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I was reminded of this recipe this morning when a friend at church brought in duck eggs for sale.  We had a ready supply throughout last year but the ducks have been taking a break from laying and the resumed supply is something we have eagerly anticipated!  I discovered this very simple recipe last year and although you can use hen’s eggs the larger and richer duck eggs (see picture) make it an extra special light supper.  I have made egg curries in the past and we always enjoy them, but this is one of the simplest recipes I have come across.

Once more this recipe is based on one from one of my favourite books: Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner, with just a few very small tweaks.  It’s simple sauce could be used as a base for any grilled meat or fish or diced meat or fish could also be incorporated.  It reminds me a little of other recipes on this site, in particular Pork Sausages Indian Style, a Madhur Jaffrey recipe and Prawn & Tomato Korma, both of which are favourites.  If using hen’s eggs then it is probably better to serve one and a half or even two per person for a light meal: with duck eggs one should be adequate.  If you are serving this at a larger main meal then you will definitely need more eggs and the sauce will serve only two or three people.  If serving as one option at an Indian style multi dish meal then the eggs should be quartered.  This could also be served as a starter with half an egg per portion (in two quarters) and a small piece of naan or poppodums.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Egg Curry
(Serves 4 as a light meal – 2-3 as a main meal – 6-8 as a starter)

4 duck eggs (1 per person – ½ for a starter)
or
4-8 hens eggs (depending on appetite of diners – 1 or less for a starter)
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 large or 2 small white onions (be generous)
2.5cm/1inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
6 green cardamom pods
3 cloves
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1.5cm/½inch piece of root ginger, finely chopped
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
¼tsp ground turmeric
1tsp garam masala
1tsp chilli powder
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, chopped
Salt & black pepper to taste
180ml/6fl ozs vegetable stock or water (or 1tsp stock powder and water)
To garnish
Small handful fresh chopped coriander (parsley if unavailable)
1 small green chilli, a few fine slices (optional – I usually omit this)

1.  Hard boil the eggs in boiling water: 10-12 minutes for duck eggs or 8-10 minutes for hens eggs.  Once cooked plunge immediately into cold water, which will cool them and also help prevent the unsightly grey ring that can form around the yolk.  I usually steam hard boil eggs, having pierced the shells first, which takes about 5 minutes longer.

2.  Finely chop the onion and gently fry it in the oil for 2-3 minutes so it is soft but not browned.

3.  Stir in the finely chopped garlic and ginger along with the cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamoms and cloves.  Fry for 1 minute.

4.  Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder.  Stir well and fry for about 30 seconds more.

5.  Add the chopped tinned tomatoes.  Stir well, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.   Add the stock or water and bring to the boil.  Season to taste.

6.  Put the hard boiled eggs into the sauce and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

7.  Serve sauce on a bed of plain boiled rice with egg or eggs placed on top.  Garnish with coriander or parsley and, if you wish, a little finely sliced green chilli.

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Mulligatawny is such a strange sounding word, but it simply means pepper water.  Rather than being rooted in India, it is thought that Mulligatawny probably originated in Sri Lanka, although it could possibly have come from the Tamil speaking people of South India.  ‘Mulligatawny’ or ‘Milagu Thanni’ is an amalgam of two Tamil words: ‘Millagu’ meaning pepper and ‘Thanni’ meaning water, although the soup we eat is probably closer to another Tamilian soup called Rasam.  Originally a thin soup, under the rulers of the British colonial Raj Mulligatawny became rich and dense.  A Mulligatawny soup recipe such as this one would have been familiar to those Britons who lived and worked during the Imperial Raj, the British rule of the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947.  Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), a large island just to the south of mainland India, had close ties to Britain but was never part of the Raj.  The British tried to recreate familiar dishes, as far as possible using the new and unusual ingredients they found but the hot climate, lack of refrigeration and unfamiliar cooking facilities would have made this very difficult.  Originally Mulligatawny was served as a vegetarian ‘sauce’, but the British varied the recipe, including meat and other ingredients, often thickening it with rice and adding turmeric to give a yellow colour.  Recipes for Mulligatawny appeared in many Victorian publications including one in the 1870 Nabob’s cook book which featured the addition of ‘fowl’.  Although the soup was popular in India and Ceylon, it was not highly thought of back home in England but the resulting mixture of East and West has cast an influence on British cooking which can still be found today.

I have wanted to make Mulligatawny Soup for some time but when looking for a recipe, as you can imagine from the information above, there is  a great deal of choice.  I knew that I wanted to make a hearty and spicy soup which could be eaten in place of a main meal: the type that would be ideal when the weather is at its January chilliest.  I found two complementary recipes and this version of Mulligatawny Soup is a combination of the best of both.  The sources were Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert and a wonderful recent find (from the secondhand bookstall at the church where my choir meets) The Ultimate Hot & Spicy Cookbook by various authors (published by Lorenz books), which I will certainly be revisiting again and again.  I certainly wanted to add meat, chicken from choice (but this could be varied) and unable to choose between adding rice as in the Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons and lentils as in The Ultimate Hot & Spicy Cookbook I decided to add both, something I will definitely do again.  The second book also included sultanas, but as I do not like these in curries I have left them out.  The dollop of Mango Chutney (home made, of course!) made it sweet enough for me.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Mulligatawny Soup
(Serves 3-4)

10g/½oz butter
1tbsp olive oil
4 chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite size chunks
or
2 chicken breast fillets, cut into bite size chunks
or
about 8ozs/200g leftover turkey or chicken from a roast
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium sized carrot, diced
1 medium sized potato, diced
1 small turnip, diced (optional)
1 tbsp mild madras curry powder (or another powder of your choice)
1 litre/1¾pints chicken stock
2 large tomatoes, chopped (did not skin & deseed as in original recipe)
2-4 cloves (according to personal preference)
6 black peppercorns, crushed lightly
4ozs/100g rice (preferably Basmati)
2ozs/50g red lentils
2ozs/50g sultanas (optional – I left these out)
handful chopped coriander (reserve some for garnish) – or parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Garnish
1tbsp per bowl natural yoghurt/crème fraîche/sour cream (more if you wish)
1tsp per bowl mango chutney
chopped fresh coriander (reserved)
grind of black pepper or light dusting of cayenne pepper/chilli powder

1.  Melt the butter and oil together in a large saucepan.  Turn up the heat and fry the diced raw  chicken quickly turning frequently until it has browned.  (Cooked leftover chicken should be added about 10minutes before the serving which should be just long enough for it to be thoroughly heated through.)  This should take about 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

2.  Stir the curry powder into the remaining oil and cook briefly.  Add the onion, garlic, carrot, potato and turnip (if using) to the oil remaining in the pan.  Stir well and turn down the heat.  Cover and cook very gently for about 10 minutes.

3.  Add the stock and stir well.  Add the cloves, crushed peppercorns and chopped tomatoes.  Bring to the boil and reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer gently for 2o minutes.

4.  Return the cooked chicken to the pan along with most of the chopped coriander, including the stalky pieces (use just chopped leaves for the garnish).  Add the rice and lentils and simmer gently until they are just cooked, adding a little extra water only if needed.  (If leftover cooked chicken is being used in place of fresh meat, this should be added about 10 minutes before the end of cooking time.)

5.  Remove the cloves before serving if you can find them. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve in warmed soup bowls topped with a dollop of natural yoghurt, crème fraîche or sour cream, a spoonful of mango chutney and a scattering of chopped fresh coriander leaves (or parsley).  This can be served with Naan bread if you wish.

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Back in the dim and distant past, when pasta was still a strange and unusual foodstuff, at least in our house (and well before I was married so probably still at school) I found this simple, inexpensive and useful recipe on the site of a spaghetti packet.  Sadly I have lost the original recipe but once made the basic recipe is not easily forgotten.

I think the herbs in the original were probably dried, I don’t think the peppers were included and I have a feeling that it was topped off with grated cheddar rather than parmesan cheese. My updated version uses fresh basil, which I always have available on the kitchen window sill and two diced peppers.  To serve I add freshly grated parmesan (I use Grano Padano rather than the more expensive Reggiano) and if unavailable then I substitute frozen grated parmesan from the freezer, but definitely not the dried powder in little boxes which is best left on the supermarket shelf!  For a spicier version substitute 1tbsp dried chilli peppers (or more for extra spice).  Piment d’Espelette from the French Basque country is regionally incorrect but still good, used in place of the basil.  This turns the recipe from Pasta Neapolitana into a fiery Pasta Arrabiata.

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Spaghetti Neapolitana
(Serves 3-4)

2tbsp olive oil
2 large onions
2 large cloves garlic
2 14oz/400g tins tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 large peppers (red or mixed colours, finely chopped)
2 large sprigs basil
1tsp vegetable stock powder (optional)
½tsp sugar
Salt & pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve
Basil to serve (reserved from above or additional)

2-3ozs/50-75g Spaghetti per person – I eat much less, say 1oz/25g

1.  Finely chop the onions, crush the garlic and fry gently in olive oil until transparent but not browned. 

2.  Chop the tinned tomatoes and add to the pan along with the tomato puree, stock powder (if using), most of the basil, sugar and diced peppers.  Season to taste. 

3.  Bring the tomato mixture to the boil and simmer gently in an uncovered pan until it has reduced to a thick sauce.  It is must better to simmer slowly so that the flavours can develop rather than reducing by boiling quickly.  (However, for a speedy meal, it is perfectly acceptable to cook this quickly as long as enough time is given for the ingredients to soften, although the flavours will not be as good.)

4.  While the tomato sauce is reducing, cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water with a little oil to help stop the strands from sticking together.  When cooked (the strands should still ‘give’ a little – al dente (from the Italian ‘with bite’) – rather than very soft.  Drain and rinse with boiling water before serving a pile of spaghetti on each plate with a ‘well’ in the middle for the sauce.

5.  Serve the sauce onto the spaghetti (another small pasta shape can be substituted). Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan and chopped or torn basil leaves.

Variation:
Spaghetti Arrabiata – replace basil with ½-1tsp dried chilli peppers or ½tsp chilli powder.  Garnish with parsley and grated parmesan.

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One of my favourite ways to entertain friends is to cook Indian style meals and often Makkhani Murghi is the main dish.  It has the advantage not only of being delicious but also being very simple, a definite bonus if you are making a number of other dishes to accompany it, as well as thinking about a suitable dessert course (and sometimes a starter as well).  It is a great way of transforming simply cooked Tandoori chicken with a rich buttery tomato sauce.

It comes from my much loved and much used book Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery.  In the book this recipe follows on from one for home-made Tandoori chicken.   When I entertain, I often make the Tandoori chicken from scratch the day before using Madhur Jaffrey’s original recipe which I have also added further down this page but, especially if I am just cooking the dish for day-to-day consumption, I pre-marinade the chicken in a mixture of the Tandoori Masala spice powder and yoghurt and oven bake for about 30minutes.  Both are versions which do not need the traditional Tandoor oven: not a common piece of kitchen equipment here in the UK!  I then follow Madhur’s original rich and calorie laden recipe for Makkhani Murghi fairly faithfully.  However, I also make a ‘cheats’ quick and less authentic everyday version of Makkhani Murghi by cutting some corners with the method and ingredients.  In the simpler version I usually use chicken thighs and I also use milk, or a mixture of milk and cream, which gives a thinner but quite satisfactory ‘everyday’ sauce and much less butter. (It is worth cooking this everyday sauce a little longer to reduce it so it is less thin.)  It is a much less rich, in fact, a different dish, but still tasty.  The original recipe uses ghee, which is clarified Indian butter, but  I successfully use ordinary salted butter.  Madhur Jaffrey recommends that the butter should be folded into the sauce at the last moment to prevent it separating.  I would recommend adding the fresh coriander at the last minute as well.  (See No. 5 below for serving and menu ideas.)

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Makkhani Murghi
Tandoori Chicken in a Butter Sauce
(Serves 4-6)

Tandoori chicken cut into 1-2inch (2.5-5cm) pieces from 2½lb (1kg 125g) skinned chicken pieces (legs or breasts – thighs for everyday meals)

4tbsp tomato paste
8fl ozs (225ml) water
1inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
10fl oz/300ml single cream (Elmlea low fat) – 5fl oz/150ml milk for everyday version
1tsp garam masala
½tsp salt
¼tsp sugar
1 small green chilli, seeded & very finely chopped
¼tsp cayenne pepper
4tsp lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
1tsp ground roasted cumin seeds (or a generous ½tsp cumin powder)
4oz/100g unsalted butter (I usually use about half this quantity so it is less oily)
1tbps chopped fresh coriander, more if you wish

If using Tandoori Masala spice mix marinade then the following should be added:
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1.  Gradually mix the tomato paste into the water, blending them well together.  To this tomato mixture add the ginger, cream and/or milk, garam masala, salt, sugar, green chilli, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and cumin and mix well.

2.  Melt the butter in a wide sauté pan. 
For Tandoori Masala marinaded chicken: Once the butter has melted  the onion and garlic should be fried gently until softened, then add the sauce and bring to a simmer.
For Tandoori chicken made from scratch: Once the butter has melted add the sauce and bring to a simmer. 

3.  Stir until the butter is well mixed into the sauce.  (Do not let the sauce boil, especially if you are using cream.)

4.  Add the pre-cooked chicken, but not any collected chicken juices which would thin the sauce. Mix in the fresh coriander. Stir until the meat is thoroughly heated through, which takes just a few minutes and serve.

5.  Put the chicken onto a serving dish.  The sauce should be spooned over.  Garnish with a little more fresh coriander if you wish.

5.  Serve with boiled rice, Onion Rice Pilaf (or similar) , naan breads or paratha roti , a vegetable side dish and poppadums.  When entertaining, along with poppadums and a rice or bread, I usually add some or all of these depending on the number of guests: a simple Masoor Dhal (Red Lentils) (or other bean or lentil dish), raita, vegetable curries and/or onion bhajis , lime pickle , mango chutney and a relish (often chopped tomato/onion/cucumber mix with a sprinkling of cayenne and fresh chopped coriander).  I add a substantial meat/fish free dish as well if I am catering for a vegetarian.

Tandoori Chicken – without a Tandoor Oven
(Serves 4-6)

1.25kg/2½lb skinned chicken pieces,legs and/or breasts or breast fillets
1 tsp salt
3tbsp lemon juice

To marinade
450ml/¾pt plain yoghurt
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2.5cm/1inch piece fresh root ginger, grated
1 green chilli, chopped – remove seeds for less heat
2tsp garam masala
lime or lemon wedges, to serve

Method
1. Cut the chicken legs into two pieces and breasts into four. Make two deep cross cut slits on the thick parts of each leg and breast.  The slits should not reach the edges and should be cut down to the bone. Spread the chicken pieces out on two large baking dishes. Sprinkle half the salt and half the lemon juice onto one side and rub in well.  Repeat for the second side with the remaining salt and lemon juice. Leave for 20 minutes.

2. For the marinade:
Blend the yoghurt, onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and garam masala until smooth using a blender or food processor.  If you wish, strain through a coarse sieve into a large bowl, pushing through as much liquid as you can, but I often omit this stage.

3. Put the chicken and the juices that have accumulated into the bowl with the marinade.  Rub the marinade well into the slits in the meat.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or a little longer if possible: 8-24 hours.

4.  Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature and put a shelf in the highest part of the oven where it is hottest. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and spread them out in a single layer on a large, shallow, baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until thoroughly cooked.

5.  Lift the chicken pieces out of their juices. Serve with lemon or lime wedges or use to make Makkhani Murghi, as above.

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Plain boiled rice is a usual and perfectly satisfactory accompaniment for Indian food but a Pilaf or Pilaff (or Pilau as it sometimes appears on menus) is so much better: fragrant rather than hot and especially good when entertaining.  This method is very simple and it combined well with the Makkhani Murghi (Tandoori Chicken in a Butter Sauce) it accompanied: a favourite chicken dish I often serve when entertaining.  I am sure I will be making this Pilaf rice regularly from now on. 

The original recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s book Feast: Food that Celebrates Life, which was one of my Christmas presents.  The original title is Pilaff for a Curry Banquet.  I always use my rice cooker when cooking rice but this time I followed the recipe method and made the pilaf on the stove top which was very simple and straightforward.  I am sure it could be easily adapted for a rice cooker, unless of course you are using this for plain boiled rice, as suggested in the original recipe as an alternative extra dish.   I have recently been watching repeats of the television programmes that accompany Keith Floyd’s book Floyd around India and took his advice to use red onions in Indian dishes as they are sweeter.  They also added a lovely pink hue to what could be a very white dish.  Rather than a tea towel, I used a clean square dish cloth to cover and help seal the pan as it seemed a better fit.  I suggest that this step is not left out as I think it does help to seal in the heat and moisture as the rice rests, stopping it from drying out.  I have also increased the onion and some of the spices a little as we like a more pronounced flavour.  We love Nigella seed (also called Kalonji, which can be bought in ethnic grocery shops and large supermarkets).  Our local Turkish bakery uses it, along with sesame seeds, on top of their bread and it is delicious!  The original recipe says it is optional, but do try to get it if at all possible.

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Rice Pilaf(Serves 8)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped (I used red onion)
2 cloves
4-6 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
½tsp whole cumin seeds
1tsp nigella (kalonji) seeds, (optional in the original recipe, but well worth including)
1lb 2ozs/500g basmati rice
1¾pints/1litre chicken (or vegetable) stock
2ozs/50g flaked almonds, toasted, to garnish
3tbsp chopped fresh coriander, to garnish

1.  Heat the oil in a deep saucepan and gently fry the onion, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, and nigella seeds for about 10 minutes or until the onion is soft and lightly browned.

2.  At this point the mixture could be transferred to a rice cooker and the method continued as follows:

3.  Stir the rice into the oily spiced onion until it is thoroughly covered. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Cover the pan with a lid and cook over the lowest heat possible for 20 minutes. (For rice cooker, use ‘cook’ setting until liquid has evaporated and the machine goes to the very low ‘keep’ setting.)

4.  Turn off the heat, take the lid off, cover with a tea towel and clamp the lid back on the saucepan.  With the rice cooker this can be done when it has reached the ‘keep’ setting. The rice can be rested like this for at least 10 minutes and up to about 1 hour, so it can be made a little ahead of time if entertaining.

5.  Just before serving, fork the rice through and scatter the toasted flaked almonds and chopped fresh coriander on top.  It is not necessary to remove the larger pieces of spice before serving, although you may prefer not to eat the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves.

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Crisp outside, spicy and soft inside, Onion Bhajis are delicious: fried onions with a twist.  When we visit an Indian restaurant it is not unusual for all of us to order them as a starter or to accompany the main course.  I have seen packets of ready mix in supermarkets and local ethnic shops, but I hadn’t realised just how easy they were to make until I found this recipe: simply spoonfuls of fried, spicy diced onion and chick pea (besan/gram) flour batter mixture. I shall definitely be making these now when I serve Indian style food to friends.

The recipe comes from a library book Curry: Easy Recipes for all your favourites by Sunil Vijayakar, which has a good selection of uncomplicated sounding recipes. It is better if the onion is chopped fairly finely (but not very finely) and the batter quite thick so that the mixture does not easily fall apart when being cooked. I also found that putting the mixture in the fridge to chill for a while helped them to hold together, a bit like Salt Fish Cakes. In fact the method is not dissimilar.  The original recipe calls for deep frying (in sunflower oil heated to 180oC for 1-2 minutes) but I found that they could be shallow fried just as easily, which is a (slightly) healthier option. Make them fairly close to serving to keep their crispness, but they could be kept warm for a short while. Serve either as a first course accompanied with Lime Pickle and/or Mango Chutney or as one of the vegetable options in a mixed Indian style menu.

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Onion Bhajis
(Makes about 16)

250g gram flour/besan/chick pea flour
1tsp chilli powder (mild/medium/hot, depending on taste
1tsp ground turmeric
1tbsp crushed coriander seeds
3 large onions, chopped fairly finely
6 curry leaves, fresh if possible
Sunflower oil for frying (deep or shallow)
Salt
Chopped fresh coriander to serve, if available.

1. Mix the gram flour, chilli powder, turmeric, coriander seeds and a pinch of salt together in a bowl.

2. Add water to make a thick batter, which will hold the onion together.

3. Stir in the onions and curry leaves. If necessary add a little more flour.

4. Form the mixture into balls, using a little flour on the hands and surface to stop them sticking too much. Put them in the fridge to chill for at least 10minutes.

5. Shallow fry in sunflower oil until golden brown.

6. Serve garnished with some chopped fresh coriander if available and Lime Pickle and/or Mango chutney for a first course.

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Sometimes it is good to eat Indian style food with a bread, such as Naan or this simple to make Paratha Roti, in place of the more usual rice.  If the meal has a sauce a bread makes it much easier to thoroughly mop up the plate, in any case.  It is important to think ahead slightly to allow enough time for the yeastless dough to rise.  Paratha roti can take a little practice to get absolutely right, but it is definitely worth persevering.

This recipe for Paratha Roti was featured in chef Gary Rhodes’ TV series Rhodes around the Caribbean, which I really enjoyed: learning about the islands, their history, culture and above all, their diverse foods.  Paratha Roti comes from the cuisine of Trindad, which enjoys spicy Indian style dishes, but would not be out of place at a meal on the Indian sub-continent where it would have originated.  The quantities given are for four circular roti, but I found them rather large.  On subsequent occasions I have halved the quantity and was still able to make four smaller circular roti: in fact I have used 200g flour and adjusted the other ingredients pro rata to make three roti, one each.  Certainly if this is one of many dishes then these smaller size breads would suffice, but if I was making the full quantity I would prefer to make them smaller and let diners choose how many they wanted.  They can be made in advance of a meal and kept warm for a short while, but not too long as they lose their soft, light, flaky texture.  A small paratha roti with a serving of Prawn & Tomato Korma makes a delicious light meal or a starter, especially when you are serving rice for the main course.

100_7989 Paratha Roti

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Paratha Roti
(Makes 4 large breads)

600g/1lb 5ozs plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1tsp Baking Powder
½tsp salt
400ml/14fl ozs water
10g/½oz Butter, melted, for brushing and cooking (use ghee if you wish, or vegetable oil)
1tsp vegetable or sunflower oil, aprox

1.  Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.  Make a well in the centre, pour in the water and mix well.  Knead well in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface until you have a smooth and fairly soft dough.  You may need to add a little more water or flour if the mixture is too dry or too sticky.

2. Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface to stop the dough from sticking. Divide the dough into four equally sized pieces (or one per person if you are adjusting the recipe). Roll each piece of dough into a round of about 15cm in size.

3. Brush the top surface of the circles with melted butter. Sprinkle with a little flour. Make a single cut from the centre to the edge of each circle.  Opening up the slit you have made start to roll, going around the circle, until you hae a cone shape with the point at the top. Place on a dish with the point of the cone at the top, press the point towards the centre of the paratha roti and flatten slightly. Leave to rest for 20 minutes. (I put them in the airing cupboard to aid rising.)

4. Sprinkle a little more flour onto the work surface and onto the rolling pin. Roll the dough cones into circles roughly 0.5cm thick.

5.  Using a medium heat and a large frying pan, melt together a little more butter and some vegetable oil, which helps prevent the butter from burning.  (If you have a baking stone, a tawah, then this can be greased and used.)  Cook one piece of the paratha for around 1 minute on the first side, until it starts to bubble up.

6. Turn over, lightly brush with a little more butter and cook for another minute.  There should be a few brown spots on the cooked paratha roti.  Remove paratha roti from the heat, place inside a clean tea towel and gently scrunch up to expose the layers inside the bread.  It can be broken up and served in pieces if you wish. Repeat with the remaining dough cones.

7.  Serve hot as a side dish with curries.

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Dhal, or Dal (or sometimes Dahl or Daal!), is simply the Indian word for lentils and this recipe is one the simplest I know.  It is one of the standard dishes I make as part of an Indian meal, whether alongside rice or a bread with a curry for the family or as part of a multi-dish meal for a group of friends.  It is quick and easy to make, warming and flavoursome without being hot.  I have listed it as spicy, but it does not have to be very: the heat and flavour being adjusted according to personal taste.

The original recipe for Masoor Dhal came from a book I bought many years ago in a shot that was selling remaindered books. India is just one country whose most popular foods and eating habits are explained and sampled in Cooking and Eating Around the World by Alison Burt.  The original recipe is called simply Dhal.  Just recently I have started to add a handful of fresh coriander towards the end of the cooking time, although it does not appear in the original recipe: mainly because we like it so much!  Such a lovely fresh flavour.  It is a particularly good idea to add fresh coriander to the Dhal if you are adding very little of it, or none at all, elsewhere on the menu.  The asaphoetida aids digestion, but can be left out if not available.  I have also given instructions below for turning this lentil side dish into a main course vegetarian dish.  This can be made earlier in the day and reheated, with the coriander added just before serving.

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Masoor Dhal – Red Lentil Dhal
(Serves 2-3 – if one dish among many then this quantity will serve 3-4)

15g butter
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
small clove garlic, crushed
115g/4ozs red lentils (masoor dhal)
½pint/10fl ozs/200ml water
½tsp salt
pinch of ground chilli – adjust according to personal taste
pinch of ground ginger – adjust according to personal taste
pinch of ground turmeric (haldi)
pinch of asafoetida (optional)
handful of chopped fresh coriander, reserving one leaf for decoration if you wish

1.  Heat the butter and oil together in a small saucepan and cook the onion and garlic gently together until soft but not browned.

2.  Pick the lentils over removing any stray stones or twigs, rinse and add to the pan along with the water and salt.

3.  Add the spices, which can be adjusted according to personal taste.  I prefer to keep this dish rather bland, tasting of onion rather than highly spiced as I find it complements the spicier dishes it accompanies.

4.  Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to very low.  Cook until soft and all the water has been absorbed.  This will take about 40minutes.  A little more water can be added if the misture starts to dry out before it is fully cooked.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  The finished dhal will be a thick puree.

5.  Just before serving stir through the fresh coriander, reserving one leaf for decoration.

6.  Serve as part of an Indian meal, with rice or an Indian bread and a meat, fish or vegetable curry plus a creamy yoghurt based raita and poppdoms (quickly cooked under a hot grill).

Vegetarian main course variation:
Vegetable Dhal with optional Egg and/or Tomato
Adding more vegetables at the same time as the spices will turn this dhal into a lentil based vegetable curry.  The amounts of spices can be adjusted to give a stronger flavour: in particular increasing the chilli and ginger powders to taste.  Added during the last 5-10 minutes, quartered fresh tomatoes are a particularly good addition and halved hard boiled eggs can also be added during the last five minutes of cooking, not long before the coriander.

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This is a lovely spicy citrus pickle to serve as a side dish with an Indian meal, whether part of an extensive Indian menu when entertaining friends or a midweek family meal.  It is especially good with tandoori style cooked meats and kebabs. So many of the lime pickles in the shops are very oily but this version is much less so.

This recipe was taken from a manufacturer’s booklet lent by a pickle making friend: Crosse & Blackwell/Sarsons Vinegar Perfect Pickles by Suzanne Janusz.  The limes in the original recipe are halved and finely sliced but they could be left as quarters or thickly sliced if you prefer.  Make in several small jars, so it can be opened freshly as needed. The full quantity of chilli makes a hot pickle but by using less the heat can be adjusted to taste.  The seeds contain a lot of the heat, so removing these and just using the green part will make a difference.  Served with poppadums alongside a dish of sweet mango pickle this would make a very simple starter or appetiser.

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Lime Pickle

45ml/3tbsp vegetable oil
15ml/1tbsp coriander seeds
15ml/1tbsp black mustard seeds
2.5ml/½tsp cumin seeds
2 fresh green chillis, finely sliced (reduce/increase according to taste)
1 large onion, finely sliced
15ml/1tbsp salt (original amount, but may be too much – see below. NB try 1tsp next time)
225g/8ozs sugar
60ml/4tbsp tomato puree
300ml/½pint distilled pickling malt vinegar
8 limes, halved & finely sliced

1.  Prepare all the ingredients before starting to make the pickle as they need to be added in quick succession.

2.  Heat the vegetable oil in a medium sized saucepan.  Put in the spices and fry them over a medium heat until they start to pop.  Do not overcook as they burn very quickly.

3.  Put in the chillis and onion, stir and cook for a minute.

4.  Add the remaining ingredients and gently simmer for about 30minutes, stirring occasionally until the lime pickle thickens.

5.  While the pickle is cooking wash and sterilise the jars.  I usually do this by filling them with boiling water and putting the lids in a separate small bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl without touching the inside and screw it on as soon as the jar is full.

5.  Pot the chutney into the prepared jars sealing while still hot.  Cool and label.  Store for a few days before using to let the flavours develop.

6 March 2010 – Note: The first batch of pickle was a half quantity and I was happy with it.  However the second batch I made was rather too salty so I have halved the salt content of the original recipe.  (I wonder if I might have misread the recipe the first time I made it, using 1tsp rather than 1tbsp.)  I rectified the problem by making a second half batch without salt, mixing it with the one that was too salty and re-potting.

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The spices used in this dish can be found across North Africa, well into Asia and beyond, so this is a dish which crosses cultures.   Add a little less liquid and some chicken or lamb plus pickled lemons and/or olives and/or dried fruit and the flavours easily make it North African or Middle Eastern style food.  If the liquid, apart from the tomato juice, was not added at all it would equally well be at home as a side dish at an Indian style meal. I expect, with further tweaking, it would also fit into other cultures.  Here, however, it is simply served as a warming and filling soup and is almost a meal in itself.

I am not sure why I had not seen this recipe before but it was brought to my attention by a post from LoubyLou, on the ‘Nigella’ forum, hunting for a long lost favourite Sarah Brown recipe (sadly the forum and all its useful shared information and forummers recipes are no longer in existence, at least in the same format).  I own four Sarah Brown books and I found what I think is the same recipe in the book Sainsbury’s Healthy Eating Cookbooks: Beans, Nuts & Lentils.  I just had to try it out and sure enough it was lovely.  We really liked the pronounced ginger flavour (I may have overdone it a bit) but it was a bit spicy for my daughter who added a little yoghurt and then loved it too.  The method below is almost as in the book, but halving the ginger which is actually, rather than the chilli powder, the main source of heat.  Double the amount below for a spicier soup.  It is always good to add fresh coriander if available, reserving a leaf or two to garnish.  I did feel the quantity was rather scant to serve 4 unless you only plan to serve a small bowlful: as a lunch dish it needs extending, possibly by doubling.  This is a chunky rather than smooth soup, with the chick peas as the largest pieces, so chop the onion finely.  The original recipe suggests using dried chick peas as an alternative: 3ozs (75g) dried peas yield around 6ozs (150g) cooked peas.  I find it easier to open a tin, especially as they have become so inexpensive to buy, but for those on a budget I am sure that dried peas would still be cheaper.

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Spiced Chick Pea & Tomato Soup
(Serves 3/4)

2tsp/10ml olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp/15ml ground almonds
2tsp/10ml garam masala
½tsp chilli powder
1tsp/5ml ground coriander
1tsp/5ml turmeric
½tsp/2.5ml grated fresh root ginger
14oz/400g tin of plum tomatoes, pureed
14oz/400g tin chick peas (see above for using dried peas)
½pint of vegetable stock, possibly a little more
Salt & pepper
A handful of chopped fresh coriander, if available, reserving a few leaves to garnish.
A spoonful of yoghurt (optional)

1.  Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion until soft, but do not let it brown.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook gently for a further 2 or 3 minutes.

2.  Mix the ground almonds and the spice powders with a little water to make a paste.  Add the paste to the onion/garlic/ginger mixture and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

3.  Stir in the finely chopped tomatoes, chick peas and stock.  If the chick peas are tinned in water then this can be added as part of the stock, even if it is slightly salted.  (The seasonings can be adjusted later.)  If using home cooked peas then the unsalted cooking liquid can be used as part of the stock.

4.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes to enable the flavours to develop.  Top up with a little more water as necessary.  Check seasoning and stir through all but the reserved fresh coriander just before serving.

5.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh coriander and serve with crusty bread or alternatively with soft or toasted pitta or a similar flat bread.

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