Crispy paratha stuffed with paneer and green chilli (aka chur chur paratha)

These stuffed paratha are a bit different from the ones that come with a filling of spicy potato in as much as they are crispy and contain paneer cheese and green chillies. Paneer is Indian cheese which you can easily get from supermarkets now. It has a very mild, milky taste and doesn’t melt which makes it perfect for cooking with so that it absorbs the flavours around it.

The parathas are made crispy by cooking them with butter/oil. When they’re good and crisp, they are taken out of the pan and put onto kitchen paper and then squashed (while still in the kitchen paper) into a cup shape with your hands, so that the paratha breaks apart to show the cheese.

Serve these paratha with a cup of tea and some yogurt to dip into, to tame the fresh, green heat of the chillies.

Chur Chur Paratha – makes 4 or more smaller ones

Chapatti dough

250g/1 1/2 cups atta flour OR plain flour OR half and half wholemeal and white plain flour

125ml water (more or less, depending on the flour and what it absorbs)

Big pinch of salt

Put the flour into a large bowl with the salt and gradually mix in the flour until you have a soft, pliable dough. It shouldn’t be hard at all and all of the flour should be absorbed. Knead for a few minutes and then pop in a plastic bag and leave aside to rest for 10 – 30 minutes. You can now safely leave the dough in the fridge for up to five days and make one stuffed paratha at a time. The dough will darken over time, but will taste even better for the time in the fridge.

Stuffing ingredients:

1 block of paneer, grated

4 green chillies, chopped finely (this depends on your heat level, I use 1 chilli per paratha so I’d use 4 for this, but go as hot as you want)

1tsp salt (to taste)

Mix all of the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl. This can also be safely kept in the fridge until needed.

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Pull off a large golf sized ball of dough and roll it into a circle. Divide the filling into 4 and pile one quarter of it onto the rolled out dough. You can see from the photo that it looks as though there is too much filling – but there isn’t!

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Bring all of the edges together into the centre to completely cover the filling. To create a little dough bag full of cheese and chilli.

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Start to roll out the bag from the top where most of the dough is, making sure to dust underneath with flour to prevent sticking. Don’t use too much pressure or the bag will burst open. Not the end of the world if it does, but it’s best not to.

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Turn the paratha over and gently roll the other side.

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Keep rolling until you can clearly see the cheese underneath, but not so thin that the cheese starts to pop through. Thicker is best, if you’re worried.

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Heat a frying pan over a medium high heat and have some melted butter or oil next to the pan, along with a teaspoon. Don’t grease the pan at all.  Lay the thickest side of the paratha onto the pan and leave it to cook for a minute or so until light brown spots appear on the underside. Turn the heat to medium low and then carefully flip it over.

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While the other side is cooking drizzle some melted butter on the cooked top and smear it around with the base of the teaspoon until it’s completely covered. Keep checking the bottom of the paratha so that it’s not burning.

Using the edge of your spatula, push into the paratha to make holes in it on both sides to prevent it from puffing up and to increase crispiness.

Flip it over again and drizzle more butter/oil over. Keep on flipping every 30 seconds or so until the paratha is good and crispy on both sides.

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Put the paratha on 3 or 4 sheets of kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and then push up with your hands to form a bowl with the paratha. Then kind of twist it around until it starts to break apart.

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I add a swirl of harrisa to my yogurt for extra flavour. The best breakfast in the world!

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I see you baby – Chicken Madras!

If you cook the onions a few days ahead, you can have this on the table quicker than you can get a take away delivered. So much tastier too! It’s tastier if you cook it and leave it in the fridge overnight, making it all even quicker!

Chicken Madras (serves 4)

3tblsp of Madras curry powder (any will do, but ours is freshly ground and comes without any added chilli powder so that you can ramp up the heat to suit yourself – get it here)

600g chicken (breast/thigh or a mixture of all – just make sure it’s off the bone)

1tsp chilli powder (more or less to taste)

1tsp salt

1tsp sugar (optional)

1 onion

1-4 green chillies (make it as hot or mild as you like)

2 cloves garlic

Roughly the same amount of ginger to garlic

400ml pasatta or 1 tin of tomatoes (if using a tin of tomatoes, whizz them until smooth and add a squirt of tomato puree for colour)

CHILLI HEAT TOP TIP: If you like a mild curry, just use 1/4-1/2 tsp chilli powder or 1 whole green chilli but don’t cut it or pierce it at all. Pop the whole thing in the curry and pull it out at the end. You can then put the cooked chilli into the dish of someone who’d appreciate the heat, leaving your portion with chilli flavour without the heat!

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In a plastic bag/bowl, combine the juice of half a lemon, 2tblsp of the Madras curry blend, 1tsp chilli powder (if using), 1 clove of garlic grated/crushed and 1tsp salt. Mix everything together until the chicken is evenly coated. Cover with cling film or close the bag and leave in the fridge for 10 minutes to overnight. When you’re ready to cook, bring it back to room temperature (don’t worry if you forget, the chicken just absorbs more flavour at room temperature)

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To prepare the onion, if you have a food processor or a mini food processor make short work of the finely chopping bit by cutting the peeled onion into quarters and whizzing. Don’t turn it into puree though!

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Heat 2-4 tblsp oil/ghee/butter and oil in a pan and cook the onion on very low heat, covered until it’s very soft – about 20 minutes, stirring very often to prevent it burning. If you think it might burn, add a splash of water or a little more oil.

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Take the lid off the onions and turn the heat to medium and carry on cooking until the onions are a lovely golden brown. Don’t rush this bit because it gives your curry a deep, savoury flavour. You can even cook the onions a few days ahead to make it all quicker. But, if you need to speed things up, it’s not the end of the world!

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While the onions are cooking finely chop/grate/crush the chillies, ginger and remaining clove of garlic. I usually chop them roughly and add them with a good splash of water to a blender and whizz them to a watery paste to speed things up. I had a spare red chilli so used that to add to the red colour of the finished dish.

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Add the ginger/chill/garlic paste to the cooked onions and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes until you can smell the garlic. Add the remaining tablespoon of Madras spice blend and stir well for a minute.

Turn the heat to high. Add the chicken to the pan and stir thoroughly until everything is incorporated and the chicken is sealed.

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Add the pasatta/tin of tomatoes and stir well to combine. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Take the lid off, turn the heat up and continue with a fast simmer until the sauce is as thick as you like it and the chicken is cooked through. Taste. Add sugar and more salt if needed, along with more chilli powder/finely chopped green/red chilli if you think it needs more heat.

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Serve with chopped coriander if liked. Delicious! Leftovers are amazing for breakfast, or made into pasties/pies, or with a jacket potato. Keeps in the fridge for 5 days. Freezable.

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Nutmeg, fresh from Grenada!

People who know Stef and I will understand that finding new ingredients makes us very happy – some might say a little too happy (but we don’t care!).

When a friend recently went on a cruise around Barbados (a rich friend, obvs) I remembered buying a nutmeg with the mace still attached when I was in my 20’s and hadn’t been able to find one since. I asked if he saw any to bring me some back.

I was so happy when I received this photo saying “Is this what you’re looking for?”

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It was what I was looking for but even better! I’d seen pictures of nutmeg still in its fruit, but never with the prospect of that very fruit coming to live with me!

The nutmeg fruit is used in preserves over there and can’t be exported because once the fruit has opened to expose the nutmeg, it deteriorates really quickly. The bright red that you can see is the mace which is a spice in its own right, you can buy it in ‘blades’ or ground and it has a similar flavour to nutmeg, but lighter. When you buy blades of mace in a shop, they are brown in colour – it was fantastic to see them so red. My friend had found them on the floor, like conkers!

I couldn’t wait to see them in the flesh.

Sure enough, a package appeared on my doorstep – the best present ever!

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It had started to wrinkle and dry a little and the leaves were long gone, but here it was and it was mine!

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The mace was still a vibrant red and the nutmeg was nestling nicely in its fruity bed. There was a promising rattle coming from inside the shell – the only way to get to the nutmeg is to take off the mace and then get the nut crackers out to crack the outer shell. Fortunately, I’d been brought some spares!

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I felt as though I’d just seen a baby duck hatch! The scent of nutmeg was intense but softer than normal.

We sliced into the fruit and cut a sliver to taste. A very vague taste of nutmeg, but overwhelmed by a ‘green’ taste. It dries your mouth like rhubarb does when you eat it, but without the tang. So… fruit-wise, not so good.

I’ve only cracked open a couple – I’m saving them for special occasions like cracking open champagne.

In the meantime, let’s start thinking about recipes to use nutmeg in!

 

 

A taste of Spring at market

Even though we haven’t had lots of snow and really cold mornings this year, Winter has seemed very long this year. It’s lovely to see the changes at market when new seasons begin and this year the changes seem to have come in all at once.

Even having to get up at 5 a.m. didn’t matter this morning when I got there and had a look around!

I hope these photos give a ‘Spring’ to your step this morning.

tulips 2

purple sprouting brocolli

fragrant narcissi

globe courgettes                                                                                           hyacinthbulbs

Spring Cabbage

Urad dhal Puri (spicy balloon bread)

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These delicious flat breads are a lovely addition to any Indian meal. They’re deep fried so maybe not something that you’d want to serve as standard, but they are so gorgeous that it’s well worth adding them to your special occasion recipes. And hey, they’re made with lentils and wholemeal flour?

The dough is made with soaked Urid Dal (which are small, white lentils that you can buy from Indian shops or in some World Food aisles at larger supermarkets),  spices and wholewheat flour. When you submerge the rolled out dough under the bubbling oil, they puff up dramatically and because the outside cooks crisply, they don’t  deflate at all which make them quite spectacular to put on the table. They’re hollow inside, so the shell is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside – perfect for scooping up curries!

This recipe makes 8 large Puri or 12 small

1/4 cup of urid dal (or skinless, split moong dal) which you’ll need to soak for 4-6 hours in cold water (just remember to put them in water before you go to work or go out shopping if it’s the week end and they’ll be done when you get back)

Before soaking, left. After soaking, right.
Before soaking, left. After soaking, right.

1 cup wholemeal flour

1tblsp fennel seeds, coarsely crushed in a pestle and mortar

1tblsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp asafoetida (aka hing)

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1/4 tsp ground ginger powder

2tblsp oil

1/4 cup lukewarm water

Drain the dal and coarsely grind in a mini chopper/mini food processor. Scrape the bowl down as necessary, adding a tiny amount of water if necessary to loosen it up. You need to keep water to an absolute minimum.

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Mix the dry ingredients together – flour, ground coriander, ground ginger, fennel, asafoetida, salt and chilli flakes.

Add the dal paste and mix together with your hand, squishing everything together.

20150815_175434Add a 1/4 cup (60ml) of water slowly to bring everything together into a tough dough, then add 1 1/2 tblsp oil.

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Squish the oil through with your hand until it’s incorporated. Knead well – for about 5 minutes to make the puri light. Put in a plastic bag or cover with cling film and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Oil your palm and knead again for a couple of minutes before cutting the dough into the required amount of puri. Knead each into a ball to make them smooth.

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Lightly grease a rolling pin and the work surface where you’ll be rolling out. Roll out the balls until they’re quite thin, a bit thicker than a penny. Don’t stack them on top of each other because they’ll stick together.

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Put about 8-10cm of flavourless oil into a wok/medium saucepan and heat until a tiny ball of dough floats to the surface after a second or two (another way of seeing if it’s ready is to put the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil, if bubbles appear around it, it’s good to go).

Slide one of the rolled discs into the hot oil and immediately gently but firmly press in down with a slotted spoon. The disc should start to puff up in places or completely. Turn the disc over straight away to cook the other side. At this point the disc should have inflated completely. Cook for another few seconds until golden brown and transfer to kitchen roll to drain. If your puri don’t rise completely, don’t worry – they’ll still taste good. By the end of frying, you’ll get the hang of it for next time.

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Blurry action shots – they’re fast movers!
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They puff up very quickly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue until all of the discs are cooked. Serve straight away, or reheat in a hot oven for a couple of minutes (although they are better, fresh from the pan!)

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Halloumi and Sweetcorn Fritters

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I made these lovely fritters when I needed a new way to use up my halloumi. They’re super quick and easy to make – I had mine for tea with an avocado salad but I reckon they’d be great for brunch too!

You will need:

1 large tin of sweetcorn or around 275g frozen sweetcorn, left to defrost

Half a packet of halloumi, diced into small cubes

1 red chilli, finely chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

a small bunch of coriander/parsley/basil (I used half parsley/half basil)

2 eggs

90g plain flour

75ml milk (I used almond milk but whatever you have is fine)

 

Instructions

Pour half the sweetcorn into a food processor and whizz until combined (it doesn’t have to be smooth!)

 

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Combine the whizzed sweetcorn, the whole sweetcorn, cubed halloumi, chilli, spring onions and herbs in a bowl and mix until combined.

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In a separate bowl, whisk the flour and eggs, then gradually add the milk to make a pancake mix sort of texture.

Add this to the bowl with the sweetcorn and cheese mix and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add a tbsp of oil into a frying pan on a medium/high heat, swirl the oil round in the pan until it’s coated then pour a ladle of the mixture into the pan (if you want large fritters it will make around 6, or if you want smaller ones it will make about ten)

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Cook for 2-3 minutes until dark brown underneath then turn over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper and repeat the process for the others.

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