Far eastern chicken curry

To tell the truth, this is a bit of a mongrel curry I made up because I was defrosting my fridge freezer and wanted to use up a pack of chicken and some lemongrass stalks I found in there along with some store cupboard basics that I always have around like coconut cream and spices. It is no less fabulous for that! It looks like a long list of ingredients but it is very simple to prep and cook. Serve with jasmine or basmati rice. Serves three easily or four if you use a pack of eight chicken thighs.
Far Eastern Curry

You will need…

  • A pack of six skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into two i.e. twelve pieces
  • Sri Lankan curry powder (dry roasted and ground: 25g coriander seeds, 15g cumin seeds, 15g fennel seeds, 2cm cinnamon bark, 2 whole cloves, 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp black peppercorns)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  •  2 cloves of garlic
  • Lemongrass stalk, coarsely chopped
  • Kaffir lime leaves (dried or fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil
  • Mustard seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • 160ml tin of coconut cream
  • 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 50 ml water
  • A small bunch of fresh coriander
  • A pinch of salt

To make…

  • Preheat the oven to 150°C
  • Dry roast the spices and grind them in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
  • Make a paste in a mini food processor with the ginger, lemongrass, garlic, half an onion and a dash of water.
  • Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Allow them to pop for a few minutes and then add the onions. Cook through until softened but not browned.
  • Add the paste, stir for a few minutes. Add the yoghurt and stir again.
  • Add the chicken pieces, curry powder, stock, chilli, lime leaves, the coconut cream and a pinch of salt. Bring up to a simmer, stir, cover and cook in the oven for about an hour.
  • Remove from the oven, taste the sauce and check the seasoning. Add more e.g. chilli etc.  to your taste. The sauce should be quite thick, uncover and reduce on the hob if necessary. Remove the lime leaves. Stir in the fresh coriander just before serving. Enjoy!
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Salade Saint Severin

I’ve just spent two fabulous weeks based in Saint Severin southern France – this delicious green salad with a walnut oil and Roquefort cheese dressing became our daily go-to dinner starter and is named in its honour.  Eating out in France isn’t quite what it used to be, their culinary supremacy is no longer something to be taken for granted, but their produce markets are still quite fantastic and can still teach us a thing or two. We bought delicious, lush, frilly leaved lettuce, local walnut oil, creamy Roquefort and flavoursome apple cider vinegar to create this salad which the family insisted that I make pretty much every evening. Try it and you’ll understand why. The quality of each individual ingredient and the care with which it is prepared is what raises it from the ordinary to the sublime – good news too if you grow your own lettuce!

Salade St Severin

You will need…

  • A head of crisp, full leafed lettuce serves six. For best results, use a freshly cut whole lettuce, not a ready prepared one in a sealed bag
  • A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons of walnut oil
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 150g Roquefort cheese
  • Optional:1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts (here I use Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ Chilean golden walnuts) 

To make…

Wash the lettuce in plenty of cold water, dry it thoroughly (preferably in a salad spinner) and tear it by hand into medium sized pieces in a deep salad bowl. The leaves must be as dry as possible so that the dressing will coat them properly. Crumble half of the cheese over the leaves.

Whisk the oil, vinegar and salt thoroughly in a small bowl until it looks creamy. Taste and adjust if necessary – add a little more vinegar if it isn’t acidic enough, or a drop or two more of the oil if the vinegar overpowers the flavour.

Just before you want to eat it, pour the dressing over the torn leaves and toss carefully and thoroughly with your salad servers until each leaf is completely coated with a thin, lustrous film of flavour. Just dribbling a bit of dressing on a lettuce and leaving it in globs on the surface is a minor culinary crime in my book – it’s called salad dressing not a sauce after all! Don’t try to dress it ahead of time or it will become slimy if the weather is hot. The cheese will emulsify slightly into the dressing and add flavour. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese (and the walnuts if you use them) over the top of the salad and serve.

Chez BrizeNB: We stayed at this beautiful farmhouse in Saint Severin bookable on Owners Direct. Nearest airports are Bordeaux, Bergerac or Limoges.

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Sicilian pasta with cauliflower and tomato cream sauce

I’m in the process of writing a new book about cooking with vegetables so I’m constantly on the lookout for new ways to cook with some old favourites. I’m used to putting cauliflower with cream, cheese or spice but not with tomato. This creamy, tomato based cauliflower pasta sauce from Sicily is a revelation and my new favourite supper dish. The chopped parsley and the crunchy breadcrumbs add freshness and crunch – it’s just delicious and inexpensive to boot!

Sicilian cauliflower pasta

Serves 4

  • 25g tin of anchovy fillets in oil
  • 50g fresh white breadcrumbs or panko crumbs fried and crisped in a little olive oil
  • 1 medium cauliflower, leaves and core removed then broken into small florets
  • 3 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes 
  • 3 tablespoons of sun-dried tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of double cream
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan
  • Finely ground black pepper 
  • Pasta for four – chunky tubes such as tortiglioni or rigatoni

To make…

  • Add the anchovy fillets to a large sauté pan (like a frying pan but with straight sides and a lid) and allow them to liquefy over a medium heat for a few minutes. Pour in the remaining oil from the anchovies and lightly sautée the garlic.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes, sun-dried tomato paste, chilli flakes and some water – fill the tomato tin up to halfway. Stir thoroughly and add in the cauliflower. Cook for 20 minutes until the cauliflower softens.
  • Meanwhile, put the pasta on to cook according to the instructions on the pack – usually about 12 minutes.
  • Just before the pasta is cooked, stir the cream, black pepper and parsley to the sauce.
  • Drain the pasta, mix with the sauce, portion into bowls and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
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Chocolate crème brûlée surprise

You’ll probably need cheering up this morning after the election results and, if you want to make a dinner party-worthy dessert that will make you friends for life, look no further than this chocolate crème brûlée surprise. It’s ridiculously simple to make ahead and you can mix up the surprise element every time you serve it. You tap into the crisp caramel topping, scoop up the trembling, rich dark chocolate crème and then a little bit of something extra at the bottom of the dish…….a little cherry conserve, some sharp orange curd, a touch of salted caramel perhaps. I’ve experimented with lots of different surprise layers – all delicious!

chocolate creme brulee

Makes 6

  • 175g of good quality (at least 70%+ coco-solids) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 3 egg yolks (save the whites to make pavlova – they freeze well) 
  • 500 ml double cream
  • Caster sugar for the brûlée topping
  • For the surprise: 6 dessert spoons of Morello cherry conserve, or dulce de leche, or orange curd…..any surprise you like!
  • Optional: a tablespoon of Kahlua or dark rum. Omit if you will be serving this to children.

To make…

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C.
  • creme brulee prepPlace six individual oven-proof ceramic mousse or ramekin dishes in a large roasting tin. Add a dessert spoon of the ‘surprise’ of your choice in the bottom of each dish and spread it evenly across the base.
  • Pour the double cream into a non-stick milk pan and add the chocolate pieces. Over a low heat, melt the chocolate in the cream. Whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Add the Kahlua or rum now if you’re going for this option.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the eggs yolks thoroughly in a large mixing jug – I use my Pyrex one as it makes it easier to pour the mixture into the serving dishes.
  • Pour the cooled chocolate and cream mixture into the yolks, whisking quickly as you pour. Whisk until smooth and the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
  • Fill the six pots equally with the chocolate mixture.
  • Boil a kettle of water and fill the roasting tin with the chocolate pots until it reaches about half way up. Be careful not to get the water into the chocolate.
  • Put the tray in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. A thin film should have formed on the top of each chocolate pot. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, lift the pots out of the water and refrigerate overnight. I usually empty the water from the tray, put the pots back in and then store them in the fridge.
  • A couple of hours before you want to serve the dessert, take it out of the fridge.
  • No more than 30 minutes before you serve, make the brûlée topping. Cover the top of each pot with caster sugar, swirl it around a little so the top is evenly covered and tip away any excess sugar. Using a cook’s blowtorch, or a very hot grill, melt the sugar so that it melts and forms a thin, crisp caramelised crust. Be careful not to burn it or it will taste bitter. Don’t refrigerate them again or make the topping earlier than 30 minutes before you want it or the sugar topping will liquefy.
  • Serve to moans of delight………especially when they find the surprise!

 

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Chickpea and bulgar wheat salad with fresh herb dressing

The nutty flavours of bulgur wheat and chickpeas go beautifully with the fresh olive oil and lemon dressing and the tang of the fresh herbs in this delicious Middle Eastern salad. It’s great with roasted and BBQ meats, or as part of a vegetarian feast.

Chickpea and bulgur salad

Serves 6

  • 200g bulgur wheat
  • 1 chicken stock cube or stock-pot
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Juice of 2 lemons, the zest of one
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 large bunch of mint, chopped
  • 1 small bunch of fresh coriander, celery tops or lovage, chopped

To make…

  • Cook the bulgur wheat in a saucepan of 500ml hot chicken stock made with a good quality stock cube or gel stock-pot. Cover with a lid. The wheat should absorb all the stock and cook through in the steam. Allow to cool and fork through so it fluffs up.
  • Meanwhile, mix the oil, garlic, lemon and seasoning together in a large bowl and add the chickpeas. Leave to marinate until the bulgur wheat is ready.
  • Mix the bulgur, chickpeas, dressing and chopped herbs together. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl.
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