Monday, 16 November 2009

the curry phase continues ...

We ended up with curry for ≤ten last week following a visit from the butternut squash fairy. I feel drawn towards spicy food at this time of year. The desire for something hearty and hot wins out repeatedly, and I find myself influenced by Coz's taste for Indian food even when she's not here.

I've also fallen back in love with rice. In spite of all the gung-ho cookery, I confess rice and I are not friends. It's usually an after thought quickly chucked in a pan while the rest of the meal is more lovingly cared for. I'm often suspicious of everyday products which seem to have an unnecessary premium on them, but I've been converted by pure Basmati rice. Basmati is apparently like champagne, only deserving the name by being grown in a certain area. Pure Basmati, sifted to remove broken starchy grains and aged slightly to bring out the delicate flavour is even better.

Anyway, I'd been considering the fate of the squashes since their arrival, and spotting a coconut curry sealed the deal. Gone, but nowhere near forgotten, She is now living with Mr B in Wapping, and working in London Bridge. After escorting me home She pottered and made bhajis while I tended to the curry, which went a little something like this ...

Squash and coconut curry

For six, with suitable leftovers ...

2tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cardamom pods
1 1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp dried curry leaves
2 tbsp gram flour
1 tbsp light olive oil
2 x 400g tins of reduced fat coconut milk
1 x 400g tin cherry tomatoes
1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
600g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 tbsp chopped coriander

Toast the cumin and coriander in a dry frying pan, before grinding in a pestle and mortar.

Pour the oil into a big thick based pan, and once hot add the crushed cardamom pods (you can do this lightly with the side of a knife), allowing them to sizzle for 30 seconds.

Add the curry leaves, coconut milk, tomatoes and ground spices. Bring to the boil, then add the squash and sweet potatoe, bringing up to a simmer until tender. If necessary, to thicken up the source sift in two level tablespoonfuls of gram flour towards the end - you can use cornflour if you don't have any.

Season to taste, then stir in the coriander when you're ready to serve up.

This was wonderful actually, and the Brave was only slightly disappointed about the lack of meat. It's a sweet velvety curry, you could probably add more chilli to give it a bit more of a kick, but it was perfectly respectable for a Wednesday night.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

fritta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta ...

I'm sure I remember some halycon days where making a frittata was as easy as slicing a few potatoes, whisking a few eggs, and basking in the warm feeling generated by using up struggling spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and whatever else is lying around.

Tonight's offering has taken a little more attention, but the principle is the same.

A frittata, as I'm sure you know, is a little bit like a Spanish omlette. I'm not sure what the real rules are, but I tend to use a base of eggs, onions and sliced potato ... and then throw in anything else which needs eating. For me this covers mushrooms, tomatoes, spring onions, bacon, ham, spinach, broccoli, cooked peppers ... and at a stretch bits of chicken ... and cheese to put on top.

This evening I used ...

6 eggs
250g baby spinach
big handful of new potatoes, sliced
handful mushrooms, sliced
handful baby plum tomatoes, quartered
half an onion finely chopped
cheddar to grate on top

It's pretty simple ...

You need to parboil the potatoes, slicing them first makes this pretty easy.

Meanwhile, fry off the onion in a teaspoon of oil and a pinch of salt to stop it burning. When it's starting to go translucent, add the sliced mushrooms and fry gently.

I like to steam the spinach very slightly before this goes in to the pan - this evening I stuck it over the potatoes for a couple of minutes.

When your potatoes are ready, add them to the onions and mushrooms in the pan, then add the spinach. The mistake I made this evening was to add the eggs to this too early, without giving it all time to really warm up. I had to take evasive action to make sure it was cooked all the way through.

Once this is all warm together in the pan, you can add your whisked eggs (seasoned with salt, pepper and mixed herbs if you like), then sprinkle the tomatoes over the top.

Cook the frittata on a low heat on the hob for as long as you can - you need to let it cook through without burning the bottom. Keep an eye on it (by sneaking a spatula underneath), and when it starts to go take the pan off the heat, grate some cheese over the top, and stick it under a low grill. This should melt the cheese, and help cook the top.

And it's as easy as that. This should do enough for four of you for lunch (says she who has just eaten half of it for dinner ...).