Thursday, 26 June 2008

Singapore Stir-Fried Noodles

This post is a bit out of sequence, but who cares. The shrooms I used in the pasta were lovely, but as I only used half a box of each, I needed to come up with something else to use them up. I asked around and a lot of people recommended things using cream and other dairy products. Now, even if I didn't have a possibly slightly irrational hatred of most things dairy, that wouldn't work since I was planning to use chicken again and, as I will explain in a later post, chicken and cream = not for the kosher eaters amongst us. So, a few googles later, I came across a Delia Smith recipe for Singapore Noodles. I like spicy things, I like noodles.. I had to read on. Unfortunately this was really not a kosher recipe - shrimps, prawns (aren't they the same thing anyway?) and other no-goes - so I made up my own. The result, despite slightly al dente rice noodles, was absolutely delicious!

Singapore Stir-fried Noodles
(serves 2)

Chicken - either use leftover roast/grilled chicken, or if you haven't got any already cooked chicken you'll need the equivalent of a large breast (or whatever - it doesn't have to be white meat)
4oz rice noodles
2 tablespoons rapeseed (or other flavourless) oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Approx 1sq inch fresh ginger, grated
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 red pepper, cut into pieces of about 2cm
Approx 200g mushrooms (I used a mix of shiitake and maitake), cut into pieces of about 2cm
4 spring onions, finely chopped including the green parts
1 dessert spoon of Madras curry powder
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt & pepper

First, if the chicken isn't already cooked, season and fry the chicken in a little oil, making sure it is cooked through. Then remove and keep aside. You could also grill or bake the chicken, depending on what part of the bird you're using.

Next, heat the oil in a large pan or wok and when it is very hot, add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, red pepper and mushrooms. Stir it all and fry it at that temperature for a few minutes, and then bring the heat right down to low. Allow the vegetables to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While it is cooking, prepare the rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Ours said they needed 8-10 minutes but that wasn't enough, though in the past we've had trouble with rice noodles clumping together in thick glutinous cords, which isn't very pleasant. Any tips on rice noodle preparation would be great. Additionally, shred the cooked chicken - this is best done with 2 forks like they do in Chinese restaurants. This is also the time when you could be chopping the spring onions.

After 15 minutes of cooking (and when the noodles are ready), add the salt and curry powder to the frying pan. Stir, and then add the shredded chicken and the noodles - you may want to turn the heat up now as well. Use a fork to get everything mixed together, and then add the soy sauce. When the noodles and chicken are hot, serve!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Trompetti with Chicken and Wild Mushrooms

I've been dying to blog all week but I have been so busy at work that I really haven't had a minute. I've had quite a good cooking week and I don't want a huge backlog to write up (plus Blondini keeps pestering me about blogging - I think he wants to see his photos online). So I'll start with Sunday night's dinner, although there is stuff to write about the weekend too, but it will keep.

On Sunday I saw a box of maitake mushrooms in Waitrose and as we don't see them often we decided to do something with 'shrooms. So we also bought shiitake mushrooms and some plain closed cap mushrooms or whatever they are called. I threw some things together and voila...

Trompetti with Chicken and Wild Mushrooms
(serves 2)

1 large/2 small chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
Approx 100g shiitake mushrooms
Approx 100g maitake mushrooms (or any mushrooms of your choice)
5 or 6 closed cap mushrooms
A handful of dried porcini mushrooms
1 clove garlic
2 shallots
2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
A little plain flour
250g trompetti or other pasta (this quantity is for fresh pasta, adjust for dried)

Start by putting the dried mushrooms into a small bowl and covering with boiling water to rehydrate them.

Next, roll the chicken pieces in the flour, well-seasoned, and then fry. Remove and keep aside.

Finely chop the shallots and fry, together with the crushed garlic. When the shallots are translucent, add all the chopped fresh mushrooms. Turn the heat down to quite low, and keep cooking, and after a few minutes, squeeze the water out of the porcini mushrooms and add to the frying pan. Keep the mushroomy water aside. After around five minutes, add the mushroom water and the balsamic vinegar to the mushrooms, put the chicken pieces back in the pan, and make sure everything is covered in the liquid. Cover and cook for around 15-20 minutes. After this, taste and season - you may also want to add some more vinegar at this stage. (If you are cooking dried pasta you will probably want to start that at this point.) Remove the lid and let the liquid reduce. When you are nearly ready, cook the fresh pasta (it will only take 2-3 minutes). Drain the pasta and add the mushrooms and chicken. Mmm... shroomily good.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Confessions of a Fussy Eater

I was just thinking about what my parents, grandparents and anyone who has known me since I was very young would think about this blog (obviously they can read it and see for themselves as well!) because although I think they would say I was a good cook, I'm not sure they would consider me a "foodie", exactly, because I have for most of my life been known as one of the fussiest eaters in the world. I still am, actually, but my repertoire has expanded quite a lot and I am much more willing to try new things. Part of the reason for starting this food blog, actually, is to help inspire me to keep creating and trying new things, but there are still some things I just won't touch - I think they fall into various categories:

1. Mixed foods - I don't like foods which should be separate but which merge into each other. Shepherds Pie is out (I don't mind the meat or the potato, although mash is my least favourite way to eat potato, but I hate the part where they meet. I think this is specific to things with mashed potato and other blendy foods because the thing I don't like is that the mash sort of becomes meaty mash, and it tastes horrible). In the past, I would only eat plain pasta or just with olive oil and salt. Now I will sometimes have something with it, but not tomato sauce. I just don't like the blandness of the pasta combined in my mouth with the sharpness of the sauce - that's the only way I can explain it. However, I will eat something like vegetable fried rice or noodles - for some reason this is different to me since they are cooked together with the other ingredients and not cooked separately and then added together later.

2. Cheese - this deserves its own category! I like Laughing Cow (I know, it's not really food, let alone cheese) and cheddar (if not too strong) and will eat both of these on bread, cold. That is IT. All other forms of cheese, but especially cooked cheese, cheese in sauces, cheese grated on top of things, really everything to do with cheese including cheese pizzas I abhor and will not eat. Blondini says he feels the same - actually, he eats pizza and cheesecake so I don't think it counts but we'll just have to keep arguing about that one - and my dad does actually feel the same and hates all cooked cheese and anything that he declares to be "cheesy" (sometimes these "cheesy" things don't actually have cheese in them but whatever).

3. Dairy - building on my cheese hatred is general dislike of dairy products. I loathe milk, and I don't know how people drink glasses of milk, and I hate cream. Dairy as a category though probably isn't accurate as I like (love, even) ice cream and I don't mind yoghurt if it is fat free and I have started drinking cappuccinos made with skimmed milk. It's not a weight-conscious thing, it's just that full fat or any fat milk products make me feel a bit sick, I just find them too rich for me.

4. Fat - and moving on from dairy, obviously I can't avoid all fat in my food, nor would I want to - I couldn't do without kettle chips. I am fine with olive oil and various other vegetable oils that I deem healthy, but I obsessively cut all the fat off the chicken breasts I use before preparing them, I pull yards of fat off my chickens before roasting them, and - well, I wouldn't anyway because it's not kosher - but the thought of things cooked in "dripping" makes me want to vomit. I'm also not a big fan of the hard chemical block that is Tomor margarine but I know that sometimes it has to be used.

5. Dodgy Jewish foods - moving from general fat to schmaltz - rendered chicken fat - I don't think you'd find this in many households nowadays as people have woken up to the facts of heart disease and high cholesterol but the idea still makes me feel a bit sick. I also hate cholent, a particularly horrible throwback to the ghetto - people seem to absolutely love this and for many this is the cornerstone of Jewish food. For me, it doesn't get any worse. It's actually two of my food categories in one: mixed foods and fat - it combines meat, potatoes and vegetables in a stew (the mix) and because it's horrible cuts of meat, all the fat from the meat is absorbed into the potatoes and vegetables. Add to that a cooking time of around 20 hours and you can start to imagine the smell and taste of this dish. Yuk. I also hate chopped liver, kugel (worst form = broccoli kugel), gefilte fish and, although I've never tried it, always claiming that I'm allergic (well, I might be), carp in jelly. It's the way it comes with that sliced carrot on top, looking all pale and pasty on the plate like the yeshiva boys who eat it. No thanks!

6. Bad food - this doesn't sound like it needs to be a category - who likes bad food? An awful lot of people, it turns out! I'm not talking about politely finishing something a friend has cooked for you, I'm talking about when people say things like, "yes the sandwiches at Pret are horrible, but I'll eat them anyway" or, even worse, when people cannot distinguish between good and bad food. They'll eat some delicious apple pie I've made and say, "yeah, it was nice, but I would have been just as happy with one from Sharon's Bakery…"

Six categories in, and I think I'll stop because this is now reminding me of The List, written by my dad one summer in France. It was a very long list of all the things he won't eat, and he wanted it to be kept in the kitchen to be consulted before anyone made a meal. Since dad was never the one making the meal it was quickly consigned to the bin, but I remember the process of making it and of everyone saying to me, "now I know who you take after with your aversion to all this food."

Anyway, I am improving, and one of the main reasons, I think, is because I now cook all my own food. My mum is an amazing cook and I trusted her not to put anything I didn't like in the food (she used to run a sort of restaurant at home, cooking different things for everyone every night), but I didn't like trying new things. Now that I am cooking I know exactly what is in everything, plus I don’t want to eat the same thing every night, and I want to impress Blondini with my culinary skills! (I'm putting an exclamation mark but it's true…)

I was quite busy cooking last night as friends are staying over this weekend so I needed to make food for lunch on Saturday and then snacks and things for during the day and evening so I'll be back later with some actual food postings and photos.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Blondini cooks for for me

I got out of work early last night (5:30) - it's tragic that this feels like a real treat, but it does - I felt like I had a whole evening stretching ahead of me. Blondini had just got in when I arrived home and I helped him prepare the chicken so that he could make us his amazing chicken stir-fry with shiitake mushrooms and broccoli. It was delicious, although of course he had to use every bowl and plate in the kitchen and there couldn't be any multitasking, no cooking of the chicken while cutting the vegetables, that doesn't work... I'm not complaining though - I love being cooked for!

Here is his recipe, created himself. I think it's great because unlike many stir-fries where you just chuck in all the ingredients and all the flavours merge into one, here you can really taste the vegetables separately from the chicken and noodles:

Stir-fried Chicken with Shiitake Mushrooms, Broccoli, Sesame and Noodles
(serves 2)

1 large or 2 small chicken breasts cut into small pieces
A little plain flour
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
Shiitake mushrooms
Broccoli (I won't eat the big one, only tenderstem or purple sprouting)
Black and white sesame seeds (around 2-3 tablespoons)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Ginger, grated
Noodles for 2 - we like to use matcha tea noodles, available from Chinese shops, but any noodle you like will do
A little oil for frying

Put the chicken pieces in a bowl and roll in the four. Add around 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to this and mix it in so that each piece of chicken is coated.

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan for a few minutes, then remove and put aside. At this point I would heat some oil in the pan and fry the chicken, and while this is cooking I would chop the vegetables. Blondini prefers to chop the vegetables and have them ready first - you can obviously do whatever is easier for for. When the chicken is cooked through, remove.

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Crush the garlic and grate the ginger into the frying pan, and add the vegetables, together with a few of the sesame seeds. After 3 or 4 minutes, put the chicken back into the pan, stir-fry for another few minutes until the chicken is piping hot again. Add the cooked noodles and continue stir-frying, and add some more soy sauce to the noodles in the pan. Continue stir-frying for a few more minutes, serve onto plates and garnish with the remaining sesame seeds.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Pesto Pasta Sunday

I had a lovely relaxing weekend - friends over for dinner on Friday night, more friends for lunch on Saturday, another one over on Saturday night, and then a really chilled Sunday - a bit of cooking, a friend's barbecue, watching a film.. and all to the sounds of Nigel Kennedy's violin practice coming from his house next door. It was lovely on Saturday but actually by Sunday we were a bit, "enough now, Nige" and wondering whether, if we complained, he would be given an asbo for disturbing the neighbours.

On Sunday we had one of our two traditional Sunday lunches - these are not very "traditional" in the British sense since one is egg and chips (I have scrambled eggs with fried onions, Blondini has an onion omelette or 2 fried eggs), and the other is pasta with pesto, but they are yum! We started this when we were watching the West Wing from start to finish - we liked to make our lunch and sit with it in front of as many episodes of the Wing as we could get through, and we've continued the tradition despite sadly finishing the whole thing a few weeks ago.

We had pasta this week because we wanted something really fast (no waiting for chips to cook) - I toasted a handful of pine nuts in a dry frying pan, together with a fat clove of garlic until they had turned brown, and then I added these to the food processor with a large handful of basil, some olive oil and some sea salt. I whizzed it up, put the fresh pasta in the saucepan and boiled it, and then, literally 3 minutes later, served our delicious lunch. We both hate cheese in almost all its forms but I imagine that if you like cheese you'd like some added to this dish.

Later on, while Blondini was working, I decided to make some brownies. This was really for two reasons: one, because I wanted to test out a recipe, since I have never made amazing brownies and I wanted to make some that were like the best brownies I have ever tasted, which are to be found at the Firehook Bakery in Washington DC. Two, because my grandma bought me a silicon baking tray/dish thing that wobbled a lot and I wanted to see how well it would work.
I made the recipe from the Green and Blacks chocolate cookery book, modified slightly to make a smaller quantity and decreasing the sugar content because I couldn't understand why it required so much. This excess of sugar thing is actually a common theme in many chocolate recipes - surely if the recipe contains a large amount of chocolate, it doesn't need very much sugar because chocolate is already sweetened to just the right level of sweetness and any more just makes it sickly.

My version of the recipe was -

180g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70%)
180g unsalted butter
120g plain flour
1 teasp vanilla essence
3 eggs
100g sugar

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Meanwhile, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla, and when the chocolate and butter is melted and cooled slightly, add to the egg/sugar mix and beat together. Sift the flour and salt together into the mix, beat, and then pour into a baking tray (which for my recipe was about 20cm x 25cm and about 10cm deep). My tray didn't require lining or greasing (the beauty of silicon) but a traditional one should probably be lined with baking parchment.

Cook at 160 (or normal baking temperature for your oven) for around 20-25 minutes, until the top is forming a crust that flakes when touched. They should be gooey inside (but not uncooked) and it is fine to take them out too early and then put them back in again if not cooked enough. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes in the tin and then cut into squares and remove.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Thursday is freezer night

Last night we had meatballs, one of my favourite suppers to cook in advance and freeze. It's so nice to come home, stick it in the oven, make some rice and eat a delicious meal without doing any work.

This recipe is one of my own inventions, and I use chicken mince because it is healthier and less fatty. I'm sure this would work with other meats but I think the strong flavours go very well with chicken.

Chicken Meatballs in Hot Pepper Sauce

(serves 4)

1lb chicken mince, as lean as possible
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 red peppers
2 red chillies
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 egg
Cajun spice
Soy Sauce
Cayenne Pepper
A little plain flour
Olive oil for cooking
Salt & pepper

Finely chop one of the onions and crush the garlic. In a large saucepan, fry these until translucent. While this is frying, finely chop the chillies and cut the peppers into pieces about 2cm squared. Add these to the saucepan, and fry for a few more minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, paprika, soy sauce, Cajun spice, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper if you like it quite spicy. Keep tasting to get the flavour just as you want it. Half fill each of the empty tomato tins with water (to get any remaining tomato out of each) and add this to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, finely chop the other onion and add to a bowl with the chicken mince and egg. Mix this together and then add some flour to thicken the mixture. You want it to be thick enough so that you can form it into balls but not too dense. Add all the spices, soy sauce and seasoning to this mixture as well.When the sauce is simmering and you are happy with the taste, cover it and turn down the heat. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a large frying pan, and start forming meatballs. It is easiest to do this if you wet your hand in cold water first. I also like to divide the mixture up with a spoon in the bowl first, so I have an idea how big I want each to be. Out of 1lb of mince, I like to make 4 portions, and I try to do 24 meatballs in total, so they are quite small. I fry this in 2 batches of 12 but do whatever works for you and your frying pan. Brown the meatballs on all sides and then remove with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce. When they are all cooked and in the sauce, put the saucepan in the oven on about 150° (or whatever is slightly lower than you would normally roast at in your oven). Leave for at least 30 minutes, and then serve with rice or pasta (or take it out of the oven and freeze in portions).

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The Apprentice Final

Five of my best girls came over last night for the Apprentice final (that's wot i'm talkin' abou') so I made us a quick and delicious dinner: open-roasted sea bass, new potatoes and broccoli. Broccoli is something that I've tried for a long time to like - I've always thought it was vile and have long agreed with that Simpsons bit - Dr Hibbert pulls broccoli from Homer's corpse and says, "another broccoli-related death" and Marge says, "but I thought broccoli was healthy" and Dr Hibbert says, "one of the deadliest plants alive. It tries to warn you with its terrible taste." The Simpsons aside, I know that it is very healthy and also it is Blondini's favourite vegetable so I wanted to make more effort to like it. My mum suggested stir frying it with a tiny bit of olive oil (or olive oil spray), crushed garlic, chili and salt, using tenderstem broccoli (the long thin one, not the nasty one that looks like a revolting tree) and it's actually really good. As in, not just edible, but excellent.

For the seabass, I got the fish guy (he's really not a fishmonger - he just wears the fish hat and stands at the fish counter but he can't distinguish between plaice and salmon) to scale and gut the fish but leave the heads on, and then at home I just rinsed them, slashed their sides with 3 or 4 cuts, laid them out on a tray, stuffed their slashes with fresh rosemary and drizzled olive oil and sprinkled sea salt over them. They roast just like that for about 30 minutes, and meanwhile I had a big tray of baby new potatoes with olive oil, salt and Provencal herbs roasting beautifully in the bottom of the oven.

That was all very nice but since it wasn't really a very cooking-ish night I will also write about the Chocolate Nemesis I made on the weekend, since I am not likely to make it again for another year. It's delicious, but.. well, when you see the ingredients you'll see why. Quickly googling this recipe has revealed that this is apparently notoriously difficult to make. I have always had success with the following recipe - the original but with my own hints and tips! I think in this recipe more than any other you really need to follow all the instructions to the letter.

Chocolate Nemesis (from the River Cafe Cookbook - I have halved the recipe because I cannot think of any occasion when you would need the big one - it is so rich that you would only eat a tiny slice anyway. This halved version would probably serve about 20 people)

12oz dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70% - I recommend using the best chocolate you can find because that is what you taste)
5 eggs
1/2 lb unsalted butter
9 oz caster sugar (this is the one area of the recipe where I think you can deviate - I think this is too much sugar and I use less)
8fl oz water

Start by heating the water with 2/3 of the sugar in a saucepan, and simmer until it dissolves into a syrup (I recommend using a sugar thermometer to make sure you have this right - on a sugar thermometer the temperature needs to get to, I think, 110° C or 230° F.) When it reaches this point, take it off the heat and add the chocolate and butter cut up into small bits. Stir to melt and leave it to cool - it will be a thick glossy chocolatey sauce.

Then put all the eggs, not separated, into a bowl with 1/3 (or less) of the sugar and now you need to use electric beaters (the best would be if it was in a KitchenAid or Kenwood mixer) for 10 minutes. The eggs need to quadruple in volume - this will happen before 10 minutes are up but beat for precisely 10 minutes. Then pour the chocolate into the egg mix, scrape all the sides down with a spatula, and mix for 10 seconds. I expect this will not be quite enough, so mix for another 10 seconds, but really try not to mix any more than that. Use a round tin - mine is an ancient loose-bottomed tin, around 8 inches diameter - grease it, and if it is a loose-bottomed one like mine, wrap the bottom of it in foil, covering most of the outside of the tin. Pour the mixture into the tin, and then place the tin into a deep tray (like a roasting tin). Pour boiling water into this tin and put the whole thing into the oven, cooking for about 30 mins on whatever your normal baking temperature is (mine in my electric fan oven is 160°)

Take it out the oven and out of the bain marie, and leave to cool and set in the tin, and then refrigerate. Remove from the tin when you are ready to serve - I like to dust it with icing sugar.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Starting out as a food blogger...

I'm starting my life as a foodie blogger with tales of my weekend's cooking. We had people for lunch so I decided to make a selection of Indian vegetarian dishes - saag dal (lentils with spinach), chole masala (chickpea curry), and baingan bartha (an aubergine curry), with rice and chapatis. All were yummy (except that I burned the dal on reheating it and it took on a slightly bizarre, smoky flavour. People didn't seem to notice though - or perhaps they thought that was how it was meant to taste). Most of my Indian recipes are currently coming from the "Delia" of India (according to my Indian friend) - Tarla Dalal. I bought one of her many books, apparently one of her earliest, simplest ones, called Desi Khana (Indian Food), and this also gave me 30 days free access to the recipes on the website so I've been a downloading and printing machine.
The chole recipe, though, is from the Times, by Sybil Kapoor.

Spinach Dal
Cooking Time : 25 minutes.
Preparation Time : 10 minutes.
Serves 8 (if eaten with other things - on it's own I don't think this is enough for 8 people)

6 cloves garlic
3 green chillies
25 mm. piece ginger
3/4 teacup uncooked moong dal or masoor dal (I used red lentils - masoor dal)
1 chopped onion
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teacup chopped spinach (I can't really work out how much "I teacup" of chopped spinach is, so I just use a whole bag of spinach)
2 teaspoons amchur powder (the first time I made this I didn't have any amchur (dried unripe mango) powder so I added a couple of teaspoons of tamarind paste which was also nice)
1 large chopped tomato
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
4 teaspoons oil
salt to taste

Put the dal in a saucepan with 3 teacups of water and bring to the boil - watch it carefully as it tends to boil over and create a mess that's hard to clean. It's ready when the dal has become yellow and fluffy and most of the water has gone.

While it cooks, blend the garlic, chillies and ginger into a paste. Chop the onion finely and fry with the cumin seeds in either a bigger saucepan or a deep frying pan (eventually the dal and all the ingredients will go in here so it needs to be big). When the onions are translucent, add the garlic/chilli/ginger paste and continue to fry for a few minutes. Add the turmeric, amchur and spinach (chop but don't worry about getting it too finely chopped as it obviously shrinks a lot), then chop the tomato and add it. Cook for a while, and then when the dal is ready add it (together with whatever water is left in the dal saucepan) to the mix. Simmer and add salt to taste.

Baingan Bartha
Cooking Time : 30 mins.
Preparation Time : 5 mins.
Serves 4.

750g of aubergine (this usually seems to be about 3)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 onion
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, grated
1 teaspoon garlic, grated
1 teaspoon green chillies, finely chopped
1 or 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon coriander-cumin seed powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ghee (I never use ghee and always fry in vegetable oil but this is a personal preference)
salt to taste

Cut the green tops off the aubergines and prick all over with a fork. Put them in the oven (on a tray to minimise oven mess) on a high heat - they will need around half an hour until they become wrinkly and quite soft. When they are done, leave to cool until you can handle them and peel the skins off. Mash the pulp (I tried this with a potato masher and it was extremely labour intensive and didn't work very well - now I just shove it in the food processor. If you don't have one you could probably use a blender too).

Fry the onions together with the cumin seeds and when translucent add the garlic, ginger and chillies. As I was making this at the same time as the spinach dal, I made more of the garlic/chilli/ginger paste and added that and I would do that again as it is much quicker. Add the chopped tomatoes and the other spices, and cook until the oil separates from the vegetables. Add the mashed aubergines, cook for a few minutes and add salt to taste.

Serves 4

250g dried chickpeas (or you can use 1 can)
2 tsp ginger, finely chopped/grated
¾ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 fresh chilli, split at the tip
2 cloves (optional - I usually leave these out)
½ tsp garam masala
6 or 7 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Some tomato puree if you want
Handful of fresh coriander (optional, for garnish)

If you're using dried chickpeas, you need to soak them overnight, and then cook either in a pressure cooker or a saucepan until tender (around 2.5 hours in a saucepan or 45 minutes in a pressure cooker). I almost always make this with tinned chickpeas because it takes too long and too much forward planning to use dried chickpeas. With tinned chickpeas, wash them and bring them to the boil and then simmer while making the sauce. Add to the saucepan of chickpeas (whichever method is used) the grated ginger, cayenne pepper and turmeric.

Make the sauce by finely chopping the onion and garlic (or blending it into a paste, which is my preferred method). Fry this with the whole chilli, split at the tip. Put the tomatoes into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Take out after one minute and slip the skins off. Finely chop the tomatoes (or food process them) and add them to the onion/garlic mix. Fry for a few minutes and then add the spices and salt as needed, and the tomato puree if used (I find that it sometimes helps to add a stronger tomato flavour, particularly as fresh tomatoes are often quite tasteless). Pour most of the water out of the chickpea saucepan and add the chickpeas and some of the water to the masala. If you add too much water, don't worry as you can just keep cooking the chole with uncovered to reduce. I think it's better to have too much water than too little as you can always reduce and the longer it cooks the better it will taste. Keep tasting and add more cayenne pepper if it's not spicy enough for you.


No recipe here - I just add equal parts white and wholewheat flour, add about a teaspoon of oil, salt and some spices (i usually go for ground cumin and/or coriander) and enough water to make a dough. Roll out into thin circles. Heat a frying pan with no oil until very hot and throw the flat circle of dough onto it. It should puff up in places. After a couple of minutes, flip it over and cook for another minute on the other side. To keep them warm and stop them from going hard while you are making the rest, put them in teacloth and store them wrapped in a warm oven.