chicken xacuti

>A heavenly dish originally from Goa – pronounced “chakooty”. The chicken is marinated in freshly roasted spices and cooked slowly in sweet, fresh coconut juice. Perfectly Delightful!

Ingredients
1Kg chicken, cut into medium sized pieces
(substitute tofu, paneer or soya if veggie/vegan)
6 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
6 -8 onions
Juice of 2 limes
Coconut juice either tinned or fresh
1 fresh coconut – grate the coconut and roast with two of the onions (sliced lengthwise) and a little ghee.
The coconut needs to turn a pale brown

The key is to roast the whole spices before grinding them. This brings out the nutty, warm flavors. To roast, heat a griddle over a moderate heat, add the spices, and shake the pan for 20 seconds. A lovely aroma will be released.

Roast and grind (to paste with a little water):
– Toasted coconut/onion mixture
– 2 tbsp coriander seeds
– 5 black peppercorns
– 10 dried red chilies (or less)
– 1tsp turmeric
– 4 cloves of garlic
– 1/2 inch piece cinnamon
– 1/2 nutmeg
– 3 tblsp aniseed
– 1tbsp poppy seeds

Method
• Chop four of the onions and fry until light brown.
• Add the chicken and brown.
• Add the ground paste, fry for a minute and then add the coconut milk.
• Cook until chicken is tender.
• Cut the remaining onions and add to the chicken.
• Boil for a few minutes then lower flame
• Add the thick coconut milk.
• Add salt if required.
• Simmer until sauce has thickened.
• Sprinkle over some limejuice and fresh coriander leaves prior to serving.

Enjoy with naan bread, chappatis or rice.

sam’s prawn curry

>Our new Aussie friends Sam and Amanda live just down the road. Sam is convinced this great curry will prevent Alzheimer’s disease because it includes lots of brain food. Whether this is true or not, it is a delicious hearty curry that can be made with fish or prawns or both.

Ingredients

1lb king prawns or meaty white fish
1 medium red capsicum cut into large pieces
1 medium green capsicum cut into small pieces
½lb unpeeled sweet potatoes, cubed
½ pint chicken stock
A handful of semi-sundried tomatoes
2 teasp olive oil
1 medium chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped or minced
2 tablesp curry powder*
½ teasp sugar (optional)
A handful of chopped coriander

*instead of shop-bought curry powder I prefer to use the ingredients below, but either is OK:
1 teasp turmeric
1-2 teasp garam masala
2 cloves
2 cardamom pods
1-2 teasp chilli powder or 1 hot red chilli, chopped

Method

In a medium saucepan, bring red capsicum, sweet potatoes and chicken stock to a boil over a medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes are just tender (about 10-15 minutes).

Meanwhile in a large non-stick pan, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Fry the onion and garlic until lightly browned. Add turmeric, garam masala, chilli, cloves and cardamom pods (or curry powder) and cook for about a minute. Remove from heat.

Reserving the stock, transfer the cooked sweet potatoes and capsicum to a food processor and blend until smooth (or just use a potato masher on it). Add to the onion mixture. Then add the rest of the stock, and ½ teasp sugar if needed, and mix well. Bring back to the boil.

Add the prawns/fish, the green capsicum and the sundried tomatoes, and cook until the prawns/fish are cooked. If you prefer, use your wooden spoon to break up the fish when cooked into bite-sized pieces.

Stir the coriander into the curry and serve with rice or naan bread.

chickpea and spinach curry

>This is proper fast food – delicious, healthy and ready in about 15 minutes.

1. Fry one medium-sized diced onion

2. Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and cook in

3. Add a teaspoonful of harissa and one can chopped tomatoes

4. Add one can of chick peas and cook 10 mins

5. Add spinach and cook 5 mins

6. Add 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala

7. If the curry is too sweet from the tomatoes, add 1/2 teaspoon of instant coffee to tone it down

8. Serve with yoghurt, naan or rice

pork vindalho

>Pork vindalho is a Goan dish with a distinctive hot and sour flavour. It has its roots in Portugese cooking but has strong Indian influences too. It is unusual to see pork in Indian cooking but as many Goans are Catholics, it is quite popular in this small state.

This is one of my favourite Indian dishes and is well worth the effort to make it. If you cannot find genuine vindalho masala in your local Indian grocery, use the ingredients below to make the paste.

1kg/2¼lb boneless pork from the shoulder, cut into 5cm/2in cubes
1½ tsp salt
6tbsp red wine vinegar

For the Spice Paste: (or use vindalho masala)

4-10 dried hot red chillies
1 tbsp bright red paprika
½ tsp cumin seeds
6cm/3in cinnamon stick, broken up into smaller pieces
10-15 cloves
½ tsp black peppercorns
5-6 cardamom pods
10-12 garlic cloves, peeled
2.5cm/1in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsley chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric

You also need:
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
3 meduim-sized onions (250g/9oz), peeled and finely sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
6 fresh hot green chillies, sliced lengthways in half
1 tsp sugar

Method
1. Sprinkle the pork with 1 tsp of the salt. Add 3 tbsp of the vinegar. Rub in well and set aside for 2-3 hours.

2. Make the spice paste: Combine the red chillies, paprika, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and cardamom pods in a clean coffee grinder and grind as finely as possible. Put the 10-12 garlic cloves and the ginger in the container of an electric blender a;long with 2 tbsp of the vinegar and the turmeric. Blend well. Add the dry ground spices to the garlic mixture and blend again to mix. Rub the pork cubes with half of the spice paste, Cover and refrigerate overnight. Cover and refrigerate the remaining spice paste.

3. Heat the 3 tbsp oil in a wide, preferably non-stick pan over meduim-high heat. When hot, put in the 3-4 garlic cloves. Stir and fry until they begin to pick up a little colour. Put in the onions and continue to fry until browned. Now add the tomatoes and 3 of the green chillies. Stir for a minute. Add the remaining spice paste, the sugar and the remaining 1 tbsp vinegar. Stir and fry until the paste begins to marinate the meat and all the spice paste clinging to it. Turn the heat to a meduim-low and cook, stirring, until the pork begins to exclude its own liquid. Add 300ml/10fl oz/1¼ cups water and the remaining salt and bring to the boil. Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened somewhat, about 40 minutes.

4. If necessary, raise the heat to reduce the sauce to a meduim-thick consistency towards the end. Add the remaining 3 green chillies and stir once.

>3 Monkeys

>3 Monkeys
Herne Hill

Suzanne and I got a last-minute cheap deal to eat at this relatively new south London Indian restaurant, so we were looking forward to a posh Indian dinner on the cheap when we visited Three Monkeys.

This is one of a breed of modern Indian restaurants which are rapidly replacing every Mughal-arched, flock-wallpapered old place in the city (much to my relief). The place is split-level with a modern bar downstairs. Upstairs everything is light and bright, with some beautiful Indian art on the walls.

Being mid-week we were one of about four tables occupied so it did feel a bit quiet, added to which we were very chilly for the whole evening. The waitress was pleasant enough but on occasion a little slow to respond – no problem for us as we were gossiping madly but another time this would have wound me up.

As for the food, there are lots on the menu which were new to me. One of their specialities is Handi cuisine from the central plateau of India, slow cooked in an earthen pot. We stuck to fairly standard dishes, our man courses being one chicken and one lamb. Our first impression was that the quantity of meat in each dish was woefully small. This was partly made up by the quality of the meat and the delicate taste of the sauce. Added to which, the side dishes and rice we were served were beautiful.

Having said all that, we could not manage a dessert, settling for a coffee and a masala tea instead. However when the bill came it was almost £50 for two, and that was only included two glasses of wine. All in all, we felt that it was not good value for money – and this was on a special deal! I would not be tempted back here if I had to pay full price, and I could think of many more places service equally good food for less elsewhere in London.

All in all, a pleasant enough experience but not really worth the trip or the money.
www.3monkeysrestaurant.com

>cafe spice namaste

>A birthday treat was to visit Cafe Spice Namaste, on Prescott Street near Aldgate in London.
Co-owned by celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala, it it the flagship of his small but burgeoning restaurant empire. The cuisine is Indian but majors in Parsee food.

It was quiet for an early Friday evening, and sitting at a window I got a little chilly. The music was bad saxophone muzak, but there the bad news ended.

The menu was not your average lengthy Indian list, but well-chosen dishes using gourmet local ingredients such as organic ham from Berkshire, and Loch Fyne shellfish.

We tried the “real” Parsee lamb dhansak and the tandoori mixed grill, both of which looked and tasted wonderful despite Orlando’s complaint that a piece of pineapple was masquerading as a piece of meat on his!

The dessert menu was refreshingly full of Western delights as well as Indian ones, including a range of speciality ice-creams. The coffee was excellent.

By the time we were half-way through our meal, the place was quite lively and a large Diwali group had arrived to eat in the adjoining room. Although he did not speak to us, i say Cyrus himself come out of the kitchen and speak to a number of tables during the evening. The waiters were unobtrusive and professional.

All told, a lovely evening and I look forward to trying his restaurant “The Parsee” in Highgate soon.

http://www.cafespice.co.uk/