Wednesday 5 October 2011

An Indian Affair

I know I have been a bit Indian obsessed at the moment.  Maybe it was due to our unexpected little Indian Summer which was such a welcome surprise after a lousy, cold rainy summer.  I really did loose it though and suggested cooking an Indian themed feast for 70 in a local church hall.  It was for Riverford Organic and when they listed the produce that was most seasonal and was best right now to show - butternut squash, sweet potatoes, red peppers, aubergines, cauliflowers, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers - it just seemed fitting that this hint of coming autumn, would like a bit of warming spice. 

Anyway, due to a woefully ill-equipped church hall kitchen, not everything on the menu went entirely according to plan.  There were highs, possibly the Aloo Gobi and definitely the cardamom spiced rice pudding with ginger pears; and there were lows.  The onion bhaji and mixed vegetable pakoras which had been such a success in my trial runs were a positive disaster.  The huge vat of oil that I had erected on the stove, refused point plank to ever rise in temperature above a dismally 130 degrees.  For a crispy and light result I was aiming for around 200 degrees but it was not to be.  However, lets put that in the past and concentrate on the highs. 

The rice pudding is a combination of a classic recipe by the wonderful Simon Hopkinson and a recipe for Kheer, which is an Indian version of the same dish but spiced with cardamom and saffron and served with chopped almonds or pistachios.  It conjured up such a homely, warm and comforting image.  I made a batch and I couldn't wait to serve it to my kids.  I imaged physically and mentally nourishing them; so wrapped in love and soothed that nothing in the outside world could possible ever hurt them again.  They hated it!  My daughter literally spat it out.  My son tried to pretend he liked it just because he could see the total disappointment on my face.  But I could see he was lying.  Never mind.  I thought it was delicious. The image of soggy onion bhajis dissolved into a distant past, so I ate the whole damn lot.  Had I not have, it would have been equally delicious cold, the next day.

Aloo Gobi

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1-2 small green chilli, chopped
Fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Fresh garlic, very finely chopped
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoon salt or to taste
2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into even small bite size pieces
1 large cauliflower, broken or cut into large bite size florets
1 bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook until they become creamy, golden, and translucent. Add the mustard seeds, cumin,  turmeric and salt. Continue to fry for a minute or two more but do not burn. Add chopped chillis (according to taste). Add ginger and garlic; mix thoroughly. Cook a few minutes more. Add potatoes plus a few tablespoons of water and stir well to ensure that they are coated with the curry sauce. Cover and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Keep checking and stirring every now and then so that it does not catch and burn.  Add a little more water each time if necessary. When the potatoes are about half cooked, add the cauliflower, stir well and cover again.  Leave for a further 10 minutes of so until the potatoes and cauliflower are cooked.  Stir in the cardamom and coriander and adjust seasoning.  Try not to stir to much at this stage so as to keep the texture.  Allow to sit for a while to allow flavours to infuse.

Saffron and Cardamom Rice pudding

I have to admit that I really don’t like the skin that is formed when baking, which is probably Simon Hopkinson’s favourite bit, but it is not mine, so I have adapted this recipe to cook on the stove instead. This is delicious served cold.
40g/1½oz butter

100g/3½fl oz pudding rice (or Spanish paella rice)
75g/2½oz caster sugar
1 litre/1¾ pints full-fat milk
150ml/5fl oz double cream
Pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract or ½ vanilla pod, split lengthways
Pinch of Saffron
2 teaspoons of ground green cardamom
Large handful of chopped Pistachios

Melt the butter in a heavy-based casserole dish over a medium heat. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Continue stirring until the rice swells and becomes sticky with sugar. Pour in the milk and keep stirring until no lumps remain. Add the cream and vanilla, salt, cardamom and saffron. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Once this is reached turn the heat right down and simmer gently until the mixture is reduced to about half. Turn off the heat. As the mixture cools it will become thicker in texture. Serve with pistachios sprinkled on top. Serve warm or chilled.

1 comment:

  1. I love the sound of that rice pudding. It looks so creamy too!


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