Monday, 21 November 2011

Your Saturday night starts right here!

Or, how to pimp up your bought in curry.

For regular readers you will know about my inability to leave things alone. When I say I am going to have a bowl of pasta for supper, I mean I am going to have a bowl of papperdelle with courgette ribbons, garlic, crushed chilli, homegrown mint with rocket flowers and drizzled with local rape seed oil. I can revel in simple flavours but I have a tendency to get slightly carried away with the creativity of it all. Case in point from last Friday when Alison popped in for a cuppa and some baking banter. Hungry after spending the morning gossiping with the macrobert girls, a quick snack was in demand. Soft goats cheese toasted on wholemeal bread with baby plum tomatoes, homemade onion jam and a sprinkle of lemon thyme. 'You can't just make cheese on toast, can you?' remarked Alison, 'No, not really' was the only reply I could muster. Though having declared it to be the best non cheese on toast she'd ever had I feel this is one bad habit akin to being too tidy. Slightly irritating, but ultimately makes the world a better place. *Smug alert*

It's Saturday and now that we are officially too old to be frequenting Stirling's nightclubs (either of them) we have replaced dancing with eating. Coupled with a glass or two of vino, plus Saturday night telly and good banter = pure bliss. We are also as a nation able to enjoy the spoils of a war that dominates our television advertising. I am talking of course about the War of the Supermarket Titans and whether you revel in their convenience or despair in their crushing monopoly (I am of the latter opinion) it would be almost churlish not to take full advantage of the deals around. Two curries, two side dishes and a bottle of wine for £10 from Marks and Spencer trumps any takeaway for value and still means you can have a lazy Saturday night curry without any fuss. All that was needed now was friends, wine glasses and Dermot's dancing. But you know me right and, once again, I just couldn't keep out of the kitchen...

After a flick through my Indian cookbooks and discussions with significant others I came up with small but tasty starter menu - surely the king of courses?

Mint Yogurt

Easy, peasy. Include grated (and squeezed) cucumber to make Tzatziki, a perfect match for Lamb Koftas

250g natural yogurt
fresh mint, large handful
fresh coriander, small handful
1/2 small clove of garlic, finely minced
1/4 lemon, juice
salt and pepper

Finely chop the mint and coriander, place in a small bowl and add the garlic, lemon juice. Stir in the yogurt and season to taste.

Mango Chutney

I made this chutney earlier this year and it has kept perfectly. Most mango chutneys seem to be overly sweet and thin, this has good big chunks of fruit and has great spicing. Great for Christmas presents too, and goes particularly well with cold meat leftovers. The recipe uses 4-6 mangoes depending on their size and ripeness, slightly firmer mangoes are best because they won't collapse completely. It will need about 6 weeks to mature properly so if your Saturday night curry can't wait I recommend Geeta's which has the pleasing addition of nigella seeds.

Makes 2-4 jars, depending on their size

You will need a 20cm square piece of muslin.

4 cloves
10 black peppercorns
1 dried red chilli
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
5 cardamon pods
350g finely chopped red onion
400ml white malt vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of coriander seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
900g mangoes, peeled, stoned and sliced into wedges
350g Bramley apples, peeled and sliced
450g golden caster sugar
1/2 cayenne pepper

Bash the ginger until it's slightly broken up. Place it along with the cloves, black peppercorns, dried chilli, and cardamon pods in the center of the muslin square and tie up to make a pouch.

Toast the coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant and then crush with a pestle and mortar.  In a large saucepan sweat the onions on a medium heat for a couple of minutes and stir in the cumin seeds, crushed coriander and nigella seeds. After 30 seconds pour in the vinegar and add the bay leaves and spice pouch.  Simmer for 10 minutes before mixing in the mango and apples. Cook for around 15 minutes until the fruit is soft but not completely collapsed. Before adding the sugar make sure you are happy with the consistency of the fruit because it will stop breaking down once sugar is incorporated. Add the sugar and the cayenne pepper and simmer until the mixture is like a thick jam which should take about an hour. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking but be aware that this mixture is lava hot so be careful.

While the chutney is cooking, sterilise the jars and lids in boiling hot water. Spoon into the jars while the chutney is still hot and seal. Label when cool and leave in a dark, cool place to mature.

Spiced Cashews Nuts

Very quick to make and uses mostly store cupboard ingredients. They were the hit of the night and great snack to have with drinks.  Feel free to swap about the spices, the recipe is very adaptable and can be made spicier if, like me, you love fiery chilli.

200g cashew nuts
20g butter
1/2 tsp dried chilli
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
6 curry leaves, slightly broken up
salt and pepper

In a large frying pan melt the butter over a medium heat. Toast the cashew nuts until golden brown and then tip in the spices and stir together. Cook for another 30 seconds until the spices are fragrant, season and serve.

Sweet Potato Samosas

The inspiration for these delicious triangles of fun comes from an amazing night spent at the Earthy Foods Pop-Up Coconut Curry Club (read more about this event at my monkfish). Crispy pastry with a creamy, sweet, spicy filling satisfies all my nibbly needs. Again this is a recipe that can be experimented with, the filling could be the traditional potato and pea or you could combine the sweet potato with pumpkin or squash. This filling is inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's Sweet Potato Cakes featured in Plenty which I made andevoured earlier last week. The decision to use filo pastry and bake them made the whole process easier, and slightly healthier if you completely ignore the melted butter.

Makes 10-15 samosas

For the filling:
500g peeled sweet potato, cut into large chunks
50g plain flour
6 spring onions, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
100g baby spinach
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of coriander
2 tsp of garam masala
salt and pepper

1 packet of filo pastry
100g melted butter
nigella seeds for sprinkling

Steam the sweet potatoes until completely soft, it should take about 20 minutes. If you don't have a steamer (I don't) place the sweet potato in a colander on top of a large saucepan with 5cm of water. Cover the top of the colander and put on a medium heat, periodically checking that the pan hasn't ran dry. Once cooked cool in a colander and leave to drain for about an hour.

Wilt the washed baby spinach in a dry pan and once cooled squeeze all the water out, roughly chop. Once the sweet potatoes have lost most of their moisture place them in a large mixing bowl with the spinach and all the rest of the ingredients, apart from the spices. Toast the spices in a dry pan until the mustard seeds start to pop and then tip into the bowl. Mix together by hand, mushing the sweet potato, until the mix is a smooth, sticky paste. If it's too soft add a little more flour but do not over mix. This mixture will keep for a couple of days, well covered, in the fridge so can be made in advance.

Preheat the oven to 180c/gas 4. Now for the pastry - filo has a tendency to dry quickly so work fast and have the melted butter ready. Unroll the pastry and peel off one piece, keep the rest under a damp tea towel. Lay the sheet on a flat surface and brush the whole thing with melted butter. Fold into thirds lengthwise, brushing butter in-between each layer until you have a long strip. Brush again with butter and place one large teaspoon of the filling at the base of the strip.  Fold the bottom right hand corner over diagonally, enclosing the filling and forming a triangle. Keep folding this way up the strip until you reach the end. Trim any excess and brush the whole thing with butter. Place on a baking sheet and cover while the rest of the samosas are made. Sprinkle with nigella seeds before baking for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

The meal was perfectly rounded off by cuddles on the sofa and Alison's amazing raspberry, pear and Toblerone pavlova. Unable to share the recipe because she 'makes it up as she goes along'.


  1. Wow, awesome, enough said!

  2. This looks so yummy! Love the combination!