Monday, 12 October 2015

Chicken Biryani

after several attempts, i finally think i've nailed this age old persian dish. with it being such an historic dish, there are different definitions and theories behind its origin. some believe it derives from the persian word for rice, "birinj", or, "biryan", to mean to fry or roast. in terms of how it made it to india, some believe that it arrived to north india from persia via afghanistan, or through the mughals who came from persia, or, even the woman who inspired the taj mahal! what all theorists will agree wit though is that biryani is most often served for a special occasion, with many guests, reflecting its original purpose as a dish for royal and celebratory banquets. it is a dry dish, and the key is to be able to see and separate every grain of rice. that's why it's important to soak the rice as this helps to separate the rice and produce a less sticky version. the rice / water proportion is important too, so all of the water is absorbed by the rice, with no moisture left. it's also really worth frying the onions for a long time, on a low heat so that they go really brown, to the point they almost look burnt. this adds a rich, caramelised flavour to the dish and a deeper colour, especially if you can't get hold of saffron, which helps to add a deep orange shade to the rice. 

just as there isn't one theory of the origin of this dish, there is not one method of cooking it either. some recipes will add raw rice to the cooked chicken, adding water and cooking in one pot, some advise you partially cook the rice then bake it all in the oven, and some will cook the rice with some spices and layer in with the cooked meat - which is what i did. i can't say that i've tried the other methods and judge what's best but i like cooking the rice separately as i find this the best way to get my rice:water ratio spot on, without having to factor in bits of meat and other things!

this recipe uses chicken, but lamb or vegetables are common too. given it's quite a dry dish, this is often the centre piece of a meal that is accompanied by a daal and a cooling yoghurt / raita. i love the fragrance of this dish, with the cardamom, cloves, ginger, saffron amongst other things! cook for friends, family ... and enjoy! 

Monday, 7 September 2015

Sea bass with spiced chick pea and cauliflower rice

it's been a while since I've posted and whilst I may have missed out on the peak heat of the british summertime this dish is light enough for the somewhat still humid days but with enough warmth to take you into autumn. there are a lot of variations you can make to this dish - i used sea bass but going for cod, salmon or even a chicken breast would be fine and if your mind can't be fooled into thinking that ground up cauliflower is kinda like rice, just go for rice instead, 

although i must say i've been converted ... it's quick and easy and it didn't take much to give it some flavour that didn't involve lacing it with salt!

ingredients (serves 2) 
2 fillets sea bass
half tsp of turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder
half a lemon 
one small cauliflower
generous bunch of coriander, chopped
heaped teaspoon of cumin seeds, lightly dry roasted (just put into a dry frying pan and roast on a medium heat in the stove for a couple minutes)
salt to taste
for the spicy chick peas -
1 medium white onion
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 chilli, chopped
1 tsp of ground coriander, black pepper, ground cumin and turmeric
1 can of chick peas, water drained 
chopped spring onion and natural or yoghurt to top off the chick peas

drizzle  some oil and the juice of half of the lemon in a small bowl and stir in the turmeric and garam masala 
rub the mixture into the sea bass fillets, then place them on some tin foil and make a parcel out of the foil, covering the fish. set aside

Friday, 19 June 2015

Masala fish 'n' chips with crushed mint and coriander peas

this is my mildly spiced version of an english classic. i didn't go wild with the spices as cod is quite a delicate fish and just added a subtle amount of spice to the fish and chips adds a lot of flavour rather than heat. 

you could always make this a bit more substantial by adding batter to the fish and frying both the fish and chips but i chose a healthy, gluten-free route of no batter and baking both. 

ingredients (serves 2):

2 large cod fillets (or another fish if you prefer, such as salmon or haddock)
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp of garam masala 
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric 
salt and pepper

for the chips:

3 large white potatoes such as maris pipers or king edwards
1/2 tsp of paprika
1/4 tsp of ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
tsp olive oil

some frozen green peas (however many you like for two people)

1 tsp mint sauce
1 tsp of chopped coriander


pre-heat the over to 200 degrees
rub all the dry spices, salt, pepper and the lemon juice over the fish and wrap in baking foil so it's in a parcel with a slice of lemon. set aside.
peel the potatoes and slice into chips 
drizzle the oil of over the chips and rub the spices, salt and pepper onto the chips
place the chips onto a large baking tray, leaving room for the fish parcel but don't put that on the tray yet as the chips will take longer to cook
place the tray of chips in the oven and once they've been in for around 10 minutes, place the fish parcel on the tray and bake for a further 10-15 minutes
whilst the fish is baking, boil the peas in some lightly salted water for around 5 minutes. drain, then with a potato masher, crush the peas so that they start to get a bit mushy. stir in the mint and coriander.

hope you enjoy my attempt at messing around with a british classic .... 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

bombay burrito!

a fast, healthy, and mildly spiced version of a traditional burrito. I used chicken in mine but the good thing about these is that you can pretty much pack what you want into them and they’re a great alternative to a burger for a summer barbecue! i chose not to put a pulse / bean in mine like you usually get in burritos but some chick peas would be great. it can seem like a bit of a faff having to prep lots of different bits, but if you prep everything you can before the chicken, it’ll come together pretty quickly, and you can always skip, say the rice if you’re not too bothered about it. here’s a recipe for a suggested spicy marinade –

ingredients (serves 2):
2 whole wheat tortilla wraps
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
spinach leaves (or lettuce if you prefer)
an avocado, peeled and mashed
salsa relish – recipe here, or just a chopped tomato
handful of chopped fresh coriander
a spring onion finely chopped
2 small chicken breasts, sliced into chunks
paneer, in small cubes, (about 8-10)
large fresh chilli, sliced
50g of brown (or white) rice, boiled
1tsp of cumin seeds
a heaped tablespoon of natural yoghurt
juice of half a lemon
a heaped tablespoon of ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric and chilli powder

Friday, 1 May 2015

The perfect chai

ok, so given this blog is called chilli & chai, it seems about time that i actually make some chai! as any visitor to india will know, chai is readily available in homes, cafes, trains, well, pretty much every street corner. it's the ultimate comfort drink and the gentle spice acts as a great pick-me-up at any time of day.whilst india has become a nation of chai drinkers with most indian homes only having a pot of freeze dried coffee as an emergency option for any guests, who, god forbid, don't drink chai, the nation's default hot drink was in fact coffee until the time of the british raj. 

whilst this is my perfect chai, the great thing about it is you can adapt to your taste, if you prefer the sweet over spice, add more sugar and cinnamon, if you want it a bit bolder, go for more ginger and pepper. do not use long leaf tea for this as you will get quite a bitter taste - cheap, small grain black tea is the best. 

ingredients (makes a generous pot for two)
two heaped teaspoons of loose black tea - you can even just get two teabags (something like assam or tetley) and split open the bag and use the contents
3 cloves
4 cardamom pods, crushed so flavour is released into the water
either half tsp grated fresh ginger or a quarter tsp of ground ginger
quarter tsp of both black pepper, and ground cinnamon (or a stick)  
sugar to taste
whole milk, to taste

place a milk pan of water onto the hob and add all of the ingredients apart from the milk
bring to the boil, once you get there, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 10 mins
add as much milk as you like and bring to boil
simmer again for 5 mins and serve

and if you want a full-on chai experience enjoy a chai brownie with your cuppa!