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March 31, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 10:39 pm

ambul thiyal, dahl, kiribath 

I often wonder  what it is that makes a certain cuisine popular across the world. For example, why has Chinese food taken off in almost every country whereas say, Carribean cuisine, which in my opinion just as good or maybe even better, only seen in a few places where there are large communities of immigrants? 

Sri Lankan cuisine is like this too. Who here has heard of string hoppers, kothu roti or lunu miris? Not many of you I imagine. Despite the cosmopolitan nature of modern Britain, the cuisine has remained almost completely unknown. I wonder what has made it this way. It can’t be the use of chilli and spice.  Maybe it’s the way they (by our standards) overcook some things or the fact that dark brown sauces aren’t all that attractive? 

Perhaps that is a question for the people with proper culinary training. What I really want to talk about is ambul thiyal. This is a very popular dish of a fish steak (usually an oily fish like kingfish) in a sour curry sauce. Sri Lanka has a great selection of delicious fish. However on the rare occasions I’m there, eating the curried fish makes me cringe. It’s  frequently over-salted and overcooked, sometimes it is also overspiced. Living in London, a place where this beautiful oily fish is so expensive to buy, I hate seeing it put to waste.

In spite of this  I DO like the flavours in Sri Lankan curries and for a while I’ve had a craving for ambul thiyal.  I was wondering if there was any way I could take this traditional dish and alter it to really take advantage of it’s main ingredient and make it more acceptable to a British palate like mine.

I had two juicy swordfish steaks from Borough that would be perfect for this experiment. Many recipes for ambul thiyal suggest using tuna. I disagree. I think the sourness of the sauce wouldn’t really complement the flavour of the tuna (although, since tuna loses some of it’s flavour when overcooked, it is fine for the dish after about ten minutes in the pan). Swordfish or marlin, which work so well with a tangy hollandaise,  would be much better choices.

Traditional recipes call for pieces of fish to be boiled with a  variety of spices (including cinnamon, fennel seed and curry leaves) in water, tamarind and vinegar until you have a thick gravy and very well done fish. I say bugger that. Especially since my swordfish had set me back £10 for half a kilo. My plan was to marinate the fish well, make the curry sauce separately and then pan fry until it was just pink in the center and moist and juicy all the way through.

Into my fish marinade went 1 large clove of crushed garlic, a tablespoon of  grated ginger, a little grated lemon zest, a teaspoon of ground fennel and  half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon all mixed together with enough chilli oil to coat the fish. I scored the fish all over then coated it with the marinade and left it for about 90 minutes, turning it every fifteen minutes or so.

The sauce was made by frying a small minced onion gently in vegetable oil with a couple of chopped birds eye chillies, fennel seed, crushed black peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, thin slices of lemon zest, curry leaves, ginger and crushed garlic. When the onion was soft I added 500ml of fish stock and let it boil. When it had reduced by half, I tasted it and decided it needed something. I added some ground coriander and ground fennel. When most of the liquid had boiled away, I took half a tablespoon of tamarind paste and mixed it with water and added that to the curry. Then I added white wine vinegar a little at a time until I was happy with the flavour. I let the mixture reduce to a thick gravy, tasted again, and added more pepper.

At this point I took the sauce off the heat and cooked my swordfish steaks on a high heat for two minutes a side. Finally I poured the sauce over the fish and let it sit at room temperature until I finished off my kiribath accompaniment and some green beans with dahl.

ambul thiyal

Well, I don’t know what my Dad would say to this. Probably something like “this fish is raw,” which it wasn’t. Unfortunately Dad doesn’t know there’s an intermediate stage between raw and charcoal. I bet Mum would have liked it though. 

The ambul thiyal gravy certainly tasted very similar to the authentic version. I think my addition of ground coriander worked well. I get the feeling that, without it, the sauce would be a bit ‘thin’ on flavour. The ground fennel was also a good idea. The flavour from the whole seeds was a touch too subtle. In this version of the dish, I think the fish stock is essential, as the curry sauce isn’t actually cooked with the fish steaks and hence gains no flavour from them.

The ambul thiyal certainly worked well for me. Goon said he liked it but he said he thinks swordfish is better with hollandaise, even though he’s not sure he’s ever had hollandaise. Someone figure that one out for me.  :roll: I do prefer swordfish with hollandaise. But a change  every now and again is good and this curry certainly complemented the fish well. Experiment succesful. :D

March 30, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:43 pm

Shellfish on Squid ink pasta

I was VERY excited when I found a pack of this pasta. In fact, I think I terrified the guy running the stall with my enthusiasm.  But, how could I not be happy? I love squid and I love pasta so it was pretty obvious I was going to like this. Also the wonderful colour would let me play with the presentation and make a really dramatic looking dish.

Oddly, after my initial burst of excitement I found myself totally stuck on what to do with this strange looking ingredient. I’d heard that the squid flavour was quite prominent,  so it would have to be paired with fish. I thought about getting some red mullet for a while, but never found any. :(  Then, the next week, I spontaneously decided to buy some little clams at Borough. They would be perfect although, at their price, I couldn’t afford enough for two whole portions.

I also had a vague memory of reading about a dish with clams, pernod and tomato. The sound of anise with shellfish sounded really good to me, although I wasn’t really taken by the tomato idea. I preferred the idea of a creme fraiche based sauce with lemon, pernod and maybe some ground anise.I also had half a fennel bulb in the fridge, which was starting to look quite sad, so that would have to go in too. I decided to go the whole hog then and throw in fennel seed.

I chopped and sauteed the fennel with some onion, fennel seed and garlic until it was tender, then added creme fraiche, the grated zest of a lemon, a touch of ground anise and a generous splash of pernod. I let this bubble down a little then used it to cook my clams. Finally I stirred in some fresh king prawns (to bulk out the dish) and let them cook.

At the end I was happy with the flavour and the consistency of the sauce. What I wasn’t happy about was the colour. The pernod had given the sauce a really disturbing yellow-green colour which was not at all attractive. There was no way in hell I was going to have a squid ink spaghetti dish that didn’t show off the fantastic colour of the pasta.

My solution was to layer the sauce with the pasta. I put down a clump of spaghetti strands, spread them out, topped them with a few clams and prawns, then drizzled over some sauce. I repeated this, finishing with a layer of pasta and a couple of prawns and clams, so that the sauce was completely hidden.

Goon and I totally loved this. The pasta, despite looking like a bunch of black worms when it was cooking, tasted really good with the lemon oil I dressed it in. On it’s own it smelled and tasted very much like seaweed. The anise flavour was very prominent but was delicate enough to balance the seafood without overpowering it.  The only problem with the dish was that I managed to overcook the prawns a little. Silly me :roll: .

This dish looked so good garnished with lemon and with a colourful salad of rocket and cherry tomoatoes. I’m going to keep it in mind for entertaining my more adventurous friends or maybe even scaring my parents.

I recently was made aware of a blogging event that is entirely devoted to pasta. It’s called Presto Pasta Night and it is run by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast. I feel silly for having entered before since I really do love pasta, but this seems as good a time as any to join in. Check out all the entries here.

March 29, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 3:42 pm

I don’t often post about the quick midweek meals I make, even though in recent weeks there have been a fair number of them. But Goon insists I post this one because he absolutely loved it and, in his words, “It’s not as mental as some of [my] other recipes so people might want to try it.”  :roll: I don’t know which way to take that.

Pork with stilton and cider

This recipe was loosely based around something I found in a Reader’s Digest recipe book, ‘Great British Cooking- the Healthy Way’.  Needless to say mine was not all that healthy and, to make it worse, I accompanied it with mash. This was a great way to try pork fillet, which neither of us had eaten before, for the first time.

You will need…

  • 400-450g of pork fillet, cut into inch thick rounds,
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 100g of stilton, chopped into tiny bits
  • 50ml double cream,
  • 50ml of a good quality cider, 
  • a splash of dry white wine,
  • about 12 rosemary leaves, finely chopped 
  • about 100-150ml of chicken stock.
  • the obvious salt, pepper and butter to fry
  • Lots of fluffy mash to serve plus some veg (in our case strips of celery, green beans and carrot cooked until still mildly crunchy)

What to do…

Take the rounds of pork fillet, use your hand to press them to roughly an even thickness, season and set aside. Fry the onion and the chopped rosemary leaves gently in a little  butter until the onion is soft. Add the stock, cider and wine and then add the stilton a little at a time and allow it to melt in. Add the cream and let the mixture bubble down until it is thick.  Add seasoning to taste (and maybe more cheese if you’re that way inclined.)  Then fry the pork collops in batches for about 3 minutes per side. You want the pork to still be juicy. Toss the pork in the sauce and serve, garnished with more rosemary with the mash and veg.

As I say, Goon REALLY liked this. I think mash really was the best accompaniment to this dish. Who can resist mashed potato mixed with stilton sauce?

March 26, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 5:57 pm

fajita type thing 

Despite all the trouble I get from Goon, he does have his uses. For a start he wrote the anti-spam device for the comments box. Also, I think that spending time in his company is very good practice for when (if) I decide to have children of my own.

Goon has been working a lot recently. Sometimes he only comes back at 10pm, by which time I’ve cooked dinner so he doesn’t get to help much. He’s been saying that he misses helping me cook. I don’t understand why!  I generally reserve the tedious sous-chef jobs for him. But, since he managed a day off this week, I designed something that would be fun for him to cook and eat.

For a start, the dish would have to be one pot since Goon doesn’t like washing up. Secondly, it would have to involve something high fat, preferably cheese. Thirdly the vegetables would have to be hidden since Goon sometimes tries to avoid undisguised veg.

Fajitas immediately sprung to mind. I had a pack of Brindisa chorizo picante in my fridge that was crying out to be used in this. I decided to stew it with pinto beans, sweet potato and pancetta as well as the obligatory peppers, tomatoes and onions.

After deciding my plan of action and getting hold of the ingredients I didn’t already have, I went to fetch Goon and immediately started to wish I’d hidden my food more securely. Goon had somehow found my duck paté and was munching it straight from the pack.

With a bit of effort I wrestled the paté off him and gave him a choice of jobs. He chose to peel and  dice a sweet potato while I dealt with the herbs and onion for the fajita filling. As I was peeling the onion, I felt something wet cold and slimy hit me on the back of my neck.With trepidation, I turned around. Another wet and slimy object hit me in the face.

These projectiles were in fact sweet potato peel. Goon was playing a game that involved him flicking them across the kitchen and trying to hit the opposite wall. He would have been quite successful had I not been in the way! :roll:  

After that, Goon started to behave himself. All the jobs from then on were just sautéeing, stirring and tasting so he managed it mostly by himself. The only distraction happened when Goon got in an argument with his flatmate about the virtues of microwaving Tesco Value sausages.

NON COOKING FLATMATE:Of course I can microwave them.
GOON: No! They burn on the inside!
FLATMATE: What do you mean ‘burn on the inside’?
GOON: The insides go black and the outside stays raw.  It’s happened to me before!

The flatmate didn’t seem to believe Goon’s warning and, to be honest, neither did I. Goon grumbled and went back to cooking.This dish really is Goon-proof food. After a bit of initial sauteéing of vegetables it’s a case of throwing things into a pan, simmering and then adjusting seasoning.

Just sautée 1 medium finely diced onion with 2 minced garlic cloves,  3 chopped birds eye chillis and half a tablespoon of oregano, cayenne and paprika until the onion is soft. Then throw in a peeled, diced sweet potato and a chopped red pepper and sautee for a couple of minutes.  Then take 6 links of chopped fresh chorizo picante, 100g of pancetta and add that to the mix. When it is cooked, throw in a drained can of pinto beans, a can of chopped tomatoes, another half tablespoon each of the spices and enough beef stock to let it simmer for thirty minutes or so to give the flavours a little time to develop. When you think it is looking nearly ready (the mxture should be fairly thick), add tabasco to taste and then adjust seasoning for the other spices, salt and pepper. You may want to add tomato puree for extra tomato flavour .

At the end just stir through a couple of handfuls of chopped coriander leaf.

This made  A LOT. Enough for 4 people, which was great because, like all stews, it tasted even better the next day and provided Goon with a substantial lunch.

chorizo and pinto bean chilli

We had the stew in tortilla flatbreads with sour cream, grated cheddar and mixed leaves.

torilla- ready to roll

Try as I might, I couldn’t get Goon to eat the salad. Instead he replaced it with cream.


sour cream

Would you like some meat with your sour cream, Goon? :roll:

As we finishe dinner, I heard the front door open. A second later there was an eruption of frantic screaming and swearing in the corridor. What the hell was going on? I opened the lounge door and in came a great plume of smoke. 

Goon mumbled something and ran towards the kitchen. I followed, panicking that I’d left the hobs on.

But no. Instead it turns out Goon had tried a little experiment to prove to the no-cook flatmate  that sausages really do burn on the inside when you microwave them. Goon had put two sausages in the microwave on full power for twenty minutes.

You know what? They DID burn on the inside. AND the outside. In fact, it’s a bloody miracle the kitchen wasn’t on fire. Goon binned the two sausage shaped pieces of charcoal and then ran to hide in his room. Everyone else started opening windows. The whole flat still stinks of smoke.

So the moral of the story is, if you have a small child, or a Goon, cooking with them can be fun. Just don’t  leave them unattended with a pack of sausages and a microwave.

Well, something like that anyway.


March 21, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:12 pm

rare duck breast with lavender honey sauce, new potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli 

I wasn’t expecting to do another flower entry for WHB quite so soon after my Rosey Lamb, but inspiration struck me on Saturday.

That night I was due to be out late watching a production of Arcadia and I needed a reasonably quick dinner on arrival back home, preferably with the duck breasts in my fridge which needed using a.s.a.p . However, I was quite determined to not return to my fruit sauce rut. Also we had to grab a chinese on the way home the previous night so that cooking style wasn’t allowed.  I turned to the internet for inspiration.

It seems that Trig has a rather useful search engine that allows you to search food blogs. It’s there at the end of his side-bar.  Apparently it originally belonged to Elise at ‘Simply Recipes’ and as soon as I have time I’ll be trying to grab a copy for this site. It was this search engine that led me to this post at Chocolate and Zucchini.

Of course! Why hadn’t I thought of putting lavender with duck before? It seems obvious now. I didn’t want mine to have quite as much spice as Clothilde’s on this occasion. I wanted it to stay very light and floral, just because that was the mood I was in.

So, as I frequently do on occasions like this, I ran over to my spice cupboard, got out all the spices that Clothilde suggested plus any others I thought might work and started tasting. The interesting thing I noticed was that a small amount of ground coriander on its own tastes quite floral and not very curry-ish (if you know what I mean). I thought a pinch of it with the lavender rubbed into the duck would be good but I decided to omit the suggested cumin because that really did taste ’spicy.’

Before leaving for the play, I got Goon to grind some lavender for me. We coated the scored meat side of the duck with this and just a pinch of ground coriander seed. Then we wrapped the duck up in cling film and went out.

When we got back I got Goon to grind another tablespoon of lavender while I very gently infused some melted butter with a sprig of rosemary. I removed the rosemary,  then drizzled in about four tablespoons of  honey. I thinned the mixture gradually with just a tiny bit of chicken stock while stirring and tasting until I thought it was at the right level of sweetness. Finally I added the lavender bit by bit until the flavour balance was right and we had a sweet floral sauce.  At this point I decided it needed some depth so another pinch of ground coriander went in and then I was happy. I had to use a bit of cornstarch to get it to the right consistency, but never mind.

As usual I pan fried my duck. I find the best way to do this is to first remove the white tendon on the breast. This will stop the meat shrinking and seems to stop it becoming tough too. Then score the skin almost through to the meat and cook it skin side down on a reasonably high heat for 10-12 minutes (or a very high heat for 8) then turn up the heat on the hob to maximum and fry it for an additional 1 minute 45 seconds skin side up. This makes the duck a nice rare/medium. 

One thing to note is that too much lavender will make the sauce bitter. I had to rebalance my sauce by adding more honey and stock when I found this out and as a result ended up with too much sauce. As long as you aren’t a moron like me and add the lavender slowly, and taste regularly, it shouldn’t be a problem. 

It was a great success! The coriander, used sparingly, added depth and accentuated the floral flavours in the sauce but gave no detectable ’spicy’ flavour. The honey and lavender sauce was unusual but gorgeous. Goon gobbled it up very quickly. I decided to slow down and savour. The flavours in this sauce are too interesting to rush.

The only thing that disappointed me about this dish was that I wanted the sauce to be actually be lavender, rather than the caramel colour that it was. Even the few pieces of lavender I threw around as a garnish didn’t really stand out as being purple. :(  I somehow think I can’t overcome this problem without the addition of food colouring, which would just be silly. 

Anyway, Goon seemed to enjoy the sauce even more than me. We had our lavender-honey duck with new potatoes tossed in herby butter and simple steamed purple sprouting broccoli, so at least there was some purple on our plates! 

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging this week hosted by Kate at Thyme For Cooking.

Remember, if you’re going to get lavender for cooking make sure that is safe to eat first. Just ask the vendor if it unsprayed. For those of you in London, you can get dried culinary lavender from ‘Herbs from Heaven’ at Borough Market.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:11 pm

After our last experiment in wild boar, I was keen to try and find a different cut of the meat which had all the flavour of the steaks  but none of the dryness. Slow cooked spare rib chops seemed to be the way to go and I was pleasantly suprised to find these were a third of the price of the steaks and only cost £3.20 for two reasonably sized chops at Borough Market.

I intended to braise them in a sauce slowly for two hours to get them tender. The problem was which sauce to use. I knew the orange, juniper and red wine combination had worked well before but I wanted to experiment more with the flavours of this meat before I started repeating old ideas.

When I’m trying out a new ingredient for the first time, I usually turn to the internet for guidance. Unfortunately the problem with ‘unusual’ foods is that not many people have tried them and good recipes are few and far between. Even something like wild boar, which has been eaten for centuries yields few useful results simply because it isn’t all that popular now.

The only recipe that caught my eye, one for boar chops with mustard, honey and apricot was a broken link :roll: . Well, at least I had an idea of what to try. I sent Goon out shopping for some apricot jam, dijon mustard and accompaniments for our meal.

I made a mixture of about 25% dijon mustard, 25% wholegrain mustard and 50% apricot jam.  On tasting this I decided it was sweet enough without any honey, so I just put the chops in a baking dish with some rosemary then poured over the glaze. The chops went in the oven for two hours at gas mark 3 while I made some potatoes dauphinoise.

It seems we found exactly what we were looking for in these chops. The meat melted in the mouth but had just as much flavour as the steaks. I’m really confused as to why these were cheaper than the steaks, which were verging on chewy even when tenderised and lightly cooked. Could it just be the extra cooking time?

The only thing that went wrong for this dish was the presentation. Thinking carefully about the visual aesthetics as well as the flavours, I decided that red cabbage with juniper would be the best accompaniment. I instructed Goon to get either this, savoy cabbage or another green vegetable of his choice if he couldn’t find any. Goon came back with white cabbage. So both accompaniments to this dish were rather pallid and the plate as a whole was not very photo worthy.

But here is a picture of the cooked glazed chop anyway.  

mustard and apricot glazed wild boar chop

March 18, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 8:20 pm

A cancelled tutorial has allowed me to make the first of my backlog of posts! 

Next in the series on skin-stuffed poultry we have this.

spicy poussin

Seriously, since I made this guinea fowl with chorizo stuffed skin I have not wanted to cook my birds any other way. I next tried this technique on poussin with sliced chestnut mushrooms and ham. Then on duck, simply stuffing the skin with garlic and herbs and scoring it before roasting. That was the best duck skin I ever had!

This addition to the collection was a bit of a late night rush. I was feeling uninspired and so decided to call Goon to see if he wanted something in particular for dinner. Goon went silent for a minute and then said “uhhh….chicken.” And that was it. How helpful.

So I went for a wander around Tesco. I considered buying a whole chicken and doing something with the rest of it for lunch, but then remembered there was no more room in the fridge for ay more leftovers. I thought about chicken breasts, but ran away screaming at the price. Why on earth does it cost the same to buy two breasts as it does a whole chicken!?

Eventually, after about half an hour of umming and erring I picked up two poussins on the basis that the minimal leftovers could go straight in a pot  with the carcasses for stock. Poussins are great like that! I still didn’t know what the hell to do with them but I thought a bit of improvisation wouldn’t go amiss.

All I knew was that I was going to put something under the skin. But what? I opened my cupboad in the vague hope of finding some inspiration. Instead what I found was irritation as an open bag of couscous fell out and spilled a fair bit of its contents over the kitchen floor. Curses!

After the arduous job of sweeping the floor was over, I examined the leftover couscous. Just enough for two portions was left. I thought that had to be a sign and it was decided tha tonight’s poussin would have a Moroccan theme. 

Another inspection of my cupboard revealed a half used pot of harissa paste which would be my skin stuffing. I also added some thinly sliced sautéed garlic and then put half an onion into the cavity of each bird.

As the poussins roasted I whipped up a sauce by blending the flesh of roasted red pepper  with smoked paprika and some cream. I also made a couscous accompaniment with aubergine, fennel, coriander and pine nuts.

And that was it! This meal was really simple and suprisingly good. 

The flavour of the meat was absolutely phenomenal. The poussin breasts had totally taken on the flavour of the harissa and were spicy and gorgeously garlicky. The skin didn’t crisp all over as it had on previous ocasions, but just on the wings and legs where the larger pieces of garlic had gone  The only thing I wasn’t totally happy with was the red pepper sauce. It was good in itself but it was different to the other components of the meal . Goon liked it because it balanced the heat of the poussin but I think I should have made it less creamy.

So this improvisation with poussin was very successful and, to make things even better, we have a base for rich meaty poussin soup. I think that will be used to make tomorrow’s lunch. The question is, what soup to make?  

March 16, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:55 pm

It appears that over the last two weeks my blog neglect has become a lot worse. There is one main reason for this. Just over a fortnight ago my supervisor asked me when the next draft of my thesis would be ready. I told him I’d have it done by Monday 12th.


This was a totally unrealistic date because

  1. I had quite a lot left to do
  2. That week was the show week for Imperial College’s MTsoc, who put on a superb production of Batboy (partly blogged here by the very talented director) and I ended up on front of house selling tickets and cashing up for a few nights, resulting in pretty much zero free evening time and very little sleep.

So now I’m hurrying to finish before Prof Liebeck realises my work is almost a week overdue. I have during this time discovered some interesting things.

Firstly the last 5 pages of a thesis take twice as long to write as the first 90.

Secondly, Red Bull really does give you wings. Sadly those wings tend to disappear half way through your flight and leave you hurtling towards the ground at astonishing speed.

And finally, my cooking never stops. I have three dishes I want to share with you as soon as I have the chance.

On a positive note I just discovered my paper is now out so I am technically a published mathematician. \o/ I would crack open some bubbly to celebrate but I don’t have any bloody time!

Right, time to get back to work. Check back here next week when I’ll hopefully have some posts on some tasty chorizo tortillas, a spicy moroccan poussin and some sticky wild boar ribs. And I might even get round to replying to your comments then.

March 15, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 3:28 pm

This will be my entry for this week’s weekend herb blogging, so I imagine a lot of you coming through from our lovely host’s site may want to see the photo …..

Goan fish curry 

and skip to the end for the recipe. :)

Some others among you may notice something a bit odd about that picture. I’m sure you know that food bloggers generally take great care with their photography.  Hell, Amanda and Tyler even have their own photo tent with special lighting! Whilst I haven’t got that much equipment (yet), I still do my best for the blog. So why then do I have a fairly scruffy photo with my mobile phone, Goon’s course notes and several other pieces of rubbish in the background for this dish?

It’s all down to one of Goon’s flatmate.  Once upon a time, when I was a sprightly second year student, I thought there was no way I’d ever want to live on my own. My flatmates were great, I adored spending time with them and arguments were rare. How things have changed! Spending time at Goon’s in the presence of his cohabitants is starting to turn me into a bit of a misanthropic cow.

Let’s face it,when you’re a foodie, it is damn hard sharing a kitchen with people who think a good meal (as in one they would cook for a formal dinner party) is Tesco value tuna, tomato sauce and pasta.

Then we have the case of disappearing food. It appears the irritating squeamish one has another bad habit: throwing out food that looks even remotely unfamilar or has any kind of aroma. We have lost a dragonfruit “because it looked funny” and the best part of a pheasant “because it smelt funny” and a fresh pack of smoked salmon “because it smelt of fish.”

What the hell did she think salmon should smell like!? Rose petals?

A more pressing irritation is that, recently, one flatmate has taken to having Bible parties in the front room. Yes, you read it correctly. BIBLE parties. This means that the room has to be immaculate and we certainly can’t eat in there, which is a right pain because that is where the dining table is. Goon and I are forced to eat in his rather cramped bedroom on the very full computer table. 

It is annoying to be kicked out of the dining room when setting the table, but the conversations going on between this lot are plain disturbing. This lot have a book that lists all the words in the Bible alphabetically and gives page references for each. They LOVE that thing.

“Oooh, look it says the word ‘and’ appears 5,907 times in the Bible.”
“Really? I wonder whether these numbers have any significance.”
“How many times does the work ’the’ appear?”


I hate eating diiner in the bedroom. Rice gets on the floor and the lack of space means it is so much harder to photograph in there and we end up with clutter in the background. Also, Goon has a habit of hiding the plates under the bed so he can avoid the washing up. For days you wonder what the funny smell is, and then a couple of weeks later you find the plates, by then fully concious and with their own legs, making a daring escape out of the bedroom window.

Ok, maybe I made the last bit up, but they do end up covered in an interesting range of several species of mould. Goon’s bedroom is a mycologist’s dream.

Now that I’ve had my rant and explained the reason for the dodgy photo, here’s the interesting bit: a rough recipe for the Goan fish curry. This will work for most fish, although I prefer to use something white and flakey, like cod or haddock. This dish is easy to make and really tasty.

Take a large onion, peel it and slice it into  thin half-rings. Fry it gently in groundnut oil with a lot (about 1 tablespoon each) of coriander and cumin, a large clove of crushed garlic and about the same amount of ginger, two chopped red birds eye chillies, a teaspoon of cayenne, two teaspoons of paprika and a teaspoon of turmeric. When the onions are soft, add about 100ml of fish stock and about 150ml of coconut milk, and allow the lot to bubble until you have a slightly thin curry sauce.

At this point I add the ingredient that really makes a goan curry: tamarind. I generally use tamarind paste which I get from Asian speciality stores. I find the trick to using tamarind paste is to dilute it with a little bit of water and then add it slowly to the dish , tasting every so often to make sure you aren’t overdoing it. Tamarind is one of those things that can make a dish delicious but, a little too much makes it sour and, to some people, unpalatable, so it pays to be careful.   

After adding your desired amount of tamarind, add the fish fillets to the sauce and simmer for amout ten minutes until they are cooked. Then taste, adjust spice and seasoning and serve over basmati rice (perhaps flavoured with ginger and spring oniions) with a vegetable curry. Last night we had beans with coriander and garlic, cooked in coconut milk.

This is a really delicious dish. The tamarind provides a pleasant sour pungency that is followed by a slight sweetness from the coconut milk and a warmth from the spice. Personally I might add another chilli, but Goon gets funny about these things. 

It is the tamarind in this dish that makes it suitable to be an entry to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging which this week is hosted by Becky from Key Lime and Coconut.

For those of you unfamiliar with tamarind, the spice is the fruit pulp of a tree native to East Africa. It now is found all over Asia and South America as well. The young fruits of this tree have the sour flavour that makes a Goan curry so special. As the fruits get older they become sweeter and then are more suitable for use in desserts.

Ifyou may think you’ve never had tamarind, you may be suprised. It is one of the main ingredients in Worcestershire sauce! 

So there we go- a rant, a recipe and a brief collection of facts on a very tasty spice. Never let it be said that this blog lacks variety. ;)  

March 8, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:39 am

It seems I have finally found a little bit of time to post this week. Well, actually, I haven’t as such. I’m still supposed to be writing thesis but I have got to the stage where I’m just far too hungry to concentrate on anything challenging, so i might as well give up until I get the opportunity to eat which, if I’m lucky will be in an hour.

So this week’s enormous workload means that my cooking has also been fairly limited. There’s been a restaurant visit, a take away, a pheasant sausage linguine thing (which I’ll write up if I get the chance) and this rather strange invention of mine.

rose lamb

I was rooting through my cupboards at the weekend when I came across a jar of rose-petal jam, which I had bought ages ago to use with game. It got me thinking about an idea I had been meaning to try for a while.

I have made this lavender roasted lamb a few times and the success of it made me want to try out a different culinary flowers. Rose was the most obvious to go for next. I already had  rosewater and the jam so the only thing I had left to try out was dried rose petals.

Luckily for me, I live reasonably close to a bunch of Iranian shops where I could find some dried Damascus rose petals. Apparently spice specialist stores will stock them too, although I’ve never seen them anywhere else.  Dried rose petals are used in Middle Eastern cooking as a spice and are most commonly used in the powdered spice mixture Ras al Hanout.

My plan was to make a dry spice rub out of the just the petals for a half lamb leg, pour over a rose jam and lemon ‘glaze’ and roast it.

rose petals

The rose petals certainly looked weird, but the smell was gorgeous when I was grinding them up. I used about one and a half heaped tablespoons of petals and ground them into a fine powder. Then I made little slits all over the leg, put a sliver of ginger into each one and rubbed the rose powder over it. The glaze was made simply by diluting rose petal jam with rose-water  and adding the grated zest of about half a lemon.

While that was all roasting in the oven I made some saffron roasted potatoes. These were suprisingly good for roast tatties without goose fat, and were also quite easy to make. I boiled a pinch of ground saffron in enough salted water to cover the potatoes for a few minutes, then added the potatoes and brought the pan back to the boil. After five minutes, I drained them and gave them a good shake to fluff them up, put them in a roasting pan and coated them in olive oil, to which i had added another pinch of ground saffron stamens. After 40 minutes roasting they came out beautifully golden.

saffron roasties

Finally, I made a sauce of more rosewater, more jam, lamb stock, rosemary and beaujolais. I deliberately chose beaujolais because of the strawberry flavour of the gamay grape. A rose-strawberry flavour sounded great to me! I ended up simmering the stock with a sprig of rosemary for about five minutes, then adding rose water and the jam and reducing it. The beaujolais went in right at the end so it retained its strawberry flavour.

This really worked amazingly. In fact, this is the kind of meal I’d want to work on so I could make it my signature dish. The flavour of rose is lovely with lamb and the subtle strawberry and ginger was delicious. The lemon imparted a good aroma without getting in the way of the other flavours and the saffron potatoes were a perfect delicately flavoured accompaniment. I accompanied the meal with some sauteéd courgette strips tossed in butter with a tiny bit of chopped mint. Actually pretty near perfect, even if i do say so myself. :D


The best thing about this is I’ve found a new garnish ad it is PINK! \o/

I’ve decided to make this an entry for Weekend Herb Blogging (the brainchild of Kalyn at Kalyn’s Kitchen), since rose features so massively in this dish.  This week the event is being hosted by Anna at Morsels and Musings.

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