Thursday, 22 November 2012

Kumara with Fish, Coconut & Curry Leaves

Although I prefer vegetarian, I'll happily eat small amounts of meat at times, particularly fish and seafood; the curry below is one where the fish takes a back seat in the dish but interesting textures and flavours shine through. I really wanted to create something using curry leaves, which I've used before, in a tamarind and prune chutney I developed (puliyini); I thought it would be interesting to use them more now that they're available fresh and cheaply from Indian food stockists. Not to be confused with the spice, or the herb of the same name of course. 
Because curry leaves have quite a soft texture they don't have to be discarded from the dish when cooked - apparently they're good for digestion as well as a few other ailments, and the texture isn't at all unpleasant (see note below for more information).

 Kumara with Fish, Coconut & Curry Leaves

The star of this dish is the kumara (sweet potato) and the curry leaves, not the relatively small quantity of fish. It does add to the balance of the dish however, without taking over.
Serves  4, or 6 if served with other curries.
*Curry leaves don’t taste anything like the spice of the same name; in fact they are from a tree belonging to the citrus family and have a mildly citrus, nutty flavour when fried in oil. There is no need to discard them when cooked as they contain medicinal properties and are not at all unpleasant in texture. As you would expect, fresh leaves are much more flavourful than dried.

500g red kumara
¾ cup loosely packed curry leaves*
¼ cup oil
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
 ½ - ¾ tsp chilli powder
  or 1 x 5cm long red chilli, seeded and chopped finely
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp garum masala
1 ½ cups vegetable, fish or chicken stock (or water)
¼ cup tamarind paste
1 x 400g tin coconut cream
1 ½ tsp salt or to taste, & coarsely ground black pepper
1 red capsicum, seeded and diced
1 firm but ripe banana, peeled and diced 2cm
200 - 300g firm white fish fillet, diced 3cm
fresh coriander for garnish

Peel the kumara, cut into 2cm dice, and set aside. Strip the curry leaves from their stalks and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium-high heat, and stir in the mustard seeds. Cook until the seeds start to ‘pop’, then reduce heat immediately and stir in the curry leaves, cumin seeds, ginger, chilli powder or chilli, turmeric and garum masala.
Stir in the diced kumara then the water, and cook for five minutes, stirring.  Stir in the tamarind paste, coconut cream, salt, pepper and prepared red capsicum and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the banana and simmer another 15 minutes or until the kumara is tender but not mushy.
Stir in the prepared fish and cook through, three – four minutes.
Serve the curry with plain or brown steamed rice, chutneys, plain yoghurt, and warm chapatis if wished. Garnish with finely chopped coriander. 

Rhubarb and Strawberries

Okay, this is a bit of a cheat because the recipe's already been published in my 'Vegetarian Kitchen" cookbook, but it's just the right time of year for rhubarb and strawberries and it's such a favourite with all my family and friends. 
Not only does it taste so good, I really like that there is no precooking of either the fruit or the pastry required (basically, I'm a bit lazy  - unless there's a really compelling reason for doing something like pre-cooking pastry bases, like it'll be soggy, I don't do it).
Plum Kitchen's blog gave me a timely nudge - she's just made rhubarb and strawberry jam, which I must try! 

This pie is a star! Strawberries and rhubarb make great partners; that’s really all there is to be said. Guaranteed to win compliments, it’s especially quick to prepare if you use pre-rolled (frozen) pastry in the interests of convenience*.
 No pre-cooking of either fruit or pastry is required.
Serves 6-8. Suitable to freeze.
Most of us don’t want to do anything more with the first strawberry crops than eat them raw, perhaps with a little icing sugar and cream; it’s only when they’re at their cheapest and most plentiful that we cast around for sorbets, fools, coulis and pies.

2 sheets sweet shortcrust pastry
300g hulled strawberries
300g prepared rhubarb stalks
½ cup caster sugar
2 Tbsp cornflour
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp sugar

Pre heat oven to 220 C.
Lightly spray or grease a 25cm pie or quiche tin.
Use one of the thawed pastry sheets to line the prepared tin – you will probably need to trim a 5 cm strip of pastry off the second sheet and use to extend this so it covers the bottom and sides of the tin (wet one edge and press together).
Hull the strawberries and slice large berries into quarters, and medium sized into halves. Weigh both the berries and the rhubarb after preparation, as there is often some wastage that should be accounted for.
Using a sharp knife, slice the rhubarb thinly, discarding any stringy pieces as you go.
Place the prepared berries and rhubarb in a bowl and combine with the caster sugar, cornflour, nutmeg and zest.
Transfer the filling evenly into the prepared base, then cut the remaining pastry sheet into 7 strips. Use the strips to design a lattice top over the filling, then brush the strips with the milk, using a pastry brush, and sprinkle with the ordinary granulated sugar.
Place the pie in the pre- heated oven and bake at 220 C for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200 C.
Cover the pie with a sheet of tin foil at this point to stop it browning too fast. Bake for a further 40-45 minutes, uncovering the pie for the last 10 minutes of cooking to ensure the top is an even golden brown.
Serve at room temperature or slightly warm, accompanied by vanilla ice cream or lightly whipped cream.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Good Time Xmas Meringues & Rhubarb Champagne

Each year I do a Xmas menu, but this year it's going to be shot at an interior designer's house instead of mine (yay!). My brief is different, too - simple but classy, and not too expensive. I've been planning and preparing some ideas to fit; obviously there aren't any hard and fast rules, but I do like the idea that Christmas dinner doesn't have to break the bank and that it doesn't have to be an enormous effort on the day.

First up, rhubarb champagne; something that oldies and even tots can enjoy, and if something stronger is needed, it's easy to add a dash of imagination to individual glasses.It's pink, fizzy, and looks expensive if served in an appropriate glass.

 Rhubarb is in season at the moment, so it's a great opportunity to make some ahead of time. I was just a wee bit worried that it's still a bit cool for the fermentation to happen within my time frame, but I needn't have worried - I just helped it along a little by putting it the linen cupboard with the hot water cylinder, and sure enough - 3 days fermenting with natural yeasts from the rhubarb and lemon, then strained and bottled, back for another 3 days and voila!

The photo hasn't come out quite as pink and gorgeous as it is in reality, but the 'champagne' does taste quite exotic. This recipe will be in my new book, but I have posted the recipe already - click here to go directly to the post titled  Rhubarb Champagne and Chocolate Beetroot Cake.

I've also been working on a very simple but great tasting entree of stuffed mushrooms en croute, then the main course will be a marinated sliced salmon dish and a spreadeagled chicken, both with a nod to Asian flavours, and some lovely salads and veg, of course. The dessert will be really, really simple; two different 'good time meringues' served with lots of fresh berries (all reds, black, purples and pink from watermelon balls) and softly whipped cream or creme fraiche.

A friend made some meringues with melted chococlate swirled through last summer, and I always meant to ask her for the recipe. However, I figured they can't be too difficult and they weren't; I just used my faithful old meringue recipe from 25 years ago, melted some chocolate and swirled it through at the last minute, then baked the meringues a bit longer than usual. They were scrumptious; I'm always a sucker for meringues, especially when they're crisp outside and marshmallow inside.

My lovely editor came up with the idea of teaming them with pink meringues, flavoured with a little rosewater and dried strawberries. I have to say, they were nice too, although the photo shows them before cooking. I wasn't too keen on using pink food colouring so on my first try I used freeze dried plum powder. Unfortunately the colour faded with cooking, though, so food colouring it will have to be. . .