Festive brussel sprout bhajis

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I have it on good authority that these bhaji bad boys have converted many a sprout hater so you have no excuse to try them! You can always use half of the sprouts and mix with them same amount again of oninon if you need a gentle introduction into the world of all things cruciferous… Serve with raita for a cooling dip. These can be served hot and cold so they are perfect for an accompaniment to a festive turkey curry or as part of a buffet.

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Brussel sprout bhajis- serves 4
100g brussel sprouts- shredded
100g gram flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp garam masala or curry powder
1/2 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 dried red chilli- snipped (optional)
150ml cold water
Vegetable oil to fry

1. Shred the brussels before you make the batter. Gram flour is made from chickpea and lends itself to the perfect bhaji. The baking powder gives a lightness so don’t forget it! Sieve the flour into a large bowl before adding the baking powder and spices. Add the water little at a time until you achieve a thick batter before mixing the sprouts into it.

2. Carefuly heat the oil in a pan so it is a couple of inches deep over a high heat. To test if it’s ready, drop a small piece of sprout into it and it should bubble around it before turning golden. Use a couple of dessert spoons to shape the bhaji mix and carefully lower into the oil. The will take a few minutes to fry and remember to turn them halfway through so they colour evenly. Cook around four at a time so the pan doesn’t get overcrowded. When they are ready, remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen towel before serving.

Spicy sprout bhajis- a festive addition to any buffet or curry night!

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Slow cooked oxtail vindaloo with festive Brussel sprout bhajis

Banish the thoughts of rowdy people in an Indian restaurant later at night ordering the hottest curry they dare or fans singing the classic football song which takes it’s name from this curry… this is the real deal! ‘Vindaloo’ comes from a Portuguese origin however we have come to know and love this dish more as an Anglo- Indian delight so put down the takeaway menu and get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the marinade

Glug of oil
4 large pieces of oxtail roughly the same size
50ml malt or cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar or palm sugar
1 tsp garlic puree
1 tbsp ginger puree
5 whole black peppercorns

For the spice paste
2 tbsp malt or cider vinegar
6-8 kashmiri red chillies or similar
Seeds of 3-4 cardomom pods
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 onions- finely chopped
400ml beef stock
400ml tinned tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes

1. With a bit of forward planning this can be yours! Start up to 12 hours ahead of when you want to start cooking and marinade the pieces of oxtail in the vinegar, sugar, peppercorns, ginger and garlic. Cover well and leave in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

2. Preheat your oven to 170c/ 150 fan whilst you brown the pieces of oxtail in a large pan. Brown it on all sides; the more time you spend on this the better the finish of the curry sauce will be so don’t rush it! When browned, remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Next up goes the onions to soften for a few minutes. Combine all the spice paste ingredients and grind before adding to the pan with the onion and cook out for a further couple of minutes. Try using a couple of black cardomom pods for a smokier flavour too.  Add the oxtail back in the pan along with the stock and tomatoes. When it comes to the spice paste you could either grind all the chillies or do what I like to do and grind half and then prick the remaining chillies and drop into the tomatoes so it infuses further.

4. Bring the oxtail up to a simmer before covering and popping in the oven for 2 1/2- 3 hours. Do check from time to time and give a gently stir. When the meat is ready it should be tender and falling away from the bone. Serve with rice or naan or get a bit festive with Brussel sprout bhajis…

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Brussel sprout bhajis- serves 4
100g Brussel sprouts- shredded
100g gram flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 dried red chilli- snipped (optional)
150ml cold water
Oil to fry

1. Shred the Brussels before you make the batter. Gram flour is made from chickpea and lends itself to the perfect bhaji. The baking powder gives a lightness so don’t forget it! Sieve the flour into a large bowl before adding the baking powder and spices. Add the water little at a time until you achieve a thick batter before mixing the sprouts into it.

2. Carefuly heat the oil in a pan so it is a couple of inches deep over a high heat. To test if it;s ready, drop a small piece of sprout into it and it should bubble around it before turning golden. Use a couple of dessert spoons to shape the bhaji mix and carefully lower into the oil. The will take a few minutes to fry and remember to turn them halfway through so they colour evenly. Cook around four at a time so the pan doesn’t get overcrowded. When they are ready, remove from the pan using a clotted spoon and blot onto kitchen towel before serving.

Authentic oxtail vindaloo- a curry house favourite with a festive side dish!

An Indian summer… feast

Read on for an Indian feast fit for a king! After a summer full of meat laden BBQ’s it’s time to rediscover seasonal vegetables and to get creative.

Paneer, chickpea and spinach curry: This has become a firm favourite in our household and makes use of the tastiest vegetables around. Paneer is a firm, mild Indian cheese and can be used as a meat substitute so give it a go!

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Serves 4:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
Few curry leaves (optional)
1 small onion finely sliced
1 tsp ginger grated or pureed
1 tsp garlic grated or pureed
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp mild curry powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 green or red chillies
400g tin of chickpeas- rinsed and drained
Pack of paneer approx. 200g
Small bag of baby spinach- washed

1. Firstly heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Heat the pan until the mustard seeds begin to become fragrant, pop and sizzle. Reduce the heat to low, add the onion and cook until golden.

2. Now it’s time to make the paste- that’s right, homemade paste, none of this ready made stuff! This is so simple so combine the ginger puree, garlic puree, turmeric, curry powder, chilli powder and a little water. You are after a thick, rich paste so gradually add the water- you will only need a tablespoon or two. If you fancy paneer with an extra layer of flavour you can reserve a little of the paste and coat the paneer in this.

3. Add the paste to the onion in the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. I then add in the fresh chillies (you can use milder chilies if you prefer or pierce the chillies if you want to release a bit more flavour). Add the chickpeas and stir gently so they get a delicious coating of the paste.

4. Add in the tomatoes and simmer on a low heat whilst you prepare the paneer. This is the perfect time to cut the paneer into 2cm cubes and to fry off in a frying pan so they turn golden on all sides. If you have reserved some of the curry paste this is the time to mix with the paneer before frying off.

5. Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes and then add in the spinach. Continue to simmer until the curry sauce is thick and rich. Just before it’s ready sprinkle over the garam masala and stir in. Serve in warmed bowls with chapatis alongside.

 

Green chilli pickle: This is not for the faint hearted but if you are not a fan of heat then you can choose milder chillies. I make use of my local market and stock up on green finger chillies which you can pick up cheaply. This pickle lasts well and I store mine in a Kilner jar in the fridge so it is on hand for when a curry calls so it is worth making a jar of it at a time. Asafoetida is relatively easy to find these days so I would recommend trying to get hold of this.

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Makes a jar:
30 serrano chillies or approx. 50 green finger chillies
2 tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp medium or hot chilli powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
Juice of one lemon
5 tbsp of vegetable oil

1. First you need to get going with the preparation for the pickling spice mix. The mustard, fennel and fenugreek seeds one spice at a time and dry roast in a small pan until fragrant. Each spice should take around 30 seconds to roast; put them aside to cool down.

2. Grind the spices so they are coarse and add the salt, asafoetida, chilli powder and turmeric to the mixture.

3. Next up wash and pat dry the chillies of your choice before chopping into 2mm pieces. If you want to reduce the heat level in the pickle then you can remove some or all of the chilli seeds as you go.

4. The pickle needs to be kept in air tight jar (I use Kilner jars which have a proper seal) and make sure the jar is properly sterilised. Now it’s time to mix the pickling spices, chillies, lemon juice and oil together and give a good old stir before putting into the jar. I then push the chilli mixture down a bit with the back of a spoon to level it out a bit and you can then top it up with extra oil if needed in order to create a protective layer if you find the chillies have absorbed some of it. That’s all there’s to it!

The pickle can be used straightaway however I like to leave it for at least a day to develop the flavour- if you resist! The longer the pickle is kept, the punchier it will get!

 

Homemade chapatis: With a bit of effort you can enjoy authentic chapatis which will rival those from even the best Indian restaurant! These are also freezable and I would suggest interleaving each bread with a cling film sheet so they don’t stick together.

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Makes 8 chapatis:
450g wholemeal plain flour
250ml cold water

1. Put 200g of the flour to one side to help with the shaping of the chapatis and place the remaining flour in a deep bowl.

2. Add the cold water gradually to the flour and be sure to knead as you combine the two until you have a soft dough. As rule of thumb, the longer you knead the chapati dough, the softer it will be resulting in a tastier chapati.

3. Lightly flour the work surface and divid the chapati dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball.

4. Take each ball of dough one at a time and flatten slightly before rolling it out to achieve a disc of approximately 15cm in diameter. Remember to use some of the leftover flour as you go to keeo the dough from sticking to the surface.

5. Heat a griddle pan to a medium/ high heat and cook each chapati for around 30 seconds until the chapati begins to bubble up and turn golden. Serve on the side of your favourite curry!

 

Onion bhajis:These bhajis are quick and easy to cook. Once you have mastered the basic recipe the ingredients can be tweaked so try experimenting with other vegetables. It is important to make sure you use chickpea flour as this gives a lighter, crisper bhaji.One of my personal favourites is a Brussel sprout bhaji which will convert even the fussiest of eaters!

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Makes approx. 8-10
2 red onions- 1 sliced and 1 finely diced
100g gram (chickpea) flour
1/2 baking powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1 dried red chilli finely snipped
1/2 tsp cumin
Vegetable oil to fry

1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl to ensure there are no little lumps. Add the chilli powder, dried chilli, cumin and a pinch of salt.

2. Add 150ml of cold water to the mixture to create a thick, smooth batter. I gradually add the last 20- 30mls of water to make sure the right amount is added. To the batter, add the onion and stir well to ensure the onion is well coated.

3. Now this is the bit where you need you wits about you! Heat enough vegetable oil in a large pan so that it is 3- 4cm deep and bring it up to a medium/ high heat. When you think the oil is hot enough drop a slice of onion in it to double check- if the onion sinks and then comes back up to the surface then it is ready. Add heaped tablespoons of the onion mixture to the oil and fry until golden. Don’t overcrowd the pan when frying- I usually do 2 at a time. When the bhajis are golden, carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen paper.

The bhajis are best served warm and fresh however they can also be gently reheated- that’s if you havent already demolished them all!

So there you have it, an Indian feast and not a takeaway menu in sight!