Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Chicken Dhansak

There's no picture today as the battery in my camera died before I could take it, although this isn't a particularly photogenic dish anyway. Sorry - you'll just have to imagine this one - it's a greenish-brown curry with quite a thick sauce which is served with caramelised onion brown rice.

This is a Parsi dish from Mumbai, something I've been wanting to try for a while as vegetable dhansak is my brother's favourite curry in his favourite Indian restaurant. I had looked online in the past for a dhansak recipe but never found anything very appealing, and I was also put off by the description of dhansak curries as "sweet and sour" - in Chinese food that is my worst flavour combination.

Anyway, for our anniversary a couple of weeks ago, my mum bought us Camilla Panjabi's 50 Great Curries of India, and there was a recipe for Chicken Dhansak that looked very appealing. I made quite a few changes and substitutions but it turned out beautifully - it's spicy and tangy and has a really unusual flavour that is very different to the curries I usually make. The sauce is thick and creamy, but not made with dairy (or dairy substitutes) but with lentils and vegetables, so it is a really nutritious dish. I will definitely be making it again, it is yum!

Chicken Dhansak
(serves 2)

1 large chicken breast or enough chicken for 2 people, cut into chunks
100g toor dal (these are yellow lentils)
1 inch piece of ginger
2 cloves garlic
3oz red pumpkin (I substituted a courgette for this)
2oz aubergine (this is about 1/2 an aubergine)
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
7 fresh mint leaves
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves or fresh fenugreek (I couldn't find this so left it out)
1 tsp Parsi sambar marsala (I couldn't find this so I used 3/4 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp red chilli, 1/2 tsp ground pepper)
1 tsp dhansak marsala (I did find this but if you can't, mix 1 1/2 tsp garam marsala, 1/2 tsp star anise, 1/4 tsp nutmeg)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tomato
2 green chillies
1 tsp jaggery/palm sugar (I substituted dark brown muscovado sugar for this)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp tamarind paste

Brown pulao rice

6 fl oz brown basmati rice (I use 3 fl oz per person - always measure rice by volume, not by weight)
1 small/medium onion, finely chopped
Cinammon stick, bay leaf and some whole cloves (or some garam marsala instead)

Start by soaking the dal, and leave for 30 minutes. While it is soaking, prepare all the vegetables: chop the aubergine and courgette (or squash or pumpkin or whatever you can find) into 1cm cubes and put it in a large saucepan with a quarter of the ginger, 1 garlic clove, the fresh dill, 1/2 tablespoon of fresh coriander, 3 of the mint leaves and the turmeric. Add 1/3 pint of water and when the dal has soaked, drain the water and add it to the saucepan. Simmer until cooked and soft (should take 15-20 minutes).

While this is happening, toast any of the whole spices in a dry frying pan (you can use ground spices for everything but I prefer whole spices, so I put cumin seeds, coriander seeds and the fenugreek seeds and mustard seeds which are part of the Parsi sambar marsala into the pan). After a few minutes, tip these together with all of the ground spices into a pestle and mortar, and grind and blend together. Even if you are only using ground spices, blend them together before cooking with them.

Drop the tomato into some boiling water for 1 minute and then remove, slipping the skin off. Chop the tomato and the 2 chillies (remove their seeds unless you like a REALLY hot curry), and then heat a tablespoon of flavourless oil (I like rapeseed) in the frying pan and add the tomato, chillies, the remaining fresh coriander, the remaining mint leaves and all the spices, and fry for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the cut up chicken and fry for another few minutes, making sure it is browned on all sides. It doesn't matter if the chicken isn't totally cooked through at this point because it will continue to cook in the sauce.

When the dal is cooked (this should hopefully happen at about the same time as the chicken is browning), use a stick blender or pour the contents of the saucepan into a blender and blend until smooth. Then add the chicken and any of the spicy mix in the frying pan to the saucepan together with 1/3 pint of water and let it simmer, covered.

While it cooks, start making the rice, as it will take about 20 minutes to cook. Start by frying the onion in a saucepan until it is lightly golden. Then add the (dry uncooked) rice to the saucepan, and fry the rice for a minute or so. Add 12 fl oz water (or twice the volume of the rice), some salt and the cinammon, bay leaf and cloves. Cover and let it simmer slowly.

After about 15 minutes, uncover the chicken and see how liquidy the sauce is, as you may want to reduce it. Add the lime juice and tamarind and salt to taste. Let it simmer until the rice is ready, and serve.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Veggie Burgers

What do you make when you're home late, you're hungry, you kind of want a burger but maybe something lighter and you want it FAST? A homemade veggie burger! With some sort of protein, of course - I get anxious about meals made with not enough protein.

This veggie burger is one of my least photogenic creations, but as I still wanted to show you what it looked like I have taken more of an action shot - burgers in the frying pan.

Veggie Burgers
(makes 4 large burgers, could serve 2-4 depending on how hungry you are!)

1 can of chickpeas, drained (400g chickpeas)
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper

Put the onion, pepper and garlic on a tray, spray a little olive oil on them and season. Put them in the oven on a high temperature or put them under the grill for about 15 minutes. While you are doing this you could be thinking about the accompaniment to your meal. I think these would go well with pitta bread and salad - we actually had them with chips, because we were thinking about burgers and chips. If you're having something like chips, put these in the oven at the same time.

When the vegetables are cooked and maybe a little bit blackened, take them out of the oven and tip them into a food processor. Add the drained chickpeas, and whizz. Taste the mixture and see what you think - I added a little tabasco sauce, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper at this stage and the result was a very flavoursome and slightly spicy burger. Experiment with other flavours and seasonings (and indeed with other vegetables) as you wish.

It is probably preferable to chill the mixture once it is all blended, so put it in the fridge but don't worry too much - I only had it in there for about 15 minutes while I waited for the chips to finish cooking. Heat a frying pan with about a teaspoon of olive oil, and when hot add the mixture in spoonfuls, shaping them into flat patties as you put them in the pan. I made 4 large burgers with this mixture - you may prefer to make smaller burgers, which would be more manageable when trying to flip them over. Cook for a few minutes on each side, and then serve!