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.

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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Honey mustard chicken with salsa and beans

This recipe is weirdly both a lot of hassle, and almost none whatsoever. There is a long list of ingredients, it takes a long time to make, and it’s technically three different dishes. But at the same time, each individual dish is pretty easy to make. This recipe comes from the ever fabulous Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand.

The first thing is the chicken, which has to sit in its marinade – ideally for a few hours. The marinade is olive oil, vinegar, chilli, dijon mustard and garlic, so it’s pretty easy to throw together. It’s also recommended to put some slits in the chicken flesh so that the flavours can penetrate.

Once its had its time, it goes in the oven in a casserole dish for about 45 minutes. Actually, I found this to be a little too long and the skin of the bird burnt – but maybe I should have just been more on the ball with my basting.

The second thing to make is the black bean mix. This is also really easy – basically just a few ingredients stir fried together and sat in some orange juice and chicken stock whilst it reduces down. The orange juice is the star here – don’t be tempted to skip it!

Finally, just before you’re ready to serve, the last bit to make is the avocado salsa which is also really easy – basically just some chopped avocado and tomatoes with a couple of extra ingredients. Easy peasy.

We also served it up with some toasted tortilla for a bit of extra carb. Mark was late home for this meal, so it worked quite well with all the dishes on the go – the chicken could sit in its marinade, and then go to the oven about an hour before he was due back; the black beans simmer for part of that cooking time, and then when he comes through the door I quickly throw together the salsa and tortillas.

Bitter Orange Tart

This recipe is something of a mash up.

The original recipe for bitter orange tart can be found in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. In that version, it’s a tart with a pastry base and quite a lot of sugar (a mix of muscovado and caster).

She then revisits the same recipe in Simply Nigella, replacing the pastry base with one made from crushed ginger nut biscuits. The muscovado sugar gets dropped as well.

Our version uses the Simply Nigella filling (less sweet), but with a How to Eat inspired pastry base. And, because it works every time, I used my John Whaite sweet shortcrust pastry method.

Since it’s not the season for Seville oranges, and I’m not sure where I’d buy them even if it was, I used regular oranges with some lime juice. I made my pastry case and blind baked it, then added the filling and chilled. The resulting tart isn’t at all heavy, and although it’s bitter you could quite happily eat this on its own. As the picture reveals though, we found it went wonderfully with chocolate ice cream.

It kept well in the fridge (covered with cling film) for about 4 days, but by the end of the pastry had lost its edge.

Carrots with Lime and Thyme and Salmon

This recipe is another of the ones you’ll find in John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. The five ingredients are really simple – carrots, onion, fresh thyme, a lime and some salmon fillets (plus the usual seasonings and oil).

It takes quite a while to cook because the carrots need to roast in the oven for an hour before you add the salmon on top and cook for a further 15 minutes. We also did some new potatoes to serve this up with. To be honest, I thik my carrots could have used a little longer in the oven but that’s probably because I used regular carrots rather than baby carrots as John suggests.

End result was very tasty – the lime and thyme combination works really well with the carrots. Also the whole dish basically just uses one roasting tray so there’s very little washing up afterwards.

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.

Chicken and Squash Laksa

This was supposed to be chicken and pumpkin laksa, but UK supermarkets never seem to stock any kind of pumpkin except at Halloween. Squash is basically the same thing though. We’d had a roast chicken on Sunday, and this recipe from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand is how we decided to use the leftover chicken.

Recipe wise you can probably say this one is pretty healthy – lots of veg in the form of steamed squash, tomatoes, spinach and onion. You steam the pumpkin first and make a paste out of chilli, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lime zest and coriander stalks. Then you fry the chopped onion, followed by the paste, and then add coconut milk and chicken stock. Bring the whole thing to the boil then add the tomatoes and simmer for a little bit (Diana says 7 minutes but I got distracted and it was much longer!). Finally add your chicken and spinach, then serve the whole thing up with some noodles.

There are some great flavours here, but I regret using a regular chilli instead of a birds eye chill as the recipe states. This should teach me to heed Diana’s wise words!

Indian Spiced Cod

It’s been a while since we cooked anything from Simply Nigella, so we dusted the book off the shelf and decided to give this recipe a go. It’s a pretty quick and easy to put together – just right for a warm evening after work.

The recipe is very easy. The spices all get mixed together with some yohurt, lime juice and lime zest. Nigella uses coconut yoghurt (that’s the dairy substitute, not coconut flavoured regular yoghurt!) but says you can use Greek instead. I used Greek because we had some in the fridge. Nigella also suggests cutting back on the lime if you use Greek yoghurt… I missed that particular instruction and used the full amount, and it ended up with a very strong lime flavour which was a bit much for me but marked loved it.

You then thickly coat your cod with the sauce and bake in the oven at 200 Celsius for 15 minutes… and that’s it! Done! I did a side of mashed potato and peas to go with this. Maybe not in keeping with the Indian flavours, but it went well enough for my liking.

Indian Spiced Shepherd’s Pie

It’s been a while since we cooked anything from Simply Nigella, and fancying some sort of mince and potato dish this recipe for Indian Spiced Shepherd’s pie looked like a good candidate. People seem to agree too, because the photos for this have had more likes than any of our photos before now!

The recipe takes a little while to put together. First you boil the sweet potato with some cardamom, peppercorns and pieces of lime peel. Meanwhile you blitz together onion, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds and coriander seeds to form a paste and fry this – supposedly with coconut oil but I just used butter and olive oil.

Next you add the turmeric, chilli flakes and garam massala before finally adding the lamb mince. When it’s all cooked add some red lentils, chopped tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and water before seasoning and putting a lid on whilst it simmers for about 20 minutes.

You’re still not finished though! Now you have to mash the potatoes. Nigella is ambiguous about whether you should fish the lime/peppercorns/cardamom out. I did, or at least I removed as much as I could. To make the mash a bit easier to work with, Nigella suggests saving some of the potato cooking water and mixing it in as you mash.

Next you transfer the mince mixture to a your dish(es) and put the sweet potato mash on top, then bake it in the over for 15 – 25 minutes. It’s not supposed to go crispy on top, but mine did a little bit (possibly because I added some ridges with a fork) and was all the better for it.

Something magical happens with this dish. Before it went in the oven I thought it tasted a bit bland, but when it came out the flavours had deepened tremendously and the dish was a really tasty, interesting and satisfying dish.

Quick Chicken Laksa

Another Nigel Slater recipe from the Guardian tonight. I made a few mistakes when making this one – first and foremost I forgot to put the turmeric in when making the spice paste. I added it later whilst the whole thing was simmering away and it seemed none the worse for it. Sparky was also glad that I didn’t turn the food processor yellow…

I also forgot to add the oil to the paste. Oh, and the supermarket substituted coconut milk for a cheaper version which was 50% water so I spent ages reducing it down. And I deseeded the chillies and then regretted it for not making it hotter.

But the end result still worked. Spicy, yet mellow and soothing.