Saturday, January 29, 2011

Classic Northern Chicken Curry

Whenever I'm in London I try and have Indian food. My friend, Meg, and I went to the Wallace Collection last week and we planned on going to a favorite Indian restaurant afterward. There are many choices of restaurants for Indian food in London, but somehow I usually end up at Noor Jahan in South Kensington. There are white tablecloths on the tables and Indian men serving, who wear white shirts and black bow ties. The food is always great and the staff efficient and accommodating. If you want a dish but don't want it hot or you want it problem. They'll even make a request that is not on the menu, if possible. The lighting in the restaurant was dim so I couldn't get any good pics of Meg's Chicken Curry and my Goan Chicken, but we devoured every last forkful. Last month in London, I bought the Indian cookbook, Indian Food Made Easy, by Anjum Anand. It is from her BBC cooking show by the same name. There are many recipes in it I want to make, including Goan Chicken, but I decided to try the Northern Chicken Curry recipe that looked like the one from Noor Jahan. Anand describes her chicken curry: "To Indians, a curry simply implies a gravied dish. The actual flavours will reflect the region in which you eat it. This recipe is from Punjab and for an Indian this would be enough of a description. We know to expect the robust flavours of onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and garam masala." If you don't have access to garam masala, you can mix your own from a recipe I found here. Once you make your own curry dish you'll look at that bottle of "curry powder" in your cupboard as a masquerader. I make my own chili powder for my chili and will never buy the pre-made kind again. I did make one change in the recipe by substituting crushed tomatoes for the fresh ones. In January, fresh tomatoes are a compromise and canned ones work better. This substitution made my curry appear more tomatoey than Anands, but very similar to Noor Jahans. The restaurant brought the curries to the table in small copper pots with fried white basmati rice topped with golden onion. I served mine in a copper pan with brown basmati rice. However you serve it, you'll be transported to faraway India by the exotic flavors....and that is a good thing in this cold and snowy January.

Classic Northern Chicken Curry
(Adapted from Indian Food Made Easy, by Anjum Anand)

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
7 whole cloves
3 shards of cinnamon stick
7 green cardamom pods
2 small-medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
9 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
salt, to taste
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 scant tablespoons coriander powder
4 medium cooking tomatoes, puréed
1 small chicken, about 1 1/2-2 pounds, skinned and cut up
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups water, or more if needed
1 teaspoon garam masala
handful of fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet. Add the cloves, cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods and fry for about 20 seconds until aromatic.
Be careful that the cardamom pods don't pop in the hot oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes until a rich golden brown, stirring often.

Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for about 40 seconds more before adding the salt, powdered spices and bay leaf and stir for another 10 seconds.
Pour in the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes until the liquid in the pan has dried off.

Add the chicken and brown over moderate to high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add enough water to almost cover the chicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low-moderate until the chicken is cooked through. The slower it cooks, the better it tastes. This takes about 15-20 minutes for small pieces and 25-30 for larger ones.

Stir in the garam masala and coriander leaves just before serving.

Serves 6-8

Notes: Be very careful that the cardamom pods don't pop out of the hot oil, because they can burn you (I had a near miss!) I used split chicken breasts instead of a small whole chicken; that is the cut I prefer. If you substitute canned crushed tomatoes for the fresh, use 1 1/2 cups. I also added a whole bay leaf which wasn't called for in the original recipe.

Noor Jahan
2A Bina Gardens,
off Old Brompton Road
London SW5 OLA
Lunch: 12-2:30pm Dinner: 6:30pm-11:30pm

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Day in London and the Wallace Collection

My friend, Meg and I met at noon last Saturday in London to figure out what we wanted to do for the day. We were trying to decide between the play, War Horse or the museum, The Wallace Collection at Hertford House. War Horse was completely sold out, so off to the Wallace Collection we went. Taking the bus to Marble Arch on Oxford Street, we found Hertford House tucked on a square a few blocks behind Selfridges department store. The madding crowds of shoppers seemed a world away from the mansion. The Wallace Collection is a small museum filled with opulent visual gems of history on 3 levels. According to Wikipedia, "It was established in 1897 from the private collection mainly created by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800–1870), who left it and the house to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890), whose widow bequeathed the entire collection to the nation. The museum opened to the public in 1900 in Hertford House, Manchester Square, and remains there, housed in its entirety, to this day. A condition of the bequest was that no object ever leave the collection, even for loan exhibitions." Besides the intricate history, there is a romantic and rich feeling to each room and its color scheme. Walking from room to room, you could feel the presence of the past. Even though this is London, there was a definite French flair. But in general, you feel as if you are in the home of a well-heeled collector...and you are. One room was as magnificent as the next with its grand chandeliers, artwork, fine furniture and of course, the drapery. A room of lively jewel tones broke up the more monochromatic settings, where Camille Roqueplans, "The Lion in Love" hung proudly. Are you jaded yet? Then there is Frans Hals, "Laughing Cavalier" and a place to rest. Well, maybe not quite time to sit. We walked down the ornate staircase and saw the courtyard restaurant through a window. That looked like the perfect resting place after we saw the 2 rooms of medieval armor. And some people watching....don't ask! Now for the much needed break. Cream tea is one of my favorites. Meg had Earl Grey and I had Darjeeling tea. It came in individual pots filled with loose tea, and strainers on the side. I think we sat in the skylight covered courtyard for about an hour talking about kids, life, and the exhibits we just saw. I'm so glad they allow photography in the museum, it helps to remember the treasures. We spread the scoop of light and creamy clotted cream and strawberry jam on the large scones, as we chatted and sipped our warming tea. The English in me came out as I heaved a sigh. By this time, the sun had set on Hertford House as we made our way back to busy Oxford Street. There was a little window shopping and some real shopping before catching the bus back to the hotel. We had dinner to think about and Indian food at a favorite restaurant was on the agenda :-)

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bouillabaisse with Rouille

Bouillabaisse is a seafood and fish stew from the South of France that if you close your eyes while taking a bite can be transporting. The sun wriggles in through the orange, garlic and pepper flavors, while the bounty of the sea is caught in the opened clam and mussel shells. The spicy and creamy rouille spread on crusty bread and dipped into the stew's broth guarantees not a drop will be missed. Traditionally, a Bouillabaisse has 5 different fish plus several types of shellfish. That can seem daunting to the everyday kitchen and wallet, mine included and I live on the coast. Since the freshness of the fish and the richness of the broth really make this stew the sum of all of its parts, there is flexibility in the recipe. I was at my local market that sits right on the water where the fishermen bring in their catch, and chose what looked best and at the right price. We want a great meal here, but not one that will break the bank. I bought a cooked lobster, since I am a chicken when it comes to throwing something live into boiling water! I might normally have gotten frozen Gulf shrimp in the shells, but some beautiful and local fresh Maine shrimp caught my eye. Live clams and mussels and fresh cod are a staple in my town, so they are always available. My fish may have been from New England, but the spices and flavors spoke of the sunny and warm French coastline. Ah...take me away! Bouillabaisse

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped carrots, about 2
2 cups chopped onion, about 1 large
1 cup chopped celery, about 2 large stalks
4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon herb de Provence or dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried fennel
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 cups water
2 cups clam juice, or fish stock
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons fine grated orange zest
12-15 leaves fresh basil, sliced thin
pinch of saffron
1/4 cup pureed roasted red peppers
1/2 pound medium shrimp with shells, shells removed and saved
1/2 pound mussels or clams, scrubbed and debearded*
1-1 pound cooked lobster or crab, shells saved if available
1/2 pound cod or other firm fleshed white fish
salt to taste
Before cooking, sprinkle shells with cornmeal, and soak for twenty minutes in lukewarm water. The shellfish will expel most of their ingested sand.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add carrots, onion, and celery and saute until done. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, herb de Provence or thyme, fennel, cayenne pepper, shrimp and shellfish shells. If you want to add a lobster claw or crab legs into the final stew, do not add those now. Add the juice from the tomatoes, white wine, red wine, water and clam juice. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until reduced by 1/3 and is rich in color and taste. Remove from heat and strain through a sieve, pressing out all liquid.

Return broth back into the stockpot and add the lemon juice, orange zest, basil (reserving some for garnish), saffron, diced tomatoes and red pepper puree. The broth can be made ahead to this point and actually tastes better the next day. Before serving, heat the broth over medium heat. Add clams first, cook a few minutes then add the shrimp, white fish, and just before serving add the cooked shellfish and reserved claws. Discard any clams or mussels that do not open. Adjust seasoning by adding more cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Evenly divide the fish and seafood into 4 shallow soup bowls and spoon broth over the fish. Garnish with reserved fresh basil.

Serve with crusty bread and rouille.

Serves 4.

Notes: If you can get a really fish stock, add that instead of the water and omit adding the shellfish shells. The fish stock or cooking of the shells is a key component for the depth of the broth. Some recipes call for chicken broth as a substitute, but this is a compromise. For the Bouillabaisse, use a a combination of fish and shellfish that are the freshest you can buy.

(From Ina Garten, Food Network)

4 large garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 extra large egg yolk, at room temperature*
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place the garlic and salt on a cutting board and mince together. Transfer the mixture to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the egg yolk, lemon juice, saffron, and red pepper flakes. Process until smooth.

With the machine running, pour the olive oil in a thin, steady stream through the feed tube to make a thick mayonnaise emulsion. Transfer the rouille to a serving bowl and store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Use caution in consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food borne illness. To reduce this risk, use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Cranberry Almond Pound Cake

I called my sister Sandy a few weeks ago and she couldn't talk right away, she was busy mixing almond paste into pound cake batter. I stood still, wondering why I had ever moved from Ohio. I wanted that cake. Of course, I had to ask about it when she called back. She described the Cranberry Almond Pound Cake she was making to take to a family gathering. Being in New England during an impending blizzard, I listened intently. It was full of all of the flavors we think about for holiday goodness and comfort like almonds, cranberries, liqueur, butter and sugar. I had to have the recipe and she sent it to me right away. My oven had been very busy turning out my own divinities, but I decided to make it for the New Year. I had several parties I could take it to, as well as a house full of hungry and appreciative 20 year olds. Even though it is festive for the holidays, it is really a good recipe year round. I think it would also taste delicious with cherries. It is made in a Bundt pan, and I used my Heritage Bundt cake pan. As I was filling it up, it seemed like I had some extra batter, so I decided to make 2 small loaves. Smart decision. They were all filled up to the top after baking. The warm loaves were devoured before they had time to cool and we all watched in awe as the larger cake, with its graceful winding shape fell effortlessly from the pan. Like hearing the sound of snow falling in the dark, it made us stop and watch. My son and his friends had to leave for their drive back to college before I could cut the larger cake. I think we'll have to make it again......soon.

Cranberry Almond Pound Cake

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces almond paste, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (10 ounces) unsalted butter
6 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

Two hours before baking, heat the Amaretto and dried cranberries in a small saucepan. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until the fruit has soaked up all of the liquid.

Preheat oven to 325, oil pan with Pam with Flour cooking spray.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, using the paddle of an electric mixer on low speed, combine almond paste, almond extract and sugar until mixture looks like wet sand. Add butter; mix at medium speed until very fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula. Add eggs, one by one, beating until blended. On low speed add 1/3 dry ingredients and 1/3 sour cream; scrape bowl with a spatula. Repeat twice more. Finally beat for 20 seconds, until smooth. Fold in all berries.

Fold batter into prepared pan. Level top with spatula and tap pan gently to evenly distribute batter into the pan. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan for 20 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack. Make the glaze while the cake is cooling.


2 tablespoons milk* or Amaretto
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
*If using milk, you may also add a few drops of almond extract.

Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and slowly blend in milk or Amaretto with a fork until smooth. Drizzle the warm cake with the glaze. Once cool, transfer to a serving platter.

Notes: If you want to make a smaller cake, divide the recipe in half and use loaf pans.
I used my food processor to blend the almond paste with the sugar, and substituted fat free sour cream for the regular sour cream.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Zen and the Art of Fortune Cookies

It's the beginning of a new year, a fresh start. Out with the old and time to start anew. It's 1/1/11 and what will the future hold? What prophetic words of wisdom will come forth? It's time to consult the Fortune Cookie for guidance. And who better to write those words than a college student. My son's friend Val, started penning enigmatic sentences while I mixed the cookie batter. The origin of the Fortune Cookie is in dispute, with many claims and theories. We were more concerned about how to shape these things than where they came from. I am glad I was on spatula duty and not folding and shaping. I can truly attest that the saying, "Many hands make light work" applies here. Hmmmm....that would have made a good fortune! After I thinly spread the cookie batter in 3 inch circles, I baked the cookies in a hot oven for about 5 minutes. Since you have to work quickly, we made only 3 at a time. Zac and Val placed the written fortunes on the hot cookies, folded them in half, and put on the final bend by placing them on the edge of a coffee mug. This all has to be done within seconds of them coming from the oven. Once shaped, they are placed into a muffin tin to keep their shape as they cool and harden. At first we fumbled a little, dropped a few things and cracked some cookies while shaping them. Then we got into the Zen...the flow of it, and turned them out as we worked as one. I think this one was for me. The cookies are very tasty with a hint of almond, and mainly stayed crunchy. We had one batch that was a little thicker than the others and got soft in the middle. They didn't crack and break open as well. All in all, they were fun to make, and I'm sure were an auspicious beginning to our new year. We feel very fortunate, indeed. I wish you a very Happy New Year, great new beginnings, good fortune and the best in 2011.

Fortune Cookies
(Loosely adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies)

4 large egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons half and half cream
25-30 paper fortunes, about 3-5 inches long

Preheat oven to 400℉ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine egg whites and sugar, and beat until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add flour and salt, and beat until combined. Add butter, cream, and almond extract, and beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Make 3 cookies at a time by spreading batter in a 3-4 inch circle with the back of a spoon, onto the baking sheet. Use 1 tablespoon batter for each cookie.

Bake the cookies until the edges just start to turn brown, about 5 minutes. The baking time varies with each oven, so watch closely. When they are done, remove them with a flexible metal spatula one at a time. Place one paper fortune in the center of a cookie. Fold hot cookie in half, being careful not to burn your hands. Pick up the cookie and place folded side down on the edge of a coffee mug to form a dent in the bottom center. This may take a little practice. Place the folded cookie in a muffin tin to cool and harden. Work quickly since the cookies will harden in seconds. If you need to soften the cookie again, reheat (not bake) for a minute or 2.

Makes 25-30 Fortune Cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

For a few fortune saying ideas:

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