When I was in India last year (Chennai – previously known as Madras) I had a cheap Chettinad chicken dish on my last night from a take-away restaurant in a local non touristy area (aka Koli Milagu Masala = Chettinad Pepper Chicken). The guesthouse owners got it for me as it was not deemed safe to wonder around that particular area near the airport (for my early flight back to Sri Lanka) as a white woman alone after dark. Happy to be waited on and enjoying a couple of beers from the fridge in the reception area downstairs I relaxed until my food arrived. I had not expected much, having enjoyed the food on offer in 4* establishments in the city and after surveying the urban, dirty, market area where I was to spend my last night.
I was in for a surprise.
Not only was the portion enormous so great value for money regardless of taste but when I did taste it I was blown away. Not just by the spice of the dish (if you don’t like pepper or chilies I’m afraid this food is not for you) but it was delicious and the flavours wonderfully balanced. It was easily one of the best curries I have ever had, and I have had a few. I had it with naan bread and finished the lot!
I have since been on the look out for a good recipe that does not involve too much work as the original-style recipes I found all involve the grinding of spices yourself – you will need a spice grinder and blender for this recipe. Below is one of the best I have found so far.
This spicy chicken recipe is adapted from one in Madhur Jaffrey’s classic Flavors of India (West 175 Publishing, 1995). It is flavoured with fennel seeds, curry leaves, and urad dal, the skinned split black lentils that are a popular ingredient in southern India. It serves four.
- 6 tbsp oil (I use olive but only because that is my preference)
For the Spice Paste:
- 1 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 8-10 dried hot red chillies, broken into halves
- 3 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 tsp white poppy seeds
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cm or 1 1/2 in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 -2tsp salt.
You also need:
- 3 Indian or normal bay leaves
- 5 cardamom pods
- 2.5cm or 1in cinnamon stick, broken
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 1/2 tsp urad dal (the skinned split black lentils), rinsed, soaked 30 minutes, and drained
- 15-20 fresh curry leaves, if available (or frozen)
- 2 medium-sized onions (175g or 6oz), peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large (or 2 small) tomato(es), chopped
- one 1kg/2 1/4 lb chicken, skinned and cut into smallish serving pieces (breast halves into 3 and legs into drumsticks and thighs)
- Some chopped coriander leaves (for garnish).
- Make the spice paste: In a small frying-pan, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over a medium- high heat. When hot add the cumin seeds, chillies, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns and poppy seeds. Stir and fry briefly until lightly roasted. Now put these into a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Empty into the container of an electric blender. Put the garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt into the blender as well, along with 6-8 tbsp of water. Process until you have a fine paste and then set aside.
- Heat the remaining 5 tbsp oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves and urad dal. Stir and fry briefly until the urad dal turns red, then add the curry leaves if using. Stir once or twice and add the onions. Fry the onions until they are soft and just lightly coloured. Now add the spice paste. Continue to stir and fry for about 4-6 minutes, adding a little water to prevent sticking. Add the tomato. Stir and fry for a further 3-4 minutes.
- Add the chicken pieces to the onion and spice mixture. Stir until they are well coated, then add 600ml/1pt/2 cups of cups water, just enough to cover. Bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is almost cooked, about 20-25 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces. Turn the heat up to medium- high, and reduce the sauce until very thick. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Replace the chicken, fold gently into the sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes before serving.
Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with rice, naan, paratha or idly appams.
Chettinad Pepper Chicken – courtesy of Ingalls Photography
Well there is a little history behind this dish, dating back to when I was in my young 20’s (so yup 20 years ago – oh it pains me to say that ha ha). I had recently at that time been introduced to Turkey (the country not the animal 😉 ) by my Dad and absolutely loved the place and the food.
At that time I was at University in London and really learning how to cook and doing it surprisingly well (a skill learnt from my wonderful Mother). One dish I perfected at that time was kofte in tomato sauce (little beef or lamb mince balls in tomato sauce (always beef for me as I don’t eat lamb but I believe it is commonly cooked with lamb in Turkey)) sometimes topped with cheese and finished off under the grill or in an oven). Heaven on earth with chunks of fresh Turkish bread or baguettes and fresh tangy lemony salad and of course lashings of red wine.
So a year or so later I made this dish for my Mum and her other half, Marco (who are in case you wondering are still blissfully happy) and they loved it. However rather than put my original recipe here I’m going to give it some Sri Lankan flavour. Neither Mum or or her other half being too disposed to chilies I will tone it down – for you fire enthusiasts you can turn it up. Always remember a recipe is merely a guide. How you make it is the special result….and if it tastes like shit – don’t give up – keep trying, experiment, taste it…ALWAYS taste it.
FOR MY BEAUTIFUL MOTHER – SRI LANKAN MEATBALL CURRY (I promise it’s not too hot x)
Ingredients (for 2 or 3):
- 500 gr of the best minced beef/lamb (not too much fat in the meat – this will make the gravy oily)
- 2 eggs (to bind the meat balls)
- breadcrumbs (now this can be from old bread or the dried supermarket variety – your preference…it is merely to bind the meat balls together with the eggs. A small handful is usually enough. (A friend just told me a handful of couscous works just as well)
- 1 large onion or 2 small onions chopped extremely finely
- 2 cloves of extremely fine chopped garlic
- 1 tbsp of oregano
- 1 tbsp of cumin powder (I prefer more but we are toning this down remember)
- 1/2 tbsp of chili powder (or less – I prefer more but we are toning this down remember)
- 1 tbsp of turmeric (“kurkuma” in Dutch mum) (this is essential for the Sri Lankan taste – do not mess around here, if anything add more – I would add one table spoon for 500 gr usually)
- A pinch of curry powder – again – up to personal taste (NOT roasted…just plain old curry powder will do; home-made, shop-bought – just get the required taste in there. You can add fresh curry leaves too if available or if not maybe a bay leaf or two.
- Salt and pepper as per your own taste
- Mix ALL of the above.
- Roll into meatballs about about 2 or 3 cm in diameter. You can chill these on a plate whilst you prepare the sauce.
Ingredients for the sauce.gravy:
- 25 gr onion (oh that sounds daft – 2 or 3 small onions chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves; finely chopped
- 2 ginger, fresh; finely chopped
- 25 ml oil
- 1 curry leaf sprig (not necessary if already used in meat mixture unless desired)
- 1/2 large chopped lemon grass stem (known as pandan in Sri Lanka) – I use lots more but that is a personal thing…
- 1/4 tbsp fenugreek
- Half a pint (@500ml) of coconut milk (fresh is best, but if you’re lazy like me Maggi powder comes a close second). In Europe just buy a can.
- 1 tbsp chili powder or flakes (reduce if you are chili-phobic)
NOW THESE ARE OPTIONAL
- More turmeric although I prefer it in the meat not the gravy but both are tasty so add a little.
- A touch more curry powder (unroasted) – when I say a touch I mean a little
- Chili powder to taste (can be omitted – see phobia thing above)
- Fry some onions and a tomato until soft and add to the gravy.
NOW! You can either fry the meatballs first in oil or simply add them to the warm (well – hot) curry sauce and let them boil until done (20 minutes on a slow simmer is fine). Healthier and actually tastier. Too much oil always gives me heartburn so I am a bit biased here.
This is not a blow-your-head-off dish – it’s tasty and you can adjust the spices as you wish. When I was ill a few weeks ago I couldn’t tolerate anything hot (and this is from a girl who used to lap up lunu miris), I like this dish with fresh bread or a good rice like basmati. Do try and explore for yourself – it’s very tasty.
Sri Lankan Meatball Curry
The above was made with chicken mince and a bit more chili then recommended above. Just experiment – that’s all the fun!
I have had a hard few weeks (sorry I don’t normally start a blog with “I” but you will hopefully get it as you read on).
So, I’m going to get the moaning out of the way first and get onto the stuff that inspires me….food…yeppers and alcohol; double (shot) yeppers.
Ah it’s nothing drastic, it’s just frustration at living in a country where things are done however and whenever one pleases. An example, we were at a reputable Colombo lunch restaurant recently and ordered two beers which arrived promptly. My other half asked for an ashtray (I quit 6 months and 2 days ago 🙂 – funny how one remembers inane dates like that and then forgets your best mates birthday). The ashtray arrived when our drinks were finished….errrr kind of defeats the object. He was too shy to light up and put the cigarette out on the floor because it’s a rather posh place. We declined the lunch menu because of that and went to the Colombo City Hotel which has the best chicken sandwiches at around 70 rups. No booze but plenty of other establishments around.
Another point of irritation – you get a tuk tuk from the World Trade Centre to the Galle/Matara bus stand – most ask for 250 rups. Find a metered tuk tuk and it will cost you 100, and usually the drivers are much friendlier too.
ANYWAY – I was going to complain about the new banking regulations about receiving foreign currency into a rupee account but I feel better at having vented the above so I’ll give that a miss.
So let me lighten up and share with you one of the BESTESTS comfort foods ever:
Indian Chicken Burger
This is quite possibly my favourite burger in the world (although I am partial to Burger King but don’t go spreading that around). McDonalds are bearable only when enormously hungover and KFC zingers used to be ok until they started under cooking the meat and it was actually still bloody – yuk. Don’t let that put you off. This is a stunner.
- 400g chicken mince (breast can be difficult to manage when minced so ask for a mix)
- 2 or 3 ginger pieces, very finely chopped
- 3 or 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
- 2 onions – one finely chopped for the burgers, one sliced into rings (for serving)
- as much coriander as you can stomach 😉 I use one large handful finely chopped including the stalks
- Big tbsp of salt
- 1 tsp garam masala
- bread crumbs – fresh – about 1 slice
- 1 or 2 eggs
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp lime or lemon juice
- 1/2 green chilies (optional), chopped & de-seeded
- vegetable oil
- Mix everything together except onion rings, rest the mix for 10/15 minutes in the fridge.
- Mould burgers into 4 patties
- Fry slowly in vegetable oil until slightly browned and fully cooked.
- Mix some mayonnaise with fresh coriander leaves, lemon, salt and pepper.
- Toast burger buns if wished
- Spread with mayo mix, sliced tomatoes, onions and lettuce, top with hot burger and add more mayo mix or ketchup if preferred. Or even some cheese – nom nom.
Oh and as for the drink. Beer (lager works best for me). If you’re not a fan…a nice glass of white would do the trick too….but no Chardonnay please 🙂 – that would be an insult to the dish. A softer Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio would work much better. If you are a red drinker you can’t go wrong with a good Merlot or Cabernet (possibly better). May be a touch heavy but it will offset the coriander. If you’re into the harder stuff…I’m afraid only a Margerita or Caipirinha would be acceptable.
This is for my friends and blog commenters who have asked me why I have been avoiding the Olympics in my blog. Well…
- I have been too busy watching the Olympics on TV to blog much
- Two – not all of the sports interest me unless they involve great athletic prowess, a huge record breaking headline, controversy (doping scandals etc.) or Holland (who are 10th by the way in the medal rankings in case you were wondering 😉 ). Sri Lanka…well lets not even go there.
- I’m feeling very poor after my trip to Bangkok and have been working my backside off.
Anyway back to the subject at hand.
The first modern-day Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, with 241 athletes (all male) from 14 nations competing in 9 sports with 43 events. Volleyball wasn’t one of them.
Athens hosted its second Summer Games in 2004, this time with 10,625 athletes (4,329 women and 6,296 men) from 201 nations competing in 28 sports with 301 events – including volleyball and beach volleyball. All that progress deserves a tasty Greek treat.
This dish can be prepared with lamb, chicken and pork although the recipe below is best with either lamb or pork. I don’t actually eat lamb so I make it with pork or chicken but some prefer lamb for the better depth of meaty flavour.
Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki:
For the souvlaki
- 1 kilo boneless pork or lamb (e.g. leg fillet or steaks. I use pork loin)
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp rigani, or dried oregano
- 150ml/5fl oz extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 onion, grated or very finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves, roughly torn (if not available omit these)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the tzatziki
- ½ cucumber, peeled and finely diced
- 1 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 150g/5oz thick Greek-style yoghurt (I think you could safely substitute curd here)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
- Cut the pork or lamb into 2cm/¾in cubes, trimming off any gristle or other unwanted fat.
- Mix all the remaining souvlaki ingredients and then pour over the meat.
- Turn so that all the pieces are coated, then cover and leave to marinate for at least two hours, but preferably nearer to 24 hours, in a cool place (or fridge).
- To make the tzatziki, spread the cucumber dice out in a colander or sieve, and sprinkle over the vinegar and a little salt.
- Leave to drain for one hour, then pat dry with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel.
- Mix with the rest of the tzatziki ingredients, then taste and adjust seasoning. Serve either lightly chilled or at room temperature.
- Back to the souvlaki. Soak wooden skewers in cold water for an hour or two, and then thread the meat on the skewers. Don’t push the cubes right up against each other, but leave a minuscule gap between each pair, just enough space for the heat to curl round every cube, cooking it evenly.
- Preheat either the barbecue or grill or an oiled griddle pan (place over a high heat for about 3-5 minutes), then cook the kebabs close to the heat, or on the griddle pan, turning and brushing occasionally with the leftover marinade, until they are crusty and brown.
Olympic Souvlaki with Tzatziki
Serve sizzling hot, with a wedge of lemon, the tzatziki and warm crispy pitta breads.
Ok, ok I have a weakness for KFC. Zinger burgers are pretty tasty (although I hate the KFC chips – greasy, sloppy & anaemic – gah). Yes I know it’s crap fast food and unhealthy so I’ve been trying out some new healthier and spicier variations at home and one of these turned out very nicely so I’m letting you in on the recipe.
The Sri Lankan bit arose from me trying to give traditional fried chicken a little bit more of an ethnic zing. The healthier bit is simply by baking the chicken pieces in the oven instead of deep-frying them. You can still get lovely crispy edges by using the flour, egg, and bread crumb method…
Healthy Oven Fried Chicken with a Sri Lankan Twist:
Ingredients (serves 2 to 4 people):
- 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (wings, drumsticks, thighs, breasts)
For the marinade:
- 2 cups milk or plain yogurt or curd (I am using “cups” here not because I like the American way of listing ingredients, just because the measurements need not be exact!)
- 2 cups water
- 2 tsps roasted curry powder
- 1 tbsp salt (or 3 to 4 tbsps of soya sauce)
- 1 tbsp black pepper (freshly crushed pepper corns taste best)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
For the breading:
- 1 cup wheat flour (see note above about “cups”)
- 1 tsp unroasted curry powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Place the chicken parts in the bowl. If the liquid does not cover the chicken, add more water. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours (or longer).
- After chicken has marinated for 2 hours, set up 3 large soup plates side-by-side.
- Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
- In the first plate, mix together the flour, curry powder, and ground cumin.
- In the second plate, beat together the two eggs, salt, garlic powder, and olive oil.
- In the third plate, put in the bread crumbs.
- Take one chicken piece out of the marinade, submerge it in the flour mixture to coat. Next, dunk it in the egg mixture, and finally dredge it in the bread crumbs until completely covered. Place in a oven proof pan. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
- Bake at 200 degrees celcius for 35 to 40 minutes, or until chicken is nicely browned AND CRISPY!
Healthy Oven Fried Sri Lankan Chicken
You can serve this as a main meal with rice and salad or simply as a snack with some chilli sauce. Enjoy.
I have just come back from my first ever trip to Bangkok. It was short but fun and boy was the food good. So to start blogging again I first wanted to share two dishes with you that made my trip all the more memorable!
The first I tried in a good Thai restaurant and it was gorgeous and so refreshing so I promptly looked up the recipe online. I hope this version will taste as good.
Thai Green Mango Salad (Som Tum Mamuang)
This dish is a lovely refreshing adaptation of a more widely known version made with papaya.
- 2 tbsp. small dried shrimp (easily available in Sri Lanka, elsewhere you should be able to buy them from Asian grocers)
- 8 red Thai chillies, stemmed, seeded, and julienned
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1⁄2 shallot, minced
- 3 small, green unripe mangoes (about 1 1⁄2 lbs.), peeled and julienned
- 18 green beans, trimmed and cut into 2″ lengths
- 14 small (grape) tomatoes, halved
- 3 tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 4 tsp. palm sugar or brown sugar (or crushed jaggery in Sri Lanka)
- 2 tbsp. roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
- Using a mortar and pestle, pound shrimp until coarsely ground; transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- Place the chillies, garlic, and shallots in the mortar and pound until bruised. Working in three batches, add mangoes and pound, using a spoon to combine, until softened slightly, 2–3 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
- Add green beans and tomatoes to mortar and lightly pound them to extract juices; stir in fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Transfer to bowl with mango mixture. Toss to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with crushed dried shrimp and peanuts.
Thai Green Mango Salad. Credit: Todd Coleman
The second dish I tried at a street stall and it was so good I ordered seconds. There were hundreds of these stalls all around the area where I was staying. So cheap, popular with the locals (always a good sign) and not only were these pork satays delicious, they also smelled divine.
Muu Satay (Thai Pork Satay)
Coconut milk imbues this pork satay dish with a subtle sweetness.
Ingredients for around 10 skewers
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 3 tbsp. chopped lemongrass
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil
- 1 tbsp. chopped galangal (blue ginger)
- 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar (or crushed jaggery in Sri Lanka)
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 12 oz. pork loin, cut into 1″-wide, 1/4″-thick slices
- Puree 1/2 cup coconut milk, lemongrass, oil, galangal, sugar, turmeric, coriander, salt, cumin, and cayenne in a food processor. Toss paste and pork in a bowl; chill 4 hours.
- Make a hot charcoal fire in a grill or barbeque. Pour remaining coconut milk into a bowl and stir (helps to homogenize the coconut milk). Thread 3 slices pork each on 10 skewers (the skewers can be immersed in water beforehand to stop them burning if you wish), spoon coconut milk onto meat, and grill, turning, until charred, about 7 minutes.
Thai Pork Satay. Credit: Todd Coleman
The pork satay can be eaten as a snack with Thai Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce or with sticky white rice, peanut sauce and a Thai cucumber relish.
ขอให้เจริญอาหาร! (kŏr hâi jà-rern aa-hăan!) – Bon appetit in Thai 🙂
I am honestly scared to support anybody now in the Euro 2012 Championship. I’m a jinx; every team I support loses. Ireland were kicked out yesterday and Holland are only hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
Most people expect me to support England now… and perhaps I will but not publicly on this blog (only maybe if they reach the final) so today a recipe which is pretty neutral. When Germany next plays I will post a German recipe for sure 😉
Today’s football treat is steak bites with a bloody mary dipping sauce and here is how you make them:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup vodka
- 2 tbsps Worcestershire sauce (the only English ingredient!!)
- 2 tsps chilli sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 rounded tbsp prepared horseradish (is this English??! Gulp)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 1/3 pounds beef sirloin cut into largish bite-sized pieces, 1 by 2 inches
- 1 tbsp good quality butter
- Steak seasoning blend or coarse salt and black pepper
- 6 to 8 inch bamboo skewers
Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and onions and fry for 5 minutes. Add vodka and reduce by 1/2. Add Worcestershire sauce, chilli sauce, ketchup and horseradish. Stir to mix the dipping sauce and let it softly boil. Add salt and pepper to adjust seasonings.
Heat a frying pan over high heat. add butter until it starts foaming. Season steak with steak seasoning blend or salt and pepper, to taste. Cook the meat until caramelized all over, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer dipping sauce to a small dish and place at the center of a serving platter. Surround the dip with meat bites and place several bamboo or skewers along side the meat.
Steak bites with Bloody Mary sauce
Enjoy and good luck whoever you are supporting today!!