Tag Archives: garlic

South Indian prawn curry

I do like cooking with prawns because they take so little time to cook. Today I made a South Indian curry sauce for the prawns, a ridiculously simple recipe but incredibly fragrant and absolutely delicious. It might look ingredient-heavy, but believe me when I say that there are no complicated steps. So on to the recipe.

Ingredients:

250gms fresh water prawns, cleaned and shells removed
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup tomato passata or tomato sauce
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp mustard seeds
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Fry in 1/2 tsp oil for 30-45 seconds until fragrant and slightly darker in colour :
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1-2 mild dried red chillies, or use 1 tsp paprika

Grind together to a smooth paste, using a little water:
1/4 cup fresh or frozen grated coconut
1 small tomato, quartered
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1cm piece fresh ginger
the toasted spices

Method:

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saucepan and add the mustard seeds and let them pop (about a minute on high heat). Then stir in the minced onion and fry for a minute or two until it softens.

2. Turn down the heat to medium, add the ground spice-coconut paste and fry it for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in the milk and passata and let it cook for 5 minutes, without letting it burn. You can add a couple of tablespoons water along with salt to taste at this point, if the paste looks very thick.

4. Add the prawns and stir to coat with the sauce. They should take 5-7 minutes to cook through (they will turn pink). Stir in the lime juice and taste the sauce to make sure the flavours are balanced. Sprinkle with the fresh coriander and serve hot with steamed rice or Indian flatbreads.

Verdict: Pete thought the sauce was incredibly delicious with the prawns.

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Chicken in creamy mushroom sauce

Pretty much every evening starts the same way, with me asking Pete what he wants for dinner. Sometimes I have an idea in mind for a cooked meal, but he vetoes it (ok, he’s allowed an opinion, after all he has to eat it). Other times, he says “I don’t know”, but then again vetoes any suggestions I come up with (annoying! VERY!). The days I like best are those where I’ve decided on a new dish I want to try out on him, and he has no choice in the matter. I’m forever trawling the Internet for easy non-vegetarian recipes to make, the food columns by various chefs in various newspapers being some of my favourite sources. Some recipes seem far too complicated and time-consuming, but there are plenty that seem doable. These I print off… but that said, probably only one in five recipes makes the transition from paper to reality. The printouts I slip into my recipe folders, perhaps to try one day… but it’s more likely they will end up in the wastepaper basket during my occasional “culls” of the folders.

Today’s easy dish is not one of those recipes. It just arose from a basic cream sauce recipe that I had noted down – it actually required heavy cream but I subbed creme fraiche instead, because that was what I had. I’m sure the recipe would work as well with cream cheese. Mushrooms and garlicky cream sauce go very nicely together, after all.

Chicken with creamy mushroom sauce
Ingredients:
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Easy chicken korma, UK-style

I’ll be honest, I don’t like korma. I’m not even particularly fond of proper Indian kurma, but it’s the British korma that I really do NOT like. Why not? Because it’s usually far too sweet (almost like a pudding) and usually far too greasy as well, and it has no chillies to counter that cloying taste. But Pete likes korma rather a lot for precisely that reason. Well, each to his – or her – own. I’m happy enough to make korma at home for Pete as long as I don’t have to eat it. I do not add extra sugar (which is something I’m sure is done in restaurants), which probably allows the coconut milk to provide its own natural sweetness. I say probably, but that’s because I don’t taste it at all and never have. So it’s kind of tricky, really, cooking non-vegetarian items for my husband… but more often than not, whatever I cook turns out rather well. It’s quite rare that he has to add extra seasoning. Touch wood.

So, enough of blowing my own trumpet and on with today’s recipe. This korma is quite simple and is perfect for a weeknight supper. Yes, it looks like a long list of ingredients, but I promise that if you exercise due diligence with your mise en place before you start cooking, this curry can be ready in 20 minutes. The more complicated, authentic Indian kurma is a recipe for another day, and another blog.

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Linguini with squid in tomato-garlic sauce

So, squid.

Today, peoples, we will be cooking squid. If, like me, you don’t like the smell of seafood, I should warn you that squid will probably make a temporary mouth-breather of you. The important word here is “temporary”. It only lasts for as long as you’re around the squid. Once it’s cooked and served up, you will find your nose taking over that breathing thing once again, leaving your mouth free for talking or eating something that isn’t squid.

Ok, I’m being mean – truthful, but mean. I mean, I don’t want to put anybody off calamari (that’s squid in American, I believe) – neither the eating, nor the cooking. Then again, I guess anybody who loves this stuff isn’t going to be bothered by anything I say here.

The good thing about squid is that it’s quick to cook, like most of the seafood I’ve posted about on this blog so far. It also doesn’t make your whole house smell of seafood (unlike, say, sardines). I used pre-prepared frozen squid. (I’ve not tried cooking fresh squid, and I’m certainly not about to prepare the squid personally.) All I did was defrost it (place in warm water for 5 ¬†minutes, then give it 2 minutes defrosting in the microwave). Wash again and pat dry as much as possible, using paper towels. Then cut it up into rings about 1 cm wide. Leave the tentacles as they are, or you can cut them up smaller if you like.
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Once that’s done, cooking the squid is a doddle. You can make the pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes if that’s how you like it, But If you use jarred ready made pasta sauce (like I did this time), this recipe comes together quicker than quick.
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Sausage and bell pepper rice

This recipe came about because there were four Morrisons best sausages that had been sitting in the fridge for a few days. Every evening I would ask Pete if he wanted the sausages for his supper, and every evening, without fail, he would end up eating something else. I was getting daymares (as opposed to nightmares) about Pete getting food poisoning because I cooked and served him sausages that had expired. He kept assuring me that they were okay, but I’m extremely suspicious of any non-vegetarian items. They just seem too prone to making people ill – undercooked chicken, stale fish, meat past its eat-by date… all of these can give one severe food poisoning. And I’m extra wary of them because they look innocent enough even if they’re teeming with deadly bacteria – they smell and look the same to me.¬†On the other hand, undercooked vegetables won’t make you severely ill – they just won’t taste good…

But no, I’m here to get over my fear of non-vegetarian cooking, so I’ll continue with the saga of the sausages. I looked up some jambalaya recipes on the internet, but they mostly required shrimp and chicken and something called Andouille sausages (which I know nothing about), so I didn’t bother with them. Then I came across a recipe by Gordon Ramsay, and that turned out to be JUST the ticket – I had almost everything on the ingredient list, bar a 1/2 cup of white wine. What you don’t have, you gotta do without – so I did.

Squeezing the sausagemeat out of the skin was possibly one of the most unpleasant feelings ever – at least it was to me. It just didn’t feel right… however, I persevered and crumbled it into small pieces. I say “crumbled”, but what I really mean is “pinched off bits”. If you can get over that, this is a very simple one-pot dish. Smells pretty good, and apparently the smell didn’t lie.

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Whole steamed sea bass, Chinese style


I have a cookbook that deals entirely and only with fish, which I bought on Ebay after a fraught bidding war. I really, really, REALLY wanted that book! The book is simply titled “Fish”, and the author is Sophie Grigson. What I really like about this cookbook is that there is a very informative foreword on the various types of fish that are (or could be) available, and the recipes all have suggestions for substitutions in case you don’t have the particular type of fish required. That to me is invaluable, because I’m not at all knowledgeable about which fish are alike in texture/taste, etc.

This recipe is from her book, and is absurdly simple if you have a steamer. That was handy because I wanted to try the electric steamer (which my husband had bought for using in the campervan, not at home – too bad), because I’d never used one before. It’s got two compartments, and I steamed the whole sea bass in the top compartment, following the suggestion given on the steamer for cooking time, which was about 25 minutes. Easy enough to set the timer for 25 minutes and forget about it thereafter, to be reminded again when it pinged “done”.

The fish tasted fine, but again, it was really quite bony. Ok, it’s not as if I was going to eat the fish… but still, I still prefer my food to be easily accessible and eaten without discomfort – which means not having to pick out the bones carefully from every mouthful before eating. I know I’ve said this before, but seriously, eating such fiddly things seems like such a pain in the wrong place! Much simpler to get fillets which have been de-boned.

Anyway, this is a very healthy way to cook fish, and I was quite pleased with how well it worked out. I served it with Chinese-style fried rice. Simple flavours, maximum taste. I don’t suppose it can get better than that.

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Vietnamese-spiced duck legs in orange sauce

Pete likes duck, but I haven’t often bought it because it seemed to me rather difficult to cook (from what I’d seen on TV shows, anyway). However, the whole purpose of this blog is to face my fears and make my discomfort zone into at least a zone of tolerance, if not quite a comfort zone quite yet. I guess that if you make anything often enough, it automatically becomes something you get good at cooking.

Anyway, I mentioned to Pete that I was going to make duck a l’orange (to get all Frenchified about it). Then I came across a recipe at The Foodpot that gave a Far-East twist to this classically French recipe, and that seemed like a better idea still, because I had plans for a bunch of choi sum greens that I’d picked up at Morrisons. Pete made a slight face when I said there would be a change of plan, but decided to go with the flow because after all, it was ME going to do the cooking. Chef‘s word is law, around here.

I followed the Food Pot recipe quite faithfully (the time for dicking around with recipes is after you’ve gained some experience) and the result, served with the choi sum (done to my own recipe!) was better than I’d dreamed because Pete couldn’t stop praising the end result. With one exception, though, which was to NOT salt the duck legs before frying. To be fair, I hadn’t wanted to salt the legs at all, never mind as generously as the original recipe had stated… so I guess I should have just followed my instinct. Next time, I certainly will. Like I said, this counts as learning from experience!

Choi sum, in case you’re new to it, is a leafy Chinese green like pak choi, except that it looks like pak choi‘s much taller cousin. It tastes pretty much like pak choi, too. I served the duck legs with the choi sum and plain steamed rice. Pete’s other suggestion was to use duck breasts rather than legs, the next time around, because he said those would slice up easily and look pretty on the plate, as well as taste great. I guess he’s hoping to invite his mates round for dinner some time soon.

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