I love biryani!

I mean the real deal, with beautifully spiced meat between layers of fragrant basmati rice…

NOT stir-fried rice with a few bits of meat thrown in, served with a side of sloppy vegetable curry, that is sold as biryani by so many curry houses across the UK. *rolls eyes*

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the difference between pulao (pilaf) and biryani it is in the cooking method rather than the ingredients: rice is the core ingredient in a pulao, often supplemented by meat or vegetables, just like a biryani, however all the ingredients of a pulao are cooked together. In a biryani, the meat or vegetables are prepared separately, then assembled into a cooking pot with the rice, before the biryani is baked to finish. In some variations, the meat and rice are par-cooked before assembly, in others they are added raw.

Biryani” comes from the Persian birian / beryan, which is a reference to frying or roasting an ingredient before cooking it. The actual dish was likely spread across the wider region by merchants and other travellers many centuries ago.

Biryani was very popular in the kitchens of the Mughal Emperors who ruled between the early 16th century to the early 18th century and it remains a much-loved dish in India today.

The Mughals were a Central Asian Turko-Mongolic people who settled in the region in the Middle Ages; their influence on architecture, art and culture, government and cuisine was significant. Mughlai cuisine is today best represented by the cooking of North India (particularly Utter Pradesh and Delhi, where my mother and father are from, respectively), Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Hyderabadi area of Andhra Pradesh in South East India. It retains many influences from Persian and Afghani cuisine.

There are many versions of biryani but two of the best known in India are Lucknowi (Awadhi) biryani and Hyderabadi biryani. For a Lucknowi biryani, the meat is seared and cooked in water with spices, then drained. The resulting broth is used to cook the rice. Both the pukki (cooked) elements are then layered together in a deep pot, sealed and baked. Hyderabadi biryani uses the kutchi (raw) method whereby the meat is marinated and the rice is mixed with spiced yoghurt (but neither are cooked) before being assembled in a deep pot and baked. The flavours of the meat and rice components in a Hyderabadi biryani are quite distinct, as compared to the Lucknowi biryani where they are more homogenous.

Also popular is Calcutta biryani, which evolved from Lucknowi style when the last nawab of Awadh was exiled to Kolkata in 1856; in response to a recession which resulted in a scarcity of meat and expensive spices, his personal chef developed the habit of adding potatoes and wielding a lighter hand with the spicing.

What is common to most variations is the dum pukht method – once the food has been arranged in the cooking vessel, the lid is tightly sealed (traditionally using dough but foil or rubber-sealed lids are a modern-day substitute) and the pot is baked in an oven or fire; the steam keeps the ingredients moist and the aromas and juices are locked in.

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Biryani is often served for celebratory feasts such as weddings, though most don’t take it quite as seriously as the two families involved in a cautionary tale that my friend alerted me to – a wedding was called off after an argument between the two families about whether chicken or mutton biryani should be served at the reception!

My mum, who grew up in Utter Pradesh, makes a delicious pukki method biryani, in the Lucknowi style. However, rather than using the liquid from the meat to cook the rice, she makes a fragrant lamb curry (with just a small volume of thick, clinging sauce rather than the usual generous gravy) and she flavours the rice with fresh coriander and mint and rose or kewra (screw pine flower) essence. Her recipe involves slowly caramelising onions, half of which go into the lamb curry and the rest of which are layered with the meat and rice when the biryani is assembled. The pot is sealed tightly and baked until the rice is cooked through.

You’ll notice that I specify basmati rice for this recipe – and that’s because it’s the most traditional rice used for Indian biryani. Of course there is the taste – basmati is a wonderfully fragrant rice – but it is also important that the grains remain separate after cooking; some rice varieties are much stickier or break down more on cooking. Longer grained basmati is prized over shorter grain, perhaps because rice must be carefully harvested and handled in order not to break the grains or just because it looks so elegant?

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Tilda, the best known brand of Basmati rice in the UK, recently launched a new product into their range. They describe Tilda Grand as a longer grained basmati rice, particularly well suited to making biryani and other Indian and Persian rice dishes.

Mum comes from a Basmati growing region of India and has seen Basmati planted, growing and harvested many times. Her family in India buy large sacks of rice when it is newly harvested and store it to mature because the flavour gets better with age; indeed I remember mum telling me how her parents saved their oldest basmati rice to serve to guests and on special occasions. Since I was a child, mum has always bought Tilda Basmati rice, so I asked her to try the new Tilda Grand and give me her feedback.

She didn’t find it as fragrant as usual but confirmed that it cooked much the same as the rice she regularly uses and commented that the grains remained separate and were longer than standard. That said, the grains weren’t as long as she was expecting; she has come across significantly longer grained rice in India in recent years.

This biryani, made to my mum’s recipe, is the first I’ve ever made and it was utterly delicious!

 

Mamta’s Lucknowi-Style Lamb Biryani

I have halved mum’s original recipe. The amounts below serve 4 as a full meal.

Ingredients
For the rice
500 grams basmati rice
Large pinch salt
1.25 litres water
Small sprig mint leaves
Small sprig coriander leaves
For the meat
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
3 large onions (about 600 grams), peeled and thinly sliced
500 grams lamb or mutton leg or shoulder, cubed
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, grated or pureed
2-3 teaspoons (0.5 inch piece) ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 brown cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
3 green cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
1-2 inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark *
2 bay leaves *
4-5 black peppercorns *
4-5 cloves *
0.5 teaspoon black cumin seeds (use ordinary cumin seeds if you don’t have black) *
1-2 green chillies, slit lengthwise (adjust to your taste and strength of chillies)
0.5 teaspoon chilli powder (adjust to your taste)
1 teaspoon salt
60 ml (quarter cup) thick, full-fat natural yoghurt
100-150 grams chopped tomatoes
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
Small bunch of mint leaves, chopped
Half a small lemon, cut into small pieces
For the biryani
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
A few strands of saffron soaked in a tablespoon of warm water
A few drops of rose water and/or kewra (screw-pine flower) essence
Optional: Orange or jalebi food colour, dissolved in 1 teaspoo water
Optional quarter cup of cashew nuts or blanched almonds

Note: The quality of the meat is important, so do buy good quality lamb or mutton. I used lamb steaks for my biryani.

Method

  • In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil or ghee and fry the onions until they are dark brown, stirring regularly so they do not catch and burn. This is a slow process; mine took approximately half an hour.
  • Remove onions from the pan and set aside.
  • Add more oil to the pan if necessary, then add the whole spices (marked *) plus the ginger and garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes to release the aromas.
  • Add the lamb, salt and chilli powder and stir fry to brown the meat on all sides.
  • Add the yoghurt, tomatoes, two thirds of the mint and coriander that is listed for the meat, the sliced green chillies, lemon pieces and half of the fried onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is done and only a little thick gravy is left. This may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the quality and cut of the meat.
  • Once the lamb curry is made, turn off the heat and set it aside.
  • While the meat is cooking, prepare the rice. Boil briskly with salt, the mint and coriander leaves listed for the rice until the rice is nearly cooked. (When you squash a grain between your fingers, only a hint of hardness should remain).
  • Drain, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.
  • Grease a large oven proof dish or pan with ghee or vegetable oil.
  • Spread a third of the par-cooked rice across the base of the dish.
  • Spread a quarter of the reserved browned onions over the rice.

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  • Sprinkle a little saffron water, rose and kewra essence over the rice.

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  • Spread  half the lamb curry over the rice.

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  • Repeat to add another layer of rice, onions, lamb curry and the saffron and flavourings.

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  • Top with the last third of the rice, the remaining browned onions and another sprinkling of saffron and flavourings.

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  • Dot the surface with a little ghee plus a few drops of colouring, if using.
  • Sprinkle cashew nuts or blanched almonds over top, if using.
  • Cover the pan tightly with foil and then the lid.
  • Preheat oven to 180° C (fan) and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
  • Serve hot.

LambBiryani-5215

 

Kavey Eats received samples of Tilda Grand rice from Tilda; as usual, there was no obligation on my part to write about it or to review favourably.

Sep 172013
 

I love home-made ketchup, and it’s even more satisfying making it from home-grown tomatoes.

In the past, I’ve made several batches with red tomatoes and a couple of batches with green ones but this is the first batch I’ve made with beautiful orange sungold tomatoes, a variety we’ve been growing for the last few years. Sungold is a cherry tomato variety and naturally super sweet, so a lot of the harvest doesn’t even make it indoors, or last long if it does. But our plants are giving us plenty this year, both those in the greenhouse and the ones outside. I was keen to see if I could preserve the vibrant colour in a ketchup to enjoy once the growing season is over.

SungoldTomatoKetchup- SungoldTomatoKetchup-2

I used my maternal grandfather’s Spicy Tomato Ketchup recipe – the same one I’ve used before. I had 940 grams of tomatoes, so I halved the recipe and made some minor adjustments to spices as well.

 

Spicy Sungold Tomato Ketchup

Ingredients
1 kg ripe sungold tomatoes
Half a small onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Whole spices in fabric bag *
5-6 cloves
2 black cardamoms, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon whole black peppers, cracked open to release flavours
Half teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 small pieces of cinnamon or cassia bark
Ground Spices
Half teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1 teaspoon chilli powder (or to taste)
2 level teaspoons mustard powder
40 grams sugar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
50 ml cider vinegar (with extra available to adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon salt

* Instead of wrapping my whole spices in muslin tied with string, I use fill-your-own teabags for speed. These are easy to fish back out of the pot and throw away once used.

Method

  • Sterilise your jars and lids. I boil my lids in a pan on the stove for 20 minutes before laying them out to dry on a clean tea towel. I sterilise my glass jars in the oven, leaving them in until I’m ready to fill them.
  • If you like, you can cut the tomatoes in half, or just slash each one, which makes it easier for them to break down more quickly, but as the sungolds are small, I put them in the pan whole and squish occasionally with a wooden spoon as they cooked.
  • Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and bag of whole spices into a large pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to stop the tomatoes catching at the bottom before they release their own juices.
  • Cook until soft.
  • Allow to cool a little. Remove spice bag.
  • Blend into as smooth a puree as you can.
  • Press through a sieve to remove skin and seed residue.
  • Place the sieved liquid into a pan with the nutmeg, chilli powder and mustard powder and bring to the boil.
  • If your liquid is quite thin, boil longer to thicken. The time this takes can vary wildly. In the past it’s taken half an hour. This time, I found the liquid was reasonably thick after 5 minutes boiling.
  • Add the vinegar and sugar and continue to cook until the sauce reaches ketchup consistency.
  • Add salt.
  • Taste and add additional vinegar or sugar, if needed.
  • Remove the sterilised jars from the oven and pour the ketchup into them while both ketchup and bottles are still hot.
  • Seal immediately.
  • Once cooled, you can label and store in a dark cupboard.

Please note: As this recipe has only a small volume of sugar and vinegar (both of which are preserving agents), you may prefer to store the ketchup in your fridge and use within a few weeks. We have stored it in a dark cupboard, eaten it many, many months after making, and found it fine. However, we are not experts in preserving or food safety, so please do your own research and decide for yourself.

 

How have you been preserving your garden or allotment harvests? I’d love to hear your recipes and ideas for tomatoes, apples and potatoes in particular!

 

It was a bit of a Ready Steady Cook challenge. My ingredients consisted of a large sweet potato, a white onion and a bag of baby spinach plus tinned tomatoes and a can of coconut milk from my store cupboard and a wide selection of spices on the shelf. I also wanted to try the tubes of chilli, ginger and garlic I was sent by Just Add.

SweetPotatoCurry-0935

A sweet potato and spinach curry seemed to be the answer but as you can see from the photo below, I completely forgot to stir in the spinach! I only remembered when I saw the bag of spinach sitting forlornly on the worktop after dinner. Oops!

 

Sweet Potato (& Spinach) Curry

Ingredients
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium sweet potatoes (or 2 large, 4 small)
250 grams tinned chopped tomatoes
400 ml coconut milk
1/2 inch piece ginger, grated (or
3 cloves garlic (or 1 tablespoon fresh garlic puree)
1 teaspoon hot chilli powder (or teaspoon chilli puree)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/5 teaspoons good quality garam masala
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper, to season
Optional: large bunch of spinach (baby leaves or larger, chopped)

Note: Cheaper brands of garam masala tend to bulk out more expensive spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon with cheaper ones such as cumin and coriander. It’s easy to make your own garam masala – here’s my mum’s recipe.

Method

  • Heat vegetable oil in a pan and fry onion until soft.
  • Add ginger, garlic, chilli and spices and cook for another minute, stirring continuously so spices don’t catch.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes and coconut milk and mix well.
  • Once thoroughly combined, add the diced sweet potato and cook on a medium heat until the potato is cooked through; test with a skewer or fork after about 20 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from the heat, add the spinach and stir in until wilted.
  • Serve over basmati rice.

SweetPotatoCurry-0937

The curry was tasty – I really enjoyed the combinatiobn of sweet potatoes and Indian spices.

Because the Just Add purees only last 21 days, they’re not a product I’d buy as I don’t use ginger, garlic or chilli often enough to get through a tube before it spoils. That said, the quality and convenience were good.

 

Kavey Eats was sent sample products from Just Add.

 

Basic CMYK

Curry for Change is a fundraising and awareness campaign by charity Find Your Feet.

Find Your Feet is a small organisation currently working in the most remote areas of India, Nepal, Malawi and Zimbabwe. They help poor rural families improve their agricultural practices so they can grow enough food; support them in finding their voice so they are better able to speak up for themselves when it comes to defending their rights, dealing with injustice and corruption and claiming any meagre grants or benefits that might be available; and help them to create income streams which allow them to find their feet.

The Curry for Change campaign aims to raise awareness of the charity’s projects in India, through a celebration of Indian cuisine and by doing so, hopes to raise £10,000 towards it’s projects in all four countries.

 

The Indian project office is based in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, which is where my mum grew up and where most of her family still live. She had the great fortune to be born into a family that lived in comfort, ate well and could afford to educate all their children to university level and give them the best start in life.

But many in the state don’t share that good luck and live lives of hardship, poor health, grinding poverty, prejudice and injustice.

Find Your Feet, through their Curry For Change campaign, are asking you to help them improve the lives and prospects of communities that are isolated, marginalised and struggling to survive

 

There are two prongs to the campaign:

 

Dine Out

A number of Indian restaurants (including charity patron Atul Kochhar’s restaurants) have committed to asking diners throughout the month of June to add donations to their bills. Visit any of the partner restaurants any time in June, enjoy a wonderful meal and contribute to Curry For Change at the same time.

Other restaurants on the list for 2013 Atul Kochhar’s Benares and Indian Essence, Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho, Cyrus Todiwala’s Cafe Spice as well as Roti Chai and Regency Club. Hopefully, that list will be even bigger by the time June 1st rolls around.

 

Cook a Curry

Find Your Feet is calling on you to organise your own Curry for Change event to raise funds for their many projects.

Bring your family and friends together, ask them to buy tickets or donate during the evening and see how much you can raise.

It’s much easier than you think to cook a fabulous Indian feast at home and share with it family and friends.

When you register online, you’ll receive a bag of Indian spices, some great recipes from Atul Kochhar and Anjali Pathak, invitations and thank you notes for your guests, and a donation form and envelopes to collect contributions. And everyone who hosts a Curry for Change event will be entered into a prize draw for a personal cookery class with Anjali Pathak.

Mum and I have put together some Mamta’s Kitchen menu suggestions for you here. Or you can put your own selection of dishes together, we have hundreds and hundreds at mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen.

You have until November 30th to take part, so plenty of time to plan, invite, host and return the donations.

 

I’m posting today to give you a heads up and encourage you to get involved, either by visiting one of the partner restaurants during June, or hosting a fundraising curry night between June and November. Thanks for reading!

 

I met Asma Khan online a few short months ago. It’s always a pleasure chatting about food to someone as enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgable, as Asma. When she needed some advice on how to bottle her Indian chutneys and pickles, I was able to help, having learned how to do this myself only a few years back. On that occasion, we met for ramen at Shoryu and I was pleased that we clicked in real life as we had done via the web.

But when I really fell under Asma’s spell was the evening I tasted her cooking, attending her Darjeeling Express Supperclub, held in her Earl’s Court home.

I’ve grown up with Indian food, not just my mum’s cooking but that of family and friends and a fair few restaurants over the years. My mum’s remains my favourite because it is made for me, with all her love in it and it’s not only delicious but familiar, comforting and wonderful.

But wow, Asma’s cooking is at another level. I’m often impressed by great Indian food but I can’t remember the a time I’ve ever been quite so blown away by the flavours, textures and sheer delicousness of what is essentially home-style cooking.

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Every single dish of the incredible selection we were served was excellent but I must give special mention to the cashewnut alo, the paneer Chettinad, the tomato ke cutt, the fish malai curry and the dried apricot dessert, khoobani ka meetha. Chilli fiends in our group were particularly delighted by the mirchi ka salaan, a chilli and peanut stirfry unlike anything we’d had before.

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The good news is that you can try Asma’s cooking for yourself, and to be honest, I’d get in there fast because this lady is destined for huge success and I think tickets to her table will only become harder and harder to get your hands on.

Asma is cooking for a one-off special event at the Cinnamon Club later this month, which I’m very much looking forward to. Tickets are selling fast so if you are interested, do book now. Or drop her a line for dates to attend her next supperclub.

Me… I’m still dreaming about that feast…

Read more about Perfectly Matched on Edible Experiences

 

With ever rising populations and land pressure, I’m not being controversial when I state that we need to reduce the amount of meat in our diets and increase the volume of grain and vegetables we eat.

But for those of us who love eating meat, this is easier said than done.

There are two ways to do this: the first is to use smaller portions of meat in each meal, such as a 50 grams of bacon used to give flavour and texture to a pasta dish or a fresh vegetable salad with a handful of leftover roast chicken or a stroganoff with lots of mushrooms and only a little steak; the second way is to balance a couple of meat-heavy meals a week with several vegetarian ones. I tend to waiver between these, and don’t eat as many vegetarian meals as I should, which is a shame as I adore tofu and enjoy cooking our home-grown vegetables.

If you opt for the second approach then, budget permitting, it makes a lot of sense to enjoy the best quality meat you can afford – a little of the good stuff rather than a lot of the mediocre.

In a recent article in the Guardian, Alex Renton says:

Lamb is a green dream: the most gentle, ecologically, of all the farmed meats we eat. There is no animal more naturally-raised – it’s all free range and the feed just grows at their feet. Sheep don’t need water in the vast quantities cattle require and farming them is in itself a form of recycling: they graze hills and marginal land, recovering nutrients from poor grass and weeds other livestock won’t eat.

The land that will support one cow and calf can take as many as seven ewes and their lambs. And the grassy downs of modern England look as they do largely because of grazing sheep.

The lamb we produce in Britain is spectacularly good. Our climate seems well suited, both in terms of landscape and weather and the resulting meat is a delight.

A couple of months ago, I was sent a selection box of organic Welsh lamb by Graig Farm. Based in Mochdre in Montgomeryshire, the farm has been run by the Rees family since the 1940’s and has been certified as organic since 1999. Jonathan Rees is committed to producing great food “without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, growth promoting drugs, routine use of antibiotics, and the large amount of additives often used in ‘non-organic’ methods”. Their sheep and cattle graze in grass, clover and herb pastures and their pigs are able to forage in the woods. Ten years ago, they built a processing plant on site, and do all the butchery and processing themselves at the farm.

GraigFarm-4710 GraigFarm-4711

Delivery was straightforward. The meat was neatly packed in a large polystyrene box and kept nicely cooled with ice packs, however I’d have preferred more ecologically-friendly packaging options such as the British sheep-wool insulation that Paganum use.

My box contained 2 half lamb legs, 2 lamb leg steaks, 4 lamb loin chops, 1 boned & rolled lamb shoulder, 2 lamb chump chops and 1 rack of lamb, all organic, of course. This box is priced at £89.

People often dismiss spending the extra on organic with complaints that organic produce tastes no difference to non-organic. In many cases, that’s true. But there are a host of other reasons to consider organic, including the environmental impact of pesticides and fertilisers, the fact that organic farms are far friendlier to wildlife and, on a more selfish note, the vastly reduced use of additives. And farmers who can’t resort to the easy option of pumping their animals full of drugs focus much more strongly on keeping them healthy by more natural means. That added care and attention often does make itself evident in the taste. Of course, there are regulated controls on feed too, which also have an impact on the final product.

Every cut of Graig Farm lamb we’ve eaten has been absolutely superb. The meat is tender but not mushy, the flavour is sweet and rich, and there’s enough fat running through to keep the meat moist as it cooks. I really could not be happier with the quality of the meat.

For the lamb loin chops, I made a very simple marinade and then cooked the chops in a hot oven for about 25 minutes.

 

Garam Masala Marinated Lamb Loin Chops

For the marinade, I first combined 4 bay leaves, a piece of cinnamon bark about an inch wide and long, 1 brown cardamom pod and a couple of small green ones, 6 peppercorns and 3 cloves. These were powdered using a spice grinder and then mixed into approximately two cups of full fat yoghurt. I marinated the chops for a couple of hours before cooking.

Cuisinart-4827 Cuisinart-4836GaramMasalaLambLoinChops-4846

 

Discount Code

Try Graig Farm organic Welsh lamb (or any other meat such as beef and pork) for yourself with a special discount code for Kavey Eats readers:

KAV222

The code gives you 20% off orders over £50 and also includes free delivery. It’s valid until June 30th 2013 and can be used three times per household. Of course, you can pass the code on to friends and family, if they’d like to place an order for themselves.

If you haven’t decided what to have for your Easter Sunday roast, get an order in fast for a superb joint of lamb. The boned rolled shoulder was gorgeous roasted with garlic and rosemary, and the leftovers made wonderful hoisin lettuce wraps and a delicious ragu with pasta.

 

Kavey Eats received a sample box of organic lamb from Graig Farm.

 

A few weeks ago I was asked to film a video recipe for Vouchercodes.co.uk. They were looking for alternative ideas and twists for the Christmas day dinner. I made my mum Mamta’s Tandoori Leg of Lamb, which can be served with all the normal roast dinner trimmings, as we do in our house, or as the central dish to an Indian feast.

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My video recipe is now live on their site, as are other delicious ideas from fellow bloggers. Check them out too!

Here’s the shorter edit that Vouchercodes.co.uk are sharing. I have a longer version that I’ll share with you soon.

Mamta’s Tandoori Leg of Lamb

Ingredients
Leg of lamb, approximately 2 kg
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and 2 halved
1.5 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons besan (gram) flour (leave out if not available)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
A few strands of saffron, soaked in a tablespoon of warm water
3-4 bay leaves
1 inch stick of cinnamon
3-4 cardamoms
6-7 black pepper corns
5-6 cloves
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1-2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 tablespoons good quality oil
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 small carton of creamy, natural yoghurt
Salt to taste

Note: You can replace the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamoms, black pepper corns and cloves with 1 tablespoon of good quality garam masala. Home made is best, as cheap ready made ones are bulked out with other, cheaper spices.

Method

  1. Make slits in the leg of lamb, insert a few halved cloves of garlic into a few of the slits, and set lamb aside.
  2. Optional: Grind the whole spices (see Hints & Tips).
  3. Place all ingredients except yoghurt into a blender and blitz until smooth.
  4. Transfer paste to a bowl, add yoghurt and mix well.
  5. Taste and adjust spices. Remember that the spice paste has to give enough flavour to 2 kg of meat, so it has to taste a little over-salted and over-spiced at this stage.
  6. Spread the spice paste over the lamb, ensuring that some is worked into the slits.
  7. Leave to marinade at least overnight. For best results, 24 to 36 hours.
  8. Place on a baking tray and cover with aluminium foil.
  9. Cook at 375 F, 190C for 1 1/2 hours for pink meat (or 2 hours for well-done meat).
  10. Baste from time to time and leave uncovered for last half hour, so that the spices and meat turn brown.

Hints & Tips

Ingredients

  • Make sure you use full fat yoghurt for this recipe as low fat yoghurt often splits when heat is applied. Thick Greek-style yoghurt works well.
  • If using frozen lamb, defrost thoroughly and drain resulting liquids before applying marinade.
  • Instead of buying tiny jars of spices from the supermarket, it’s more economical to buy in slightly larger quantities from Asian grocery shops. However, spices fade over time, so if you don’t use them up quickly, they’ll lose their intensity of flavour. I’d recommend storing a small amount of each one in easy-to-access spice jars, keeping the rest in your freezer and replenishing as and when you need to.
  • Fresh ingredients such as ginger, coriander and other key ingredients for Indian cooking are also often cheaper in Asian and other ethnic grocery shops. If you don’t have an Indian or Pakistani shop near you, look in stores specialising in Chinese or Caribbean food, as there are many cross-over ingredients.

Tips

  • If your food processor or blender is not very powerful, grind the whole spices in a spice or coffee grinder first, before combining them with the other ingredients. If you have a powerful food processor or blender, add the whole spices with the other ingredients and grind in one step.

Alternatives

  • You can use this marinade recipe on any meat or fish from larger joints or whole chickens, to smaller cuts such as lamb shanks or individual portions of chicken. It also works well on whole fish, though will need far less marinating time.

Serve with

  • We love this tandoori roast lamb with traditional British trimmings – roast potatoes and parsnips, carrot and swede mash, savoy cabbage and gravy. We serve it with either a mint raita or mint jelly. For Christmas, we add chipolatas and stuffing and brussel sprouts for my sister who adores them…
  • Of course, the lamb leg also works as the centrepiece for an extravagant Indian feast. I recommend my favourites such as chicken curry, stuffed aubergines, an additional vegetable dish such as cauliflower and potatoes, a daal or red kidney bean curry, some chapatis and rice on the side. To start, maybe pakoras or samosas and afterwards, a vermicelli kheer, similar to rice pudding but made with vermicelli pasta. Recipes for these dishes can be found on my mum’s site, Mamta’s Kitchen.

Leftovers

  • Use leftovers just as you would with those from a plain lamb roast – make shepherd’s pie, lamb hot pot, a simple lamb curry, lamb and potato cakes or enjoy it sliced cold in sandwiches or wraps, with some of the minted cucumber and onion raita.

TandooriLegLamb1

The introductory segment was filmed right at the end and it was after 11 pm by then, so I’m blaming my odd bounciness in that bit on my tiredness, but the rest is not as cringe-worthy as I feared! In fact, although I’ve long felt I have a face for radio, I’m really happy with it! Really hoping I can work with Voucher Codes on more of these in the future.

Aug 222012
 

I’ve just learned that Cinnamon Club opened at around the same time that we launched Mamta’s Kitchen, in spring 2001. This surprised me, as the head chef Vivek Singh and the restaurant have such strong reputations, I assumed it had been around much longer.

Cinnamon Club was conceived by owner Iqbal Wahhab, who dreamed of opening an Indian restaurant that could match the sophistication and service of Michelin-starred restaurants. It took him several years to bring the project to fruition, not least because some rash remarks resulted in his original investors pulling out and the loss of his original location not to mention the chef he’d originally brought on board, Vineet Bhatia, who gave up waiting and took a position as head chef at Zaika.

Eventually, Wahhab found new investors, a new (and arguably better) location and a new head chef, Vivek Singh, then working in India.

Born in Bengal, India, Singh was always expected to become an engineer, like his father though when younger, he was determined to join the Indian Air Force. Instead, inspired by Marco Pierre White’s ‘White Heat’ and a grand feast served at a catered wedding he attended as a guest, Singh decided to study hospitality and catering. On graduating, he was selected from thousands of hopefuls to join the Oberoi hotel group where he first worked in their flight kitchens (producing meals for airlines) before cooking in several of their prestigious hotels including their flagship Rajvilas in Japiur. That’s where he was working when approached by Wahhab.

Singh was fully in agreement with Wahhab about marrying Indian flavours with Western culinary styles to redefine the expectations and experience of Indian food in London.

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images from web

The restaurant is located in the Old Westminster Library, just behind Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. The grand Victorian building is Grade II listed and retains beautiful original wooden panelling and parquet floors. It’s a very traditional setting, which no doubt suits the clientele – locally based lawyers, politicians and business men and women.

I admire the original features, but find it staid and a little overbearing. I much prefer the styling of younger sister, Cinnamon Kitchen.

On the service front, there are lots of staff, so easy to get attention and service throughout the meal.

The menu offers a decent selection of starters, mains and sides. There’s also an inexpensive set menu available at certain times only (£22/£24) , and a tasting menu for £75. At the moment, you can also order a special 5-course Chettinad menu showcasing dishes from the province for £50.

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I’m a bit surprised that the restaurant has decided to cater for guests who don’t fancy Indian food by offering a European starter and main, both designed by Eric Chavot. I have never seen a restaurant that specialise in a particular cuisine doing this, and find it a bit strange.

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We order from the regular menu, with our waiter suggesting some of the courses for us.

An amuse bouche of vegetable croquette with a yoghurt dip is mildly spiced, crunchy and soft.

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Chargrilled Welsh lamb fillet with nutmeg, sweetbread bhaji and caper kachumber (£9.50) is fabulous. The lamb is really full flavoured, and gently spiced to let the quality of the meat shine through. It’s so moist and tender. The coriander and mint chutney is much like mum’s, simple and tasty and of course, mint is always a winner with lamb. The caper cucumber salad gives a nice crunch and tang. The sweetbread is also a delight, smooth inside against crisp crumb coating.

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Tandoori breast of Anjou pigeon with chickpea and tamarind (£14.50) is also super. Robust tandoori flavours work well with tender and moist pigeon. Chickpeas are simply cooked, with good flavours.

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Our waiter suggests we take a selection of breads (£6.00) with our starter rather than our main. The naan is pillowy soft and with a gentle smokiness. The multigrain roti is chewy and dense; I don’t like it at all. The potato paratha is mediocre.

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Our waiter encourages me to try the Seared rump steak of Wagyu beef with Keralan spices, truffle potato puree. At £45.00, this is the most expensive main, with the rest priced between £16 and £32. I’ve not had wagyu before, and honestly, I am underwhelmed. The meat is far less tender than most restaurant steaks I’ve eaten in the last year or two, even cuts that are usually expected to be less so, such as rib eye and flank! The flavour is decent, but again, not as good as many far less expensive steaks I’ve enjoyed. The spices on top are lovely but I can’t see the benefit of the restaurant using expensive wagyu rather than regular good quality British beef. The truffled potato confuses me – it is pale green and tastes more like pureed brassica than potato. I can’t decide whether I like it, to be honest.

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Pete’s Roast Cumbrian wild red deer saddle with corn and millet kedgeree (£32.00) is a far better choice. Not very gamey, the generous portion of deer tastes like good quality beef and in fact it’s more tender and with better flavour than my wagyu! The accompanying sauce is very tasty.

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For our sides we have one portion of stir-fry of seasonal greens with ‘kadhai’ spices and peanut (£4.50) and one of marsala chicken livers with green peas (£7.00). The first is a straightforward dish; simple fresh vegetables and a pleasant crunch from the peanuts. The second isn’t really the kind of thing I’d consider a side dish, but I order it because it strikes me as unusual and I love chicken livers. It is indeed very tasty, but I stand by my feeling that it’s not really something to have on the side. Perhaps if I’d ordered a vegetarian main dish but fancied a little meat protein too? Very tasty though!

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So far so good. But dessert is a serious let down. I choose dark chocolate and pecan nut pudding with garam masala ice cream (£8.50). The ice cream is fabulous, reminiscent of masala chai. But the chocolate pudding tastes awful and not the nicest texture either. It is so sweet it tastes like really cheap and nasty chocolate, though perhaps they used decent stuff and somehow killed it. I can’t stand it and leave the pudding un-eaten save for the two bites I took to give it fair chance.

To our waiter’s credit, I am asked if there is anything wrong and offered a different dessert when I admit that I don’t like it. I decline, because I am full, but appreciate the offer.

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Pete skips a normal dessert and orders instead a Tiramisu Martini (£8.00) which he declares as utterly fantastic. All the flavours of a favourite dessert in a drink, this slips down very easily.

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With my masala tea (not listed on the hot drinks menu, to my surprise, but available on request) we are given a little dish of sweet treats. The fruit jelly is nice, the chocolates are so-so and the miniature madeleine dried up beyond recognition.

 

A 500 ml carafe of red wine,  selected for Pete by the sommelier, is fairly priced at £22.70. On the drinks front, Cinnamon Club has a decent wine list with many reasonably priced bottles, a small but reasonable soft drinks selection and an extensive and tempting list of single malt whiskies too, so Pete tells me. Of the carafe of wine, he says he wishes more restaurants offered small and medium carafes at reasonable prices. When only one is drinking, a bottle is too much, a glass too small but a carafe, rather like baby bear’s porridge, is just right.

The bill comes to £168.70 plus service, though we’re not paying for our meal this evening. That’s for 2 starters, 2 mains, 3 sides (including the bread), 1 dessert, 1 carafe of wine, 1 cocktail and no other drinks. Whilst we could have knocked off at least £30 by choosing less expensive mains, we could also have ordered aperitifs and a soft drink or two. This is an expensive meal.

Overall we enjoyed it, though there were issues with some dishes.

Having now eaten in Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho, I would say that Cinnamon Club is my least favourite of the three. For similarly elegant dishes in a more open and airy setting, I would recommend Cinnamon Kitchen. For more standard dishes still cooked well, I’d suggest Cinnamon Soho.

 

Kavey Eats dined a as a guest of Cinnamon Club.

Cinnamon Club on Urbanspoon

Jul 282012
 

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Having had an excellent vegetarian meal at sister restaurant Cinnamon Kitchen recently, Cinnamon Soho seemed a good choice when my sister and I were looking for somewhere nice to take our pescetarian mum for a celebratory meal.

We needed somewhere that would cater for a late lunch, and were pleased that Cinnamon Soho offer a (newish) Sunday brunch menu that runs into the afternoon. We arrived at 3, knowing that last orders to the kitchen are at 4. We were not at all rushed, and left almost two hours later.

The restaurant is located at the Western edge of Soho, close to Carnaby Street and Liberty. A handy location for a nice day out but the pavements and shops are somewhat overrun with tourists at the moment!

The Sunday brunch set menu is really good value at £20 for two courses and £24 for three, though you could describe it as three / four courses, since you also choose a side dish alongside your main.

As there were 6 starters and 6 mains and we were a group of five, we were able to taste most of the menu. For our sides, we did likewise.

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Cumin and coriander crusted mushroom on toast with fried egg may not have looked particularly elegant on the plate but tasted great.

The tandoori chicken and chilli Delhi sandwich was excellent, with great texture and taste contrasts.

The grilled fat chilli with paneer was another winner, with soft cubes of stir fried paneer stuffed into a sweet chilli. Beautiful on plate and palate.

The Coorgi pork stir fry was another of the favourites, and something quite new for us in terms of Indian cuisine. Soft, fatty pork that reminded us of Chinese flavours yet had a distinctly Indian spicing.

Upma is a South Indian breakfast dish usually made with semolina or rice. But the quinoa & curry leaf ‘upma’, coconut chutney version, substituting the quinoa seeds, worked well. The flavours were right, and the presentation pretty.

We also ended up with a chilli chicken dish which was accidentally served instead of the chilli and paneer. They immediately suggested we keep it whilst waiting for the missing dish. Another good dish with lots of flavour.

We skipped curried cullen skink, the 6th starter on the menu.

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Our mains didn’t disappoint either.

The stir fried baby aubergine in Chettinad spices, pilau rice were small, tender and beautifully spiced, and served over a rich sauce.

The marrow steak with bitter gourd and lentil sauce was an unusual dish but a particular favourite of mum’s. The thick slices of courgette worked well over the bitter gourd and lentil stir fry beneath and the green leaves gave a nice freshness.

The seared sea bass fillet with aubergine-potato crush was pleasant, though our taste buds were hit hard by some very fiery green chillis in the herb and pea sauce. We liked the mustard flavour in the aubergine and potato mash.

I’m not usually a fan of khichri, which is a much plainer affair in North India, often served when you’re poorly or have an upset stomach. However the rich buttery version in the hot-sweet shrimp ‘kichri’  was a completely different dish and I liked it very much.

My favourite, out of a strong selection, was the Hyderabadi style Cumbrian mountain lamb biryani. The lamb was soft, the rice perfectly cooked and there was a fabulous smoky flavour throughout. Really loved this and would come back for this alone, although there’s much on the menu I enjoyed.

We skipped Syrian chicken ‘ishtew’ with south Indian rice pancake, the other available main.

With the mains were served our chosen sides.

The tandoor roasted aubergine crush was somewhat like mum’s aubergine mush, as we call it and a tasty side dish.

The black lentils were good; not the best I’ve had but decent.

The masala mash was one of the few items none of us thought much of. Bland, a bit dry and not very appealing.

We ordered two bread sides, a potato paratha, which was the second poor show and a garlic naan, which was excellent.

We added 2 more plain naans to our order during the meal, also excellent.

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We were so full that we only two of us ordered desserts, with extra spoons for the others, of course.

Lassi panna cotta with tamarind glazed strawberries was not popular. The tart tangy flavour of yoghurt didn’t work well in this format and was not offset by enough sweetness, either in the panna cotta mix or the accompanying strawberries. Really not pleasant at all.

Luckily, the date pancake with ginger ice cream was excellent. Two thin filo pastry triangles filled with a thin layer of sticky sweet dates, and a lovely ginger ice cream that was not overly sweet. The biscuit that came with the dish wasn’t great, but the key components were excellent.

 

So, overall, the food was excellent with just a few misses amongst a lot of hits.

Service wasn’t poor – the staff were friendly and available – but it wasn’t great either, I found it rather inconsistent. It seems to be a weakness with the group, judging by my recent review visit to Cinnamon Kitchen and I wonder if they need to give recruitment and training of staff a little more attention.

That said, I’d definitely return here, especially for this Sunday brunch deal, which is really great value.

Cinnamon Soho on Urbanspoon

Imli

25 Jul 2012  2 Responses »
Jul 252012
 

Another day another visit to another Indian restaurant in Soho! This time it’s the turn of Imli, which describes itself as offering a “funky, relaxed setting” and claims its speciality as “authentic Indian street food“, served “‘tapas-style’ for sharing“.

I shudder a little when the word tapas is used outside of Spanish tapas joints, though I understand the idea of using it as shorthand for smaller sharing dishes. Since Indian meals are most commonly served family-style – all the dishes in the centre of the table for everyone to help themselves – there’s not really a handy term that springs to mind. One could equally well use meze, which is still not right, but at least a few hundreds miles closer, geographically…

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In any case, the menu is confusing, with Cold and Hot tapas sections followed by Tandoor grilled tapas (which, we are told, are actually mains) and then more tapas sections labelled New tradition, Classic Imli and Vegetarian. I can see no rhyme nor reason in the divisions and we’re unable to order without some guidance from our waitress.

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While I’m waiting for my friend, poppadoms and chutneys are brought out – something tomato-ey, a mango chutney and a sharp thick beetroot one. I order a sweet lassi, which is delicious made from a lovely tangy yoghurt.

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Our waitress suggests a main each from the grills and a couple of tapas dishes.

From the Tandoor grills we choose the Tandoor mixed grill (minimum 2 people) which includes chicken tikka, tandoori fish, lamb chop and paneer tikka and is served with dal makhani and naan bread. We also choose a Seafood Malabar and an Aubergine masala. On the side we have a pulau rice and a cucumber raita.

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The Tandoor mixed grill is very tasty. The lamb chop is robustly spiced and wonderfully soft. The chicken tikka is fantastically moist, the herby marinade is fresh and delicious. The paneer tikka is lovely, with a pleasant texture – soft with a hint of a crust. And the fish, Nile perch, is nicely cooked, its lime leaf, mint and fresh coriander flavourings refreshing. The dal is thick and rich. The naans are soft and fluffy with a lovely smoky taste from the tandoor.

It’s all great but at £15.50 per person, i.e. £31 for this plate, it’s hugely expensive for what it is.

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The Seafood Malabar (£9.95) is delicious. Full of soft, plump morsels of white fish, squid rings and 4 generously-sized prawns cooked in a coconut and tomato sauce, it’s rich and tasty.

Both of us absolutely love the Aubergine masala (£6.50) and it might be our favourite dish of the meal. Soft, soft aubergine full of smokiness and spices, this is very good indeed. A touch oily, as you can see, but neither of us mind that at all.

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Pulao rice (£3.50) is such a simple dish but it’s lifted here by the use of good quality Basmati and deft flavouring.

The Cucumber raita (£1.85) has a great natural yoghurt taste, but is thicker than both of us would prefer, and slightly light on cucumber. Flavours, however, are spot on.

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We initially turn down desserts but our waitress is keen for us to try something and insists we could just have a bite each, if we share one. We succumb and order the Gulab jamon with fig and ginger ice cream (£4.65). It’s so good we do manage more than a bite each, though we don’t quite manage to finish it. The gulab jamon is a sweet, syrup-soaked sponge that the Tooth Fairy must surely be a fan of. It’s balanced nicely by the simple fig and ginger ice cream, which holds back on the sweetness.

I’m so full that my stomach probably resembles a giant gulab jamon!

We end the meal with masala tea (£1.95) and an espresso £2.25).

 

I’m not really convinced by the presentation of the menu as Indian tapas. What we ordered was no different to any other Indian restaurant, where you choose a few starters, mains and sides and share them between the group. The concept makes the restaurant seem gimmicky, which is a shame, as the food is not.

Most of it, with the exception of the Tandoori mixed grill, is reasonably priced.

Service is friendly and attentive, though I’d hope so as we are there for a pre-arranged review visit. That said, it seems good for the neighbouring tables too, with one of the waiters taking a lot of time to translate and describe menu items to a group of French tourists with limited English.

 

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Imli Restaurant.

Imli on Urbanspoon

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