Stuff

21 Aug

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Tandoori halloumi with salad stuff

Are you one of those foodies of Asian descent that curries everything? Or do you know someone that does it? It is funny isn’t it…Brussels sprouts get curried, as does pasta, asparagus, baked beans,  bean sprouts, tofu and even pak choi.
I do laugh now at childhood memories of ambling in the open fruit and veg market with my dad, being jostled about by inconsiderate giants whilst my dad enthusiastically examined non-indian vegetables from above the rim of his glasses. Whilst he poked, stroked and rubbed edibles I took in the thrill of hearing native English stall holders bellow their banter in some Gujarati! Imagine that!
 If he liked the look of it, I knew what the natural question would be…’I wonder what this would taste like as a curry’.
Remember, I came from a generation where the words ‘we are having English food tonight’ meant either egg and chips or a plate of boiled veg with cheese, pepper and salad cream on top.  I am laughing as I’m writing this, but even the omelette was curried.  Mixed veg with an assortment of Indian spices and cheese in top.  oh but we loved it.  I have lovely, fond recollections of the cousins and I all sat down around large and loud curtain fabric in the living room, tucking into indian omelette and chips.  I guess currying everything was a simple way of befriending new foods.  Coincidentally, and unknown to any of us at the time, it has been one of the impetus for my very own style of cooking.
Years later, when I’d take into work leftovers of samosa stuffing mixed with pasta, or Brussels packed with toasted gram flour and nutty spiced, if get those looks and raised eyebrows that said, ‘that’s just wrong’. Until they tasted it of course.
It’s really important to get good quality halloumi cheese; avoid the ones that are rubbery on the inside.  Salty and chewy halloumi is beautiful in this sour marinade with a smooth and peppery kick.   It’s super easy to make and I love using it to liven up a salad.  In My picture I’ve teamed up the tandoori halloumi with a tomato, parsley and caper salad, some garlic and coriander hummus and potato wedges.  Summer isn’t over yet, but remember..tandoori halloumi isn’t just for summer, it is to be loved all year round.
Tandoori halloumi
Ingredients
3 desert spoonfuls of natural yoghurt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp tomato ketchup
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Half thumb sized piece if ginger, minced
Salt to taste
Use 250g halloumi cheese, cut into 16 cubes
Method
1. Mix together all of the wet ingredients into a box, stir well.
2. Add in the spices, one by one and mix thoroughly
3. Introduce the chunks of halloumi and ensure that they are well coated
4. Chill the chunks for a couple of hours in the fridge
5. Set the halloumi on some baking paper and place them in the oven on gas mark 200 degrees until the halloumi is crispy and browned.
6. Serve immediately with a fresh salad, some pitta and take in the aromas.

Proper mock chicken curry

8 Aug

Proper mock chicken curry

 
It was my sister in laws birthday party this weekend just gone and one of the things I heard people talk eagerly about was the food.  More specifically, the meat dishes.  I made the chickpea curry, but it was undeniably the meat that got the hands rubbing with the the jack-in-the-box walk going towards the trays of brightly coloured animal curries.  So I had a good look at them.
 
They looked like thick and happy curries…the sort where you know balanced spices had infiltrated the meat.  One was green…but the green looked fresh and healthy, not bitterly blackened.  The other was juicy and red and looked quite luscious, full of aromatic spices.  I watched cousins and friends tuck in with both hands…lots of mmm’s and aahs.  ‘You don’t know what you’re missing’ they said shyly in between sucks and unrestrained noshing.  So it got me thinking, why do people just love a chicken curry? 
 
I converted to vegetarianism at the age of 12, so I do remember what a chicken curry tastes like and I know my dad made a scrumptious one. But why is it a national favourite? Why do I people get hankerings for it, define it as their weakness and why do mouths salivate at the thought of chicken curry? 
 
Is it the texture? You know, the fact that is has a bite and oozes with curry juices with every mouthful? Is it the flavour of chicken (eww), or is it that chicken just soaks up all the flavours of a curry completely, ravenously and then generously releases then with each bite? 
 
Being a vegetarian, I don’t miss or desire the flavour of chicken.  I don’t want to eat an animal and yes I am raising my little one as a vegetarian. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like food with a bite and food that does all of those sensational things I just described with chicken curry.  I haven’t yet shared a mock chicken curry recipe for a reason.  I am categorically saying that I find the meat replacements available widely in supermarkets, less than impressive.  They’re rubbery, rather dry and taste mushroomy.  Why would I want to make a curry out of that?! Gross.  Frankly, I find recipes shared in magazines using that meat replacing rather unappealing. Yuck.
 
Oh but the Soya and potato chunks dubbed as mock chicken in Wing Yip (oriental supermarket)…now that’s the stuff.  Whenever I make a curry out of that stuff we have finger licking, sighing, leftover watching and even picture-taking in abundance. I kid you not…this is the probably the best mock chicken for a curry that I’ve come across.
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Recipe for proper mock chicken curry
 
Ingredients
 
TKC vegetarian chicken pieces 500g
2tbsp vegetable oil
One medium sized red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic
Thumb sized piece of ginger, minced
500ml water
3 tsp sambal oelek 
150ml blended tinned tomatoes
A squeeze of lemon juice
 
The spices; 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp paprika, salt to taste
 
Method 
1. Defrost the mock chicken and leave it to a side once defrosted
2. In a non stick pan heat the oil before adding cumin seeds and allowing them to sizzle. Then add the onion, salt and turmeric and sauté until the onion starts to soften. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and sauté for another couple of minutes
3. Stir in the cumin powder, coriander powder, paprika and mix well and com for another minute.  Then add the lemon juice.
4. Stir in the mock chicken and coat in the paste ensuring full coverage.  Add the hot water and the tomatoes and then bring the curry to a simmer before sprinkling in the garam masala and blending in the sambal oelek.
5.  Turn the curry down to a gentle simmer on a low flame and cook for 20minutes.
Serve with rice, chapatti or pasta.