Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Is turmeric a superfood?

While doing some editing in a central London cafe yesterday, I noticed that there were more customers washing down their brunch with a turmeric latte than a flat white. This may say more about my choice in London cafes but it does also signify that the latest superfood trend, turmeric, is becoming as much a staple on the menus of cafes as it is the lifestyles of the celebrities and 'healthy eating' bloggers who endorse the golden spice as their secret to health, happiness and glowing skin. 

But, does the super spice have all of the healing properties bestowed upon it? 

Turmeric (haldi)  is a plant from the ginger family and looks rather similar to ginger when in its original form though we tend to see the ground, powder version of it in most stores. It is mainly south Asian in its origin and has been around for 4,000 years, with its primary use actually being medicinal rather than culinary. It is, however, used regularly in modern day Asian cuisine for its colour as well as its flavour and is the repeat offender when it comes to glowing orange-yellow stains on my clothes. It's warming, smokey and slightly bitter flavour makes it a prime target for being transformed into a hot drink. 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Masala lamb cutlets and turmeric cauliflower puree

I won't pretend that this lamb does justice to the infamous ones at Tayyabs or Needoo Grill whose sizzling chops lie on a bed made of cast-iron hotplates rather than a puree. They do however provide a good homemade alternative and easy to put together and throw on a griddle pan, grill, or perhaps a barbecue during that balmy fortnight that usually constitutes the British summer. The turmeric in the puree adds a colourful dimension to the dish. Turmeric also seems to be the health food community's flavour of the month, so here is a way of experiencing it without resorting to a questionable, overpriced turmeric latte from a hipster cafe in London. The texture and flavour of the cauliflower with the milk and butter adds a dense creaminess to the puree so you are not assaulted by the bitter taste of the turmeric.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Best places to eat in Fort Kochi, Kerala

God's own country, Kerala, hosts a history of spice trading, an abundance of fish, cashews and coconuts and an ayurvedic way of life. I visited Munnar, Alleppey and Fort Kochi earlier this year and while there were the most stunning views of the lush tea farms in Munnar and incomparable sunsets over the network of lakes in Alleppey - which also had the best home cooked food in the homestays, Fort Kochi was clearly the centre for a diverse culinary trail of Kerala's best-known dishes. 

Some of the places I enjoyed in Fort Kochi:

Fort House restaurant 
There is a beautiful garden to walk through before you enter the restaurant and for a fantastic view over the water, get a table on the pier. Highlight dishes included the prawn coconut curry with a rich tomato base with curry leaves. The aubergine curry, with jeera rice and the paneer, with chunks of red onion and green peppers are also worth trying. 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Pistachio and cardamom cheesecake

The cardamom in this makes for a uniquely warm, sweet and slightly spicy taste. I made (reasonably) small individual cheesecakes with not too much cream cheese for a lighter dessert after a heavy meal. I originally tried it out with around 150ml of low-fat crème fraiche instead of the cream which made for an even lighter dessert, though you will have a softer consistency and the cheesecake won’t be able to hold it’s own without being in a serving dish if you go for this option.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Lamb biryani

Very much for sharing, lamb biryani is a regal dish, apparently invented by Mughal emperors. It is a complex balance of flavours and textures - rich marinated lamb is layered among sweet, crispy, caramelised onions and cardamom and clove infused rice. This isn't a dish to opt in for if you want to knock up something quick and easy for guests. Be prepared to prepare for this one. You really will get a more flavoursome dish with wonderful textures if you rinse, and rinse, and rinse and soak the rice, keep frying those onions within a second of being completely burnt, marinate the lamb for hours, and perhaps get your spices in order before the full performance. 

Biryani is often the centrepiece of a wider assembly of dishes and I served mine with a rich black dahl and some yoghurt. This recipe makes for a very full-flavoured dish and if you would rather go for a more modest meat, such as chicken, try out this recipe.

Lamb biryani 

Ingredients (serves four generously):

for the lamb:
400g of diced lamb (i used neck fillet)
2 tbsp of natural yoghurt
1 heaped tsp of each of these: ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric and paprika
1 tsp of black peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp of salt
2 fresh green finger chillies, chopped
juice of half a lemon

for the rice:
220g white basmati rice
a generous knob of butter
600ml of vegetable or lamb stock
10 cardamom pods 
8 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 stick of cinnamon
a pinch of saffron strands, soaked in some warm milk

other ingredients:
rapeseed oil for frying the onions and lamb
3 large onions, sliced length-ways  (i.e. don't finely chop them)
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
about 5cm piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
generous handful of fresh mint and coriander, finely chopped
handful of pomegranate seeds