Chicken Korma

We’ve not yet made anything from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand which hasn’t been anything short of delicious. That said, we’ve tried lots of recipes for curries over the years and often find that there’s something missing… so we were curious to see what Diana’s recipe for chicken korma turned out like.

First thing you need to know here is that this recipe takes a long time. I think end to end I was probably in the kitchen for about 2 hours. This is because there are quite a few separate things you need to do, some of which take quite a lot of time. You have to salt some chopped onions and leave them to drain for 30 minutes; you also have to soak some saffron for a long time… none of it is especially hard, but there are just a lot of things keep track of.

You also have to use the food processor a few times – firstly you fry the onions and then you have to blitz them into a paste. Separately you have to soak some nuts in hot water and then blitz those into a separate paste. It’s certainly enough to keep you busy!

But as I said none of this is hard, and the end result is definitely worth it. Is it the most authentic tasting curry I’ve ever made? Hmmm… probably not, but it’s tough to say with a korma because it’s such a rich rather than spicy dish. It certainly tasted close to the real thing, and it certainly tasted delicious. Time consuming, but worth the effort.

Prawn Jalfrezi

A quick burst of heat for dinner on a cold winter’s day comes in the form of this prawn jalfrezi, the recipe for which is available online at the BBC Good Food website.

There were a few panics whilst making this – particularly when I realised we had no tinned tomatoes in the cupboard and I had to run to the corner shop on a particularly cold and windy night. The recipe also calls for you to cook the onions and spices, then add the chopped tomatoes and water and blitz with a hand blender. I tried to do this in the pan (heat turned off, obviously!) but the depth wasn’t sufficient to do without spattering so I had to decant everything to a pyrex jar, blitz it, and then put it back in the pan.

Also, the recipe called for one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes plus half a tin of water – I suspect the water wasn’t needed because our sauce was quite wet even after reducing down for a long time. The recipe said cook uncovered, but we took the lid off in an attempt to try and make things a bit thicker.

Despite that, the end result was really nice. Not a 100% authentic jalfrezi, but a nice and spicy sauce with a fresh taste.

Chicken and prawn xinxim

Yet another Diana Henry recipe today from A Bird in the Hand, and it’s a spicy one!

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I’d never heard of xinxim before but it sounded like an interesting recipe and I’m absolutely delighted that I tried it. The whole dish was a spicy delight – I’m not sure why, but it seems that added ground nuts to curry type dishes really works well (I’m thinking of the peanut stew which we made a while back).

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Parsee Chicken with Apricots

Something nice and spicy today from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand.

We’ve raved about this book often enough, but this meal is a prime example of why we love it so much – it’s easy to put together and doesn’t call upon any especially exotic ingredients but the end result is a really tasty, comforting and spicy meal – but also noticeably unique from the myriad of other chicken recipes you can find in other books.

I’d eat this again and again – possibly the apricots appealing to my sweet tooth, but it was a real treat of a meal.

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

This recipe is another opportunity to use up some leftover chicken from a recent roast – the recipe is from Nigella’s fabulous book, Kitchen.

Long story short, it’s nice and tasty but we love roast chicken leftovers and the flavour of the chicken was a bit lost on this meal. That’s not to say we wouldn’t have it again… just that if you’ve got some roast chicken going spare then there are other recipes which show it offer to its full potential (Diana Henry’s bird pie being my absolute favourite!).

Cider and Five Spice Bundt Cake

Last week’s bundt was a hit, so we decided to get our money’s worth from the bundt tin and make another. It’s another Nigella recipe this time, but it comes from her most recent book, Simply Nigella.

The ingredients for this cake are, well, to be frank, a bit weird. Cider? Chinese five spice? And it’s described as a ginger like cake but there’s no dried ginger in here, only some fresh.

The first step is mixing the wet ingredients – Nigella uses vegetable oil, but I only had olive oil to hand and used that. This is then mixed with treacle and brown sugar, plus the cider which has been opened in advance to remove some of its fizz. Deliciously, we only needed half the bottle of cider so the other was a mid-afternoon treat! Mixing these ingredients is touch – the treacle kept getting clogged up in my whisk but eventually it dissolved… sort of! It was a bit of a weird consistency but seemed OK. Also, I should mention that I didn’t have enough treacle and so replace the last 100g with an equivalent weight of golden syrup.

In a separate bowl you then mix the dry ingredients and then pour them into the wet ones, beating all the time to try and avoid any clumps of flour. The resulting batter is very runny but it smells amazing.

After about 45 minutes in the oven the cake emerged and it’s utterly delicious. Kind of like a rich ginger cake, but with a different level of spice – quite similar to German Lebkuchen actually. We’ve found its dense consistency goes really well with double cream!

West African Chicken & Peanut Stew

This is a new one for us – an evening meal which features peanut butter as a main ingredient. Don’t get me wrong, we love the stuff, it’s just that we’re more familiar having it on toast… or possibly just eating it with a spoon straight from the jar…

This Diana Henry recipe (as ever, from A Bird in the Hand) is a lengthy one, as evidenced by our “before” photo. On closer inspection though, there’s nothing fancy here and if you have a reasonably stocked spice cupboard then you’ll have pretty much everything you need anyway.

It’s very strange to make the sauce by dissolving peanut butter into chicken stock, but the resulting meal is utterly fabulous – substantial and satisfying with a great nutty flavour and smoothness. Obviously not a good meal for those with certain allergies, but since we don’t fall into that camp we were happy to gorge ourselves on it.

Japanese Style Hamburgers (wafū hanbāgā)

It took me a while to realise that the Japanese name for this dish, handbāgā, is just a Japanese way of writing “hamburger”. This recipe is another one from Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home.

I’ve got to admit though, the technique described wasn’t especially clear. It explained that the important thing was the mixing process, but then the only guidance given was to do it as if making pastry. Fortunately I’ve made pastry, but that seemed a very weak description of a process which is essential to the success of the meal.

The burgers are assembled and then steamed, but my upset really came when trying to turn them. The burgers completely fell apart. On top of that the accompanying red sauce which the recipe comes with turned out to be thin and runny. To add insult to injury the broccoli and cauliflower I’d bought to serve this with had gone mouldy.

Burgers tasted OK, but for the hassle involved and the mess that was created trying to make them, I think I’d put this recipe down as a miss.

Jjampong (Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup)

It’s another Korean recipe tonight from Our Korean Kitchen, and another chance to try out cooking with gochugaru powder. Despite being a seafood dish, there’s quite a lot of meat in here in the form of two pork loin steaks. Technically it’s supposed to include some shell-on mussels, but because we were cooking for two instead of four, I just bought a pack of mixed seafood from the supermarket rather than buying lots of different things.

Cooking is surprisingly easy and – apart from the noodles themselves – this is a one pot meal which doesn’t generate much washing up. Fry the powder first, then add the pork and carrot and fry some more. Now add the onion, garlic, grated ginger and mushrooms for a bit more frying, before finally adding some light soy sauce, fish stock and the seafood. Let it bubble and then serve with the noodles.

The most striking thing about this dish is the bright red colour of the sauce. It’s delicious and spicy but not overwhelming; we continue to be impressed with Korean cuisine (or at least our attempts at it!).

Pan Fried Pork with Ginger

We’re keeping it Japanese tonight with yet another recipe from Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home. This time it’s a pork dish with lots of cruciferous vegetables.

I got things a bit mixed up though when it came to timing. I decided to cook the with a side of rice, and I’d forgotten how long it can take to make rice “properly” – first washing it, then leaving it to stand for 10 minutes, then putting it on the hob in cold water and brining it to the boil for 10 minutes, and then leaving to stand (lid clamped on!) for 20 to 30 minutes.

This threw out the rest of my timings… I started the vegetables too soon. They were supposed to be steamed, a key fact I missed from the recipe, so I boiled them instead. But they were cooked too soon, so I had to keep them warm in the oven. I also probably left the pork in the sauce (equal parts mirin, soy and sake plus some grated ginger) for too long…

…but none of that really matters because it all came together in the end and tasted great! I was a bit worried that there was too much veg, but that wasn’t the case at all. The rice worked really well with it, and the sauce was really delicious. My only hesitation is that this isn’t what I would call a “japanese” meal… but that’s probably just my own narrow stereotypes coming into play. Either way, we had a great meal for dinner!