Archive for December, 2009

Baked beans with Nigerian seasonings

December 16, 2009

I finish work on Friday, and I’m counting down to the hour, if not the minute, the second, the millisecond. Anyone would think I wasn’t coming back again two weeks later – from where I stand, January is a foreign country. And I have now officially eaten my first turkey of the year, in the form of bacon-wrapped turkey escalopes at our annual Christmas lunch in the canteen today, so let the festivities begin! However, exciting as this all may be, a girl can’t eat party food all the time. And what’s less party like, in the nicest sense, than baked beans?

There are three recipes for baked beans in ‘World Vegetarian’: two Greek in origin, and this one, which I like because it has peanut butter in it.  Although I think I’ve probably made them all at one time or another, because you can’t go wrong with baked beans. Of course, this is not a substitute for opening a tin of beans for beans on toast (I like the Whole Earth ones for that), it’s an entirely different beast – not to say that you couldn’t pile these on toast. It will take several hours of your time, but it’s not actually very labour intensive, you just have to be around. It will make your kitchen nice and warm for you and you can potter off and do some yoga, or prepare nibbles for people coming over for Christmas drinks, or crack on with that Christmas baking.

Baked beans with Nigerian seasonings  Serves 4, with sides

I picked up a handy tip in the section of this book entitled ‘dried beans, dried peas, lentils and nuts’. That is, if you forget to soak your dried beans overnight, you can use the quick-soak method: put the beans in a pan, cover them with cold water (it should be 13cm deep if you want to be precise) and bring to the boil. Boil for two minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit for at least an hour, or as long as you have. You can then proceed with the recipe.

190g dried cannellini or haricot beans, or any other medium-sized white beans, soaked overnight or using the quick-soak method above
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, halved and finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp curry powder (any one you like)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
1 1/4 tsp salt
black pepper

Put the soaked beans in a pan with 1 1/2 pints water and bring to the boil. Partly cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are just tender.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a casserole dish – one that can go on the hob and in the oven – over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the curry powder. Now add the tomatoes and simmer for 7-10 minutes. Take off the heat until the beans are ready.

Preheat the oven to 170c.

When the beans are done, remove about 6 tbsp of their cooking liquid and mix it with the peanut butter in a small cup or bowl. Empty this into the casserole with the beans and any remaining cooking liquid. Stir in the salt and lots of black pepper. Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours – the recipe tells you to leave it uncovered, but mine dried out a bit, so bear this in mind depending on how much liquid was left in your beans.

Serve with bread, salads and cheese.

Adapted from ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian’.

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Risi e bisi

December 15, 2009

Week 3 of Madhur Jaffrey, and we move on to Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. This is one of the most battered and obviously loved books in my collection. I was given it as a Christmas gift about 5 years ago; way back then I’d probably never bought a cookery book and the few that I owned had been handed down by my dad when I went off to university, blithely unable to cook anything but macaroni cheese. Even though my shelves are now heaving with (too) many more books, this is probably still the one I’d pick to save from a burning building. Y’know, if I had to.

Despite the fact that I’m not a vegetarian anymore, I think I could be quite content living only off the recipes in this book (well, I might have to go to cafes for cake sometimes). There are a lot of them, for a start – this is a big book with no pictures or food philosophy mission statements, just reams and reams of information on how to prepare, cook and store all types of food except meat, and that last bit of the sentence isn’t meant to be flippant, because it really does (to me) make meat seem a bit superfluous.

I’m craving simple food at the moment – Christmas baking is providing enough over-ambition without it spilling into our mealtimes as well – so last night we had a chickpea, potato and carrot stew which did exactly what it said on the tin, and tonight this simple risotto, as risottos should be, I believe. Incidentally risotto was one of the things that followed swiftly after macaroni cheese and will always occupy the same comfort food territory for me. Plus, I just like saying the name ‘risi e bisi’.  

Risi e bisi (risotto with peas) Serves 4, if you’re Madhur Jaffrey, 2 if you’re us

Ideally this should be made with fresh peas, but I think it’s also perfect store cupboard food, assuming you keep risotto rice in your cupboard and peas in your freezer. Nice and frugal when you’ve spent all your money on Christmas gifts (or mammoth amounts of nuts and butter for Christmas baking).

1 litre light vegetable stock, seasoned (I use the Marigold bouillon stuff)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
250g frozen peas (or fresh, should you happen to have some)
200g risotto rice
45g parmesan, grated
15g butter (a large knob)
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley (optional – I didn’t have any)

Keep the stock hot in a pan over your lowest heat.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the onion for a minute (you’re asked to add the peas here too, but I didn’t want them to shrivel so added them at the end instead). Add the rice, stirring and frying for another minute. Pour in a generous ladleful of stock. Keep stirring the rice until all the stock has been absorbed. Keep adding stock one ladleful at a time, stirring, until all the stock has been used up. The rice should be just cooked (this will take about 25 minutes).

Add the peas and cook until the last of the stock is absorbed. Now, add the cheese and butter and stir in until they have melted and disappeared. You can taste for seasoning, but it shouldn’t need any. Sprinkle the parsley over the top, if using. Remove the risotto from the heat and let it sit for a minute or two before serving in warmed bowls.

Adapted from ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian’.

Easy kidney bean curry

December 13, 2009

When I opened this book, I was hoping for a particular recipe. My dad has been making a Madhur Jaffrey kidney bean curry for years which I love – he usually serves it alongside her lamb rogan josh and maybe an aubergine dish, with naan bread and poppadoms. We had it for boxing day lunch last year and it was just the thing, after a brisk morning walk, to feel your tastebuds come around from too much turkey and chocolate the day before. I’m not sure of the ingredients, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot of butter that gives it its soothing, healing feel. Which means I was pretty certain, when I found the one kidney bean curry listed in the Curry Bible, that it wasn’t it. I almost passed over it, thinking there were plenty more new things I wanted to try.

Then, one lunchtime, I was home with an old can of kidney beans in the cupboard and not much else. I cast my eye over the recipe and it looked pretty straightforward – with not much chopping, food could be on the table in half an hour. And, while it may not be The One, this is surprisingly pleasing – of course, it’s a bean curry, it’s not going to be wildy exciting, but there are enough spices in there to make you take notice, mentally add another couple of cans of kidney beans to your shopping list, and carry on with your lunch.

Easy kidney bean curry  Serves 3 as a side, 1-2 if that’s all there is

I’m calling this ‘easy’ because I used a can, rather than the soaked dried beans the recipe calls for. I never use dried beans as much as I’d like. In lieu of simmering liquid, I simply tipped the contents of the bean can into the pan, brine and all. I know this is a bit icky, but it reduces down to a sauce pretty nicely and you’ll forget where it came from.

There are quite a few spices in here, but if you like to cook Indian food with any regularity you’ll probably have most of them in your cupboard already. You could probably leave out one or two things if you’re lacking them, without any great detriment to the recipe. The idea is that it’s convenient.

1 can red kidney beans
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
a generous pinch asafetida
5 dried curry leaves (or 10 fresh, if you happen to have them)
1-2 medium tomatoes, grated, or half a tin of chopped tomatoes
a pinch of turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 green chilli, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Pour the oil into a pan and set over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafetida. As soon as the mustard seeds start to pop, which should be almost immediately, add the curry leaves and tomatoes. Stir once, then add the turmeric, coriander, cumin, chilli, garlic, ginger, sugar and salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Tip in the beans, liquid and all. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Ultimate Curry Bible’.

Kofta curry and naan bread

December 13, 2009

I’m not going to pretend that making your own naan bread is easy. This is one flatbread that’s easily as labour intensive as any risen loaf, the dough is difficult to work, you’ll end up with bits of it sticking to your fingers, flour on all your teatowels, and your boyfriend may just start to think you design your choice of evening meal with the express purpose of creating as much washing up as possible. And does it end up exactly like the naan you get in an Indian restaurant? Well, no, not exactly. It is curiously satisfying, nonetheless. My mum used to make naan bread in the bottom oven of the aga which was, also, not exactly authentic, but we loved it and my brother and I used to butter any leftovers for breakfast the next morning. What I’m trying to say is, naan or not, it tastes nice. Just be in a relaxed frame of mind before you start.

The kofta curry – yes, meatballs again – ended up playing second fiddle slightly, but it’s a good recipe. The meatballs are tender and juicy with a hit of spice more interesting than average and a slight hint of ginger. And they seemed to be none the worse for the fact that I accidentally used garam masala instead of cumin – in fact, I quite liked it. We also ate a cauliflower bhaji which almost managed to make me enjoy cauliflower.

All in all, not the most true to its origins of meals, but I declare it a success.

Naan bread  Makes 8

A word on butter: Madhur Jaffrey calls for 265g altogether, but I probably used about half that. I’m not sure how you could use as much as this, even if you were extremely liberal with your smearing, but I suspect that the more you manage to work on, the more restaurant-like they will be. Or you could just keep the leftover butter for next day’s breakfast.

620g strong white bread flour (I’d say you’ll need a bit more than this)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp yoghurt
250ml milk
1 egg
15g melted butter, plus 225g butter or 25oml oil for assorted other uses
250ml water
2 tbsp oil
about 1/2 tsp nigella seeds, also called kalonji or black onion seeds
about 2 tsp sesame seeds

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl.

Put the sugar and yoghurt into a separate, large, mixing bowl and beat with either an electric whisk or a wooden spoon. Add the milk and water and continue to beat. Now gradually and thoroughly beat in about 255g of the flour (100 strokes if you are using a wooden spoon). Add the egg and the 15g melted butter and continue to beat. Slowly add another 255g flour, continuing to beat until the dough is difficult to move the whisk through. Remove the whisk (if using) and add enough of the remaining flour with a wooden spoon to make a soft, sticky dough. I ended up tipping quite a bit more flour in until it was just about possible to handle it, although it was still very sticky – I’m not sure if this was the desired texture or something was up with my dough.

Oil your hands (this makes the dough stick to your hands less) and briefly knead the dough on a floured work surface. Divide it into 8 balls and place them on a generously floured baking sheet (you might need two). Press each ball with an oiled palm to flatten it slightly and cover the trays with cling film. Set them aside for at least 30 minutes – they may now be refrigerated for up to 48 hours.

When ready to go, put a large, cast-iron frying pan on a medium-high heat and set the grill to hot (I had mine on its highest setting). Make sure your shelf is about 13cm from the source of the heat.

Take the first naan and place it onto a floured work surface. Dip your hands in the melted butter or oil and press down on it, enlarging it with your fingers and making it into the traditional tear shape. This is where the instructions begin to get delightfully precise, in true Jaffrey style. The shape should be 23cm long and 13cm at its widest. Dab more melted butter on top and sprinkle with some of each of the seeds. Press down in the centre, leaving an unpressed border of around 2 1/2 cm. Lift up the naan with both hands and stretch it to about 30cm long and 18cm wide, then slap it into the frying pan. This was too much to ask of my dough, which was still a sticky mess, so I settled for approximating the right shape and dumping it in the pan. Cook for 1 minute and 15 seconds on the first side, moving the naan around after the first 30 seconds so it develops an even browning on the base. Dab with more butter and put the whole pan under the grill for 1 minute. There should be reddish-brown spots appearing on the surface. Remove the pan and keep the naan warm in a teatowel while you make the rest in the same way. I found the method of working the next naan into shape while the previous one was under the grill worked for me.

If you’re not going to eat all the bread at once, wrap any left over in foil and keep refrigerated. You can reheat the foil bundle in a medium-hot oven for about 15 minutes, or if you have a microwave, one naan can be reheated by sprinkling it lightly with water and blasting for a minute or two.

Kofta curry  Serves 6

For the meatballs:
675g minced beef or lamb
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, crushed
7 1/2cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp cayenne pepper
4 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
pepper

For the sauce:
7 1/2cm piece ginger, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1-2 green chillies, deseeded and sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tsp salt
1.2 litres beef stock or water (this seems to be a recurring problem with me and Madhur Jaffrey recipes – I thought this was too much liquid as it never really seemed to be reduced or thickened. Go with it if you like a lot of juice)
2 sticks cinnamon
4 black cardamom pods (I didn’t have any black, so used green)
2 bay leaves
5 cloves
10 peppercorns
Small piece of muslin, or toe of old (but clean) pair of tights

Put the meat in a bowl and add all the remaining meatball ingredients. Mix well with your hands and roll into meatballs about 4cm in diameter. Return to the bowl, or place on a plate. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight (oops! Forgot to read this step. I refrigerated them for about 30 minutes, they were fine).

Put the ginger, garlic, green chillies and 4 tbsp water in a blender. Blend into a smooth paste.

Pour the oil into a wide, lidded pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes, or until starting to brown. Add the ginger-garlic-chilli paste and fry for about one minute. Put two tablespoons of water in the blender, swish it around, pour this into the pan and add the tomatoes. Fry and stir until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the tomato puree and stir for a minute. Add the coriander, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Stir for a minute. Add the stock or water and bring to the boil.

Tie up the cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns in the muslin and drop it into the sauce. When the sauce is boiling, cover it, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. Add the meatballs to the pan, spooning the sauce over them, and continue to simmer for 40 minutes, stirring to turn the meatballs every so often. Remember to discard the muslin bag before serving, but squeeze the juices from it first.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Ultimate Curry Bible’.

Hard-boiled eggs in a red lentil curry sauce

December 12, 2009

Moving onto the second Madhur Jaffrey in my collection, ‘The Ultimate Curry Bible’. One or two people who know about this little project questioned how we’d cope eating curry for a week, but the range of food encompassed by the heading ‘curry’ is, as this book ably demonstrates, vast. There’s a fair bit of overlap with last week’s book, ‘Far Eastern Cookery’, with thai curries, noodle soups and kebabs all making a thorough appearance. Speaking from experience, this is really not the kind of food you can get sick of in a week.

The book begins with an essay on the history of curry, in which Jaffrey explains how Indian spices and techniques spread across the globe (mainly via colonialists exploiting Indian people for cheap labour and shipping them to various parts of their empire). This evolutionary process is honoured in the recipes, which include British curry sauce and chicken tikka masala – no judgement here about whether a dish is or isn’t authentic.

This egg dish struck me as the perfect way to use up some discounted eggs that were near their best before date, and indeed it was. I’ve often put hard-boiled eggs atop a dal I’ve made to make it a more substantial dinner, and this isn’t too different to that, but the two kinds of pulses give it a bit of textural interest, and, well, I just love this sort of food. Soupy and warming and nourishing and a perfect dinner as the tornado of christmas food threatens to rise up and claim you. I made some chapatis to go with it, which I think were a bit too floury, and a carrot-sultana raita, also from the book,  also very good.

Hard-boiled eggs in a red lentil curry sauce  Serves 2

I’ve halved the original recipe here, which served 4-6. You may also want to know that the recipe notes it’s ‘generally served with rice, chutneys and relishes’.

1 dried, hot red chilli (use more if you actually want it to be spicy – certain people around here don’t)
100g red lentils
45g chana dal or yellow split peas
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3cm-ish chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 onion, finely sliced
1 medium tomato, grated on the largest holes of the grater (discard the skin that remains in your hand)
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
a little cayenne pepper or paprika for garnishing
lemon wedges for serving

Soak the chilli(es) in 2 tbsp boiling water for about an hour.

Combine the lentils and chana dal/split peas and wash them in several changes of water. Drain and put in a medium sized lidded pan. Add the turmeric and 450ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover with a lid and cook for about 1 hour, or until soft (you may need to add more water if it starts to boil dry before it’s done). Add the salt and stir to mix.

Put the chilli(es), their soaking liquid, the garlic and the ginger into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the oil into a medium frying pan and set on a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the onion and fry until the slices are slightly crisp. Add the garlic-ginger-chilli paste. Stir and fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the tomato. Stir for a further 3-4 minutes. Then empty the contents of the frying pan into the lentil pan. Add about 300ml water (you may want to use less, say 150ml – I think I wanted it thicker than the recipe intended, which is ‘the consistency of flowing double cream’ and ending up simmering off most of this. It depends what consistency you want) and stir to mix. Bring to a simmer and simmer on a low heat for a minute or two while you prepare the dishes.

To serve, place the halved eggs, cut side up, in a single layer in a warmed, large shallow dish. Pour the sauce over the eggs but leave them just visible. Garnish with a light sprinkling of cayenne pepper or paprika and serve with lemon wedges.

Carrot-sultana raita  Serves 4-6

4 tbsp sultanas
350ml natural yoghurt
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds (dry-roast in a frying pan until darkened and fragrant)
black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you want it)
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated

Soak the sultanas in boiling water for as long as you have (the recipe says 3 hours, but I think I only left them in for about 30 minutes). Drain.

Lightly beat the yoghurt in a bowl until creamy and smooth. Add the salt, sugar, roasted cumin, black pepper and cayenne pepper and stir to mix. Add the carrots and sultanas and mix again. This will keep, covered, in the fridge for a couple of days, although the yoghurt may start to separate slightly.

Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Ultimate Curry Bible’.

Crab spring rolls

December 4, 2009

I urge you to make these – they are far tastier than the little beansprouty things you get with takeaway and, appropriately enough as December is upon us, I reckon they’d make a great little festive canape. Yes, they are a wee bit fiddly – we didn’t eat until 9 last night, but probably only because I insisted on making a vegetable accompaniment that involved peeling and grating coconut. And it was OK, I had a glass of wine and I could watch the debacle that is this year’s The Restaurant contestants out of the corner of my eye, and you sort of get into a rhythm and it’s all very satisfying.

Strictly speaking there should have been pork in these too, which I’m sure would be delicious, but I like to keep my meat consumption low and didn’t want to buy a lot of mince for the small amount required. I swapped the white crab meat asked for for the stronger tasting (and cheaper!) brown meat and swapped the pork for small cubes of tofu. I think the ingredients are really very open to interpretation.

And yes, I know mine aren’t the prettiest spring rolls around, but I don’t think anyone’s going to complain. Especially not if they have a glass of something refreshing in the other hand.

Crab spring rolls   Makes approx. 16

I used filo pastry here, which is not very authentic, but does allow you to bake them in the oven rather than deep frying for a lighter, crispier result. If you want to use spring roll wrappers, you should first make a caramel water (warm 3 tbsp sugar until starting to caramelise, then pour in 150ml warm water, mix, and add 150ml boiling water off the heat). Brush each rice paper with this until pliable before filling the rolls, then deep fry them in one layer.

2 tbsp dried black fungus (Jaffrey says if you cannot obtain this, up the number of Chinese mushrooms to 14)
8 dried Chinese mushrooms
15g cellophane noodles
1 spring onion
40g (about half a medium sized) onion
100g tofu, chopped
100g brown crab meat (Waitrose stocks the ‘seafood and eat it’ brand, which is hand-picked sustainable crabmeat in pots)
1/4 tsp salt
pepper
1 egg
oil
1 head of lettuce
1 large bunch of mint leaves
1 packet of filo pastry (6 large sheets, or 270g), or rice paper spring roll wrappers

For the dipping sauce (to serve 4):
1 clove garlic
4 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
3-4 fresh red or green chillies

Soak the black fungus and/or dried mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes, then lift out and chop finely, cutting off any hard bits. Soak the noodles for 15-30 minutes in hot water and then chop into 1 cm lengths.

Finely chop the spring onion. Peel the onion and chop it finely. In a mixing bowl combine the tofu, crab, black fungus, mushrooms, noodles, spring onion, onion, salt, pepper and egg, and mix well.

Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves. Wash the mint and separate into small sprigs.

To make the dipping sauce, peel and crush the garlic and combine it with all of the other ingredients except for the chillies. Cut the chillies crossways into very thin rounds and add to the sauce.

If using filo, preheat the oven to 200c. To assemble the spring rolls, have 2 large damp cloths handy. Lay one on your worksurface and unwrap the filo pastry, laying it onto the cloth. Carefully separate the top 2 sheets and put them aside. Cover the rest of the sheets with the other damp cloth, and lay the first separated sheet on top of that. Brush it with oil, being fairly liberal, but there’s no need to cover it completely. Lay the second separated sheet on top of that and brush with more oil. Now, take a sharp knife and divide the pastry into squares about 10cm x 10cm (if you’re using the 6 sheet 270g pack that’s 9 squares). Scoop out a heaped teaspoon of the filling mixture and place it in the first square, near the centre but closer to the corner nearest you. Spread the filling out slightly into a sausage shape. Fold that corner nearest you over the filling, then draw the two vertical sides one on top of the other over the folded over corner (is this making sense?) You should now be able to roll it away from you into a cylindrical shape, securing the far end with a little more oil. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and proceed with the rest of the sheets until you run out of filling or pastry.

Bake the spring rolls for about 20 minutes, until golden and crisp. To serve, arrange the lettuce and mint leaves on a plate and set out a bowl of dipping sauce (or more, depending on how many of you there are). The idea is that you pick up a spring roll, wrap it in a lettuce leaf with a few mint leaves and dip it into the sauce.

Adapted from ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery’.

Meatball soup (wanja kuk)

December 4, 2009

This caught my eye immediately as I was flicking through ‘Far Eastern Cookery’, deciding what to make this week. Thank god it turned out well, because I’d had a run of bad meals: a prawn tom yum that was quite inedible, like drinking bitter washing up liquid, on Monday night (I don’t blame Madhur Jaffrey for that – I blame a packet of tom yum soup stock from the local Wing Yip). On Tuesday night, a BBQ steak wrap from Sainsbury’s bolted down before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played the Brixton Academy. Ugh. It was the only sandwich I could find without mayo. At least the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were good, and you don’t even want to know how much time I spent the following day dancing around my kitchen to ‘Zero’.

So, anyway – meatballs. I love meatballs, and sausages, and minced meat in most forms, much to the chagrin of my parents as I grew up reluctant to eat meat in any other form (see aforementioned ‘vegetarian phase’). I’m proud to say that I can now eat proper meat (with bones!) without my bottom lip wobbling, but I still love meatballs. These meatballs are from a Korean recipe which features the unusual addition of tofu – about half and half tofu and beef minced together. This has the effect of making them perfectly light, and, as you don’t have to use as much meat, it’s a good way of making it stretch. It’s also pretty much the only way I’m going to expect Tom to eat tofu. And he couldn’t guess what the ‘secret ingredient’ was, so make these for other tofu-sceptics with impunity.

The meatballs are assembled quickly enough, simmered in stock fragranced delicately with ginger and spring onions, and then you’re free to eat them however you like. The recipe notes that in Korea it would traditionally be served as part of a selection of main dishes, but Madhur eats it alone with a green salad. I ladled mine over a mound of short grain brown rice. Tom had noodles (of course).

Meatball soup (wanja kuk)  Serves 4

150-175g bean curd
2 cloves garlic
4 spring onions
225g lean minced beef
1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce (shoyu)
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
2 pints/1.1 litres chicken, beef or pork stock
1 cm cube ginger
salt
65g plain flour
1 egg

Put the beancurd in a clean cloth and squeeze out as much moisture as you can, then tip the beancurd into a mixing bowl and mash it with a fork. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Cut 2 of the spring onions crossways into very fine rounds, reserving the other 2 for the stock.

Add the garlic and sliced spring onions to the bowl with the beancurd and then add the beef mince, soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Mix well and roll into about 20 meatballs – about the size of a walnut (I only managed 18).

Put the stock in a large pan. Cut the remaining spring onions into 5 cm lengths. Peel the ginger and cut it into thin slices. Add the ginger and spring onions to the stock and bring it to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes. Salt the stock to your taste and keep it at a simmer.

Meanwhile, put the flour onto a plate and beat the egg lightly in a bowl. Roll each meatball first in the flour and then the egg and then drop into the simmering soup. You should try to make sure there isn’t too much loose flour on the meatballs as it will turn into a paste when it meets the soup – it doesn’t really matter, but doesn’t look too attractive, as I discovered. Simmer the meatballs for about 5 minutes and then serve the soup however you wish.

From ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery’.

J is for Jaffrey

December 2, 2009

I have three Madhur Jaffrey books in my collection, because I love her. She’s precise, but not in a finicky Delia sort of way, her recipes are always accompanied by interesting and informative notes, and they always turn out well. First up is ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery’, a BBC book published to accompany a TV series. My copy was once owned by someone called Barbara Deane. It was first published in 1989, a whole 20 years ago, when you couldn’t find sushi rice or kaffir lime leaves in your local Tesco – pity the poor, ingredient-impoverished inhabitants of 1989.

To today’s reader, the translated recipe titles are sometimes more unusual sounding than the original (fermented bean paste soup with bean curd? Oh, you mean miso), but the book is nevertheless a pretty useful guide: there’s an ingredients glossary and even photos of the ingredients so you can identify them, a techniques section which talks you through cleaning squid and deboning chicken legs, and detailed introductions to the countries featured. It’s fairly ambitious in scope, covering Hong Kong, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and Japan, but all the favourites are there: pho, yakitori, tom yum, thai green curry, as well as lots of other tasty sounding things which are, apparently, Madhur’s own favourites. And I trust her.

I leave you with this quote from a satisfied Amazon customer: “As a Far Eastern, I have tried to be especially critical of this book. It took me awhile to write the review because I wanted to be ABSOLUTELY certain that I left no stone unturned. But the plain fact of the matter is : I just cannot find anything wrong with this book.”