22 July 2011

Chicken vindaloo

lauki, a type of calabash

OK we all know vindaloo is not just some ridiculous curry for pissed people that's hot as hell but not as interesting right? It's a child of Portuguese and Indian parents, like kedgeree a legacy of colonial expansion and consequent culinary syncretism. It's the vinegar that does it. I'm not much of a whizz with Indian food so I got Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Easy as a starting point and modified the recipe in it called 'chicken with vindaloo spices'. I think lots of vindaloos have a serious marinade, whereas this was perhaps more of a weeknight approximation. It was delicious - the vinegar gives a slightly sour, savoury note that goes very well with spices and garlic.

I put in some lauki which is very nice - slightly like the courgette which it resembles but with a crunchier texture post-cooking. Very absorbent for taking up the spices.

  • chicken
  • vegetables
  • garlic
  • vinegar (I used Turkish apple vinegar and it was fine)
  • brown mustard seeds, plenty of black peppercorns, curry leaves

Heat some oil and, giving each ingredient a minute to fry with a gentle stir add the mustard seeds, then black peppercorns, then curry leaves, then chicken, then loads of garlic, a decent amount of white wine or cider vinegar, a pinch of salt, some ground cumin and coriander and some chilli powder or flakes for heat. Cook for twenty minutes and should be done!

We had with rice and some green lentils boiled with turmeric and finished with green chilli and cumin seeds fried in ghee.

20 July 2011

Red braised tofu (zhang gu ying you dou fu)

So. I'm still eating Szechuan and Hunanese food a lot. Maybe twice a week. As well as the recipes (generally from Fuschia Dunlop, but with some diversions into two or three other books I have) which I faithfully document on SDON I just do a general stir-fry with whatever is to hand. It's a great standby dish for week nights - take the vegetables you have in the fridge and chop. Fry some fermented bean paste with some chopped garlic and ginger for a minute, add the vegetables and cook briefly and you're done. Put a splash of soy sauce and sesame oil and eat with a pitta from the freezer (always have pitta to hand in the freezer - essential!) instead of rice and it only takes five minutes.

action shot of me chopping garlics

But it is nice to try 'proper' recipes. This one if from FD's Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook.
  • garlic, ginger, red chilli, soy sauce, stock, thickener
  • tofu (book suggests deep-fried puffs)
  • some veg (+ shittake mushrooms (optional))
  • spring onions (obviously)
  • red chilli

Fry the garlic and ginger in some oil and when fragrant add some stock. Add the tofu and cook for five minutes. Then add your soy sauce (a decent amount), chopped red chilli, veg and shittakes. Add the spring onions and thicken. Simple eh.

For a side side we had fried cucumber. The photo in the book (below) pairs them with purple perilla flowers but I just fried them in discs with a little dried chilli and a drop of vinegar at the end. Very nice. I included courgette too as it was lying around.

OK I admit I'm constantly jonesing for fermented bean paste, but to me this just wasn't as tasty as mapo tofu and the like. It was decent, and nothing a little chilli oil couldn't improve but not quite scaling the hights of some of the other classics. The cucumber thing is a keeper though.

14 July 2011

Thai curry with fresh green peppercorns and mock duck

Just a quickie as we had this meal about five weeks ago and I can't remember the exact details! Suffice to say fresh green peppercorns are absolutely delicious and you should hunt them down as soon as possible. This was also the first time I ever had mock duck which is fried wheat gluten shaped to look like bits of duck, right down to the puckered plucked skin. It was pretty good for providing texture and variety amongst the vegetables.

  • lemongrass, green chillies, garlic, ginger/galangal, coriander seed, cumin, vegetable oil
  • selection of veg (carrot, aubergine, mushrooms, courgette etc. use whatever is in the fridge)
  • mock duck
  • can of coconut milk
  • fresh green peppercorns

Blitz all the ingredients in the first line to make a paste.

Fry the paste for some  minutes until richly fragrant. Add the vegetables - if something needs longer to cook add that first. Add the coconut milk and simmer until everything looks nice. Add the mock duck. It's edible from the get-go so it just needs a few minutes to acclimatise to its new home. Sprinkle some fresh peppercorns into the food and put the jar on the table for guests. Serve with rice.

The peppercorns deliver a hit at first vinegary and then intensely peppery with a very long after-taste and lingering residual heat. Recommended.

For starters we had corn fritters and satay shittake skewers. There are tonnes of recipes out there for this sort of  thing so I won't write down here.

If you haven't had satay shittake before (I hadn't) then rectify the situation. Shittakes are phenomenal things: umami bombs with leathery tops pitted like toads, offering reassuringly muscular resistance to prodding and representing, surely, the nearest a vegetarian is ever going to come to the pleasure of eating flesh. So get your favourite satay recipe together, marinade some chunks in it and get grilling!