Posts Tagged ‘fish’

There are over 150 different languages spoken in India.
Whether it’s one of the 422 million Hindi speakers or one of the 38,000 Lepcha speakers, it seems like everyone has a different word referring to the same thing.

It’s not just the language that changes every time you get off a train, but the food as well. If you’re looking for something bread-like to accompany a curry then you could go for a naan, roti, chapatti, dosa, puri, appam, phulka…you get the point.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Like most Brits, I knew that a korma was generally quite creamy and yellow. I knew that the main purpose of a Vindaloo was for blowing the heads off boozed-up stag parties and I knew that Baltis were steeped in national pride having never set foot in India, but being invented in Birmingham. But that was about it.

The Pataks and Sharwoods have added to the mystique surrounding the art of curry making. I suppose it’s in the interest of these curry sauce magnates to imply that their ready-made jars contain a complex combination of ingredients that couldn’t possibly be put together by the British home cook.

But I’ve had a revelation. And a big part of it is because I’ve discovered the true meaning of ‘masala’. For all my life up to now, ‘masala’ was just a generically Indian, curry-related word which was spoken with great authority when ordering an Indian: “I’ll have the chicken tikka masala and a Kingfisher”.

But as of last week, I’ve learned the simple truth that a ‘masala’ is just a mixture of spices, often combined with a bit of water for a DIY curry paste. Get a basic arsenal of spices, learn what goes with what, and you’ve suddenly got a huge repertoire of curries at your fingertips which will exceed anything on the Tesco shelves.

In Fort Cochin I went on a cooking course and learned some basic masala recipes which I’m I thought I’d share with you, dear reader, below.

Fish Curry

MASALA for fish curry
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp fenugreek powder (too much fenugreek in masalas can create a bitter taste)
4 tsp chilli powder (I’ve got Kashmiri chilli powder which is a warm, medium strength)
mix together with ½ water glass of tap water

Also (for 4 people)
500g meaty fish (we used barracuda)
½ finger-sized piece of ginger (cut into ½ cm squared pieces)
6-8 cloves of garlic
3-4 shallots (loosely cut)
4 tbalespoons of coconut oil (corn or sunflower is ok, but avoid olive oil)
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
4-5 teaspoons of tamarind paste

Pour the oil into a pan, and on a low heat start cooking the garlic, shallots, mustard seeds and ginger. Stir together the masala in a separate bowl, and then add it to the pan with the garlic etc., ‘roasting’ it on a slow heat for 7-10 minutes, until it starts to turn a darker colour.

Add the tamarind paste, and then use a good splash of water to rinse out any residue from the masala bowl and add it to the pan. Add a little salt or curry leaves (as in photo) if you fancy. Then turn up the heat a little bit so the curry is starting to bubble very gently—at this point carefully add then add the fish. Cook gently for 20-25 minutes, and try not to mix it too much—fish is more likely to fall apart than meat or vegetables.
Nb. If your curry is looking too watery, then add a little cornflour mixed with water or some potato flour to thicken and stir in gently.

Green Pea Curry

MASALA for Chickpea or Green Pea curry
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 ½ tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
Mix together with ½ glass of tap water

Also (for 2-3 people)
150-200g chick peas or green peas
1-2 onions
1 finger-sized piece of ginger
5 garlic cloves
(Optional) coconut milk
(Optional) fresh tomatoes

Sautee the onion, ginger and garlic in oil. Add the masala, and gently roast until it begins to turn a darker colour and the oil starts to separate a little. Add the peas or chickpeas and cover with a mug of water – just enough so that the water is sitting a little below the line of the vegetables. If you fancy, then add fresh tomatoes at this stage (or anything else that takes your fancy.) Cook on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Add a mug of thick coconut milk if you have some lying about—make sure that the pan is off the heat when you add this otherwise it will curdle.

Dhal Curry

MASALA for Dhal Curry
1 ½ tsp cumin powder
1 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp tumeric powder
Mix together with ½ glass of tap water

Also (for 2 people)
1 cup red lentils
2 ½ cups of water
Sprinkle of mustard seeds
6-10 cloves of garlic
1 large onion
3 tablespoons of coconut oil (sunflower or corn is fine—avoid olive oil)

Sautee the garlic and onion. Add the mustard seeds, and then the masala—though don’t cook it for too long as cumin and chilli can burn quite easily. Tip in the lentils and water into the pan with the garlic, onion and masala, then cook on a gentle heat, adding salt to taste. Serve with chopped coriander leaves and a hearty squeeze of lime juice.

Leelu Roy making chapattis

Making Chapatti (roughly 8 chapattis)
1 cup of lukewarm water
2 cups of wheat flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp corn/sunflower oil

Use one hand to bring together the flour, water and salt in a mixing bowl. If it’s a little wet then add some more flour. Knead it, then add the oil and knead again for a couple of minutes.

Divide the dough into little, lime-sized balls. Sprinkle a little flour onto a surface and then roll them out to a couple of millimetre’s thickness.

Put the chapatti on a medium heat pan, and cook until it begins to turn colour, then brush some oil on both sides, press and turn with a spatula. Keep them warm by stacking them and covering with a tea towel—reheating them in an oven or microwave will turn them hard.

Leely Roy making chapattis

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Back from Kerala about a stone heavier, covered in mosquito bites and buzzing from an epic adventure.

We travelled between Fort Cochin, Ooty and Alleppy on trains, buses, and boat. We infiltrated the Maharaja of Mysore’s summer palace, had an epiphany over the actual meaning of ‘masala’, and Tom narrowly escaped serious injury after throwing himself headfirst down an 8ft ladder carrying a tea tray.

But I’m not going to prattle on, because a picture speaks a thousand words, so here we go…

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After five days in the office, I was counting down the hours to get into the kitchen at Bonnie and Wild. It was an epic night. Thanks to a wine matching menu, 30 of the 80 covers went out in one go…no mean feat with just three of us in the kitchen.

But by the comments from diners meandering through the kitchen, I think it’s fair to say that we pulled it off. One lady actually stopped by to smell (pretty much inhale) the homemade tomato chutney…though that was probably down to the quantity of booze she’d ploughed through rather than the brilliance of the chutney.

So, here’s what we were cooking up in the kitchen – it was mainly down to the chef Iain, though I’m taking total credit for the scallops…having probably only cooked about 15 in my life until Friday, I pan fried about 180 in a single evening – the best way perfect the art…!

amuse bouche - salmon cured in whisky and lemon

pheasant terrine and apple chutney (tasted a gazillion times better than it looks - I'd go as far as saying the best thing on the menu on Friday)

scallops with wild 'shrooms and butternut squash

venison with a beetroot jus, turnip mash and haggis

mullet and razor clam

poached pears with vanilla cream


happy diners at bonnie and wild

The restaurant is open from 7pm every Friday and Saturday. The venue is laid out mainly in booths for 4 and 6.

To make a reservation book online here
alternatively you can send an e-mail to:[email protected]

Please note the restaurant is CASH ONLY & BYOB (£29 for three courses).

The Bonnie & Wild / M. Manze
74 Chapel Market, Islington, London N1 9ER

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I never thought that I was that girl who got ludicrously excited about summer holidays.

The sort of excitement where you lie out all your clothes on the bed a week before you leave, and draw up a militant list of pedicures, waxes and tans. You line up you travel shampoos next to the travel toothpaste, and a meticulously packed travel wallet, and then leap out of bed at 5am on the morning of departure like the Boots advert women.

I was pondering over why I lacked these levels of enthusiasm. And the reason became clear. I’ve not been on a proper summer holiday for ages. Having a boyfriend who hates the sun, and loves driving near-to-broken down cars has meant that I’ve had a load of other trips. Great trips. But trips that involve weeing in bushes and shaving my legs in pub sinks. Certainly not the sort of holiday that inspires the conventional countdown.

Anyway, this year was different. We decided to go Italy. And, much to our surprise, when we woke up on Friday (to leave on Saturday) we began to feel a childlike enthusiasm. Work dragged like the last morning of school before you break up for summer holidays. By the time the hands clunked to 5:30pm I was quite honestly about to explode.

Now, this rambling prelude does have a point to it. I want you, dear reader, to imagine my excitement, and then consider that on the top of everything, I’d been emailed four days prior to departure, and told that I’d won a Jamie Magazine competition to eat at Massimo’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar on Friday night. On top of that, you should know that it was also Tom’s birthday on Saturday (something that would usually pass with little ceremony – but considering our childlike state of enthusiasm, we’d really got quite worked up about it). So, by the time that we met outside the grand, Mayfair building that is Massimo’s, we were already bouncing about like a child who drank all the coke.

The restaurant was spectacular. If I’d been taken there on a business lunch I’d have been extremely impressed. If I’d been taken there on a date, I’d have definitely been wooed. Taking my excitable mood into consideration though, I felt more like a schoolgirl going the headmaster’s office.

This feeling didn’t pass when Tom waded straight in there before I could brief him, and asked Andy, the lovely editor of Jamie Magazine, whether Jamie was a weekly. Poor Andy looked a little disappointed, and asked if he should assume that Tom wasn’t a subscriber.

I slipped my flats off, put on my heels, and was handed a chilled glass of prosecco. Holiday had started early. We spoke to Andy and Holly, the editor and deputy, who are a duo that Jamie himself sourced out in Australia. They moved near to the Old Street offices and put together what is a triumph of a magazine. So many people in the magazine world speak of their publications with the expected trepidation that comes from working in what’s often referred to as a ‘dying industry’. The guys at Jamie were the most optimistic I’ve come across though – and no wonder – they’ve struck a glorious balance of producing a collectable magazine that is seasonal, beautiful, and really encourages readers to treat themselves to the June issue so it can nestle next to their May issue in their cookbook shelf.

Anyway, I digress. Just as I was getting accustomed to the pillars, arched ceilings, and sparkly fresh fish bar at Massimo’s, we were ushered into a wood-panelled side room where there was a huge table with places for the nine winners and their ‘plus-ones’.

Here lies the second error of judgement. Tom had assumed that it would be dinner a deux. He’d let himself slip into the naughty schoolboy mode that is so easy to fall into, but very difficult to snap out of…and only then did it transpire that he needed to be sociably adept in a dining situation with lots of strangers.

Well, the first course came – heaps of parma ham, mozzarella and bread. Then Massimo himself appeared at an open demonstration kitchen at the back, and started to whisk out one after another antipasto with consummate ease. There was no set menu, so I can’t tell you exactly what we ate, but it was light, and delicate, and some of the most flavoursome food I’ve ever tasted: tiny bits of battered cod, artichoke, sundried tomatoes, gnocci, carbonara…

…it was all going exceedingly well, until about four courses in we were given a fish tabbouleh (which was, incidentally, the best course of all) - Tom picked up the bowl, offered it to the two women to our right, and said: “you’ll like this, because you’re women, and women like couscous.” Wow. To say that it received a similar reception to when Cameron told Angela Eagle to “calm down, dear” would be putting a really positive spin on events. He went to the loo after that course, and when he came back, I heard one of them stage whisper: “he’s probably just snorted a line of coke.” Then they left. Whoops – sorry Jamie Magazine – though I don’t take full responsibility. They hadn’t really seemed in the mood all evening.

Two empty seats next to Tom. Oh dear.

Anyway – more fool them, because the next course was a phenomenal monkfish with tapenade, aubergine and cherry tomatoes.

Then (as is the Italian way) just when I thought I’d never be able to put another morsel of food in my mouth for at least another week, we were presented with the lightest and most wonderful tiramisu, which I devoured within seconds.

After supper, we stayed and chatted to the other diners, mulled over the great food, and took in the glorious surroundings. Then, our night of excess came to an end. I got the number 8 back to Bethnal Green, and played packing roulette in preparation for the morning flight.

Thanks for a great night, Jamie Magazine…and if it’s any consolation, guess what I got Tom for his birthday – a subscription.

Italian chef Massimo Riccioli, of the famous La Rosetta in Rome, opened Massimo Restaurant & Oyster at the Corinthia Hotel in May 2011.

16 Northumberland Avenue, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5BY
Tel: 0207 7998 0555

DISCLAIMER: The people from Jamie’s Magazine have since confirmed that the reason the women left “wasn’t related to Tom’s offensive stereotyping of grains and women.”

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A couple of weeks ago I started thinking about what I was going to eat for supper at around half past two in the afternoon. This isn’t unusual behaviour. By the time work had finished, I’d decided that it was going to be a fish pie night.

That was all good and well until I went to Tesco’s and they were out of fresh fish. I’d become so fixated on my fish pie idea by this point I literally couldn’t thing of a single other thing to cook, so I went to the frozen section and came across 12 coley fillets for £5. Jackpot!

I defrosted the fish and made the pie as usual. My boyfriend is a canny thing though - he saw the frozen fish packet, and decided that he didn’t like it out of principle.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with frozen fish though. Sure – some frozen things are best avoided, like steak pies and sponge cakes, and most things from Iceland.

If you think about the bare logistics of fish though, surely it’s actually better that the fish is caught, put on ice, frozen as soon as possible and kept frozen until it’s needed. Anyway, this logic didn’t run with the boyfriend, who has gone on strike as far as frozen fish is concerned.

Anyway, he wasn’t here tonight. I’d been doing quite a bit of cooking, and couldn’t face another trip to Tesco’s, so frozen fish was back on the cards. Here is the recipe of what I cooked tonight – a healthy, but comforting meal in for one.

Frozen coley
Frozen peas
Handful of red lentils
Chicken stock
Lemon zest
Spring onion

Start off by boiling a pot of stock, and putting in the lentils. Boil them for about 10 minutes, and then simmer them for a further 20 minutes. Just before they are done, pop in a handful of frozen peas. Season with lots of pepper.

About five minutes before the lentils are done, put the frozen coley in the microwave as per instructions on the pack (I put it in on full for 3 minutes). Put the fish on the bed of lentils and peas, and top with finely sliced spring onions and lemon zest.

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